Thursday, May 31, 2007

Season finales

The last week has seen the end of seasons for many US TV shows that I've been watching. For some the end of these has come too soon, but other couldn't come soon enough. I'll attempt to review, or at least give my opinion on, these shows whilst keeping spoilers to a minimum (there are a few thought, so read on at your own discretion).

24 - Season 6
The end of the last series saw Jack Bauer being kidnapped and shipped off to China, so it was going to be interesting as to how they got him back to take part in this series. Needless to say he got back and just in time to. This time round the terrorists of choice were militant Islamists (from an unnamed middle-eastern country) and their weapon of choice was the good old nuclear bomb (in the form of suitcase nukes). Of course this was just the tip of a whole conspiratorial iceberg that would involve a familiar face from the past.

The seasons main theme saw Jack Bauer dealing with many family issues - although Kim wasn't involved. It started off with all the usual fast paced action we expect and kept the implausibility scale rising throughout - this is something fans of 24 have come to expect and can't really complain about. 24 will often, towards the end of the series, attempt to wrap up the seemingly main story-line by bringing out some overarching conspiracy, so it shouldn't be a surprise that this series follows the mold. Unfortunately this time round I just couldn't be bothered with this extra bit of story - for which the implausibility scale was really going through the roof. It was just a big anticlimax and pretty dull to boot, however I don't think that they could have sustained the main story for a whole 24 episodes. This leads me to think that 24 has pretty much run its course. They've already had to recycle storylines, so I don't really see where else it can go. Sorry Jack, I think your days are numbered.

Overall opinion: A good effort to start with, but becoming to stale and generally stupid towards the end.

Score: 6 dead terrorists out of 10.

House - Season 3
At the end of last season Dr Greg House had been shot, which would seem a bit of a downer to most people. The start of this one, however, saw him seeming rather happy, but would it last - unlikely. Being a medical drama we're presented with a variety of medical situations, but these can start to become a tad repetitive. In House the diagnosing of the illness is a large part of the show, but obviously to keep people interested we have to delve into the lives, and relationships, of the main protagonists.

Hugh Laurie still does a great job playing House, and provides one of the most likeable complete bastards that TV has ever seen. You still find yourself siding with him in the majority of situations, because for the most part everyone else seems to be a bit wussy. This season sees someone trying to compete with House for the title of chief bastard, but that storyline does drag on for a bit too long. The rest of the relationships within the show provide enough amusement to keep you entertained, but you can tell that there's nothing more to really add within the group. I think that this has been seen by shows writers/producers and it could be all change for the next series.

Overall opinion: An enjoyable series that's provided plenty of amusement, but ready for a change. It's still sustained by Hugh Laurie's performance, but that's no bad thing.

Score: 7 cases of Lupus out of 10

Lost - Season 3
The last season of Lost saw several of the main characters kidnapped by the mysterious Other's. This one left off exactly where the last one ended. The series was split into two halves (in between which there was a two month mid-season break). The first half focussed on those held captive by the Others and in my opinion it dragged. There was a lot going on, and you learnt a reasonable amount about the Others, but it didn't hold my interest.

After a few slow episodes the second half of the series really picked things up again. Lots of things started happening obviously leading up to some kind of head, which brought back a lot of excitement to the series and meant that I was eagerly anticipating the next episode.

I'm not really sure if I can say that any of the general mysteries of the series were explained this season, but many new things did come to light. The level of crazy was certainly ramped up to a high level by the end of the series.

Overall opinion: A slow start, but it pulled it back at the end leaving things very interesting for the next series.

Score: 7 planes crashes out of 10

Heroes - Season 1
Heroes was a new show so I had no prior expectation except the recommendation of my flatmate. The premise of the show can be seen in my post here. I was hooked on this show fairly early on and this early enthusiasm didn't ebb as the series went on. There were about 5 story threads that came together at various moments in the series. Not all of the threads were as interesting as each other, and certain parts didn't sit as well within the overall story, but they each provided something different and nothing seemed overly strained. One of the outstanding characters in the show was the Japanese nerd Hiro. He was used for different effect throughout the show, not just as comic relief for the whole thing (although when he was used for comic effect it worked well and didn't seem stupid or out of context). Some of the other characters were fairly stereotypical, but that's to be expected from a popular TV series.

The end of the series did wrap up pretty much everything that it brought up, but left a couple of teasers for the next season. The whole premise of the show seems to be made so that new characters can be brought in easily, and old characters got rid of, so hopefully things can stay fresh. I'll be looking forward to seeing how the next series pans out.

Overall opinion: An exciting new series that I enjoyed throughout. Despite seeming to just take the plot of the X-men this managed to make it seem new and is well worth checking out.

Score: 9 mutants out of 10

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Shivering by the sea

On Monday a few of us went on a trip to Brighton to have fun at the seaside. As I noted before the weather forecast wasn't exactly what we'd have liked with cold wind and rain expected, and when we set of the forecast proved all to accurate. Our train journey got off to a slightly late start after the first two trains we could have got were cancelled due to the "inclement" weather. However, once we finally made it down to Brighton we made the most of it. We took a walk through the Lanes, which host a variety of small, trendy, shops. One of my favourite shops to look around is a bric-a-brac shop called Snooper's Paradise which sells all kinds of random stuff - I was tempted by a huge shipwrights spanner! It's easy to spend ages wandering through this shop, but we were all pretty hungry, so went for lunch at a nearby pub. On the way the sun did attempt to show itself, but was always shot down by the wind and rain. The pub did a damn good pie and Steve tried to kill himself by bravely attempting to eat one and a half pounds of beef burger.

Filled with food we waddled down to the beach for an afternoon constitutional and to take in the bracing sea air. As Brighton beach is a pebble beach one of the only things to do is throw rocks into the sea, which we did for a short time until our interests were taken by a dead shark washed up on the shore! It was only about 45cm long and was probably some sort of dogfish that the scavengers had stripped of most of its internal organs. Craving the warmth of somewhere inside we went on to the pier to the amusements arcades. Each of us loaded up with a £1 bag of 2p's to fill up the 2p machines with. A couple of hours of pushing 2p's into slots, playing 4 player Daytona, and collecting prize tickets was enough excitement for us. We weren't particularly tempted by the fun fair rides at the end of the pier, but had a wander around them anyway balking at their extortionate costs. I'm sure the rides would have been heaving on a slightly nicer day, but with the weather no-one else was taking the risk of riding them.

We worked our way back to the train station by a couple of pubs and had to end the day with fish and chips for dinner. Stocked up with food and some beer from the offy we boarded our train home. It hadn't been the best of weather, but we all had a really good bank holiday and I didn't even have to go back to work the next day!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

At last

It appears that blogger might have finally got round to adding the a while back, but I think that now any fancy greasemonkey and haloscan workarounds aren't needed. Before I get to excited about this I should actually check whether it works, so expect an update soon.

The road to Brighton pier

Tomorrow is a bank holiday Monday and at the suggestion of my sister we're going on a trip to the seaside. I think that the original suggestion was that we go to the seaside if "the weather's good", but we're now going despite that fact that the forecast for the south-east of England today and tomorrow is for it to be pissing down freezing cold rain (and that forecast has definitely proved to be right today!) The bit of seaside that we're going to is Brighton where our main activity may end up having to be sitting around in a pub watching the rain (I can live with that). There are other indoor activities for us to do such as visit the many amusement arcades. Eight player Sega Rally or Daytona is pretty ace, and many hours can be whiled away on the 2p machines. There's a decent group of us going so it should be fun whatever.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Burning the midnight oil

Should I still be working at 1.40am? The answer is quite clearly no, but the fact can't be denied that I am. [Ignore the 12.40am timestamp on this post as blogger doesn't believe in BST ;)]

Sunday, May 20, 2007


Friday night saw the invention of several new three letter acronyms essential for this modern age of txt msgs, IMs and emails. I leave you to figure out for yourself (unless you were there at their inception) the meaning and proper usage of kih and cmt (there were far more), but I encourage their use in your daily communications ;)

Final without the fight

The FA Cup final yesterday saw Premiership champions Manchester United face the league runners-up Chelsea. The match was the first FA Cup final to be held at the newly reconstructed Wembley Stadium - which does look pretty good with it's impressive arch. The high profile clubs involved and the venue meant that the match was fairly hyped up. The problem with hyping up a Cup final is that they invariably disappoint. There are in fact very few Cup finals that I remember being decent matches, or offering much excitement. Yesterday was no different. The teams barely bothered to play in the first half, which started off at a snail's pace and proceeded to get slower! The second half picked up a bit and there was some pace injected from time to time, but never any incisive or threatening attacked from either side. The keepers had very little to do. The game was a nil-nil draw after normal time, so went onto extra time (I remember - it not being that long ago - when finals went to replays the following Wednesday, which replaced CBBC when I got home from school.) Extra time still produced little incident, but eventually Chelsea produced the winner. I don't think either side really deserved to win, but one had to. Neither team had any commitments (the Champions League final for example) so I'm not sure why they both weren't really going for it in this game. It'd have been different if Watford had got there I can tell you!

Spidey (non)sense

The third installment of Sam Raimi's Spider-man franchise became the top grossing opening day film ever when released a couple of weeks back, but it's taken me a bit of time before getting out to the cinema to see it. However, today I decided that having seen, and enjoyed, the first two films I should give this one a go and add my contibution to the pile of money it's made.

The film starts off pretty much where the last one left off (it even gives you a quick "previously on Spider-man" style update in the opening titles.) Peter's/Spidey's mate Harry is still rather pissed with him (for reasons I wont say in case you've not seen number 2), but him and MJ are still very loved up. Thing's aren't all happy in the relationship though as MJ think's Peter/Spidey's getting a bit up himself - and she'd be right to. These things lead to much tension and many problems, with Peter trying to deal with many issues involving love, friendship and revenge.

Now the previous films have always been rather schmaltzy when it came to the emotional scene's between Peter and MJ (or Peter and his Aunt May), but I don't remember them grating on me as much as in this film. The main reason I think they grated was due to Tobey Maguire's face - throughout these sort of scenes he has a dopey confused look about him, like a faithful, but stupid, dog that can't comprehend what his owner wants him to do. These scenes in part make you cringe, and in part make you want someone to give him a slap. Then there are the scenes, done for comedy effect I assume, which see Peter/Tobey becoming a badass (strutting about and playing it smooth with the ladies) - these really do make you sink into your seat and wince. The humour in Spider-man is supposed to come form Spidey's witty one liners, and Peter's interactions with J. J. Jameson, not by making him look like a twat. Now how I've described things may indeed be how Maguire meant to play the whole thing (Peter/Spider-man is supposed to be the architypal geek-cum-superhero after all), but it mainly annoyed me.

Other than Peter/Spidey/Tobey there was one other main thing that didn't quite hold together. There were a couple of moments in the film were it seemed like they'd removed about 15 minutes of it and just left an unexplained gap. They may well be parts that ended up on the editing room floor to make way for more of the special effects filled moments, but it created a couple of disconnects in the plot.

Now I've not been particularly kind, but I did sort of enjoy the film - despite having to cringe through various moments. The effects were of a very high standard and it didn't drag for a 2 hour 20 minute film. I was, however, more disjointed than the last two films, and obviously the effects don't have the same inpact a third time around.

The plans seem to be to carry on the franchise for as many films as possible, but number three might have been Maguire last turn as Spidey. I think it'd probably be good getting someone else in to give a slightly different interpretation of the role.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Friday night live

I'm sure you're all wanting to know how the gig went on Friday night. Pretty damn well!

The whole day managed to go without any major, or even relatviely minor, hitches. Chris and I picked up our drum kit from Soundhaus (which is one of the most stereotypically rock venues you can get - a dingy warehouse basement) and get it back to our venue without breaking any of the kit, or having any car troubles. After shooing off some studying students in the Research Club, we got everything set up and had a sound check. The amps, mikes and mixing desk all worked fine! With everything set out there was no denying that we were going to be performing a gig. We then had our final rehearsal at which we had our most intense practice yet. This left me feeling pretty knackered, but we were confident that we had all the songs at a decent level. Our last meal was a fish supper at the University Cafe (as recommended by the New York Times!), which has become a kind of unofficial band eatery. So we'd sound checked, we'd practiced, we'd eaten, all that was left was to actually perform.

We arrived at the venue about an hour and a half before we we due to start. We quickly got our gear set up again with everything still working. People started arriving at about 8.30pm and continued arriving! By 9.30pm we'd managed to pretty much packed out the room we were playing. It's true that the vast majority of these were our friends, and friends of friends, but it was still pretty encouraging for our first gig.

Things kicked off with the Look Up for Danger set. Once we'd got started a lot of the stresses and nerves went away. Ellie was belting out the vocals, and Chris, John and I were giving it our all. The first song wen't down really well, so from then on our confidence grew. Our version of Whole lotta love went down particularly well - for good reasons the drum solo was quite a bit shorter than the one in the original song. The Corpse Full of Bees set went down equally well, with one particular person was really loving our version of (Don't Fear) The Reaper!

The closest I've got to this sort of thing in the past is giving talks at conferences (if I discount when I was part of a group of children representing the UK in a singing competition in Indonesia when I was seven - yes that's true!) Performing in front of a crowd in a band is a whole lot more satisfying that giving a talk. It was all in all a really fun night - I'll be awaiting the audiences glowing reviews ;) I'm definitely looking foward to the next gig - we just need to put a few more song's in our repertiore.

[The less said about the after party the better ;)]

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The last day

In approximately twenty four hours Look Up for Danger (closely followed by Corpse Full of Bees) will be mounting the stage (well there's not really a stage at the venue, but you get the idea) for our debut gig. Tomorrow will no doubt have some stressful moments as we're going to be rushing about like madmen. We've got to gather all our equipment together at the venue, including picking up a hired drum kit and mikes (courtesy of Soundhaus). We then have to set this up for a lunchtime sound check - fingers crossed that it all works (and that I can put a drum kit together). Then we head off for the final practice from 3-6 pm. Then we have three solide hours of nervous sweating before the gig starts. Now I just need to send off that final promotional email...

DIY curry

Yesterday I made my first curry from scratch. Previously I've always used curry sauces, or pastes, from a jar - often adding my own ingredients to give them a bit extra - and these have in general been very nice. However, the other week I went out and bought a selection of spice in an effort to create the whole curry experience myself. Here's my recipe (to serve one):

  • 1 chicken breast fillet
  • half an onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • half an aubergine
  • 1 tomato
  • 3 tablespoons of yoghurt
  • half a teaspoon of hot chilli powder (Ok so I didn't use fresh chilli's!)
  • half a teaspoon of tumeric
  • half a teaspoon of cumin
  • some finely choped corriander
  • salt and pepper

Chop the chicken into medium sized chunks and fry until brown. Add the chopped onion and garlic. Add in the spices and mix in thoughroughly. Finely chopped tomato, chop the aubergine into medium chunks, and add to the pan. Continue to fry on a low heat for a couple of minutes. Add the yoghurt and leave to simmer for about five mintues. And you're done! Serve with naan bread and/or rice (I had a naan although admittedly I didn't make that from scratch - I just put it in the oven to heat up.)

The curry looked, smelled and tasted really good, although was not particularly hot - I might add more chilli powder, or use some fresh chilli's next time. Cooking the curry from scratch actually took hardly any more time than making it from a jar, but is far more satisfying and allows you to alter the taste as you see fit - also once you've got all the spices and stuff it'll end up cheaper than buying jars of sauce. I'd highly recommend giving it a go.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Snooker loopy

The BBC Sport internet live text commentaries generally provide some pretty ammusing bits of prose, especially in the cricket, but here's a particlulary good bit from the current frame being played in the Mark Selby versus John Higgins World snooker final:
Denise Higgins is still laughing it up in the player's lounge - does she understand what's happening? YOUR HUSBAND IS GETTING HIS SPIRIT CRUSHED WOMAN!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

What we should've done

We may be down, but that doesn't mean we'll stop trying to win games. All a bit too late unfortunately, but maybe we'll make it to 30 points.

Driving nowhere

The last couple of times I was in the US I saw quite a lot of adverts on Fox TV for a new show called Drive. It looked as though it could be decent, so when I got back here to the UK I started downloading and watching the show. It stars Nathan Fillion of Firefly fame, as the character Alex Tully, and is also produced by one of Firefly's producers, Tim Minear. The premise of the show is that various people have been asked to become involved in an illegal cross country roadrace, that's been run for many years by a shady, unknown, organisation. There is a prize of $32 million for the winner, but the various characters have their own, generally more personal reasons for competing (e.g. to rescue their kidnapped wife in Alex's case,) and the races' organisers seem to have their own agenda's for the people they've picked to take part. I've fairly enjoyed the first four episodes of the show, and was starting to get into it, but little did I realise, until I tried to download the latest episode, that the show's been cancelled by Fox! Apparently they might air the remaining two episode at some unknown time in the future, or they might just release them online. Nathan Fillion and Tim Minear must be wondering why Fox (or at least the American public who apparently weren't watching the show) hate them so much as to cancel two of their shows!

In other TV related opinion:- I've been enjoying the latest series of Lost again. It's come good after a while where I was just getting a bit tired of the whole situation. The end of season 6 of 24 can't come soon enough in my opinion, as it's just got completely stupid - and I mean stupid even by the usual standards of 24! And what can I say about last weeks episode of Heroes (ep. 20 - Five Years Gone) other than it was fucking ace!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

You decide

After a last minute conversion to Scottish Nationalism and evangelical Christainity this morning I went to the polling station to place my votes firmly behind the SNP and SCP. I long for the days when I can live in an independent, fundamentally Christian, Scotland, without being bothered by those English bastards or any pesky gays...

...only joking ;)

I did go and do my democratic duty this morning, but my votes were cast slightly differently than above. I was expecting a last bit of electioneering by the local council candidates outside the polling station, but there was only one Labour leafleter and no-one trying to take any sort of exit poll. One thing I'll say about the voting is that a lot of the parties didn't half go out of their way to make the regional list ballot paper [this is the proportional representation part - courtesy of the Lib Dems - where you don't vote for a particular constituency candidate, but rather a party, and a certain number of parlimentary seats are made up proportionally from this vote] as confusing as possible. Rather than making things nice and clear by just having their party's name in the box many decided to spice things up a bit by adding their party leaders name, or their slogan. It just made the ballot look cluttered and annoying. The local council ballot was quite fun in that this time round you get to rank the candidates in your favoured order. I spent a short while considering who I thought was better out of the three Labour party candidates - mainly going by their pictures from the election material I'd had through my door. Oh, the excitement!