Monday, July 30, 2012

Gilliam's Quixote is off for another year, at least

THR: I know there are many projects you’ve started and come back to, but none have been so publically started and stopped and restarted as your interpretation of Don Quixote. What is the latest on that project?

Gilliam: It’s off again now. Postponed until next year at least.

: (

A few more shots of Pebbles Magoo





Sunday, July 29, 2012

Pebbles Magoo



Saturday, July 28, 2012

Book: The "Week-End Book" says on Food and Drink

..."N.B. - Mice in Honey should be imported from China, not prepared at home."

Whattch talkin' 'bout Willis?

Olympic opening ceremony


The whole show was first rate. It managed to blend the cultural with the historical, the energentic and uplifting with the sombre and contemplative. The show was made particulalry memorable by including some really whacky, mental content (say, for example a Queen parachuting in to the stadium out of a helicopter, oh and with James Bond alomgside for company). And it all worked! Danny Boyle absolutely nailed the first theatrical piece, where the audience is provided with a synopsis of the ingredients that went into making Britain what it is today. A high bar has been set.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

"I'm just anti the capitalism of it all ... It feels like [we're] drowning in commercialism at the moment. It's depressing."


LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 21:  (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK TABLOID NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 48 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME. MANDATORY CREDIT PHOTO BY DAVE M. BENETT/GETTY IMAGES REQUIRED)  Damon Albarn of Blur performs during a dress rehearsal at the BRIT Awards 2012 held at O2 Arena on February 21, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Dave M. Benett/Getty Images)

"Here's Damon Albarn, sounding a little sad about Blur's involvement with the London Olympics: "I'm just anti the capitalism of it all ... It feels like [we're] drowning in commercialism at the moment. It's depressing." But! "I am into the table tennis so I would like to get some tickets for that. It would be an inspiration to see it at that level." Ping-pong heals all." - NYMag quoting Damon Albarn in the NME,

I like Blur and I particularly like Damon Albarn's artistic genius and breadth of talent. The bass player. He likes cheese. I like cheese. I also like Ping Pong. But I do not like Albarn's comments about capitalism and commercialism. His statement is just part of a once simmering but now boiling tide of resentment against something that too many people are mistakenly calling capitalism and commercialism when what they are rallying against is actually something else altogether. Why my hang up? Doesn't the meaning of words evolve over time? Yes it does, the 'great' becomes the 'amazing' becomes the 'awesome'. However, what's happening here is something different. Two terms that represent something that is fundamentally crucial to the fabric of our society are being tainted with misdirected negativity. I will try to enlighten in future posts.

For now, here is a quote from the LA Times:

"For acts such as reunited Brit-pop group Blur, the publicity surrounding an Olympics concert is a no-brainer. Few events — perhaps the Super Bowl halftime show — offer access to a worldwide audience, and on July 31 Blur will be releasing a limited, 18-CD boxed set, which should get more attention after the band headlines a Hyde Park concert on Aug. 12, the final day of the Olympics." 

Food: Kettner's Restaurant Review


Booked at the last minute and popped in with my sister for a late birthday meal. Everything was spot on:

- Decor: chic, not stuffy
- Service unsurpassable, from booking to table service, to leaving.
- Food: just fantastic, every course
- Great value, especially when you get 50% off with a Tastecard (came to £34 for two people with sparking water, two starters, two mains, buckets of bread with really nice butter, and a desert to share).
- Ambiance, very informal but still classy with a pianist tapping away as you enter, and with each room having a distint theme (this place even has a Pudding Room!)

I can't remember the last time I've eaten out and truly loved all 3 courses. Ignore the reviewers who lament the Kettner's of old and visit the restaurant for the new creation that it has become. I loved this place and already want to go back.

 "Originally a series of four Georgian town houses, Kettner’s was first opened as a restaurant by Auguste Kettner, (chef to Napoleon III) in 1867. Popular with deliciously colourful characters of the time including Oscar Wilde, Edward VII, Lillie Langtry, Agatha Christie and Bing Crosby, Kettner’s was renowned for hosting incredible parties"

London Southbank - Skateboarder dudes: 3 pics






Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Clouds no more


Finally the skies have run out of water. Today we hit 28 degrees in Windsor and there is not cloud in the sky, just a vast expanse of blue, sky blue, if you will. Just in time for the Olympics.

When we were in the midst of the gloom with the unrelenting rain lashing down I decided to come to terms with what we experiencing and draw comfort from the fact that it wasn't cold (just wet), that the rains served as a reminder of just how much the elements are uncontrollable in their variability, and that if you looked up into the sky there were some of the most amazing cloudscapes I have ever seen, with clouds strongly backlit with a bright sun (I took the above pic from my bedroom window as a memento of rainy days past.) - admittedly I was putting a (Pan)gloss over the whole affair, but sometimes you have no choice in the matter.

As an added bonus, it also gave the sharp tongued something to bitch about. Here's Charlie Brooker, sticking it to the UK weather system:

"Apologies for swearing in an opening sentence, but have you seen the shitbastard sky we've been having lately? In case you don't recognise it at first glance, it's that bruise-coloured ceiling of floating misery that has been remorselessly flinging cold water over everyone and everything in the nation for weeks now. There's moss growing on the inside of clouds up there. The British summer has long been a work of bleak fiction but this year it morphed into full-blown dystopian satire.


Oh, there are flashes of blue here and there, but they function much like the speedboat prize at the end of a vintage episode of Bullseye: nothing but a cruel reminder of what you could have won. So the weather turns nice for 25 minutes in the late afternoon. You put your sunglasses on and step outside. But by the time you reach the end of the street, the winds are howling, the heavens are weeping, and it's frosted piss city all round.


On and on it goes. It's got to the point where pulling back the curtains each morning feels like waking up in jail. No, worse: like waking up inside a monochrome Czechoslovakian cartoon about waking up in jail. The outdoor world is illuminated by a weak, grey, diseased form of light that has fatally exhausted itself crawling through the gloomy stratospheric miasma before perishing feebly on your retinas. Everything is a water feature. We're on the Planet of the Snails."

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A few shots around the garden




My gardening nemesis


These slimy tube alien beasts have no taste for weeds, just carefully nurtured vegetable seedlings, and they have truly been thriving in the damp conditions of late. Now, however, the weather has turned and they will hopefully return to whence they came. For the vegetables though, it will be a race against time to see if they bear anything worthy of the plate. I have my doubts. What a season it's been for the amateur grower: we've had so much rain, I feel I would have been better of trying to grow myself an acre of rice.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The resonant quote from Hugh Hendry re the economic mess in Europe

“We have reached a profound point in economic history where the truth is unpalatable to the political class – and that truth is that the scale and magnitude of the problem is larger than their ability to respond – and it terrifies them.”

Monday, July 16, 2012

Friday, July 13, 2012

A few lego pics










Thursday, July 12, 2012

Quick thought: evolution of the tablet computing device

Kick stands.
Fold out keyboards.
Keyboards a bit firmer so no kick-stand required.

End result: A laptop with a touchscreen.

Twitter

Who's in my Twitter feed:

- Brother in-law: travels far and wide and gives good rant
- Armando Iannucci: because he is a funny man (if you don't agree, I'll hazard a guess that you like Adam Sandler movies...look, I'm not judging, we're just different ... and I'm different in a slightly better way is all).
- Sylvester Stallone: because he is 65 years old and still kicking ass (if you don't like Stallone, I don't think you can be my friend).
- Alain de Botton: Because his tweets are of such a high standard it hurts (yes, actual physical pain)

Logging on to Twitter roughly once a week  provides good utility.

Side note: I have just checked my e-mail and Facebook have sent me another e-mail me to say "Welcome Back". How daft is their software that it can't even detect when somebody wants to become a Facebook Zombie? Basics Facebook, basics.




Facebook clunk

Facebook recently took it upon itself to start alerting me with e-mails on any goings ons that relates to my profile page. I deactivated this function a while ago but it has somehow come back to life. When I logged back in to site in order to cancel the e-mails, I was struck by how cluttered and old the site looked, and this is without advertisements (I use Ad-Blocker). It just didn't feel leading edge in any meaningful way. Perhaps the infrastructure has got too bulky for cool jiggery-pokery, or perhaps the loyal users don't want change (at the expense or new users). Or perhaps the focus is on the mobile platform, which I imagine is a lot slicker.
Once again, I am Facebook zombie - a term I have just coined to describe a member of the community who is for all intents and purposes completely dead. I see the value of the site but I also see the downside, one of which is that I am claustrophic in small spaces.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Blinky blink blink

It all started off inncocently enough. The simple question was whether Angela Merkel would blink. Will she, won't she, went the dance. I do wonder why grown men are asking such questions. I mean, have you ever tried to keep your eyes unflinchingly open for any prolonged period of time. It can't be done. And so yes, she did blink. She blinked hard. Of course, where Merkel goes, so the rest of Germany follows. Merkel was just patient zero. After her blink, the whole blinking country was blinking. And it didn't stop there, for blinking is no respecter of the national boundary. Like a knife through butter. The craze for blinking has travelled hard and fast. Above we see our Prime Minister has been at it just yesterday. And I read in the New Stateman that our Chancellor is also at it ("he has blinked first in this duel"). Osbourne's team of blink-deniers are deflecting the blink by pointing across the benches, with the Financial Times quoting his aides saying “We got we wanted...They blinked and we’ve now got our parliamentary inquiry.” Slow motion replays may be required.

A few pictures - Bray Nature Reserve (3 of 3)




Tuesday, July 10, 2012

An appreciation for depreciation

Using recent transacted prices on E-bay as yardstick for fair value, my laptop has depreciated at a rate of approximately £25 per annum since it was purchased back in Jan 2010.

Expendables 2 is R-rated!

Oh my, oh my. The powers that be have gone from rating this "12" all the way up to "R". I don't know how to say this, but this is kind ofa big deal.



Sunday, July 08, 2012

Wimbedon final - Murray delivers the goods

There are some players who appear to give everything they have irrespective of who they are up against. There are others who are boosted by worthy adversaries. Murray seems to firmly fall in the latter category. His opponent in the finals, a certain Mr Federer, was the ultimate adversary. When Murray played Tsonga in his previous game, he displayed occassions of strength and finesse but the quality of Murray's game at that point still wasn't quite enough to give Federer a good run for his money. Fortunately Murray upped his game for the final, rising to the occassion to deliver a highly memorable match. Losses are difficult to get over, with 'what-ifs' being asked for some time after the even, but this really was a match that our man can and should be proud of.

Every set in the match proved a pretty close cut affair. From the word go, Murrary started out blazing with a strong first serve and a surprisingly consistent aggressive return of Federer's first serve. Murray took the first set. But alas, this was not the Federer we knew. The second set was also going in Murray's favour until the last minute, when Federer pulled out a cheeky break of serve that no one was expecting, and walked away with the set. Murray started to falter for a little for a while thereafter. It wasn't a significant faltering, just a slight turning of the tide (listening to the commentators you would think that Murray was slumping, but it was far from the case - more a case of the commentary just chasing the winner). Then came the rain and the half hour delay while the roof was closed.

When Murray returned, his first serve was completely shot to pieces. Federer was getting stronger and moving faster. Next set to Federer.

2-1.

The first set was a consequence of Federer not being on top form, the second an evenly matched affair, and the third a product of Federer finding form while Murray stumbled a little.

The next and final set also went to Federer (3-1) but with only one break of serve. It was akin to the second set in that both players were on fire. Murray almost gave as good as he got in these sets. Just as important as his shots was his mental state; he displayed great fortitude when faced with perfection, a balletic tenis-racquet wielding nemesis with no weaknesses, no way in. His frustrations were visible, however they were not related to external factors but to his a dissatisfaction with his own performance, when he was falling just shy of what he was possibly of achieving and an awareness that when you are up against Federer, it only takes a few mistakes and it's all over.

If ever there was a right way to lose, it was displayed this evening by a player that so much of the British public seemed non-plussed about. The way I saw things from the outset, I only gave Murray a 5% chance of winning. The only real question was how the loss would come about and how it would be handled by Murray: It came about at the margins with Murray throwing everything he had available at Federer - every last breath - and it was handled with a level of maturity that I have rarely seen from Murray. With such a valiant performance, I hope Murray can come away from this with his head held high. Afterall, what is sport but a game and what else can you give other than your best performance (displaying your best skill and your best character).

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Murray: shows some strength against Tsonga

In yesterday's match against the likeable Jo Wilfred Tsonga, Andy Murray hit a critical juncture in the fourth set. Murrary was 2-1 up in sets and playing a consistently strong game with some blistering back-hand returns. However, Tsonga's game was also getting stronger and Murray found himself two break-points down in a game which could easily have pivoted the match to 2-2.

Murray saved the first break point with ease and then sent a strong serve to the corner which was called out by the line judge. Murray challenged what was clearly a bad call. He won the challenge but in this situation the point has to be played again. You can see Murray's annoyance in the screenshot below. It is at this point in previous matches that the Murray of old would start seem to crumble and start externalising the problem, instead of just accepting it and getting on with the job. This time around he did get down to business. You can see from the lower screenshot that Murray is showing a certain positive determination in face as he readies to replay a shot that by rights was a winner. This is a good sign for the final tomorrow against the great Federer.




A recent Freecycle offer in my area

"I have an opened box of All Bran with only one bowl taken out of it. Is there anyone who likes this cereal who could come and collect ... ?"

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Book: The Idler No 42: Smash the System

Idler No 42 is a good book. It is bound in a green fabric, which is very nice to the touch. It also has a pleasing, clean font and an imaginative layout.

Oh, and many of the essays are quite satisfying to read, even for a free-marketer who would prefer to mend the system rather than smash it. Paradoxically, No 42 preaches revolution whilst creating a sense of idle happiness and contentedness with life at the same time; an interesting mix. My favourite contibutors included Alain de Botton (why of course), Tom Hodgkinson (founder of The Idler), David Bramwell (wrote "No News is Good News"), Yahia Lababidi (wrote on silence) and Warren Draper (wrote on debt).

*** 1/2

Yahia Lababidi quotes poet Rainer Maria Rilke:

"Things aren't so tanglible and sayable as people would usually have us believe; most experiences are unsayable, they happen in a space that no word has every entered."

De Botton on Epicurus:

"There was no grand house. The food was simple, Epicrus drank water rather than wine, and was happy with a dinner of bread, vegetables and a palm full of olives.'Send me a pot of cheese, so that I may have a feast whenever I like', he asked a friend. Such were the tastes of man who had described pleasure as the purpose of life."

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Quick thoughts: Andy Murrary

- Andy Murray has come leaps and bounds in terms of his strength of character, even if he is coming from a low base and even if he is still light years away from displaying the fortitude and maturity of the likes of Nadal or Djokovic.

- Poor old Andy Murray is easy to dislike but I think we can learn more from his game than we can from the masters top three, simply because the lessons capture both what to do and what not to do.

- From the armchair, I am not looking for a Wimbledon victory. I am looking for him to display the height of chracter at what could be the height of his career to date.

- It isn't about the winning and it also isn't about the taking part. It's about giving it your best and being a man in the jaws of defeat. Like Katsumoto in the Last Samurai, sometimes all you can offer is a good fight and an honorable death.

Groupon update

Talked about this being a good short at $17.90. It's now at under $9. Given the speed of the move, I'd close out the position and move the gains to somewhere else beginning with G.

Reminder - I do not have this position on. If I did, it would have doubled.

A few pictures - Bray Nature Reserve (2 of 3)




Film: The Amazing Spiderman

The first half of the new spiderman is fantastic, the second half too long and very run-of-the-mill. Overall it is much better than the earlier Spiderman franchise, with quick talking, fidgety Andrew Garfield playing a great Peter Parker. The female lead, Emma Stone, also bears a striking resemblence to Margot Kidder (the lead in the original Superman films), so she's got my vote.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Quick thought: Libor - the perfect fix up

This is the icing on the cake, the perfect example of how the system never was the capitalist, free market institute that was purported. We were sold down the river, all of us. It was a rigged game from the outset, a system where the market was hijacked and twisted by the vested interests, vested interests that continue to benefit from the fall out and will continue to do so for years to come. Resources have been misallocated at an almost inconceivable level. It will run for years to come, nay for decades. The LIBOR scandal that is unfolding is a dark and yet almost beautifully perfect example of the forces of evil that landed us in this mess. While the dust hasn't yet settled, it does indeed look like a fraud took place, whether it be explicitly criminal, conducted through nods and winks or just the way the players in the market did their business. Why is the LIBOR story so important? If interest rates represent the price of money, then LIBOR is the very heart of the beast. It is price (interest rate) upon which hundreds of billions, possibly trillions of pounds of financial contracts are based. These range from complex derivatives to simple mortgages and savings rates. Simply put, the price was not what it should have been. It was not a fair price. The rate was fixed to suit the interests of the players, who were incentivised to twist it in their favour. And it was possible because the market was not transparent and there were insufficient players to ensure a true price. We must not think this is the result of unrestricted or unfettered capitalism. It is not. What it is is a consequence of the absence of forces that enable capitalism to work effectively. Conditions were created that allowed for a rigged game to be played at the expense of the public. The scandal succintly highlights how we can be taken for suckers if we choose to keep our eyes closed and blindly trust the system. There is no great architect. But there are dark corners were the free market cannot shine its light. We must either we find a better torch or tear down the strucure and start afresh. Without the light you can't see what's going on. And bad things hide in dark places.

Film: Gangster Squad

I'm a sucker for Great Depression era gangster flicks. Gangster Squad shows great promise even if it resembles a rehash of The Untouchables (second only to Godfather). However, with a stellar cast (Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Josh Brolin, Nick Nolte, Giovanni Ribisi and Sean Penn), it has potential to deliver the goods. This one is going to come down to script and story, me thinks. Hopefully it doesn't follow the likes of Public Enemies (Bale, Depp) and fast fade from memory.


Sunday, July 01, 2012

A few pictures - Bray Nature Reserve (1 of 3)

From Bray Nature Reserve:





Book: The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton

The short half-live of my memories is quite worrying. I often forget how old I am, where I have been on holiday, the names of friends and family, and now I am forgetting which books I have read - the realisation that I had already read The Art of Travel arrived only when I was some three quarters of the way through the book.

Anyway, it is a very good book indeed and still keeps it's four star rating. De Botton writes with such clarity that his words are always a joy to read. Also, unlike many other contemporary idea based books, De Botton can always be counted on to present a host of interrelated ideas, which both refresh and engage the readers' grey cells.

In The Art of Travel, the works and lives of the likes of John Ruskin, Wordsworth, van Humboldt, Van Gough and Xavier de Maistre and brought fourth to help us open our eyes to the world around us, be it a far away place to be travelled to or his own immediate surroundings. I particularly liked how John Ruskin used art as a means to appreciate nature:

"I believe that the sight is more important that the sight is a more important thing than the drawing; and I would rather teach drawing that my pupils may love to learn nature, than teach the looking at nature that they may learn to draw." - Ruskin

"We can see beauty well enough just by opening our eyes, but how long this beauty survives in memory depends on how intentionally we have apprehended it." - Alain De Botton

****

Twitter

So I logged on to Twitter after many months. It recommends that I follow the tweets of Jeremy Piven, Danny De Vito, and Steve Martin. I do not intend to follow this advice.

Open for business