World of Bile

Thoughts, pics and links from me to you.. Read on...

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Location: London, United Kingdom

I hope you enjoy this as much as I enjoy writing it.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

'If I'm not mee.. den who da hell am I?'

Mark (et al),

A review of a film that used to be very close to my heart:

Total Recall (1990)
113 mins
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sharon Stone, Rachel Ticotin, Ronnie Cox, Michael Ironside.

Ah, the memories..

On the morning of my 15th birthday, I received this on video as a gift from my parents and I was thrilled. Over the previous couple of years, me and my friends had been introduced to the likes of everything from The Terminator to Twins. We loved the one liners, our imaginations were fired by the violence and our burgeoning ideas of masculinity were coloured by Arnie and his movies. I even took pleasure in having a haircut like him and a padded lumberjack similar to what he wears in Total Recall..except I doubt HIS had padding in it, of course…

Anyway, I digress. Totall Recall is a film which features towards the end of Arnie’s 80s hot streak of Box Office success. Terminator 2 followed, then a string of soulless big budget turkeys like Last Action Hero and True Lies which effectively torpedoed his megastardom for good. With hindsight you could say he reflected American sensibilities about their place in the world at the time: invulnerable and righteous. When he started playing roles with frailties in them, Arnie became yesterday’s news.

THE STORY

(the start of it):
Being based on a Phillip K Dick short story titled ‘We Can Remember It For You Wholesale’ (the bloke who wrote ‘Bladerunner’) you can be sure the plot isn’t going to be simple. Unlike the typical Schwarzenegger premise of:
(a) Arnie is looking for something.
(b) Arnie kills everyone who gets in his way

‘Total Recall’ is a lot more labyrinthine. The year is 2020. Arnie plays Douglas Hauser, a construction worker who has little in his life besides his job, his buddies and a very hot wife (a break out role for Sharon Stone). He dreams of something more and discovers a company called Rekall, a company who specialise in selling implanted memories. These can be memories of a holiday never taken, or something more fantastic like being a secret agent on Mars. Trying to escape the mundane, our hero opts for the latter. However there can be a cost: Quaid is warned implantation can be a risky process, as failure can result in unconscious trauma and clients being lobotomised, but he goes on with the procedure anyway.

However, things do not go to plan. Halfway through the implantation, Hauser lashes out – shouting about people trying to kill him before the doctors barely manage to sedate him. It seems Hauser is acting out the spy portion of his memory – however as it hasn’t been implanted yet.. that isn’t the case! Hauser IS a spy but isn’t aware of it; someone powerful erased his memories erased and Rekall uncovered them. So, Hauser’s mind is tidied up, and the doctors bundle him into a cab home. Unaware of his trip, he bumps into some of his work buddies who are aware of what has transpired. They turn on him, but he ends up slaughtering them with his bare hands. And so it continues, Hauser’s hot wife turns on him, he does a runner to Mars and gets involved with the Resistance there. The man on the run theme develops from there, Arnie’s character fights through great adversity – and wins out in the end, of course.

Being based on a Phillip K Dick story, the plot takes many twists and turns which I can’t do justice to here, a lot of ‘what happened but the focus is on our hero – is he workaday construction worker Doug Hauser who is in the process of falling apart or secret (double?) agent Doug Quaid whose deeds will affect the destiny of a people? Is our hero fighting a shadowy organisation bent on destroying him and keeping something hidden, or is his mind just falling apart?

WHAT I THINK:


This is a departure from the usual for Arnie. Of course Total Recall still depicts him as being a human extension of the weapons he wield. He maims and incapacitates his foes with the same finesse as the guns and sharp edged weapons do. The film is violent and bloody, with visual effects some will find unnecessarily grotesque (example: Michael Ironside’s demise on the lift near the climax of the movie). Schwarzenegger gurns like a horse and mangles his lines with his usual effectiveness, the wisecracks are there in abundance, and they’re pretty good wisecracks too. The thing that used to get me in stitches is the fact that someone can be so witty in what is patently NOT their native language. Granted, the rest of the cast get some pretty punchy stuff to say, but are we SERIOUSLY expected to believe our hero is an Austrian Oscar Wilde, delivering death and dismemberment with a pithy comeback?? It's all pretty laughable. Acting wise we aren’t talking about Hauser being cool and collected under pressure, he is no Cary Grant in North By Northwest: our hero has feelings of doubt, pain and fear which Arnie emotes surprisingly well.. for Arnie. Of course a shop mannequin could match him for acting chops most of the time, so really isnt saying much. The prosthetics and special affects take this movie well into fantasy territory compared to the conventional guns n’ gore of the genre – in fact Total Recall won the Oscar for visual effects in 1991. Nonetheless the film now has a very dated look about it, the near(ish) future shown here has a similar look to Blade Runner (1982) another Phillip K Dick story, the story is equally enigmatic.
The cast has an alpha male (and female) quality you’d expect from an Arnie film. Sharon Stone stands out as the blonde and beautiful Lori, Hauser’s wife (or is she really what she seems?) – full of sweet, velvety words but a match in combat for any man. Rachel Ticotin plays Melina (laughably pronounced ‘MelEEna’ by our hero), a feisty brunette involved with the Resistance who Hauser falls in love with (as Quaid did before him?). Ronnie Cox and Michael Ironside line up as the villains and are suitably stern and vicious. Ironside plays Richter, unique in the action movie genre for being a psychopathic goon with a haircut like Terry Nutkins.
Being a Jerry Goldsmith score the soundtrack is as surging and epic as you’d expect. During the pivotal scenes of the movie you can almost visualise the 50 piece orchestra playing, generating the suspense on such a scale that a conventional soundtrack would not be able to match. Suprisingly he was nominated eighteen times for an Oscar during his career (winning just once) – Total Recall didn’t get him into consideration. Paul Verhoeven is renowned for his glossy and violent movies and Total Recall is a prime example. The violence is very frequent and has a comic book quality to it: innocent bystanders are mown down with high calibre weaponry like an afterthought and the action continues unabated. However the multifaceted story will keep viewers on their toes. Take away the guns, the girls and the gore and the suspense will keep you interested. Total Recall is essentially ‘a man on the run’ film in the vein of ‘The Fugutive’: fast paced with many unexpected plot turns. If you can disregard the adolescent violence and the cheesy dialogue – you might enjoy this one.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

You know you're a proper grown up when...

..the girl at the checkout in Sainsbury's asks if you want 'Vouchers for Schools' without hesitation. Gave me something to ponder on this evening..

Let's face it. Im not the moon faced cherub I used to be. I can no longer delude myself that the light areas of hair on my temples are due to a reflection of the sunshine. My mane of black Irish hair is finer and slowly being supplanted by flecks of grey, the laughter lines round the eyes are more defined. My salad days have passed me by..

Does this worry me? Not particularly. On the morning of January 12th 2007 I awoke on my 30th birthday. Stumbling into the bathroom, the red eyed golem who greeted me from behind the mirror wasnt a pretty sight: red flecked eyes, swollen tongue and cavernous, gaping nostrils: I thought my life was over. 364 days later I drank sensibly and got an early night so my reflection on birthday morn was much more amenable. See, it aint that bad not being in the fullest flush of youth anymore, had my existential crisis that hungover morning in Jan of oh-seven. I've started the next chapter of my life now and the excesses are but a dim memory. Next weekend will by my first children's party (Xander turns four on March 31st) and I'm looking forward to it with a mixture of dread and real interest. Will the little angels leave the house standing when they leave or will total chaos break out?

Will keep you posted.

Alex

Friday, March 13, 2009

A shrine to the bloke out of T-Rex (??!!)

Hello Mark, et al.

So I was on the mean streets of Barnes the other day.. walking along and minding my own business..

Imagine my surprise when I came across this:


The story goes that glam rocker Marc Bolan came to a sticky end driving his mini down this road and into a tree back in 1977. Die hard fans (aka the T-Rex Action Group aka TAG) came together a decade ago and put this statue up (L)! Looks like something out of Highgate Cemetery doesnt it? Opposite is a panel of photos, magazine clippings, messages of adoration etc - even a visitors book which hangs unmolested in the top right of the picture. No scrawled graffitti comments about hard drug use here a la Jim Morrison. It's a touching homage to a pop star of times past.

Frankly this amazes me. How does a girly-man long dead rocker with a perm like my Mum used to have inspire so much attention? Secondly: why hasn't this been defaced long ago by local scumbags? There are candles, flowers and pieces of fabric lovingly adorning the site - all absolutely untouched.

Are the local people fundamentally decent sorts who respect the creative outpourings of others- or do they just not know what's on their doorstep?

I hope its the latter..


Alex

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I had a dream..

Hi Mark, et al

Just wanted to share a recent dream with you. Normally, I don't remember these - but this one stuck with me...

I missed my wedding... People were asking me 'What are you doing? Why arent you at your wedding?' This shocked me: I didnt know I was getting married, I didnt know who to, when or where, and this made me want the ground to open up and swallow me whole. A group of people came to where I was staying, supposedly from my bride - I prepared a noble speech for them to justify myself.. and they just ignored it. Made me feel even worse.

After the meeting I checked my mobile phone: Id missed 36 telephone calls from people - probably asking 'Where the hell are you? You are supposed to be getting married?' - one of who was Shane Richie (don't ask me why..)

Felt like I'd let everyone down and I'd been a total heel... What does it mean?



Till Next Time

Alex

Please check this out.. something for the grey matter..

Click here.


Alex

Sunday, March 08, 2009

A Sunday Roundup

Hi Mark (and all),

A brief moment for an update of sorts. Bright sunshine but pretty nippy out, I'm snug and warm inside, watching a small child run around the house for entertainment...Simple pleasures, huh?

Well, hows tricks? Mine are pretty mundane at the moment, enjoyable yes but mundane nonetheless. Nothing much of interest, so will try not to ramble...

Seems like I found a like minded soul with my Rammstein post, they are my artists of the moment but as they sound like their singing about slaughtering young children and drinking their blood in their songs (they're not), other people with disagree. Downloaded Sehnsucht the other day (one of their earlier albums): it sounds like the Pet Shop Boys doing industrial metal - so probably best to give that one to a miss. Apparently a new album is on the way this year, with a tour to come - anyone interested???

The Krav (see my earlier post) has been so much fun. Johnno and myself go up to Tottenham Court road on a Tuesday evening and throttle, kick and punch each other in the name of fitness. Can safely say I havent perspired this much in many years, after two hours Im left sore, starving but very satisfied. Even went as far as investing in one of those punching impact pads which makes a gratifying thwack! when you hit it. Brought it into our office on Friday and gave some of my work colleagues a go - they loved it! For instance, my dainty friend Zoe took great pleasure in giving it a few licks which really made me smile. Stress relief you see, if you're having a bad day, smacking the sh1t out of something always helps.. give it a try..

Work alternates between the humdrum of office existence and being fully challenged in my gym job. I could do my desk job with my arms tied between my back - take my pleasure in having a few laughs with the people I work with. A bloke called Dan is one of these: a guy who is incredibly crude but at the same time side bustingly funny. When was the last time you cried with laughter? Mine was last Friday, c/o Dan. Sensible souls would have been outraged by what he said (hint: it was about something tasting of burgers, cigarettes and beer.. work it out) but I was driven to one of those moment when the vision clouds and you cant breathe due to laboured gasps of mirth. Don't you just love moments like that?? Doesn't happen enough for my liking..

E & X are well. Xander was a lucky boy who got 13 hours sleep last night and woke us up at dawn this morning. I marvelled at how rested he looked, recharged and ready for the day. You ever have mornings like that any more? Wake up with bright, sparkling eyes ready to grab the challenges of the day round the neck and give them a good throttle?

Cheers,
Alex

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

An Ode to My Favourite German Industrial Metal Band

Hi Mark (and everyone)

Dark, powerful and upsetting... and I like it

Yes Rammstein, you might have heard of them.. if not. Let me enlighten you and also tell you why I like 'em. First things first. I am not a heavy music fan. Had the typical adolescent flirtation with some kids have and grow out of. Today I have the typical 30 something musical tastes, Magic FM in the car, easy listening on the stereo: nothing to write home about.

It changed when I was searching for fitness music for my MP3 player…

I go running twice a week in the streets where I live, pounding the pavements in my swanky new trainers with lungs pumping. Its free exercise and puts me into an unassailable frame of mind. I love it. With headphones clamped in ears I can roll up the steepest of hills with no problems. Recently, my soundtrack has been getting a bit stale so was looking for something new to drive me on.

I found it in Rammstein - a band from Berlin. Their thunderous drumming, and synth heavy style has been described as 'dance metal' (???!!), a musical genre I would have steered well clear of in the past. You'll see the videos on youtube if you look, imagine giving the Pet Shop Boys creative control of a heavy metal band and you've got an idea of the look. During the live shows, the band use gothic motifs and have a thing about fire. More than just a thing, they seem to love it.. large tongues of flame shooting into the air over baying, shaven headed crowds…a real industrial madhouse vibe I reckon.. The vocal style of lead singer Tillo Lindemann has been described memorably by critics: my favourite being the New York Times who reported. '"Mr. Lindemann gave off an air of such brute masculinity and barely contained violence that it seemed that he could have reached into the crowd, snatched up a fan, and bitten off his head."

So no bubblegum popcorn records here then…

A major departure from my usual tastes is that Rammstein sing almost exclusively in German, so I can barely understand a word of it! During the occasional foray into English ('Amerika') the result is a barely sensible beer hall sing-a-long [*]. When singing in their native tongue however, the result is totally different. Powerful and guttural - Lindemanns lyrics drip with a dark relish. Someone on the broadcasting site youtube has posted a Rammstein soundtrack onto Leni Refienstahl footage of the 1936 Olympic games and it is a suitable match. Due to its' style and militaristic overtones, the bands music and videos have attracted controversy, both external and self generated. According to their wikipedia entry, Rammstein were linked to the Columbine High School Massacre in 1999 to such an extent (pictures of the perpertrators wearing Rammstein T-shirts were released) that the band felt obliged to release a statement to the press. The Russian authorities claimed the gunmen involved in the 2004 Beslan school hostage crisis listened their music to get fired up. No concrete link has been found, however. The band were taking to court over their video for 'Mein Teil' ('My Part') a dark, comedic take on a cannibal case which hit the German news, also in 2004. It seems this band go out of their way to court controversy, you could argue they are simply enjoying their right of free expression, but some of their output is very close to the knuckle. The video for 'Mein Teil' is case in point: the visuals are incredibly striking. Granted, non German speakers will have no idea what is going on, but some dude wearing some white fabric shorts doing a Homer Simpson on the ground then chewing on an angel doesn't leave the mind in a hurry [#]..

CONCLUSION:
Rammstein's music is not for the faint of heart or the judgemental, it is by turns powerful, operatic and downright menacing. The videos are equally disconcerting, nightmarish at times, but also funny and suprisingly well observed. This might look like twisted stuff but it also has a sense of discernment which similar output from our American cousins does not.

However it does have a place. When I'm in the gym or out running, their tunes make me feel unstoppable. The lead singer's malevolent, resoundingly powerful voice and the soaring Wagnerian chorals will make the heart beat quicker. It IS in German [name the other famous German who's oratorial skills you may have heard?] so closed minds will make judgement. But it REALLY hits the spot for me.

DISCOGRAPHY:
  • Herzeleid (1995)
  • Sehnsucht (1997)
  • Mutter (2001)
  • Reise, Reise (2004)
  • Rosenrot (2006)
  • One more to come in 2009.

LIVE ALBUMS:
  • Live Aus Berlin (1999)
  • Volkerball (2006)

[*] http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=3T7Hfx7NmBI&feature=related

[#] http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=QYsRCp6vWCw

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Photo Update: March 1

Hi Mark and everyone,

Some more pics taken by my trusted N95:


Canada? Switzerland? Hampton Court, Surrey during the heaviest snow in SE England since 1991. Had just run two miles through shin deep snow at 7am to catch a train into work. Must really treasure my job then, eh?


Xander: Now You See Him...


.....

Update PART TWO: You can find me on Facebook again..

Just made the decision now.. Will dust down the social networking site again.. and, erm network??

I've routed my blog through my facebook page again. Spreading my words of wisdom to a wider audience (ahem), know what I mean?

Till Next Time

Alex

Random loose end tie-up PART ONE

Hello Mark (et al)

We're having a thaw here. The arctic breezes and thick snow has gone, it's all mildness and watery sunshine now.

So, here it an update of the last month. Decided it would be a fine time to give you a more detailed update as to what's going on. First of all, here is my fitness/ nutrition post. I plan to include it on a new health related blog at an undisclosed point in the near future (here's hoping). Procrastination and yours truly are best of friends at the moment..

****FEEL THE BURN***
Hi there,

My name is Alex. Lifelong fitness fan. Looking to share my passion with the world here, also to dish out some pearls of wisdom with anyone interested. Feel free to read on.

Lovers of a good pint (or three) read here.

In my salad days I downed the occasional beer. Come the weekend I used to go to great lengths to fill myself with large amounts of Stella.

When your metabolism rages like the boiler of the Flying Scotsman, that’s fine. However, as things slow down, the pints have a greater impact than they once did.

Conventional knowledge dictates that providing you take in less energy (or thereabouts) more than you consume, you’re gonna look pretty much the same as you always have. If the balance is reversed.. this might happen..



So, here’s some food for thought for you. Think of how much someone might knock back during a night on the town. How many calories are you taking down in relation to your recommended daily amount (RDA)?

Being well beyond my boozing days personally I had to search this out. Luckily, one of the young blades in the office put me right.




Throw a kebab and chips in there too..



Et voila! A nights worth of eating and drinking heavy on the pocket AND the belly..

Lets say for arguments sake, the experts recommend taking in between 1,800 and 2,000 calories per day. On a typical Friday night out our young blade is consuming the following:

1 pint Stella = 250 cals 7 pints = 7x250 = 1750 cals
1 kebab = 420 cals
1 portion of large chips = 300 cals

A grand total of 2470 calories - 20% over the total approx RDA for an adult male.

Regular indulgence like that can mean only one thing..