There are so many reasons to hate this show. Despite that, I love it. You may call it 'fag and slag' if you want, you may laugh at the stereotypical behaviours or some of the characters, as the stars Megan Mullally and Sean Hayes chew their way through scene-stealer after scene-stealer, and you may even chortle quietly at lines like
The only real reason to hate it would have to be that they called a lawyer 'Will' and a designer 'Grace'. Which came first - the names or the occupations? If she'd been a flower-arranger, would she have been called Rose? If he'd been a personal trainer, would he be 'Gym'? Ponder.
Brotherhood of the Wolf is a French film, it may be about werewolves, and it's been described as 'Merchant Ivory goes Kickboxing'. A mixed recommednation, to be sure. So, let's start with the good things about Le Pacte Des Loups. It looks great. It's got some stars in the cast. We managed to miss the beginning because they started the film before they opened the doors to the cinema.
On the other hand, it's really a hodge-podge of ideas, some of which work and some don't. There may be a coherent plot in there - in fact, I think that there is, but it's well hidden. Some stunning set pieces, though. Just a bit silly.
We've finally actually entered the era of computer viruses. After all the years of hype, we're now at the stage where viruses are becoming a common occurence. I've avoided infection myself, but we've had a couple of cases of people e-mailing us viruses (entirely innocently, of course) - most recently BadTrans. I also talked someone through the process of removing Navidad earlier in the year.
Viruses have always been around. But they've usually been low-impact, not really spreading, and caught by people before they caused too much damage. This is changing.
There are a few basic precautions that I take.
There are probably other things I could be doing, but this has seemed to work for me so far.
I remember Adelaide well. Far too well. It was one of those places that we rolled up to and realised that we had three days there, with absolutely nothing planned. No hotel accomodation, no ideas of where to go, nothing. And a flight booked at the end of it, so no real reason to go anywhere else.
We wound up staying in a room above a pub in the city centre. There was a long, complex reason why we couldn't stay at a proper hotel. We stayed in (into the lift, carefully closing both doors, up to the third floor, left through the fire door, down the corridor into another building, round a couple of corners down at the end on the right overlooking the light well). It was small, it was dark, and it had mirrors on the walls. I think most of the other people staying in the hotel actually lived there, and possibly never left it. It smelled of the 1950s.
But we had some great seafood. We found boots. I got a haircut. We did some shopping. We shipped some stuff back to the UK, and I made some new friends at the post office. We had some great beer, and went to a Meze restaurant. There are some great museums and galleries. It was just that first night that we got there that we knew - just knew - that we weren't going to find anything better to do than watch Doctor Doolittle II.
Ruth put her finger on it. I fall asleep during movies (which makes my commenting on 100 of them an odd conceit). I fall asleep during them in cinemas, I fall asleep when they're on television. I suspect that it's a combination of warmth, comfort and dark. I suspect it's related to my diet. I honestly have no real idea why.
But I've not fallen asleep during any recently. Since July, my cinema-going has consisted of:
All of these I stayed awake throughout, and all of them I enjoyed, with the exception of Doctor Doolittle II which I suspect we only went to because it seemed the most interesting thing to do in Adelaide.
So, last week I was given a copy of The Creative Writing Coursebook, a book which I fully intend to read. The problem (and there always had to be one) is that I don't want to break the flow of my current writing project. I reckon that I hit the 25% mark this morning. That's 18,000 words between 9 October and now. If I keep up at this rate, I'll finish on April 22. That's a reasonable target.
I'm thinking of publishing an ongoing wordcount.
nbsp; 5: Some Like it Hot the greatest comedy ever made
4: Pulp Fiction has a lot to answer for in the world of broken narrative
3: The Shawshank Redemption simply a great, understated, masterpiece
2: The Godfather (I & II) which just makes me want to see them more.
1: Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back but not Return of the Jedi or Phantom Menace
11: Psycho another classy piece of misdirection. Made in B&W to save the budget - that makes the film
10: Goodfellas (adds to list)
9: Schindler's List one of those films you're sure that you remember, because you don't want to see it again because you're still in shock from the first time
8: Blade Runner defines science fiction thereafter. Possibly defines post-modernism
7: It's a Wonderful Life falls into the 'classics I don't feel the urge to see' category
6: Gladiator not as good as it's cracked up to be, but hugely stylish
17: The Usual Suspects great misdirection
16: Casablanca you can tell a film's a classic when every line is a cliché
15: The Matrix a hard act to follow
14: One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest again, I must see this
13: Apocalypse Now harrowing
12: Jaws a special effect movie saved by the desire to keep the effects off-screen
22: Taxi Driver fantastic picture of detachment
21: E.T. The Extra Terrestrial one that I think I remember really well, but probably should see again
20: Raging Bull looks great; never seen it
19: Citizen Kane so far ahead of its time, it doesn't show.
18: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon an odd choice. China is actually like that, though
28: Kes I should watch this - in the right frame of mind
27: 2001: A Space Oddysey brilliant, but probably in this list becayse people think it ought to be
26: The Wizard of Oz had to be in this list
25: LA Confidential fantastically stylish, dark movie
24: Singin' In The Rain pure fun
23: Monty Python's Life of Brian oddly important
33: Trainspotting up there with Clockwork Orange (not in this list! Shocking)
32: Gone with the Wind one to be watched on a long Sunday afternoon, with lots of liquor
31: Fargo one of the most underrated comedies of our time
30: Lawrence of Arabia beautiful
29: Vertigo we caught some of this on holiday. It looked creepy, but we kind of missed the point.
36: Alien reminds me of the school lecture theatre, and Mrs B. Enough said.
35: The Graduate is one of those seminal movies where you can identify single frames, just by the positioning of the characters and the camera. I know what I mean.
34: The Full Monty Funny, but not as much of a classic as people think
40: Toy Story a classic - although not as good as the sequel
39: The Great Escape is this where I confess to not remembering if I've seen this or not?
38: Withnail and I is almost the definition of a cult film
37: Silence of the Lambs is everything that Hannibal is not. Genuinely scary, even when performed by French and Saunders.
49: The Exorcist; a classic thriller. Feeds on the audience beautifully.
48: Chinatown looks like one to add to my list.
47: Kind Hearts and Coronets; one of the earlierst movies to feature Alec Guinness playing 8 roles.
46: The Good The Bad and the Ugly has a man with no name and a classic soundtrack
45: Deliverance metaphoric.
44: Fitzcarraldo is about obsession. I'm completely unfamiliar with this.
43: The Sound of Music is now playing in Dublin. I could go along and sing along with those lovely Nazis.
42: Four Weddings and a Funeral Much loved. I thought Charlotte Coleman was great. Oh well.
41: The Third Man has a classic tune or two.
57: Rebel Without A Cause is one of those 'must-see' movies, that I've never seen because I worry that I'll be disappointed.
56: Dr Strangelove on the other hand, doesn't disappoint. The jokes are so good - but they shouldn't be.
55: Jean de Florette & Manon Des Sources is another odd coupling of movies. Sold the French countryside to generations of tourists.
54: Titanic; cheery comedy romp starring Kate Winslett, and one of the guys from "Queer as Folk"
53: The Jungle Book; one of the films where every single moment is famous, and has been seen on Disney shows a zillion times. And it's still too short.
52: Sunset Boulevard features the classic line: "I am big; it's the pictures that got small." Hollywood bites itself. I'm ready for my closeup.
51: The Italian Job is now a car advert. Oh dear.
50: Annie Hall I should see soon. Except Mr Twinky tells me we've missed it
66: Bonnie and Clyde was the Pulp Fiction of its day. Stylish.
65: Metropolis was one of the first Sci Fi films. It's a thin plot, with the moral that women are evil, and some great design.
64: Spartacus is another movie oozing with subtext. No trace of Jesus. By the way, I'm Spartacus
63: La Dolce Vita is the ultimate film portrayal of decadence, although Richard would probably disagree.
62: Blue Velvet is one of those films that you either hate, or dislike but grow to love. It's overwhelming, and a classic.
61: Secrets and Lies is great. Brenda Blethyn is fab as ever, and it's fantastically thought-provoking.
60: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is one of those westerns that tells you more about the time it was made than the time it was set. Easily identifiable, and beautifully shot.
59: A Matter of Life and Death is another film where even the name rings no bells. But it's got the classic depiction of heaven in it, and looks way ahead of its time.
58: Seven Samurai insipred so many copy cat movies, that there's no reason not to honour it in this list.
73: M*A*S*H; a movie I can't disassociate from the TV series. 72: Brief Encounter is one of Mr Twinky's favourite movies. I watched it with him. Lots of subtext.
71: Don't Look Now is a familiar name, but not a film I know at all.
70: The Seventh Seal is the classic 'chess vs death' movie. Not starring Dawn French.
69: The Searchers sounds like a sixties band.
68: Get Carter with Michael Caine, not Stallone. The Stallone version has Faye Wong on the soundrack, but despite that it's crap.
67: King Kong is still a classic love story between a man and his monkey
79: Goldfinger... ahhh, Jill Eaton, and Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore. Groundbreaking 78: Cabaret, which Mr Twinky made me watch. He knows all the words, and the gestures. Beautifully dark.
77: The Three Colours Trilogy are three films, not one. This is where I confess that I've seen none of them. None at all. I am a bad person.
76: The Producers inspired a Broadway musical that we couldn't get tickets for.
75: Top Hat's another classic musical, although Astaire would be unlikely to sing 'Springtime for Hitler'
74: The French Connection hasn't been on television for ages. Improvised scripts, but I picked my feet in Poughkeepsie. Seminal.
87: Ice Cold in Alex is the first film in this list that I can honestly say rings no bells. It's got product placement in it for Carlsberg that they then used in an ad in 1988. 86: A Bout de Souffle or 'Breathless'; looks fantastic.
85: Enter The Dragon is the classic Bruce Lee movie that people move half way across the world to try to emulate
84: The Adventures of Robin Hood; pure classic. Glorious colour, and pure escapism throughout
83: Saturday Night Fever's another one I've not seen, starring young Travolta; the movie knows its cliches, though
82: High Noon isn't about drugs. One of those films that stays with you long after it's finished.
81: The Gold Rush is Chaplin at his best. Not fashionable at the moment, he is.
80: Snow White a pure, unadulterated classic. Important in all the right ways.
94: Easy Rider Another one I must see. Probably why Dennis Hopper is important. Certainly a breakthrough for Jack Nicholson 93: Henry V Not a sequel. Olivier, I believe.
92: Way out West is Laurel and Hardy's funny movie. On the trail of the lonesome pine, you know.
91: Hard Day's Night ie the Beatles movie. Don't see the attraction, myself (except the young Paul McCartney.
90: The General is vintage Buster Keaton. Some beautiful images.
89: The African Queen is Bogart and Hepburn at their best. The film that gave us the line 'oh look, flamingoes' unless that was Doctor Zhivago. Not starring Kate Mulgrew.
88: Battleship Potemkin was banned in Britain until 1954, largely due to the fact that it was in black and white. Stunning.
100: Do The Right Thing Sultry hot summer and a perfect film 99: Saturday Night and Sunday Morning Albert Finney when he was cute
98: The Terminator in which Arnold speaks 74 words and kills 27 people
97: Bride of Frankenstien is the movie that gave the world a brand new hairstyle. Sad, emotional horror movie
96: Belle de Jour is possibly the most adult film about sex ever made, but I've not seen. Yet.
95: My Beautiful Laundrette is a great film that launched the career of Daniel Day Lewis and buried the career of the other guy who was in it Gordon Warnecke
I wanted to see Ghost World based on almost no advance publicity. I saw the poster in Los Angeles, back in July. There was something about the imagery of the poster, about the title, that made me think instantly that this would be the sort of quirky movie that I would enjoy. A closer look, and I discovered that it was a comic-book adaptation (patchy record) funded by Granada (good record) and starring Thora Birch and Steve Buscemi (both good).
The movie doesn't disappoint. It's a story of disaffectation, about a girl who gets out of high school thinking that she has all the answers. But she doesn't. She doesn't have any of the answers. She doesn't have a clue how the world works, how her friends think, how her family thinks. But she tries.
Therein is the beauty of the movie. I remembered what it was like to be a teenager again. A real teenager, and not a Beverley Hills 90210 Buffy the Vampire Slayer Roswell High teenager. And I came away learning nothing. Perfect.
I am approaching the 25% mark in my latest, greatest, heap of words that may evolve into a novel. In the last few thousand words, the narrative has twisted in a way that was always intended, and yet feels forced to me. I'm torn between revising what I have written, and ploughing on regardless.
I'm currently e-mailing out 'chapters' as they are written to a select audience in an effort to avoid going back. I want to keep up my momentum, and get past the 25% 'barrier', on towards a more fluid narrative. But at the moment I'm bogged down in exposition.
This is the downfall of an improvised novel. That said, I'm progressing better with this than with any attempted novel of the last ten years. Part of that is not sitting down and analysing before I start. There is always a feeling that since what I produce will not be on a par with Peter Carey, there's no point in even starting. Here I am trying to write something complete, not necessarily something great. I think.
And there's something very fishy about instant mashed potato. Mashed potato has to be one of the easiest things on the planet to cook. It's only marginally harder than boiling a potato, which is even easier than boiling an egg. You can imagine the marketing discussions.
"I've got this great idea. Let's make the easiest thing in the world even easier."
"How're we going to do that then?"
"We'll give people instant mashed potato."
"What are we going to make it out of?"
And so on. At some point, there would be one of the marketing executives cautiously revealing that he had given his grandmother a set of audio-cassettes that gave detailed instructions for egg-sucking, and then all the gory stories would come out of the woodwork.
At the end of the day, the final decision would be made. Instant mashed potato made out of 80% sawdust and 20% potato flavouring, dehydrated by leaving it out in the sun for a week, and packaged in individual sachets. And then brilliantly marketed as the food of the future by a couple of tin sink plungers.
Do you remember when Café Häg and de-caf were synonymous? When you knew that you had two choices of coffee: there was the nice stuff, that was made in a filter if you were posh, or out of a bag if you weren't, and there was the de-caf. That was always Café Häg.
It never had quite the ubiquity of Nescafé, or measured up to the sheer marketing genius of Shake'n'vac, and yet - somehow - it defined a generation. And do they miss it? Has it actually gone? We may never know.
Technically not actually true, as I don't pay my licence fee personally myself. But regardless. By showing such smut as last night's excellent Taboo, the BBC is denying me my right to watch television for fifty minutes, and I should get a rebate.
Balls. Blatant Balls. The BBC is a broadcaster, rather than a narrowcaster. I love the diversity it offers, even if I don't want to watch programs about buying holiday homes in the Algarve, or Australian soaps, or Paul Ross trying to win money from housewives. I am deprived the joy of watching the BBC for two hours or so each week, when Eastenders is on. I am offended by Songs of Praise. But I don't complain.
Maybe I should write letters of complaint, though. Overuse of the 'G' word...
Well, what a surprise. Television presenters and producers are in the business of making money. This usually means pushing up the prices of advertising space. So they want to make programs that are popular. Which means smut and bad language.
Sunday's screening of The Frank Skinner Show, in which guest Boy George was seen talking about masturbation and homosexual acts, sparked more than 20 complaints to the Independent Television Commission (ITC).
While this is undoubtedly true, I am reminded of the old argument about the 'off' switch. Or maybe even a remote control.
Debussy understood that a work of art or an effort to create beauty was always regarded by some people as a personal attack.
I want to do more photography; my trip around the US and Australia has helped me to realise that while I take a decent snapshot, I am less than happy with my choice and manipulation of subject matter. I want to do more with lighting, and with the digital manipulation of the finished image. Which means studying more, and practicing more.
This is something of a common conceit. Generally, creative ideas spring, fully formed, into ones head; be it the perfect photograph, the classic novel, a melody, a painting. The physical process of committing these ideas to some form of permanent record relies on the ability to capture that image, to write the words, to read music, to handle the paintbrush in the desired way. Most of these are learned skills. It is not enough for the idea to be strong in your head, the force of your will in itself does not lead to the creative act in any fatalistic sense. What it can do, though, is drive the need to learn, drive the stages of the creative process. And through this process of education, the creative process itself becomes more rational, and more productive.
We had our insurance consultation last night. The beginning was quite straightforward, but in the end we veered into the dark, seamy underside of life insurance... lifestyle questionnaires.
Many people won't be familiar with these. But if you're a gay couple trying to take out joint life insurance, you will be asked some fairly frank questions prior to being accepted for cover. I've been trying to find out what these questions might be; I expect them to be annoyingly intrusive.
No prizes for guessing the source.
When I was 28, I was single, living in Stirling, and thought that the world worked very differently. Over the last five years, I have come out in all the major ways, I've lived and worked in Asia, I've flown first class, I've been to a Mardi Gras, I've met people that I've known online, I've sold my flat in Stirling and we're buying one in Dublin.
Where will I be when I'm 38?
I rarely link to celebrity obituaries, but I feel that this one deserves a mention. Charlotte Coleman was immensely talented, and under-appreciated. I'm in a state of shock about her sudden passing away, not least because although she'd done some very good work, her best was yet to come.
I'm at a loose end at work. Trapped between writing a rather neat little report this morning, and sitting and having it ripped apart later this afternoon. So I've researched architecture, and found out that I had dinner in a Frank Gehry building on Wednesday night. I've removed the borders from all the images I can find on the web site. I've added a utility so that the main front page of the site tells you what the last thing updated was. I've decided not to implement it because it would be a bugger to manage. I've drunk coffee. I've looked at the little patch of dry skin on my left thumb. I've re-filed both of my highlighter pens. I have tried to decide how my desk should be set up once I get my laptop. I've read my report again, and it remains beautiful. And I have fallen in love - again - with Buttercup. Because she is the toughest fighter.
It's possibly a mistake to go from a book by Murakami to a book that namechecks him. number9dream
, David Mitchell's second novel is set in Tokyo, and was up for the Booker prize this year.
As might be expected from a book in such a position, it's pretty good. It's been accused of playing too many tricks with the reader - and while it does play some literary games, they're rarely overdone. My only concern at this stage (and I'm about 60% of the way through the book, in a single sitting) is that it's not worth the hype. I'm prepared to be proven wrong, but so far, it's not saying anything much to me beyond the narrative, and the hero is proving to be annoyingly naive. Although the writer lives and works in Japan, it still feels in places like someone has given him a checklist of Japanese cultural touchstones to throw in at appropriate moments. But a damn good read nonetheless.
Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World was my introduction to Murakami, really. After a few false starts, including leaving my first copy in a hotel in Manila, I finally finished this on one of my long flights this week.
Part of me really wants to worship this book - but the fact is I can only say I thought it was really good. I love the description, the build-up of emotion, the descriptions of food and of sensation. I thought that the parallels between the two strands of interweaved plot worked very well. There is a jaded part of me, however, that finds the whole book to be slightly cliched. Maybe that's because I'm reading it with the huge amount of baggage that comes from having read William Gibson and Iain Banks extensively. A shame on me, I know. I still recommend the book.
I'm hoping to put up some pictures of the new flat this weekend. To summarise it; it's a one bedroom place, in a dodgy backstreet just off Clanbrassil Street - in Dublin, naturally. There's a really nice kitchen in there, that we are deciding how best to rip out, and a decent sized bathroom with a separate bath and walk in shower.
There's another thing about the flat. Something that I've been itching to say. It's HUGE.
Room to swing several cats, not that I would want to do such a thing. So much space that we don't know what we're going to do yet. There'll certainly be something clever with partitioning and a spare bed, so that we can have people over to stay. That's got to be a priority.
On Saturday, we found a great furniture shop. It was full of fantastic furniture that we probably can't afford, and I actually got a first hand encounter with a fabulous chair. Now I know that Mr Twinky's always wanted one of these - which is why I mentioned it last week. It's a long term goal, rather than a serious short term purchase. But the thing is - it was incredible - a phenomenally beautiful piece of furniture. And now we know where to buy them.
There is a miniature version available, a perfectly crafted reproduction that is purely decorative and a tenth of the price. Between spending €3000 on a chair or €300 on a little model of a chair, though, I will probably start saving my coppers now...
The woman tasked with giving America a makeover has a hard job ahead of her.
To start with, she must consider the way that America is perceived - through its media, through its corporate culture, through its politics and foreign policy, through its shambolic electoral system. She must counter the myriad of stereotypes that exist - from the redneck to the uber-yuppie - all of which are true, and all of which can be pointed to as an example of a good thing or a bad thing in the make up of the US psyche.
One of the hardest problems that she will have to face is how to convey to the world at large that the all-pervasive Coke, MTV, Starbucks and so on are increasingly global brands driven by global demand. Expansion is driven almost as much by local demand for corporations to enter markets as by shareholders desire to see their bottom line improve.
America has achieved this enviable position through its size, and through its relatively developed nature, through being in the right phase of its growth at the right time.
Someone I know was on University Challenge last night. I spent most of the half hour looking at him, wondering if he needed a haircut, or a proper shave, or both. Or to lose a couple of pounds. A bizarre experience in itself.
On the other hand, I discovered that I remember what a Kronecker Delta is. And it's not rude.
I find myself missing Richard. Not in any hugely tangible sense, you understand, but in a sense of wishing that he just lived around the corner, that we could meet up for a drink, that we deconstruct life over a bottle of wine, or could go and watch Amelie, or Hedwig or the Lavender Hill Mob together.
This has arisen from my thoughts about Sydney Harbour Bridge below, I think. And also from the feelings of loneliness and isolation that arises out of being new in a city - any city.
I've been living here less than two months. When I had been in Hong Kong for two months I only knew people from work. During my third month I met John. And then things started to change for the better. I think that I can relate so much positive experience to that one meeting; either through introductions or through an increase in my self confidence I met a whole raft of other friends. I'm sure that the same will happen again here.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Loved it loved it loved it.
From this book I learned that cheaters sometimes prosper and that magic is an acceptable way to carry out cosmetic surgery. As usual, Rowling pushes all the right buttons - a well paced story, a suitably gory twist at the end, plenty of red herrings and yet everything tying up into a very neat and satisfying package.
The ending is more downbeat than earlier books - and rightly so, given the events in progress - and clearly shows that this is an ongoing story that is going somewhere, rather than just a series of books with a similar setting. Excellent.
Yesterday, I signed away my flat in Stirling, to my current tenant. I then went to visit him in it.
There was a woman on the flight on the way back to Dublin who was terrified of flying. So much so that she had to be taken off the flight before we left the ground. It was incredibly sad to watch. She had obviously made a great effort even to get on the plane. Her parents and her boyfriend were there to support her. She went and spoke to the captain. She made an incredibly brave effort to fly. But in the end, she couldn't. It made me about forty minutes late getting home, but I really didn't care. For me, it was only a minor inconvenience. She put herself through torture.