Monthly Archives: July 2010

Carajillos For Two, Barcelona

Carajillos For Two, Barcelona, originally uploaded by still awake.

Inception, a reflection

Obligatory SPOILER alert – if you haven’t seen the movie then avoid this post.

Find me one good line in Inception, one profound, well written thought, and I’ll go watch it again.

Some examples of lines that are not well written: “Who’d want to be stuck in a dream for 10 years?”, “Thank you for not asking if I did it”, “The team needs someone who will understand what you’re struggling with”, “Don’t lose yourself”.

I rolled my eyes so many times that I started to get a headache. The ideas were not new, the setting for this audience member was not particularly amazing and the dialogue was appalling. The use of so many famous actors became tedious although I enjoyed the surprise revelation of the last big name at the end.

Australian citizens with American accents don’t seem quite fitting unless they’re there to tell us something. The nod to Rupert Murdoch and his son’s empire building / destruction was vapid at best.

The dialogue was poor and the idea that a young girl who looks 15 could suddenly provide all the answers that the rest of them had never seen before was frankly insulting. Another eye rolling moment was the name ‘Ariadne’ which is a reference to King Minos daughter in ancient Greek mythology. She helped a lover escape from a maze by giving him a ball of red wool. This is why we get all the maze references in the movie although they fail to live up to much.

The movie was tedious and obvious in its execution and as patronising and slow as the comic books that writer and director Nolan is probably more used to reading these days. The Batman movies weren’t quite left behind and Cillian Murphy, who played the Scarecrow, was given the junior tycoon role as Fischer jr. However, no real effort was made to give depth to the characters apart from Cobb and some story line was given to Fischer. Tom Hardy did a great job playing Eames but there really wasn’t that much to do. The rest were spouting lines that were either there to tell the audience what was going to happen or to help explain the new technology that was being used in the film.

I hate to use the word spoiler because I thought the ending was the only one possible and the hints about what it might be were given within about 15 minutes.

From Descartes to Joss Whedon there have been some great ways of examining the realities which we navigate and the socially constructed worlds we live in. Some have masterfully pointed at the weakening concepts and perceptions engineered by others: see the lies about Iraq and the WMDs, Orwell’s 1984 which is far more applicable to the Western world rather than to the USSR he was talking about. The constant illusions we accept or disregard can range from societal ills to personal breakdowns. The Matrix took the former idea to the big screen in a brilliant new way and the corridor scene in Inception was probably better than the scenes it copied.

However the big notion that Inception was meant to represent got lost somewhere in the detail and the bad writing. There wasn’t one end to wait for, but three or four, and that was two or three more than I cared about. The suggestion of schizophrenia was a good one and the grief from losing a loved one can no doubt be overwhelming. However, the personal conquest for the main character was not enough of a challenge to keep this film going.

Ideas from lucid dreaming sounded familiar (giving yourself a way of identifying reality etc) and the planting of ideas such as Derren Brown talks about meant that much of the movie wasn’t really surprising. The creativity shined through at times but even that fizzled out more often than not. I didn’t particularly like Inception and I’ve seen the idea done better by others, namely Joss Whedon. However teenage boys seem to love it (9.6 on IMDB) so who knows.

Dali and the London Eye

Dali and the London Eye, originally uploaded by still awake.

Gordon Brown’s first speech is a good reminder that change still needs to happen

Gordon Brown spoke in Kampala yesterday after three months of a silence so pronounced that Guido Fawke’s has a specific tag, for mentions of him, called “Where’s Gordon?“. This latest speaking occasion, therefore, has made an impression in the papers and brings to the forefront the reminder that development has still got some way to go around the world. His focus was on Africa and he offered his wishes that the continent would achieve its potential. He suggested an increase to internet access from the current less than 1 per cent and suggested that “the job of aid is to kick-start business-led growth and not to replace it”.

His speech came a month after the release of the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) report on June 23. In the year 2000, world leaders pledged to work towards goals such as ending poverty and hunger, providing universal education, and developing a global partnership for development. There are five years before the MDGs are due to be achieved and world leaders will attend a summit in New York on 20-22 September 2010 to evaluate current progress.

Goal number eight has as its focus the aim to develop a global partnership for development. When Gordon Brown talks about aid to developing countries he is talking about the $119.6 billion which in 2009 made up the net disbursements of official development assistance (ODA). To put it in context this amount of money represents 0.31 per cent of the combined national income of developed countries. It includes net debt forgiveness grants, humanitarian aid, multilateral ODA, bilateral development projects and programmes and technical cooperation.

The United Nations suggests a target of 0.7 per cent of gross national income for most donors and the UK almost meets that with a provision of 0.6 per cent. There were some countries who exceeded the UN target and in 2009, they were Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. The UK was however among the largest donors by volume in 2009 along with the United States, France, Germany and Japan.

In 2005, members of the G-8 countries committed to increasing their aid and this increase was projected that their commitments would double ODA to Africa by 2010. The slowdown in economic growth since 2008, however, means that the estimated aid that Africa receives will be only about $11 billion out of the $25 billion increase envisaged at Gleneagles.

Gordon Brown’s visit is a reminder that there is still more to be done in Africa and for this MDG. There is some hope that it may augur a focus for the ex-Prime Minister who may see it as his next mission.

Note: this post has also been submitted to the TH!NK3 Development site.

Textured Sunrise Over Central Bristol

Source at St Nicholas Market, Breakfast

Source at St Nicholas Market celebrated its first year anniversary last weekend and while I’ve enjoyed many selections from their deli section, I had yet to try more than just coffee as part of their restaurant. On a quiet but warm Saturday morning I headed to St Nick’s for a quick continental breakfast with my friend Graeme. Our breakfast selection ranged from cooked dishes such as haddock and poached eggs to more prompt servings of toast and jam.

We both chose croissants and jam. They were served warm and the strawberry jam was in a little bowl alongside. The croissants were slightly flaky, buttery and delicious. They were more ‘patisserie’ than ‘supermarket’ that’s for sure.

Graeme chose a Lahloo green tea as an accompaniment to his pastry and I chose a decaf Americano. The green tea was served as a pot of hot water and a little filter of tea leaves which were placed inside. The Americano was lovely and slightly bitter just like proper coffee. It was the best decaf coffee I’d had in a while and it was served with a little pot of milk (which I didn’t touch).

Breakfast was served at the tables outside and it was a great way to start the day and the weekend.

See excellent food review of Source by Mark Taylor in the Bristol Evening Post.

1-3 Exchange Avenue, St. Nicholas Market, Bristol, BS1 1JP

White Cider Ice Cream at Trethowans


For a typically Bristolian summer treat try the white cider ice cream at Trethowans Dairy at St Nicholas Market. Be warned though that it’s not just a flavour and does contain alcohol.

The white cider and apple sorbet is produced by Mendip Moments and sold at Trethowans Dairy who recommend serving it with some Caerphilly.

The View From St Michael’s Hospital


Golden silence

Golden silence, originally uploaded by still awake.

Feminism, Must I? SATC episode 1

A throwaway comment at the end of my Swinky’s Sexy Cupcakes post has left my thinking. I said I would not watch Sex in the City 2 because it was sexist and clichéd. I feel bad about that. I didn’t see the movie, I do believe the characters and the format are clichéd and sexist but I gave no reasoning or explanation. It was a generalisation without proof, hardly fair and lacking in evidence. So I’m going to read through the transcripts of the show in an attempt to explain it. The things I do for feminism.

The title of the show ‘Sex and the City’ is the same as the column that the main character Carrie writes. The title suggests the act itself and could be seen as the female sex.

Season 1, episode 1:

Four women are introduced with information about their professions. The information is useful for conveying the type of woman each one represents, their appearance helps as well. Miranda Hobbes Esq – Corporate Lawyer, is the handsome, short haired, no nonsense lawyer (the masculine overtones are helped later on in real life when the actress comes out as a lesbian).

Samantha Jones – Public Relations Executive, (PR: all about promotions, being forthright, extroverted) whose main purpose is to have sex. She outlines the duality of the situation “You have two choices: you can bang your head against the wall and try and find a relationship or you can say SCREW ‘EM, and just go out and have sex like a man”, she means ‘without feeling’.

Charlotte York – Art dealer, is gentle, graceful, upper class, feminine. She still believes in romance and has no intention of acting like a man. However it just doesn’t work, the man behaves as he wants to no matter what she does.

And then there’s Carrie Bradshaw, the show’s narrator, who writes a column, is a detached observer, “sexual anthropologist” and also confused. A modern woman, as presented in glossy magazines, one who is strong and independent but still partial to expensive Minolo Blahnik shoes and quality fashion. Apparently she represents us, she’s the one we are meant to identify with and is probably based on the author of the show Candace Bushnell. It’s harder to cast a stereotype on the only potentially real character so the descriptions about her are a little more vague.

We enter into the world of women, led by the narrator, who are questioning what to do about men and relationships- the title of this week’s column is “unmarried women, toxic bachelors”. Women are confused because they don’t understand the rules of the game in New York (concrete jungle where dreams are made of).

The first example is of an English journalist left bemused by apparently normal NY male behaviour which sounds like manipulative pseudo-intimacy until the man gets what he wants and then moves on. Carrie sums up the show’s reality: “Welcome to the age of “uninnocence”. No one has ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’, and no one has ‘Affairs to Remember’…” The characteristic that unites these women is that they are single. “It’s like the riddle of the Sphinx. Why are there so many great-unmarried women, and no great-unmarried men?” Carrie explores these issues in her column and she has terrific sources, she tells us – her friends.

Treat them like they treat us, suggests Samantha: treat sex as if it’s meaningless. Charlotte wants the fairytale and the waiting and the romance. Miranda knows what she wants and won’t put up with anything less. Through the episode we see Carrie move on from wanting to be with someone who only wants intimacy without emotional commitment, to being able to have sex without needing anything more intimate only to find that this is not a satisfying choice either.

So what is the answer? Along comes ‘Mr Big’ who is tall, dark and handsome and never referred to by his name but only by his stature. Pointed aside: how did your father look when you were little? He rejects the casual sex offer from Samantha and saves Carrie by giving her a ride in his black limousine (see Pretty Woman for connection between knight on horse riding up to save the princess). She outlines her issues to him and he tells her what her problem is, she’s never been in love. She felt the “wind knocked out of” her. It is the fairytale. The answer is to regress back to what we first knew about women when we learnt it through picture books. Forget women trying to compete with men on their terms because not all men have the right answer. Only the right guy will do.

So which parts are sexist and clichéd?

[more in Part Two]