Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Rocky film site

Here is the link to the official Rocky Balboa site. Bookmark it and if you are ever in need of a 'pick-me-up' just go to the 'Rocky Radio' in the bottom left of the screen, and you can listen to full versions of:
  • Eye of the Tiger
  • Going the Distance
  • Gonna Fly Now
  • Living in America
  • Take You Back
It's a beautiful thing.

My favourite section of the site is the 'Favourites' link, where you can see a montage of Rocky's training and fight scenes.

Click here for the link to the soundtrack. It's £8.99 on Amazon. If you are happy with the MP3 download, HMV are offering the album for £7.99, and this version is extended with soundbites from Stallone. It's the perfect sound track for the gym. It will be mine!

Rocky Balboa

The 'hard-core' of the RMF watched Rocky Balboa over the weekend. Personally, I feel like I don't need to go to the cinema ever again. I am forever contented. The film left a strong emotional aftertaste that continues to linger.

For fans, watching the final instalment of the Rocky series is like experiencing history in the making. Men of my age grew up with Rocky, experiencing the highs and lows of the character through the years. Okay, so Rocky V may have been quite forgettable (although watching it again recently, I am impressed by how enjoyable it is), but even the most successful of franchises - including the Godfather masterpieces - tend to fizzle out and end on a low note, leaving the audience disappointed and wanting more. It's a trapping of success, and it's a trap the Rocky series fell into head first. Stallone could have just let it be, but he came back to finish the series properly, realising his debt to the character and repaying it with 'Rocky Balboa', the final instalment. For me, the Rocky story is like a modern day Greek myth; it's power lies in it's simplicity and honesty, and in the unmatchable sense of empowerment and self-belief it generates.

Non-fans will likely be bewildered by the flash backs, and by the references to earlier films in the series. Also, the lower budget is evident, giving the film a slight 'made-for-tv' feel - in my opinion this only adds to quality of the film, because it means the production can't lean on special effects etc. These factors help explain the diverse reviews in the general media. By the way my rating, is 9.5 out of 10. And my advice to all fans is to go watch it right away. To get the most out of it though, watch the first Rocky again, and maybe the second, to refresh your memory.
The final film has the best fight scene of the lot, and is packed with heart without ego, just like the first, Oscar-winning Rocky that was made some 30 thirty years ago. Thank you Stallone, thank you very much.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Wisdom from Guy Browning

Just read this great insight on blogging, by comedy writer Guy Browning:

Traditionally, people kept diaries of their innermost thoughts, safe in the knowledge that no one would ever publish them. Nowadays, millions of people publish their innermost thoughts as internet blogs, safe in the knowledge that no one will ever read them.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Happy times - Aussie is Open for all

The men's final of the Aussie Open will be broadcast on the Beeb on Sunday morning. I am super happy because even though I wasn't looking forward to the prospect of watching it over the internet (you can hardly see the ball) I was willing to do it. The match up is between Federer the maestro versus 'on-fire' Gonzalez and it should be a corker. Good times.

Heat-Ray gun

It burns, it burns!

Sci-fi has turned in to reality with the unveiling of a new heat-ray gun from the US military. This bad boy can be fired at a crowd of people (or animals, I guess) over 500 metres away, and will produce an intense burning sensation over their bodies, heating the target's skin to around 50 degrees. I bet the guy who invented it burned ants with a magnifying glass when he was a kid. Click here for the BBC news story.
PS - Don't ask me how it works; if pressed, I would say it is a combination of alien technology, vodoo, and mind control.

Federer versus Roddick

More sporting excellence, this time from the Aussie Open.

Federer destroyed Roddick in the semi-finals, three sets to love, with a performance parallelling what Ronnie O' Sullivan did in the Master's snooker final. Watching good players in the 'zone' is joy to watch, but watching the very best players when they are in the 'zone' is like witnessing something almost super human. Federer's spatial awareness in the game really astounded me - he played the ball fast and against the natural angle, to the wide open spaces, and often beyond Roddick's reach. Importantly, Federer's plays seemed natural, suggesting his speed and footwork is also spot on. We watch, learn and admire. Click here to see the highlights of the match (from the BBC).

The other guy blazing the trail in the tournament is Fernando Gonzalez, who has just caned Haas three sets to love and will meet Federer in the final on Sunday. Gonzalez beat Nadal and Blake earlier in the tournament and he is on fire, playing the best tennis of his life. Okay, Federer must still be the favourite but it won't be a walk over if Gonzalez maintains form. Bring it on.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The best snooker performance ever

I avoided the news on the tv and radio this morning so I could watch a recording of the Sunday's Masters snooker final, with the suspense of not knowing the result. And what a match it was. It was, without reservation, the best performance from an individual that I have ever witnessed.

Ronnie O'Sullivan started the match 2-0 down against an on-form Ding Junhui, who is just 19 years old and who scored a maximum (147 ) earlier in the tournament. At this point it looked like Ding had a good chance of taking the trophy, but it was not to be. The usually emotionally tormented O'Sullivan held his composure as he has done throughout the tournament, producing a performance the standard of which I have never seen, and most probably will never see again. His potting and positioning was of such a high quality that at times it seemed as if he was controlling the white ball with his mind alone.

It was sad to see the mental effect this decimation was having on Ding, who was playing well through the first half of the match. However, the combination of a highly partisan audience and Ronnie playing at an almost super-human level took its toll on Ding, who seemed on the verge of tears toward the end of the match. You could see the despair and hopelessness on his face. It was as if he crumbled once when he realised he was fighting against the impossible. He was but a victim to a perfect opponent. Fortunately, O'Sullivan was a modest and gracious champion, and he considerately consoled Ding in the break and at the end of the match. These provided some real touching moments.

The only reason I have titled this the best snooker 'performance' ever and not the best 'match' ever, is because it was so one-sided. This is no fault of Ding's, but to have been the best match of all time would have required a player to have challenged O'Sullivan from start to end. Still, what a masterclass. Thank you.

Make no mistake, Ding's time will come yet. Despite crumbling in the final, he has a mental maturity beyond his age, and his career is only just beginning. In the meanwhile, we can hopefully continue to enjoy Ronnie at his finest.

Clear here for a summary story from the BBC, along with links to highlights from the game and post a match interview with Ronnie.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Eat more, weigh less, and be healthier

I just came across a really interesting site that shows what 200 calories looks like on the plate. The shocker is just how much more healthy food you can eat if you replace it for unhealthy fatty food, that is usually super dense in calories. Take a look at the pictures on the site and be amazed.

This example shows 200 calories of peanut butter and 200 calories of carrots.

... and before you start, I have not gone mental and started counting my calories. No, no, what this all means is that if I choose the right foods, I can shovel even more into my gullet on any given day!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Lambs squash club to close

It has been brought to my attention that the game of squash is in decline.
This is a low down, dirty shame because squash is such an easy game to learn, it provides an excellent form of exercise, and it can be a real joy to watch (what's with the lack of decent tv coverage?). Whether this national popularity problem will be rectified is open to question, but I am optimistic. I am also happy to report that the sport is thriving in RM world.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Squash 3 of 3 - strategy

The 'Jecks' enjoy a game of squash at the weekend
Here I present some useful tips, scrounged from various squash web-sites:
From Wikipedia:
  • A key strategy in squash is known as "dominating the T" (the intersection of the red lines near the centre of the court where the player is in the best position to retrieve the opponent's next shot). Skilled players will return a shot, and then move back toward the 'T' before playing the next shot. From this position, the player can quickly access any part of the court to retrieve the opponent's next shot with a minimum of movement.
The Wikipedia page also notes: 'Squash provides an excellent cardiovascular workout. In one hour of squash, a player may expend approximately 700 to 1000 calories (3,000 to 4,000 kJ) which is significantly more than most other sports and over 70% more than either general tennis or racquetball.'

From Mike Way, Director of Coaching at Canada's National Squash Training Centre:

  • The vast majority of attacking shots are not outright winners – they are returned. You may have to hit, for example, five or more attacking shots‚ before you win a rally. Therefore... the mileage factor is a key component in most matches.
  • Good length shots to the back corners move your opponent well away from the T, help you to set up attacking shots, and buy you time and oxygen.
  • So how do we improve as from today? Start by hitting your basic length drives at 75 to 85% power. You will have to hit the ball higher on the front wall to maintain good length. The extra time which this gives will help you to reduce the rush factor. Only attack when the ball is 'on' – which means that you are in an attacking zone and that you are well balanced to play the shot with good control. Think mileage first. Assume that most of your shots will be returned, especially in the early games.
  • Establish a good length, play your attacking shots only when they really are 'on' and mix up your attacking shots to keep him/her guessing. Don't keep thinking winner and focus on mileage.
  • Be a good watcher. Learning to watch squash matches intelligently and with a critical eye – especially on court tactics – will help your understanding of the game. So the next time you are watching a match, study the way in which shots are played from the different zones and work out how the losing player might change his tactics to turn the game around. The more you do this the better you will become at analysing your own game – and the quicker you will improve.

This is more than enough to get started, but if you would like further tips check out these links:

... and finally:
I've put together this collection of pictures in memory of Jahangir Khan in his prime. Khan is arguably the best player of all time; he was undefeated for a five year streak in the early 80's, when he won 555 games consecutively! Oh mustachioed maestro, we are not worthy.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Squash 2 of 3 - videos

Here is a meaty selection of videos from the pro squash circuit. Observe how the beautiful footwork of these players gives them invaluable reach around the court.

Above is a Youtube video of a quality squash rally. Just click to play. Ah, there is nothing quite so satisfying as the sound of players on a squash court.

The videos below are downloaded/streamed and take around a minute to load up. Well worth watching.

See this video for a truly kick-ass point. Lastly, follow this link and click on the trailer for the Canary Wharf Classic for an amazing compilation of shots.

Squash 1 of 3 - some technical information

A handful of rules from World Squash

- A match is the best of five games. Each game is to nine points, unless the score reaches eight-all. At eight-all the receiver (non-server) has to choose to play either to nine points (known as "Set One") or to ten points (known as "Set Two"). (There is no requirement that a player needs to be two points ahead to win a game).

- When it is his or her turn to play the ball, a player is entitled to freedom from interference by the opponent. The striker has four basic rights, and interference has occurred if the opponent fails to provide him with any of these, even if he has made every effort to do so:

Unobstructed direct access to the ball after completion of a reasonable follow-through.

A fair view of the ball on its rebound from the front wall.

Freedom to hit the ball with a reasonable swing.

Freedom to play the ball directly to the front wall.

The player is entitled to a let if he or she could have returned the ball and the opponent has made every effort to avoid the interference.

Could the obstructed player have reached the ball and made a good return? And was he making every effort to do so ? If either answer is 'no', then it's 'no let'.

Did the obstructing player make every effort avoid the interference? If he didn't, then it's a stroke.

...and my favourite squash rule: If a player vomits on court, the opponent wins the match.

Squash balls

Double yellow dot - Unbelievably slow, World Championship level

Yellow dot - Super slow

White dot or green dot - Slow

Red dot - Medium

Blue dot - Fast

Num nuts

Earlier today, I was hitting the keys on my laptop keyboard and I suddenly started getting numbers instead of letters. I spent about half an hour trying to figure out if my keyboard was broken, before I realised I had accidentally pressed the 'Num Lock' key.

Sunday, January 07, 2007


When I weighed myself about six months ago I came in at 10 1/2 stone, which seemed about right - this has been my average weight in recent recent years, with a fluctuation of maybe 1/3 of a stone in either direction. Imagine my surprise then, when I plonked myself on the scales today and got a reading of 11 1/2 stone. My first thought was to blame the tools. Alas, after I checked the scale's setting and put the scales on a harder surface for a more accurate measure, I still got a reading of exactly 11 1/2 stone.

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised at this breach. After all, I have been eating a plate of gajar halwa (a sweet carrot desert) as I've been writing this entry. Is this the beginning a middle-age spread? Perhaps, but I'm not going to worry a jot until I reach closer to 13 stone, which would be unhealthy.

Click here for a recipe from a fellow blogger.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Money saving tip

As a trader of the financial markets, I have observed crude oil prices taking a tumble over the last couple of days. If history is any guide this will take around a week or so to translate to lower prices at the pumps, so if you are a tight fist like myself, you may find it prudent to hold off from filling up your tank over the next few days.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Wesley Autrey, real man

On Jan 2, Wesley Autrey (pictured) jumped on to a train track and faced an oncoming train to rescue a stranger who had fallen on to the line. Here is the short story from the New York Times.

It makes you think about what you would do in a similar scenario. For sure, these situations reveal the very core the individual. Autrey was revealed as a hero.