Post-concert Musings

I wrote recently about catching the Muse concert in Hong Kong, and here I am on the other side of that, somewhat tired, but pleased nonetheless.

Hong Kong rocked far harder than I could have imagined, and it was good to see that alternative music is alive and well there. The Asiaworld Exposition Hall is a monstrous building just past Hong Kong Airport, and the industrial grey concrete seemed befitting.

After waiting far too long for the staff to get wired up (surely they could have sorted this out before the start), Muse descended onto the stage and immediately launched into the first half of their set. Chatty they are not, saying but a few words in Cantonese for the whole of the show. However, they worked incredibly hard and the music was perfectly crafted, with Matt Bellamy’s falsetto voice always reaching the tricky notes and his fingers never missing a key on the classical piano sections.

Alas I took no photos, but courtesy of the great internet I can refer you to a couple of wobbly YouTube recording:

The Necronomicon

The other week I managed to watch a pretty bad series of horror stories, all wrapped together in a film called The Necronomicon. I knew it was going to be a bad movie even before it started, but I was still looking forward to it because it’s based upon the stories of H.P. Lovecraft.

For those unfamiliar with this author, he was a reclusive American writer who wrote in the mid-1920’s. His specialty was horror writing, but a horror unlike almost everything else in the genre. If you have any familiarity with Edgar-Allen Poe then you’ll know the style. We’re talking dark brooding horror, focusing on insanity and the human mind. Lovecraft managed to create his own shadow world which looked like ours, but contained unimaginable evils waiting to break free.

I read his stories as a teen and was struck by just how unique his visions were. They are not always scary, but most are genuinely creepy in a way that I’ve never seen before or since. The power of Lovecraft was that he rarely described the horror directly, but just suggested it and let you fill in your own details.

The movie is loosely based around Lovecraft’s world. The Necronomicon is a book that features in this, being ‘the book of the dead’ and containing all manner of dark secrets.

Loosely is a very apt term as the movie has little to do with the real stories. The whole story is centered on Lovecraft himself, performing research for his stories. He finds the Necronomicon in a monastery in America, and attempts to use it to further his stories. In doing so he discovers some of the events that happened because of the book. These are shown as sub-stories, with three in total.

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Dr Zhivago

I’ve been churning through a lot of books recently and so I thought I’d talk about some here.

First up is Dr. Zhivago. I’ll admit a distinct liking for Russian literature, ever since Crime & Punishment blew me away. The country is so big and has so much history. I just wish I could explore it all. As I do not possess an unlimited budget I have to make do with whatever books I can get my hands on, and this was provided by Boris Pasternak.

I knew almost nothing about this story. I’ve never watched the movie, although I was aware it was a big thing back in the 60’s. It even seems to have been remade for the TV, and stars the delightful Kiera Knightley (shown above for decorative effect).

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Icy Box IB-360 Review

A recent escapade in hard drive recovery made me realise that I wasn’t doing anywhere near enough to keep my system safe. Forget all about viruses and spyware and all the other computer-based threats; if your hard drive goes kaput then you are seriously screwed.

I looked into various backup software programs, but they all required me to spend considerable time burning DVDs. The best backup routine is one I don’t need to think about. My attention then moved on to a secondary, and larger, hard drive that could be used to make an exact copy of my primary drive. No hassle, no fuss, and painless recovery should anything go wrong. That’s the theory.

As I have a laptop my only option was to make this drive external. Most hard drive manufacturers make their own external drives, but they tend to be pricey. If you’re prepared to handle a few screws and bits of cable then you can get an identical device for a lot less money by purchasing a hard drive and hard drive casing, and putting it together yourself.

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Politically incorrect fun – Woman Of The Year

I watched several movies over the weekend, courtesy of my flat mate making a bumper trip to the video rental store. His tastes could easily be described as eclectic – old romance, sci-fi, and Benny Hill are not an average choice.

Woman Of The YearMovie one was Woman Of The Year. This is a very old black and white movie starring Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn and it falls squarely in the ‘romantic comedy’ category. Normally I make a quick retreat from such movies, but this was a lot of fun and certainly a lot better than most modern varieties.

What was particularly curious is how much society has changed with regards attitudes towards women. The basic premise of the story is that Hepburn is a modern wonder-woman; strong, intelligent, and beautiful. She speaks several languages, knows many important political figures, and soon wins the prize for ‘Woman of the year’. At the same time she meets Spencer Tracy and before long they get married. However, because of her busy life things start falling apart. She tries to patch it together by adopting an orphan boy, but it’s quickly apparent she has no time for him.

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Dishwasher music

Duran Duran Everybody has some musical cheese that they secretly enjoy. Beneath our oh-so-cool exterior beats a heart of wobbly glam-rock horrors, ’70s cornball, and New Romantic meltdowns. We’re born with this stuff so why fight it?

Having lived in the Czech Republic for nearly half a year I now realize that a great percentage of the Czech population are not afraid to show their love of kitsch music. I am sure a great underground scene exists here, somewhere, but the stuff that gets piped on the radio and in shops and other public places is firmly rooted in 80’s hair-rock and power ballads.

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A bloodbath – Review of The Tenant and Gusher No Binds Me

TenantI watched two movies at the weekend and I still don’t know what to think of them. The first was Roman Polanski’s The Tenant. I’ve not watched many Polanski movies and even though I enjoyed my flat-mates story about meeting him at a wedding last year, he was always someone I heard a lot about, but never quite managed to see.

Sometimes you can watch a movie and wonder if, when you blink, you actually fall asleep by accident. That’s not because of boredom but just because you feel like you missed a key scene. The Tenant is very much like that. There is a slow build-up of paranoia as a man rents an apartment in which the previous tenant jumped out of the window. He begins to suspect that his neighbors caused it to happen, and this first half of the movie is great with lots of wonderful Kafka-esque situations.

Warning: contains spoilers – don’t read further if you want to watch the movie!

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The Old Order

While I appreciate the cultural significance1 of a band such as New Order, I was never much of a fan. Their music often sounded like it was made on a cheap Casio keyboard, or was the recorded drone from a tinnitus patient. There was never any incentive to investigate further, and this was reinforced by many years of suffering World In Motion – some say the high-point of English footballing music, but as I do not care for football then it just compounded my distaste for the whole subject.

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Apple iPod Shuffle

So what can be said about Apple’s latest product that hasn’t already been said in a thousand other reviews, and hasn’t been dissected in essays and dissertations across the world? Love them or hate them, Apple have managed to create a modern religion by fusing technology with style, and setting a price point high enough that it forces people to part with their money. People will, it seems, pay almost anything for something when it looks good, and when their friends have one.

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Panasonic (Matshita) UJ-845

Notebooks are not usually big on upgrade potential. The parts are difficult to obtain, are generally more expensive, and people are nervous about opening up an expensive piece of equipment.

One of the few upgrades paths is the optical drive. Typically a notebook will have a CD burner, possibly with DVD reading capabilities. The latest notebooks will undoubtedly contain a DVD burner, but the great majority will be lacking this feature. Enter the Panasonic UJ-845!

Marketed as an OEM drive, the UJ-845 is unlikely to be found in retail stores. However it is easily purchased from any number of websites, and for a surprisingly reasonable cost, especially considering that is dual-layer, slot-loading, and supports DVD-RAM. That’s good going even by desktop standards.

For the purposes of this review, an Acer Travelmate 800 was used as the test notebook, replacing its standard QSI CD-RW/DVD-ROM drive.

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