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This is a great site. Young though it is, there is a healthy amount of content, keeping even those with the shortest attention span interested. There are several different elements to the site, some based almost exclusively around the extreme lifestyle and others geared specifically towards the equipment and actual completion of these alternative activities. The auction section that samheaton mentioned is a great idea, and allows you to be part of a community as well as get stuff cheaply!! Now you cannot ask for more than that!! I look forward to spending a lot more time on this site. I think that it is great already, but I think it is only going to get better.
Quite why Thor named his hammer Mjolnir I have no idea, but I can see why those legends at Newbery named this, the king of all things willow, the bat of bats after such a powerful weapon. This bat is just that, a weapon. I need hardly to lean into the ball and push away expecting a quick single to the fielder's wrong hand, only to realise that the ball has crashed to boundary and a sleepy round of applause ripples from the 'villagers' that are watching. This bat actually makes you feel like Thor. Eight feet tall and with a love for wenching. The bat itself looks like an almighty effort to wield, but nothing could be further from the truth. The boys at Newbery know their stuff and the pick up on my bat is like that of a bat half a pound lighter. What is more, once you let the boy rip, you will never want another bat again, flames shoot from the ball. On the downside, the bats do have a tendency to break quite quickly; I have go through three, and it is not as if they are cheap either, but usually, if they break very quickly, you can get a free replacement... (this has the advantage of going to Sussex to see your bat made to your specifications if you so desire). Batting with the Mjolnir is a joy to behold.
The simcity series brought the whole genre of God games to the attention of even the most ignorant of gamers, and since the simplistic and blocky original, the sequels have pushed the boundaries further and further. The graphics are now much more advanced and the whole atmosphere of your city is deeper and more realistic. The beauty of the original games was the simplicity of the control system and Sim City 3000 utilises the same basic premise. In accordance with the greater detail of the game, the controls are more detailed too, which is somewhat daunting to begin with, but with a bit of patience and some essential reading from the phat instruction booklet, you will soon be able to flex your social policy muscles and start building your dream cityscape. Even on the easiest level, this game presents a serious challenge. Buildings do not automatically 'top out' if you put them in a pukka place. Development is a tough process and will need constant attention to achieve the best results. To help you make the right decision, you have a large group of advisors, who double up as tutors on the finer and more subtle points of the game. They relate the feelings of your 'sims' (inhabitants) and allow you to balance up the morale of your city with the burdens of your budget. Sim City is not as accessible as its older siblings, but the possibilities afforded to you as an urban planner are infinite; all the more so for the connection with the Sim City website which allows you to customise your buildings and even gives you an opportunity to download the Architects' tool which alllows you to design your own 'pads'. One can start a city from scratch, take on a dwindling metropolis in one of the scenario options or watch as you destroy a famous 'real' city with the disasters tool. This game is literally bottomless and will provide unlimited interest for those so inclined. It takes a while to get into it
, but is well worth the struggle.
The first thing that hit me about Hong Kong was the stench that one can smell before the doors to the plane were opened. The spectacular old airport was situated adjacent to one of the world's biggest open sewers and, my god, do you know about it. However, as I realised after my extended stay there six years ago, it is probably just a Hong Kongese in-joke. I do not mean to give the wrong impression. I adored my time on the barren rock. I had barely been further than Bognor before I jetted off to the Orient and Hong Kong will always hold a place in my heart for precisely the reason that it gave me my first bittersweet taste of acute culture shock. The very nature of life on the island is such that you get pulled along by the adrenalin that courses through the very fabric of day to day living. Hong Kong is highly charged in every way, and those who stay there can rarely say that their time has been dull. As a traveller, it is expensive to say the least. The infamous ChungKing Mansions on Kowloon side have nightly 'chase the cockroach' races and they will still charge you about thirty quid for the pleasure. The YMCA, bastion of hostel hospitality worldwide is priced more like a good hotel at about £80 a night for certain rooms, but then they do have one of the best views of the harbour in Hong Kong. Money has a knack of disappearing fast, whether it be on expensive alcohol or 'cheap' designer clothing, the moths in the wallet will be dead before you find them - death by starvation. For this reason, Hong Kong is the place to go and binge for a short time. That way, you can enjoy it for all the good bits. I found that staying there longer than, say, a couple of weeks allowed you to see through the superficial gloss into the deeply superficial centre of Hong Kong. Money may make the world go round, but it makes the pearl of the orient spin like a top. This can be a sapping experience, especially if you are on a ti
ght budget. For all that though, Hong Kong has got so much going for it. From the fantastic shopping to the beauty of Victoria Peak, from the Star Ferry to the rustic beauty of the New Territories. Well worth a visit, but make sure you can afford to do it right.
I just love this restaurant. There is very little that I can say against it. The food is divine, the wine list impressive, the service attentive (if a little too camp) and the atmosphere at once intimate and open. The menu consists of a lord of the manor's dream; red meat cooked to your penchant, white meat so tender it will make your taste buds dance vegetarian dishes that make you wonder why you ever ate red or white meat. Every time that I have been there, I have been overwhelmed by the number of dishes that I would like to eat; this is certainly no restaurant to hurry the ordering process. Starters and desserts are worthy of as much attention as the mains. Prepare to leave feeling replete. The wine list is diverse and perfect for the menu. The house wine comes in two litre carafes and you are charged for what you drink, but if fine wine is your fancy then do not despair as there are some delectable vintage red and whites that are to die for. The restaurant is spread over three (or is it four) floors and each table has its own character. I have never sat in the same place at Maggie Jones and each meal has given me a different flavour of the M.J. experience. If I was to have any criticism it would be that the service can be erratic on rare occasions, but usually it is faultless, and there are far too many pros to condemn it on this slight nitpick. The bill can add up as well, but it is really up to you how much you spend. It is just that everything tastes so good you will want to savour every single course. As I said at the beginning, I just love this place, but I am not the only one, so ensure that you book in advance so as not to be disappointed.
Now, there are not many times that you turn up to a bar and can honestly say that the atmosphere has HONESTLY ruined your night. I walked into the Met bar and saw a man in skin tight leopard skin trousers rubbing himself in a most lascivious manner and then thrust his sweaty palpy arm around his 'lady' and licked her cheek. Some welcome. Not that this would have put me off necessarily, but I have rarely been confronted by such a collection of self important 'toffers' in my life. I had heard about this bar. Very exclusive, very high profile, very you get the picture. However, I have never been so let down in all my days. It looked like the 151 club on a bad day (i.e everyday) and yet people admit that the 1 dive 1 is pants (it just opens late and allows people in red jeans and brown suede brogues to talk about their salaries into the early hours). The Met bar has adopted this level of pretension but without any of the honesty, all of its customers seem to strut around trying to persuade each other that it is the best place on earth. Maybe, for them, it is, but I have rarely enjoyed myself less. Sure, you may bump into someone famous, but you will probably be stopped by their bodyguard before you get to see the whites of their eyes, which would be an achievement in itself, because I think there must have been a power cut the night I went... oh sorry.... it was meant to be atmospheric. I was lucky to see Sacha Baron Cohen, the alternative Staines 'chief', but only because I prevented him from getting into the lift. Maybe I saw it on a bad night, maybe I am a miserable bugger, but maybe the Met bar has been living off its reputation for too long. I have no doubt that it rocked once, but it reminded me of George Foreman coming out of retirement, overweight and failing to live up to the hype.
Of all the films that tend to rotate year after year and reappear during the festive period, The Italian Job is one that I do not groan at or try and cover in stodgy christmas pud. This masterpiece appears far from dated for the most part and the plot is so wonderful that you couldn't care less even if it were a sixties horror. Michael Caine has now earned himself a place in film history, both here and in America, but it was this film, among others, that secured his fame. His performance in The Italian Job amuses and chills simultaneously and the cockney tone that Caine is famous for is perfectly suited to his role as master criminal. From the opening moments to the pain of the ending, this film is driven by the Caine's character. Of course, without a humdinger of a script, Caine would have nothing with which to work. The screenplay of this film should be protected in the cinema hall of fame. The plot is second to none and the detail and humour inherent within it are perhaps the little things that make it so great. The film abounds with action and thrills and yet is far from a sixties version of the high budget Hollywood flashbang movies; this is quite simply a class act. Set in London and Italy (naturally) the film work is terrific. Slick editing and wonderful photography give the screenplay all the support it needs and the viewer just has to sit back and enjoy the ride. The Italian Job is a film that has everything for everyone. If you haven't seen it (I would be surprised) then cancel your dinner plans and watch it on video, better still, go and buy it so you can watch it whenever you want.
I love Mann films. He just creates atmospheres that make you sit on the edge of your seat, willing the next frame to come up and then the next and then the next. The Insider, based on a true story, expounds the start of the war against that tobacco companies in the U.S. It is a classic whistle blower narrative. Almost predictable at times, but I never really minded that throughout the 3 hour long film. The opening sequence highlights the director's ability to switch between 1st and 3rd person perspective and automatically pulls you in to the process of investigation that the film depicts. Short punchy editing gives The Insider endows it with a hectic almost nightmarish quality at times and this only goes to enhance the screenplay and the acting. Russell Crowe, the man of the moment in Hollywood, and Al Pacino, film icon in his own right, work well together. Crowe's quirky twitchy performance is punctuated with the class that he always seem to show (L.A.Confidential), and Pacino fits nicely into the role of investigative journalist, although I found it hard to distinguish his journalist from the policeman in Mann's last film Heat. On hearing the plot outline of The Insider, one might be put off; it doesn't sound like it is all that, but do not be deterred, this one is a beauty. I only wish that Michael Mann made films more often....
It is not often that one leaves the cinema wanting to 'seize the day' in true Dead Poets' fashion. Sam Mendes' film is one such experience. His debut film seems to meld his theatrical experience with the finest elements of cinematography. All individual performances are memorable, and reactions can range from a genuine belly laugh to the most acute catharsis. The screenplay portrays the sterility of suburban existence and yet attempts to preach a message of hope, in the end, rather one of pessimism. Or at least, that is how I saw it... One of its most impressive qualities is the wide range of reactions that people seem to have to this film. Some leave feeling slightly depressed, others leave, like myself, with a message of hope and surge of self-motivation. Either way, all people leave feeling glad that they have chosen to see American Beauty. Rarely do films of this ilk utilise the artistic possibilities of celluloid and it is precisely the art in Mendes' film that raises it above the range of Classic Hollywood schmaltsy soap-operas. This is a stunning film that will be enjoyed by all viewers, whether they are a bible of film knowledge or just out to watch a good yarn.
The playstation secured its position as games console of its generation by providing a balance between graphics, playability and speed. Gran Turismo represents the epitome of the playstation's capabilities. From the challenge of getting your racing licences, to the thrill of winning cups and medals in the high octane championships, this game picks you up and ruffles your hair, as if your were the Steve McQueen of cyberworld. The number of cars to choose from would satisfy the biggest autophile. One can rag a honda civic or scream in an A.C.Cobra. The tracks vary in difficulty and can, at times, become limited in their challenge. They do allow for wideboy wheel screeches and money pwer drifts, which makes up for the lack of choice. I was never most sure of the playstation's attraction than when I saw the opening sequence of Gran Turismo; things just got better after that.... Souped up motors and high-speed adrenaline rushes, this game maintains its place in my PSX hall of fame.