Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Global Round-Up ...

Bill's New Pane: Gates says that Microsoft's latest Windows platform is "more secure". Than what? The last load of crap you dumped on us?

Hubble Bubble: NASA says that the main camera on their Hubble Space Telescope has broken. What, again?? Hope they kept the bloody receipt.

All Greek To Me: Athens schoolchildren surround the Acropolis demanding that the UK returns the Elgin marbles which were whipped from under their noses 200 years ago. Nice try. As if.

Lost Vegas: Manchester, in the UK, is to become the venue of a new super casino. Cool. Somewhere else to spend that Giro cheque.

Five Ring Circus: Chinese authorities have told Olympic officials not to indulge in corrupt or immoral behaviour during their 2008 Beijing Olympics. Shame it can't be adopted for everyday use.

Crying Over Spilt Milk: A woman sat in a bath of cold milk outside the UK's Parliament building to protest at the price per litre dairy farmers are paid. Silly moo.

In The Nick Of Time: Rock group, 'The Police', reunite to play at next month's Grammy awards ceremony. Gordon must be in a benevolent mood - the other two aren't exactly raking it in at the moment.

A Touch Of The Squits: England's cricket team loose again. When our infamous 11 tour other countries, do they ever go down with a dose of tummy gip? It's about the only thing they're likely to catch and the only runs they're ever going to get.

Old Man Stands Up: Pictures of Fidel Castro standing up and drinking orange juice have been aired on Cuban TV. What a treat. In next week's episode, the Old Man brings the orange juice back up. Stay tuned.

Got To Get A Message To You: David Beckham is going to play footy in the US - a deal worth 193m Euros. I wonder, is this for him to play ball or to stop her from re-launching her singing career? You choose.

Life's a little boring at the moment, no?


My thanks to DM for the pic.

Monday, January 29, 2007

It's Bucket Time, Again ...

This year's crop of Oscar nominees have been announced and Tinsel Town is a-buzz with air kissing and copious amounts of fawning. There are more tongues being shoved up more arses than you'd get in a half-decent adult movie. Newspaper, TV and Radio stations are being flooded by film critics, eager to chuck in their 10 pennies worth as to whom they believe will come out on top and walk away with a coveted statue.

This vomit-inducing clap-trap received an early shot in the arm last night with the Screen Actor Guild Awards. If you've been nominated for an Oscar and you win a Screen Actors Guild prize, then your Oscar acceptance speech is in the bag - so they say. Three British women up for an Oscar this year are Dame Judy Dench, Helen Mirren and Kate Winslet. Only one of our three ladies made an splash with the Screen Actors, Helen Mirren. She walked away with another statuette at last night's ceremony and, naturally, has been tipped to collect her Oscar on Februrary 25th.

On a personal note, I'm rather hoping that the grand old Dame of British acting, Judy Dench, finally gets American recognition and picks up a prize. At least she never got her tits out to further her career ... although she's acted with a few.


Saturday, January 27, 2007

Blinkered Idiot ...

The spoilt little Indian rich-kid who was at the receiving of the 'alleged' racist abuse on the UK programme Big Brother, will (naturally) win the event.

Think about it - OF COURSE she will because if this Shilpa Shetty gets voted out, it too will be seen as an act of racism. Watch as downtown Mumbai becomes fog-bound with more effigy fires. 'BB Burning' might even be added to their ever-increasing list of annual public holidays. Now, there's a thought. Despite being one of India's top models, she is also a black belt karate champion and (apparently) has the best body in Bollywood - but she can't take a bit of teasing. Crap, we suffered it at school nearly everyday and we had no-one to fight our corner.

She starred in an advertising campaign for PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), dressed in leopard camouflage and photographed in a cage. Somewhow, PETA's slogan in the campaign, "Beaten, lonely and abused" is something her 'fans' will ,ost probably latch onto. According to her 'fascinating' bio, "she is also a huge fan of prints, especially Tiger and Leopard prints. Her room is filled with all the different kind of prints. Even her pillow case." So, we now know the age group we are dealing with.

Beside her native language Tulu, she speaks English, Hindi, Kannada, Marathi, Gujarati, Telugu, Tamil and Urdu ... and she still couldn't tell those teasing her to 'shut up'? Probably employs someone for that ...

It's Quiz Time ...

While we're all sheltering from the current cold snap, here's a wee quiz to get that grey matter churning over. Ready? Then here we go ...

Question: who is this man?

Hint: he was born in 1944 in a place called 'Eumseong', if you want to write his name, it's spelt like this 반기문. Oh, and he's dekofinated ...

Answers on a postcard to the usual address please.


Friday, January 26, 2007

Cooking Lessons ...

Raytheon have just announced the arrival of a breed of rioter repellant - both singular and plural.

"The Silent Guardian is", say the manufacturer, "revolutionary less-than-lethal directed energy application that employs millimeter wave technology to repel individuals or crowds without causing injury." They carry on with some superb 'wordsmithery', explaining their new weapon (sorry - deterrent): "Silent Guardian produces precise effects at longer ranges than current less-than-lethal systems and provides real-time ability to establish intent and de-escalate aggression."

The idea is that this truck-mounted piece of trickery sends out a 360-degree mini-microwave signal that heats the skin of an individual up to 54C (130F) which penetrates less than 0.5mm of skin. They claim that it avoids injury, although long-term effects are not known. Goodie. Makes me feel SO much better as the French will probably give their police force take-home versions.

So, anyone going to an anti-G8 or WTO rally in the future, here's today's top tip: while shouting your hate-ridden slogans at the intended government minister/CEO or billionaire, keep some microwave food in your inside pocket ... let it cook while YOU do!

Can't Go Out Today ... Can't Get Back In ...

It's coming up to 08h and, already, today is shaping up to be another day from 'shitsville'. The building was rudely awoken at both 01h30 and 02h30 when some arse started using a electric power drill in the adjoining building. There was much banging on the walls from neighbours but I doubt that the arse heard.

I finally surrendered to my broken night at 06h30 and got up and was the first customer through the doors at the 'Panoramix Coffee Emporium' at 07h. Then round to the bakery for a fresh baguette. However, on my return home, I was in for a surprise ...

The security key for my front door (apartment, not building) has stuck fast in the lock. I cannot turn it left nor right. It won't come out of the lock. It will not budge. So, the door is left open ajar because if I close the door, the handle on the inside won't move either and I'll be trapped inside - if I go out and close the door, I can't get back in. Thankfully, the owner of what is now my temporary prison cell, is back from Canada and residing in the apartment below. Emergency locksmiths, as any 'artisan', cost a fortune and with a 'porte blindee' (heavy metal security door), it's around 500 beans to change the lock tumbler.

And now a song, in the key of Yale and Chubb ...


Thursday, January 25, 2007

That Is Illogical, Captain ...

This cold weather is causing merry hell with all forms of motorised transport ... and it hasn't even started snowing - yet.

In recent months, my little 125cc scooter has been working fine. Firing first time and giving a good return for its money. Last night I was out of town and so it was left in an on-street parking bay. The temperature plummeted. At 07h45 and as good as gold, she started first time and off we went on our 45-minute trip into the centre of town. However, four hours later she wouldn't give so much as a cough when I pressed the electric starter. I kept on trying just in case she fired, but no. The battery finally gave up the ghost, drained and exhausted.

So, straight onto the insurance company who sent round the 'depanneur', the breakdown people. I related this morning's story to the mechanic as jumped down from his cab. He took the keys and tried to start her up. The engine whined, all the energy had been supped. "Of course it won't start", he began "the battery's flat."

Well, f**k me! Really? I wonder how that could have happened.

I sighed a really big sigh and looked his in the eye ... "Well of course the battery's flat", I replied "I've just spent the last 15 minutes trying to start the f'ing thing so, voila, that will account for the flat battery." He looked at me somewhat puzzled. I don't think that he was expecting anyone with half a brain to have figured it out. He 'jumped' the battery and I rode off into the freezing Paris air. If it's starts next time I'll be sodding lucky but if not, at least I'll see my newest best mate again ...

Answer me this, what happened to bikes with kickstarts?


Sunday, January 21, 2007

Three Strikes Of Wildlife ...

Our first dip into the animal kingdom comes from the UK.

An 18-month old Staffordshire Bull Terrier (the sort of ugly looking creature that is paraded on the end of a studded lead by an equally ugly, bald-headed thug) almost came to a sticky end while out on a walk with her owner. Bella (Bella? Don't see anything 'bella' about this creature) was out chasing seagulls along a clifftop footpath, with her owner Dave Sneap, when her footing became a little unsteady. She lost her paw-placing and fell onto the beach below, some 200ft (61 meters). After a 40 minute search by the coastguard, the revolting square-headed jaw-monster was found safe and well. Naturally, Mr Sneap was delighted. "It's fantastic that she came out of this unscathed, it's unbelievable", said Sneap. Yes. Terrible. I almost care.

The second story, thankfully, is much more 'fluffy'.

Whilst out on a killing spree, a Tallahassee hunter shot and (so he thought) killed a duck. Believing the bird was dead, he went home and popped it in his fridge. Two days later his wife opened the fridge door and received the shock of her life - the duck lifted its head. The natural-born killer took the plucky duck off to a local animal sanctuary where a local vet took a gander at it. The duck is not expected to live out its days in the wild but will remain in the centre. "This shows how tough and adaptable wildlife are" said vet David Hale ... or just how stupid men with guns can be - or how often rednecks open their fridges.

Our third story involves a cat that survived 3-weeks as a stowaway on a trans-Atlantic jet, popping between the US of A and Europe. The poor creature was initially on a US flight bound for Munich when its cage was broken in transit. The moggy escaped and hid in the cargo hold for the next 21 days. No-one saw it and no-one heard it. The 'puddy tat' was eventually found when the aircraft landed in Denver and taken off to the vets where it received a clean bill of health. Ring an airline and tell then there's a bomb on the plane and they'll unload every last bag - loose a cat and they won't even bother. It says more about crappy baggage-handlers and the responsibilities of airlines than anything else ...

Got a cute animal story?

Good, then keep it the bloody thing to yourself as I'm sick of them.


Friday, January 19, 2007

eh ...?

According to an online list of phobias, Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia is the fear of long words.

Go on! Really?

No doubt there's a shrink somewhere in the US of A making a bloody fortune out of that!


Thursday, January 18, 2007

Papadumb ...

The latest battle of words over the alleged racist remarks during a UK TV's reality show to an Indian Bollywood actress have, yawn, dominated all newspapers and radio stations. OK, I live abroad, but you cannot avoid the coverage of this story - even the French morning news radio gave it prime-time coverage.

Here's some food for thought.

Today, on a well-known UK government funded radio station that play re-runs of classic comedy programmes, a show from the 80's was re-broadcast. The show is based around a fictitious radio station in which the Managing Director of the station, Sir Norman Tonsil, opened with the following lines;

"I am aware that we live in an uncaring society ... my first suggestion was that we run an early morning show fronted by our Asian and African friends, catering for their special interests called "Breakfast With The Bimbos"... I then suggested that as we broadcast over 8000 hours of radio a year, we could allow all the different minority groups in the country to share a 30 minute slot ... it's a marvellous opportunity for you to hear a whole range of poofs, wogs, wops, spicks, Greeks, junkies, psychopaths and, of course, Welshmen ... "

Naturally, I laughed. It's comedy. But for those of you now furious and writing to your MP, the facts again; the show was made in the '80s and was re-transmitted in 2007.

However, when you think that during a reality TV show (which in itself is supposed to mirror, err, reality), a few remarks made to someone can cause a huge outcry, ruffling the feathers of 2 national governments (the UK and India), it's all come down to a sorry state of affairs. All because some jumped up little sleeze-bag of a 'celebrity' says something a little risqué, the entire Indian nation now think that Brits are not tolerant and are nothing more than a nation of racists.

So, the entire subcontinent willingly believe that one stuck-up little rich kid is a prime example of Britishness and that she speaks for the whole nation?

India? You've just proved to everyone exactly how dumb you can really be ...


Monday, January 15, 2007

No Hanging Around The Bar ...

For anyone who's heard the story about the hanging of Barzan Ibrahim and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, were probably shocked to hear that one of them was decapitated during the process - it was Saddam Hussein's half-brother Barzan Ibrahim. Well, for a start, the rope was too long for his height and weight - although there are a few other factors that had to be taken into consideration.

I have suggested that the Iraqi's get a copy of a book which will explain where they went wrong ... badly wrong.

I Need My Space ...

Without a doubt, the French are a nation of film fans. On TV chat shows, across countless magazines, you name it and ‘celebrity’ is splashed across the lot. Last weekend, the French capital hosted the first ‘Cinema Show’, giving the public a behind the scenes look at everything to do with the big screen.

The sprawling Porte de Versailles exhibition centre, in the south of Paris' 15th arrondissement, has played host to many a trade show, business convention and political rally. During the city riots of the early 60's, it's sister building, Le Palais des Sports, was used as a detention centre. Nice. Last weekend, however, the mood was 'entertainment only' as the doors of hall 6 opened for a first-timer - Le Salon du Cinema.

Jonathan Bryant, one of the show's organisers told me that "the show gives the general public a chance to look behind-the-scenes of movie-making. Everything from cameras to audio dubbing, make-up and special effects to editing and stunt performing". Indeed, the public did arrive - and in their thousands. At one point, on the Saturday afternoon, they had to shut the doors, such was the demand for tickets. As I waited at the cloakroom to leave my jacket, I could only feel sorry for those in the huge lines before the cash tills. My press card gives me a continued source of free entry to anything I care to visit.

From the sheer size of the crowds and how difficult it was to negotiate the show's narrow avenues, I couldn't help but think this was going to turn out to be another 'dog and pony show'. After my first tour around the booths and exhibition areas, I was beginning to think that I ought to turn tail and head for the nearest café. There were too many displays, too many stands, not enough space, nowhere to breathe and tunnel vision had begun it's forward march, so I headed back to the wide open spaces of the press area.

Rather than wander aimlessly around the show, I sipped a tepid coffee and scrutinised the press pack. Who's here, who's doing what, when and where. As I was writing a piece for British consumers, I donned my detective hat and looked for logical connections and links to the exhibitors on the floor. Fat lines of yellow dayglow marker sliced through items that interested me. Before the show opened, the organisers had e-mailed a data sheet to the pre-regisitered members of the press, listing all and sundry in the smallest print they could possibly find. I had scanned it, glasses perched on the end of my generous nose, but got terribly lost in it's complex layout.

One thing stood out, however, which I had already pinned down. On the Sunday afternoon, a public Q&A session had been confirmed with a certain French hero of mine. I had found one of those 'British links' and a thick yellow line went through the programme. Rémy Julienne is not a name I would expect anyone to immediately register, but anyone who knows his/her stuff would. As it happens, I do. In 1969 a British film was released that was to change the radiator grill of car chases forever, the benchmark which would dictate vehicle stunts from that date onwards. In '68, the American's came out with "Bullitt" (directed by a Brit) and it's famous San Francisco hill chase, but a year later we had "The Italian Job". Julienne devised and, with his team, had performed the sequence in and around Milan, Italy. "Such was the complexity of the sequences" he told me, "Paramount had to double the duration of my contract - which was a bonus!"

Now a veteran of six James Bond films, the sprightly 76 year-old and been joined in the family business by his sons, Dominque (pictured) and Michel. Although semi-retired, he still has fond memories of the good old days. Julienne admits that filming "The Italian Job" wasn't always easy. "The British production team were far too pragmatic", he explained with a grin, "the assistant director and I were not the best of friends". One particular obstacle, which led to a heated dispute, was how to get the Mini's up a ramp and into the getaway coach. "To begin with", says Julienne, "the engineers insisted that it would be better if they put the Minis on a rolling conveyor belt which was being pulled behind the coach. I insisted that their idea wouldn't work and that the Minis could be driven straight in, from off the road". Many years before, Julienne had tried this with a low-loader back in his native France and knew that it would work. "Eventually I convinced them. They took the conveyor belt away and with the production team crammed into the drivers compartment, the coach was driven at 80kph and I drove it the Mini in myself at 120kph! After that, a bond of trust was forged between us". If Julienne says he can do something, he'll work it out and come up with the goods. He is currently working on building a stunt school in the French countryside where the next generation of dangermen will study under the grand master. I was delighted to receive an invitation to visit ...

Other professionals who work in French film almost fell over themselves to appear at the show. Jonathan Bryant went on to explain that "the response has been remarkable, we even had people ringing us to ask if they could participate. There are people out there who are really keen, they want to meet the public and talk about their art".

Another dayglow stripe ripped it's way through my programme when I stumbled across Wallace & Gromit producers, Peter Lord and David Sproxton. They'd flown in to give a 90 minute forum, answering a barrage of questions from animation students keen to learn from their heroes. As the session drew to a close the stage was mobbed as Messers Lord and Sproxton were gently led away to the Aardman booth - where the mobbing continued.

The one thing that struck me, as I watched the duo patiently listen to their visitors, is that if you make a rather handsome living from playing with plasticine, then you retain certain childlike qualities. Peter Lord (on the left) was only too enthusiastic to chat to me about the new workflow that the Aardman Studio has adopted; "We're using everything from High Def video to pro stills cameras", he said. pointing the chunky black box slung over my shoulder. "With all this new technology we've kept everything in-house. We've managed to speed up the entire process, from initial filming to post production is now all under one roof - a good working production line". Tired and perspiring after their grilling from the public, Lord and Sproxton remained forever smiling. Despite a heavy schedule, the pair happily popped into an adjoining booth to watch an animation made by students of a Paris film school. The men from the West Country were obviously impressed.

Bollywood also did it's best to be noticed. The French distributor, 'Bollywood Zone', arrived with a catalogue of Asia's finest sing-along dance numbers, all 'ready to watch' with added French subtitles. Although lacking the viewership of, say, the UK, they we keen to emphasise that the French were already buying and enjoying Bollywood classics. However, bringing a quartet of dusky maidens along would have certainly been key to a successful sale - or two.

As the public milled around the booths and exhibits, some found their way into a purpose-built studio where a short film was being made by Nils Tavernier (son of Bertrand). Tavernier Jnr and his team of actors and technicians were busy making a 'short' during the run of the show. As we all know, film-making is not exactly the speediest of processes and the public, from behind a control barrier, were often left in total bewilderment as to what was going to happen next. No-one ever took the time to explain to the masses what was involved and what exactly going on. Very much a case of 'them and us' - we get on with what we're doing and they stand and gawp.

Those interested in how animals are trained for the big screen could form and orderly queue to pet a python, eyeball an eagle or oggle an owl. A wildlife studio had brought along a veritable menagerie, though 90% of it's exhibits were motorised dummy lions, polar bears and alligators. I spoke with the 'head-keeper' who was ecstatic to have found a Brit to chat to; "Oh, we've worked at BBC Bristol many times - but they have such a small studio at their wildlife HQ!" Obviously, he hasn't tried living in a Paris apartment.

How about a broken nose then? I should add that this wasn't an option I gave the animal man but something that was going on in another booth. Some of the industry's best make-up artists were happily administering gore and gashes to those members of the public who fancied going home on public transport. As I wasn't in the mood to surprise my beloved by returning home with a fresh compound fracture, I headed out into the winter sunshine and fresh air.

All in all, it wasn't a bad show. The organisers realise that it was cramped but seem happy that it had been a success. The salon looks as though it has built a future for itself and judging by the mass of humainty that crammed itself through the doors, it'll be some years before someone finally shouts "it's a wrap!"


Thursday, January 11, 2007

Reasons To Be Locked Up ...

In 1935 Fred Ahlert and Joe Young wrote a song with the snappy title; "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter".

I heard it the other day on the radio and the first two lines made me think:

"I'm gonna sit right down and write myself a letter,
And make believe it came from you

... it's no wonder, frankly, that people like these should be allowed back out into the community.


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

We'll Tell You When To Panic ...

MI5, the UK's domestic spook brother of MI6, has come up with a fantastic idea ... how to empty the shelves of a local supermarket in 30 seconds. No, this is not a new daytime TV game show.

Basically, people in the UK now have the option to be informed as to when the threat level in their country changes. So, you log onto the MI5 website, leave your name and email address and when some half-wit is thinking of donning a bulky waistcoat, MI5 should have picked up on the plot and be emailing the country with the change in security status. At present, says MI5 chief Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, they're tracking at least 30 terror plots against the UK.

Initially, there will be two types of service on offer;

1) 'Threat Level Only'. This will inform the public if the nationwide terror threat level changes (as of today, the current condition is listed in the UK is 'severe').

2) 'What's New'. This will be a digest of the latest information from MI5, including speeches made by the director general and links to relevant websites (golly!).

The third option (currently under discussion) is a mobile telephone SMS text service - this will be called 'Start Panic Buying Now'. This will involve hundred's of thousand's of people being run over by 4x4's as folk rush to supermarkets to stock up on Sainsbury's cream cakes and Earl Grey tea.

It seems to me that the only winners will be the numerous terrorist organisations out there who will be able to tell if their threat is being taken seriously or not.

Everybody down!


Monday, January 08, 2007

Noodle-Head ...

Sionara then to Momofuko Ando - the inventor of the infamous Cup Noodle.

Born in 1910, Ando-San founded Nissin Foods after WW2 in order to provide quick and inexpensive food for the masses. His dehydrated people's favourite was launched in 1971. Talking of launching, Nissin also came up with the idea of supplying Japanese astronauts with 'space-age' Cup Noodles for their Discovery trip into the galaxy in 2005. His company has lead the worldwide instant noodle industry selling 85.7 cups a year. Just add boiling water and, hey presto, good as new and ready to eat!

Let's hope that his family have decided against an open casket, covered only in a thin film of plastic and a boiling kettle alongside ...


Saturday, January 06, 2007

An Absolute Shower ...!

This Monday marks another anniversary of the death of another of my childhood heroes - Terry-Thomas. A favourite of the classic black and white comedy era, a cad, a cheat and an absolute shower!

Born Thomas Terry Hoar-Stevens in Finchley, London July 1911, he began his career as a cabaret artist and film extra. Following the end of WW2 he gained employment in both radio and variety but it wasn't until the mid-1950's that his famous persona was born. With his trademark gap in his top teeth, the phrase "you're an absolute shower" came from a character in 'Private's Progress', in which he played Major Hitchcock. Over the next decade, Terry-Thomas was to star in numerous films but always as a toff, the bounder, the cad.

In 1966 he starred in a French film, La Grande Vadrouille, a film that became synonymous with holiday viewing - much like 'The Sound Of Music' has become in the UK. The film was seen by 17 million people in France and stood as a box-office record in the country until Titanic in 1997. Other memorable roles included 'Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines' (here pictured with Eric Sykes) and 'Monty Carlo Or Bust'.

Nothing was heard of Terry-Thomas for some time as he was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease in 1971. He disappeared from public life altogether until his cousin, Richard Briers, brought the old man's illness into the limelight with a benefit concert. T-T was living in obscurity and terribly ill. He died on the 8th January 1990.

On a final note, and just to confirm his immortality, the gap in his upper teeth was so famous that in British medicine there is a Terry-Thomas sign - the gap between the scaphoid and lunate bones (scapho-lunate disassociation). However, these bones are in the wrist ...

Oh, good show!


Thursday, January 04, 2007

All Bets Are Off ...

I am now 45 years old and since 1962 there has been, on average, one James Bond film every 2 years. Bond has been a permanent fixture since my birth and, like a British institution, is regarded as such. Enter Bond number 6, Daniel Craig. Last year, in this blog, I was critical of those who poured scorn on the Cheshire lad even before the cameras started rolling. I suggested that they might like to give the boy a chance before sentencing him to death by box office. Then I went to see Casino Royale for myself ...

With a feeling of expectation we settled down into our seats. Behind us, a pair of American men noisily wrestled with the hinged cushions and, once installed, a conversation started up between them. From what I could gather, they were both 50+ years old a piece and had travelled the world, though not necessarily together, now finding themselves in France. They began by discussing cinema advertisements and how they wished there weren't going to be too many before this particular film started. One of them began a story about a cinema in South America where he had seen a commercial for Range Rover. At this point American No 2 piped up; "Oh yeah, Range Rover ... that's the British equivalent of Land Rover, right?" I tried to cover up my laughter by lowering my chin into my chest but that only made it worse. Then they discussed Paris and what they thought there highlights were. The Eiffel Tower came into play; "Well," began American No 1, "I was surprised to see how many people were there in the winner-time". Not to be outdone, No 2 chipped in with "yeah, but I feel that the Tower is really over-engineered". Over-engineered? Completed in 1889, it was built by people called Jean-Claude with rivets hammers and not by people called Baab with oxycetalyne blowtorches and dental care. It was, and still is, a marvel of human achievement. I gather that the American's have their own Eiffel Tower in Las Vegas made out of empty cereal packets and poster paints. But we're drifting away from the story here ...

The film started in black and white, as if to give the effect of 'earlier in time' but the Americans were not to be fooled by anyone; "Baab, it's in black and white ...". Thank you Baab, we can all see that. Just give it a chance and pipe down, there's a good chap.

Casino Royale starts from the beginning, from when Bond gains his 00 status. Even now, I'm still trying to figure out why the film makers decided to roll back the clock just because there was a new actor in the leading role. After all, they never did it with the others. Maybe Fleming's back catalogue of original stories had dried up and they needed an excuse to rewrite and re-jig the character. In this Bond, 007 is the caring, loving human being - a bit of a tree-hugger. Then the story unfolds which explains how and why JB became what people know him as today, the love 'em and leave 'em type, a carefree bad-boy killer. Some old favourites crop up too. For example, Felix Lieter, a CIA contact and close friend of 007's. However, this time around he's a black man. I know the CIA are cunning disguisers, but changing a white character into a black fella isn't going to cut the mustard with Bond aficionados.

The first action-packed sequence is superb - beautifully executed and superbly edited. However, after that, I got the impression that I wasn't watching a Bond film but had stumbled into the wrong cinema where they were projecting some awful Catherine Cookson story. Too much slush, too much kissing, too much ... well, modern man. OK, I understand that it was necessary to explain why Bond was once a caring/sharing type who only needed the love of one woman, but come on ... you could have shaved 30 minutes of the film, saved us the long and possessive love sequences and cut straight to the chase.

For 2hrs and 27mins I sat, almost riveted to my seat. The Americans were still nattering on like a pair of old women (that's why I rarely go to the flicks - a cinema auditorium is just an extension of some people's living rooms). The over-long poker scenes were simply over-long (unless you understand poker), the crash that lead to Bond being taken captive and brutally tortured was far too quick (to think they got into the record books for 7 cannon-rolls in a car, I would have paced it out a bit longer for a bigger effect). The actual torture scene was something that should never have been in a Bond film, there were no gags and no flippant remarks.

If you're going to start from the beginning of a story, then M should have been a man, Moneypenny should have been present, Q should have figured in the story, Felix should have been white and today's modern technology should not have been included. Confused? You bet I was. I am not surprised that 'Happy Feet' took more in the US box offices - it's more their thing and easy to understand. Daniel Craig looks like he's going to be a superb Bond - if only the film makers would hurry up and let Bond do Bond-like things.

Apparently, Casino Royale is the first of a 2-parter, the second being 'Bond 22' due for release in November 2008. It takes over from where the latest Casino Royale leaves off. Well, it had better get back to being a proper Bond film - the Bond we all love and the Bond we flock to see. If not, that'll be the end of a beautiful relationship.

Bond will return - and this time, let's hope and pray, with his bloody homework done.


Monday, January 01, 2007

Start As You Mean To Go On ...

So, a New Year has arrived and we look forward to more of the same rants and insults. However, there are times when you have to think "why do we bother?", especially when it's handed to you on a plate;

The New Year came in without much ado. Those I wanted to be with when midnight arrived had already left the party we were attending, so we were left with the B-Team. We did our best to circulate and chat. I was (un)fortunate to meet a young American woman who, every time someone cracked a joke, her face beamed into a smile and she said "that's SO funny!" What got under my skin was the fact that she never really laughed, she just kept repeating "that's SO funny!" Can you imagine, for example, a comedian on stage at the London Palladium. Just as the punchline is delivered, instead of the place roaring with laughter, 3,000 people shout back in unison "that's SO funny!" Odd, innit?

Then there's the story of those idiots back in the UK who insist on abusing the Ambulance service. Over there you dial 999 for all emergency services. A call-centre in Birmingham received a call from someone who said he "couldn't walk from too much dancing". Then someone in Woverhampton (not too far away from Birmingham) who rang to say he had injured his finger. Once the story had been checked out, it appeared that he had sustained the injury two days beforehand. However, my favourite was the guy who rang 999 because he had lost his trousers ...

Finally, and quite naturally in France, a group of protesters held a midnight demonstration against 2007. In a typical Gaulist way of saying "non" to absolutely every-bloody-thing, the group called on governments and the UN to stop time's "mad race" and declare a moratorium on the future. So, with the tension mounting as the minutes ticked away, the arrival of 2007 did nothing to dampen their enthusiasm. At which point they started chanting "No to 2008!". The same group have vowed to stage a similar protest on 31 December 2007 on the Champs-Elysees.

So, why do we bother??

Happy 2008, you bunch of losers ...