rfbooth.com :: blog archives

Moments in time, preserved to embarrass me later.

10-12-2003 (archived)

I seem to have spent the last few days blowing my nose, marking tests, and learning to tie a Windsor knot. I have no excuse.

That is all.

12-12-2003 (archived)

I advise you to put any drinks safely away before reading the story of the kamikaze attack squirrel. I almost choked. (Via Penfold).

15-12-2003 (archived)

This week's film review is “Intermission”, an ensemble romantic comedy that resembles Love Actually not at all.

Lots of well-known Celtic faces (including the ever-watchable Colm Meaney, Billian Murphy, and Kelly Macdonald) and several running gags (possibly the funniest involving putting brown sauce in tea, which is apparently not all that bad), some fairly acute observation, believable characters, and occasional shocking moments of violence (particularly from Colin Farrell) make this one to see. There's nothing new here, but it's entertaining, funny, interesting and hugely watchable. Recommended.

17-12-2003 (archived)

Today I sat the QTS skills tests. (Incidentally, I suppose this is the moment to mention on here that I'm training to be a schoolteacher. I suspect that most of you already know that since I see you online anyway, but if my logs are to be believed there are a fair few of you I don't. There will, eventually, be a long post explaining my reasons for the career change.)

For those of you not in the acronym-drenched profession that is education, these are three tests in literacy (English, as normal people call it), numeracy (maths) and ICT (IT, or “computers”, or pretty much “Office”). They are equivalent to grade C GSCE, apparently, which since we have to prove we've got GCSE maths and English at at least grade C seems a little redundant.

For your entertainment, you can download and take (if you have a windows box) the sample tests (literacy, numeracy, ICT), which were if anything very slightly easier than the ones I took today; I took 10 of the allowed 45 minutes for the actual English test, and coming on for 15 of the 35 on the ICT test, largely because I it took me a while to get over my shock at the fact that you can't type into the mocked-up word processor.

No, really.

You can't type in the word processor. You can in the email client, but apparently this would just be too easy. Now, I can sort of understand why this might be, and if there was some sort of pop-up message telling you so when you tried it wouldn't be quite as bad. But, of course, there isn't. I can cope with ctrl-x, c and v not working, and with the right-click menus not appearing; this is merely chronic laziness, incompetence and stupidity on the part of the programmers, and so should be expected of a government-administered scheme; but this other actually made me wonder if there was something wrong with the test station.

The numeracy test actually took me longest, mainly because (unlike the sample) you can't skip to the next question at will in the "mental arithmetic" section, so I spent the first twelve minutes or so gradually lapsing into a coma. Yay for the TTA.

Rather worryingly, it seems that only about 85% of those sitting these tests pass them at the first attempt (from the report on the page linked to above), though maths students do significantly better than average on all the tests (it will probably surprise nobody with a keen interest in stereotyping to know that secondary art trainees were least numerate of all). I'd like to unleash a proper rant about these idiotic tests lowering the status of the profession by demonstrating contempt for the trainees, but apparently a very significant proportion of us are actually contemptible. Worrying.

19-12-2003 (archived)

This week's second film review is “Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King”. Like the previous parts, this was never going to be a great film; the trilogy may, yet again, have been voted the nation's favourite book, but it simply isn't up to much as literature. As a movie, though, it's a different matter. Those who have criticised the series have done so mostly on the (rather unavoidable) grounds of length, and at a full 200 minutes long, by the time you have the usual bout of adverts and trailers you'll have spent just twenty minutes shy of four hours in your seat. This is a long, long film, but it's never boring.

The cinematography and effects work remain utterly stunning; the sequence where alarm beacons are lit in chain across the mountains actually brought tears to my eyes. The battles are better even than before; the sheer scale and detail of these astonishing encounters would have been impossible to contemplate just a few years ago. The charm of Bloom and the hobbits and sheer charisma of McKellen and (especially) Viggo Mortensen remain as strong as ever, and those things that were good before are, if anything, better now. There's less of the elves, too, which can only be a good thing.

This is a worthy conclusion to the trilogy, although sadly it remains loyal to the book even to the extent of finishing quite some time before it actually stops. Like its predecessors, it portrays Tolkien's myth more powerfully, fluently, and believably than Tolkien himself ever could. Nothing even close to this has been attempted, let alone achieved, in the fantasy genre on film before. As sheer, escapist, stirring entertainment, it is as good as it gets.

22-12-2003 (archived)

This is post the 256th, which is 100,000,000 in binary, and so something of a geek moment. This, on the other hand, is apparently called the Industorious Clock. It is exceptionally cool. If you will be hopelessly bored while the rfblog takes its winter holiday, you can watch it for entertainment instead.

Do not adjust your set; normal service will be resumed this year. Probably. In the meantime, many happy things of your choice to you all.

5-1-2004 (archived)

I return, later than advertised, with my 2003 awards.

Gig of the year: Talisman at The Gods. Honourable mention: The Devin Townsend Band.

CD of the year (new releases category): Devin Townsend Band, Accelerated Evolution.

CD of the year (heard by me for the first time category): Talisman, Humanimal.

Big-selling single of the year: Evanescence, Bring me to life.

Most puzzling success story of the year: The Darkness. Honourable mention: Chicago.

Most fun of the year: Saturday night in Wigan.

Movie of the year: Pirates of the Caribbean. Honourable mention: Return of the King.

Film of the year: City of God.

Bad but enjoyable movie of the year: Ghost Ship. Honourable mention: Final Destination 2.

Worst film I saw: Tomb Raider 2. Dishonourable mention: Equilibrium.

The “Screw you guys, I liked it” award: Underworld.

Finally, the special award for sanity maintenance and prevention of homicidal killing sprees goes to #ukmg, without which my life would be considerably more tightly strung. Thanks, boys (and sadly, I do mean “boys”; the intersection of “women”, “guitar playing”, “Usenet” and “IRC” seems to be empty).

7-1-2004 (archived)

This year's first film review is American Splendor. It is decidedly out of the ordinary.

The real Harvey Pekar is a comics writer, best known for writing a down-to-earth, realistic series about his own life, entitled “American Splendor”. The movie is based partly on those comics, sometimes with storyboarding and taglines, sometimes with simple translations, and partly a sort of meta-comic, telling the story of the writing of the comics.

And then there's the voiceover by the real Pekar, and appearances by him, his real wife, and the real versions of other people who appear in the film, often in the same frame as the actors portraying them, in front of stylised versions of the sets they're filming on. It all sounds incredibly pretentious, some sort of deliberate comment on the nature of reality, documentary and fiction, but it never feels pretentious - just moving, honest, very very funny, clever without ever being smug.

There will be better films this year, but I wouldn't bet on seeing one that's at once as entertaining, as surprising, and as interesting. This is really different, and really good.

9-1-2004 (archived)

A couple of BBC stories for you today. Apparently the music business are very unhappy about us sourcing cheap CDs from overseas. We're not talking pirate copies here, just ones that aren't ripping us off because we happen to be European. There are times I think I should give up buying CDs altogether on moral grounds.

This article, on the other hand, is a strong early contender for the “worst-judged use of the phrase ‘whale of a time’ in 2004” award.

If you would like to be less like a whale, here's Yet Another Atkins Article. You're welcome.

12-1-2004 (archived)

This week's film review is “Lost in translation”, a genuinely beautiful film by Sofia Coppola.

This is a sad, funny, chaste romantic comedy of glances and conversations, boredom and stale, broken marriages, sweet and bitter, insomnia and ennui. Scarlett Johansson is wonderful (and gorgeously unskinny) as the young woman losing faith in her marriage and looking for some in herself. Bill Murray turns in his best performance for years, and as good a performance as I have seen in a long time from anyone, as the self-loathing, aging actor with a dying marriage and kids he is wise enough to know don't really need him.

The cinematography is truly beautiful, the comedy as funny as Murray can be at his best, and the romance delicate, poignant, beautiful, unspoken. Quite simply, stunning.