Machine Gun

Posted by Enolough on August 28, 2008 • 2 commentsEmail This Post

Musical reviewing is all about albums. Traditionally...

When a new album comes out critics write their opinions about that group songs and the rest of the world reads it. Then the XXI century came and everyone gets to write about music, photography, moving pictures and even tea flavors. Even the writers of this web log do that!

The new century also brought new models of distribution (I avoid "trade" for... well, everyone knows about what Radiohead did and they did it great). Nowadays one can buy stand alone songs and the unity of the album is shattered into 10 little bits, more or less. Each song has its own value and has to prove itself on the radio, Internet stores and P2P (oops...)

Of course this is reflected in the witting process: albums get shorter in length (how many albums do you know with 80 minutes?) and individual songs are being released before and after the main anchor-albums. Artists get creative thinking about how to get to the listeners and how to do it bypassing the giant evil records.

But we are already drifting away from what I wanted to say today...

Portishead's last album features songs that seem very different from each other to the listener. One of the songs, "Machine Gun" happens to be my "Best Song of 2008". This particular song has a sweet yet kind of disturbed voice singing simple melodies while some electronic noisemakers set the pace of the song on a background that clearly goes against the song.

So we get more than one song. There is an anti-song inside it. One could expect that song+anti-song=NOTHING AT ALL. That couldn't be far from the truth. Although the instruments we hear could fit perfectly in some Wolf eyes noise album in this particular case they are used in a clearly defined and repetitive cycle - a simple one actually.

So the result is a very mechanic background with no personality at all and a voice that shatters all that, calling the listener for further reflection. This is an example of the "thesis, antithesis, synthesis" triad, as Hegel put it.

In this case the thesis is the voice and lyrics that change and show evolution as the song goes. The antithesis is the negation of the thesis (sweet voice, melody, etc): organized repetitive noise. The synthesis is not in the song - the solution, instead of being formed by a common truth, is the sense that all that makes in our heads. And the title of the song helps to form this meaning. This is all a big philosophical pile of shit if you don't hear the song for yourself and find your own meaning. I thing that the process is the same but the synthesis that comes out of it may be very different and subjective, as Hegel would want :)

The veredict: *****

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Another day at the office

Posted by Enolough on August 26, 2008 • 4 commentsEmail This Post


It's 13.25 when I finish the lunch. 35 minutes left - in 35 I will be back at the office.

So what do I do? Sad people wander in the streets like shades; 8 in 10 of the women I see have the manners of a cowboy yet they look less trendy than the Marlboro man.

Both men and women show their best twisted sad faces - these are sensible people that go "I'm so unhappy" just because. If one could ask them they would surely blame the weather - so many people on this part of the world blame the atmosphere for their mood! Sun7heat - tired, sleepy, clouds/rain - unhappy, without motivation. They miss they joy that is watching an ant carrying food for the winter.

The ghostly streets and the cloudy sky make the sad town even worst. The whole world aches inside my stomach...


Bring me the big crowded streets of metropolis; the noise - planes, trains, cars, boat horns, tram bells, words floating from thousands of conversations that pass by with the Doppler effect. Let the colors and confusion of all the stores invade my eyes; let the schedules of the transports be the only limit to the otherwise eternal deambulation.

People jump in and out the doorways, cars wait for the green light like racers on the starting grid. Books lined up on the shelves seem to scream - take me with you - and my debit and credit cards burn from the use...

Over there! I've been here countless times and I never saw this glove store - the is enough room for one costumer only yet they sell to all the world.

Meters ahead there is a man working 24/7. His job being singing "fado", a Portuguese traditional song and a great voice he has. One could swear that there is some microphone and loudspeakers hidden somewhere. The box has coins. Mostly 10 cents of euro - this is the lowest value you can offer without using a bronze-colored coin.


7 minutes to 14.00... The cup of lady Grey tea is now empty. I take a look at the pictures on the magazine before it goes back to the shelf: the city...

6 minutes left and I just realized that the mayor is right here having his coffee too. He didn't noticed my presence - I am as invisible as I like to be.

It is now 14.30 and I press the keys at light speed. The mayor passes on the corridor, I see him through the glass wall. Another day at the office.

Killer of giants

Posted by Enolough on August 21, 2008 • 0 commentsEmail This Post

I will spare you the story of the nuclear bomb. We all have in mind that in 1945 this kind of device was used for the first and last time (two bombs of different kinds, one target country, one aggressor).

Since then more and more countries developed their own systems: weapons, trigger devices, and security plans to protect inadequate uses of those weapons. Funny thing is with all the money burnt on that research, protection, planning... one has given use to their bombs since that August in 45.

There was a so called cold war between the two countries that had the most powerful nuclear arsenals. The cold war never got hotter for both had retaliation abilities: they could blow their enemy even after being hit.
And that was how nuclear submarines from USA and USSR chased each others vessels, and the top brass from both sides was sleeping with a finger on the trigger.

Yet nothing happened. Enters Afghanistan, John Rambo and stuff - the cold war gets frozen. Instead of building nuclear shelters we all breathe, anxiety is washed away. There are wars but not in Europe; there are enemies but not the big powerful nations; there are bombs but they are stored in underground hangars.


Fact is last week we had a war in Europe and even if it was a small skirmish we can read between the lines and figure what is happening. Cold war is a victim of global warming and is alive again. This time the cold war is brought to you in a more exquisite manner. Wrapped in politeness and democracy.

What's new on the Cold War II / Word War III?
There are more players this time. It is not mighty USA versus an apparently strong USSR like it was in the 80s. This time we have war-exhausted USA, restored Russia, rising China and the rest of the unhappy world. Should we care about Iran having nukes? SURE! But shouldn't we care about USA having them? They were the only country that ever used them and they used it on civilian targets. "USA is responsible, stable democracy" - fine. What about Pakistan?

Pakistan is in political chaos for more than a year now. They do have nukes and they have a lousy security system. What about the word-war between Israel and Iran? We all know that Israel has been training for a possible attack to Iran.
Israel HAS nukes, Iran HAS NOT. Shouldn't we be worried?

Then we have the rest of the nuclear-confirmed countries: France, UK, China, India, North Korea, Israel. Then the ones to whom nukes have been borrowed: Belgium, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Greece. The ones that had in the past: South Africa, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan. And the ones that are suspected to be building nukes: Iran and Syria.

So why are we only worried about Iran and Syria?
You want to make nukes? CANT
You have nukes? THATS OK


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Photo Of The Day

Posted by prla1983 on August 20, 2008 • 0 commentsEmail This Post

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Vantage Point (2008)

Posted by prla1983 on August 16, 2008 • 2 commentsEmail This Post

"Vantage Point" hints of "Rashomon" in that a single event is told from different points of view, six different ones in this particular case. While the similarities end there, it is an interesting spin on an otherwise trivial action movie by first-time director Pete Travis. It tells of how POTUS (that's President of the United States for you) goes to Salamanca, Spain, to talk at an anti-terrorist summit and ends up getting shot by... terrorists in front of every one at the plaza plus millions of viewers at home. Or did he?

So, about every 15 minutes you see all that happened again. Despite getting new facts in each re-telling of the story, it gets repetitive after a while and the intended suspense kinda gets stale because of how old the procedure quickly becomes. Thankfully, most of the twists are interesting but it smells of a movie that wants you to think it is smarter than it actually is.

One of those points of view is that of Secret Services agent Thomas Barnes (Dennis Quaid) who is back at his job after taking a bullet for the same President a year before. Quaid does a good job as the permanently scoffing veteran agent, with shades of Clint Eastwood in Wolfgang Petersen's "In The Line of Fire". Another perspective, which really is useless to the whole story until the final unbelievable coincidence that brings closure to the film, is that of American tourist Howard Lewis (Forest Whitaker). He's running around with his camcorder not doing much until... he saves the day. But be that as it may, it's always a pleasure to see Whitaker (who was fresh from winning an Oscar the year before) on screen. His last scene has such an incredible acting from him that is actually emotionally moving amid all the hardness of the previous ninety minutes.

"Vantage Point" is a simple action movie with a somewhat simple plot told in a convoluted way. It works pretty much all the way as long as your suspension of disbelief device is functioning. If you're the kind that is constantly looking for holes and pointing out stuff that could never happen in the real world, steer well away from this. Other than that, "Vantage Point" is like half a season of "24" condensed in less than ninety minutes. Without Kiefer Sutherland.

Oh well, you still get a Jack, but it's the other guy, from "Lost".

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Get Smart (2008)

Posted by prla1983 on August 15, 2008 • 0 commentsEmail This Post

Steve Carell is a good, funny, actor. Anne Hathaway, I don't know why, she always got on my nerves a little bit, one of those people who can piss you off just by looking at them (it's surely my problem, not hers). So, finding the trailer quite funny, I went to the theater to see it.


Guess my prayers for a bad movie to review have finally been heard, with a vendetta. This is not Get Smart. This is Get Dumb and it's not pretty, either. I won't trust a trailer again for a long time. So what do you do when the entire first half of a comedy goes by and you haven't really laughed at all, not even once?

You leave. That's what I did. Wish I could get my money back.

That's my damn review of "Get Smart".

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Hero Wanted (2008)

Posted by prla1983 on August 14, 2008 • 0 commentsEmail This Post

When I look at the poster for "Hero Wanted", I cannot help but think this should be an old-fashioned cops and robbers action flick. I mean, just look at it. The burning cityscape, the title with a flame-like background itself, a gun in the middle and both Cuba Gooding Jr. and Ray Liotta ready for a face-off. In fact, it also reminds me of a very old arcade racing game I used to play hours on end on my old faithful ZX Spectrum. It was called Chase HQ and you can see its poster on the left. Remember that one? It just royally sucked that you had to reload yet another portion of the tape to actually get to play the next level. Good times.

Back to the subject at hand. The truth is that "Hero Wanted" is indeed kind of an action flick (not in the sense I implied, certainly) and it does have good guys and bad guys and one of them, especially, I had a hard time figuring out which side was he on, despite knowing all the facts about him and everything he'd done, right and wrong. "Hero Wanted" is director Robert Smrz's debut and thus, this time, he's forgiven for his sins. This is a really good story, marred by questionable directorial choices. That which could have been one of the season's best movies, ends up being just another flick, passing pretty much under the radar.

I won't be able to say much about the story without spoiling all the fun, as this is an anachronistic Pulp Fiction kind of movie, but suffice to say that Liam Case (Cuba Gooding Jr.) walks alone as he lost both her wife and child. Tough times for him and when he finds love again, he does something really foolish with dramatic consequences for everyone involved. Especially for those who drop dead. Ray Liotta plays (or shall we say, underplays) the cop who figures things out, but I was left really cold with his performance. Liotta can't act bad, because he's so good, but the truth of the matter is that the script doesn't call much for him. A pity.

Cuba Gooding Jr. however is superb and I could really feel for the guy even if he made some questionable choices along way. And not just because he lost his loved ones. His story arc is fantastic. The film bets on shocking the viewer multiple times along the way, but some things are so unbelievable - for instance, a little girl, crucial in the plot, talking like she's 35 - that we don't know whether to feel shocked or outraged.

But in any case, despite all its pitfalls, "Hero Wanted" is a movie worth seeing. The action scenes are nothing special, the characters are too plain except for Liam, the bad guys are too stupid and full of themselves to be taken seriously, the few cops that show up are even more stupid and simply get shot, plus the pace of the movie is sometimes a little bumpy with a few scenes after which we're left wondering what the hell was that for anyway.

But the story kinda makes up for it, reminding me of the well intentioned motives behind all the tragedies in Sidney Lumet's brilliant, brilliant "Before The Devil Knows You're Dead". That movie though, is a whole different thing.

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Mother tongue

Posted by Enolough on August 12, 2008 • 2 commentsEmail This Post

I love to hear people talking in strange, foreing languages in the streets of my town. Russian, Ukranian, Chinese, French, Spanish, English... Specially if I don't understand them. Gives a touch of melting pot to little Portugal, little Lisbon, little Torres Vedras. Reminds me of the real big cities NY, London, Beijing, Hong Kong, Paris, Dubai...

It's a good sign, me thinks. One day we shall be citizens of the world... all of us!

If we don't burn all the planet before that is :)

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Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay (2008)

Posted by prla1983 on August 11, 2008 • 5 commentsEmail This Post

There are comedy movies in which you leave the theater no smarter than when you got there. Some unfortunately have the lasting effect of dumbing you down, hopefully on a temporary basis. The second installment of Harold and Kumar's adventures could hardly be any more silly and nonsense. But the fact of the matter is, unless you really lack a sense of humour, they're actually funny as hell sometimes. Ok, most of the time.

These are talented actors doing a silly comedy movie. I'm particularly partial to John Cho having seen him for the first time in a show that aired on Portuguese TV a few years ago called Off Centre in which he plays the brilliant Chau Presley. Unfortunately, on "Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay" there's much more Kumar than Harold (and even less of Guantanamo Bay, if I may add), to the point of me thinking John Cho was actually way underused in this movie.

But no matter. Their adventures are actually fun to watch, no matter how improbable they get. From bottomless (forget topless, that's out, man) parties, to crashing out a Ku Klux Klan get together unlike any you may have heard of, with a lot of joint smoking in between, including an hilarious cool down with George W. Bush himself. Neil Patrick Harris also plays a small but deadly (literally) hilarious part as himself.

These movies have an awful tendency to suck, especially when they get to slapstick territory which, thankfully, is not the case here. "Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay" gets away with only a couple of really stupid not funny type scenes. Being as it is, other than that its only fault is probably being just a little too long but even that doesn't keep it from easily being one of the funniest Summer comedies around. Oh and it helps if you go see it with low expectactions.


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Share-a-Track #1

Posted by prla1983 on August 09, 2008 • 2 commentsEmail This Post

Being as it is that this blog is so connected to music, it's only fair that a new feature comes up where the authors of this blog share a song - preferably fairly obscure stuff - with our beloved audience. Yes, all two of you.

There may be no particular reason for the impulse of posting this or that track for your listening pleasure or else there may be every reason. Music is made to be listened and we here at The Mirror are doing our little bit to help the cause. In case someone has something to say about illegal downloading, I strongly suggesting putting a sock in it. Or sticking it where the sun don't shine. No offense.

Without further ado, the first installment of Share-a-Track comes courtesy of Swedish progressive death metallers Opeth. Contrary to what used to happen back when they recorded this, these days they need little to no introduction. The song I bring you today is an Iron Maiden cover, "Remember Tomorrow", which as you may or may not know is part of that band's eponymous debut album.

I only got to know Iron Maiden really a few years ago and wasn't even born back when they started and did this. But then again, when they toured celebrating their 25th anniversary in 2005, I was fortunate enough to attend two Early Days shows and saw "Remember Tomorrow" performed both times. It's a fantastic song intertwining slow and faster parts with a memorable melody, beautifully sung by Paul Di Anno, Maiden's first vocalist that stuck in the band for more than a week. It was actually special to see this song performed in 2005 because they hadn't played since the initial tours and because they were dedicating it to a Portuguese friend of theirs, Manu da Silva, who had died at the time.

The version you get here however is Opeth's and, in my opinion, it's no less hauntingly beautiful. It deviates a little from Opeth's trademark but they're so good, even at this time in their careers, that they simply nail it. This comes as a bonus track to their "My Arms, Your Hearse" album.

Enjoy and until next time!

Opeth - Remember Tomorrow (Iron Maiden Cover)

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The X-Files: I Want To Believe (2008)

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There's one thing most of my friends have in common. They've seen a lot of X-Files episodes back in the day. Some have seen it all. Oh and they all found Scully (Gillian Anderson) really really hot. My personal involvment with the series has never been more than watching a few episodes here and there a good many years ago when they first aired on Portuguese TV. I remember I liked them quite a lot but never got really hooked. Then I think I saw the first movie but it was during my freshman year at University and that's, well, a little blurry on my mind.

In any case, "The X-Files: I Want To Believe" premiered last week and there's such a lack of quality movies in theaters these days that I thought "...well, let's just go see it". For me it's hard to talk about movies like this that involve many twists and turns without spoiling the fun for whoever reads this and hasn't seen the movie yet. So I'll just go on record saying that despite having a shitload of clichés and not really adding anything new, "The X-Files: I Want To Believe" is pure entertainment and plays like one long 100 minute episode, which I think is what any die-hard X-Files fan is probably looking for in these movies anyway.

I never thought Scully was really hot before but I guess she aged well, let's just say. Mulder inevitably gets dragged from seclusion (one joyful seclusion, it seems) into solving yet another missing person case and guess what.. he's sporting a huge beard. Yeah, well, he eventually shaves, but he really shouldn't have. He lost his sense of humour pretty much at the same time he lost his beard.

I remember that back in the day some of the episodes were really really good. If you're looking for another long episode here, you came to the right place. It may be far from the best of X-Files but it's certainly enough to justify a trip to the nearest theater.

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Loud & Clear

Posted by prla1983 on August 08, 2008 • 0 commentsEmail This Post

Apart from The Offspring, there are a few other bands that have been heavily doing the rounds in my particular neck of the woods. Because I still have to digest most of these albums entirely but all the same they are too good to pass up, here's a quick and dirty heads up if you're looking for some mighty stuff to put through your speakers or headphones.

Baroness - Red Album (2007)

I was turned on to this band by a guy I know who owns a record store (or used to own, he sadly closed shop last month). At the time he recommended a lot of stuff which I couldn't afford to simply buy on sight plus I didn't really know Baroness. But then I kept hearing about them here and there and last time I went to the best record store in Lisbon, I picked this one up, new and shiny (sorry Miguel, if you hadn't closed your joint, I'd have bought it from you). The sticker on the cover claims this one is for fans of Mastodon, High On Fire, Mastodon and Explosions in the Sky, among other bands, but I don't know. This is simply modern rock and fucking roll the way it should be done in the 21st century. Enough technique, big fat groove, huge sound and I can't recommend Baroness' Red Album high enough. Yeah. Really.

Capricorns - Ruder Forms Survive (2005)

Another recent discovery of a fairly unknown band, again thanks to Miguel from the tiny record store. I actually bought this one there in one of my after-work visits last month. This was the first record he played for me in one of those afternoons and I was sold after a couple of minutes. Capricorns are part of the small roster of Rise Above Records, a label owned by Lee Dorrian (Napalm Death, Cathedral, Teeth of Lions Rule The Divine). This is stoner meets doom, mostly instrumental, lots of repetition, one of those records that seems fairly uneventful most of the time but that you slowly absorb until it grabs you and doesn't let go. Been spinning this quite a lot lately.

Ulver - Shadows Of The Sun (2007)

I pay a lot of attention to every sort of end-of-year list from every sort of genre and I couldn't help notice Ulver was included in a lot of those last year. It's quite hard to describe Shadows Of The Sun even more so because I thought this was post-rock/metal a la Isis and ends being different from anything I heard before and different from everything I had expected. Slow, evolving, music that surrounds you and takes you places, attracting and repulsing at the same time. Cliché description, but there's nothing cliché about the music herein. Check it out for yourself, preferably through headphones, and you'll see (or listen to) what I'm talking about. Oh and that's a damn cool cover, if you ask me.

Khoma - The Second Wave (2006)

Last time I went to Carbono in Lisbon I saw this one on sale second hand for 10 EUR. Now I regret that I didn't bring it home with me. I'm still in the middle of discovering this album but it definitely sounds like Oceansize meets Sigur Rós with a lot of introspection going on. Oh, the intro is hauntingly beautiful, by the way. But as I said, haven't absorbed it yet, but here's a winner, definitely. And if you like Cult of Luna as well, double check this one out as Johannes Persson plays guitar here.

Torche - Meanderthal (2008)

Man! Saved the best for last. Goddamnit. If you follow Feral Pig Isis' Aaron Turner visual art blog, you'll instantly know an Aaron Turner artwork when you see one. That's how I first got to know Torche's Meanderthal which is a strong contender for my favorite album of 2008 only matched by Portishead's comeback. Anyway, the artwork caught me eye but it took me a couple of months to actually get to the music and let me tell you, this is a motherfucker of a rock/pop/metal/whatever record. First half dozen songs go by in less than 10 minutes and you are left wondering exactly what fucking hurricane just went by. Then more slowly post-metal like progressive songs kicks in and you understand this guys are no fools. They know their stuff and I can't wait for their next effort. Until then I'll spin Meanderthal to death and encourage you to do so as well.

It's a golden era for music!

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one, two, three... WAR!

Posted by Enolough on • 0 commentsEmail This Post

1 - South Ossetia declares independence from Georgia.
2 - Georgia claims  sovereignty over those territories.
3 - Russia supports South Ossetia.

And a war started at EU's gates while we all looked to China...

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Felon (2008)

Posted by prla1983 on August 06, 2008 • 0 commentsEmail This Post

I must have done a lot of good to the Film God Almighty® because right after I wrote a glowing review, here's reason to write another. And mind you, this one's even better, for my particular money. This shit better stop though, because it's making me look like some fanboy who loves everything in sight, crappy or not. I want to trash something.

Seriously though, just like the previous movie I reviewed, 21, this one, "Felon", is another prime example of how story lines that have been done many times over can still be fresh and impacting if they're done the right way, with seriousness and rid of any sort of film pretentiousness.

Cutting to the chase, Wade Porter (Stephen Dorff, a good actor who has sadly been passing very much under the radar) is a hard working family man, with one child and a lovely wife (Marisol Nichols, who you may have seen in a leading role in 24's last season). Everything is sweet until some thug decides Wade's house is a nice place to rob. As it happens, and I won't tell you how, Wade finds himself in prison (wait, shouldn't that be the thief? Right.) and his situation only gets worse as his time goes by. In prison he meets an old-timer known to have wrecked havoc wherever he's done time, a man that may not be exactly what he seems to be. Or is he? That's Val Kilmer in one of my favorite roles of his. There's a memorable passage in the film when his character, John Smith, is assigned the same cell as Wade and he introduces himself:

Smith: You wanna fuck or fight?
Wade: None.
Smith: Keep it that way.

That's enough to frame the story, dear reader. Needless to say, the vast majority of the film's 100 minutes running time is spent inside prison walls and my eyes were stuck on the screen for each and every one of those. You sympathize with the most unlikely characters, you feel for their problems and not only Wade Porter's.

The best movies are the ones where you take sides and you actually care about something or someone, forgetting for a moment that you're just a peeping tom glancing at the screen and at other people's lives. Who, by the way, do not exist. This is one such film, so make sure you catch it somewhere.

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The Offspring: Prologue

Posted by prla1983 on • 1 commentsEmail This Post

I've got about 2500 music albums. As of today, my main iTunes Library claims to house 1774 albums from 876 different artists. That adds up to 20666 songs, which would take me no less than 66 consecutive days, no stops, to listen in their entirety. Every day I learn about different bands, every day I download new stuff I never even remotely heard of and often I go out on a rampage and buy a lot of CDs at different stores. I got a couple of iPods (one of them is dead) and recently I've acquired an iPhone which also acts as an iPod in its own right. I listen to music while I'm at home, I listen to music at work on my laptop and I listen to music every minute I'm inside my car, wherever I may roam. I've attended dozens of great live shows, most of which I have fond memories of, others which sucked on end. It's been like this for about 15 years and I'm proud to be a true music lover (because I am), regardless of my shortcomings. I have a few favorite bands and don't even get me started on the amazing people I've gotten to know and cherish a friendship with, thanks to the music.

And that all got started back in day with three bands, all of which I still love with a huge passion after all these years. I often joke that music lovers should be like sponges in that they absorb whatever they get to know without the need to purge what came before. "I don't listen to insert genre or band here anymore, that's for kids" is something only a dumbfuck would utter. So, whatever people might say forgetting that music is all subjective, I kinda wouldn't be here if it wasn't for Nirvana, Green Day and The Offspring. I would simply be a different person that the one who's writing this post right now. Not necessarily better or worse, just different.

The Offspring - and music in general - came into my life through a close friend back when "Smash" came out, so that would be about 1994. I listened to that record like there would be no tomorrow and then I found out about "Ignition" and the self-titled debut album. Soon they came up with a new album, "Ixnay on the Hombre" which had a few songs that really kicked me into high gear though I began to understand they were going in a different, poppier direction. I kept avidly listening to every The Offspring album that would come out, "Americana", "Conspiracy Of One" and I culminated almost a decade of fandom seeing them live in Lisbon back in 2001. One mofo of a show, if you ask me, with all the classics being played.

Anyway, I've recently been going through a massive Offspring overdose, with almost 400 plays in a single week so I thought the time is as good as any to write about one of my favorite bands. Listening to the entire discography, I've understood that I love every album in a certain way and each of them evoke a different period of my life. With that in mind, in the coming weeks I'll be posting a small article on each of their albums, as a kind of homage.

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My cup of tea

Posted by Enolough on August 05, 2008 • 4 commentsEmail This Post

I can't recall when I first tried a cup of that hot drink but I hated it. It was a strange taste - impure water as it seemed to me. Years passed and the common sense that tea is for ill people slowly faded. So the day came that I would re-try something that I couldn't understand before. It happened with Pink Floyd, with Madonna and with Quentin Tarantino - I waited for the right time to enjoy all this - so why would tea be any different?

I tried different types, flavours, blends, etc. I looked for some of the best brands and slowly the hot drink came into my life. Not a single day passes that I will not have a cup of tea, carefully prepared (the care and dedication I put in it depends on my frame of mind).

My choices of tea depend on several factors: time of the day, physical condition, state of mind, company, etc. In a typical morning situation I take English Breakfast or some strong unflavoured dark tea - "wake up and smell the tea". After lunch I would rather have Ceylan or green tea (either with lemon or mint). Then night falls and Earl Grey is the best for the late hours - the cytrus flavour softens the otherwise strong taste.

If I happen to be in a more introspective mood Earl Grey or Lady Grey are the best for meditation - watch the water changing its color as it passes through the leaves; feel the heat of the cup; smoke rising and the smell invading the soul. Four minutes later we have my favourite drink. It has something spiritual - one can feel out of itself ("je suis an autre" when I have my tea alone). And that is why I love having tea alone. The time that the leaves stay on the hot water, the temperature, and the way the water falls over the leaves are very important to me. I know that most of the times it does not make such a big difference but I do care for details and there is a psychological factor in my ritual.

It is like a daily prayer and since I do not pray in the common meaning of the word there are some situations when I have this contact with the divine things - tea time is one of those.

If you have any doubts try one. And next time you are about to ask for an expresso try something different and don't overlook the sensations and feelings you may get from a single cup of tea when it is taken in the right place at the right time.

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21 (2008)

Posted by prla1983 on August 04, 2008 • 0 commentsEmail This Post

Every now and then comes up a movie that is far from a masterpiece but feels immensely satisfying to me. Robert Luketic's "21" is a prime example of that and although I admit I've always liked every sort of card games and gambling, there's so much more than that in here.

And also so much less, as this story arc is something that has been done to death in films of all types and genres. Humble guy finds a way to get big, changes himself along the way without even noticing, gets greedy, ignores friends, loses control and incidentally loses everything. Oh, he gets the girl, too, of course. Without giving too much away, that's exactly what happens in 21, with a couple of, shall we say interesting, twists. This is a tale based upon the real life mid 90's MIT Blackjack Team which had a conceptually simple principle when it came to playing this card game, known as card counting. Wikipedia describes it in a clearer way than I could ever hope for:

The principle behind counting cards in blackjack is that a deck of cards with a high proportion of high cards (ten-valued cards and aces) to low cards is good for the player, while the reverse (a deck with a high proportion of low cards to high cards) is good for the dealer. A deck rich in tens and aces improves the player's odds because blackjacks (which offer a higher payout than other winning hands) become more common, the dealer is more likely to bust a stiff hand, and double-downs are more successful.

Think "Ocean's Eleven" meets "A Beautiful Mind". Kevin Spacey (in yet another brilliant performance with a boatload of memorable quotes) leads the secret team that meets at night in obscurity in one of MIT's classrooms. They soon go to Vegas to "make a killing", meaning using the card counting scheme to score a lot of money. Of course everything goes right until it goes wrong. Ben Campbell is the smartest kid on the block, recruited by his Nonlinear Equations teacher, Prof. Micky Rosa (Spacey) to join the team. Well, it wasn't hard, as Ben needs about 300,000 grand to get into Harvard Med without the need of the only scholarship that's very doubtful he'll be offered.

I won't unveil more, because the thrill is in the twists and turns of what they do. Most of all it's in the intensity of Ben's relatioship with Micky and how it sours going from point A to point B. Their scenes in the classroom both pre and post the happenings in Vegas are unique, full of sharp and witty dialogue. In the end, the message is that if you want it all, there's a big chance you lose it all. 21 delivers that message with a little poetic, zero-sum type justice served at the end.

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The Grey Knight

Posted by Enolough on • 0 commentsEmail This Post

Imagine an action movie with more than 120 minutes in which the hero (there is always a hero and a villain - the quality of the villain makes the hero) is absent. You can't identify with him: he has doubts and troubles but he seems to be away from that - our hero is simply NOT THERE. He is a pretty nice guy but that's all.
Then there is the villain. He is a much stronger character yet he is so mad, so psycho that you just can't identify yourself with him either.
There is a sub-hero: but he turns to the dark side for weak reasons (Two Faces is too much of anger for so little).
And of course, the pretty girl that should end with the hero is a double crosser, kissing the tow heroes one at the time.
Did I mentioned the general citizens scared to death? - they seem weak and general portrayed.

That would be a lousy movie...

The best thing in The Dark Night is Joker. Great character and great acting YET I could identify two Jokers in that movie. The first one is confident, strong voiced, etc. The last one is crazy, nervous, hysterical. This last one is THE JOKER.

The Batman has an armour. BAD
Batman has a stupid voice. BAD
Batman seems apathetic (and pathetic). BAD

Badman :)

We could call this movie "The Joker" yet this villain is not good enough for that. Too crazy, too stupid for that. But this is not a Batman movie - he is not even in the title.
So the only thing worth seeing was the acting of Ledger... but that is not enough to make a great movie.

Overall rating - *** (3 in 5)
(MEANING:I would not see this again, I would not rent this movie, I would not buy the DVD. Yet I wouldn't mind seeing it on TV - Sunday afternoon)

as disposable action movie - ****
as comics movie - ***
as comics hero movie - ****

Batman - **
Joker - ****
(see how bad this is?)

storyline - **
(there is no story at all... and the plot as it is seems too much confusion for this kind of movie)
visual FX - *****
sound - ****

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The Dark Knight

Posted by prla1983 on • 0 commentsEmail This Post

"It's easy, we, uh, kill the Batman"

So says The Joker in "The Dark Knight", the latest of the Batman franchise. If only it were that easy. Perhaps what makes this sequel to "Batman Begins" so appealing is how ironic that plan actually is because the Joker simply has no plan. That's what makes him such a menace. Generating so much hype that it spectacularly landed and got stuck at #1 of IMDb's Top 250 Movies of All-Time, "The Dark Knight" may not actually be the best movie ever but it certainly makes a good attempt at being the best comics hero movie to reach theaters worldwide.

Reasons for this are manyfold and not every one of them has to do with its story. Ledger's untimely passing has no doubt been a decisive factor as it is human nature to sympathize with these situations. Fortunately for us moviegoers, Ledger was still very much alive and kicking when he did what's certainly the best performance of his career as a completely deranged Joker who sees himself as an agent of chaos. Comparisons to Jack Nicholson's portrayal of the character almost twenty years ago abound, but to me they're just pointless. Different time, different actors.

But most of all, different approaches to the Batman story. Think "Heat" or "The Departed" and you see how far removed from Tim Burton's overall feel Christopher Nolan has gotten. So to say you prefer one Joker over the other, for me is really a matter of preferring Nolan's or Burton's way of doing things. In any case, regardless of all the Oscar talk coming from the sympathetic global heart of the world, the truth is that with this performance Ledger is no less deserving of at least a nomination for supporting actor than anybody else. In fact, if you heard it, it's true: he steals the movie, he's the one whose next scene I kept eagerly awaiting, he's the main reason why I went back to the theater a couple of days later.

But this is definitely an ensemble movie. Everyone has just the right amount of screen time - including the Joker. I don't know whether there was any last minute editing after Ledger's death, but Nolan was definitely smart not to overuse him. Michael Caine as Alfred, Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox and Gary Oldman as Gordon all reprise their roles from "Batman Begins" and all support the action pretty much perfectly. Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent is also spot on but unfortunately I couldn't feel much for him and his situation as I couldn't sympathize with Maggie Gyllenhaal as much as I wanted to. I think the right actress to play Rachel Dawes is still to come along, but it's certainly not Gyllenhaal.

I've never been much of comic books/films fan, but I gotta admit "The Dark Knight" turned me on. I went in surrounded by all the hype and came out delighted because the movie ends up being light on the fantasy aspect and heavy on the real life believable side of things. So much so that if someone had to go and the film remain very strong, it could be the Batman. He wasn't the center of my attention and in fact the story focuses as much on him as it does on Bruce Wayne. That's telling.

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The Dragon

Posted by Enolough on • 0 commentsEmail This Post

I've been willing to write here for days but I just couldn't find a way to start...
Now I don't have that problem, I am already writing.

I would like to thank PRLA for the invitation. I will try to do my best to stay on the editorial line of this blog, even if it doesn't have one (which appears to be case).
Due to censorship I am not authorized to discuss some issues of international politics at my will (so much for the free speech) but I will touch those topics from time to time.

So lets start with some Olympic matters. As most of the inhabitants of the planet know, the Olympic Games will take place in China this year and 1/5 of the world is worried about Human Rights issues in that country (2/5 are busy with their own problems: hunger, war, civil unrest, dictators, etc; 1/5 does not care about that and the rest of the people are Chinese).

It is indeed nice these days to be pro-Tibet and say Dalai Lama is a nice dude, a bald laughter like no other. So we have to fight China for they employ little children, exploit their workers, limit freedoms and conquered Tibet. That is all true but let's not lose the bigger picture.

Such places (I wouldn't say countries, regions, etc for most of the people of an oppressed country are victims) exist all over the world and this is a global fight, one much more important than fighting terrorism (which by the way is a subjective term - we will discuss that later - and is invisible - no one is a terrorist until he/she spreads terror).

The struggle against hunger, war, oppression, exploitation must be taken in a global scale. And economic sanctions are not solution. You can't also "bomb" countries with food - that's not help; that's hypocrisy in cereal boxes. Most of the world needs know-how and that kind of help is not a task for ONG's or for common citizens. A new kind of United Nations has to make it's appearance in the world.

Of course China is the most visible case of HR violations right now and thus every western citizen waits to see China failing. That will not happen from China's perspective; that will surely happen from Europe / US perspective. The problem is that the US are scared - China WILL become the next superpower; the world will no longer be ruled by one nation. Europeans are simply jealous - over the last 60 years they watched the rise of US, USSR, Russia post-91, India, China, etc. And EU still is discussing internal matters and will be forever. The bigger it gets (27 and counting) the harder it will be to have a one voiced supra-national entity that is a world player and with worldwide respect.

So the story about China is this - the rise of a new giant. As Tom Clancy is changing it's novels (the red threath is now China, not Russia) the politicians at Capitol Hill are changing their focus too.

And so do we, carried on by the media.

PS - we came to the strange situation of Europeans wanting independence for Tibet, something that not even Dalai Lama wants...

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