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July 16, 2008

Iron Man

Movie image
Title:
Iron Man
Rating:
5 out of 5 stars


I was never really a fan of the comic. When I had the time, money and interest for comics, it was mostly spent on X-Men, Spiderman and the occasional Superman or Hulk comic. I did watch "Marvel Action Hour" on Saturday or Sunday mornings (or whenever it was scheduled), which featured an Iron Man cartoon. It was the better of the three cartoons shown (Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk and The Fantastic Four), despite (or perhaps because of) all the camp on display.

But then I saw the trailer. And it just oozed cool. And stereotypical Arabs. I just had to see it. And it made for the perfect pre-exam treat. So I went and watched and loved it.

It's not without its flaws but even those are (unintentionally?) hilarious. Big Bearded Arab Henchman actually speaks Arabic, albeit with an accent that suggests he was born in the US/Britain. Effeminate Villainous Arab (or Indian? A bit of an Art Malik-alike) Baldy is so wildly over the top that you've simply got to laugh. "Oh Tooony Starrk, I want your Wiponz, you will make them forr me or I will torture your friend with coal". No Crimson Jihad bollocks. Verdict: Probably not racist.

The plot is the usual cliched Superhero movie fare: Man finds/invents powers, encounters horrible death/accident/tragedy and after a training/inventing/fun montage uses those powers for good against an impossibly evil/insane supervillain.

But here's where Iron Man gets it right. It uses that cliched framework and fleshes it out with wonderful, self-referencing, wry humour and characters you'll love.

The action is spot on. Iron Man actually feels like a hero. The science behind everything is ludicrous and the director/screenwriter just picks up on that and goes with the flow, throwing in a witty, sarcastic computer (Paul Bettany) into the mix.

I don't want to get too much into the plot details, because there are some "twists" which you should be able to see right from the beginning, especially if you get the "Ten Rings" reference. Go watch the movie, definitely one of the better ones of the Summer and it puts The Incredible Hulk to shame.

Oh and if you have the patience, sit through the near-infinite credit sequence* for a nice post-movie fanboy minute.

*Speaking of which, I was sure as soon as I saw the second trailer (above) that the riff at the end was from the Black Sabbath Song Iron Man (right) which tried as far as possible to distance itself from a certain comic book character to avoid potential lawsuits. I didn't see the song credited, though a variation of it (without the nonsensical lyrics) is used. The riff does fit perfectly though.


February 12, 2008

Fun With Law II

Writing about web page http://blog.wired.com/27bstroke6/2008/01/oakland-califor.html

Not a particularly funny case at its essence: Linux developer accused of murdering his wife. But the quirks come with the details.

 

The officer also testified the defendant flatulated in his face when the authorities were snapping nude photos of him Sept. 28, 2006. The officer said Reiser told him: "'You're about to experience chaos' and, for lack of a better term, he farted in my face."

"Did you make a report of that?" DuBois asked the officer.

"No. But it stays vividly in my head."

 

 


January 10, 2008

Daily Mail still hates the law

Writing about web page http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=507355&in_page_id=1770

The Daily Mail doesn't usually mince its words. The mincing comes with its understanding of the law. Usually it's issues of self-defence where the misunderstanding of what exactly constitutes 'Reasonable Force' (ie subjective Necessity and objective Proportionate Force) leads to the defence of some people who have been put away either by a jury or by their own guilty plea because the "Nanny State" does all it can to 'protect the criminals'.

Its right-wing vitriol isn't limited to attacking the legislators and courts for juries putting away murderers,  but also towards any council or town that observes health & safety regulations. Naturally the Mail doesn't quite realise that many of these regulations are in place to help protect councils from potentially heavy claims in tort. 

Here's the thought-provoking Daily-Mail headline:

Health and safety killjoys order award-winning village to take down its hanging baskets  

Wonderful, isn't it?

The Daily Mail goes on to criticise the council for its "politically correct" decision to ban placing these heavy (20kg) flower baskets on what the paper itself calls "crumpling" and "old"  lampposts which are due to be replaced in 2010 .

Here is what is really the key issue, brought up by a sensible member of the council:

Simon Mutten, the council's environmental services manager, said: "A risk has been brought to our attention by professionals and we cannot ignore it because if we did and something, however unlikely, happened then we would be taken to the cleaners."

If you have foreseen a risk (and it doesn't necessarily have to be huge: Denning, cricket and all that jazz) with something that is your responsibility and you neglect to do something that is reasonably within your capacity and you have a well-established duty of care (as councils generally do) and someone does die or is harmed by your omission, you leave yourself up to all sorts of claims.

You may see this as a problem with the law/claims culture (see Atiyah)  but that is something not easily changed, precisely because the development of the law has been trying to be as just as possible to all parties. The legislature is not (at least I hope) going to turn around tomorrow and rubbish the last 100 years of development in tort law because a bunch of farmers want to hang heavy baskets on "crumbling" lampposts. Nor should they. 

This being the case, the council has taken reasonable measures to ensure the safety of its residents.  The locals have substituted the flower baskets with roadside viking ship displays. They might not win a decadent flower show. Let's hope they don't turn to forming wierd vigilante cults.


January 08, 2008

At long last…

Writing about web page http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P5B6nysheec

Der Erlkönig

When I was in elementary school, we used to have a special assembly every week where one of the teachers would talk about a subject they were particularly interested in. I don't remember many of the subjects (bearing in mind this was nearly 15 years ago!), probably because it was little more than a teacher's show and tell. But one of the assemblies that I remember vividly involved our humanites teacher. He brought in his music player and gave a brief introduction about why he loved classical music. Then he told us all to close our eyes and listen. And he played a German piece for us.

At the time I didn't know much German except for the odd phrase, so the meaning was completely lost on me, but I remember that when I was listening blind to the peice, I found it intensely moving and one phrase stuck with me "Mein Vater, mein Vater". I would repeat that line to myself every-so-often throughout the years, but I was never really able to find the song (this is long before wikipedia and google ladies and gentlemen!).

I was thinking about it the other day, so I flexed my google muscles and within moments I'd found it: Der Erlkönig. A Schubert piece written to the words of a Goethe poem. I can't comment on the history of it or the politics about it, but I'm going to try to learn more. It's a great piece.

Close your eyes and have a listen.


May 15, 2007

Song of the Week: Naruto Shippuden

Writing about web page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naruto

Naruto ShippudenThose of you who are fans of Naruto will no doubt already be watching Naruto: Shippuden and will have already heard the song I'm linking. It's performed by some sort of rap/pop band and it's really quite catchy. I'd recommend closing your eyes when it plays because all I can think of when watching them dance like smacktards is "Kevin Federline crossed with Jin". It's a nice song - give Naruto: Shippuden a watch!



March 26, 2007

Special Superdrug Slim–plan

You know it's gotta be the staff having a laugh (Superdrug, Oxford St.):

Superdrug noobs


February 08, 2007

What I'll probably miss most about Beijing: Cheap Taxis

BJ CabI've spent a lengthy period in China now. It's been 7 months now and I'll be heading back home (for a while) towards the end of the eighth month. In fact, I've spent about a year and a half of the past 5 years in China. I've come to think about it as a second home.

And what will I miss most? The cuisine? The 名胜古迹? The people?

No, I will most miss taxis. Call it an indulgence, but taxis are cheap. Public transportation is cheaper by far, of course. In fact they've just reduced the cost of  a standard bus ride on the 东三环 (Third ring road) to less than half a 元 (which is the equivalent to about 3p). You could travel all the way around the road for three pence, a journey of about an hour without traffic. The taxi will cost substantially more. Taxis in Beijing have a standard fare of 10 元 (about 66p) compared with the GBP2.60 as soon as you step into a British cab. 

I used a taxi today for about 2 hours, including 10 minutes waiting time, for a grand total of 170 yuan (including tip): about GBP 11.50. That's less than the cost of taking a cab from Warwick to Coventry City Centre and back. In fact that cab ride would probably cost you about GBP15.00.

Ai, back to the good ol' London Undergroun.


February 04, 2007

My favourite new toy…

I was sitting in Starbucks the other day in Jianwai dajie, when a horde of loud-but-friendly AmericanIt gives me tea. Without leaves clogging up my mouth. Therefore it is good. tourists entered (mostly some very nice and retired old Jewish ladies from Miami and some much younger and quieter but just as friendly southern African-Americans). The staff were having some problems communicating effectively with a couple of the old girls who were looking at the various mugs, beakers and other trinkets. So while I was up getting some tissues, one of the waiters asked for my help in translating 半价 (half-price).

So I very helpfully pointed at the sign which said both 半价 and 50% off in English and told the waiter that the sign had the English translation and then told the ladies what the waiter was trying to say. After the had finished pointing and asking whether certain items were included in the offer, I thought I might as well pick up a half-priced teapot. At about GBP4.50, it was expensive by Chinese standards but it looked nice, simple and sturdy and so I picked it up at a whim. 

Now I can make tea effortlessly and with little cleanup. I never really used to drink tea when I was younger, save the odd cup loaded with milk and sugar and, of course, a rich tea biscuit with half of it ending up at the bottom of the cup.  Having given up Diet Coke for a certain someone special, I drifted more and more towards tea and I find myself enjoying it without sugar, without milk, just black and strong, brewed from Earl Grey leaves. Delicious. 

I'm going to start sampling more Chinese teas now that my taste is a bit more open to different flavours. I've always been a fan of 乌龙茶 and 龙井茶 but now I want to move on to some of the different flavours and mixtures.  


Fantastic He–Man Spoof…

Writing about web page http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLQBEmr7MDw

Stumbled across this brilliant He-man spoof video a little while ago. The animation is great and it certainly made me chuckle - it's even got He-man's trademark run and some groanilicious puns!


January 31, 2007

That has to be more than seven years of bad luck…

Writing about web page http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2007\01\27\story_27-1-2007_pg9_12

A 2,500-year-old mirror worth £500,000 was dropped and smashed on a Chinese TV show. A model was showing the ancient mirror to the audience when it slipped from her hands and fell to the floor. It shattered into pieces, shocking the audience - especially owner Chen Fengjiu who was sitting in the front row.

Ouch. That mirror managed to survive not only the Warring States Period  (战国时代), but also countless other wars. It predates even the first unification of China. 

And it's destroyed by a hapless model. Oh dear.

Whoops

Someone's not keeping her job

<
>Image Source: Pakistan Daily Times >

January 30, 2007

He–Man, She–Ra and Sexual Harrasment

Writing about web page http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i0YPHeRrmIA

Saw this video linked on a forum and it made me chuckle a fair bit.

Remember at the end of those '70s/'80s toons, there'd generally be a moral message at the end that was somehow linked to the plot? So if, for example, Skeletor had stolen He-Man's sword, we'd have He-man warning against thievery at the end of the episode, or we'd have Captain Planet and his friends talk to use about the wonders of recycling...

Well I have no idea in what context this moral-of-the-story could have come up:

Crikey.

Do cartoons do this kind of thing anymore? What do kids watch these days? 


January 10, 2007

The Chinese SS ?

Came across this little sign when I was walking home from my friend's house an hour or two ago:

 

Chinese SS sign

 

The Chinese characters read  中国名牌 which more-or-less means "China Brand" and I guess the logo in the middle represents that brand... but it looks remarkably like the old Nazi SS insignia. 


BBThievery

Just downloaded a BBC documentary called Building the Great Pyramid and settled down to watch it. Started off like any other documentary. Just  as the introduction got underway we are suddenly treated to the main theme of The Pirates of the Caribbean with some minor alterations in key.

 I wasn't sure whether this was the BBC just being lazy and blatently stealing music from films or they'd paid the fee to use the theme (I understand that the BBC has a library of music it's paid for either on the basis of individual pieces or with deals with various corporations to use their library). Anyone know for sure whether the Beeb's being dirty-handed or legitimately using a resource?


December 27, 2006

No Car Bombs Please…

While crossing a road on the 24th of December I came across this sign:

No Car Bombs Please

First thought was “No car bombs please.”

Couple of other suggestions were “Crashing into this signpost is forbidden!” and “Do not crash your car!”.

Anyone else have any ideas?


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