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October 25, 2006


Sometimes I think it might be nice to live in the USA. Things are cheaper, there is lots of space, service is really good (though the constant tipping does suck).

But there is an all pervasiveness about sports, that even the British cannot match, and I think it would drive me round the bend if I had to live with it day in, day out.

Take this morning for example.

I went to the gym at 6:05am and took my place on an exercise bike, which happened to be next to a row of treadmills. A middle aged woman was fast-walking next to me. Before I'd even managed to work out the bike's menu system, she turned to me and said:

"So who won the game last night?"

My standard UK response came in useful

"What game?"

She seemed genuinely shocked by this lack of knowledge (I had a newspaper under my arm which contained a sports section), and blurted out:

"It's only the world series !"

I finished our brief conversation with

"Well I'm only British"

Which seemed to shut her up. I dropped the sports section on the floor and read the main part of the paper while I cycled.

My problem with this is that absolutely everyone expects you to know all about baseball, and American football, and probably hockey or softball or some other dull bunch of overpaid knuckle-heads running around a field. Being a foreigner allows me to get away with my ignorance. But if I lived here I know I'd be ostracised from society by my disinterest in these all-american pasttimes. It's the first thing people think of in the mornings, it's discussed at lunch, it's on TV in restaurants and bars. It's bloody boring but impossible to avoid. I think I'll just have to stay at home - at least there things only go completely football crazy about once every four years.

Posted by se71 at 04:12 PM | Comments (1)

October 13, 2006

Free Stuff

Originally uploaded by se71.
Finally, more free stuff at Waterloo Station.

This chap was giving out paper lunch bags containing an apple and a blueberry muffin to advertise the launch of two new digital TV stations this coming weekend.

Here is is...

Posted by se71 at 02:12 PM | Comments (0)

October 09, 2006

CSI - Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

A fairly standard CSI episode. Grissome is a bit entranced and overwhelmed by the attentions of a glamorous woman who turns out to be a suspect in a murder. He lets her get away with a lot less questioning than he should do.

But this episode is interesting to me for two reasons - one good, one really bad.

1. I noticed the name Louise Lombard in the titles and it rang bells. I also sort of recognised her when she appeared as Sophia Curtis. Had to search online and then it clicked - she was Evangeline Eliot, the younger sister of Beatrice in the TV series "The House Of Eliot". This show aired in the early 1990s, and Louise is English, and is faking an American accent now as a regular in CSI.

I like it when we have British people masquerading as Americans - Tracey Ullman was one of the earliest I remember with her own show and then in Ally McBeal. Now we have Hugh Laurie as House and Ian McShane in Deadwood, both huge series. Go UK!

2. The second thing is CSI totally misrepresenting the power of technology. A grainy surveillance camera image is part of the crim vidence. A man reaches a card to another man in a car, at night, about 50 metres from the camera. It is actually difficult to see the man's face.

"Can we zoom in on the card"?

Of course we can. And let's just clean that image up a bit. Ah, it's a 2D barcode card. This is already stretching credibility, but, we now zoom in again, and resolve the image to see clearly the barcode on the card.

We're not living in Bladerunner times just yet, with holographic photographs and infinite zooms. This kind of thing is just plain dumb, and demeans the whole premise of the rest of the series.

Posted by se71 at 05:03 PM | Comments (0)

Nike RunLondon 2006

Originally uploaded by se71.

Another year, another Nike RunLondon 10K race. Last year, in their "I will run a year" campaign with red T-shirts, I did pretty well and blogged about it here.

This year it was the North vs South, and I choose North which entitled me to a green T-shirt, rather than the South's orange one.

Before you nod off, my time was 44.01, which is over a minute faster than last year. I'm pretty pleased - still heading towards my target of 40. I know, it's an ambitious target.

I was running with my new iPod Nano, and Nike Plus trainers containing a foot pod to tell me how I was doing. Unfortunately, as it was my first time using all these things, I messed up and choose the wrong setting. Instead of being told my time after every kilometer which is what I expected, it told me when it thought I had completed a kilometer. This was particularly useless, as there were signs telling me this anyway, and also, it got it wrong. By the end of the race, my Nano estimated that I had run only 9.6km. (I guess the other explanation is that Nike got it wrong, and hence my fast time. Let's not go there :)

More later on my split times, and for the next few months you can see me crossing the finish line at the RunLondon site.

PS - is it a good thing if the room spins when you stand up, and then your legs hurt so much you can harldy walk?

Posted by se71 at 09:31 AM | Comments (0)

October 06, 2006

Who Am I

Who Am I is a Jackie Chan film, and it is wonderful. It is full of some terrible acting, both from Jackie, and from his female co-star Michell Ferre (who according to the IMDB page never worked again!). It has a car chase with appalling continuity errors. It has a fairly dodgy amnesia plot. And yet the sheer skill and exhuberence of Chan as a man fighting to live, and to find out his identity, is complete screen gold.

The thing that raises this film up so much from what could have been a disaster, is that it doesn't take itself too seriously. It's not actually a comedy, but the fight sequences and chases always have elements of humour thrown in. The best bit is where he has a leg kicking contest with a huge opponent, and afterwards they both sit down and rub their shins for a minute. Famously Jackie creates and performs all his own stunts. He runs down skyscrapers, he slides down gaps in walls, he inventively escapes being handcuffed to a chair.

The plot is completely incidential here, but this film is excellent, fun entertainment.

Posted by se71 at 10:54 AM | Comments (0)

October 03, 2006

The Talented Mr Ripley - Patricia Highsmith

The Talented Mr Ripley - Patricia Highsmith

This is a cold hearted thriller in the Hitchcock vein, Highsmith also penned "Strangers on a Train". It has a few twists that shouldn't be given away before reading, as Ripley's talents gradually get uncovered. It starts with a tense scene that reveals Ripley as a petty crook, a bit of a loser, in 1950s America. He is made an offer to go to Europe to try and persuade a young man called Dickie Greenleaf to come back to New York to visit his family. Dickie's father pays Ripley's passage and expenses.

Ripley finds Greenleaf, and insinuates himself into his life. He loves the lifestyle, the easy going Italian riviera; the trips to Rome and other towns; drinking wine and not worrying about money. He decides that this is the life for him, and that he will do anything to keep it.

The whole story is told through Ripleys point of view. We know how he thinks, what he feels, and we empathise with him. He has had a hard life, and wants better things. Then as events turn nasty, and we see his sociopathic side, we find it harder to like him, and yet still somehow hope he succeeds. It's very skillfully written, and the tension is unbearable at times.

Very highly recommended.

I saw the film of this a few years ago, and never really believed in Matt Damon in the part of Tom Ripley. Now I've read the book and have gotten a much better feel for the character, and I'm a bit more happy that he actually did quite a good job. Jude Law as Dickie is excellent, completely perfect as the rather lazy playboy.

Posted by se71 at 06:26 PM | Comments (0)


On Monday morning I was congratulating myself as being the hardest man in Ascot. Not a difficult task you might think, but what was my criteria? Well, I was the only one waiting on the platform who hadn't decided to wear a coat.

I've been cycling to work for many months now, and have managed with just a shirt (and a foldup fluorescent raincoat in my bag for the inevitable downpours). I hoped this week would be as good as previous ones. We have passed the time of instant perspiration after pedalling just a few yards, and reached a very equitable state where I can cycle my hardest for 10 minutes and it's just temperate enough to keep me sweat free.

But this morning, as I stepped out of my door, I realised that those balmy Indian Summer days were over. I put my jacket on at 6:40am and braved the new chilly morning. My hands were even quite cold, and I had a mental picture of doing this in complete darkness, in the rain. I thought that maybe getting a second car on the road might not be a bad idea.

I'm not the hardest man in Ascot anymore, well, I am of course, but it's a bit more difficult to prove it. That'll have to wait till I'm the first to put my jacket back in the wardrobe next spring.

Posted by se71 at 02:25 PM | Comments (0)

October 02, 2006


xXx was billed as an American answer to James Bond, and was supposed to herald a series of movies in this new franchise. There has in fact been another, but if it's anything like this one, then I'm not really going to hurry out to see it. I've actually had the DVD of this on my shelf for more than a year, but somehow the immediacy of having it on a normal TV channel usually prompts me more, so last night I stayed up late and watched it there.

The things that are wrong are easiest to explain. It has an idiotic plot and an annoying amount of loud hard rock/metal music, some of it sung in German. There are a lot of scenes with the evil anarchist yorgi - and his false Russian accent gets very wearing, very quickly.And calling yourself 'Triple X' or just 'X' for short, is a bit naff. They're going after the 007 James Bond link again. And it's just too long. In an spy adventure story like this you shouldn't be looking at your watch to see if this set-piece action stunt is the final one, and then sighing because you realise that there is another 20 minutes so there is plenty of time for another.

Gadgets, and there are a few, should be ambitionsly modern, but still believable. James Bond pushed the limits (went way past if you ask me) with his invisible car. But here we have something just as bad, binoculars that can see through brick walls and take full colour photographs. I think this technology is quite a way off.

Vin Diesel is a passable action hero, though he never manages to look as if he's taking anything seriously. His character is an irreverent internet prankster at the beginning, and the swift transition to freedom fighter for the US government is a bit unlikely. Unfortunately, the script is terrible, and he cannot manage to pull off the wise cracks to make them funny. His fellow cast members, unfortunately, are somewhat let down by this terribly cliched script too. I can't believe they are all terrible actors, but they really do come across like that here. It's like the new Star Wars films - you'd think from those that Ewan McGregor couldn't act for toffee, but it's just the derisory dialog.

The stunts are very polished; I looked carefully and wasn't able to spot the joins where the computer took over the action. Most of this action takes place in Prague in winter, which looks really dreary and I think that was a mistake. Bond always has some exotic locations, and we needed a bit of sunshine to brighten up what was quite dull looking scenery. But if you just like big explosions and car chases and snowboarding and parachuting stunts, then I think this is your film.

I was very disappointed really by xXx. I expected a little more, and the first 10 minutes were good enough to make me think I was going to get it. But it quickly degenrated into just a very expensive sequence of stunts divided up with bits of plots of other films into a very unsatisfying whole.

Posted by se71 at 11:15 AM | Comments (0)