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08 Aug 2005: Castle In A Fallen Kingdom

You wonder why I don't like moving house. Let me tell you.

First, the Internet didn't get transferred to the new place. Then BT had us listed as having internet despite not having internet. It took two weeks to get them to amend that. Then another week to get us registered with a new provider. Of course, there was no phone line when we moved in, which was a surprise for flats which have been around a few years.

We had one set of keys so needed to synchronise going home together for a week. Worse, we had no key to access our post for two weeks. The post office would not redirect our post on the day we requested because we did not give them enough notice, despite the fact that we had complied with the notice specified on the application. Blinds were incomplete in one room which took a month to be completed; I waited all morning for the tradesmen to turn up, they arrived 90 minutes late and were done in 5 minutes. And recently there was a water leak.

I 'phoned up the council to tell them we need to pay council tax for a different property now, but was forced to go through our personal and bank details all over again. The landlord passed on meter readings to the electricity and gas suppliers, both of which then sent us letters asking us to provide meter readings. Ordinarily, I wouldn't have a problem with this, but the gas meter is locked and we have no access. Plus, the electricity board didn't get paid by the previous tenants and demanded proof that we really were new tenants.

I've been back in the UK for almost a year and if there's one thing Britain excels it, then it's mediocrity. Buying any product or service in Japan was a delight, a stress-free, worry-free experience, save for the language barrier. Buying something in the UK, however, always carries with it a burden. No wonder the FTSE is falling and consumer confidence is down. Few things are reliable (although so far I like my new Internet provider, Vispa).

This means, of course, that the UK market is ripe for businesses with good execution. Great opportunity exists for businesses that want to look beyond the aspirations of adequacy. I wonder, however, whether the UK really has the potential to do that. Tolerance of the sub-standard is so ingrained in the culture and economy I despair. The British public couldn't get behind the Olympic bid wholeheartedly until it looked like London could really win it in the last week. Suddenly, everybody was interested, losing was okay, but not to France. There's not enough enthusiasm for the bold.

These things have to change.


I am currently trialling Mozilla Thunderbird as an alternative to Outlook Express; tell me you do not find these pictures disturbing; in the middle of a difficult production release, I got a call on my mobile asking for help with USB 2.0 technology; tell me you do not find these pictures interesting; the Al-Qaeda conspiracy has been explained by Matthew Paris; Koreans created the first dog clone - well I guess if any country is going to clone dogs; we sadly lost Robin Cook who, in addition to having a sense of humour, seemed like one of the more honest politicians.

Bonus Pictures

A month without internet also affected my Japanese web log. Less pictures this time, but there is some stuff to see.

Sith Corner

Been hitting the cinemas a lot recently, trying to catch films before they leave the theatres. Brief reviews all round.

The League of Gentlemen's Apocalypse, as one would expect, is disturbing yet hilarious. Not disappointing. What the BLEEP Do We Know? is meant to be thought-provoking and life-affirming with its odd mix of quantum physics, biology and metaphysical musings. It is both of these things, but the results are rather confusing, a bit heavy on the saccharin (not the kind of thing a British audience warms to) and in the end unconvincing.

I had high hopes for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy which were buoyed as I listened to the opening theme music. However, the film seems to get many things... wrong. The story is pointless in a real sense, instead of being a comedy about pointlessness. Big moments like Deep Thought replying "42" have absolutely no impact; plus I would expect anyone trying to follow the film to have problems if they hadn't read the book due to lack of attention to keeping the plot in order. Quite sad.

Finally, Star Wars III. After the terrifyingly dull Phantom Penance and the uneven Attack of the Yawns, Revenge of the Sith is the best of the three. It's still no great movie. The political play is almost naively simplistic and the conversion of Anakin into Darth Vader is unconvincing. One moment he's torn, the next "you line 'em up and I'll slice 'em down". I can confirm that the film is better than Independence Day.

Evangelion Corner

I mentioned, maybe about seven years ago, that I started watching a Japanese anime series called Neon Genesis Evangelion. I have been pushing hard on Evangelion in recent months to keep my Japanese study moving. Well, I did it. Evangelion is over.

I had heard so much about Eva, that the disappointment was palpable when I started up the first DVD of the 12-disc set. It seemed like the typical anime: bouncy title theme; giant robots versus some enemy; characters laughing and smiling in the titles; odd, revealing shots of female characters. Slowly, though, it dawns on you that the rug is being pulled ever so gently from under your feet; it's about something else. And this is not a cartoon for children.

From Evangelion, strange being impaled on cross

The last quarter of the series is where it really hits its stride and most of the characters' worlds disintegrate in one way or another. Truth starts emerging but in such a subtle fashion so as to deny immediate understanding. But if all of Japan had expected a complete explanation of what they had seen, the final two episodes - it is said due to budgetary constraints - are merely a collage of images with a narrative that speaks more of various character's emotional needs than any form of plot exposition.

Let's just say a lot of people were quite upset about that. The otaku fandom lived out the worst side of its stereotype by sending death threats to the studio.

The demands for a real ending were finally satisfied when the writer Hideaki Anno surrendered to the pressure and created a movie called "The End of Evangelion". Right from the opening scenes, you can feel that Anno is sneering: be careful what you wish for. The movie ranges from the shockingly savage to the visually fantastic. It is most definitely an ending this time and no-one can complain that the story is incomplete - but it is an ending some feel uncomfortable with.

I gave up trying to translate the movie, it was all beyond me. I just enjoyed the imagery and turned to an online translation later. It was an impressive thing to experience though and, although it does have many flaws, it certainly goes up there on my list of "Things Weird and Different".