Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Howl's Moving Castle

Last night Don and I went to see Howl's Moving Castle at the QFT. As we were early we decided to grab a bottle of beer. Stella. £2.50. What. The. Hell? Daylight robbery. I wouldn't have bothered if I knew that was the price. I know they need all the money they can get but since they are sponsored by Stella you would think it would be cheaper than a regular pint at bar X. So after finishing, we walked into a very packed cinema and found two seats near the front. I'm glad they re-arranged the seating in here because it was bloody uncomfortable before. So the ads kick in and what is the preview for? Howl's Moving Castle. This is the third film in a row I've been to see where you are shown the preview before the actual preformance. Gee, thanks QFT for spoiling the film by a veritable montage of plot sequences.

Despite the "preview", Howl's Moving Castle is not really a film you can spoil with a trailer as it is just as confusing as the movie itself. Confusing in a good way though. However, it begins as a straight forward story by introducing Sofie, an apprentice hat maker, bored of her life and on a seemingly uninteresting journey to see her sister until she is met by two horny child molesting guards [hey it's Japanese] and she is rescued by Howl who ushers her away where they meet strange goo-ey black creatures who appear from nowhere. They manage to escape the menace and Sofie is left on the balcony of her sisters shop in absolute awe of Howl. However, the black creatures are servants of the Wicked Witch of the Waste and because of her compliance with Howl, turns her into an old lady forever cursed. Sofie realises that she must find Howl and sets off into the forbidden land.

The film really takes off and for the next hour and half the viewer is taken to meet Howl and all the weird and wonderful creatures compiled by Miyazaki, including the hilariously cute Calicifer, the fire that operates the castle, the Wicked Witch of the Waste and Turnip Head, Sofie's handy helper. We are also told of a war being waged by two kingdoms and that the king of either side is requesting the aid of all magicans including Howl himself who takes no side but his own.

The film is a U and thus aimed primarily at children. However, I had a hard time working out certain elements superfluous to the main plot which may confuse children but it's hard not to just sit back and drop your jaw at the amazing characters and surreal aspect to the movie. So despite the convoluted story-telling, Howl's Moving Castle is extremely re-watchable and will no doubt become a classic like Miyazaki's previous film Spirited Away. If you're looking to escape into another world for two hours or entertain the kids, look no further.

I would give this movie 4 hats out of 5.


Monday, January 30, 2006

This & That

Wow. It's freezing outside this morning, which means only one thing - I will require those extra layers in work too. Not only does my office not have any windows, but it is warmed by a tiny 3ft x 2ft radiator in the opposite corner of the room. I know it was built in the pre-WW2 days but was it not as cold then as it was now [give or take a few decades of global warming]? Maybe there was more to the Cold War than I studied at school - you can see what an effect this is having on my puns.

I quite enjoyed the weekend. It was a good mix of slight exertion with the right amount of sitting on ones ass reading a book. It was our 3 year anniversary on Thursday and on Friday Lou and I went to Beatrice Kennedy on University Road. We shared the foie gras and Lou had the fillet steak whilst I had the sea-bass. It was good eating but not as I remembered it from last year when we dined there for Keiths birthday. I think the management may have changed, I can't be sure but the service was not spectacular as it was although they still had a good selection of wine on offer, unlike the choice of main courses. Sure there will be something you want but you wont have to weight it up between others. All in all, a good meal but lacking that romantic oomph setting.

Saturday afternoon was spent lounging in between doing lots of hoovering, washing and cleaning the kitchen. There's still two major jobs I need to do which entails shampooing the carpet and cleaning the grouting in the bathroom but there's always a valid excuse. Well, there's an excuse. OK, I'm just putting it off. Mind your own damn business!
That evening was spent over at Pakenham cooking up some steak noodles and baking a cinnamon and vanilla bread. The noodles turned out to be a good 4/5 on the hot-but-edible-without-burning-myself thermometer given that we were playing alchemy in adjusting the sauce. This turned into an evening of playing UFO: Aftershock until 1am when I had a hard time focusing following beer, cider and a shot of absinthe.

Sunday was quite enjoyable. Took a drive to Belvoir forest park and walked around following the blue arrows this time ending up around the same places as if following the yellow ones. I fear they are the same way only backwards. Still, a lone duck was patrolling the river not too far from a set of swans who always look majestic. They're like tiny white water emus.
Anywho, we followed that up with some shopping and I bought all the ingredients for Wednesdays dinner which has long been notified as Mataar Paneer. I'm looking forward to making this as it's always been one of my favourite Indian dishes. If I pull it off, it might become a regular weekend fixture.

Well, hope you fine folks had a good weekend too. See you tomorrow!

Links #16

What dregs of the internet have I trawled for you this week? It's looking mostly musical perhaps indicating a long overdue article on a whimsical band but fear not! I have 3 gigs to attend to in a week starting this Friday with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah so Adventures... will be hitting the high notes next week with reviews of all the artists recent output. Stay tuned!

Pandora - This is a cool way to stream music in that you choose an artist or song you really like and it matches the chosen tracks melody, harmony and rhythm to choose other artists with a similar vibe. As each song is played you can click to say whether you liked the song or not and it will start to filter and streamline to your taste, eventually producing a hit list of tunes.

Pleix - Bizarre music site featuring quicktime videos of your favourite unknown techno songs. I'm not a fan of the genre but the vidoes are weeeeird.

Where did the time go? - Fill in the form and get a laundry list of time wasting events you very well may have done over your lifetime.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Guest Publication #4: Nostalgia - should we relive our childhood?

So I was looking around Wikipedia and I stumbled upon a page relating to Garbage Pail Kids. This got me thinking that I would love it if I had the whole collection. Every kid collected them when I was young, so how did so many cards translate into so few full collections and hardly any cards still in existence?

Wouldn't it be cool if you could relive some parts of your childhood again, like GPK or He-Man? The sort of things that were so popular then and are completely unpopular now. And why is that? Has He-Man got any less manly? Do the "...and that's why we shouldn't play with matches, Orko" endings not still carry weight?
Or perhaps there are so many things to be wary of nowadays that parents would rather their kids just lived in the blissful, dangerous ignorance of Spongebob Squarepants.

They did bring back Transformers though. I was so happy when I first sat down, tuned into Cartoon Network and got ready for the nostalgia trip of a lifetime. What a pity they decided to dig up the corpse of this once-great animated series and violate it so commercially...

There are now only 5 Auto-bots and 5 Decepticons, and they are accompanied by a young boy and girl and their annoying pet dog. I can't remember the dog's name, but "Irritating" would suit it perfectly.

So strange then, that I watched the old D&D cartoons and loved every moment all over again, but the modern commercial film happened to die faster than a goblin at a Barbarian kill-a-thon. Why? Because they went for budget and no plot, despite the fact that all D&D gamers
(their target audience) are people who play plot-heavy games with no money or special effects outside of their own imagination necessary, and kids (the rest of their audience) want something more than a bit of CGI.

Maybe people have ran out of creative steam and simply can't think of original ideas any more. Re-releases from Hollywood now make up a large part of the box-office market. Remakes like Oceans 11, The Italian Job and others make it quite clear that the box office film industry is scraping the bottom of the barrel. Even Madonna's new album is full of samples and mixing of unoriginal, uninspired music (like the song "Hung Up", which is what she should do with her career while she still has one), while TV is the most repetitious of them all. Second Chance Sunday? Sky Mix? All are nice ways of saying "E4 Repeats" and "Sky One Repeats". Don't get me started on + 1hour...

Having seen the commercial side of the world, I'm not sure whether I would like to see a re-release of Garbage Pail Kids stickers. Would they even be able to get away with that any more? I'm sure that some parent with too much time on their hands would try to get them banned (despite the fact that they never harmed anyone first time around, unless you saw the GPK film - that was pretty poor).

Right now I feel that I'd prefer to keep the happy memories I have than gamble them on what would likely be an attempt at commercialising and poorly reproducing a classic set of 80's fun stickers to maximise profit margins.

Good memories are good memories, and they represent a time that you were happy. Try to relive the feeling but don't try to relive the experience.

[Article by KA. PA will return on Monday with a new links section and weekend update]

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Eyes Without A Face

Georges Franju was held in great esteem in French cinema, not only for his movies but also for co-founding the Cinematheque Française in 1937 which is France's most famous and important film archive. He worked as an archivist until 1947 before making his directorial debut Blood of the Beasts in 1949, which can be described as an early example of ultra-realism leading Franju to establish his uniquely poetic and visually striking style which can be found in the 1959 surreal fantasy of Eyes Without A Face.

The film is set in Paris where we are introduced to the brilliant surgeon, Professor Genessier, announcing a breathrough in a technique used to graft skin. However, his social skills have much to be desired following his daughters supposed disappearance but what is unkown to everyone is that Gennessier was responsible for destroying the face of his beloved daughter Christiane in a car wreck and he keeps her confined to the house whilst he finds a cure. Helped by his assistant Louise, they kidnap pretty young girls and attempt to remove their faces and graft them onto the head on his beloved daughter Christiane. However the experiemnts continue to fail and so they must keep trying.

Initially a slow burner, Franju always delights with his direction and once the plot is in place, the film lifts off towards an exciting finalé. It is unlike such in-your-face horror that todays standards offer, instead giving a more psychological interpreatation of the cool calculating evil and moral lacking that Gennessier exudes and his unwaning determination to fix his daughter despite the innocent murder of others.

The movie was years ahead of its time and the plot has certainly been copied in countless films in many variations since but Eyes Without A Face shows a director who has captured the skillfully crafted tension using a unique style based on many years of studying the business and pushing his experience of previous films to the fore.

I would give this film 4 masks out of 5


Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Civilzation 4

From it's early days as a boardgame back in 1980, Civilization has always been something more than just a game. Ever thought Monopoly could take a while to play?
Civ typically takes eight or more hours to play and is for two to seven players. The more players, the more time it would take to play (4 or 5 hours would be a good minimum for 2 players though, 8-10 for 7 players).

I remember my bro, my girlfriend and a few others decided to play Civ one St Patricks Day. Although it was a very fun and memorable day, alcohol and Civ should not be mixed! It's a board game that requires a lot of time, attention and strategising to play properly.

With all of this calculation in your head taking place over such a long time, you can understand how it may be hard for people to ever get the chance to play a full game of this with anyone else. We had to wait for a bank holiday and the day itself was all planned a fortnight in advance. Imagine having to do that each time you want to play solitaire!

So it was no surprise when Civ first hit the PC in the early days of home computers (1991 to be exact). I remember seeing Civ1 on a 286 and wondering why the hell anyone would want to bother with such crappy graphics and no "real players" to play against?

Sid Meier (inventor of the PC game Civ) admits to "borrowing" many of the technology tree ideas from a board game. The early versions of the PC game even included a flier of information and ordering materials for the board game. In an ironic twist, there is now a board game based on the computer game version of Civilization.

Paying Civ1 no attention, I again shunned Civ2 as a (marginally) graphically-better game, but with the same terrible appeal - there were no real players to play against, computers either tend to be too hard or too easy to beat and again the graphics were still pretty pants. Even the Amiga, which had "superior graphics capabilities" for this task, failed to look good.

At this stage in my life, I was happier to play the "cutting edge" games - ones with great graphics like Doom and Quake. Civ seemed like a boring waste of time. Then Civ3 was released and it actually looked pretty good. By this stage I had already played games with great AI and I felt that Civ (after over a decade of games creation and updating) would easily be as good as the board game if the graphics were there.

I wasn't disappointed with what I bought. The graphics were well suited to the game and the AI had a sliding scale to fit everyone. Brilliant! Now I could play Civ without the fortnight of organising and the problems involved with playing on weekends or holidays.

But like most successful games, there's a sequel already out. Yes, Civ4 was released October 24th 2005 and I now own a copy for the PC. My first impression was one of surprise actually - ironically, the graphics are now so good on Civ4 that my graphics cards (a 128MB GeForce 5200FX and a 128MB ATI Sapphire radeon 9250SE) were simply not going to handle this game! What a turnaround. Life can be hilariously cruel...

Nevertheless, with jerky framerate and Anadin Extra by my side, I launched straight into a poorly running yet still playable game of Civ.

I awoke 11 hours later from my game-playing coma. Somehow Civ had managed to steal another half a day from my life! :D This is in no way a bad thing if you really enjoy strategy games that you really become immersed in. However the lengthy game play has meant that many gamers simply don't have the patience or time to play such an involving game.

Civ4 features many new features that greatly change the game from Civ1 to 3. About time I say - you can't just keep updating the graphics and selling the same old game forever. The new features include:

  • New ways to rule your country with Civics as well as Governments

  • Religion now plays a bigger part in the game and can influence
    how you interact with other civ's of similar or differing

  • New technologies and resources

  • Sensible trading rules (a much needed update)

All in all this is a much better game than the original trilogy, as computers are now powerful enough to allow you to do so much more than programmers of a 286 could ever have dreamed of. In saying this, I was a little disappointed that Civ4 didn't seem to be doing very much but
it still managed to use up all my system memory! Better programming is needed there me thinks... Because of this you'll need to have a good computer to play it (no matter what the specs say). IMHO you will need at least:

  • 512MB RAM, probably more

  • 2GHz processor (mine is an Athlon Barton 2600+ or 1.9GHz in
    Pentium speak)

  • Stacks of hard drive space (about 2GB I think)

  • A really, really good graphics card, preferably

Despite the high specs, if you have always wondered about Civilization and have a computer that will run it, there has never been a better time to give this game a try. It's probably about as far along as it's going to be able to get, so grab yourself a copy today and start doing something constructive with your free time. Stop sitting on the couch and get out there and build a civilisation!


  • Highly addictive - you'll get more than your money's worth out of Civ

  • Tons of versions out there for any spec of computer

  • Loads of sites with info, forums, strategies and more on them


  • Takes a very high spec computer to run it well

  • Each game takes at least 8 hours to play (I had one last over 20)

  • Your partner will hate you when you stop visiting (you'll get
    the "just one more turn" syndrome!)

I would give this game 4 PC games out of 5

I would give it 5 if it ran well on lower spec machines, and if the feckin' Americans would spell Civilization correctly!

[Article by KA. PA will return tomorrow]

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room is a documentary about the rise and fall of Enron, one of the biggest business scandals in American history. At its peak, the company was the 7th largest company in America with 20,000 employees all with their pensions made up with company shares. However, behind the scenes, CEO Ken Lay and COO Jeffrey Skilling were busy inflating the balance sheet, including mark-to-market profits by which projected earnings are put down as the company's profits which didn't exist. Then there's CFO Andy Fastow. Fastow invented companies and suceeded in pulling the wool over major banks to contribute money to them which went straight to Enron. Meanwhile Enron traders practically took over the company and ran amok which culminated in them making huge profits from the Californian Electric fiasco which they instigated. They told power plants to shut down citing technical problems which meant that the cost of energy increased and they made increasing profits from California residents misery.

By the time anyone realised what was going on, Lay, Skilling and Fastow and fellow executives had sold over a billion dollars of shares creating tens of millions in personal wealth as the company crumbled, 20,000 employees lost their job and their pension savings were lost. The documentary shows personal phonecalls between meetings held by Skilling and daming phonecalls between traders admitting their part in the energy crisis and how smug they thought they were being. So far Fastow has got 10 years in prison and Lay and Skilling are due in court this month so I would recommend checking out the documentary and following it up in the news. It is both entertaining and fascinating that a company could get away with fraud for so long and dupe the entire country into believing they had huge profits when they had nothing but debt.

I would give this 4 CEOs out of 5



Friday afternoon was pretty hectic as it was the closing date for a grant application and over 100 were hand delivered within the hour of close of play. I took a few calls from those who had legitimate problems with the application ranging from certain sections not printing out to those who had not even looked at the application and wondered as to whether they could complete it in a day or get an extension for a week to do so. The latter of these and other queries over the last two weeks I would estimate 75% to fall within the category of "stupid". I'm not even sure they look at the guidance notes even though it is printed in bold capital letters at the bottom of each page and referred to in questions. However, some calls were absolute classics.

On our webpage where you can download the application by clicking on the highlighted word "Application", it states beside that "you are required to submit your details before you can download the form." This means that when you click on "Application" you are brought to a information box field where you are required to fill in field data consisting of your name, organisation and contact details whereupon pressing the "confirm" button you are brought through to the download screen. However, one particular caller believed she had to phone me beforehand to give her organisational details first to allow her to download the form.

Now that the closing date has passed, the time has come to go through the applications and make sure everything required is included in the submitted application. It will be a long process and bore the bejesus out of me but I pity the temp more than anyone because it is his job to photocopy the application 4 times before passing it back to me for a panel of overpaid consultants to look through them and choose the victors. Unfortunately I am missing this because I have come down with a bout of the cold I picked up over the weekend and I have to constantly blow my nose to stop snot dripping onto the keyboard - nice image eh?

So what will I get up to on my sick day? So far I have slept in until noon and intend to spend the afternoon watching a few movies. Therefore tomorrow, expect a review of Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room and also perhaps Eyes Without A Face. Until then, adieu and gazoontite!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Links #15

As you might have noticed over the last while, the links no longer follow any discernable pattern and they don't occur with any regularity. However, I hope to make the Links section a regular weekly feature in 2006 that I will post over the weekend. If you come accross an interesting page be sure to drop me a mail. Enjoy!

Elevator Moods
- Strange things happen in lifts...

Kenneth Parker - Cool photographs

Cooking by numbers - Only got 6 things in your kitchen and don't know how to use them?

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Guest Publication #3 - Great New Software, Obsolete Hardware

There has been a steady rise in the number of Flash pop-up advertisements since Flash was first invented. I still don't understand why these happen - most people simply close them down and are more irritated by the company selling the item than they are interested in the item themselves. If you knew where the owner of Tribal Fusion lived you'd go round to his house and deliver a free iPod to him, preferably sidewards and anally.

However, the point if this rant is that you shouldn't hate Flash for the demons who program using it. There has been an equally large rise in online games programmed in Flash and some of them are very good.
One such game is Mansion Impossible. This little game is addictive and I mailed it around some of my colleagues in work to see what they thought of it. We are now a little overly competitive, with my record time of 10 years and 10 months not likely to hold for much longer.

Another great game is Raiden, based on the popular console game Raiden. It requires a good computer to play well, but is absolutely great fun.

With games like this coming out, how long will it be before we start to see Flash versions of GTA or Quake? Personally I look forward to the time when mobile phones can do this sort of thing - my mobile already has a NES and GameBoy emulator on it, and newer ones are coming out with live streaming TV on them. My phone is aging faster than my computer, which has already reached the ripe old age of 2. Will advancement always leave us with great software but obsolete hardware?

I guess only time will tell...

[Article by KA. PA is busy destroying the publics hopes and dreams but will return Monday with stories of his soujourn]

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Quattro Formaggi

Last night Don bammed up some Quattri Formaggi in the kitchen alongside it's meatless vegetarian brother which was all consumed in a ravenous rage of culinery delight. Despite the name I think we actually had FIVE cheeses in there making any mouse green with envy. Here's the science:

Quattro Formaggi


For the pizza base:

6 oz (175 g) plain white soft flour
1 level teaspoon salt
1 level teaspoon easy-blend dried yeast
½ level teaspoon golden caster sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil
2-3 level tablespoons polenta (cornmeal) to roll out, plus a little extra

For the topping:

2½ oz (60 g) ricotta
2 oz (50 g) Mozzarella, cut into 1 inch (2.5 cm) slices
2 oz (50 g) Gorgonzola Piccante, cut into 1 inch (2.5 cm) slices
1 oz (25 g) Parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiano), grated

Method - click here for more details!

Serve with cold beer, red or white wine, cider, whiskey, rum and coke and perhaps a mojito if you're feeling particularly saucy!


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

1 Year Old

Today Adventures In Sigh-Fi is celebrating it's first year in cyberspace. I'm pretty proud that I've been continually updating it with new and rambling prose - I'm not sure if it's improved my English but it's given me an increased sense of well-being when I get good feedback. So keep it coming as it keeps me going!

I've come to view the blog as a great resource for what I've been doing over the last year and if you've been a part of my life then clicking through the archives will give you a great sense of the halcyon year that has been 2005. A lot has happened and the good outweighing the bad by at least a ratio of 5:1 so I can't complain.

This year I'm hoping to take a lot more photos so friends have even more reason to check out the site and leave comments. I'd also like to spread the journalistic love and increase the amount of guest spot columns as this can only lead to a more diverse read for anyone finding the blog. I will also start reviewing albums and other entertainment to flesh out the site and make something to read for everyone.

So thank you again for your patronage and here's to another year!


Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Beer Addiction

[Normal blogging may resume tomorrow. PA is too busy doing actual honest to goodness work]

Monday, January 16, 2006

Rant #12984: Unruly Children

I was walking into work this morning, just turning around the corner of the street where I live and there were three kids fiddling with something behind a green electric box against a wall. This is nothing new as there is a bus stop at the bottom of this street and they gather there every morning to shout at each other and get in their morning cigarette. I imagine they are little shits mainly because they look and act like little shits. This morning was no different. As I was about the overtake them from the side they launched a half-full drinks container of the kind you get at the cinema at a woman crossing the street. Luckily it landed between her legs and I turned the corner and was down the street before I could see if she retaliated or resigned herself to the fact that unfortunately you can't give an unruly kid a smack around the head without reprisal from their illiterate benefit-using parents.

I'm not the biggest fan of children mainly because in this day in age they don't respect anyone nevermind their elders. I believe it's mainly a result of upbringing and their parents not raising them properly. I'm not saying this is anything new - children have been annoying the public at large for many generations even with a proper upbringing. However, parents these days seem to think children can supervise each other and throw them out on the street for some peace and quiet where they inevitably get up to no good. The only comeback is when they get lifted for petty crime but by then it's too late and the parents give up on them like a black sheep. A study has shown that "there is a strong relationship between the level of child neglect in a postcode area and the level of juvenile participation in crime in that area".

It would be great if you could make a citizens arrest but of course this only refers to a "serious crime" and the child is of course a minor. This makes it a difficult area of the law to cover and these little shits know they can get away with it. The only comforting factor is that they will grow up to be benefit-using degenerates with poor health and die of a heart attack from too many turkey twizzlers while you're away to Barbados on your second holiday thinking about retiring to Madrid. Until then it seems we will just have to accept a corrupt youth and hope that things change.

Saturday, January 14, 2006


Jarhead is the latest Sam Mendes offering based on the best selling book by former marine Anthony Swofford. The film charts his experiences in the Gulf War, ranging from the now familiar portrayal of boot camp to the reality of fighting in Kuwait.

The first section of the film introduces the central characters as they immerse themselves in the ‘Hoo-Rah’ culture and do numerous punishment press-ups in drenched muddy fields. These scenes are predictably reminiscent of the first half of Full Metal Jacket, minus the fantastic script and power house performance of R. Lee Ermey as the sadistic drill Sergeant. The bonding sessions, the sharing of pictures of sweethearts and the boozy nights that follow leaves you with the feeling that we’ve been here far too many times before. But the mood soon changes as the soldiers find themselves in Kuwait, not fulfilling their role as US-made killing machines, but carrying out the mundane task of guarding oil reserves. Over the next six months they train, get pissed. Train, play football. Train, get pissed some more. And this we find is the overall point of the film. Rather than dealing with the political background or the horrors of war, the film focuses on the psychological turmoil of Jake Gyllenhaal’s character as he copes with the isolation, loneliness and boredom of being stranded in the desert. And as the slow paced story drags itself to the finishing line the audience can easily empathise with Anthony’s feelings of boredom and dissatisfaction.

It isn’t long before Anthony starts to teeter on the edge of insanity as the frustration of not being able to kill someone builds to an explosive level. As to whether or nor he gets to fire off that load I will leave to those who may want to watch Jarhead at some point.

The film is marked by solid performances from Jake Gyllenhaal and the underrated Peter Sarsgaard. Overall Jarhead is watchable. However what we are left with is a war movie devoid of passion, politics and action. This is not the war movie I wanted to see, especially from the likes of Sam Mendes.

I give this film 2.5 sweaty marines out of 5.

[Review by LMcG - arch nemisis of PA with powers comparable to PA!]


Maroon / Obituary / Samael gig

I was wondering about these bands playing together when I first heard
about the concert (Brian's Secret Santa gift to me - cheers dude!).
Obituary have been around since the early 90's and have always held
media interest and a dedicated fan base, but their popularity peaked
in 1993 with the release of "World Demise". Should have called it
"Career Demise", as their slow and gradual slide to album obscurity

Contrast this with Samael, a band who have been around for just as
long (maybe longer), but who have been steadily growing in popularity
all the time and who (almost certainly) out-sell Obituary by quite a
bit these days. But, despite their more recent popularity and album
sales, they have never been as popular as Obituary were at their peak.

Who, then, would the crowds turn up to see and, moreover, who would be
headlining between the two?

When we arrived the doors had opened around 30 minutes before (7pm
open), so the place was filling up nicely. It was nice to see the
Temple Bar Music Hall again, scene of the Marduk and Immortal gig's I
attended five years back. As expected, Maroon came out first and were
actually very good. The fact that their singer can hold a note that
isn't a growl or scream was quickly noted by Brian - high praise as he
isn't much for death metal these days. The rest of the band did their
best to get into form, but it's hard to be the warm-up act cause you
know everyone is waiting for someone else other than you on stage
(that and they only got 30 minutes air-time).

Nevertheless they played well and did impress me - I would pay to see
them play a gig or two on their own. If this was the worst of the
three bands to play, Brian and I were in for a treat!

Next up was Samael. Fairly do's I guess - most people around me seemed
to be in death metal garb with Obituary insignia/logo's. It was quite
obvious by now that most of the fans weren't here for Samael or

Not that it stopped Samael from rocking! Their vocalist (attired in
black, baggy Japanese Samurai trousers and burgundy shirt that looked
like someone had glued it to him it was so tight) did a very good job
of keeping the audience entertained. They played a good mix of music
from their inception over a decade ago to tracks from their latest
album, giving everyone something to be happy about.

As the pit's numbers swelled, it was obvious from the many people
still standing at the back of the room that even Samael and their most
popular songs wasn't going to get everyone moshing.
After about an hour of music they called it a day. I was happy as the
first two acts had been great, so I had high expectations of Obituary
(although everyone else seemed to have these expectations long before
the doors had opened!).

After a quick pint break, Brian and I made our way back into the main
arena and straight to the center-front (where we had been pretty much
all evening). And didn't we appreciate it when Obituary finally

I can't remember much about the pit after the first blow to the head,
but Brian did leave the gig with a clear footprint stamped into his
chest so that gives you an idea of what the place was like for the
first while. And just as it was calming down, Obituary decide to play
"Kill For Me" and run it straight into "Solid State" - two of their
most popular songs. And again I'm hit on the head. So that's why
metallers have long hair - it's padding for the mosh pit!

Time and time again, Obituary managed to prove on stage what they
haven't been able to prove on an album for some 10 years now - that
death metal can be varied, exciting and that they know what people
want. With a drum solo, 2 encores and about 50 people on their way to
A&E, Obituary decide to call it a day and the lights come on again -
the first non-black thing that I'd seen since Obituary started

Overall this gig was more than worth it - all three bands (even the
warm-up act) were of much better quality than you would expect. I
would have to give:

Maroon 3.5 out of Maroon 5 (though they'd probably do better if they
were at a Maroon-only gig).

Samael 4 on the rockstar scale (they should have played a black metal
or goth gig instead, where the fans would have appreciated them more.

Obituary 5 stitches out of 5 (unable to live up to their name,
Obituary proved that they are still a force to be reckoned with
when playing live.

[Review by KA]


Friday, January 13, 2006

Guest Publication #2 - Cheap Gigs In Dublin

Have you ever had a night out where you didn't seem to do much, can't remember drinking a lot and even walked home because you were feeling so good, only to find that you still managed to spend a lot more money than you imagined? Somehow I don't think you'll have to think long and hard over that question before memories of "just one more round" or "but it's Christmas - why not!" come flooding back...

But how hard is it to find a memory of a night out where it cost you a lot less than you expected Have a think about it for a second? It's not so easy to think of a night like that. If only Carlsberg made nights out, eh? They'd probably be the cheapest nights out in the world!

Well Carlsberg may not make nights like that, but there are other companies that do, and they do it very well.

My friend Brian and I recently went to a gig in Dublin and were very susprised at how cheap it was. Not surprised at the low price of the gig itself, more at the low cost of getting from Belfast to Dublin (return) and staying for a night in the Fair City. It's actually much cheaper than you would think.

After having such a great time and realising how many more bands play in Dublin and not Belfast, I thought that I would share the experience. You can greatly increase your gig choices if you consider going south of the border, without having to greatly increase your expenditure.

Brian and I headed to Dublin by bus from the Europa Station (Belfast city center). There are buses leaving every hour on the hour and a return ticket will only set you back £11.70 - £4 less than it did 5 years ago when I lived in Dublin and made the journey regularly! Someone also told me you could get the bus from Belfast City Airport for £8 to Dublin Airport, then catch a free bus into the city center.

After a quick search online, we found a hostel on the website - a very well laid out site with a large selection of hostels. After a short time we had booked a hostel that cost us just under £32 (£16 between us) for the night. What's more, it is located right in the center of Temple Bar - the entertainment/pub area of Dublin and only 2 streets from the venue our gig was in. Excellent!

I know what you're thinking: "The hostel must have been a dive!" But it wasn't - in fact it was quite the opposite! Bar a rather poor receptionist, the room itself was clean and well kept. My only complaint would be that we had noisy neighbours, but that was hardly the hostels fault.

The whole trip cost us only £28 and two half-days off work because the gig was on a weeknight. If you happen to head to a concert on a weekend, you could get to it for £28 and the cost of the ticket, no days off work. All in we paid less than £50 for the event including tickets and had a blast while we were at it.

This has certainly opened my eyes - there are a lot more bands playing Dublin than Belfast, but the thought of the cost of transport let alone a hostel had always put me off. I hope that, like me, you will now consider travelling to Dublin for the odd gig or two. It's not expensive, there's very little effort involved and it was so much fun that I know I'll be back in Temple Bar for more bands later this year.

Overall I would give this idea 5 students out of 5 for ease and price.

[Article by KA. PA is away on official Friday 13th business. He will return on Monday 16 January]

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Mozzarella Conchiglioni Rigati with Salsa di Pomodoro

Last night Colin made a delicious meal of Mozzarella Conchiglioni Rigati with Salsa di Pomodoro.
Here comes the science:


16 conchiglioni rigati
1 quantity of Salsa di Pomodoro (see below)
3 tbsp freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 ball of mozzarella cheese, sliced

For the filling:
150g/5oz ricotta cheese
1 ball of mozzarella cheese, very finely diced
2 tbsp freshly grated parmesan cheese
16 large fresh basil leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Salsa di Pomodoro:
Makes enough for 4 servings of pasta
4 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 x 400g tins of plum tomatoes, chopped
Handful fresh basil, finely chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. Make the pasta. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. Cook the pasta shells in plenty of lightly salted boiling water until al dente. Drain well (make sure you empty the shells of water) and leave to cool.

2. To make the filling, mash the ricotta with a fork, stir in the diced mozzarella, parmesan and some salt and pepper to taste and mix well. Shape the mixture into 16 balls, wrap each ball in a basil leaf and place in a cooled pasta shell.

3. Make the sauce. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan, add the garlic and sweat until softened. Then add the tomatoes and basil, season with salt and pepper and simmer gently for 25 minutes.

4. Pour a layer of the tomato sauce over the bottom of an ovenproof dish and place the filled shells on top. Pour over the remaining tomato sauce, sprinkle over the parmesan and top with slices of mozzarella. Cover with aluminium foil and bake for 35 minutes. Remove the foil and bake uncovered for 5 minutes. Serve immediately.


Hide The Sausage

I've finally got around to eating the cured sausage I bought at the continental market on the 21st December. The Rosette de Lyon, according to Amazon, is "the classic sausage, a full two and a half pounds of flavorful meat. Ideal for parties." It's apparently one of the more well known cured sausages and takes 2-3 months to prepare. It's certainly extremely tasty when lightly fried in it's own juices but I can't think of anything it would go with besides being a fine accompaniment to a fry on hungover Saturtday morning, especially those who no longer eat blood pudding. I'm not sure how long it will last hanging on the wall of the kitchen so perhaps I should have a sausage night and be done with it. Apparently it goes well with a bottle of Beaujolais so who am I to argue? I guess I'll just have to find out. Watch this space!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Brokeback Mountain

The story begins in 1963 where two saddle riders are looking for work in a dead end town and are put to work guarding sheep on Brokeback Mountain. Over the course of several weeks, they develop a friendship which on a cold and drunken night becomes something more. At first they are wary of what they have done but realise that what they have shared which each other overides any shame or anguish they may have about their taboo relationship. It soon develops into more than either two could have imagined but of course there are difficulties to overcome. Heath Ledger's character, Ennis Del Mar, is to be married in November and cannot commit to Jake Gyllenhaal's character, Jack Twist, who wants them not to hide what they have and move somewhere where they can make a living and continue their relationship unabated. However, Ennis cannot make this commitment and rejoins his fiance and marries.

The story picks up years later when Ennis has 2 children of his own and recieves a postcard from Jack that he will be in town. When Jack turns up on the doorstep, none of the passion has diminished and they passionately embrace, a move which is not missed by Ennis's wife and the seeds of disaster are sown. Over the next lot of years they make trips away to "fish", and life continues as normal as far as Ennis's character can forsee. Due to their relationship, Jacks character also marries after knocking up a girl he woo's at the rodeo and both women are obviously kept in the dark to their extra-marital affair.

The film explores the deep seated bigoted machoism of the American mid-west and the neccessity to hide their love even when they are not around their wives. However, it is more of a film where a secret love must be hidden from everyone even to the point of hiding their true feelings from each other. About how such a love can have disastrous impact on those around them when such a love is revealed and how love survives through even the most difficult times.
If you thought Brokeback Mountain was just a gay cowboy movie then you are in for a revelation. If you thought Brokeback Mountain was just a love story then you're in for a surprise. The film is as groundbreaking as it is a treat to watch. Do yourself a favour and saddle up to an Oscar worthy movie full of twists, turns and outstandinf performances.

I would give this film 4 blazing saddles out of 5


Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Broken Flowers

Jim Jarmusch has produced some of the most interesting and re-watchable cinema over the last decade, namely Dead Man and Ghost Dog. Combine this with Bill Murray's recent cinematic output of highly watchable films such as Lost In Translation and The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou and Broken Flowers looks like a movie goers wet dream. However, most wet dreams end in a mess and, with sincere apologies for my analogy, so does this film.
[Warning: Contains spoiler. If you do not want to know the plot, please go to final paragraph for summation review. I felt it was neccessary for critique, you may not.]

It begins as his current girlfriend is walking out the door citing irreconciable differences as a pink envelope lands on his hallway. After watching her drive off and feeling dejected, he opens the letter which contains a typed anonymous letter from a past lover stating that she has had his baby and his son is now 20 years old and quite possibly on a road trip to find his father. He takes the letter to his nextdoor neighbour who considers himself an amateur sleuth. He arranges an itinerary for Murray which will take him to 5 past lovers that he has managed to track down to find out if they are the mother to a son he never knew he had or believes he has.

What follows over the next hour or so is awkard meetings and Office-esque banality embarassing reunions with past beaus of which Murray finds out nothing about the possibility of a son and only a shiner to show for his troubles. He returns home to find another letter written by his recent girlfriend stating that she still loves him although he does not seem thrilled at this prospect following his recent activities. However, on his return home, he notices a young man who he believes is his son and tells him that he knows he is the father he is looking for. The kid, thinking that Murray is at the very least a complete weirdo, freaks out and runs off and the movie comes to a close. Has Murray been duped from the beginning with a false letter? Was that really his son? Does he own more than two tracksuits?

I felt that this movie had the potential to deliver so much and fell far from it's initial inertia. What the viewer is left with is a film that never really goes anywhere and leaves loose threads and unanswered questions at the end. What in effect is Jarmusch's most straight forward film is also one of his worst. It's star studded cast and good performances all round enevitably don't add up to the sum of its parts and I feel that the films longevity could have been better spent on actually finishing the story rather than leaving the viewer at a loss of any conclusion. If you haven't seen the films listed in the opening paragraph, I suggest you spend your time and money watching those instead of wasting it on this damp squib.

I would give this movie 2.5 petals out of 5.


Monday, January 09, 2006

Against The Migraine

I was reading in bed on Thursday night when it hit. As I was setting my book down on the bedside table I was suddenly inflicted with an almighty migraine. An unbearable pain behind my left eye seemingly emmanating from the centre of my brain. I rolled about and massaged my head, getting up to take a few ibufrofen which was of no use. I was tempted to smash my head off the wall in the vain hope it might relieve pain by some extraneous trephining method. I must have fallen asleep around 2am and upon awakening, the pain came back in ever increasing circles and I foolishly came into work only to cry off home at 10am. I called into the pharmacy on my way home and picked up Migralieve. Once again the drugs did not work. I managed to sleep until 1pm and the pain had not diminished. As I had to wait 4 hours between popping pills, I thought taking the accross the counter goods would do the trick but as stated it was all in vain. Cue the afternoon spent rolling around the bed intermittingly looking up relief guides on the internet and causes of migraine. One site stated that coffee and cheese were the most likely causes. If this were the case, the French would be in a permanent state of psychosis.

By Saturday afternoon, a walk along the Lagan towpath with Lou had quelled the pain which I was grateful for because it was Brian's 27th birthday party that evening. We walked around the corner to his flat and presented him with tokens of our affections - 2 computer games of UFO: Aftershock and Dungeon Siege 2. Then we left for the Ginger Tree, a Japanese restaurant on Donegal Pass.

Unfortunatly the service was slower than the Bournemouth Zimmerframe Relay Race Team and the food was unremarkable - not bad but nothing to write home about. I certainly wouldn't be going back in the forseeable future. Nevertheless it was a good opportunity to catch up with Suzy and Ian and after sorting the bill out we headed to the Spring & Airbrake.

From here on in the night becomes a little fuzzy and the birthday boy tucked his tail between his legs and made for home around 11pm quite shit-faced but it was probably a good move as those who remained became totally inebriated. After many hours of skull-duggery, we got a taxi to Keiths and 20 minutes later got another taxi home again as I was demanding a bed to sleep on. In the morning I couldn't tell if I had a migraine or the mother of all hangovers but by later afternoon it was most certainly the latter and at least that was something that would go away through the use of fast food, coke and drugs.

Sunday evening was spent watching the first three episodes of a new series called Invasion which seems quite promising. It also marked the start of a new series of ER which has a new set of interns and only time will tell if the program has outstayed its welcome.

Hope you had an equally interesting weekend. See you tomorrow for more of the same.


Friday, January 06, 2006


Went to see Factotum last night with Lou. It's based on the Charles Bukowski novel of the same name and stars Matt Dillon as Henry Chinaski, Bukowski's drunken, gambling, womanising alter-ego. From what I can gather from other reviews of those who have read his novels, Dillon pulls off Chinaski down to a tee, including his body movement and mannerisms. He does make it look like life itself is a chore with writing being his only relief. However, watching this film is like watching a drunk unkle at a party. Entertaining for a while, but not for an entire evening. Whilst the humour involved in his antics and down and out ways is enthusing at first, it soon becomes expected and I guess that is the point of the film. I have read Post-Office and thought it entertaining but at least that had a theme to it. Rather Factotum is a film encapsulating Chinaski's life in general, in a nut shell, as a drifter to the tenets of women, booze and gambling. As a fan of Bukowski, I can see how this film showing the generalities of Chinaski would be considered the definitive filmatic version of his most generalised novel. However, as a first time introduction, the films slow pace becomes a weight around the neck and I left the cinema feeling like it had just done enough to warrant the money spent on it. Perhaps I should go and read some more Bukowski. Not a bad thing.

I would give this film 3 part time jobs out of 5


Thursday, January 05, 2006

Stuffed Sweet Peppers & Creamy Corn Chowder

Last night Brian made a delicious and nutritious first meal of 2006 setting the bar for the rest of us. Here comes the science:

Stuffed Sweet Peppers

Ingredients [Serves 4]

4 whole sweet peppers
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Clean sweet peppers with a damp paper towel. Carefully gut without breaking outside.

2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and chopped mushroom stems to the skillet. Fry until any moisture has disappeared, taking care not to burn garlic. Set aside to cool.

3. When garlic and mushroom mixture is no longer hot, stir in cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, black pepper, onion powder and cayenne pepper. Mixture should be very thick. Using a little spoon, fill each pepper with a generous amount of stuffing. Arrange the peppers on prepared baking sheet.

4. Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the peppers are piping hot.

Creamy Corn Chowder

Ingredients [Serves 4]

6 red potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 (11 ounce) cans whole kernel corn, undrained
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
2 cups vegetable broth
1 (12 ounce) package low-fat, firm silken tofu
salt to taste


1. Place potatoes in a large pot of salted water and bring to a boil. Cook until tender, about 30 minutes; drain.

2. To the potatoes add corn, bell pepper, onion, red pepper flakes and vegetable broth. Boil for about 15 minutes; remove from heat.

3. In a food processor or blender puree all but 1 1/2 cups of the vegetable and broth mixture with the tofu. Process in batches if necessary. Combine the pureed mixture with the remaining 1 1/2 cups vegetable and broth mixture, and cook over low heat for 5 minutes; do not boil. Season with salt to taste.


Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Achill Island

Our trip to Achill included an amazing three days taking in the beautiful scenery and local hospitality. Much fun was had travelling around the island and spending New Years Eve in one of the local pubs. It was certainly something to remember and I would love to go back some time during the summer months and swim off the many golden beaches looking out to the Atlantic Ocean under the towering cliffs and imposing mountains.

The island itself has been inhabited for around 5,000 years and includes megalithic tombs dating back to the stone age. It has 5 blue flag beaches, secluded valleys and unmatched scenery. The Atlantic drive takes in over 40km of coastal roadways with many places to stop and enjoy the views.

They say a picture paints a thousand words so without further ado here are some of the pictures I took during my stay.

Kildnavet Tower

View from Keem Bay

Keem Bay

View of Achill from Deserted Village

Deserted Village

Swimmers on New Years Day

Trawmore Strand

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