cogita ante salis

look before you jump....

Monday, April 09, 2012

Video Games

I will soon be updating my blog and this time instead of movies the subject will be video games. Specifically games that I play on the PC. So stay tuned for that. In the meantime you can check out my youtube chammel at or my stream at

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Another long wait.... but lets start with Films!!

Well, it's been quite a long wait for this blog to become active again. Almost a year has passed and lots of things have happened. I currently live in China and this means that blogs are usually blocked - thus it is a chore to update this one!! I can post but it's a pain to view the finished blog. Anyway, I will start my update with the topic that is the most important.....

Films (or movies if you're north American!!)

I have clearly watched a lot of films but here are some of the highlights...

Death Proof - 8/10

This was the Tarantino part of the Grindhouse double bill he did with Robert Rodriguez. Personally, this effort is the one I much prefer. Rodriguez's Planet Terror is good but for me personally doesn't have that wow factor that Tarantino's effort has. I mean the dialogue alone in Death Proof is just awesome, very much trademark Tarantino - you will feel like you could be watching some of his classics such as Pulp or Resevoir.... Death Proof is a film I was hooked on from start to finish and have watched maybe 2 or 3 times in just over a week. Need I say more? If you like Tarantino, if you like slightly off beat films - watch this - simple!!

Jarhead - 8/10

I have watched many war films and love the likes of Apocalypse, Platoon, Full metal jacket, etc. This one has it's own interesting take on the effect war can have on the human state of the soldiers involved. You see the usual "aint the army crazy" scenes with people branding each other in initiation ceremonies and sergeants or whoever shouting and harassing the soldiers under their command. But this film goes further than that, it shows how the new recruits are detached from their background, made into tools of war and told to lose their own identities and take on that of the collective. But what happens when all that training turns out to be hollow and you end up sitting around with not a bad guy in sight. It's a gripping and original take on the war movie genre.

PS - I enjoyed Flags of our fathers as well, would give that 7.5/ 10. A film that, among other things, challenges the motives/ideas behind the making of war heroes, and the result it may have on those "heroes" involved. Also, Christian Bale's Rescue Dawn was a solid 8/10- I love Bale and think he's a great actor, so my review might be slightly bias. I really enjoyed watching this films pan out. Not really a war film as such but a survival against the odds kind of film.

Now I want to talk about some comedies...

Superbad was what I would call a proper comedy, because it actually made me laugh!! For that it gets a 7/10 score. It's, sometimes juvenile, humour made be laugh and the whole Mclovin thing just made the film for me. However, the scenes with the policemen were just overdone. If it wasn't for that then it would have gotten a better score.

Knocked up (a film about accidental one night stand pregnancy) was a poor 6/10 for me. Basically, this is a "comedy" that doesn't really make me laugh. I view this film more as a drama with a hint of wit, but when I sit down and expect a comedy this is where the problem is - I am very often disappointed. Juno (a teenage film dealing with unwanted pregnancy) would also fit into this category, with the same score of 6. It isn't a comedy- it is an above average drama with a few slightly funny moments. Again I felt let down!! I feel that these films are almost inspired for 40 year old version- although that particular film does at least manage to get some decent laughs in. Lars and the real girl (nothing to do with pregnancy!!) also come into this category as films that people wrongly call comedies!! The difference between this and Juno is that the nature of the drama is actually very good quality and you want to watch it. It's about a geeky guy who has a delusional state where he thinks that a life like adult doll is actually his new girlfriend. It is slightly kooky but, trust me, an excellent film with excellent characters. There are some laughs with how the people deal with this absurd delusion, but that doesn't mean it's a comedy!! 8/10

Ratatouille was a film I had to watch. I mean I watch so many depressing drama style films that, although excellent, do mean that I need a lift from time to time!! With the recent lack of decent comedies in the Napoleon Dynamite style, I have turned to animated films (although I do pick these with care to avoid the over saccharin sweet basically corny and rubbish ones!! ha ha). This turned out to constitute a brilliant Sunday afternoon's entertainment. Light but with some kind of decent plot and characters we care about!! 7.5/10. I need to find more of these :)

Shooter was a decent conspiracy film about an ex-army sniper who is asked to help stop the president getting assassinated; unfortunately it turns out the people who hired him just want to use his recon and frame him as the shooter. I would liken this to bourne supremacy or enemy of the state - that whole the state is after you (for the wrong reasons) and the main character manages to somehow evade these advances. I would say that Wahlberg does play this character well and you do feel that he is genuinely resourceful, not absurdly and unrealistically so!! 7.5/10

Die Hard 4.0 really shocked me; I assumed it was going to be rubbish, but upon watching the film on holiday in Thailand was pleasantly surprised. A good quality action adventure which takes the franchise on much better than I thought it would!! 7.5/10

Before the devil knows you're dead - a film where two brothers decide do a heist on the family jewelery store. I like Ethan Hawke from such films as Before Sunrise & Gattaca, so again might be slightly biased!! But I thought his performance was good and the subject of the film was pretty good, is a little predictable. In the end this film isn't as much about a heist as it is about the dynamics of the family involved - good watch - 8/10.

I have a whole host of foreign films to watch such as Black Book, The lives of others & 4 months, 2 weeks and 2 days. So I am sure I will be able to update my blog with more films, and other matters, in the near future :)

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Recently, I have been watching....

I watch so many films that I won't bore you with all of them, just the ones that I feel are worthy of a decent mention!!

Pan's Labyrinth 9/10

This is an amazing film, which had me gripped from start to finish. It is a fairytale for adults; I am not usually a fan of fantasy style films but this one was so well crafted that i enjoyed every minute. I am not even going to venture into the story or plot, but just leave you with one thought. A.I was supposed to be a fairytale style film, if a modern one at that. But that film was too long and tedious to even score above 5 in my book. By the end I just didn't care if this character could become a real boy, I just wanted him drop-kicked through the nearest window. This is where Pan's Labyrinth serves up a better feast!! You really care about the characters, and the fantasy side to the story is so well crafted. So if you like the sound of a fairtale movie for adults then this is the film for you.... but do be warned this is a very sad film.

The Colours Trilogy (Blue - 8.5/10 White- 9/10 Red- 8.5/10)

This trilogy is a less well known one than that of the rings or the Jedi, but it is a must see set of films for people who like their films with razor sharp plot and dialogue (rather than razor sharp light sabres). Blue is a rather sombre but touching affair about a women coming to grips with grief. White is a more witty but no less brilliant film about a man who becomes obsessed with his ex-wife and exacts revenge in his own unique way. Red is a fine finale, when the main character runs over a dog and finds out some interesting things about its eccentric owner. It is quite exceptional that one director can make such a well rounded trilogy of films, considering that some can't even string 3 films together without having a stinker. Have a colours trilogy weekend, you won't regret it :)

Clerks II 7.5/10

Anyone who knows me well will be aware that I LOVE the film Clerks. This has to be one of my all time classic films that I could watch again and again. The humour is dark but so, so funny. So you can imagine my intrigue when I picked up the sequel a few months back. As I put the DVD in the machine I was praying that this wasn't going to ruin the perfectness of the first film. As the credits rolled I breathed a sigh of relief.... this film wasn't as good as the original and got a bit weak near the end, but it was still so funny in places and seeing the same characters 10 years on was so cool. My favourite scene was when Randall Graves takes the pee out of Lord of the Rings. This scene just sums up the humour in this film and I had to watch it again when the movie was finished. All you Clerks fans, dont worry - go rent this film and laugh your ass off.

Venus 9/10

This film might be Peter o' Toole's swansong, who knows; but it is one very very good film. It is an unconventional story about an old man who has a just more than plutonic relationship with a teenage girl. The first exchanges between the two are just electric, as two worlds and two generations of ideas collide. This girl turns his world upside down, and it is just what he needs at this point in his life, a shot in the arm of a fading existence. The subject matter might make some people wince and leave this film sitting on the shelf at Blockbusters, but I urge you to bypass these first impressions and give this film a try. You won't regret it - it's funny, it's challenging and it's heart warming (in a non Hollywood way).

Stranger than Fiction 9/10

This film has an interesting (if a little offbeat) premise. A writer finds out that she is controlling the destiny of a real life character, a character that she thought only existed in her latest best selling novel (yet to be finished). I loved this film and I felt so engrossed in the story, the dialogue and the sheer quality of the world that I was thrust into. So many films have me checking my watch after an hour, espeically the so called "hot" films that other people finally persuade me to watch. A perfect example being the awful Wedding Crashers!! But this kept me glued, intrugued and wondering what would happen next. It is a part comedy part love story mix of a film. I actually laughed out loud a number of times, more than most Hollywood full blown comedies can usually manage. Anyway, I will stop blabbing about this film. I will just say it was one of the best film's I have seen this year and it left me feeling warm and fuzzy inside :)

Black Snake Moan 8.5/10

This is a real gem of a film. Kinda a blues film that transends colour or creed and shows us that we are all human and we all have our own problems. We all have someone we depend on and create a strong bond that can rise above these problems. Samuel L Jackson is an ex-blues artist who has just been dumped by his wife. While he is coming to terms with that he gets landed with a beaten up young girl who has been used and abused for most of her life. Jackson decides he wants to save her and set her right, against her will to start with. But by the end they are like old friends, and they have helped each other live with the pain they are feeling. I am struggling to describe this film, so all I can really say is go out and watch it. It's a very original film which has some great acting in it. I loved the scene near the beginning where Christina Ricci's character is walking home down a country lane smoking (to the cool vibe of a blue's track). She is suddenly dwarfed by a huge John Deere tractor behind her... but she keeps walking unphased, only to then give the driver the finger :) It was almost a tarantino moment, with the hip sound track and all. Anyway, i am waffling - GO RENT

Hot Fuzz - 8.5/10

I have always loved Simon Pegg and the likes of Spaced and Shawn of the Dead. I would say it is my type of comedy. So you can imagine how much I wanted to watch this film....and I wasn't dissapointed. It's hilarious, and so accurately takes the Mick out of all those big american cop films. I am not gonna say much, because you will know if you will like this film. It's a top notch comedy, and the sort of film that makes me say quietly to myself....British humour really is the best (but I would say that, being British and all).

And worth a quick mention....

21 Grams - 8/10 - V.Good, a complex but brilliant film.

Babel - 8/10 - great storytelling, the Japanese section was so compelling.

Little Miss Sunshine 8/10 - Hilarious, especially for the first part.

Borat - 7/10 - seen too much Borat/Ali G piss takes now - the novelty is wearing thin.

Silver City - 7.5/10 - good solid story and reminding us why big business and government don't mix.

Well - thats all the ones that are worth mentioning. Inside man nearly got a mention but ended up with all those other good but forgetable films :)

Sunday, June 03, 2007

XBOX 360

Yesterday, I went with a friend Peter Scott (who's also a teacher here) to look at consoles that I could get for my new apartment next year. Now this was supposed to be a recon. mission so that I could gather price info. and come back after the summer. But when I saw the gleaming offerings sat on the counter, with SO MANY games available my will power died and I bought an XBOX 360. I then spent the next few hours rationalising in my head that this was fine :) Anyway, I got an XBOX 360 with 12 games and a few other bits and pieces for 200 Enlgish quids/pounds. So it was a bargain and it re-inforces the notion that ANYTHING can be bought in Guangzhou. I had done some research, so the 12 games I picked out are all "good" games and the few hours I spent on it last night confirms this. Basically, you get graphics comparable to a high end PC for a fraction of the cost. And now i have out-layed for the console I can get as many games as I want for very little money. So I reckon this is gonna be a pretty good form of entertainment for me :)

The Long Lost Postings

Well I haven't put ANYTHING on this site since Christmas and New Year. It has been one of those things at the back of my mind throughout, but I just never get around to doing anything about it. Well the summary of what I have done over the past half year is quite easy really. Jessica came over for 3 months from the Chinese New Year holiday. During the CNY holiday we just hung out in Guangzhou getting re-aquainted and eating in nice restaurants, shopping, etc. It was great, as we hadn't seen each other properly for a long time!! For the past 2 and a half years we always saw each other on holiadys, so it was nice to be in a "real" situation in Guangzhou. During her stay we had two more holidays. One was in Zhuhai, a place just over the way from Macau. We went there by bus and it took about 3 hours. We stayed here It turned out to be a nice place for what we needed. The weather was not great so we hung out in the hotel quite a lot.... they had go-karts, a bowling alley, snooker table etc. etc. so we had some funny moments doing these things and just hanging out in the grounds. Would go there again for a short, relaxing style holiday. The hotel had a dim-sum restaurant that was actually pretty nice (mmmm. I love dim sum). The funniest part of the whole holiday though was the trip back on the bus. We were sat on the back seats and there were a Chinese family in front of us. Now the mother kept feeding her young toddler food right from the start of the trip to keep him quiet. The grandpa rightly kept reminded her that if this continues the boy would have to relieve himself and this would proove a chore on a bus. But the feeding continued and yes, the grandpa was right!! So I thought OK, they'll take him down to the toilet and sort him out - no problem. How wrong I was... a plastic bag was readied and the grandpa proceeded to hold the boy over this plastic bag for him to do the dirty deed... right in front of where I was sitting. Well lets just say I was pleased that the kid had solids rather than smelly liquids in his bowels, and the experience was quite as bad as I expected (apart from one golden nugget dropping onto the floor when grandpa's aiming skills gave way). So ordeal over, on with the journey. Literally a few seconds later it was time for round two. A family further down the bus decided to relieve their young companion in the same way.... a baby girl no less. The bag of wee was carefully tied and left for some un-suspecting soul to discover. I can tell you, I was relieved to get off that bus :)

Me and Jessica also stayed in Sanya, Hainan Island during the May holiday. We stayed here for three nights. We had a great time, which basically consisted of eating way too much at the buffet breakfast, lounging around at the beach and drinking coffee and eating cake. It was a relaxing break and Sanya is the ideal long weekend away beach holiday from Guangzhou.

Me and Jessica went with the Camms (a husband and wife teaching duo at the school, who I hang out with quite a bit) on a weekend away to a place called Foshan. We were warned by some more cynical members of the staff at school that this place is "a dump" and not worth the bus far. We still went though, and had a great time. In fact we want to go again some time and see more. It is a place with a lot of history, and its only a 40 minute bus ride from Guangzhou. The thing about it as well is that it has a different feel from Guangzhou. More like a town feel rather than a city feel (although the traffic there was still pretty crazy). We went to see temples, an old pottery kiln and walked down pottery street ( a place I have ear-marked to go back to and kit out my apartment with cool vases and pottery plates, figures). We also found some really wicked chunky reclaimed woode furniture :)

Anyway, I will try and get some links up for these places on the "My Pictures" link on the right hand side of this page. Then you can see what these places are all about. Although, to be honest I don't think I took too many pictures of Sanya and Zhuhai.

Jessica is back in Taiwan right now, and I am here working down the last 4 weeks of the school year. It's crazy that my first year in Guangzhou is coming to an end!! Jessica will come back to Guangzhou after the summer, after I have negotiated a summer of travelling home and going to Thailand. Next year I will move into a new place. This apartment is way too big and way too annoying (the management company are rubbish here and everything in my apartment is breaking, and they charge crazy money for bills). So I will moving into a nice compact apartment for next year. I am planning what I can buy for my new pad.... a flat screen TV, a srround sound system.... the options are endless :)

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Belated Thailand holiday update :)

I have been pretty lazy with updating this blog, but I feel I need to do the honours now and describe my Christmas & New Year holidays.... After a long half term of 10 weeks at school, everyone at school (including the kids) really needed a holiday!! What with Christmas performances and the like thrown in as well!! So as you can imagine when it finally got to the last day of term and i was sat on the train to Hong Kong I was pretty pleased to say the least. The first weekend was to be spent with Jessica in Hong Kong before flying on to Thailand on the Monday. Jessica and I stayed in a nice boutique hotel which was on the MTR, close to Victoria Park. As I was with a woman, you can imagine that we spent most of the weekend wandering around shopping malls.... not exactly the best experience for someone needing to relax, but I endured it (as long as Jessica promised to let me have pit stops for cake and coffee now and then). The food in HK is pretty nice, but after living in China it seems SO expensive. Basically, I want to go there again and this time force Jessica to for-go the shopping for a bit more sightseeing!! So not that much to say about HK this time really :)

Jessica flew back to Taipei on Monday, and I flew on to Bangkok. I had gotten a cheap flight for about 100 pounds on Gulf Air return, so at the airport I was wondering what this experience might be like. I had down all the research online and Gulf Air infact did have a good safety record, but I had to see it first hand to be happy....... anyway, the flight was spot on and included food and everything. The only downside being that the service was a little slow - but hey for the price I paid I am not complaining!! Anyway, I was meeting a good friend of mine from Taiwan in Bangkok, a Canadian guy called Paul. The arrangement was to meet him in a bar on KhaoSan road and take it from there. The whole process was so simple... I got to Bangkok (I almost looked like a backpacker with my rucksack and all.... although I would like to hope I looked like a more stylish version of.... :)). I hopped in a Taxi and fought my way through the traffic for one hour before arriving at the said road, found the bar and found the familiar face I was looking for. So let the holiday begin!! I was rather sad to hear that a fellow Canadian friend of ours (Mike) had tried and failed to make this holiday as well... although when 3 boys of that calibre get together things tend to get a bit blurry and bloodshot, so it was probably just as well he didn't make it. Anyway, we had a few beers and then lugged my rucksack back to the hotel, which was closeby. I have to say I was pretty impressed with the hotel. The room was clean and pretty well furnished and presented; and they had a kind of courtyard area with decking and loads of plants. The price was 750 baht a night, which I thought was pretty reasonable considering it was the high season. After a quick change we started as we meant to go on and cracked open a couple of beers in the decked area (this area was to see many a Chang beer drained during our stay). It was so nice to see Paul again and catch up with whats been going on... he is what I would call a sound guy. After this we went out and hit the town, catching a tuk tuk to get to our first destination. This would be a pattern that would be repeated over the next 4 days in Bangkok. There was also a really nice small massage place down the soi that our hotel was on, and I was determined that I would break my massage duck. I had always had this hang up with people I dont know touching my body!! I had a couple of Thai massages during our stay, a kinda of pleasure vs pain experience that leaves the body feeling warm and very manipulated. Having a small Thai woman kneeling on your body as if it were a bag snatchers neck was actually quite a pleasant experience.... although I think I will stick to having Thai massages in Thailand, I can imagine if you get a dodgy Thai massage it could leave you crippled for life :) So after 4 days of beer, chatting, massages and the like it was time to move on to even more relaxing times. We caught a bus to an Island called Koh Samet (well a bus and a boat to be precise). Paul had been here several years ago and of course it had changed and the development had made it slightly less of an idealic paridise, but for me it would more than do. After seeing a couple of truelly crappy bungalows at silly prices, I got slightly worried. I mean these places were like boxes with no windows at the back of complexes, that someone had dolled up to make up for the fact that they had NO view!! But my fears were misplaced as we found one place that had basic bungalows spread over a hill overlooking the sea. To be honest at first I wasn't as enthusiastic about this place but followed Paul as he had experience of Thailand and seemed pretty chuffed with this find. And he couldn't have been more spot on; OK the room was basic and the bathroom had a cold shower and a bucket flush toilet... but all this meant nothing when you were sat on the awesome wooden balcony, sitting in an easy chair looking out on the sea, or reading a book.....oh, and drinking Chang beers!! The 4 days we spent here were so relaxing, and I enjoyed it so much.... the pace of life slowed right down. OK, the food, the massages and everything else were so overpriced that it made you wince from time to time, but it was totally worth it to be near the sea. I had first hand experience of the devastation caused by one of Thailand's infamous drinks - the bucket. This is a small bottle of Thai whisky, red bull and other alcohol mixed together in a small child's plastic beach bucket, several straws stick out the top and you basically suck your way to total anihilation!! I found out during this time that Paul and buckets don't mix very well - one night we were in a bar near our place. We started on regular drinks then Paul made the mistake of saying that the next round was my choice..... I came back with a bucket of Long Island iced tea for us to share.... this clearly got Paul in bucket mode as he then ordered a more traditional thai whisky bucket next. The bucket was nearly finished when Paul got up, I presumed to go to the toilet. But then I quickly realised that the bucket had gone with him.... when I got out onto the street (dirt track) he was long gone... i waited in the bar for a while drinking a bit more but he didn't return. I went back to the bungalow expecting him to be there already, but no sight or sound of him...and he had the key to the bunglow. I sat on the balcony and tried to sleep on one of the easy chairs. He appeared bleary eyed and back at the bungalow at 8am... it turned out he had, in his "bucket" state, decided to go for a spontaneus jungle trek and had ended up in a different part of the island. Having slept it off a little, he managed to navigate his way back to our place with the help of a few locals :) He had lost his flip flops somewhere on this adventure, but wasn't sure how... so from that day on, I decided to keep that boy away from the buckets :) All in all Koh Samet was a great experience, and relaxing on the balcony was one of the highlights of this trip.

With Paul only having 4 days left in Thailand we headed back to Bangkok, and what followed was an almost exact replica of the first 4 days there.... just the way it should be!! The food in Thailand was awesome, by the way. So spicy and so cheap... I was loving it. Paul left and then I flew out to Phuket on the same day. I flew on a Thai budget airline called 1-2-GO, it was 40 quid for the single ticket. Everything was fine and I arrived in Phuket at around 11pm. The taxi driver advised me time and again that it was near impossible for me to get a room anywhere near the beach, as it was high season. He let me phone a few places on his mobile to help me realise that everything was full, which it was. He laughed and my plight and offered me a hotel in Phuket town!! I balked at the idea of being so far away from the beach and felt determined to get into somewhere near the beach.... I felt like my mission was set and I needed to proove this guy wrong, so I kindly asked him to take me to Patong beach, the craziest beach town I had ever seen. Basically like a costa del... in Thailand. But I had had my relaxation, and was now looking for something a bit more insane, and boy had I come to the right place. A million bars, a million foreigners, a million girls and a million more "girls" (ladyboys to the like of you and me). A mix of hedonistic craziness basically. Anyway, when I arrived in Patong the taxi driver wished me luck and I set out upon my quest. I walked around for about 30 mins and everything was fully booked... I heard the word "full" way too many times and suddenly realised that I could end up sleeping under the stars hugging my rucksack for dear life. But then a ray of life... a room... infact this guesthouses last room I was informed. I viewed the room and my worst fears were realised, this place was worn, dirty, badly furnished and very expensive considering it only had one crusty fan!! But what could I do, the hour was late and I swallowed my pride and took the room. Realising my plight I could remember that one of the nice guesthouses had said they had a room available for the following day, so I rushed through the ordeal of a shower, and marched over there to book my way out of this hell hole; thank goodness it worked!! I was to be in an air-conditioned, cheap (for Patong in high season) and nice room for the rest of my stay :) I hadn't planned to stay in Patong Beach for so long, as I was planning at least a few days on Phi Phi Island, which is only a few hours away by boat. However, the UK banking system was conspiring against me and after a few days in Patong I discovered its full force..... I had happily been living off my Chinese ATM card since I arrived in Thailand, but with half the holiday gone you can imagine that that vein of funds was becoming a little low and in need of topping up. Easy, I thought, I will get out my Natwest ATM and carry on the fun and frolics; but alas no, life was not as simple as that. When I tried the said ATM card the machine flashed up "Selected Account invalid"... oh, it must be the ATM I thought, so I tried another, and another and another- all with the same result. It now dawned on me that I had better sort this situation out pretty quick as my other funds would probably get me by, but only if I undertook a "backpacker" regime, something I winced at the thought of!! So I bought an international phone card and began the quest of releasing my UK funds. And if I thought all it would require was a simple phonecall I was wrong. I phoned up the Natwest call centre, and was told by a woman that my card was fine and it might be a problem with the Thai ATM's, her exact words were "we get a lot of people phoning with this problem from Thailand, but there is nothing we can do. Your account seems fine". She then says she will put me through to my local branch and they can scrutinise my situation further. After being on hold for what seemed like ages I gave up and put the phone down. I phone the call centre again and this time get a man - he, thank god, was making me feel better by at least trying to do different things to my card to get it to work... however, all without success.  So I had spent one evening and quite a bit of money in international phonecalls trying to solve the situation. I went to bed feeling physically sick and tired..... imagine being in the land of plenty with the prospect of living like a pauper... and actually having ample money available back home but just not accesible... I felt at a low point and the dull banging of the music outside seemed to be teasing me with every beat. I woke up in the morning with fresh viguour, determined to get back to the good times that I had earlier enjoyed on this holiday. This is the modern age I thought, where there is a will there must be a way. My thoughts turned to somehow getting someone back home to transfer money across for me to pick up, and pay back when I got back to China. I went to an internet cafe to research this and came out convinced 
that this was my only option. Well I phoned up my mother's house and it turned out to be about 4 in the morning there!! My panick and delusion wasn't exactly helping my ability to think straight!! Well to cut the story short my sister let me know that the Natwest fraud people had been on the phone yesterday trying to get hold of me because of unauthorised usage on my card..... well you can imagine my annoyance. I had been on the phone to the Natwest call centre for some time and they had neglected to mention anything regarding the fraud department. Well I phoned up the fraud department and got it all (FINALLY) sorted... using up a lot of time and international phone cards on the way :( Well, I felt phyically shattered and retreated to my hotel room... it was lunch time and I just lay in bed thanking my lucky stars; all the pressure in my body had been released and all I could do now was sleep. Well lets just say that on that evening I made up for not going out the following night by going totally crazy. I was ready to rage and spend as much money as possible, I had become so thankful of having money after seemingly having none!! Well the rest of my holiday in Patong could be summed up in one sentence - lots of crazy evenings, days lazing by the beach and books read, MP3 players listened to. And then it was time to leave and fly back to Bangkok to catch my flight. As it was peak season I struggled to get a flight and had to take a late night flight that landed at about 11pm; the problem was I had to fly back to China (via Hong Kong) the next day at around 10am!! So I had a night to kill in Bangkok.... I was deep in thought on the flight over... what should i do?? Be a good boy and have an early night in a hotel near the airport, or go into town and have one last night of living it up. By the time I had landed I had made up my mind to be a good boy :) I had no idea what hotels were near the airport, so I just went to ask at a couple of the hotel desks in the airport. Well to my dismay I was quoted prices that ranged from 2700 baht to 4000 baht a night for the "posh" Novotel nearby. Then my mind switched to other possibilities.... I thought "I could get a taxi into town, a cheap hotel room and a taxi back the next day (with beers, etc. included) for about the same as a night in one of these hotels near the hotel." So all my good intentions were laid to waste as I said my final goodbye to Thailand with a night out in Bangkok. In fact it wasn't too crazy, but it felt good to kick it back with some Chang beers and experience some Bangkok nightlife once more. By 6am the next morning I was up (all bleary eyed) and eating my breakfast at the hotel ready to trek back to the airport for my flight home. And I will tell you what - it was totally worth it :) I will go back to Thailand again someday - the people, the massages, the beaches, the awesome food are just a few of the many reasons to go back :)

Sunday, November 19, 2006

What I've been watching recently....

I haven't posted on my DVD watching antics for some time, so lets give you an idea....

Trailer Park Boys (Season 1-6)

This is a Canadian series I found out about through some of the Canadian boys over in Taiwan (Paul & Mike to be precise). It is a mocumentary based around these characters in a Trailer park who take time to build up, but once you get into what there about its pretty funny. My favourite character is Jim Lahey, the trailer park supervisor. He is an ex-cop who is now a drunk and dellusional trailer park supervisor. Some of his lines crack me up; in one episode it is the anniversary of when he left (err...was fired from) the police force. And he gets drunk and puts on his old uniform and goes around the park thinking he's a policeman again. If you only ever watch one episode of this program, watch this one... it's in the third season. Then there's an episode in the second season where Jim Lahey is losing it and it looks like he will loose control of the park to this greasy guy called Sam. They basically spike this guys hot dog with magic mushrooms just before he does his campaign speech. The moment where he loses it and messes up his speech is so funny.


This film was a case of style over substance... the film looked good, but the plot and the acting was pretty patchy to say the least. It was also too long, I found myself clock watching half way through. 6/10

The Departed

As a huge fan of the original Hong Kong film that this is based on "Infernal Affairs", I have to say I was pretty surprised to find myself liking this film. I thought that they would mess it up and make me curse Hollywood for even trying. But it turns out to be a very good remake. They have basically upheaved the storyline and dropped into an American setting, with an Irish-American gang storyline. The cast is solid and most of the performances are believable. Although the one exception is Leonardo D'Caprio as the down on his luck under cover policeman. In the HK origianal, this character was so down and dirty, you really felt his desperation. But poor old Leonardo just cant make this type of role his own. Apart from this, this is a film worth seeing... even though I would watch the HK version first :) 8.5/10

V for Vendetta

This film was excellent, and unlike the film above, it had both style and substance. It is based in 2020, and America has decended into civil war. But England is holding up better, but only because of the fascist rule of the current government (almost like the setup in the film Equilibrium). V wants to give some power back to the people and get his own back for events in his past (trying not to give too much away). Basically this was one of those films that captivated me - 9/10 - highly recommended.

The Business

An English gangster story about a blue eyed boy who is forced into a life of crime and drugs in the costas of Spain. I liked this film for probably one reason only... it is set in the 80's and has some wicked 80's nightclub scenes accompanied with an equally wicked 80's soundtrack. The story is passable, if littered with obvious gangster cliques and the like. 7.5/10

Hard Candy

This is a film covering a pretty hardcore subject... paedophilia. But from a different angle to the Kevin Bacon film "The Woodsman". That film tries to make you sympathise with the character of the paedophile and see things from his side. But Hard Candy comes at it from the side of a young girl who could potentially be a victim of such a character. And just when you think that this girl is going to be another victim, things take a turn. The hunted becomes the hunter. This is an intense but highly recommended film. Men, be prepared to wince a few times 8.5/10.

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

Mindly entertaining, but way too long. This is not an epic, this does not keep you gripped. And it isn't really about the storyline, as the storyline is pretty basic. It is about Douglas Adam's unique style of humour and an adhoc journey through space. Unfortunately these things don't come out enough. 7/10.


A film I have been meaning to watch for a LONG time. I finally got around to watching it and it was totally worth the wait. It was awesome. The idea of starting at the end of the film and working back is so unique and surprisingly still very tense. Even though you know what will ultimately happen, you are still gripped. You have all probably seen this movie and know all about it so I wont go on... if you haven't seen it then do...right now!! 9/10

A busy term is coming to an end :)

Well I can't believe that we are only 4 weeks away from our Christmas and New Year holidays, this half term is the longest of the year, but it has sure flown by :) I have had reports to write, parents evenings to do and planning to hone... so I have been busy at work so this has helped it to go fast. In fact I even took part in a charity event one Sunday where I took a one and a half hour stint in goal for a "beat the teacher" game. We raised a lot of money and it was actually quite fun in the end!! But all these things have been things I have worked up to and now passed; the final big hurdle of the year is the Christmas performance..... I hope I can take to that last hurdle Colin Jackson style and go into the Christmas holidays ready to chill out. I have orgaised a trip to Thailand for Chrimstmas and New Year, with a stopover first in Hong Kong to meet up with Jessica. It's a 3 week holiday in total, and it should be a pretty good one!! I am meeting Paul in Thailand, a good friend from Taiwan. He should show me a rope or two in Thailand, as I am a bit of a Thailand virgin (errrr...meaning I haven't been there!). As long as it involves laying on a beach at some point I don't mind what we do, but 3 weeks of slopping around in flip flops and shorts can never be bad.

Recently I have been testing out some of the nightlife that Guangzhou has to offer, and found some pretty cool places. I really like going out dancing, so night clubs were high on the list of things to discover. I have been to two good clubs here... one is called Velvet, and is a weird concept for a night club, but it works surprisingly well. I think mainly because the music is usually pretty good. None of this pop songs made to sound like dance tracks rubbish :) It is basically a large room with a large bar in the middle of the room. The dance floor is effectively anywhere around the perimeter of the bar, in fact there is probably more space used up for the bar than for the dance floor. Then there are stairs up to a balcony that acts as a more conventional dance floor. It sounds weird, but it actually works really well. Both times i have been there I have had a lot of fun and danced non stop pretty much the whole night..... they also put on these "shows" on the bar, with maybe dancers dressed up as a cop and a "naughty woman who must be punished", or a dancer wearing a crazy wedding dress.... I think this is their attempt to send out the cool vibe, but I usually find these moments a distraction from the music and dancing. But all in all Velvet is pretty good. Then I have been to BabyFace, a far more conventional club with two areas.... a techno dance floor and a r'n'b type deal on another dance floor. The music was good but not as interesting as in Velvet, each track was too similiar and for some reason it just didn't flow as well. But anyway, there were a lot of people and it was still good. I will have to go there again to test the waters a second time. Another place I have been to is called Tang, it is a latin music style dance club, they have a live latin band and all that. The actual building is very spectacular and well designed, but I just can't handle a whole night of off beat latin music and old dudes bumping into you on the dance floor whilst attempting to recreate a latin dance!! It is novel for a few hours at the start of the night but thats about as far as it goes :) Now, I have explained some good experiences in Guangzhou whilst out on the town, now here is one that wasn't soo hot! Before I start I would like to say it was a good job I was with some cool people this night or I would have been so up the creek without a paddle. Well, this place is called the Wave Bar... and as soon as you walked in the place you felt like you were in some scene from the 80's. The walls were mirrored and the music was loud and too commercial. We ordered our drinks and went upstairs, now this really did take me into a world of 80's excess... there was a small circular stage with a scantily clad woman dancing and singing karaoke. Her stage was lined with stools with men perched on enjoying the show. You look around and the other tables dont have single drinks on like they would back home, they all have bottles of Jack D's, Vodka whatever.... the feeling of excess is in the air. OK alot of places in China are similiar but I think the decor just made it feel wrong... and the music was unforgivable. You see bars are easy for me, I can enjoy myself at most bars as long as they aren't too noisy. But for me Nightclubs are all about the music, I just can't enjoy myself in a club that churns out dance tracks that are essentially massacered pop tunes...aarrgghhh!

I have also sampled the delights of KTV here, which turned out to be indenticle to Taiwan, in fact the company that owned the KTV I went to here is Taiwanese! It was an all night affair from 1-6am. It was fun, but basically consisted of me trying to pull off too many cool sounding Robbie Williams songs (English songs are limited as you can imagine). You are in a small room with your friends, with a TV and a Karaoke system. This was a little crazy as it included a buffet... I arrived at 1am, and people were still eating.... this was a real Chin moment :)

Saturday, October 14, 2006

My week in Taipei

It was nice to get to the first holiday of the school year, and I chose to use this to spend a week in Taipei. As well as obviously meeting up with Jessica, I thought it would be nice to meet some friends that I used to hang out with over there. Paul and Mike are a a deadly duo of Canadians who I had the pleasure of re-living some good times with. It been some time since I had seen them and ,with the aid of some beer, much catching up was done. We had a BBQ on the last Friday before I left at Mike's apartment (a really nice rooftop apartment with a sweet patio/rooftop). He really knows how to cook up a feast, and most types of meat were presented in the chargrilled format :) I ended up having a little too much alcohol, but hey what are holidays are for! In the morning, I had probably the worst hangover I have had for some years. Which was weird as I was acually pretty coherent at the end of the night (or morning), and had drunk quite a bit of water before going to bed! But anyway, the fact remained that I had a real stinker which included not being able to eat anything... and I was meeting Armi that day to catch up. Armi arrived and it was obvious that I wouldn't be able to function, so a solution was sought. We went to a medicine store and bought me a couple of miracle working tablets, which basically got me feeling tip-top in about 15 minutes- not bad ey! So we ended up eating a massive lunch in a dim- sum restaurant, had a coffee, shot some pool for a few hours and finally ate dinner in an over-priced "italian" restaurant!! It was awesome to see Armi - I have known him since university and he's a really funny guy. He's definetly one of those lifer friends who you know you could hang out with when your old and grey :)

Earlier in the week, I had amused myself visiting some familiar areas of Taipei to hang out. The place is changing, especially DaPingLin where I used to live when I was there. It's a suburb in Taipei County and was just starting to grow when I was there. Now they have a massive new Carrefour store, B&Q store, loads more restaurants. Everywhere you look new buildings are going up. But me and Jessica were still able to go to my favourite restaurant there, with a couple of her friends. A small basic Thai restaurant; in fact even that place had grown, but they still served up the same super spicy and sour Thai food - even the lemon fish I have longed for since I left 2 years ago :)

All in all this trip was not about doing exciting new things, it was about reconnecting with some very special people and remembering the life I had in Taipei. In that respect it was a success - paul, mike and armi.... if you're reading this, I hope to be sat supping beers and shooting shit (as Americans would say) when we are all old and grey!!

The DVD store - Part 2

Now hopefully you have read my antics below at the first DVD store and thought "that sounds kinda crazy!" But recently I went to another kinda crazy DVD place that really made me realise that I am living in China now :) This guy at work (Peter) took me to this DVD place that is on the top floor of this department store type place. We get to the floor and it is basically full of these small kiosk-stall type places that sell DVD's and CD's. So I am shown a couple of boxes of DVD's and start rummaging through; now the thing that is different about this place is all the DVD's they have are 100% ligit DVD's from Europe, and they are still only 5 RMB a pop (maybe 40p or something like that). So they are not like the (still very good)Chinese copies that I bought in the other place. Anyway, I am looking through the boxes on the stall and I am thinking well actually this isn't looking too hot as they only had maybe 4 or 5 boxes. But all this changes when Peter talks to the guys there and they tell us to go with them to anoher floor. Well basically we end up sat outside this tiny stockroom, sat on small stalls; we sit there for about one hour as the guy passes out box after box after box of DVD's for us to look through. After that hour is up I have a pile of DVD's as high as....well.... lets just say I had a lot! I bought full seasons of friends, Futurama, The Simpsons, classic films such as Rambo, Back to the future & even the first full season of Knight Rider!! And all on original disks in proper DVD cases. Yet another pure China experience, and i'm loving it :)

The Cool Japanese Restaurant!!

I went to this cool restaurant for a guy's birthday at work (Rob). It is a Japanese style restaurant where you all sit around a hot plate and eat as much food as you want for a set price. Most of it is cooked in front of you and is pretty nice :) But the deal gets even sweeter when you realise that this also includes as much beer and sake as you can order! And the beer is proper Japanese beer like Kirin & Asahi. So you can imagine how much of a good time we had there :) In I ever eat there again in that kind of situation, I think I am going to be a little less gung-ho about the sake! We went to a bar afterwards, and lets just say that the sake/beer in my belly did help my progress there!! But definetely a place to keep on my radar in Guangzhou, certainly if you go with alot of people.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Supermarkets and wine at 10 on a Sunday..

Last Sunday I had a fairly novel experience at my apartment complex. There is a supermarket here, right next to the school. It is basically a western style supermarket that stocks such delights as flora margarine and my favorite....decent cereal. Anyway, they had their official opening last Sunday and all the teachers went to support the store and look foreign. Fair enough you might think, but there is a small twist. The opening started at 10pm and about 5 minutes after we walked in we were presented with a sparkling fresh glass of.......wait for wine!! So there I was quaffing South Africa's finest and chatting meaningfully at just gone ten on a Sunday. Could only happen in China!! I can't say too much though as I did actually have two glasses.....

The DVD store :)

Last Saturday I had the pleasure of experiencing a DVD store here in Guangzhou, and trust me there weren't no HMV till boys to quiz about the latest releases, or infact even anything vaguely resembling my DVD buying experience in the UK. We went to this mall that only deals with computers and the like; we walk to where the DVD place is and a voice pipes up "you want DVD", upon our affirmative signal a shutter goes up to reveal a heaving mass of bodies pouring over the literally hundreds of DVD's in this "shop". We walk in and the shutter is immediately put back to its rightful place!! The joint isn't big, but every available inch of wall and floor space is covered with DVD's. You end up sorting through boxes of DVD's and ,when you feel tired, scanning the rows of displayed DVD's on the racks. After 30 mins of this you have a stack of discs big enough to choke a small elephant, that is when you know enough is enough and retreat to the "cash desk"; ironically it is infact a desk with a lot of cash behind it!! Anyways, I bought such gems as...... 1)EVERY bond film (in pretty fine looking boxset packaging I might add) for 15 quid!! 2) Curb your Enthusiasm Season 5 boxset 3) Das Boot 4) Citizen Kane and about 6 or 7 other sweet films. As the TV here is not too hot, I need a bank of quality films to dip into at any time. I think I am well on the way to achieving that!!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

The maid dilemma....

I new before I arrived that many foreigners here had maids, but I had also been thinking that I would try to avoid having a maid in Guangzhou. I suppose I saw it as exploiting people lower down the food chain or something. But now that I am actually in Guangzhou and have seen my apartment, I realise that there is no chance of me keeping this place clean by myself!! So me and some other new teachers are going to share one. She will work the full week and clean our 3 apartments during that time. And after meeting the maid I don't feel so bad; she is a local woman who was already working as a cleaner for the company who owns the complex we live in. She was recommended to us as she was apparently a very good worker, and has always been loyal and honest. Working for us will mean she will get a pretty hefty pay raise and will have "bosses" who are not too hard on her!! So she seemed pretty happy about the whole deal, and I suppose for her this is also a good opportunity. So now I don't feel like it is bad, I might even say we are giving a little back to the local community (although I hesitate to say this at the risk of sounding arrogant, as I realise it is only a little!!). Anyway, she seems like a nice woman and I hope we can look after her :) I would love to hear anyone's opinion on this matter, as I am sure that some people might find this an interesting issue!! Anyway, on a purely selfish note I am looking forward to not having to worry about ironing shirts for work or cleaning the floors!!!

My first experiences in Guangzhou


When I arrived back into Guangzhou from Sanya I was not sure what to expect, but I needn't have worried for one second. I was picked up from the airport and from that point onwards looked after by the school. They gave me free international phonecards, a bag of essential food for my apartment, and even put some basics like plates, bedding etc. in there for me. When I actually got to see my apartment I was pretty impressed; the apartment is very big for one person, and is pretty well furnished and appointed. Basically it is the same standard as my last apartment in Taiwan, and much bigger. But I used to share that with 2 other people, this place is only for me. It is a little way out of town, as it takes 20 minutes in a taxi. But this means it is literally in the same complex as my school, a 5 minute walk away. The school is part of a big residential complex you see, so I am near the school but not actually within the school grounds. Also, it is right next to a lake and you get to see quite a lot of greenery around. I will live in this apartment for one year, then they will move all the teachers into slightly smaller apartments above the school. I am actually happy about this because they should be newly refurbished and nice; also they should be 2 bedroom rather than the three I have now. Basically, I won't feel like I am rattling around in a big apartment like I sometimes feel now (don't get me wrong, I still love it).

So you can imagine that I feel pretty excited about my new life in Guangzhou, it seems like it will work out really well.

The first week at school was an induction week. We were taken through the basic operations of the school, given opportunities to sort out our classrooms, and taken to IKEA to do some shopping for our apartments. I also bought a DVD (as I love watching films!!) and a laptop (as I can't bear not to be online!!). We also ate out very often in the evening, we would go into town and eat Chinese, Taiwanese, Thai and Vietnamese food. So this week was a fairly easy going introduction to China. One thing I would like to mention here is the craziness of the supermarkets!! When you go into a local supermarket, it is usually packed!! Moving around it means avoiding many people, getting pushed in the back many times and generally feeling pretty claustrophobic. I don't mind this too much, but it makes shopping a pretty hectic affair. You can't stop in an aisle if there are many people in the aisle as well, you feel like you can't browse anything!! This seems to be something that is generally different to Taipei; there I could shop with relative ease and in Taiwan you only occasionally felt that you were in a heavily populated city (usually if you went to a major shopping area on a saturday). However, it seems like in China you will feel the populous much more. Hey, I can get used to it, I am a good one for just going with the flow. It is probably a bit of a cop out, but I will probably do a lot of shopping at the western supermarket in our complex. And that obviously is not busy at all!! But I find that because I cant cook Asian food I end up coming out of Chinese supermarkets with junk food rather than raw materials to make a meal. Hopefully I can do this better at the western supermarket. Also, they have a lot of nice cereal there, something that is hard to find in China. They only sell the sugary children's cereal in local supermarkets here.

This week just gone we have had the kids in. I am teaching Nursery, so my children are 3 years old. They are so cute, although most are fairly quiet right now. I expect them to slowly come out of their shells over the next few weeks.

So basically, my first few weeks here have been brilliant. I have really enjoyed everything and think my life here will be fun. I am practicing my Chinese, but realise I really need to put a big effort in this time to become more fluent. I hope this posting has given an insight into my life here, and I will try to update this blog regularly with things that I do!!