james debate
james debate

Sunday, 19 April 2009

As you all know, I am always on the look out for interesting new music. The usual schlocky crap doesn't cut it with me, I crave ingenuity and originality. I scour blogs and forums and new releases in order to find the best of the best, and it is working under this modus operandi that I find the vast majority of my music. Fleet Foxes rose to prominence last year, while I was salivating over them a full year before. Same with MGMT and the Last Shadow Puppets. More recently I have been extremely impressed by Passion Pit and Dan Deacon. Now I would like to share with you the newest discoveries that have me very excited.

The focus for today's edition is Futurecop! This British dance group takes heavy inspiration from the 1980s in both musical style and aesthetics, as evidenced by the logo above, and the gaudiness of their various webpages one can find online. Indeed the sheer awesomeness of this celebration of 1980s pop culture is almost enough to make one forgive their abortion of a Myspace page where they do much of their blogging (though to their credit they are trying to cut back on such awfulness with a new blogger blog).

So this duo of Manzur Iqbal and Peter Carrol play a series of dance tunes heavily inspired by the style 1980s theme tunes, as well as more recent dance artists like Daft Punk, and the result is pretty amazing. This music is as close to pure joy and happiness as music gets, and infectious enough to please music fans, whether or not they get the same nostalgic rush that I get while listening to these tunes.

If these guys ever release a proper album, I'll be very happy, because they just rock. You want to check out the following songs:


"Karate Kids"


The Best of the Rest

"Attached" by "His Orchestra"

"Love Like a Sunset" by "Phoenix"

"Collapsing at your doorstep" by "Air France"

Manufacturer Nintendo
Type Handheld Console
Style Oriental Fusion
Online Nintendo Wi-Fi

In these past couple of years Nintendo has really had the edge in the videogames market, to put it mildly. The Wii and DS put together has sold more than every other console currently on sale put together, more than twice as much in fact. This is largley down to the complete failure of the PS3 and the continued lack of respect for the Xbox360 outside of the US, especially in Asia. So as soon as the new iteration, the DSi was released, I was keen to get myself one to test it out.

nintendo dsi

Now on first impression I have to admit being vaguely underwhelmed. The appearance was simply less sexy than the DS Lite, gone is the glossy apple-esque finish in place of a much more economical matte plastic. It wasn't a good start. However everything else seems to be vastly improved. The screens are bigger, the controls and buttons feel perfect, and the stylus has also been re-weighted.

The GBA port has been dropped, although admittedly I never used it anyway. There is also a new SD card port, which is an awesome idea to add external storage for the system, which allows some of the other key features to reach their full promise.

These key features include all new online features. The entire DS OS has been remastered to have more of a Wii feel, with different channels and an online store, including it's own 'app' store involving DS ware programs of varying quality. It's all very interesting and after the iPhone showed us the marketability of such things it seems an obvious step, however this may well be a worrying sign for Nintendo, they don't usualyl do 'obvious' and it's their style of ingenuity and thinking outside the box that has given them such market domination recently.

The DS also has a camera built in, 0.3 megapixels. This seems a bit pointless I have to say, and a bit gimmicky. However if I can trust any company to find a way to make this a useful or compelling feature, it's Nintendo. Just look at how they used the touch screen and microphone so brilliantly in DS games.

And speaking of the games, well they're exactly the same as the DS games, which is no bad thing, the DS has awesome games. However the poor technology present in the DS compared to competition like the PSP becomes every more noticeable, with the DS a full generation behind the PSP in terms of graphics and power. It's hardly crucial, but it is noticeable.

In summary, this is a great little evolution of the best handheld console on the planet. However it has lost some of the sex appeal of the DS Lite and the 1995 era N64 style graphics are becoming a bit old.

Good times we're having here. First off work is starting to reach a climax and in a month or so it will all be winding down for the summer, so can't wait for that. On top of this I have just submitted a new version of iFooty to the iTunes app store. With any luck it will be up soon, and I won't give away any details now but suffice it to say, it is absolutely awesome, so much so that it makes me wonder how I ever lived without it.

Otherwise things are ok, haven't been writing here as often as I'd like as i've been pretty damn busy either working or going out for various things. And speaking of which, what a match today. It was pretty awful actually, but hey we won, so i'm stoked. It was one of those games where both teams deserved to lose but anyway.

So keep an eye out for that new iFooty update, hope you all had a great Easter weekend!

Let's face it, everyone loves a good beer. A nice cold beer after a long hard day of work and toil is one of the greatest pleasures a man can experience without having to cuddle afterwards. But it saddens me to see so many people drinking from a cheap and tacky tipple, a miller lite or keystone light or some other cheap ass beer. And so, for your appreciation I have crafted this connoisseur's list of the top 5 beers in the world.

5. Hoegaarden
This classy white beer from Belgium is smooth and refreshing, with a fruity and mild aroma. Iconically typifies the Belgian witbieren.
hoegaarden beer

4. Sapporo
A Japanese beer with a crisp golden color and a slight taste of cider, this is the natural choice of beverage in sushi places (when I don't feel like sake, which is often). A pleasant alcohol/rice smell with a hint of sweetness.
sapporo beer

3. Sol
Throw in a lime and this mexican beer is a real delight, tasting of sunshine and summery days on the beach, will put a smile on your face.
sol beer

2. Duvel
Another Belgian beer, this one is smooth and creamy beyond belief. A sweet and honey-like odor, plus an intense and beautiful flavor. This is simply a worldclass beer.
duvel beer

1. Cusqueña
This premium Peruvian beer is like liquid gold in a bottle. It has the color and it has the sparkle, and fortunately this is a beer that tastes as good as it looks. Crisp, clean and yet very mellow, this is the sort of delightful beer that you can drink all night.
cusquena beer

Further and further down the rabbit hole the Republican party tumbles; Choosing to ignore all qualified advice and the wishes of the voters by continuing its belligerent stand against the still popular and increasingly successful Obama administration, rather than attempting to take the high road like every other minority party generally tends to do after a month or two of pouting. But then this party has shown that it is no ordinary party.

embarrassing republican tea party

The latest amusing episode in the GOP soap opera involves these tea parties that the GOP and various right wing affiliations has been mercilessly plugging these recent weeks as a 'moment of revolution' where the 'people will take back their country' from the tyrannical tax and spend policies of the Democrats, never mind that Obama hasn't increased taxes on anyone a dime, and has in fact lowered taxes for the majority of Americans, but then at this point so few people are listening to them that they can pretty much say whatever they want.

And so this turned out to be the case, as these tea parties suffered a woeful turnout numbering in the hundreds nationally, certainly a far cry from the 2006 Immigrant's rights rallies and 2004 pro-choice march organized by the democrats which attracted millions of protesters. To add insult to injury, many parties were cancelled, after Republican organizers filed the wrong forms, reminding us once again why the vast majority of people don't think they are capable of running the country, when they can't even run a group of a few hundred schlubs having a tea party.

What is more worrying however, is that this is a disturbing return to classic GOP tactics from the last eight years. Rally support of the idiot demographic by distracting them from the real issues with short phrases and concepts that are easy to understand, like taxes, regardless of how true these claims are. I, along with most people including a large number of Republicans, had been hoping that the events of the past year would have gotten through to the GOP and made them understand the need to adapt how they run things, but then here they are, hoping the same old tricks will work.

So why is that worrying? These past few years the American public has wizened up and won't fall for this crap again surely? Well you never know. Any educated man would have assumed the general public was smart enough to avoid the calamities and downright atrocities of the past eight years, and yet they played right into it. So all we can do as rational people is hope that we have truly moved past this.

I don't update frequently enough these days to write separate commentaries on each individual television show out there sadly. So instead I will give you this quick little catch-all to update you on what's new and interesting in TV, and what is well past its sell-by-date.

Entourage (HBO)
Quite possibly one of the best shows currently on television, has maintained remarkable consistency now going into its sixth season, set to start again in the summer. Has also inspired AG jeans to produce a line of clothing based on Entourage, needless to say I own a few such items now.

Lost (ABC)
Has really hit full speed heading into its penultimate season, and every episode now is like a rollercoaster, finally offering as many answers as questions. Probably the best show on television right now, simply unmissable watching and a highlight of any week.

Heroes (NBC)
Volume three was god awful, and so did volume four start. However then came some big and dramatic news. The show's original creator Bryan Fuller, who left after season one (funny how it went downhill after that) to work on his show Pushing Daisies, which despite being awesome has now been cancelled. On top of this, the entire writing staff of Heroes was fired and replaced in one dramatic sweep. The last few episodes seem to indicate that there has been a slight increase in quality since all this drama took place, could a miraculous revival be on the cards?

the Cleveland show (FOX)
Still AWOL. Might not even exist, I mean if they originally had it scheduled for April then why didn't they have anything leading to Cleveland's departure written into the show? 10 bucks says this was just a bad joke.

Fringe (FOX)
After a largely disappointing and mediocre start, Fringe really hit the ground running after the winter break and now seems to have established its comfort zone. Fast becoming another essential weekly tradition from JJ Abrams, an X-Files for the 21st century, which largely succeeds due to the effortless charisma of the magnetic Joshua Jackson.

Ashes to Ashes (BBC)
Turned out to be a smash hit, far exceeding the viewership of Life on Mars, despite not being as good, is coming back for a second and probably third season, hopefully sometime this Month, unless it gets delayed again.

Life on Mars US remake (HBO)
Cancelled. Wasn't bad but wasn't especially good either, and certainly not what Americans expect from a sci-fi show that comes on right after Lost.

Owner Alan Yau
Head Chef Tong Chee Hwee
Style Oriental Fusion
Michelin Star Rating 1/3
Price An arm and a leg

As someone who dines out as often as I do, it is pretty inexcusable that I don't review these places here on my blog for you loyal readers more often. Well that is about to change now, as I will review my recent meal at one of my favorite restaurants in the world, let alone London; Hakkasan.

hakkasan restaurant london

Few people who have been here would deny that it could be considered one of the best restaurants in London, and certainly no one disputes that it may in fact be the sexiest restaurant in all of London. Hidden away in a most unlikely location, down the back alleys off Tottenham Court Road, it is easy to get lost upon your first visit, or at least to think you're lost. However, persevere and you will find a mysterious descending stairwell with a conspicuously smartly dressed man standing outside. Indeed one might think at first that they are inadvertently stumbling onto some super secret, super luxurious crime syndicate headquarters.

Once inside, the lavish decor hits you. With charcoal slate walls, marble and subdued colored lights, the restaurant carries a luxurious science fiction aesthetic, with distinctly classic and traditional oriental undertones that create a simply unforgettable dining atmosphere.

The waitress brought over our snakeskin bound menus, one containing an extensive list of cocktails and wine to order from the generously proportioned bar area, the other containing the food menu. The whole establishment emanates an aura of sophistication and class. It couldn't be further removed from Alan Yau's other famous creation, Wagamama's, which is distinctly and unashamedly classless, but efficient.

The food itself is delightfully eclectic; full of classic chinese fare like dim sum and numerous seafood dishes, as well as eastern twists on western style dishes like ribeye steak and lobster. Much of it is delectable from what I have tried, although certain dishes were more effort than they were worth, like the king crab, which involved a lot of scrounging for small amount of meat (considering the price).

This particular time I ordered the silver cod, cooked in champagne and honey. Perhaps one of the greatest fish dishes ever made, the cod melts in your mouth, both sweet and savory at the same time, perfect in texture and flavor.

However the one black mark came at the end of the meal, when I got the bill. Admittedly We ordered a few cocktails, and a very expensive bottle of champagne (the price of which I was not made aware of by my dinner companion until the end of the meal), but that the price still came out to a hundred pounds per head was slightly over the top. Mind you I've been there other times and spent half as much, which is still pricey. If you're a student, make this one for special occasions.

song of the day: "Attached" by "His Orchestra"

thing that makes me smile today: Whoever said Snakes on a Plane was an unrealistic movie?

pic of the day:
sarcastic commentIN:

Stella Artois

Monday, 6 April 2009

I've never been a big comicbook guy. So for me it takes something really special to impress me and draw me into the medium. Watchmen was one such instance, as are one or two of the weightier batman graphic novels like Batman: Year One. Recently I had the pleasure of reading another similarly excellent comic, but one that is completely and utterly different to all other comic books i've read. Think comic books are principally the domain of superheroes and sci-fi? Think again.

Scott Pilgrim is the creation of Bryan Lee O'Malley. It starts by introducing Scott Pilgrim, a 23 year old Canadian slacker living in Toronto with his sarcastic gay roommate Wallace Wells. He has recently started "dating" a Chinese high school girl, Knives Chau, but unlike his friends, (who think it scandalous,) Scott doesn't consider it a big deal. He is bass player in the band Sex Bob-omb, along with his friends Stephen Stills (guitar) and Kim Pine (drums), but Stephen is the only member who is recognised as being "the talent" and they rarely take the endeavor very seriously. The drama ratchets up a notch when Scott, seemingly content with the superficial relationship with Knives, suddenly finds his attentions drawn to newly transplanted cutie Ramona Flowers.

On first glance I felt this comic was going to be some childish, over the top, goofy affair with a ripped off anime art style, but I was very very wrong. This book is seriously cool, awash with twenty something angst and a dry wit, once you start reading you will find it very difficult to stop. It becomes even more engrossing the further you get into it, as the initially mundane and ordinary world dissolves into a new increasingly absurd reality. 

There is something about this whole book that is hard to describe. It's a pure giddy joy to read, after only a few pages I was hooked. Something about the way the characters talk, the way they react to things; it feels real, it feels fun, you quickly realize that this is something special. I regret that I did not read this when it was first released however, but now I will certainly go and read the remaining volumes. On top of this, the series is being turned into a film this year starring the awesome (although now becoming slightly overused) Michael Cera. Should be awesome.

Above all this is a clever and funny comic filled with real characters that really hit home, and dialogue that is sharp, amongst some of the best i've seen. Absurd, yet relatable, it makes a truly fantastic read.

What are the best videogames ever made? For someone like me who has played many over the course of many years, such a question would be impossible to answer. I'm sure the same can be said to an extent for many people reading this article, but it's likely that a lot of you would come up with similar ideas.

I'm sure the likes of Mario, Sonic, Grand Theft Auto, Halo, Guitar Hero, Zelda and the likes would all come up frequently, these are the 'big' names in gaming after all. But with all the kudos and praise that gets heaped upon these big name games, it's easy to overlook some of the other equally great moments in videogame history that never achieve the recognition and appreciation they deserve. And so in this article we discuss 5 great videogames that you probably have never played, but definitely should.

5. Jet Set Radio
jet set radio sequelAs far as ideas for games go, this one is pretty original. Rollerblade around the huge and bustling cityscape of Tokyo, spraying graffiti and rebelling against an oppressive and corrupt government in the name of free expression. And all of this is represented in stunning cel-shaded graphics, this is the game which started the trend. One thing this game has in spades is a sense of style, from the impressive art work and character design to the addictive and peppy dance soundtrack that blasts out over the airwaves from Professor K's pirate radio station. Seriously fun and with more character than pretty much any other game ever made, badly needs a new sequel.

4. Tyrian
tyrianClassically addictive arcade gameplay, bags of customization and wry humor makes this one of the more memorable pc games of the 90s, for those who have played it at least. Take control of a bog standard spaceship and explore the galaxy in a mission of... well it doesn't really matter, with gameplay this simple and good, that's all that matters. A vertically scrolling 2d shooter that sees you fly your ship through a series of imaginative and colorful planets, asteroids, weird alcohol themed acid trips, it's a pretty dazzling sensory experience. On top of this one can completely customize their ship, buying new ships, fitting it out with weapons and shields and engines, it will take several plays through to find the very best equipment.

3. Bubble Bobble
bubble bobbleOne of the first great multiplayer experiences, and still stands up today. Two dinosaurs engage in a series of colorful levels where they must trap their enemies in bubbles to destroy them in order to save... i dunno some chicks i think, this was back before storyline was important for games. This game is about as addictive an experience as you'll ever encounter, and there is no better choice when it comes to two player gaming. Now available on the wii virtual console, go check it out, find a friend to play it with, and thank me later.

2. Skies of Arcadia
skies of arcadia sequelThe word 'epic' is thrown around far too often these days, but rarely is it used as aptly as it is here: this game is pure epic. A grand and beautiful adventure in a mystery filled world of floating islands and flying pirate ships. You take control of young Vyse living amongst a group of good natured pirates intent on bringing down the big and oppressive Valuan Empire. Everything changes one day with the discovery of a mysterious young girl on a captured ship, and Vyse must set off on an adventure with his childhood friends that will see him travel the world to vast steampunk cities, icy wonderlands, hidden jungles and endless deserts. The writing is top notch, the art and sense of character is stunning, the musical score is sweeping and it all comes together into a simply stunning package that is so overbrimming with imagination, freedom and wonder, it's hard not to be blown away after each and every set piece, even now, a decade after the game was made. Another game desperately needing a sequel.

1. Archimedian Dynasty
archimedian dynastyThis game is simply storytelling at it's finest. Exploring a post apocalyptic world under the sea, packed full of backstory and detail, you play the role of a freelancer, sailing around in his hunk of junk doing oddjobs for various people. You bounce around between majestic cities, rundown ports and intimidating battleships, interacting with every little detail of the world around you to find jobs and information. As you do this, you upgrade your ship and kit it out as you see fit so that eventually you can go kick some ass for your chosen allies. It is a sign of the immense scale and epicness of this game that yu don't even find out what this game is really about until the final act, in a reveal so sudden and out of the blue that it goes down as one of the most impressively shocking moments in gaming history. And they actually did make a sequel for this, didn't really get into it, some things better left alone.

Directed by Michael Grandage
Written by Yukio Mishima
Starring Judi Dench, Rosamund Pike
Production company The Donmar
Theatre The Wyndham

My regular readers, and particularly those of you who are seasoned theatre patrons, will remember my previous review for the first production in the Donmar season at the Wyndham, Ivanov, starring Kenneth Branagh. In case you missed it, it was an absolutely wonderful production of a play by one of the finest ever playwrights, Anton Chekhov and achieved a maximum 5 star rating from me. This was followed by the equally mesmerizing production of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, starring Derek Jacobi.

And indeed the latest Donmar production at the Wyndham, Madame de Sade starring the legendary Judi Dench, looked very much like being another win for the in-form director Michael Grandage.

donmar madame de sade judi dench

Unfortunately all good runs come to an end, and in this case it has done so in a spectacularly painful fashion.

The production starts off in a decent fashion, a beautiful set design of tarnished silver, a mildly humorous scene between a slut and a religious fanatic about the Maquis de Sade's sexual exploits, but then it all goes down hill from there.

It's hard to tell if the play is this badly written, or just a poor translation by Donald Keene, but nothing comes off fluently, everything feels laborious and pretentious. The entirety of the second and third acts involve a bunch of self irritatingly simple and centered women sitting around talking about kinky things that happened to them off set, it's a bit like watching the view, except with funny wigs and ridiculous frocks. It gets tedious very quickly, and violates one of the first rules of writing: 'show, don't tell'. Nothing interesting ever happens on set, it's just a medium for the characters on stage to tell us about other things that have happened, I may as well just have stayed home and read the plot synopsis online.

You would expect at the very least Judi Dench's presence to be a saving grace, but sadly it's not. It's a testament to just how tedious and lacking in fluidity the dialogue is that there were several line flubs, including Judi of all people, and besides that she just ends up playing the exact same role she seems to have carved a little niche for in recent years; a tough old girl who's angry a lot. Time to move on and flex your acting chops methinks.

There was one moment of high amusement when the lights started malfunctioning, though at the time it wasn't clear if this was part of the production or not; at two points during the play one of the lights switched off and started rotating and swinging about wildly making a lot of loud noise. The people in the audience were actually fairly worried that it was going to fall down on them.

This unintentional amusement aside, the majority of the play was spent listening to these girls prattle on about existential and philosophical claptrap about why unrestrained decadence is a good thing. They lost me at 'Cathedral of vice', yawn.

song of the day: "Boundaries" by "Kyte"

thing that makes me smile today: The great new trailer for Sacha Baron Cohen's upcoming movie Bruno.

pic of the day:
scott pilgrimIN:
Scott Pilgrim
The Economist

Michael Grandage
The Wall Street Journal
Ali G

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