Sunday, 7 December 2008

Remember This Building?

Well this is one of the photos I took of the Costa in Liverpool, remember? I don't blame you if you don't - it was a few months ago! Anyway, the reason it's back is because I wanted to share with you all my attempt to get into the Observer Sunday Review paper, about this very building. Readers were asked to talk about things that were culturally significant to them in 2008 and since I didn't want to chop down one of my gig reviews, thinking that it was cheating, I decided to challenge myself by writing about Costa Liverpool - hopefully with positive results, although only time will tell!

Here it is:

Through the hordes of people wearing high-viz jackets and fluorescent tutus (though thankfully not simultaneously), Liverpool is a mysteriously black and white city. Being the Capital of Culture, you might have thought that someone would make the effort to dress everything up a little – it seems that the majority of new buildings are covered in soulless glass or made grotesquely imposing.
But nestled comfortably in the City Centre is a quirky Costa CafĂ©, decorated with rainbow-coloured pipes that contrast magnificently against the architectural gloom around it. Screaming at you to wonder at its marvels, the building demands that you laugh derisively at its contemporaries’ attempts to outshine it.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Practicality Over Fashion


I love these shoes - but they have a 4.5 inch heel and I can only manage, at the most, 4 inches. It's odd because when I first saw these I thought.... wow! Look at all the pretty colours! They're so different! But after clicking to see the heel size (which I thought was going to be below 4 inches judging by the first picture they displayed) I was bitterly disappointed.
I think manufacturers should start making shoes that either have adjustable heels or they should make a wide range of heel sizes - everything from flat to sky-high (if you really want sky-high). Shoes that have a heel the width of a pinhead should be banned and made illegal, while people over a certain height shouldn't be wearing heels at all (trust me, when you're only little over 5 foot it's scary seeing a woman who's nearly 6 feet tall in a pair of 6 inch heels).
The heel situation is really limiting the type of shoes I can wear. Dolly shoes may be cute and a little quirky - only a little since everyone seems to wear them - but heels would give me a.) a sense of height and b.) a more grown-up feelings. Being the proud owner of a pair of brogues that have a medium-sized heel is brilliant - but they were a rare find. To most people brogues mean granny shoes, with no style, no heel, a dull colour and make your feet look so wide and fat that it brings a whole new meaning to the cockney term "plates of meat".
So we have a conundrum! Either our feet ache with rubbing and blisters but we look feminine and have the illusion of height or we go for these awful, awful, simply awful pieces of rubber. I know what I'd rather pick, much to the chagrin of everyone else. But can we please have a fashion season when Chanel or someone does a whole collectino of fashionable mid-sized or kitten heels?

Thursday, 27 November 2008

So In Relation...


So after posting a couple of days ago about closing down libraries I had a conversation with some colleagues about the state of reading in this country right now.

I think we all agreed that less and less people are reading, even if it's just a few pages a night like me - most worryingly, this seems to be true of children and teenagers and aren't they the people who need to be reading the most? It does, after all, extend their vocabulary and their overall general knowledge.

I wouldn't exactly say that I'm a book aficionado but I do know a fair bit and I have spent a large number of years studying literature - from this you generally get a good feel of how things should and should not be written (although really the basics of writing should be drilled in during sessions in school - I can't stand bad grammar and spelling).

Since one of my associates teaches English, they know what is and isn't acceptable in the world of teaching. So now we have a parallel - as TV, games console and computer ownership goes up, the number of books being sold and read is going down. Add to this a second parallel - as the number of books being read is going down, the number of kids who can't read, write and communicate properly is going up. And it's going to be difficult to solve since if these kids don't want to read, which is generally the case after they hit the age of 12, literacy skills will be in free fall and we'll have a whole country of illiterates!

(Well, maybe that was an exaggeration but you get the drift....)

My associate pointed out that children don't even have to be reading Shakespeare or Wordsworth to generally increase their reading and writing standard - even works of science fiction, fantasy and crime thrillers will help them because they all have one thing in common - a wide vocabulary and generally impeccable grammar (I say impeccable because, while most books have very few mistakes, I consider the rotten Oxford Comma to be awful and unnecessary!). I would highly recommend people like Terry Pratchett for people who can't stand more realistic concepts - even he involves the politics of the day and the state of our world into his hilarious Discworld novels.

Oh, what to do? I believe we're in a conundrum....

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Go Philip! Go Philip!


Philip Pullman, aka the author of the His Dark Materials trilogy, spoke out this week about the closure of the library in the school he used to go to - basically he said it was a disgrace.

The reason for the closure? Technology. Flamin' technology again (and yes I'm aware of the irony of me writing about "flamin' technology" given that I'm using it to express my view here). They're going to replace the library with some technology that means you can have books digitally or something.

Here's a positive - perhaps the kids might treat these digital books a bit like their mobiles or iPods. With some respect. I don't know about anyone else but everyone seemed to hate books when I was at school and would do anything to get out of reading them. At least this might spark some more interest in literature.

But what really ticks me off about this is that in many schools libraries are being scrapped because they are seen as "not an essential part of the curriculum or the way the school is run". Er, isn't English a core subject? Don't you, you know, have to get a good grade in English to get anywhere in life? Books suddenly not part of English any more? Have I suddenly become old fashioned and no longer know what English entails?

NO!!!! I haven't. In fact, I'm pretty sure that, apart from the titles of the books studied in schools today, the basic curriculum of English revolves around reading and writing. 2 of the legendary 3 Rs (the other one is 'Rithmetic as in Arithmetic as in Maths - but that's the least important of the 3 Rs).

What are all the librarians going to do? They'll be jobless! It's another catastrophe! Can you see where I'm going here? You can't shut the libraries down because, surprise surprise, it would be an atrocity. I like the feel of a solid book, and I hate to think about this since it could signal the very beginning of the end for the physical book. I can't fathom why anyone would want to read a book from a little digital machine - they're probably going to give you the eyes of an 80 year old at 25 and lock-arm from using them (since you'll be straining your eyes to see the words and holding your arm up constantly to look at the screen. Oh, so add iPod finger to that as well seeing as how you'll be tapping furiously at a little button to turn the pages....)

Who needs a mechanical book? I'd be so annoyed. I don't care if I end up with a really scrappy copy, I'll never change from good old paper and so what if I'm old fashioned!? I agree with Mr. Pullman!

Protesting...


First of all, let me apologize for being away from the desk for... well, ages! This might actually be a more frequent event and if you happen to notice that I'm away for a couple of weeks don't panic, I will post eventually. Bearing in mind that it's been a madhouse here I'm pretty sure that you can all forgive me. Hopefully.
I've been watching a lot of news lately, and by that I mean watching the 6pm national news then the 6:30pm national news on a different channel and then yet another news programme at 7pm on yet another channel... whew.
During this time I've been noticing some weird coincidences. First of all, the Pre-Budget Report came out yesterday with Alistair Darling saying we should all spend more. Cue the presenter standing in, you guessed it, a shopping mall!
But the thing that got me was when I watched the BBC 1pm news and during an interview with their political correspondent outside Westminster, a guy with a placard saying that Iraq was turning into World War 3 and a nuclear holocaust starting waving his banner behind the reporter's head. The thing about this was that the cameraman tried to surreptitiously zoom in to the correspondent's head to try and block the placard out of view. He did this so many times that you could practically count the amount of nose hairs that political man had.
The Beeb are supposed to be impartial so I guess this was only necessary - I was hoping to hear a little statement from the anchorwoman claiming that the views reflected in the report were not that of the BBC. But no, they must've just about avoided any sort of egg/face incident.
The punchline is that Mr. Protester did exactly the same thing on the 6:30pm news! How brilliant! I ended up egging him on to give the angry sign-waving a bit of welly but the report ended to quickly for him to get anywhere. What a shame eh?
Still, this news channel is supposedly a little less unbiased (er, well, that's actually arguable) so if we had more placard/camera interaction would the cameraman have attempted a similar zoom in strategy? I guess we'll never know, but the point is that maybe the news channels shouldn't be so touchy about little things like this? It was a peaceful protest, unlike the numerous times when football hooligans have shouted and started chanting like dummies just to get attention when some of these journalists go outside a stadium. He wasn't being noisy - what's everyone's problem?!

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Neighbours: Now With 10% More Fat Than The Next Leading Brand!

So I was reading the paper a couple of days ago and I read an article that said you were much more likely to be overweight if your neighbours were. They said it was like "keeping up with the Joneses".

Now, I don't know about anyone else but I would be a bit worried if I started putting on weight to keep up with the way that my neighbours looked. Apart from the fact that it's just a little bit weird and sad*, surely it's not good for your health at all?! With all of the warnings that we have about being over a certain weight I find it odd that people would be putting on weight in this way: can't we just leave the whole keeping up with your neighbours thing to TVs and sofas?

Perhaps I'm not the best example though. I'm a healthy weight and living in a fairly slim neighbourhood - would I really be fatter if I lived in a neighbourhood with more overweight people? Can I extend this "area" to mean my whole town? If this was the case I can say this research is terrible since there's a lot of large people walking down my high street eating a Greggs** pastie*** and McDonalds. At the same time.

I wonder what kind of sample they had? If we think about this deep enough it could have been done in particularly hefty streets in generally hefty towns. At least this research doesn't state the obvious though: most of them say things that are blatant even to people who've been on another planet for all their lives (we're talking smoking here, which is such a stupid subject if looked at in more depth).

Somebody please tell me if this is applicable to anybody/anywhere near them. I'm very interested....

*Sad = just something a bit weird and pitiful really. Like people who constantly go "ahhh, isn't that cute" whenever they see a baby or any kind of animal
**Greggs = I wished I'd never have to explain since it's disgusting. They're a bakers who make nice doughnuts and little else - I think that they serve food disgracefully high in fat, salt and sugar, mostly at the same time. Catch the smell wafting around on the mornings and be sickened for the rest of the day. Don't be fooled by the apparent "healthy" options like the piled high cajun sandwiches or whatever they are. No comparison to rival bakers Milligans in my own humble opinion
***Pastie = I deliberately spelt it this way so that people who didn't know what one was wouldn't say "pasty" as in looking a bit white and ill. Pasties (pass-teees) are like a savoury pastry with various fillings. Quite filling, quite fattening in some cases but if you ever have a chicken tikka flavoured one you'll understand that one every now and then is pretty good for you really. Available in corned beef, chicken bake, tikka, cheese and onion, and the most famous Cornish to name a few

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Burn After Reading


Maybe this is the first time I've ever gone to the cinema to see a film that has really only just been released? I think four or five days after the initial release is a pretty good amount of time, and the cinema screen was still practically empty (because all the tiddlywinks wanted to go and see High School Musical - shudder).
Lets get straight to the point: Burn After Reading is as strange and oddly protracted as any Coen Brothers' movie, and still has a very dark thread running through it. After all, they don't really hold anything back do they? The story follows how the secret documents of sacked CIA man Osmond Cox (John Malkovich) are lost by an incompetent secretary at a gym and are found by two employees there (Frances McDormand and Brad Pitt). In the mean time Cox's wife (Tilda Swinton) is having an affair with their friend Harry (George Clooney) and things start to get.... complicated.
Well, there's lots of paranoia involved, particularly from Clooney, and just general stupidity, particularly from Pitt. The voice that he puts on to essentially blackmail Cox, for instance, is idiotically contrived and I had to stop myself from laughing at the incompetency - no wonder he gets punched in the face. And worse, but I'll not give it away.
There are some hilarious moments as with all of the Coens' less serious movies. Let's put it this way: you just have to see Clooney's home-made chair to believe it. Then there's the scene that I've colourfully called "the chopping of the carrots" and the whole way that Pitt acts in the movie - I can't believe that he didn't know that his character was gay when he was acting it out.
When we finally get to the climax you wonder how everything will be resolved. There isn't a definitive twist, as such, but there is a rather weird final scene. I can't give it away. But it's certainly not as thoughtful as the last little sequence in Fargo - in fact, you have to wonder about the morality of the whole thing. But it's pretty funny.
It's true that it isn't as good as Fargo or even the Big Lebowski, but it's still distinctly a Coen movie, and it's still got all the twisted, juicy elements that you would expect - probably isn't good enough for the Oscars like No Country For Old Men but definitely deserves some good recognition. Can more people go to see it before it tumbles into obscurity in the face of all the tween movies that are being paraded at the minute? Please?

Friday, 31 October 2008

Trick Or Treat

Well I've noticed it's been two whole weeks since I last posted here - that's pretty awful isn't it? First of all I have to say - how come it was the 28th yesterday and now today it's the 31st!? Have I completely lost track of all the dates and everything!? No wonder my pumpkin looks so angry, I bet he's lost in the tardis too... it was bad enough when the clocks went back and I kept losing track of the time (NOT helped by other people who kept getting the time wrong as well)...

So anyway, it's Halloween - when I lock the doors at night. People living the UK will probably understand when I say that it's annoying having a bunch of chavs* turn up at your door dressed as, er, chavs* and singing that awful "Sky is blue" song. It's not good. Whatever happened to little kids putting a bedsheet with two holes over their heads and asking elderly women for candy? I'm lying, some people still do that and other, sadder people decorate their house in all manner of creepy paraphernalia. Never floated my boat personally!

But for today I will be playing "Halloween" by Siouxsie and the Banshees. Although, when I think about it just about anything from their "Juju" album would be appropriate (erm, apart from "Arabian Nights" and "Monitor" I think). Not that I need an excuse to bang that brilliant gothic masterpiece on mind you...

Coincidentally**, it's Bonfire Night next week and little old me will be busy with sparklers and Damp Squibs***. More on that next week though.

*Chavs = a derogatory term used to describe rather arrogant people who constantly wear shellsuits and a lot of "bling" on any visible part of skin - Burberry is a must, as is swearing in any available public space. They also have a very annoying tendency to tuck their tracksuit bottoms into their socks
**Coincidentally = speaking of "Juju" and songs that go with Halloween, another Siouxsie song from the album (at least the restored edition) can be used to soundtrack Bonfire Night - "Fireworks" - which is why I started talking about it
***Damp Squibs = a daft term that my mum and I developed years ago to describe fireworks that promise a lot but then end up giving out the weakest of displays, such as those ones that shoot into the air with a massive squeal and then give a little pop with no lights. Makes you think either: "what a waste of money" or "I don't know why I bother". But it's funny!

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Increasingly Stupid, Increasingly Forgetful

Well I've been watching the third series of Heroes and thinking "do the writers actually remember anything they've written in the previous series?"

The thing that's getting to me is that if Noah Bennet really really really wants to kill of Sylar then why doesn't he just shoot him in the head like it said in Series 2? You'd think that someone who worked in the company for so long would realise these little things - but I guess it's not very entertaining if you kill off your main bad guy in one go now is it?

Still.... someone else must have picked up on this...

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Spore!

Everyone seems to be going on about this game called Spore that EA have released. It's the brainchild of the guy who brought us The Sims (you can tell this post was well researched...) and basically you're supposed to start off with a little creature and then multiply, befriend or fight other little creatures in order to populate your planet more and save it. Then you can blast off into space and explore other planets.

Now, I wasn't sure if it was any good or not until I heard people saying how brilliant it was (reviewers and that sort mostly) and thought "hmm, maybe I should look into this." I thought it was only going to be for PC, which would be a real pain since I don't have any of these fancy graphics cards or anything, so imagine my delight when I heard there's a DS version!

I'm pleasantly surprised, because normally these games are PC or bust... Still I feel the need to check it out. Since I feel like I'm progressing nicely with the 3 games I purchased for my little red companion in the summer I need something to mix it up a little. A good old fashioned incredibly long and logistical game is needed!

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Eats, Shoots and Leaves: Resurrection Of The Stickler


In reading through Lynne Truss's book "Eats, Shoots and Leaves" (a no-nonsense guide to punctuation that is often pretty funny and sometimes throws some weird facts at you) it dawned on me that I am a "stickler".
A stickler is someone who goes around and gasps at the shoddy use of punctuation, and in my case this is particularly true of the apostrophe. There are many times when I want to have a heart attacks because I see signs like "CD's for sale" or "50% off hose's" (and I know this is a bit of an odd example).
To add to the issue this afternoon when in a shop I saw the line "... and all the bands I'm yet to discover" instead of the fully grammatical "...and all the bands I've yet to discover". Tsk tsk, this is awfully sloppy and is setting a bad example. I would blame texting but to be perfectly honest I text people far more than a call them; I'd be a hypocrite to say that this wonderful function is causing the death of English grammar.
But like Lynne says, all of the sticklers need to unite and fight the wave of sloppy grammarians who think it's okay to be shoddy with words - they are effectively killing our language. Where would we be, after all, without apostrophes and commas? They help us understand the true meanings of sentences and are necessary to be fully understood. You wouldn't want to read a book and think that it's about a completely different subject to that which the author intended would you?
Gather the following items and join me in the grammar wars: stickers, banners, balaclavas, megaphones, spray cans, and a gun (to shoot people who still won't get the message or maybe even to turn on yourself if the situation gets too awful which is how I feel sometimes).
Oh, what's the use? I even corrected the grammar of my friend the other day and she was surprised and shocked that I'd be so picky about where she put her comma: "But it's grammatically incorrect for what you're trying to say!" I squealed. "So? Stop nit-picking!" She protested. Am I the only stickler in this part of the world!?
For those of you who don't understand the panda, I'll explain: The idea is based around a joke about a dictionary entry about the panda. Instead of typing "eats shoots and leaves" which suggests the panda's eating habits, the compiler of the dictionary wrote "eats, shoots and leaves" which suggests that pandas eat in a restaurant, shoot everyone dead and then leaves without a care in the world. Awful joke, but it makes a valid point!

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Double The Love

Diva and I have no idea if this is legal but I received an award from Brett the other day I gave it to her and now she wants to give it to this blog, feeling that I deserve to have it both here and on Jamjarsuperstar.

I think this is fair enough, and to make it more legal I've decided not to nominate anyone and just leave it as the people I've mentioned on JJS.

Extra thanks to everyone who has given me awards/memes/general praise and support throughout my blogging voyage so far!!

Getting To Grips With Gadgets

Today was the day I finally came round to browsing some of the new little gadgets that Blogger have spent so much time compiling. Some of seem a little odd (I'll not say pointless but seriously, Mario and Zelda on your blog? What next?) but then I've found some lovely little gadgets.

When I first started SCG, I thought that it would be a good idea to put up a feature where I put a quote or saying up every day but this idea failed miserably - I just didn't keep up the payments, so to speak. But now I have blogger to do it for me! Hooray! We'll be enlightened every time we view the blog!

And I've inserted the headlines of the day on to my blog as well, so you can all keep up with current affairs (for the UK at least...) - see, I'm so generous with my information aren't I?

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Epidemic! Run For The Hills!

So right now I'm recovering from the common cold (which I find as being an odd name because there's nothing common about the type of colds I get - it's much more than the regular sniffles and drippy nose!) and everyone around me is coming down with it.

My three best friends are either in the grip of the cold or are developing all the symptoms that point to them getting it! One was absent from work and bedridden today thanks to this supposedly harmless little virus that everyone says you should just get on with.

The thing is, when you've got the cold you instantly think that it's going to develop into something worse or you're paranoid about passing it on to other people. Watching "28 Days Later" yesterday turned my friend into a nervous wreck, not just because we'd watched a scary movie at 10am but also because it made her think that she was going to spread the cold to everyone and anyone she came into brief contact with.

Unfortunately if you're working in the confines of an office or are sitting in a meeting room you can't escape other people's germs and they can't avoid yours. I ate the whole "grit your teeth and get on with it" attitude to the cold, so can someone please invent a vaccination for it?!

And On That Note...

Remember last week when I said about the misreading of signs? Here's another one for you (please don't knock me for this, it was at a great distance on the bus today!):

"S&M Animal Accessories"

Make of that what you will - I think that the "&" was supposed to be a little fancy squiggle to make the sign look nicer but it made for me nearly dying of keeping giggles in for too long after I'd seen it!

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Waht Wsa Htat?

Yes, this is supposed to say "What Was That?" in the title and the point is that today I was sitting on the bus travelling to work when I saw the most curious thing - and this must have happened to someone else at least once before!

So it's raining, I'm listening to Black Kids to cheer me up and we pass by Hays Travel where there's a sign in the window saying "Thinking of going on holiday? Cuddle us now!" Okay, yeah, the sign didn't really mean that we should be getting hugs for going on holiday but instead the sign really said: "Thinking of going on holiday? Come in now!" So either this was a bad case of morning eyes teamed with the rather annoying will it develop/ won't it develop kind of cold or I'm going crazy.

But then opposite there is a barber's where the sign says "Free Haircut With Every Chosen Design" - design meaning a pattern to shave into your head (why anyone would want to do that is beyond me!). So we've gone from misinterpretations to stupidness - does anyone else have a problem with signs and flyers in this way? No? Fine.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

You Can't Take The Sky From Me

The title is a fact: but then they can, and have, taken a pretty good TV show from our screens...

I started watching Firefly last Saturday, in a double bill. Unlike most space adventures, this dramatic, sometimes comedic (but always brilliant) features no mutant monsters or living jungles - all of the planets are distinctly barren and the threats are all very distinctly human.

So the story is this: Six years before the show is set, Independents were beaten in a battle against the evil, dominating Alliance and were forced to flee in fear for their lives. So we have our crew, forced into a life of crime, and avoiding the Alliance at all costs. In the first episode they pick up a Shepherd (that's a vicar to you and me) and a young doctor. There's revelations aplenty in this first episode, but I'll not give anything away apart from the fact that everything gets just that little bit more dangerous for the crew of Serenity.

Most sci-fi programmes have elements of westerns lying underneath the surface, but this is taking that premise to the extreme. Most of the inhabitants of the various planets are living in little wood shacks, wear Victorian-style clothes and use primitive technology to get by. As the little prologue before each episode explains: "A ship will get you work, a gun will help you keep it". Such is the volatile nature of this universe. But that's what makes this exciting. You're never quite sure what's going to happen next, and the mystery deepens the more episodes you watch.

Unfortunately the silly people who made the show have pulled the plug after one season! Hopefully there won't be a massive twist or cliffhanger at the end of this saga or I'll be very cross indeed! I'd suggest that you hunt the show down and give it a go since it's not cheesy or unbelievable like Star Trek or Stargate - it's much better, and I'm hooked!

Monday, 8 September 2008

The Dark Knight

Here at SCG I've gone a bit movie-fanatical. Whether it's because I'm immersed in my own work which has me racking my brains with them and their marketing or whether it's just the fact that I'm suddenly turning into a movie freak who can't discuss film in real life but can when I'm writing, everything at the minute seems to revolve around them.

And so here we come to this. Like my review of Indy IV it's probably come a few months too late but here it is, finally! The Dark Knight! And I must say:

Give Heath Ledger the Oscar now pleeease!!!

Such compelling acting, a tour de force in acting! Disturbing, freakish, amoral (not even immoral, which has got to be a hard one to pull off) and possibly the most ironic portrayal of The Joker ever. Really you have to wonder what he could have done if he'd still been around - topping this role would be hard, but then wondering if there was still more left in the tank is tantalising.

Going back to the film, he definitely steals the show although there are other pretty special performances in here as well. Take Aaron Eckhart's chameleonic Harvey Dent, scarred in more ways than one by a horrific event that practically takes his humanity away from him. The CGI used on his face is just that little bit too realistic - I have to honestly say that I wasn't expecting such a graphic representation of such a heavily burned man. Kudos to the SFX department! Of them all, Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne (ahem, aka Batman) is the least impressive, and even he's pretty good!

In discussing Hellboy 2 before I touched upon the subject of whether monsters can really live amongst humans in perfect harmony. Now translate monsters as being human psychopaths and, yeah, superheroes, and you essentially have the subplot of The Dark Knight. Or at least what I'd like to think it is - while you have The Joker blowing up everything in sight and laughing as he slashes people up recklessly, Batman is going through a crisis all his own, eventually leading into the film's dark ending. Similarly, Harvey goes through an identity crisis and is brainwashed by The Joker into becoming an anti-hero, the complete opposite of the man who you see put 500 of Gotham's criminals in jail in one swoop. None of them are accepted by anyone and no-one apart from Wayne's butler knows the true identity of Batman. Thus when discussing the Joker, one of his henchmen says "Friends? Have you met the guy?"

I haven't been this entranced by a film in ages. I have always been that little bit skeptical of superhero movies, but The Dark Knight is different. It's a dark tale made even more twisted by stellar performances and the extremely capable directing of Christopher Nolan. I enjoy a film that can make you think - I suppose some of the little intricacies may have bypassed some people but it's what kept me hooked. By the end, I was gripped, not wanting it to end and with my hair all over the place from being so thrilled.

I only have one problem: it was so stupidly LOUD!!!!!

Hellboy 2: The Golden Army


Heh, I hope you like the little cartoon version of Hellboy - just that little bit more interesting than me plonking a still from the movie straight in here.

Before I begin my, ahem, dissection of the movie, I must first apologize for being away from my desk longer than anticipated. I feel horrible that I haven't been around to blog, although I did post a little teensy video on my other site, so I hope you checked that one out...

Review commencing now: This is the second Hellboy film that Guillermo Del Toro has directed and is none the worse for it. Unlike the first movie, Del Toro's somewhat childlike fantasy qualities shine through. The first movie could have described as standard fare, not too impressive but not incredibly bad either. In this one, Del Toro plays around more with both his characters and his creatures to create a much more fantasy-based world that questions whether the race of demons and magical monsters can ever live peacefully with the humans.

Case in point; Tooth Fairies that fly around eating people so there's nothing left shouldn't be even vaguely cute but they are. So they have big massive fangs, so what? There's a scene here that shows that they're slightly cuddly, when Johan Krauss (come back to him later) revives one and it starts "talking" to the others giving them information about who bought him and his little ravenous chums. Lurvely.

By no stretch of the imagination is this creation cute but the Angel of Death is also something to behold, even if his appearance is slightly spoilt by the movie's only walk into sickly-sweet "please don't die on me" territory. At first I thought, "nice eyes" (plastered liberally on his wings, a nice touch) but then there was something just a little more menacing about it - it was around seven feet tall and loomed over everything...

And then there's Johan, possibly one of the funniest and strangest characters I've seen in ages. He's German, wears a rather large diving/space suit and oh, did I mention that he's made entirely of gas? This gaseous element of Johan provides possibly the most comical moment of the whole film - no, not that bit where he keeps whacking Hellboy with the locker doors, the bit just after where he minces along thoroughly pleased with what he's achieved. Although, he does come out with same rather good lines as well. I enjoyed his transformation from a tied-to-the-rules figure to a more liberal, carefree person. Gas person. Whatever...

But hey, I was disappointed because when I read a preview in the Empire about the film I saw a character named "Cathedralhead" (I won't patronise you by explaining it) and thought he was going to be a prominent chracter. So imagine my disappointment to learn that he only actually appears on screen for a maximum of, well, a minute!! I was fuming. The film needed more Cathedralhead action...

But overall, the narrative turns out to be ever so slightly predictable. While you couldn't quite figure out overall what was to happen between the people, you always had this feeling that they weren't going to die or let the bad guys win. Hey, what kind of superhero movie is going to let its main chracters die and let the baddies get away huh? Um, actually I'll come to that in my next post.

Too bad that everyone pretty much neglected Hellboy this summer - despite being a great bit of fun no-one was really that bothered. Luckily Del Toro has the prospect of directing The Hobbit in front of him, so maybe more people will pay attention to that. I loved it really. I would hate to think what a terrible mess it would be if Peter Jackson had got his blood-stained paws on it and mauled the poor film with horrible creepy-crawlies and grotesque monsters like he did with King Kong (officially the most horrible film I've ever been to see - I don't want to ever see a man having his head bitten off by a giant maggot again. How on earth I was the only person in a packed cinema to sit through that sequence with eyes wide open is beyond me). Guillermo knows how to do it nicely.

Friday, 22 August 2008

What A Difference!

I was thinking this morning: "Oh my god, you look awful!" I had a splitting headache, and I had no idea why, I was grouchy and sat down to grudgingly read some rubbishy magazines with my morning coffee and biscuit.

Two hours later I was sifting through looking for my earrings when I found some of my old shell clip-ons! I was still feeling rough, and thought "why not?" and put them on.

About a year ago I had my ears pierced but had to permanently remove them a couple of months ago because my ears wouldn't adjust and they kept bleeding. I was pretty sore about it because I thought that I looked good even with my studs in. I didn't even get the chance to wear the longer earrings. So the other week I bought some clip-ons and today was the day I was going to attempt to attach them to my normal earrings.

So when I fund my original clip-ons I was pleased! I put my pale shell ones on and was instantly transformed. No longer was I the rough, just-fell-out-of-bed groucho - I had suddenly become alive and pretty again. Even my fairly greasy hair (needs a wash, must get to that!) looked rejuvenated.

So it got me thinking that maybe making an effort now and then really does make a difference. Even something so simple can make you feel better about yourself on a dull day - beauty is achievable on even the most awful of days!

Election

So last night I watched Election, a 1999 film starring Reese Witherspoon and Matthew Broderick. And it was hilariously funny from the beginning to the end.

The story goes that high-flying Tracy Flick (Witherspoon) is running to be Carver High School President, something she has been aiming towards for as long as she can remember. At first she is running as the only candidate but her morals and ethics teacher Mr.McAllister (Broderick) has other plans - he gets the captain of the football team to run against her (can you see the irony here?) Things start to go horribly wrong in McAllister's life as his candidate's sister also runs, and he begins to fall in love with his best friend's ex-wife.

The film is told in a light-hearted fashion from the viewpoints of the different characters showing their conflicts of interest and their thoughts on each other (which also turns out to be hilarious, particularly when it comes to McAllister talking about Flick). The fact that all of the characters - particularly the candidates for presidency - are all so different, it means that there's some wonderful meeting of minds.

The film put me in the mind of Rushmore which was directed by Wes Anderson (who is brilliant, you've just got to sit down and watch some of his movies) as they both have similar quirky, light-hearted feels. I can see that this would be a film that doesn't wear thin quickly, and that you could watch it time and time again and still laugh! Surely the best comedies do this? If you get the opportunity I recommend you track it down and give it a go - as proof that it isn't one of those teen movies that are alienating to other age groups, my mum watched it with me and was laughing just as hard as me. Enough said!

Idiot...

I am such a dunce... I never knew that you could actually turn off the WiFi on Jerry the Berry. As a result my battery has been draining faster than water down a plughole. Before actually being told that you have to turn it off to make the battery last I had to charge the thing 3 times since Saturday, which probably would have been more if I'd kept it on during the night as well. So now that I've turned it off, the battery is steady eddie.

Ahem, I need to think logically about these things in future.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Slightly Dimmed Down - What Did I Expect?

So finally here's the last review - of "Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings". It's a little toned down from the old heyday of the brilliant "FFXII" but what did I expect? Absolutely amazingly realistic graphics on a console that can't handle that many pixels?

Actually, the CGI cut-scenes are pretty special. You have to kind of hold your DS about a foot away from your own body to get the full impact but it's there and it's special, possibly the most realistic graphics of all the games that were there.

I have to admit though that it took me a while to get into this. The whole idea of it being set in a world away from Ivalice seemed a little strange, since that world worked so well and was so diverse - there was a million and one things you could do with its wonderful landscape. Once you get used to the new floating world of Lemures though, it grows on you as well. I just wish there were more towns and quests - new quests are available after every chapter you complete (so for me I've been able to complete two sets of missions, since I've just completed Chapter 3 - Chapter 1 doesn't count). Although you do have access to the Sky Saloon after a certain point in the game, there aren't enough towns and people to interact with! I enjoyed the fact that there were so many people to talk to and little mini-tasks to complete in cities like Rabanastre and Archades on FFXII. Maybe I'm just not giving this one enough time to heat up.

Gameplay is a little fiddly and a little bit difficult to get a hold of. Your characters also level up very very very slowly so in order for them to be strong enough to progress, you have to undertake a lot of Monster Melees in areas that you've completed. Luckily you do have the power of little monsters known as the Yahri to aid you, although even for them to come to your aid you have to collect Auracite from the various missions in the game.

Simply speaking: it's difficult. It's a bit long-winded. But it's really fun, if not frustrating at times when your little Yahri die for no apparent reason when a massive dragon comes out of nowhere and breathe fire on them... The story is a lot less political and violent than FFXII although the DS is marketed at younger people, so they had to tone down some of the violence (FFXII was full of wars, killings and murders, so much different to the previous installments)...

When Life Hands You Lemons, Make Lemonade!

So here's the thing: I screwed up a little bit at work on something that was super-important and I went crying to my mum down the phone. That weekend I go shopping with her and dad and the next thing I know they're saying they're going to buy me a BlackBerry despite the screw-up and for getting that far anywhere.

So now Jerry the Berry and I are completely in sync, I don't have to worry about the money on my old phone running out and I can e-mail anyone I want anywhere I want and oh, I've got complete Internet access (I was thinking of writing this post on Jerry but then I thought nah, I don't want to rub it in people's faces!).

Oh happy day! Three days on from this and I keep wanting people to text and e-mail me just so I can try out the little keypad or if it's someone I haven't talked to in ages just to tell them that I have a new phone... Whee, this is so cool...

They're really supposed to be used for business purposes but I suppose as long as you've got a few friends and a bunch of e-mail addresses then you're good to go - I can still make use of the other functions somehow...

Friday, 15 August 2008

Olympics 08

After not caring for ages about the Olympics I've finally come around to watching quite a bit of it over the last few days. For some reason you get sucked in if you watch one event (for me it was the women's double diving from 10m, in which some of the smallest divers you've ever seen competed).

Yesterday I found myself watching the majority of the men's gymnastics and spending most of that thinking "how on earth do they make it look so effortless?" I have a certain admiration for anyone who is any good at sports because I've never come around to it - I was practically out of breath yesterday when I had to run for the bus. Just getting to the Olympics must be a heck of an achievement because the competition is so fierce - winning a medal in it must be a dream come true, something I would only be able to achieve in my dreams.

This lunchtime I started to gasp at the track and field events through my peanut butter sandwich. I wish I hadn't watched the unbelievable performance of Jamaica's Usain Bolt in the Men's 100m race. It wasn't human - I know it was only on the passage to the semis, but still the guy didn't break sweat and was only jogging, jogging I tell you! He even looked casually from side to side, had practically no movement in his arms and probably could have waved to the crowd and still won the race super-comfortably and under 10 seconds. A super-scary performance. A bit like Michael "Baltimore Bullet" Phelps but on land and running... Eek, you may as well just give him the gold now.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Stylus Trouble... Blame Producers...

Okay so ages ago I said I'd review the three games I bought for my new DS, and here's the second about a month overdue (what?).

"The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass" is a return to the controversial days of "The Wind Waker" where everyone was up in arms about the fact that the producers had moved away from the realistic Zelda world into a cartoonish land coloured in by cel-shading. Nevertheless, it made the whole experience rather unique. It was the funniest Zelda, and this promises to be the same. Once you got past the "dodgy" graphics, it was brilliant.

Basically, it's a follow-on story from "Wind Waker" and Link is sailing the high seas with his pirate friends, including Tetra. Tetra is curious about the ghost ship and so orders her crew to go and look for it - with disastrous consequences. She is abducted and Link washes up on a far away island after he falls in the sea trying to save her (he should be used to that after washing ashore on Windmill Island after being catapulted over the Forbidden Fortress by Helvinek at the beginning of "Wind Waker". What luck). So begins a massive quest to find and invade the ghostly ship.

Everything you do is controlled by the stylus and this is incredibly difficult. The reason why this game is taking me so long just to complete the second (yes, second) island is because the controls are so fiddly. I still haven't grasped how to make Link roll, although I'm quite good at killing the jelly-like ChuChus. Also, I was stuck at sea for a while when I couldn't work out how to make the ship move (major problem!).

I just think that the other buttons could have been used more to make it easier to control. I never want to buy easy games but then I don't want ones that are so hard I can't fathom for a month. I'm a master at the other Zelda games (although anyone who knows the locations of all the poes on "Twilight Princess" should alert me) so I won't let this beat me. The characters are funny, the story, though simple, is completely engaging and the world is rendered to the same quality of "Wind Waker" - don't let the stylus put you off. Just try your best. That's what I'm doing.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Lad Mag/Girl Mag

There's a debate raging at the minute about whether lads' mags encourage a lack of responsibility amongst young men and teach them that women are cheap and will do anything (i.e. that we're all brainless airheads!). Of course, I hate to think that these gross publications are making men believe that women are just objects - but it's true.

Then I watched Channel 4 News the other night and a former editor of such vile magazines (I'm not even going to give the names the time of day) came on and said that women's magazines do the same but use words instead of soft porn to talk to women about sex.

Then I realised that this was really true! I suppose this could be taken as a backhanded compliment that we can use our imaginations and brains instead of having it all laid out in front of us so graphically. You know by now that I hate Cosmopolitan because it's just sex, sex, sex so I wonder if these sorts of mags are sending out a bad message to women about being promiscuous?

The ex-editor of the lads mags claimed that mags like this don't shape the society we live in but then if lots of young men between the age of 16 and 25 "read" these things then they're obviously going to be affected by it. Plenty of the men I know think in this way but then so do the women - they're obsessed with getting a boyfriend, afraid of being alone and have over-active sex lives. It's all they think about.

Society must be going downhill... please tell me that this is the case elsewhere as well because it's a bit scary and it's not likely to change soon!

Music Meets... Video Games

Okay so a few months ago I published a short post about Quentin Tarantino being inspired by Kate Bush to direct Kill Bill because the lyrics of "The Wedding List" are so similar to the storyline of his cult bloodfest. Of course, it was a fat chance but fun!

So now I've come to you with another little musical mash-up: readers of Jamjarsuperstar will know that I've recently purchased "A Kiss in the Dreamhouse" by Siouxsie and the Banshees. If you examine that cover, near to where the images of Siouxsie Sioux's backing band are placed there is clearly the symbol of the Triforce, a recurring divine object in the Legend of Zelda series. Did Shigeru Miyamoto and his colleagues stumble upon this symbol on this album cover?

Coincidence? You decide...

Turning into Kate

I think over the last few years I've started to morph, fashion-wise, into Kate Jackson from the Long Blondes. I wear my little blue beret (just like the one she wears to the right) and my scarves tied into bows at the neck, skinny jeans, coloured tights, black cocktail dresses and stripy jumpers just the same as the indie pixie.

So I wouldn't be mentioning this except for the fact that it got me wondering about if, even unconsciously, we start to dress like someone we've seen before. Okay, maybe not in designer dresses or suits or anything but do we think "oh, she/he looks nice" and start subconsciously modelling ourselves on them? I think Kate has a nice style - she never seems to be trying too hard and yet still looks fashionable, totally different to someone like Kate Moss who seems to strain to get dressed the way she does (or at least that's what I think).

We get our style from somewhere and it changes over the years. I think I'm finally settling into my own fashion sense - only to realise that it really isn't my own style. I've just stolen it from other people and made slight changes...

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Liverpool: Odd Shots

So to finish my strand on my trip to Liverpool I've left my 3 daftest shots. This one perhaps the weirdest. It's supposed to be advertising "Pink" nightclub which on the window invites you to "come in and have a sherry". Anyway I think most people thought I was mad that I wanted a photo of a bright pink furry car but hey, I thought it was funny and stuff everyone else (putting it nicely!)
Ahem, I thought this was the most ridiculous name for a takeaway. Is it just me or does "Hot 'n' Tender" sound a bit, er, wrong when put in the context of food? Besides, it conjures up images of undercooked chicken - considering it's meant to be fried chicken, this isn't a good image to have. "Eat In Style" the sign says. Walk right past, I say.

Heh, now if there really was a fly in the loaf you'd complain but this makes for gold dust when you're going around pointlessly snapping pub signs. Actually, it didn't look too bad in there! They sell a beer from the Isle of Man (Babooshka? Any comment?) and have chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. The red sign above this one says "Bakers to the Queen". Flies must give bread a nice taste, then.


Liverpool: Philharmonic Toilets - You'll Need Them

Ah, the Philharmonic toilets - the men's toilets. Yes, that's right, the men's. Women can go in by asking a male member of staff to check to see if there's anyone in there and they can be escorted in if no-one is, ahem, using the facilities. Very pretty toilets though, considering the women's are nothing to write home about.
Even more of the men's toilets, this time it's the urinals. They're made out of such pretty red marble that you can't help being a bit weird and taking a snap.

The room at the end of the corridor is the Grande Lounge, which is definitely the fanciest of the rooms on offer here. The "Brahms" and "Liszt", I was nicely informed, are different forms of being drunk. You're going to need those pretty little toilets after all... There's a massive selection of beers on offer - and I mean beers not just those rubbishy lagers you can get everywhere. A house ale is put up often, and I think the one when I visited was some sort of honey drink. Anyway if anyone wants to visit it's down the road from the cathedral (shown in the previous post). I was so tired after climbing the hill that I collapsed after this.

Liverpool: Architecture

This is officially the ugliest building in Liverpool - sitting right on the front of the Albert Dock, overlooking the Mersey and obscuring the view of the Liver Building. It's a monstrosity - another one is being built to the right of this photo. Whoever thought of putting this here must be a bit dense in the head. Why would anyone want to tamper with the historic quay. In contrast...
This just has to be one of the prettiest buildings in Liverpool! I love the colours and the piping. Although it's bright it's not really that intrusive or garish and I would be happy to call this piece of modern architecture my own work. You would never believe that this is actually a Costa Coffee Shop - at first I thought it was some sort of art gallery but no! Aww, I love this building.


Obviously one of the most famous sites in Liverpool is that of the Liver Birds - there's two, one male and one female. The female does all the work by watching and making sure that the boats go out safely while the male looks into the city to see what time the pub opens! Legend has it that if the Liver Birds were to ever fly away then the city would fall to ruin - that would explain why they're firmly tethered down then!

This is the Radio City Tower where Merseyside's local radio station broadcasts from. It used to be a revolving restaurant, designed in an attempt to make the city more cosmopolitan but it fell out of favour and is now used as the broadcasting tower. It has to be one of the most recognisable sights - there's not many places around the city where it can't be seen.

There's two cathedrals in Liverpool - this is one of them. The other is a bit gothic and creepy but this one is colourfully referred to as the "Witches' Hat". I didn't go in so I couldn't really comment on what it was like inside. Just like Radio City though, this can also be seen from many points in the city. Most of my hotel rooms have had a direct view to the Witches' Hat but not this time.

Finally, this is an area I like to think of as the most cultural. It's probably because there's about a thousand museums, libraries and theatres around here. This time I only went into one. I went to see the "Beat Goes On" exhibition that documented a full history of music in Merseyside, which was very interesting. I would've gone to see the Egyptian exhibition as well but you had to go through the Bug House to get to it and despite my continuing fascination with Ancient Egypt, I wasn't going to put myself through the torture of creepy-crawlies just to get there! The souvenir from this year was a sarcophagus with a little mummy resting inside of it which I found pretty cool. He sits on the side of my bed now - awwww....

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Liverpool: Foodie 2

Another food experience, this time on the second night of my stay - this was at the PanAmerican Bar and Grill at the Albert Dock where I stayed. The dish in question is South-East Asian Chicken with soy noodles and stir-fried veg. It was tasty enough. I was a bit skeptical about the noodles at first because in all honesty I've never had soy sauce before but it was actually lovely! I think sometimes you've got to take the plunge - I wouldn't eat anything incredibly readical but changing a little bit of your food here and there is okay if you're trying stuff out. Then when people ask you if you've even eaten something and you say it's horrible you can actually say you've eaten it! I suppose it gets on people's nerves when you say you don't like something but have never tried it before.

Anyway, getting back to the food, it was pleasant enough. It made a bit of a change since I ate pasta on all the other nights! I think the place needs a bit of TLC though - the furniture was ageing a bit since they haven't changed it in all the years I've been going.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Liverpool: Superlambananas

This is one of the famed "Superlambananas" that have been popping up all over Liverpool this year. Each of the mini-versions represent something about Liverpool, and this one honours the fire service. You can see the little firemen on its legs. This one is even wearing a helmet (headgear is not essential for one of these Superlambananas)

This pinky Superlambanana is meant to represent the use of WiFi in the city. At first I didn't get it but then I looked closer and thought about all the little hands reaching together and the wires being thrown away and thought it made more sense. However, I think they could have made this one clearer. If I hadn't told you this was for WiFi, would you actually say that this represents it? Thought not.



Well this one probably doesn't need much explanation but her it is anywhere: It's a mix of Sgt. Pepper's and the Yellow Submarine - John and George are in the little portholes and Ringo is the Superlambanana (at least I think - it's the big nose). Thing is, I couldn't find Paul anywhere so really it wasn't fully representational of the Beatles... This was outside the Beatles Story, which is like a museum that gives you a tape and headphones for an audio tour as you move through the exhibition. The hotel I usually stay at is right opposite here and the first time I went to Liverpool the music from the Beatles Story was playing so loudly that you could hear it from the room when the windows were shut. This time they'd turned the music down considerably. It was still audible but just not as bad.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Liverpool: Foodie 1



So on the last night of my stay in Liverpool we went to eat at the Sports Bar. It's run by Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher and is commonly known as "Carra's Bar". It markets itself as a family restaurant with a healthy twist and the only deep-fried food on the menu was the fries, which were still made out of the healthiest potatoes and cooked in the healthiest oils (which I believe is Sunseed, but I could be wrong).
The first pic is of my meal, the penne primavera. So it was basically penne pasta in a tomato sauce with chicken, tomatoes and courgettes. I was surprised to find how spicy it actually was! I thought it might have been a safe option to test the water but instead it turns out that they must have added more than a fair share of chillies or spices - not that this was a bad thing, it was a very enjoyable dish and I ate it all, despite eating three large slices of garlic pizza bread beforehand.
The second pic is of my friend's meal, the spinach and ricotta ravioli. I know she really likes spinach and ricotta anyway so I had a funny feeling she was going to pick that. Anyway, despite not looking like too much on the plate it was apparently filling and had a nice kick with the added black pepper. I think it was enjoyed, even though she eats like a bird.
To drink I had two smoothies, one a Jamaican 8 (so that just had loads of tropical fruit in it like pineapples and mangoes with fat-free frozen yogurt) and the other was a berry-flavoured smoothie that I can't rightly remember the name of. Anyway, this one had loads of berries in it (duh) so it was more like the type that I drink whenever I go to the juice bar in town.
We got kicked out a bit earlier than we might have liked because another group had booked the table for about 8-ish. But it didn't really matter, it was likely to fill up because of the match that was on anyway (the whole place had massive TV screens everywhere, some showing SkySports News and others showing DVDs of sports - our table was showing a DVD that was a combination of when motorbiking goes bad and when skiing and snowboarding goes bad. Good, cringey action.).
I'd go there again, maybe try a pizza and sacrifice the garlic pizza bread - there's a huge selection and everyone will probably find something they like.
P.S. I am sorry about the bunched up writing on some of my posts recently - I've complained to blogger but they haven't done anything about it. I'm afraid you'll just have to cope for now! Sorry -- Scarlet x

Thursday, 31 July 2008

Liverpool: Capital of Construction Workers

Now as you've probably noticed I've been away. On holiday. To Liverpool. Some of us can't afford a foreign holiday, and I had my very occasional foreign excursion last year to Paris which was lurvely until I went down with something terrible (and I'll not go any further than that, I don't know how many of you are eating). But I went to Liverpool last year as well, and I've been going for a good few years now.

This year though Liverpool is European Capital of Culture so I had to go: a.) early and b.) with an open mind that I wouldn't be one of only a couple of tourists wandering around snapping everything. The camera was at the ready this year too and the image above is meant to represent the only thing that I regret not being able to snap: construction workers!

Right now construction is under way of Liverpool One, a big complex that includes a Hilton Hotel, 5 acres of parkland and a multitude of shops. But every time I passed through it to have breakfast or to return to my hotel (it's easier than climbing up and down the hills like I used to: flat is best) the workers were all sitting down on their coffee break (or tea break really).

Mostly they eyed up the women, and gathered around the Greggs bakers that was down one of the little passages there. Like pigeons! I expected them to flap their arms and coo before pecking their sausage rolls and pasties - not one had a supposedly "healthy" roll. Not that Greggs has ever served anything healthy.

It's no wonder that they haven't finished everything they were supposed to if they've been given such long and liberal breaks. The cree, by which I mean the construction site, was normally empty or filled with sad looking worker-pigeons desperate for their next sit down on the stairs. Poor things. I bet they haven't had a tea for 20 minutes...

Friday, 25 July 2008

Simon's Cat

There's nothing quite like a great animation to perk up your day - after seeing the third installment of "Simon's Cat" on the Culture Show a couple of weeks ago I felt that I had to go out and check out the other two little masterpieces. They're simple, only really line drawings, but it's hilarious. I'll just let you check out "Let Me In!" - if you watch to the end you can also check out "TV Dinner" and "Cat Man Do" by clicking on the little boxes:

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Dye-Time

So today was the fairly dreaded visit to the hairdressers - the cut/style bit isn't bad at all and some of the chat is quite nice. It's the dye; the smell pierces everything. You're sitting there even if you're just getting your roots done waiting for the colour to set in all the while wondering if it's toxic. My hairdresser says she doesn't notice it anymore - lucky her.
To combat this I nursed a cup of coffee for more than half an hour.

Luckily this was in a polystyrene cup so it didn't burn my hands. Every now and then I'd wave the cup and what was left of the coffee (hey, can't let good beans go to waste - they're jam packed full of goodness if you remember one of my first ever posts here) past my face to try and get rid of the smell of dye. It worked, thank god.

To alleviate more boredom they always give you some magazines. I don't know how rich they must think I am but for some reason Vogue and Elle are always given to me. I gag at the prices. More than five hundred smackers for a pair of jeans? You've got to be joking.

In Vogue there was an article that was effectively a battle of the decades, asking "can you really be old and stylish". "Of course you can!" I protested in my head. Then lots of pictures of celebs in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s were shown (all women) and I thought that some of the older women looked better than those in their 20s. Perhaps those celebs just have no style. Actually, they don't. "Unique" and "a style of their own" would be some phrases that mags like Vogue might throw at you to put an opinion in your head but I'm not so easily convinced.

Now I do like people who have a quirky style, so Lovefoxxx, lead singer of CSS, does come to mind (she doesn't really take any rubbish from anyone) but I can't say I admire the style of Agyness Deyn or Alexa Chung. "It Girls" might be used to describe them - but let's face it, one's a model who wears what her best mate makes for her and is practically famous just for her haircut and the other is best known of dating Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner. I think people have just picked up on their style because they're in the limelight - would anyone actually look at Alexa Chung in the street and say that she was a style icon if she wasn't famous? Nah, I didn't think so. You see plenty of people in high-streets everywhere wearing leather jackets and black minis. Big whoop.

Most of the older women shown were obviously wearing designer but not one looked like mutton dressed as lamb. At the same time, none of them looked drab or ancient. Conclusion: yes you can definitely be old and stylish - it might not be the latest trend or the most cutting-edge of designs but it's still fashionable. The fact is, young doesn't always mean good-looking or attractive. I'm sure some of you will agree.

Oh, and reading it meant that I passed most of my dye-time. Hooray.

Thanks to www.lbdevents.com/images for the pic!

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Tactics People!


So yesterday I was ecstatic over the fact that I am now the proud owner of a Nintendo DS. Now I'm going to start reviewing, or at least commenting on, all three of the games that I bought (because of course one game is just not enough for a gaming freak like myself)!


Let's talk about Final Fantasy Tactics A2. There's really only two things you need to know about this game. Number one: it's absolutely massive with over 300 missions, more than 50 jobs and tons and tons of job combinations, and ways that you can evolve your clan members - it'll keep you occupied for hours. Number two: it's addictive from the moment you start playing it.
Your main character is Luso who is sent, on the last day of school, to clean the library as a punishment for turning up to class late nearly every day of the term. While there he finds a mysterious book that contains mostly blank pages. When he writes his name in the book as hero of Ivalice, he is transported to that world and must find a way home. On his way he meets different races and tons of different people, and must complete certain missions to write pages in the book so he can reach home safely.
It's really hard to train your chracters up because unlike most of the FF series, there are no random enemy encounters. Instead you have to accept a quest in order to fight. Basically, if you want to be powerful then you're going to have to complete lots of quests - nearly all of the jobs can only be accessed this way (for instance, I've just gained the Assassin job for completing a quest).
I love this game. It has a simple premise but is none the worse for it. Just trying to make your characters powerful enough to win a fight is hard enough - and I'm hardly any way through the game!

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Wahoo!

Yay! I've wanted a Nintendo DS for ages! Now I finally have my greasy mits on one! I'm so happy... So, the games I bought for it were:

  • Final Fantasy: Revenant Wings
  • Final Fantasy Tactics A2
  • Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass

I think I'm going to need that cooking one where it takes you through the different stages of cooking a meal little bit by little bit. I'm a rubbish chef. I need something like that to keep myself from either burning down the house of making a blackened mess on the plate. Okay, I'm not that bad but still... A little assistance would be nice.

I think I'll review these games in time... So far I've played "Tactics" the most, but that'll change. Oh, and did I mention that it's red, just like my hair and the colour of my team's strip? Oh, happy day!

Thanks to i2.iofferphoto.com/img/item for the pic!

Bender's Back

Yep the Futurama team are creating 4 new feature-length tales over the next year or so. The first, "Bender's Big Score" was released late last year and I've just got my hands on it (just as "Beast With A Billion Backs" is released).

It starts particularly cheekily, with a dig at Fox for pulling the plug on this wonderfully funny cartoon from the creators of the Simpsons. Alas, while the Simpsons are still flourishing, Futurama has become the inferior little sister. And that's a shame! It's just as funny, especially whenever the beer-binging, loudmouth, aggressive, robot-porn-crazy Bender Bending Rodriguez is in a scene.

The storyline is typically preposterous: Bender is infected with a virus while downloading porn from a spammer and is sent back in time repeatedly to steal various priceless artifacts from through the ages using a code placed within a tattoo of the robot that has somehow made its way on to Fry's bum. But when he steals everything of worth and enables his nudist masters to become supreme rulers of the universe, Bender is sent on a mission to kill Fry so that no-one else can get their hands on the time code.

Mix into this a story about Hermes trying to win his wife Lebarbara back from Barbados Slim after he loses his body in a limbo contest and Leela falling in love with Head Museum employee Lars and it adds up to be one of the silliest tales ever. Splashes of Evil Santa and a small serving of painfully funny space hero Zapp Brannigan and "Bender's Big Score" becomes a wonderful escape from reality. Literally. I'd urge anyone to enjoy the new tales while they can - there's no plans to make any more Futuramas after these episodes! It's a travesty!

Thanks to flyingfarther.files.wordpress.com for the pic!

Friday, 18 July 2008

Some People Have Better Things To Do!

In my madness the other night I actually read last month's issue of Cosmopolitan - my lord, what a load of.... but, nicely, I'm not a fan. I'm more of a Company kind of woman and consider it to have more decent articles - it promotes women being independent but safe and doesn't donate nearly all of its pages to sex.

Okay, the fact that Cosmo is so filled with sex is not the point of this post. No - it is Denise van Outen who made me think "what the heck?"

Ms. van Outen said that if a man is still single in his thirties and hasn't settled down with at least one kid then there must be something seriously wrong with him. Er, riiight. Surely, all you men, that there are much better things to do out there? In essence, isn't this a bit like saying that a woman should stay at home and tend to their partner's every need instead of going out and forging a decent career? Her other "advice" wasn't too bad, despite all relating to relationships.

I don't think I'll touch a Cosmo again.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Stuck In A Phantasy World

So at the minute I'm busy playing "Phantasy Star Online" for the Gamecube. Only offline. So basically I'm running around trying to complete all of the quests of hard mode thinking that my Force character, not unlike the one to the left, will inevitably die if I manage to reach very hard mode. Not even my Level 70 Hunter was able to reach ultimate mode. How will my little mage cope?

Maybe I should explain. On this game you have to create a character and then you'll be transported either to Episode 1 or Episode 2, depending on what you really want. Episode 2 is a nightmare to complete even on normal mode, so you end up on on the first episode, on Level 1 ready to kick some monsters where it hurts. You find that you can only explore the forest at first with its easy monsters, but then you can explore the cave, mine and ruins after you defeat the boss of each area (as you do on any game really).

You'd think that just going along defeating monsters left right and centre would get boring after a while but actually it's highly addictive and you find yourself wanting to defeat more and more monsters until you're so strong that you just have to progress somehow. On to the next difficulty level, that is.

Then you have to raise your "MAG" who is like a little guardian angel. Sometimes they'll heal you and if you raise them to a certain level they'll evolve and learn a summon spell which you can cast after you've gained 100 points of Photon Energy. Phew... Some of the "MAG"s are so ugly though (like mine, a horrible little thing called Garuda. Yuck.) that you start to wonder if it was all worth it. Only in my case it was because Forces (one of the classes you can chose when creating your character) are so weak its unbelievable.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that even though some people might think that this is a repetitive, pointless game that it's actually not, it's rather fun and your character becomes lovable. Most of the time. I've had some real failures before I raised this one to Level 55. Oh well, back to my Force...