Sunday, 12 October 2014

Read all about it!

Hi folks,

Just an update to say that I am now writing a weekly column for the Northants Telegraph website. A link to the individual articles will be available on the "Column" page tab, found next to "Film" and "Home." Of course all of my old blog entries are still here for you to peruse but as I say new entries will be the links to my column. I shall hopefully be updating the links to my film reviews in the near future.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Triangles, Gran's food, Multi-buys and the greatest battle in the galaxy...




Why is it that sandwiches cut into triangles always taste better? Don't even try to disagree with me here, you all know that I speak the truth. Even if you've made them yourself, with the same ingredients, as soon as you pull that knife (careful, watch fingers) through that bread and it's contents from corner to corner, you know instantly that it's going to taste so much better than a standard cut sarnie. For some bizarre reason, they also seem bigger too. Perhaps it's why pre-packed sandwiches are cut into triangles; they manufacturer knows that the majority of customers are going to dislike them, so they cut them this way to at least have a chance! Can you imagine what a pre-packed service station sandwich would taste like if it was standard cut?
     Let's say that we've made our triangular sandwich for a packed lunch. to go with it we'll have some crisps, in our house usually from a multi-pack. I've often wondered why multi-pack food carries the warning "Not to be sold separately." Surely a cost-related statement, but has any shop dared to try and sell one of these items? Has anyone dared to tempt the wrath of...what exactly? Perhaps a black van will pull up outside the outlet and a group of large enforcers dressed in black will jump out, seize the miscreant, and of course the offending article will be destroyed by some more enormous squares of men. All this goes on while a few "suits" create a perimeter while peering through sunglasses and holding a finger to an ear as if glued in.
     Another entry in the "Food tastes better if" section is the one concerning the fact that if the food, again the same as you'd have at home, is cooked by your Gran, it tastes out of this world. I can see many of you nodding your heads already; you know what I mean. Sausages, Battered fish, name it. It doesn't matter what the meal is, it always tastes better when Gran makes it. I think that when Grandparents become Grandparents they receive a bag of powder, which when added to a meal (to be eaten by Grandchildren), gives it that extra something that many of us have tasted. Coincidentally, the powder is usually attached to a note stating that "As Grandparents there's every chance you'll be asked to babysit now-sorry!"
     I know that due to severe allergic reactions, food has to state information regarding it's associated production with nuts. However, it seems to me that soon there may be no end to this relationship. In that I mean that labelling may soon read: "Contains no nuts. Factory is not associated with nuts. Not transported with nuts.THERE ARE NO NUTS HERE! The fella who packaged the food can't stand nuts. Not even the lads magazine Nuts.Hold on, no sorry, Geoff in accounts likes nuts, so who knows!" I know it's all legal and safety measures but sometimes I just don't know. having said that, I did see a bar of peanut brittle which did say on the back "May contain nuts." May? Hello?
     Moving away from food now, in my long-overdue blog update, something caught my eye not long ago concerning two of my interests; Star Wars and Doctor Who. The Norwich Star Wars club met their match during the fourth Norwich film and sci-fi convention at the University of East Anglia in May. A rival group, the Norwich Sci-Fi Club turned up (not in Tardises, Tardis'..whatever)and started to use prise a way through to Doctor Who stars at the event. Now the Imperial forces of the Star Wars club weren't happy about this and, according to a Doctor Who fan dressed as the fifth Doctor Peter Davidson, began verbal abuse! I can hear them now, shouting at him in muffled tones due to the stormtrooper masks, "You scruffy-looking nerf herder! Your house is a wretched hive of scum and villainy!" Perhaps even "Your mum is more machine than woman;twisted and evil!" Then again, I'm sure it was fairly good natured and anyway, the Doctor would just travel back in time and well, you know the rest.

P.S. Imagine if Gran made a triangular sandwich...wow.


Wednesday, 1 May 2013

A thumbs up to Roger, old photos & splashing around!



As promised, here is my monthly blog update...That wasn't a very inviting sentence, was it? Well as long as you're still reading, I shall carry on and tell you what has been happening this past month in the exciting world of the average man.
     We had decided that for Rose's birthday in January we would go to the Splash Landings Hotel and water park at Alton Towers and stay overnight to make best use of the facilities. However, we couldn't go until April and so as a result it became a sort of birthday treat for us all. In our house we don't have birthdays, we have birthweeks. This is a system whereby you are allowed to have treats during the week before our birthday without fear of feeling guilty.
    We had a fantastic time there, the accommodation was clean and comfortable and the buffet food, whilst not particularly cheap, was of a good quality. The hotel was not the highlights of the trip though, that honour had to go to the (mostly) indoor water park that was part of the complex. There were indoor water slides (one of which Rose got stuck in and we had a lifeguard eventually help with) and there were outdoor water slides (I don't care if science states that -273.15 degrees Celsius is absolute zero, they were colder). We went on a sort of "Lazy River" that just pulled us along whilst jets of water shot at us from barrels and buckets of water tipped on our heads (both of these attacks seem to get me the most..hmmm.) And of course we had what you get quite often in a large pool with lots of excited kids...a p..Suffice to say that the filter system did a good job and we were allowed back in, after being assured it was safe to do so, after about ten minutes. The upshot of the break we had was that due to being soaked in chlorine for the best part of five hours each day, I was ready to audition for the part of "Prune Face" from Star Wars, or possibly the fella who gets toxic waste on him in Robocop. Oh, I think the kids had a good time too!
     I had my first radio interview this month too. I was invited by Pete Cooper from BBC Radio Northampton to talk about the DVD release of The Hobbit and the very sad news about the passing of Roger Ebert, arguably the greatest ever film critic. I was quite nervous but I felt that we had a good chat and after a few comments from various people, it seemed to come across quite well. Hopefully there shall be more of those to follow. In memory of Roger Ebert I am also proposing that on the anniversary of his death, April 4th, film reviewers would perhaps like to dedicate their reviews to him. So any reviewers reading this, put it in your diaries now! My film article and review writing has increased a lot this past month and as such my calendar for evenings is a mixture of film watching, writing reviews and constructing articles. I'm still enjoying it for now so I enjoy being busy with it.
     Finally, this month my wife and my friends dug some old photos of us all that were taken about 15 years ago! To begin with I was cringing, but after a while and remembering when they were taken and what we were doing at the time, they actually brought back some great memories I have of those times. It was when many long-term friendships gained their foundations that would ensure that we were still friends all this time later, irrespective of the distance some of us are apart. Of course I hope, for many more years to come too For some of you who read this, you know who you are!



Tuesday, 12 March 2013

That was then, this is now.

It's been a while since I last posted on here, too long in fact. To begin with, just over a year ago when the journal of the Average Man began, I was quite active on here. Last August though, thanks to Helen Cox, creator of New Empress film magazine and website, I began my foray into film reviews and article writing. I would like to hope that sometime in the future I will be able to look back at that moment and say "That truly was the Secret of my Success." Any of you who have read my first published article will know what that means, for those of you who don't, what are you waiting for!? Get over to www.newempressmagazine.com and take a look!

Around this time my Nana passed away. We knew it was on the cards and she had defied all predictions made by various Doctors. The original suggestion was that she wouldn't make our wedding in 2003. She batted this idea away and continued, becoming a guinea pig of sorts for various drugs before, in my eyes, defeating cancer by preventing it from causing any more pain and moving on. I can only hope that she knows how my writing has progressed and that I would have liked to show her what I have achieved.

Following on from another previous post concerning cars I have owned, the Rover 25 was part exchanged for my current chariot, a fine Renault Laguna Estate. Gold (not buff) in colour, this 1998 vintage Gallic chariot has a boot which can accommodate several "Daisies." There's still only one of those...for the minute!

In addition to writing for New Empress I have had articles and reviews published by www.lostinthemultiplex.com and www.couchpotatoclub.com. More recently my reviews have been published on my local newspaper's website www.northantstelegraph.co.uk from which I hope more people will enjoy reading my views and reviews on film.

My wife has continued to set and achieve new goals; she is capable of making the best cakes I have ever seen and recently received a City & Guilds Level 1 in Image Capture/Photo Imaging passing with a distinction. I am very proud of her.

I intend to write a new post every month, so keep popping back and taking a look. You never know what you'll find. Now, where was I? Oh yeah, I watched Twiglet:Breaking Wind farts 1 & 2 last night. Lost Boys was one movie that was better than all four of the Cullen's efforts combined. I preferred Pattison as Diggory after the Dark Lord had performed Avada Kedavra on him. As for Kristen Stewart, well I thought she laughed at one point but apparently it was just wind. Bela Lugosi would turn in his coffin. As you were Buffy.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

TV Guides, Blank Tapes and Highlighters

                                                     

It's nearly here folks. The decorations are going up, the food and present shopping is being carried out and all of the usual Christmas traditions are lining up, ready to be instigated. A very important one approaches and will be happening in many homes, though not to the degree that as it used to.  It involved a popular T.V guide magazine, a pack of highlighter pens and a stack of VHS blank cassette tapes. Some of you may be aware that I love films and TV and hopefully this explains the following obsession I carried out every year.

I know that I'm not the only person who did this, but it is now a dying tradition due to advances in technology.  For any of you reading this who are too young to remember what happened, I'll take you through the recipe on how I used to plan my Christmas TV viewing:

The magazine I refer to was the Radio Times. You could use the TV Times, but only if the RT was unavailable, as in my opinion the latter just didn't cut it and this was a serious operation, there was no room for error. Next on the list was a set of highlighter pens of which there needed to be several different colours, for a very good reason. Finally we needed to have a substantial supply of blank VHS tapes. I always liked to use fresh tapes as, despite what the skeleton who advertised the Scotch tapes used to say, they did fade away after several re-records.

The first read through of the RT was just a quick browse to familiarise oneself with what was on and to make myself aware of any clear, no-questions-asked recordings that had to take place (mostly movies). To do this I used the most eye-catching highlighter (usually the yellow, a common choice I believe). At this point I feel I need to explain that for several years over the Christmas period, I was away from home and with other members of my family, where TV viewing would not be so easy.

The second perusal involved a secondary colour being used to mark out other programmes I would like to see which were to be broadcast over the festive period. This was usually Christmas specials and one-offs such as "Britain's Strongest Man". This is sadly no longer a special as, like so many other classic shows, there always seems to be a re-run being showed on one of the multiple channels now diluting our TV's.

Next up was the "Clash Check." This was a procedure whereby I would list the programmes in date and time order and see if there was a clash. In the event of there being so, which did occasionally happen, I had a  couple of options:

1) Watch one of the programmes and record the other (if viewing was an option).

2) Commandeer my parents VCR in the lounge to use in addition to my own. (This may seem extreme to you
    but any TV or film addict will tell you, it had to be done.)

Having now planned the recordings et.c I now had to calculate how I was going to get it all onto a tape. The most common species of the VHS cassette was the E-180. The "180" denoted the length of time in minutes available on the tape and also declared itself almost useless unless you used a "long play" function on the VCR, doubling the 180mins into six hours.  Not for me though, the E180, no I went straight to the E240. As you can probably work out, this became an eight-hour recordable behemoth of a tape.  All recordings were programmed into the VCR's timer and the preparation was complete. All that was left now was for me to enjoy my "meal" of Christmas TV goodness on returning from my travels.

Of course it doesn't happen like that any more. We shall purchase the RT as a matter of course, the same as every Christmas and there may even be a bit of highlighting going on. It wont be to the same degree because nowadays our Sky box does it all for us: Programme guide, recording et.c. The advance in technology from VCR to digital recorders, like most other changes, makes life easier. However, also like some other advances, it takes some of the fun out of it.

I think the difference is the involvement and the physical aspect of a plastic box housing a film or programme. Yes it can be replaced with another title in the same way a digibox can be wiped and new items recorded, but there is still a lot to be said for VHS in the same way that records have the individuality that compact discs do not.  I still have many videos and have no intention of getting rid of them, in fact some of the rarer titles have become collectors items of value.

Now if I can just fit The Two Ronnies Christmas Special on, I'll be happy. No? Right then, I have need of your VCR......

No VCR's were permanently damaged during this procedure. (Apart from a Panasonic NVG-21B)


Wednesday, 12 September 2012

BBQ Man


We all remember the transformation scenes in various were-wolf and mad scientist movies, but are you aware of a transformation that occurs quite possibly, in your very street, perhaps even your house!  There is actually a distinct chance if you are male, that it happens to you but you just don't know it.  There are certain conditions required for it to happen and British weather being the way it is, it doesn't happen very often. Have you guessed yet?  If not, I shall draw back the vale obscuring this horror.  The average man becomes the BARBECUE MAN!!!
   
Last weekend was perfect for the average man to undergo this transformation: It was warm.  That's it.  That's all your average man needs to initiate the conversion.  It happens as follows...

1. The sun needs to be shining for the majority of the day, and no rain must have fallen.(This is important only      BEFORE the barbecue.)

2. He will ask the disguised question "Shall we have a barbecue?"  By disguised I mean he's reversed the "Shall" and "We" parts of the sentence to be polite.  He is insisting, do not try and dissuade him, it will not work.

3. He then begins the invitation procedure, whereby he starts with a list of household members which then swiftly progresses to friends, neighbours, old work colleagues and on and on until his pen runs out of ink.

4. As the transformation increases, the mathematical capabilities begin to revert back to that of neanderthal  man. He will try and calculate how much food to buy for the meal. "Eight adults, that's two burgers and sausages per adult and six children, so that's...." His voice will trail off and his eyes will become glazed as he goes to the car, drives to the shop and proudly returns with about 36 burgers, 40 sausages, 30 drumsticks, 3lbs of coleslaw, crisps and goodness knows what else.  Then he unloads the booze.....

5.  When the guests arrive he will greet them of course, but he will be secreting a small notebook about himself.  This is to record how much and what each guest has brought, if anything!  He may use these notes to determine how much food guests are allowed or even if they are invited again!

6.  He will now realise that he hasn't enough fuel for the barbecue and get to the nearest supplier of coal and similar fuel sources, where he will share his anxiety with other men who are suffering the same condition.  You can spot them easily: wild-eyed, walking faster than a jog from aisle to aisle in desperation. More often than not successful, he returns to his cave, sorry, home.

7. The barbecue is lit and burning well. He is ready to cook as the flames are licking two feet into the air. Yes, two feet.  We know this is too high, but remember he cannot control his actions.  A combination of the alcohol he has consumed, the degeneration of his cognitive functions and the flames drawing his gaze towards them....red and yellow tongues tasting the air..burn, burn, burn..sorry, got carried away there...

8. The food is burning on the outside now and raw in the middle. He is unsure what to do. Several other males approach the area to assist their troubled friend and with beer (AND) or wine in hand, start making suggestions which suspiciously sound like grunts.

At this point the sensible, level headed members of this dining adventure may step in. Generally unaffected by this transformation, and as the inevitable rain begins to fall, females of the group will suggest "Finishing it off in the oven," purely because the "Fire will go out," and nothing to do with the fact that if anyone eats the food as is, the will contract food poisoning.  Whilst the food is moved indoors to be perfectly finished and cooked properly, the now fully-transformed infected men remain outside nursing their drinks and staring into the flames, muttering or is it chanting?

The following morning the average man rises after a fitful, indigestion-riddled sleep.  His head and stomach ache and there is a mess to be cleaned up, which of course due to the after effects of the transformation (not the alcohol), he cannot for the life of him remember from where it came.

Mess cleaned up, aches and pains gone he goes into the garden.  A bright light is reflecting off the ash dusted barbecue. He finds it almost hypnotic....the light is of course the sun, and it is warm on his face.......


Friday, 7 September 2012

The best film ever made.


The haunting, two-note theme.  The dark, seemingly endless ocean.  The perfectly evolved, almost unstoppable killing machine.  Most of you will already know from just these three details, which is my favourite film of all time. For those of you who don't (have you been with the Curiosity Rover somewhere?) the film I speak of is Jaws.
     "It's just a movie about a big shark eating people (and boats)", many will say.  So why is it my number one? Let me explain.  One thing that I think of that makes it different from any other film I enjoy, is that I can remember particular scenes at different parts of my life.  My earliest memory is the head floating underwater in the sunken boat when Hooper (played by Richard Dreyfuss) is investigating the missing vessel. It scared me silly and was all I could remember of the film until I watched it again, a bit older and not as fearful!
     Following that, it became the piece right towards the end as the original "sea dog" Quint (brilliantly portrayed by Robert Shaw) met his end by being bitten in half by the great fish, as it demolished the aft section of the "Orca."  So many more scenes joined these two as I gained more appreciation for this film, the more times I watched it: Quint checking Hooper's hands, only to state they hadn't done a days "hard graft." The fantastic scene which gives the audience a little rest from the anxiety of the shark's next attack: Hooper, Quint and of course Chief Brody (Roy Scheider), are getting drunk and comparing scars whilst singing "Show me the way to go home."
     It isn't just these favourite scenes which I like so much, it's also the production techniques used to have us on the edge and pull us back from being briefly relaxed.  Most people have a fear of the dark, we can't see what's out there.  A lot of us can swim yes, but If we were to be isolated in a vast ocean, we would panic.  The opening scenes are that of a girl, Chrissie Watkins, struggling in vain to fight off the great white shark which will not stop until it has its victim.  This happens during the very early hours of the morning, when the reassurance of sunlight has not yet begun to lay its blanket of hope on the sea.  She is alone, and it is dark.
    Director Steven Spielberg's often used, excellent use of a filming technique known as "Dolly zoom" draws us quickly into the shocked face of Chief Brody, as he sees the shark or whilst the local community of Amity celebrate the 4th of July in the water.  Due to regular failure of the mechanical shark or "Bruce" as it became known, Speilberg employed mere suggestion that the shark was near: barrels in the water being pulled under and use of the excellent music of John Williams.  Another great film, Alien, used this technique to great effect.  You didn't need to see the attacker, but you knew it was there.
     The interaction between the three characters is brilliant too, partially due to Dreyfuss and Shaw's on-set dissagreement but the majority is down to the excellent acting of course.
     The action rises like the peak of a wave and then smooths down into calmer waters (all puns intended). The interaction between Brody and his youngest son when imitating each other is a fantastic example of a relaxed moment.  The only things which detract from this great film are its sequels, as so often happens with blockbuster films. When you mention Jaws, inevitably conversation sways onto the second, third and fourth movies, when it shouldn't. Forget the half-breed second, I struggle to acknowledge the abomination third and
ludicrous fourth, we are talking about Jaws.  Not Jaws 1 or Jaws Episode 1 et.c, but Jaws.
    So there you have it, that is why Jaws is my favourite film of all time.  I haven't seen the Blu-ray version as of yet, but that will change and reviews suggest it is the best Blu-ray conversion yet. Oh and as for remaking or re-booting Jaws, if some studio or director really thinks he could, let me suggest this: Never mind a bigger boat, you'll need bigger everything if you even attempt it. You will fail though and it will bite you on the ass, and its a big bite with two rows of teeth.