Archive for July, 2008

The Dark Knight

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

Wow. What a great movie!

I don’t think I need to say much more than that.

Mark Ronson and the Version Players

Thursday, July 24th, 2008

One of the few new CDs I’ve bought was Version, an album of celebrity covers all produced and arranged by Mark Ronson, the man behind Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen. I love the Ronson sound, which I always think is a bit retro, with a big brassy sound.

So when I saw a flyer for a live concert in Belfast’s St. George’s Market in my barbers, I was interested. So my sister (also a fan) and myself got some tickets and went along last night.

The market is quite a nice venue -not too big, and with a very down to earth feel (that’ll be the smell of fish, especially at the back). But the sound was really a bit woeful – vocals sometimes just got lost among the heavy instrumentation (strings and horns), and the whole sound was just a bit muddied. It was a bit hard to make out anything that you didn’t already know.

It’s a shame the sound wasn’t better, but a good night out.


Monday, July 21st, 2008

You can’t have missed all the talk about the big kids’ movie of the summer. Being a big kid myself, I couldn’t resist going along.

I thought it was really good. As has been widely reported, it starts with a fairly long section with no human beings, and hence no dialogue, since neither Wall-E nor Eve speaks. But despite there being no narrative, I think the story starts very strongly, with the film showing us Wall-E’s lonely life, rather than just telling us about it. I thought this part of the movie was brilliant, and very touching, as we see him going about his mission to clean up a ruined earth singlehandedly.

It then all changes once Wall-E meets Eve, and together they go to the Axiom, where we see what has become of the human race. As you’d expect, it’s not a pretty picture, as humanity has had nothing to do for 700 years – not even having to stand up (living in hover chairs), or having to chew (since everything comes in a cup). But the movie, while damning of our throwaway culture and increasing obesity, doesn’t lecture too much. Indeed, at the end it shows the triumph of the human spirit, as the captain takes on the challenge of returning to earth, and to a long slow rebuilding, which is shown in the closing titles.

Unexpectedly, this film manages to be a touching love story, an object lesson in how to treat our world and its resources, and a cartoon comedy. I think it’s a great combination.
But be warned that other people I’ve spoken to think that the lack of dialogue makes the film boring, and they didn’t like it much at all. Philistines…

The new iphone

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

I went to have a play with the new iphone 3G on Friday afternoon. It really is a very impressive piece of kit.

It’s got a big, clear, beautiful screen. It’s got the cutest user interface ever, which makes that screen literally strokable. The zooming is really clever (you just put two fingers on the screen and move them apart, or together, and the application resizes with your fingers). Google maps is impressive on any machine, but on that screen, and with a GPS to tell you where you are, it’s fantastic.

But it’s got one horrible flaw – you won’t write many text messages with it. The keyboard is one application which doesn’t flip round when you turn the phone from portrait to landscape, which means that the keyboard is just too small. If it had real buttons, it would be easy enough to use, but because it has a touch screen, it’s basically unusable, and I typed nothing but jibberish (yeah, I know, no change there).

When you add in the fact that it is a 3G phone from O2, the network which has the worst 3G coverage, it’s got some really big negatives against it.

So I managed to resist buying one, and so saved myself a fortune.

Woe, woe, thrice woe. And then more woe.

Monday, July 14th, 2008

I set out on my bike today with high hopes! I was doing to have a really long cycle, round interesting places, on my day off work.

I was going to cycle out via the Comber Greenway, (a really nice new, smooth path), then from Comber to Newtownards, Newtownards to Donaghadee, then along the coast road to Bangor, along the coastal path to Helen’s Bay, then back home along the main Bangor Road. I reckoned it might be about 40 miles, which would be a new distance record for me.

But when I set out I discovered that my trip computer thingy has kicked the bucket, and wasn’t registering the fact that I was moving at all. So as a result, I have no idea how far I actually went. But that was okay – I could cope with that. Then I realised how noisy my bike had become – the chain definitely needs oiled, and possibly the gears need some work again. But it was still moving, so I could cope with that too.

I made it through most of my route (even against a bit of a headwind along the coastal bits). But then the real problems started on the coastal path between Bangor and Crawfordsburn, where I felt my left pedal a bit wobbly. I stopped and discovered it was actually loose. Using the two tools at my disposal, my foot (to kick it with) and my cycling spanner (from Tokyo), I was able to tighten it up a bit. But it loosened again pretty quickly. After a few such repairs, it finally fell off on the Bangor-Belfast road, about 8 miles from Belfast. Another repair, but it was clear that I wasn’t going to be able to nurse it all the way home (cycling with just one leg is very difficult, it turns out). So when I saw a taxi at a petrol station (one of the big black cabs), I asked him if he could take me and my bike home. The bike fitted perfectly, so I made it home without any further drama.

But my bike won’t be going any further than the repair shop for the foreseeable future 🙁

Education, education, education!

Sunday, July 13th, 2008

Heard an interesting article on the radio this morning about the International Physics Olympiad, which is being held in Vietnam this year. I think it sounds like a nice idea, to hold a competition for something more constructive than running around after a ball, but then I would say that wouldn’t I, since I never had much success at catching the ball, or knowing what to do with it when I did accidentally catch it.

But anyway, the article focussed on the difficulties of the British team. They said that twenty years ago the UK A Level Physics syllabus pretty much matched the international standard that the competition demanded, but that nowadays our A Level students know only half of what they should. That appalled me. We all know about the lowering of our educational standards over the years, and the consistent denials of it by our government (who of course only do these things because they love us, and want what’s best for us).

To be told that our students had to cover about an extra year’s worth of physics (in a space of a week) just depressed me a lot. I know when I did physics, (and that’s a long time ago – not very far off twenty years), we were often told of things that we wouldn’t be learning because they were no longer on the syllabus. That used to disappoint me, that there was knowledge that was being deliberately withheld from us, where previous students got to learn about it. And things have continued to go downhill since then.

But where does it end? If standards aren’t falling around the rest of the world, what will happen to us? Are the British going to become the stupidest people on earth?

Only time will tell.

So long Doctor Who (no spoilers)

Saturday, July 5th, 2008

So that’s how the big cliffhanger resolved!

Tonight’s episode had lots of good things – the plot used a couple of old hooks, which was nice. Davros was at his ranting maniacal best, which I always love, and his plot had a nice catastrophic scale to it.

But it was so obviously a Russell T. Davies script. The action was compressed down almost to the point of some things getting lost, just so he could spend ages on gooey-eyed looks. All of Doctor Who doesn’t have to be about Rose!

But, all the same, Doctor Who does rock, and next year, when it’s not on, I’ll miss it.