rfbooth.com :: blog archives

Moments in time, preserved to embarrass me later.

2-2-2003 (archived)

Q: What targets would you consider fair game for a satirist today?

A: Assholes.

Kurt Vonnegut being interviewed for In These Times.

“Don't chew that food! Remember! Slow eating means less time to play!” Alternative warning posters to keep our children safe.

3-2-2003 (archived)

Today's links have a cookery theme, of sorts.

The site you are about to enter contains explicit scenes of sock-cooking and is not intended for minors or those of a nervous disposition. It may be illegal in your state for you to view images of uncensored sock-cooking if you are under the age of 21.

See his girlfriend cook his sock. No, really.

I have posted this here as there isnt a section for frying foods on PC components

How to fry an egg on your PC. I suppose it's more hygienic than roasting your penis, anyway.

5-2-2003 (archived)

Blog! I say, blog! Absurdly talented and plausible near-future SF specialist Bruce Sterling has an absurdly rich linkpool in the form of Schism Matrix.

Sterling is one of those writers who sometimes make me feel stupid. Some of his novels (Heavy Weather, Islands in the Net) and most of his short fiction are tremendously readable, intelligent and relentlessly believable. Some of the others are verging on being too clever for little old me; it often takes me several attempts to get through them, though they're always well worth the effort in the end. Your milage may vary.

[...] at least one of the following propositions is true: (1) the human species is very likely to go extinct before reaching a “posthuman” stage; (2) any posthuman civilization is extremely unlikely to run a significant number of simulations of their evolutionary history (or variations thereof); (3) we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation. It follows that the belief that there is a significant chance that we will one day become posthumans who run ancestor-simulations is false, unless we are currently living in a simulation.

This is from The Simulation Argument. (Via Schism Matrix.)

6-2-2003 (archived)

This week's first film review is “Ghost Ship”.

It's bad. It's very, very bad. It's bad enough that it's genuinely surprising to see an actor as good as Gabriel Byrne in it.

On the other, gripping, hand, it's extremely entertaining. The opening titles are taking the piss; they made us laugh out loud. The scene in which the ship's trouble begins, in which a dancefloor full of people are cut in half at mid-abdomen, is a classic of its kind. There is a lot of (unrealistic) gore, some wonderfully inventive slayings, and proper, slamming heavy metal on the soundtrack. It will make you jump.

It really shoots its bolt in those first few minutes; nothing else is quite as cool as those early scenes. Marks are lost, too, by Byrne's character saying “knots per hour”, which made me want to hunt down and kill whomever dumbed that line down. But if you're bored and fancy some slick, pointless, gore-loaded horror with the obligatory scary little English girl (as last seen on the equally crap but entertaining Resident Evil), it's ninety minutes of tense, energetic fun.

7-2-2003 (archived)

This week's second film review is “About Schmidt”, Jack Nicholson's Oscar-candidate acting class.

This is a wonderful film, deliriously, darkly funny, bittersweet and sad. Nicholson's Schmidt is a man cut adrift by retirement, out of patience with the wife on whom he depends so totally, understanding little about the world he lives in. The one thing he seems sure of is that his daughter is marrying out of her class and into disaster with Dermot Mulroney's toe-curling waterbed salesman.

Our insight into Schmidt's tragically skewed world-view, his hopes and fears, come through his earnest, honest letters to the 6-year-old African child he has decided to sponsor. The device lets Nicholson speak to the viewer without artificiality, and reveals just how little empathy and imagination he has (he is clearly incapable of realising how utterly incomprehensible his middle-class American life is to Ndugu).

When his wife dies he finds himself, rootless and confused, driving across the country in his ludicrous, never-used 35-foot motor home to his daughter's imminent wedding. When he meets his future inlaws, they are worse even than he'd imagined - tasteless, vulgar bohemian trash, anathema to Schmidt's buttoned-up conformist.

Schmidt evokes both sympathy and exasperation in equal measure, and almost every character in the film evokes fits of horrified laughter from the audience at one time or another; this is a film watched with your hands to your face in delicious, cringing disbelief. At one point I almost bit through my own thumb.

The thought of a road movie about a cranky retired widower played by Jack Nicholson is a worrying one, but he turns in a superb, vulnerable, uncharacteristic performance with none of his usual trademarks. There is a sympathy underlying the distaste we are led to feel for all the participants in Schmidt's little journey, and an genuine humanity to the whole. And it's desperately funny. See it.

8-2-2003 (archived)

This week's third and last film review is “8 Mile”, in which Eminem demonstrates that he can actually act (a bit).

Our hero in this semi-autobiographical story is the white-trash Jimmy “Rabbit”, played with a charismatic blankness by Eminem. His friends tell him he's a great rapper, but he dries up at a rap battle early in the film. Unsurprisingly, the climax comes at the next week's battle, where he gets his triumphant, lyrical revenge.

There are several strands to the story; Rabbit's two sets of contacts, the (old school?) friends he hangs out with and the untrustworthy mover and shaker; his feckless, trashy, attractive mother (Kim Basinger in a well-judged, no-gloss performance); his little sister, whom he dotes on and tries to insulate from the worst of Basinger's behaviour; his new girlfriend, played with cheap, tarty flash and intoxicating sexuality by Brittany Murphy; his struggles to make his way in his low-wage, boring job.

The most surprising thing about the film, in the end, is that it's not the obvious rags to riches celebratory piece; Rabbit has won a contest, yes, but he has no contract and no contacts. Instead, he's found a little stability and self-reliance, and the will to save up, work extra shifts, and make his own demo tapes rather than waiting for success to fall on him. It's no masterpiece, but even for viewers who aren't rap enthusiasts it's watchable, believable and full of hope.

10-2-2003 (archived)

Today Richard Herring wrote about the lyrics of Avril Lavigne's single “sk8er boi”. It amused me, but it also makes me want to confess.

I have bought this CD (the album; I am not yet so far corrupted in my faculties as to buy CD singles). And I liked it. It's a near-perfect slice of pop songwriting with crunchy guitars and plenty of energy. I like hooky songs with loud guitars.

Still, now I've (for the first time in my life) bought the album in the number 1 slot. I fear this bodes only ill.

11-2-2003 (archived)

This week's first film review is “Final Destination 2”. The premise is simple, and the same as that of Final Destination (which I have not seen): some people, swayed by the premonitory vision of one of their number, avoid death. Death, annoyed to have its plans disarrayed, catches up with them anyway.

This is basically an excuse for jump-inducing, blackly comic scenes and superbly executed spectacularly gory deaths. The victims know what's coming, and so do we; the only thing we don't know is how many near-death moments each will have before the spraying fluids and ballistic limbs get started.

If you want a film with depth, subtlety, or acting that expresses anything other than terror, see something else. If you have a strong stomach, like being tense and jumpy, and are prone to laugh out loud at as two-dimensional characters not so much shuffle as explode off this mortal coil, drenching those around them with biodegradable substances, see it.

The initial freeway pileup scene alone is worth going for, if you're twisted the right way; the tension builds beautifully, and the payoff is hilariously, revoltingly grotesque.

PS: Dear film-makers, please save some of the films I want to see for later in the year, so I can retire phrases like “this week's third film review” and see fewer borderline-timewasting flicks in the summer. Surely you'd sell more tickets that way?

12-2-2003 (archived)

Every November 5 the smallest boy in the school was sent down a tunnel to light the very core of the bonfire. None, so far as anyone can recall, was ever lost. [...]

Boys were permitted to capture owls and keep them in the fives court, provided they caught enough sparrows to feed them. One boy recalls being given the task of rearing a lamb to which he developed some emotional attachment. The animal, called Lottie, disappeared shortly before the school's Christmas feast, and the boy realised what had happened only when he was the first to be summoned for second helpings.

Sometimes Telegraph obituaries get a little, well, whimsical. (Via Neil Gaiman.)

13-2-2003 (archived)

This week's second film review is “Narc”, a low-budget, gritty cop film.

Set in Detroit, the film follows one ex-Narcotics undercover officer (Jason Patric) who hasn't worked for eighteen months since an arrest went horribly wrong. He's recruited, much to the dismay of his wife, to try to find the killer of another Narcotics undercover cop, the now-ex-partner of the unstable, brutalised, bulked-out Ray Liotta.

There's nothing new about this film; the dialogue and plot are a series of (clearly deliberate) cop-flick cliches, the camerawork is shaky and human, the dialogue is delivered as if by people, not actors; all this has been seen before, as has the unflinching violence dished out by Liotta's bad-but-dedicated-cop character. Still, it's grittier than anything I've seen for a long time, and grippingly real.

It wouldn't be a great film but for the towering performances delivered by the two leads; each is utterly superb, and their scenes together are incredible. They bring new life to the old story, and hold your attention relentlessly tightly.

Narc left me stunned when I saw it, muttering vaguely about genius and Oscars. A day on, I've recovered a little; it is not the film of the year, and the brilliant actors at its centre still have to compete with Nicholson and Day Lewis for the best actor prizes. Nontheless, if you don't demand total originality and can stomach the close-up brutality that the plot makes inevitable, this one is essential viewing.

This is the 100th post to this blog, which started back in late August. So far, updating regularly is still a pleasure rather than a chore, and I actually seem to have some readers (woo!). There's plenty of room to continue; at five posts per week, my filename scheme should see me through to some time in 2386, by which time I'll probably be ready to start a new blog.

Anyway, if you're reading me, chances are you're somebody I know, from a newsgroup or in person. If not, or even if you are, why not email me (rick@rfbooth.com) and tell me who you are, how you found this site, and (most peculiar of all) why you're still reading? Enquiring minds want to know.