Wednesday, 28 January 2009

All Shirts Go To Hell

It was with sadness that I read the following email that dropped into my inbox a few days ago (links removed):

T-Shirt Hell says goodbye. Thanks to all who supported us.

We're sorry to bring the news that T-Shirt Hell will be closing its doors on Tuesday, Feb 10, 2009. Everything is now on sale during our final days.

For a message from the creator of TSH, Sunshine Megatron, go here. To view our final new shirts, plus 14 shirts we are bringing back as a thank you to everyone (including some of the best of our old Worse Than Hell section), go here.

It's been a deliciously wicked ride. Devilspeed to all who supported us.

(Customer service on all orders will continue for 60 days beyond our close date.)


Sunshine Megatron (formerly Aaron Landau Schwartz), the founder of T-Shirt Hell, has also written a more substantial explanation of his decision to close down T-Shirt Hell, which can be read here. Whilst there are several reasons behind Megatron's choice given, the two that stick out the most to me are republished below:

"I just don't feel like dealing with idiots anymore. I'll give you an example of the kind of misguided morons we deal with on a regular basis at T-Shirt Hell. We released a new shirt a couple weeks ago that says "It's not gay if you beat them up afterwards". I will not explain the irony or the social commentary of the slogan because anyone with half a brain should be able to handle that on their own. Problem is, we've been besieged with emails from angry people complaining about the "fact" that the shirt is hate speech or that we're promoting gay bashing and should take it down immediately."

"I can't say I'm surprised we're getting hate mail from people who have nothing better to do than to start half-assed campaigns because of their lazy, just enough passion for an email, ideals towards a misguided cause. It happened when we did our first really controversial shirt, "The School Shootings Tour", it happened when we did our "What About All The Good Things Hitler Did" shirt, it happened when we did our "Arrest Black Babies Before They Become Criminals" shirt (boy did it happen then). It used to happen all the time when we did more social commentary and didn't give a fuck about what anyone thought and did shirts that did not leave anyone out. Unfortunately, as a concern for the safety of my employees, we don't push the envelope as much anymore...and I can't say I feel good about having caved in. Anyway, rather than cater to the masses, I'm just going to stop making shirts."

As a fan and sporadic customer of T-Shirt Hell for a good few years, I have several feelings towards Megatron's decision.

Firstly, I'm glad that he has decided to call it a day before he started resenting the company he created. T-Shirt Hell, whilst always flying in the face of political correctness, had definitely toned down its product somewhat in what are now its autumn years. I had heard that both Megatron and some of his staff had had serious attempts at physical harm made on them and that this was the reason things had been reined in ever so slightly. If he had continued on but watered down the product further, Megatron would have lost credibility with those people to whom he originally aimed his shirts. The same would have been true if he had decided to sell the name of T-Shirt Hell to a clothing company (something which he has also stated he actively chose not to do despite the serious profit he would have made). So Sunshine Megatron can walk away from T-Shirt Hell with his head held high and a legacy of which to be proud.

Secondly, I find it a somewhat depressing fact that the general public can bother to hound a t-shirt company which promotes humour not to their taste to the point that they would rather close their doors than bend to the pressure put upon them to change. There are much worse things in life than a t-shirt that offends you. If it offends you, don't wear it, don't buy it. If seeing someone wearing it in the street offends you, you have the right to let them know that, but don't actively seek out the website from which they bought the shirt and send them hate mail.

I suppose I'm lucky in that very few things in the world intended to be humorous offend me. Some humour is not to my taste, or more often I just don't find funny, but I'm not going to push for that humour to be removed from transmission, publication or however it is being put out there. Because the kind of humour I dislike is generally accepted by society, even if I did I would almost certainly be largely ignored and nothing would change. But if something is largely not accepted by society, that's when freedom of speech is ignored and people claim "offense", and the taste of some is often ultimately sacrificed for the intolerance of many.

I can feel myself getting into a rant, and this is a topic upon which I could write a great deal (and may do so in a future entry). But for now, I'm off to browse T-Shirt Hell's remaining stock as well as the return of some classic shirts and some from the now defunct "Worse Than Hell" section, and I urge you, whether you have done so before or not, to do the same. Farewell T-Shirt Hell. Thank you for giving me some genuine laughs, making me want clothing that I could almost certainly never work up the courage to actually wear in public (and I'll be the first to genuinely declare: shame on me), and showing me that if someone actually wants to create something, no matter how controversial or esoteric, with determination and self-confidence it can be done. If only for a certain amount of time.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Shhhummm "What's the password!?" - "eerrr..." SNAP!

Having just read that Monster has been hacked and information such as email addresses and passwords stolen and having used the same password for years for various things, some of which giving access to bank account details, I have just changed my password for the major sites I use. No doubt I'll remember other pages that I'll need to change it on but for the time being I feel safe again. Unfortunately I may end up getting Phishing emails and shit like that but I can ignore them for the time being and if it gets too annoying I can get a new email account, which will be annoying but it's better than being mass fraudified.

The title relates to the gnarled old man who stands at the door to my e-world and asks for my password, he's been informed of the change and shan't* be letting anyone other than me in, woop.

I've decided I may start doing footnotes of sorts in my err... dialogues as I tend to go off on a tangent that breaks the flow of the sentence up so much that the abrupt change back to the topic can seem confusing, to me atleast. The first one of these is below.

* - incidentally this is one of those words that can only be pronounced like a southerner, ie. sharn't, sh-ant just sounds wrong, the others sound wrong with an r though.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Long overdue

As we wait upon an incredibly historic moment, which some of us will be witnessing more closely than others, I wonder, as I have before, why it hasn't happened sooner? This video shows that back in 1964 Martin Luther King thought that a black president would be possible within 25 years which was more to do with prejudice rather than ability, but it's taken 44 years (assuming my meagre maths skills are correct) for this to happen. Surely this could've happened earlier. I feel like we are being lead to believe that this is something incredible, the first black president, but I feel that really we (well maybe more Americans) should be feeling a little ashamed that this hadn't happened earlier. If there where people qualified to do the job back in 1964 then surely there have been people qualified before Obama. But it seems that it's not until 2008 that this could happen, why?

I dunno, maybe I'm wrong, I'm glad that Obama's been elected and will soon be one of the most powerful people in the world and I really hope he lives up to the job and make some huge changes?

Also am I just an incredibly cynical bastard or have BBC got out their black presenters to help cover this event? Would they be using the same people if McCaine had won, although they probably wouldn't be covering it as much. I dunno maybe that's all irrelevant, but we do seem to have a culture that does make distinctions between black and white people, not necessarily in a negative way, but in a way that still makes it seem like there is more than a difference in skin colour.

Anyway, Congrats Obama, have a lovely inauguration (because you're obviously reading this :D ) and hope you can make some great changes in your time in office, and if you do a good job, I hope you get another term.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Crappy day - Updated

It's amazing how one relatively minor but time wasting and stressful thing that happens right at the end of your day can screw up a relatively good day and piss me off a lot.

As requested, elaboration:

I had planned to meet my good friend Russ to save the world, through the medium of Halo 3 co-op at around half 6. At about 4 I started work on a feature we release every Tuesday. By half 6 I'd left the office. The intervening 2 and a half hours where composed mostly of frustration and generally stress due to the systems we use at work being overly complicated and prone to breaking without giving you any real reason for it. It mostly comes down to user error, but when there are numerous things which can be wrong making sure you have covered all your bases can become a horrible game of trying to work out what's wrong with no real guidelines and usually wastes far too much time. So that's pretty much it. I didn't feel up to typing much before as I was using my iPhone and was still mostly annoyed.

Incidentally we did save the world, however I was disappointed when I didn't receive my achievement for completing the game on Legendary, due to the game being silly. I think we played a couple of sections over two different days, thus it didn't register us as completing them, grrrrr.

So anyway I'm in at half 8 tomorrow which will cheer me up no end.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Stars 'n' Stripes


I'm off to America for a couple of weeks, so won't be able to update with anything massive. I'll try to do a couple of posts from there, giving some of my thoughts on my first visit to the land of the free and home of the brave, but hopefully there'll be posts from other authors here to fill the void.

Wish me luck.

(image shared under creative commons licence by Thomas Hawk)

Linkables 18/1/9

Proof that you don't need money or a studio to make something worth watching, just charisma and an idea: Paint my Album [part 1] [part 2].

Star Wars, as described by someone who hasn't seen it.

Why Google employees quit.

How to be direct and to the point in your personal blog.

Time management sims are too addictive.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Confusion i'm sure

not entirely sure why I'm doing this, but I am so go

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Linkables 13/1/9

First links of the new year, so lets try and make 'em good'n's. (not that anyone reads these link posts).

Videos:

More great videos from TED on learning from nature in robot movement and self aware robot concepts.

The best sporting video clips of 2008 from the Guardian.

Ninja dance (watch to the end, it's totally worth it) and weather cat.


Games:

Geography quiz, airport-based time management and super-simple top-scrolling shooter.


Articles:

The Boston Globe ideas section on linguistics and tricking the brain.

Best print media errors and corrections of 2008.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Filmography 2008: BamBi Edition

In the same way as Telf has, and as I did for 2007, the films I saw that were released this year reviewed in under twenty-five words with a score out of ten.

There Will Be Blood
A gripping and intense story that you don't just watch, you experience. Day-Lewis is superb. A film I cannot fault.
10/10

Cloverfield
A snappy action-disaster film which does everything it attempts well. The real star is the monster. The handheld style works better on DVD.
8/10

In Bruges
Not what I was expecting at all. Wry and irreverent humour that works very well, and a cast that fits together in a very satisfying way. A new favourite.
8/10

Jumper

Boring, underdeveloped sci-fi/action tosh that even Samuel L. Jackson can't save.
4/10

Vantage Point
A novel concept that becomes overdone halfway through and is then dropped in favour of Hollywood tripe two thirds in.
5/10

Funny Games U.S.
Some solid performances throughout, but ultimately too nihilistic for its own good. A gripping watch but without enough substance in the end.
7/10

Iron Man
Despite slow and unfocused sections and a tacked-on bad guy at the end, this stays slick all the way through. Downey Jr. is fantastic.
7/10

Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull
A great action adventure. Ford is great, the supporting cast fine. A couple of silly moments, but otherwise highly enjoyable, and most certainly Indy.
7/10

Sex And The City
Feels well made, but I've never seen an episode all the way through, so its impact upon me was limited.
6/10

Kung Fu Panda
Well written with highly polished and vibrant animation. Black and Hoffman steal the show, but the Furious Five's vocal cast support solidly.
7/10

The Happening
Shyamalan churns out a pretentious, slow and ultimately uninteresting film. Wahlberg is so wooden he should be sold in Wickes.
5/10

The Incredible Hulk
Flat, unfocused, not very interesting. A waste of both a great cast and a franchise.
4/10

WALL-E
Flawless cinema. Ingenious in its crafting and execution. Endearing and sweet whilst having a seriously bleak (but entirely non-preachy) message. Superb.
10/10

Hancock
Smith is great as the eponymous hero with solid support. Loses its way a little in the second half, but ultimately a very good film.
7/10

Hellboy II: The Golden Army
Slightly too long and a little lacking in pace and focus at times. That said, Del Toro has been allowed free reign with the characters and has created an excellent film.
7/10

The Dark Knight
Sprawling, gothic and highly polished. The whole cast is fabulous and the story is crafted masterfully. The standard by which comic book films will now be judged.
10/10

Mamma Mia!
Vacuous ABBA-fest with a ridiculous story. Luckily it never takes itself seriously for a second. Still pants though.
3/10

Tropic Thunder
Leaves you feeling a little lost at the start, but once this gets going its great throughout. Very, very funny. Cruise is a sensation.
8/10

Burn After Reading
The Coen Brothers doing what they do best very well. Outlandish characters in absurd situations. Finely crafted, very clever and very, very funny.
9/10

Quantum Of Solace
Somewhat disappointing, but only because Casino Royale set the bar so high. Gritty and well made, but the plot is confusing and the humour is absent.
7/10

And the ones I wanted to see, but never did...
Teeth
4 Months, 3 Weeks And 2 Days
Be Kind Rewind
Leatherheads
Shine A Light
Son Of Rambow
Man On Wire
Hamlet 2
Righteous Kill
Ghost Town
Lakeview Terrace
RocknRolla
Body Of Lies
Happy-Go-Lucky
W.
What Just Happened
Synecdoche, New York
Zack And Miri Make A Porno
Soul Men


I don't watch enough films to do a film round-up so...

...here's a meme that I've done pretty much every year on one of my other blogs for the last five years or so.

Meme of 2008

1. What did you do in 2008 that you'd never done before?
Spontaneously decide to mission it down to London for a gig at the Albert Hall the day before said gig. Leave the gig just in time to get the last train back to Birmingham at 1am-ish in the morning and then go to work the following day. About 36hours into a new relationship with my travelling comapnion.

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I didn't. But I have made some this year. I'm doing pretty well so far, but we're less than two weeks in.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Nope.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
My great aunt Haidee. She's been in a home for several years and I hadn't seen her since my early teens. She'd had a stroke and then dementia in recent years and probably didn't remember any of us too well. I was terrified of her when I was small, but grew to understand her sense of humour more when I was a bit older. She was headmistress of girls' boarding school in Kenya for 30 years or so and taught maths. A truly inspirational woman. Mum did her funeral.

5. What countries did you visit?
Thailand and France.

6. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?
Job security. More time for creative writing. More self-belief. I'm working on the second two, not a lot I can do about the first one.

7. What date(s) from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
12th April. I persuaded Ed to go out with me.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Probably interviewing Colin Dexter, creator of Inspector Morse. That, and blagging a free hot air balloon ride for me and a photographer.

9. What was your biggest failure?
RInging up a woman who had committed a terrible crime more than 50 years ago, and atoned for it, to see if she would be willing to talk to us about it. I had a pretty good idea what she would say and I shouldn't have disturbed her, even if a senior colleague told me to.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Some little sod bent my knee entirely the wrong way in judo. And I had lots of colds, as usual.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
My iMac. So pretty. It's my precioussss.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
My sister's. She's had a tough time, boywise, but she hasn't let it stop her and I'm really proud of her. Also, well done the American public, for electing Obama.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
Politicians mainly, but that's par for the course.

14. Where did most of your money go?
On food probably and rent.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Going to see Joan Armatrading with Ed, going up in a balloon, going home for Christmas.

16. What song will always remind you of 2008?
Grace Kelly - Mika, I know it's not recent, but I had it pretty much on repeat while on holiday in France. It reduces me to a giggling, bouncing ball of joy each time I hear it.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
I. Sadder or happier? Happier. Things are a whole lot better than they were 12 months ago.
II. Thinner or fatter? Fatter. But not lots. And once it is warmer and I don't have a sodding cold, more exercise will happen..
III. Richer or poorer? About the same.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Writing for myself. That's one of my resolutions this year

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Work! Hehe.

20. How will you be spending Christmas?
Spent it with my family of four, muchos fun :)

22. Did you fall in love in 2008?
Yup. Though I'm not really sure what love is anymore.

23. How many one-night stands?
I don't really do one-night stands. So none.

24. What was your favourite TV program?
Meh. Don't really watch TV anymore. Out of sequence, Patrick introduced me to Screenwipe and The West Wing, both of which are awesome on a stick. I watched Merlin for lack of anything better to do, but acknowledge that it really was quite shite.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
Nope.

26. What was the best book you read?
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. At times I had to stop reading, it was so physically painful to carry on.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Didn't listen to much new stuff this year. Things that were new didn't impinge greatly. Jens Lekman (the one song I posted on here is the only one I know) and The Knife's original version of Heartbeats (covered for the Sony Bravia advert with the bouncing balls) were both awesome but I never got beyond the one song. Newton Faulkner was a pretty good find.

28. What did you want and get?
Mean Girls on DVD. Win. I'm sure there were other things, but I've forgotten what they were.

30. What was your favourite film of this year?
Probably Mamma Mia! actually, though I don't remember seeing many films this year, I think I saw The Other Boleyn Girl (not bad, but raised a lot of feminist ire), Hellboy II (good, but the climax of the film was completely undermined by another crucial aspect of the plot, which was a bit dumb really), Iron Man (boring shit), The Dark Knight (too long and disjointed), but wait... changed my mind, Kung Fu Panda! Mamma Mia! is number 2 though.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I was 24. And I had a barbecue in my back garden with friends. Which is exactly what I did last year. Freaky-deaky.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Doing more creative/freelance work.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008?
Young professional, with hints of rock chick/tomboy. When at home, jeans and a sweater. I've moved out of leather jackets into chunky knit fabrics for the top layer. This is possibly a good thing and leads to fewer accusations that I'm a secret leather fetishist.

34. What kept you sane?
The fact that I'd rebuilt my psyche from the bottom up and was focused on pleasing myself rather than other people.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
He's a hardy perennial, but probably David Bowie, but only in a low-key background general adoration kind of way. I've never really done celebrity crushes.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
Anything to do with women's rights, generally.

37. Who did you miss?
Ed, when I wasn't with him.

38. Who was the best new person you met?
Tom. Who I actually knew sort of before, because he was a couple of years ahead of me at uni, but I'd never really spoken to him. But he works at the same engineering firm as my boyfriend and comes out with us a fair bit.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008:
Positive thinking does work. But you have to do an awful lot of it. Wanting to be over someone doesn't make it happen faster.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
"Some mirrors have been broken,
and some things pull you back,
but I see something growing up from the cracks" - Cracks, by Thea Gilmore

Define "define"...

It seems that Empire magazine have taken a slightly different tack on what they did to review 2007 in film. Last year they produced their top 25 films of 2007; for 2008, they've opted for the 50 films that "defined" the year. My thoughts:

- I agree that looking not just at the very best films of the year, taking into account the films that were impactful in other ways as well, is a more rounded and objective way of approaching summing up film in 2008. However, as with any list of this kind my main issue is with clarity, or a lack thereof. How are Empire defining how a film "defines" a year? Popularity? Social impact? Launching careers? Some kind of parameters would be useful in knowing exactly how they've weighed up these 50 films against all the others released last year.

- I have seen twenty-two of them - an improvement on last year's six out of twenty-five. There's a dozen or so more that I wanted to see before reading the list, and three or four more have joined that list since reading the list.

- On The Incredible Hulk: "Louis Leterrier's daft, punchy Hulk-take isn't as good as Ang Lee's, and made less money at the box office. There's a lesson there...". I couldn't agree more. Probably the most disappointing film of 2008 for me, mainly because, with such a talented cast and the comic book adaptation/"reboot" market booming, it was a real wasted opportunity.

- On Mamma Mia!: "Ropey A-list ABBA karaoke or just, y'know, a good laugh? Either way, it's a box-office phenomenon, making more at UK cinemas than The Dark Knight. Eek!" - In answer to the first question, definitely the former. As for outdoing The Dark Knight at the box office, that's just depressing more than anything else.


All in all, an interesting list, but I'd like to see Empire's top 25 films of 2008 as well, because whilst the good, the bad and the mediocre are important in reviewing the year, ultimately the cream of the crop is what any film fan is truly interested in.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Filmography 2008

Same as for 2007. All the films I saw in 2008 at the cinema, in less than 25 words.

Lust, Caution
Intriguing thriller that possibly moves too slowly for its own good. Great visuals, acting and a subtle script that leaves a lot unsaid.
8/10
[my full review]

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
Tense, interesting, character study with great performances from everyone. Sketchy plot and potentially unsatisfying ending take the shine off an otherwise intriguing piece.
7/10 [my full review]

No Country For Old Men
A magnificent, deep, thoroughly enjoyable thriller, with more to it than might meet the eye initially. Excels in every aspect.
10/10 [my full review]

Sweeney Todd - The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
As long as you don’t expect too much depth and character, there’s a dark, entertaining story to be had here.
7/10 [my full review]

Cloverfield
Tightly produced, and entertaining to watch. The short run time keeps the pace up, but leaves possibly too little room for interesting character development.
7/10 [my full review]

Juno
Unapologetically quirky. Funny and bizarre in equal measure, with great performances from everyone, especially Ellen Page.
9/10 [original review in this post]

There Will Be Blood
A very strange experience. I don't know if I enjoyed it, but it was possibly the most compelling film I have ever seen.
9/10

Grindhouse
Gritty, ballsy and ludicrously entertaining. Not perfect, but it gets out there and does something different, and with great success.
9/10 [my full review]

The Other Boleyn Girl
I'd have preferred a bit more court intruigue, and a bit less romantic fluff, but this is certainly not a lost cause.
6/10 [original review in this post]

Vantage Point
Sets up an interesting premise, and then throws it away in favour of Hollywood rubbish. Disappointing.
5/10 [original review in this post]

21
Starts well, but there's no believable darkness to the story, and it runs out of momentum after a while.
4/10 [original review in this post]

Persepolis
Stylish and well told, if lacking a some direction, depth and punch.
6/10 [my full review]

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Flashes of the real Indy experience are rare. Too smug and obsessed with self-references to be anything more than a generic action film.
4/10

The Happening
Genuinely creepy at times, but runs out of steam after half an hour. Melodramatic with no interesting diologue or characters.
4/10 [my full review]

Hancock
First half is promising. Could have been an interesting look at superhero psyche. Just another CGI-fest in the end. Pity.
6/10 [original review in this post]

Kung Fu Panda
Polished, stylish and very funny. Not massively original story, and a couple of underused characters, but overall an excellent film.
8/10 [original review in this post]

WALL - E
Entertaining without being fluffy. Deep without being preachy. Cute without being kiddy. Contains a lovable cockroach. What more could you ask for?
10/10 [original review in this post]

The Dark Knight
Exciting, thrilling and disturbing. Complex and dark. Takes the superhero genre to new heights. Heath Ledger is mesmerising.
9/10

The X-Files: I Want To Believe
Smug and uncinematic. No style or substance. No good writing. Big disappointment. Billy Connolly is good, though.
3/10 [original review in this post]

Get Smart
Tooth-grindingly generic. Watch the trailer and be done with it.
3/10 [my full review]

Somers Town
More charming than gritty, but not unenjoyable. Rough around the edges, but perfectly watchable. Good performances from all three leads.
7/10 [original review in this post]

Rocknrolla
It's no Lock, Stock, but it's not bad. Enough larger-than-life characters to cover up some of the dodgy gangster stylings.7/10 [original review in this post]

Tropic Thunder
Starts slowly. Hit and miss. Wants to be a satire, but often slips into straight comedy. Enjoyable without being brilliant. Tom Cruise is amazing, though.
7/10 [original review in this post]

I've Loved You So Long
Slow and tense, but the climax doesn't feel as dramatic as it could have. Good in general, but never brilliant.
6/10


Quantum Of Solace
Tries to do interesting things with an overarching storyline, but the plot of this particular film suffers. Good action sequences, but nothing massively memorable. 6/10

W.
Too much caricature and not enough substance. Great acting, for the most part, but the story doesn't drive deep enough.
5/10 [original review in this post]

Julia
Interesting characters and good twisting plot. Not afraid to be occasionally dark. Possibly slightly too long, and suffers from predictable ending.
8/10 [original review in this post]


And the films I wanted to see but never got around to:

  • 4 Months, 3 weeks, 2 Days
  • Dan In Real Life
  • In The Valley Of Elah
  • Le Scaphandre Et Le Papillon - The Diving-Bell And The Butterfly
  • In Bruges
  • The Mist
  • Man On Wire
  • Hellboy II - The Golden Army
  • The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
  • Gomorrah
  • Burn After Reading
  • Max Payne
  • Changeling

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Fun with beards

Having not bothered shaving for a good while, in an attempt to achieve a good full beard, and not really getting there, I decided that what may help is to shave.

I realise that is almost the opposite of what I was trying to do, but the theory is that by shaving I'm helping the beard to grow fuller and less patchy. Having spent many years, way back when I was in sixth form, trying to grow a goatee by essentially not shaving my chin for a while then shaving of the few sprigs a few weeks later it appears that the places where I shaved more infrequently, but after allowing it to grow, are now the places where I can grow facial hair best, the chin and the sideburns. I had long hair for a good while so they where naturally ignored as it wasn't really seen.

Anyway after deciding to go for a proper shave, with a razor instead of just my clipper thing, I decided to have a bit of fun with the hair I had on my face before seeing it off for good (well until it grows back again). I've tried to identify my creations as best I could using this helpful guide which has probably been posted before.

So here are some shots of what I achieved, mostly swiftly and without much thought.



- The before shot, nothing exactly special really. Although it did make me look a bit like Che Guevara and Fidel Castro when I wore my hat :D




- Friendly Mutton Chops or as best as I could do.



- Another Mutton Chop varient, just with a bit more shaving.



- Long Sideburns and Pointy Mustache, type thing



- My usual triangular sideburns and a crappy mustache



- Copstash Standard, or something like that.



- Clear Shaven, technically not a beard type, but oh well. Makes my nose look even more wonky.

I kinda feel a little naked without all the hair covering my face and no doubt it will be a lot colder than I've become accustomed to around my chin, but oh well hopefully it'll help me attain beard greatness.

Goodbye 2008

In the same way as we did last year...

Best film I saw at the cinema in 2008:
Grindhouse (My review)
(runners up: The Dark Knight, Wall-E, No Country for Old Men, The Assassination of Jesse James, There Will Be Blood)

A huge number of good films there, and it's so difficult to pick a favourite, but I'm going with Grindhouse because I loved the attention to detail put in to push it from just a cinema trip to something much more.


Best film I saw (for the first time) on DVD in 2008:
Brick (my review in here)
(runners up: Sunshine, Fargo)

Brick and Sunshine both jumped pretty much into my top ten films ever on a first viewing, but Brick just scrapes it for being so inventive without needing any of the special effects flash of Sunshine.


Best TV show that I saw for the first time in 2008:
Deadwood (seasons 1 and 2)


Best single of the year (even though I know nothing about music):
N/A

Yep, I didn't listen to enough new music this year to even be able to identify a favourite single.


Best album of the year:
Heretic Pride - The Mountain Goats.


Best live show I saw this year:
Derren Brown - An evening of wonders (my review here)


Live show I wish I'd seen this year:
The Mountain Goats

If I'd had anyone to go with, I'd have gone, but I didn't want to brave them on my own for the ONE NIGHT they appeared to be playing in the UK, ever.


Best game I played this year:
Call of Duty 4
(runner up: Assassin's Creed)

The campaign is a bit overblown, but the multiplayer has sapped more of my evenings this winter than the flu.


Best non-computer game I played this year:
Warhammer

Yep, incredibly sad, but with more disposable cash than I had back when I last tried it when I was 12, this hobby is a lot more accessible, and heart-warmingly geeky.


Most time wasted this year:
www.itsyourturn.com

Playing up to 200 games of chess at once has never been so possible. Might take over your life.


Best blog I started reading this year:
Bete de Jour
(runner up: Photoshop Disasters)


Best webcomic discovered this year:
Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal
(runner up: Wondermark)

Meme, Myself & I: Farewell 2008

Best film I saw at the cinema in 2008:
WALL-E (honorable mentions: The Dark Knight, There Will Be Blood, No Country For Old Men)
A great year for film in many respects. Any of the films in the honorable mentions could easily have been my film of the year, as all of them pretty much created a near-perfect cinematic experience for me. I chose WALL-E over the others because the other three, whilst being immense films that I find very hard to fault, can't really be described as "fun". WALL-E, as well as being pretty much flawless as a film, ignited that warm, fuzzy feeling inside me in a way that very few films have done since I was a child, and that's why it's my film of the year.

Best film I saw (for the first time) on DVD in 2008:
The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford

Best TV show I saw (for the first time) in 2008:
Robot Chicken

Best TV show I continued to watch in 2008:
Doctor Who (honorable mention: Lost)
This was an incredibly close call. Lost continued on very well, moving itself forward by answering questions and through the use of flashforwards as well as flashbacks. The story is getting more and more intriguing as it closes in on the climax. I'm going to watch until the very end, and as the series heads to its end the last two seasons have the potential to be very very special. Doctor Who just seems to go from strength to strength however, showcasing some of the most incredible writing and fascinating plots I can remember seeing in a TV show for a very long time. For anyone who is still not convinced by Doctor Who, I would recommend you watch the two part story from the most recent series (series 4) Silence In The Library and Forest Of The Dead. The story told through those two episodes is simply fantastic, and easily rivals any feature film story. Although I'm disappointed to see David Tennant leave the role, I'm really looking forward to seeing how Matt Smith handles the role when he takes over in 2010.

Best singles of 2008:
Noisia - Cannonball
Danny Byrd - Shock Out
Pendulum - Propane Nightmares
Ting Tings - That's Not My Name
Wiley - Wearing My Rolex

Best albums of 2008:
Justice - A Cross The Universe
Chase & Status - More Than Alot
Portishead - Third

Most annoying song of 2008:
The X Factor Finalists - Hero
Kaiser Chiefs - Never Miss A Beat
Adele - Chasing Pavements

Best artist I started listening to this year:
Metallica
I know, not exactly a new band, and I'd heard a few bits and pieces by them in the past, but I bought Metallica (The Black Album) this year and think it's fantastic. I've since bought their newest album, Death Magnetic, but haven't had a chance to listen to it properly. I'm pretty sure if I had it would be a candidate for one of the best albums of the year though. I look forward to exploring Metallica's back catalogue further in 2009.

Best live show I saw this year:
Bill Bailey - Tinselworm
Bill gets zanier each time I see him. It was basically like having him stand on a stage and spout a stream of consciousness at the audience, occasionally picking up an instrument and doing something both wonderful and hilarious with it. Tinselworm seemed to rely less on Bill's comedy songs and more on his comedy routines, and whilst I could sit and listen to Bill Bailey's songs all day, it was quite refreshing to see him doing something slightly different to what I've seen before. I've heard that the DVD version of this show, filmed at Wembley Arena, is in some ways overpowered by Bill's use of technological wizardry and creating spectacle, not leaving enough room for the man himself and his humour (I own the DVD, but having not watched it yet I can't comment); I saw the show with Hayley at the Gielgud Theatre, and the show was largely absent of technology, relying mainly on Bill Bailey being Bill Bailey, so I'll be interested to see what I think of the Wembley version.

Live show I wish I'd seen this year:
Pendulum playing live as a band anywhere.
I saw them as a birthday present
from Hayley performing a DJ set, which I've seen them do a few times before and which was fantastic, but I've yet to see them play as a band. I've salivated over the video clips on YouTube, and I've decided that they are the band I need to see in 2009 if I possibly can.

Most time wasted this year:
Facebook (second year running)

Best webcomic I've started reading this year:
Dinosaur Comics (honorable mentions: Wondermark Lite, Left-Handed Toons)


I look forward to hopefully reading other writers' reviews of 2008. Here's to plenty more entertainment throughout 2009.

Friday, 2 January 2009

New Year Confusions

Ladies, Gentlmen and Smismars, welcome to 2009. Like Bambi, I too eschew plans for crazily over-elaborate and expensive new year celebrations in favour of spending time with people I actually like and can have a conversation with. The two best new years I ever spent were as follows:


  1. Travelling to Orkney for a week and spending it in a shack with no electricity or heating. There was whisky, beer, new year's day hiking on the Island of Hoy, visits to the neolithic village of Skara Brae and playing of ultimate frisbee on the beach while wearing three layers of clothes.

  2. Getting in free to a Mr Scruff gig with my two best mates, after one of said mate's then boyfriend won tickets. That's the most fun I've ever had clubbing, which is saying something as usually I take to clubbing like duck to merchant banking. Even though it was a great night, we were still plagued with London transport doing its usual crap thang and the weather being nipple-chappyingly freezing.


This year, I visited a friend in Norwich. The boyfriend decided he would accompany me and we spent a happy evening with eight other people, eating pizza and home-made chocolate brownie, drinking a bit and seeing whose quote knowledge of Futurama/Star Wars/The Simpsons/Family Guy/Narnia/random films was best. As the clock struck 12, we assembled outside and set some incendiary entertainment devices on fire. We then watched Bender's Game and stayed up discussing music until 4am-ish. All good fun. In what was possibly the geekiest New Year ever, we then watched Dune the next day. I have resolved to read it, because the film was frickin' awesome.

And now it's January 2 and I'm enjoying the liminality of this time of year. The normal operations of society have been suspended. Everything will kick back into fifth gear come Monday, but right now, it's hibernation time. I like this period, because it's the one time when I feel that it's completely acceptable to do nothing of use. It can't last too long, because otherwise you'd get bored. It's also worth quitting while you're ahead, too much of a good thing wears thin pretty quickly.

I don't usually make New Year's resolutions, I think if you're going to make changes, you should just get on with it. There is nothing particularly special about this time of year that makes it a good time to change your life, your wardrobe or your personality, but people like structure and incentives. In this instance, I guess it gives you something to get you through the dark days when, by rights, we should all be tucked up o'nights sleeping for 16 hours.

Instead of resolutions, I'm going to post a list of aims. I'm hoping if I make them public, I may actually feel under some pressure to achieve them.

I want to:
- write something for myself every day, be it my unfinished novel, a short story, a poem or a blog entry. I just want to do something with words that isn't work. I want the fun of writing back, dammnit.
- buy my own climbing harness
- start making films with my iMac
- learn how to use my Mac ftp client
- change my website's layout
- play the clarinet more regularly again
- do more exercise
- be more positive
- pass the final stage of my journalism qualification first time
- be happier at work

That's hardly exhaustive, but it's a start and hopefully it's realistic. I think the trick is not to aim too high, but do the small things and you'll get there.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet

Well, 2008 is behind us, and as we settle into 2009 like a brand new jumper that fits perfectly but, having not been worn in, doesn't yet feel quite comfortable yet, I thought I'd just post a few random observations of mine:


- 2008 seems to have been a year, on the whole, that a lot of people haven't liked. This is in no way backed up through any kind of research, but based purely on what I've heard and read from various friends and acquaintances. Many people I know seem to be very happy to see the back of '08. For a variety of reasons, '08 was a very good year for me, so whilst I always try to look to the future, it's a year I will look back on fondly.

- For those of you who were underwhelmed by your new year's eve celebrations, I now have a few consecutive years of experience to say confidently that it's not what you're doing that matters, but who you're with. I've spent the past few new year's eves in the company of people who mean a great deal to me: this year I had a relatively quiet night in with my girlfriend, seeing in the new year with a couple of films and some good food and drink. I still know people who build new year's eve up to be a huge event and feel that they have to either do something momentous or get so drunk that even if they manage to see the clock tick over to midnight they won't remember it, both of which usually cost significantly more than on any other night of the year. If you found this year that your new year's eve didn't live up to your expectations, next year I recommend that you don't have any expectations, and just make sure you're with people that you care about and who care about you. In my experience, it beats paying over the odds to have a hangover on new year's day every time.

- Whilst FOTSLJW has fluctuated in its activity over the past year, my activity possibly fluctuating more than that of anyone else, I still feel incredibly proud to be part of this little online community of opinion, esotericism and self-amusement. In some ways it's a shame that we did not quite reach the "one entry for every day of the year" milestone (only two entries short), but at the same time the amount of entries in this blog's first full calendar year I think is a fabulous achievement, and every topic discussed in 2008 demonstrates the wide range of ideas and occurrences that this blog, and its contributors, cover and consider. I look forward with zeal to the continuance of FOTSLJW into 2009, and wonder what all of the contributors will be doing in a year's time, and indeed if we will be joined by any new contributors.


I shall leave at that for now. Happy new year to everyone and anyone who reads this blog (if you haven't already made yourself known, 2009 is the year to do it) and I wish you a prosperous and positive year ahead.