Wednesday, 31 December 2008

It's Almost Time...

Even though 2008's going to last an extra second due to the slowing of the Earth's rotation (sorry about that, long story, tell you later maybe), I hope that 2009 is going to have been worth waiting for, for all of us.

So to all of you, from all of me, have a very Happy New Year.

And beware, evildoers, wherever you are...

Recession? Maybe Not...

So I tried to buy a PlayStation 3 today.

Shopped around, picked what I figured was the best deal I was gonna get without going to Northern Ireland (80GB PS3 with FIFA09 and Resistance 2 for €399.99), took a ticket from the display and got in line.

When I reached the counter, the conversation went like this:

Me (handing deal ticket to manager): I'd like a PS3, please.

Manager (pointing to display): 'Which deal?'

Me (thinking it should be obvious from ticket but not being a smartass about it): 'Top left.'

Manager: 'All I have left is FIFA09 and Little Big World. Nothing else.'

Me: 'Can I pick a different game to Little Big World?'

Manager: 'No.'

Me: 'Can I get a credit for when Resistance 2 is in stock again?'

Manager: 'No.'

Me: "Thanks. Goodbye.'

Obviously the recession isn't biting as hard as we're led to believe...

Friday, 26 December 2008

Psst - Is It Over Yet?

Owing to the recent quite spectacular conjunction of some airborne virus and me (my own stupid fault - went out on patrol without an insulated helmet liner, and I don't need to tell you what that means 400 million miles from the Sun), I've been confined to the IncrediCave lately, having little or no contact with the outside world.

Wouldn't ordinarily trouble me overmuch, but it is Christmas, after all, and there is a certain amount of congregation of family that happens about this time each year.

And for the first time in my life, I missed it.

However I may feel about Christmas and what it has come to signify, I do look forward to dinner at my parents' house with everyone around. It's just one of those things.

So I resolve to dress more warmly this time next year.

Sentimental? Me?


Sunday, 7 December 2008

Question Of The Week...

It appears that Gordon Ramsay has a new book on sale entitled "Cooking For Friends".

How would he know?

And We're Back...

It's been a while - a lot of long days and some technical issues - but I'm back.

For now, at least.

This time next Friday I'll be heading to Milan for the weekend - the global recession meaning nothing to the annual IT Services Christmas Weekend.

It's something we've done where I work for the last several years, and a slap in the overpriced face of the Irish tourist industry, but for one weekend in December, a group of about a dozen of us visit a European city instead of having a Christmas party at home.

It started about six years ago when we couldn't find a venue in Dublin, so we booked an overnight in a hotel in Mullingar (a medium-sized town in the Midlands) so people could drive there and not worry about having to get home the same night.

It went well enough that we decided to do it again the following year, but prices had skyrocketed in the meantime, so it wasn't looking good.

Then Dr. Invisible suggested Madrid, and when we got our minds around the rather interesting concept, we said

"Why not?"

The cost of a hotel and return flights came to less than an Irish hotel was demanding for one night's accommodation, and we had a pretty good time except for the moment when - well, maybe I'll not mention that...
We visited the Palacio Réal, formerly the King's official residence but now a museum, and the Bernabeu Stadium, home of Réal Madrid football club.

The year after that, we went to Munich, where it snowed. Really. We took a bus tour and learned many things about the city and its history, ate dinner in a traditional Munich Beerhall after which I allegedly got two of us lost trying to direct a Turkish taxi driver to our hotel in German, a language I don't speak unless drunk.

The jury (as far as I'm concerned) is still out on that one.

Year before last was Amsterdam. A fascinating city. Some of us visited the Anne Frank House, a deeply moving experience, and something that any visitor to the city should not fail to take. We also took a canal boat tour, and sampled the local cuisine, which wasn't what I'd expected. There was a bit of shopping, and my luggage was damaged on the return trip, but I'd go back...

Last year, it was the South of France - Nice, to be exact, possibly the best trip we've taken yet. The weather was 20 degrees Celsius and not a cloud in the sky. Got a bit chilly at night, but life is flawed. We took a trip down the coast to Monaco where there was a Christmas Fair - they actually imported snow - and watched as a British tourist almost got himself shot (or bayoneted, perhaps) by the Palace Guard for approaching too close with his video camera while ignoring audible (and obvious) challenges to halt.

And so to Milan.

I passed through it last year, at about 4am on a train to Rome. I'm looking forward to seeing the Duomo, although I fear we may be unable to get tickets at short notice for Leonardo's Last Supper. But there will be other opportunities. I'll be happy enough to wander about the city and absorb some of its antiquity...

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Could It Be?

A young, charismatic President-Elect.

An overwhelming electoral victory placing a Democrat from a hitherto-unelectable background in the most powerful office in the US.

Dancing in the streets.

It's like 1960 all over again.

And he's even Irish - doesn't get better than that.

Well done, America - thank you kindly.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

America, The World Is Watching...

In just under two hours, polls begin to close in the easternmost states of the U.S., shortly after which we should begin to get some idea whether there will indeed be change in the White House, or four more years...

My regular reader (you know who you are) will recall an earlier post in which I relayed a report suggesting Diebold inadvertently gave away the name of the winner in advance.

It'd be funny if it wasn't so scary.

I'm putting on a pot of coffee; it's gonna be a long night.

The world is watching.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008


Yep, I'm off to London tomorrow, for five days, into which I intend to cram a lot of culture.

I haven't been to London in a few years, the last time being when I went to see an exhibition of the work of Edward Hopper, perhaps most noted for the piece 'Nighthawks', which was the centrepiece of the exhibit and my main reason for going.

Other than spending the day at the Tate, I didn't do much that visit, so I intend to correct that this time around.

There's an Ian Fleming exhibit at the Imperial War Museum; The National Gallery; The British Museum, etc. The shopping list is small; so far I've only been asked to bring back a bottle of Whitley Neil gin and a Paddington Bear, so I should have plenty of time.

Bag's packed, taxi's ordered, nothing else to do but sleep...

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

I Love This Joke...

A guy goes on holiday to Europe for six weeks.

It's his first vacation in years and he does all the tourist things, has a great time.

So midway through his trip, he phones home and gets his brother.

"So how's it going?" he asks.

"Well, your cat died," replies the brother.

The guy is shocked.

"That's no way to break news like that," he says. "I was very attached to my cat. You should break bad news like that gently; you should say something like:

'The cat was out on the roof, chasing squirrels, and got stuck. So we called the Fire Department and they came out and tried to save the cat, but the cat got scared and fell off the roof. So we took the cat to the vet and he did everything he could, even operated, but it was too late and the cat died.'

And the brother is very apologetic, and embarrassed, but the guy says not to worry about it.

"So how's everyone else?" the guy asks. "How's Mom?"

And the brother pauses a moment and says -

"Well, Mom was out on the roof, chasing squirrels..."

Holiday Time...

So I'm abandoning my project team and having the temerity, the unmitigated gall, to take a fortnight off, several nights of which will be spent (as has the money) in London.

I haven't been there in a while, so I'm looking forward to renewing old acquaintances and maybe making some new ones.

And on we go...

Monday, 6 October 2008

I Don't Care What Anyone Sez...

This is indeed the best 'Back To Work On Tuesday' song - ever...

Lip Dub - Flagpole Sitta by Harvey Danger from amandalynferri on Vimeo.

Just, like, because, yeah?

I'm thinking of posting this after every Bank Holiday Monday - what d'you think?

Answers, on a postcard, to the usual address...

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Want To Be like Me?

Well, I'm not sure that's possible, but you could always try this:

I can't guarantee it'll help, and capes aren't included.

Pardon Me, Excuse Me, Excuse Me, Pardon Me...

I hate Sedna.

It's just a rock in the middle of nowhere. Okay, so it's bigger than Pluto, but then so are at least fifteen other similarly-sized objects that nobody bothers about because YOU HAVEN'T DISCOVERED THEM YET!!!

And some of them have moons.

One has six...

But the point is, it takes nearly a month to get there and back, and internet coverage is, not to put too fine a point on it, 'limited'.

And nothing ever happens there, so it's just a case of two quick orbits and home.

But I'm not bitter.

Meanwhile, my alter ego, Bob, has been involved with a work project that's taken a hell of a lot of time and effort, and needs a holiday badly.

Notwithstanding the offer by Ms P.J., the Urban Recluse, to go wolf-tracking in Romania, I think I need something a little more 'staid', so I'm planning a week in London, sometime between now and the end of the month.

I want to visit the British Museum, and maybe the Ian Fleming exhibit in the Imperial War Museum, stuff like that.

And my national airline's having a seat sale, so I should have a limb or two left to get around with.

But on to the planning...

Sunday, 7 September 2008

I Wonder Who Won???

There was supposed to be racing of some sort on Ireland's second national TV channel yesterday afternoon, but the recent monsoons put paid to that.

Instead, some genius at RTE decided to show the 1965 classic 'The Great Race' instead, to be followed at 4:30pm by International Football (Ireland Vs Georgia).

Simple enough, you say?

Yes indeed; until one considers that the movie started at about 2:15pm and has a run time of approximately 160 minutes.

Surprisingly, no-one at RTE seems to have noticed this until about 4:25, with about 40 minutes of movie left and sports coverage due to start in 5.

And sure enough, the movie was pre-empted by a continuity announcer saying '...and there we have to leave The Great Race for the time being, because now it's time for...' etc., as she introduced the football.

The announcement gave the impression that RTE might return to the movie after the match, but the post-match schedule was already pretty full, so I don't think that happened.

The irony is that The Great Race has a built-in intermission anyway, which RTE could have taken advantage of, had they given the matter any thought.

Push the button, Max...

It'd Be Funny If It Wasn't True...

Yesterday was my mother's birthday (Happy Birthday, Mom!).

As a dutiful son, I went in search of a birthday card at Eason's, Dublin's largest bookseller/stationer, whose card dept. is on the first floor. As I got off the escalator, imagine my shock when the first display turned out to be Christmas cards!


I mean, I know the summer's been bad and all, but we haven't had snow yet, and the kids have only been back in school a week - it's just wrong.

At this time of year, Eason's, like many stationers, make their money from third-level students preparing for the college year as well as from book sales, magazines, etc. Nobody's going to be buying Christmas cards at this time of year, so if anything, they're only wasting space with the floor displays.

And calling it 'Gift Ideas' instead of 'Christmas Greetings' isn't fooling anybody.

I've just kicked off an email to the store's general enquiries address ( but I'm not expecting much in response.

I just sometimes despair, y'know?

Is everything just about money?

Doesn't anything retain it's original meaning anymore?

I don't know; the cynical answers to those two questions would of course be 'Yes' and 'No'. But I've gone beyond cynical at this point - now I'm just angry.

Angry at companies who pull this kind of stunt and consistently get away with it; angry at legislators who let them, angry at consumers who don't seem to want to do anything about it.

But most of all I'm angry at myself, because I don't usually get angry, especially over stupid stuff like this...

Damn it all.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

I Need A Holiday - Again...

It's been a horrible summer - miserable weather, work, not winning the lottery, work, having to expand my patrol sector to include Sedna...

I mean, Sedna! Not even Pluto, but some rock billions of miles from the back end of nowhere that some stupid scientist discovered by accident. And all because the Patrol Magistrate got pissed when I tried to explain that - look, there's no way to put 'Uranus' into a sentence without someone getting a laugh out of it, but suffice it to say that he misinterpreted my assertion that I didn't feel the need to patrol there and, well...

Anyway, it's been almost a year since my last holiday, and I have 16 - count 'em! - 16 days to use before the end of December.

The question is, where to go?

Further research is indicated...

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Need To Extend The Trophy Room...

...because this blog has been honoured with this award:

And not once, but twice - by Chris over at Exquisitely Bored in Nacogdoches and by triple-recipient (!) Becca at No Smoking In The Skullcave. The Skullcave is of course home to a veritable plethora of pop-culture pinatas, Becca's own delightful artwork and the weekly Movie Quote Quiz, which I have indeed been fortunate enough to win once or thrice.

And check out Chris's site for his striking and evocative photography of small-town America - well, mostly Texas - as well as his appreciation for certain movies of Frank Sinatra. Also has a thing for Orion Slave Girls, but then, don't we all? I remember the first time I met Rina - I was returning from a patrol out by the Betelgeuse sector when...

But I digress.

As usual, in accepting this award there are duties and obligations to be considered, including the publishment of the rules.

These are they:

1) You have to pick 5 blogs that you consider deserve this award, creativity, design, interesting material, and also contributes to the blogger community, no matter of language.

2) Each award has to have the name of the author and also a link to his or her blog to be visited by everyone.

3) Each award-winner has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her or him the award itself.

4) Award-winners and the one who has given the prize have to show the link of "Arte y Pico" blog, so everyone will know the origin of this award.

5) To show these rules.

But now to the awards - here goes:

To PJ - Urban Recluse, Bronte procrastinatrix and nemesis of JD;

To Tom the Dog, pop-culturist, who knows what I like;

To the curiously-named Me Against Them over at, er,
Me Against Them, a commentary-free collection of cartoons and images guaranteed to raise smiles and eyebrows;

To Mr C. Parker, operator of the Starlet Showcase - self-explanatory once you get there;

And finally, to Bai Ling (yes, indeed), who says Hello.

Congratulations to you all - the jury's off to bed now...

What I Thought Of Clone Wars...

Okay, let's try for positive:

The animated Anakin was less wooden than Hayden Christensen...

The minimal involvement of C-3PO made it almost worth the price of admission...

Christopher Lee and Samuel L. Jackson lent gravitas and cool, respectively...

No evidence of Jar-Jar...

Aside from that, what it lacked in story in made up for in animation. Okay, it was stylised, but I liked it - it was never going to be Pixar-quality, but it didn't suck.

Oh, hell - who'm I kidding?

Baby Hutts and annoying Padawans?

Could have been worse - there could have been singing...

So, Like I Was Saying - ATM Queues...

So there I was on my way to meet my sister, who was dropping off my nephew so I could bring him to see Clone Wars, but had to tap an ATM for funds on the way.

No problem, you say.

There's a bank at the end of my street with two machines, one of which is invariably out of service. The other had a queue of about eight or nine people waiting to use it, so best case, I was going to be in line for about ten minutes or so.

I had plenty of time - twenty mins to meet Ray and Mitch, forty mins before the movie, no worries.

Until the guy at the machine decided he wanted a mortgage or something...

I mean, it's simple - put card in, take money out. There's no negotiation, nothing difficult about it - the whole thing should take no more than 45 seconds max, and yet there's always someone who doesn't get it.

The guy (young, well-dressed, professional-looking) spent the better part of ten minutes trying to get the thing to respond; his card went in and came out about four times before he finally got it right, and then the machine wouldn't give him any money. You'd swear he was playing slots in Las Vegas...

And meanwhile the queue's getting bigger, and you know you can't go and look for another one because there isn't time and oh good! finally he's given up and the woman with the Waterford GAA cap who's been hopping from one foot to the other with her ATM card in her hand and ready 'cos she's off to the match in Croke Park steps up to the machine, inserts it and keys her number and - nothing.

Card out. Wait. Card in.

PIN number.


Card out. Wait. Card in.

PIN number.


Card out...

Realises it isn't going to work, she leaves.

Next contestant please.

Gets a little better from there; the next guy knows what he's about, the one after him has a seeing-eye person even though he's not blind and then yes! - I finally get to the terminal. It'd be just my luck if it was out of cash, but no, and 45 seconds later (see above) I'm away.

A Joe Pesci moment if ever I (almost) had one.

But there was popcorn and a movie later, so that was okay...

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Back On The Air - Shortly...

Avé, all...

I'm still picking up the pieces after the apartment repairs - be back with commentary, photos, reasons why I hate ATM queues, what I thought of Clone Wars, acceptance speeches and a variety of stuff.

In a day or so...

Sunday, 10 August 2008

It's Finally Happening...

After eleven years of dreading the next rainstorm, it's nearly over.

My builder is sending in his reinstatement crew tomorrow at 0900hrs (or 9 a.m., if you prefer) to repair the water damage in my bedroom and living room and redecorate both. The external problems have been fixed and yesterday's freakish monsoon (no kidding) failed to break through. I remain optimistic.

I've spent the last few days putting stuff in temporary storage and moving into my living room, where I'll spend the next few days working from home while the work goes ahead.

It's been a long time coming...

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Every Once In A While...

I like movie soundtracks.

I always have.

So today I picked up a copy (or so I thought) of the OST to The Dark Knight. When I got home and opened the (sealed) case I found not one, but two CDs.

"Strange," I thought, "I didn't know it was a 2-CD set."

Indeed there were no indications to that effect anywhere on the case. Thinking about it, I figured maybe one disk was by Hans Zimmer and the other by James Newton Howard - a clever (Two-Faced?) marketing ploy, perhaps?

But no - somehow I'd ended up with two copies of the same disk in one CD case!


How cool is that?

What makes it more bizarre is I picked from the middle of the stack...

I Rock - At Calvinball...

Your result for How good of a Calvinball player are you?...

Your Grade= A++ Amazing Calvinball knowledge and strategy!

86% Game_Knowledge and 91% Game_Skill!

Amazing. You are part of the 2.1% of the population that landed in this category.* You are an expert at the game and its history, and you did incredibly well when it came to playing Calvinball strategically.

This suggests that you definitely have a natural talent in Calvinball. You have learned that the trick to doing well in Calvinball is not brute strength, but quick wit. If you wanted to, you could conceivably turn professional right now.

You are definitely already talented enough to beat Calvin. A match versus the quick-witted tiger would be closer. Still, your infinite knowledge of the game and your brilliant strategy would surely propel you to victory.

* This is a made up number.

Take How good of a Calvinball player are you? at HelloQuizzy

Just thought I'd say...

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Movie of the Year...


Today I took my young nephew to see The Dark Knight.

He made me promise not to see it without him, and this was the earliest opportunity we both had to go. Eleven-year-olds have busy schedules, after all...

I've been a Batmaniac since I was six, so my judgement is a little clouded, but I have to say that as long as I live (and I plan to live forever) there will never be a performance to match that of Heath Ledger as the Clown Prince of Crime.

The Joker was always insanely, and sometimes even casually, brutal - I recall a moment in one of the Rogers/Englehart stories (Detective Comics 475 - The Laughing Fish) in which a henchman, in order to get Joker to explain his plan to the reader, asks 'What are you going to do, Boss?'

Joker, putting a fatherly arm around the goon's shoulders, tells him 'I have another matter to attend to, Blue-eyes', before pushing the hapless henchman under the wheels of a passing truck with the comment 'Mind your own business!'

Ledger, in this performance, recalls this effortlessly. His Joker knows he's insane, he knows he's a psychopath - but, not alone does he not care, he positively embraces the fact. He sees Batman as his 'other side', his raison d'etre, and revels in the challenge of bringing both him and Gotham to their knees.

Not to take anything away from the rest of the cast - Christian Bale once more manages the dual role of Bruce Wayne/Batman with almost effortless ease, while Gary Oldman's Jim Gordon, a world-weary cop suddenly thrust into the top spot, is spot-on.

Maggie Gyllenhall, for me, was better in the role of Rachel Dawes than Katie Holmes, but that's a matter of taste.

Michael Caine's Alfred and Morgan Freeman's Lucius Fox (two actors who deserve Academy Awards by default) remain pivotal characters in the world of the Caped Crusader, as well as moral compasses for Bruce Wayne and Batman, respectively.

And then there's Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent.

A dynamic, righteous crusader for justice, new Gotham District Attorney Dent finds himself driven over the edge when brutally scarred in his pursuit of the Joker. Eckhart brings a credible pathos to the role most recently camped up by Tommy Lee Jones in Batman Forever. I hope we'll be seeing him again...

Michael Caine, when asked to comment on the possibility of an Oscar nod to Ledger in next year's awards is reported as saying that if there's a better performance than this in a movie this year, he'd pay money to see it.

I concur.

I bet my nephew does as well...

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Right Now, I'm Listening To...

...Some of the finest jazz I've heard in a while.

It's from a station in San Mateo, Ca., called KCSM Jazz 91, broadcasting on FM and the Web 24 hours a day.

What with the time difference, I'm listening to last night's 'Evening Jazz' programme, presented, if the schedule is correct, by Wolf.

Jazz lovers could do worse than give them a listen - go to the home page and click 'Listen Live'.

Works for me...

Monday, 21 July 2008

A Movie For Every Year - The 60s...

So there's this meme going about, where you have to tell everyone how old you are by listing a movie for every year you've been alive. A lot of people have picked up on it, so I thought,

"Why not?"

As an intergalactic hero of some longevity, however, my list will perforce be a bit longer than other peoples'. Sorry about that...

Anyhow, on to the list - I'll have multiple entries per year because there's so much to work with and I have many personal favourites, but I'll try and keep the comments brief. Oh, and I've taken the liberty of adding a movie here and there that doesn't show up on Wikipedia's lists. I trust you'll forgive my impertinence.

And on we go - the 1960s...

1963 (yes, all right, I know...)
Charade: Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn in Paris, with murder and intrigue thrown in. Never gets old.

From Russia With Love: Connery getting into the role of Bond, although, like a new pair of shoes, it takes time to get comfortable.

The Fall of the Roman Empire: Stephen Boyd, Christopher Plummer and Sophia Loren, with Alec Guinness as Marcus Aurelius, in an underappreciated (for its time) depiction of the beginning of the end of empire.

A Shot In The Dark: Peter Sellers in his second (and best) outing as the inimitable Clouseau.

A Fistful of Dollars: The debut of 'The Man With No Name' in which Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood turned the Western on its head. All over an insult to a mule.

The Flight of The Phoenix: James Stewart et al in a tale of plane-crash survivors in the desert. The part where they realise Hardy Kruger's character is a designer of 'toy' airplanes is excellent...

The Great Race: Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, Natalie Wood and Peter Falk in Blake Edwards's tribute to the great slapstick comedies of early cinema. Dedicated 'To Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy', it remains one of my favourites today.

For A Few Dollars More:
The Man with No Name again, this time as a bounty hunter who teams up with Lee Van Cleef's Col. Mortimer to track down the ruthless, musical-watch wielding bandit El Indio (Gian Maria Volonté). The final showdown between Mortimer and Indio is iconic.

The Ipcress File: On TV only last Saturday night, Len Deighton's spy is worlds removed from Ian Fleming's creation, but nonetheless fascinating for all that.

The Spy Who Came In From The Cold: Richard Burton in John le Carré's tale of a washed-up spy who takes one final assignment before retiring. Filmed on location in Ireland, parts of Dublin were used to stand in for Berlin. One location, seen at the end of the picture, remains largely unchanged today.

Thunderball: Connery's best outing as 007. I think you get the point.

Von Ryan's Express: We used to see this in school when they had movies after classes in the gym on a Wednesday. Excellent stuff, and every time I watch it I think Ryan might actually make it to the train...

Batman: Holy Blockbuster! Would've been better if Julie Newmar had been available for Catwoman, though Lee Meriwether was every bit as - feline...

The Blue Max: Another movie shot here - my dad says the planes would fly over our house on their way to and from shooting, but I was too young to remember. Dublin once again fills in for Berlin, with Trinity College as the German High Command.

Our Man Flint: Derek Flint making James Bond look like an amateur.

Texas Across The River: I saw this comedy Western once on TV when I was a kid, and one thing stuck with me - Peter Graves's performance as inept US Cavalry Capt. Rodney Stimpson, who'd give the command "Ah-roor Haar!" and charge off, leaving his men scratching their heads and wondering what he meant.

Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree: 'I'm just a little black rain-cloud...' Should be required viewing by everyone. Just because.

The Dirty Dozen: As with the later M*A*S*H, there's more to Robert Aldrich's film than just a war story. Private Donald Sutherland pretending to be a general and reviewing Col. Robert Ryan's troops was a nice comic moment though, as was Ryan's reaction.

El Dorado: I've always preferred this to Rio Bravo, although it's a lesser movie in many ways. Robert Mitchum wasn't as good at playing the washed-up sheriff as Dean Martin, Arthur Hunnicutt wasn't as 'plumb ornery' as Walter Brennan, but somehow it worked for me.

Hour of the Gun: John Sturges' follow-up/remake of the Wyatt Earp/Doc Holliday story, starring James Garner and Jason Robards. Far superior to his earlier Gunfight at the OK Corral, and more historically accurate.

In Like Flint: Our man again, saving the world single-handed during his coffee break.

In the Heat of the Night: Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger - there should have been two Oscars.

The Jungle Book: The first movie I was ever brought to see as a child. Baloo was my hero, and King Louie introduced me to Jazz.

2001: A Space Odyssey: A remarkable film. I usually wake up before the first dialogue is spoken, the early, prehistoric sequence boring me insensible, but the rest of the movie is a masterpiece. I don't get what the big deal is about Stanley Kubrick - this and Full Metal Jacket are the only movies of his I can watch...

Barbarella: The 41st Century isn't going to look like that, by the way. Just, y'know, FYI...

Bullitt: Should be on everyone's list. Cool cast, cool cars, San Francisco and Lalo Schifrin's cool sounds - let's just go with 'Cool' and leave it at that.

Danger: Diabolik - BBC2 used to show European movies in a late-night slot at weekends when I was but a teenaged sidekick, and this was one of them. I found the DVD while in Berlin and watched the movie for only the second time in maybe thirty years... Bizarre, but great fun.

Once Upon A Time In The West: Evil Henry Fonda? Only Sergio Leone could make that work, and this is his masterpiece.

Planet of the Apes: A brilliant ending – I never saw it coming. Granted, I was about 10 the first time I saw it, but hey…

The Producers: Ah, Zero Mostel… “Did you bring the checkie? Can’t produce plays without checkies…”

The Shoes of the Fisherman: A Pope from behind the Iron Curtain – good idea, but who’d believe it? I bet John Paul II took lessons from Anthony Quinn’s portrayal, though…

The Thomas Crown Affair: More coolness – Steve McQueen (the Samuel L. Jackson of his day), Faye Dunaway, chess, Michel Legrand's score, Windmills of Your Mind…

Where Eagles Dare: One of the best Alastair MacLean adaptations since Guns of Navarone, and the first movie I was let go to see unaccompanied by a grownup. In the city. By bus.

The Italian Job: “You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!” Late Sixties football metaphor :), England looking good, only to lose in extra time. Not to worry though; they got their own back in Escape to Victory...

OHMSS: “This never happened to the other fellow.” One of my favourite Bond movies. Lazenby wasn't bad as 007, being, as Terry Pratchett might say, 'hero-shaped'. I wonder what Diamonds Are Forever might have been like with him instead of 'the other fellow'...

True Grit: “Fill your hand, you son of a bitch!” John Wayne in one of his finest roles, supported by a fine cast, including Strother Martin as the beleaguered horse dealer...

That's it for the Sixties - tune in next time and see what I liked in the decade that was the 1970s...

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Ah, Life's Rich Panoply...

I've had a lot going on this last couple of weeks, both workwise and otherwise, so I haven't had much time for the ol' blog lately.

But, as an aspiring writer and trained observer, I've been taking notes of incidents and people in day-to-day situations, sort of like David Attenborough (one of whose documentaries I'm watching at this very moment) only with humans.

The David Attenborough thing, in case you're interested, is about tigers.

But anyhow, given my recent experience and the reaction of certain individuals, it occurred to me that there are a million stories in the naked (well, t-shirt and shorts-wearing) city, and so here's a few of them.


There's a coffee shop across the street from where I work. It's a takeout place - you put in your order at the door and pay, then move down the line and collect it, do what you want to it and leave.

It's a simple but lucrative operation; the coffee is excellent, costs less than Starbucks and, because Butler's (that's the name) runs it as a sideline to their even more-lucrative chocolate-making business, the price includes a chocolate of your choice to enjoy with your coffee - as you can imagine, it's a popular stop for people on their way to work.

Anyhow, I got there one morning last week and there was this guy in the queue ahead of me. Mid-forties, tall, someone else's hair, he wore a beige (who invented that, anyway? It's not even a real colour...) suit, expensive-looking if I'm any judge, and had a phone jammed in his ear.

The girl in front of him ordered her coffee and took a little more time than he liked picking out her chocolate - he hopped from one foot to the other while he talked to the person on the other end of the phone about where he saw the project timetable going.

The barista, a quiet young woman, handed the customer her chocolate and turned to Phoneboy. This is how it went:

Phoneboy: "And the projections - Capuccino - have to be in by Friday or else."
Barista: "-" No chance to say anything as Phoneboy throws (really!) coins on the counter. No 'please', no hand-to-hand transfer of money, no acknowledgment of her existence. She rings up the sale, makes change and gestures towards an array of chocolate that would - well, let's just say it's impressive and leave it at that.

Phoneboy, annoyed at being interrupted, glares and makes a dismissing gesture so sharply it has a sound effect (Col. Rhombus saluting, 'Spies Like Us'). Do we hate this guy yet?

But back to our story.

I get to the counter, bid Magda a 'Good morning', ask for an Americano, politely decline (I'm lactose-intolerant) chocolate, hand over my money and move along.

Phoneboy's talking about cost-benefit analyses or something and I wonder whether he knows his stupid voice is carrying.

The girl in front of him gets her low-fat latté, puts the lid on, says 'Thank you' and leaves. Phoneboy moves to the front of the queue and waits, still talking. It's about five to seven minutes since I walked in and he's scarcely taken a breath.

Anyway, a cup is placed on the counter.

"Capuccino?" calls the barista, looking around for the owner. No reaction from Phoneboy, and I'm damned if I'm gonna help him out.

"Capuccino," the barista calls a second time. Nothing.

A girl in the queue behind me pipes up.

"I ordered a capuccino," she smiles. I step aside and let her through. Phoneboy's talking about quarterly projections now. Capuccino Girl fixes her coffee the way she wants it and leaves.


"That'll be mine," I grin, taking it and stepping past Phoneboy, for whom the penny is about to drop. I thank her, pick it up, go through the ritual, and start to leave.

"Hot chocolate, marshmallows?"

"Er, I ordered a capuccino?" says Phoneboy, suddenly realising he's missed his call.

I'm laughing as I leave...

The tigers are having great fun. They're four months old and still playing, innocent of the real world. One of them looks like Calvin's best friend Hobbes. They're trying to hunt a deer, but they haven't the first clue how to. Tigers 0, Deer 1.


So I'm on the bus, heading for my writing class, when this guy sits in the seat behind me. He takes out a phone and calls someone.

This is his side of the conversation:

"It's me, yeah?"
"No, I got a call from Karen today - she wants the job, she just doesn't want to take phone calls from the public - at all."
"Yeah, I know it's weird, yeah? But she wants a perfect job, y'know?"
"No, I'm going to a wedding next Saturday with herself, yeah? I wanted to go to the Leinster match, but you know how it is."
"Yeah - I could probably slip away for a couple of hours and not be noticed..."
"No, you're probably right - that's one of the things I really like about me - I'm so easy to get along with."
"Yeah right, see ya..."

Okay, that's just bizarre.

The tigers are about a year old now and really learning to hunt - there's gonna be some - yep, there goes a gazelle...


I went with my nephew to the video store to return his rentals and pick out a new movie. He decides on 'The Golden Compass' and we get in line to pay.

There's a man behind us with his two-year-old daughter, and an unshaven, fortyish guy wearing sandals ahead of us at the counter with some sort of Corgi cross-breed on an elastic leash. The dog seems amiable enough and sniffs around, but frightens the infant and jumps up, wanting to play.

Daddy asks Dogboy to restrain the dog. Dogboy says the dog means no harm and lets it run about.

Daddy: "But dogs aren't allowed in here and it's frightening my daughter."

Dogboy (smugly): "I've been coming here for ages and there's been no trouble."

Daddy: "That's not the point. Restrain your dog, please."

Dogboy: "Why don't you just grow a pair, you emasculated pussy? You don't know who you're talking to, maybe you should watch what you're saying to me."


Dogboy: "You've probably been in an apron so long you don't know what it's like to be a man."


Dogboy: "What has she, got your balls in a vice?"

General silence, until the video store clerk, confused and visibly shocked by the display, offers

"Now now, there's no call for that sort of thing..."

Dogboy: "Well then, you can take your videos and stick them where the sun don't shine!"

And he slams the DVDs (can't help wondering what they were) on the counter, takes his creature and leaves, mumbling to himself...

One of the tigers, by the way, has brought down his first deer (helped by Mom), and wants to keep it for himself.

Mom forces him to share with the other kids, though, so that's okay.

Life, eh?

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Not So Mighty...

I'm feeling a little less mighty this weekend.

The other night, I woke up to find myself in the hallway outside my apartment, barefoot and wearing only t-shirt and shorts, and locked out.

I haven't walked in my sleep since I was five, and it scared the hell out of me.

Apartment life being relatively anonymous, I don't know any of my neighbours well enough to go banging on their door at three in the morning, so I wandered around the building to see if anyone else was about.

I encountered one couple, coming home from somewhere, explained my situation and asked if I could use their phone to call my father, who keeps a spare set of keys at his house. They declined to assist. Disappointing.

Returning to my floor, I decided the only thing I could do was to try and get some sleep.
There's a security patrol that's supposed to come through the building three times a night; I figured the patrolman would help me get sorted, so I sat in front of my door waiting for him to arrive, nodding off after a while.

When he did arrive, the conversation went like this:

Security Guy: "You okay?"

Me: "What? Yeah, I think so."

Him: "What happened?"

Me: "I think I was sleepwalking. I woke up out here and I can't get back in. Can I use your phone to call my father? He has a spare key."

Him: "I don't have a phone, sorry. Have a good night."

And off he went, leaving me there. Bastard.

As far as I know, that was his only patrol that night, because I didn't see him again.

Time passed, and as the sun came up, the building began to come to life. It seemed everyone sets their alarm for 0700, because I was hearing beeps and buzzes coming from several apartments. Finally, at about 0730, the door across the hall opened and my neighbour came out on his way to work. I explained what had happened and he was only too happy to lend me his phone.

I managed to call my dad, who got across town in record time with my keys (and a big grin on his face) and I was never so happy to see anyone in my life.

He joked that I'd have to get another key made and wear it on a chain around my neck. That scared me as much as having spent the night in the hallway. What if I do it again?

As far as I know, there's no history of this kind of thing in my family, and my previous nocturnal perambulation happened nearly forty years ago, so I'm hoping it's a one-off.

I stayed out of work Friday, exhausted, and slept from the time my father left until about lunchtime.

It's the closest to being homeless that I can imagine - it's a sobering thought to consider that only an inch and a half of door separated me from warmth and security, and I was helpless to do anything about it.

The reactions of people I approached for assistance also surprised me. I've always believed that people are basically decent and will come to the aid of a neighbour without needing to be asked.

Maybe I'm just naive, but I'd like to be able to keep believing that...

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Sometimes, I Wish I Spoke German...

...because that way I'd have a better chance at fully appreciating this site:

Batman - The Dark Knight in 3D

The site is the work of a guy by the name of Achim Loobes, and he - well, here's an example:

Check it out.

Und wilkommen in Gotham...

Sunday, 25 May 2008

There Now Follows An Announcement...

My sister Ray's back on the blogosphere after an absence more extended than any of mine - I told her I'd spread the word...

Another job done, another day saved - am I incredible or what?

Er, yes...

Friday, 23 May 2008

Splotchy's Story Virus II - The Relapse...

Regular readers may remember a project undertaken some time ago by Splotchy to create a 'viral story'. Irregular readers may not.

The premise, for the uninitiated, and in the creator's own words, is this:

"...Here's what I would like to do. I want to create a story that branches out in a variety of different, unexpected ways. I don't know how realistic it is, but that's what I'm aiming for. Hopefully, at least one thread of the story can make a decent number of hops before it dies out.

If you are one of the carriers of this story virus (i.e. you have been tagged and choose to contribute to it), you will have one responsibility, in addition to contributing your own piece of the story: you will have to tag at least one person that continues your story thread. So, say you tag five people. If four people decide to not participate, it's okay, as long as the fifth one does. And if all five participate, well that's five interesting threads the story spins off into.

Not a requirement, but something your readers would appreciate: to help people trace your own particular thread of the narrative, it will be helpful if you include links to the chapters preceding yours."

The story begins thusly:

I had been shuffling around the house for a few hours and already felt tired. The doorbell rang. I opened the front door and saw a figure striding away from the house, quickly and purposefully. I looked down and saw a bulky envelope. I picked it up. The handwriting was smudged and cramped, and I could only make out a few words.

I looked up and down the street but didn’t see any delivery truck, or any car for that matter. No FedEx, no UPS , no creepy-looking porno'd-out conversion van with a half-assed delivery service sign taped to its side. Nothing. It's like delivery man just disappeared. I stepped back inside, re-set the deadbolts and took a closer look at the envelope.

Mentally I ran through the checklist of letter bomb warning signs. The handwriting on the envelope, smudged and cramped as it was, was laid out in a tiny, obsessively neat block lettering. It practically screamed recently-de-institutionalized loner with time on his hands. No ticking or whirring sounds, that’s good. No odd smells, no leaks or stains on the package. Check. Weight seemed evenly distributed, that’s good too. I decided to open it.

Inside I found a plane ticket to Pensacola, a business card for a lawyer in Niceville, five crisp $100 bills and a four page handwritten note. Well. This was different. I poured a cup of coffee, threw some meat to the dogs to stop em barking, and sat down to read. (Bubs)

The handwriting of the letter was different than the envelope. It was more rushed, erratic. And it was all in Russian. I could speak a little Russian because of the company I used to keep, but couldn't read it to save my life. I knew some people that could translate for me, but I wasn't about to see them again. Or did one of them write the note? Was it Dimitri the Finger? Petrov? Ivankovich?

I looked at the lawyer's card -- "Tom Ely" -- how whitebread, how American. The address said Niceville, but the phone number's area code was New Jersey. I dialed and waited. My dogs fought over a leftover bone outside, growling.

"Hello, this is Tom Ely, I am sorry I have missed your call..."

I didn't recognize the voice. It had the barest trace of an accent. Most people wouldn't pick up on it. But I did.

The Russians. What was I in for? I hung up.

Was I just going to sit here, waiting? Or was I going to be a good little dog when some person unseen rang my bell?

The ticket was for today. I could make the flight if I left immediately. I packed a bag and caught a cab to the airport.
(Splotchy again)

The pressures of today's economy. Flight cancelled. Airline out-of-business. Three months ago. Something was out of sorts, here. Why would someone send me a ticket on a defunct airline? I was starting to feel exposed, out in the open, like prey in a valley.

First order of business was to hit the head. I needed to collect myself and not draw attention. I forced myself to walk, even with the hairs on the back of my neck bristling, uncertain if, even now, someone was following. Had I walked into some kind of trap?

The men's room door opened just a little too quickly, the screws loosened from constant use. That sticky smell hit me as that horrible men's room air shot into my nose.

Something was wrong.

I felt heavy and thick, and saw the world go askew. I was off balance before it even registered that something hard had been jabbed into the back of my neck. I put my hand against the wall to stop myself, but the back of my head exploded in pain, I saw a flash of light, and then nothing.

When I came to, I was no longer in the men's room; I was in the back of a moving vehicle, a walk-through panel truck - a delivery van, perhaps. My feet were free, but my hands were bound securely behind my back. Care had been taken not to cut off my circulation, so whoever it was knew what he was doing.

"Hey!" I yelled to the two men in the cab. The passenger looked back at me, his face impassive under a Denver Broncos cap that was a size too small for his head.

"No talking." He turned forward again, saying something in a language I didn't understand to the driver.

"Where are we going?" I said, struggling to a sitting position. I tested the ropes binding my wrists, but my name not being Houdini, there was no way I was going to undo them. When I looked up, Broncos Cap was staring at me again. So was the business end of a 9mm automatic.

"I said for no talking."

I decided he might have a point, and sat back to enjoy the ride and wonder about where I was being delivered...

What will happen next?

Perhaps (if not already tagged, or even if) Arjan, The Imaginary Reviewer, PJ and Ray might care to continue...

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

I've Seen It Now...

...and it's excellent!

I took my nephew to see it on Sunday afternoon - he didn't know who Iron Man is, being more a Spidey fan than anything else, but we were both totally blown away by the movie.

This is the stuff!

This is what we want to see!

And the post-credits scene?

Works for me...

Monday, 5 May 2008

Iron Man...

I haven't seen Iron Man yet, and it's gonna be at least a week 'fore I do.

I'm on call for emergencies this week, which means I have to keep my comms with me and stow my life (such as it is) in the overhead locker.

Last time I went to a movie while I was on call, I switched the thing on afterwards and it lit up with missed calls - uncharacteristically, I have to say, but there you go. Bruce and Clark were none too impressed, goes without saying, and Diana wouldn't talk to me for a week.

And it's not even supposed to be my week - I'm swapping with Dr. Invisible, who in turn is swapping with The Sorceress - grumble, grumble...

So I'm steeling my resolve in the face of all the four-star reviews out there, and I'll be seeing it next Friday.

But for 50 points and a no-prize - what's Shellhead's catchphrase? Does he have one? Or does being a billionaire absolve him from the need?

Answers, in your best font, to the usual address...


I mean, how difficult can it be?

You say, "We're taking the power down from noon till 1pm Sunday for essential maintenance."

We say, "No problem - we'll come in at 1130 to observe and to switch off one or two servers of our own and the telephone and voicemail systems."

Bastards took the power down at 1100, crashing my Server Lab before I had a chance to do controlled shutdowns. To suggest I was incandescent with rage would be an understatement.

"Yeah, traffic wasn't bad and we got here early, so we just got on with it."


They were finished and packing up to leave by the time my co-workers and I arrived between 1120 and 1125, with no sign of the facilities manager who had announced the exercise and who, in all reason, one would have expected to be on hand to ensure things were done properly.

I checked with the Patrols desk whether the Induhvidual (thank you, Scott Adams) in question had actually been there for the work.

"Were you expecting him?" was the reply.

The missing word in that question was 'seriously', and would have the same narrative effect no matter if placed at the start or in the middle, or even as a follow-up one-word question of it's own.

What happens is this: every year we're required to shut down all power to the main building so that the electricians can check fuses, breakers, what have you - it has to do with safety and insurance and such. The IT DataCentre is protected by UPS which gives us a few minutes' battery power in the event of mains failure, but there's a generator that's supposed to kick in when mains is cut off, so we don't have to rely on batteries.

Previous experiences with our so-called colleagues in building management have led us to doubt the reliability of the generator, hence our preference for having observers onsite in the event things don't go to plan. If the generator didn't come on, at least we'd have a chance to notify the people in the power room and have them switch mains back until they could sort the problem out. If that had happened yesterday, the main DataCentre would have crashed before my co-workers and I had even arrived, and that would not have been pretty.

Further, our in-house electrical maintenance is handled by contractors from an outside company, and the switchoff was undertaken by people from yet another third-party body, both apparently unsupervised by anyone from our organisation.

To be fair to our in-house electrical guys, they do a good job and make sure we have what we need to do ours. Sadly however, they'll be the ones most likely to be blamed when the excrement strikes the ventilator tomorrow.

But consider - part of managing a project is to be there on the day to manage it!

Not miles away in case it explodes or something. It's not bravery, it's not simply good manners, but sadly it's all we've come to expect from a facilities management whose answer to a request for air-conditioning for a comms enclosure was to suggest we open a window instead.

If I had my way, half a dozen Induhviduals (thank you again, Scott Adams) would be handed their marching papers tomorrow, and the department turned over to the only person of any integrity there who, for her sins, ends up doing all the work because people approach her directly, knowing they'll get results.

I'm sick and tired of my working environment being left in the hands of self-serving, blame-shifting, responsibility-ducking incompetents who consistently and obstinately refuse to accept that we, the staff, are their clients and deserve to be treated with simple and basic respect. I look forward to the day when they are exposed for what they truly are - a waste of valuable square-footage.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

A Question, If I May...

Did you ever notice how you take off a pair of socks the same way?

I mean, you don't pull one inside out and the other by the toe - it's always both the same way.

I noticed this while doing laundry.

Last Christmas I got day-of-the-week socks as a present, so I was sorting them out of the wash and saw that Monday were both inside out, while Wednesday were both rightside out.

On a hunch, I paired off the remaining socks, to find them all matched in terms of - attitude, let's say.

I just thought it curious enough for a post - or there might be too much argonite in my diet...

And The Award For Elephant Balls Goes To...

I picked up the first season of the original Bionic Woman on DVD a little while ago, seeing as how I always liked Lindsay Wagner and because Tower Records were having a sale.

It's as good as I remember, with Jaime filling the usual stereotype aliases (beauty queen, air stewardess, evil doppelganger, etc), with the occasional cameo by Lee Majors to make sure no one had forgotten the Six Million Dollar Man.

I actually had, so I went back to Tower and got the first season of that show. Curiously, I learned that it took three attempts to get Steve Austin onto the airwaves, but Universal obviously felt it was worth the effort. And it was.

So I was ploughing through the first few episodes when I came across one, Survival of the Fittest, that I was certain I'd seen before.

The plot was this - Oscar and Steve have to catch a flight to Washington following an international space conference (during which Oscar had some sensitive discussions with the Russians), but get a flat tire on the way to the airport. Even though Steve changes the tire in twelve seconds, they miss their flight, only to be given seats on a military/cargo transport that will have them in D.C. in good time. So far, so good.

Two men, Cromwell and Maxwell, get on and sit at the back of the plane - they talk about someone named Bobby who'll be there if needed.

Their goal is to kill Oscar before he returns to Washington. Other characters include a loud woman named Mona, Lt. Colby, an Army nurse acting as stewardess, an Air Force sergeant called Roberts who was once stationed at Nellis AFB when Austin was there, a naval yeoman named Helen Maychick and a PFC Robert Barris who quit medicine to join the Army.

One of the hitmen (Cromwell) activates a homing device hidden in his briefcase; the signal is received by a trawler somewhere at sea.

The plane hits bad weather; lightning strikes one engine; the pilot orders the fire extinguished; the engine explodes, dropping off the wing; the pilot sends a mayday and makes a forced landing into the sea.

Steve makes sure everyone is prepared for the landing. When the time comes to leave the plane, Steve finds the door is jammed. The passengers go to the back of the plane where there's another exit, and when they're not looking, Steve opens the door with bionic strength. Cromwell recovers his homing device before leaving the plane. Everyone (except the crew, who are killed) escapes and makes it to the beach, where they spend the night.

I'm thinking - WTF? I've seen this before, somewhere. And then it hit me - an episode of The Bionic Woman called 'Fly Jaime'. I dug out the DVD and sure enough, it's the same story.

Here's the plot - Jaime, disguised as a stewardess, has to help Rudy Wells get out of Brazil with a secret formula and meet Oscar in Washington. The plane is a mixed passenger/cargo flight.

Two men, Reed and Connors, get on and sit at the back of the plane - they talk about someone named Bobby who'll be there if needed.

Their goal is to kill Rudy before he returns to Washington. Other characters include an elderly missionary named Mrs. Griffith, an aging lothario, Mr. Romero, with eyes only for Jaime and a guy named Marlow who quit medicine for undisclosed reasons and now just bums around.

Connors activates a homing device hidden in his briefcase; the signal is received by a trawler somewhere at sea.

The plane hits bad weather; lightning strikes one engine; the pilot orders the fire extinguished; the engine explodes, dropping off the wing; the pilot sends a mayday and (bionically assisted by Jaime) makes a forced landing into the sea.

Jaime makes sure everyone is prepared for the landing. When the time comes to leave the plane, Jaime finds the door is jammed. The passengers go to the back of the plane where there's another exit, and when they're not looking, Jaime opens the door with bionic strength. Connors recovers his homing device before leaving the plane. Everyone (including the pilot, who is not killed this time) escapes and makes it to the beach, where they spend the night.

Anyway, here's the rest of the story:

The following morning, Oscar/Rudy wakes up to find Steve/Jaime missing. One of the other passengers tells him that he/she went to explore the island and that Oscar/Rudy shouldn't follow as it might be dangerous. Oscar/Rudy says not to worry and goes anyway.

He wanders through the brush calling for Steve/Jaime to show himself/herself if he/she can see/hear him.

Steve/Jaime calls out to Oscar/Rudy from an outcropping about fifty feet overhead. Telling Oscar/Rudy to get out of the way, Steve/Jaime jumps down, carrying something in a blanket over one shoulder.

"You look like a bionic Santa Claus," Oscar/Rudy tells Steve/Jaime.

Steve/Jaime produces a coconut and karate-chops it in half. Oscar/Rudy looks on in admiration.

Meanwhile, Cromwell/Connors places his homing device in the bole of a dead tree.

He and Maxwell/Reed return to the beach with wood for the fire, but not before discovering that the island has a poisonous snake problem.

Back on the beach, the survivors share the food supplied by Steve/Jaime.

Steve/Jaime takes charge, organising the passengers. Someone will be looking for them, and it won't be long before they work out the plane's last known position. He/she asks Sgt. Roberts/Mr. Romero to work out a duty roster - the fire has to be kept going at all costs.

Later, Steve/Jaime sees/hears a plane before anyone else. Sure enough, it's a search plane. The survivors throw grass onto the fire to make smoke and the plane turns towards their location, rocking its wings to show that the fire has been seen.

Supplies are dropped by parachute. Food, medical supplies, a radio, pistol and flare gun.

The hitmen order the food to be distributed, making sure they have control of the pistol, but Oscar/Rudy and Steve/Jaime get to the radio first. They contact the plane (one of which also contains Oscar, but that'd just wreck your head) and are told that their position has been passed on and that they'll be picked up at 10 the next morning.

The pilot makes sure to ascertain that Oscar/Rudy is still alive.

Steve/Jaime and Oscar/Rudy go to tell the survivors the good news.

Yeoman Maychick/Mrs. Griffith approaches Steve/Jaime and tells him/her that PFC Barris/Marlow has had medical training but that for some reason he's reluctant to help. Steve/Jaime agrees to talk to him, and, after listening to him tell his tale of misfortune, manages to persuade him to at least help out Lt. Colby/Dr. Wells, if not to do any actual doctoring.

It's later on. Steve/Jaime arrives at the medical shelter to learn from Yeoman Maychick/Mrs. Griffith that Oscar/Rudy got his/her message and has gone to meet him/her. Steve/Jaime is puzzled; he/she sent no message. Who had left the message? No-one seemed to know, it had just been passed from voice to voice...

Steve/Jaime goes to look for Oscar/Rudy, who at that moment is himself looking for Steve/Jaime. Someone hits Oscar/Rudy from behind and leaves him, unconscious, close to where the snake was found earlier.

Steve/Jaime arrives in the nick of time and, grabbing the snake before it can strike the stunned Oscar/Rudy, hurls it bionically against a large rock, killing it.

Steve/Jaime decides it might be best if they don't return to the beach until morning, and so they camp out in the hills.

During the night, Cromwell and Maxwell/Connors and Reed go looking for Oscar/Rudy and Steve/Jaime. Firing a flare in the air, they cause Oscar/Rudy to give away his position, and manage to shoot him, though not fatally. Steve/Jaime throws a rock, which hits Maxwell/Reed, putting him out of commission.

Meanwhile, Sgt. Roberts/Mr. Romero realise Steve/Jaime is nowhere to be found and goes looking for him/her. Steve/Jaime sees/hears him and tells him to go get Lt.Colby/Mrs. Griffith, to hurry, and to bring her back alone.

He does, returning with her to find Cromwell/Connors, who claims to be standing guard. As Roberts/Romero starts to tell Lt. Colby/Mrs. Griffith where to find Steve/Jaime, he is overpowered by Cromwell/Connors, and we learn that Bobby is, in fact, Lt. Colby/Mrs. Griffith. Cromwell/Connors reminds her what's at stake, but Bobby says she knows what to do.

Making her way to the camp, Bobby tells Steve/Jaime to apply pressure to Oscar/Rudy's wound with both hands, then attempts to shoot him/her with a hypodermic. Steve/Jaime reacts, shoving Bobby away; she hits her head on a log and slumps into unconsciousness. Cromwell/Connors runs for it, but Steve/Jaime gets him as well.

Meanwhile, at the beach, Barris/Marlow realises that Colby/Griffith hasn't taken any bandages with her. Taking them, he follows, arriving in time to see what has unfolded. Steve/Jaime tells him he has to get the bullet out. Barris/Marlow says it's not the bullet he's worried about, it's the vein that needs to be repaired, but that he doesn't have the equipment to fix it.

Steve/Jaime asks how he would fix it, and he replies that he'd cauterize it.

"So all you need are two hot wires?"

"Well, yes, but -"

"For the rest of your life, forget what you're about to see," says Steve/Jaime, and, taking a scalpel, cuts open his/her forefinger.

Barris/Marlow is incredulous, but Steve/Jaime tells him to take his/her hand and cauterize the vein. Which he does, saving Oscar's/Rudy's life and reviving his own self-confidence.

The next morning, the survivors are being evacuated, the bad guys in custody. Oscar/Rudy sees Steve's/Jaime's bandaged finger.

"What happened to you?"

"Oh, I cut myself shaving."

There's a humorous moment where Mona (Jo Ann Worley, who didn't have much to do in the episode) realises from Steve that she was on the wrong plane all along/Mr. Romero expresses his undying love for Jaime, and that's it.

As stories go, it's simple enough, and the red herring of 'Bobby' is nicely maintained for most of the episodes. But I mean, come on - the same story in two linked shows? Either Universal had no respect for the viewers' intelligence, or the award for elephant balls goes to...

If anyone knows of any other shows (soap operas excluded) where a script was lifted and dropped from one to the other, I'd be interested to hear.

Thank you and good evening.

Monday, 7 April 2008

Six Word Memoir...

Lee over at Quit Your Day Job got tagged by his wife with a meme, which he invites all and sundry to complete - the Six-Word Memoir.

I thought to myself (as one does) that

"Hero of Neptune, Mightiest of Men"

might be nicely appropriate.

But that's just me.

What about you?

Friday, 4 April 2008

Becca's Movie Quiz...

An interplanetary incident was narrowly avoided today, when the Movie Quote Quiz hosted by Becca over at the Skullcave was jointly won by representatives of Neptune and Mars.

The Quiz is traditionally the domain of the self-styled Martian Prime Minister, Mr. SamuraiFrog, who has the benefit of a favourable time difference to assist his inarguably prodigious cinematic mind, but the Hero of Neptune* just happened to be passing on his way from a parole hearing for the Xylak general, Hruhfuuhrr (denied) and arrived just in time to compete.

In spite of a hasty attack, The Mightiest of Men** managed to score just enough points to force a tie and be awarded this most coveted of prizes:

A promising start - but there's always next week...

*Er, me...
**Me again.

Monday, 31 March 2008

It's Almost Time...

Yep, only 5 days to go until the new season of Doctor Who - and a good thing too, because I've been reduced to watching an episode of Flash Gordon. I gave the pilot a chance but wasn't impressed, but I figured, hey, it can only get better.

Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

It's stupid - there's no rocket ships, Flash is a jobless high school grad, Dale is, well, Dale, Zarkov is a college science geek, Ming is a - a bureaucrat! Aaagghh!!

But I digress.

Check out a site called Doctor Who Insania - I need say no more, except -

Daleks and Martha and Rose, oh my...

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Richard Widmark (1914-2008)...

Back at the beginning of this blog, I ran a post on 'Actors I thought were dead but aren't' featuring, as my first subject, Harry Morgan.

I had it in mind to address a number of other stalwarts of Hollywood and, along with Karl Malden, Richard Widmark was high on my list.

Naturally I was surprised and saddened by the news that Mr. Widmark passed away last Monday at the age of 93 following complications from injuries received in a fall.

Richard Widmark (his real name) was born in December 1914 in Minnesota, and his early years were spent between that state as well as South Dakota and Illinois, as his father's work (he was a traveling salesman) took the family.

Widmark did well in school and won a full scholarship to Lake Forest College, Ill., where he played football as well as pursuing drama. Rejected for military service due to a perforated eardrum, Widmark turned to acting, with roles on the Broadway stage as well as radio work.

His first major screen role was in Henry Hathaway's 'Kiss of Death' in which he played psychopath Tommy Udo, a role which earned Widmark an Academy Award nomination.

Subsequent roles alternated between villain and hero, the heroes usually flawed, and Widmark became a staple of Hollywood through the 50s and 60s, playing such diverse characters as Jim Bowie in 'The Alamo', A prosecuting attorney in 'Judgement at Nuremberg', a pioneer homesteader in 'The Way West', and a driven Naval captain in 'The Bedford Incident'.

But for me, one of his most memorable roles was as Det. Dan Madigan in Don Siegel's 1968 picture, Madigan, in which he plays a New York City police detective given a weekend by the Commissioner (Henry Fonda) to capture vicious criminal Benesch, who escaped custody with both Madigan's and his partner's (Harry Guardino) weapons. Widmark reprised the role in six Mystery Movie episodes in the early 70s, which I recall being allowed stay up late to watch.

Richard Widmark is survived by his second wife, Susan Blanchard, and a daughter, Anne, from his first marriage to playwright Jean Hazlewood.

The Surprise Has Been Ruined...

Here in Ireland (and, I'm sure, in the rest of the civilised world) we marvel at the showbusiness extravaganza that is America.

The Superbowl, the (ahem)World Series, national politics - everything is arranged and choreographed with a care and attention to detail unrivalled by anything produced anywhere else.

And we love it - we have parties and pretend to drink Budweiser while we watch the spectacle and go 'Wow!'

So it's a bit of a downer, I have to say, when Diebold has a senior moment and releases the result of the 2008 election - kind of ruins it for us, y'know?

This report on ONN - America's finest news source - tells the story (Spoiler Alert!):

Diebold Accidentally Leaks Results Of 2008 Election Early

Hardly worth heading to the bookie now, is it?

Maybe they'll get it right for 2012...

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Literary Detectives...

I like a good detective story.

In the Chandler style, preferably, but I'm open to pretty much anything except the 'little old lady' sleuths or the supercilious Belgian detectives with idiot sidekicks or the - no, let's go back to 'in the Chandler style.

Raymond Chandler set down his blueprint in 'The Simple Art of Murder' - you know, the one that goes "Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean..." - and in doing so, created a whole new stereotype for the literary detective; a man apart, who will do the moral thing, if not the right thing, a sort of knight-errant for the modern age, pursuing his own quest with nothing more than a hat, a coat and a gun. He'll be a resourceful man with no liking or respect for authority, and not a team player.

In Chandler's time, stories were self-contained, and anything the author wanted the reader to know about the character and his history were revealed as the plot demanded. But stories began on page one and ended on page last, and characters would be wrapped up and put away until the next time, and the process would be repeated.

The mark of a good story was that you didn't care; you just enjoyed the reading of it and engaged with the characters as the plot developed. Money and time well-spent.

Today, however, authors have taken the genre further - Ed McBain's 87th Precinct novels introduced character continuity and recurring characters - you knew that not only did Carella have to solve his case, he also had to help his kids with their homework and do his taxes and such - and you learned more about each character with every new story. Okay, police procedural rather than hard-boiled PI, but you get my point.

Robert B. Parker's Spenser series took the Chandler model and gave him a private life, while maintaining the PI aspect. He gave him a back story, which developed over the years and a set of regular characters with whom to interact.

Not especially a loner, Spenser exhibited many of the other traits of Chandler's Marlowe - a laconic style, problems with authority, a strong moral compass - that mark him as being cast from the same mould. It could be said of him that in many ways he's an outsider, in that the circles in which he finds himself are not necessarily his own; people try to impress him with their wealth and position, or expertise in a particular field only to find they've underestimated his intelligence, invariably a mistake.

Try The Godwulf Manuscript, God Save The Child, or Mortal Stakes for starters, and go from there.

By contrast, Loren D. Estleman's Amos Walker series, set in Detroit, is very much in the style of Philip Marlowe.

Walker is established early on as a Vietnam/Cambodia veteran who spent time as an MP before joining the Detroit PD training program only to quit with a week to go. He joined an ex-cop turned PI as an apprentice, inheriting the business when his partner was killed, and has been there ever since.

Like Spenser, Walker has a back story and cast of recurring characters; however, the similarity ends there. The characters in Walker's world serve no purpose except to help his case along. He has friends (if, as he himself says, you stretch the term until it creaks) whose purpose is to supply information, render favours, etc., for the usual quid pro quo of an arrest or a scoop. He goes back to his office at the end, pours a drink from the bottle in the drawer, puts his feet up and waits for the phone to ring.

Walker's not an automaton; he is pretty much a loner, but human for all that. He bleeds, he feels, and, occasionally, he loves, but in the end all that's waiting for him is the empty house in Hamtramck and some jazz on the stereo. He's been in business for nearly thirty years, and it's starting to catch up on him, but I figure he has a few good cases in him yet.

If you're interested, check out Motor City Blue, Angel Eyes and Every Brilliant Eye for starters. There's also a collection of short stories called General Murders that's a good starting point.

Michael Connelly's Hieronymus 'Harry' Bosch is a man on the outside. Orphaned as a child when his mother was murdered, a series of foster homes and juvenile institutions led the young Harry to the Army, where he served as a 'tunnel rat' in Vietnam, joining the LAPD upon his discharge.

Now a senior detective with LAPD Homicide Special, he has worked his way up from West Hollywood Detective Division by solving the sort of cases that invite political interference from on high, becoming a constant thorn in the side of certain high-ranking officials in the process.

Harry's successes, his dogged detemination in going the extra mile, have not been without personal cost, and at one point he even resigned the force, becoming a PI instead (interestingly, his first outing as a private operator was told in first-person, where previously the stories were in the third-person). This, of course, put him even more on the outside.

But where other characters are loners by choice or inclination, Harry Bosch has always struck me as someone who finds himself alone but is continually striving for a connection, invariably losing it or having to sacrifice it in the name of duty. Maybe someday, Harry, maybe someday.

Read The Black Echo, The Concrete Blonde and Lost Light - then all the others.

There's always a book by one of these authors close to hand, but that's not to say I'm not reading the work of other writers - I've just discovered the Moses Wine series by Roger L. Simon, as well as the Bernie Gunther books of Philip Kerr. Wine is a Jewish PI in 1970s LA (Richard Dreyfuss played him in a movie version of The Big Fix in 1978), while Gunther, described as 'Jack Bauer but with looser morals' is a detective in Weimar Germany and into the Nazi era. It's work to read, but worthwhile.

Also lined up is Hammett, by Joe Gores, a tale of 1928 San Francisco and a struggling author who goes out into the mean streets to find who killed his friend; and Stalin's Ghost, by Martin Cruz Smith, another in the Arkady Renko sequence so memorably launched with Gorky Park.

Should keep me going for a while - I may* even report back...

*but don't count on it :)


(Note: I had planned on posting this last year, but somehow couldn't bring myself to click on "Publish"). My dad passed in...