One day, Ian went to the airport...

It was going so well. I had managed to get to the airport, get my tickets changed, and was about to head back to Chapel Hill.

I'm sorry, we don't do transfers anymore

According to the website, you were able to get on at the airport, pay there, and not have to pay when you got on the bus to Chapel Hill. Now this wouldn't normally be a problem; I carry enough money to pay for a bus fare. Except that for some reason, all the buses only take exact change and I only had a $20 note.

Which left me stranded in the middle of the Research Triangle Park. I set off to find somewhere to get some change. It turns out that the Park is a really bad place to attempt this. Nothing. No, wait, there was an abandoned cafe, which looked as if it had been vacant for at least six months. I did think about locating the RedHat building and throwing myself at their mercy, but thought it probably wasn't the best of ideas. Which left me with one option: walk to Durham.

Americans do not believe in paving either side of a major road. I was unfortunately on the wrong side of the road, and the prospect of crossing a busy four-lane highway didn't really appeal to me that much. Mind you, going across the Interstate bridge by walking on the road part didn't either, but I had no choice in that. And then, just for giggles, it started to rain.

An hour later, I made it to the Durham city limits (incidentally, I passed the hotel that we stayed in back in August), and dove into the first fast-food outlet that presented itself. Then all I had to do was buy enough food to get me single dollar bills. This sounds easy, but sales tax meant I had to visit the counter twice before I had what I needed. Then all I had to do was find a bus stop, wait twenty minutes for a bus to sharply brake in front of me, and I was on the way back to Chapel Hill.

Today's lessons: always carry plenty of change. And never trust the Internet...

Unite or Die!

I'm guessing that most people will be going for the latter. The stupid thing is that they could have avoided all this if they had made it a free vote, rather than sending out the three-line whip. Given that there was no way of overcoming the Labour majority, what was the point of making such a fuss? Bring on the Liberal Democrats.

I'm in a political mood today, due to the mid-term elections, and that it's likely that I'm going to wake up tomorrow with Elizabeth Dole as a Senator. Florida still has the discredited list of 91,000 people ineligible to vote in effect, so it'll be interesting to see how close the Governor race is after the count. Oh God. She's won already.

Well, I'm depressed now. If I wake up to find that Bush controls the Senate, I will be inconsolable. As will the rest of the free world, I suppose.

Tomorrow is Adventure Day! I will be heading off to Raleigh/Durham airport to try and sort out my ticket for the flight home at Christmas. In theory, it should be a straightforward trip. Which means it'll probably take me most of the day, if I'm lucky. I'll try and remember to take my camera so you can track me getting increasingly lost throughout the day.

I will not stay up and watch the election returns. I will not stay up and watch the election returns. I will not stay up and watch the election returns...

"I need a hacksaw."

You know, I might just have to seek out the first season of 24, if it's as good as the second season opener. Senseless violence ahoy!

Well, everybody got their mid-terms back, and I wasn't mobbed. That's probably because they did better on this test than they did in the class test (well, either they got better, or I'm a more lenient marker than the Professor). Of course, there's still tomorrow's office hours to get through.

I made a few changes to the website over the weekend. As I finished The Power Broker over three weeks ago, I thought it was about time to change the "currently reading" section (although I finished High Society this afternoon, so I'll have to update it again shortly). I've also added some permanent links on the right-hand side to blog entries that I like. I might get around to upgrading to the new version of MovableType sometime, but I know it'll break about six different things, so I'll leave that to a time when I'm not quite so busy (currently looking at a 2004 date).

Someone just knocked on my door wanting to make sure that I voted tomorrow. Well, they said that the Democrats would be trying hard to get people out to the voting stations. 47-40 Dole at the moment, but that poll has a 5% margin of error...

The Mormons want to send me a video called 'Together Forever'. They scare me.

Music Mining

I know it wasn't very fashionable to like them even during the height of Britpop, but Sleeper's 'Stop Your Crying' is quite enjoyable. It's being played through Rhythmbox, a new music jukebox application for GNOME. To say that it borrows from iTunes is an understatement - it's more like a daylight heist. A lot of things aren't working properly yet (while you can rate songs, you can't do the sort of tricks with them that iTunes allows), but it's coming along fast. Having access to all 3,500-plus songs without having to spend ages manually building a playlist changes the way you listen to your music collection somewhat. You discover forgotten gems, as well as some songs that deserve to remain hidden (did I really buy a Candyskins single?). Much better than having to switch between the limited number of CDs that you can fit inside a multi-disk player. Obviously, this behaviour is un-American, and must be outlawed.

Finally finished marking the midterms, so I can hand them back tomorrow. At which point I'll probably be mobbed by students wanting to challenge their grades. Remember the start of Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade? I expect that on Tuesday morning...

One month and fourteen days until I come home. I suppose I'll have to start thinking about Christmas presents. Anybody have any specific requests?

currently playing: Billy Bragg - A New England

Hallowe'en in Chapel Hill

They weren't kidding when they said it was big. This won't mean anything to many of you, but they closed off Franklin Street from the Planetarium, to about two-thirds of the way to Carrboro. Probably about a mile long for those of you not familiar with the area. Packed full of people. Most of whom were wearing costumes, but there were enough normally-dressed types around to stop me from looking like the only person who hadn't made an effort.

I went with the rest of my floor, but as soon as we entered the sea of people, the twenty-strong group dwindled to about four. Strangely, despite the huge amount of people and the hype that preceded the night in the local media, there was no commercialisation of the event at all; just a huge amount of people trying to get hypothermia (It was below zero; I was cold, and I had a jacket on; I have no idea how half the s present last night didn't freeze to death).

Fun events included: watching a drunk person dressed up as a policeman mocking the security presence; returning to the same point five minutes later to find the same man being forcibly restrained by the aforementioned presence; walking 5-abreast, arms linked, following The Cat In The Hat (about as good an idea as it sounds), and the classic finale of the evening: we bumped into some of the floor who we had misplaced, to find that they'd spent most of the evening at one of the emergency centres, as somebody had had rather too much to drink. They were looking for people to help take him home, so we went along to provide support, only to discover that they'd taken him to hospital in the meantime. An expensive way to end an evening, for him anyway.

We eventually made it back to the hall at about 1:30am, after a few discussions about Penguin biscuits, family feuds, a high-speed talk about the origins of Hallowe'en, and the rivalry between Duke University and UNC. Getting to sleep wasn't much of an option however, as people were coming back in dribbles until about 3am, and were still under the impression that screaming and shouting was necessary to attract the person next to them. And Rishi wasn't too pleased either, judging by the stern notice on the messageboard this morning...

currently playing: Unhappy Birthday - The Smiths

Taking Democracy a little too far...

I really don't know whether Rhonda would make a better Homecoming Queen than Berry. To be honest, I'm not sure what the criteria for being a Homecoming Queen actually are, either. Does it involve taxing mental feats and a swift command of the English language, or is it more about waving and looking pretty? Chapel Hill obviously needs to get a voter education programme started, otherwise we'll end up looking as silly as the residents of Palm Beach.

You may have missed the slight update of my Sleater-Kinney review. I now have a few photos available here. Take a look at Han's tour blog for more reviews and pictures from the One Beat tour. I may gush more tomorrow, depending on how well their performance on Conan O'Brien goes tonight...

The things I do for you people. Today, for the good of the British nation, I tasted Pepsi: Blue. I expect to be paid handsomely for this arduous task. It wouldn't be enough. A lovely burning chemical sensation, followed by an aftertaste that makes Hershey's seem like Cadbury's Dairy Milk. Consider yourselves warned.

currently playing: Aimee Mann - Invisible Ink

Where Angels Play

When I get around to listing my top ten films of the year, 24 Hour Party People will probably be in the higher reaches. It's a hopeless, shambolic documentary that somehow manages to be truthful whilst being completely open that it is making half of the story up as it goes along. And having lived in Manchester for three years, I love the portrayal of the city in all of its chaotic glory. Anyway, the DVD is out on January 27th, and it seems to be a worthwhile purchase:

  • Tony Wilson Commentary (audio)
  • Steve Coogan and Producer Andrew Eaton Commentary (audio)
  • Artists Commentary (Video - commentary was filmed
  • The film playing in a box on the right hand side) will include Rowetta, Peter Hook, members of Durutti Column and A Certain Ratio sitting in a Manchester bar
  • Sleeve Notes - a Who's Who guide to the film
  • 24 Deleted Scenes
  • Interviews with cast and crew
  • Michael Winterbottom Documentary
  • Central Station artwork designs and commentary
  • Peter Saville artwork designs and commentary with Tony Wilson
  • New Order Music Video
  • Genesis of 24 Hour Party People - featurette
  • The Real Tony Wilson - Featurette
  • Playing People who are still alive - featurette

Good Idea...Bad Idea

Good Idea: Planning your time so as not to be overwhelmed by an impending deadline, the exam on Tuesday, and the marking.

Bad Idea: Having a brief look at the homework assignment, and realising that the deadline is tomorrow. Not Wednesday. Cue six hours of pain...

currently playing: Imani Coppola - It's all About Me, Me, and Me

Snapshots

I was going to do this at the end of my last post, but I can't imagine anybody making to the end of that little rant. Trailers that I remember from earlier today:

The Recruit - Okay, so it started out promisingly (Al Pacino and Colin Farell), but it ended up telling me so much of the plot that I don't feel any inclination to seeing what it's like with 100 minutes of padding.

Antwone Fisher - I'm getting cynical. Throughout the entire trailer, with Denzel being a concerned analyst to a troubled young Navy officer, I could only hear "OSCAR! GIVE ME ANOTHER OSCAR!" in my head. I blame my British upbringing, obviously.

The Life of David Gale - Kate Winslet and Kevin Spacey? Can I give them my money now? With me paying double if Alan Parker does a shot for shot remake of the finale from Bugsy somewhere in the film? So it's a serious examination about the death penalty; does that mean that there can't be a song-and-dance number? I think not.

The Emperor's Club - Does the world need Dead Poets' Society II? Really? If it begins with the class committing suicide en masse, I'm in. The trailer doesn't give most hope of that, unfortunately...

Adaptation - Oooh! Nicolas Cage as a moody Southerner writer! With an identical twin! This is about a writer, Charlie Kaufman, who is trying to adapt a book into a film, and puts himself in the film. The actual film is written by Charlie Kaufman, and arose from his difficulties in trying to adapt a book. Should I mention at this point that Kaufman wrote Being John Malkovich? And that this is directed by Spike Jonze?

currently playing: Dubstar - Song No. 9

"You know what's wrong with you?"

I was intending on going to Raleigh Airport to get my tickets reconfirmed today, but I made the fatal mistake of stopping off at Southpoint Mall, not realising that the buses only stop there every two hours, instead of the hourly interval everywhere else. As I told my professor that I'd be available at a certain hour, there was no way I would be able to get back in time if I waited for the next bus to the airport, so I decided that the only sensible option was to go to the movies.

Punch-Drunk Love. Paul Thomas Anderson, 90 minutes runtime, and Adam Sandler. An unlikely combination, but strangely enjoyable, even if it was fairly slight on the plot front. And I loved the Philip Seymour Hoffman scenes (if only because twenty or so minutes in, I started wondering, 'where's Hoffman?', and he turned up in the next scene). Anderson has got a lovely eye for beautiful shots, exemplified by the gorgeous Hawaii reunion scene that forms part of the poster for the film. Don't be put off by the presence of Sandler; he's rather restrained here. And quite funny. Shocking, I know. Never underestimate the power of pudding, that's all I'm saying.

Now, I admit that I'm probably not the best person to give an opinion on this film; Charade is one of my favourite movies. It has a great mystery, solid and twisted plotting, superb pacing provided by Stanley Donen's direction, a typically excellent Mancini score, and fantastic dialogue delivered by two actors who light up the screen with their wit and charm. The Truth About Charlie takes all this and manages to produce a dull, soulless facsimile, albeit with the correct copyright notice this time around. Remember Ronan Keating's cover of A Fairytale of New York? Yes. It's that bad.

The structure of Peter Stone's screenplay has been almost completely removed from the film. The cold opening of the original is replaced with a less interesting expanded version of Charlie's death, which manages to tell us as much in three minutes as Donen did in thirty seconds. It then follows the original (roughly) right up until the end of the police station scene. After that, Charlie veers away from Stone's script, sometimes lifting little pieces of dialogue, but not much more. The discovery of the secret is handled very differently (due to some important parts of exposition and foreshadowing being left out of the new film), and manages to lose quite a bit of the impact in contrast to the original. And then there's the ending, of which I'll complain about later.

The worst flaw of the film is that it completely changes the relationship between the two leads. In Charade, Hepburn and Grant spend the film trading barbs and bickering to comic effect. In Charlie, Wahlberg looks like he's having trouble remembering what country he's in, never mind his lines, and while Thandie Newton gives the best performance in the film, the new script saddles her with terrible dialogue (has any British person in the last ten years asked for a 'ciggie'? Do we really need "he was an orphan - an only child"?), and not much to do but look lost, as all the witty exchanges found in the original screenplay have been removed from the update.

So, the leads aren't interesting. What about the bad guys? Well, they've received a make-over, with one now being Asian, and another a woman. No problems with that. Except they seem to do a lot less than they did in the original, and are far less menacing. Ho-hum. It didn't need the part where Regina seems to feel sorry for the woman, either (after all, she had spent most of the film prior to that point threatening her life).

I understand that Demme wanted to recreate the film using the techniques of the French New Wave movement. It even sounds like a perfectly reasonable idea. However, after thirty minutes, I wanted to get a rivet gun and bolt the camera to the ground. There comes a point where it's no longer clever and fun, just plain irritating.

And what about the ending? Now, it would be fairly simple to follow the original ending, wouldn't it? After all, it was fairly suspenseful and entertaining. Or, I suppose, you can construct one of the most ludicrous Mexican stand-off scenes for many years, complete with a ham-fisted resolution. Oh, wait. And, just for kicks, you could eliminate the final surprise of the film, making the coda seem like dead weight. You will? Thanks.

Please go see Punch-Drunk Love instead. I would suggest that you get a copy of the excellent Criterion Charade DVD, which has a wonderful commentary by Donen and Stone as part of the extras. I would, but as part of the making of The Truth About Charlie, Universal revoked the rights to their Charade print from Criterion, so the DVD is now out-of-print. Which, of course, makes me dislike the new film even more, or at least the group at Universal who thought that it would be fun to withdraw the print. The useless, cretinous morons.

Yes, I'm biased. But there were a few other people in the theatre as well, who probably don't have the same interest/obsession (delete as applicable), and they came out saying it was one of the worst films they had seen for a long time. Remember, we need to stop Wahlberg now, before he starts on The Italian Job....

currently playing: Spiritualized - Ladies And Gentleman, We Are Floating in Space (Original version)