More things to worry about

I still don’t have a Social Security Number. Which means I won’t get paid at the end of the month, unless it arrives fairly soon. Of course, if I really think about it, I can probably last for about three/four months before I’ll start to have money problems, but it would be nice if the US Governement could send me my magic number, if they have any time to spare while planning Gulf War II: Die Harder.

Another list - upcoming albums that I’ll probably be buying:

The Lone Gunman

The next person who sets the fire alarm off at 1am will be shot. Wal-Mart sells rifles at reasonable rates, you know.

The current argument over RSS 1.0/2.0 took a very ugly turn this morning, with Dave Winer virtually ensuring that the détente that had been building for the past two weeks is now wrecked beyond all repair. The next step seems to be that the RSS 1.0 group will change their name, and eventually become a W3C standard, thus leaving RSS 2.0 to twist in the wind. Probably not what Dave had in mind when he announced the new spec a few weeks back.

As I’ve mentioned, I’m not all that impressed with Transformers: Armada so far. The cartoon hasn’t impressed with the first three episodes, and the toys have been a let-down as well. After the extreme poseability of the Beast Wars/Machines and RiD toys, it’s a bit jarring to go back to the restricted movement that the new toys have. Even the new Optimus Prime toy isn’t that great. I was prepared to skip most of the line. Then I saw some pictures of Jetfire. Oh yes. Now that’s much better.

The hyper-productive Brem X Jones has the latest installment of his Hit mini-comic up at NextComics. I don’t think it’s as good as Hit 1, but it’s definitely worth your time.

I’ve decided to take advantage of the insane prices of CPUs at the moment; a 1800 XP Athlon is currently heading towards Chapel Hill, along with a new fan to stop it from melting. It should help the MPEG encoding (I did some more testing today on The Daily Show - it’s taking 50% of CPU time and seems to be fairly fragile, but audio/video seem to be in sync and are of good enough quality for burning to VCD) which will be starting in earnest from this Friday with the Firefly premiere.

currently playing: The Clash - London Calling

Not Dead Yet

Thanks, everybody, for your encouraging comments. And I’m sorry if I mistakenly gave the impression that I jumped out of my window last night by not answering any e-mails or responding to IM messages. I’m feeling better today; the two pieces of work that led to yesterday’s message have been finished and sent to the appropriate place. I even answered a question in a lecture today…

Hmm. I saw a poster today that seemed to indicate that this week UNC was having a talk hosted by Dr. Jeffrey Wigand (the whistle-blower that Russel Crowe plays in The Insider), but I can’t seem to find it on-line anywhere. Maybe it was for last year.

I am deeply disturbed by the indication that two of my friends back home have swords. Bicester isn’t that rough yet, surely?

currently playing: Carole King - Really Rosie


It’s been lurking on the horizon since Wednesday, but today it caught up with me. Little things like starting work a little bit later every day, not getting as much done as what I said I’d do, stopping to check my mail every five minutes, getting distracted by webpages I meant to read after I had finished. Today I was supposed to start work at 11am. I belatedly started at one. Today I broke down. I couldn’t do what I was supposed to do, didn’t want to do it, couldn’t summon any enthusiasm for any of the things I was working on.

This always scares me; several years back, when I was in the Sixth Form at Bicester, I was ill for a long time. Everytime I went near the school, I would get light-headed to the point of almost passing out. I was tired all the time, and couldn’t concentrate. I just couldn’t do anything. The doctors had no real idea what was going on. Eventually, it seemed to go away. But I worry about it coming back.

At about half-past two, I’m still not getting anywhere, and by this time I’ve managed to convince myself that I’m a total failure in just about everything. That’s when I have to stop. Before I break something. Like myself.

I took an hour off, and tried to rearrange things. I did some small things that I had to get done for tomorrow out of the way first, and then went back to what I was working on before the meltdown. It’s mostly finished now. Do I feel better? Not really. Because it’s going to start over again tomorrow.

currently playing: Dexy’s Midnight Runners - One of Those Things

Learning From Mistakes

Okay, so the pancake rolls were probably a bad idea. I know this now.

It’s taken me a month, but yesterday I finally spent the last $20 note that I entered the country with, so on Monday it’s time to start drawing from my new bank account. The final note was sacrificed to Make Comics Better; I started a standing order at the comic shop. Such a difference from back home, as the guy behind the counter was friendly, talkative, and laughed at my inclusion of Ministry of Space. He thought he might have one thing I was looking for in stock, so he went and had a look (they didn’t, but they’ll order it for me). Such a change from Oxford.

Through no real effort of my own, I seem to have stumbled across several people who I thought had dropped off the Net today. There’s Paul O’Brien, who seems to post less to the rac* hierarchy these days, but is over at the V Forum (yes, I broke down; I’m not going back to the WEF though - the amont of unread messages scares me. And I like Nick’s Transformer stories), and he has a LiveJournal site. I checked up on Priest’s weblog to see if he’s made any postings about Black Panther #49, and he gives me a link to Elmo, who I thought had disappeared years ago. Nice to see that they’re still around (mind you, it’s not as if they know who I am - I posted about once every two months to USENET back when I was at Manchester, and apart from getting scolded by Roger Stern once, I didn’t make too much noise there).

Today’s pick from the Netflix account was Rushmore. Not the extra-fabulous Criterion edition, just the regular version, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. Especially the escalating battle between Murray and Schwartzman.I can see why people rave about Wes Anderson now; I’ve got Bottle Rocket in my queue, and I’ll probably pick up The Royal Tanenbaums as it’s rather cheap for a Criterion release…

currently playing: The Polyphonic Spree - Days Like This

Compromise is the Devil Talking

I love Amélie.

currently playing: Idlewild - Out Of Routine

50 Minutes of Screaming

Thanks to the BBC’s quite useful website, I managed to watch tonight’s Question Time (video quality was awful, but with a programme like QT, you only really need audio). An entertaining hour, if surprising to discover that the person getting the most cheers was Michael Moore. I think a backlash is slowly beginning to gain some momentum.

My mentor at UNC complimented me on this site today, so I’d just like to say thanks, if he’s still reading. I’m a bit more talkative on here than in real life - I apologise for being a bit shy today…

Looking at the date, it seems that I’ve now been here for a month, which is normally the point where I stop keeping track of such things. And I haven’t boarded a plane home yet. So things are going reasonably well. I’ve also just discovered that the university does in fact have a film society, and I went to the first meeting tonight. It’s a little bit more involved than Manchester’s ‘Let’s put a film on every so often’ take on things. The CPG produces a short film every semester. They teach you how to light, edit, operate cameras, and create sets. They have a sister screenwriting group that meets twice a month to spitball ideas - plus seminars with people like Chuck Palahniuk. It costs $10 for a year. I left with a big smile.

I’ve spent the last hour trying to find out whether it’s better to order the Dexy’s back catalogure from here or the UK. I’m blaming Kieron.

currently playing: Dexy’s Midnight Runners - Kevin Rowlands 13th Time

One Year On

To be honest, I was a bit apprehensive about today. While I knew that the university wasn’t shutting down, and classes were proceeding as usual, I felt that today was going to be a very subdued affair. Instead, it turned out to be a fairly normal day; yes, the flags were at half-mast, there was a ceremony at noon in the centre of the campus, but for the most part, people were just going about their lives, joking with their friends, talking on mobile phones, or trying to get the shopping done. Slightly different to the day’s events in New York, but no less important, I feel.

I decided to take the afternoon off, and finally get around to leaving Chapel Hill for a few hours, even it was only to go to a shopping mall. The pull of the Apple Store was just too great. It’s rapidly becoming a question of when, not if

currently playing: The Smiths - Shakespeare’s Sister

DVD Watch

A shorter entry today, I think. It’s time for DVDs Ian will be purchasing over the next few months!, the first in an almost inevitable regular series. Anyway, on with the list:

  • We’ll get the obligatory Audrey Hepburn films out of the way first. The Children’s Hour, War and Peace, and Roman Holiday are all coming out between now and Christmas. Only Roman Holiday has any extras beyond the trailer, but Paramount has gone to the expense of spreading War and Peace over two discs, and I’m impressed that MGM even considered releasing The Children’s Hour, so I’ll be picking up all three. Now if only Warner Brothers could be persuaded to release Wait Until Dark and The Nun’s Story. And Fox has been promising How To Steal A Million for a while now…

  • Singing In The Rain: Special Edition. Warner Bros. has supposedly come up with an entirely new process for restoring old Technicolor films, and this DVD is the first title to undergo the conversion. It looks fabulous, and boasts a commentary featuring Stanley Donen. My order is already in with Amazon.

  • Reservoir Dogs. No, I don’t care what colour the box is. I just need to replace the bad taped-from-Channel 4-on-a-bad-VCD copy I have at the moment, and this edition has a load of extras, so I might as well get this one. Jackie Brown and Pulp Fiction are also high up on the video-replacement list.

  • The My So-Called Life box set should finally ship later this month. It’s been a long and tortuous ride, but Jason Rosenfield has held fast like a rock, even after he was fired from BMG. Thanks to him, not only are we getting a full collection of the series, but we’ve shown that their is a big interest in collections of old TV shows, hence the myriad of new box sets coming out this Autumn (I’ll start buying Law & Order when it hits the fifth season set)

  • The Back To The Future Trilogy. All three films, with director’s commentary, writer’s commentary, deleted scenes, and all-new documentaries? Excellent…

  • Sunset Boulevard. God knows why it’s taken Paramount so long to release it on DVD, but they make up for the wait with a proper special edition, rather than a bare bones release.

  • This is getting quite long, isn’t it? I’ll finish with my two upcoming Region 2 purchases; Battle Royale: This Time, Tartan Promises it Won’t Release Another Version in Three Month’s Time edition, which seems to contain all the features that the Japanese special edition had (hopefully with the addtition of English subtitles), and what’s hoped to be the definitvie version of John Woo’s The Killer. Maybe it’ll send the eBay prices for the Criterion edition down a little.

Why is my wallet screaming in pain?

currently playing: compactdiscjockey - cant get you out of my 24 hour party people

Armageddon Time

I feel somewhat responsible for the position the INS has found itself in. I know that somewhere within the mound of 800,000 change of address cards, there’s one written hesitantly in blue ink. I wonder when they stopped caring about the original 1952 law.

The report from the International Institute for Strategic Studies seems to be slightly exaggerated in today’s press cycle. Iraq could make nuclear weapons if it had enriched uranium or plutonium? Isn’t that like saying if I had a million dollars, I’d be a millionaire? The detail that the report seems to omit is that the technology for the original atom bomb is almost seventy years old; any competent Physics A-Level student can tell you how such a bomb works, and how to make a crude version, equivalent to about 15-20,000 tons of TNT. The hardest part is getting hold of the radioactive material, and the report says that they don’t have any, and haven’t had much success in finding sources. As a validation of America and Britain’s hawkish stance, the report comes up fairly short.
While I accept that, yes, Saddam Hussein is guilty of severe repression and genocide, and I’d love to see him share a cell in The Hague with Slobodan Milosevic, is it worth turning the entire Middle East into a bloodbath to get him? Will the people of Iraq thank the West for deposing Saddam, or will it generate even more resentment? What happens if democratic elections vote Saddam’s party back into power? Would the Allies accept that? At the moment, the American and UK governments keep on saying that Saddam must be stopped. But, apart from razing Iraq to the ground, they don’t seem to have much of a plan for Iraq’s future.

Every now and again, I seem to be afflicted by grand visions of things I could be doing. As some of my friends will testify, most of these come to nothing (although sitting here 3,000 miles from home suggests that not all of them are idle dreams), and I move on to the next daydream. My current obsession is a huge comic epic, a trilogy of stories spanning a hundred years of life in New York. I Am Not Sane. Each story will focus on a specific era; the first is a tale of rigged boxing matches, chloroform attacks, Bowery boys, and a chase across the old Elevated Line. The second story will be set in the 1950s or 60s; political intrigue aginst the backdrop of Robert Moses’s ruthless remoulding of the city, and the final story, set in 1971, involves a jail break at Sing-Sing, a jewel heist, and inventive uses for a TV antenna. Look for the advert in Diamond’s catalogue in early 2003. I’m being secretly ironic, of course.

Scarily, the John Cusack for President campaign may just have a point. His defence of his new film, which follows the early life of Hitler, is eloquent and forceful. I’ll try and catch this film when it goes on general release next year.