Sunday, December 31, 2006

Coram Boy

I went to the National Theatre to see this a few nights ago. I must confess that as the tickets were a gift I was completely unprepared for it. I wasn't expecting very much from this play but now that I have been to see it I am more than happy that I did. It is very good.

It is a simple story told in a surprisingly effective way. The novel on which it is based won the Whitbread Children’s Book Award, which probably explains the simplicity of the story - it was written for children. But unlike most books written for younger readers this story is a dark and honest tale well suited to the time in which it is set, and I liked that.

Despite the dark setting there was space for humour and an exploration of the full gamut of human emotions throughout the two and three quarter hours of the play, which went by surprisingly quickly.

The production was very well executed. The Olivier Theatre has one of the most interesting stages in London, and when used properly that makes it ideal for staging dynamic productions such as this.

Coram Boy
Plot: 16/20
Acting: 17/20
Production: 18/20
Entertainment: 35/40
Total: 86/100
The acting (and singing) was excellent. So good in fact that I'm going to have to acquire a copy of Handel's Messiah and have a proper listen. Whilst not a huge fan of 18th century choral pieces I left the theatre humming away.

All in all it was a very entertaining evening and I would recommend it for both adults and older children. I wouldn't take a child under twelve years though unless they had a particularly hardy constitution.


Friday, December 29, 2006

Blood Brothers

Blood BrothersA musical derived from a play originally written for secondary school children there is no doubt that Blood Brothers has been very successful.

It opened at the Liverpool Playhouse in 1983, and is currently playing at the Phoenix Theatre in London, which is where I went to see it. There is also a touring production making its way around the UK and a number of fixed productions spread throughout the English speaking world.

The question is why has it been so successful? The production I saw was well executed, but then it would be, it has been in continuous production for 14 years. The performances by the actors were very good, and the musical accompanyment was also of a reasonably high quality. These all work in its favour, but there is on niggling aspect of the whole production which I found lacking, there is the small matter of the plot, and as it happens Willy Russell must have considered it to be a very small matter indeed.

It may have been originally written for secondary school children but a nine year old could follow it without much difficulty. The plot is so obvious and predicatble that once you have seen the first five minutes you could have an hour long nap, and pick up from where you left off without any difficulty, and without missing much, which I must confess I had to resist the temptation to do the whole way through.

Blood Brothers
Plot: 5/20
Acting: 16/20
Production: 15/20
Entertainment: 15/40
Total: 51/100
It is theatre for the mentally fainéant, and I cannot for the life of me figure out why it won so many awards. 1983 must have been a prticularly bad year for theatre.

That said I must confess that as musicals go I have seen worse, much much worse. But I have also seen a lot better, 'High Society' at the beginning of the year being an excellant example of a good musical.


Thursday, December 28, 2006

New Speakers

Logitech® X-230 SpeakersI was lucky enough to receive a new set of speakers for my PC this Christmas which I have only just got around to connecting to my PC. The new speakers are Logitech® X-230 Speakers, which replace my ageing Altec Lansing ACS 33 Speakers.

The Logitech speakers are fantastic, they have a clarity that the old Altec Lansing speakers couldn't come close to. They are also a little more powerful which is useful. The signal to noise ratio of the new speakers are quoted at 96dB vs. the 65dB of the old ones and I believe that the SN ratio is accurate, the difference in sound quality is like chalk and cheese. The THD isn't quoted but I think that it is quite low, much lower than the ACS 33s.

I don't know why I didn't think of upgrading ages ago. I'm still finding it hard to believe that speakers of this quality are available for so little money. They sound almost as good as my much, much, much more expensive Sony seperates.

I've been listening to all sorts of music this morning and every single track sounds more detailed and crisp. The only downside is that the mp3s that I created in the early days at 128kbps when hard disk space was limited all sound hideous now. I'm going to have to rip them all again at 320kbps or I wont be able to listen to them.

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Final Frontier

The Final Frontier

New Horizons Launches to Pluto

I found these photos on the Astronomy Picture of the Day website. It is a cool site worth visiting. Not all of the photos are of this quality but there are many nice photos on the site showing space and man's exploration of space to date.

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Monday, December 25, 2006


I went to see Frost/Nixon at the Gielgud Theatre a few nights ago and have to say that it was bloody fantastic. From the opening line to the last scene it was excellent.

The plot revolves around David Frost's interviews with Richard Nixon after he resigned as president of the USA and the events that led to the eventual filming of what would then become the news interview that drew largest audience ever in the history of television.
Plot: 19/20
Acting: 19/20
Production: 19/20
Entertainment: 38/40
Total: 95/100

Michael Sheen was truly terrific as David Frost & Frank Langella despite looking nothing like the ex-president was a very credible Richard Nixon, and captured the character perfectly. The main honour however has to go to Peter Morgan for his excellent script.

I'd recommend that you go to see it but is is finishing its run at the Gielgud soon and then will be on stage on Broadway, so unless you are going to be in New York you are unlikely to get tickets.

As a side note I'd like to say that during the interview scenes that there was a very nice little G-Plan side table next to Nixon's chair that I wouldn't mind owning.


Sunday, December 24, 2006


XFM LONDON (104.9FM) Rocks.
Let me say that again... XFM LONDON: Rocks!

I've done a lot of driving today and the only thing that kept me awake at the wheel was the absolute stunning selection of tracks that kept pouring out of XFM.

I only found the station by accident, the continuous drone of Christmas music on the other preset stations forced me to scan the frequencies to avoid lapsing into a catatonic state, and I luckily landed on XFM. Every track was a downright inspired selection and every track seemed better than the last.

It is now a preset in the car for my future aural enjoyment.

Thank you XFM and in particular Iain Baker you have got me safely through the day (and kept me alert enought to survive the ignorant, blind and downright rude drivers I've had the bad fortune to come across today), and now I'll be able to enjoy Christmas tomorrow.

Now I can get on with the business of getting rip roaring drunk in the comfort of my own home with a few dozen friends and family.

Cheers & Merry Christams to everyone.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Foggy Morning

The view from my window this morning.

Foggy Morning View

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Saturday, December 16, 2006

Digital Photo Frames

I've been looking into digital photo frames recently as I thought that one might make a good Christmas present for someone.

Digital Photo FrameI went to John Lewis so that I could get my mits on the new Philips Digital PhotoFrame™.

Whilst they were quite interesting they did look a little cheap and plasticky, and were fiddly to use. More annoyingly (at least for me) they has a nonstandard aspect ratio of 3.3333:2 which is really bizarre. The resolution was quite good though at 800x480 pixels, available in two sizes 7" and 9". I preferred the 7" frame.

There was also a BT 9FFCW0 LCD Digital Photo Frame, which whilst being quite small at 5.6" at least had the virtue of having a 3:2 aspect ratio display. Unfortunately the resolution was very low at 320x240 pixels.

Dissapointed in the selection I had a look online where I found a number of frames of varying sizes from 5.6" to 10", unfortunately they all had relatively low resolutions and were for the most part 4:3 ratio screens. There was a 15" frame with a 1024x768 pixels screen, but again that is a 4:3 ratio.

Finally I decided to take a look on Amazon which has a surprisingly large selection of digital photo frames and I stumbled across the Linx 8" High Resolution Digital Photo Frame which has a 3:2 aspect ratio and a reasonable resolution of 720x480 pixels. It even has a remote control! Wicked the perfect gift.

Well it would have been if I had any money left! Christmas shopping, it is always a nightmare.

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Well I've gone and updated my version of blogger. It took much longer than I expected but at least the site still appears to work.

Now I'll have to spend some time exploring all of the new facilities and features.

First thing I really have to do is to go through all of my old posts and add labels to them. This should be intersting as I'm free to categorise them in any way I wish.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Its the End of the World as I know it.

This morning as usual I popped into the back garden at sunrise to smoke a cigarette and watch the birds wake up. Every morning it is the same routine, the gulls wake up and head off, followed shortly thereafter by the magpies and blackbirds, then the parakeets and finally the pigeons. Occasionally there is a hawk about, or a tardy owl making its way home.

The routine was broken this morning by the pigeons who decided to wake up and fly away before the parakeets. What happened? Was the world as I knew it about to end? Luckily the pigeons realised their mistake and returned to their nests a few minutes later. The parakeets duly woke up and went off to do whatever parakeets do, and about ten minutes later the pigeons were on their way.

That's what I call a near miss.

Time to start getting ready to go to work now.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

I've yet again been the victim of 'anticipatory plagiarism'! I was happily thumbing through the December issue of Cigar Aficionado when to my surpise on page 297 I came accross an advertisment for Due Mondi cigars. They have taken my brilliant idea for double capped cigars and have applied it to three of their frankly rough looking cigars.

Hello! Where are my royalties?

Any good lawyers out there willing to represent me in my upcoming civil suit? I'll split the royalties 50/50


The Swarm: A Novel By Frank Schatzing

This, like many articles has been sitting as a draft for many months. I never really though that it was finished but, In preparation for the big switch to Blogger v2, I'm publishing it now anyway.
The Swarm: A Novel By Frank Schatzing
Whales begin sinking ships. Toxic, eyeless crabs poison Long Island's water supply. The North Sea shelf collapses, killing thousands in Europe. Around the world, countries are beginning to feel the effects of the ocean's revenge as the seas and their inhabi-tants begin a violent revolution against mankind.
I read this book a few months ago and have been trying to think about how best to describe it. I think I can sum it up best as a thoroughly modern thriller. It takes inspiration from about a thousand other books and tries to combine science with horror. It is reasonbly effective as a novel, and despite the fact that it may have lost something in translation into English, it was still a bit of a page turner.

Now this is far from the best book I have ever read and it relies a little too heavily on long forays into science fact which eventually wears you down and makes some parts of the book quite heavy going. Towards the end of the novel you really have to force yourself not to skim over the umpteenth extensive explanation of an obscure science fact.

I think that the editor should have put his foot down long before the final 896 page draft as there is a good story in this book trying to get out. If the book had been compressed into about 600 to 700 pages with a lot of the science and more importantly the pseudo-science stripped out it would have been a much more engaging read.

All in all I can't really recommend this book to anyone who isn't a die hard science fiction fan.

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Monday, December 11, 2006

Hope There's Someone

Hope there's someone
Who'll take care of me
When I die, will I go

Hope there's someone
Who'll set my heart free
Nice to hold when I'm tired

There's a ghost on the horizon
When I go to bed
How can I fall asleep at night
How will I rest my head

Oh I'm scared of the middle place
Between light and nowhere
I don't want to be the one
Left in there, left in there

There's a man on the horizon
Wish that I'd go to bed
If I fall to his feet tonight
Will allow rest my head

So here's hoping I will not drown
Or paralyze in light
And godsend I don't want to go
To the seal's watershed

Hope there's someone
Who'll take care of me
When I die, Will I go

Hope there's someone
Who'll set my heart free
Nice to hold when I'm tired
- Antony & The Johnsons

Haunting track.

Used a lot on television but they usually cut it to the first 2:25 as there is a funky bit of piano and moaning at the end. I can't say that I disagree with the decision, it does have the effect of dragging a serrated blade over your teeth, ouch!

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Fujifilm Klasse W

© Someone ElseI've just come across the Fuji Klasse W camera.

It is a compact film camera from Fujifilm with really nice retro styling and reputedly a fantastic 28mm f/2.8 lens. Why is it that Fujifilm are the only company that seems to be still interested in making high quality compact film cameras? More importantly why do they only market them in Japan?

There used to be so many high quality film compacts, Nikon made the 35Ti & 28Ti, Contax the T2, Yashica the T4 & T5, Konica the Hexar AF, Ricoh the excellent GR1 & GR1v.

I guess Leica still makes the CM and Olympus the µII. But who can afford the Leica? And the Olympus whilst reasonably priced and very capable has a 35mm lens which isn't really wide enough. Also the µII looks nowhere near as good as the Fuji Klasse W.

That said I may still pick up a µII if I see one at bargain prices as it is so easily pocketable and robust.

Meanwhile Fujifilm have been busy producing quality little compacts. I've hankered after a Fujifilm Natura Classica for ages and am quite interested in the black Fujifilm Natura S with its fantastic 24mm f/1.9 lens for a while now.

<< Sigh >>

If only they were cheaper and available in the UK. Oh well, there's always eBay!

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

When You Were Young

Is it there in your heartache?
Waiting on some beautiful boy to
To save you from your old ways
You play forgiveness
Watch it now - here he comes

He doesn't look a thing like Jesus
But he talks like a gentlemen
Like you imagined when you were young

Can we climb this mountain
I don't know
Higher now than ever before
I know we can make it if we take it slow
Let's take it easy
Easy now, watch it go

We're burning down the highway skyline
On the back of a hurricane that started turning
When you were young
When you were young

And sometimes you close your eyes
and see the place where you used to live
When you were young

They say the devil's water, it ain't so sweet
You don't have to drink right now
But you can dip your feet
Every once in a little while

Is it there in your heartache?
Waiting on some beautiful boy to
To save you from your old ways
You play forgiveness
Watch it now here he comes

He doesn't look a thing like Jesus
But he talks like a gentlemen
Like you imagined when you were young
(He talks like a gentlemen, like you imagined when)
When you were young

I said he doesn't look a thing like Jesus
He doesn't look a thing like Jesus
But more than you'll ever know- The Killers

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Blogger says...

Now, you can do even more with your blog!

Add post labels, set up privacy controls, and enjoy instant publishing with the new version of Blogger in beta.

Switch your blog today
I particularly like the sound of post labels, which is something I have longed for to help me organise my blog. I'll be switching this week, after I have made a thorough backup of my blog in its current state, of course. It pays to be careful with blogger.

The Killers - Sam's Town

I recently aquired The Killers new album Sam's Town and after listening to it in its entirety I think that it is very good. I really enjoyed the album, especially the single "When You Were Young", which I must confess I have played a few times in succession (more than once).

"Bling (Confessions Of A King)" has a melody which sucks you in and pulls you along like a rip tide (without the unpleasant drowning side effects), "For reasons Unknown2 is also a catchy little number. "Read my Mind" is very pleasant, you get the idea, it is a great album to listen to.

I think it would be particulalry good for a long drive through the country where you don't have to pay particular attention to the speed limit.

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Only 12 shopping days to Christmas and I've hardly started buying anything.

Christmas shopping is always a nightmare for me as I don't like to go to shops. I hate milling about with the thousands of other people struggling to move and having to look at things that hundreds of other people have already had their greasy paws on.

Oh well, it has to be done.

Casino Royale

Fuckin' 'ell!

I've seen every Bond movie and this was by far the best. Maybe my fading memories of Connery are affecting my judgement, perhaps it has been too long since I watched the dark menace of Timothy Dalton's Bond, but I left the cinema only slightly aware of the poor projection and slightly off balance sound (two sins for which I have left mid-movie and asked for and received for a refund before at the Odeon Richmond, which surprisingly they still haven't managed to correct).

It simply didn't matter tonight; I really enjoyed this, it surpassed my expectations for a 007 movie, which whilst admittedly were not too high in the first place, they were so completely surpassed that I have to say that this is easily on my shortlist of the best movies I have seen this year.

If you haven't already done so - GO SEE IT.