Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Now this is just irritating

I gave another junk mailer the Stop Killing Trees treatment yesterday, but how's this for annoying? It was an 'associate' from my credit card company asking me if I'd like to sign up to a scheme which would give me discounts like a third off at restaurants I don't go to and cinema tickets.

The first 3 months were free, but then they'd bill me annually at £69.99 to my credit card. For a third off cinema tickets, I'd need to go 35 times to get my money back. What a waste of space. As I ripped off my details and tore up the form ready to post back it made me wonder what kind of idiot would sign up for something this dumb.

Sarcasmo's back

Posting on Sarcasmo has been intermittent, but a couple of new funnies have been stuck up in the last couple of days. Check it out, especially Prince Caspian getting the Cylon Treatment!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Plaintive communists

The Liberal Desperates are still bombarding us with election mail. The latest was a hand-addressed 'letter' begging for our votes. I think we've had the equivalent of a tree pushed through our door from them in the past few weeks.

But we also had a leaflet from the Welsh Communist Party, with the most plaintive appeal for support yet. It read:

You're probably not a communist...
...but you probably agree with many of the things we stand for.

All together: Awwwww. They then listed a load of things, which, actually, yes, I do agree with (unreconstructed socialist that I am). So now it's a toss up between voting Communist and voting for wombles. I think the wombles might win out...

Monday, April 28, 2008

Milestone

Is it too self-congratulatory to mark my 400th blogpost with a blog post about it being my 400th blog post?

Oh, well, too late now.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

My personal junk mail campaign

Another junk mail miscreant has been given the "Stop Killing Trees" treatment. My buddy Matt (of Life is Mootiful fame) has promised to print me some stickers.

The culprit this time is Citi Financial. I hope they like their credit card pre-approval form ripped up and sent back to them... I was particularly annoyed by the 16 page booklet they sent with the application form, which had four blank pages in the the back of it. Surely they could have printed a 12 page booklet instead?

If you'd like to join the campaign, I'm thinking of setting up a website.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

What have you become?

I did a 'relationships' talk with the youth tonight. As I prepped for it, Cath asked me "What have you become?"

On that note, is it a bad sign when your fellow leader spends most of your talk holding her head in her hands?

Friday, April 18, 2008

that week went quick...

2 more things through the door yesterday from our friends the Liberal Desperates.

I also got a junk mail credit card application. I carefully tore out my name from the form, ripped it up and put the bits in the reply envelope. I wrote 'Stop Killing Trees!!' on the back and then posted it.

It's the only way we'll stop junk mail, I think.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Son of Rambow

I didn't choose to go to this. It was a youth outing from church. However, this British film is worth a look. There's plenty of stuff to make you laugh and, if you're of a certain age, a nice re-creation of early 80s Britain, including a Corona Lemonade stand in the supermarket. Now, whatever happened to Corona Lemonade?

The basic plot is two outsiders - Will, a Plymouth Brethren kid who isn't allowed to watch TV documentaries in class, and Lee, a troublemaker who gets kicked out of class regularly - meet in the school hallways while everyone else is in class. After watching a pirated copy of Rambo, they team up to make a film, and things get messy from thereon.

I really liked this film. The two kids who play the lead roles are very good. There is an hilarious incident with a flying dog attached to a stunt kite. And there are plenty of throwaway jokes. The opening lines of the documentaries Will has to sit outside for start with lines like "Fire is man's greatest friend... but also his greatest foe!" followed by screams, or "The wheel is man's greatest invention... and also his most deadly!" followed by screeching tyres and screams.

There's a nostalgia too, for a simpler time, when kids could go running off into the woods, set up stunts and make a movie. One kid says how he always wanted a watch. Okay, some of that nostalgia is idealistic. The early 80s I actually lived through weren't so great. There was plenty of fear around and generally the mood was nihilistic.

But still, this is an authentic-feeling feel-good movie. I liked it and I'd watch it again.

Jongudmund's rating: 7.5/10

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Talking the language of the people

More bumf from the Liberal Democrats has come through the door and gone... IN THE BIN! Well, recycling anyway...

However I think the LD's are chasing a lost cause. We've had a leaflet through from Plaid Cymru and I think we're both going to vote for them on the strength of one phrase. No, seriously. When describing the impact community sweepers could have on Grangetown, they say:
"Community sweepers - a kind of Wombles for the 21st Century would help clear our streets."
You've got to vote for a party that namechecks the Wombles haven't you! Haven't you?

Incidentally being a bilingual leaflet, this is the equivalent Welsh sentence. See if you can spot the Welsh word for 'Wombles':
"Byddai Swyddogion Sbwriel Cymunedol - rhyw fath o Wombles i'r unfed gannif ar hugain yn helpu cadw'n strydoedd yn lan."
That's right! It's 'Wombles'!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Nizlopi at the Welsh Club

Just got back from seeing Nizlopi at the Welsh Club in Cardiff - a hole of a venue if ever there was one. The evening was cut short because they had a club night afters. Ironically as we left, we met one of the DJ's coming in - none other than Viv's brother Doug aka Chico Fresco. So we blame him.

This was the fourth time we'd seen Nizlopi and was possibly the least impressive of the gigs we've been to. The mix didn't seem right on the sound for a good proportion of the evening, they didn't play the JCB song (although they did play Clear as their second song - yay), and they paid too much attention to a very drunk lairy girl who kept interrupting the show. However, letting her sing Stand By Me to everyone seemed to mollify her a bit, and gave us all a laugh at the same time. But a laugh in a nice way.

When we saw Scouting for Girls last weekend I was impressed by the support on show, and this was obviously a good week for support slots. The guy warming up for Nizlopi was Joe Driscoll, a New Yorker who does live cut ups, meaning he does his own beatbox, then his own guitar, then his own backing vocals and then puts them all on a loop and sings over them. And he does it all in front of you. His songs were cracking too and I will definitely keep an eye out for a chance to see him again.

I liked him so much I even bought his CD!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

How desperate are you?

The local elections are coming up on 1 May* and some of the parties are starting to campaign, particularly the Liberal Democrats. To date we have had several things through the door, a real live candidate knock on the door, and someone phone up "on behalf of the Liberal Democrats" to ask me how we voted last time and how we intend to vote next time.

Today we had a piece of post, and then after I picked Cath up from work, we got home to find another one of the 'Focus' newsletters shoved through our door. So that's two bits of junk mail on one day. (And, as Cath, pointed out, on recycling day too, handily!)

I haven't actually counted how many communiques we've received from the LD's, but it feels like they are incredibly desperate for us to vote for them. Cathy reckons we've had our own tree's-worth of paper from them.

What's interesting is that the LD's run Cardiff council. They're very keen to tell us about how much lower our council tax rises have been than they would have been under Labour (er, they've still gone up, though), and generally how pants Labour are. But I'm left feeling their desperation gives the game away. They obviously don't expect to win which is why they're courting our votes so ardently.

There is such a thing as over-communication.

*also, former Bromfield Streetians (you know who you are) might be interested to know our polling station has changed from the bowling club to the Sally Army on the end of Corporation Rd.

Dawkins v. Lennox

We watched the DVD of this debate from last year over two life group evenings, and it was very interesting. The basic premise was it pitched Richard "The God Delusion" Dawkins against Dr John Lennox, who I hadn't heard of before, but is the author of a very interesting-looking book called God's Undertaker.

I have to admit Dawkins was much less impressive than I thought he would be. He seemed unwilling to defend his arguments as vigorously as I expected. He also didn't like the set-up of the 'debate', which was more like a plenary than a proper debate, with little or no opportunity to comment on the opposing viewpoint. In fact, it was only when Dawkins and Lennox broke free from the imposed structure that the most interesting interchanges took place.

What struck me was how easy Lennox found it to rile Dawkins, who often appeared very short-tempered when arguing with Lennox's points. He certainly didn't come across as a superior thinker. Many of his criticisms of religion were straw-man arguments, although he did make some very valid points which I agreed with - especially regarding the ideas that a person's faith wasn't open to debate, and that teaching 'faith' as a virtue in itself could lead to extremism.

There was also the age-old: "Religion's done terrible things" - "So has atheism" exchanges. Personally I'd like to see the argument go beyond this. Both religion and atheism give people an excuse to commit atrocities - any ideology that's bigger then you, whether you're fighting in the name of god, or in the name of the people - will let you justify murder. What's more interesting is why human beings allow themselves to abdicate their personal responsibility in the name of a greater cause.

The debate about where morality comes from was also very interesting - especially the mystery of how would we develop a sense of injustice in a universe with no underlying justice. Unfortunately, this theme wasn't developed in any great detail, which is a pity, because the existence of morality is about the only classical argument for god's existence to hold any water. Which may be why Dawkins stepped round that debating point.

Dawkins' last word was to dismiss Lennox's appeal to the ressurrection. "It's so petty, and trivial, and unworthy of the universe," he said. Which, when you think about it was kind of the point of the resurrection... It's an interesting theological point, which I'm sure Richard Dawkins is quite unaware of.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Futurama feature length movie

As a massive fan of Futurama, I'm glad it's back with Bender's Big Score, and IMHO as good as ever. After the first few minutes having a go at the "Box Network" who "cancelled" their delivery contract (hem, hem) we get into the story proper. Bender downloads porn which is linked to an obedience virus which puts him under the thrall of evil nudist aliens who want to steal everything, including planet Earth. And it all spirals downhill from there...

The gags are sharp and follow each other rapidly throughout the film. It also manages to avoid the plot-dragging weakness of the Simpsons Movie (the last feature-length production from the Groening stable). One criticism of the Simpsons on the big screen was that it felt like an extended version of a TV episode, but one of the weaker episodes. This was intended to be an extended episode, and came out as one of the better ones.

My only crit would be that they try and squeeze every bit-part character into the film, many of whom will only be recognisable to ardent viewers of the TV show. Why the Robot Devil would be leading his diabolical string quartet at a wedding is never explained. And, although it's nice to see Don Bot, Joey Mousepad and Clamps fighting on the good side for once, it seems odd that they'd be fighting at all, and not cutting some kind of deal with the naughty naturists.

And as a tease to all those Matt Groening fans, see if you can spot Bongo the Rabbit taking a break from Life in Hell to cross-promote himself. And if you're a fan of delicious irony, Mark Hamill, AKA Luke Skywalker, guests as the voice of the Chanukah Zombie (don't ask), flying a TIE Fighter with a Star of David on the side. Al Gore - who shows a Futurama clip to his audience in An Inconvenient Truth - also appears a couple of times (including as a cab driver in a hybrid electric car). And then there's Hypnotoad... ALL GLORY TO HYPNOTOAD!

This is the first of four planned full-length features coming straight to DVD over the next year. I can't wait for the next one!

Monday, April 07, 2008

I'm surrounded by very talented people, part 2

My buddy Justin produced this animation using his brother as a dummy...

I'm surrounded by very talented people, part 1

Matt drew this the other day. I think it's hilarious.



If you like it, you can buy it on stuff at life is mootiful! There's also some free stuff like computer wallpaper, and a sheet to doodle your own moodle!

Scouting for Girls - live in Bristol

Yesterday was the last day of Christmas - it's official. Cathy cashed in her Christmas presents of tickets to see SfG and took me with her as her date (hurrah!).

The band themselves were simply awesome, despite this being the first gig for a while as the singer had just recovered from laryngitis. He got the audience to sing the high notes, which we obliged willingly. Quite simply, it was one of the best live gigs I've been to in a long while.

They also had two very good warm up bands. Go Audio, who's videos are on Virgin Music on Demand, if you have that, and Clocks. I plan to check out their albums sometime soon. (There's free tracks to listen to on the Clocks page.)

After a late one in Bristol last night, I was cream crackered today. I woke up and had a choice - a shower and a shave or twenty extra minutes in bed. I figured I don't care that much about my workmates, so I was bogging today.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Blessed

On Sunday I had a pre-birthday meal with my family, which included cake and presents and left me feeling very privileged and blessed.

Then yesterday at work loads of people tipped up for cake, and I got presents like my first ever K'Nex set, and a 'decorate-your-own-cress-farm' kit. I'd already opened presents over a birthday breakfast, including my own copy of Mario Smash Football which my sister-in-law had tracked down on the web (woo hoo!).

I was tempted not ot go to our church midweek 'life group' last night, but in the end we did, and I'm glad, because three people brought cake - including two home-made ones. I also got presents off Ian and Viv, including a Lego Chess Set featuring Lego Viking figures! (Viv also made one of the cakes!)

My facebook wall got plastered with messages throughout the day, and people sent me random 'gifts', like a birthday cupcake and a 1-Up mushroom.

Then today I got more cards in the post, a tub of Oreo minis with a card left for me on my desk (by my writing partner Justin), plus Clare gave me a present which had been tardy in arriving - a Threadless tee with a load of film spoilers on it, which was tres cool.

So all in all, I feel very blessed by people's kindness. Somehow, my life has become full of very wonderful people.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Shameful Birthday secret

It's my birthday today and this is a conversation I had this evening with Cathy.

Cathy: "Well, I suppose it is your birthday..."
Me: "Yay!"

And what was Cathy letting me do because it was my birthday? Well, we have Virgin Music on demand and she was letting me watch the video for All That She Wants by Ace of Base.

The shame.