From August 2005

Kafkaesque Cube

I often find that the best films are the ones you find by accident and are rarely mainstream (Battle Royale being the perfect example and The Matrix being the exception). I discovered another such film yesterday. Cube was made back in 1997 and although it’s low-budget it’s not low on creativity or being practically unique in it’s genre. Films which make you think and scratch your head are rare and with Cube there are no easy answers. As with the aforementioned titles this is can be viewed on many different levels giving it a depth which keeps you engaged even though this is a primarily character driven piece.

Cube

So what’s it all about? Basically a group of people wake up in a cube-shaped maze filled with deadly traps which require more than just luck to evade (in fact being clued up on math turns out to be a help!). What lies behind all this is the key to its ingenuity. As the characters ask the obvious what/where/when/why type questions the jigsaw slowly begins to come together but never enough so that we see the bigger picture – and this is a good thing. Too often we are spoon fed but here the audience is left to answer the questions. With a budget of less than $400,000 the film delivers way above it’s level and certainly deserves its cult status.

Cube

For me the idea of inherent pointlessness creating a point to a given situation which has been created by a conglomerate of abstract ignorance is what gives this film a backbone. These people are set in a seemingly impossible situation for the simple reason that they are there to fulfill its function which even its designers are unaware of. As one of the characters notes “There is no conspiracy. Nobody is in charge. It’s a headless blunder operating under the illusion of a master plan.” Is this a red herring? Maybe, maybe not. The social metaphors in here make my head hurt!

Cube

What really marks this film out is the surreal distortion of reality and the sense of impending danger in an enclosed environment where external experience and memory are no longer connected. Hence the menacing complexity of an impassive experience (whereby every room looks like the next but may or may not kill you) compels our characters to loose themselves to what might be described loosely as a form of insanity. Really it is the ultimate form of paranoia and pessimism rolled into one. Then again I could just be talking rubbish! Some of the reviews on IMDB are quite interesting so check them out if you have time.

This is not a film for the claustrophobic or phronemophobic so be warned if enclosed spaces or thinking are not your thing! Otherwise this film is the work of a conceptual genius and might just be worth hunting down for something philosophical, psychological and moreover psychotic… (8/10)

Lost

Lost

I’ve been watching the US series “Lost” the last couple of days – it’s kind of a cross between 24 and Jurassic Park which is cool because I like both! It follows a group of survivors from a plane crash who end up on a rather mysterious island (surprise surprise) and so far each episode has focused on the story of each of the main characters. As they go Lost is pretty good in terms of production values and acting although it isn’t going to win much in terms of originality, still it’s definitely worth seeing. In the UK we tend to get the best of the US series’ (usually shown on Channel 4) although what one person describes as ‘best’ is a matter if opinion! They still endlessly repeat old episodes of the Simpson’s to the extent that I think I must have just about seen them all (twice) by now and it’s wearing rather thin!

N.B. The site is in a bit of flux at the moment please bear with me while I update various things and tweak the design a bit!

Rome

Rome was a bit of a mixed bag of things – the ancient Roman architecture was grand and amazing but the city itself was a bit of a mess (i.e. dirt & graffiti everywhere) even though it contains some of the most expensive designer shops in the world. As always the best photos are saved for Photo.Wire.

Trevi Fountain
Trevi Fountain

The Colosseum
The Colosseum

St Peter\'s
St Peter’s

Notes on Rome: Rome Termini railway station crawls with unsavory characters (both old and young) looking to take advantage of unsuspecting tourists – take care of anything you might be carrying and empty your pockets before arrival (or someone might empty them for you!). If you visit the Vatican Museum students get in half-price just don’t forget ID. The Colosseum also has half-price entry if you’re under 25 but unfortunately this only applies to European citizens.

Venice

I got some of my best photos in Venice (which you can see on Photo.Wire) – unfortunately this was partially restricted due to the hoards of tourists who were around every corner. Of course some of the best places are to be found when you’re lost and in Venice you’re likely to do this a lot!

Santa Maria della Salute
Santa Maria della Salute

Piazza San Marco
Piazza San Marco

Canal Grande
Canal Grande

Burano
Burano

Notes on Venice: During the summer its busy, very busy, so be warned if you don’t like that – of course there is plenty to see away from the main attractions. Take a map or buy one when you get there, you’ll need it! Get a 24 hour pass for the vaporetto (water bus) and you’ll save yourself a lot. Try the pizza at Arca, Calle San Pantalon, Dorsoduro – it’s rather good!

Paris

Here’s the first batch of photos from my holiday. These are the more ‘touristy‘ type ones – I’ll be posting the more ‘arty‘ ones on my photo blog, so be sure to take a look at these also!

Eiffel Tower
Eiffel Tower

Sacre Coeur
Sacre Coeur

Hotel Des Invalides
Hotel Des Invalides

Notes on Paris: I’ve been up the Eiffel Tower during the daytime but at night it’s even better, go right to the top and enjoy the spectacular views! Owing to a French idiosyncrasy the Louvre is closed on Tuesdays so plan accordingly. Walking around Paris is undoubtedly the best way to see it but when you want to get somewhere far-away fast use the Metro. For a taste of real French food which won’t break the bank and a trip back in time don’t miss Restaurant Chartier (this is if you can find it!).

Returned

I’ve just got back from my holiday and will be in Durham for the next couple of days. We had a really nice time but of course after having seen three major European cities in a week we’re quite tired (especially in the foot area!). I’d post some photos (I took over 600!) but I forgot to bring my camera connection cable – check back in a couple of days for this. Some very brief impressions – Paris great, Venice busy, Rome messy. Disney was a lot of fun but inevitably it was pretty busy at this time of year.

Now I’ve got to catch up on over 80 emails and a tonne of dead-tree reading which has accumulated over just one week. I sometimes wonder why we put ourselves this sort of lifestyle – as information access has become so much easier, ubiquitous and prevalent I just can’t get enough of it and therein lies the problem!

European Trip

Unfortunately this will be my last post for about a week because I’m off on holiday tomorrow for a little trip through central Europe! It’s going to be a busy week as we plan to take in London, Paris, Venice and Rome including a trip to DisneyLand! For the curious (and my own edification) here’s a little graphic of where we’re going and a small itinerary:

European Holiday

I’ve personally never been to Venice or Rome so it’s going to be an exciting trip I hope. I don’t know a word of Italian which should make things even more interesting! I’ve loaded up with over 3GBs worth of memory for my camera so should take a fair few pictures along the way which I’ll upload here when I get back. Last year I borrowed a Blackberry to post updates but no such luck this time – if you need to get in contact with me tough luck! See you on the other side 🙂

Incidentally I’m 20+1 years old today. Doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun! (Note the ironic hint here).

Trump Card

trump n: 1. a. A suit in card games that outranks all other suits for the duration of a hand. b. A card of such a suit. c. A trump card. 2. A key resource to be used at an opportune moment. 3. Informal A bit of an idiot.

Sometimes I wonder why it is that so many people who do well in life have obnoxious egos and yet still manage to climb the golden ladder. A point in question would be the business tycoon Donald Trump who has dabbled in just about everything, even having his own cycle race, the “Tour de Trump” for a short period!!

Some people call him the definition of the American success story, I’d put it slightly differently – For a hint of what I mean just check out these quotes off his own Trump University blog:

When I’m going up to my office in Trump Tower, I enjoy looking down on the crowds of people ohhing and ahhing at the magnificent atrium I created… What they’re really responding to is the style of my work… Competence without style is often just business as usual, and that’s something I’ll never be accused of.

My battles have always fired me up; they push me to expand and extend my efforts beyond what I thought was possible. They force me to outdo myself. Ultimately, they have made me bigger.

My career is a model of tough, fair dealing and fantastic success… The Trump brand carries a promise that whatever bears the name will be elite.

I think this speaks for itself. He may not be inherently evil but sure has some sort of personality complex!

Now time for some links to wrap up the week:

Cows By Mail

I never imagined a day when cows would become a fashion accessory – In what must be nearly the epitome of aristocratic “country” living I discovered that you can now buy designer cows in a variety of colours (brown, black or white) and personalised finishes (quite what it means by “hand-finished” I don’t know…) straight from a very glossy catalog (price on application only)!!

Cow for Sale
Highland Calf’s to your doorstep

First it was organic food, now it’s cows – whatever next? Something tells me this is one fad which is going a bit too far! Curiously enough there are highland cattle in the field at the bottom of the garden in the house my parents will soon be moving to…

On the other side of the environmental agenda (note the tenuous link there!) we find some creative marketing going on in Tokyo (as is usually the case) where a non-profit organisation called ‘greenbird‘ has made some cool ads to promote cleanliness and courtesy to the environment:

greenbird
“Keep clean, Keep green.”

You can fine more online in the gallery. [via jeansnow.net]

Safe Return

Discovery Return

The space shuttle Discovery made a text-book landing earlier today in California instead of Florida (due to poor weather conditions). Everyone can now heave a sigh of relief although where this leaves the space program no-one knows at the moment. A succinctly named article “A Rocket To Nowhere” by Maciej Ceglowski gives some good commentary on the problems to be faced up to at NASA who get a far from favorable review.

Discovery Return

At the end of the day ‘Rocket Science‘ is just that – astronomically complex, but also exciting and alluring to those with a sense of adventure. The shuttle fleet is obviously coming to end of it’s life-cycle but even if they never fly again we musn’t forget their contribution to the space program and their iconic place in history.

Elsewhere…

Check out this cool high-res webcam (+ audio) from Aizu Wakamatsu train station in Japan. Watch as people scurry about their daily business! [via Joi Ito]

I also mentioned another good one in Kyoto a while back here but it appears to have disappeared now unfortunately. Find more cool cams on WebView World.