Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Repertory Cinemas of London 1 - The Prince Charles Cinema

London is filled with Repertory Cinemas. I am not sure exactly how many, but that is the whole point of my latest quest around the city, to find out more. So I promised. And I have snuck it in, during the last day of January, my first of a series of journey's to London greatest picture houses. To what is possibly London's quirkiest picture house - The Prince Charles Cinema.



Ah, the Prince Charles Cinema. I am a member, you know? A lifetime member! I joined in 1999 for the princely sum of £15. And I am a lifetime member. Today that same lifetime membership costs £50! And it is limited in number...so when I present my crusty yellow card that states 'lifetime', I feel quite proud that I am able to get some of the cheapest cinema tickets in London.

Ah, the Prince Charles Cinema. I have spent far too much time here. The tail end of my teens, the bulk of my twenties and even a lot of my thirties so far have been spent inside one of this cinema's two screens. Usually the main auditorium. Classics such as Alien, Lethal Weapon II, the Breakfast Club, Desperado, Clerks, Slumdog Millionaire, Metropolis I have seen them all and more. And I have also seen my fare chunk of art house fare too. My Name is Joe, Looking for Eric, The Long Good Friday, La Haine, Bad Education, Amores Perros, Y Tu Mama Tambien, City of God, the list is endless. I have watched more films here than even on television. Hell, I have even sung along to The Sound of Music and watched a late night rendition of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. While my compatriots were getting drunk and trying to get laid in their twenties in lousy bars serving watered down alcohol, I was eating pop corn and failing to get laid while watching movies, in between low-paid jobs and going abroad on exotic trips. My life was quite literally at one point the Prince Charles Cinema...

So for those who are are not in the know, what is the cinema like? Well, it is basic. Two screens, a large sloping auditorium in the basement and a small screen in what used to be the balcony. The chairs are meh comfy, but they do have cup holders! The pre-trailer music is usually funky and in addition to the great selection of films (cult, old, new, unusual, independent, mainstream - the lot) it has managed to keep its prices relatively low despite its location in the heart of the West End, where nearby, cinema tickets can cost up to £20 per person! Plus there are a lot of theme events. So there are horrors on Halloween, slushy movies on Valentine's etc. There are early screenings to pass away hangovers and double bills for films by the same director or in the same series. I need more time in my life, so I can fully enjoy all this cinema has to offer!

But it is the movies that we, the audience are interested in. And what are they like? One word, eclectic. The Prince Charles Cinema is London's most eclectic picture house. From one month old releases to movies from the silent era. The Prince Charles has probably screened everything available to it. And more. My favourite picture house in London, and the first on my list London Repertory Cinemas!

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Tube travel...the fun way...

Unfortunately over the past couple of weeks I have spent far too much time on the London Underground network than I really needed to be. It is all part of my general busy-ness, which is why my blog posts have been so thin on the ground.

But, if I was in Germany, there would have been a more fun way to travel around town...



Enjoy the weekend, I should be back to regular blogging in the next week!

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

At the movies in Wroclaw

While I was in Wroclaw last month, I headed over to the movies. It has been a while since I have been to the cinema and in Poland it has been even longer since I have seen a feature length film. Last year's Och Karol 2 (which incidentally I saw in Wroclaw) was a fantastic film, so this year's choice was a bit of a surprise, in fact a complete about turn. From Comedy to a film set in WWII.



In January, I saw the Polish nomination for this year's foreign language Oscar, W ciemności - In Darkness. A brilliant film set in Polish Lwow (today's Lviv) during WWII when this part (of then) Poland was occupied by Germany. It told the true story of a local man who hid some of the Lwow's Jew's in the city's sewage system during the German occupation. I have not seen the other nominations for this year's foreign language award, but if they are anything up to the standard of In Darkness, then it will be a tough fight!

The film is brilliant. And I did not watch it with any English subtitles. In fact, the film had dialogues in Polish, Lithuanian, German, Russian and Hebrew. No English, and yet, I understood the bulk of the film. And yes, the film was horrific at times. The subject mater, dealing with WWII, made the film brutal. For a Polish audience, this is normal, for me, someone who is new to Poland, it was horrific. But fascinating at the same time. You see, the was no glamourisation in the film nor was there any sugar coating of the facts that occurred. In the sewer, the entrapped people lived out their lives. Laughing, crying, arguing, making love, giving birth. It was a small village under the city. And it was life, recorded.



Compared to last year's choice, W ciemności is a very different story to watch, but like Och Karol, I enjoyed it immensely. Fro very different reasons, but seeing these two films have shown me the contradiction and the depth in Poland's film output. For starters, it is shot beautifully, as slick as any Hollywood production. And to think this portrayed a sewer system, so with all the water around, the set must have been a nightmare to shoot in. This film had a budget, but it was used well. The acting is brilliant (remember, I understood the film without the subtitles) and the portrayal of the characters on screen is so vivid.

So what next when I head off to Poland in February? Another film or something different? Erm, I'm not sure. These plans are exactly that, plans, that often go awry. The best thing however is to let me follow the wind and to see what happens on the day itself. I will keep you all informed about my next trip.

But back to the subject at hand. If you get the chance to see this film, do! It is brilliant! Epic, tragic, and a story about human courage and warmth in the face of adversity. Well worth the trip to the flicks! Just see it, my first (and very hearty) recommendation for 2012!

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

A nice cup of tea...

...helps your sex life. Apparently...

Tea and Sex - yes the link is worksafe.

An interesting article...

Monday, 23 January 2012

The UK...

...is a complex country. Growing up in the UK, the differences between Britain, Great Britain, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are simple for me to figure out. However, for a lot of people out there, it is complex enough. For those Anglophiles in the blogging realm, here is a video (with the fastest narration I have ever heard):



And it is correct. Mostly. The whole Church of England thing is just that, the Church of England, while in Scotland, there is the Church of Scotland, not headed by the monarch, and no one touches Northern Ireland's theocracy with a barge pole (thank goodness). Enjoy the vid!

Oh and those Dependent Territories are effectively ruled by themselves except for foreign and defence affairs which are taken over by the UK Parliament. Simple...

Friday, 20 January 2012

De ja vous Poland - Back in Wroclaw 1



(Yes. I am convinced that ice cream is a good thing at -5C. And for those with rudimentary Polish, Lody does have two meanings in that language.)

I have just returned from an excellent trip to Wroclaw. I was there last weekend, and despite the cold weather, it was good to be back in one of my favourite places in all of Poland. Home to cute bronze gnomes, cute trams and cute hotel receptionists, this is far more than just a cute little city. It is to be the European Capital of Culture in 2016, and it has a long history of over one thousand years. Oh, you want me to tell it...okay.

Founded by the Czechs (1000 AD is the founding of the diocese), before being taken over by the Germanic Luxembourg Dynasty in 1335. Wroclaw kept on growing under the rule of the (Austrian) Habsburg's in 1526. Unfortunately this was at a time when the whole Reformation shindigs was happening and it was not until Frederick V of Rhine decided to challenge this. However, the leader of the Rhine was defeated by the Austrians, the city lay in a kind of limbo. Ruled by Catholics, but strongly Protestant, the Dresden Accord was signed which spared Wroclaw and Silesia from the worse of the Christian turmoil spreading through Europe during the 17th Century.

But the invasions were not to end there. The genius King of Prussia, Frederick II (or The Great)decided that he wanted a piece of Silesia and Wroclaw was the prize he scalped from the Austrians. Until Napoleon, the city was rather pleasant and thrived. And then the French arrived before going back to Prussia.

Then you had the last one hundred years. During World War I, Wroclaw, or Breslau as it was known was a patriotic German city. And after Germany's defeat, it recovered well. And then World War II arrived. To be blunt, this was a nasty time in the city's history. The first concentration camps were built here, and the city's population of Jews and Polish (around 7% at the start of the 20th Century) was decimated. It also was one of the fiercest theaters of the Eastern Front that left the city in ruins.

After WWII it became a part of Poland, and what was left of the indigenous population was shipped off to what was fast becoming East and West Germany. In their place, many Polish refugees from what is today Belarus and Ukraine arrived and made the city their home.

Count the number of times the city changed hands. Nine times (not including the Russian invasion at the end of WWII). There is probably no other city, nay region in the whole of Europe that has been so hotly contested in the past 1000 years. As a result, the city was a melting pot or trade and people until the brutality of the Second World War put a stop to that. Today it is a thriving Polish City and thanks to the EU it is fast becoming a bit of a hot spot for visitors from around the continent with a steady supply of tourists flying in on budget airlines for weekends or more of fun. And those cheap flights to Stansted and Luton. Yeah, that's why I was there...again...



(The Rynek or Market Place of Wroclaw. Yes, it is cute! And for some reason, the Polish Christmas lasts until the end of January...makes the British penchant for shopping look tame...)

I must admit after the rush at Christmas, it was fantastic to be on the road again, even if it was for a few days. After all the hustle, hassle and bustle of the past year, it felt good to take some time out, to be happy, not have to please anyone. Just me enjoying myself in one of Poland's most picturesque towns...



(Rebuilding work around Wroclaw's main railway station. Not so picturesque. Yet.)

Well, Euro 2012 is coming, and this is going to be one of those destination points as the Group stages will be played here. If you care about football. I do not.

In reality, I just love the city. So much so, that I will be here again...next month...what is it about Poland that keeps dragging me back here? Maybe I should broaden my horizons. Ahem...

Thursday, 19 January 2012

January Business

New Year, Resolutions broken, but very busy. I have started working on a feature length project which means for the next few days I am busy with paperwork. So apologies if the blog posts are sporadic, as I am currently in the middle of bureaucratic hell.

Kisses to all concerned! Will get back to blogging and reading blogs in the coming week.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Blackout...



Wikipedia is the most prolific of the websites protesting at the latest attempt to protect big business.

Meanwhile, good old wordpress, is less shouty about it, but still does a fine job of protesting too...



The interesting thing is whether or not this law is enforceable as it makes virtually every person a criminal...

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

I have four games...

Just downloading Kid Icarus onto my 3DS.

Sorry about the lack of blogs. I am currently going to the Sacred Meadow in Zelda. If you know what I am talking about, then you know that Saria is Link's babe. And she does not like to wait for him...

(I told you I have lost my life...)

Monday, 9 January 2012

3DS vs Gameboy - Modern and Retro Compared



I have two consoles. A twenty year old Gameboy and from this week, a 3DS. Both Nintendo handhelds. Now do not get me wrong, I am no Nintendo fanboy. Nintendo are famed for robustly built but notoriously underpowered consoles and I think this is a rip off for gamers. Usually, with each of their systems, there is a fundamental flaw with them. The Gameboy (vs the Sega Gamegear) was monochrome, not colour. The SNES had a slower processor than the Sega Megadrive, the N64 was cartridge based while the PS1 was disc based. Even the Wii is just a hyped up Gamecube, seriously underpowered compared to the other consoles in the current generation. Even the 3DS has a major flaw, its awful battery life.

But I love Nintendo's cartoony games. Yes, I know not every gamer likes these, that some prefer the realistic games of the other systems, but I really do love cartoon fun! It entertains the child inside of me.

For some reason, since the earliest days of Game and Watch, Nintendo have dominated the handheld market. A phenomena that continues to this day, although its main rivals are no longer other Video Game manufacturers but Smartphones.

So, with my Ninteodo tirade over and done, let me compare the two handhelds that I own.

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Looks:

Similar and different. That is what I can say. Let us be honest, how much can you change a handheld console around. It has to have some sort of D-Pad, and some sort of buttons to press. Yes, there are more on the 3DS, but that is to be expected.


Game Format:

Again, similar and different. Nintendo still loves to use a cartridge based format for their games, but do remember that in the late 1980's when the Gameboy was first released, this was revolutionary. It was the first mainstream handheld to feature this.

However, Nintendo are slowly embracing internet downloads for their games and there is also an App mentality to the 3DS' design. But that come under...


Interface:

The Gameboy has one screen. Monochrome. Without a backlight. Which means you could not play in bed as a kid, you needed a light source to see the damn screen. Plus, let us be honest, the graphics sucked.

However, the Gameboy is simple. Put in a cartrdige, switch on, play. Easy, quick and simple.

The 3DS is much more like a laptop. It boots up, it has a sleep mode. You can chose to play the game in the cartridge slot, or a game on the SD Card or you can take photos or make a nice cup of tea with it. Plus it has two screens, a 3-D screen and a touch screen. And yes, the 3DS is all very nice and lovely and the 3-D is amazing.

And complex if you are used to a one screen, one cartridge mentality.

Yes, as I have been away from the gaming world for that long, it is all still new and exciting for me...


Battery Life:

Portable systems depend on battery for their life source. As, they are...portable!

And the 3DS, well, sucks. Figure on charging the system daily. For someone that does not have a smartphone, this has come as a shock to me.

The four AA batteries on my Gameboy can go for eons before needing to be recharged. In one way, technology has taken one hell of a backwards step.


Build Quality:

The Gameboy screams toughness. Hell, I have dropped it a ton of times, and the bugger just does not die, despite the obvious scars that it has. Plus, at twenty years old, it still plays games. Let us be blunt here, do you have a twenty year old computer still in perfect working order after dropping the hell out of it?

The 3DS screams like a little child. A flip screen that you know could be snapped in one deft movement. Dainty buttons and a 3D slider that you know is asking to be broken.

I wonder if my 3DS will be playable in 20 years time. You know, the sad thing is that I reckon the Gameboy will still be playable in 2031. I do not know if I can say that with any confidence about my 3DS.


Software:

The Gameboy has an esrtablished reputation and still, very playable games (as can be evidenced by the amount of time I have spent on it this last year).

The 3DS started poorly, but now has four killer games (Zelda, Marioland 3D, Mariokart 7 and Starfox), plus it has the awesome back-catalogue of the DS (which is why I bought it, for access to those games). It looks like a promising 2012 as well for the system. This is one place where Nintendo have succeeded. Their software. Everyone knows it is games that make or break a gaming system, and so far, it looks like my 3DS has been a wise buy...

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Coda:

For a long time, I have resisted gaming systems, because of life being too busy. It is a reason why I do not have a Wii or PS3 or XBOX because of the time hassle. But, after finding my Gameboy in 2010 and playing like crazy on it, I have begun to appreciate and miss the gaming lifestyle.

As a result, when the price dropped, I made the jump back into gaming and got a 3DS. That portable ability, to pick up and stop playing at a moments notice is important for time. But also, it is a great way to spend some leisure time.

I am from the generation that grew up with games. They are fun to play, normal for us to use, and just like reading a book or watching the idiot box, a part and parcel of leisure time in the home.

I do have a laundry list of games that I want to buy, and with more disposable income than when I was a kid, in one year I may well own more games for my 3DS then I have for my Gameboy. Back in the day, it was a game at Christmas, and one for my birthday. That was it.

Now, it is a game when I feel like treating myself :) Ad let the gaming fun commence...once my battery is recharged :(

Saturday, 7 January 2012

My life is over - I have a 3ds...



For those regular readers of this blog, you may realise that I have a video game fetish. More accurately, I have a Zelda fetish, but pretty much anything animated and playable, I am game for it.

For my generation, this is perfectly normal. While we grew up with lousy Vic 20's and BBC Micros, there was always an element of fun behind the serious stuff of spreadsheets and word processing and early 1980's databases. And then Nintendo came along, and truly gave us what we wanted from the microchip - purile fun!

And so began the steady decline of my generation to video game addiction. An addiction that has lasted to this day.

When I found my Gameboy last year, I was in seventh heaven. I was lucky enough to have it bought for me at the tender age of eleven. And while I have churned through a SNES and a Sega Megadrive, for some reason, I have clung onto my Gameboy like a faithful friend. And for good reason, back in 1991, it cost £70 and my first standalone game, Super Mario Land cost £20 - not small change!

And over the past year and a half I have enjoyed my bouts of handheld gaming. So much so, that at the beginning of 2011 I was very tempted to buy a DS to get back into the whole gaming scene. Then I found out that Nintendo were going to release a 3d Version of their handheld, and I waited. And waited, with growing impatience. And a whole host of terrible ads. (I would have been more convinced by the Greek ads). Until last week, when I saw the bundle at a price I could afford and bought it.

And I also bought Zelda 3D. Oh baby...

Do not underestimate how long I have wanted to play Ocarina of Time. Despite the fact that I have only played two Zelda Games in their entirety up until this point, their impact on me during my childhood has been immeasurable. And so last night, against my better judgement, I popped Ocarina of Time into the slot. And played. And then worked. Then played. Then worked. And played. Throughout the night.

I have never had such a night of such joy and such woe as last night.

In addition I have another two games on the system. Super Mario 3d Land (see a pattern emerging here from my Gameboy days) and the free download, Four Swords. As I registered all my bumf, in the next few days I should also be getting a free download of Kid Icarus, a port of the NES Original. I do have a couple more games that I want to buy when I can afford them, and then I will rest on my laurels and slowly buy releases as they come out.

Part of the reason I bought the 3ds now (despite the absolutely s**t battery life) is that it has access to the DS' back catalogue. There are also a few games from there that I will be sniffing around.

I must admit, it is quite a different experience from the old Gameboy. It has gone beyod the switching cartridges around and switching the system on. The whole gaming experience has become a lot more sophisticated over the past decade and a half. I do have a lot of catching up to do. And I am looking forward to it...

I will not be around much for the...next...week..month...or...so...

Friday, 6 January 2012

If the world's cleverest man...

...cannot figure out women, and spends all day obsessing about them, what's the hope for the rest of us?

Stephen Hawking - 'Woman are a Complete Mystery'.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

London Diary 51

Touch.

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It's important.

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It's essential.

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And it's moments like this that I never wish would end.

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It was a calm night outside. The winter had arrived, bitterly cold, and she knew there would be a cold frost the next morning when she would head off to work. But at least there was no wind, howling and rattling along the fence.

They lay next to each other, close to one another, their body heat migling between the sheets. The baby was quiet in the cot and although they both lay awake in the bed, for one, brief moment, everything was just-

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Perfect.

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Perfectly still.

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There was nothing that was said between them. Maybe, just maybe, too many things had been said in the past. The bitterness and the tears that had washed away much of the trust that they had in each other. So for now the silence was al they had. For once the city was silent. Well, Monday night. That means she also didn't work that night. Mondays were always too quiet for the clients to come out. Believe it or not, it was always Tuesday or Wednesday. . Thursday and Friday would be at the pub, the weekends with the families, but for some reason, men usually paid for her company on a Tuesday or a Wednesday.

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It was probably the only time they could reconcile their own conflicting emotions. On a Tuesday!

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So what lay in store for both of these lovers? Lying side by side. Silent, neither of them wanting to puncture the silence that had enveloped them. Neither of them pretending that they were asleep. Both were very much aware of the other one's conscious state. Both had decided to lie still, and simply lie together. Touching each other. At moments intimate. At moments sensual. And at moments gentle, fingertips.

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I don't want to go to work tomorrow.

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Neither of them wanted to go to work that morning. Slowly, as the night passed into morning, they could both see the twilight pouring through the windows. Another day, another dollar, another 24 hours where both of them have to struggle through the city, all in the name of survival. Not living, just pure, barbaric, survival. Food, shelter, warmth, that was all they earned enough for. The clothes they wore was second hand, the food they ate came out from the sell-by-date bargain bucket lines, and the slimy feel of the walls was due to the years of damp building up beneath the wallpaper.

Neither of them wanted to get up and face the morning light, trying its hardest to burst through the dull clouds that always hung limply over concrete blocks surrounding them. Eventually, something would have to stir. But for now, they both lay there, touching, feeling one another. Sleepless and silent as the night turned into day. Fingertip caressing, the only bit of gentle feeling that either of them knew in this harsh, and bitterly cold winter's morning. The memories of a better life, now horribly distant, left the two of them clinging to each other. As much for warmth and comfort. But also in desperation. Both of them knew, and realised that it was not only love that kept them side by side, but also the very knowledge that no-one else wanted either of them. Wasted, as they were, littered with the mistakes they had made in the futility of their own history...

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Was this the most influencial headline in British History?



The conviction, yesterday, of Dobson and Norris for the death of Stephen Lawrence may not have happened if it was not for this headline in 1997. A death that changed the law and blown open the cosy complacency of the British Police.

If you do not know about the case, take a read of the above links. For me, I still cannot believe that 18 years after the crime, someone has been found guilty of it. It is a good thing that forensics have become so advance, but still a tragedy for the Lawrence family, that they had to endure so much just to get this...

And remember one thing, like the headline said. If the Daily Mail was incorrect, they have had 15 years to try and sue them...

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Monday, 2 January 2012

A lot of debt, and a bit of tunnel

We needed this project ten years ago, but at least it is getting built. With who's money is anyone's guess...

Crossrail Tunneling to begin.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Looking back at 2011

So this may be as personal as this blog gets. Or I might get peckish before I can be bothered to reach the goal of 500 words and so cut it short. But, no matter what, here is my personal look back at 2011. Not at the events of the world, but of the events in my life, while not giving away too much detail as I am damn cagey about such things. For the manipulative writing mind that I have, this is quite some feat, so enough with the intro bumpf and let me get going.

Personally, I have had a weird and wonderful year. But it has definitely been spectacular on that front. But definitely add the adjectives weird and wonderful into that description and I could accurately portray my emotional state. I have had to adapt myself to a brand new and far more situation, but I have not done too badly so far. But as a man, it is always my responsibility to take charge while at the same time slavishly obey the wiser half. These conflicting aims are what makes such situations special and the cornerstone of human relationships. We, as humans, are complex beasts and when starting down a path with someone, the bumps are numerous. With someone special beside me, it has definitely been one of the more interesting years personally.

Professionally, as I have said previously on this blog, it has been an utter disaster of a year, and this is something I hope to reverse in 2012. Whether my optimism will be snuffed out this year remains to be seen, but it will be an interesting year. I will be revealing more in February, as part of my plans involve Poland. Cashwise however, this has been a fantastic year, and I have saved a bundle of money, been able to play with motorbikes this year (including gaining my licence) and I have travelled like hell.

Travelling has been intermixed with my personal life and to an extent my professional side as well. One big difference this year versus previous years has been my European travels. This year I have seem more European countries than my previous years combined. Firstly, that shows how much I have travelled beyond my own neighbourhood and secondly, it also shows a shift in my own personality, which I predicted when I was in my twenties. That in my thirties I would begin to see Europe, mainly as I could afford to. Expect more Euro-travels coming up in 2012.

Individually, it has been a bit of a funky year. Ending the year by getting knocked off my bicycle to be honest sucked (and my leg was bloody sore, but is getting better) but I have had not a bad one. I think my personal life has definitely been the highlight, while my film life has been the lowlife this year. But onward I go, 2012 is still a bright shining star round the corner. Although, with 2009 still fresh in my mind, I am very wary of being too optimistic...