Monday, 28 February 2011

A Dark Day

Today was a dark day literally, as the sun seemed to have needed a break and split from us. I suppose all of us, the sun included need a day off once in a while. What was odd though, was that I felt a little... off today; a little dark myself. There's no real reason for this, I mean life is technically good at the moment, I signed up at a recruitment agency, I watched the fantastic literary documentary Faulks on Fiction, I had pie 'n' mash for lunch, topped with (aaahhh) gravy; and I spent the afternoon reading before going to work. Having work in the evening meant that I didn't get to see Stacey today, but then that happens often, and while I'm not afraid or ashamed to admit that I miss her enormously when I don't see her, I can deal with it just fine, I'm used to it.

For some reason, when I think back over the day it almost doesn't feel like it was real, and for some reason I just felt a little down, and - dare I say it - a little emo. They say that the weather can have an effect on us, and maybe that was just it, because it was bloody rubbish out there today, it was freezing, and it was dark; a miserable climate all around. So maybe that got into me a little, especially as it was only just starting to warm up a bit last week. Then of course, it could stretch further than our weather here in England... maybe the universe has something to do with it all... perhaps the third sun of Jupiter is in line with Uranus causing some sort of chemical imbalance that makes Geminis sad and glum or something. I don't know... It probably didn't help that the book I spent my afternoon reading was incredibly dark, depressing, and rather on the sick side. Book fans out there, I do still recommend it based on the half of it that I've currently read: John Ajvide Lindqvist's Let The Right One In.

Even work seemed strange, and that's not because I was working with Jason. No, time seemed to dissolve into nothing, and customers came across has bitter, twisted, and nasty. Maybe everyone was in a terrible, grumpy mood due to the weather, and the fact that kids are back at school. But, it could have possibly been me being over-sensitive... Maybe I'm having some kind of period, as I've heard that men apparently get them too in the emotional sense. But then, maybe I'm just talking a load of crap!

Things have brightened up since getting home though. I watched Two and a Half Men with my brothers and my Dad, which made me laugh and has put me in a better frame of mind. However, halfway through, one of my brothers decided to suddenly turn off the only light in the room that was on, and once again the darkness surrounded me on this, the final day of February. Anyway, it's March in half an hour, so I'd better go! I'm happy now, and am going to end my day by watching something else to make me laugh. This has probably been one of the most bizarre blogs that I've written to date, but I always find writing these to be extremely therapeutic, and thus the darkness has left me for now - best not turn off the lights!

Sunday, 27 February 2011

'And the Os©ar goes to...'

Tonight is the biggest night of the year in Tinseltown, even bigger than Christmas if you can believe it. Tonight of course is the 83rd Annual Academy Awards, also known as the Oscars. The Oscars, despite being heralded as one of, if not the biggest, most prestigious of awards in not just film, but in any art form there is, are rather bizarre at times in terms of the recipients of the fake gold statuettes. And this is what has inspired me to write this brief, late night blog. For those of you not in the know, the Oscars are decided and determined by a relatively small (couple of hundred) board of people. These people create the short lists, then reduce the short lists down to the nominees for each category, and following that, decide upon the eventual winner. The list of nominees for the biggest of the awards; that being for Best Picture includes ten this year, double the usual five, and this is not in the least surprising considering the remarkable twelve months of cinema that we've just been treated to.

The nominees are as follows:

Black Swan
127 Hours
The King's Speech
Toy Story 3
Winter's Bone
The Kids Are All Right
True Grit
The Fighter
The Social Network

Now, looking back at that list of films, I reckon that the majority of you will have ruled out one of them immediately, and despite the fact that you've probably never even heard of Winter's Bone, I'd guess that you have ruled out Toy Story 3. Am I right? It's animated, and a family film. Therefore there's got to be no way that it can win, even though, in my humble opinion it truly is the film of the year. But alas, the Oscars will snub it, as it is 'only an animation'. Never mind the fact that Pixar have actually proven to be the only essentially flawless production company in that none of their eleven films to date have been bad, or even average for that matter.

The front runners to win the best picture crown as of right now are undoubtedly The King's Speech and The Social Network; both of which are great films, but are in my eyes undeserving of this award as I would even place Black Swan ahead of them. I just got back from the cinema having seen True Grit, and thought that was an awesome piece of film, a true western. That won't win because the Cohen Brothers got the best picture nod a few years ago for the brilliant No Country For Old Men. Meanwhile, because it came out over half a year ago, everybody seems to have forgotten about just how great Inception was; a very innovative and inspired film, that unfortunately seems to have fallen out of mind and proved too complicated for some viewers. Alas, Toy Story 3 will fall to the biggest injustice as it certainly evoked the most emotion out of most who went to see it at the pictures. It certainly got to me!

I may be ranting about nothing here, as I could wake up in the morning to news that Pixar pulled off the upset, and that Toy Story 3 received the nod, and walked away as the first animation to win Best Picture. It most likely won't though, as was said by a whole host of critics on this past week's Film 2011, all of whom actually agreed with each other that Toy Story deserves it, despite the inevitable snobbery.

Time will tell...

Monday, 21 February 2011

Undisputed Duck Tales of the old Bill

I'm tired, but then, my finer blogs often come out when I'm in this state - so let's write.

The last week has been a pretty good one if I were to look back at it. A week ago today of course was Love Day, or if you want to be all traditional about it, 'Valentine's Day'. Rather than waste money on forced gestures of affection, Stacey and I decided to put the money we would have spent on an assortment of chocolates (which we still have a treasure trove full of from Christmas), and cuddly toys towards something more useful and productive. So the weekend before last, we went shopping for home stuff. We bought tea-towels, cooking stuff, plates, and bowls. All in a bid to be somewhere near ready to move on out when the time comes along. We both felt a little strange about it at first, and it's safe to say that we were out of our depths, and our element (we had to exit the store, and re-enter with a trolley, as we're only used to picking up the odd snack). Now that we've taken the initial dive and first swim into the river or adulthood, it doesn't seem so bad, and has opened the flood gate for us to continue to do so knowing a little more about what we need and what we're doing in general. The shopping trip wasn't all serious business though, as in the Entertainment section of the supermarket in question, I found two remnants of my childhood, much to my boyish delight. For the bargain price of £4 each, they had complete boxsets of Duck Tales (woo-hoo) and Chip and Dale: Rescue Rangers. I stood, jaw to the ground, holding both sets, one in each hand. But, Stacey sensing money wasting ahead, and remembering that we were trying to be mature adult-type people on this excursion made her voice heard.
'You can only have one,' she said sternly. 'so make up your mind and put one back.'
It was the toughest decision of my new adult life, but after much internal deliberation, I poor old Chip 'n' Dale back on the shelf and gave Hughie, Dewie, and Louie a new home. I thought I could introduce my old Disney friends to my 8 year old sister, but she doesn't care past the awesome theme tune. She won't watch it and instead opts to view the lesser kids TV of today.

Despite forgetting about presents for what I feel is actually a rather unromantic day (isn't romance about spontaneity?), we still went out for a nice meal at a local Indian restaurant, The Pepper Lounge. The great selling points to this establishment are that the price is very reasonable for the decent quality food on offer, while they don't hold a license to serve alcohol meaning that unfortunately, you have to bring your own... RESULT!

The rest of my last week was spent at work seemingly... I was treated to three night shifts in a row. Now, I'm not one to moan about working nights, it comes with the territory and I've been working them for two and half years now, so just get on with it, but three in a row is a bit of a bitch, and completely ruins my sleep pattern. Thankfully these night shifts weren't without incident, meaning that they actually gave me some form of entertainment, and an anecdote or two to mention at dinner parties for a while. On the first of these nights, a night that had been extremely dead to say the least, at about 9:30pm, when Tom and I were on the verge of suicide just to see what that felt like - as it had to be better than that sheer boredom - the police turned up. We were little taken aback, and the two officers asked what the problem was. we looked around the store, which aside from Tom, me, and the two policemen was completely devoid of life, and replied that everything was fine. Turns out that our panic button had been set off somehow and had called the police there. The officers had to inspect the store anyways to make sure that all was as it seemed, as for all they knew, we could have been saying it was fine, while someone with a gun hid down one of the aisles, or even worse, in case we were the robbers, and had stolen the shirts of the real employees and were posing as them while they were tied up out back. It was all very exciting and gave us something to talk about for the rest of the evening.

The following two nights were spent with Jason, and between us, we formed a formidable target hitting machine. Basically, if you were a customer walking into that store on one of those nights, you bloody well were going to be leaving only when you'd taken us up on one of our fantastic offers, or super deals. But, with the post-Christmas cooldown still in effect, it was rather quiet, allowing us to get stuff done, while making our own fun to pass the time.

I had Saturday off this weekend just gone, and rather than let something as pleasant and rare as a full Saturday go to waste, Stacey and I went up to the O2 arena to see The King's Speech on the giant cinema screens that they have there. I could definitely see what all the hype was about this film. The story - a true one - is actually very fascinating, and the cast is sublime. Colin Firth is fantastic, Helena Bonham Carter is brilliant, and Jeffrey Rush is genius. I would recommend this film whole-heartily and will be watching it again in the future. That all said, I still preferred Black Swan.

Not only did we go to the cinema at the O2 Dome, but we also ate there, and Stacey had a look at some of the latest phones in the O2 shop there as her contract is soon up for renewal. For food, we argued and argued, and fought and fought over where to go until settling on Gourmet Burger Kitchen. We'd never eaten there before, but it was absolutely delicious. When you order a blue-cheese burger, and the waiter asks how you'd like it cooked, you know you're onto a winner. Medium-Rare please! Not only that, but for desert, I had a Chunky Monkey Ben and Jerries, while Stacey had a Fab - FAB!

In the O2 store, Stacey was playing around with all the flashy phones she could get her mits on. The Samsung Galaxy caught her eye and imagination, and she decided to see what it was like to dial on it, typing in her own number and calling it. Turns out this display model was a full-working phone, and it actually phoned her. After coming out from the film, she had three more missed calls from that phone, as people seem to play with it constantly, but rather than typing in their own numbers, seem to just phone the last number dialled in the call log. We stopped by once again on the way out to delete the record of her number.

Sunday saw me at work once more, and in the evening I kicked it old-school by going round the old Passey house to watch pay-per-view wrestling. Something I haven't done in a long old time. And that leads me to now... I'm writing this blog. I've got work again in just over an hour, so best get moving I suppose. Although I would also like to mention that I've just finished reading a great book. Chris Jericho's newest book Undisputed was released on these shores this past Thursday, and thanks to my trusty Kindle, I was reading it immediately. Talk about you page-turners, I was hooked! What I loved the most though was the vivid description of a Fozzy gig at the Astoria in London back in 2005, a gig that I attended for free as a competition winner. Jericho recalls the gig not only because it was a big deal for him to play such a historic venue, but because at the time, it doubled as a club called GAY. The headline above the entrance to the venue read (and I myself remember this too) read:




Monday, 7 February 2011

HD vs. 3D

It seems that technology is changing at an ever rapid pace. We see everything from minor tweaks to current interfaces, to major leaps that astound and astonish us. Hell, just this past weekend, our household saw the introduction of a stunning new touchscreen PC, boasting 720p HD imagery and the super-fast and the funky 'n' groovy operating system that was my idea: Windows 7.

It's the HD part that leads in to what I've been thinking about a lot lately, especially with my current job in the film rental and retail business. I am a huge fan of HD, and no matter what ant cheapskates try and say, it's here to stay. Sport and other television shows look so much crisper and clearer in High Definition. In say, a football match, you could pause the show and count every blade of grass in shot if you so wished. A major step up from the green blur that you'd be treated to in standard definition. As for films, the future is here, and has been for a few years now actually. In case you've been living under a rock, it's called Blu-Ray and gives you so much bang for your buck. I'm a convert, and recommend it to anyone. In fact, I go out of my way to avoid watching standard DVDs these days, although Blu-Ray players do play and upscale DVDs so that they are brighter and better.

Proof that things are moving way, way, way too quickly is the sudden surge in 3D. HD is still infiltrating homes, and already 3D TV and Movies are being thrust upon us. To be fair, Sky HD supports 3D channels, and 3D films are released on the Blu-Ray format, but you still need an obscenely expensive television, and some obscenely expensive pairs of 3D glasses. The ridiculousness of this was summed up by a story that my Uncle told me over Christmas about a guy he knows who spent over £6000 on a 3D setup for his home, but then refuses to pay Sky the extra £10 per month for their 3D service. What the hell!?

Is 3D really worth it though? I mean sure, things have come a long way from the old cardboard blue 'n' red monstrosities that we were once forced to wear, giving us papercuts across our noses. However, the fact is that we're still forced to wear glasses. The 3D effects are always hit and miss too. At the cinema over the last year, I've seen various 3D films including Avatar, Alice In Wonderland, A Christmas Carol, Toy Story 3, Shrek, and Tangled. Of them all, Christmas Carol was the best without a shadow of a doubt. Alice in Wonderland stood out in parts for the effects, such as when Alice falls down the hole, and Tangled produced a very good looking romantic scene. For the most part though, I never notice it, and forget that I'm actually watching a 3D film. The biggie in terms of 3D is Avatar, yet I preferred it the second time I saw it which was on Blu-Ray in HD. I don't get what everyone was going on about in terms of the 3D effects being so great.

Anyways, I'm going to wrap things up for now by stating that I feel HD is where it's at for now. Call me when I can watch 3D films without glasses... 'Oh, hello Nintendo...'

Thursday, 3 February 2011

On the hunt, best get out of my way!

As many of you may know already, I'm on the lookout for a new job. It's nothing personal against my current job, it's just business. I'm nearing the end of my degree with the Open University, and as studying at home is something that can be done in my spare time, I've decided to get ahead of everyone else graduating this year and start the job hunt early. As you'd easily work out from watching the first 30 seconds of any news broadcast over the past few years, job hunting really is the definition of searching for a needle in a haystack. And I mean without the luxury of a magnet, as despite what Max Beasley tells us on those Jobsite adverts, it really isn't that easy!

So, getting things on track, I've been looking for a new career path, a full time job, since before Christmas. I had already had the one interview/assessment day thing which I've already discussed in  my last blog. For those of you that haven't read it, I'll sum it up by saying that things couldn't have started any worse than they did. Since then, I have been informed that actually they don't think I'm qualified, which rather contradicts what they said when they invited me to take part in their illogical interviewing process. I probably just scared them all to death with the very site of my rear and under-attire.

Of course, I wasn't putting all of my eggs into one basket, and have been applying left, right, and centre on every job website known to man... well, known to me at least. For weeks, I heard nothing, which is a little disheartening, but at the same time, not at all surprising, especially when about 99.9% of jobs require a minimum of two years experience in a very specific job role, which let's face it, at the age of 21, I'm just not going to have! Then, out of nowhere, I got offered two preliminary interviews on Monday of this week, and both of them wanted to meet me on Wednesday at 2pm. Unfortunately logic dictates that I can't be in two places at once, so I had to hold one of them back a day, and got to go and meet them Thursday (today) at 2pm instead. I have no idea how either of these went, and maybe I am unqualified for both roles, but the best I can do is to give it a shot. For both of them, I donned my suit once again, and made sure this time to avoid any area of ground that had a 'Caution: Wet Floor' sign nearby.

I'm very excited about both potential opportunities, as they are both with rapidly growing companies that seem to actually treat staff as people, not as numbers. Although the jobs that I've gone for are rather different, they are both in areas that I feel would be of great interest to me, and could well captivate me. Not getting the job that I went for interview at three weeks ago could well have been a blessing in disguise, as I know looking back that I would have been bored within a week working there. I mean, if they didn't show much of a sense of humour at my ripped trousers, would it really have been a happy place to work?