Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Ibanez RG3270 Prestige Bargain

I got a phone call from my son last week, gibbering about a guiter he just had to have because it was a seriously top model and it was going at a knockdown price and could he please borrow the money for it. He was in Merchant City Music in Glasgow so I could get there easily at lunchtime.

Ibanez RG3270 PrestigeIbanex RG 3270 Prestige (Deep Red)

It turned out that it was an Ibanez RG3270, one of their Prestige models although some rate these as J Customs. True enough the price it was going for was low, given that we'd seen it on sale for £1,300 not that long ago but it was now a discontinued model. It's got a flame maple and mahogany body, rosewood fingerboard, Edge Pro bridge, locking tremelo system, DiMarzio PAF Pro pickups in bridge and neck position and a DiMarzio Blue Velvet pickup in the mid position. Still, given that spec and build quality, it's still a stunningly good instrument and a good work through by David on it in the store soon proved that.

So that's the fourth guitar I've bought him out of Merchant City Music so far but I'm hoping I'll get some money off him for this one (fingers crossed).

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Room 13, The Cathouse, Glasgow

Room 13
My son David's band, Room 13, were performing at The Cathouse in Glasgow last week so we dutifully went along to give some support. Turn out was far better than their last gig in December but then there were six bands performing.

Room 13
Can't really fault them musically and their stage act has improved a bit but they are still very poor at promoting themselves. For example, they never even told the audience their name. They really need to do something about that. Jacqueline videoed them playing their latest track - Shade of Day so here it is…

Of the other bands playing, there were a couple of decent ones. Griever weren't bad - good solid beat and good guiter but their singer was woeful. Sorry to do a Simon Cowell but seriously, don't give up your day job. They were followed by another band called Suicide Underground and they were actually quite good. There was one more but we had to go get a train home so we didn't see them.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Glasgow Flickr Meetup Group Graveyard Shift

Went out with The Glasgow Flickr Meetup Group the other night for a photoshoot in the Glasgow Necropolis, a fascinating Victorian garden cemetery, the first of its kind in Scotland and among the first in Britain. It stands on a hill just to the East of Glasgow Cathedral and it embodies all that was great about Glasgow during an era when the empire was at its power.

Glasgow CathedralGlasgow Cathedral From The Necropolis

The city's wealthy and famous were buried here and some of the monuments are absolutely astounding in both size and beauty. Some were even designed by the architects and sculptors who built the city, such as Alexander ‘Greek' Thomson and Charles Rennie Mackintosh. It's a big place too, with over 50,000 burials having taked place in it and and over 3,500 tombs being built.

Anyway, after a hot coffee at The Tinder Box on Ingram Street, about nine of us headed over the Bridge of Sighs and into the cemetery on a cold and foggy night. Almost immediately, we lost two of our number, who later claimed to have got lost after wandering away from the main group. That's one of the first things you learn from horror movies, you never split up, and definitely not in a graveyard at night!

The Major Archibald Douglas Monteath MausoleumThe Major Archibald Douglas Monteath Mausoleum

It's an amazing place in the darkness, with the lights illuminating the Major Archibald Douglas Monteath Mausoleum, built in 1842, as you climb up the path. I didn't take a torch, thinking that my eyes would get used to the darkness better but there was a lot of ambient light from the city lights and the fog just amplified that as well. That said, once we got up into the bigger tombs on the hill, it was pretty dark and spooky.

We wandered around a fair bit as far as the John Knox monument, which was erected in 1825, at the top of the hill. We had a couple of hours tramping around in the dark until our feet started freezing and our hands were getting a bit numb so we called it a night.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Sweeney ToddAnother Sunday that we couldn't manage to get out into the countryside and ended up spending a few hours looking at sofas (sigh). So, a movie was needed to cheer up the evening and Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd sounded just the ticket. Here's a summary of the plot…
The story is based on the hit Broadway musical which tells the infamous story of Benjamin Barker (Johnny Depp). A simple barber, Barker and his wife Lucy (Laura Michelle Kelly) are living peacefully in mid-nineteenth century London with their little daughter but when evil Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman) covets Barker's wife, he has him falsely imprisoned and deported.

Many years later Barker returns to London under the new name of Sweeney Todd but when he visits the pie shop of old friend Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter), she tells him that his wife had poisoned herself and that his daughter Johanna (Jayne Wisener) was now the legal ward of Judge Turpin. Mrs. Lovett encourages Todd to open up his barber shop in a spare room above her pie shop and the two enter into a diabolical blood and pie fest as he takes out his rage on unsuspecting customers while plotting to free Johanna and kill the evil Turpin.

Okay it's a musical! We weren't entirely sold on that idea but it works and Tim Burton was the right choice of director to do it. He's already has some experience of the genré with the animated tales Corpse Bride and The Nightmare Before Chistmas although this is a live action version. Burton really knows how to do a gothic movie and this is no exception - limited colour palette, the cast with pale makeup and dark shadowy eyes and with costumes and hairstyles to match.

Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett
Johnny Depp is marvellous as the tortured and enraged Todd while Bonham Carter plays Mrs. Lovett beautifully. Also excellent is Timothy Spall as the appalling nasty Beadle Bamford, Alan Rickman does the evil Judge Turpin to a tee and Sacha Baron Cohen turns in a wonderfully, over-the-top performance as Signor Adolfo Pirelli, Todd's competitor in the barbering business. It's no suprise to see Depp and Bonham Carter here as they are both Burton favourites. They both played in his Corpse Bride and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory while Depp also starred in Sleepy Hollow, Ed Wood and Edward Scissorhands and Bonham Carter appeared in Big Fish and Planet of the Apes.

The story of Sweeney Todd was written sometime back in the mid nineteenth century so it's a pretty well-known tale. It's been done several times before this and I remember Freddie Jones doing an excellent portrayal of Todd in a TV version back in 1970. However, Depp certainly does the business with the character and he can even sing. The musical aspect of the movie does help to avoid it being a slasher flic as the blood certainly does flow once he gets going.

Sweeney Todd
If you're squeamish at all, then you might be better avoiding this one as it is pretty grim in the gore stakes. I'm not sure it deserved an 18 certificate but it's definitely not one for the kids. Fans of Depp or Burton will love it.

Genre: Crime, Musical, Thriller
My Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Sainsbury's Cuts Bills In Half!

Just noticed that our local Sainsbury's till receipts are now being printed on both sides. Not just the usual preprinted promotions and adverts but the actual lines from the receipt are now continued on the back.

Obviously the system needs to wait until the checkout girl hits the total key to work out where to break the text and how much paper to use but it's a great way to save some trees and maybe even a wee bit of energy as well.

Sainsbury's was the first company in Europe to install these NCR double-sided receipt printers, saving them a great deal in paper costs. Wonder if us punters will see any of these savings passed down to us?

Monday, February 04, 2008

I Am Legend

I Am LegendI Am Legend is based on a 1954 story by Richard Matheson, which has already spawned a couple of other versions and is widely held as a forerunner to the zombie movie genre. The plot is simple - mankind has been all but wiped out by a plague and what's left of us are vampiric zombies, all but Dr. Robert Neville. Here's a summary of this version…
It's 2012 and Dr. Robert Neville (Will Smith) is the sole survivor in a deserted New York City, the legacy of a retroviral cure for cancer gone wrong three years earlier. By day he roams the streets, looking for food and supplies, and by night he barricades himself into his fortress of a home, hiding from the remnants of humanity that prowl the darkness, hungry for his flesh.

Those of us that the pandemic didn't kill have mutated into flesh-eating zombies with an almost vampiric aversion to ultra-violet light. Neville, a brilliant military scientist before the plague, now labours constantly to find a cure while also holding out some hope that there are others out there that, like him, are immune to the virus and that he is not alone.

I Am Legend was a movie that we hadn't really been thinking of going to see. Will Smith saving the world yet again wasn't really that high on our list of things to see but we fancied a movie and the show times were a bit awry for Sweeney Todd so I Am Legend won out.

I Am Legend
The movie is shot showing Neville surviving as best he can, alone in New York City and intercut with flashbacks to three years before when the cure for cancer was announced to the world and the events that followed when some of those given the cure start to show signs that all is not well. It's a pretty well told story and Smith shows that he can still hold the show, mostly on his own for the run of the movie. His main co-star for most of it is his dog, a German Shepherd called Sam.

The visual effects are also very good indeed as they've transformed New York City into a run-down and over-grown scene of dereliction. Grass and trees grow out of the sidewalk, car wrecks litter the streets and wildlife runs freely down the boulevards. Where it falls short is in some of the CGI work. The lions just didn't look right to me and the Dark Seekers, while they were pretty well done, just lacked a bit of realism. Of course that could have been deliberate as they did seem very like the monsters out video games like Resident Evil.

On the whole I think it works well. Smith portrays a man that's been alone for three years, surviving day by day, very well indeed. His mental state has definitely taken a few knocks over the time, raiding the stores for canned food and DVDs to watch and daily going to the docks to see if anyone has heard his radio message telling them that he's alive and that they're not alone.

I've seen seen the earlier version of the story, The Omega Man, starring Charleton Heston and this is definitely better. It's a wee bit on the slow side at times but it works well and there's plenty of action and tense moments to keep the thrill seekers happy enough. Not a classic of the cinema but worth going to see.

Genre: Drama, Horror, Science-Fiction, Thriller
My Rating: 7/10

Camera Trilemma?

I fancy a new lightweight camera for taking on holiday as my Sony DSC-H2 is just too big to lug around the beach, etc. It's not that big for sure and certainly isn't in the bulk and weight league of the more traditional dSLR cameras but it isn't really that portable. I've got a little Sony DSC-P10 but it's getting a bit long in the tooth now.

I had been looking at the small but high-zoom models offered by Panasonic (DMC-TZ3), Sony (DSC-H3) and Canon (PowerShot SX100-IS). Spotted the Sony a few weeks ago and it does look small and neat and I finally got my hands on the Canon at the weekend but it's just isn't small enough. A pity as it's probably the best of the three. The Panasonic is small enough and is a good bit of kit but it's a year old now and only 7.2 megapixels so I was hoping that they'd announce something new around about now but nothing so far. They've all got some pros and cons:
  • The Canon has the better optics and processor and uses AA batteries but it's too big. If I'd wanted a bigger one I'd have gone for the PowerShot G9.
  • The Sony can take extension lenses and filters but has a reputedly awkward menu system and a clunky, detachable lens cap.
  • The Panasonic has a true wide-angle lens but is only 7.2 megapixels and is a year old design.
So, I had just about decided on the DSC-H3 when what do Sony do but announce a replacement for it already. The Sony DSC-H10 is due out in May so that scuppers the buy at the moment. How can I win? I bet come May or before it, Panasonic and/or Canon will have a new model out as well.

...and I want to look for a real dSLR camera soon as well. Grumble...both Nikon and Canon have announced new entry-level modfels in the last week or so as well so I'll have to wait until they're out now as well

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Frankie & Benny's, Springfield Quay, Glasgow

Going to the movies at Springfield Quay used to be a fairly one or two choice affair as far as food went but more restaurants have opened up over the last year and, assuming you don't count Burger King, then you can now choose from Italian, Chinese, Indian, Mexican or American. However, we were in a rush and, having tried to get into the Mexican and seen it pretty full, we popped next door into Frankie & Benny's.

We've been in there a few times before and it's always been okay and fast, which was a prime concern given that we had a movie to catch. I was a wee bit worried since, having recently been to the Braehead Frankie & Benny's and found it woefully poor, any slow service would be a problem. However, no such probems here! Frankie & Benny's at Springfield Quay run a well organized shop - fast and friendy service and an efficient kitchen.

On to the food. Again, we can't complain. We wanted something quick and a burger fitted the bill so that's what we had - bacon cheeseburgers, fries, onions rings, etc. All nice and unhealthy but exactly what we wanted. It's not exactly haut-cuisine but for an American style diner, it's excellent.

I here that the XScape restaurant is still seriously slow though so be warned and give it a miss.

Cuisine: American/Italian
My Rating 7/10