Sunday, February 24, 2008

Who is John J Rambo?

Getting to the Heart of Rambo

'Y'know what you are, what you're made of. War is in your blood. When you're pushed, killing's as easy as breathing.'
- Rambo, John. J.

The new Rambo film delivers where it counts. Stallone continues to perform and the action scenes are explosive and uber-realistic. Hell, I'll make no bones about it, the action scenes are the best I can remember both in terms of quality and quantity - there are a total of 236 deaths, averaging out at 2.59 kills per minute! The Burmese army were also well played and I loved the evil, local military leader who spoke few words but said it all with his 'not a care in the world' facial expression, as he cruelly ordered the massacre of innocent villagers. For this guy, killing had become an almost mundane routine. The problem lie with the Christian charity workers (although the female lead was passable) and the cartoon mercenaries. Not only were both groups overly caricatured but the actors themselves seemed pretty bad. This contrasts with the first Rambo ('Rambo: First Blood'), where the local town sheriff was played by Brian Dennehy and one of his deputies was played by David Caruso. Both played their parts well and went on to much success. I can't see the same happening with the actors in the new Rambo. It's okay though, because the film still holds together to mark a massive turnaround in the franchise.

I've collected some important clips to help us understand John. J. Rambo:

The first clip shows the last 10 minutes of the Rambo: First Blood (1982). Listen to the dialogue from from 4 minutes in. Having seen this film many times, I have come to realise that society created the Rambo monster and dealt with it in the worst possible. They abandoned him.

If only the army had supported him, if only society had been more understanding, if some of his army friends had survived. If only. It all kicked off with the local sheriff, who is a hard head, but Rambo was a powder keg waiting to explode. It was inevitable.

The clip below shows the original ending for Rambo: First Blood, in which Rambo commits suicide. It's crucial knowledge, because even though the film didn't end with Rambo's death, it shows how desperately alone the character feels.

This is the flash back scene in the new Rambo film. Notice that at the end of this scene, Stallone wisely chose to include the suicide clip. Blink and you'll miss it, but it is there, perhaps illustrating to Rambo fans that Stallone also understands the character's pain.


From the latest Rambo film:

Sarah: You know you never told us your name.

John Rambo: John.

Sarah: Lived here a long time?

John Rambo: Long time.

He's not wrong. Rambo: First Blood was released in 1982, Rambo II in 1985, Rambo III in 1988, and the new Rambo some twenty years later in 2008. In the intervening twenty years, it appears that John Rambo seems to better understand who he is, what he has become. He has found a corner of the world where he can 'exist' without too much outside interference. However, Rambo remains permanently scarred and he is still alone, a troubled individual. He has no time for small talk, for show, for ego, and he knows hell better than anyone.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Tough Guy challenge

This is beautiful, in a highly sadistic kind of way. It's a super hard core race called the 'Tough Guy', an event where the modern man reconnects with his inner, real man. There are no showers at the end and no prize for the winner. Making it through in one piece is victory enough:

This year, only 3,000 (out of 5000) managed to finish the course. The 1997 race saw seven people break their legs, and in 2001, 700 people developed hypothermia. This is why participants were encouraged to take out personal insurance and sign health-risk waivers.
From the man behind it all:
"Through Tough Guy, I'm saying wait a bit, society's gone a bit wrong," Wilson says. "Look boys, here's your chance to be taken to the absolute limits of your endurance. I push them to near death: you step over on to the other side. You go into a state of near hypothermia, and you open your mind to new revelations, like an artist's vision, or pop stars when they're on drugs. Open up the doors in your mind. You see a better world, away from the materialism that's gnawing away at us all. You think of guys who fought in the war, and now in Afghanistan. You have to give kids today a sense of that. This is my way of thinking."
Further proof of the RM rebellion.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Cooking with extra virgin olive oil ...

... is a waste of money.

As part of my health insurance I can e-mail a nutritionist with questions about food. I recently asked about the value of cooking with extra virgin olive oil and whether olive oil's special properties break down when heated in a frying pan. Here is the response:

The fat soure of extra virgin and normal olive oil is the same. The exta virgin olive oil is just the the first pressing of the olive fruit through the cold pressing process. There is therefore a distinct taste difference (and price difference). Generally extra virgin oils are used for dressings and drizzeling over food, whereas the normal olive oil is used for cooking. Research has also shown that heated olive oil retains most of its nutrients when used for cooking.
Just stick to normal olive oil for cooking (or another healthy oil). It's much cheaper and just as beneficial.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Revenge of the fatties

'I don't like being outdoors Smithers, for one thing, there's too many fat children'.
- Montgomery Burns (The Simpsons)
Bad times. I had a quick fitness assessment today at my local gym. My BMI is above normal, as is my blood pressure. I held on to the strange gadget pictured above to get a reading on my body fat, and guess what? At 22%, that too, is above normal. 22% is borderline acceptable but healthy men should be looking for a reading of around 15%.

I've been going to the gym regularly for the past two months so this is a bit of a surprise, but I think I know where the problem lies. All that exercise makes a brother hungry, and after dinner each night, I have generally been consuming 2-3 pieces of fruit, a large glass of milk, a mug of tea, a peanut butter toast, another serving of dinner at around 9pm (half the size of the first dinner), and finally a loaded bowl of cereal before I retire for the night. I also sneak in the occasional biscuit or two, or a few squares of chocolate...cheeky, cheeky. All in all, its simply way too many calories for one person.

On the upside, I feel healthy because I'm generally eating healthy food (just too much of it) and it gives me something to work on in the months ahead.

Now give me ten press ups!

Monday, February 18, 2008


Three old guys are out walking.
First one says, "Windy, isn't it?"
Second one says, "No, it's Thursday!"
Third one says, "So am I. Let's go get a beer."

Blue Blood - Oxford vs Cambridge Varsity Boxing Match

BBC 2 has just aired a great documentary called Blue Blood as part of the 'Storyville' season. The film follows a group of Oxford University students who join the boxing club with the aim of becoming 'Oxford Blues' and fighting against Cambridge. This is a fascinating, uplifting story about a diverse group of intellectuals who take up the boxing mits for the first time in their lives. It is filmed in a pitch perfect, light hearted tone by the director and is well worth catching (it will be on the BBC iplayer for the rest of the week).

An economist on travel

Economist blogger Tyler Cowan talks travel:

My main (travel) tip is simply: "Go, go go!" Go. People have a status quo bias when they make decisions and they don't take enough chances. My colleague and co-blogger Alex Tabarrok makes an interesting point. If you knew your life were much shorter you would travel to those places you always wanted to see. If you knew your life were to be much longer you would have more time to travel; again you would travel more. So, are you trying to tell me that your expected lifespan is just at that length where you shouldn't travel more? I don't buy it.
He makes a good point.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Shortcut for opening new mail in Gmail

I'm a big fan of Gmail. Okay, I still use Hotmail for legacy reasons, but I'm pretty sure I'll be hearing nothing but the sound of the tumbling, tumble weeds from these accounts before the year is through.

One annoyance with Gmail is that if you want to open an e-mail in a new window you first have to open it in the main gmail view, and then click on the 'New Window' button. If you have lots of e-mails to view in one sitting, this is a royal pain.

I've discovered two workarounds:

- Scroll down and click on 'basic html'. In this view, you can right click the mouse on the title of an e-mail and choose to open it in either a new tab or window. Clicking the scroll wheel on the mouse should serve the same function. The basic html view is a bit ugly.

- Simply pressing the 'Shift' key and clicking on the chosen e-mail will open it up in a new window. Why this simple shortcut seems to have been kept secret, I'll never know.

Friday, February 15, 2008

There Will Be Blood: I have abandoned my boy

Warning: Contains spoilers. Only watch this if you have seen the film already.


There Will Be Blood: the last scene

Warning: Contains spoilers. Only watch this if you have seen the film already.

Plainview: Those areas have been drilled.
Eli Sunday: What?
Plainview: Those areas have been drilled.
Eli Sunday: they haven't...
Plainview: It's called drainage. I own everything around it... so I get everything underneath it.
Eli Sunday: But there are no derricks there. This is the Bandy tract. Do you understand?
Plainview: Do you? I drink your water, Eli. I drink it up. Everyday. I drink the blood of lamb from Bandy's tract.

Plainview: Drainage! Drainage, Eli, you boy. Drained dry. I'm so sorry. Here, if you have a milkshake, and I have a milkshake, and I have a straw. There it is, that's a straw, you see? You watching?. And my straw reaches acroooooooss the room, and starts to drink your milkshake... I... drink... your... milkshake! I drink it up!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

New site design

Apologies for the lack of updates over the past month. I've been preoccupied with other, less interesting matters of lesser importance, don't you know.

I did find the time to initiate some envy-driven simplifications to the site layout after seeing wonderfully clean 'The Sartoliarist' blog (hat tip to Chuckeroon for the pointer). Less is more. Well, it isn't really. Less is less, but sometimes less is better. One new addition to the site is my video page, which serves as a easy-access repository for all my clips.

ps - the rest of the Hajj updates will be written up off-line and submitted together.