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The Lives of Others, "Das Leben der Anderen" is an incredible film. This film is set in East Berlin and follows the life of a Stasi Catain, Gerd Wiesler, who is monitoring the cultural scene and in particular Georg Dreyman and his lover Christa-Marie Sieland.
I can't pretend I know what it was really like to live with the threat of the Stasi listening in to everything i do. This film does give a really detailed idea of what it must be like. The clever part of this film is that it follows the Stasi officer as well as those being listened to. It helps explain what kind of person would do this work, the way other people interact with him. He becomes part of their life without them knowing, being present at their most intimate moments and they eventually have an impact on his life. I don't want to ruin the ending but i will say it is a great and refreshing storyline that will leave you wanting more. All of the characters are realistic and even Gerd who starts as a very cold character you end up feeling for him and the difficult decisions in his life. I love the detail of all the Eastern German furniture, decorations and music. It shows how a bubble was formed around East German, cut off from the western world music, art and culture.
This film is in German with English subtitles. It is a very easy film to watch and is a great introduction to foreign cinematography. It is a very subtle film with some very tense scenes and brilliant performances from the lead roles.
eHow is amazing, it is an amazing resource to help you with every kind DIY or hobby problem you have ever faced. The website has advice and guidance which is supplied my members, often experienced or specialists in these areas. There are written articles for you to follow and some topics have videos to a visual guide as well as the written guidance.
I first found this site after searching for bike maintenance on a internet search engine but I have used this website to solve many more problems. To give you an idea of the vast amount of information available, there are 24 sections including parenting, Sports, Home/Garden to Business. The website is constantly growing with new articles regularly being added. The bike section has a wealth of knowledge and is a great introduction for beginners like myself. It has saved me a lot of money by teaching me how to carry out my own repairs and maintenance meaning I don't have to fork out for a professional to service and/or fix my bike.
There are forums, members and community pages but I have never used this part of the website. The How to and video sections are the only part you need to use. All of the important guidance is in these sections and you do not need to be a member to access the information.
Threadless is an incredible on-line store for new and original T-shirt designs. Threadless works on a very simple idea, you send in your own design for a T-shirt and it is put up on the website for 7 days to see what the response from its community is like. If it is successful then it will be printed and sold on-line and you will get $2000 for your effort.
There are over 200,000 different designs that have been submitted since 2000 so there is a great range to choose from if you want to get one for you self. The designs vary from simple logos and lettering, to comedy t-shirts to to detailed cartoon t-shirts. The scope is huge, the only think they have to be is a brilliant design. You can spend days scrolling though the different t-shirts and get very jealous of how creative people are. The fact that the t-shirts are designed by individuals makes them a lot more special than a mass produce shop bought t-shirt.
The only downside to threadless.com is that the T-shirts have to be shipped over from the US, its a little exta cost and hassle but worth it for such cool t-shirts.
Freecycle is a great network to join to trade all those unwanted items clogging up your spare room or garage. It is a very simple process to get involved, simply find you local group and join. The group admin will send you details of how it all works and then you start emailing and reading emails to get lots of free stuff.
An email detailing what has been offered, wanted and taken is sent out a couple of times a day. It is wise to set up a separate folder in your Inbox as you can quickly become swamped by the emails. Once you see something you are interested in you simply email the person directly and, if you are both interested, arrange collection or if your very lucky delivery.
You can pick up some great items especially larger items that are harder to transport as there is less competition. Time to start sweet talking any friends who own vans or large cars!!! We had a sort out of a clogged up spare room and got rid of everything from candle holders to an exercise machine. We then decorated the room and got lots of stuff of freecycle, including a folding Ikea sofa bed.
If you go on freecycle expecting expensive items completely free then you may be disappointed. This group is for people who have often used an item but don't want to throw it away, instead they want someone else to get some use out of it. There are some absolute gems that people throw out but you have to be incredibly quick as they tend to have gone before you even read the email.
The network seems to be full of really friendly genuine people, you do get an occasionally rude respondent but it is very rare. If you have got the time and effort you can have great fun picking up bargains and offloading your own stuff in a ecologically responsible way.
Moneysavingexpert.com is the website for Martin Lewis and his TV program of the same name. This website is a gold mind of money saving tips and advice and is an essential for everyone from pensioner to student. There is a lot of information on the website and it can take a long time to get through it all so i use the weekly email bulletin. This keeps you informed on what is new and gives you links to the pages that have more in-depth information. The site has some great financial information but I tend to use it on discounts on shopping, eating out and visiting attractions. The tips can be as simple as what vouchers are in the weekend papers to how to haggle for a discounted package holiday. If you took the time to follow every single tip you would save a fortune but i have to confess I am not that thorough. It is a great resource to dip in to when ever your on a budget or trying to get the best value for money. The website has a very user friendly layout and it is easy to navigate between the pages you want. There are alos handy links to product websites for more information. I am impressed by the free unbiased advice provided and there are also forums on the site where you can hear from users. The forums provide feedback on articles and users tips on how to save money and get good deals. The website also provides information on your rights as a consumer, this ranges from reclaiming bank charges to redundancy, and you know it is advice you can trust because it is unbiased.
This is a great website and everyone should be taking the free advice on offer, especially with the current world situation.
You may recognise Rhys Darby from Murray in Flight of the Conchords or on The Boat that Rocked. Rhys Darby - Imagine That is one of the best stand up comedy DVD's I have ever seen. The show was filmed at a live performance at El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles. The funniest part of Rhys performance is the amazing sound effects he incorporates in to his jokes. The funny stories about his life and growing up, which involve jet packs and mermaids, are funny but when he starts doing the sound effects and acting out the scene with a few hand gestures you find yourself in hysterics. There are some brilliant recurring jokes like Darby's robot impression. The DVD is hilarious and refreshingly different from the majority of stand-up DVDs on the market. Although you can see hints of 'Murray' in Rhys Darby's stand-up but Darby is a lot more expressive, creative and funnier. I loved this DVD so much I'm going to see Rhys Darby in Edinburgh this summer. The only criticism that i have is that it is a very short DVD, i was left wanting more!
The Pro-Fitness Jogger Trampette is a great way of getting in to shape. The mini trampoline is big enough to be able to move around whilst bouncing. Although the trampoline is reasonably small it does take up quite a bit of room, you need to have a spare room or garage to hide it away in. It is a good idea to take the legs off by unscrewing them to make it more compact. The trampoline is very strong and sturdy and it feels very safe to bounce on. If you are going to do a lot of bouncing make sure you are doing it on a solid floor and make sure no one is downstairs as it can get quite noisy and annoying.
I found the trampoline a great way to develop fitness whilst still protecting vulnerable joints. I have had a problem with my knee and therefore normal running can be painful and cause damage. Using the trampoline is a great low impact exercise that is also really fun, i could jog on the trampoline for long periods without any discomfort. The trampoline comes with a list of possible exercises and diagrams showing how to perform them. There are a lot of good exercises but don't be limited to just these ideas there are hundreds of different exercises for the trampoline.
The Cobb is genius! Ever considered cooking a roast dinner whilst camping? You would think it was impossible but it is easy with the Cobb. The cleverest design feature of the Cobb is the wire mesh outside which helps give the fire oxygen but also means it is stone cold. This means you can pick up the Hobb even when its been on for hours and you can move it. It is brilliant practical idea, there has been loads of times when I have had to rearrange everything around the BBQ but now i just move the BBQ. You could in theory sit with it on your lap but be warned the lid still gets quite hot.
The Cobb is the Swiss Army knife of camp cooking. There are lots of great functional items all enclosed in one Cobb. The well around the inside of the Cobb can be used to bake your potatoes or cook some corn. There is a frying pan and a grill plate as well as a grill, with the lid on it acts as an oven. My friend is a veggie and because there are so many cooking sections you can easily accommodate both needs.
The Cobb is incredibly efficient and easy to use but most important of all it is easy to clean. BBQs are notoriously messy to clean but the Cobb only makes a small amount of ash because little fuel is needed and it there is very little soot.
I love the Cobb and can't imagine going camping without it. It is not as fast as using a gas stove and doesn't have the smokey smell of a good old fashioned BBQ but it is a fast and fuel efficient stove that is very practical and easy to use. It is great fun to create culinary masterpieces and still have a nice warm fire to huddle around when you finish.
Neighbours is a classic Australian soap that has found a home on British TV since the 1980's. The soap opera follows the lives of residents of Ramsay Street in Melbourne, Australia. Although there have been some dramatic story lines in this daytime show, the soap's popularity is the sunny location and feel good stories.
Neighbours was daily viewing for everyone when I was a kid and it only stopped for Christmas and Wimbledon. It was originally shown on BBC1 twice a day but it recently controversially moved to FIVE and this has meant the introduction of advertisements, which is rubbish. On the upside there is now an omnibus edition so you can catch up on anything you missed during the week. There have been lots of characters that have come and gone in Neighbours but some seem to have been there forever. Harold Bishop was a personal favourite and it was sad when he left. Paul Robinson, Karl and Susan Kennedy have also been in the show forever. The show has been a launch pad for some very famous Australians including Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan, Guy Pearce and Natalie Imbruglia.
Neighbours has always competed against Home and Away for fans, although Home and Away has more sandy beaches, the quality of acting and the story lines is much better on Neighbours. The one criticism I have of Neighbours is the small budget it has. They very rarely show big crashes, explosions etc. When a plane with half the cast was bombed and they all disappeared somewhere in the Tasman Sea, there was no action shots of a plane crash and just a few characters in a bit of choppy water shouting. The rest of the cast found out who had been rescued by sitting round a radio it was very tame to say the least.
I got Sonic and The Black Knight for free and had fun playing it but it is more aimed at kids. It is decent enough game that will keep you busy for a few hours but it is hardly a classic.
The idea of bringing back popular games is not knew and I have enjoyed Wii games like Mario Kart but I don't thing that the 2D Sonic of the past is very compatible to the 3D format of this game. The game has some really jerky camera angles and at times it gets annoying.
The game is very easy to play and master, it is quite a decent storyline. You have to defeat the evil Dark Knight who has taken control over mythical Kingdom of Camelot.
I found that the only challenging part of the game was to defeat the final boss, it is more aimed at kids and if I had kids I would buy if for them and I think they would enjoy it. With this in mind you can't really complain that it isn't very challenging or complicated. There are some cool features to the game, I liked the slow-motion fight mode where you can slay enemies with crazy sword swipes in super slow motion but the problem is you can only use this function after collecting the red butterflies.
The Trafalgar Tavern is a cracking pub in beautiful Greenwich. The pub is only a few minutes walk along the river front from the Cutty Sark and centre of Greenwich. The pub has a great atmosphere all year round but it comes in to its own in the summer with a large amount of seating along the riverside path. It is a great place to enjoy a foreign beer whilst sitting by the riverside in the sun. The pub has views of the Thames and O2 arena, former Millennium Dome. Although it is not the most beautiful view of the Thames, you can spend a whole day sipping a few pints watching boats sail up and down the Thames. The pub has an excellent range of lagers and every single spirits/liqueurs you could imagine. The Trafalgar Tavern does serve food and has a dining area towards the back but I can't comment as I have never eaten there. There is also a function room upstairs so you will often bump in to people in tuxes and dresses from a wedding reception upstairs. It is a really relaxed pub and you really feel like you have escaped the stresses of London life.
The pub is so good that it won the Evening Standard Pub of the Year 1996 and it is easy to see why. This is a lovely pub with friendly staff and relaxed atmosphere in a great location, especially when its sunny.
My Name is Earl, is a quirky feel good comedy with a deep philosophical message at its core. The programme is about a guy called Earl who wins the lottery and runs out of the shop in celebration and then gets hit by a car and ends up in hospital. He decides it was karma and makes a list of all the things hes done wrong in his life and then attempts to right his wrongs. The show is set in middle American and the characters are hilarious. Earl is a petty criminal and has managed to annoy a lot of people, that is why the show is in its 4 series. The show is very short and althogh there are some ongoing story lines, like Randy's love for Catalina or Crabman's witness protection, most of the episodes you could watch without ever seeing the programme before. It is a bit like The Simpsons, funny characters, silly storylines and a simple feel good ending where everyone ends up happy.
The best character on the show is Randy, Earl's rather simple brother, he is looked after by Earl but likes to think that he looks after Earl. He has some brilliant one liners in the show and is often screwed over by Joy.
Tanzania is one of the most incredible countries in the world. I am biased, I lived in Iringa Region for a year as a volunteer teacher. Tanzania is has something for everyone. It is a great place to backpack around and get a feel for Africa. At the same time it is a luxurious playground for the rich.
Tanzania is a very stable country and there hasn't really been an political upheaval since independence so for it a safe place to visit compared to some other countries in East Africa. The Tanzanian people are some of the friendliest and liveliest people i have ever met. They love to talk to tourists and if you are able to learn Swahili they will love you dearly.
The major attractions in Tanzania are safaris, Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar. There is so much more to this country that is often missed. In the West of the country there are chimpanzee refuges but they are a bit of a mission to get to. There are beautiful beaches along the coast and just 20 minutes drive for Dar es Salaam you can be on a deserted beach. In the South East, if you can get there, and around Zanaibar and Pemba, there are incredible places to dive.
Tanzania is an interesting place to travel around but sometimes the travelling along is interesting. There is a lot of competition between coach and bus companies, make sure you go with a good coach company like Scandinavian Coaches otherwise you will feel like your in a Mad Max film.
Accommodation can vary greatly, if you are on a tight budget you can find a room for a few pounds but it will be very ropey, if you have the money you can blow the budget on an expensive hotel with every luxury you can imagine. The same can be said for food. If you are adventurous and brave you can get food for under a pound, the main diet is rice and meat or beans, at the same time you can get gourmet food on the coast and in Zanzibar where Asian meets African cuisine with seafood being a speciality.
Namibia is a beautiful country and a great place to backpack or go on holiday to. It is not the cheapest African country to travel around but is full of dramatic scenery, friendly people and lots to do.
I found Namibia harder to get around without a car than many other African countries. The distances between cities are massive and there was often a very limited choice in bus/coach services. If you can afford it hire a car it would make life easier, although never drive at night as it is incredibly dangerous. We ended up going on an organised tour, they are a great way to see all the attractions and life is made easy because some else is doing the driving, telling you about Namibia and its sights and organising everything. They are very to organise from Windhoek, the capital, and are great value for money.
I would suggest taking camping stuff with you as it can be hard to find cheap accommodation and there are lots of camp sites in awesome locations. It is a great feeling to wake up in the desert and watch the sunrise.
We arrived at Namibia via Zambia and it was an interesting journey to get to and from the Zambia/Namibian border. I would recommend you take the more popular route through Botswana as it would be a lot easier. Although if you like a challenge and are not intimidated about being stranded in the middle of nowhere and having to hail passing Land Rovers then you will love it.
The Namibian people were very friendly and welcoming although it is a very sparsly populated country and it can be heard to meet people outside of the major towns. You can drive for hours and not see another car or person.
The Namib Desert is one of the most mysteriously beautiful areas in the world. I travelled around Namibia on a camping tour with a Namibian tour guide, it was an amazing experience, i would definitely recommend it to anyone who is interested in seeing breathtaking scenery. The desert is huge and it is constantly moving, the wind blows the sand and when it settles it creates new sand dunes. This can cause problems as roads soon disappearing under tonnes of drifting sand. It can be a little painful being sand blasted by the high winds, espeically when you are on top of the dunes so make sure you take some sunglasses. The desert creates a very dramatic landscape, the sand is bright yellow and red whist the skies are deep blue, it is very hard to take a bad photo as everywhere you look it is incredible.
Climbing the sand dunes at Soussvlei is epic and it takes hours to go a few hundred metres but when you get to the top and see the sun rising it is worth every moment of suffering.
If you get a chance, visit the Dead Vlei, it is an alien landscape with a clay pan hidden away in a sea of sand dunes. When you wander around you see trees that have been dead for hundreds of years but have not decomposed because the desert is so baron.
In places like Swakopmund you can go sand boarding, you are given a makeshift sledge and are able to hurtle down the sand dunes at insane speeds, priceless.
The Skeleton coast is a very harsh environment, it can be difficult to get to and very expensive but an incredible place, I have seen pictures of massive ships shipwrecked miles inland from the coast in a sea of sand, a very eerie place.
I wasn't sure about visiting a desert but I loved it and would recommend it to everyone. It is not like your normal package tour, it is hot, dry and you have to take everything you need with you. As long as you are with a guide, someone who knows what they are doing, it is incredible place to explore.