james debate
james debate

Saturday, 26 July 2008

It isn't often that I go to a film in the middle of the day and the cinema is packed full. It's even less usual that this packed cinema erupts in hearty applause after the film ends. But then the Dark Knight is no ordinary film.

It seems that so far this summer, with everything I have gone to see, the highlight of the evening has tended to be the trailers before the start of the movie. I am very pleased to say that I have found a film where this is not the case, and thus the summer was rescued. I'll attempt to remain as spoiler-free as possible here in case you haven't seen the movie.



To say that this film is better than other comic book or superhero movies is not fair. Neither to this film nor to the other comic book and superhero movies. Quite simply, this so far beyond any of them that it does a disservice to the Dark Knight to even consider it part of the same genre. This is not a film that deserves to be mentioned alongside Spiderman, the Incredible Hulk or even Batman Begins, but rather one that should be compared to the great crime thrillers in cinema. That's a bold statement to be sure, and after all the hype I have been hearing for the past few weeks I must admit I had my doubts ahead of seeing this movie. Would it really be able to live up to all this?

This film is incredibly different to what you'd expect from a superhero movie. It just doesn't have the campness and comic lightheartedness that you often see in such a film. But why is this? It's not the grittiness, we've already seen that in Batman Begins. What really surprises you when you watch this film is that despite being a 'Batman' film, a surprisingly small amount of the focus is on the dark knight himself. I mean don't get me wrong, you still know this is a batman film, but as much of the story is as focused on the likes of Eckhart's Harvey Dent and Oldman's James Gordon as the three of them seek to lift the people of Gotham City from the corruption and darkness that they have all become so resigned to.

The other shock to the system is the lack of moral clarity here. In Spiderman or Superman good is always Good and bad is always Bad, black and white, and though some of these movies in recent times (seemingly inspired by the first steps taken in Batman Begins it must be said) have attempted to blur the line a little, most have resulted in failure (see Spiderman 3 and Peter Parker's floppy haired emo doppelganger). The Dark Knight expertly presents us with some of the most evocative and thought provoking moral dilemmas of our age, presenting a world and a situation that is stunningly bleak, and unlike most films that attempt to be 'preachy' or hit a deeper note, this one does not give us a bunch of easy answers.

This Batman is not the uncompromising paragon of goodness and light, and he makes decisions that we would never want to have to make, and that we are unaccustomed to seeing our heroes make. This presentation of moral ambiguity allows the film to delve deeper into analyzing the psychology behind it all, what drives a homicidal maniac? what guides a figure of authority or a vigilante trying to do 'the right thing'? and what of the nature of being a 'hero', of inspiring the mindset of the general populace and being 'the hero that they need' as opposed to one who does what's best regardless of the cost, a hero that they can get behind, a symbol for a movement (reminiscent of v for vendetta), a deep philosophical analysis of why it is that we all need heroes, and what they really mean to us. To say this is all very ambitious is no overstatement, but it is all pulled off so brilliantly and with a human quality that it all works.

On top of this there is an unerring plausibility and realism about the whole thing, a theme that began with Batman Begins but is taken to a whole new level here. It all serves to add weight and gravitas to the more layered and thought provoking nature of the film. But it wouldn't work without the magnificent direction and cinematography of Christopher Nolan, who is the real star of this movie. Nolan managed to guide his impressive cast to give some of the best performances of their careers to boot. Christian Bale as Batman gives a far far far more confident and steely assured performance than in Batman Begins and is a major improvement. Maggie Gyllenhaal replaces Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes and adds much greater depth and credibility to her character than we had seen previously. Aaron Eckhart is flawless as Harvey Dent and Gary Oldman really excels with an authoritative yet vulnerable performance of his police officer James Gordon.

And of course, it has taken me this long to get to Heath Ledger and his performance as the Joker, because I chose to leave him until the end. Before today I would have told you that the most bone chillingly brilliant performance ever as a movie villain was Phillip Seymour Hoffman in Mission Impossible 3, and indeed it was fantastic, but this is simply something else. Ledger is THE definitive Joker now. If you haven't read at least one article declaring him odds on to posthumously get an oscar, then you really need to read more, because thousands of column inches are being used to say just that. The trailers implied something special would come from this, but it is only upon watching the full thing that you get to truly appreciate the electricity and beguiling menace of his performance, casting the Joker in a whole new light, one of real insanity, a man not motivated by conventional logic or desires for power or money, a man who as the film perfectly sums up 'just wants to watch the world burn' and is all the more frightening for it. This is one of those performances that means that when he's on screen you simply can't take your eyes off of him, and it's truly tragic that he will never know just how massive and career changing a performance he gave here, and that it's put him within reach of an oscar. I don't know about you but watching this aussie teenager in ten things i hate about you all those years ago i would never have imagined him collecting a statuette.

Merge all this brilliance with relentlessly frenetic and heart thumping action that keeps you on edge for the entire duration of the film and you have yourself one of the best thrillers in years and certainly the best superhero-based film ever. It is with great pleasure that I use this film to usher in the brand new ratings system that I will be using in all future reviews (and maybe some old ones if i can be bothered).


Verdict:

Anyone who tried coming on here today will have noticed some pretty radical, abeit temporary, changes. We apologise for that, blog simply went nuts for a few hours, but it's all better now.

Meanwhile we have some new additions to the site, notably the buzzfeed section on the side bar, bringing a constantly changing selection of the hottest items found in various places online. So now when you come on here, if you finish reading the content we have available and can't be bothered to go check out our 'appreciated links' section, just have a quick glance at what interesting tidbits are making the rounds on buzzfeed now.

You will notice that today's is a very very short entry... simply put this is because the only reason i'm making another entry now is to post my review of the Dark Knight. Go give it a read it's spoiler-free, and then go watch the film because it's truly special.

song of the day: "Dream On" by "Aerosmith"
thing that makes me smile today: The Dark Knight, pure and simple... well not so much smile as sit with my jaw dropped in awe.
pic of the day:
HOT:
The Dark Knight
Heath Ledger
Morally grey

NOT:
Other comicbook movies
Jack Nicholson
Black and white

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Every few years, every few decades, there comes a paradigm shift that changes the world. New technologies arise that revolutionize all aspects of our lives in ways that were previously impossible.

Can you imagine a world without computers? The Internet? Wireless satellite communication to all corners of the globe? Our parents lived in such a world. In fact while a quick look at how the world has changed even recently in the past decade might not appear too interesting, upon closer inspection you'll find that quite a lot has changed indeed. In 2000, for example, I had never even owned a mobile phone, and now I have the iPhone, a device more complex and advanced than even the hypothetical handheld devices in star trek. 5 years ago I needed a computer the size of a bedside table to store up to 60gbs of files, now my similarly sized computer stores 2000gbs.

Technology increases exponentially, and when you look at how much the world has changed in recent years to the state it is currently in, with everyone and everything wirelessly connected, transferring media of all sizes (pictures, films, music) at high speeds, one can only dream of what will come next. What technological revolutions will we see in the not to distant future? What will we see by the end of our lifetime? In this article, we take a brief look at 6 of the most exciting technologies you can expect to see within the next hundred years.


6. Improved Cybernetic Implants
They're already here. Cochlear implants have been helping people regain their hearing for years now. However it is within the next few decades that this technology will fully realize its potential, as the technology becomes smaller and smaller, more efficient and less intrusive to one's daily life.



The potential applications of such technology have obvious implications for the medical industry, where implants will be able to replace failing organs and bodily functions, such as eyes to restore vision, and the aforementioned implants in the ear.

However it is especially interesting to consider the 'outside the box' potential such technology could have. For example a neural implant that allows the user to connect to the internet and immediately gain access to any information he desires, or communicate with friends all over the world (such theories often involve imprinting images on the back on the retina to create a sort of computer interface that responds to eye movements to allow control of such a system). Similar ideas involve additions to augment natural senses such as sight and hearing to make them more efficient or to have more diverse functions (an implant in the eye to allow vision in the dark for example) and using such implants to allow interface with a virtual reality system of some fashion, think the matrix but less horror.

ETA: 5-10 years


5. Complete Virtual Reality
With computer and communication technology advancing at such a rapid rate, and online communities becoming ever more commonplace, and the rise of online worlds such as 'second life', it is logical that there is only one eventual place for this technology to go. Virtual reality.



All this advance, it is believed, will someday reach its zenith in the creation of a matrix-style online world, as mentioned before. This is a world where people can change their physical properties and appearance to look like anything they want to, a world where two people can meet and hang out in any environment they want. A world where people can fly, travel across the world in the blink of an eye and experience things that are impossible in the real world. And the real kicker is that all of this will be completely indistinguishable from real life, with perfect life-like graphics, physics and complete immersion. Some theorists imagine that this will all eventually reach a point where much of our lives are carried out in such a world, for the sake of safety, convenience and comfort.

Imagine this world. A world where it becomes increasingly rare for humans to leave their homes, a world where the majority of interaction occurs in this online universe. Geography will become meaningless as it will no longer be important for people to be living close to work or close to friends and loved ones, online work and online social interaction will be completely indistinguishable from the real thing. To some people this is utopia, to others it is dystopia. Either way this is the way things are headed if you are to believe many computer scientists.

ETA: 15-20 years


4. Hydrogen Fuel
Let's face it, there are many reasons why the world would have been a better place if Al Gore had been elected president. It's not easy to say such a thing because I didn't particularly like him back then, but it's true. This man has the right ideas, and he's one of the few men in Washington who seems to have the conviction to really make the changes that are necessary.

One of the biggest and most fundamental of these changes is the advent of alternative forms of fuel in order to stop further damage to our environment, and with his recent challenge to completely remove America's dependence on fossil fuels and switch to alternative energy in the next decade (which pundits have likened to JFK's challenge to put a man on the moon) serious change could be right around the corner.

Such technology would serve to counteract the effects of global warming, reduce the currently outrageous price of fuel, and solve the potential crisis of depleting our fossil fuel supplies. The problem is, basically, that the technology still needs investment to make it more practical and economical, but this is never going to happen when so many potential funders in the government are in the pocket of people in the fossil fuel industry. There is a lot of money in that industry and they will do whatever they can to keep it that way, even at the expense of the environment and the customers. That's just the way it's always been, dating back to the discovery of petroleum.

ETA: 10 years with a democrat president, 25 with a republican


3. Mind Uploading
Now we're getting into serious sci-fi territory. The very notion of uploading one's consciousness into a computer format seems absurd to most people, impossible to many, and highly controversial to others.

Clearly the technology, even the understanding, required for such a development is a long long way off. We don't know nearly enough about the brain or consciousness to even begin to hypothesize how something like this might be pulled off. Recent thinking among many researchers in such fields equates the brain to being basically an absurdly complex natural computer system, controlled by electric impulses. Now, with this in mind one can begin to imagine that one day it could be possible simply to duplicate this on a sufficiently advanced artificial system.

With the exponential increase in computing power, many experts suggest that computers will within decades be powerful enough to manage such complex computations and neural interactions on a level equal to or even surpassing the computational ability of the human brain. For example it is estimated that by 2018, 10^13 bits of computer memory--roughly the equivalent of the memory space in a single human brain--will cost $1000.

At this point it will depend on our knowledge of the human brain and how the sensation of consciousness works whether or not such a thing will be possible. Clearly if it is, this presents amazing new possibilities, including but not limited to: immortality, complete virtual reality, infinite knowledge, and the ability to be anywhere in the world that you wanted.

However as previously mentioned there is a lot of controversy on this subject. Many researchers in the field are of the opinion that what creates this impression of 'self' that we all experience is something intangible, something that can't be transferred. For example it is apparent that it involves more than simply recreating an individual's brain. We can create an identical copy of a brain with cloning, or with identical twins and yet for all intents and purposes they are different people, so clearly there is something else there that designates 'self' to each of us. Computer scientists present an analogy for how this might work, suggesting that if you consider the brain to be the hardware, the consciousness is the software, and all it requires is discovering how to transfer this software on to a different medium.

Aside from the obvious moral, ethical and religious implications, a big practical issue here is concerning matters of identity; if you transfer all memories to an artificial brain that is identical to a natural brain and then stimulate the same electrical impulses to generate consciousness, are you not merely copying an individual? Even if that computer-based consciousness thought it was the same person the memories had been transferred from, and for all intents and purposes appeared to be the same person from an objective view, would it be the same from a subjective view? or would the original person have been killed off, replaced with an identical copy on an immortal computer format? It's these things that give me a headache and generate discomfort in thinking about such possibilities.

Far off in the distant future? Maybe not as much as you think: within decades computers will long have been powerful enough, and we will likely know as much about the brain as we are ever going to know within a few more decades.

ETA: 75 years (if it is indeed possible)


2. Strong AI
It's been the subject of fiction for ever and ever. It's been the subject of intense debate. But will a computer brain ever be able to think like a human? Will a computer brain ever be truly conscious, like us? Will a computer brain ever be able to paint a picture or write music? Or can the human brain simply not be recreated with such complexity.



Some people think that there is something mystic about the human brain, that our artistic ability and emotion come from something that is intangible and will never be possible for a computer brain. Many experts in neurology however now think of the brain as an extremely complex system of electrical impulses, and that somehow, all of these 'human' qualities arise as a result of these impulses.

This suggests that someday, if advances in the field of ai and artificial brain structure continue as they have been doing, it should be feasible to create an artificial intelligence that has these qualities, through an extremely complex artificial system. Some people argue that this would not be the same as true emotion or having a true soul as it would simply be as a result of a man made neural system, rather than a real living creature, but then you have to ask yourself; artificial or not, is it really any different to how we living creatures work? Are artificial impulses flowing through an identical artificial brain really any different than electrical impulses flowing through a natural one?

The next big step is for an AI to be developed that can pass the Turing test, a test that is designed to evaluate whether or not an AI is truly intelligent. Once this has been done, AIs will continue to improve in speed and complexity until not only can they think exactly like we do, but they can do so faster and more efficiently, augmented by the artificial abilities we can give these brains to hear and see in spectrums outside the human range of sensation, and surpass us. Or so the theory goes.

According to theories by leading computer scientists, once this happens it is only a matter of time until such intelligences completely take over from us in fields such as research, where they will be able to think so quickly between one another that humans simply won't be able to keep up

Don't worry though, most experts think that a Terminator-esque robot civil war is highly unlikely in the future. For one such intelligent beings would likely hold us in high regard as their creators and even as their ancestors. Further more by the time such technology exists it is likely that the line between 'human' and machine will be getting increasingly thin with cybernetic implants, possible mind uploading, etc.

ETA: 25-30 years


1. Nanotechnology
The grand daddy of them all, in my opinion. Nanotechnology involves the manufacture of tiny nano-sized machines that can directly interact on a molecular level. Such technology can, in theory, do pretty much anything.

Look at the world around you. You will see books, a desk, a computer, a lot of crap on the floor maybe. What you have to grasp in your mind is that a book is not just a book. A book is a specific sequence of atoms and molecules. A tumour is a sequence of atoms and molecules. A smell is a sequence of atoms and molecules. Our senses and movements are the result of the movement of muscles, neurotransmitters and the like, all made up of atoms and molecules. Nanotechnology, in theory, would be able to modify, create, pretty much do anything, to all of the above and more.

Probably the earliest application of such technology would be in medicine, where nanobots can be designed to replace various blood cells, boost our immunity to near invincible, target cancer cells, and much much more. Read back a week or two and you will see an earlier article i wrote about such devices performing a red blood cell function for an example. If you can imagine miniature devices that can perform all of these functions, without the flaws and weaknesses present in their natural equivalent, then it's not a big stretch to imagine a day when this can be used to cure all disease, to fight all cancer, to boost muscle mass, reflexes and even stop or reverse aging (by removing waste products, repairing damaged and worn out cells and organs, etc).

Other widely anticipated uses include the ability to create tiny nano-sized solar panels, revolutionizing our potential power sources, possibly solving all energy and pollution crises (if it beats hydrogen fuel there). Similarly imagine an army of programmed nanobots that can build atoms, create molecular structure, and then in theory build any object in the world from scratch.

As you can see such technology has the potential to be practically indistinguishable from 'magic' and could well be one of the most pivotal creations of man kind, allowing us to interact with and control our universe in ways we have never before been able to.

However, it is not without its own dangers. For example, imagine the potential problems with computer viruses? Maybe in 100 years terrorists will be using special computer viruses to control our nanobots instead of biological pathogens which will likely be useless by that point. At the end of the day, one has to realize that anything that can take such direct control over our world can just as easily destroy it in the wrong hands.

ETA: 20 years

The New York Times has rejected an essay written by Republican Presidential nominee John McCain defending the Iraq war.

A week ago, senator Barack Obama had a piece published by the Times in which he detailed his views on Iraq policy and the muddled way it has been mishandled by the Bush administration. The piece has received a fair deal of critical acclaim and as such McCain deemed it necessary to write a rebuttal.

Unfortunately he decided to take this idea to an extreme, which has resulted in the highly respected publication rejecting his piece. In an e-mail to the McCain campaign, Opinion Page Editor David Shipley said he could not accept the piece as written, but would be "pleased, though, to look at another draft."

"Let me suggest an approach," he wrote Friday. "The Obama piece worked for me because it offered new information (it appeared before his speech); while Senator Obama discussed Senator McCain, he also went into detail about his own plans. It would be terrific to have an article from Senator McCain that mirrors Senator Obama's piece."

If you give the McCain piece a read it is not difficult to imagine why this has not been accepted in its current form. Every single paragraph begins with 'Obama says...' or 'Obama thinks...' rather than actually offering his own assessment of the situation, McCain has chosen to write an attack piece on Senator Obama.

This shouldn't come as a shock to political pundits, as it basically reflects how the GOP generally chooses to run its campaigns. What is interesting to see is the contrast between a reputable news source like the New York Times, which refuses to sink to such a level and publish a piece like that, and something like Fox News, which is increasingly becoming a parody of a news network reporting more propaganda and car chases than real news, stepping dangerously close to the Fox News image in satirical comedy 'Idiocracy'.

As a closing thought I will present another interesting news item from today, namely that tomorrow in New York at 2pm local time, there will be a mass protest outside the Fox building to complain about the general lack of quality in Fox News, and present a petition with close to 700,000 signatures to warn advertisers to avoid associating their products with such a thing. If this receives good coverage and makes some real noise then it will be a real triumph for all Americans who want to be taken seriously.

This story was not written by me. As many of you know I love to read, and I love to write as well. Right now I have been spending most of my time writing for fairly long and deep projects, but once upon a time I actually preferred writing short stories. The trouble is, I always struggled with the pacing for such a short piece; either I would end up making it sound far too rushed, or I would pace it far too slowly and be unable to write anything much more thrilling that a diary entry. I attribute this flaw to my automatic instinct for employing a naturalistic style, making it sound 'real', something which allows some real depth to be integrated into a story over the course of a couple hundred pages, but much harder to do so in ten or twenty.

For this reason I think it is harder to write great short stories than long novels, but when it is done right, it comes off as truly inspired. Haruki Murakami is one of my favorite authors, and he is an author who can do just that. I advise all of you to read his transcendent collection of short stories 'The Elephant Vanishes', but for me personally his best short story is this one I am about to show you. A great short story needs to somehow manage a good blend of simplicity and meaning. This story triumphs as a result of ultimate simplicity (the entire story is basically a single speech) whilst imbuing it with a touching, relatable quirkiness, and is a pure joy to read:

One beautiful April morning, on a narrow side street in Tokyo's fashionable Harujuku neighborhood, I walked past the 100% perfect girl.

Tell you the truth, she's not that good-looking. She doesn't stand out in any way. Her clothes are nothing special. The back of her hair is still bent out of shape from sleep. She isn't young, either - must be near thirty, not even close to a "girl," properly speaking. But still, I know from fifty yards away: She's the 100% perfect girl for me. The moment I see her, there's a rumbling in my chest, and my mouth is as dry as a desert.

Maybe you have your own particular favorite type of girl - one with slim ankles, say, or big eyes, or graceful fingers, or you're drawn for no good reason to girls who take their time with every meal. I have my own preferences, of course. Sometimes in a restaurant I'll catch myself staring at the girl at the next table to mine because I like the shape of her nose.

But no one can insist that his 100% perfect girl correspond to some preconceived type. Much as I like noses, I can't recall the shape of hers - or even if she had one. All I can remember for sure is that she was no great beauty. It's weird.

"Yesterday on the street I passed the 100% girl," I tell someone.

"Yeah?" he says. "Good-looking?"

"Not really."

"Your favorite type, then?"

"I don't know. I can't seem to remember anything about her - the shape of her eyes or the size of her breasts."

"Strange."

"Yeah. Strange."

"So anyhow," he says, already bored, "what did you do? Talk to her? Follow her?"

"Nah. Just passed her on the street."

She's walking east to west, and I west to east. It's a really nice April morning.

Wish I could talk to her. Half an hour would be plenty: just ask her about herself, tell her about myself, and - what I'd really like to do - explain to her the complexities of fate that have led to our passing each other on a side street in Harajuku on a beautiful April morning in 1981. This was something sure to be crammed full of warm secrets, like an antique clock build when peace filled the world.

After talking, we'd have lunch somewhere, maybe see a Woody Allen movie, stop by a hotel bar for cocktails. With any kind of luck, we might end up in bed.

Potentiality knocks on the door of my heart.

Now the distance between us has narrowed to fifteen yards.

How can I approach her? What should I say?

"Good morning, miss. Do you think you could spare half an hour for a little conversation?"

Ridiculous. I'd sound like an insurance salesman.

"Pardon me, but would you happen to know if there is an all-night cleaners in the neighborhood?"

No, this is just as ridiculous. I'm not carrying any laundry, for one thing. Who's going to buy a line like that?

Maybe the simple truth would do. "Good morning. You are the 100% perfect girl for me."

No, she wouldn't believe it. Or even if she did, she might not want to talk to me. Sorry, she could say, I might be the 100% perfect girl for you, but you're not the 100% boy for me. It could happen. And if I found myself in that situation, I'd probably go to pieces. I'd never recover from the shock. I'm thirty-two, and that's what growing older is all about.

We pass in front of a flower shop. A small, warm air mass touches my skin. The asphalt is damp, and I catch the scent of roses. I can't bring myself to speak to her. She wears a white sweater, and in her right hand she holds a crisp white envelope lacking only a stamp. So: She's written somebody a letter, maybe spent the whole night writing, to judge from the sleepy look in her eyes. The envelope could contain every secret she's ever had.

I take a few more strides and turn: She's lost in the crowd.

Now, of course, I know exactly what I should have said to her. It would have been a long speech, though, far too long for me to have delivered it properly. The ideas I come up with are never very practical.

Oh, well. It would have started "Once upon a time" and ended "A sad story, don't you think?"

Once upon a time, there lived a boy and a girl. The boy was eighteen and the girl sixteen. He was not unusually handsome, and she was not especially beautiful. They were just an ordinary lonely boy and an ordinary lonely girl, like all the others. But they believed with their whole hearts that somewhere in the world there lived the 100% perfect boy and the 100% perfect girl for them. Yes, they believed in a miracle. And that miracle actually happened.

One day the two came upon each other on the corner of a street.

"This is amazing," he said. "I've been looking for you all my life. You may not believe this, but you're the 100% perfect girl for me."

"And you," she said to him, "are the 100% perfect boy for me, exactly as I'd pictured you in every detail. It's like a dream."

They sat on a park bench, held hands, and told each other their stories hour after hour. They were not lonely anymore. They had found and been found by their 100% perfect other. What a wonderful thing it is to find and be found by your 100% perfect other. It's a miracle, a cosmic miracle.

As they sat and talked, however, a tiny, tiny sliver of doubt took root in their hearts: Was it really all right for one's dreams to come true so easily?

And so, when there came a momentary lull in their conversation, the boy said to the girl, "Let's test ourselves - just once. If we really are each other's 100% perfect lovers, then sometime, somewhere, we will meet again without fail. And when that happens, and we know that we are the 100% perfect ones, we'll marry then and there. What do you think?"

"Yes," she said, "that is exactly what we should do."

And so they parted, she to the east, and he to the west.

The test they had agreed upon, however, was utterly unnecessary. They should never have undertaken it, because they really and truly were each other's 100% perfect lovers, and it was a miracle that they had ever met. But it was impossible for them to know this, young as they were. The cold, indifferent waves of fate proceeded to toss them unmercifully.

One winter, both the boy and the girl came down with the season's terrible inluenza, and after drifting for weeks between life and death they lost all memory of their earlier years. When they awoke, their heads were as empty as the young D. H. Lawrence's piggy bank.

They were two bright, determined young people, however, and through their unremitting efforts they were able to acquire once again the knowledge and feeling that qualified them to return as full-fledged members of society. Heaven be praised, they became truly upstanding citizens who knew how to transfer from one subway line to another, who were fully capable of sending a special-delivery letter at the post office. Indeed, they even experienced love again, sometimes as much as 75% or even 85% love.

Time passed with shocking swiftness, and soon the boy was thirty-two, the girl thirty.

One beautiful April morning, in search of a cup of coffee to start the day, the boy was walking from west to east, while the girl, intending to send a special-delivery letter, was walking from east to west, but along the same narrow street in the Harajuku neighborhood of Tokyo. They passed each other in the very center of the street. The faintest gleam of their lost memories glimmered for the briefest moment in their hearts. Each felt a rumbling in their chest. And they knew:

She is the 100% perfect girl for me.

He is the 100% perfect boy for me.

But the glow of their memories was far too weak, and their thoughts no longer had the clarity of fouteen years earlier. Without a word, they passed each other, disappearing into the crowd. Forever.

A sad story, don't you think?

Yes, that's it, that is what I should have said to her.



I hope you enjoyed that, a fine story from one of the masters.

song of the day: "Endless Possibilities" by "Bowling for Soup" (warning: really cheesy)
thing that makes me smile today: There is something bizarrely touching about this comic
pic of the day:
HOT:
The New York Times
The Future
Imagination

NOT:
Fox News
Present Day
Reflection

Friday, 18 July 2008

Well, another year has passed, and with it has come and gone another big E3 show in Los Angeles. For those of you who don't know, E3 (the electronic entertainment expo) was known as THE big event for videogames companies, with thousands of journalists and videogame fans convening in one location, presenting an opportunity for the big companies to hold press conferences and have a gigantic warehouse full of various gaming machines and displays, with each company renting up a small amount of space, and filling that space with as much glitz, games and girls in bikinis as they could manage. Sadly this is all in the past as the powers that be decided that this was too expensive and much bigger than the biggest companies could bother with (nintendo, microsoft and sony all hold their own events now, so why bother with this?), and now E3 is merely a shadow of its former self, invite only, much smaller, less girls, less games and less excitement.



As you can see they had a lot to prove this year. Could they prove wrong the doubters and throw an exciting and kick ass show? Here I will detail all the major developments at the show and evaluate, beginning with a summary of each of the main videogame console's showings this year.


Nintendo
Nintendo is famous for being the kings of E3. As a company that values pure fun and childlike joy with all its games, it should not surprise that they should put on a similarly wonderful showing at a major event such as this. In past years they have shown us the DS, the wii, big releases like Zelda and Mario, all here for the first time, all blowing away the competition.

This year was a bit low key by comparison, but that is not to say that there were not a number of awesome things on show here.

The most surprising announcement was that of a new installment of the Grand Theft Auto franchise coming to the handheld DS console soon. So far all that is known about this game is that it is called Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, and that it features online connectivity of some form. This comes as a big shock as one of the most controversially violent and abhorrent games series in the world comes to a console from a company renowned for shying away from such things and aiming towards 'fun for all the family'. On top of this a head honcho at Rockstar, the dev team behind GTA recently remarked that the Wii was not powerful enough for a GTA game, which makes you wonder what they could possibly do with the DS then.

In other news Nintendo showed off Wii Sports 2, now featuring a wave race style jet ski game, frisbee catch, and an awesome sword fighting game, all utilizing a new add on for the wii remote called motion plus that increases sensitivity and accuracy. This is all awesome, but let's face it wii sports is essentially a fun tech demo. It will captivate us for ages with how cool it is, but it's never going to generate the kind of excitement they could have generated with a new 'killer app' title announcement. Wii Sports 2 was joined by Wii Music, a game in which users can use the wii remote to play drums, keyboard, saxophone, guitar, cowbell... pretty much every intsrument, and also includes modes such as 'conductor' mode where you conduct an orchestra and 'choir' mode. Again, this is kinda neat, but where's the game? it looks like a fun diversion for a few minutes mind.

The other main highlight for Nintendo was a game I have recently become aware of called The Conduit. This is a new first person shooter for the wii that frankly looks pretty awesome. I'm not getting ahead of myself just yet but people who have played it say that it's the shooting game that the wii was built for, that the wii has been waiting for.

Meanwhile for the DS, it was recently announced that legendary, genre defining RPG Chrono Trigger will be getting a port to the handheld by the end of the year. If you're not a fan of Squaresoft's unique brand of FInal Fantasy games then you won't like this, but if you are, then you've probably already played this game, and if not then you should because it is really the epitome of the genre.

Verdict: Not up to the dizzying heights of E3s past, but still a pretty strong showing from Nintendo here, especially compared to some of the other major players in the business this year.


Sony
When the Sony press conference starts talking about killer apps like buzz (a gameshow style quizz game) and eye toy mini games, you know they're in trouble.

It's no secret that it has not been a good year for Sony and the Playstation 3. The wii has been running away with the home console industry and the DS has been significantly outperforming the PSP despite being technically inferior. Meanwhile even microsoft are leaving sony trailing in the dust, with the xbox360 having had a very big head start, a much more established online community, and due to the larger established user base, much greater support from developers. There in lies Sony's most worrying problem, are there any games worth buying the system for? And the answer at the moment is sadly a big 'no'.

The killer app for the PS3 has until recently been the frankly mediocre Resistance. The fact is that the only reason this game is selling even half as well as it has been is that there is simply no competition. This game would never sell on the 360 for example. Last month however Metal Gear Solid 4 was released and seems to be the saviour for the console. However with sales still not meeting expectations, and the fact that other recent metal gear solid games have been ported to other systems, it may not be long before mgs4 ends up on another system. This will not be enough to save Sony, and it keeps getting worse. For the PS2, Sony had several exclusive killer apps, most notably Grand Theft Auto and Final Fantasy, but both these massive franchises have jumped ship to the Xbox360 now, which could end up being the nail in the PS3 coffin unless something is done.

The fact is that Sony is far too dependent on games that are now going to be available for other consoles, so why would anyone bother with a PS3? The only exclusive big games coming in the near future are Resistance 2, which will have to improve on the original a lot to justify it's presence as a 'big release', Killzone 2, which is the latest installment in a franchise that so far has failed to meet expectations with every release, and God of War 3, which appears to be a big hope. Brand new IPs such as Little Big Planet, the ingenious and cutesy festival of user created wonders, and MAG, a frankly bitchin looking action game, have a lot resting on their shoulders at this rate, but they look pretty cool so far.

Verdict: The press conference started embarrassingly, but picked up towards the end showing off a bunch of games that are also on the xbox, few killer exclusive titles, so sony fans better keep their fingers crossed that some of the new franchises pick up the slack.


Microsoft
It was a fairly big year for Microsoft who look to consolidate their position above Sony in the industry in the coming business year. Indeed they did impress a fair amount, but the whole thing was somewhat marred by poor decisions on their part.

First of all, the porting of Final Fantasy XIII to xbox360 is another major coup for microsoft and a big middle finger at sony, especially after stealing grand theft auto from them as well. Then they showed off some new updates to the online Xbox Live set up, with a new avatar system that quite frankly is an embarrassing carbon copy/rip off of the mii system on nintendo's wii, but is pretty cool nonetheless.

Moving on from this, microsoft proceeded to show off Fallout 3, the new game from the makers of Oblivion, a massive hit last year... or was it two years ago, either way it was a thing of pure genius and this looks very much in that mold, a massive open world where you guide your uniquely customized character along his adventures... with added cuddly dog as a friend. looks sweet. This was followed by some Guitar Hero 4 action, which looks absolutely gobsmacking, with the ability to play drums, bass guitar and sing, added to the mix, along with an amazing song creation studio, fully customizable rock stars and instruments (in ABSURD detail) and promised frequent downloadable songs. Also shown was Sonic Unleashed, a game which looks to take the franchise back to its glory days of, you know, being 'good'; Resident Evil 5, which is just plain badass; a new Wolfenstein game for those of us who miss blasting zombie-raising-satan-worshipping-nazis with various explosives; and a videogame adaption of upcoming bond flick Quantum of Solace, which I hear will also cover the events of Casino Royale, should be awesome.

Then came the big error. Microsoft chose to focus the main thrust of their show on Gears of War 2. Which is good, don't get me wrong, but then it transpires that bungie were preparing to announce a brand new halo project, but were ordered by microsoft to keep it under wraps so as not to take the attention away from gears of war 2. A poor choice, gears of war is good but will never be as big as halo, and certainly unveiling both of them at once would have made it an even more kick ass event. One can only assume theyre waiting until the specialized microsoft show later. However, bungie were still present to show Halo Wars, the upcoming real time strategy game based off of the halo series.

Verdict: A very good showing from Microsoft, just sadly not as good as it could have been if they had been a little less lame.


Elsewhere...
The Sims 3 is coming, and looks to connect all the individual homes with a seamless community neighborhood, joining everyone together in the game for the first time. This comes along with much more refined sim designing tools and a much more in depth personality defining system. This is joined by a Sims Online store where one can buy new items and things for their sims. Electronic Arts also whipped out details on the soon to be released Spore, a game which allows you to design a creature from scratch like a lump of clay and take them through evolution from the single cell stage, to cruising through space in a spaceship, blowing up planets, messing with and confusing primitive life forms, you know, whatever you feel like.

Further more we have Call of Duty: World at War, a return to call of duty's roots in world war 2, an add on pack for crysis called cryysis: warhead, and quite awesomely we have Dead Space, a frankly terrifying looking game that's popped out of nowhere and follows your protagonist as he explores various places with aliens who like to jump out from around corners and scare the buhjesus out of him.


More on all of this as it develops.

The iPhone has long been one of the coolest things ever designed by mankind, and it just got cooler. The application store is something that iPhone users have been waiting for for a long time, granting the ability to augment the device's already diverse functions with the addition of your choice of a very wide selection of official and user created applications. One simply has to log into the new app store and find an already very long list of both free apps and premium ones which you have to pay for.

In short, you can now put games on your iPhone, instant messenger, and various useful widgets that can perform any of a number of functions from new ways to use the map software, to personal organizers, remote controls, news feeds, drawing programs, and many many more. Now, to help you all get used to this new development, I will run the rule over a number of the better apps currently out there. Anyone with an iPhone can find a good use for these little beauties:


1. WHERE

One of the first apps out there and also one of the most immediately useful. WHERE has bagged awards and plenty of positive kudos from those in the media. Basically what this app does is automatically locate you wherever you are in the world and then presents a map and a whole range of immensely useful widgets. For example one can select the starbucks widget to see pointed out on the map the location of all nearby starbucks coffee shops, and there are similar widgets for zipcar and a search option that allows you to search for whatever you want, like pizza or beer, and the app will return map locations of nearby places that offer such services.

On top of this there is an 'events' widget that shows interesting public events taking place nearby, and of great interest are the 'hey whats that' and 'skymap' widgets, the former giving users a 360 degree view showing them what scenery can be seen from where they are standing, and the latter giving users a map of the stars and constellations they can currently see in any given direction.

It's all presented with panache and very user friendly, this is an app that will define GPS apps to come.


2. Remote

One of the official apps, Remote lets users use their iPhone as a remote control for all other apple devices. This includes apple tvs, apple laptops and any iTunes library.

This has been one of the top selling apps since the launch of the store and it's easy to see why, it's a use that really could have been included at the launch of the iPhone, but better late than never. This should be pretty much a standard download for anyone with other apple products or iTunes.


3. AIM

Another no brainer. Instant messenger has long been something i've been waiting for on the iPhone. Until now the best I could do was web messenger and the like, and this became easier when apple gave the ability to create web shortcuts on your iPhone desktop, but it was still never the same.

Now we just need an MSN app and we're all set.


4. Bomberman Touch

Bomberman + iPhone = WIN
and yes I am getting more and more brief with my descriptions but it's getting late and I want this done by midnight. If you know what bomberman is then download it, its good ol fashioned bombing fun.


5. Netter's Anatomy

If you're a medical student like me, then you WANT this. This is all your anatomy text books in the palm of your hand, with beautiful crystal clear, colourful, zoomable and adjustable pictures and labels that you can click on to bring up pages of information about specific bones, muscles, etc. Pure genius, very useful for me.



There are many more but these are the most useful ones. A special mention has to go to iPint, an app which lets you 'fill' your iPhone with beer and then drink it. It's easier to explain by showing you, but it is a great app for showing off the iPhone with.

Good week.
Guitar Hero: Aerosmith came out, and even though I can't be bothered to review it, it is pretty ok. It's not nearly as good as a normal guitar hero game though, largely because Aerosmith simply don't have enough good songs to carry an entire guitar hero game on their own. As a result some of the highlights end up being the non aerosmith songs (aside from one or two golden tunes). In fact there are only a small handful of artists who could pull it off. Red Hot Chili Peppers, Billy Joel (though hes not very guitar heroey) and David Bowie.

In other news I'm tired. Partly because I've been driving a lot (4 hours per session) which is tough anyway, but especially somewhere like London; and partly because I didn't sleep so well last night, had some crazy dreams. I can only vaguely remember it, a little bit of x-files-esque action here and there, one particular scene where I was riding a cow sticks out in my mind... and then this girl, who I have no idea who she is, and yet even when I woke up I could have sworn I knew her. I can only vaguely remember what she looked like, but there was something hauntingly familiar about the way she and I interacted... I cant quite put my finger on it. Any dream experts out there?

I've also been writing again, more consistently now. It's shaping up quite well, with a working title of 'T-365'. Maybe i'll have something to show you guys soon.

Can't wait to go to Italy soon.

song of the day: "A&E" by "Goldfrapp"
thing that makes me smile today: The new trailer for Terminator 4.
pic of the day:
HOT:
Guitar Hero 3
2 hour driving lessons
not thinking of a 3rd one

NOT:
Guitar Hero: Aerosmith
4 hour driving lessons
feeling compelled to think of a 3rd one

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Even though the tv show is not due to be broadcast until mid season (january 2009) I have been able to preview the pilot episode now. The pilot has been rejected and is due to be reshot with massive changes, something which is indicative of its quality, or lack thereof. The pilot is a complete mess, completely lacking in charm or style, completely lacking in polish (which is shocking for a show which has several times the budget of its english counterpart) and comes with a script that is a muddled arrangement of lines pilfered directly from the sublime british original and some rather incoherent and clichéd (and that's a word you'll see a lot of in this review) additions from the new writers.

First of all the characters.

The main character Sam Tyler is written to be an exact carbon copy of John Simm's character from the original series, what a shame then that they have completely mis-cast him with Jason O'Mara, a brawny, clichéd, square jawed, thug with not even a fraction of the range and depth of the original character. You can't write a character that's supposed to be an intellectual 21st century 'thinking mans cop' and then cast a 7 foot tall action man to play him. He doesn't fit the role as copy of John Simm, or as an original creation, he is wooden, inexpressive and just looks plain wrong in the part.

Then we have Gene Hunt. Anyone who has spent even 5 minutes watching the original show knows that he is the biggest character in the show. He is a man of the past, a dinosaur completely unfamiliar with modern etiquette and technique, and yet he has such a naturally confident swagger, charm, and wit about him that he manages to get the job done anyway, and with style. He learns how to be a better cop from Sam, but much in the same way, he shows that sometimes things are more efficient when done his way. The show honestly lives and dies by his success. All of this is lost on these writers. In this pilot, Gene is just a thug, a bully, completely lacking in depth, completely useless, completely lost without 'the hero' Sam to show him what to do and simply a shadow of his original character. To portray Gene like this completely misses the entire point of the show, and misses the entire charm and chemistry between the two perfectly balanced characters in the original. This balance is what led to such nuanced narrative in the original, a story with humour and wit, but also with depth and meaning. The show falls completely flat without this.

Annie has turned from a plain but spunky 70s woman, nervous and inexperienced in a man's world, to a confident swim suit model of a woman who looks and acts like someone accustomed to the world we now live in where women are equal, again completely missing the point in her character.

None of the other characters even warrant a mention, they are all completely lacking in depth, condensed from their original counterparts to mere clichés. This is a theme common in every single one of the characters beyond Sam Tyler. Every little bit of character depth has been sucked out of them (gene hunts instincts, annies knowledge of psychology) and inexplicably forced into sam's character, even going so far as to switch half their lines from the original script to him during the course of this episode, making certain scenes nearly completely incoherent and non sensical and conversely removing any depth from Sam by making him a highly inconsistent character who quite frankly is all over the place.

On top of this the production values are pathetic. In one scene you can see characters' shadows cast upon the backdrop that is supposed to be a view into the distance. In the final rooftop scene you can quite clearly see safety harnesses attached to the actors' backs, completely illuminated by the lights. This is a pilot so presumably all that can be ironed out, but it is still pretty shoddy.

So what else sucks about this pilot? Several scenes are taken from the original episode and rewritten in such a fashion as to be completely meaningless (ie 'what part of my subconscious do you hail from', and the psychologist scene near the end). No effort whatsoever is made to make the show feel like it's in the 70s as with the original show. Action scenes are badly filmed and highly reminiscent of the recent alien vs predator sequel where you could barely even see what the hell was going on half the time. In the end, this pilot looks like a bunch of amateurs decided to remake the original show, in a rushed fashion, cutting half the material out of the original and removing 90% of the depth, completely unbalancing the characters and removing all the charm and nostalgia from the original. This show works neither as a remake or as an original property.

As I said before, this pilot was (understandably) rejected and is being redone. They are going to have to pull a miracle to save this show now, and with reports suggesting that O'Mara's role is safe, it doesn't look like they have the slightest clue how to do it. Might as well give up now, but since they clearly won't, lets hope the next pilot is a little less insulting.

Verdict:

Every so often a major innovation in videogame controls comes along. First there was the eightway stick invented by nintendo. Then there was the 360 degree analog stick invented by nintendo, and then more recently there was the wii remote... also invented by nintendo. However now something has come along which is (yes youre reading this correctly) NOT invented by nintendo. I have seen it, I have tested it, and now I can give you the low down on why this gadget is awesome.



It may look an awful lot like one of the robotic enemies in half life 2, but the mechanics and design behind this controller push the envelope of originality. This is the first consumer 3d-touch force feedback controller. I'll explain what this means in more detail shortly.

One uses this control pad by holding the ball (and this can be detached and replaced by things like pistol grips if you so chose) and whilst holding this the user can move up and down, left and right, in and out, along every axis in 3 dimensions. Try to imagine using this mechanic to control, for example, a first person shooter, able to move around and move the camera at the same time with one hand, allowing for much simpler and natural feeling control. The real innovation comes with the force feedback part of the gadget. A demo that was used to display this technology shows a hand that can be moved in 3 dimensions through space, and a series of differently textured spheres, for example sand, water, solid, and jelly-like, which the hand can move through. As you do this, the controller feeds back with appropriate and highly convincing levels of resistance, so that it actually feels like youre moving through the aforementioned textures. It is all done very convincingly, and it will be interesting to see what ways this can be effectively used in games. The technology is impressive, and the ergonomics are tight, and that is the most crucial thing about this control pad.

For examples of how this can be used, further mini games were shown; including archery, which allowed users to feel the resistance as they pull back on the bow string, and the snap of release; a hammer swing game that allows you to feel weight and momentum; and a racing game offering a sensation of speed and centrifugal force that was, as above, highly convincing.

The best demonstration of how awesome this thing can be was with a specially designed mod for the game half life 2 that was on display. Every gun had it's own unique kick, and the gravity gun, which in game is used to lift up various objects with realistic physics, to the point where lifting a car actually takes some arm muscle. It all serves to give a bit more of a tactile experience to the user and certainly makes this gadget worth a look-in when it is released at the end of the year.

This is officially the coolest thing ever. It may sound like science fiction when you read it, but this is real, this is being developed, and this is a taste of what the future holds. So anyone with even a vague interest in medical science or cutting edge technologies, or even just really cool things that they might one day be able to experience, please read on, and enjoy.

Anyone who is unfamiliar with the concept of nanotechnology, essentially it describes a new branch of technological developments that are currently being researched into (and are currently merely hypothetical). The idea involves being able to build and operate technology on a nano scale, ie measured in nanometres. A nanometre is one billionth of a metre (0.000000001) or less a thousandth the size of a normal blood cell. The technology for this is only in its infancy, but with the capabilities of what we can do in science increasing at an exponential rate (computer chips roughly double in power every year or two, life expectancy has increased by 3 months in the past year) many experts in the field forecast that we can expect to see results within the next 15-20 years.

The potential applications of such technology are near limitless and offer up promises of wonders and miracles that could only be dreamed of a few years ago. In this article I wish to discuss one such application, the respirocyte.

A respirocyte is basically an artificial red blood cell a micron in diameter, a spherical nanorobot consisting of a pressure tank that can be filled with oxygen and carbon dioxide and emulate the functions of a natural haemoglobin containing red blood cell, only with approximately 200 times the efficiency. It only takes someone with a vague background knowledge of biology to imagine what this can do. With such efficient oxygen delivery to tissues, theoretically one could hold one's breath under water for hours, or run at top speed for incredible distances without becoming breathless. Such technology has the potential to expand an ordinary human's abilities considerably beyond normal limits.

So what are the problems? Well as I said the technology is still a good few years away. One has to consider potential issues like power supply, toxicity, computation and communication, not to mention social issues such as cost. But nonetheless, these thoughts of the technological advances that can now be reasonably expected in the near future should excite and interest all the geeks out there. It is an exciting time for science, especially if technology continues to increase at the rate it is currently, and I hope you can all see that. Imagine what the world was like in 1998 compared to now and I think you'll realize that things have changed considerably. In 1998 we were still using 56k dial up modems, I didn't even OWN a mobile phone, and watching your favorite football team on the telly was a luxury as you only had one or two games on one or two channels to choose from. Now the world is wirelessly linked with ultra fast internet and tiny mobile phones that can play music, videogames, use internet, take photos and more. Now we have sky digital with 30 different sports channels and every single game every week on demand. I was stunned by my brother's computer with an amazingly huge 3gb harddrive, now I have 2tb (2000gbs) on mine. The world has and continues to change at an ever greater rate and this will continue into the future, promising great things.

It's an interesting time to be me.
I was already pretty busy before this week, and now I have extra studying, intensive 4 hour driving lessons (I want to get my license this summer and i basically have this month to do it all in!), and a lot more on than I would have expected before i go travelling next month.

But it's not all bad, I've also been finding time to get back to my writing, I've bought the first piece for what I hope will become my ever growing art collection, to be hung up in my new flat when I get it sorted, and following on from the success and interest generated by my early advance review of the new coldplay album, I have been receiving more and more requests for early previews of upcoming music, films and tv shows and more, and I will not disappoint, but clearly I have chosen to search out the things that I am especially interested in ;) as you will see.

Lastly I would like to express my best wishes and thanks to one Mr. Loe, an ex teacher of mine who is retiring this summer. I'm sure any ex TR students will join me in that respect, i'm sure at least a few of you are reading this blog.

song of the day: "A Whiter Shade of Pale" by "Procol Harum"
thing that makes me smile today: this special customized nintendo DS given to each of the political leaders attending the G8 summit.
pic of the day:
HOT:
Respirocytes
Falcon Controller
Life on Mars (UK)

NOT:
Blood Doping
Old School Gamepads
Life on Mars (US) - and now i have proof!

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Until now, mashup music has been an interesting novelty. Notably the Encore/Numb mashup which went on to achieve massive success in clubs, and DJ Dangermouse's cult internet hit 'the Grey Album' which mixed samples of the Beatles' 'White Album' and Jay-Z's 'the Black Album' (see what he did there?).

Girl Talk is a group that has taken this to whole new levels in their early albums. I say 'group' when really it is just one guy, the unmissable Greg Gillis, known for his wild antics during live performances. Gillis is unique in that he creates mashup songs featuring many many samples in each song, more than a dozen in each song, and creating 'new' songs from this. The fantastic Wikipedia page that has been assembled for the release counts some 274 samples which collectively make-up the album.



His early work was... fun, but ultimately unpolished, feeling slightly like someone making a party mix rather than a fully fledged album. His new album, 'Feed the Animals' reaches new heights for him. More mature, more fluid, more cohesive. If listening to his older music felt a bit jarring or schizophrenic, you quickly get over it with this album, and what is left is a 53 minute celebration of all things musical that never feels stale and never gets old, because it changes every 5 seconds, and never gets repetitive.

The first thing you feel when you listen to this album will be that it's slightly hard to get in to. It changes every 5 seconds or so, which sounds very strange at first. But listen to it for a bit and you will get used to it. When you do, it will be worth it, because this is the ultimate club mix, it is awesome, and there are some moments in this album which are nothing short of genius, mixing genres of music that you would never think go together, but do beautifully thanks to the master manipulation of Gillis (see jackson 5 mixed with bohemian rhapsody, resulting in a segment thats far better than either of those two songs on their own) One particularly stunning bit towards the end of 'give me a beat' mixes timbaland with schooly d with tom petty and good charlotte and it's truly excellent.

Why does it work? Because basically these songs are collections of all the best bits of various songs all wonderfully mixed together in inventive new ways. Gillis clearly has a hell of a talent for seeing exactly what it is in music that we find moving and powerful and knows how to use it to its full effect.

I can't recommend specific songs, because all the songs flow beautifully together, quite frankly there is no more of a distinction between different tracks as there are between different movements of the same track. Indeed the end of the last song on the album even flows perfectly back into the first track. And it is this amazing fluidity that makes this album such an experience. Highly recommended. Makes one wonder about the future of music, and whether others will follow in this direction. For now though, Girl Talk have taken the first steps into a fresh and unique sound, and done so with true aplomb.

Really the only thing bad with this album is that you'll hear a moment of absolute genius that deserves a full 3 minute song and then it'll be over in 5 seconds and won't come back. Pity.

Verdict:

Nope, this is not a review for a comedy film called the 'Crappening', it is actually a review for a comically bad horror movie 'the Happening' from world renowned director M. Night Shyamalan of Sixth Sense fame.

Everyone knows this story. In 1999 the world was Shyamalan's oyster after releasing his work of genius the Sixth Sense, earning him massive critical acclaim. Since then, M. Night has released a series of increasingly poor movies, first the decent Unbreakable, the slightly better Signs, and then nose diving with the Village and the Lady in the Water (both awful). However he has now officially hit rock bottom.

Normally I don't give spoilers away in my review, but in this case I think I will make an exception, you'll thank me later when you don't waste your time or money on this crap. This is a movie about killer trees. Not just trees, trees and grass and bushes, all communicating with each other, every plant in the the North East of America has just decided to start excreting a toxic nerve agent. What's more, it's specifically targeting groups of a certain size, getting smaller and smaller as the movie goes on. This is really stupid. In fact so many things about this film are so stupid that I will actually invent a brand new word to describe them, 'Shyamalatarded'.

So let's go through the various absurdities in this movie. The nerve agent itself, somehow gets people to kill themselves by removing inhibitions. Completely unscientific and at times looks really really Shyamalatarded. Then we are told that all plants of all different species shapes and sizes are able to talk to each other, and able to teach each other how to make this toxin and co-ordinate their battle plans for how to kill us, complete shyamalatardation. There was the manner in which the plants all systematically target increasingly smaller groups of people, and the fact that every single plant over a large area of land has somehow evolved simultaneously to produce this toxin, and the pretentious, arrogant way in which the film simply dismisses these bizarre occurrences as 'an act of nature that we will never understand'... it is all very shyamalatarded. It reads like an amateur b-movie script, except unlike recent action comedy snakes on a plane, this is completely unintentional, and that makes it all the more cringeworthy.

My favorite scene is one where the main heroes are in a field and realize that the surrounding trees are about to release the toxin, so they run, and try to outrun the wind blowing behind them. In fact there is a whole chase scene here where the people are running away from the slowly advancing wind-front, which can be seen blowing through the grass. SO stupid, it's like a joke. I honestly can't believe anyone put that in a movie, i think even six year olds know that people can't outrun wind. The people I was at the cinema with will note how i literally sunk back into my seat and covered my eyes at this scene, so painful was it.

God what an abomination. What an awful movie. Why God why. M. Night, you're a good director, but I think you should give up with writing, this reads like a script a four year old would write.
Top this all off with really awful acting that feels like every scene was done with just one rushed take, and you have yourself one of the worst movies in what has been frankly a very very poor summer of movies (the Hulk also sucks, and Indie was hardly a classic). The fact that Hancock appears to be the highlight speaks volumes.

Verdict:

Well the big tournament, Euro 2008, is now over, and I am pleased to say that even with no England team involved this year it was still mildly entertaining. Now, as per usual, I have compiled a team featuring the most impressive talent on show this year. Enjoy!




Goalkeeper- Iker Casillas- Forget anything you read in the news about Spain's amazing championship winning team being all down to their 'attacking flair', they won the tournament largely because of the heroics of this man. The same goalkeeper who since the age of 20 has been carrying the defense of Spanish giants Real Madrid has now done the same for his country.

Right Back- Sergio Ramos- Solid at the back, and swashbuckling going forward down the side of the pitch, Sergio Ramos showed in this tournament exactly how a fullback should play the game, and still such a young man for a defender he can only get better from here.
Centre Back- Pepe- Of all the brightest teams in the early days of the tournament, Portugal can probably boast being the only one to have an imperious defense to match the marauding attack (let down by their goalkeeper sadly) and much of that came from Pepe, scorer of Portugal's first goal in this tournament.
Centre Back- Carlos Marchena- A leader in the title winning Spanish team this year, Marchena outshone his bigname partner Puyol and truly commanded his team's backline.
Left Back- Giovanni Van Bronckhorst- Former Arsenal flop, shipped off to Barcelona and went through his own personal renaissance, turning his career around and becoming a European champion for Barcelona. However, he has never played with such energy and confidence as he did in this tournament and was a shining light in an impressive Dutch team.

Right Winger- Wesley Sneijder- Even though he played as a central midfielder for Holland, he was far too good to leave out of this team so i've done a Benitez and stuck him on the side of my four man midfield. Sneijder was very impressive. Always sharp, inventive, near flawless with his touch and technique, the key man for Holland, following a similarly impressive season for Real Madrid.
Central Midfield- Michael Ballack- Need I comment on this midfield general again? might as well go look at my last team which also has him on it. A hero for the Germans, he led his team through injury and difficulty all the way to the final, and walks away with a runners up medal. There's no shame in that!
Central Midfield- Xavi- It was a surprise for many in England to see Barcelona playmaker Xavi picked in the Spanish midfield ahead of Arsenal's Fabregas. However at the end of the tournament, in which Xavi picked up the official best player award, we can now see exactly why he was there. Flawless on the ball, comfortable and assured in possession, and a player with a gifted eye for a pass, Xavi was absolutely key for the Spaniards this year.
Left Winger- Andrei Arshavin- The revelation of the tournament. A few months ago no one had ever heard of this man, and now he's one of the hottest properties in Europe, supposedly being courted by Barcelona, having led his Zenit St Petersburg team to Uefa cup glory he now impressed for plucky underdogs Russia.

Striker- David Villa- For a few years now he has been a hot property in Europe, and this is the tournament he has been waiting for, the chance for him to really shine and impress all of Europe's biggest clubs. Having ended the tournament as top scorer, he has definitely done that.
Striker- Ruud Van Nistelrooy- RVN looked almost past his sell-by date a few years ago, degenerating from top forward player to someone who's only talent was to hang around the box and goal poach. Then he moved from Man United to Real Madrid and since then he has been reborn and regained his tip top form. This was especially apparent in this tournament. Not many people who were used to his premiership performances would have expected to see him running, and holding up the ball and playing the ball, beating defenders and using his strength and speed so effectively as he did here.

song of the day: "American English" by "Idlewild"
thing you're going to do today: go download the new girl talk album from their website for whatever you feel like.
pic of the day:
HOT:
Feed the Animals
Last summer's blockbusters
McCain's nosedive in the polls

NOT:
Night Ripper
This summer's blockbusters
Republican denial with regards to the polls

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