james debate
james debate

Monday 31 March 2008

No, it's not the sequel to Project Cloverfield. This is a Montreal based charity, one that you will absolutely love to give money to. The concept is simple and very clever. Yellowbird has asked a number of their favorite indie bands to design a t-shirt, and then they sell it on their website, with all the proceeds going to a charity of the band's choice.

This is great fun, and many of the t-shirts are very cool. Bands such as Stars, the Shins and Clap Your Hands say Yeah have signed up, and they're all pretty great. Myself, I have gone for the Stars shirt, being that I love the band, and I think their t-shirt is the best looking as well.

Do be sure to have a look next time you feel like being charitable, or if you feel like buying something to remind you of your favorite bands, or simply if you just want to purchase something a little unique, a little different that no one else will have.

While this is the first time I have seen fit to write an article like this, I know that it is one many can relate to. Generally, most people who deal with the auction website eBay will at some point or another have a bad experience, encountering a scammer or dodgy user or dealing with inept and ineffective customer support. This month I have had the pleasure of witnessing all of these things at once. So now, for your amusement, and as a warning of sorts, I will detail this bizarre and really rather depressing tale.

It all started in mid February, when myself and a friend who shall remain nameless decided we wanted to go see REM, the band, playing at the Royal Albert Hall, an awesome sounding prospect. This friend already knew my password for eBay and went ahead and bought the tickets without waiting for my confirmation that the date was a good one. I exchanged a quick email or two with the seller to see if he would mind cancelling the transaction. However, he refused and said that as the cash had already gone through there was 'nothing he could do' and suggested that I sell them on. I decided this would be acceptable and waited patiently for the tickets to arrive.

Flashforward a month and a half and the tickets have not arrived. It turns out the seller went and sold them to someone else, keeping my money in the process. When he did not respond to my emails I left him some rather negative feedback stating, quite simply, that I never received the tickets, I also opened a dispute with paypal to try and get my money back.
At this point I went skiing in Switzerland for a week, during which time I didn't go on eBay, as I saw no reason to. How wrong I was. During this interim the seller retaliated by posting a very negative, completely untrue feedback saying that he refunded me my money and that I was a 'waste of eBay time and space'. On top of this, he filed a 'payment not received' claim with eBay, who proceeded to strike my account and remove the feedback I had left him, without a shred of evidence, or clearly, without even checking their own records to see that I had in fact paid. Pure idiocy, part 1.

Upon realising this, I quickly appealed my strike, asked ebay to remove his feedback and reinstate mine, sending paypal records and emails he had sent me to show that I had paid, he hadn't refunded me, and he hadn't sent me the item I paid for. EBay refused to remove his comment, somehow deeming that whereas my fair, warranted and truthful comment was in violation for feedback poilcy (due to the completely bogus unpaid item strike, i fail to see the connection), his completely false, untrue (as he admitted in an email i forwarded them) feedback was not. Pure idiocy, part 2.

After waiting several days to hear back on any of the other things I asked them about, they eventually responded by saying that in order to remove the strike for which they had absolutely no proof, I did actually need hard proof, and paypal records wouldn't cut it. I had to wait until I got home, print out the paypal records and wait several more days until they reached the eBay offices (I have yet to hear back from them on this to this day). Pure idiocy, part 3.

Normally 3 strikes is enough, but on that same day they also replied with regards to the item not being received and my refund. The basic gist of their email was that they would not take any action against the seller and they would not pressure him to refund my money. Their general attitude was 'let paypal handle it'. Need I even say it?

Fortunately Paypal aren't useless and very quickly I had my full refund from the seller. However eBay did do one thing right at least, they sent me a customer service satisfaction survey, where I gave them the biggest torching I have ever given to anything. A happy ending :)

song of the day: "Falling" by "Ben Kweller"
thing you're going to do today: sleep past noon
pic of the day:

Other forms of advertising

Friday 28 March 2008

A bit late perhaps, but now having seen all of the major Oscar picks from this year's Academy Awards ceremony I think it is high time I give you the lowdown and let you know which of all these highly rated movies are really worth a viewing, and the ones who's presence in this most prestigious of movie award ceremonies are quite frankly ill deserved.

Beginning with Juno.
We might as well start with my favorite of this year's big movies. The word "quirky" has become the quick and easy way to describe films such as Little Miss Sunshine and Garden State that straddle the lines between indie and studio films and comedy and drama. Following in their footsteps this year is Juno, and it may well be the best yet. First of all it is necessary to tell the remarkable tale of Diablo Cody, the writer of Juno. Previously working as a stripper, this is Cody's first ever screenplay, and what a way to mark a drastic career change, she went on to win the Oscar for 'Best Original Screenplay'. Watching her tear-filled acceptance speech is surely enough to warm anyone's heart. As for the film itself. It is exceptionally well written, if a little heavy handed in 'street lingo' in some of the opening scenes. On top of this it is very well acted; this film serves as yet another example of why Superbad and Arrested Development's Michael Cera is one of Hollywood's most talented youngster, and yet this pales in comparison to the stunning Ellen Page, surely the breakout actress of this year, who was nominated for 'Best Actress' for this role, remarkable for such a tender young age. However it would be criminal to overlook the effect of Jason Reitman's fantastic directing, which in the end is what gives the film it's quirky, unique quality that makes it so unmissable.
Verdict: Must Watch

Followed byNo Country for Old Men.
Ah the Coen Brothers. Anyone here who has not seen Fargo, I will allow you a 3 hour break to go watch it right now, as you have been badly educated. Very much in a similar mold is the sibling duo's latest film No Country for Old Men. The tone is highly understated, and the plot is not earth shatteringly fresh, but it is layered, and it is directed with such technical brilliance, heart stoppingly tense and sweetened by brilliant cinematography. Javier Bardem deservedly won the Oscar for 'Best Supporting Actor' and is frankly bone chilling as a no-nonsense psychopath, as ruthless as he is cunning, on top of which Josh Brolin and Tommy Lee Jones very ably add to the acting talent on screen. However it must be noted, this film is not for everyone; the understated tone can come off as far too inaccessible for many people and this will likely only please a certain kind of audience.
Verdict: Only if you have the patience for a dark and subtle movie

But is it better thanThere Will be Blood.
A film that will likely be remembered for it's lead performance, There Will be Blood is a dark and unsettling tale of one man's ruthless quest for power. Daniel Day-Lewis won the Oscar for 'Best Actor' for this role and indeed he is very impressive, however many watchers may be somewhat distracted by his constant and pretty much perfect copy of John Huston. This movie is a similar watch to No Country for Old Men, but slightly pacier, possibly a bit better and even darker. This film is ultimately highlighted by highly ambitious directing from writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson and only time will tell if he has pulled it off, for this film to be remembered as a masterpiece. From my point of view, love or hate the ending, it is hard to fault his work here.
Verdict: Not to everyone's taste, but certainly worth a watch if you like westerns, period pieces or overly dark movies.

And the forgotten manCharlie Wilson's War.
This is a movie largely overlooked by the Academy, despite getting one nomination, Phillip Seymour Hoffman for 'Best Supporting Actor', who eventually lost out to Javier Bardem. However this does it a disservice in this observer's opinion. Not only is the film written with a lightning quick wit, and ably directed, but bolstered by fine acting performances. Tom Hanks is, as usual, effortlessly charming and believable in his role, and he is matched by the perfect foil, yet another absolutely flawless performance from Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who surely came within a whisker of winning his second Oscar, on top of which Julia Roberts also reminds us that she is in fact a highly talented actress with her portrayal of a texan socialite. The story is engrossing, amusing, exciting and finished off by a classic sting in the tail, leaving a bitter taste in the viewers' minds, lending itself to what is without a doubt one of the more enjoyable films this year. I think it is a worrying sign that the general consensus in the Academy appears to be that a film has to be depressing and dark in order to be a good movie, but pay no attention to them, and watch this wonderfully enjoyable and well realised film.
Verdict: Must Watch

What are they doing here?
How 'Surfs Up' and 'The Golden Compass' found there way in here, we will never know. Surfs Up is, quite obviously, for kids, and highly dismal for anyone else, and frankly far worse than a number of other animated movies from this year (the Simpsons for example, and any number of indie productions) The Golden Compass is a disappointment, hard even to recommend to fans of the books. I was a massive fan of the books, and the mesmerizing stage production at the National, but even I could barely stomach the butchering of the film's ending. Up until that point it was adequate, and with a glorious cast I was prepared to enjoy it. At the end of the day Phillip Pullman wussed out, and allowed the studios to dumb down the controversial anti-religion subject matter of the books in an attempt not to offend anyone, and then committed an even worse sin by cutting the ending of the film to be a 'happy' ending, as opposed to the wonderfully stinging twist at the end of the first book. For shame.
Verdict: Hard to recommend either

One of the more annoying (albeit preventable) things you can do is forget your computer password. When this happens however one can fix the problem simply by logging into their administrator account and resetting the password. But what do you do if you forget your administrator password? I know some people who have uninstalled and reinstalled windows because of this problem, however it is a problem which can be circumvented.

Things You’ll Need:
Windows CD-ROM
PC that supports a bootable CD-ROM

Step 1:
Access your BIOS when your computer is starting up. How you do this depends on your computer. Common commands include holding F2, F10, ctrl + alt + F1 or delete as your computer boots. Most computers will tell you what to press on the initial boot screen. Once there, modify your BIOS so that it will boot from the Windows CD-ROM. Insert the Windows CD into the drive and boot up the PC. Watch the screen messages until you see the prompt: "Press any key to boot from CD."

Step 2:
Boot up and eventually you will see the Windows 'setup' screen. It will ask you if you want to repair or install, press 'R' to initiate the repair process. This may take a few minutes, the computer will automatically reboot afterwards.

Step 3:
Open a command prompt after your PC reboots and resumes setup. To do this in Windows XP, watch the bottom left-hand side of your screen until you see a progress bar that reads: "Installing devices," and then press the "Shift + F10." This will open a command console.

Step 4:
You can now gain access to your Control panel. Type nusrmgr.cpl and press enter.

Step 5:
Use the tools provided to reset your passwords. When you are done, close the control panel and then type in "Exit" to close your command console. Allow the repair to complete as usual. You will then be able to log on using your new password.

Just a quick word from me. I am in Switzerland right now and it's bloody wonderful. I will post a full guide and review much like I did for Italy last summer (which remained my most viewed article until my recent indie music post) so stay tuned for that!

The number of hits I'm getting on this blog now have pretty much doubled in the past month, so thanks to all of you for reading and spreading the word.

Wish you all the best and good luck to those of us who have exams coming up.

-James x

song of the day: "Starlett Johansson" by "The Teenagers"
thing you're going to do today: Start planning yourself a bang up summer vacation, since you're not doing anything now for Easter
pic of the day:
Sunny days on the slopes
Triumph the Insult Comic

Windy days on the slopes
any lesser comedians

Friday 21 March 2008

When someone uses the term 'indie' it brings all different kinds of images and ideas to different people. At the end of the day though it basically just refers to an artist of some form who hasn't signed a major contract with a big record label or movie studio, and so operates without the massive income, advertising and budgets of other more well known artists. However record labels are not always right. Especially today when so many of them opt for the lowest common denominator that brings in the bucketloads of cash, and generally propagate the same old stuff over and over again, both good and bad. Anyone who has ever looked into the indie music scene knows all too well that there are tons and tons of hidden gems out there that have yet to be appreciated fully, or may never be. In this article I shall help you out by giving you a taste of a few of the hotter recent indie tunes.

We will begin with Jim Noir.
You may be excused for thinking that nothing even vaguely cultural of note has come out of Manchester since... well... erm... hang on i'll think of one. You certainly wouldn't associate some of the best pop melodies of the past decade with that place. But all that has changed now without you even knowing it. Jim Noir is a one man army of a band, with a quirky fresh sound that doesn't come along too often. After his debut album 'Tower of Love' received high critical acclaim and a few soundtrack credits on shows like Grey's Anatomy, his followup titled simply 'Jim Noir' could well be the album that finally gives him his breakthrough. I think once you've listened to some of the following song samples you'll begin to see why.
Happy Day Today - Jim Noir
Key of C - Jim Noir
I Me You I'm Your - Jim Noir

Next up Ben Folds.
This one may be a bit more familiar. Ben Folds has achieved a modicum of success, having been around for a good deal longer. Singer, pianist, composer, performer, song writer and multi-instrumentalist, Ben Folds is widely acclaimed as a multi talented artist, a rare talent. Surprisingly despite this moderate success in America he has never crossed over to this country, til now. With a varied musical talent, from pop to piano ballads, to dr dre's 'bitches aint shit', there are a number of songs that are truly worth a listen to if you haven't already. I'm actually very angry with this first preview as it cuts out before the stunning chorus which is the best bit by quite a distance, just take my word for it and buy the song, do it now and thank me later, if you don't like it i'll refund you the damn 79p!
Brick - Ben Folds Five
Still Fighting it - Ben Folds
Bitches Ain't Shit - Ben Folds

Last one for today VHS or Beta.
The name of the band itself seems to harken back to the 1980s, and indeed the sound varies between daft punk-esque house tracks and 1980s the cure/duran duran rock, to excellent effect. They rock with melody and really touch home with evocative lyrics. If you have any flavour for the styles mentioned above then this is a no-brainer, you will love these guys.
Alive - VHS or Beta
Can't Believe a Single Word - VHS or Beta
Forever - VHS or Beta

Well ok I lied, one more, 4 is my favorite number anyway Stars.
Quite possibly the only good thing ever to have come out of Canada besides maple syrup. Stars are a band of dreamy, romantic pop-rockers who, quite frankly, achieve a harmony of lyrics, melody and depth that most bands can only dream of. Characterized by lush instrumentation, nimble production and mixing, narrative lyrics, and soft but nuanced vocals, these are the kinds of songs that remind you that life is worth living. Again, despite achieving some level of recognition in America, this band is still surprisingly unknown in this country, something which really needs to be rectified. It's very hard for me to pick three songs as there are a few you should hear. If I were you I'd just go and buy their last two albums 'Set Yourself on Fire' and 'In Our Bedroom After the War'.
Ageless Beauty - Stars
Window Bird - Stars
Sleep Tonight - Stars

Let's face it: we all procrastinate, it's only human and indeed it's one of the few pure pleasures in life these days. But sometimes in life there comes an occasion where you really need to actually get something done. Like work, or studying or what have you. I may slack off an awful lot, like now for example, but I am also an expert on buckling down to some hard work when necessary, and now with this quick and easy 'how to' guide, you too can unlock your potential and stop yourself from procrastinating.

Step1: Identify the reason for procrastination. Is it because you are easily distracted? scared of failing? a perfectionist who can't start until everything is perfect?

Step2: Break your task down into small chunks, then tackle each portion as if it were a seperate task.

Step3: Set deadlines. For example give yourself small-scale deadlines. eg 'I will read 30 pages in the next hour'.

Step4: Work in small blocks of time. Try going for one or two hour stretches with a small break at the end.

Step5: Start with the easiest part of a big project. For example if you are writing an essay and having difficulty with the introduction, write the main body of text first, and then do the intro later.

Step6: Pretty obvious, but eliminate potential distractions. Turn the tv off, put your phone on silent, etc.

song of the day: "Happy Day Today" by "Jim Noir"
thing you're going to do today: Watch the new Lost
pic of the day:
Indie Musical Gems
Champions League
Those 'drink and drive' adverts

The crap on the top 40 chart
Those 'use a condom' adverts that think they're really really 'cool'

Sunday 16 March 2008

Now we have a title race. For the first time in a couple of years we have a really exciting run in to the end of the season, with 3 teams who can very reasonably be expected to win it. As it currently stands Man United and Arsenal are drawn top, with arsenal having played a game more. Chelsea have played a game less and find themselves 3 points behind, if they win that game at hand they will be drawn top with the other two.

As it currently stands the odds makers have arsenal as 3rd favorites, with united top and chelsea second favorites to win. This is incredibly impressive when you consider how far behind chelsea were earlier in the season, as well as all the horrible luck, injury crises, african cup of nations, bad ref calls, once in a lifetime player blunders and off the pitch turmoil (see my article last week) that has gripped the club this season. That they are still up there very much in contention just shows how impressive a team they really have.

That being said, I feel that giving Chelsea such strong odds to win the league is a bit premature, and coming from a Chelsea fan that says a lot. Look at the upcoming fixtures and you will see that chelsea have by far the hardest run in, with away games at tottenham, everton, newcastle and man city, as well as big games against man united and arsenal. Considering avram has had such an awful record against the big teams I find it hard to be optimistic about those fixtures. If we win every game left this season (9 games) we will win the league, but quite frankly 6 out of those 9 i would not be surprised to see us not win. Mind you the fact that we're in this race at all just shows how laughable some of the hacks and amateurs were who claimed chelsea would struggle to get a champions league place this season! To be honest we haven't looked like winning it since the first couple of weeks this season, but youd have to have next to zero knowledge of football, and have not seen chelsea play at all this season to really think that they would finish so low :S As usual I am a pessimistic and self hating chelsea fan, but for once I actually feel heartened by recent results, and bordering on optimistic for the first time in a long time.

song of the day: "Always Love" by "Nada Surf"
thing you're going to do today: enjoy what it feels like to be on holiday
pic of the day:

6 weeks of easter

4 weeks of easter
FA cup
Snow Boarding

Sunday 9 March 2008

Is such a thing really possible? Can one use Nintendo's amazing invention as a standard computer peripheral? Indeed it can be, thanks to the magic of bluetooth. You see, it turns out the wii remote does just use standard bluetooth, and the infra-red bar is just to give the remote some indication of where the edges of the television screen are (indeed it can even be replaced by two well placed candles on top of the tv, though why you would want to is beyond me).

So how do you do this? Well first off you need some software, get 'glovePIE' if you are unfortunate enough to use windows, and 'osculator' if you use mac. Load up your software and look for the 'search' or 'on' button and when prompted to do so hold down the 1 and 2 buttons on the wii remote. This allows the remote to be searched for by the computer.

Once the search process is done you will see a list of possible inputs from the wii remote, including the 8-way stick, the 5 buttons and the gyroscopic sensors (also extra buttons and analog sticks depending on any extra peripherals you have connected to your wii remote) You can take these inputs and choose from a menu of possible responses, keystrokes, mouse movements and various button clicks and map an input to any response you desire. By mapping the analog stick to control relative mouse movement on the x axis and y axis you can then use the remote as a mouse, and voilà, you have your own funky wireless mouse and a keyboard for up to 5 buttons. I don't know about you but I'm doing all my work with my wii guitar from now on :)

If Newcastle United is a bit like Eastenders, a soap opera full of tragedy and absurdly unlikely plot twists that end in disaster, then Chelsea FC is a bit like the OC, a tragic soap opera that doesn't suck quite as much. At least for the first 2 seasons, with back to back titles, and then slightly more pathetic and unwatchable these last two seasons (as you can see the club draws amazing parallels with the OC).

The fact is that even last season, where we only won 2 out of 4 trophies on offer (I know, how terrible) we were the best team in the country, and even the most dogged united fans consider themselves quite fortunate to have won last year, recognizing the injuries and off-the-pitch turmoil that began to grip chelsea last season. This season however is a different story. We have been pretty good at times, and suffered similar issues to last season, including an arguably even bigger injury crisis this year, but despite this, one can not honestly say we deserve to be at the summit or win anything. We just aren't that good. We have, in many people's opinions, our best squad ever, but we are being so comically mis-managed by an israeli premierleague reject and our arrogant owner who seems to believe he has the necessary skills to interfere and successfully manage a football club.

Quite frankly, Grant is not fit to be our assistant manager, clarke and ten cate are far more competent than he will ever be, and Roman should back the hell off and leave the football to the experts. Do you think it's a coincidence that Wenger has been so successful having been given near total control of his club? watch and learn from their example.

If Roman won't step aside and do what's best for the club then quite frankly he has to go. If I had the money I'd buy the club off him, and then I'd go beg Mourinho to come back and tell him he can do whatever he wants and I won't interfere at all. The difference between the two is that simply the players don't respect grant, he's like the forgotten man.

A story that illustrates this perfectly: following the carling up final defeat Grant wants to call a player meeting to sort things out. He searches the training ground trying to find the player, only to find that john terry has called a meeting without him. Attempting to join the proceedings he is told to wait outside by the players, being told that the meeting is for players only. He waits 10 minutes and comes back, only to find that they are still in discussion, and goes away again, and again, and again, and so on. The moral of this story being that grant has no power and no control and the players dont respect him. Roman, sort it out.

song of the day: "Reptilia" by "The Strokes"
thing you're going to do today: take a break from studying, just a little one, please.
pic of the day:

St Moritz

Canis Canem Edit
Val d'isere

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