Monday, 28 March 2016

Film, 2015

Quotation du jour: Marilyn Monroe ~ “Hollywood is a place where they'll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and fifty cents for your soul. I know, because I turned down the first offer often enough and held out for the fifty cents.”

I've written before that i'm a list freak.

I haven't been to an actual cinema in quite a few years – the Cineplex where i live shows mostly films aimed at a teenaged audeience, and i'm far, far away from being teenaged. (although i do maintain a certain endearing immaturity). But i love movies, i have a large-ish collection of DVDs and watch one on my day off every week. Here's what i watched last year (titles with an asterisk indicate somthing i'd never seen before):

Jan. 6: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Jan. 13: The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug
Jan. 20: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Swedish version)
Jan. 27: Lucy*
Feb. 3: True Romance*
Feb. 10: The Girl Who Played With Fire
Feb. 13: The Kids Are Alright
Feb. 17: The Drop*
Feb.23: Jacob's Ladder
Feb. 27: The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest
Mar. 3: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (American version)
Mar. 10: Nightcrawler*
Mar. 10: Bettie Page Reveals All*
Mar. 12: Dead Man Down
Mar. 14: Hanna*
Mar. 16: The Adjustment Bureau
Mar. 18: Pulp Fiction
Mar. 24: The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies*
Mar. 31: The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies
Apr. 7: Zero Dark Thirty
Apr. 21: The Warriors
Apr. 28: John Wick*
May 5: The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring
May 11: The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers
May 16: The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King
May 19: American Sniper*
May 26: The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies
Jun. 2: Lethal Weapon 3
Jun. 9: American Sniper
Jun. 16: Angel Heart
Jun. 18: Burn After Reading
Jun. 23: Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Jun. 30: We Were Soldiers*
Jul. 7: The Patriot
Jul. 13: The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring
Jul. 14: Lethal Weapon 2
Jul. 20: The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug
Jul. 21: Die Hard
Jul. 28: Django Unchained
Aug. 4: True Romance
Aug. 10: The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers
Aug. 11: Killing Zoe*
Aug. 18: Green Zone
Aug. 21: True Lies
Aug. 25: Kingsman: The Secret Service*
Aug. 28: The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King
Sept. 1: Mad Max: Fury Road*
Sept. 8: Passenger 57
Sept. 20: The Girl Who Played With Fire
Sept. 22: The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest
Sept. 23: Source Code
Sept. 24: Blue Jasmine
Sept. 27: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Sept. 29: Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade
Oct. 6: The Professional
Oct. 13: War Of The Worlds
Oct. 20: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (U.S. Version)
Nov. 8: Match Point*
Nov. 15: American Sniper
Nov. 22: Salt
Nov. 29: The Bourne Legacy
Dec. 6: Black Rain
Dec. 13: A Good Day To Die Hard
Dec. 20: Die Hard
Dec. 25: 42nd Street
Dec. 26: Die Hard 2: Die Harder
Dec. 29: Mad Max: Fury Road

And what, i hear you ask, was my favourite of the new ones? Well, a few of them i don't even remember, but my favourite was probably “American Sniper,” a film so powerful it made me feel proud to be American! (Well, i am an honorary St Louisan, but that's another story.) Second choice woulkd be “The Battle Of The Five Armies,” although there was too much Peter Jackson and not enough Tolkien in it. Exciting as hell, though. “Fury Road” was pretty exciting, too, but i found it kind of muddled. Woody Allen's “Match Point”sucked.

Oh, and here's a playlist:

Laurie Anderson -- Mister Heartbreak
Pink Floyd -- The Endless River
Joe Jackson & Friends -- Heaven & Hell
Jane Siberry -- Ulysses' Purse
Jack Bruce -- Somethinels
The Sutherland Brothers & Quiver -- The Very Best Of The Sutherland Brothers & Quiver
Peter Hammill -- Enter K
Richard Thompson -- Action Packed: The Best Of The Capitol Years
Home -- The Alchemist
Jethro Tull -- This Was
Fairport Convention -- Myths and Heroes
Yes -- Union
Runrig -- The Story
Todd Rundgren -- Runt
Tim Renwick -- Privateer
Van der Graaf Generator -- Trisector

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Books, 2015

Quotation du jour ~ Anthony Powell: Books do furnish a room.

I've written before that i'm a list freak. Usually at the end of each calendar year i publish a list of all of the books i read that year, and indicate my faves. This past January, however, the problems i was having with my passport application along with work-related exhaustion had created a weltschmerz or apathy in me to the point that i didn't really want to do anything.

Optimistically hoping that late is better than never, though, i present herewith the list. Titles with an asterisk (*) are books i read for the first time.

Jan. 8: Helen Fielding – Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason
Jan. 16: Fredric Brown – Honeymoon In Hell
Jan. 23: Fredric Brown – The Lights In The Sky Are Stars
Feb. 7: Nicolas Freeling – Some Day Tomorrow
Feb. 13: Charlie Brennan – Amazing St Louis*
Feb. 23: Cormac McCarthy – Outer Dark*
Feb. 24: Paul McFedries – Microsoft Windows 7 Simplified*
Mar. 4: Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö – The Abominable Man
Mar. 20: Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö – Roseanna
Apr. 4: Erik Larson – Dead Wake*
Apr. 16: Cormac McCarthy – The Orchard Keeper*
Apr. 26: Erik Larson – Isaac's Storm*
May 11: Ian Rankin – Bleeding Hearts
May 22: Erik Larson – Lethal Passage*
Jun. 8: Mick Houghton – I've Always Kept A Unicorn: The Biography Of Sandy Denny*
Jun. 24: J.R.R. Tolkien – The Silmarillion
Jul. 5: Chris Kyle with Jim DeFelice and Scott McEwen – American Sniper: The Autobiography Of
The Most Lethal Sniper In U.S. History*
Jul. 22: J.R.R. Tolkien – The Fellowship Of The Ring
Aug. 6: J.R.R Tolkien – The Two Towers
Aug. 13: Lin Carter – Tolkien: A Look Behind The Lord Of The Rings
Aug. 24: Ian Rankin – Beggars Banquet
Sep. 5: Andy Weir – The Martian*
Sep. 17: David Lagercrantz – The Girl In The Spider's Web*
Oct. 9: Paul Schneider – Old Man River: The Mississippi River in North American History*
Oct. 26: Kevin Kwan – Crazy Rich Asians*
Nov. 24: Elvis Costello – Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink*
Dec. 8: Ian Rankin – Even Dogs In The Wild*

A pretty shabby reading list, at least numerically. Before i bought my first computer, back in, oh, 1965 or thereabouts, i would read around two books a week. Nowadays, sometimes, i don't even manage two a month. As a friend once said, the Internet is TV for people who read.

Oh, and favourite non-fiction (of the schtuff i'd never read before): Erik Larson's “Dead Wake,” the story of the Lusitania, and in fiction, i don't know, it's a tough call, but probably Ian Rankin's “Even Dogs In The Wild” with Kevin Kwan's “Crazy Rich Asians” a very close second.

(The worst book, without question, was “Microsoft Windows 7 Simplified.” Oh, it was simplified all right. I bought a Windows 7 PC in 2015 and thought it might prove useful but i think its target audience was either (a) people who'd never used any kind of computer before or (b) the mentally challenged. I learned very little from it and a lot of it was just plain wrong!

Anyway, enough of my literary divagations. Here's the latest playlist (just a short one):

The Sutherland Brothers & Quiver -- Beat Of The Street
Wishbone Ash -- Front Page News
Steeleye Span -- All Around My Hat
Jethro Tull -- Stormwatch
Be+Bop Deluxe -- Electrical Language

Saturday, 12 March 2016

My Love/Hate Affair With Computers, Part 287

Quotation du jour: Joseph Campbell ~ Computers are like Old Testament gods; lots of rules and no mercy.

A month or so ago, my desktop computer's display turned a rather nauseating shade of green. I knew for a fact that it wasn't a problem with the monitor – i tried two different ones. So i brought my old laptop home from work (the PC's display was really vomitogenic) in order to remain connected. (I only ever use the laptop at work, to listen to an Internet radio station in the mornings [] -- the machine is old and frustratingly slow and besides it runs Linux, an OS i've never really been comfortable with.)

Some quick research into my desktop's problem suggested that i probably needed a new graphics card so, in the middle of a blinding snowstorm, i set off for my favourite computer shop ( only to find that they had closed early due to the weather. Terrific.

It was a few days later before i was able to make the trek again. The young man there took one look, moved, with some difficulty, my graphics card to a different port, and everything seemed fine on the shop's monitor, so all was well. He only charged me $60 for the diagnostics (didn't charge for labour) and $20 for a DVI cable (which the new port required) and all was well!

Until i got home, and had no display at all! OK, i thought, i've done something really stupid here when i plugged it all back in. But what? I quite frankly couldn't be arsed to think too hard about it and went back to the clunky old laptop for a few days....

Then grasped the unicorn (or was it the narwhal?) by its horn again, the slowness of the laptop was driving me doolally, and plugged the desktop all back in again. Still no display. What, i said to my cat, am i doing wrong? Or is it me? Maybe the DVI cable is wonky? Just started playing with the buttons on the front of my monitor, just to see what would happen, et voilà! I had a display again! Three colours, too, not just green! I wonder which button i pushed to pull off this coup...?

I took my laptop back to work and was able to listen to the radio again there, but at home that evening i discovered that problems remained. Whilst waiting for a particularly slow web page to load, i decided to pass the time with a game of Solitaire, and received the message “hardware acceleration is not enabled, ensure that your graphics card driver is up to date” or something like that. I could still play Solitaire, but it was painfully slow. (Watching the web page load was actually more entertaining.)

Back to Google did i go and eventually, after a misstep or two – installing a program that was supposed to scan my computer for out-dated drivers and install them for me, for instance, but it was useless – i went to the NVIDIA website – my graphics card is one of theirs. I should have thought of that first, really. They scanned my PC, found the driver i needed and i downloaded it. Easy-peasy.

But when i tried to install it i received the error message, “Driver could not be installed. For help installing, visit the Windows Help And Support Center.” So i tried, but apparently it's not one of my Windows components. Arrrgh! I said to myself, not for the first time. A bit of further Googling proved to be of no avail, though, so i just left it. Apart from not being able to play Solitaire easily, some (but not all) of my music videos (and porn videos) (oops, did i write that?) wouldn't play properly, but otherwise, everything was okay.

Well, maybe not. A lot of my programs started giving me “not responding” messages. Well, thanks, that could mean anything! Nobody know da trubble i seen...

The next day, when i booted up, i saw that the driver was trying to install itself. WTF? I said (not for the first time). Again i went through all of that nonsense with the Windows Help And Support Center. Bah!

The same thing happened the next day, and the next and the next and then, toot toot “driver succesfully installed”! Yay, i was able to play Solitaire again! But, but, i was still having too many “not responding” messages. I tried everything i could think of – AV and anti-malware scans, i defragged, ran a registry cleaner, cleared my cache, emptied my Recycle Bin, stroked the cat, had a beer (well, several actually), watched an episode of “The Big Bang Theory,” went to The Beer Store (because i ran out).... Nothing made any difference.

Then i ran Windows Update. (It was Patch Tuesday.) All now seems to be well, although i can't think what difference that would have made....

I have no idea what happened. I'd love to be able to say that i'm a tech whiz and solved the problem myself, but nothing i did was of any avail. It sorted itself!

Here's my playlist:

Runrig -- The Story
Big Wreck -- The Pleasure And the Greed
The Jeff Beck Group -- Rough And Ready
Pyewackett -- The Man In The Moon Drinks Claret
Jeff Beck -- Official Bootleg U.S.A.
Loggins & Messina -- On Stage
Various Artists -- Rattlesnake Guitar: The Music Of Peter Green
Sharon Shannon -- Out The Gap
Rita Coolidge -- The Best Of Rita Coolidge
Stephen Stills -- Stephen Stills 2
Paul Simon -- The Rhythm Of The Saints
Pete Townshend -- Psychoderelict
The Beatles -- Revolver
The Motors -- Airport