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Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Cinema Time: ‘Oblivion’ by Joseph Kosinski

We’ve just run home in the rain after a relatively late night showing of the new sci-fi flick ‘Oblivion.’ This was my partner’s choice – as a general rule, I’m not a huge fan of robots, aliens or anything remotely futuristic. Having read a couple of reviews, I wasn’t expecting to be blown away, but I was pleasantly surprised by Mr.Kosinski’s screenplay.

Set in a post-apocalyptic world, the story focuses on Jack Harper, a survivor who works as a numbered ‘Tech’ repairing the drones that protect Earth (or what’s left of it). Earth’s demise, in case you’re wondering, was brought about by an alien race who effectively cut the Moon in two. The tides naturally went a bit loco and general havoc ensued. The remaining humans (like Jack) are biding their time in these fantastically futuristic sky pods before they jet off to Titan, their new home. Jack’s memory of his former life has been erased, but his frequent flashbacks are making him wonder whether all is not as it seems…

On the whole I really, really liked ‘Oblivion.’ The plot, although fast-paced, was plausible enough in sci-fi terms for me to feel properly involved in what was going on. There were even a few moments of hilarity chucked in for good measure! I let out a sputter of laughter (or was it disbelief?) when the camera pans out to reveal Tom Cruise running on a giant, futuristic hamster wheel. Someone in the audience chuckled rather loudly when a bespectacled Morgan Freeman appeared on the scene, so I don’t think my surprise outburst spoilt the movie for anyone.

I loved the contrasting landscape shots – lush, green forests and gushing waterfalls standing side by side with barren deserts and desiccated cities. The futuristic things, such as the sky pods and Jack’s cute aeroplane / car hybrid, were equally impressive. In fact, the only criticism I have of the film is the poor choice in theme tune. The dramatic drum beat had a very 80s style which reminded me of that Phil Collins song from the Cadbury’s advert. Man in a monkey suit + serious film = definite mood killer.

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2013 in Miscellaneous

 

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Birthday Salutations to a Dad in a Distant Land…

Today, April 9th, is my Dad’s birthday. Both my parents are currently living abroad, so my sister and I haven’t really been able to send a gift this year. We did, however, get round to posting an amusing card with those googly eyed vegetable people on it (thank you, Moonpig!).

Recently when I was clearing out my old school things, I stumbled across a sort of essay entitled ‘My Hero.’ I presume this was an assignment set by my English teacher in my first or second year of school, but to be honest I can’t really remember.

At the tender age of 12 or 13, you’d think my list of heroes would be pretty much limited to Britney Spears at the height of her ‘Baby One More Time’ fame. Perhaps Giles from ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ at a stretch. Unlike most teenage dirtbags, however, it appears that one of the people I most admired was my Dad. I thought it might be nice to post an extract from this mini-essay, written by mini-me, as a tribute to him on his birthday.

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“During my early childhood, my family and I lived comfortably in a spacious apartment in Abu Dhabi. My father frequently worked abroad during our life there, and so his returns from distant shores seemed to me as times of celebration, as if he was a glorious victor of some unknown battle with important matters that were beneath me. His absence always seemed like a month even if he was only away for a week, as his character brought so much life to the family that when he was gone, it seemed like there was an empty space not only at the dinner table, but in the family.

Being the only male in my family (not of course counting the dog), I found him somewhat of a curiosity, and the ruler / protector of the rest of us. My father was someone I respected yet feared at the same time, a distant, powerful figure whose every words were wise and unique. As a child I had great respect for him, though being a mischievous youngster I didn’t always show it.

When in a bad mood, my father turned from warm and outgoing into a terrible, introverted creature who was prone to negativity when speaking. In contrast, when feeling happy my father became the entertainer of the family, and sudden outbursts of witty humour were not uncommon.

My father has always been somewhat tight when it comes to spending money, and this trait I distinctly remember in him as a child. He meticulously kept track of his money and where it was going, although when it came to horse racing he was willing to bet like any other avid fan. I regarded his precise way of handling money as a gift he had.”

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2013 in Miscellaneous

 

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A is for All The Small Things…

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the larger issues in life. From the moment we leave school or university, we’re bombarded by stories of how important it is to ‘get on the property ladder’ or ‘pursue a high earning career.’ We’re so hard-wired into thinking about the future that we often overlook the smaller things that are making us happy right now.

The official start of British Summertime happened about a week ago now, but yesterday was the first properly warm and sunny day of the year. Playing in the garden with Merlin, our border collie, I never once tried to calculate how many years it’s going to take to save up for a house deposit, or where exactly my career is heading. All the larger, seemingly ‘important’ issues I had been worrying about just went out the window.

As anyone who knows me will testify, I’m very much a glass half-full kinda gal. I’m a positive thinker and optimistic to the point of naivety. As a natural planner, I tend to focus on events in the future rather than thinking about my present situation. However, the sheer, unadulterated pleasure I got out of playing with my dog in the garden really made me realise the importance of those ‘right now’ moments. There’s so many things I like about my life at the moment, but my mind too often pushes these to one side. I can easily waste a weekend planning for the future (or reminiscing about the past with rose-tinted goggles), rather than living in the present.

Obviously planning for the future has its merits. Having goals, particularly where money is concerned, is generally speaking a very good idea. What isn’t so good is refusing to splash out on the smaller things that make you happy on a daily, weekly or even monthly basis. The odd fancy restaurant meal isn’t going to put you out of pocket for long, nor is that really nice dress you’ve had your eye on. Sometimes to get a clearer picture of where you want to go in life you need to take a step back and appreciate what you’ve already got. That may sound like a huge dollop of processed nacho cheese, but it’s true I think. Whether I die tomorrow or in 80 years time, I don’t want people to be stuck for something to remember me by. A tombstone reading ‘she, uh, liked to eat a lot at weekends…’ isn’t the legacy I want to leave behind.

“Leap, don’t look, or you’ll never know” – Just Say Yes, The Cure

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Posted by on April 8, 2013 in Miscellaneous

 

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1Q84: A Tale of Two Moons

NO DOUBT ABOUT IT: there were two moons. One was the moon that had always been there, and the other was a far smaller, greenish moon, somewhat lopsided in shape, and much less bright. It looked like a poor, ugly, distantly related child that had been foisted on the family by unfortunate events and was welcomed by no-one. But it was undeniably here, neither a phantom nor an optical illusion, hanging in space like other heavenly bodies, a solid mass with a clear-cut outline. Not a plane, not a blimp, not an artificial satellite, not a papier-mâché moon that someone made for fun. It was without a doubt a chunk of rock, having quietly, stubbornly settled on a position in the night sky, like a punctuation mark placed only after long deliberation or a mole bestowed by destiny. – Haruki Murakami, 1Q84, Book 2, Chapter 20

I’ve been meaning to write about 1Q84 for some time now. First published in Japan in 2009 (back when I was still a teenage dirtbag), this epic three-parter by Haruki Murakami reached our shores sometime in October last year. As my best friend will tell you, I am notoriously bad at keeping up with current trends, so forgive me for jumping on the bandwagon just in the nick of time.

1Q84 is one of those rare reads that you know will stay with you for the rest of your life. In short, it’s the most imaginative piece of writing I’ve ever read. At its core, 1Q84 is a love story. So far, so stereotypical. Two characters, Tengo and Aomame, spent their school years in the same institution but only made contact once for the briefest of moments. Neither character can forget the other, and they spend the rest of their adult lives wondering what might have been.

For different reasons, Tengo and Aomame find themselves embroiled in a twisted tale involving a mysterious set of ‘Little People’ and a hippy commune in the country with a reputation for weirdness. One day, they both find themselves looking up at this second, lopsided moon that has miraculously appeared in the sky. It’s the stuff of pounding, love soaked dreams, the kind of moment that everyone who has ever been lonely has wanted to happen to them. In 1Q84, Tengo and Aomame are two people whose lives have been tightly bound together by the hands of fate. There is no doubt about this; they both know it, and the audience certainly know it. All we can do is watch and wait as they try to bring their lives to a congruent point.

Now I’m not normally a soppy person. Hand me a DVD of The Notebook and I’ll gladly burn it before you can say ‘I’m a bird.’ This book is not your average too-good-to-be-true rom com. To be together, these star-crossed lovers have to endure a helluva lot of aggro. Whether it’s being chased by creepy cult members or sought out by sinister ‘Little People’ who enjoy exploding dogs and crawling out of dead goats’ mouths, there’s always something to stop Tengo and Aomame in their tracks. In the topsy turvy world of 1Q84, nothing is impossible.

If you like your love stories dark with a pinch of surreality, this book will certainly quench your thirst. If, like me, you’re a recent graduate who’s already getting a bit tired of life, this book will be a breath of fresh air. If neither of the above applies, hopefully your curiosity will get the better of you and you’ll sneak a peek anyway. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

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Posted by on September 29, 2012 in Miscellaneous, Uncategorized

 

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Midnight In Paris and the Curious Appeal of the Nostalgia Shop.

I recently sat down to watch the Woody Allen film ‘Midnight In Paris.’ For those who haven’t seen it, the film follows a discontented Hollywood honcho and wannabe writer (Owen Wilson) who longs to break free from his American dream and settle down in the City of Love. As the clock strikes midnight, Wilson’s character is whisked off into the glittering ‘twenties, a time when Paris was populated by a wealth of famous ‘artistes’ who seemingly lived to party hard and dream in riddles.

World War II poster from Imperial War MuseumAside from being beautifully directed, with stunningly vivid shots of Parisian thoroughfares, the film got me thinking about the whole notion of nostalgia. In one particularly poignant scene, Wilson’s character tries to explain to his would-be lover that we all have such a deep fascination with the past because “[the present] is a little unsatisfying because life’s a little unsatisfying.”

It’s true that we always hanker after the past; we see a certain time period, whether it was within our lifetime or not, as a ‘Golden Age’ where life was simply much better than it is today. In reality, of course, this isn’t true. Yes, you may have been slimmer or less wrinkly when you were 18 years old, but would you really want to go back to that time? And as for transgressing through the ages; How many of us could honestly say we would be happy in a world without iPhones or, god forbid, the internet? Would you really want to live in the ‘fifties, with its widespread racism and slap-em-down approach to women? Thought not.

When things aren’t going our way, we like to reminisce about our past. The trouble is, we have a habit of donning rose-tinted time travel spectacles which conveniently blot out any negative aspects of what actually happened. Our brains are a bit like the BBFC, scrolling through the reels of movie footage that make up our memories and classifying them accordingly. “Think this is still a bit too raw for her, let’s not release this until 2025, when she’s a bit more mature.”

Of course, this safety mechanism is a great thing; if we all concentrated on the negative we wouldn’t be a very sunny bunch. Some people undeniably see things exactly as they are, with no shield to soften the blow of all that slightly depressing stuff we’d rather not remember. For that reason, I am ever thankful for my mind’s top-of-the-range memory muffler.

 
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Posted by on May 27, 2012 in Miscellaneous, Uncategorized

 

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Internal Debate of the Day: Teeth and the concept of ‘No pain, no gain.’

Q: Why are perfect, pearly white gnashers considered part and parcel of being an attractive individual?

Okay, so obviously I know WHY we love pristine teeth. Nobody likes a set of misshapen, greying tombstones that look like they’ve started to accumulate patches of algae. But why do we put ourselves through the torture of routinely having our teeth filed down, scraped out and pushed back just to boost our attractiveness by a tiny percentage?*

*NOTE: I don’t mean to offend anyone who’s had cosmetic dental work. I had hideously expensive invisible braces (cheers, M & D) for around a year, and they work wonders. I’m questioning my own motives here, too!

This internal debate, in case you’re wondering, was sparked by a recent trip to the dentist. After a relatively pain-free six months, I decided it was high time I pay a trip to the hygienist to get my regular dose of dental work. It started off okay, all ‘lie back in the chair and pop on these goggles for me, please’ and then there was the lovely sound of sharp metal against (apparently swollen) gums.

All this was, of course, achingly familiar. I’m not a hygienist ‘virgin’ by any standards. Yet somehow I always seem to forget that a session in the dentist’s chair is not dissimilar to half an hour of torture, with one big difference; we actually volunteer to have this done to us. We pay £40 for the privilege of having a stranger with a high class degree scrape off our slime and plaque (if only sins could be washed away with such ease). ‘You’re doing so well,’ the hygienist says apologetically while attempting to shove a furry piece of plastic in between a pair of particularly tight teeth.

I’m not sure I believe that we put up with this horrendous routine purely for ‘health reasons.’ The thing we really want is much more superficial than that. We eagerly await that elusive moment when the scraping has stopped, the garish pink liquid has been gargled and the polishing instruments are brought out like presents on Christmas Day.

We internally high five ourselves for having survived such a gruelling 30 minutes. We know that later, in the safety of our homes, when we pull a Shrek-like expression in front of the bathroom mirror we will see a set of pearly white gnashers glaring back at us and think ‘it was worth it.’ The remainder of the day will be spent furiously texting our friends, recounting the horror of the experience as though it were a top rated news story before treating ourselves to a Chai tea latte (because we totally deserve it, OBVS).

‘No pain, no gain’ is the message we have drilled into us by a bunch of celebrity magazines and boutique beauty shops. ‘Get your eyebrows waxed, OR ELSE.’ It’s like they’ve got a gun pointed at our heads that shoots beams of ugliness instead of bullets. I’m not too proud to admit that I’ve fallen prey to this mantra a number of times myself.

Perhaps the real question is whether we should blindly obey this concept or throw it to the wayside. After all, certainly where teeth are concerned, aren’t wonky, funny shaped teeth that are just a bit off-colour a quintessential part of being British?

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2012 in Miscellaneous

 

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