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since 05/11/2002


Kate Remembered - A.Scott Berg 10/04/2005

A Kate to Remember

Kate Remembered - A.Scott Berg Katherine Houghton Hepburn was more than just an icon; she was an independent, spirited, intelligent, and dynamic person with a delicious sense of fun. A great deal of this spirit shines through in her electrifying screen presence and the wonderful performances she gave in a career that spanned the majority of the twentieth century - winning her four Academy Awards en route. Although Hepburn did publish an autobiography in her later years she was very careful to guard her privacy while remaining a star. So, in some ways it is quite surprising that she decided to allow one young man into her life during the early eighties. Having read one of A Scott Berg's biographies she allowed him to interview her for an article in Esquire that would remain unpublished. A long-time fan of Hepburn he never imagined that he would be let into her life so deeply, becoming a close and valued friend. Although, strangely, it appears that she always considered that he would be her biographer describing him as such to family members or suggesting that he write down various points or personal insights, throughout their friendship. "Kate Remembered - A Personal Biography" becomes just that - a very personal insight into a close friend. Every page is tinged with happy reminisces. Even when describing her early years or the evolution of her career, Berg talks about the Kate he knew. Although this may have been the older woman, he still manages to sketch the younger Hepburn in a way that doesn't ...

To Kill A Mockingbird (DVD) 24/10/2004

Letting the Mockingbird Sing

To Kill A Mockingbird (DVD) From the opening sequence of "To Kill a Mockingbird" you can tell that you are in for something special. A box is opened showing a child's treasures accompanied by a simple and haunting tune. This is very much a film about childhood, but it is also about a great deal more. It is about prejudice, pride, integrity and the realisations that the world isn't the way we want it to be. Adapted from Harper Lee's critically acclaimed novel of the same name, it is the story of a significant time in the Finch family's life told through the eyes of its children. Jem (Phillip Alford) and Scout (Mary Badham) live in depression-era Alabama with their father; who unusually they call by his first name, Atticus (Gregory Peck). Widowed some time ago, he is a well respected lawyer who is called upon to defend Tom Robinson (Brock Peters), a black man, accused of raping a white woman. Many within this Southern community do not appreciate the diligence with which Atticus undertakes this task. He knows it will cause problems for his children, whose only fear is their neighbour, Boo Radley - but what will it really mean for them? Anyone who has heard a small amount about "To Kill a Mockingbird" may think that it is a courtroom thriller. Although there is deservedly legendry scene towards the end of the film that probably garnered Gregory Peck and Oscar, it is far from that. Only a small amount of the film happens in the courtroom and although that is incredibly significant, for the most part it ...

Kobe 10/10/2004

Reconstruction City

Kobe Kobe is primarily famous for the earthquake that devastated the city on 17 January 1995, killing 6,000 people. Fortunately the city has managed to rebuild itself over the past nine years, with some of the final rebuilding only being completed last year. As a result Kobe does look new and fresh. Although it is not a must see city, it is somewhere that is incredibly pleasant place to spend the day. GETTING THERE The nearest airport is Kansai International Airport in Osaka, and is probably best if you are only intending on visiting the Kansai region. If you are arriving in Tokyo, you will need to take the Shinkansen (bullet train) bound for Hikari stopping at Shin-Kobe station (taking around two and half to three hours). This is an expensive way to travel, but is spacious and comfortable. Unreserved tickets are cheaper, with reserved tickets restricting you to a particular car and seat (the car position is marked on both the car and platform), which along with your start and end time are helpfully marked on your ticket. As it also affords some wonderful views of Japan's lush and varying countryside, including a great view of Mount Fuji, I would most definitely recommend a trip on Shinkansen as part of any visit to Japan. As Kyoto does provide the perfect base for exploring the Kansai region, we took the JR shinkaisoku which cost 1,030 Yen and took approximately 50 minutes. This brings you into Sannomiya station, close to the tourist information centre, which is well ...

Nara 06/10/2004

Temple Town

Nara Nara is the capital of Nara-ken (or prefecture) and came to fame as the first permanent capital of Japan. Established in 710 it was known as Nara-heijokyo for only eighty years when power moved to Kyoto. Today the city mainly exists as the Kansai region's second most popular tourist attraction as it contains a various World Heritage Sites, National Treasures and Important Cultural Assets. On our trip we chose to take a whole day in order to see as many of Nara's attractions as possible - a half day would be suitable to see a selection. GETTING THERE The nearest airport is Kansai International Airport in Osaka, and is probably best if you are only intending on visiting the Kansai region. If you are arriving in Tokyo, you will need to take the Shinkansen (bullet train) bound for Hikari and change to the Kintetsu line to get to Nara. The whole journey will take you just over three hours. Shinkansen is an expensive way to travel, but is spacious and comfortable. Unreserved tickets are cheaper, with reserved tickets restricting you to a particular car and seat (the car position is marked on both the car and platform), which along with your start and end time are helpfully marked on your ticket. As it also affords some wonderful views of Japan's lush and varying countryside, including a great view of Mount Fuji, I would most definitely recommend a trip on Shinkansen as part of any visit to Japan. As Kyoto does provide the perfect base for exploring the Kansai region, we ...

Super Size Me (DVD) 18/09/2004

You Are What You Eat

Super Size Me (DVD) People are going to fall into one of two camps when it comes to Super Size Me: you'll either think that first time film-maker Morgan Spurlock is a loony or you'll be filled with admiration. Falling into the latter as someone whose attitude to the fast food industry is unreservedly negative, I found his film witty, entertaining and refreshing. But, like the stylistically similar Michael Moore films, it's probably a case of preaching to the converted. My only hope is that someone makes it mandatory for all teenagers to watch this film so that they can make an informed choice about what they are eating. Super Size Me is in effect a reaction to a statement made by MacDonalds after two young women attempted to sue the company for making them obese. Although Spurlock initially thought the litigation was ridiculous, he couldn't believe MacDonalds' statement that the food was healthy and nutritious. As a young man who had been brought up by a mother who cooked wholesome food every evening, he was shocked and thought he would see if MacDonalds' claim would hold water. He set out with a team of three doctors and a nutritionist to study whether one month of "McDiet" would leave him healthy. The only two rules were: that he would have to eat three square MacDonald meals that covered the entire menu over the course of the month; and that if he was offered a Super Size meal he would have to take it. Nobody thought that he would come out fighting fit at the end of the process even when ...

Wanadoo ISP (Freeserve) 15/09/2004

Doo Not

Wanadoo ISP (Freeserve) Once upon a time there was a woman who had a good quality internet connection. She then moved and opted for Freeserve "Anytime" package. After a few months of difficulties and then an even shorter amount of time with a good quality service it all went downhill. Not even its new incarnation as Wanadoo could give this story a happy ending. When Freeserve first came on the market they were an absolute godsend. As one of the first Internet Service Providers to charge its users at local rates they helped to bring down the cost of the internet for the average man on the street. As my parent's still use the internet relatively infrequently, they still find this the most cost effective way to access the internet. For them Freeserve has been a happy story. A few years ago they had a few months of difficulties dialing up, but other than that they have experienced exemplary service. On this basis and on the recommendations of various friends I signed up to Freeserve's "Anytime" package. Which will offer: unlimited email addresses for the whole family accessible from any PC (although this was five when I signed up), 30MB for up to five personal websites, a fortnightly newsletter, access to a website skewed towards celebrity style news and an "online Help Channel providing free advice and support by email". From the start I encountered difficulties, but was placated slightly by the low introductory offer of £9.99 per month for the first three months. Some of these problems could, ...

Tokyo (Japan) 05/09/2004

Sore Feet City

Tokyo (Japan) Originally known as 'Edo', meaning 'Gate of the River', Tokyo first became a significant city in 1603 when Tokogawa Ieyasu based his military government, or shogunate in the then unimpressive little town. Over the following years the city became a base from which the whole of Tokogawa clan ran the country, but only earned the term 'Tokyo' ('Eastern Capital') when the clan was deposed and the Emperor's power was restored towards the end of the 19th century; relocating from Kyoto. Despite two massive tragedies, the earthquake and subsequent fires of 1923 and the Allied bombing of 1944/45, Tokyo has flourished. It is now one of the most modern and impressive capital cities in the world, with little of the old Tokyo or even Edo remaining. My biggest regret in visiting Japan is that I couldn't spend more time in Tokyo. My friend and I had only scheduled a day and a half day there together, and one extra day on my own. My feeling is that Tokyo is much like London. You can spend quite some time there and you will still only scratch the surface of the city - it's somewhere that on first glance may seem quite two-dimensional, but when you get to know it really engages you without your realising it; possibly to the point where you take it for granted. I could be wrong, but that's what my instincts tell me. Like London, Tokyo appears to have different areas that once were small villages or towns, and have now been absorbed by the metropolis. If I was to visit again - which ...

Atonement - Ian McEwan 30/08/2004

Nearly Great

Atonement - Ian McEwan “Atonement – the act of atoning; expiation; reparations; reconciliation”* ‘Atonement’ is Ian McEwan’s critically acclaimed eighth novel which was short-listed for the Booker Prize in 2001. Many critics have said that it is far superior to his Booker winning “Amsterdam”, but as I haven’t read any of McEwan’s previous work I can’t comment. The only reason I came to read this book was due to favourable review on this website, and on the whole I would also be left recommending this book – only one real criticism holds me back. The events of the book take place over a small number of significant days in 1935, 1940 and 1999 with their significance stretching across that lifetime. In 1935 the Tallis family live in a large house that was bought by their entrepreneur grandfather. Cecilee is the eldest daughter who has just returned from studying in Cambridge. Coincidentally, Robbie, the charlady’s son, has been studying there at the same time under the patronage of her elusive father. The two have avoided each other, but on their return an event by the fountain in the garden begins to change their lives. Cecilee’s sister, Briony, is a would-be novelist who spends her life daydreaming and watching those about her. When Briony catches sight of the two figures at the fountain, she begins to piece together a story, which in the context of later events has serious consequences on the rest of their lives. When the crime is committed someone will have to atone. The first half of the ...

Kyoto (Japan) 27/08/2004

Konichiwa Kyoto

Kyoto (Japan) Warning: many of you may want to scan this review, as it is far too long. Kyoto has a great deal to see though... Kyoto gives its name to possibly Japan's most historically and culturally rich prefecture (kyoto-ken), and is contained within the Kansai region. The city itself which was then known as Heian-kyo, was used as the country's capital before Tokyo and shares this privilege with nearby Nara which predates it. Along with Osaka, Nara is also well worth a visit if you are interested in learning a little about Japan's history or seeing many of its most beautiful shrines and temples; many of which are national treasures, UNESCO sites or important cultural properties. The earthquake devastated and recently rebuilt Kobe is also an easy distance (all are reached within half an hour to an hour by train) from Kyoto, making it the best possible location to view many of the country's prime sites. Boasting more than 2000 shrines and temples, a number of palaces, gardens and museums you would need quite some time to feel like you have seen everything in Kyoto. To see the most major sites three days intensive sight-seeing will probably suffice - be warned though, you'll probably come away with plenty of blisters and tired feet and legs. Investing in a very comfortable pair of shoes or sandals is a must! GETTING THERE There are two real options when flying into Japan. The most convenient if you are just intending on visiting Kyoto is Kansai International Airport. This ...

Everything that starts with F ... 26/08/2004

First Love: You Must Remember This...

Everything that starts with F ... A young girl sits cross-legged in front of a television. Images of ballet dancers flash across the screen, she pauses for a moment and stands up to switch off the television set. As she presses the big black plastic button on the front of the wood effect box, an idea becomes set in stone. Perversely the images that raced across the screen did not inspire any inspiration for the art-form they depicted, but provoked a slightly strange response in this scruffy little four year old. They had made her realise what she did not want to do, and somehow what she did. She didn't want to dance - she wanted to act. At that age decisions seemed to be made in that kind of way - more a perverse series of ideas that led to a slightly illogical conclusion... over the past fourteen years she had taken every opportunity available to her to stand on a stage and veil herself in another guise. Whatever happened, an idea burned in her brain and heart, and it was one that gave her strength when life dealt its hard blows. Whatever people said or did she knew that there was one thing that she would do to prove them wrong. And, most importantly she would do it well. She moved aside the curtain and stepped on to the stage. Wearing an old pair of walking boots, a headscalf and a scruffy, oversized suit she frantically began to pace back and forth across its length until finally she glanced up and began to talk to the audience. Strangely, she didn't see her fellow classmates that acted as ...

Igby Goes Down (DVD) 20/08/2004

Title Trauma

Igby Goes Down (DVD) This film wins the prize for the most ill representative film title and poster. The first impression they give is that this is one of those 'hilarious' slapstick teen comedies that'll leave you rolling in the aisles, or if you're like me, avoiding it like the plague. But first impressions can be misleading, and in the case of 'Igby Goes Down' they most definitely are. The film is a wry mix of subtle humour and drama that represent a more sympathetic depiction of the Holden Caulfield character from 'Catcher in the Rye'. Igby (Kieran Culkin) is the product of two wealthy and wildly different parents who move in the upper echelons of New York society. Although Jason Slocumb (Bill Pullman) has been institutionalised for years he appears to have provided more warmth to Igby's lonely life than his cold and intensely controlled Mother (Susan Sarandon), Mimi - who at times appears to be on the brink of madness herself. In fact, all of the influences in Igby's life seem remarkably cold; from his repressed and contained older brother Ollie, to his apparently protective Godfather, DH (Jeff Goldlum), whose relationships are formed by contracts that take no account of human failings and the capacity for forgiveness. It comes as no surprise that Igby constantly wants to break out, and like Holden Caulfield, has never found the reason to use the advantages he has been given to excel academically. Kicked out of nearly every private school his mother could buy him into Igby is finally ...

Calendar Girls (DVD) 03/08/2004

Breasts and Buns

Calendar Girls (DVD) There are some films that are quintessentially English in their mixture of pathos and humour. When done well, these films hold a certain charm and inoffensiveness that can appeal to a large range of audiences, often including those located on the other side of the fishpond. Problems sometimes arise when these type of films attempt to cater to our American friends a little too much, and don't quite manage to hit that the tricky balance that makes the film truly appealing to either audience. Thankfully, with 'Calendar Girls' director Nigel Cole has managed to hit the spot, doing justice to a film based on the real events of Rydesdale, Yorkshire, that appealed to the media and general public alike. Tipped as the next 'Full Monty', this film comes the closest to any of the many films that have been given that tag in recent years. Not only does it contain mild nudity, and a superb cast, but it also utilises a script that wittily pokes fun at British hang-ups about the decency in exposing our bodies. Although the story does contain moments of sorrow that give the story depth, this time social commentary isn't its focus; managing to give the story a lightness that never becomes bubble-gum or saccharine sweet. The story starts with Chris (Helen Mirren) and Annie (Julie Walters), laughing like school-children at the mind-numbingly dull lectures that fill their local WI's schedules. As the month's pass by tragedy begins to fall into their generally happy lives. Annie's husband, ...

Shrek 2 (DVD) 19/07/2004

Amusing Animation

Shrek 2 (DVD) Normally I consider sequel-itus to be a very painful condition to endure. A studio decides to use a successful formula to emulate a past success; normally resulting in a disappointing rehash of the original that only serves to tarnish its memory. Just think 'The Matrix' and you'll know what I'm talking about. Thankfully 'Shrek 2' saves us that discomfort and provides a ride that is just as fast, fresh and funny; providing a surprising number of adult-only jokes that sail over the heads of its supposed target audience. What they do get is a vibrant story that contains a quick enough succession of visual gags and quirky characters to keep them giggling. Thankfully the original cast have agreed to come back to revoice their characters which in turn seems to have attracted an excellent cast of surprisingly Brit-biased voices - only one of which disappoints. Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) and Shrek (Mike Myers) return from a romantic ogre-imbued Honeymoon to find Donkey (Eddie Murphy) on a break from Dragon and staying in their house at the swamp. Soon after they receive a summons to visit Princess Fiona's parents in the Hollywood style town of Far Far Away which even has the town's name imprinted on the nearby hills. Fiona's parents (John Cleese and Julie Andrews) are not too happy to see their daughter's unexpected appearance and soon the Godfather style Fairy Godmother (Jennifer Saunders) is expecting the King to somehow honour his promise of marrying Fiona to her own son, ...

Scottish Terrier 17/07/2004

Its Rude To Point

Scottish Terrier Our family have had Scottish Terriers on and off for three generations (possibly even longer), so when I think dog, I think Scottie. These stubborn little dogs are packed full of so much character and attitude that they could probably steam-roller a fresh-faced owner without much knowledge of the breed. If you can handle these awkward animals, then the chances are that you'll be hooked for life - my parents have only ever had Scotties, Hamish being our current canine, and have no intention of ever getting any other breed of dog. Scotties are small but stocky dogs whose main features include pointy ears, enormous eyebrows (they say that dogs look like their owners - that'd be Hamish's eyebrows that my dad has then!), a long square snout, sporting a rather fine beard (even the ladies and babies), thick neck, a tail that can point directly upwards and a kilt. Well, not a kilt exactly, more-like wiry, black fur that hangs down like a skirt, which has acquired Hamish the title of 'Hoverdog' according to one of my friends. If this still doesn't help you place these pointy little pets, then think of a bottle of Black and White whisky - the Scottie is the black one. Although not all Scotties are black, they also come in wheaten and brindle. (Wheaten is a whitish-creamy colour, and brindle is a browny-reddish colour.) The breed's characteristics can be traced back to the old Scotch Terrier whose other descendants include the Dandie Dinmont, Cairn and West Highland Terriers ...

The Goon Show 10/07/2004

Goon Forever

The Goon Show The Goon's are gone forever. Spike Milligan, the last surviving Goon died on 27th February 2002 of liver failure at the age of eighty-three. He left British comedy all the richer for his presence, with many modern comedians giving tribute to him. With his death came the end of an era. I'd just like to take a moment to remember the Goons (although I am far too young - I'll explain that all to you a little later...,) because even heroes of comedy run the risk of being forgotten. The Goon show was broadcast on BBC radio from 1951 to 1960 (although the last actual show was broadcast in 1972) with more than 240 programmes. Their humour was irreverent and surreal, and appealed to a whole generation of young people. The comedy they produced inspired generations of comedians including Monty Python's Flying Circus, and more modern comedians like Eddie Izzard. Their legacy is modern comedy (er... the good stuff!!) and has stretched further than Britain (I found a few American websites which seem devoted to all things Goonish.) Even though there were topical references in their humour, it is still funny today. Spike Milligan described the Goons as taking everything 'logically to its illogical conclusion' - it all makes sense just in a weird and roundabout way. So, who were these Goons? Well, if you don't know, then you may be a little surprised at the other members of the team - I was when I first found out. They were Harry Secombe (yes, the guy who sang on Songs of Praise and ...
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