Friday, March 30, 2007

For goodness sake

I know us Mac users can come across as smug wankers, but "animated cursors could prove risky for Windows users, Microsoft has warned".

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Music videos 39

24 Madonna: “Like a Prayer”
It's difficult to think of the Madonna of today and remember her at the height of her powers. Well here it is. The song is excellent, the video does its job of being controversial very nicely, and she sure does look good. The gospel choir is good stuff as well.


23 DJ Shadow: “Six Days”
DJ Shadow's lovely, slinky, song is given a lovely, slinky, video by Hong Kong legend Wong Kar-Wan (of Chungking Express fame). It's chock-full of visual flair and certainly fits with the song perfectly.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Ramblings of a mental

That's the only way to explain the contents of the video below. Before his Star Trek days, William Shatner starred in one of the very, very few films made in Esperanto. By the looks of it, it was a schlock horror, and was called Incubus. Watch the trailer and get more info here.

This video is amazing though. Someone films the screen whilst they are listening to the commentary track that Shatner recorded for the recent DVD release. The filmer can't control her laughter at the stuff Shatner is coming out with. He's surely on something here. Shatner is undoubtedly a one-off genius though: you only have to hear his cover of Common People to understand. You'll thank me after you click on that last link, by the way.

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Watch out Simon, there are Lost Spoilers in this post

I only watched this week's lost last night, and wasn't it a good one? Ben is great: "No John, we don't have a secret code for 'there's someone in the cupboard holding a gun to my daughter's head". Classic.

Firstly, it wasn't Locke that fell past the window in an earlier Hurley episode:


Secondly, I'm sure that the "box" is not real, but with all the biblical themes and names in Lost, Pandora's Box sprung straight into my head. I like the idea of the Others (the "good guys", remember) trying to close it. I'm also going to go out on a limb and say that Locke's "father" is not really on the island, and that what we saw was the smoke monster (a la Eko's brother). I wonder if Locke's father was the original "Sawyer" who killed Sawyer's mother?

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Clash of the titans


Many people will know that Scotland take on Italy in an important Euro 2008 qualifying match tomorrow. But how many people know that the match is for the Unofficial Football World Championship?

Some bright spark had the idea of tracing football all the way back to the first international match, and christening the winner the unofficial world champions. After then, you get a point if you win your next match, or pass the title on if you lose. Scotland are actually the all-time leaders, with 86 points, followed by England on 74 and Argentina on 50.

Zimbabwe held the title for much of 2005, but it moved around a bit and was eventually won off Turkey by Georgia. Scotland's win over Georgia last weekend brought the title home for the first time in 40 years.

This gives the already crucial game on Saturday an extra edge: it is the unofficial world champions against the World Cup holders. This is potentially Scotland's biggest match ever...

P.s. the photo is of our glorious Kirin Cup win last year.

Via Niall.

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News story of the day

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Don't ask

Just turn on your speakers and click this.

Music videos 38

26 Missy Elliot: “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)”
This seems to be a standard (i.e. very expensive-looking and polished) Hype Williams video, with the usual excessive use of fish-eye. The black suit is comedy, though.


25 Pet Shop Boys: “Flamboyant”
Japan looks good in this video, and the TV skits are funny and stoopid. The song is your standard PSB fare. As you might have noticed, I have found it hard to get too excited about today's offerings.

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mmMarmite


I'm in the love Marmite camp, and the love Guinness camp, so I was delighted when I saw that there would be a limited edition Guinness Marmite. I'm sure the idea turns the stomach of many, but I guarantee that if you like Marmite you'll love this. Not quite as salty as the normal Marmite, with a smoother, yeastier taste and a definite beeriness. I've got hold of a bottle of it, and there are some photos on my Flickr stream.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Action

Two unconnected movie items:

Firstly, an eye-opening tale of how Hollywood works from today's Times. Read how an Oscar-winning producer tried to get an Oscar-worthy script turned into a film with an Oscar-winning actor made, but failed. Along the way he saw how the film system is still institutionally racist. And to think that Hollywood is continually patting itself on its back for its "forward-looking" liberal outlook...

George Clooney said that he would never work with David O Russell again, after having had a fist-fight with him on the set of Three Kings. Here's an amazing video of the director completely losing it and having a world-class hissy fit on the set of I Heart Huckabees. Watch how Lily Tomlin just keeps her feet on the desk as he goes crazy: EDIT Video replaced

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Swearing on Neighbours?

Probably not, but it's certainly a bit much for a lunch-time soap opera...

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Music videos 36

28 Busta Rhymes “Gimme Some More”
Best fish-eye ever. Busta Rhymes is a genius, and I don't offer that praise lightly. This is a top, top class video. Yes, that's a sample of the Psycho theme, and yes, the video is supposed to end that suddenly.


27 Michael Jackson: “Thriller”
What more is there to say about this one? Forget about the fact that Jackson is a damaged, deranged, disturbed, predatory freak. Actually, don't forget that, as it makes the video even better. One of the early true great music videos, it's worth remembering that this song helped get black music on MTV. The music is brilliant, the story is brilliant, the dancing is brilliant (everybody knows how to do the zombie hand dance), Vincent Price's "rap" is brilliant. It's brilliant.

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Action


I've not been overly impressed with the films that I have seen in recent months, Hot Fuzz excepted. The AV club re-assures me with its list of the key upcoming films of 2007. I'm particularly looking forward to Pixar's Ratatouille (as an aside, Firefox is making culinary suggestions by offering bouillabaisse as a correction for that), Danny Boyle's Sunshine, The Bourne Ultimatum, The Golden Compass (from the book originally known as Northern Lights to us Brits), and (please, please don't let it be rubbish) the Simpsons Movie.

The film that looks most interesting to me is Be Kind Rewind. A Michel Gondry film starring Jack Black, the synopsis says it all:

A man whose brain becomes magnetized unintentionally destroys every tape in his friend's video store. In order to satisfy the store's most loyal renter, an aging woman with signs of dementia, the two men set out to remake the lost films, which include Back to the Future, The Lion King, and Robocop.

That sounds like it should be utterly brilliant. I can't wait for it.

P.s. Looking for the popcorn picture reminded me of a time when I was at the cinema with Simon. I offered him some of my popcorn, which he turned down when hearing it was sweet, proclaiming that he only liked "salty cockporn". Spoonerism at its best.

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

The PM on Comic Relief

Say what you want about Blair's politics, but not many politicians (much less cabinet members and certainly not Prime Ministers) would be game enough to join in with this:

Donate to Comic Relief

Music videos 35

30 t.A.t.U. – “All the Things She Said”
This video is legitimately this high in the top 100. What a way to launch a career: schoolgirl lesbians in the rain. The publicity they got for this must have been priceless, and the resulting sales probably set them up for life. Let's not forget that, although bombastic, this song is a pop gem. What a chorus.


29 Weezer – “Buddy Holly”
Spike Jonze strikes again with another classic. I'm really glad that this is so high, and to be honest it could be higher. A true delight, the catchy pop-rock fits in to the inspired idea of setting the video in an episode of Happy Days. Cleverly executed, you could easily persuade someone that this is a legitimate episode of the series.

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All rise


The Football Supporters' Federation are campaigning to bring back terraces to the top 2 divisions in England. For many, that brings back the horrible memories of the Hillsbourgh disaster, and they instinctively recoil from the idea.

The FSF is holding up the German Bundesliga as an example of how to do things properly, and I couldn't agree more. When Niall and I traveled there for the world cup last year, our seats for the Korea vs Switzerland match were in the convertible seating section of the lovely AWD Arena. During international matches and European games, they were seats, but for league matches, all the seats behind the goal flipped up to create terraces (click on the picture above to see what I mean). The atmosphere was awesome in the stadium anyway, mostly due to the astonishing Korea fans (but also due to the impressively animated Swiss fans), but I can imagine that the atmosphere could be improved significantly at league games with the terracing. Standing up seems to encourage "hardcore" fans to become even more vocal. The German authorities also emphasise the practical non-existence of injuries caused by terracing.

Whenever (increasingly rarely lately) I go to see the mighty Ross County in action, I always stand in the legendary Jail End, where the atmosphere is brilliant. Transferring this to the Premier League could only be a good thing.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Lost bloopers

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Music videos 34

32 Blur: “Coffee & TV"
I'm a big fan of Blur, but this song didn't strike me as anything too special until this video was made. A perfect example of a video enhancing a song, this has a lovely mix of humour, pathos, and milk-carton romance.


31 Human League: “Don’t You Want Me?”
I should hate this song, but I kind of like it. The best thing that I can say about this video, though, is that the idea must have sounded better on paper than it turned out on film.

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Little ants


Last week the shortness of human history was hammered home to me when it emerged that the great-grandfather of the civil rights campaigner Al Sharpton, who was alive when Sharpton was born, was a slave owned by another politicians relatives.

This article makes it even more clear how insignificant we are:

Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., one the United States' great historians, is less than two lifetimes removed from a world where the United States did not exist. Through Mr. Schlesinger, you're no more than three away yourself. That's how short the history of our nation really is.

Not impressed? It's only two more life spans to William Shakespeare. Two more beyond that, and the only Europeans to see America are those who sailed from Greenland. You're ten lifetimes from the occupation of Damietta during the fifth crusade. Twenty from the founding of Great Zimbabwe and the Visigoth sack of Rome. Make it forty, and Theseus, king of Athens, is held captive on Crete by King Minos, the Olmecs are building the first cities in Mexico, and the New Kingdom collapses in Egypt.

It's only 40 lifetimes ago that the ancient Egyptians were still on the go! And 60 lifetimes ago that Abraham was around to influence the founding of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity.

It's almost unbelievable that so much has happened in human history in so little time, meaning that every lifetime has had amazing things happen in it. I wonder what's in store for us? Hoverboards? Silver jump-suits? Space? A decent Adam Sandler film?

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Music videos 33

34 Snoop Dogg feat. Pharrell: “Drop It Like It’s Hot”
Snoop Dogg is always good value, and this is no exception. A nice, smooth, minimal song combines nicely with this understated and minimal video. I really like this song, the production of which is amazing and surely not as simple as it sounds.


33 Coil: “Tainted Love”
Wow. I'd never seen this one before, and was fully preparing to dislike it. A radically different take on the song than the famous Soft Cell version, it turns into a dark, dark, meditation on AIDS and death. Very good indeed.

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Wonderballs


The stereotypical lottery winner is a redneck type who fritters away the cash and blows it on gold-plated owls and the like. Here in the UK, we have Michael Carroll as our archetype.

That makes the story of Brad Duke more interesting. This guy worked at a gym, and when he won $85 million, he assembled a team to help him invest his money with the aim of becoming a billionaire. Other than setting up a family foundation, he seems to have only spent just over $200,000 on himself, and still takes classes at his old workplace. You've got to respect a guy who can be so level-headed.

Via Kottke.

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

Blandness


After watching Ghost Rider last night, which was just about saved by an on-form Nicholas Cage, I realised that the worst films are those that are forgettable rather than rubbish.

Whilst "bad" films are frustrating to watch, at least they excite emotions (probably not the ones intended) and debate. I've mentioned Babel a few times, and although I haven't changed my mind about it at all, I will recognise that it succeeded in making me think (and talk) about its themes, story-lines, and the techniques of the director. I didn't like most of those things, but at least the film has them.

Ditto for "good" films. It's easy to understand what makes them work: they incite the emotions that the film-maker intends, they grip you, you invest in the characters, and you enjoy the art of the director.

It's the middle ground between these points that is the problem. Too many films nowadays are "by numbers", in that the studio, screenwriters, and director have come together and flung out a film in their intended genre, saying "this ticks the boxes, here you are". These films are usually centre around a big star or director (I'm looking at you Sandra Bullock, Julia Roberts, Jim Carrey, and Eddie Murphy), franchise (such as many of the Marvel comic-books, Shrek, Scary Movie, and unfortunately Star Wars), or whatever the "in" genre is at the time (how many shitty horror films can we take? There have been 3 Saw films and a fourth is in the works!). We lap them up, buy the popcorn, make the Studio a nice profit, and encourage more of exactly the same. We say that we can only see what the cinemas offer us, but if we really wanted art-house cinema, we would get it. The truth is, most people seem to be too stupid or lazy to want to want to be stimulated at the cinema. They want to laugh at the next in the stream of dick jokes or ogle the explosions. But when you ask someone "how was Bad Boys XI?", they will usually shrug their shoulders and say "alright, I can't really remember". It's these bland films that seem to dominate: I can remember watching Hannibal, Catwoman, Da Vinci Code, Superman Returns, The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe, Fantastic Four, Robots, Catwoman, and Sahara, But I'm buggered if I can remember what happened in them. Pirates Of The Caribbean is the perfect example: the first was edgy, fun, and memorable (with a deserved Oscar nod for Depp); the second was focus-grouped to blandness, confusing, over-acted, and a bit rubbish.

What I'm saying (but I know will not happen) is that film-makers need to up their game and provide us with something challenging for a change. Stop the blandness. I'd rather see a rubbish film like Babel than a bland one like Catwoman. Well, maybe not Babel, but you get my point.

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Music videos 32

36 The Killers: “Mr. Brightside”
Not the best Killers song, and I'm not sure what the point of this video. It doesn't really go anywhere. How on earth could this be higher than stuff like Windowlicker?


35 Radiohead: “Street Spirit (Fade Out)”
This is much more like it. A beutiful song gets a fitting video, shot by suerstar director Jonathan Glazer. There is some almost disturbing imagery here (including most of the time that Thom Yorke is on camera), but has a verging-on-uplifting ending with Yorke hanging in the air.

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Going Underground


Heres an interesting rundown of some of the top underground transit systems in the world, with some interesting facts (like every building in the city of Paris being within 500 metres of an underground station) about the networks.

London is of course voted number one. I have travelled on it many times, and think it is superb. The only improvement would be air conditioning. Did you know that there are fake houses covering a tube line in Westmister? 23-24 Leinster Gardens were replaced by a facade to allow trains to vent.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Music videos 31

38 My Chemical Romance: “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)”
Piss off. I'm not going to comment on this. See music videos 26 for my thoughts.


37 Fatlip: “What’s Up Fatlip?”
Spike Jonze video alert. A really nice, laid back, funny video featuring Fatlip from the well-liked Pharcyde.

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Push the button


That weekend turned into a loooong one, didn't it? That must be because of my amazing, hectic, action-packed social life. Or laziness.

Anyway, this article on nuclear close calls is interesting, and got me thinking of what it must have been like for my parents' generation. Not only was there a constant fear of nuclear apoco-rama-death (and judging by the article, that was close a few more times than we thought), there was also a distinct lack of the things that we take for granted now: computers, the internet, cheap consumer electronics, cars for all, mobile phones, reasonably-priced international air travel, multi-channel television, multiculturalism (with the food having the most impact for the majority), and iPods. I could go on all night.

My parents were born into rationing, our friends across the Atlantic still had two costly wars to fight in Asia, Britain was still a superpower, and black Americans could (effectively) not vote or use the same bus as whites. A fascinating story of last week brought this into focus: Al Sharpton's (a civil rights campaigner and 2004 Democratic presidential candidate) great-grandfather was owned by a relative of the great-great-grandfather of Storm Thurmond (another presidential candidate, whose party was anti-black-rights: their slogan was "Segregation Forever!" in 1948). An amazing coincidence, but it highlights just how recent this all was: imagine that your grandfather's father had been owned by another man. It almost beggars belief.

Which is all a long way of saying "we've got it good, haven't we?". We take a lot for granted nowadays, and maybe we should remember that as we see many of these rights being eroded and our governments trying to impose our values and beliefs on others.

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Game

I'm off up to visit my parents in the Highlands this weekend, so here's a game to keep you going in my gut-wrenching absence. Remove sticks but keep the star above the line.

Later, dudes.

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Music videos 30

40 Smashing Pumpkins: “Tonight Tonight”
This is good stuff. An excellent song combines with an excellent video with nice aesthetics. Either a loving homage or a direct copy of a 1902 french silent film.


39 Aphex Twin: “Windowlicker”
Phenomenal. Surely the audiovisual peak of both Aphex and Cunninghams' careers, it's a scandal that the video is not well inside the top 10. The song subverts R&B music, the video subverts rap videos. If you've never seen it before, I won't spoil it too much. Safe to say that this is a stomach-churning masterpiece. Only watch if you're OK with the strongest language possible and bizarre sexually-ambiguous Aphex-sluts. Stick with it for the first few minutes. Remember that it's a comedy. Possibly the best music video ever.

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Penny for your thoughts?


Here's a quick one for the Losties. In the recent Desmond episode, the photo with Penny was a key point in the episode. On the left here is the picyure that Desmond showed when we first saw him in series 2; on the right is the photo from the recent episode.

Strange. It can't be an accident, surely?

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