Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Film: Shogun Assassin


It is exactly, exactly what you imagine a great samurai/ninja film from the 1980s to be. Surreal, great lines, great over the top action, and lots and lots of ninjas.

Intro speech by little boy:

"When I was little, my father was famous. He was the greatest Samurai in the empire, and he was the Shogun's decapitator. He cut off the heads of 131 lords for the Shogun. It was a bad time for the empire. The Shogun just stayed inside his castle and he never came out. People said his brain was infected by devils, and that he was rotting with evil. The Shogun said the people were not loyal. He said he had a lot of enemies, but he killed more people than that. It was a bad time. Everybody living in fear, but still we were happy. My father would come home to mother, and when he had seen her, he would forget about the killings. He wasn't scared of the Shogun, but the Shogun was scared of him. Maybe that was the problem. At night, mother would sing for us, while father would go into his temple and pray for peace. He'd pray for things to get better. Then, one night the Shogun sent his ninja spies to our house. They were supposed to kill my father, but they didn't. That was the night everything changed, forever. That was when my father left his samurai life and became a demon. He became an assassin who walks the road of vengeance. And he took me with him. I don't remember most of this myself. I only remember the Shogun's ninja hunting us wherever we go. And the bodies falling. And the blood."

Quote from the evil Master of Death: "When cut across the neck, a sound like wailing winter winds is heard, they say. I'd always hoped to cut someone like that someday, to hear that sound. But to have it happen to my own neck is ridiculous."

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Mrs Tiggywinkle makes an appearance

This is the first hedgehog I’ve seen in a while. It was scuttling around in the garden this morning, collecting plant shrapnel for its nest. Stealthily making my approach, I was able to steal a couple of snaps.

IMGP3124-vert (Custom)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Oldboy remake

Why? This sick, puzzling, twisted film is amazing as is, and it is relatively recent (2003). The only reason I can think of is that people don't like subtitles. Bah.

I wonder, will the main actor do so far as his Korean equivalent and eat a live Octopus?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Ninjas are making a comeback

It's all about the ninjas these days. Having learned of a modern day ninja hero on patrol in Yeovil, I thought I would do search for similar occurrences. Here's are my findings:

Good ninja: Protecting Tunbridge Wells (Kent) earlier this year.
Good ninjas: In Australia, five ninja warriors from a ninja training school jump in to protect a mugging victim.
Bad ninja: Attacking famers in Italy in 2007.

The latest DVD from my DVD club is 'Ninja Assassin', which could be as bad as it looks. Should be fun though:

The synopsis is most cool:

"Lone Wolf, a shogun master, turns against lone wolf, his faithful head-cutting samurai servant. Vengeance forces into battle against the shogun, the shogun's son, and a host of shogun Ninja warriors."

Kindle envy

Oh no. I'm enjoying a long weekend back at the old homestead with my sister and brother-in-law, and my brother-in-law has brought with him a shiny new Kindle, which is way better than I had expected. I want one. Not right now perhaps, as I have a few books to work through and a bunch of exams to start studying for, but soon. The little thing is just amazing. The clincher for me is the ability to read pdfs, wikipedia, and to download web-site articles to a kindle format to be read on the move. I already have a few hundred 'read later' articles on instapaper, so this would be a real boon. Also, one of the reasons most of these articles have been marked as 'read later' is because I spend so much time at work staring at a back-lit screen that I struggle to take pleasure in reading long articles on my laptop for pleasure. However, the Kindle is a kind of bridge between paper and technology, enabling the reader to read their on-line articles in a semi off-line medium. Most excellent.

There is talk of an Amazon Tablet coming out next year. I have no interest in this product, but if it exerts a bit of downward pressure on the Kindle, that's all to the good.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Film: I'm a Cyborg But That's OK

I'm a Cyborg But That's OK is an unlikley quirky film from the maker of Oldboy (still the best Korean film I have seen). It isn't brilliant, but it is breezy fun ... set in an asylum.


A good bit of Korean yodelling, as you do:

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Film: Being John Malkovich

Being John Malkovich is a brilliant film, written by the same twisted mind who gave us the even brillianter Synecdoche.

As soon as the main character steps onto the 7 1/2th floor, you know what you are in for, and by then you will know whether this is your cup of tea.

After watching BJM I searched out more films by Charlie Kauffman (the twisted mind mentioned earlier), but alas his output is not so prolific. He did give us the great Adaptations a while back, but there's slim pickings beyond these three films.

We (I) want more.

**** 1/2

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Film: Planet of the Apes

Planet of the Apes is quite a bit better than it should have been. And you get a lot a different apes for your money, which is always nice.


Saturday, August 20, 2011

More Body Shop offers

Just ordered £50 of Body Shop products for £15 including postage (this time, postage was free). I think that's enough now:

item qty. unit price total
Hemp Hand Protector
2 £10.00 £0.00 £0.00
Hemp Hand Protector
1 £10.00 £0.00 £0.00
Hemp Foot Protector
2 £10.00 £20.00
delivery method
Standard Delivery - -
sub total:
Total :

Body Shop glitch - serious money savings

What am I doing at half past midnight ordering bath products from Body Shop? Snagging bargains is what. If the order below goes through I will have sneakily combined a buy 3 get 2 free deal with a buy 2 get 1 free deal to get 5 products for the price of 2. I will also have applied a discount code for 30% off, and then, yes there's more, behind the scenes I will score a further 24% discount for buying through Quidco.

Coconut Bath Shower Gel/Cream (67874) 1 GBP0.00 GBP0.00
Hemp Moisturising Wash (85089) 1 GBP0.00 GBP0.00
Vanilla Bath & Shower Gel (12304) 1 GBP0.00 GBP0.00
Hemp Body Mitt (67896) 2 GBP7.00 GBP14.00
Sub Total:


Shipping Method

Shipping Cost:

Order total:


Friday, August 19, 2011

Love film - my list

I now have some 80 films on my DVD club list. Above are the top priority choices. Beyond the Hollywood actioner Unknown, the rest are a real mixed bag. We have a documentary, two animations, some foreign films, two ninja films from the eighties, a few classics and some indies. It's kind of representative of the rest of the list; wide-reaching indeed, although not a rom-com in sight.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Film: Son of Rambow

(Not the actual movie poster)

Son of Rambow is a cracking film again pulls on the romanticised notions of childhood. After all, who didn't watch Rambo First Blood when they were still not even in their teens, and then went on to spend many an hour pretending to be Rambo. I did (and I still sometimes do, but not really, but really, I do).


Ammendment - I have been advised that Son of Rambow is deserving of a further half star due the presence of ninjas. I concur.

**** 1/2

Don Quixote - the final reading

A few days ago I finished reading Don Quixote for the nth and last time. It was a joy and a sadness, knowing that I will never read this book again from cover to cover. The life lessons contained within are manyfold, the adventures great and the story telling beautiful.

I'm a hero (again)

Blast, I don't think the embed worked. If you want to be a hero, upload your photo to this Swedish web-site. Very cool.

Film: Spirited Away

Spirited Away is a first-rate supernatural fantasy that pulls you along on a magical helter skelter ride. Everything about this picture is great. The story. The array of chracters. The beautiful hand-drawn animation (a refreshing change from all the emotion-less CGI that we are bombarded with these days).

The best animations from the US often succeed because they work on an adult level and a child level (e.g. Simpsons). Spirited Away, in contrast, succeeded because it works on one-level and because it managed to completely take me to that level.


Monday, August 15, 2011

Multi headed sunflower

These sunflower heads are all coming off a single stalk. Freaky.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Why ninjas are so cool

Falling global bond yields

10 year yields in the developed world have fallen like a stone of late. At face value, locking your money for 10 years doesn't have much of an attraction yield all that much these days:

US nominal 10 year yield: 2.25%
US inflation linked TIPS yield: -0.03% (yes, after inflation you earn a negative return). Why have prices on these bonds been pushed so high as to create a negative yield for the first time in US history? I imagine it is to do with the value of insurance against possible high inflation, with deflation on the radar but not to the same degree.
UK 10 year yield: 2.53%.
Japan: 1.05%.

Why are folk still buying these bonds and accepting such meager returns?

Perhaps it is because there may be no other suitable alternative. On the one hand, if the bond bubble bursts then it could be very painful for bondholders indeed. However, if you hold bonds to maturity then interim price action becomes irrelevant as you know what you are going to get at the end.

Also, if you are managing billions of dollar and you want to keep a fair portion in cash, would you rather put it in a bank deposit account which is only guaranteed by the government upto a limited amount (via deposit insurance), or would you rather side with the goverment in full. Indeed, despite all the soverign credit downgrade talk of late, lower yields suggests very strong confidence in the US as a trusty creditor i.e. quite the opposite of what the fear mongering media would have you believe.

Just a few random thoughts going into the weekend.

Expendables 2

I have just taken a look at the expected cast and as well as the originals it looks like we can add Jean Claude Van Damme, John Travolta and Chuck Norris.

Film: Exit Through the Gift Shop

I thought this was a film about Banksy. Instead it is more a film by Banksy about street art and moreso about the crazy guy who was supposedly documenting the whole street art movement. It is gripping and astounding throughout, and if it is indeed truthful then the joke is on us all (you will know what I mean when you watch it). If it is an elaborate hoax, the joke is still on us. I guess that makes Banksy very clever indeed.


Friday, August 12, 2011

Recipe: Smoked Mackeral Hash

I had some left-over smoked mackeral in the fridge which I needed to put to good use this evening. What I did was to make a kind of smoked mackeral hash:

- Boil up a few chopped potatoes so they can be mashed. Remove from pan.
- Add some oil and fry the flaked fish along with a chopped red onion, for 3 or 4 minutes on a medium heat. Add some pepper, maybe some smoked paprika, and some herbs and stir in.
- Throw the potatoes back in to the pot, along with a quick pouring of milk (accurate measure, eh) and roughly mash and stir.
- Crack an egg in the middle and stir around for a couple of minutes so it scrambles up.
- Pour the whole thing out on to a plate, top with grated cheddar and serve (I added some sriacha sauce, but it isn't necessary).

This take on the smoked mack fish cake tastes darn good (the strong fish tate is diluted by the milk and tatties), is a one pot deal, and is pretty healthy. Will be making again.

Fleetwood Mac

It may be a simple functioning of aging, but I'm loving Fleetwood Mac right now.

Film: Drive Angry

Drive Angry is just what I wanted: a thoughtless but watchable piece of popcorn trash. Yes, having watched a bunch of foreign films of late, what what I needed to restore the balance was a man who has escaped hell to seek vengeance on a cult leader, all the while being hunted down by Death, who dresses super sharp and goes by the name of The Accountant.

Go figure.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Italian Bedford

I wasn't sure if I was making up a tall story but as we were walking around a nice forest park in Marston Vale, I mentioned that Bedford was a bit of a little Italy due its high concentration of Italian immigrants.

After a spot of research, I see this is indeed the case. What is more, a great many of the immigrants came to work at the Marston brickworks, which is now home to a lake in the Marston Vale park. I'll have to see if there are any authentic Italian restaurants in the area on our next visit.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Fun facts about the UK riots

- Sales of baseball bats and batons have shot up more than 5,000 percent in the last 24 hours on Amazon's British website, as London suffered its worst violent unrest in decades. (Source)

- NME reports that Kaiser Chiefs (I Predict A Riot) singer Ricky Wilson posted on twitter: 'Camden Chalk Farm. Me and [bassist] Simon [Rix] will there in a bit with our brooms..."

- From The Economist: 'The most intriguing explanation for misbehaviour so far was offered to Mark Stone, a Sky News reporter, who recorded looting in Clapham Junction on his phone. "Are you proud of what you're doing?" he asked one young woman who was stealing goods from a smashed-up store. "I’m just getting my taxes back," she replied.

- Tea is the answer to the world's ills.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Film: Still Walking

Still Walking is a very good foregin language family film - I mean to say not that it is a great film for families but that is a note-perfect film about familes.

The whole film takes place over a day and is based around the memory of the death of the favourite son. However, it requires a bit of patience as very little of note actually happens other than the gossip that takes place amongst the family.

There is something here for everyone to relate to.

*** 1/2

Sunday, August 07, 2011


Rocky is one of my favourite films and it was on tv again this evening. I've posted quite a few bits on the Rocky series previously, so this time around I'll offer some new facts (new to this blog, anyway):

* Rocky is one of the most profitable films ever, with an investment of just over $1m and receipts of over $£225m.
* Why does the ice-rink skate take place when it is closed? Because production couldn't afford all the extras to film it during normal operating hours.
* When Rocky sees the poster of himself wearing the wrong coloured shorts and points out the problem, the error was actually one made by the props department and it was worked into the script.
* The film was shot in a mere 28 days.
* Stallone's brother Frank rings the opening bell in the final fight.
* "When shooting his famous jog through the streets of Philadelphia, Stallone pulled a tendon in his leg and was taken to a nearby hospital in a wheelbarrow."
* "The monologue which Rocky delivers after turning down Mickey's offer to manage him was completely improvised on-set by Stallone. He has since explained that he was heavily influenced by the fact that the bathroom of the tiny apartment in which they were shooting really did stink."

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Film: Departures

Departures is an excellent foreign language film about a cellist turned undertaker. Some of the dialogue is beautiful, the theme is universal and the characters are a hundred percent believable.

I just wish Film4 showed their foreign films a bit earlier. This one finished after 1am!


Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Whilst ironing

hilst partaking in a rare hour long ironing session, for example, I was happily entertained by a great on-line radio broadcast on the english language and class by Stephen Fry, and the first of a rather interesting three part history of economics. I also stumbled onto a new batch of broadcasts by Tim Harford (the UK equivalent of Freakanomics), with will be on-line indefinitely. It is a great way to engage one's brain while keeping an eye on the creases.

B&B review - If you are staying in South Norfolk

We stayed in a little B&B called The Old Bakery on our recent short visit to Norfolk. I've just put up a review on TripAdvisor. Simply put: highly recommended, great value for money.

PS - There is a typo in review: we stayed in the Granary room, not the Old Bakery Room (not sure how to correct it in TripAdvisor).

Film: Lars & the Real Girl

Thanks for the recommendation sis, this one was really cool.

Lars & the Real Girl treads the delicate line between funny, sad and tragic very well. The movie is quirky without requiring head scratching, while at the same time asking deeper questions of acceptance, perception, mental states, and community spirit.

It isn't a perfect film by any means but it deserves high applaud for such out of the box thinking (pun intended!)


PS - This film has the second best wardrobe seen in celluloid this year (Black Dynamite takes 1st spot of course).

Monday, August 01, 2011

Pentax H90 ... it's alive !

I called the golf club this afternoon and to my delight the little light box was found on the course and handed in at reception. After taking the broader outlook and writing the camera off in my mind, it is a joy to know that it is safe and well.

Golfing folk are good gentlemenly (and gentlewomenly) folk.