Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Dodgeball: A True - Ah, Forget It...

So I'm watching Dodgeball on TV and it got to the part where I thought Lance Armstrong was about to enter to give Peter his life-affirming pep-talk, when there was a sudden cut to another scene.

"Interesting," I thought to myself, "they've cut the guy out of the movie."

 Turns out I spoke too soon (and the reader will note that I even had a clip to prove it).

Then Vimeo went and pulled the clip, so I guess, in a funny sort of way, the scene was cut.

Oh, well...

Thursday, 6 September 2012

And Now, A Song...

Five years ago, I went, with my nephew, Mitchel and his mum, to a recital in the National Concert Hall, Dublin, entitled "40 Shades of Ireland."

The event formed part of the St Patrick's Day Festival in the great city where I reside, and featured a 100-voice choir and the Barabbas Theatre Company.

That in itself should have told me something, but I am not The Fastest Man Alive.

Anyhow, our seats for the performance were located in the right-side balcony overlooking the stage; good seats, but with restricted view if one happened to be an eight-year-old. So my nephew, spotting some seats (a vast expanse) at the back of the auditorium, decided we were going to sit there instead. He went and asked an usher if it was okay, and she told him that if nobody came to sit in those seats by the time the show began, she would come and get us and bring us to them.

Which, shortly thereafter, she did.

Picture, if you will - actually no, permit me to illustrate:


This is the seating chart for the NCH. On the left can be seen the seats we were originally assigned; at the top are the seats we ultimately occupied, thanks to my nephew's need to see 'everything'. The 'Bored Theatre Critic' denoted by the red square was the only other person in the top half of the balcony.

So I think it's safe to say that our position was exposed, to say the least.

Hence my concern when the clowns arrived on stage.

Now, as all know, clowns is bastids. expecially the ones with the complete whiteface (and tattooed tear that shows they've been in a Russian prison).

Anyway, a trio of clowns (red noses, haplessly clumsy) appeared on stage, ostensibly to sweep up before the choir arrived. Whiteface admonished them to stop messing about and get on with it, but of course the choir arrived (all wearing black, it must be said) before they could escape, so they had to make themselves, ah, inconspicuous.

Mitchel was fascinated.

"How are they going to escape?"
"Why doesn't he (Whiteface) have a red nose?
"Why is he being mean?"
"Are they going to sing now?"

You get the idea.

And of course the clowns tried to 'help' by singing, introducing humourous sound effects, etc., while the choir attempted to render a variety of Irish classics.

But for us, the high point was half-time, when the clowns took over and demanded audience participation in the singing of a song which, we were assued, had been part of the National Schools Curriculum of 1984.

Producing a large board upon which appeared the lyrics, we 'learned' the song by repeating each line as it was sung by the clowns, doing the appropriate actions as directed, just as we would have done in school.

And thus it was that we learned the timeless Irish classic, "Amos the Leper".

Here now, for posterity and following five years' worth of extensive research, are the lyrics:

"Amos was a family man
He earned his living from the land;
Many friends had Amos
And a wife and family.

But friends and family left his side
When he became a leper man.
Yes, Amos the leper
Was banished from the land.

So cry Unclean! oh you lonely lonely leper,
Stay away in your cave upon the hill.
Ring your bell oh you sad and lonely leper.
Amos the leper was banished from the land,
Yes, Amos the leper was banished from the land..."

Imagine if you will, therefore, an auditorium filled with families (escept for the yellow balcony which, as I have explained, was something of a cultural desert), being taught this strange little song by red-nosed bastids, and having to do a little jump into the air on the word 'leper', and you'll understand why the place was in absolute tears of laughter*.

As the concert ended (and I honestly couldn't tell you what the choir finished with), and everyone left the hall, all we could hear were people humming or singing Amos the Leper, with the occasional 'lep' by a small child.

Excellent stuff - bring back Barabbas...

*except for the bored theatre critic...

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Season's Greetings...

It seems the holidays arrive earlier and earlier each year, don't it?

Last year, Easter eggs went on sale on December 30th.

Today, with a warm September sun bathing the city in late-summer warmth, in Marks & Spencer in Dublin I observed that "Seasonal Mince Pies" and snowflake-bedecked displays were once more in evidence, with a mere 110 shopping days left to Christmas.

A cursory glance at the 'sell-by' date on the mince pies suggested they'd best be eaten by the 30th of September.

Happy holidays, everyone...

Sunday, 26 August 2012

One Small Step...

I was saddened to learn this evening of the passing of Neil Armstrong, a man who entered history in 1969 as the first human being to set foot on another world.

I remember watching, a wide-eyed child of six years, as my father explained to me that the man I was seeing on TV was actually walking on the Moon, which was visible in the sky at the time.

I don't know that the significance of Man's first step on the lunar surface made much of an impresson on me at the time - I may have been waiting for the monsters to appear - but I could tell from the expression on my father's face that something important was happening.

I have always had a fascination with space; the courage of men and women who launch themselves into the cosmos on the back of what amounts to an enormous bomb never fails to win my admiration.

But men such as Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins were among the pioneers - their exploits and those of they who preceded them (Gagarin, Shepard, Leonov, Glenn, et al) paved the way for the astronauts of today as they continue to make advances that will one day enable us to revisit the lunar surface and go beyond; to Mars, the Jovian moons and, in time, the stars.


Let us hope that the next generation, those who walk in the footsteps of Armstrong, Aldrin and the men of the Apollo missions, as they revisit the Moon and beyond, do so in the spirit and character of those who laid the trail.

For all mankind...

Saturday, 11 August 2012

The regular reader (Hi, Fred) will recall an early post on this blog in which I wrote about classic '70s TV show, "Harry O", and expressed a hope to see it appear on DVD.

Four years later, in August 2011, Warner Home Video released the original pilot movie, "Smile Jenny, You're Dead", which sparked renewed hope that the main series would follow. A year passed and nothing.

But as I pointed out all those years ago, I am nothing if not patient. And yesterday patience was rewarded when I found this on Amazon.com:


Needless to say, a copy is on its way to me even as we speak...


Friday, 10 August 2012

August 9th, 2012...

Every Irishman (and woman, I hasten to add) who is old enough to remember Italia '90 can tell you where he (or she) was when Packie Bonner saved the penalty and David O'Leary scored the decider against Romania that put the Republic of Ireland through to the quarter finals of the World Cup.

That was 22 years ago, and now Ireland has a sporting hero(ine) for a new generation:


Katie Taylor from Bray, Co. Wicklow - Irish, European, World (4 times) and now Olympic Women's Lightweight Boxing Champion, this remarkable young woman has won every prize there is to win in amateur boxing and has been instrumental in the sport having become an Olympic event.

Ireland's flag bearer at the 2012 London Olympic opening ceremony, Katie Taylor joins a long line of Irish boxing medal-winning Olympians but is unique (so far) in being the only woman.

Yesterday, she beat long-time rival, Sofya Ochigava of Russia, to win Olympic Gold and see her country's flag raised to the sound of Amhrain na bFhiann, while a crowd of up to 10000 visiting and expatriate Irish supporters sang proudly.

She will come home to Ireland to be met at the airport by, well, everybody, after which the 45-minute trip to her home town (it will be an open-top bus) will take about 5 hours.

That's not to take away from the achievements of the rest of the Irish team, in particular the boxers, who at the time of writing are guaranteed a silver and two bronze medals, with the possibility of that silver becoming gold for John Joe Nevin of Mullingar if he can beat Luke Campbell of Great Britain in his final bout tomorrow.

But for now, at the end of (as they say) the day, Ireland belongs to Katie.

I wonder what she'll do next?

Saturday, 21 July 2012

July 20th, 2012...


I haven't seen it yet, but it seems the final movie in Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy has become more than just this summer's blockbuster.

By now all will have heard of the shooting in Aurora, Colorado, where a 24-year-old former Ph.D. student named as James Holmes was arrested following the killings of 12 cinemagoers and injuring of 71 others, including children as young as 6 years of age, who were in the audience at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises.

When apprehended, the man claimed to be the Joker.

And maybe he is.

What other kind of sick monster wakes up one morning and decides he's going to shoot up a movie theatre?

Surely no sane person would do something like that?

And if so, then why? What could a sane person hope to achieve by such an act?

Notoriety?

There'll be that, certainly. Probably because of its proximity to Columbine High School, the central figure in this atrocity will inevitably be remembered in the same breath as Harris & Klebold.

Comparisons may also be drawn to Norway's Anders Breivik, who went on a well-planned bombing and killing spree in 2011.

There'll be questions as to his state of mind, and why Holmes was able to acquire his weapons as easily as he did. The gun- and anti-gun lobbies will go at it over rights, the US Second Amendment, all the usual arguments.

But nothing will change, and 12 families will mourn the loss of a brother or sister, son or daughter while platitudes and rhetoric echo around them.

James Holmes deserves to be forgotten - the Joker isn't real. But his acts and those of they who came before him should not be swept under the rug of politics - elected authorities must enact legislation to ensure things like this can't happen - otherwise they're failing in their duty to their constituents and fellow human beings.


Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Things I'm Reading...

It's been a while since I've commented on books that I've read or am reading, but there's a pile of them lying around so I thought, "Why not?"

The death in 2010 of Boston author Robert B. Parker deprived the world of a master of the detective novel. Over a career that spanned five decades, Parker produced an admirable body of work in a variety of genres, his most famous characters being small-town police chief Jesse Stone and Boston P.I., Spenser.

Parker developed these two very different characters, making them believable within their universe, and while they never crossed paths in the novels, they existed in a Venn-diagram kind of milieu where supporting characters would crop up in both streams, giving the whole a unified sort of feel.

And, sad as I was at Parker's passing, I was encouraged by the fact that the stories of his two protagonists would continue, new works having been approved by his estate.

The first of these was "Killing The Blues", a Jesse Stone story by Michael Brandman, who collaborated with Parker on a number of movie projects including the Jesse Stone series starring Tom Selleck.

Brandman does an admirable job in preserving Parker's 'voice', losing none of the appeal brought by Parker in nine previous novels. Here, a crime wave of stolen cars in the town of Paradise, Mass., expands to arson and murder, and Chief Stone has his work cut out for him trying to stop it while staying alive.

The story is well-paced, the conclusion satisfying,  and I think it's safe to say I'll hang on for  the next entry in the series.

*******************

In "Lullaby", Ace Atkins sends Spenser on a knight-errant mission to discover what really happened to the mother of then 10-year-old Mattie Sullivan, who disappeared four years ago and was found murdered. The youngster, convinced that the man convicted of the crime is innocent, hires the PI to find the truth, something at which he excels, and the game is afoot.

The story takes Spenser to South Boston, a little afield from his normal haunts, and reunites him with Hawk, as they investigate the case. With echoes of True Grit, I was also reminded (by the character of Mattie) of a young Jodie Foster in the 1974 Harry O pilot movie "Smile Jenny, You're Dead".

I'll be checking out Atkins's Quinn Colson series and other work, and watching out for his next visit to Boston.

*******************

Robert Crais's latest novel, Taken, once again sees Los Angeles PIs Elvis Cole and Joe Pike involved in a missing persons case. Well, actually two, since Cole becomes one of them while working undercover looking for the others, kidnapped by people-traffickers in the California-Mexico borderlands.

Told from different perspectives, in staggered flashbacks, the story is fast-paced, the dialogue spare and unembellished; and, while not the best of Crais's stories (for me, anyway), it's still a solid entry in the Cole & Pike canon.

*******************

Amos Walker walks the mean streets of Detroit's Mexicantown in his latest outing, "Burning Midnight", as creator Loren D. Estleman sends him on a mission to help John Alderdyce's daughter-in-law save her young brother Ernesto from joining one of two feuding gangs.

As he attempts to find the youngster, Walker encounters the usual gamut of  opposition,  invariably meeting it with his head and an empty .38 revolver, as he finds himself caught in the middle of arson, murder and an impending gang war. All's not what it seems, however, as the veteran PI soon finds out...

Estleman's at the top of his form here, and although Walker's starting to show signs of wear and tear (he still hasn't recovered from his last case) there's still a few good miles left in him.

Here's to the next case...

*******************




Tuesday, 3 July 2012

And Now, Parody...

I was whiling away some spare time when I stumbled upon this video, courtesy of website Loyal K*N*G:


The regular reader will recognise it as a parody (and a rather clever one, at that) of the video for "Somebody That I Used To Know" by Gotye (feat. Kimbra - I believe that's important), which, for comparison purposes, can be seen here:


And on we go...

Monday, 25 June 2012

And The Angels Sing...


Justice Is Coming...

The trailer for the upcoming reboot of 2000 AD's best-known character is now online, and, if it's to be believed, will take its place as the defining portrayal of Judge Dredd.

This movie, written by Alex Garland (author of The Beach) and directed by Pete Travis (Vantage Point), follows Dredd and cadet Judge Anderson as they fight to bring down villain Madeline Madrigal, aka Ma-Ma, dealer in mind-altering drug Slo-Mo.

The character of Ma-Ma is played by Lena Headey, most recently seen in HBO's Game of Thrones as Queen Cersei Lannister, but perhaps better known as the title character from The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

The character of Mega-City One is played, in part, by the city of Johannesburg.

Karl Urban plays the eponymous lawman, the helmet stays on, the stage is set.


Court's in session September 21st, 2012.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Ulysses? It's Not All That...

For those who may not be aware, yesterday, June 16th, was Bloomsday in Dublin, traditionally the day, in 1904, on which the story of James Joyce's "Ulysses" takes place.

Friday saw the annual procession of delivery boys (and girls) on bicycles through the city, many if not all in period costume for the occasion. As in previous years, it rained.

There were also readings from Ulysses at various venues throughout the city that either featured in the book or indeed, Joyce's other works.

All of it is lost on me.

I've tried to read Ulysses - seriously, I have, but it's a punishing read, and so far I've been unsuccessful in completing it. I've attempted to read sections, but at least one is nothing more than a 50-plus page, stream-of-consciousness run-on sentence (which flies in the face of everything I was taught in school) and is not unique.

I understand that the novel is based upon the story of Odysseus, but that's about it.

And perhaps I'm showing my ignorance (although I have read Homer), but there appears to be a universal, international appeal to the book that draws people from all over the world to Dublin for June 16th, so who am I to judge?

I would, however, recommend Joyce's "The Dead", a story that I have enjoyed, as well as John Huston's film version from 1987, starring Donal McCann as Gabriel Conroy and Anjelica Huston as Gretta Conroy. I will admit to having seen the movie first, which was reason enough for seeking out the original printed work, and was not disappointed.

But for me, the appreciation of Ulysses is, sadly, something that will have to happen to other people...

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Sunday, When The Lights Went Out...

So the Great Powerdown of 2012 went ahead, and was successful (thanks for asking), at least from an IT perspective. In a departure from normal practice, the project manager actually stayed onsite to supervise, something for which we were most appreciative, not to mention quite relieved.

We had a 6:00 a.m., or in military speak, oh-six-hundred (What's the "oh" stand for? "Oh My God, it's Early!!!") hours, start, in order to shut down systems gracefully rather than let them crash, which would have been extraordinarily bad, and handed over to Facilities at 7:02, at which point the word was given, and the lights went out.

After that it was home for breakfast and waiting for the call to return for the inevitable powerup and testing, which was due to commence at 6:00p.m.

I also had to decide what to do with a set of car keys I found on the street on my way to work that morning.

Quite by chance, I crossed Marlborough St. at a point closer to Parnell than I would normally have done, and came upon a bunch of keys evidently dropped by someone the previous night. There were the usual house and assorted keys, some colourful keyrings attesting to the fact that the owner enjoyed visits to (or souvenirs from) Ibiza, and a switchblade key for a Volkswagen of some description.

There being no cars in evidence, I was unable to see whether the key fit anything, so I resolved to turn them in at my earliest convenience at the nearest Garda station. Which I did.

I handed the keys over to a bored-looking cop at the desk and explained where and when I had found them. He examined the car key and told me it was one of a new type, and that if I took it to a VW dealership they'd be able to tell me the make and model of the car it belonged to, and possibly identify the owner.

There was a brief pause.

As impressed as I was with modern automotive science, I wasn't particularly interested in identifying the car, and said so; I told him I figured the car's owner would stop in at the police station on the offchance that someone had handed in the keys.

The cop thought about it, said okay, and took my name and contact number.

"Just in case," he said.

"So if no-one claims the keys in a year and a day, do I get to keep the car?" I asked, jokingly.

He had nothing to say about that...

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Oh, How We Laughed...

This weekend, my colleagues and I will be assisting our facilities management team with a building-wide powerdown in order to allow them to upgrade the building's electrical generators.

The announcement went out three weeks ago, and after the inevitable wrangling and disagreements, it's on for Sunday.

A final reminder went out reminding people to make sure to power down their desktop PCs and such on Friday evening before leaving, (because power will be unavailable between 0700 and 2000 Sunday) and we got this reply back:

"Saturday's (!) fine with us for the powerdown, but we'll be updating the website on Sunday (!!)so we'll need access to email, intranet and server <xxxxxx01>, as well as a phone contact in case there are any issues. Thanks. (!!!)"

Needless to say, we were too busy rolling around the floor laughing to reply immediately, but my team leader pulled himself together and sent a carefully-worded reply to the individual concerned.

Who didn't understand.

"But we have to update the website - we need access."

"There'll be no electricity."

"But - "

"No electricity, no lights, no comms, no PCs, no servers, no network, no intranet. No access."

"But I don't think you understand - "

At which point it got ridiculous. It seems his team interpreted "No power" to mean that the network would be unavailable. Curious, because they work in Communications, and I thought we were quite clear.

Can't wait for the next instalment...

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

I Hate This Town...

As I may have mentioned previously, it has been our custom, where I work, to go away for a weekend around Christmas, if for no other reason than to get us out of the city and give me a chance to learn how to declare "I love this town!" in the local language, something I am now able to do with confidence in France, Spain, Italy, The Netherlands, Germany, Hungary and, if we ever go there, Klingon.

It's something, however, I am less likely to say about my hometown these days.

Dublin has degenerated into 'Land of the Junkies' - where every street corner seems to have either a dealer or a hophead, one with the jitters looking around for cops that rarely materialise, the other so spaced out of it that he wouldn't know it if they did.

They wander out into traffic and pick fights with each other or with humans, or meander their way from one end of the street to the other, wailing in barely-intelligible English for their friend/supplier/other, frequently passing each other by without noticing so that the cries and responses grow to resemble a sort of 'Junkie Sonar':

"Sharonnnn!!!"................................................................"Whaaaaa???"
"Sharonnnn!!!"............................................"Whaaaaa???"
"Sharonnnn!!!"........................."Whaaaaa???"
"Sharonnnn!!!"........"Whaaaaa???"
.............
"Sharonnnn!!!"........"Whaaaaa???"
"Sharonnnn!!!"........................."Whaaaaa???"
"Sharonnnn!!!"..........................................."Whaaaaa???"

They push baby buggies (with or without infants in them) out into traffic, almost daring it to hit them, and lurch about like the walking dead, all the while looking for their next fix.

It'd be almost funny if it wasn't so godsdamn tragic...

And then there are the pushers.

On any given day, I watch from my office window and see guided tours of the Henry St/Moore St area, where groups of people are told of the history and traditions of the quarter, and its place in our revolutionary story. And on any given day, these groups are within reach of up to three drug dealers spotting for each other while trying to stay out of the view of the so-called "anticrime" cameras.

The police do their best (and indeed have redoubled their efforts of late) but a lot depends upon their witnessing a crime before they can intervene, and their resources are stretched thinly enough that they can't be everywhere all the time. Indeed, the afore-mentioned dealers have a network in place that warns them if a Garda appears anywhere in a three-block radius. The bastards even use Bluetooth.

We've taken to giving them names - there's Scarecrow, a gangly, bespectacled individual who carries a phone in one hand and watches for police; Poison Ivy, who runs a flower stall that also sells contraband tobacco; the Ear, a guy who, like Scarecrow, acts as spotter but wears a bluetooth earpiece. You get the picture.

Merchandise is stashed in a refuse bin on the corner; occasionally we'll see a dealer running after the council workers who empty the bins if they've been by too early.

There's also a mobile 'stash', held by an elderly gentleman who looks like somebody's kindly old grandfather and goes about with a tartan pull-along shopping trolley.

Every now and again the police cruise by and disrupt business; for a short time, they even stationed a uniformed officer on the street corner. But that just succeeded in driving the business somewhere else. Three days later, they were back.

It is to our shame as a society that this situation exists and is allowed to continue.

And as much as I love my city, I sometimes really hate this town...

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Rise of the Machines...


The Telegraph and other sources today reported that

"Driverless cars are to be allowed on the roads of Nevada, which has become the first state in America to allow the vehicles to apply for their own driving licences."


Developed by Google, and following exhaustive testing, the cars will be allowed to drive their passengers, freeing them to take care of such tasks as texting, drinking coffee and even reading newspapers.

Any enterprising businessperson should be off and running with this, which of course has applications in public transport.

So it shouldn't be long before we see the emergence of things like this:



Just goes to show that, in Nevada, you can bet on anything...

Monday, 30 April 2012

It Was The Best Of Times, It Was The Worst Of Times...

Manchester City 1, Manchester United 0...

That's the half-time scoreline as I write this, and I'm happy.

Added to this is the small matter of having completed a long-running project in work, the recent wedding of two very good friends (to each other, I hasten to add) and the approach of summer (and all that that implies) and I think you'll agree that life is not at all bad.

Except for the reading glasses.

I've been having problems for a while with small print and trying to read in poor light, so I decided to have my oculars tested, the result being a light prescription for reading glasses.

To be fair, it was something that was predicted in my last eye test, about 15 years ago, but it does put a tear in the ol' invulnerability index...

They aren't too uncomfortable, but I do feel like Admiral Kirk in STII - if anyone asks, I'm allergic to Retinax V.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

More Stuffing, Vicar???

Note: Some (actually, only one) of the names in the following post have been changed to protect the identity of the people involved; for example, Niall will be referred to as 'Alan', etc.

Last night, following a phone conversation with my old friend, Alan (see above), I was persuaded to watch an episode of BBC comedy "The Vicar of Dibley", starring Dawn French as the eponymous cleric.

The episode in question was a Christmas special, wherein Rev. Geraldine is invited to not one, not two, but four Christmas lunches by members of her congregation, none of whom she has the heart to turn down, and one of which had about nine courses.

It gave new meaning to the word 'stuffing'.

Not that there weren't a few laughs; it is, after all, a family show with something for everybody, and the characters play well against each other.

However,the highlight for me was a small child's answer, when asked where Jesus was born.

"In Dunstable", was the innocent reply.

Thanks, Alan...

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Dreams...

So I've been having some weird dreams lately.

Not the one about being the only one at work with no shoes, or the one about flying (that was pretty cool, actually).

In last night's supporting feature, I left all my books outside on the street (in the rain) - I don't know why.

Another time, I was the manager of an old, haunted post office where the previous postmaster had been murdered (only the day before) by someone who turned out to be the last person I'd have suspected. When confronted she confessed, laughing maniacally and saying that

"I would've gotten away with it too, if it hadn't been for you meddling kids,"

whereupon, suddenly realising that there was no talking dog and his mad friends, she apologised for being in the wrong murder mystery and arrested herself.

There was another dream about being in charge of the letter "L", which pretty much amounted to a lot of work, and last night's main feature, a Cecil B. de Mille epic involving the Stewart Granger-like Safari adventure involved in preparing to reboot a storage controller on a SAN* array in my datacentre, the actuality of which involved logging onto it, clicking "Restart" and waiting 30 seconds.

Why can't I have the dream about lying on a beach in the sun, sipping a Mojito and watching as Halle Berry emerges from the surf?


I'd certainly trade someone for management of the letter "L"...


*SAN - Storage Area Network

Monday, 5 March 2012

When A Job's TooTough For Even A "Nanny 911" Intervention...

This man posted this video on Youtube in which he expresses his disappointment with some comments posted on her Facebook page by his 15-year-old daughter, which he discovered after upgrading her laptop for her.

For, in addition to being a caring father, he is also an IT professional.


In it, he reads the message she posted on her page complaining about her life and her parents' treatment of her, then offers his rather unique rebuttal - in .45 calibre hollowpoint.

An IT professional with a gun.

And a caring father...

Monday, 20 February 2012

Netflix - Maybe, Maybe Not...

Netflix, as many may know, launched in the UK and (more importantly) Ireland last month, and are offering a 30-day free trial to new members.

At €6.99 a month after the trial period ends, it sounded like a good deal, so I signed up.

The registration process asked me to rate or comment on a variety of genres and titles in order to build up a profile with which the service would recommend movies I might enjoy.

On reflection, perhaps I should have skipped that part, because the available catalog is so small as to offer many of the same titles in different categories, and attempting to fine-tune things by selecting 'Not Interested' didn't seem to help.

Here's what I've discovered so far:

1. Classic movies - few. A search for Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon returned nothing, and a search for Humphrey Bogart returned The African Queen and nothing else. There are 3 John Wayne movies, however, all westerns. Henry Fonda can be seen in On Golden Pond, with daughter Jane and Katharine Hepburn. Marilyn Monroe can be seen only in Some Like It Hot, with co-stars Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis.

2. New releases - depends on one's definition. The most recent production year was 2011 for a documentary called Page One, about the New York Times and apparently featuring Julian Assange. A small number of titles from 2010, including The Expendables and The Mechanic.

3. TV - mostly British series, dramas from ITV and BBC, so good-quality, but nothing earlier than 1990 except Fawlty Towers. I would have hoped for some classic US shows or even some of the great ITC shows of the '60s and '70s, but nothing doing.

4. Foreign Films - mainly Asian martial-arts, but with a small number of European titles, including one with Jean Claude Van Damme. I did, however, find a film featuring Jeremy Irons and Patricia Kaas,entitled "And Now, Ladies and Gentlemen...", which wasn't bad.

But that in itself will not be enough to maintain my interest, so unless the selection improves drastically in the next 28 days or so, I think I'll be checking out Amazon's LOVEFiLM instead.

Might even give it a look in any event...

Thursday, 2 February 2012

The New 52 - Not So Good As I'd Hoped...

My file at Forbidden Planet is going to be a little thinner from tomorrow - I'll be dropping a number of titles from my list.

Curiously, they're all from DC's "New 52":

First off the list is Stormwatch - I don't know what I expected from this; perhaps a grittier JLA or something, but after 5 issues they've had to have a leader imposed upon them because they couldn't decide on one themselves. And they were fighting the Moon.

Nope.

Next, Green Arrow - DC's relaunch of the Emerald Archer sees Ollie reunited with his wealth, so in effect he's become Bruce Wayne. One of the things that defined the character for me was that he had lost everything, but rebuilt his life, becoming a hero in the process.

Unless DC's setting Ollie up for a big fall (and they're taking their time about it) then he's not the character I enjoyed reading for so many years.

Animal Man was a title I picked up on recommendation from one of the staff in FP; I don't have it on order but I was intrigued enough to pick it off the shelf each month. I'd like to stick withit, but the artwork's really doing my head in. Maybe I'll give it another look in a few months, but for now, bye-bye Buddy...

I'll probably drop Savage Hawkman as well, but I'm going to give it another month or two and see what develops. I've never read a Hawkman title before so I've nothing to compare it to, but it's not been bad so far.

And the old reliables aren't safe either: Batman, Superman, Detective - I've been reading them for decades and I'm still to be convinced about the relaunched versions. One thing that's annoying me is that there seem to be multiple versions of characters - the Superman appearing in Action Comics is different from the character in the Superman title; The Batman in, well, Batman, is different from the one appearing in Batman & Robin, for example, or in JLA. It's as if they exist in parallel, which is bizarre to say the least.

I feel no attachment to any of these characters - they're not the ones I grew up reading, and it has been no problem putting a book aside when I couldn't get into thestory, something that's happening more and more frequently of late.

I have been reading more titles from other publishers, increasingly IDW and Dynamite - IDW's new Star Trek book, retelling episodes from the original series with the reimagened cast, is pretty good and works well. I've also been reading Dynamite's Flash Gordon:Zeitgeist and The Bionic Man, with which I've been impressed.

So it's not all bad news - just for DC...

A Day Off...

Having some accumulated time on my hands, I took today off from work.

I had grand plans for the time, most of which included household chores, but accomplished only some of my planned tasks, one of which was to rearrange the bookcase in my living room. The work was therapeutic, and reacquainted me with some books I hadn't read in a while.

A bowl of chicken & vegetable soup for lunch, then I watched Alec Guinness as George Smiley in "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy", the original BBC production from 1979. Having seen the recent film starring Gary Oldman asSmiley, it was interesting to compare the two productions and, indeed, portrayals of LeCarré's master spy.

All in all, though, it was good to spend a day away from the office. Have to do these things once in a while to stay sane...

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Favourite Movie Scenes: Blazing Saddles...


I'm a big fan of Mel Brooks.

As in-flight entertainment goes, his movies are among the best in terms  of passing the time between here and Neptune.

One of my favourites is Blazing Saddles,one of themost quotable movies in cinema history, with (almost) every scene worth the price of admission.

My favourite scene in the movie is where the townsfolk meet in the church to discuss the state of things and what they're going to do about it.

It goes like this:


 

Now who, as Dr. Samuel Johnson said, can argue with that?

What Part Of 'No' Don't You Understand???

Over a 10-day period, I have had no less than three (3!) doorstep visits from salespeople representing Airtricity, a power generation and supply company, trying to sign me up to a contract with them, something I resolutely refuse to do.

Notwithstanding the fact tht the IncrediCave uses a combination of geothermal energy and cold fusion as a power source, I could not be less inclined to sign with these people if they offered me their service for free.

This is how it works:

The sales agent calls to your door and asks if you would like a 16% (or whatever the rate du jour is) reduction in your electricity bill. If you say yes, he asks for a copy of your bill and will sign you up on the spot if you let him. What he doesn't tell you about is the small print:
  • You have to agree to a Direct Debit payment method - this allows the service provider to take their money from your account at their convenience, something I refuse to permit;
  • If you don't pay by DD, not only do you forfeit a significant chunk of the discount, you also become liable for a one-off 'Security Deposit' of €300 ($350) which will be applied to your first bill. This is also not made clear; I found out about it through research.
  • Opting to receive a paper bill in the post also drops the discount level - Airtricity brands itself as a 'Green' company, and thinks that email is the way to go- besides, with DD, you won't even need to worry about a bill, will you?
Now, I've been from one end of this Solar System to the other and I've seen a lot of strange things, but nothing so strange as a company that works on the basis that 'the customer is not to be trusted'.

If I've learned nothing else in life, I have learned that you don't buy anything on your doorstep - with that in mind, I usually thank callers for their time and promise to look at the offer they've brought on the Web so I can see it for myself.

And that's usually the end of it.

But Airtricity appear to be more difficult to get rid of than a case of the Argonian - er, Flu...

I first tried to submit a request using their website's email complaint form. The fact that they have a category for 'Door to door Sales' is interesting. I filled out the form concisely and clearly, requesting no further sales or marketing contacts, and clicked the form's 'Send' button.

Nothing happened.

It continued not happening when I tried a second time, and a third time using a different web browser.

On Monday, I called Airtricity's Customer Service Line, whose phone menu offers four options, none of which seem to fit the category of my problem.

Selecting '3' for Sales, I spoke to a young woman and explained the situation.

"Oh," she said, "You'd better speak to a Customer Services Rep. If you hold on, I'll put you straight through."

Five minutes later I was still listening to a recording saying how important my call was and apologising for the delay.

Needless to say I hung up.

My next recourse will be a letter to the Customer Services Manager, followed by the energy Regulator.

Sadly, I remain pessimistic...

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

And While I'm On The Subject...

Happy Birthday also to boxing legend, three-time World Heavyweight Champion (back when it meant something), the immortal Muhammad Ali.

I remember staying up late with my Dad and my brother whenever he had a title bout; invariably, they took place in exotic locations like Manila or Las Vegas, so when they were shown live in Ireland it was usually three in the morning.

For me, boxing died as a professional sport when the man retired.

Happy Birthday, Champ - you are and always will be "The Greatest"...

Happy Birthday, Darth Vader...

Or indeed, Happy Birthday to the voice of the Sith Lord, Mr. James Earl Jones.

I first came across him as Thulsa Doom in Conan The Barbarian, before I ever knew about his role in Star Wars.

A subsequent role as the reclusive author Terence Mann, opposite Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams, is a personal favourite.

His is a voice which, like those of  Morgan Freeman and Walter Cronkite, inspires confidence - the man could announce that the world was about to end and people would say, "Oh, that's all right then..."

Of coure, as Darth Vader he got a lot of practice, so he probably had it down.

Makes you wonder what Messrs. Freeman and Cronkite were hiding, don't it?

Happy birthday, sir...

Monday, 16 January 2012

The Artist...

This weekend, I went to see The Artist, a silent movie in black & white directed by Michel Hazanavicius and starring Jean DuJardin and Bérénice Bejo.

DuJardin, a French actor known for his comic roles in the OSS:117 spy spoofs (also directed by Hazanavicius) plays George Valentin, star of the silent screen, known to 1927 audiences for his daredevil adventures and canine companion, Uggie.

A chance photograph, taken with a fan at the premiere of his latest hit,A Russian Affair, introduces ingenue Peppy Miller, played by the delightful Berenice Bejo, who embarks on a career in pictures, beginning as an extra. Some advice from George helps her to establish herself and earn bigger roles in better pictures, and she's soon on her way to the top.

But the age of the talkies has arrived and George wants no part of it,dismissing it as a fad, a crass gimmick that takes away from the artistry of acting. And soon his star is on the wane, and before long, he's yesterday's news.

To say more would be to spoil it completely, and this is a film that quite simply deserves to be seen, not read about.

Director Hazanavicius brilliantly evokes the atmosphere, humour and pathos that were the cornerstones of the silent era, and the excellent supporting cast of John Goodman, James Cromwell and Penelope Ann Miller help to shape what will surely be hailed as a silent classic, nearly a century after the movies learned to talk.


I imagine I'll see The Artist a time or two again - you should, too...



Thursday, 5 January 2012

This Is Just Wrong...

A friend of mine told me today that she had visited the local branch of Marks & Spencer here in Dublin on - wait for it - December 30th.

Where she saw this:


April's almost more than three months away, and those eggs will have hatched by then!

Recession or not, it's a cynical ploy on behalf of the store to lure sales shoppers into impulse buying.

I'm very disappointed...

Monday, 2 January 2012

So That Was 2011, Was It???

And here we are once again at the beginning of a New Year, with seemingly-endless days stretching before us and the promise of spring and, hopefully, summer to come before the neutrinos inevitably mutate and John Cusack gets chased by lava (Dara O'Briain has the inside track on this - trust me).
And it's been a stressful year, both in and out of work, as may be reflected by my somewhat sporadic postings over the last twelvemonth.

So what have we had?
  • Earthquakes - quite a few, but none so powerful as the one that struck Japan in March;
  • Tsunami (it is its own plural, isn't it?) in many areas, most notably South-East Asia;
  • The removal from circulation of several big names on the planetary wanted list,  including Bin Laden and Ghadafi, with Mladic and others facing justice in The Hague;
  • Popular (with the people) uprisings, the so-called 'Arab Spring', North Africa;
  • Unpopular (with the Establishment) uprisings, the so-called 'Occupy insert city-name here Protests', worldwide;
Here in Ireland, we saw a number of things that would have seemed either unlikely, if not impossible in previous years:
  • A state visit by a reigning British monarch;
  • Ireland beating England at Cricket - how bizarre was that?;
  • The near-annihilation of a political party that's been in government for over sixty of our years as an independent nation following a near-revolution by ballot box;
  • Beating reigning champions Australia in the Rugby World Cup (group stage);
  • Qualification for the 2012 European Football Championship finals.
A somewhat punitive austerity Budget in December ensured that the economy will suffer in 2012, but that's institutionalized-short-sightedness for you.

On the work front, things look like being busy, with a reduction in the workforce and an increase in the workload. We're told to think of it as 'challenges and opportunities', but it says 'heart attack by June' to me.

For me, hopefully 2012 will be the year I move house. The suburbs are calling, and I think it's time to listen. We'll see how things turn out.

In any event, I hope your year, in whatever form it's measured, will be a good and positive one for you.

Above all, always remember - be excellent to each other...