Archive for July, 2009

The hazards of karaoke

July 24, 2009

Team Paco shenanigans 129

My team at work recently had an off site day where we spent the day bonding and planning for the year ahead. It was all very civilised and productive and as a treat for a day’s work well done we all toddled off to do a spot of ten-pin bowling followed by some karaoke.

Now I never intended to stay for the karaoke having already moaned to anyone that was willing to listen that I would rather stick pins in my eyes or jump out of an aeroplane without a parachute  than sing at karaoke. I don’t even sing in the shower at home when I have the place to myself, and why is that? Because I know how BAD I am at singing. However, once the bowling was over I thought, why not pop along and laugh at others’ attempts to be the latest pop sensation. I should point out that I had partaken in a few beers at this point, but was still adamant that I would not be holding the microphone, I may sing along with the others but no way was I going to stand there in front of people and sing.

After a few delightful performances by my team mates (no honest my ears were not bleeding), and an especially moving rendition of Wind Beneath My Wings by a colleague who clearly has a hankering to escape the world of research and become the next Bette Midler, I was thrust into the limelight and made to perform like a dancing monkey (those of you that have seen me dance will know exactly how I looked at this stage).

Now what I don’t understand is, why is it when I was sat there watching others sing I seemed to have no trouble singing along as the words changed colour, but the minute a microphone was put in my hand I suddenly had a severe bout of dyslexia and mumbled along sounding as if I had just had all four wisdom teeth taken out and the anaesthetic had was still not worn off…..

I sat down with my head hung in shame and thought that was me done for the night, heart rate slowly returning to normal

But oh no, another couple of beers and I was suddenly up there again, having pushed women and small children out of my way as I clamoured to the floor for my chance to shine in the spotlight of stardom once more. I know, I know, it was just some poky room in a bowling alley, but I was drunk and convinced I was on a stage before my thousands of adoring fans and they were screaming for me to sing my musical masterpiece…. I’m Too Sexy For My Shirt – oh the shame of it all….

Movie Review: The Fox and The Child

July 16, 2009

fox_and_the_child

‘Eagerly anticipated’ doesn’t come close to describing how much I was looking forward to this film. I’m an absolute sucker for an animal documentary, plus this English-language version is narrated by Kate Winslet, who never seems to put a foot wrong. By the twenty-minute mark, however, I was ready to gnaw off my own fingers.

Jacquet has apparently based the story on his own experiences as a young boy and it’s clear we are in the hands of someone who is fascinated by wildlife. The footage of the various critters featured in the film is always impressive, sometimes remarkable and the French Alpine scenery is stunning. The canine star is super-cute, with an uncanny range of facial expressions and a winning personality that prompted sighs of pleasure from members of the audience.

We are treated to plenty of other furry friends, including a perilous encounter with a pack of wolves and the one genuinely exciting sequence in the film, when the fox is pursued by a hungry lynx. It shouldn’t matter that the story and excitement are slight – after all, we are here to marvel at the animals, right?

So why is so much attention paid to the kid? She doesn’t do anything particularly interesting, but we spend a lot of time with her, as she skips merrily through leafy glades giggling to herself. She is obviously meant to be our window into this world, but it’s hard to resist the urge to shove her off the side of the mountain and just focus on the fox.

It isn’t the fault of the young actress – she’s naturalistic and appealing; a Bjork-like pixie who clearly has a tremendous bond with her four-legged co-stars. It’s just that we don’t need her to be there and ultimately, the focus on her detracts from our appreciation of the animal action.

Even worse, the tone of this is all wrong. It’s a queasy mix of forced humour and knowing narration, not unlike the sort of thing that Disney churned out in the 1960s. For a present-day audience, accustomed to an Attenborough’s-eye view of the animal kingdom, this is dreadfully clunky and laboured.

Some of this would be forgivable if the film’s message was resonant enough to brush aside any concerns about the delivery. But the final portion of the film, as the fox finds increasing danger in human company, is pretty risible and I suspect will disturb younger members of the audience. We are offered a happy ending of sorts, but the means by which we reach it leave a nasty aftertaste – the credits assure us that no animals were harmed during the making of the picture, but the fox’s distress in the latter part of the film is worryingly convincing.

At times just plain tedious, it’s hard to understand who this film is for. I suspect it’s the kind of thing parents will think their kids should see and in a kiddie-film marketplace that is crowded with noisy animated flicks or Zac Efron offering glimpses of his terrifying abs, I was hoping to recommend this as something a little bit different. And it is different, just in a bad way.

Reviews by The All Knowing I

Never work with kids… great Ad

July 14, 2009

This is a great ad, Evian have done a really good job here.

Swimming with whale sharks

July 1, 2009

whale-shark-with-fish

I recently returned from an amazing trip to Western Australia where I went to go swimming with whale sharks off Ningaloo Reef. Oh and in case you did not know whale sharks have thousands of teeth in about 300 rows, so no excuse for them not to smile for the camera!! This mouth of theirs can be over one and a half meters wide, so big enough to swallow me in one go. Oh and they can grow to as much as 12 meters in length and be a hefty 10 tonnes (not unlike some of the dates I have been out with).

I thought I would be more nervous out there in the depths of the Indian Ocean but was actually more excited than nervous. I have swum with reef sharks before while snorkelling, not that much of a predator, but a shark with sharp teeth nevertheless so how different can it be?  

So there we were on the boat out at sea waiting for the small plane to report back to our skipper that they had spotted the infamous sharks – yes they are so big they can be seen from the sky. Nervous yet? No, but then one of the guides we were with just happened to mention that a saltwater crocodile had recently been swimming about in the very same area we were going to be swimming? Now it’s very rare for one of these beasts to be spotted so far south and this poor chap was sadly shot, so we should be fine…. Once he mentioned it I vaguely remembered having heard about it on the news but must have blocked it from my memory.

We get news that a shark has been spotted and off we go, the rules of engagement are explained one more time, “remember being near the sharks head is a no go zone” I wonder why!? We gather at the back of the boat, spitting on masks (it has to be done to keep them clear), pulling on flippers and waiting to be told to jump in. We spot the fin and I think to myself “f*ck that’s big”, our boat pulls up so we should be someway in front of the shark (the water was a bit dark in this area so hard to see) and go go go we jump in…

And bugger me…he is right there in front of me as I go in, mouth open tiny eyes glaring – not sure who was more afraid to be honest, me or him.  I frantically started to swim to the left to get out of his way, which took some doing because my god he was big. But he was oh so beautiful, he seemed to just glide past me in slow motion. I was so awe struck I just froze there and let him swim off into the distance. I can’t begin to explain how wonderful an experience it was and it just got better and better.

Over the course of the day we swam with nine different whale sharks of varying sizes, some huge, I mean so big it beggars belief. Sometimes the sharks would change direction and come right at you, apparently this is because they are attracted by the bubbles created by our flippers, and they are right there swimming so close to you, giants of the sea that are just so gentle. I loved every minute of it.

The next day we went snorkelling so we could swim with reef sharks, now after a day with the huge whale sharks the reef sharks seemed so small and almost toy-like in comparison. This just made me a little too reckless. We saw two of them dart into a cave to hide from us, so being the big brave fool I am, I swam down and stuck my head in the cave to get a better look. One of them took offense at this and chased me off….. no blood was drawn but I learnt my lesson and stayed a respectable distance for the rest of the day.

Now, what daft thing should I do next?