Friday, 7 September 2012

Got to re-learn how to love my p.c.

A most ghastly and stressful couple days is over!
My p.c. was down to operating at the speed of an arthritic snail, due to the amount of free space on the hard drive dipping below 1/2%. It couldn't go on so, at a cost of £43 (69$ American) I got an 'expert' online from the other side (to me) of the Atlantic.
    To cut a long story short, the instructions I got to download programs to identify exactly where the problem was, was no fun at all - involving my sitting yesterday and overnight (got to bed at 1.30 a.m.) at the computer screen for 10 mins short of ten hours, because the screen kept freezing with notices of 'unresponsive script' - +  early this morning a further 6 hours! Was near to collapse with lack of sleep - but we got there!
Now back to 84% free disk space and everything seems hunky-dory. Was worth it in the end, even if I am a bit peeved at having missed my planned cinema visit yesterday to have seen the new film 'Berberian Sound Studio'. Too late now - it's gone!  
 Brought home to me how difficult I'd now find it to live without a computer - something I'd never have admitted before I got this one seven years ago.
   Anyway, the most important thing is that I'm back to interact with my blog-chums.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Recent film release - 'Total Recall'

What a rowdy film! (Should have taken some cotton wool to plug me lugs!) Moments of repose, such as there are, are few and far between. It's 95% chase and fights, with much 'impressive' bullet-dodging by all the human characters, as against the multitude of robots, who are not much inconvenienced by the ammunition-sprays anyway!
The question everyone is asking is why bother to re-make a film which was so successful comparatively recently? - well, at least in 1990. I thought the Arnie/Paul Verhoeven original was pretty good, notwithstanding the robot-like star playing a human being - which one might well describe as 'acting out of character'. But of course, a significant part of today's audience wouldn't even have been born when this early version was released.
    I quite like Colin Farrell - well, physically anyway. For me he filled the main role satisfactorily without being especially memorable. I haven't read the Philip K.Dick short story on which the film's idea is based and expanded - but I believe that this new film is closer to the author's original concept than the earlier one.
  It would be disingenuous if I was to be harsh about this film because, frankly, I did enjoy it, something I wasn't expecting after reading two or three reviews which were decidedly less than enthusiastic. I've just been to the IMDb site and given it a rating which is actually higher than the average of those several hundred who were there before me, and that doesn't happen very often.

True, I can't see this film turning out to be anything like the classic status that the 1990 film merited, but marking it in terms of my own personal enjoyment it gets a respectably solid score of.................7/10.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Recent film release - 'The Three Stooges'

First, a confession. I have never in my life seen anything at all featuring the original trio. I became aware of their name probably in my teens and seen just one or two old photos of them since then. I knew that their humour was slapstick. And that's about it.
I understand that they made short comic films up to the 1950s and for a while they appeared on TV quite a lot, none of which was seen in England.
At the kids' Saturday morning pictures we went to during the mid-late 50s (before we'd got our own TV), the big American names on screen were 'Abbot and Costello', and 'The Bowery Boys' (whatever happened to them?). No Laurel and Hardy even, who were by that time regarded as 'old hat' and out of fashion - their only being deservedly re-appreciated in the 1970s, largely due to the oncoming popularity of video. And there was certainly no 'Three Stooges'.

Anyway, back to this film. I did laugh more than I was expecting to - at least during the first half. But all that head-slapping, hair-pulling, nose-tweaking, eye-poking etc became, over time, repetitive and wearing. Ninety minutes really stretched it to breaking point - though there were still, admittedly, occasional chortles.
The film is pointlessly broken down into three half-hour episodes but as the plot, such as it is, is so thin they could just as well have been run together. I suppose breaking it up does give a semblance of it being more digestible even if wasn't quite so.
The only members of the cast I knew were Sean Hayes (from 'Will & Grace', of course), Jennifer Hudson and Larry David, the latter in particular quite amusing in an unexpected role.
I think it's the kind of film that would go down better sitting in front of the telly with a friend and with a few cans of beer on hand. I can imagine that with a bit of alcoholic assistance it could well be seen as much funnier, even hilarious.

My rating ought to recognise the fact that I did laugh a bit more than expected, and for that reason deserves to be marked a notch above average.

                                      So I give it a .................5.5/10.

Friday, 31 August 2012

Recent film release - 'Jackpot'.

On the heels of the recent, very satisfactory, twists-and-turns Norwegian thriller 'Headhunter' comes this entertaining crime caper, also from story-teller Jo Nesbo.
Sporadically funny tale revolves around a football pools syndicate of three ex-criminals at a re-habilitation workshop manufacturing artificial Xmas trees, plus their hapless boss (played by hottie Kyrre Hellum, below, whom I've not seen before) a reluctant participant drawn into deep waters, after their scooping a huge win - and, naturally, their rapidly falling out with each other.
Most of the humour derives from the disposal of bodies, with some very grisly scenes, though they are not lingered over. I've seen a lot worse on screen before - however, it's not for the squeamish.

Good fun and worth a watch, it gets a.......7/10.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

'The Imposter' (Recent film release)

This is intriguing. Story of a 13 year-old Texan boy disappearing without trace, only for three years later a claim to be made that he is alive in Spain.
Difficult to say much about the film without giving away those parts of it that made the journey from A to B so engrossing, the title alone revealing the tale's destination.
I must own that the first half-hour got me a little exasperated, such that I was saying to myself "Oh, come off it! Can people really be that gullible?"  I was even beginning to think that the film-makers were sniggering up their sleeves while attempting to hoodwink the audience. If it had been fiction it certainly would not have worked, with the audience laughing at its absurdity.

After the opening third or so I started being drawn in and was soon hooked. As the titular 'imposter' embellished his already preposterous tale with even wilder claims it begins to get so surreal that one looked forward to someone who was going to inject some sanity into proceedings, which duly happened.
If there is anything to be learnt from the story it's the extent to which some people will twist or totally ignore hard evidence put before their very eyes in order to avoid facing the possibility that their belief might be erroneous. It's as though what they want to believe is so bound up with their own identities that any attempt to shift that position leaves them feeling exposed and vulnerable. So they cling onto their belief as a 'safety net' in order to maintain a feeling of security. (It's probably plain that I'm seeing a parallel here with politics and religion - an analogy which I haven't seen made in any of the reviews of this film which I've read to date, though I maintain it is a valid comparison).

It's been a little time since I recommended a film, but this one I will - with a rating of.....7.5/10

Saturday, 25 August 2012

My 'Pussy Drop-in Centre' flourishes, while I have to scrimp!

Meet 'Patchy', the latest 'regular'. Started coming here about six weeks ago, he now comes in twice a day most days, and with an appetite equivalent to two.

His 'real' name is 'Jack', but I don't think it's pussy-ish enough, so I call him Patchy, to which he now responds.
At least, unlike with Ginger, his true home is known. Some weeks ago leaflets were put through houses in the neighbourhood enquiring about his whereabouts, with address and telephone number. He answered to the description given so I contacted them. His house is around the corner, maybe 300 yards away, and it's a couple who are mad about their cats, having several which they've got from rescue homes. Apparently a number of people have also been in touch to say they've seen Patchy around. He seems happy calling from house to house, at least until the weather turns downward. So they are regarding him now as a 'community cat', with no fixed abode (though he does have one), but say that if he causes me too much trouble for me to let them know.
My own two (or three?) regard him with some respect, though also with a little suspicion, maybe because he's bigger than any of them - and he's not backward in hissing at them (and me) to let them know who is boss if he's pushed too far. But he's another big sweetie.

Looks like Ginger has decided to move in. He can't be much more than a year old now - and I've still no idea where he comes from. He may well have been homeless since birth.
Apart from being a little scamp who takes delight in annoying Blackso and Ginger, I will reluctantly take him in as the only option seems to be shut him out, which would break my heart. But the big problem is that he has not only not been neutered - while my other two and Patchy have been done - he hasn't been registered with a vet, which is yet another expense I can do without. Anyway, for the first time today, and with a hint of Autumn in the air, he slept inside after I made a 'bed' for him on a low shelf in the kitchen.

There are still another two or three infrequent visitors, who seem to go in phases of turning up regularly then disappearing for weeks or even months on end. Can't turn any of them away, of course.

Meantime Noodles and Blackso carry on as before. Neither of them has ever been ill in the 8 and 12 years respectively since they decided to move in with me, which has been a blessing........

.....even if Blackso shows his appreciation by occasionally poking out his tongue!

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Recent film release - 'The Bourne Legacy'

My first cinema visit for over three weeks (an inordinately lengthy interval for me) felicitously slipped in between the almost continuous 'highs' of the Olympics and the hoped-for euphoria of the impending Paralympics.

Matt Damon-less sequel to the rather good 'Bourne trilogy'. Jeremy Renner acceptable as the 'moving target', though he labours under having conspicuously lived-in features whereas Damon's bland physiognomy could be lost in a crowd, which would be an advantage in this role..
    Rachel Weisz emotes as per the instruction leaflet. Edward Norton as usual, never disappoints, though here his know-it-all authority figure hardly stretches him.
   Some of the several chases are good fun and did get my adrenalin flowing, at least up to a point. Renner not hindered at all in speed or versatility despite carrying a backpack. Very impressive. His character also displays bottomless initiative in outsmarting his pursuers, which is what is only to be expected in an action film like this.
   I'd lost the thread of the plot within the first quarter hour - and therefore the attempts during the film's course to flesh out motivation and strategy were lost on me. I don't think I'm alone. In fact maybe the majority don't bother with keeping up with what's going on, which makes those sagging longueurs of explanation all a bit unnecessary. But I suppose if they don't attempt to give it a veneer of plausibility some critic or other is going to pounce. However, once again my frequent complaint comes up - why make it so difficult to hear what the characters are saying, especially if it really is that important? But I know I'm onto a loser just by posing the question.
   All in all, a fair enough romp to wile away a couple of hours entertainingly enough. One of those see-it-once-then-forget-it films.

                          My score...............5/10

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Annual 'Birdman' event in Worthing, Sussex.

Object is to jump off structure erected at end of pier, usually (but not always) with home-made wings attachment. Prizes for entrants who glide furthest distance and stay in air longest. Not easy this year as there was only a light wind, if any at all.
Also section for jumping in crazy costumes. Wish I'd caught on camera the pair of chaps in pantomime horse outfit, which split in two in mid-leap - or, rather, mid-drop. (Most of the jumps this year were perpendicular).

(Following pic, left foreground)
"Hey, Mr Wayne! I said 'Birdman'!  And, by the way, take your filthy paws off that lady or I'll tell Boy Wonder who'll get so jealous he's going to zap you just south of your utility belt!"

And finally, a self-portrait on my way home to feed all the pussies:-

Monday, 13 August 2012

Olympics closing ceremony afterthoughts

Granted, coming as a farewell to the most enjoyable Olympics I've ever experienced (and I can remember as far back as Rome 1960), this ceremony had to be something extra-special - and, in many respects it was.
Part of my very high opinion of the Games generally may well have been because of its location, which certainly helped - but that wasn't the full reason.

The re-creation of the London skyline, above, in illuminated model form was totally and breath-takingly astonishing - 'London Eye' (the giant Ferris Wheel), Gherkin, Battersea Power Station (as was)..... et al!

Now the closing ceremony's  'buts', plus one or two positives:-

Too long by half.

(I liked the accurate, if over-fussy, reference to the attendance of of Prince Henry).

Some of the acts too insularly British to be appreciated internationally - e.g. I'm a great 'Madness' fan, but singing 'Our House'?  Similarly, 'The Who' chosen, of all acts to close? Well, at least it wasn't Jesse J coming out for the fourth time, so that was a point in its favour.

George Michael - 5 minutes would have been quite enough, thank you.

Ray Davies singing 'Waterloo Sunset' - a sublime song encapsulating a very parochial Britishness - coming from an era when 'The Kinks' were one of the very great 'supergroups', at the same time as 'The Hollies' and, yes, 'The Who' too - as well as 'The Stones' and....well, you know who. Maybe his little act worked, maybe it didn't.

Spice Girls - must confess to an inner thrill at seeing them together again - yes, on balance it worked. (Geri now surely the skinniest of the lot, even moreso than Mrs Beckham!)

Fat Boy Slim? - bet the quizzical looks outnumbered the smiles.

Pet Shop Boys - I wouldn't have minded a second ditty from them.
Similarly, our dear and incomparable Annie Lennox, but without all that suffocating, encumbering drapery in a second song.

Eric Idle - well, they had to have a 'Python' spot, didn't they? And it did lighten things up a bit.

Emili Sande not only opening the show but appearing again later (what the hell was she singing about? - on both occasions! I couldn't make it out.)  - though at least it wasn't as OTT as Jesse J popping up for no less than THREE times, for goodness sake - when I just had to start flicking channels. You'd think she was Princess Di the Second!

Russell Brand surprisingly good singing 'I Am the Walrus'. Didn't know he could carry a tune - and pretty well, too.

'Imagine' worked well despite it having been heard to death for too many years now. I actually found it quite moving.

Elton, conspicuous by the absence of any acknowledgement of his music - or did I aurally 'blink'? - whereas Bowie (who's had a shorter 'shelf-life', though I'm not complaining!) gets a whole section, linked in with British fashion.
Btw: I wish someone had tried to throw a mobile at that annoying, spoilt brat of a woman, Naomi C., - which I sincerely hope would have missed, of course ;-)  - and who thinks that growing up and acting her (advancing) age is, oh, just TOO much hassle! - and whose only talent, as far as I can judge, is the ability to cross her legs three times over the back of a guy as he's humping her.

Lord Coe, as in his Opening Ceremony speech, going on too long again, but not helped by the crowd cheering after just about every sentence, as though he was an American Presidential candidate. Maybe they should have done the same as they do at the Oscars (or is it the BAFTAS?) and start playing music to drown him out after he's been talking for two minutes.

I'll think of other things later, but this is what's coming to mind during a morning after a night of inadequate sleep. But there you are - my thoughts are on record.

 Now follow that, Rio - IF you can! - HAH!

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Computer problems - GRRRRRRRR!!!!

Being a bit of an ignoramus when it comes to computer workings, looks like I'm a-gonna have to dip deep into that fortuitous windfall mentioned in my blog of only two days ago and which had so delighted me.
My p.c. has been functioning progressively slower over recent months, with the 'free space' on the disc now down to just 8% - a sudden drastic tumble, for some totally mysterious reason, from the near 70% of only 6 months ago - from where it had been decreasing, it's true, but only very gradually. Despite my downloading three different (free) disk-cleaning and fragmenting devices, as well as buying one for £20, none of them has made any difference at all - while it continues to get slower and s-l-o--w--e---r.
And now, to cap it all, in trying to delete files which I thought weren't needed, I've gone and deleted the means to get sound, any sound, through the speakers - and I'm not savvy enough to know how to recover it, dammit! (I couldn't even listen to Anne Marie's posting today of 'Footloose'! How much worse can it get?)
  Oh well, before digging myself into an even deeper hole, looks like the only sensible solution is to get the chappie in who installed it for me 7 years ago - but, of course, he costs money!. As is known, once you've got yourself dependent on a computer, it's awfully hard to get weaned off it.
Well, the longer it's left the more it's going to get to me - no good for the old blood pressure. So, looks like a little telephone call tomorrow morning has to be on the cards. Will try to save my tears at the price until after he's gone.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Thank you, Your Majesty!

Completely out of the blue, I get a cheque in this morning's post from Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs enclosing a cheque for £227 ($355 American) being refund of over-deducted income tax from my pension for the last tax year. Oh joy!
   Well, naturally the first thing I thought of was to go to the big local pet store and buy some 'special', more expensive food for my pussies (as one does). I blew 1/3 of it there. It would have be intolerable to have neglected them by not allowing them to share in my good fortune and then have them sulking at me.
    But let it not be said that I've neglected myself. Oh no. I've bought myself a bottle of cheap 'n cheerful red, for just over a fiver, with which to celebrate. The rest of this windfall will go into my 'unexpected events' fund - which is being built up, essentially, for my having to travel to sudden funerals. The hard fact is that at my age people I know, relations and others, are starting to drop like flies, so one simply has to be prepared.
    However, let's not get maudlin. Where's that corkscrew? I want to raise a glass to Her Majesty the Queen. Long may she continue to bestow her bounty - especially on those of us who pay our taxes!  So, bottoms up!