Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Apologies To The Bloggers

I've not been commenting at your blogs because I've had little to say, to be honest, so sorry about that. But I've still been visiting your blogs and reading your words. If your trackers show visits to your sites that start from this one, then it's most likely me.

The lentil burgers were pretty successful. I learned some tricks during the making that I'll use next time to make them even better (for instance, leaving the shaped mixture to stand for ten minutes makes it much easier to cook the burgers). I'll also try flavouring them next time, to see how well I can fake a beef or chicken burger.

Talking of burgers, I had an absolutely scrumptious curried turkey burger at this restaurant yesterday. If you're ever in the Minneapolis-St Paul area, give me a shout, and I'll take you out to dinner there. That's a genuine, no expiration, Brainsplurge offer!

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

"I Am The Punisher/And I Ride And I Ride..."

Sorry. Couldn't resist it.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Punisher. It was a very well made film, although I do have some reservations about its moral outlook. Go here to read my in-depth review of the film.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Bicycle-riding psychopaths, birthday parties, and Lovecraftian Horror

Baby in a tube! So convenient!This past weekend was surprisingly packed. On Saturday, Meg's Dad came up and helped us sort out our PC overheating problems by installing two fans into the beast. Now it's so chilled we could store ice cream in it. Later on, we went to a birthday party for our nephew Jack, which was a great deal more fun than I expected it to be. Perhaps I was just in a very good mood, but I wasn't expecting to enjoy sitting around a children's playground while hordes of toddlers enjoyed themselves. But I did, so that's good. It's also very selfish, since it was Jack's day. I think he enjoyed himself too, but I didn't think to ask him.
On Sunday, Meg and I took a drive out to Stillwater to visit a renowned spice shop in order to perhaps find some curry leaves. Alas, they didn't have any, but we stocked up on a variety of other herbs and spices, then took a walk around the town. Stillwater appears to be a renovated industrial town, and would seem to have been a port at some point in its past. It reminded me a lot of the mining villages I grew up in in Wales. It's a strange mix of old and new, and while obviously very tourist-ey, it was still a pleasant little place.
That said, I found it exceptionally creepy. If you've read any of Lovecraft's stories, you've read about towns like this. It had a sinister feel to it, as if there were inhuman cults practising barbaric rites behind closed doors not ten feet from where you were walking. Or perhaps it was just me.

Now, let's see what's in the mailbag. A Patrick Booth of Liverpool writes in to Brainsplurge to ask "have you been to see 13 Going On 30 yet?" Well Patrick, we haven't. We're trying to restrict ourselves to one cinema visit a week during these busy summer months (which is going to be tricky), and it's become a bit of a tradition for us to go and see something on a Monday night. Tonight though, it's The Punisher. 13 Going On 30 will have to wait until next week. I hope that answers your question.
The dangers of eating emaciated crow bits - be careful or this could happen to YOU!

On the other hand, we've been frequenting our local Blockbuster a lot in recent days. My interest has been due to someone deciding to stock a wide range of Japanese films that I thought I'd not get to see over here. So on Sunday morning, while Meg went off to eat emaciated crow bits with her sister Amanda, I sat down to watch Ichi The Killer. And frankly I'm baffled. It had a very dull opening section, a brilliant half an hour in the middle then a bizarre final act. As such, I'm not sure whether I liked it or not. Very strange film, and I'm not sure exactly why it has such a good reputation. Blockbuster did not stock the full uncut edition, but I'd suspect that the cuts are due to violence than essential plot points. I'd be very happy to have the film explained to me, if any readers are so inclined.

Tonight, I'm being a tree-hugging hippie in the kitchen and I'll be making red lentil burgers. I've been looking for a lentil burger recipe for a while, so with any luck, this'll be what I'm after. Depending on the level of success/failure, this project's results will be reported here at some point.

Friday, April 23, 2004


Orbital are splitting up. And what's more, they're doing their final farewell gig at Glastonbury this year, closing the festival.


Thursday, April 22, 2004

Thwap! Crack! Slash! Awww!

We saw Kill Bill 2 the other day, and I have to say that while it's less inventive and certainly less violent than the first, it's probably the better film. Of course, I'm fully aware that technically it's not "Kill Bill 2" and that it's not a separate film to the first, but I care not for pedantry. At least not tonight. It's far more standalone than the first half too, and could probably be watched on its own without confusion. In fact, taken as a whole, it's rather lopsided, with all the craziness in the first half and all the drama in the second half. It makes me wonder what Kill Bill will look like in a few months when it inevitably turns up in a special edition two-volume boxed-set. I wonder if it'll be recut to balance the halves out a bit more?
I'm also trying to work out whether the film(s) is feminist or not, and if it is, whether it's feminist in the way Aliens is, or whether there's something else going on. Either way, I find it funny that Quentin Tarantino, surely a bloke's film-maker (although I doubt he would want to be thought as such), does a kung fu revenge thriller that turns out to have a feminist message.
I think that the very last word of the film is the C-word (don't worry, that link doesn't go to a porn site). What I found interesting about that was that the last line of the film was greeted with a stunned silence, apart from myself and a woman somewhere behind us, who both laughed. We laughed not because of the taboo word, but because it was a genuinely funny line (well that's why I laughed - I don't know about the mysterious unseen woman). I just found it interesting that this was an audience who'd sat through countless "f***s" and "s***s", and even more violence, but were visibly disturbed by one instance of "c***". I'm not sure whether British audiences would be so stunned, and I'm even less sure of what it means in terms of cultural differences, but it struck me as intriguing.
The final oddity occurred during the trailers. There was a trailer for the Jet Li film Hero, which returns him to his proper brand of martial arts cinema. Trust me, if all you've seen of him is the stuff he's done in the West, then take a look at The Legend Of Fong Sai Yuk. Anyway. This trailer wasn't notable because Miramax have sat on the film for two years, although that is cause for concern. What made me raise an eyebrow was that suddenly, Hero is "presented by Quentin Tarantino". Obviously the success of Kill Bill means that Tarantino's going to get his name slapped on every martial arts film released for the next ten years, and if that gets what are some very good films to a wider audience, then that's good. But I just hope that it doesn't go the way of "Wes Craven Presents" and be a brand name for a sub-genre of absolutely terrible films. That would be terribly unfair to both Tarantino and martial arts cinema.
On a related note, here's a fascinating IMDb Board discussion concerning the political commentary in Hero. It's fascinating not only because of the content, but because it's a rare case of the IMDb Boards not being used by morons to call each other morons.

Right, I'm off to find recipes for General Tso's Chicken. Yum!

Monday, April 19, 2004

Stormy Weather

We had the first of the big summer storms last night. It lasted a good four or five hours, from about five in the afternoon. I've seen bigger storms. I've seen longer storms. I've seen more impressive storms. But this was a big one. At about six in the evening, visibility here was down to zero. It was pitch-black outside, as if there was nothing outside the flat but a void. The only time I saw anything outside was when the lightning lit the sky and I could see that the rain was coming in sideways.
Like I said, it wasn't the biggest storm I've ever seen, but it was probably the most sinister. It really did seem evil in intent.

Friday, April 16, 2004


Inventiveness is at a minimum, so it's time for a questionnaire. What's even better is that some of the questions are time-sensitive, and yet I've had this stored on the computer since Monday, which would explain the odd references to bedroom attire and the strange time differences. I can't be bothered to update it. So there.

1: Grab the book nearest to you, turn to page 18, find line 4. Write down what it says:

"...more magic items. Your character's maximum item points rise..."
(Neverwinter Nights manual)

2: Stretch your left arm out as far as you can. What do you touch first?

The monitor screen, exactly at the point where I'm typing this, in some kind of weird coincidence.

3: What is the last thing you watched on TV?

Thirty seconds of something about enormous Zambian lizards on National Geographic at the in-laws' house this morning.

4: WITHOUT LOOKING, guess what the time is:


5: Now look at the clock; what is the actual time?

11:33pm, which means that I'm mentally in tomorrow.

6: With the exception of the computer, what can you hear?

The fan in the bedroom, and what we think might be a treadmill rumbling in the flat upstairs.

7: When did you last step outside? What were you doing?

Sometime around nine tonight, getting out of the car and coming into the flat. After dinner.

8: Before you came to this website, what did you look at?

I got this from Snowball, and I got to her site from my own. Which is this one.

9: What are you wearing?

A green flannel dressing gown, greenish-black-framed glasses of a fairly high prescription, a slightly-too-small UEA long-sleeved t-shirt, orange, white and red...tartan I suppose pyjama bottoms from Old Navy, and...let me check...plain white boxers. And a pair of fluffy Guinness slippers that are supposed to look like pints of the lovely brew but really don't.

10: Did you dream last night?

Most likely, although I don't remember what my dreams were about, if I had any.

11: When did you last laugh?

Don't remember. These days, most of my "laughs" are snorts of derision.

12: What is on the walls of the room you are in?

East wall, left-to-right. A clock, two postcards [hallway to bathroom and bedroom], a list of things I would like bought for me, a framed photo looking down from the University of Kent to the cathedral, some arty french poster of Meg's, and an oriental rug-type-thing which is being used as a wall-hanging and is stuck behind a cluttered bookshelf.
South wall, l-r. A big window, running the length of the wall, and a cast iron candle sconce.
West wall, l-r. I call this a "breakfast bar", even though we don't use it as such, but Americans call it a "theatre kitchen" or something. Serving hole. Whatever. Magnetic dartboard, Spider-Man action figure stuck to the wall to make it look like he's climbing it [kitchen "doorway" (there is no door)], Welsh love spoon (incidentally, I lived in Wales for over nine years and never once saw or heard of one of these things) [hallway to front door], intercom to outside door, another iron sconce.
North wall, l-r. An abstract print, a framed photo of my in-laws, another abstract print (I can read this one from here-it's Mark Rothko's "No 6 - Violet, Green and Red"), a framed photo of more in-laws, a framed photo of a church in Venice (one of the famous ones), a framed photo of Jack (our nephew), a framed photo of Kira (our neice), a combination thermostat and thermometer.

13: Seen anything weird lately?

I'm English and I live in America. Everything here is overwhelmingly odd to me.

14: What do you think of this quiz?

It's quite useful, since I might not be able to do much blogging this week, and this quiz will help to keep me posting even if nothing happens that's worth mentioning.

15: What is the last film you saw?

Last new film was Hellboy, which was great fun. I probably caught something while channel-hopping at the in-laws' house this past weekend, but if so, I don't remember it.
Oh wait, we watched Pieces Of April on dvd for the second time. Lovely film that.

16: If you became a multi-millionaire overnight, what would you buy first?

Tickets home and a house there.

17: Tell me something about you that I don't know.

I don't know what you know about me, so how can I answer that? In fact, I don't even know who "you" are, since I got this from Snowball, and she didn't seem to mention a source. And frankly, even if I did know who "you" were, how could I know enough about what you knew about me to answer the question? This question is epistemologically dishonest, and as such I refuse to answer.

18: If you could change one thing about the world, regardless of guilt or politics, what would you do?

Make everyone more considerate. That should cover most of the problems.

19: Do you like to dance?

Ha ha ha. I'm English. We don't dance or run. We play cricket.

20: George Bush: is he a power-crazy nutcase or some one who is finally doing something that has needed to be done for years?

I'm not that fond of the human race as a whole, and George is doing his best to wipe us all out, so I'd lean towards the latter. If I were less cynical, which given my mood swings, could be within the next few minutes, I'd say he's a lunatic that needs to be removed from power as soon as possible.

21: Imagine your first child is a girl, what do you call her?

I think we're leaning towards Lucy or Eva.

22: Imagine your first child is a boy, what do you call him?

Sam. But not as in "short for Samuel". Just good honest working-class Sam. Since Meg is in love with Samwise Gamgee, this dovetails nicely with her plans. Sadly, "Stumpy" was deemed inappropriate.

23: Would you ever consider living abroad?

Er...technically, I do. So...yes?

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Kevin Grows Up

Explain something to me. How come the doors for disabled users in public places (for instance, the Mall Of America) are harder to open than the standard doors? Is it because they require high-speed impact with a wheelchair before they open? Do wheelchair users have super-developed arms that can open these doors with ease?
And how about this one. If vanilla is the basic, no-frills ice cream flavour, how come it comes in so many varieties? Vanilla, traditional vanilla, homestyle vanilla, New York vanilla, vanilla custard, egg bacon and vanilla, egg bacon sausage and vanilla...

13 Going On 30 isn't out yet ("Foul!" I don't hear you cry), so we went to see Kevin Smith's latest, Jersey Girl, instead. And a fine film it is too. There are a couple of clunky moments, which come as a surprise because they're clunky because of the dialogue and one thing Smith excels at is dialogue. Aside from that, it was a well-made, exceptionally well-written and surprisingly well-acted film. It was somewhat predictable, but it was so genuine that this really wasn't an issue. There was no sense of an artificially manipulated scenario. It was a good simple tale of a man bonding with his daughter, and worked wonderfully. Liv Tyler impresses me more and more each time I see her, and Ben Affleck did a great job. He gets a lot of criticism, which has always baffled me, as I've seen him in bad films but I don't think I've ever seen him give a bad performance, or at least no worse than more respected actors have given.

Which reminds me that I must find out when Paycheck comes out on dvd.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Did You See...

Sorry about the delay. We went down to Rochester to help out Meg's mum (who's not well), stayed for Easter, and stayed a bit longer still because the car broke down...
Meg's grandpa is doing okay, and my uncle seems to be doing quite well.
We got to see Hellboy down there, and we both loved it. It has its flaws, but none are significant. Good fun, and much better than I expected it to be.
Next up is 13 Going On 30 (I know...), then a double-bill (ha!) of ultraviolence with The Punisher and Kill Bill Vol 2. We're nothing if not eclectic...

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Broken Relatives

My uncle is still in critical condition, but recovering. Meg's grandfather had a heart attack a couple of days ago, but also seems to be recovering. And Meg's mum has just developed a condition which may need some kind of gruesome surgery to fix.
On the whole, I think that I would have preferred for this past week to have had a different theme, actually.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Inappropriately Titled

A few days ago, my uncle Peter had an aneurism while celebrating his twenty-fifth wedding anniversary in Las Vegas. That would be a textbook definition of "shitty luck". So the past few days have been a bit crazy. I'm not particularly close to him, having not seen him for at least ten years, but even so, the news affected me a great deal. I've found it hard to concentrate on anything, including finding things to blog about, which is why the only post I've done for a week was about a film I didn't particularly like.

Peter's getting better. He's conscious, and he's aware of what's going on. He can't talk because he's on a breathing machine, but he's been communicating with his hands, so there's a very good chance that if there is brain damage, it's quite minimal. Peter's mother, my grandmother, recently had a stroke and pnuemonia, and recovered seemingly through sheer willpower. Obviously such tenacity runs in the family.