DVD player says

Time for another dose of Showtime quirkiness with the story of a group of people who have attempted to commit suicide. It stars Krysten Ritter, who seems to be the pseudo-goth chick in just about everything these days. She was in Breaking Bad and I’ve seen her in various other things. I know I’ve seen Ivan Sergei in other things although I’m damned if I know what. His character is known to the world as Suicide Dummy after he drove his car off the edge of a cliff and ended up landing in the swimming pool of a liner during a gay cruise. Other members of the cast include Ving Rhames as a former baseball player who’s now confined to a wheelchair, and Rachel Hunter, who was a well-known model last century and former wife of Rod Stewart.
In the background, there is a man, Miller (played by one of the programme’s creators), claiming to be a detective, who watches them. It turns out that he believes Ritter’s father, who established a trust fund for him, killed his mother.
Gravity is an adult comedy drama which got cancelled after being less popular than Starz hoped. Perhaps American audiences couldn’t cope with the ideas of suicide and comedy in the same programme.

Toy Story 3.
I was curious to see whether Toy Story could survive a third outing or whether it’d worn out its welcome like Shrek. Andy hasn’t played with his toys in years and is now off to college. He decides to take Woody with him and put the rest in the attic, but by mistake his mother puts them out in the rubbish. They manage to get out of that predicament and are shipped off to Sunnyside, which seems to be a suitable place for them. Instead, it’s a nightmare when they end up in the hands of children who are too young to treat them well. Somehow, they have to escape from Sunnyside and get back to Andy, but they have to get past the other toys first.
Eventually, they make it back to Andy’s house and he donates them to a little girl who will care for toys.
I kept thinking as I was watching this that I ought to recognise some of the references. I assume that after Buzz got set to demo mode, the scene where the toys had been imprisoned was a parody of Shawshank, but wondered whether it might be a parody of The Green Mile. The scene in which Laszlo got dumped in the skip by the giant baby was probably a parody of the scene in which Darth Vader disposed of the emperor in The Return of the Jedi.
This was a darker episode of Toy Story than I remember either of the first two being, but I wonder whether the film might’ve been aimed at the generation who saw the first film and might want to relive the nostalgia.

I think I saw this in the 70s

The Ghost Writer.
Ewan McGregor is hired to ghost write a former PM’s memoires, but his predecessor discovered something and ended up dead. It turns out that the PM’s wife is a CIA agent, the revelation being hidden in her husband’s memoires.
There was nothing in this film that you haven’t already seen in other suspense films. Can McGregor trust anyone? Was he really being followed? Who was following him? What was the PM yelling about? Who cares? Not boring, but much attempt at suspense and little pay-off in the end.
Overall, kind of bloodless.

Henry, Henry quite contrary

How does your religion grow?

When Linda and I were in Hong Kong, she stumbled across the first series of The Tudors on TV, and since we got back, I’ve now bought and watched the other three series which cover the rest of Henry VIII’s reign. Much poetic licence continued to be used in the making of the programme, which is a saucy bodice-ripper.

I wonder whether the money ran out on the series because much more time was dedicated to the story of Anne Boleyn than any of his other wives who were hastily married and divorced or dispatched once she’d gone. In between, Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell were executed, although I thought it was the execution of the former which was badly botched. [16.10.13. To explain. In the series, Cromwell’s execution was portrayed as a butchery even although it was More, I believe, who suffered more at the hands of the executioner, who was allegedly drunk.]

Jonathan Rhys Meyers gradually became more Welsh, and more like Marlon Brando in The Godfather as the series progressed. I was half expecting lines like, “The Earl of Surrey sleeps with the fishes” or “Just when I was trying to get out of Catholicism, they pull me back in again.” What sort of accent did Henry have? English with a touch of Welsh?

The series had me wondering if Mary, having become queen after Henry as the eldest surviving child, would have been a better queen for the absence of Edward’s reign or whether she would’ve been just as bad as the historical Mary I was. To what extent was her problem bad eyesight and headaches? Was the break with Rome seen as some sort of regal amusement by most of the population? Did those people who wanted a Protestant Reformation completely misread Henry’s intentions? What was more surprising? a.) The Reformation or b.) That the Reformation took so long to happen? Did Henry’s actions ultimately lead to a secular Britain today or would that have happened anyway as it did in France in spite of the triumph of Catholicism there?

To have been The Tudors, the series would really have to have started with Henry VII who I always feel is neglected in favour of his son and have gone to the end of the reign of Elizabeth I. Final question. One of the choices I gave the PAL students as their summer homework was a short history of Tudor England. Am I possibly going to see some of them giving me summaries of this series and all its poetic licence?

Espresso Tales

by Alexander McCall Smith.
Espresso Tales is the second volume in the 44 Scotland Street series, but needs to be read after Volume 1.
Life for the residents of Scotland Street moves on. The vain Bruce stumbles in the wine trade when his putative partner pulls out of the deal. Nonetheless, the Château Petrus which Bruce feared might be fake turns out to be real and on the proceeds of an auction decides to sell up his flat and head off to London, although on the way he also learns what the girls at school in Crieff really thought about him. (What it was, we don’t know.)
Bertie and his father, Stuart, go to Glasgow, which is where the Pollocks’ missing car was all along. Unfortunately, it’s not the original car, but a substitute supplied by local villain, Lard O’Connor. Bertie also sneaks into Watson’s, the school he’d prefer to attend, but finds that rugby isn’t quite the fun he was hoping it to be, and he returns to the Steiner School. Thanks to Stuart’s assertiveness training, Bertie does get the chance to be a real boy and not just some puppet manipulated by his mother, Irene, who’s bitten in the ankle by Angus Lordie’s dog, Cyril. She also announces at the end of the volume that she’s pregnant.
Dr Fairbairn finally recognised that Bertie’s mother was the cause of Bertie’s problems only to have it turned back on him. Instead, he goes in search of Wee Fraser, a troublesome child of whom he made a study. That doesn’t end well when Dr Fairbairn recognises Wee Fraser who head-butts the doctor who hits the boy in the jaw, breaking it.
Matthew becomes alarmed when his father, Gordon, gets engaged to Janis who, he thinks (rightly), is a gold-digger. When he confronts his father about it, although Gordon is displeased, Matthew does end up £4 million better off.
Pat attends a nudist picnic, finds that she has to look for new lodgings, and talks to Domenica now and then. Pat doesn’t seem to do much in this volume, although Bruce does kiss her because he supposes that that’s what she’s always wanted. In return, she and Domenica’s guests polish off the bottles of the Château Petrus which Bruce kept aside.
Domenica eventually decides to head for the Straits of Malacca to do an anthropological study of pirates.
Espresso Tales is also punctuated by Ramsey Dunbarton’s memoires, which are often at odds with the recollections of his wife, Betty. It’s hard to say whether Ramsey or Betty has the faulty memory. His reading of his autobiography usually has her nodding off as well.
Like the first volume, a series written for a newspaper doesn’t quite work collected in a single volume. If I had sufficient patience, I’d read a chapter a day, but it’s like buying DVDs of TV series and watching all of the episodes at once.

History according to anime

Halo Legends.
I’ve never played Halo and having never owned an xbox nor intending to, I never will, but I spotted Halo Legends in the DVD shop and made it a curiosity buy. It’s a series of short anime pieces set in the Halo universe. The first two illustrate the history behind the story and most of the others are stand-alone episodes. There’s one comic story in which the accident-prone Spartan 1337 must face some Covenant monster with some help of some of the locals.
Halo Legends will probably mean more to players of the game than to drive-by viewers like me.

All the pics that are fit to post


I’ve uploaded pictures from the trip to Hong Kong and Macao to SkyDrive. Scroll down the page to find the link to Hong Kong 2010 on the left-hand side. [01.07.13. The pictures will still be there on Skydrive, but the link didn’t make the jump from Spaces to WordPress.] 

And since you’re already here…

Public Enemies.

I bought this film again because the copy I first purchased was cinema-taped crap. The sound was atrocious and the picture not much better. The film is about the end of the life of John Dillinger as the Bureau of Investigation closed in on him after he slipped through their hands more than once. In spite of the action sequences, the film managed to be fairly dull as if it was trying to be a docudrama.

Iron Man 2.

Pirated from Russia, but not suffering from that irritating tendency of such DVDs to have mixed Russian and English soundtracks. I don’t quite know how they managed to squeeze more than an hour out of this one. A deranged Russian physicist goes after Tony Stark and teams up with one of Stark’s commercial competitors. There’s a big fight against some robots, then the main villain, and then Stark rescues Pepper Potts. Depth, where is thy sting.

You can always watch the series again

Last Chance to See.
Stephen Fry accompanies Mark Cawardine on a trip which the latter did twenty years ago with Douglas Adams in search of various endangered animals.
The series started with the manatee in Brazil, which they only saw in captivity, the remaining animals being exceptionally elusive in the wild. It was here that Fry broke his arm, which I remember being mentioned on his website. The trek to find the Northern White Rhino was blocked by civil war in the Congo. The aye-aye of Madagascar is a hideously ugly creature in a country where deforestation has restricted the animals to a few tiny areas. The programme about the komodo dragon seems to have been made about the time it was revealed that the creature is actually venomous. Amazingly one park ranger had survived being bitten. The kakapo in New Zealand might be rare not because it was hunted to the brink of extinct by non-native animals, but because it was bad at sex. The kakapo which Cawardine was photographing ended up bonking his head. The final episode had the boys searching for the blue whale, which in spite of its size can be fairly difficult to track down. Even the exact number of blue whales is uncertain.
Most of the animals are stuck in the Third World where no one seems to give much of a damn. There are some programmes into which money, often from tourists, is pumped, but whether that’s going to make any difference is another matter. Although the kakapo had its best breeding season ever, the birds require round-the-clock attention.
The question remains how many endangered species can continue to survive.

Incy, wincy lizard

Climbing up the wall.
lizard01 When I went to cross the curtains in the lounge last night, I spotted this creature clinging to the wall outside my neighbour’s place. This isn’t such a feat for a lizard since the stippled wall must be quite easy for it to scale, but I was surprised to see the animal at this altitude (about 45-50m above the ground I estimate) since I don’t imagine there’s much up here for it to hunt. I don’t know whether it might be vulnerable to bats, though.

Holiday 2010

Home and away legs.
During my holiday, I kept a hand-written blog which I believe is referred to as a “diary” or “journal” in antique English. How amusing such terms are in this modern age. Because it ran to 54½ pages of A6, I’ll summarise the content rather than transcribe it or we’ll be here forever. All right, I’ll be here forever. You can go somewhere else on the Net at the click of a mouse button.
The plane to Chengdu was half an hour late, but I got my suitcase quickly and made my way to the Airport Hotel which is a curious institution, being divided into two different hotels, the old one which even cockroaches would turn spurn, and the new one. I didn’t know there was such a difference and it was only when Linda arrived that I learnt this. I’d gone to the older half of the hotel where I’d stayed before when we were actually in the newer half. Either way, we were still bothered by building work and people whose sole means of communication seemed to be speaking as loudly as possible.
I realised that I’d left my Octopus Card at home. It’s an old travelling companion of mine on my trips to Hong Kong.
The plane left on time as it ought to have considering the insanely early hour at which we left. It was nice to climb above the clouds and see the sun because Chengdu had been living up to its grey reputation.
We were actually flying to Shenzhen before getting the bus to Lowu (罗湖), which crawled at times through the traffic in Shenzhen. We then had negotiate Chinese immigration and then Hong Kong immigration. You think they’d have a single point to negotiate, but I suppose it’s like going through the usual routine at the airport, only the two barriers are 20m apart. It probably also depends on the time of day when you’re crossing. Linda said that there was also some other crossing point which is less busy and the bus takes you into Kowloon.
We got on the MTR, but should really have taken the East Rail line to Tsim Sha Tsui East rather than changing at Kowloon Tong and then Mong Kok.
After we’d been to the Wellcome supermarket, I took Linda to Harbour City to see the sea. I then set off confidently in the direction of the Star Ferry terminal only to get hopelessly and vexatiously lost on a journey I’ve made plenty of times before. Harbour City has been refurbished since I was last there, which is probably why I lost my bearings.
I should note that a woman who was sitting in the row in front of us on the plane removed the life jacket from under her seat and was charged ¥350 for her curiosity. Her mother (?) had also removed the life jacket, but hadn’t opened it and had let it quietly drop beneath her seat. 瓜蛙子.
When we reached Shenzhen, we weren’t greeted by the usual ranks of military aircraft which are stationed at domestic airports in China, but by ranks of private jets, which are not something you often see here. All right, never.
Hong Kong01 I think of the air in Hong Kong as being occasionally clear and that when it is, a trip to the Peak takes priority because the cloud might settle on the hills and the air become thick and brown, obscuring the view until the Chinese weather god decides to clear the murk away again. Since it was clear this time – really clear –, I thought that we ought to take a trip on the Peak Tram and go up to the Sky Terrace which has been being refurbished on previous ventures to the Peak. I think the last time I went up the Peak was in 2006, the first clear day there’d been since my first trip to Hong Kong in 2003 when the air quality had been utterly dreadful. I was looking at the pictures from 2003 last night in which you could barely see Kowloon through the brown miasma.
Linda was pleased to find that Adidas deodorant is much cheaper in Hong Kong than here on the Mainland. Wellcome was selling two bottles for HK$19. Here you pay between ¥40 and ¥50 for one bottle of the stuff. I also found that the Fa deodorant, which I bought for a ludicrously low price on ¥6 from Tesco, is also available in Hong Kong. The price is about the same as it is here, although it’s more expensive in Chengdu that Wuxi.
Hong Kong02 We went over to Kowloon Park, which I haven’t visited in years. The last time I was there, some Indian thought that I could get one of his kids into one of the colleges of London University. The park now has flamingos, which were definitely displaying and managing to look thoroughly ridiculous as they did. Their heads would suddenly turn from side to side with one starting and the others following suit before they’d display their wings. I assume that the birds were male while their potential mates seemed indifferent to the whole performance.
We ended up crossing a bridge to the Royal Pacific Hotel and finding ourselves at the harbour again, but east of Harbour City in an area which you can imagine was designed without consideration for the tropical sun beating down. The area was quite and almost completely empty.
We went to the zoo in the afternoon, but like last time, I found the place a little exasperating because it’s easy to walk round in circles. The zoo is cut in half by the road, and you need to find the subway.
By the time we got back to Kowloon, our feet were protesting.
In the evening we went down to the harbour. I don’t know whether they’re still doing the fireworks show each evening or whether we were too late to see it, but I managed to get a couple of decent shots of the island using the railing to steady my camera.
We went to Harbour City because I wanted to go to Page One and Linda wanted to go to the Hush Puppy shop. The latter, we discovered, was in Star City, which is next to the Star Ferry terminal, but didn’t have the kind of shoes Linda was looking for.
We had planned to go to Wan Chai and Causeway Bay, but Linda bought a SIM card from a 7-11 which didn’t work in her phone, and we took a trip to Mong Kok to a China Mobile shop from where we were directed to the local service centre. The problem had something to do with the phone’s PIN number, which was not something we could deal with in Hong Kong. The card worked in my phone without any bother.
Macao01 We took a trip to Macao, which I’ve been close to when I was in Zhuhai, but never had the chance to visit it. We took the hydrofoil from the Shun Tak terminal in Sheung Wan, which made the voyage very smooth, although the sea was fairly placid.
When we did get to Macao, it was a little too much like being back on the Mainland. Some guy at the ferry terminal tried to get us to cough up HK$1400 for a tour of the place, and then dropped the price to HK$900. He was a persistent little pest, but at least we scored a free map off him.
The casinos lay on free buses for the cullies to go and lose their money, and we went out to the Venetian Hotel on Taipa, the island south of Macao, before going back and getting a bus into town where we were dumped outside the Club Militar without the faintest idea where we were exactly.
We managed to find our way to the right avenida, had lunch (Linda had superheated rice porridge), and followed a little of the LP HK/Macao Guide’s walking tour before making a beeline for the famous ruins of St Paul’s. After that, we got a taxi to Macao Fisherman’s Wharf and wandered around a Roman coliseum and a nearby street which might come alive at night, but which was almost utterly deserted during the day.
Hong Kong03 We really needed two days in Macao, which has more character than Hong Kong. It’s a little more dowdy, but it’s picturesque, and I could’ve taken many more photographs than I did. You can use HK$ there and I was surprised to find that they drive on the left even although it was a Portuguese colony. It’s also full of slogans of the type you’d expect to see on the Mainland – Behave in a civilised fashion, etc. – the difference being that the slogans are also translated into English.
The sunset shot was taken we we got back to the Shun Tak building in Hong Kong.
We finally made it to Causeway Bay, and went to Times Square where I bought a new phone from Broadway to replace my aging and cranky V3i.
It was mostly a shopping day. Linda had found that one of the shop assistants in Bonjour actually came from Chengdu, but had been in Hong Kong for 20 years. She explained that Estée Lauder is the expensive stuff and that Linda would be better off with Elizabeth Arden. Linda managed to get various lotions and cosmetics as she’d planned, and she saved quite a bit of money as well.
It was an interesting experience because cosmetics in China seem to be like imported wine. You only get the expensive stuff here because the manufacturers seem to be targeting the 太太s and 情妇s whose natural habitat is the malls of designer shops where they spend the bribes of all the corrupt officials on overpriced bling.
Our return to Shenzhen Airport was much swifter than our arrival in Hong Kong. It was so smooth that we sailed through to Lowu having forgotten to return our Octopus cards for a refund. It was fortunate that Linda found she could already pick up a mobile signal from China because we had to go our separate ways to re-enter the country. I ploughed through immigration thinking that as a returning Chinese citizen, Linda would be ahead of me, but not finding her waiting and wondering whether she’d gone ahead, I eventually moved on myself, and reached the exit from the checkpoint where I still couldn’t see Linda. I switched to my China SIM card and rang her. It turned out that the queue for Chinese citizens was much longer than I’d thought it would be so that the hordes of people who had streamed past me were merely ahead of Linda and not some way behind her.
When we got to the bus station, Linda found that we could get the boarding passes for our flight there, and as we stood inside watching the rain come down, a bus eventually arrived and we climbed aboard. We were a little surprised to be taken to some local hotel to switch from one 330 bus to another before being ferried the rest of the way to the airport. We were back in the land where the bus doesn’t go until it’s full. We were also back in the land where two large signs alongside the road advise drivers not to foiiow [sic!] too closely.
We did arrive at the airport in good time, had lunch, found that the lifts were on the far side of the restaurant area only after I’d carried the suitcases up the stairs, had lunch, and then checked in. Our plane was 45 minutes late in leaving (the usual clearance from air traffic control excuse).
Chengdu Airport started by being a nuisance because in order to get a taxi, we had to walk most of the length of the terminal building to find a point where we could cross the adjacent lane to walk all the way back to get a taxi. All the other crossing points had been blocked off by a barrier.
Linda had managed to procure the keys to my first flat, but we couldn’t get in because the lock was knackered, and Linda had to get the man from the bike shop to come and help. His diagnosis was that the lock needed replacing.
How that flat has decayed since I moved in three years ago. Quincy moved the bed into the main room, but the air con in there does nothing more than blow air about. The fridge doesn’t work either.
I went over to Carrefour in the Fortune Centre to do some shopping and found that the Aerospace Building is half open and that the mall on the other side of the road has also been finished since I was last in Chengdu.
Linda came round after lunch and although we moved the bed so that it was next to the door and roughly in line with the air con, I worked out how to make the sofa bed work, and had a more comfortable time of it in the old bedroom in which the air con does a decent job.
We went and borrowed a bike from the security guards at school, which allowed me my accustomed independence, and we went over to 宽巷子 where we got caught in a very heavy downpour and eventually took refuge in the doorway of a courtyard restaurant while the staff hurriedly cleared the tables. We ventured forth, but the rain hadn’t done with us, and we retreated to Starbucks.
That evening I found that the box which should’ve contained a poison gas machine and inserts lacked the former because some larcenous peasant had stolen it. Fortunately, I only saw two mosquitoes in there, but got bitten by neither.
I was lucky because it was when I got up that I saw the second mosquito, and after breakfast I exchanged the pillaged box for one containing everything.
As I went on my adventures, I found what else had changed. The buildings to the north-west of Tianfu Square have all gone, and various roads are partly or completely blocked off. The crossings, such as the one across Zongfu Lu just as you’re approaching Chunxi Lu, has now gone as have several others around the city. They’ve been replaced by bridges, which is a bit of a nuisance for cyclists and the only way to cross the road is to head up to the Hongxing Lu intersection and go all the way back.
I went DVD shopping at the place along the 1st Ring Road because the flat had a DVD player and a TV, and because I didn’t have a sufficient supply of books, I needed something else to amuse me. I thought that the shop might’ve been closed because something was being built in the space, but the same guy was there with much the same stock.
My need to wash some clothing led to the discovery that since I’d last lived in that flat, no one had bothered cleaning out the filter in the washing machine, which now had a large lint turd in it.
I also had a new pair of glasses made because the lenses of the old pair had little scratches on them and the right arm, which I’d superglued into place, had come away just recently. The new ones are similar in shape to the old, but have thin black frames.
We tried to go to High Fly for tea, but by the time we arrived, the place was busy, and we went to Amy’s instead. Similar to the food I get in the Western Restaurant down Qingshi Lu here, but not as good.
The sun was shining. Yes, the actual sun and not just a lot of depressing grey cloud.
Linda eventually came round in the afternoon and took me to the police station because legally I’m meant to be registered wherever I stay in China within 24 hours. Hotels deal with that normally, but I wasn’t staying in a hotel.
We then headed for the Sichuan Museum, which is next to the grounds of Du Fu’s Cottage. Unfortunately, it’s closed on Mondays. We were going to stop at Baihuatan instead, but the woman who seemed to be running an impromptu bike park at the loo just near the gate was charging ¥1 each for her services, and we decided to go back to the flat instead.
This time we did manage to go to High Fly for tea.
I also found that the narrow street on the north-east side of Tianfu has been partly blocked off. Some 花椒-brained motorist was trying to drive the wrong way down the cycle lane and was at an impasse with a mob of electric bike people, who were never going to get past. We cyclists could get our bikes onto the pavement, thus avoiding the impediment.
I’d been bitten on my elbows while I was waiting at the police station the previous day, and the bites had plagued me throughout the night. I took a trip to the computer centre, but when I tried to go down to the basement to the DVD shop, I was told that the basement was closed. I couldn’t be bothered going upstairs to be pestered and headed out to Sabrina’s to see whether it had the nice breakfast cereal we’d had in Hong Kong. It didn’t (no surprise), but it had no salt and vinegar crisps either (disappointing).
As I was heading back down Renmin Nanlu, I saw a sign on a wall in letters about 2m high – “Chengdu welcome you”. So much for the campaign to eliminate Chinglish.
This time we went round the Sichuan Museum, but you’ll need to have your passport to get in apparently. Apart from that, it’s free. There’s quite a lot to see, and we ended up rushing to cover everything before the museum closed at 5pm. All the time I was living in Chengdu, the place was under construction, which means that it spent a lot of time just sitting there because there was no sign that any work was being done on it. It is worth a visit, but needs at least two hours. The exhibits cover relics specific to Sichuan, various ethnic minorities, and Tibetan Buddhism. There was also a special display of European etchings, but they were charging ¥30 to get into that.
Actually, I didn’t just get a new pair of glasses and a case, but a spare case as well. The one that I got from Dao Bao (岛宝) for my old glasses has already reached the point where the springs are beginning to fail, and it would only have survived a few more weeks before I needed to replace it again.
It might’ve been sunny at the start of the day, but even then, there was some ominous grey cloud to the west, which managed to behave itself until I went to meet Linda after lunch, which was when it decided to rain heavily. I met her outside one of the mobile phone emporia because her phone had been misbehaving. Turned out to be dirty contacts inside the phone, and she also learnt that the particular model of phone which she has is not on sale inside China.
The rain eventually eased off, but my arse got thoroughly wet from sitting on the seat of the bike and I had to use the radiant heater in the flat to dry my trousers out.
It was time to head home. Part of me wanted to come back and quite a lot of me didn’t.
I got to the airport in good time. We all got on the plane in good time. We then got the usual announcement about air traffic control, and about being served drinks. (That means the flight will be delayed by half an hour.) But no sooner were the drinks done, then we got served lunch. (That means the flight will be delayed by an hour.) Indeed, it was nearly an hour later when we finally left the ground, the second in a line of six planes which had probably all been delayed themselves.
As we approached Wuxi, we were informed that the temperature was 35°, which was hotter than Hong Kong or Chengdu. When I got to the airport and found that the next bus to the railway station wouldn’t turn up for half an hour, I got a taxi instead rather than wait.
And that’s the end of my rather lengthy tale. It’s time for me to go to Carrefour and do some shopping. Oh joy. Carrefour on a Saturday afternoon. What could be more pleasant?

You saw it on DVD or read it in a book

The Book of Eli.
The review comments printed on the sleeves of pirated DVDs can usually be taken with a pinch of salt. It’s amazing how much crap gets two thumbs up from Siskel and Ebert (at least one of whom is dead). But when I saw praise for Denzel Washington’s performance from Foxconn Fox News, my suspicions about the nature of the film were further stoked.
The movie is pretending to be set in post-Apocalyptic America, but it’s really just a Western. The Americans still behave just as you’d expect, murdering each other. Anyway, Denzel Washington has been walking west across the remains of the States for 30 years (bad sense of direction or really slow; perhaps both) to deliver a copy of the King James Bible to some repository on Alcatraz. Meanwhile, Gary Oldman wants it to unite the people. He finally acquires the copy which Denzel Washington had been carrying, but then finds the entire Bible is in Braille and having no skills in simple cryptanalysis, can’t work out what it says. Duh!
A somewhat creepy film which is like reading about modern popes in the Catholic Encyclopaedia online – they’re portrayed as loving, but still manage to sound like perverts.

Desperate Romantics.
A BBC series I’d never heard of. It covered the period between Elizabeth Siddal being recruited as a model and her death. I don’t know much about the pre-Raphaelites, but I suspect the series was a very liberal reinterpretation of history, which had experts in the field spinning in their graves university offices.
Looks like BBC HD is trying to ape HBO or Showtime with sex and drugs.

Another BBC series I’ve never heard of. In this one, information about an impending disaster in the future is transmitted to some government research facility in Manchester. But instead of the future sending clear details such as a Powerpoint presentation, it’s a series of incoherent pictures from which our stalwart investigators must work out what might happen unless they can prevent it. It seemed obvious that they were sending the messages to themselves, but the series never got that far.
There was a second disc, but it didn’t work in the DVD player and I can’t really be bothered finding out whether there’s been one series or two.

The Big Bang Theory.
I’ve seen this plenty of times in the DVD shops, but have never bothered with it, and when I started watching it, I found that my reluctance to buy it in the first place had not been unfounded. I’m about twenty to thirty years to old for this one. The basic plot is nerd meets cheer leader, a staple motif of American culture. Although the main character is supposedly Leonard, the awkward and dysfunctional Sheldon is really at the centre of most of the stories.
Been there, seen it, not going to buy the T-shirt.

The Devil in Amber.
I didn’t know there’d been a second Lucifer Box novel by Mark Gatiss (and only learnt of the third, published last year, on Amazon UK yesterday) until I happened to spot the book in Page One. In this novel, Box is twenty years older and taking on fascist Satanists (including Box’s sister, Pandora) who are trying to summon the Devil. I can’t remember how long it is since I read The Vesuvius Club, but I’m sure that was more entertaining than this one. I did wonder whether there might be a second novel, but I also felt that it was a one-off story at best.