Archive for July, 2006

Superman Returns

Wednesday, July 19th, 2006

Normally when a film has a production history as long and tortured as this, you can pretty much write it off straight away as a disaster: it’s usually so mired in rewrites and politics and personality conflicts that you can be reasonably the whole thing is going to suck, bigtime.

Superman Returns, surprisingly then, not only doesn’t suck, but is the best ‘family’ action movie I’ve seen in a long time. If you can watch beyond the opening five minutes without breaking into a big silly excitable childish grin then, sorry, you have no soul and I don’t want you to be my friend any more.

Sure, it’s cliched and hammed up, but that’s part of what a superhero movie is all about. Yes, the “stopping the plane crashing into a full baseball stadium with centimetres to spare” thing is predictable – of course the plane was never going to crash – but this film is all about spectacle and in that it delivers in spades. It’s cliched and overblown and – dare I say it – predictable but that doesn’t matter because it’s all done so goddamned well that you can’t help but enjoy yourself. I haven’t just straight out enjoyed a film so much since the first Pirates of the Carribbean movie.

The thing that bugs me, though – or is going to bug me, anyway – is the film’s constant allusion to Superman as a Christ-figure. Not because this offends me in any way or anything like that; no, it bugs me because I knowI KNOW – The Church is going to latch onto this and try and superimpose a “gospel message” onto the film. They’re going to take all the father/son riffs and saviour of the world allusions and things and try and cram an evangelistic message around it and it’s going to be shown at Alpha courses and youth outreach events all over the country and it’s going to be horrible. Hey, guys? Maybe, right, maybe Bryan Singer isn’t trying to put across a coded evangelistic message here; maybe he’s making all these allusions to Jesus because – religious stuff aside – it actually is a really good story? Just a thought.

(and besides, there’s a massively important distinction between the work of Christ and the work of Superman – hint: it involves a cross, a rock and an empty tomb – that makes the superposition onto the gospel perhaps just a little untenable; KTHXBYE)

Anyway, all that aside, you should go and see it, because it’s brilliant and it’ll make you feel like you’re six again.

Israel, Hezbollah

Monday, July 17th, 2006

Look, just fucking grow up and stop it. Neither of you has the moral high ground so stop posturing, put your guns away and sit down and talk like fucking adults before you blow us all up.

Oh, and, America? Please, just for once, admit that Israel might actually be guilty of basically, being being a bit of a dick. Thanks.

Making things colder

Sunday, July 16th, 2006

My room, y’see, is a loft conversion. It’s the only double-glazed room in an old Victorian town house, and the ceiling above it is quite well insulated. This means that, in the summer, it gets just a little bit warm. Today, windows open and fan blowing, it was still too hot so I finally snapped and decided to do something about it. I drove over to B&Q in the Trafford Centre and bought a length of pre-coiled copper tubing, 4m of rubber tubing and several hundred cable ties. I then went to ASDA and sought out a plastic cool-box (I had intended to buy some freezer blocks too, but I couldn’t find any)

I attached the copper piping to the front of my fan using the cable-ties, and then connected the rubber tubing to the ends of the copper pipe. I filled the coolbox with icy water, positioned a receiving bucket lower down than the cool box, turned on the fan and started the sipon going. Bingo! Home made air-conditioning.

I wish I could say the whole thing had been a roaring success and that my room was now lovely and icy cool. Sadly, so far I’ve not really bean able to detect a real difference. However, the whole thing does look very cool, so it’s not all bad 🙂

Pictures just here.

EDIT: I’ve added flow control (uh… an adjustable kink in the output pipe) now – restricting the flow seems to have improved the efficiency somewhat. There’s now a noticable difference in temperature (to the touch) between the input pipe and the output. Using a cooking thermometer, I reckon I’ve got about 10°F difference between the two, which is alright. I’ve closed the windows in my room and left it going to see whether it’s capable of making the room bearable. So far, it’s not too bad.


Saturday, July 15th, 2006

My blog was down for a day or two there, yeah. You can blame BT for that; my phoneline was inexplicably disconnected and thus the machine that hosts it couldn’t see t’interwebnet. I suppose that should provide some kind of incentive for me to migrate it over to the server that hosts my other website. Maybe I’ll get round to it later on.

Anyway. I know you were all deeply concerned and everything, but it’s back now, so you can relax.

In other news, making watches is absurdly complicated.


Wednesday, July 12th, 2006

What I’ve been listening to, and why you should be listening to the same thing:

  • Mogwai – Mr Beast
    Not to put too fine a point on it, but if I had my way, all music (except that which is played by earnest heavy metal Japanese guys in their bedroom) would sound like this: epic, glorious post-rock soundscapes. My only complain is that the album is too short: look guy, clearly there’s no singles on here so there’s no reason at all to stick to the radio-friendly 4 minute pop song – go the whole hog and do a single 60 minute track. Please.
  • Muse – Black holes and Revelations
    Muse don’t do subtle. Nothing on this album is anything short of a full-on classical-influenced synth-rock extravanganza (well, except the two tracks that aren’t, but they’re only short so they don’t count). This time they’ve broadened their influences from what was previously essentially Chopin-with-electric-guitars, adding Queen (circa Night At The Opera), Depeche Mode and, um, disco to the list. No, they’re never really going to win any fashionable music awards because this really isn’t fashionable music – this is, dare I say it, proper 21st Century pop music, but it’s brilliant with it, and if there’s a better single than Supermassive Black Hole this year, I don’t want to hear it.
  • The Head Club
    In the interests of full disclosure, I should point out that this band are on a record label run by my boss, but that I’m not in line for any kind of promotion or anything by publicising them. The thing is, much as it pains me to admit that my boss has decent taste in music, they’re actually really rather good: imagine if the Flaming Lips did a Beach Boys influenced pop record and you’re getting close to the sound – pop-rock with an unusual experimental edge to it. The album is a bit rough around the edges and, if I’m honest, there’s a few songs it could live without – the more straightforward numbers that sort of feel like they’re there to pad out the space between the psychadelic rock-outs of the standout tracks. But there’s still enough here for me to think they’re worth paying attention to.
  • The Raconteurs – Broken Boy Soldiers
    I’ll come clean: I think the White Stripes are overrated. I really don’t get what all the fuss is about. Okay, they can come up with a decent hook (Seven Nation Army, My Doorbell, etc) but… that seems to be about it; I’ve never been terribly excited by what happens afterwards. On the other hand, Brendan Benson produces some nice enough sounding but not incredibly exciting indie-pop-rock sort of tunes. So, the idea of bringing a pop sensibility to the Jack White and/or bringing a more stripped back indie-cred sound to Brendan Benson seemed like a good thing to me – and, to be fair, for the most part it is. The trouble is, this still sounds like two half-albums. There are songs that are clearly Jack White with a full band and there are songs that are clearly Brendan Benson being less poppy than usual, but it never really feels a completely comfortable compromise. That said, Steady As She Goes is still catchy as hell and that’s gotta be worth something.
  • Seth Lakeman – Freedom Fields
    Seth has a formula, and he sticks to it. 3-3-2 rhythms led by frantic fiddle or tenor guitar parts interspersed with haunting violin-and-vocal ballads are very much the flavour of the day here. Fortunately, he’s really very, very good at what he does, and this is a shining example of modern English folk. It’s also far closer to his live sound than Kitty Jay was, dispensing entirely with the full band arrangements on the previous album and stripping things right back to the live band of fiddle, guitar, double bass and bodhran for the most part. If this isn’t in the running for the Mercury Music Prize, I’ll eat my hat.

Right, that’s (almost) your lot, but only because I’m going to bed now. You should also dig out “Recording a tape the colour of light” by Bell Orchestre (a sort of Arcade Fire side project – orchestral post-rock noodlings that put me slightly in mind of what Mogwai might sound like if they composed for an orchestra) and “Apologies to the Queen Mary” by Wolf Parade (which is a perfect example of why Canada is the greatest place in the world for indie music right now).

Windows 98

Tuesday, July 11th, 2006

Today marks the end of Microsoft’s extended support for Windows 98/ME and with it (hopefully; dear God please let it be so) the official end of the DOS-based Windows line. End of an era, but I’m not sad to see it go; nasty, nasty operating system.

On not being a raving fundie anymore

Monday, July 10th, 2006

So, apparently Michael Palin thinks Sven is the greatest living Englishman and far more interesting than he is, so I guess I’d better write something in response to Sven’s post on studying theology and being a heretic and that. Even though I’ve not done a degree in theology (nor ever really studied it in anything more than a pop-theology sort of way; sort of the theological equivalent of a New Scientist reader – which, funnily enough, I am), I’ve faced similar sorts of issues, challenges and questions over the last couple of years and have similarly been forced to face up to and rethink a large amount of my faith.

Like Sven, I spent a number of years as a charismatic/fundamentalist – I threw myself into the certainty and absolutes that the modern Evangelical church offered and shrugged off any of the doubts I had by reassuring myself that “if it said it in the Bible, it must be true, so any questions are obviously from the devil”. For a while, I was a literal seven-day creationist. But I couldn’t keep it up: I became jaded and eventually bitter. I sat through sermons at church picking holes in everything that was said. Gradually, I became aware that this surely could not have been the God I signed up to worship, and I began to rethink, well, everything.

The underlying motivation for me was one of being honest with myself, intellectually, politically and spiritually: I’m no longer prepared to accept the switch-your-brain-off-and-just-believe attitude that formed such a large part of my time as a charismatic/fundamentalist; I’m no longer prepared to compromise on political or moral issues because of some dubious prooftexting by a shouty preacher; and I’m no longer prepared to put aside issues I have with the theological teachings I’ve been presented with over the years.

The easiest way for me to deal with this would obviously have been to have just given up – to renounce my belief in God, become a secular humanist like all the rest of my friends and get on with enjoying life. And, on occasion, I’ve come close to doing just that: as I said to Naomi once, if I really thought that the modern Evangelical church really was the one true expression of Christianity, I could no longer be a Christian.

But, if I’m honest with myself – and that’s what we’re all about here, right? – I’m still convinced by the reality of God, of Christ and his redemptive work. And so I have to square that with my conviction in my left-wing, liberal, humanist beliefs – something that I felt quite strongly up until the point I became a Christian and then increasingly fell by the wayside as I became radicalised and fundamentalist, but something which I count as an important part of my identity.

And the answer? Well, I don’t know. But that’s not a problem. I’m still searching. I’m reading books by Brian McLaren, NT Wright and Dave Tomlinson; I’m having conversations with Richard and others about our journies of faith; I’m pushing my way down different intellectual and theological avenues just to see what happens. My notion of what is true and what is not has been radically rethought; I’ve given up on the idea of absolute morals and become more and more convinced about God working within culture rather than imposing himself upon it; and I’ve become very uncomfortable with the idea of a black and white, personal, in-the-club-or-going-to-hell model of salvation – did Christ really come to create an exclusive ‘club’ of believers, or did he come to redeem creation as a whole and bring it into a restored relationship with himself?

But the most important thing so far as I’m concerned is that I have started to ask questions – without necessarily being concerned about finding definitive answers. I don’t think God is going to be angry with me for honestly and earnestly seeking a way in which I can be both fully myself and fully in a relationship with him; and I think that, for this life, that’s about the best I can hope for.

Fish update

Monday, July 10th, 2006

I thus conclude that the Chorlton fishmongers is as good as they look, as I have not spent the last 24 hours bent double over a toilet as a result of my raw tuna escapades last night. The two Red Mullet I had for lunch was also very tasty indeed.

I had more things I wanted to write, especially regarding Sven‘s recent post on finishing his studies and how studying theology turned him into a heretic, but I’m utterly lacking in motivation right now, and besides, Michael Palin is on the telly and he’s far more interesting.


Saturday, July 8th, 2006

So, this is where we find out how good the fishmongers in Chorlton really is. For tea, I had a lovely thick slab of tuna steak, seared to perfection on the outside and still wonderful and raw in the middle. It tasted fantastic but, if I’m dead in the morning, it’s all the fault of Inshore Fisheries. Yes.

Roland Strings RS-101

Saturday, July 8th, 2006

Naomi found one of these in a cupboard at her school. Apparently, they wanted to throw it out and she wanted a keyboard, so she claimed it. Now, I’m of the opinion that (a) it’s probably useless as a general purpose keyboard being, as it is, a “strings” synthesizer (it has a ‘brass’ setting, too, but it all sounds pretty much the same), (b) it’s probably quite rare (a dig around on eBay revealed only one of them, and google is very sparse on details) and (c) it’s a valuable part of synthesizer history as it basically defined the Roland sound for the next 15 years, and so therefore obviously I should get to look after it, love it, cherish it and maybe just occasionally turn it on, press a key and go “ooooooh”. She, however, doesn’t quite see it like this. She actually wants to play it. It’s sacrilege, I tell you. Sacrilege.

In all seiousness, though, if anyone knows if this thing really is worth anything, I’d love to know: I feel like it ought to be, but I can’t confirm it.