Friday, March 30, 2007

Gamespot #60

Shrunken Heads

A more spooky version of Tetris, this is a great game for coffetime. Simply match the shrunken heads to the pile below, drop and watch them explode!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Healy 2 Sweden 1

Another great night at Windsor Park puts Northern Ireland at the top of their group in a somewhat unimaginable victory against previous table forerunners Sweden.

After a great first 20 minutes, the team seemed to fall apart at the seams allowing Elmander to put the visiting team ahead. However, with a renewed sense of determination, Healy leveled the score 4 minutes later with a beautiful side touch sending the crowd wild.

By half-time, it was clear that Northern Ireland was the better team and 15 minutes into the second half Healy scored again to seal the victory although a heart stopping Craigan clearance nearly sent the ball into the back of his own net.

It's certainly a great time to be a supporter of the green and white army although the table has now been split open and the side will have to work extra hard in the Autumn when they face Sweden, Spain and Denmark to gain a place in the next round of the European Championship.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Buenos Aires 1977

Buenos Aires 1977 tells the true story of four men who narrowly escaped death at the hands of a military death squad during the Argentinean dirty war in the late 1970s.

The Dirty War is the name given to the state-sponsored violence against citizens mostly carried out between 1976 and 1983 by Jorge Rafael Videla's military government in Argentina during what was called by the dictatorship the "National Reorganization Process" or what the modern world calls "genocide".

The film follows Claudio Tamburrini, a goal keeper for a minor league football team, who was forcefully kidnapped by members of the Argentine secret military police.

He is taken to a detention center known as Sere Mansion which is an old dilapitated house in a suburban neighborhood on the suspicion he's an anti-government terrorist.

Tamburrini is not alone and his fellow abductees are frequently tortured by the jailers for information he doesn't have because he was never a political activist.

After four months of imprisonment, and many sessions of torture, Tamburrini and his fellow captives make a break for freedom.

It is a gripping film throughout with bleak filming adding depth to the situation making it a taut psychological thriller especially because you are aware that this actually happened. The camera work and acting immerse the viewer into the mundane but arduous life that these innocent prisoners lead right through to the climatic finale.

According to the Nunca Más report issued by the National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons (CONADEP) in 1984, about 9,000 people were "disappeared" between 1976 and 1983. Estimates by human rights organizations place the number at closer to 30,000.

Buenos Aires 1977 is a deeply moving and involving film worth a trip to the cinema for an education on both how to shoot this kind of film and a brief education about the not-so-distant Dirty War of Argentina.

I would give this film 9.1 non-political prisoners out of 10.


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Days Of Glory

Days of Glory is one of the the main films I was looking forward to as part of the festival and I'm glad to say it did not disappoint.

Set during the second half of World War 2 and the slow but steady liberation of France, Alsace was essential to the victory of the allies.

The film surrounds the First French Army, recruited in Africa in order to avoid German eyes and the Vichy authorities: over 200,000 men, including 130,000 “indigenes” (natives) including 110,000 North Africans, and 20,000 “pieds- noirs” (French colonials) and one third young Frenchmen who fled the occupation.

The story is a sad and forgotten story of the soldiers known as “Indigènes” and follows the story of four of them: Abdelkader, Saïd, Messaoud and Yassir, a mobile corps, reputed for their endurance, ground sense , and courage in close combat, each one in pursuit of a different objective throughout the passage across France which they are in part responsible for her liberation.

The first half of the film relates to how the four men end up in the same corps and the racism they encounter along the way from the French despite them doing the same job and for a mother country they have never seen. It also allows for substantial character development and the audience can closely identify with each characters positive and negative personality traits.

The battle scenes are well crafted and carried out and you get a real sense of the horror of warfare both on and off the field as the Indigenes are sent in as fodder before the First French Army.

The second half of the film deals with the four men as they hold and defend a small town in Alsace against the German army. There is a real sense of danger translated off the screen thanks to great direction and importantly fantastic acting and some of the best non-dialogue "eye-acting" I have seen which sucks the viewer in to their plight.

What is really horrific is the statement at the end of the film. In the early 1960s, after decolonization was completed, France then decided to freeze the pensions of veterans of the African Army. In 1996, a Senegalese ex-Staff Sergeant, Amadou Diop, sued the French government. After serving in the army from 1937 to 1959, he was dismissed after Senegal became independent and only received a third of the pension he was entitled to. In 2001, the Council of State ruled in his favour posthumously but in 2003 the French government put a new freeze on the pensions.

French president Jacques Chirac announced last September after seeing the film that he would reverse a 47-year-old policy of freezing war pensions for the widows of expatriate African Army soldiers that fought for France. Chirac's proclamation affects 80,000 people at $140 million annually.

Although this film was a one-off event at the Belfast Film Festival it has a run in the QFT at the end of the month and I highly recommend going to see it.

I would give this film 9.1 French town liberations out of 10


Monday, March 26, 2007

The Road to Guantanamo

It was the Tipton Two in Belfast last night as one missed his flight - imagine that.

I have to admit that I'm not a fan of docu-dramas. I would rather have substance in the background and narration over the top than the film being constantly broken up by those involved retelling what we've just seen or are about to see.

Nevertheless, it was an important story worth telling. The real question is whether it was told properly. The director, Michael Winterbottom, has been criticised for not questioning the accounts of the Tipton Three. James Christopher, in his review in the Sunday Times, stated that Winterbottom had "an insane lack of cool perspective," for not questioning the accounts of the Tipton Three.

"Why, oh why, jump on a minibus to Afghanistan when jets are carpet-bombing the country? If your friends are mortally sick, why catch the next truck to the front line? The sheer stupidity of these Brits mocks the sincerity of the film."

After watching the film I felt that the three men had no real reason to be in Afghanistan at the time. They stated that they had heard mixed reports of the Taliban and wanted to find out if they really were bad people. How flimsy an excuse is that for a group that were on their way to an arranged marriage of one of them in Pakistan? A slightly erroneous detour to take don't you think?

From a cynical perspective you could argue that it looked like they went over to meet the Taliban and possibly see about aiding their cause at the same time the war kicked off and they were in the wrong place at the wrong time about to get involved in a very wrong thing.

So whilst they were innocent of any crimes it is their possible intentions that were guilty and they paid a high price for stupidity.

I would give this film 6.1 middle-east conflicts out of 10.


Friday, March 23, 2007

Films & Free Time

It's always great to see a working week pass so quickly especially if it's helped by a bank holiday on the Monday and this is such a week. It's Friday already and you begin to plan your weekend. This has also been easy as it's the start of the 7th Belfast Film Festival and to kick off the first of 6 films we have booked to see, we're off to the Black Box to watch 'The Road to Guantánamo'.

The part movie/part documentary focuses on the Tipton Three, a trio of British Muslims who were held in Guantanamo Bay for two years until they were released without charge.

As an additional bonus to the event, the 3 men will be taking questions from the audience after the show which should prove very interesting. I imagine that there is a lot of things that could not be shown in the film due to content and possible US intervention in the form of libel suits.

Full review of that and other films during the week so check back every day, as usual, for new content.

The other great thing about going out on Friday is that when you wake up on Saturday, it feels like a Sunday which gives you a superb feeling when you realise it's not and still have another two days off work.

Have a great weekend whatever you're up to and see you on Monday.

Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Gamespot #59

Frost Bite

This is a cool platform game that kept me occupied for ages. Use the keyboard and mouse to move up the screen and kill bad guys along the way using your trusty rope gun that doubles as a weapon.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Links #33

Conan O'Brien and Jim Carrey - Quantum Physics

Conan O'Brien and Jim Carrey get into a discussion about Quantum physics. Musician Max Weinberg tries to join in but exposes his ignorance.

Wikipedia - Conan O'Brien

Wikipedia - Jim Carrey

Wikipedia - Quantum Physics

Demetri Martin - Flip Chart Comedy

Demetri Martin uses a pointer and poorly drawn flow charts to get some big laughs.

Wikipedia - Demetri Martin

The Simpsons - Box Fort

Bart and Lisa scam a delivery service out of enough boxes to build a castle in their back yard. A battle ensues when the company wants their boxes back.

Wikipedia - Simpsons

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Luck & The Art of Self Destruction

As you're probably aware, we have just had the St Patricks weekend and that is why there is a loss of days on here. As it fell on Saturday, the bank holiday was moved to Monday and I took Friday off to maximise chilling out and doing nothing time.

As you might have witnessed, luck is a fickle thing and is meted out in odd areas on this special day. We narrowly miss out on winning the Six Nations rugby tournament but somehow beat Pakistan in a World Cup cricket match. The weather is awful but you've got plenty to drink inside. A sort of yin and yang of dispersed luck [Magnaminous cricket win] and anti-luck [i.e. grasping defeat from the alluring hands of rugby victory].

Sunday afternoon kicked off with a stomach fortifying fry before heading off to Lavery's for a few games of pool. It was winner stays on and my luck allowed me to stay on for 5.

The evening was spent watching The Matador and 100 Greatest Stand-Ups. I'm not sure which was worse.

The Matador had an interesting plot design of a burned out assasin finding solace in an unlikely place. However, that place was not remotely interesting, funny or worth wasting 90 minutes of your time on. Both main actors - Greg Kinnear and Pierce Brosnan - cruise through the film on auto-pilot and the result is a piece of turgid celluloid which is neither thrilling or comedic.

Avoid this stinker folks [2.1/10].

The 100 Greatest Stand-Ups voted for by morons - sorry - the public, naturally placed current comedians at the top of the list and largely forgot both old and non-British comedians. Harry Hill as 5th greatest comedian of all time? Jesus H Christ - the guy is amazingly unfunny and if he were run over by a steam roller I'd laugh for weeks proving that some artists are best enjoyed posthumously.

The other hugely negative thing about the show was that very few clips of the comedians were anywhere near funny. It's hard to see where Channel 4 can go with these lists of things and satisfy an audience for 3 hours - any suggestions?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Gamespot #58

Kitten Cannon

A simple but fun game of firing a cat from a cannon and seeing how far it can go through TNT and gas canister explosions.

Watch out for the cactus plants and spikes!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Number 23

This is, as far as I recall, Jim Carey's third 'serious' film since The Truman Show and the fantastic Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, further demonstrating that the guy can actually pull off a serious acting career and The Number 23 only serves to reinforce this and, I would hope, influence his decisions to make more of these types of films rather than tread out more trite comedies that are instantly forgettable.

Carey plays a regular family guy, married to a loving wife and father to a level-headed teenage boy. However, his life gets turned upside down when his wife buys him a strange book for his birthday called The Number 23.

The more he reads the book, the more he finds parallels between the narrative text and his own life down to little nuances and thought patterns and before long he becomes more than a little obsessive about the number 23 and what it signifies.

Joel Schumacher does a fine job balancing directive duties between real time and film noir flashback sequences adding a chilling depth and storybook quality to the movie.

However, what lets the film down is the explanation in terms of the plot revalation and the inability for the audience to work out what the cause and effect is until the end of the film. As a plus, the revelation is extremely plausible and the ending is tied up nicely but you don't see it coming because there is no evidence throughout the film to substantiate it.

Nevertheless, The Number 23 will keep you attentive and contentive until the final scene and I recommend going to see it.

I would give this film 14.72 out of 23 [6.4/10]

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Boomerang Clothes

Different scene outside your window now
Same VCR, same cats
Different people at the very same job
Similar alley, different rats
The trash goes out on a Tuesday now
You got to make a note about that

Dismeberment Plan - "Spider In The Snow"

The extraneous thing about moving house is not just getting used to the new layout and where you've put everything as I've occasionally been sheepishly looking for a cereal bowl in the morning in the wrong cupboard or turning the wrong way coming out of the living room towards the front door instead of the kitchen.

It's about peeking out through the blinds and checking to see what day your neighbours put which bins out. This is especially worrisome when you have an excess amount of rubbish and recyclables and fear you'll miss the collection and have to stash away decomposing waste for a fortnight and then your bin will be full again after 2 days.

I've also noticed, with the amount of recycling that we do, that the small blue bin is not big enough. I wonder why they chose a small size since the black bin and the brown bin are normal size? They must have thought that people wouldn't recycle anything or that it would be a phase and we would grow tired of doing our bit for the planet.

It's also a nuisance that they haven't introduced a receptacle for glass bottles. In a previous abode, we used to have a kerb-side bin that we could place bottles, cans and paper in but according to the guidelines, this cannot be done with the larger and more convenient blue bin.

It's not too bad I suppose as Lou and I recycle our glass bottles at the supermarket. They cater for all types of recycling there including clothes which reminds me that I have several hideous fashion mistakes [gifts I may add] which someone will enjoy wearing. I'm sure you've read or
seen on TV that most of the bin bags with notes attached coming through your door are scams which end up back in shops in NOrthern Ireland and are resold to the unknowing public.

Welcome to the 21st century - where you have to be wary about what clothes you wear now, how you give them away when you don't want them and the potential to buy back the same thing a while later when it becomes fashionable again.

Monday, March 12, 2007

A Beginner's Guide to Laser-Eye Surgery

Article by JA

Jenny recently decided to undergo laser-eye surgery and rid herself of wearing glasses. This is her story of the loss of spectacles and frickin' lasers.


I have very large pupils (9mm I think) and a very high prescription, -8.5 in my right eye and -9 in my left, with some astigmatism. Because of this, I didn't think I was a candidate for laser surgery, but I went along to the Allclear Clinic in Belfast for a consultation in February, and discovered that I was. The surgeon decided to operate on my right eye on March 7th. I was given Zyoptix tissue-sparing treatment, which is perfect for somebody with the big pupil/poor sight problem that I had.


I went in to the surgery at 4pm for a 4.15pm appointment (I was told to come 15 minutes early). Skry and I sat there until 4.50pm and absolutely nothing happened, so I don't know why they told us to come early... maybe it was to give time to administer Valium to very nervous patients. Anyway, there was a girl in the waiting room in the very same situation as me, who had her right eye done the previous week and was in that day to get her left eye done, and she was able to reassure me that it was absolutely painless. She was fantastic - we joked that she was a plant put there by the surgeon to relax patients beforehand!

Anyway, I was eventually taken in and anaesthetic drops were put in my eye. About two minutes - if that - later, the nurse took me in to the surgery part. I was nervous that the drops hadn't had time to work, but when I lay down and a suction cup was attached to my eyeball and I felt nothing, I realised that they had! I couldn't see anything as it all went black from the pressure, but I could feel a nurse took my hand, and the surgeon was giving me a sort of head massage and talking calmly throughout as another nurse counted down from 30 to 0. That was the part where the laser was cutting a flap from my cornea, although of course I couldn't feel that or see it.

After reaching 0, the surgeon reassured me that it had gone perfectly, and said that we were nearly there. It got bright, there was some more movement in front of my eye which I couldn't really see, my eyelashes were taped back, I was told to focus on the red light in front of me, and then we were off. The laser was burning away (four blasts), and I could smell something like burnt hair. It wasn't overwhelming, just noticeable, and it was completely painless.Probably thirty seconds later, I was told it was all over, and the tapes were taken off my eyelashes (also painless - don't think I lost any!) and I was told to shut my eyes.

A couple of minutes after that, a nurse led me to a chair in a small waiting room, and that was it! Skry was called in and given the bag with the anaesthetic/antiseptic/steroid drops, and a pair of goggles to wear in bed, and was told how to administer everything. At this stage I had enough vision in my right eye to be able to go to the front desk, write a cheque to cover the cost, and walk down to the train station to get home. It was great!

I was sent home in this very fetching pair of shades. By that stage, things were still a bit blurry around the edges, and my eye felt like somebody put soap in it and was streaming, but it wasn't actually painful at all, just irritating. I had dark glasses to wear that evening, and there were tears dripping down from under them at one stage! But as I said, it wasn't painful at all, and I had anaesthetic drops to use every hour to take away the stinging, although I had such small need of these that I actually forgot I had them until later that night.

This is what I looked underneath the shades - I actually look very distressed in this photo, but it was just because I could hardly open my eyes in the light. It was like posing for a photo with the sunshine going straight into my eyes, rather than in a rather dim hallway without even a flash on the camera.

Four hours later, I had no need of the shades and no discomfort whatsoever, and the redness had pretty much disappeared.


I got a good night's sleep despite the goggles I have to wear for the next week, and when I woke up the next morning I could see properly! A self-assessment reading the number plates of cars parked in the distance suggested that the eye was at least driving standard already, and my check-up that day confirmed this. The surgeon was delighted, and said that I now have 20/20 vision in my right eye. He also said that you'd never guess I'd had laser surgery the previous day, so I guess my eye was healing up pretty well at that stage :)

My vision is really excellent, especially in bright light. I notice some halos around light sources, especially after dark, but it's nothing too intrusive (I always had halos to some degree anyway, so this isn't anything new). All is going great so far, and my left eye is being lasered on the 28th. I can't wait!

Friday, March 09, 2007

Links #32

Cops: Dwarf in Vegas

Can the cops help an out of control street Dwarf?

Wikipedia - Dwarves

Wikipedia - Vegas

Penn & Teller: Shadows

Penn & Teller use shadows.

Wikipedia - Shadow puppetry

South Park: Wheel of Fortune

Can Kyle's dad Randy win on Wheel of Fortune or make a total idiot out of himself?

Wikipedia - South Park

Wikipedia - Wheel of Fortune

Thursday, March 08, 2007


I loved Pedro Almodóvar's previous film 'Talk To Her' but found his next film 'Bad Education' difficult to watch, not only because of the sexual abuse inflicted upon the characters but that it lacked a spark that motivates the viewer to take a concerned interest in a movie. Perhaps it needs to be watched again. Perhaps not. Either way, his latest film 'Volver' is a film worthy of repeated viewing and once again Penélope Cruz has a lead role in an Almodóvar film.

Two sisters, Raimunda (Penélope Cruz) and Sole and Raimunda's daughter Paula are close friends, each with their own nuances and minor personal sleights against each other for various reasons. After their Aunt Paula dies, Sole returns to the village for the funeral.

Agustina, Aunt Paula’s neighbor whose mother had disappeared without a trace three years ago, tells Sole that she has heard the aunt talking with Sole's departed mother, Irene. In her aunt’s house, Sole encounters the ghost of her mother, who had died in a fire many years ago. Has she returned because she has left something undone in her life that is preventing her to move on?

Meanwhile Raimunda and her daughter have a different death to cope with after Paco, Paula's adoptive father attempted to force himself upon her, and she stabbed and killed him out of personal protection. Raimunda and Paula drag to a nearby unused restaurant's freezer. In a bizarre series of events she finds herself suddenly in the restaurant business with a corpse hidden away.

Volver is a story about family secrets and unresolved issues and the complications of life in general. It's beautifully shot and delivered in an interesting way with the plot slowly but delicately rolled out as the film progresses.

Almodóvar is always an interesting director and Volver will do nothing but cement his international reputation as a skilled craftsman.

I would give this movie 7.3 out of 10.


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

New Routines

Having moved into our new abode, it now remains to settle in and make it our own. For several days boxes have been emptied and much has been thrown out although this task will be harder still when we leave for New Zealand.

A new house also means a new route to work and I'm glad that this takes me in a twice a day journey through the park. Although cold and still resolutely wintry mornings, it is a relaxing feeling to be surrounded by the rustling of the trees and early morning dog walkers besides others on their way to work.

The new route is also 25 minutes less than the old and it only takes a quarter of an hour from front door to desk which is handy if I'm a little late in the morning or dying to get home at the end of the day. As the RDA of walking is 40 minutes a day I think I'll extend my journey home when the good weather strikes and take a longer route through the park.

The new place also has a small but apt back garden ideal for having a few friends over to BBQ and I'm looking forward to lighting up the first coals of the year following the winter BBQ back in December. Unfortunately the grass is a little long and the landlord has seen fit to leave an old push mower in the shed with only one arm to utilise. However, such minor inconveniences will not halt the BBQ proceeedings!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Gamespot #58


Remember this classic from the 80's?

Guide your frog across the busy road and over the river to other side without being squished.

Wikipedia - Frogger

Monday, March 05, 2007

Mastodon, Spring & Airbrake

I had been looking forward to this gig for some time and was eager to hear the band showcase the new album 'Blood Mountain'. Last week came the news that it was being moved from the Mandella Hall to the Spring & Airbrake due to poor ticket sales. I couldn't believe it. Arguably the best metal band on the planet at this time and the tickets weren't selling?!

24 hours before the gig, tickets were sold out - surprise surprise - and we were greeted at the enterence by a very long queue. Inside, the place was packed to the rafters and I'm sure it exceeded health and safety regulations.

Opening act Triggerman were excellent and Keith bought their CD so I'm looking forward to hearing it at some point. What's more, they're a local band so fingers crossed they'll get bigger over the next year. Then came a band from, I think, Carrickfergus called Saviour who weren't my cup of tea but I thought their drummer was excellent.

By this stage there wasn't much space available and some prick had thrown up stinking the place up but Mastodon took to the stage and all was quickly forgiven....

...until the sound cam blasting through the speakers. A heavy buzzing bass sound making the guitar and vocals almost unintelligible.

I had hoped that the sound would improve over the course of the first couple of songs thinking there was some fault that could be fixed but whatever it was, it made the bands sound bass-heavy, fuzzy and totally unlistenable.

It was a damn shame because the band were putting on a great show and if we could hear them as we were meant to, I would have thought it would be one of my favourite gigs of the year. As it is, it's one to sadly forget.


Thursday, March 01, 2007

Strike It Lucky

I was walking out of the pub on Tuesday lunchtime when I found a pound lying on the ground. It was the first time I had come across a 'significant' amount of money to warrant picking it up - 1's, 2's and 5p's seem littered about like cigarette butts these days - so I was chuffed that I had 'paid off' a third of my lunchtime tab.

Later that evening I was in the pub again and noticed yet another pound coin on the floor. My luck was certainly on the money today and into the pocket it went.

In work the next day, I was telling my co-worker about this lucky streak and he said that it tends to come in threes. If it was 24 hour luck, it wouldn't last much longer I imagined. Then, not a minute later, I was told that I had won £25 in the monthly lotto draw!

So, I guess the moral of the story is that it pays to drink and gamble! ;)

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