movie: Harry Brown

November 28, 2009

Michael Caine plays Harry Brown, a pensioner who loses his wife at the start of the movie and his days consist of drinking and playing chess with Len in a run down pub in a run down London council estate.  The estate is becoming a wasteland controlled by violent youths dealing drugs and bringing fear to everyone who lives there.  When Len has had enough of living in fear he confronts the gangs and is killed, leaving Harry with nothing.

This is a very dark opening to a movie and when Harry, tries to find who is behind it and why the police can’t do anything it takes him back to his days serving as a marine in Ireland and begins to take things into his own hands.  This is a dark, violent and realistic looking movie, it is also an extremely watchable character based thriller with a surprising ending.

Michael Cain is excellent in this film!  In particular the opening section as the character develops we see him as a tired old man with nothing to live for and trapped in a flat surrounded by violence.  I wonder how he felt about this as it was apparently filmed around the Elephant and Castle where Michael Caine grew up – did he compare his life with what he portrays here?

A song for Peter Mandelson

November 26, 2009

I am sure you are aware of the digital economy bill – parts of which at least is simply bonkers (an interesting Guardian article on this).  Dan Bull (who previously wrote a musical open letter to Lily Allen about copyright) has recorded another open letter to Peter Mandelson (UK Business Secretary and Pirate-Finder General with nearly unlimited powers to enforce copyright).  It is a very clever song and for sheer entertainment worth a play:

If you haven’t heard about the digital economy bill or why people like Dan are concerned by it here is the best and briefest description I’ve found:

“the Government’s proposal to cut off internet access to those who are caught illegally downloading copyrighted files. We think this has one fundamental flaw, as illegal filesharers will simply hack into other peoples WiFi networks to do their dirty work. This will result in innocent people being disconnected from the internet. What’s more, such a punishment should be dealt with in the proper way, in a court of law. This guilty until proven innocent approach violates basic human rights.”

I plagiarized this description from the number10 petitions site – if you would like to register your opinion against the digital economy bill, the petition is here.

book: Stuart Woods “Dirt”

November 25, 2009

Yes, another Stuart Woods – Stone Barrington book.  This time I went back to the second book in the series to fill in the gap I missed.  Again, this book is a good, easy and quick read with an impossible to guess outcome.

The plot follows events as a faxed newsheet called Dirt is sent out to various papers, publishers and insiders dishing out top secret gossip about affairs and back-dealing of a few people leading to eventual blackmail.  Stone, the ex-cop turned lawyer/investigator is called in to track down who is doing this.  During the investigation Stone Barrington meets his girlfriend Arrington, who appears in the next two books and is introduced as someone who could never marry him (thus becoming Arrington Barrington).

This is a great second book, establishing the character first introduced in New York Dead with an array of secondary characters and exactly how he works as an investigator.  The outcome is impossible to second guess, which is essential in a thriller.

What I’m enjoying most about these books is how the plot just keeps moving along from chapter to chapter meaning that with each one covering only a few pages you always feel it is worth just reading to the end of the next – then the next – then… well then it is the middle of the night and you really should be asleep.

book: Stuart Woods “Swimming to Catalina”

November 25, 2009

OK, I’ll admit it I am currently hooked on Stuart Woods books about the character Stone Barrington (see last and next post)… So “Swimming to Catalina” is the forth in the series and I’ve discovered that each book leads directly to the next one.  In this case there is a phone call right at the end of “Dead in the Water” which kicks off this story.

However, the opening chapter of “Swimming to Catalina” starts flash forward of our hero Stone having his hands and feet bound, a chain shackled to his waist, an anchor attached to the chain and being thrown off the back of a boat by two gents of Italian origin to his ‘certain death’…  This is a great way to open a story because you spend half the book waiting for it to happen and looking out for the characters involved.

This is a story of intrigue, kidnapping and organized crime in a Hollywood studio.  The kidnapping is of Stone’s Ex whom he has lost to the biggest movie star (I picture the guy as a Brad Pitt type).

Again, this is a complete page turner and very easy read but which keeps you guessing all the way through.

book: Stuart Woods “Dead in the Water”

November 19, 2009

I read “New York Dead” back in 2008, enjoyed it and picked up a couple of others in this series then forgot about them.  So after “Mercury Falls” I turned to my shelves for inspiration and picked up  “Dead in the Water“.

Stuart Woods writes a lot of books, the ones I’ve stumbled in on are based around the Stone Barrington character.  This third novel (bum I missed one) in the series and sees Stone Barrington – which is obviously a name that can only belong to a fictional hero – is on holiday on the Caribbean island of St Mark’s.  However, it doesn’t all go to plan… While waiting for his girlfriend to arrive a beautiful woman arrives alone on a luxury yacht.  On her journey her husband had an accident (or did he) and she is charged with killing him (or is she) … well yes she is charged, but did she do it?

So Stone gets drawn in because the local politics seem to be railroading her and the judicial system seems to leave a lot to be desired….

Basically this book is a simple, straight forward, fast-moving thriller – but above all it is a page turner.  I picked this up and started reading it right after “Mercury Falls“(get it read it!) and finished this in two days flat – I’m a slow reader and it usually takes me a couple of weeks at least to get through a book.

book: Robert Kroese “Mercury Falls”

November 16, 2009

mercury fallsCertainly one of the most entertaining books I’ve read in a while.  This is a simple tale of the Apocalypse and some of the ‘people’ involved in trying to ensure it goes off as planned, or see that it doesn’t.  You see, the Apocalypse is just sort of kicking off according to the Apocalypse Accord worked out over many centuries by the two sides – Heaven and Hell.

However, not everybody is completely on board with the plan and it looks like there are a few factions who are trying to work against the Apocalypse happening.  Mainly by trying to kill the Antichrist, one Karl Grissom (a 37 year old pizza delivery guy who won the title of Antichrist in a book promotion and wasn’t fully aware that this meant he was the actual Antichrist).  The reasoning goes

“Can’t have an Apocalypse without an Antichrist.  That would be like The King and I without Yul Brynner”
“Yul Brynner died in 1985”
“And it hasn’t been the same since, has it?”

So, while a war in the middle east hots up to the start of the planned Apocalypse Christine, a journalist who mainly covers various cults who think the end of the world is about to happen, and Mercury, an anit-establishment angel who is avoiding playing his part in the Apocalypse end up trying to save Karl (The Antichrist) from other rogue (AWOL or ‘fallen’) angels who are trying to kill him.  Along the road they discover some double crossing is going on against the Apocalypse Accord and not everyone seems to want it to go according to plan.

This is a great book with some fantastic depictions of other-worldly bureaucracies in the ranks of angels who seem to simply follow orders by memo with the trust that someone higher up knows what is going on.  There are very funny moments, a nice complex plot where you really can’t figure out what is around the corner and some great characters.

If you enjoy authors like Christopher Moore, Douglas Adams or the movie Dogma, you’ll love this book.  There is just one problem, I couldn’t find an easy way of getting this in the UK as don’t have it but you can order from or even easier you can read it online in various formats – full details here along with the first 12 chapters free

+ve or -ve

November 9, 2009

A couple of years ago I tried doing a blog once a week reflecting on good and bad things that happened that week, I’m going to try it again for a while.  The main difficulty with this sort of blog is the number of things that you just can’t name, like ‘friend called’ I’m not going to mention who but it might be something that really cheered my up (OK I’m assuming that a friend calling would appear in the +ve category).  Anyway, as I always try to remember the purpose of this blog is as a memo to myself and if others happen to read it and find it interesting because you know me or something I’ve written is of use then great, but be warned if you read the +ve/-ve posts they may be over cryptic and certainly I can’t see how interesting they could be:.


  • +ve  listened to the entire Queen back catalog (apart from compilations and live stuff) at work this week via on Spotify!
  • +ve  finishing another Pratchett novel: The Truth
  • -ve   Halloween: got no sleep at all because of the number of party goers shouting in the street outside till well after 4am by which time I generally can’t get to sleep
  • -ve   passed on some real hassle of a job to deal with which was probably avoidable
  • -ve  had a head cold most of the week
  • +ve  worked from home for two days to avoid traipsing into work with a cold (and got a few ‘stuck’ projects moving)
  • +ve  had a guest blog published on musicademy
  • +ve  phone call from friend
  • +ve  started watching ‘Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip‘ (why the long name?)
  • +ve  de-cluttering and decorating means chucking lots of stuff out and feels good
  • +ve  caught up with one of my oldest friends and had a fantastic burger from Ketchup
  • -ve   haven’t practiced bass for over a week!!
  • -ve  Carol Service plans not where they should be by now, need a lot more work!
  • +ve  I’ve built a secret passageway in my living room and it makes me smile every time I use it
  • +ve  out with friends on Friday night, to Ketchup again and Grosvneor (first night out like this for months!)
  • +ve  good to see friends visiting from Manchester
  • -ve  didn’t get to Biblocafe enough this weekend
  • +ve  finished decorating living room
  • -ve  finished watching ‘Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip‘ and there are no more seasons :-(
  • -ve LOTS of tech problems at church this morning, again!
  • +ve took Sunday evening off church (again)

movie: the men who stare at goats

November 7, 2009

A couple of months ago I saw a trailer for this movie, liked the trailer so got hold of the book, read the book and didn’t like it (review here) and now it was time at last to watch the movie.

movieposterI liked the movie.  I found it extremely funny, very quirky and entertaining. The movie tells the story of the U.S. Army’s First Earth Battalion which was an experimental unit to bring New Age theories into the army.  Soldiers practiced meditation, primal screams, remote viewing, etc. and ultimately tried to stop the heart of a goat by staring at it.

The movie gains over the book by having a coherent narrative to tie the various stories together, however it does let the book down (IMHO) by not showing how these experiments with the paranormal has led to more ‘legitimate’ military programs such as the psychological techniques being used for interrogation in the ‘War on Terror’.

Although this was an entertaining film in its own right, some of the biggest giggles came because the psychic spies also called themselves Jedi and this story is being told to Ewan McGregor with lines like “could I become a Jedi” “what does it mean to be a Jedi” etc.

Nice little film, but will be as good on the small screen as on the big one so wait till it comes along.


Food: Ketchup

November 3, 2009

In the ongoing tour of restaurants starting with a different letter of the alphabet we have reached ‘k’ and so Ketchup, in Ashton Lane.

Ketchup is a burger bar, but with an exceptional menu.  Not only are the burgers very good, but you can also choose venison, lamb, ostrich and pork.  They also have Kobe Beef, which is the legendary Japanese cows that are fed on beer and massaged…. sounded good, but I didn’t go for it.

I had “The Goodfella – Think you’re a wise guy? We pile on pepperoni slices, mozzarella cheese and balsamic-marinated tomatoes, then add red onions, romaine lettuce and an olive-herb mayonnaise”  (obviously without the cheese – because cheese is evil).

The food was fantastic, absolutely fabulous – fries to die for, salad perfectly dressed and delicious.  The atmosphere is nice, informal and a sort of 50s kitsch brought up to date.  On the down side the service was a little patchy as there seemed to be not enough people on even though it wasn’t that busy at 5:30 on a Tuesday evening.  We had to wait at the door with no staff anywhere in sight for two or three minutes then it took a long time to get served at each stage and they always opened with ‘has anyone… yet’ like no one knew who was supposed to look after our table.

That said the staff were friendly and helpful, the food arrived very quickly and no one was trying to push us out the door at the end of our meal so over all this really wasn’t a problem at all.

I would totally recommend Ketchup as the best burger ever!

Guest Blog on Musicademy site

November 2, 2009

screengrabI’m a guest blogger on the Musicademy site today.

Musicademy provides training resources for worship musicians, worship leaders and churches.  Among the resources are instructional DVDs and recently I’ve been trying to learn Bass guitar using their Beginners Worship Bass DVD.  It has been slow going because of my irregular practice, complete lack of any background in music and not really liking worship music much, but I will persevere.

Anyway, it is a privilege to blog for them about my passion, the integration of video in worship. If you read it, do let me know what you think.