“In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations, the new needs friends.” (Anton Ego: Ratatouille)
No recent product launch has grasped the Zeitgeist as much as the Pebble watch. It represents a perfect storm of elements coming together all at once and its success is […]
I’m an avid reader of New Scientist magazine. In fact I get it every week. The headline will usually be about something “quantum” or allude to some current or near “breakthrough”. Of course real breakthroughs are hardly on a weekly schedule. I know this, but still I buy into it. It is a classic marketing technique that tempts impulse buying. New Scientist covers about Quantum are the geek equivalent of putting Princes Diana or perhaps Jordan on the cover of a ladies magazine or putting Bruce Lee on the cover of a martial arts magazine. In each case the marketers know what make people pick up the edition, what buttons to push.
It is this technique that got me to buy this book.
A few weeks ago my wife started a Skype chat to me at work. Normally this signifies that I need to pick something up on the way home or that I forgot to turn the iron off, or similar. However, this time she was definitely excited about something,
The story of a simple Buddhist priest travelling from India to China in the 5th Century doesn’t sound like something that would make for an interesting novel, but the after effects of this solitary man’s journey still reverberate today. In all parts of the far east, the name Bodhidharma is still very well known. In Japan, for example, little girls have Bodhidharma key-chains and all sorts of other cultural influences and footprints can be found. And not only in the geek fringes or the religious halls, no his is a visage often seen in paintings; most of the time shown as an old priest with a particularly fierce expression of concentration, and it is for this ability that he was most highly prized. Bodhidharma didn’t bring Buddhism to China or Japan, but he started a school of Buddhist thought that spoke to something deep inside the Eastern people that heard it. Spoke to their marrow with a simple and unselfish message of compassion, dedication and submission.
This effect changed them forever.
Kick Ass is a film that draws a line in the dirt and invites you to place yourself on one side or another. Or, rather, it hands you the stick and asks you to draw your own line. The super hero action genre is ripe for satire as Superman, Spiderman and Batman are leftovers from the 50’s that have had to move from their post WWII, Reds under the Bed, pro America trope to trying to come to terms with modern times. Many movies have travelled this territory by satirising the ridiculous background stories, powers and cringeworthyness of modern super heroics such as the recent Watchmen. And perhaps unintentionally in the form of the Spiderman movies, which are so beyond pathetic that the only thing I can remember is a wet T-shirt.
In Kick Ass we have all the elements of a standard “super hero” journey. The voice over, the sad life in school, the lust after the school’s best looking chick, the bullies and the obsessive compulsive masturbation fantasies. Yep, all present. Geeks must truly have inherited the earth, and must be earning millions, for films to try so hard to show them in such a positive light. Then the first person dies and it is the only person in the film who doesn’t die violently. It is Kick Ass’s mother, who drops dead in the opening montage. Nothing is made of this and she sort of fades from view. Nothing changes for the “hero”.
My Spidey-sense started tingling at this point.
The first line of Philip Pullman’s novel reads:
This is the story of Jesus and his brother Christ, of how they were born, how they lived and how one of them died.
Despite the use of the definite ‘the’ in the first line of Philip Pullman’s new novel, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, it is not actually claiming to be the real back-story of the influential spiritual leader. Rather it is a telling of a myth; a fable. And in doing so makes us face what the story of Jesus really means. All stories of the Gods are the subject of myth and they all have within them the patterns that stretch directly into the mind and subconscious. As with other tales of half remembered, but not forgotten, ancient wisdom, the story of Jesus has meaning beyond the telling. His is the hero’s story told again and again through the ages, and its lessons are to be read and dwelt upon over many tellings. So, as he steps though the doors of his life – the foretold stages of his journey – we step with him and arrive on the other side together.
The layers of understanding, which come with changing from child to man, are ones I remember clearly. At 10 I was always told that Jesus was also a God. Or was the Christian God himself in a certain form. This lesson led to my childlike wondering of, given the immense creative powers ascribed to this God, how it was that Jesus allowed himself to be nailed up in the first place. Why did he not use his godly power to save himself? Such are the practical thoughts of the child.
To an adult, the answer to this question is Gnostic and illuminates the spiritual level, understanding and beliefs of the speaker. The story sold to me at my Sunday school was that Jesus let himself be executed because he wanted to save us. This was something my young mind could not understand and, I presumed at the time, I would have to ‘grow up’ to realise. In the same sense that one finds an answer to Santa Claus’s apparent ability to travel around the world in one night, I did. In the sense of coming to an understanding of the churches’ view of Jesus, I did not. Growing up involved coming to terms with the world, my limited place within it and to walking some of the steps of the spiritual journey within myself. Together with the practical teachings of my schooling, the categorisation of reality scientifically defined in certain ways, this meant that the Christian God did not fit into my life.
When I was considering taking a year off, I started looking around for a computer that I could take with me on my travels around the world; a laptop. I started with the tiny and cheap eeePC, the first of the netbooks, and I was happy with it. That is until I tried to run my camcorder software, which stubbornly refused to work with such a low end graphics card. So I turned to a Samsung Q45. The provided me with a machine that covered my travelling bases. However, since returning from Japan, I have been getting tired of it. I need a new machine. I need a (little) monster that can do everything.
So, I need a new laptop, one that covers all my specific bases. What those bases are has an influence on what I think of the machine in this review so I list them here.
1. It must be portable. This is the most important thing in a laptop. The machine must be light enough for me to be able to carry it to work every day. I have an 80 minute journey on the intercity train into London from Ipswich so a laptop cannot be too large in size or I will not be able to fit it in the small space afforded. Sometimes I see a person with a 17inch Macbook on the train. If someone sitting next to them wanted to use a laptop as well, they can forget it. Fur will fly before you manage to squeeze two machines into that space. Then, I have a 1.5 mile walk from Liverpool Street to London Bridge. So any machine of mine must be light enough to not hurt my shoulder after this distance. These are the portability tests I will be using. They are a little more “real world” than just weighing the machine, as would some other reviewers, but that it how we roll on the OC.
2. It must be powerful. My passion is being creative in my spare time. I write, I paint, I make films, etc. My current laptop runs Office just fine, but it struggles when rendering films in Sony Vegas. In fact I often have to leave it overnight to complete a high quality version of a film and it crashes with alarming regularity. So, my new purchase must be able to power through rendering in Vegas and in my new suite of Adobe Premiere. The other aspect to this is that I used to be a gamer, a big gamer. As raid master of the Hooded Nomads guild I ran a high end rig to support operations in Star Wars Galaxies, Crysis and Eve. I need those FPS! My current machine, as fine as the processor is, cannot even run Mount and Blade. I want something that will nail both requirements.
3. It must have a long lasting battery. My Samsung has a good battery, but nothing to write home about. I can squeeze out something like 3 hours in Windows 7 (which is excellent at battery management compared to Vista). However, Cesca –my wife- can make her Macbook Pro last all damn day. Any machine I buy will have to outperform the Samsung and give a £2000 Macbook a run for its money. A tall order.
4. It must output to a TV. While small screen gaming is sweet on the go and on the lap, I want to be able to run this baby by a bigger screen for when at home. I have a LG 26 inch 1080p LCD TV, so we shall see what picture we can get up.
5. It must be good value for money. Cheap, like the budgie, is the motto. I don’t want to spend £2000 on a laptop, I don’t want to buy anything that expensive that could be dropped! The price/performance ratio is a vital metric.
So with those 5 requirements in mind, what to buy?
There is a popular, and perhaps even factual adage, which goes like this:
“Never upgrade a Windows product; always do a fresh install”
Today I put that to the test. I have been Installing and configuring Windows since the days of 3.1. My first exposure to the product range was Windows 2, which my father had on his PC. My first professional exposure was the task of migrating 3.1 to Windows 95 at Spandex Plc in Bristol, way back when I was only a 14 year old IT intern. Since then I have developed a career in IT and now, at 32, have a Chartered IT Professional award from the British Computer Society. I say this, because it is important that my background and knowledge level is clear.
This is as much a guide as anything else, so in that spirit here is what you need to do to upgrade from Windows Vista Home Premium to Windows 7 Home Premium.
Things to consider.
**WARNING** Mild spoilers ahead, nothing that isn’t all over the press.
Tropic Thunder has to go down as the film I most want to watch while stoned and drunk. I was neither of these things although I was in New Zealand, which at least was different from being down the Odeon in London. Yes I can attest that it rains in New Zealand. Such rain that even David Bowie would be satisfied. So Cesca and I did what all English do when it rains.
We went to the cinema.