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Hurrah, we're all looking for easy money from the net, and now that I've received £20 I can recommend Myvoice as a simple earner, not enough to give up the day job, it's slow to earn but it's also incredibly simple to achieve. So what is it? It's a paid for survey site. You get points for completing market research surveys, which range in value from 5-500 points. Each point has a monetary value of 1p and when you have collected 2000 you can apply for payment which takes the form of vouchers. I'm not sure how this site achieves profitability in the long term but the blurb says that the site is run by a Japanese research company with a turnover of $50bn so the support looks to be there so lets get going. How do I join? Go to the homepage click on the register now button and you're asked to fill in the usual details: name, address e-mail?. And that's it you're ready to starting completing surveys and earning.. How do I earn? Well just by registering you've already got your 1st 50 points, and if you filled in your profile about interest, home, work, and internet use then you?ve earned another 48 points so you're off to a flyer, but from here on in it's a slow but steady crawl. Myvoice always has 4-7 topical surveys on their site, which are updated on a weekly basis so you only need to drop in once a week to pick up these points. The usual values of these are 10 points but they vary from 5-25, which you gain for answering about 8 multi-choice questions. Surveys of this type that I have taken recently are: Saving and Investing - is it a mugs game? How insured are you? Commonwealth Games Carnivore, omnivore or vegetarian? Commercial surveys are also sent on an irregular basis which are worth more usually 50 points for reviewing a manufacturer's advertising but I recently received a survey for 500 points for a detailed survey about potential futures of high street health centres which took about 40 minutes to complete. From the scale of these points you can see it's not a quick exercise to accumulate the 2000 points, it's taken me 8 months but it hasn't required much effort beyond clicking in for 10 minutes once a week. Show me the money When you have earned 2000 points, go to your account and ask to cash in your points. You don't get cash but you receive £20 worth of vouchers. The choice of vouchers is from Debenhams, Amazon, Asda, M&S, Boots, Virgin, Tesco, Sainsburys, plus numerous others so in this case vouchers are definitely worth having. Within a week the vouchers arrive in the post and off to the shops you go. Also if you're more charitable when you have 1000 points you can arrange to donate your points to charity but it looks like you have to contact them specially for this. What else has the site got to offer? Every topical survey you take earns you 1 entry into their monthly draws which has a prize of £1000. A list of winners are on the site and this has a genuine feel to it. There is also a forum on each survey which allows people to vent their views, and this is now picking up to be a lively discussion board on the more contentious issues. Ease of Use The site loads quickly, the surveys are easy to complete, and the menus clearly take you to where you want to go - so very simple In summary this site isn't going to make you a millionaire but it does pay out so its worth investing a few minutes a week to earn a bit of pocket money
By the law of diminishing returns this will hopefully be the movie that drives the Jurassic Park Franchise into extinction. Don’t get me wrong I loved Jurassic Park, and liked the Lost World but this 2nd sequel is just plain silly with such major holes in the plot and lack of tension that even with the brain switched to neutral this is a hard movie to really enjoy. Ok lets describe the plot, if that’s not too strong a word. The action is set on Isla Sorna, the same Island as in the Lost World. The basic premise is that a 10-year-old child gets marooned on the Island and his divorced parents (William H Macy and Tea Leoni) trick Dr Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and his protege Billy (Alessandro Nivola) into accompanying them and 3 mercenaries to try to find the kid. Naturally it all goes pear shaped and the cast find themselves on the run from various monsters. Not a great plot, but probably no worse than the previous films so where does this go wrong - basically there’s very few moments of tension or surprise in this film. Unlike the 1st film it’s obvious where the divide is in the cast between those who are dino-dinner (the mercenaries) and those who will make it out alive (the rest of the cast) so the tension is hard to build up. This means that the emphasis must be on an imaginative use of the dinosaurs but 2 previous films and assorted BBC documentaries means they just don’t have the same element of originality. The film tries by introducing a couple of new monsters a Spinosaurus (think T-Rex with a big nose and a fin on his back) and the flying Pteranodons and also relies heavily on everyone’s favourite Velociraptors but they essentially just rehash previous movies. The movie goes through the usual chase sequences and then suddenly runs out of ideas so the US marines arrive and everybody lives happily ever after. What to say about the cast : Sam Neill is probably the only one who comes out of t his with a positive mark, possibly because his role is a continuation from the 1st movie and is better written, Macy and Leoni are done no favours as basically a screwball divorced couple with the will they won’t they get back together as the only attempt to give their characters any depth – and even this is poorly acted. Nivola fairs even worse basically a bit of daredevil screen fluff to keep the girlfriend happy while the boys look at the monsters. What really sealed the fate of this movie for me however was the enormous holes in the plot I’ll try to list the ones which ruined it for me but feel free to think of some more: At the end of the movie we see the Pteranodons leaving the Island and they are the only creatures to do this. But at the beginning of the film something attacks a boat from which the kid is paragliding. The kid is attached to his stepfather when paragliding and they both land safely. By the time everyone else lands the stepdad is dead in his harness, but not eaten, while the kid has got away. The kid survives 8 weeks – alone – when anyone else is eaten very swiftly Oh and he doesn’t need a wash or have a hair out of place Back to the Pteranodons – they are sealed in a giant aviary without food but have managed to survive and breed. And at the end of the film the Pteranodons fly between some heavily armed helicopters and everyone just says – how sweet. But the real killer is the fact that they’ve turned the Velociraptors from a gang of ruthless killers into a bunch of lizards only interested in retrieving an egg that Billy stole, and are quite happy to let Grant just give back the egg without ripping him to shreds. I don’t believe that either Michael Crichton or Stephen Speilberg were actively involved in the making of the movie and the lack of the joint creators of this fra nchise shows through in the quality of the movie. Whilst Apparently the critics rated this movie as a return to form to me it was just a disappointing (hopefully) finale to the series
These days Robbie Williams is the ultimate Pop Idol. Its hard to believe that when he left Take That in 1995 no-one thought he’d make it. He made a heroic attempt to prove all the doubters correct becoming more famous for his over indulgence of drink, drugs and pies than for his performing ability. His only single was a cover of George Michael’s Freedom, which if I remember correctly was beaten to #1 by some instantly forgettable mush from, horror of horrors, Gary Barlow. However he was laying the groundwork for future success by ditching the pretence of being a pop brat and mixing with the rock aristocracy of the time – Oasis. Whether Noel actually gave him any song writing lessons may be open to question but the sound of his 1st album is definitely tuneful melodic indie rock ….. ring any bells? The real boost came in 1997 when he was introduced to Guy Chambers with whom he writes all his songs. Their partnership was a meeting of minds both seeking that extra something and they connected straight away and managed to write their 1st song “South of the Border” within ½ hour of meeting. The 1st album Life thru a Lens was released in late 97 but was not a massive success initially. The 1st 3 singles Old before I die, Lazy Days and South of the Border reached #2,8 and 14 respectively and while this is impressive it didn’t live up to the hype. All that changed with Angels, it may only have reached #7 but everyone knows this song and Robbie’s career went into hyperdrive The 1st album shows Robbie trying to develop his sound with mixed results, Song by song: - Lazy days A definite statement of intent, ditching all Take That nice boy band pop traits, and opting instead for an Indie-Lite feel with 2 chord fuzz tone guitars over which Robbie croons a song of hope and change. Life Thru a Lens The trials and tribulations of being a celebrity, ah the poor po ppit. This sounds horribly 80’s and vocally reminds me of Billy Joel’s “we didn’t start the fire” Ego A Go-Go Musically this starts and ends sounding like Beck at his grooviest and in the middle is a bile filled rock out. This seems to be about his former life in Take That and his dislike for a certain portly member of that band whose initial are GB and rubbing his nose on it. Angels The one we’re all waiting for, the song that was “Our Song” for a million relationships, launched Robbie into the big league and is murdered at every Karaoke party and Pop Idols audition. It would be hard to pick 10 decent ballads but this would definitely make it, it’s still incredibly beautiful: mellow piano led verses, soaring chorus and an aching guitar break. As he strives to sing the “through it all..” you can see that whilst proficient Robbie isn’t a great singer but somehow it feels just right. South of the Border From the highs to the lows, late 70’s rock with midnight piano and Robbie’s rhyming Simon style of vocals – very forgettable. Old Before I Die Whatever happened to the Who’s rock star motto? This however is an excellent song all indie guitars and another big chorus which again highlights Robbie’s distinctive voice. One of Gods Better People Another ballad, this time Robbie accompanied only by an acoustic guitar. Perfectly pleasant but in comparison to the rest of the album it appears to be the unfinished article as if they were laying down a guide track but then stopped. Let Me Entertain You This could be Robbie’s theme son, and personally I can’t separate the song from the Kiss styled video. Robbie is more than just a singer his aim is to entertain, and he achieves it in spades. A great rock song – funky drumming, a blasting horn section, rolling stone piano and crashing g uitar this is the sound of Robbie and co letting rip, having a great time and making the best song on the album. Killing Me This one bugs the hell out of me; it sounds so like another song that I can’t place – all help gratefully accepted. This has a mellow vibe, prompted by a string section to which RW can croon to. Clean The current talk is that Robbie will record the last song Ian Dury ever wrote. If his ability to do it justice is in doubt check this track out which is in Blurs country house mockney style and carried off with panache, if only the Stoke accent would go, Baby Girl Window A lullaby for his goddaughter to end with, this is an incredibly fragile song with a simple acoustic riff and laid back vocals of a touching love At 12:47 there is a bonus track which is an unaccompanied poem about a former teacher who thought Robbie should concentrate on something more serious rather than becoming a song and dance man. Well unlike millions of others Robbie had his break and made it work for him and this comes across as a petulant schoolboy rant in a schoolboy poem. Definitely missable. The packaging is quite good: it features all the lyrics, and the credits are interesting to see his thank you to the other Take That’ers plus his list of celebrity mates of the time: The Gallaghers, Elton John and Anna Friel. The pictures are kind of freaky though as they are meant to show the hassle of being a popstar but all I can think is how young (and poorly dressed) Robbie looks – thank god the skinhead looks gone. I remember a review of all the ex-Take That 1st solo albums which compared Gary Barlow to a chipolata, Mark Owen to a good pork sausage and this album to a piece of Rump steak. In truth this is more of a lamb chop – good to listen to, a few bits of gristle, but not quite of the high quality which Robbie reached with his later albums.
I know I’m going to get roasted for this but here we go .. Why is chick-lit so dull? Chick flicks come in 2 varieties the strong female characters in a conventional story or the type that concentrates on characterisation, examining a group of individuals relatively mundane lives in great detail. To me chick-lit seems to be all the latter (with the glorious exception of Stephanie Plum). Looking for something to read I was browsing through my wife’s books - they are all mixed up but it’s obvious whose is whose. Anyway browsing V’s books I saw in vivid pink and yellow the title “Tom, Dick and Debbie Harry”. Well the mention of the rock goddess plus the vibrant colours made me give this book a try, failing to remember the old adage of never judging a book by its cover. First things first – Debbie Harry doesn’t appear! The book is set in Tasmania and focuses on the dysfunctional lives (why is no one ever normal?) of a group of friends over the course of a year. The main characters and their position in the grand scheme are as follows: Pippin: She’s the drummer in local band “We’ve got Blondie’s Drumsticks and we’re going to use them”. She’s also a Lesbian who’s in love with White witch Wendy who’s also fancied by….. Harry: Bank clerk and lead singer in the band. After failing to connect with Wendy he starts writing agony aunt columns which he sends off to someone big in the publishing world who just happens to be his ex- sister in law…. Bronte: who will soon lose her job over a dodgy banana cobbler and has a personality crisis resulting in her seeing the ghost of her old horse which she co-owned with her ex-husband …. Richard: known as Dr Dick for short he’s the sensible one, think Ross from friends without a dodgy haircut. He’s just returned from England bringi ng back with him an English rose to be his bride…. Sarah: she’s not sure whether she made the right move in relocating to the outback, or even if he’s the man she wants to get married to, not when she’s met a gorgeous hunk who happens to be Richard’s best man … Tom: who fancies Sarah as well but has a history of drunkenness and has been reformed by being taken in by Annie a sculptress who’s old enough to be his mother but is now suffocating him. Does this make it sound interesting, maybe it does but in fact nothing really happens people drift together then apart again but whilst real it doesn’t necessarily make interesting reading. It’s well written with the personalities picked apart to show the motivation for their action with the occasional comic touch usually revolving around Harry. But it’s hard to empathise with these essentially flat characters and as they say in the states “Where’s the Beef”. This is just a nothing book that just doesn’t get going or really make me want to turn the pages, and I certainly won’t take in off the shelf again.
Morrison, Manzarek, Kreiger & Densmore : The Doors. Individually even Jim Morrison probably wouldn’t have been a success but the fusion of all their abilities and musical styles made a sound that still sounds truly unique. The majority of their is driven by Manzarek’s keyboards assisted by subtle flourishes from Kreiger and sold beats and theatrical flourishes from Densmore over which Morrison’s lyrics laden with mysticism added a dangerous edge in the hippie era of love and peace. From an inspired residency at the famous Whiskey-A-Go-Go club through their 1st three albums The Doors could do no wrong However in 1969 it went pear-shaped The Soft Parade album a more experimental affair was poorly received and Morrison was arrested for exposing himself at a Florida concert. In 1970 they went back to basics and returned to their blues roots with “Morrison Hotel”. Commercially this was seen as a return to form but my own view is that the band weren’t firing on all cylinders. So whilst there is no obviously indulgent piece (such as Horse Latitude) too many songs miss the mark and fail to really engage my attention for me to consider this a masterpiece. In the approved style the songs are :- Roadhouse Blues The best song on the album, as the title says this is a simple blues song, but with added balls. Morrison’s deep bass voice rolls out a poetic line that is then mirrored by a mouth organ resulting in a stretching of the song although not to the epic proportions one expects from the band. 9½/10 Waiting for the Sun 2 songs playing separately, and then combining, a gentle harpsichord and a dirty rock riff. 9/10 You make me Real Driven by a Manzarek’s Honky Tonk piano this is 50’s style rock’n’roll, and a good example of how The Doors take a musical style and make it all their own. 8/10 Peace Frog This is the kind of song that T he Inspiral Carpets based their whole career on, add a shuffle beat and this could be a baggy anthem. Again Manzarek makes the song with little organ breaks to keep the straight ahead rock number moving at a fast speed 8/10 Blue Sunday A delicate love song, held together by Morrison’s voice with the others providing lullaby style support, pleasant but unmemorable 7/10 Ship of Fools A hint of latin jazz and country in this otherwise straightforward rock number which rolls like the sea between crescendos and mellow. 6½/10 Land Ho! A jaunty song, with a sea shanty air to a typical Doors backing. 6½/10 The Spy A slow burn blues number with a dash of jazz. Features creeping guitars and alehouse piano over which Morrison’s voice oozes like warm treacle – class. 9/10 Queen of the Highway I’ve listened to this several times wondering why it doesn’t jump out and the only thing I can think of is that this verges on the border of easy with its jazzy noodling feel. 5½/10 Indian Summer Whilst associated with the hippies, musically The Doors very rarely played stereotypical hippy music. This is about as near as they get with mellow eastern tinged tune pushed way into the background over which Morrison sings. 6½/10 Maggie M’Gill The final track is another blues belter with a stuttering thumping rhythm section, but again it doesn’t light my fire possibly because the lyrics, which always border on pretentious, don’t seem to fit 6/10 So looking at the final scores on the Doors we can see that this isn’t a classic album, 3 tracks would make a best of, a further 3 would make the best of the rest but the final 5 would be doomed to be only listened to on this album. Why does it fall down? It lacks the cutting edge of previous albums seeming to be satisfied with songs as just support for Morrison’s poetry whereas at their best the music is as important as the lyrics with Messieurs Krieger, Manzarek and Densmore as vital to the sound and imagery as Morrison. The failure of this is that there is no 7 minute + epic song on this album which maybe shows that the band themselves knew they were lacking in that vital spark of inspiration to raise their game to the level of greatness they were capable of. Having said all that, this is by no means a failure and worth a listen, although maybe not as an introduction to the band. It still has an edge to it which means it still stands head and shoulders above most of the pap that’s polluting the charts today.
For all those singletons and DINKys out there this car is not for you. If I was still in your shoes I would be looking at either a nippy sports car or a hot hatch, and in the dim and distant past have owned both of these. However as the sprogs appear you have the choice of either being very cramped or buying a new car, with an estate, 4WD or MPV being the available options. Since I don’t live on a farm, and can’t afford one I didn’t consider 4WD and driving a minibus, oops I mean MPV, still seems a sad thing I decided to look at estates only. My last 4 cars have all been VWs (an original Beetle, and 3 Golfs) and I’ve been more than happy with them all, plus the garage is the nearest to my house I decided to start looking at VWs and got no further. I chose the Passat 1.8T with optional extras of a dashboard cd player (does anyone now listen to tapes) and climate control. Sporty wheels and trims just seem such a waste of money. Looking on the web site these cost £18k new but you can probably pick up a T reg. old shaped one like mine for £10k. Even used this is still a lot of dosh so what do you get for your money? I’ll give you the official spec and then translate it into what this really means. Max Speed: 135mph Well it’s unlikely that you’ll need this and I certainly haven’t tested it, but what I can say is that it feels very comfortable all the way up to 85mph, and there’s enough oomph that when other cars slow down on a steep hill climb this one keeps on accelerating. Acceleration: 0-50 in 6.4 seconds Can’t vouch for the exact time but my boy racer tendencies do get the better of me and it does accelerate from the lights. It won’t beat the Porsche but you will beat the wide boy in the souped up Ford. Fuel Consumption: 11.4 litres per 100 kilometres in urban conditions. This works out at roughly 13p per mile at current prices (70p per litre), and on motorway driving I reckon that this drops to below 10p per mile. Load Capacity I’ve searched the booklet I can’t find the exact measurements but it’s sufficient to carry all the paraphernalia you need when you travel with two under 4s. Just. Also you can get a roof box as an optional extra if required. Other points to note are that the seats are very comfortable, and the driving position is adaptable for most people. All round visibility is good although guessing where the back of the car is when reversing into a space is an acquired trick. We’ve only had 2 problems with the car (touch wood) The 1st is that the key can be pulled out before the ignition is fully disengaged which causes the alarm to go off. Until we realised what the problem was this was annoying as I looked like a car thief breaking in. The 2nd is a bit of a mystery in that the front passenger door sometimes refuses to close, but then 5 minute later works again. VW can’t work it out so all suggestions gratefully received. So whilst not my dream car (a vintage E-Type rings my bell) as a practical solution to the kids and associated crap problem it’s a winner and I would definitely consider one again for my next car.
I read in the paper that before his untimely death Douglas Adams had been struggling for 11 years on and off to write the 6th and as it proved final book in the Hitchhiker Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy. On his PC were numerous unfinished drafts none of which he was happy with – and I believe that a version of these, still unfinished, will be published with other of his works in the near future. Possibly the reasons for this massive example of writer’s block can be seen in Mostly Harmless the 5th book in the trilogy. Mostly Harmless as well as being the title of the book seems to be his attitude whilst writing the book. It has a feeling of being written at a publisher’s request whilst Adams looks as if he is using it as a way to end the series for good – probably why book 6 was proving so hard. The plot ignores the previous book – So Long and Thanks for all the Fish (the best in the series) apart from a quick reference to remove Fenchurch and reduce the plot to its basic characters Ford, Arthur and Trillian. The basic idea is then to think of a way to kill everyone off once and for all – solved by the ingenious means of getting the Vogans to destroy the Earth and all of its inhabitants in every parallel universe. The 4 main characters (there are 2 Trillians) have separate stories which interweave until they all neatly combine as the 4 meet up in a night club in New York. Tricia McMcMillan’s story Tricia is Trillian in a different dimension where she didn’t get on Zaphod’s spaceship. She now makes her living as a TV presenter and jumps at the opportunity to meet real aliens, the Grebulons who live on a planet beyond Pluto in a high tech world which they have unfortunately forgotten how to work. The Grebulons, whose favourite hobbies are astrology and watching daytime TV, want Tricia to program them a personnel horoscope based on their position from the sun – only the pre sence of the Earth causes their horoscope to look very bad. Trillian’s story More of a cameo really, but she does introduce Arthur to his daughter Random. Not that he was anyway involved in the conception. He donated sperm to earn money for space flights. Trillian used it as they were the only humans left in their dimension. Arthur’s Story After years of space travelling Arthur crashes on a prehistoric planet. And despite all the space age technology he uses he doesn’t have any idea of how it works so he turns into the sandwich maker – but a very good sandwich maker. Eventually he bumps into Ford. Ford’s Story Ford ransacks the offices of the guide and sets himself up with an unlimited expense account. He also steals the prototype new guide which works in all dimensions, including time but which already has some hidden programming This book is a shadow of the former glory of this series, the characters act as expected but you don't really empathise with them as in previous books and the humour although not absent appears to have lost its ability to bounce like a rubber ball in unexpected directions. There are moments of comic inspirational present such as Elvis’s burger bar and the perfectly normal beasts, but not enough to recommend the book as a stand alone read. If you haven’t read any Hitchhiker books this isn’t the place to start, if you’re a fan of the series read it anyway for completeness sake and then go back and read your favourite book in the series so that you remember the best of Douglas Adams.
Well I must be one of the few people who haven’t seen either Saving Private Ryan or the TV spin off Band of Brothers, so I’ve come to this film fresh without any preconceptions of how the film should look. The only thing I did expect was that it would be vastly different from the 60’s films that regularly appear on daytime TV to fill the hours up before children’s TV start – and thankfully I was right. The 1st thing you notice in this film is that there are no Americans in the plot. The film is based on the true-life story of the siege of Stalingrad by the Germans, which means that the Russians are the heroes. And the Russians are played by Brits whilst Americans play the Germans – how this idea was ever sold to Hollywood I don’t know but thankfully Paramount threw $70m at this movie to make it truly realistic and gripping. The film follows a young Russian soldier Vassili Zaitsev (Jude Law) who is sent into the maelstrom of a desperate attack on the German line and is the sole survivor left in no mans land. There he meets Political Officer Danilov (Joseph Fiennes) and proves his sharpshooting skills. Desperate to raise the morale of the Russian troops Danilov writes about Zaitsev and turns him into a hero, and in return Zaitsev is promoted into a sniper unit. Zaitsev proves very successful both as a sniper and as a hero to the Russian troops, so the Germans bring in their own expert sniper Major Konig (Ed Harris) to track him down. The story follows the cat and mouse struggle of these 2 protagonists as they engage in an increasingly desperate duel to the death, mirroring the wider conflict of the 2 armies battling each other to satisfy the monster egos of Stalin and Hitler. There is a sub-plot revolving around a love triangle between Zaitsev, Danilov and Tania (Rachel Weisz), with Tania wanting to be a frontline soldier with Zaitsev, whilst Danilov wants her to be tucked away with him. Enough abo ut the plot as I don’t want to give any more away. What I will say is that is was definitely gripping, and even my wife, who usually hates war films, was enthralled for all 2hours 11 minutes. The film really evoked the horrors of modern warfare right from the start with German plans strafing Russian conscripts in small boats crossing the river into Stalingrad. The conscripts were then given 1 gun between 2 (the 2nd man picks it up after the 1st is killed) and then sent to attack the Germans across open no-mans land. When the attack breaks down the Russian leader shoots his retreating troops so that none of the conscripts are left alive – truly horrifying madness. The sniper scenes also have the feel of realism with the waiting as equally pronounced as the kill followed by a frantic relocation to another spot now that your location is known. Between sorties the troops, both male and female, are billeted in underground bunkers and their forced gaiety each night upon surviving another day is well portrayed with the single stolen sex scene between Tania and Vassili showing how tenderness can survive in the most appalling circumstances. All the lead actors were excellent, especially Ed Harris who brought a rare emotional depth to what is effectively the chief villain. The only poor performance comes from Bob Hoskins as the Russian General Krushkev who seems intent on trying to steal every scene he appears in but comes across as just a poor hammy actor. The director Jean-Jaques Annuard (The name of the rose) has created an excellent picture with the set looking like a war-torn city, and gained compelling performances from his cast.. The violence is graphical but not overpowering and his control of the tension is masterly so that you are constantly on the edge of your seat. The only 2 bum notes in the film are - both Law and Weisz speak with cut glass English accents which seems strangely out of plac e for a Russian peasant -the last 2 minutes with a happy romantic ending seemingly tacked haphazardly on the end which must have been done to satisfy some studio bigwig – I await the directors cut with interest. Overall an excellent film which is a must see.
Stanley Kubrick’s last film. Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise getting their kit off. On the face of it this should have all the ingredients to be an excellent film. Kubrick is one of the best directors of the last 30 years, Cruise is a box office idol, Kidman is completely gorgeous, throw in a suspected murder and a large helping of soft porn and you would think this would be superb. You’d be wrong. The major shortfall is the plot, or lack of one. The basic story is that Cruise and Kidman play a happily married couple with 1 child. At a party Cruise catches a drunken Kidman flirting with someone but says he’s ok with it as he’s sure that Kidman won’t do anything. Next Kidman gets stoned and announces that a year ago she had a one-night stand. Cruise gets upset and wanders into the night with a desire to get his end away. Cue various offers from female friends and prostitutes that he can’t bring himself to follow through with. He then crashes a very civilised orgy but is exposed (not literally) as an impostor but an unknown girl offers to take his punishment. Next morning she’s dead and Cruise wants to find out how and why. And next…….. nothing really. The film’s taken 2½ hours to get this far and can’t be bothered to go any further. The film is so long as Kubrick stretches out every scene in an effort to crank up the tension levels but for that to work you need to either – a/ care for the characters b/ have a scary bad guy or c/ Have some big action scene pay-offs and this movie lacks all 3. Tom Cruise proves that for all his matinee idol looks he can’t carry a film where acting rather than action is a requirement. His acting comes across as particularly wooden as he is clearly unable to portray any emotions - not a top gun in this film. Note for the girl’s Tom keeps his boxers on at all times. Nicole Kidman is wasted. As she’s proved in Moulin Rouge, the Others and previously in Dead Calm she is a very talented actress. Her 2 major scenes in this film are drunk and stoned and I guess she’s a clean living type of girl as neither ring quit true. The rest of the time she’s just asked to be gorgeous and suggestive. Note for the boys Nicole strips on several occasions. Regarding Kubrick’s direction, its hard to be constructive as the film as a whole lacks a point of interest. All you can say favourably is that its beautifully shot with the scenes carefully constructed but as a the last film he made before his death its probably not the one he would wish to be remembered for. What about the sex scenes? Well there’s a lot of naked flesh on show but its all done in such a way that it is actually quite unerotic. The orgy scene has everyone naked apart from a range of silly off putting masks, which is too absurd even for channel 5, and lots of huffing and puffing, but always with head or limb strategically covering the action. The best thing about the movie was the score. Chris Isaak’s “Baby did a bad bad thing” is a down dirty song which sums up the mood of the film, whilst the original score features the scariest theme since psycho as a single note on a piano is relentlessly repeated with volume the key to tension control. When anyone involved with this film is writing their CV it’s a safe bet that this won’t feature. Whilst not an outright stinker the amount of talent and money thrown at the project should have created a far more memorable picture.
For those in the know Fleetwood Mac has had numerous forms the most successful of which was the Rumours period AOR super-stardom featuring Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie. This op has nothing to do with them. This greatest hits package is dedicated to the 1st incarnation of the Mac. They were one of the prime movers in the British Blues boom at the end of the 60’s and featured drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie the only constants in all the Mac’s line ups plus 3 lead guitarists – Peter Green, Danny Kirwan and Jeremy Spencer. Peter Green was undoubtedly the star, with his fluid guitar style that varied from very mellow to blistering rock. The stress of leading the band was to take its toll on all 3 guitars with Green losing it after an acid trip, Jeremy Spencer disappearing in mid tour to join the children of God religious cult, and Danny Kirwan eventually being fired as stress, alcohol and drugs took their toll. Song by Song The Green Manalishi (with the 2 pronged crown) 7/10 Conceived as a result of Peter Green’s nightmares and featuring him screaming by the end of the song this alternatively rocks out and noodles off as the rhythm section of Fleetwood and McVie produce a tremendous blues rock riff over which Peter Green effortlessly adds finesse and some throaty vocals. Oh Well pt 1 10/10 Pure magic white boy blues. A simple repetitive blues riff starting on acoustic guitar being picked up by the rest of the band, gaining momentum until it suddenly stops and Green sings 2 unaccompanied lines “Don’t ask me what I think of you, I may not give the answer that you want me to” Before the acoustic guitar picks up the riff again. Oh Well pt 2 3/10 B-side to part 1 as it wouldn’t fit on the same side of a 7” single. This is basically a bit up atmospheric noodling with Spanish gui tar, cello and recorder and not particularly enthralling. Shake your Money Maker 7/10 Simple 50’s styled Chicago blues with a driving rhythm and classic slide guitar. Need your love so bad 9/10 This is a slow burn song with clean picked guitar and sweeping strings adding to the soulful feel of aching for love lost Rattle Snake Shake 8/10 Hard core blues with the rhythmic chords gradually building in intensity set against a laid back vocal. Dragonfly 5/10 A laid back complatative song with a gentle chord playing over the top, but the signs are not good as both Green and Spencer had left the band and this is all standard mellow stuff and doesn’t jump out to grab the listener. Black Magic Woman 5/10 Covered by Santana, features big tub drumming and fluid guitar runs, and whilst the Mac’s 1st hit for me it just doesn’t really hit the spot. Albatross 10/10 The song everyone will know, cymbals like waves, a simple rhythm and the Mac’s 3 guitars intertwining beautifully to stretch the notes round each other into a simple relaxed sound. Man of the World 10/10 I challenge you to name a sadder song, the maudlin guitars really do weep in a poignant song where Green explores his feelings of lack of self belief, which mirrored his own drug fuelled decline a couple of years later. Stop Messin’ Round More simple driving blues to tap your feet to with solid rhythm and a banging piano, pumping horns and a simple guitar lead. Love that Burns 7/10 Featuring Christine Perfect on piano (later to marry McVie and feature in the latest version of the Mac) is another graceful slow burner that allows space for the blues to breathe. This is a fine monument for the band showing several sides of their styles, progressing from covering or mimicking their blues heroes to developing a blues rock style of their own and showing a more mellow side which could almost classify as the dreaded AOR of future Mac generations. Buy it and you won’t be disappointed as Oh Well, Albatross and Man of the World are all classics, whilst the majority of the rest of the tracks are also good.
Well this is the 4th book in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy, so it’s a bit of an oddity already, What’s even odder is that Hitchhikers is primarily known as a lunatic spin on sci-fi conventions and yet this is more of a romantic novel. No come back, it may be romance but the mind that thought up the fact that the Earth is a giant computer run by mice trying to find the question of life the universe and everything to which the answer is 42 isn’t going to write a conventional Barbara Cartland bodice ripper. The book starts with our hero Arthur Dent being deposited back on Earth after years travelling the vast reaches of space, which is a tad strange considering the Earth was destroyed by the Vogons in the 1st book. He hitchhikes back to his house that hasn’t been destroyed after all and resumes his life, except on the journey home he’s seen a girl’s photograph and fallen in love. He eventually bumps into the women of his dreams – Fenchurch - named, like Brooklyn Beckham, after the place she was conceived, unfortunately in this case the ticket queue at the tube station. After several false starts they eventually hit it off when Arthur shows Fenchurch how to fall without hitting the ground and disappear into the sky to amaze air passengers with their version of the mile high club. There are little performances from Ford and Marvin who are really only there to tie the book into the rest of the series and a couple of fine cameos: The Rain God who is always being rained on and knows 231 different types of rain Wonko the Sane who live in an inside out house so he doesn’t have to enter the asylum, but like Arthur and Fenchurch knows the last message of the dolphins. We also get to know God’s final message to creation. From a judge a book by its cover viewpoint search the charity shops and find an old copy it will be black with a small picture of a sealion on the front and somehow this seems illogical yet somehow correct. Newer copies just look a bit of a mess and somehow less friendly and readable. In summary whilst not feeling as one with the previous books this is actually the best in the series, with less tangential lunacy and more gentle humour plus more rounded characterisations and a better plotted plot. PS The Dolphin’s message is hidden in the title of the book PPS in case you’re wondering about God’s final message…… …. Go read the book
Like many others I have pondered over how do you choose the 10 best singles. The only solution I could find was to actually dig out all my singles and pick my 10 faves. So this isn’t necessarily the top10 songs of all time, but the best of what I frittered my money on. This means that the choice is mainly from my teenage years from 1978 to 1986 when my musical tastes were born and are invariably on 7” vinyl. Luckily this was a good time to be a music fan the period going from punk to new wave to new romantic to dance plus loads of good pop records. Since then I haven’t stopped buying records but being more mature (I think) I tend to buy albums. And while albums are great they’re different the joy of a single is 3 odd minutes of pure pleasure and then just hitting the repeat button until the record is changed for the next fave. So the top 10 in no particular order is Come back my Love –Darts Mid 70’s rock’nroll revival. This starts off with 1 unaccompanied verse before the bassman joins in and the music kicks off. This is basic rock’n’roll fun and simple and 25 years after I heard it this is one of the few songs I can still sing all the words to without being prompted by the music. This is extra special because I used to sing this to my babes instead of a traditional lullaby and it doesn’t seem to have harmed them. Oblivion – Terrorvision One of the 2 records that breaks my rule about the 7 inch single, being one of the few cd singles I possess which reminds me of buying my 1st flat and moving into it with my fiancée and bouncing round the front room. This is a glorious slab of glam metal starting with 2 crashing chords before breaking into a doo wop style vocals, and big riffs throw in a couple of couple of metal breaks which dissolve into silly guitar runs and you have a really fun record which can’t help but put a smile on your face. The Special AKA Live EP – The Specials Happy school days, you were either into 2-tone or rockabilly and I had my loafers and Sta-press present and correct. This shows us the magic of 2-tone’s punk /ska crossover with a live recording with 1 original and 4 covers. The covers Guns of Naverone, Longshot kick the bucket, Liquidator, and skinhead moonstomp are all 60’s ska classics with natty rhythms and classic hammond and brass leads and you can’t help but skank. The lead track Too much too young is a classic- an uptempo ska led by Terry Hall’s deadpan vocals, with JB rimshots and Jerry Dammers Hammond adding a unique sound – this is the 1 band I regret never having seen live it must have been a truly sweaty experience St Valentines Day Massacre EP – Motorhead / Girlschool I remember that we use to have a record deck in the dining room at my parents and my brother and myself took turns to pick the music to listen to over dinner. I can’t remember but I bet this went down a storm - the lead track is please don’t touch an old Johnny Kidd and the Pirates cover but in these hand it turns into a revved up dirty tart of a song. Lemmy’s throaty vocals are offset by Kellys more girlie tone but both bands rock like buggery making a superb racket that few bands can match, whilst being a cover it stops short of all the usual metal excesses. Sea Cruise – Sax of Soul featuring Harlem Jon I won this as a booby prize at a fair and took it home out of curiosity and it’s a real gem that I keep digging out. Imagine a 60’s soul revue but the only instruments allowed are saxophones. A big bass one keeps the rhythm while the tenor picks the melody with a true soul brother singing. Sounds daft – sounds great. Jibaro Not actually sure who this is by, but is co-produced by Paul Oakenfield. This reminds me of 1 summer at college with its Balearic beat feel of su mmer. This has a distinctly Latin feel with a few words “Jibaro -–come on lets go” all stretched out as if the singer doesn’t know English. A perfect party record for when the sun is shining. She sells Sanctuary – The Cult This is classic college disco music, which I remember bouncing to and shouting at the top of my inebriated voice. The opening guitar motif still sends a shiver down the spine before the rest of the band kicks in. Ian Astbury’s voice then chants through the song punctuated by the original motif and the 2 jangly choppy notes between verses. Reet Petite – Jackie Wilson I knew the song title from Dexy’s before I knew the song. This was re-released in the early 80’s as the tune to an advert I can’t remember and had a plasticine cartoon video but it’s the rolling of the rrrr’s in Reet petite that makes the 60’s soul so special. TV – Flying Lizards No special attachments just a special record. The only way I can describe this is it sounds like the bit in changing rooms where everything goes into fast forward. Simple hihat drums and a simple 4 note keyboard motif over which a girl sings in a voice which is an incredible French Sloan accent about a white convertible. Throw in a few bleeps and a mans voice saying “I think you’re very” which goes into the fade out and this is an another lost gem. Tainted Love – Soft Cell The other rule breaker in that this has to be the 12” where tainted love segues into where did our love go. This Classic 80’s electro pop was huge and reminds me of youth club discos. Where this was one of the few records that the lads were allowed to dance to without loosing their cool. Hopefully this list has managed to amuse you, I thoroughly enjoyed going back in time and playing all my old singles - and all these songs still have it.
Don’t you want me baby. Don’t you want me Whoa! Everyone of a certain age will recognise those words from “Don’t you want me” the massive Xmas 1981 #1 taken from the classic Human League album Dare. What most people won’t know is that the League had been around for several years beforehand in a different guise and released 2 excellent albums Reproduction and Travellogue. The 1st incarnation of the league consisted of synth players Ian Craig Marsh and Martyn Ware who went on to form BEF and Heaven 17, Adrian Wright who provided the visual effects and vocalist Phil Oakey. Even at this stage as a live act they were distinctive with the sci-fi visuals, 2 stationary synth players and Oakey with piles of slap on and the famous haircut – bobbed on the left and cut short on the right. Musically the divisions that later broke the band were there from the very beginning with Marsh and Ware having a distinct austere sound where the music was distant and futuristic whereas Oakey had a pop edge. But it is this contrast that adds to the drama of this 1st album with its combination of dance rhythms, big music, trite lyrics, and Oakey’s welcoming voice. Track by track: Almost Medieval – A metronomic beat, followed by a fanfare and then the crashing synths. The synths essentially provide an incessant rhythm with the odd glittery sheen as well whilst Phil Oakey’s voice provides the human contrast – imagine Kraftwork if they’d been bought up in Sheffield. The lyrics seem to be about the madness of modern life but on the other hand they could be complete tosh but they fit the alien feel of the music Circus of Death – The music washes over you in waves of swirly sounds, naturally backed by the perfect rhythm. Once again lyrics add warmth if not meaning, with the 1st 2 verses being about Hawaii 5-0, the next 3 about a psychopathic clown whilst the last verse is apparently a message from the last man on earth – make sense of that if you can. The Path of Least Resistance – bibbibty bobbity boo tom toms, provide the beat accompanied by a rhythmic police siren effect and the lyrics even make sense as well being about how we all live in our comfort zone as part of the crowd. Blind Youth – When the inventors of dance music are name checked Kraftwork and Gary Numan are always mentioned but no one ever mentions the League. Strange really since this could be released today with only a minor remix, uptempo dance of the highest order. The World before Last – a change of mood very mellow, slowed down with wistful tinkling sound effects mirroring the lyrics of a man looking at a picture of himself and seeing how his life had changed in the years since it was taken. Empire State Human – The only single from the album and the big pop number. The lyrics are complete trite about wanting to be as big as a building to escape the boredom, but the music could have been lifted straight from Dare – big tune, big bouncy beat and big hooks. Morale … You’ve lost that Loving Feeling - The 1st of 2 medleys blending the leagues own work with the Phil Spector classic seamlessly. Morale is another wistful affair with Oakey stretching his voice to portray eternal sadness of growing old. Loving Feeling is a real gem, Oakey’s voice at its deepest, with simple sparse quiet backing with the occasional call and response for “baby” and a breathtaking wait between “Now its gone, gone, gone” and “Woa-woah” – worth the price for this track alone. Austerity / Girl One (medley) – 2 songs about father daughter relationships both with depressing lyrics. Musically they are very similarly constructed except that austerity sounds far more sombre. Zero as a Limit – This tale of a hit and run starts with a slow hand clap, and a single repeated note, but slowly both the music and lyrics get faster and louder until the song explodes as a mass of noise upon collision. That’s the end of the original album but the cd reissue includes the following bonus tracks. Introducing – a mass of bleeps over a simple bass riff – strange The Dignity of Labour (Parts 1-4) - Released as the 2nd League single these are 4 separate instrumentals all unblessed by a tune. Each consists of an industrial sound played over a funereal dirge. Flexi Disc – This is a flexidisc issued with Dignity of Labour and consists solely of the band and their manager talking about what should go on the flexidisc. Pretentious! Being Boiled (fast version) – The 1st single. Very raw sounding but the huge opening chords crash into your consciousness and never let up. Reading the lyrics this seems to be about religious intolerance. This was actually a hit on the coat tails of Dare and shows how good this 1st incarnation could be. Circus of Death (fast version) – b side to being boiled and its hard to spot the difference to the album version An excellent album, made even better by the conscientious reissue, which include as other League songs issued prior to the album with the exception of 1 single I don’t depend on you which was recorded under the pseudonym of The Men. Originally released in 1979 Joe Public was unprepared for this stark electronic vision preferring instead the pop-punk of new wave although it did briefly chart in 1981 riding on Dare’s coat tails. Sales were probably not helped by the cover of the cd that consists of photos of babies being stepped on by 2 girls in stilettos. However the inside cover is visually excellent with photos of the band in classic big brother / clockwork orange close up presenting a scary visage to the world. My only complaint about t he packaging would be that more information could be added to the cd booklet, which hasn’t changed from the original album, and no information is given about the bonus tracks. As an aside all additional information I gained was from www.blindyouth.co.uk which is a truly obsessive look at the league pre Dare with excellent information links plus 6 mp3 downloads of unreleased tracks – the best fan site I have seen on the web to date. Wrapping up this is an excellent album, consider investigating if you’re an 80’s freak, want to seek out the roots of dance or if you simply have excellent musical taste Cheers my dears Paul
Want to help save a child’s life today? Sound a bit of a tall order? Not really click through to http://www.nspcc.org.uk/donate-4-free/donate-mainhome.asp (cut and paste the link into your browser) and click on the donation button and 6p will be donated to the NSPCC from the sponsors of the site. Click only 3 days a week, 52 weeks a year and that’s £9.36 you will have donated for free – now imagine if all Ciao users do the same we start talking some big numbers here. Who are the NSPCC? The NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) was founded in 1889 by the Reverend Benjamin Waugh. As part of his work in the slums of the East End he witnessed cruelty on a daily basis to children who, unlike animals, had no legal protection. The NSPCC, with Queen Victoria as the patron, was instrumental in getting the 1st Prevention of Cruelty Act to children passed in 1889 and in its 1st year the society dealt with 3,937 cases, and since 1889 the society has helped over 10,000,000 children. Comparing historical dramas with the easy way of modern living you would think that would be less cruelty but there are currently 36,000 children on child protection registers and at the extreme 1 child under 5 dies every week because of abuse. The NSPCC’s 150 child support teams are needed more than ever. What does the NSPCC do? The aim of the NSPCC is to prevent children suffering harm as a result of cruelty, protect children who are at risk and to help children overcome the effects of cruelty. The abuse a child can suffer can take the form of neglect, physical injury, sexual abuse or emotional abuse that is inflicted or knowingly not prevented. The NSPCC’s current campaign is called FULLSTOP, because the ambitious aim is to end cruelty to children .fullstop. The plan is to target specific needs in a series of programs Child Protection, Child in the Family, Child in the School , Child in the Community, Child in Society with the aim of supporting 100,000 children each year by making it easier for children to contact NSPCC, develop parenting education and increase the number of investigators. What about the web site? Since this is a review of the web site I should tell you about the rest of the site. From the front page you have a choice to go through to the Kid’s Zone or NSPCC home page. The Kids Zone is, as the name suggests, aimed at kids. It has a pictorial history of the NSPCC, and information on the Full Stop campaign. It also has interviews with children’s entertainers / pop stars plus advice for children on how to protect themselves from bullying and abuse both on and off line. The NSPCC homepage has also has information on the NSPCC and the full stop campaign. It also has links for recruitment opportunities or how to get involved as a volunteer, or how to donate money. Both zones have helpline information, so that children in trouble can contact councillors 24 x 7. Please add this site to your favourites and click on it. Make a difference.
Slartibartfast. Wowbagger the Infinitely prolonged. Hactar the computer. Hoopy froods who along with the regular cast of Ford, Arthur, Zaphod, Trillian and Marvin the paranoid android; and the inventiveness of the word processor of Douglas Adams Life, make reading Life, the Universe and Everything a very pleasurable experience This is the 3rd (but not final) book in the Hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy Trilogy, but don’t worry you don’t have to have read the preceding books to make sense of this one, just remember it’s not meant to make sense. The story starts with Ford and Arthur stranded in Earth’s pre-history, however they jump on a passing time travelling Chesterton Sofa and reappear at Lords cricket ground just as England retain the Ashes (Cricket lovers will obviously notice at this point that this is a work of fiction). After the excitement of time travel, and an English win at cricket the crowd at MCC are further treated by the appearance of a spaceship from which deadly robots appear, killing and maiming all and sundry with cricket bats, before stealing the ashes and disappearing as suddenly as they appeared. But what’s really odd is that Ford and Arthur spot Slartibartfast (who designed the fiddly bits around Norway), jump into to his space travelling Italian bistro and give chase. Slartibartfast explains that the Robots are from the lost planet of Krikkit, whose peace loving inhabitants thought they were alone in the universe until a spaceship crashed on their planet. Suddenly roused they decided they had to wipe out all other forms of life and swiftly invented space travel, built a star fleet and proceeded to fulfil their aims. However the rest of the galaxy eventually won the war and locked them on their own planet with a wicket as a key. The wicket consisted of the steel pillar of strength, the Perspex pillar of science, the wooden pillar of spirituality, the golden bail of prosperity and the silver bail of peace, with the ashes actually being the wooden stump. After the robots steal the silver bail from a party, which our friends are at, they release the planet Krikkit and ……… well you’ll have to read the book. What I like about this book, and Adam’s writing in general, is the ability to blend the mundane with the ludicrous to produce something new and funny such as the problems of splitting the restaurant bill which generates a whole new branch of physics in the future enabling. Or alternatively he just jumps off the deep end with a ludicrous idea that somehow seems just right, such as the Someone Else’s Problem field which translates as if you paint a mountain pink and erect the field no-one will want to see the mountain so they won’t be able to. Sometimes it feels as if the plot is only secondary to the various set piece scenes from which Adams can spin of at a complete tangent bringing in ideas of inspired lunacy which can not fail to make the reader chuckle, but overall both this book and the rest of the series stand up to repeated reading letting you spot something new and hilarious every time.