rfbooth.com :: blog archives

Moments in time, preserved to embarrass me later.

4-6-2003 (archived)

This week's film review is “Ripley's Game”. Ripley is a character featured in the novels of Patricia Highsmith, who will have earned some sales from this film (to me, anyway). Ripley is calm, cool, urbane, sophisticated, educated, tasteful, talented, and utterly amoral. As such, it is hard to imagine a better choice than John Malkovich to play him.

A British ex-pat thug, played by Ray Winstone with the kind of vulgarity and swagger that makes you want to kill him yourself, contacts Ripley to ask him to kill some inconvenient people. Ripley instead suggests a local innocent who has insulted him, but eventually, surprisingly, finds that he and the young man have begun to bond.

Sadly, while the action works out well enough, the acting is not great. Winstone is good enough, reprising a stereotype he could probably play in his sleep by now (indeed, possibly doing so); the other supporting actors are not memorable. But then there's Malkovich. He towers over the film, investing every moment with humour, meaning, art, and is genuinely frightening and enviably cool. He is a hero of sorts to those of us who, occasionally, wish that we could set aside our consciences and do exactly what we want - but with style, grace, taste, manners, civilisation.

Flawed though it certainly is, I enjoyed this comic drama hugely. You might too.

5-6-2003 (archived)

Today I bring you Steve Cobham's article on musicians and income tax. Many thanks to Steve for letting me give the article a home on the web.

6-6-2003 (archived)

Last night Chris, Tasha and I went to see the John Scofield Band. Much like when I went to the Gods, I was not troubled by preconceptions (or as some might put it, “having heard any of his stuff”), though I knew that he tended to make some fxy noises and use a heavily funk-influenced band.

They were amazing.

The lineup was Scofield himself on guitar (and various effects, and floor-mounted loop sampler), another guitarist (funky clean strat strumming and samples on a Mac laptop), and a bass player and (very young-looking) drummer. As is usual with serious jazz, there were things I'd like to have seen scaled back, notably some of the more over-the-top fx mangling from Sco, just as I'd like Krantz even more if he used a little less of the ring modulator.

Towards the end, the crowd were invited to get up and dance, and we were treated to all the classic styles from the eight who did so; there was the gymnast with no rhythm (backflips, but couldn't dance in time), the stock “expressive” jazz groovers, the shuffling fat guys, and the obligatory enthusiastic hot chick whose feet had apparently been glued to the floor. There was also the first outbreak of mid-eighties-style robot dancing I've seen in at least a decade. It was like a school disco all over again, and it made me very happy.

Still, this was an outstanding musical experience. The drummer was particularly impressive - grooving that hard while playing along to sample loops is hard, and he nailed it throughout. If you get a chance and you like modern jazz-funk at all, see them.

9-6-2003 (archived)

Today I shall be linking to more Matrix-related stories, since I am a sheep. Baaa.

This article on the philosophy and theology (spoilers) of the matrix is pretty interesting; is the whole thing really an allegory of Gnosticism? I'm pretty sure he's reading things into it that aren't there, but hey, it's fun.

Some people say that Keanu gave away £50 million or so to the backstage team on the Matrix trilogy, some people say that he didn't. Who to believe, Hello or Fox? Since as far as I know Keanu's not campaigning for the Democrats, we can probably trust Fox. The “motorcycles for the stuntmen” has been more widely reported, and not as far as I know denied anywhere.

This parody script (probably spoilers) is delightfully short and made me laugh. The abridged script for the original is probably even better. I have a new favourite film site.

10-6-2003 (archived)

You know the way they warned you IRC would be?

-:- Kdion has joined #bitchfest
<Kdion> hey
<rfb> lo
<Kdion> are u male of female?
<rfb> male, usually.
<Kdion> usually?
<rfb> yes.
<rfb> this is the interweb, I can be anything.
<Kdion> are u a transvestite?
<rfb> no.
<Kdion> hello?
<Kdion> are u bi?
<rfb> you see, this is a thing called "humour".
<Kdion> ok
<Kdion> 19f
<rfb> ah.
<Kdion> u?
<Kdion> if you are f it is ok
<rfb> 28m, as it happens.
<rfb> 28m whose dinner has just arrived.
<Kdion> ok
<Kdion> ok ttyl
<rfb> it's been, well, stereotypical.

11-6-2003 (archived)

It's been an eventful 24 hours. I bought lots of books (always a favourite), had a very nice, very large curry with my father (whom I hadn't seen since well before Christmas, so he was quite impressed by the two and a half stones I've shed since then), and then tried on the 36" jeans which are my current target. They fit beautifully. After a huge dinner. Yay and stuff.

Then today I wrote and posted what I think is a pretty good job application for a job I really want, and at the gym was surprised by the discovery that I can just about touch my toes straight-legged for the first time since I was in primary school. More yay.

On the other hand, I'm not wearing the smaller jeans, since this morning I managed to splash quite a bit of very hot oil all over my thigh. Still, I got cold water on it early and often enough that it hasn't actually blistered, and I dodged quickly enough that it was my thigh that got caught.

It may be time to reconsider my current morning practice of putting the bacon in the pan before I put any clothes on.

12-6-2003 (archived)

This week's first film review is “Anger Management”. It is the first time I have seen an Adam Sandler film, and while it may not be the last, I won't be in any particular hurry.

The plot is simple enough: extremely mild-mannered guy undergoes misfortune and finds himself court-ordered to undertake anger management classes with a man (Jack Nicholson) who makes him angry. The basic idea could work, but it's overburdened with increasingly overblown, unfunny setpieces. Like many films, pretty much all the good stuff was in the trailer; unlike most of them, here those moments actually worked better in the trailer, where they weren't dragged down by the crushing weight of suspended disbelief.

There are good lines, funny moments, even a few daring jabs at the new terrorism-aware America. But Sandler is unimpressive, Nicholson's heart is clearly not in it, and the film is trying too hard to be too funny too often. Finally, the cameo-ridden feelgood ending is almost unbelievably irritating; it would really have been better, more dramatically honest, to have had him wake up and find it was all a bad dream on the plane.

If you like this sort of thing, or are a fan of Nicholson, by all means sit through it. If you're a fan of Sandler, on this evidence I suspect there's no hope for you, but you may as well seek medical attention just in case. Tolerable, occasionally genuinely funny, but decidedly not recommended.

15-6-2003 (archived)

This week's second film review is “Dark Water”, a Japanese horror movie from the same writing and directing team responsible for the original of “The Ring”, which I have yet to see. Certainly this film has traits in common with the (vastly inferior) US remake.

Let me cut straight to the conclusion by saying that this is an utterly stunning film, one that anyone with even the slightest interest in horror films absolutely must see. Although I saw it the same night as Anger Management, I've been putting off this review, trying to get some perspective, and think of something properly coherent to say (one reason I don't get paid for this). I've given up, I'm just going to rave about it a little longer.

There's little point describing the plot, or attempting to talk about the chilling combination of very real and very ghostly monsters faced by the mother and daughter with whom we so quickly identify. Nakata has conjured an utterly convincing vision of a Japanese city in the rain, atmospheric and gripping, and completely, totally chilling. When we walked out of this movie, stunned and grinning, we both realised that our stomachs had been tied in knots from about the five-minute mark; yet this is a 15 certificate, and barely that, everything implied, nothing shown.

There is nothing new here; all the elements are familiar, the plot is mostly unsurprising, the visuals intense yet somehow commonplace. Nonetheless, this film is a simple message to the childish CGI-driven jumpy slasher pictures Hollywood has turned out: you can make films for overly sugared kids, you can copy ours (limply), but you should watch this and learn. This is how you make a properly scary, really disturbing, entirely brilliant picture.

17-6-2003 (archived)

I've run out of brains today after a long afternoon of hacking on code, and the things annoying me are still too fresh to be written about. So, for the half-dozen people who haven't seen it before somewhere, go and read the true porn clerk stories. Fascinating, slightly worrying, funny.

18-6-2003 (archived)

In a mostly-for-the-guitarists post, I bring you Tuck Andress on right-hand technique. He's particularly sound (and funny) on the kind of guitarist who needs to always use the same strap length, pick, string gauge and so on (which I am sort of guilty of sometimes):

Here are some examples of realities I have personally encountered which were not sufficiently addressed by this style of preparation:

Borrowed guitar, different string spacing, bridge or nut sliding during string bending or vibrato, wrong strap length or strap breaking during solo, unwound guitar string used as backup strap gradually cutting through shirt and shoulder, sleeve snagging on bridge suddenly locking up hand, wrong pick, dropped pick, broken pick, no pick, pick stuck between strings, finger caught between strings, wrong strings, dead strings, sticky strings, blood on strings, broken strings, no extra strings, jar of honey spilled all over strings, vintage L-5's gig bag shoulder strap breaking immediately before album release concert for 5,000 people causing guitar to fall on concrete and creating crack from tailpiece to neck which gradually splits apart during performance with action getting higher and higher, [...]

It continues at great, and occasionally hilarious length. This is quite the most serious, detailed and acute dissection of picking technique I have ever seen (which should be no surprise from the astounding Mr Andress, even if he is mostly known as an impossibly gifted solo fingerstylist), and every serious guitar player should read it. His conclusions apply totally to jazz players, but somewhat less so to rock ones; still, the insight into mechanics and technique is superb.