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September 4th 2008
I must be getting pretty suggestible (it wouldn't be out of place for me to make a hackneyed gag along the lines of 'so they tell me'. Actually, it's not out of place for me to attempt to distance myself from the weakness of the joke by putting in parenthesis like this). I saw Get Smart last night - very enjoyable film, though not demanding, pleasant performances from both Anne Hathaway and Steve Carrell - and spent the bus journey home looking incompetent and yet smugly suave a la Maxwell Smart. The same thing happened going home from The Dark Knight - I was licking my lips and looking dangerously off-balance in the style of the Joker. That one may have scared my fellow-passengers. Anyhow, I've been watching a lot of House recently (in fact, I'm watching it right now) and I've taken to limping round the house like the eponymous anti-hero. Boy, it's a good thing I don't watch horror films.
Speaking of films, at Momentum a couple of weeks ago (of which, more later) and went to a seminar about films and their relevance to Christianity - not the world's greatest seminar, but, more annoyingly than that, loads of films got ruined for me. The woman leading the seminar asked for folks to talk about particular films, but didn't see the need to stop them (or, indeed, herself) from giving away the endings to Schindler's List, Vantage Point and several more. So it joins Fight Club, A Beautiful Mind, Sixth Sense (which I haven't even seen yet)... and Planet of the Apes.
You may not have seen Planet of the Apes (I'm talking about the original version, Charlton Heston etc, rather than the universally criticised Tim Burton remake), but odds are you know the twist at the end. In case you don't, I'm not going to tell you (I'm thoughtful like that), but you'd better steer clear of looking at the DVD case, since it gives away the twist in picture form. Does this strike anyone else as being a little odd? Since the film builds up to this climax, why would they give away what's going to happen - surely there are enough people who don't know the end? In fact, of my current readers, I'm going to wager that... Ant doesn't.
Anyhow, the film is pretty good, though the rather unsubtle digs at Christians, I could have done without. Actually, the digs are more at anti-evolutionists than Christians per se, and I think it's a distinction that needs to be made - only today I had the misfortune to read a Christian equating proof of God's existence with proof of a 6000 year old Universe. The former is true; the latter is not. Yes, I find it hard to understand that (otherwise intelligent) friends of mine hold that the basis of numerous sciences is false; I find it similarly hard to understand that (otherwise intelligent) friends of mine are atheists.
Well, there you go. I promised to tell you about Momentum, so I shall. It's a Christian camp for students and folk slightly older (eg 22 year olds), complete with seminars, main meetings, musical worship etc, and I was camping there alongside the majority of my housemates. It was a fantastic few days, definitely one of the best times since I moved to Brissle, and below are a couple of photos. Sorry, Seth, you were... somewhere else, I dunno. But James and Konrad make the cut.
James, with camping stove in background Konrad. He's a happy chappy

September 11th 2008
I'm going to make you what will seem like an empty promise. I promise to update this page more when my exams are over.
OK, pretty much every exam sitting I've had since A Levels has been marked by me intending to do all sorts of things when it's finished - but this time I mean it. Just about. Basically, I realise that this page is criminally under-updated, and I also intend to add a lot more to the 'favourites' page, which still only has three things on it (check 'em out, if you haven't yet), as well as opening up the links page a little. Just to let you know my plans.
My plans right now, however, revolve around getting some revision done, so this will be a brief one - I just want to stay long enough to tell you about Top Gear, which was on in the background this morning while I was washing up (the lady doth protest too much, methinks...) - Hugh Grant was on the show, doing the 'star in a reasonably priced car' challenge, in which a celebrity (and usually a lesser one than he - we had Trinny & Susannah not long ago) drives round the track as fast as possible in a fairly ordinary car. Towards the end of their interview, Jeremy said to Hugh, by way of introducing the footage; "I really want to get onto your lap" - and no one laughed. I'm no fan of the Carry On films, but Sid James must despair of our nation these days.
In other news, it was in the peak of revision last time round that I helped Pluggy set up his Facebook profile. The bear now has six friends, and has joined a group - extraordinary activity when you only have paws, and only wake up on alternate days. Good for him.

September 12th 2008
You probably think I should be hard at revision, instead of updating my diary, but it's not a problem. Because this day doesn't exist.
How many of you just checked the date above to see if it said 'September 32nd' or 'Never 12th'? Or thought that I was making a subtle reference to the particle-physics-thing that I don't really understand even slightly? What I actually meant by the above comment was that I spent all of yesterday convinced it was Friday. I have no idea why, but so sure was I that when I switched the radio on this morning and they talked about Friday Night with Jonathan Ross being on tonight, I assumed they got yesterday's tape on (curiously, this idea was used in Groundhog Day... maybe that's what's happening). This means that, having thought I had three days left in which to revise, I now have four - hence me being here. Sort of.
Even those of you who have declared their political allegiance to "Schmolitics" (yes, it's Simon) will have noticed the Republican Vice-President candidate, Ms Sarah Palin, who describes herself as a 'pitbull with lipstick', shoots moose (mooses? moosen? meese?), believes some of the less accurate interpretations of the Bible, is pro-life and has a number of unrealistically-named children. These are more or less the only facts we have about her, judging from their frequent repetition in the papers (oh, and her daughter 'Bristol' is pregnant, and the father has declared on his Facebook profile that he doesn't want to have kids. Who says they'll print anything nowadays?), in the traditional barrage of reporting, then reporting on reporting, then reporting on the ironies of the reporting... it's all a tad incestuous. Not the Bristol thing, the journalistic thing.
It is counter-intuitive that I'm bringing up Palin, since I am very, very bored by her, and not a little cross. Perhaps I just want to make you share my boredom. Firstly, there's the incestuous nature of things above, where first the press write with amazement and glee about her various traits, then other sections of the press write condescendingly about those who wrote with amazement and glee about her various traits (this phase goes on for months, with seemingly no idea how unoriginal it is), then perhaps a smaller section of the press writes about those sections of the press who wrote condescendingly about those who wrote... you get the picture. Merely by writing this, I have become a link in the chain (though, obviously, not actually part of the press). Anyways, that's the first thing that annoys me about her.
The second is that John McCain clearly picked her merely because of this reaction. In the eyes of the world, at least, he's a boring old white man (white man! How frightfully old-fashioned, not to mention sexist and racist) against a young black man. He can't choose another white man as a running mate, obviously, and he can't choose a black running mate, since that would be stealing the Democrats' idea. So he's left with a white woman - and picks the first one he can find, clearly (I can only assume Hillary was keen for the job, so maybe he chose the second one he found). Now, I understand that politics is about presentation - spin, if you like - but the self-congratulatory manner annoys me, almost as much as the phrase 'hockey mom' (bully for you, as you might say), or indeed 'mom'. Can she please be quiet now, unless she has something to say other than "Look! Look at me! I'm a woman! With a family! I'm just like you, but I'm really clever and good at politics!" Unless it's to rename her children: Bristol (named, one must assume, after our great city), Track (named after the track & field season), Willow, Trig & Piper (named after a snow-mobile, apparently. Seriously).
Did you know that there are going to be changes to the national education system for 14-17 year olds? Yes? No? The Department for Schools & Stuff (or whatever it's called now) had a full-page advert in yesterday's Times... on page 40. Right in the middle of the World News bit that no one reads unless, like me, they'd run out of interesting things to read and wondered how Obama was getting on. Money well spent.
Before I leave you, you may have read about a new kind of e-book that Waterstones is selling, complete with faux-leather cover and e-ink text (apparently it doesn't hurt your eyes, and looks nearly like a real book), and an Amazon alternative that will probably be available to us before too long. While I cannot agree with those who say it spells the end of the paper-based book, I am generally in favour of the idea - you can store hundreds of books on the thing. Imagine being able to take your entire library on holiday! The downside is paying quite a lot to download these books all over, but once it's been around for a while I'm sure the prices will drop. Simon, as you could probably have guessed, is agin it...

September 14th 2008
Please note the book I'm currently reading - yes, I've finished the biography of Wilberforce! I feel more than a little guilty for holding on to it for so long, especially considering that I bought it for Dad, but pushing those feelings aside for a while, it's a fascinating book. I still feel it would be better written by a Christian, since William Hague doesn't write well about Wilberforce's faith, and perhaps also the book could have been more critical of Wilberforce himself (often Hague would say something like "While some critics have been critical about [...], this is unfair..."), but it's well worth reading. And though I've claimed I'm reading Northanger Abbey, I have in truth only read the first sentence - something about Catherine something not seeming like an [sic] heroine - so I can get away with changing it on this site.
I don't want to get carried away, as it's only five games into the season, but it would be remiss of me not to mention that Wolves are sitting top of the Championship (nee Division Two). Let me take a quick break from football to apologise for missing an acute accent in 'nee', and also for misusing the phrase 'a la' in a previous diary entry. My mother tells me that it should be... well, I forget what it should be, but apparently 'a la Maxwell' is wrong, as Maxwell is a man. One wonders how Simon, with his A* in GCSE French, didn't make this french correction, as it were: me, I never took it beyond age 14, so I have an excuse. Where was I? (Ou est je?) Ah yes. New paragraph.
Not only are Wolves atop the Championship, with 13 points from five games (four wins on the bounce), but they have also scored 16 goals - nearly as many as the next two highest combined - and have an incredible goal difference of +11. Basically, we're winning 3.2 - 1 on average. It's early doors, as they say, but this could be a good season. Also a good season for Stenhousemuir, Dad's team (I'll explain some other time, or perhaps leave it to him when he completes the family complement of blogs), who are top of the Scottish Third Division after a similarly impressive start.
A startling discovery today: Lindsey Buckingham (of Fleetwood Mac) is a man. Add this to the fact that Stevie Nicks is a woman, and it's all very confusing. Too confusing for a friend of mine, who was telling someone the other day that the new shopping centre in Bristol will contain a Stevie Nicks - when the other guy was happy with this, I felt it my duty to ask if he actually meant Harvey Nicks. He did. Man, I hope I've spelled that right, or I'll look a bally fool now.
You probably have a Facebook profile (unless you're Rob), and - statistically - you're probably 'Facebook friends' with Pluggy. You'll notice that his profile picture doesn't change a lot, and in this he is fairly typical of a huge chunk of Facebook folks; I think, though, that the Facebook profile pic is a window to the soul. Some people choose whichever picture makes them look best, out of narcissism or a desire to present their best to the outside world. Some have pictures in which they look gleefully happy alongside friends, emblematic of the social networking mantra - I have friends! Even if I never speak to them, haven't actually met them or don't really like them - and I have occasionally gone down this route. Ant, Jason, James, Rich, Phil, Tom, Steve and Wilbur - the last a snowman - have all appeared. Other Facebook users have pictures in which they look pretty stupid. I'm going to leave you with a few of those.
I've got A Levels, you know

September 24th 2008
Since last we spoke, I had all three of my exams in this sitting - two stats ones, and a communication paper. Of these, one of the stats seemed fine, the other was a little bit crazy (you know when examiners clearly inhabit a different planet to the rest of us, and this was one of those times) and the communications was OK; could have gone either way. Results are out in a couple of months, so I'll be deep into the next bout of studying before I know how I've got on - in fact, I've already got the materials, and booked myself on some tutorials. The cycle continues.
To take a break after the completion of exams, I headed to Somerset to see Mum and Dad for a few days, with Simon also there, playing the student-slacker card once more. On the Saturday morning Mum had organised a Honey Pot breakfast - raising money for a Africa-based charity or two - so I had a lot of fun cooking up bacon on a gas stove, and Simon very manfully handled all manner of bacon and sausages. We apparently served up 67 breakfasts - always a great number, 67 - which we were very pleased with. While there, I also took the opportunity to be beaten by Simon at chess several times - I'd forgotten he's always been better than me - and he & I narrowly lost to Mum and Dad at Trivial Pursuit. I also played a bit of tennis with Dad (confirming my suspicions that I can't play tennis), attended a couple of church services, and watched The Shawshank Redemption.
I've been trying to persuade Simon to watch Shawshank for a while, and he admitted that it was worth watching - I remember first seeing it in the second week of Uni, with Ben Saunders... it's probably in the archive somewhere.
Note, ladies, that I'm reading Northanger Abbey still - I've got towards the end, and thus will soon have read four out of Austen's six proper novels. This one is, apparently, a satire on the gothic novel, though it feels very much like the 'gothic' bit is shoe-horned in, completely at odds with the tone of the rest of the novel. Though perhaps that, in itself, is satirical - I do not know enough about gothic novels to be able to tell you... I'm not even sure whether 'gothic' needs a capital G or not.
Just a reminder that Wolves still sit atop the Championship, having scored more goals than any other team in the league.

September 28th 2008
I've mentioned before Simon's blog (see links page), and the fact that he has a rather higher profile than me on the interweb - so influential is he, that various publishers queue up to give him preview copies of books, and the latest is something of a special case. You may have heard of Sony's new e-reader, an electronic book that may actually catch on a bit, and Simon has been fortunate enough to be sent one (free, gratis and for nowt) to review on his blog. He gave fair warning that computers and stuff ain't really his thing, but they took this as an opportunity to change his mind, so the e-book duly arrived. Rather than just review it himself, our kid (look at me staying true to my roots in the North West) asked me to put together a review as well, to provide a second opinion and give something of a compare & contrast.
Now, I've written before about the different personas (personae? Probably) we inhabit, and while on this page I seem to be a trifle kindlier than in real life - or maybe that's just how it seems from this side of the keyboard, as it were - I (slightly deliberately) come across as a bit of an outsider, and possibly a little undereducated, over there. My comments are generally at odds with those of his other readers, recommending Lord of the Rings and pointing out spelling errors rather than contributing to the matter at hand. With this partly in mind, I cast aside my first review as being rather dull and uninspiring, and rewrote it in a rather lighter style. Anyhow, here it is (and, as I say, it was designed for his page, so doesn't entirely make sense here):

One of the chief problems of the literary world over the last few years has been Harry Potter. How is someone in their twenties supposed to read the adventures of the boy wizard, without losing all trace of credibility? No longer young enough to read it for pleasure, not yet old enough to pretend I'm doing it because I'm worried about what the kids are reading, the choices are few.
Bloomsbury realised this some time ago, and so introduced the 'adult' covers, enabling us to read the same text but with a dark, grown-up picture on the front. This worked well for about twenty minutes, but soon enough even these covers became easily recognisable as JK Rowling's work (the big gold 'Harry Potter' emblazoned on the front didn't help), and we were back to square one. And trust me, wrapping the dust jacket from Wuthering Heights round the cover doesn't help, since sooner or later someone will ask you how it's going, and you'll tell them you've always preferred Emily Bronte's other work. Embarrassing.
This is where the e-reader comes in. With no tell-tale cover, nobody on the train can know that the reason you've missed your stop is that you're frantically trying to work out if Hagrid's going to die or not – and if anyone asks you what you're reading, it is but the click of a button to bring up The Merchant of Venice or Ulysses. Of course, the lack of cover art does have its drawbacks; most notably that you can't tell which way up the book should be. I know I opened it upside down as often as not.
Of course, if you're not actually reading Harry Potter (or the Famous Five, Postman Pat annual, etc) there is the opposite problem that you can't silently show off what you're reading. What point is there in reading Hamlet (as I did in testing the e-reader) if you can't let everyone around you know that that's the kind of intelligent chap you are? I tried to make up for this by quoting extensively at every opportunity, but that's not always an option – and on public transport, people have their headphones in half the time anyway.
Speaking of which, this e-reader does offer the chance to listen to music while reading, though it's only really possible to fit a dozen or fewer songs on, I believe – as default it came with a lullaby. Clearly someone in a boardroom had the tag line “If you like reading, you'll love falling asleep!” in mind, though sadly it didn't make it to final product. Lullaby or not, I find the music cute, but fundamentally unnecessary: anyone who buys an e-reader will already own a dozen other gadgets that they can plug headphones into.
In fact, the surge of the music industry is perhaps a good parallel with the book world: from vinyl through to mp3, steadily the physical product has been sacrificed on the altar of convenience – a shame, since album artwork, like that of Abbey Road, Sgt. Pepper and Dark Side of the Moon, has lost its importance in the face of invisible downloads. Perhaps this is the direction that the literary world is headed.
Do I detect the sound of spluttering? This is probably not a wise arena in which to compare literature with popular music, and I know that there are those – and I can see my brother leading the way, banner held aloft – who regard books as sacred, and more than the sum of their text. I have heard Simon go into raptures about end-paper (whatever that is) and reject recently published books based on the their lack of mouldy smell – ay, there's the rub. Book-lovers will not be won over, even if the e-reader does allow you to take your entire library with you on holiday (actually, book-lovers will not be able to take their entire library, since none but the best-known books will make it to download, I fear). While the manufacturers (Sony? I should know things like this, as a reviewer) have gone to some length to make it look as much like a book as possible, it's not sufficiently distinctive (ie falling apart) to appeal to some. Not to mention the fact that the crossover of bibliophiles and technophobes is not insignificant.
Personally, I like the idea of computerising at least some of our books. Yes, it's phenomenally annoying that whenever you 'turn the page' (press a button), the new page appears in negative for half a second before showing itself correctly, reminding you that you're reading e-ink, not ink-ink. Yes, when I tried exploring it a little, it crashed – I bet the first folio didn't do that – producing that unique feeling of helplessness and fury that only men with computers can know. And yes, it was rather vexing that the only Jane Austen book not on there was the one I was currently reading (Northanger Abbey, since you ask. But that's definitely a book I want people to know I'm reading. Chicks dig guys who read Austen, I'm reliably informed). But the clincher for me – other than concealing my Harry Potter habit – is having the choice of hundreds of books wherever you are. Well, that and not having to dust so much. I won't be re-downloading my existing books, but I'd certainly consider downloading future purchases.

September 30th 2008
Let the picture fully load. Can you find the hidden tiger? (And no, it's not a Trev & Simon inspired joke).
Can you find the hidden tiger?
what was I listening to?
Running on Empty - Jackson Browne
what was I reading?
William Wilberforce - William Hague
what was I watching?
Planet of the Apes
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