This is the greatest site on the Internet today. Pepper spray bombs? Tasers with laser sights? Knives cunningly concealed as lipstick? A CIA-approved ice scraper? It has it all. Plus child safety gear. Buy a loved one a Defense Stocking this Christmas!
Although abolishing the region code system won't automatically mean the end of staggered release dates, a "hurrah!" goes to the head of Blockbuster for calling for an end to the silly practice of preventing people from watching DVDs that they had the misfortune of buying in a different country.
Best of 2003: Sean Paul — Get Busy
This is the other song included due to memories rather than quality. In this case, it's not an amazing track to listen to, but it's not meant for that. This is a record for dancing, and doing anything else with it is a waste of time and effort. In April and May, you could not go into a club in Chapel Hill and avoid this track. It was everywhere. And we danced. 8-)
It begins in a way you least expect. The battles are as spectacular as usual, but there are a few bits of dodgy CGI. The elimination of Saruman is a bit of a blow, but the battles make you forget about all that. Those of you who feared that Arwen was going to swamp the trilogy will be happy, and those of you who wanted certain endings will be also. Minas Tirith looks incredible. It is as good, if not better than the first two films, although there's a few gaps which will no doubt be filled in when the 4+ hour version is released next year.
If you see this early in the day, you will have a group of annoying kids sitting in front of you, who will spend the entire length of the film talking/throwing sweets/jumping on bottles/listening to music on their personal stereos. A Special Place in Hell is reserved for these people. Oh, and Orlando Bloom has attracted a cheering section. There may also be people who wear elven cloaks.
Best of 2003: Russian Ark
It's a 96-minute, continuous-take journey through the Russian State Hermitage Museum, where – oi! Come back! It's not what it sounds, it's not –. Okay, it's an incredibly pretentious film starring a 19th century French aristocrat travelling through over 200 years of Russian history whilst complaining about anything and everything. But it's so beautifully shot and choreographed that I think you need to see it, at least once.
I tell a lie. This is the geekiest page on the Internet. At least for this week.
Ha ha ha ha ha ha. ha. May this signal the beginning of the end for Pop Idol. Please.
Download this. Listen. Experience Joy.
Best of 2003: Kill Bill: Vol. 1
Or Mallrats: Quentin Tarantino Edition. Death! Swords! Slicing! Quips! Obscure retro references! Bill remains steadfastly unkilled at the end! Blood! Japanese Schoolgirls with maces! Swords! The Crazy 88's! The 5,6,7,8s! RZA! There's actually not much more to say about this film except that it's a fun b-movie, and that I'm looking forward to Part 2, where I'm assured that Bill Will Be Killed.
Meanwhile, a bug has been found in Ultima Online which allows players to rack up millions of gold pieces easily. So what, you say? Well, for a start, the various MMORPGs are beginning to resemble nation-states. Last month, the Gaming Open Market opened its doors for trading. This is a currency trading site that allows players to exchange currency between the different gaming systems, or to convert into US dollars. This bug will likely cause the value of the UO Gold Piece to drop considerably against the dollar, and could set off a hyper-inflationary rise in prices in the game itself. This in turn could lead to increased migration from the UO to a world that has a more stable currency, like The Sims Online, for example.
I've never been enticed by the MMORPG, as in order to get anywhere, you need to put in ten or more hours of game time each day. Which seems a little excessive to me. But it is interesting to see the problems that are occurring as this genre develops…
Best of 2003: Kingdom of Fear — Hunter S. Thompson
A rather depressing book, to be honest. HST is getting old, and all the venom he's spurted over the years has come to nothing. They gave Nixon an full-honours funeral, praising his name, and the current Administration fills Hunter with a new sort of Fear: a relentless, unending rule of The New Stupid. The book tells the story of a law suit that a woman filed against Thompson a few years back, but mostly this is a collection of random thoughts and rantings from a man who has seen it happen before. They didn't listen to him then, and they probably won't listen to him now…
Operation: Red Dawn?!?!
What exactly was going through their minds? "This is possibly one of the most important missions we've undertaken since the end of May, so naturally we'll name it after a cheesy 1980s film" (incidentally, check out the review on the IMDb; it's quite amusing). At first, I thought it was just a coincidence, but as the press briefing continued and the Lieutenant General talked about how the troops had split into two "Wolverine" squads, I realised the horrible truth: someone had put thought into this. A lot of thought. Somewhere deep in the Pentagon is a person with far too much time on his hands (or her hands). Was it a deliberate attempt to equate Saddam Hussein and his supporters with Patrick Swayze and a host of Brat Packers? The world has a right to know…
Best of 2003: Panjabi MC — Mundian To Bach Ke
The first of two songs chosen more for the memories they evoke rather than the quality of the song itself (although I do like this; if someone told you the concept of this record, you'd dismiss it out-of-hand, but when you hear the mix of Knight Rider and Bhangra, it just seems to fit perfectly); this one reminds me of the Easter weekend spent at the Outer Banks when a drunk Shafaq showed us how Bhangra dancing is really done, and an amusing drunken acappella version from this September 8-).
(note: doing these things manually is best avoided...)
Best of 2003: Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 7
It was always going to be a difficult season. And yes, parts of it didn't work; the main storyline dragged on somewhat; Caleb should have been introduced much earlier in the season. But episodes like "Storyteller", "Lies My Parents Told Me", and the heart-wrenching "Conversations With Dead People" showed that the writers were still able to produce fantastic television. The finale, "Chosen", ended too quickly, but it was a powerful hour, combining tragic loss, bunnies, the ultimate redemption of a character long lost, the amusing fate of Sunnydale, and an ending that promises that the story has only just begun. Yay for Joss Whedon!
- Billy Bragg — Waiting For The Great Leap Forwards
Well, since getting hold of "Must I Paint You A Picture?", the new three-disc retrospective this week, I've been making my family suffer this, so now it's your turn. Muahahaha!
- Tori Amos - Father Lucifer
- Sleater-Kinney - Lions & Tigers
- Johnny Cash & Joe Strummer — Redemption Song
Every so often, I pull out "Boys For Pele" and realise that I don't listen to it often enough. Then I forget about it for another six months. Just call me Dory. Anyway, this came up through random playing the other day, and is recommended for the Sgt. Pepper-like flourish that occurs at 1:59.
One of the bonus tracks from the limited edition release of "One Beat" from last year (I donated a copy to Schoolkids Records in Chapel Hill this May as I had two). A cute baby song which doesn't make you reach for the volume control.
Is it just me, or is "Johnny Cash — Unearthed" a really inappropriate title for the current box set? Joe Strummer's solo version of this, on the posthumous "Streetcore" album is affecting, but this is something else…
Best of 2003: Beyoncé Knowles & Jay-Z — Crazy In Love
One of the most talked-about singles of the year, so pretty much everything that can be said has already been put to paper (or active LCD pixels in this case). All I'll add is that in 2043, this track is going to be as popular as (Love Is Like A) Heatwave and Dancing In The Street. Yes, it's that good. Shame the rest of the album wasn't up to much, but then nobody really remembers the albums that Martha Reeves and The Vandellas released either, do they?
(three comments in for me, then I. just. couldn't. take. any. more)
Best of 2003: Pirates of The Caribbean
"WHY IS THE RUM GONE?" — If there's a better piece of dialogue in film this year, then I be gladly walking the plank, arr. For 'tis a tale of treasure, fair maidens, chilling ghosts, buckling swash, and lashings of the rum. Here be Captain Jack Sparrow, the finest pirate that ever sailed upon the seven seas, arr. For a Christmas treat, avail yourself of a copy of this fine film, lest the Ghost Pirates hunt you down. ARRRR!
Best of 2003: Snow Patrol - Final Straw
Melancholic alt-rock from Scotland! What's not to like? Actually, this album is a little patchy, with "How To Be Dead", "Chocolate", "Somewhere a Clock is Ticking", and "Grazed Knee" towering over all the other songs. So why is it here? Partly because it's one of the few British albums of this year that I've even partly liked, but mainly it's due to these four songs being very good indeed. This isn't much of a write-up, is it? "The album's not all that great, but most British albums this year have sucked, so this is all I've come up with..."
Best of 2003: The New Pornographers — Electric Version
It's the new sound that the hip kids are calling 'joycore'! Songs shouldn't have hook after hook crammed into them, but here they do! An official dance! Lyrics featuring spelling bees, the failure of traditional antibiotics, and Bush's daughters! The delectable Neko Case! Far too many exclamations! A record that cannot fail to bring a smile to your face; with a jackhammer if necessary. Go here and here. And you have to get this simply for Testament to Youth in Verse, where the band completely loses the plot at 1:59, and simply sings "no, no no, no" for two wonderful minutes.