Bingeing on movies

I've had a quiet weekend in Coventry so I've been doing lots of reading and catching up on some movies:

  • Fast Times at Ridgemont HIgh was an OK high school movie, but with an impressive cast – three actors later won Best Actor at the Oscars.  Apparently David Lynch turned down the chance to direct, which would have been quite a movie.
  • Saw 2 was disappointing.  I enjoyed the first Saw film because it was creepy and well designed.  This one was convoluted and annoying.
  • The most enjoyable thing about The Incredible Hulk was not the CGI fights (which were kind of tedious) but the aerial shots of the Brazilian Favelas.  The Brazilian sequences were far more interesting than watching more monsters trash US cities.
  • The DVD of Glengarry Glen Ross came free with the Daily Mail.  It was fun wondering what their readership made of it.

The most interesting film of the weekend was the Happening.  I love M. Night Shyamalan's films, even though he's not made a great one since Unbreakable.  This film was similar to Cloverfield, in that you had normal people trying to survive a disaster but in Cloverfield it was obvious what they needed to do to survive.  In The Happening the deaths seemed random to the characters, meaning there was little dramatic tension.

But Shyamalan makes wonderful films, and this one had incredible scenes such as the isolated old woman and the suburban Philadepheans forced into the country to survive.  The rest of the film was so-so (the ending being particularly poor) but it was incredibly well made.  So, definitely the best value for money film of the weekend.

Interesting links

Haruki Murakami and running

Thanks to an email from Disappointed Kid, I learned that Haruki Murakami's new book is called What I talk about when I talk about running (the title apparently a Raymond Carver reference). I have a strange relationship with Murakami, in that most of his books leave me cold, apart from South of the Border, West of the Sun, one of my favourite novels.  At the same time, I find Murakami fascinating: how can you not love a writer who was "inexplicably inspired to write his first novel … while watching a baseball game"?

Apparently Murakami took up running in 1982 and now runs long
distance, aiming to complete a marathon each year.  His new book
reflects on the links between running and his writing and comes out on August 7th (just before the half-marathon!).  An extract of the new book was published in the Guardian:

"Most ordinary runners are motivated by an individual goal: namely, a time they want to beat. As long as he can beat that time, a runner will feel he's accomplished what he set out to do.  The same can be said about my profession. In the novelist's profession, as far as I'm concerned, there's no such thing as winning or losing. Maybe numbers of copies sold, awards won and critics' praise serve as outward standards for accomplishment in literature, but none of them really matters. What's crucial is whether your writing attains the standards you've set for yourself. In this sense, writing novels and running full marathons are very much alike. For me, running is both exercise and a metaphor. I'm at an ordinary – or perhaps more like mediocre – level. But that's not the point. The point is whether or not I improved over yesterday."

Which leaves me waiting like ginquinn for the release date of the new Murakami book.

"Raymond Chandler once confessed that even if he didn't write anything, he made sure he sat down at his desk every single day and concentrated. I understand the purpose behind his doing this. This is the way Chandler gave himself the physical stamina a professional writer needs, quietly strengthening his willpower."

The weekend

After last weekend's running around this weekend was more sedate.  Friday night I had a quiet night watching Infernal Affairs and woke early on Saturday to visit Melbourne.

In the month since I last saw my niece she's changed a lot.  She's happily tottering about now, and seeing her walk is one of the coolest things I've seen in weeks.  There are also some amusing 'tricks' she's picked up.  She's becoming just like she's a real person…

While in Melbourne I did some running.  I'd hoped to improve on last week's 6.5 miles with a run along the old railway line.  I took my sister's dog with me and she lagged behind from the second mile.  When we passed the turning for home, intending to run another few miles, Stella sneaked back home.  I turned round and found her safe with a few locals.

The running is going well.  I hate the second mile of any run but, after that, I slip into a rhythm.  In two weeks time is the Breedon Run.  The race starts with a fearsome hill and I'm wondering how well I will cope with that.

One of my colleagues is a huge fan of South Korean movies and had recommended the director Kim Ki-duk.  While babysitting I watched his movie 3 Iron.  The film was a revelation.  There are very few lines of dialogue but the film is gripping.  It tells the story of a man who breaks into houses to stay the night but any synopsis I gave would do it little justice.  The film is only 80 minutes and worth taking a chance on it.  I can't wait to see it again.

Books you really should read

The Potlatch blog discusses Waterstone's advertising books as 'Books you really should read':

"…the last thing Waterstones wants is for people to actually read the 'books you really should read', but to buy them, put them on a shelf, then feel ashamed for not reading them… Meanwhile, those who really do read such books are probably perfectly happy with a combination of second hand bookshops, friends' bookshelves, public libraries and Amazon, having no need for the moral lecture.

200,000 titles are released every year in the United Kingdom, with the number of books sold rising faster than the number of books read. The publishing industry would collapse if it depended on reading.


The photographs below are of tributes attached to memorial benches, in Hove and St. Annes.


I recently found myself thinking of Joan Vollmer and how, if I had the money, I'd love to commission a bench in Hove looking out at the channel, in memory of 'Bill and Joan'.  I'd give them both long lives on the little memorial plaque, mentioning their happy marriage and long hours spent looking out to sea together.


It's not what happened, but it's a happier ending to the story.

A long weekend

This weekend has been a long one, mainly because it started on Thursday lunchtime.  I headed straight from work to Brighton, met Sophy for dinner, then headed to The Enchantment Under the Sea dance.  I had a great time, meeting up with lots of friends, some I’d not seen in months.  The performances included singing from Raquel Merlot (with an accordian accompanied cover of I’m on Fire) and burlesque from Honey Moon and Baby Bones

Kitty Peels did an act based on Back to The Future, for which I was the ‘man prop’.  My job was to sit onstage and act bored as Kitty undressed.  Since I was ignoring Kitty I didn’t see the act, but the audience seemed to like it.  After the dance I returned to Hove, stopping off at the soon-to-be-sold market diner.  Eating burgers at 3am with a friend in a Munroe-style dress seemed a fitting send-off to the place.

Next morning I was up early for my run, then spent the afternoon catching up with friends and doing a little shopping.  I headed back to Coventry yesterday to meet Jo, who’d hitched up from Brighton.  We went to her Aunt’s 50th birthday party, then made the long walk back to the city centre.

It’s been a good weekend.  Not sure when I’ll next be in Brighton, but I hope it won’t be too long.


Beth eats local

There are some interesting blogs coming out of Brighton looking at alternative ways of living.  One is the fantastic A long way from Eden, whose author, Jo, visited me in Coventry this weekend.  A new blog, by a former housemate of mine, is Beth Eats Local:

"From June 1st
2008 to May 31st 2009 every item of food that I eat and every
ingredient that goes into that food is going to come from a one hundred
mile radius of my home in Brighton. If I’m travelling, food has to come
from either a one hundred mile radius of where I am, or from one
hundred miles of Brighton. I’m vegetarian, and I’m going to try to eat
organic wherever possible. Am I crazy? Undoubtedly. Am I going to
cheat? Not if I can help it. Am I going to starve? You’ve gotta hope

Something Jo pointed out to me is that the difficult bit in  making lifestyle changes is often the research:  what do vegans eat for breakfast?  But once you've found a alternative (cereal with soya milk, toast with vegan spread, fruit, porridge) you don't need to find it again.  Providing Beth doesn't starve to death, I'm hoping to see lots of interesting ideas for local food.

Another attraction of local eating (speaking as a spectator, rather than a participant) is the idea that you are more likely to have some sort of interaction with the people producing your food.  I imagine Beth is likely to meet some interesting people.

Good luck!


Today was my first proper day of half-marathon training.  I started with an early morning run, 6.5 miles, from King Alfred's to the Marina and back.  The longest distance I'd run before was 4 miles so I was quite pleased to manage come back in just over 55 minutes.

At last night's event I was talking with someone about running and they said they found it boring.  They'd heard people say it felt good, but couldn't imagine that.  I always felt the same way but I've found that, once I've managed the first mile, I'm carried away by the rhythm of running.  It's a different feeling to anything else I know. 

After a quick shower I visited the Run shop on Blatchington Road to buy a new pair of running shoes.  These should be more suitable for my own feet and will hopefully prevent any damage as I work on longer distances.  The fitting process at Run is quite involved, including video analysis and test driving, but I came out feeling very happy about the shoes I'd bought.  Hopefully I can try them out properly on Sunday when I'm back in Coventry.