Categories
Rants

Trending Nonsense

<rant>

Does anyone who is even remotely sane follow the trending topics by looking at the actual responses anymore. My basic issue is this:

  1. You see a trending topic;
  2. You open the link to view;
  3. You read the first few replies and realise at least two of them are retweets;
  4. You look up and notice at least 20 new tweets have been added in the time it took you to read three;
  5. You try to make a tweet, but your words are lost in the miasma of retweets, inane comments, WTFs etc.;
  6. You give up on looking…

So I do not understand why anyone bothers with them at all. What do people get by making something trend. Okay I know that things will trend just by being mentioned, but a lot of people make them trend by insisting on using the # (which is fine to use), or by using the appropriate keyword that is trending. We all have at least some mastery of English, it is easy not to use the word and avoid trending the inane.

Basically trending topics give analysts an idea of the public consciousness, apparently, and I say ‘apparently’  as I have noticed that they in fact are not the zeitgeist of the modern persona but an inflation of a small section. Take, for example, that during the coverage of the Earthquake near Japan one of the trending topics was PearlHarbour. The tweets were split between the offensive “this is revenge/karma for Pearl Harbour”, to the angry “how can people compare this to Pearl Harbour” and the various millions who retweeted. It made it look as if this was a hot topic of division.

It wasn’t really, it was mostly over-reaction from both sides leading to a spurious heated exchange lost in the wealth of pointless retweets and insults. The trending topic is the new internet flame war, Twitter allows us to vent our spleen in much tidier packages that can distill the essence of our bile and render ineffective any viewpoint we have.

How can we analyse and debate anything in a mere 140 characters. Twitter is a great tool for an instant thought, or linking something of importance, but it is nano-blogging, there is no scope for reflection.

The trending topic has become a parody, it no longer shows the pattern of public feeling, more the shoaling of minnows with little voice. Yes, from a distance a lot of shouting may appear to be a great tide of opinion, but when all they are doing is chanting to a tune you realise it is just an audience at a spectator sport.

“You’re shit and you know you are” (endless repeat)
“Who’s the b*stard in the black” (and many other varieties)
“We’re all bald impotent w*nkers with girlfriends who remain sexually unfulfilled” (truthful option)

</rant>

 

Categories
Poems

Vampire Poem for Leigh

So, Leigh has been complaining in her writing challenges (see her posts here: http://www.leighkeating.me/) that she can’t do the poetry writing part of the challenge as well, or as easily, as she does the other challenges. It also seems to annoy her that I can write poems (fairly poor ones let’s face it) at speed. In fact if the requirement is for bad, sad or mad poems, I’m your man. This latest one was written in 8 minutes while waiting for a train at Preston railway station. It is from the Vampire Week Challenge (Diary Challenge: 24th-30th Jan 2011).

I should note that the challenge was to write a poem from a Vampire’s perspective, and that I take no responsibility for you cringing at any of the words I use in this poem, I already know the quality, i wrote it 🙂

Easy Prey

Diana calls me.
I am the Huntresses’ slave.
She holds aloft the night,
And pulls me from my grave.
Well, at least that’s what I tell the girls,
To get them to behave.

So simple are these pithy words,
That bring me my delight,
I tell them of my lonely life,
Where sorrow is my plight,
And then I take them to their bed
To feed all through the night.

Born in darkness, wreathed in sin,
Come hear my words of pain,
Then loosen bodice and open thighs
You need not have your shame.
While you dream of love you’ll place in my dark heart
All your blood I’ll drain.

 

Categories
Benjamin Images

Benjamin Loves Rock

So when you have a small child but you are enormous fans of rock music for many years, and are in fact partially responsible for introducing hard rock music (including thrash/death metal/stoner rock) to nephews to the despair of their poor parents, you get a little flack. Mostly this is in the shape of the fact that you have become sad because you know all the lyrics to Fifi and the Flowerpots or every tune in order on the musical toys the child has…

In fact it is usually a time for those parents you have annoyed, by teaching their children that music should be played loud enough to break your ears (“I want you to break my ears” – Atom Seed how I loved your t-shirts), to get their just revenge, declaring that now you are sad like you their child see them…

Well, children always see their parents as sad, it happens to all of us, but we are not going down without a fight, and in that light we have been exposing our child to the joys of Metal, by making him watch Scuzz and by playing the tunes to him.

A brief video shows the results so far…


(if the video doesn’t run in your browser then please use this link: Ben-Rock

The tune is Dying in your Arms by Trivium.

Categories
Images

Raptor with a Swiss-Army-Chainsaw

Created for mst:

Raptor with a Swiss Army Chainsaw
Raptor with a Swiss Army Chainsaw
Categories
Film Criticism Rants

Monsters (versus Aliens)[1]

**CAUTION: THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS ABOUT District 9, Monsters

On the flight from Manchester to Orlando recently I managed to catch up on a few films I had missed at the cinema in the past few months, amazing what a new baby does to your social life, one of these movies was Monsters. Monsters drew parallels by some critics and audiences to the previous years District 9 as they are both by first time Writer/Directors, both scifi movies and both have extraterrestrials in them. But this comparison was unfounded and unfair to both movies.

District 9 is an odd movie, it starts almost as a social parable reflecting on Alien integration in South Africa and their confinement in camps or ghettos, there is a reflection of South Africa’s turbulent past pitched into the nature of the film making it immediately thoughtful and blessing it with the commentary on the regions past and present. The aliens are misunderstood both socially and culturally and forced to move into deeper draconian control and our sympathies are directed towards them.

Once the movie has established this premise it turns into an invasion flick with an infected host[2] and then into an action movie that Arnie would be proud to be in. The movie therefore sat uneasily as its tone wasn’t balanced. Was it commentary or eye-candy, thought-provoking or mind-numbing, you could take your pick. It certainly spanned across genres and it was *very* entertaining. The direction was superb as were the performances and the sleight of hand in both film making and story telling well done with the plot events harder to determine than first imagined.

Monsters on the other hand is a drama. The sci-fi elements in this movie are used simply to highlight the director/writers motifs and allegories. He could have easily have used a zombie plague or a viral infection to achieve some of the same effect[3] in the surface notion of a world split by the need to control an aggressive enemy.

The “monsters” of the title are seemingly unthinking creatures who devastate lives and communities almost without meaning. The director uses them to portray different attitudes that can be given to the same impetus. The Mexican/South American people have learned to live with the encroachment, seasonal disturbances and death whereas the American (USA) attempt to force control or wall in the threat. The US attempts to control using force are debated upon as they are seen to aggravate the creatures, the effectiveness is called into question throughout the movie and is even seen to cause needless disruption and eventual failure of this type of approach in later scenes. The monsters are seen a forces of nature by some of the main protagonists, they are simply responding to and living with their environment, though as the movie develops the creatures and give some hint as to an unknown intellect with them analysing television performance and communicating with each other in some manner.

Into this mix we have the central drama facing the characters, a woman dislocated from a family she seems emotionally detached from and a man forced to have no attachment to a family he so clearly craves. The developing bond between the two leads and the cleverly constructed performances (though I have to say the male lead was the finer performance in my opinion) draw the audiences sympathies. It is a credit to the director that he almost unobtrusively allows these two to develop themselves as opposed to pushing onto us there evolving nature. Their approach to the creatures and the situation they witness, the male lead is a photographer whose initial stance as a journalist merely there to document is gradually eroded by the circumstances in the film as he is embroiled in the conflict.

Monsters, therefore, is a more rounded drama, the film knows where it is going and its tone stays consistent throughout. It does suffer somewhat from a lack of dramatic tension during the middle third of the film, and at times the female leads is called on to be a little too detached from her surroundings, though this does balance well with her being drawn into the real world around her and experiencing it rather than ignoring or running away.

This is by no way a judegement on either film, I would happily watch both again and would probably give them similar scores if asked to grade them as they both have a multitude of different advantages to perk my interest.

I think District9 has more immediate re-watchability as its pace is snappy and it is easy to stay focused as you are not called upon to use *too much* brain power. Monsters requires a lot more engagement from the audience as its central themes are questioned and challenged in the layered narrative[4] which left me feeling questioned and reflective.

I wish we could stop the poor comparisons that are made between films[5] and attempt to analyse them for their own worth. I have always maintained that comparative analysis is derogatory[6].

——

[1] By Aliens I am referring to District 9 as it had an identifiable intelligent Alien species whereas the alien species in Monsters was not so clearly defined.

[2] Overtones of 50s Red under the Bed socialist-sci-fi-parables mixed in with 80s re-reading of such movies.

[3] Though the use of zombies or a virus would mute the impact, it also would be at odds with some of the themes that are expressed and without as much implication and toying with our sympathies as it is easy for us to instantly be against Zombies/Virusses as they are immediately bad.

[4] I felt that in Monsters there was a slight overuse of dramatic pause that perhaps added to the feeling of a slow middle section.

[5] I guess they are encouraged by studios and marketing departments as linking your production to another that was successful rewards you with bottoms on seats, the issue for me is that degrades both films, especially films like these which are so different that the only element that links them is EBEs.

[6] Comparisons are often used as they make it easier for us to relate to things, I know they are necessary I just wish people were more aware that they are degrading the item, and themselves if the comparison is flimsy.

Categories
Images

Ben, in reflection

So I have been playing with Black and White (well if I am being truthful it is actually Greyscale -256- as opposed to B&W but the essence is true-ish, we could call it monochromatic if we wanted to be accurate), this is the first picture I tweaked of my son, Ben. There wasn’t much that needed to be done as the original shot was okay. I mostly made some hard contrast and brightness adjustments to really punch the blacks and lighten foreground and then used the burn/dodge tool to bring back the details that had become lost, this has given the eyes that un-earthly child quality. (Enlarge the image by clicking on it, which will open a version that fits to your browser, clicking it again will magnify to full size – image is 3mb so beware of loading times.)

Benjamin in glorious monochrome
Benjamin in glorious monochrome
Categories
Coffee tasting

Coffee Tasting: Ethiopian Yingacheffe and “Yule Love It” Blend

For today’s coffee tasting[1] I wandered for the first time to The Music Rooms which is located in Sun Square in Lancaster and is the new Café owned by Atkinson‘s coffee shop and rightly deserves to name itself as the “finest coffee in the North West”[2].

The Taste

[Please note this is not a professional tasting guide, just an enthusiast, I have used language that is in the register of food & drink tasting only to sound coherent, even if there is some debate as to whether this is fully cogent]

Ethiopian Yingacheffe

I drank this coffee as a filter coffee.

Gentle on the nose which entices with scents of sweet milk chocolate notes and a roast hazelnut essence. Smooth on the palate with a nice backtaste that reminds me of caramelised prunes.

With milk this becomes beautifully choclatey. Would make a nice latte and feel more like a mocha with that milk chocolate nature on the nose and palate.

Yule Love It

A blend of:

Old Brown Java
Ethiopian Yingacheffe
High Roasted Salvador

This was today’s espresso chaser 🙂

Zesty and sharp on the nose on a deep sniff but the blend hides the dark riches to come as the Java is hidden in the chocolate-scented Ethiopian and the Salvadorian, there was a feeling of citrus present, but it was a little more astringent than usual, a little lime perhaps or more a sharp grapefruit.

The Java in this blend makes this a powerful espresso. A rich strong kick that lingers on the tongue leaving an impression of licorice and to my mind losing most of the other two coffees. Perhaps there is an impression that the Java is smoothed by the addition of the Salvador but it was lost on me, maybe because the standard “office” coffee we use is Old Brown, or maybe becuase I greedily drank my expresso down and didn’t linger too long in the smelling. To my disadvantage with both of these coffees that I tasted today was that I wasn’t able to sniff the beans both ground and unground beforehand which always helps me to scent out the delicate smells (not that I am in any way correct about what I can smell 🙂 ).

The aftertaste lingers and leaves a note of bitterness and a hint of acidity displaying some of the citrus impressions felt on the nose.

I liked the “Yule Love It” and once again I am awed by the skill of the coffee producers, i have to say that it didn’t quite ‘blow me away’ as the “Santa’s Dark Secret” (but I am a strong dark coffee whore), but it is a worthy drink nevertheless.

Sun Square as always is a quiet seclusion in a busy town, I do hope many other Lancastrians find their way there as the cafes/restaurants on the square are all excellent in value and experience and different to each other in what they offer so that one has no guilt over which to frequent and patronise as you can visit each of them.

The staff in The Music Room deserve a special note as they were friendly, helpful and chatty. it is nice to go to a shop where you are invited to sit and make yourself comfortable as they are only to happy to bring a drink to you.

[1] [1] Please note that this is an Unsolicited Blog, okay I do use the same coffee shop, and the cafés in Sun Square, but they are in the city where I live, they provide a quality local service, not a manufactured chain store customer service guidelined response, and they are a very friendly and helpful group of people, so yes, I do gush about them in glowing terms. And, if by reading this blog you visit them and purchase some of their produce I say Huzzah, one for the local businesses with dedicated and talented professional employees.

[2] This accolade is used on their signage and I believe was awarded to them, no doubt they could tell you who declared it, I am happy to second it. I haven’t in fact found a coffee supplier as good in the UK as yet. I suspect the accolade comes from FFNW (Fine Foods North West) whose awards ceremony I believe Atkinson‘s have been winners at for a few years. See the blog article here (http://www.atkinsonsteaandcoffee.co.uk/page.php?Page=100).[3]

[3] Note that this coffee is reviewed by me here (https://www.markkeating.me.uk/2010/11/24/coffee-tasting-santuario/)

Categories
Images

Nathan and Sarah: the Announcement

Yesterday I went to a friends announcement/proclamation at the Yorkshire House in Lancaster. It was a Pagan event wherein the couple announced their intent to marry close to Midsummer 2011 and expressed their love for each other. Afterward we retreated to the comfort of H&N’s house for a festive Blót.[1]

What follows below is a series of images from the event (please just click on the thumbnail for a larger image).

[1] Note that this didn’t involve much sacrificing of Equine livestock, unless you count the threat to Dexter one of my son’s cuddly toys.

Categories
Coffee tasting Uncategorized

Coffee Tasting: Decaf Santos

Once again I visited the wonderful Atkinsons Coffee shop and purchased a new coffee (to my taste buds) for tasting. This time I selected a decaf, and I hear some apparent coffee purists cringe at the very thought of a drink without the apparent caffeine kick[1], and went for the Brazillain bean Decaf Santos.

Santos is named after the port in which it is shipped from, as with most Brazilian beans, and is an Arabica from the Sau Paulo region of Brazil. I did a brief internet search on the bean after my tasting and discovered that there is some contention, some have it as a strong bean, others insist Brazilians are smooth and mild ‘to the cup’ which sounds like a gross generalisation. The general feeling is that the Santos is a bean deserving of a medium roast and is strong in acidity. The internet also cautions against using this bean for “modern methods” of production, by which I believe they mean coffee machines, no doubt it is better suited to traditional Moroccan styles, I used a cafetiere.

Atkinsons, and the skilled roasters they keep working there, roast this bean to a rich dark colour, giving it a non-internet approved dark finish, and it is to their credit that they do so as this bean is worthy of that challenge. They also manage to reduce some of the inherent acidity as all I could detect was a slight edge of bitterness in the aftertase, a non-too-unfamiliar effect for me as I like my coffee strong so put a little more bean to water than most others. I would actually put the lack of acidity or bitterness in this bean that I tasted down to the skill of the roasters at Atkinsons as once again I have to say they know how to get the very beast from their beans[2].

The Taste

[Please note this is not a professional tasting guide, just an enthusiast, I have used language that is in the register of food & drink tasting only to sound coherent, even if there is some debate as to whether this is fully cogent]

The first few sniffs of the coffee, both before and just after adding water, gave me an impression of dark chocolate that was hidden amongst the very strong notes of licorice with a touch of roasted hazelnut on the after scent.

The taste of this coffee is strong and full-bodied, it almost wants to kick your senses alive, that dark chocolate impression becomes more of a feeling in the taste and there is definitely an impression of spices hovering in the background. I was unable to exactly lock down what the spices were but it was reminiscent of maybe roasted cinnamon or burnt nutmeg (maybe I am just dreaming of an Xmas break), this was distinctly an impression as opposed to an effect.

Once I had enjoyed an espresso or two I moved on to trying this bean with milk and found it to be quite wonderful. Those rich notes really shine through and I would imagine that with the right strength of cup it would make a truly awe-inspiring latte (my personal preference is 2 parts coffee to 3 milk with latte, but I know others like a much lighter fraction).

[1] Those of you in the know will understand that caffeine does not in fact give you an energy boost, this is a misnomer, it in facts inhibits the work of a receptor in the brain triggering, eventually, a release of adrenalin, which is the energy kick you get. Its action is to suppress not invigorate.

[2] This was supposed to be “best” from their beans, but beast works just as well, and thanks to @coffeehopper on Twitter for thinking I had some trace of Genius.

Categories
Walks

Walk to Work 3: In 3D

(Well it was in 3D for me as I was there).

Once again I had my camera in my bag and once again the walk to work was worth photographing as there was a layer of snow on the ground and snow in the air. This being Lancaster of course it was only a dusting, but it is rare enough to see snow in November in Lancaster that it is worthwhile taking and showing the snaps.

Snow on the cars on the street where I live
Just liked the angle
Skerton Bridge with a light snow fall
Wintry colours in the clouds
The quayside

(Sorry for the captions, they are a tad ordinary, maybe even lame.)