Friday, 5 October 2012

nihon grand prix

Japanese grand prix this weekend.

Unfortunately, this is the second big victim of the BBC's deal.  The Japanese Grand Prix is usually quite a good one, particularly when it's held at the Suzuka circuit as it has been the last few years.

It's not quite a big a victim this time, since the practice sessions, qualifying and the race are all being broadcast on 5Live / 5Live extra.  Some of the ones where they've done highlights they've not kept to this promise they made pre-season (notably Canada).  And certainly I don't think there are any other big sporting events on to 'get in the way'.

However, there will be an annoying challenge, in that because it's in Japan the events are held very early in the morning (our time).  Now sports reporters on the news are particularly chronic when it comes to F1 - football they'll do stuff like say "if you don't want to know the result turn over" or at the very least there's a bit of a pre-amble for you to change over.  With F1 they'll launch straight in with "Lewis Hamilton has won the British Grand Prix..."

And online is no better - the headline will be "Lewis Hamilton wins in Britain" and you'll obviously see it instantly without even trying.  It becomes a nightmare of trying to avoid hearing the news, which is very difficult when you actually have to do it - my alarm clock is a radio alarm and news at the weekend can be rather oddly distributed instead of being on the hour.

I'm still pretty much sticking with Alonso for the title.  I think the others will squabble too much over points and while the Ferrari seems to have dropped back somewhat in terms of pace, Alonso is still picking up healthy points at each race.  The reliability of the Ferrari has been extraordinary when you think about it - they've had very few retirements between both drivers, particularly when it counts on race day.

It will be quite the busy weekend, actually, as there's the race, but also my landlord is on holiday (again!) and I've got a bit of a mission to have a sort out with my boxes out in the shed.  It's just the right time of year to do it (so long as the rain holds off) since the temperature is generally about right for lots of box lifting and shifting.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

pay hooray

The pay issue has been sorted.

You may recall that my car/travel allowance was forgotten about for my first pay, but my second pay has it in there and makes up the missing amount too, so it's all resolved now.

Not that this has stopped me from spending the money like it was going out of fashion.

To be fair I had put a lot of things on hold because I was cash strapped, and with the change it's not exactly un-natural to then want to buy that stuff.  Still, if I was sensible I'd have waited a little while - after all, when you've held fast on buying a new electric toothbrush for 6 months already, a few extra weeks isn't going to make a huge difference.

I guess it didn't help that my holiday was at the end of the month so when I got paid I was there with a bit of time on my hands and a very picturesque little Devon village to wandering around and one thing led to another...  That sounds like the description for something else entirely.

On the up-side I've bought almost all that I was holding fire on (I had a notion of getting Double Edge Safety Razor and seeing if I could get a better shave - I talked about it before) so the next couple of months I shouldn't need to do any sort of a big spending splurge.  I mean, it's not like it's a couple of months until Christmas or anything...  :/

I seem to have needed up with a huge amount of unwatched TV.  While I was on holiday I didn't watch hardly any TV (the place I usually stay has awful reception) but also the week before I went I spent quite a few of my evenings doing preparatory stuff so I've virtually got two entire weeks of TV unwatched.

It's actually the second time ever that my PVR's hard-drive has shown as going over the half-way point (I have about 45% free).  I mean, I'm obviously not at the stage of having to delete stuff to make space, but with Grand Prix's both this and next weekend it's going to be a struggle to find the time to watch it all.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

super 8

I don't think it's any secret that super 8 is a bit of a homage to Spielberg and Lucas when they were at the height of their family-friendly film fare.

By that I mean films like ET, Indiana Jones and the Goonies - that sort of thing.  It's also something of a homage to the Super 8 film medium.  Super 8 was a small format film (8mm as opposed to the 35mm traditionally associated with theatrical films) that came on cheap cartridges that you could get developed at drugstores and then edit together.

The film is set in that period when those films were about and super 8 was the medium movie geeks used to make their own short films.  And that's the basic idea that underpins the movie - a group of friends making a movie for a school competition, but in the tradition of such movies they get wrapped up in a bigger plot.

I think the film was generally well received and I'm not going to go against that tide of opinion.  It's well made and the story is interesting; it works as a homage and, crucially it has well rounded characters and there's a real human level to the drama as well as the big SF spectacle side of it.

Indeed, that's its real strength and in terms of the whole homage thing, that's where it really pays homage to that era of film - they had the human drama as well as the spectacle.  The characters and the journey they went on was interesting and not given short shrift to a bunch of explosions and effects in the way that these big modern films often are.

However, there were a couple of things that didn't quite seem to work in the film.  I may be getting a bit spoilery here, but there's an odd bit missing to do with the Super 8 film of the title.

Basically the kids witness this big train accident because they're filming their film where it happens.  Later the army turns up as what the train is carrying is related to them and they clearly discover the bits and pieces the kids left behind.  They also pick up the tyre tracks of the car the kids used to get there and then leave.

Now I assumed this would be a plot point - they would track down the kids via the Super 8 stuff or the car.  And indeed they do seem to find the car based on the tracks.  But neither leads to anything - there's no scene where the film directly leads to the army confronting the kids and then warning them off - it's weird that it gets set up and then doesn't pay off.  I mean, it's not something that's in the deleted scenes and they don't say in the commentary that it was chopped out or anything.

The other thing is that the ending is weirdly flat.  I mean, it makes some sense and it's not unreasonable, it's just it sort of lacks spectacle.  I think it also didn't help that the army side of it isn't tied up in the conclusion as well - a key part of that side of the story resolves a lot earlier and so they just end up seeming like spectators.  They essentially stop being a threat so the end is not dramatic in that there's no 'defeat' side to it, if that makes sense.

There are a few others things to (for example, was the alien collecting and eating people?  If so, why? If not then what was it doing with them?), but they're all actually rather minor things as it's a good film.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

a (long) short list

I'd obviously put together one of my famous to do lists for my holiday.

One of the main things I wanted to do was watch some of the fansubs I have failed to keep up with.  I did watch a few things, although not as much as I'd hoped.  However, I was sensible to watch things that haven't been licensed since they take up more room (for licensed stuff I generally only download a couple of episodes to sample them).

I also watched Nausicaa and Howl's Moving Castle on DVD.  I've had them for ages but have failed to find time to watch them.  I liked both, but they won't be going into my permanent collection - for Nausicaa I think he's done the same basic themes better elsewhere (Mononoke in particular) and Howl's was enjoyable, but lacked depth.

One of the things I wanted to try was my new portable Blu-Ray drive.  This is an external type drive for a computer, rather than a stand-alone portable player.  Weirdly it has a thing that says you can essentially run Blu-rays directly into TVs from it via USB, but then contradictorily it requires two USB sockets when you plug it in to a computer in order to power it, so how can it run okay on a TV when you only plug it into one USB slot?

Also, it moaned horribly about my laptop's graphics card not providing hardware acceleration (fair enough, it is an old laptop) so how can a TV run Blu-Ray disks direct?

Anyway, my laptop wasn't really man enough for the job of playing Blu-Rays.  The drive came with Power DVD, which basically refused to play the disks at all without the hardware acceleration and even when using the other player (the open source Korean one - I forget the name) the playback was horribly jittery.  However, the other thing this drive gives me, which in some ways is more important, is the ability to play DVDs multi-region.

Well, the drive itself doesn't, but AnyDVD is able to get around the region coding issue.  I discovered last time I took a holiday with the intent of watching some anime (the vast majority of my collection being Region 1) that my laptop's internal DVD drive is essentially built in such a way that it can't be gotten around - once you use up your allowed number of changes, that's it.

The other thing I wanted to do was catch up on reading - I've ended up with a lot of manga that I wanted to read.  I'd also managed to accumulate several magazines, all of which I finished.  I also read World War Z, which I got on the kindle.  It's really very good - even if you don't like zombies it's done in such a way that the fact it's zombies is mostly sort of incidental.  It's difficult to explain, but I can see why it's been such a hit.  Quite how they'll make a film of it and make it exciting I'm not sure, though.

I say I read them all - I read all that I took, which is the majority, but I've some more manga at home I need to read.  Most of this is actually in hardback or very large size format, which is why it was difficult to take with me.

Monday, 1 October 2012

rather damp

I'm back off of holiday.

And I have a bit of a case of post-holiday blues if I'm honest.  I think it's particularly affected by the work related situation (looking for a job, getting an offer, turning it down, expecting things to improve) this year.

The holiday was gone in a flash.

It rained quite a bit and if the rain had been accompanied by thunder and lightning that would have been an even more cool statement, but it was mostly just regular rain and lots of it.

It wasn't quite as bad as up north.  The forecasts had been very bad before the week and I think the rain they got was basically predicted to also badly hit the south West.  Well it got it on the Sunday when I drove down, but then Monday it was actually rather bright.

Indeed, although it was wetter than was ideal compared to what the forecasts had said it wasn't actually all that bad.  It was only really Wednesday where it poxed things up - I'd planned a beach walk day and it rained almost constantly so I couldn't really do that.

Generally I did lots of walking.  For the first couple of days I was also very good with diet as I was expecting that when I went to my Dad's at the end of the week I'd end up eating badly, and this was the case, so I think overall it's all sort of balanced out.

However what was very clear to me is how much fitter I am.  The walks I did were generally a breeze and they were of a similar length to last year when I found them much more challenging. Indeed I did further walks more often and felt fine.

I've not much else to say - I didn't take any pictures with the weather.  I also tried a new route home, which was a lot more fun to drive, but was also therefore more tiring as it required a lot more concentration.