The Lord of The Rings

There are, perhaps predictably, few surprises in this second film. However, it remains a stunning piece of cinema and one that I will certainly see again and again.

Being New Year’s Eve I decided to hide away from some excessive partying and see Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers in central London.

The second cinematic instalment starts more-or-less at the point we left of with Frodo dreaming of Gandalf’s fall. I began by thinking we were in for a decent length of re-worked footage from the first film but, of course, I was wrong.

If you haven’t seen the first film and haven’t read the books you will need to do one of them before seeing this film for no concession is made to explain the previous tale. Thus, we must accept that the Fellowship is now split into three and we have three stories.

Frodo and Sam’s tale gets darker as the film progresses as Frodo comes under the influence of the ring. They are joined by Gollum which is a superb character despite being a computer-generated image.

The second group of Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas go in search of Merry and Pippin only to find themselves rushing to the aid of King Theoden of Rohan and featuring some amazing battles sequences. Merry and Pippin themselves find the company of the Ents whose role seems to have been played down in the film. The Ents are my favourite characters from the books and I had been waiting to see if they could be brought to life convincingly on the screen. Peter Jackson has done an amazing job on them and I was only saddened that they didn’t appear more.

There are, perhaps predictably, few surprises in this second film. There is little to discover in the central characters and, with perhaps the exception of Gollum, very little seems to be learnt about newer characters. However, it remains a stunning piece of cinema and one that I will certainly see again and again.

The Guardian has a summary of the main players. Other reviews can be found at Empire Online and Teletext.

Denia

A visit to Denia by the sea on a sunny December Sunday.

sculture Heading for the last day of the year and it’s a lovely sunny Sunday in Denia. Walking round the town we got the urge to price apartments and villas and there are some fantastic little developments around here.

seafront in deniaThe old square was full of Spaniards sitting and talking in the shade and the fountain in the middle was full of beer cans. I can only assume the result of some Saturday night on the town! Remarkably peaceful and quiet really – we watched the ocean for a while before sampling the delights of the local Paella.

This really is quite peaceful really. Such a shame we can’t spend a lot longer here. It’s a relaxing change from the busy streets of London.

(This post was uploaded on my return)

Market Day

But mainly I am disconcerted by the food. Forget the olives and the smoked meats which look so very tempting. It’s the regular fruit and vegetable stall that amazes me.

The sun was shining over the villa’s swimming pool and the breeze was light across the patio. Boxing Day, the day to recover from the excesses of the previous day, was the perfect day to wander into the nearest town and, upon arrival, we found the local market in (almost) full swing.

The market in Javea town is the kind of market that you do not see too often at home. One wonders, however, if much of it is there for the tourist trade. I am assured it was different last week but the Christmas holidays mean there are fewer traders.

I am taken with several things at the market. Firstly, it is very friendly. This may seem an odd thing to say but I find this kind of street-stall market back home often borders on the agressive. Traders don’t so much ply their wares but thrust them upon you. Secondly, it’s a very mixed market. There is food (to take home) and food to eat while wandering but there are household goods, clothes and a large (very large) selection of leather bags.

Thirdly, I am taken aback by the lack of labels. Walk round my local market on a Sunday morning and all the clothes stalls are straining under the weight of Tommy, Nike or whatever today’s fashion label is (the authenticity of the goods I cannot vouch for). Here, it all seems remarkably brandless.

But mainly I am disconcerted by the food. Forget the olives and the smoked meats which look so very tempting. It’s the regular fruit and vegetable stall that amazes me. The range is astounding and we couldn’t name all the fruits on show. They also look real. By this I mean they are of varying colours, shapes, sizes and, to be honest, in various states of decay. The aren’t the identical specimens you find on the shelves of your local supermarket at home. Of course, I know I can find home/farm-produced organic foodstuffs in England but I’d just forgotten and this market is the day I was reminded.

Maybe it should be a resolution for the new year. Find and use my local farmer’s market.

Happy Christmas

I am in Javea on Spain’s Costa Blanca for Christmas. The usual grey skies and frost of a British Christmas Day are part of the experience for me and have been all my life. The sun and the warmth were a little disorienting at first. Now, of course, I realise Christmas is still the same.

I am in Javea on Spain’s Costa Blanca for Christmas. It’s very different yet very similar. I have family around me. We had turkey and all the trimmings yesterday and opened presents around a (paper) tree. We have plenty of (cheap, Spanish) wine, Christmas pudding and mince pies. The sun, however, is shining and we are able to sit outside and sit in the warmth (if there is a sheltered spot from the wind).

The usual grey skies and frost of a British Christmas Day are part of the experience for me and have been all my life. The sun and the warmth were a little disorienting at first. Now, of course, I realise Christmas is still the same.

Happy Christmas.

End Of A Radio Era

For almost thirty years the JY Prog has been a ratings winner. Lunchtime ratings of five million should not be sniffed at. And today, as he bid the Radio 2 airwaves farewell, I had a listen.

Broadcast radio is a big passion of mine and there is an event that happened today that can not pass without comment. Sir Jimmy Young presented his last show on BBC Radio 2 this morning – bringing to an end twenty-nine (or so) years on the air. There is much discussion as to the reasons behind his departure (here and here) but I don’t want to go into them. Neither does it really matter that I have rarely listened to his show. I am usually in the office where we don’t listen to radios (except today as I am on my own) or, if I am elsewhere, there are other stations I prefer. I do, however, think there are a couple of things worth commenting on.

Firstly, for almost thirty years the JY Prog has been a ratings winner. Lunchtime ratings of five million should not be sniffed at. Jimmy Young has managed to stay at the top of his profession longer than many. In this celebrity-obsessed, five minute fame world, Jimmy Young’s achievement should not go without recognition (his Knighthood at the start of the year testament to his appeal). Where presenters rarely last three years, JY lasted almost three decades.

Secondly, and to me a great contribution to broadcasting, Jimmy Young’s show has always been an interactive experience. There has always been audience involvement and comment long before talk-shows, shock-jocks, email and message boards were around (or even thought of). It’s something that should not be forgotten and I believe it has been a great contribution to broadcasting.

Thirdly, his style may not be to everyone’s taste but Jimmy Young has been able to interview some of the top politicians of the day and get them to answer questions without the need to resort to aggressive interview tactics. He was able to ask the questions many people would like to ask Prime Ministers directly. In an era where politicians (and politics) have been reduced to the level of a sound bite, this is also an achievement worth noting.

Finally, the way in which he has left the network has been sad. It was leaked 18 months ago that Radio 2 were talking to others about taking over the show? In itself, that is not an unreasonable thing to do for the network controller. For it to become a public affair (with questions in the House of Commons) is quite the opposite.

As BBC News has said, it’s a sad end to a remarkable career. Just don’t mention his recording career!

Pop Up (Up and Away)

There has been great discussion recently about pop-ups. Are they doomed? Well, it’s a subject close to my heart as, being in the online advertising/research business for many years, they have become an important part of my life.

I have to ask, how they can properly be controlled? They are a useful marketing tool and can be useful to site publishers outside the advertising arena but some companies have exploited them far too much. MarketingFix notes that Netscape has announced it’s going to start offering the facility to block pop-ups. Interestingly, the pop-up filter has to be enabled by the user and then “Once enabled, the filter is preset to allow pop-ups on some sites, including several of AOL’s own properties”

I only wish it was possible to stop the multiple spawning.

Fly Accipiter, Fly

My ex-colleagues at Engage AdManager have bought the company from Engage.

I am happy today! My ex-colleagues at Engage AdManager have bought the company from Engage to re-form Accipiter – the company Engage acquired in 1998 (or thereabouts).

Engage has slowly been moving out of the online space. When I worked for them they owned a large number of online companies. The selling of AdManger to its management seems to leave them with no pure-play online offerings.

I just want to wish the new AdManager management all the luck in the world. They are a fantastic group of people and if you’re in the market for an online advertising solution, you’ll find best of breed at www.accipiter.com.

Give Us Our Daily Blog

As I started redeveloping this site, it became apparent that I wanted to link to my collection of daily blog reads and this became the place to keep them.

In common with any page of links, many of the pages noted below have long since moved, closed or cease to be updated in any regular kind of way. Facebook and Twitter have meant some of those who I used to read have moved on to the next way to communicate their thoughts. I keep this here as a nice remineder of the early days of blogging!

As I started redeveloping this site, it became apparent that I wanted to link to my collection of daily blog reads and this became the place to keep them.

The first, almost daily, read is Jase Wells. I guess I have been something of an invisible online stalker to this site for years. I have watched it move, change and develop since sometime in 1994 when I first came across it. It still remains one of the best personal homepages on the web – and I am very pleased to see that he has turned it into a blog.

Next on the list is Tom Coates’ plasticbag.org – which must be one of the best around and, if I am honest, I miss it if he doesn’t post. You will find notsosoft linked from there which, I think, contains some of the best writing on the web.

trabaca, posterboy, eric and contrasts.net provide additional regular reading from the US, while Adam’s photoblog provides stunning pictures on a regular basis. overyourhead is a UK take, while prolific is based in Amsterdam. Haddock blogs is a collection of well-known UK internet names.

Of course, blogsphere is represented well by Metafilter which I try and check out most days.

Other’s of note include Nick Denton and Brendan O’neill for opinions; Scott Andrew, Ben Hammersley and Jason Kottke for web-related stuff and Stuart Towns for his travelogue.

Finally, if you’re not interested in reading the ramblings of people you may never have heard of, then click along to Wil Wheaton’s blog which is a fascinating take on the world of celebrity.

Donnie Darko

The Guardian said, Is it a horror film? A black comic parable of Generation X angst? A teen drama with a psycho edge? If not, what the hell is it?

Possibly the strangest and most compelling film I have seen all year and it’s not had a great deal of coverage. Donnie Darko’s website is very wierd and I am not sure you’ll get much from that. Tom, on the other hand, raves about it. You can read more reviews here or at The Guardian. I can’t explain it. Go see it.

The Ultimate Boy Band CD (2) Aka The I Am Shallow Project

Another take at the Ultimate Boy Band CD

The Ultimate Boy Band CD Project is starting to depress me for several reasons:

  1. Because compiling a CD takes time (how do those guys select for Now 195? (Update: They get paid to do it all day, of course)
  2. It’s also much harder than I imagined to come up with a CD full of songs that I would actually say is the best Boy Band CD ever (wonder if the Best … Ever people have done this, maybe I should look)
  3. Nobody else seems to think this is a fun idea
  4. Some people seem to think all I care about (musically) is boy bands
  5. Almost everybody thinks boy bands are crap
  6. Almost everybody seems to think this makes me shallow, which is amusing.

I know there is more to life than this! I was having a bit of fun. Lighten up. Please.

And so, on with the project:

  1. N’Sync – Pop
  2. Take That – Relight My Fire
  3. Take That – Could It Be Magic
  4. F5ive – If Ya Gettin’ Down
  5. Backstreet Boys – Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)
  6. A1 – Same Old Brand New You
  7. NEW A1 – Caught In The Middle
  8. NEW Blue – All Rise

I guess I really am shallow!

Previously: Ultimate Boy Band CD (1)

Go Out

I’m not the most active member of this community but I certainly feel it is a community and one I am happy to be part of.

This morning the post man knocked more than once. PY, who always jumps out of bed for parcels and post, decided to answer the door where he discovered a large parcel from Out – my lovely black fleece had arrived (from OutOnTheStreets to be precise). This event, and Tom’s post (which I highlighted the other day and started out as a response to this) set me thinking about notions of community.

Now Out is an online community of (mainly) gay men from around the world – although at the moment it’s predominantly UK based. It’s a great place to be and very unlike many of the other commercial gay sites. It’s all about social interactions and not about sex (like some) nor about profit (like others). It funds itself by way of a non-compulsory licence fee and sells merchandise to add to that. It encourages real-world events and traditional social interaction.

Now, I have never attended one of the events and I don’t log on every day (like some). I don’t count many of my friends (online or otherwise) as being members and I can’t say I have made any lasting friendships on Out – although many have.

However, it is still a community and I am still part of it. I choose to contribute financially and I should do more in real life. There are many issues raised by Out that I shall discuss in more detail at some point soon (paying for online content; the concept of zero exploitation and the concept of online communities) but at this point all I want to say is that I feel similar about blogging. I do it primarily for my own record/entertainment/amusement. As a by-product, I get to tell the world how I feel about things and strike up some interesting discussions and relationships along the way. It’s a place for me to express and, most importantly, it’s another community that I belong to. Again, I’m not the most active member of this community but I certainly feel it is a community and one I am happy to be part of.

Inspirational Eden

Tim Smit provides an insight into the group vision that resulted in one of the more successful Millennium projects – Eden. And the fact that it is the work of a committed group of people is not lost on the reader. Smit regularly repeats the mantra that Eden was only developed thanks to the work of a wide range of individuals from contractors to councils, and not forgetting the plant-men.

Tim Smit provides an insight into the group vision that resulted in one of the more successful Millennium projects – Eden. And the fact that it is the work of a committed group of people is not lost on the reader. Smit regularly repeats the mantra that Eden was only developed thanks to the work of a wide range of individuals from contractors to councils, and not forgetting the plant-men.

If you want to understand some details behind the way such projects are developed then this is a book you should read. When the project was floundering while all the funding partners came together then Tim Smit was there and he relives it through the book. Sometimes you wonder how it call came together.

On the other hand, if you are a plant-lover, gardener or horticulturalist then this is also a book you should read. Smit tells the fascinating story of the development of the biome concepts and the plants they chose to grow. More importantly he discusses the relationship between man and the natural surroundings we inhabit; debating our fragile relationship with a range of environments along the way.

However, what you take from this book is a mixture of all of the above. Landscaping, plant husbandry and environmental considerations sit alongside planning, funding, road building and visitor education projects. It’s one man’s personal account rather than a definitive history and the cast of characters seems endless and, sometimes, confusing. However, the determination and vision that drove the project; the commitment and enthusiasm of all the people and the role Eden believes it should be playing on the world stage are all presented in an accessible, very readable account of, what seems to have been, a long but successful process. If this book doesn’t inspire you to aim higher and better, then nothing will.Buy Eden at Amazon.co.uk

Hope I Haven’t Missed Your Birthday

My trusted Palm Vx – from which sprang the this blog¬†(why just write stuff for my own reading when I can bore everybody else?) – contains many useful freeware/shareware and fully-paid up pieces of software that didn’t come pre-installed. The most useful is DateMate. Datemate is a simple little program that stores birthdays, anniversaries and events and is able to populate the Palm Date Book with update information so that I can always recall how old somebody is and how many years they have been married. If you own a Palm I would wholeheartedly recommend you look at it.

Sadly, however, I have done two silly things in the past months:

  • Firstly, I changed my synchronisation settings with Outlook so that all birth dates and anniversaries were wiped from my Date Book. This is OK, as DateMate will retain the backup and all I had to do was re-enter them but ..
  • Secondly, I updated DateMate and forgot to read the update instructions so I have updated to a later version that won’t accept my registation number. As a consequence, I can’t export a list of all the entries to enable an easy re-entry procedure. So now I am going to have to upgrade and I am not sure it’s 100% necessary.

Ah well, maybe it would be easier to maintain a paper diary but it wouldn’t be as much fun, would it?