rfbooth.com :: blog archives

Moments in time, preserved to embarrass me later.

14-4-2003 (archived)

This week's first film review is “Intacto”, an intelligent Spanish (mostly in English, with the rest subtitled) occult thriller.

The film has a sort of dream-like realism, reminding me of those lucid dreams where one is not quite sure that one is asleep. The sparse moments of physicality, of violence, are shockingly, undeniably real (and never gratuitous), and the film understands well the power of the inevitable; the scene where protagonists run blindfold through a forest has you wanting to look away, but not able to.

The premise is simple enough. Our protagonists believe, seemingly rightly, that truly lucky people are simply different to others. They play for huge stakes in back-room games of total chance, to gain entry to which you must show that you have survived against enormous odds.

Our young hero, Tomas, is the sole, almost unscarred, survivor of a 'plane crash, the protege of Federico - who does not have the gift. He did, until Max von Sydow - the luckiest of them all - took it from him with a touch. We learn that the players can take the luck of others by touching them, and regularly gamble for the luck of ordinary people, represented by photographs.

Amid all this, as the two play their games to win a showdown with von Sydow - Russian Roulette, the gun loaded with five bullets - Tomas is being pursued by a beautiful, scarred police officer, who may (or may not) be Gifted too. He robbed a bank, and was flying away to safety when the crash happened (the inconvenient fact that being in a crash is phenomenally unlucky, and surviving it just makes you slightly less unlucky than the others, is of course ignored). This added tension, and the uncertainty over Federico's motivation - is it revenge? Does he think he can somehow regain his luck? - drive the film slowly but inexorably to a genuinely unexpected, powerful ending that raises almost as many questions as it answers. The acting is good, and von Sydow is utterly compelling as the Holocaust survivor who has become the grand old man of Luck.

This is an original, inventive, well executed film from first-time director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, tossing ideas and philosophical questions around and still always working as pure entertainment. Unless you're only interested in intellectually empty Hollywood gloss, you should see it.

15-4-2003 (archived)

As well as this personal and music site, I also have a work site. For reasons of accessibility and moral purity, I spent quite some time getting it working properly in every browser I know of. However, the comment at the top of the style sheet now reads

Safari appears to struggle with margins and floats, and also misrenders backgrounds behind floats. I use Mark Pilgrim's CSS spacer hack to work around these, believing (probably wrongly) that the new Safari, which does not fall to this hack, will have also fixed its margin rendering.

Update: of course, the new Safari fixed the hack and not the margin rendering. The only workarounds I am currently aware of render the site either ugly in compliant browsers or unusable on some pages in other, widely used, browsers (like IE5/Win). As an added bonus, the navigation links are unclickable in some versions of Konqueror. I will no longer be attempting to hack around Safari problems; by disabling the existing hacks, Safari have shown us that they do not want us to make special efforts on their behalf in any case. This site will automatically support Safari again when Safari supports web standards by fixing its rendering bugs.

Safari developers have made it pretty clear that they were opposed to us using hacks to get around their browser's deficiencies. So am I, in theory, but I have to live in a world where people will keep introducing new, broken clients. So, as I have said before: Dear Apple, please feel free to choke on my fuck. Thank you.

16-4-2003 (archived)

Today is a day of random linkage, and stale links at that. Both these have been so heavily blogged in the last few days that I'm not sure where I read them first, so no via links. And no apologies; they're worth reading again. First up, get your war on #23. Better even than usual.

If the dojo fight in The Matrix was a kung fu sonata, the Burly Brawl is a symphony. Neo tears the sign from the ground and wields it as a kendo sword, vaulting pole, and battering ram. A woman walking by can't believe what she's seeing; suddenly her body is hijacked, she drops her grocery bag, and another Smith charges into the fray. Whole battalions of Smiths arrive, mount assaults, attack in waves, scatter, regroup, and head back for more. (At ESC, one massive pile-on was dubbed the "Did someone drop a quarter?" shot.) In the thick of it, Neo is dancing, chucking black-tied bodies skyward, pivoting around the signpost, and using shoulders as stepping-stones over the raging river of whup-ass.

Fans will wear out their remotes replaying the scene on DVD, but what they won't see, even riding the Pause button, is a transition that happens early on. When Neo and Agent Smith walk into the courtyard, they are the real Reeves and Weaving. But by the time the melee is in full effect, everyone and everything on the screen is computer-generated - including the perspective of the camera itself, steering at 2,000 miles per hour and screaming through arcs that would tear any physical camera apart.

Wired on the real-soon-now Matrix sequel. Like any great magic trick, this one is all the cooler when you know how it works. Bits of this scene have made it to the latest trailer, and it is making me very very ready for this film.

17-4-2003 (archived)

This week's second film review is “Johnny English”. It's yet another Bond film parody, which makes several in the last few months alone; some intentional (Austin Powers, most obviously, and arguably Confessions of a Dangerous Mind), some less broadly drawn ( xXx and, of course Die Another Day itself).

This suffers from the malaise afflicting every one of Rowan Atkinson's projects since Blackadder; with the raw talent of Atkinson and his sidekicks at both verbal and (dominant here as in all his recent work) physical comedy, the writing seems lazy. After all, Atkinson and (playing his Barclaycard-advert sidekick Bough) Ben Miller are very funny men, they'll make you laugh. And they do.

This may not be the simple laziness it seems. In recent interviews, he has made it clear that his own tastes are not highbrow, and that he deliberately (and understandably) appeals to the widest possible audience:

“I think I have an inner confidence that my tastes are pretty simple, that what I find funny finds a wide audience. I'm not particularly intellectual or clever or minority-focused in my creative instincts. And I'm certainly not aware of suppressing more sophisticated ambitions.”

Certainly it's easy to get laughs from Atkinson's sheer talent, and it's easier to get laughs from Atkinson as an incompetent bumbler with a competent sidekick (here Bough, in Blackadder I Baldrick) than the other way around (Blackadder 2 through 4). Nontheless, the verbal fireworks, brilliance and charisma of those late Blackadders are still far and away his best work; and sadly, that's not likely to change.

And the film? Atkinson and Miller are funny, Malkovich is satisfyingly hammy and exaggeratedly, camply French as the villain, Natalie Imbruglia (one-hit pop wonder with Torn, and apparently a veteran of Australian soap operas) is deliciously cheekboned and refreshingly unirritating as the required pretty girl. It's undemanding and reasonably entertaining, ideal for kids, but in the end this was the most popular comedy its makers could field, not the best. Watchable but annoyingly wasteful.

21-4-2003 (archived)

Last night we played the Town Hall Pub, in Eccles, a location that appeals greatly to me not least because it's only ten minutes from my flat. We went down exceptionally well (especially given that we debuted some new tunes and didn't play them all that well), and will be back, but we were also greatly amused by certain of the crowd.

My personal favourite was the gentleman who danced energetically and vigorously for most of the first set, pint in hand, without spilling a drop. This is not all that unusual; what is unusual is that he was not only decked out in flat cap, jacket and tie, but was also a good 75 or so.

Others among us would probably vote for the other end of the floor show; a young lady (“she gets the benefit of the doubt, dear, just like you”) wearing next to nothing (tiny pink skirt, black and white undercup bra, a sort of string halter top, very high, and also platform, heels) apart from in the area of wearing makeup, where she had gone somewhat overboard. Other noticable features: tattoos on both breasts, braided hair. In short, she looked like the working girl that she in fact was.

Anyway, she was clearly enjoying the show, particularly the second half, and most of the clothing came off at one time or another, to the great distraction and edification of some of our number (not I; I was looking away, and am in any case pure in heart. Stop laughing). My favourite part was one of us planning what he would tell his wife about the evening. “Darling, the tits I didn't see, well, they had pierced nipples. Not that I saw them, you understand. Honest!”

Oh, to be a fly on that wall.

22-4-2003 (archived)

A few years back, I was really quite annoyed when I walked to my local ASDA on Easter Sunday and found it unexpectedly (to me) closed. Well, it seems I'm not the only one who's not sure when Asda is open at Easter; looking at my referral stats, I see that if you ask Google, what you actually get is me ranting. In fact, I'm third for “supermarket opening Easter Sunday”.

Revenge is sweet, indeed.

While we're on the subject, my friend Padraig has been blogging for a little while, and is ready for it to be announced. He can write, oh yes. One of the things he can write about is search referrals, and some of his are way better than mine. I mean, onanistic enjoyment? Truly, I am jealous.

24-4-2003 (archived)

I have yet to see the “Caprice Lingerie Blowjob” ad, but I rather suspect sex sells. (Via Reverse Cowgirl.)

I think I want to move to Arcata. First Arcata Council forbids compliance with the horrifying Patriot Act, then I find the Arcata Police Log.

I have nothing to say about Hats of Meat except that you should see them.

28-4-2003 (archived)

We had a couple of good gigs this weekend, Friday night back at the Abbey in Oldham, which is becoming a regular for us. We went down the best we have so far, despite making not the best of fists of a couple of recent set additions <g>. Then on Saturday we played a new venue for us, the Adelphi in Accrington. It's a cracking little rock pub, with lots of live music and jam nights, and we thoroughly enjoyed it and were enjoyed.

Rob actually got us the gig, and came along to experience a night that contained a couple of firsts for me. I broke a string on stage for the first time ever on a guitar (though I've broken bass strings <g>), fortunately enough right at the end of my “My Guitar Wants To Kill Your Mama” solo, after which I don't need to play anything for the rest of the song anyway. Since I finish the solo by playing a melody on the whammy bar which involves bending the F# harmonic on the B string up to A#, I suppose I can't complain too much that the D string decided to let go - I'd not changed them in six weeks, foolishly.

Then, while giving Rob a lift home to the wonderfully named village of Oswaldtwistle, I was pulled by the police for the first time (that's pulled in the sense of “told to stop the car”, though I have never knowingly been seduced by a policeperson either); Rob tells me that this is a frequent occurrence late at night in this area. I'm actually all in favour of this kind of “just checking” late night stop; bad civil libertarian, no biscuit.

I seem none the worse for the experience, and it's provoked me into restringing both my JEMs in the style recommended by Rich of IbanezRules, with the ball end hard up to the machine head. I think, once I'd worked out that slipping it under the string tree and through the nut is easy if you slightly kink the end of the string, it is quicker than the other methods I've tried. As an added bonus, there aren't any sharp ends at the headstock to impale your fingertips on - and it decidedly looks cool, which is what really matters.

I won't be going out without a spare guitar anymore, though... while we have lots of standard-tuned guitars on stage, and James was kind enough to cede his Ibanez to me for the rest of the gig, I was never quite comfortable (probably due to strap length not being quite what I wanted). It'll do the DY good to get out under the lights again anyway, though I have to live with the possibility that it may blind unwary audience members.

29-4-2003 (archived)

Today is a day of random linkage. Scientific American has an interesting article on synaesthesia, a condition in which one's senses blur together. Those of you who've listened to Paul Simpson's experimental guitar music may be unsurprised to learn that Paul has a mild case of this condition.

When Matthew Blakeslee shapes hamburger patties with his hands, he experiences a vivid bitter taste in his mouth. Esmerelda Jones (a pseudonym) sees blue when she listens to the note C sharp played on the piano; other notes evoke different hues--so much so that the piano keys are actually color-coded, making it easier for her to remember and play musical scales. And when Jeff Coleman looks at printed black numbers, he sees them in color, each a different hue.

Interestingly, when I read “Optimised for Internet Explorer 4.0, 640x480” on the ISA website I experience a profound conviction that the site was designed by an utter cock.

In other news, WaiWai tells us that we can lose weight through masturbation. Dieting is always more successful with a partner, so why not combine this with the banana smoothies and semen diet for the ultimate in enjoyable girth reduction?

That's girth around the waist, obviously, unless you're gripping far too hard.

30-4-2003 (archived)

This week's first film review is “how to lose a guy in 10 days”, a by-the-numbers Hollywood romcom starring Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson. Hudson is writing the article of the title for a woman's magazine, about how women get dumped by doing the kind of clingy, touchy-feely things men are supposed to dislike. McConaughey is an ambitious adman who, for tenuously explained reasons, will get a big account if he can persuade a woman to fall in love with him in ten days.

Of course, McConaughey tolerates Hudson's stereotyped from-Venus behaviour, and she steadily gets worse and worse. There are some good embarrassing comedy moments, but this is not a good film. The main problem is that the two leads are unsympathetic enough characters that by the time ten minutes have passed, I wanted to drive an icepick through each of their skulls, and then bludgeon every other character in the movie to death for good measure. Of course, they fall in love in the bits where Hudson's character slips out of character, and blah blah predictable ending. Not actively offensive, but nothing special.