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Moments in time, preserved to embarrass me later.

3-3-2003 (archived)

This week's first film review is “Solaris”, Steven Soderbergh's version of Stanislaw Lem's previously-well-filmed classic novel. I don't believe I can write satisfactorily about this film without sounding pretentious, so I shan't even try.

George Clooney is nicely understated in the lead; Natascha McElhone, playing opposite him, has the sort of remarkable, exaggerated beauty that could, in the wrong light, almost be ugly. The film has a stillness, a contemplative feel, that makes it all the more astonishing that it's over in just 99 minutes.

Like the first film and the book itself, it's an examination of the questions of identity and memory that SF devices allow you to raise (tangentially, my own favourite treatment of this takes place as one of the many themes of David Zindell's astonishing “Requiem For Homo Sapiens” trilogy, a work of genius that remains infuriatingly poorly known).

Filled with arresting images, powerful and sparse scoring, and supplied with an mostly excellent, naturalistic script, this is a superb, calm, intense film. Highly recommended.

4-3-2003 (archived)

My friend Adrian Clark, virtuoso guitarist, recently commenced blogger, and music editor at Guitarist magazine, has recently been clearing out his cupboards, and I obtained from him a couple of guitar tuition videos. Like all of my favourite examples of this genre, they star men with lots of 80s hair and very nimble fingers. (For anyone who cares, the parties involved are Brett Garsed, Australian fusion virtuoso, and Blues Saraceno, rawk guitarist of taste (and at one time of lipstick metal kings Poison, though not in the millons-selling era).

Pleasantly, they were both pretty good vids. Garsed has some interesting and unconventional ideas, and a good sound and unusual phrasing. Also, he can teach. Saraceno is less competent as a teacher - he comes across as a little bit surf-dude - but still has some interesting things to say, and his sound is incredible. I am a little fascinated with his rather unusual amp. The idea of fitting a variac (as famously used by Eddie Van Halen in the early days) within the amp, to affect the power tube supply voltage only, interests me strangely. Not that I'm not delighted with my rig - I am - but he really did have an unusual, and excellent, sound.

I was in Blackburn today. I would not have thought it possible to fit so many roadworks into one smallish town centre. Isn't humanity wonderful?

6-3-2003 (archived)

This week's second film review is “Jackass: The Movie”.

There are lots of really bad plot ideas that the Jackass team could have used to make a full-length movie; fortunately for us, they decided that plots were irrelevant, and gave us just under 90 minutes of the kind of material those who've seen the TV show will find instantly familiar. This isn't all that surprising; we all know that the reason Knoxville and company pulled the plug on the MTV show is that the channel wanted it toned down, so given the opportunity to essentially do whatever the hell they wanted and slap an 18 certificate on the result, they took it.

There are really three possible audience segments for this review:

The basic idea is very simple; take a bunch of imaginative misfits (Knoxville), clowns (Steve-O) and skateboarders (Margera). The skateboarders will already have high pain thresholds and a complete disregard for the likelihood of serious injury; your other participants need this too.

Jackass stunts fall into six basic categories:

  1. The gross-out. Example from the film: a man ignoring Uncle Frank's advice and eating the yellow snow. Note the complete absence of any sort of backstory; Jackass, on TV as here, is like an all-the-goals highlight show. There are no tedious presenters making bad links to camera to pad it out to length, no laughter tracks, and no plots. After all, if millions will go the the cinema to see a man have sex with a pie, why bother making the rest of the film?
  2. The road accident. You can see it coming, and can't look away. The classic TV example is the shopping trolley sequences; the best here is probably the golf cart sequences, complete with horribly worrying Knoxville near-death moments, though his astonishingly stupid attempts at insanely difficult skateboard tricks (he's a famously inept skater) come close.
  3. The insane courting of pain. Now, those of us who love sashimi, or who read about jwz eating sushi, know that wasabi is not to be fucked with. So when, as here, you see a man chopping it up, mixing it with soy, and slicing it into long lines to snort, you feel the pain even before he does.
  4. The disturbing of the public. These can be simple (hide in the bushes next to the golf tees with an air horn) or complicated (rent a car, take it to a demolition derby, return it saying “I had a slight accident”). The recurring theme here is Bam Margera's torment of his parents; his mother's reaction to finding a live alligator in her kitchen is worth the price of admission and 90 minutes of your time.
  5. Taking risks with animals. Walk a tightrope above an alligator pit with bait in your belt? Fill your underwear with shrimp and go swimming with elephant sharks?
  6. The spectacular and stupid. Stand in front of an artificially created tidal wave. Stick fireworks up your ass.

Of course, there are plenty of stunts that cross the boundaries, too, but really that's what it's all about. And it's spectacular funny; I have never seen a cinema audience react so vigorously to a film. I, too, almost did myself an injury during the “paper cut” scene; I ended up twitching almost completely out of my seat, with my shoulders on my own seat and the rest of me mostly crammed under the seat in front. If you think there's any chance at all you'll like it, see it. The stunts are hit and miss, but the best of them are utterly, moronically brilliant.

10-3-2003 (archived)

Well, several persons (most recently foosgold) have recently answered this particular doing-the-rounds quiz thing, and since I'm full of head cold and empty of inspiration, I shall too.

And yes, I am the Rick she needs to get in touch with <g>. Anyway, without further ado, “Seven Deadly Sins”.


  1. Who did you last get angry with? Myself and the BBC, in equal measure, on Saturday night. Them for starting Jonathan Creek fifteen minutes later than scheduled so that my videotape missed the end, and me for not anticipating the usual inability of the BBC to read a clock and leaving it to run well over.
  2. What is your weapon of choice? Sarcasm, mockery and logic are among my weapons. And pointy sticks. And pointy guitars.
  3. Would you hit a member of the opposite sex? I sincerely hope not, but if sufficiently provoked, I might; but only if I couldn't get away from the provocation. I cope with my temper by removing myself from extreme situations before I lose it, as well as by working hard on being calm. In self defence, perhaps.
  4. How about of the same sex? Basically the same answer.
  5. Who was the last person who got really angry at you? I'm not sure I would know. Probably my brother; we get along extremely well but occasionally strike sparks.
  6. What is your pet peeve? I have so many. Today, misused apostrophes, top-posting and not trimming quotes.
  7. Do you keep grudges, or can you let them go easily? I mostly let them go.


  1. What is one thing you're supposed to do daily that you haven't done in a while? Post to this website. This is the longest unplanned hiatus since I started the blog. Being busy and sick is not enough of an excuse.
  2. What is the latest you've ever woken up? I have occasionally, after very long periods awake, essentially slept through an entire day.
  3. Name a person you've been meaning to contact, but haven't? Lindsey Cottam.
  4. What is the last lame excuse you made? My usual lame excuse is “I'm just not in the mood”. As I've always said, if I'm not in the mood and I go out anyway, I'll be shitty company and we'll have no fun. I actually think this is pretty good, as lame excuses go, and it has the advantage of being completely true.
  5. Have you ever watched an infomercial all the way through? I don't believe I have, at least not since I gave up being chemically enhanced.
  6. When was the last time you got a good workout in? A fortnight ago today, since I've been ill. And it's pissing me off; I'm hoping to go tomorrow, if my physical condition will let me.
  7. How many times did you hit the snooze button on your alarm clock today? Once.


  1. What is your overpriced yuppie beverage of choice? Espresso.
  2. Meat eaters: white meat or dark meat? Both.
  3. What is the greatest amount of alcohol you've had in one sitting/outing/event? About 70-75 units. That was the night I cut my index finger almost to the bone and thought it was only a scratch. I still have the scar, and am lucky to still have full use of the finger. Or, for that matter, my liver. This sort of thing may explain why I drink very little nowadays, you see.
  4. Have you ever used a professional diet company? No.
  5. Do you have an issue with your weight? Yes, but increasingly less so, thanks to Dr Atkins. (Yes, yes, $atkins{geek}++, I know.)
  6. Do you prefer sweets, salty foods, or spicy foods? Spicy, usually.
  7. Have you ever looked at a small housepet or child and thought, "Lunch"? No, though I have thought wistfully of discreet body disposal techniques.


  1. How many people have you seen naked (not counting movies/family)? I have no idea.
  2. How many people have seen YOU naked (not counting physicians/family)? I have no idea. I've been a regular gym user and sports player for much of my life, and this involves a great deal of nudity (changing rooms, and such). If you mean “only in a sexual or semi-sexual context”, well, I'm afraid I still have no idea. Cross-reference with the drinking question.
  3. Have you ever caught yourself staring at the chest/crotch of a member of your gender of choice during a normal conversation? Yes. And I suspect, not nearly as often as I've been caught staring at etc. I try very hard to be a well-behaved, properly house-trained member of society, but the biological imperative is considerably stronger than the social, or indeed than the conscious mind. I probably do it a lot more that I realise.
  4. Have you “done it”? Yes, assuming “it” means “sex” and not “ritual satanic slaughter of kittens” or some such. We couldn't afford kittens, we were poor. We used gerbils.
  5. What is your favorite body part on a person of your gender of choice? Well, that probably depends on the person in question. But, in some theoretical ideal woman, to look at, breasts. At the risk of sounding ludicrously, lyingly new man, for any kind of realistic relationship brains are probably more important to me than anything. Big brains is probably an even more annoying fetish to be afflicted with than big breasts, but sadly that's the way I'm wired.
  6. Have you ever been propositioned by a prostitute? I live in a red light area of sorts. There are working girls on my street every night. A couple of weeks ago I got back from a gig at one o'clock in the morning and had to ask one to move from where she was standing so that I could back into my own driveway. That, then, would be a “yes, frequently”.
  7. Have you ever had to get tested for an STD or pregnancy? No, I've always been very careful about that. Especially pregnancy. I'm just not that kind of girl.


  1. How many credit cards do you own? I'm not sure “own” is the right word; “one” is the right answer.
  2. What's your guilty pleasure store? Guilty pleasure? Um. I'm not sure I have one. I don't feel guilty about my pleasures, or I wouldn't find them pleasurable; I'm surprisingly well-adjusted that way. Actually, McDonald's is probably the answer to this one; every so often, the desire for a McChicken Sandwich or, better yet, a Sausage McMuffin, sweeps through me like the particularly horrible addiction it is. It doesn't make me guilty, though, just slightly irritated, amused, and a little physically uncomfortable afterwards.
  3. If you had $1 million, what would you do with it? Change it for sterling, for starters. Spend some of it, save the rest. I'd buy a house as soon as I find a permanent job, and there would doubtless be a certain amount of GAS.
  4. Would you rather be rich, or famous? I don't care about famous, though I'd like people to hear (and like) my stuff; and there are many down-sides to fame. So rich, since there's no doubt it makes life a lot easier and more comfortable.
  5. Would you accept a boring job if it meant you would make megabucks? Right now, with seven months left on my contract in this poorly-paid industry and no job to go to when it's up? Shit yes.
  6. Have you ever stolen anything? Not as far as I remember.
  7. How many MP3s are on your hard drive? Well, I've ripped my whole CD collection onto this box. locate .mp3 | wc -l returns 3890, which sounds about right.


  1. What's one thing have you done that you're most proud of? I'm not very good at this sort of question, really. I suppose, at the risk of sounding both new-agey and self-satisfied, I think by and large I'm pretty good at not screwing people over, of doing what I've said I'll do and keeping commitments, generally of not being a bastard. I'm proud of that.
  2. What's one thing have you done that your parents are most proud of? I have no idea. It would be deeply unfair to ask them; that's the sort of question you shouldn't ever ask people you care about and who care about you.
  3. What thing would you like to accomplish in your life? There are so many, that's a tough one. I'd like to sustain a physical relationship with somebody I care about for more than a few months.
  4. Do you get annoyed by coming in second place? Context is everything <g>. Answering the question as meant, I think much less than I used to; I'm less competitive anymore.
  5. Have you ever entered a contest of skill, knowing you were of much higher skill than all the other competitors? Not that I recall, but it's the sort of thing I would have done given the chance in my teens, so probably.
  6. Have you ever cheated on something to get a higher score? No, though I certainly have used cheat codes and such on games for my own amusement. I wouldn't see the point on cheating for a high score; there's no satisfaction unless you actually win. (Now, what was I saying about being less competitive these days <g>?)
  7. What did you do today that you're proud of? Got up and came to work, despite a pounding headache and sinuses full of foulness.


  1. What item (or person) of your friends would you most want to have for your own? I covet a lot of Vinny Burns's recording (and other musical) gear, I suppose... Persons? I certainly fancy some of my friends' partners, and for that matter some of my friends, but I have no designs on any of them.
  2. Who would you want to go on "Changing Rooms" ("Trading Spaces") with? Good grief. It'd have to be somebody fairly spectacular for me to be prepared to go anywhere near Changing Rooms. Preferably not only spectacular but heavily armed, actually.
  3. If you could be anyone else in the world, who would you be? I'd rather work on being me better.
  4. Have you ever been cheated on? Not that I know of.
  5. Have you ever wished you had a physical feature different from your own? Yes. After all, I don't look like Sebastian Bach in 1990 or thereabouts...
  6. What inborn trait do you see in others that you wish you had for yourself? I'd like to be better at light conversation. I can do heavy conversation, and I'm comfortable with silence, but I struggle with chit-chat.
  7. Do you wish you'd come up with this survey? Not in the slightest. I wish I had something to say, then I wouldn't be filling it out!
  8. Finally, what is your favorite deadly sin? Of this list, I suppose it would have to be lust.

11-3-2003 (archived)

I know I've had a link to Temple ov thee Lemur on my links page for quite a while, but since they recently posted some Stuff for the first time in ages I feel justified in linking to them again.

As dedidicated readers of totl.net know, Darth Rich will not go to the country. In fact he will not even leave Southampton City unless it's on a train to another (bigger) city.

He says he does not like being around the “green stuff” as that's “where the bears hide”.

This new piece on urban sports is, like much of the (always slightlly hit-and-miss) contents of TotL, unashamedly geeked out and genuinely funny.

I have sourced a copy of this weekend's Jonathan Creek, and my cold is greatly improved. I am warmed by your concern. Or possibly that's fever, I don't really know any more.

12-3-2003 (archived)

This week's film review is “Adaptation”. I have very little idea how to review this film, to be honest; it's complicated.

What is true? Charlie Kaufman is a screenwriter; he worked with this film's director, Spike Jonze, before, on “Being John Malkovic”. He does not have a twin brother. There is a best-selling non-fiction book called “The Orchid Thief”, written by Susan Orlean and largely about a real person, John Laroche. There is a screenwriting guru named Robert McKee, who gives seminars. That, really, is all I'm sure of.

Adaptation is credited as being screenwritten by Charlie and Donald Kaufman. Donald Kaufman does not, in fact, exist; “Donald” and “Charlie” have central roles in the film, played in two brilliant performances by Nicholas Cage. All the other real people mentioned about (except Jonze) appear in the film, too; one assumes that the characters with their names are similarly loosely drawn from life. The film is described in its credits as “based on The Orchid Thief”, but what it seems to actually be is a slightly surrealised, fictionalised account of the troubles Kaufman had in trying to adapt this essentially unfilmable book.

The result is hilariously funny, sharp, witty, almost painfully clever, thought-provoking, and brilliant. I'm not quite sure that the ending, an apparent satire on Hollywood by-the-numbers action films, works, but I don't quite know what else one could have done. The actors are all stunning, the script is brilliant, the film works on every level it plays on, and if you care at all about cinema you absolutely must see it.

13-3-2003 (archived)

Last night I went to see a Taylor acoustic guitar clinic in Manchester, given by Mike Keneally (guitar, vocals) and Bryan Beller (bass, more vocal), two long-time collaborators and two of my favourite musicians. Lazily, I'm going to recycle my Usenet report:

I was at Manchester last night. It was absolutely astonishing, more than I expected and I expected a lot. Bryan, in particular, was insanely great, playing impossible lines with only a slight grimace showing any effort, hitting high harmony lines with apparent ease and doing percussive things on the body of the bass at appropriate moments.

Both he and Bryan were signing and chatting before and afterwards; I had quite lengthy conversations with each of them. Bryan told me to go and buy a particular Michael Landau record, which I shall be doing real soon <grin>.

The place was absolutely packed; they had laid on about 50 chairs, but there were people standing all the way to the back of the shop. There weren't many questioners or requesters; I got the impression that most of the people there weren't all that familiar with Mike's music, and also that this would be changing soon. I myself took three curious friends and left with three Keneally fans.

The power to the little stage section failed completely right at the end of one number (“I will”, I think, but could be wrong) and they just got us all to gather in a little closer, came right down to the edge of the stage, and played and sang the rest totally unplugged. It was even better this way, I think. I was sat about two or three feet from Bryan at this point, a little further from Mike.

They were both just great people to be around, as well as genuinely ridiculous musicians.

No taping that I noticed, I'm afraid. I didn't write down a setlist; most of it was from requests, and here's what I remember (not necessarily in order):

  • “Lightning Roy” - this was first
  • “Killer Fish”
  • “Dancing”
  • “I Will”
  • Bryan played a John Patittuci song solo, which I didn't know.
  • “We'll Be Right Back” (my first request. God, I love that song.)
  • “Voyage to Manhood” (Mike couldn't remember most of the words, so it was almost entirely instrumental)
  • closed with: “Inca Roads” (after a request for “some zappa”)
  • and finally “Live in Japan” (my second request. Yay!)

Stunned and happy,

- rfb

I wasn't the only one who had a really good time, either; from Bryan's website:

The clinics the last two nights have been really incredible experiences, with audiences so large and kind I hardly even know where to start. But tonight, which started at Academy of Sound in Manchester, may go down as one of the most gratifying nights on a clinic tour ever. The applause for our first few tunes was ear-splittingly loud. When I played “Backwoods,” the clapping lasted for so long I nearly choked up. Then came the real magic - we played “I Will,” and on that stupid, silly, penultimate chord, the main breakers went out onstage. (Sing the song to yourself and try to imagine that.) Immediate efforts to restore power having failed, we simply moved our chairs to within five feet of the front row and played a truly acoustic show, with no sound reinforcement for either the guitars or our vocals. And it became magical within minutes. Power was eventually restored to the stage, but we never went back up there. One of the best clinics ever.

As I said, stunned and happy. Yeah.

17-3-2003 (archived)

What I would have done on Sunday, if I could have, was to go and see the astonishing Mike Keneally in Cardiff. But I couldn't, because my band were playing in one of my very favouritist venues, the Old Market Tavern in Altrincham.

Now, normally, our bass player would call the venue mid-afternoon to check that there are no problems, we haven't been double-booked, and so on. This didn't happen, as he was in north Wales rallying round the yesterday-bereaved widow of one of his oldest friends (heart attack at 39. Sheesh). So, as you can imagine, his mood was already not of the shiniest.

So, we all turn up at the venue and discover that:

It's not quite so bad for me, apart from the loss of one of my favourite venues; it's only 20 minutes from my home. But the rhythm section drove 45 minutes or so, and the keyboards player an hour, and one of our travelling fans drove up with his wife from Stoke to see us, round trip 1:50, because we didn't have his number and his wife's phone was switched off.


19-3-2003 (archived)

This week's first film review is “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind”. According to his autobiography, Chuck Barris, US TV producer and presenter (and inventor of, amongst others, the format that later became Blind Date over here. Bastard) was also a CIA contract killer in his spare time.

Yeah. OK.

The film follows Barris's imaginative flights, including (tellingly for those looking for the opinions of the production team) his hallucinatory, paranoid moments, as though real. You don't really like Barris much, which is fine, and by all accounts true to life. Nudity fans, there is a great deal of his backside - more, probably, than of his face. My companion opined that this was on balance a good thing. The main implausibility, though (more glaring even than the premise) is: the guy's seeing Drew Barrymore, and going elsewhere for sex?

Yeah. OK.

The acting is generally excellent, the script superb and often very, very funny (Charlie Kaufman proving that he can do a straight adaptation), and this is more than worth your time. Recommended.

20-3-2003 (archived)

This week's second film review is “Equilibrium”. I have seen it theorised on this here electric interweb that, being a morality tale on the dangers of all-controlling governments, it didn't go out on general release in the US because the Bush government suppressed it. My own theory, a compelling one in the light of the evidence, is that it didn't go on general release (if, indeed, it didn't, I can't possibly be bothered to check) because it's utter shit.

This is a genuinely bad film, and unlike the other bad action movies I've seen recently (Ghost Ship, Final Destination 2) it's not enough fun to be worth sitting through. The plot is preachy, hamhanded late-60s bad SF of the kind written by those who'd never understood those clever-clever New Wave types but wanted to get a message across; it's a mixture of 1984 and Fahrenheit 451, without the skill of either. From the lightness of touch, I can only suppose the writer-director is a gorilla who works at the typewriter wearing boxing gloves.

The visual style is a straight lift from the Matrix, and provides the one worthwhile part of the film: the combat scenes (gun-kata, apparently) are pretty good and genuinely cool in places. Oh, and new-model action hero Christian Bale is impassively emotional (yeah, I know, but he is. I told you it was bad) and undeniably yummy to look upon. It'd make a good 20-minute highlight reel, and made a good trailer, but the rest of the film is astoundingly tedious.

See it, by all means, if you like guns and chop-socky, but don't blame me. I warned you. In the mean time, I shall look forward to seeing Mr Bale in a half-decent actioner.