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Showing posts from October, 2008

A Halloween treat for you!

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Today marks 2 special occasions - Halloween, and the return of the Girlz 'N' Games webcomic! You don't want to know how the idea for this admittedly disturbing strip came about, but let's just say it involved a discussion centered on extended periods of celibacy.

Anyway, I'm off to spend the evening watching horror films and devouring tender, marinaded poultry flesh... There's really no better way to celebrate a holiday that has been so commercialised that many of us actually have to do some research to remind ourselves what it actually was originally about.

In keeping with the Halloween spirit, I've been listening to the delicious Nightmare Revisited cover album a lot these last 2 weeks. Definitely check it out if you have a thing for animated cult classic The Nightmare Before Christmas, movie scores, and alternate artists like Marilyn Manson and Korn, as well as their lighter cousins The All-American Rejects and Rise Against.

Listening to the soundtrack …

Heido-ho to Switzerland!

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Switzerland I would probably have to describe as a theme park. The whole country just seems too good to be true. From the crystal clear fresh water lakes to the towering Alps, from the fairy tale castles to the fact that you can leave your bicycle on the street without chaining it up, the whole place just feels completely unreal.

It was ironic then that the hotel where we spent the night in Lucerne was actually a former prison for white collar criminals – the Lowengraben Jailhotel. So, yes, these dodgy South Africans got to spend the night behind bars, sleeping on bunks or cots. And we did it in Switzerland. It was a novel, fun experience, even if our breakfast the next morning was typical spartan prison fare – just cornflakes and dry bread.



Sssshhhhhhh.... Prisoners escaping...

Communication

The Swiss are quadrilingual, speaking English, French, German and Italian. If in doubt, though, German is probably your best bet for greeting people and beginning an interaction.

Activities & Attr…

Max Payne

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Sorry, this review would have gone up here yesterday if it wasn’t for my early morning encounter with the magical shattering windscreen. Anyway…


Max Payne is something of a mixed bag. Upfront I’ll say that I didn’t hate it, although to offer a second opinion, a girl from work who was unfamiliar with the game thought it was terrible.

In terms of Max Payne’s positives, the film’s art direction, as well as set and costume design, are all outstanding. Fans of the game series will instantly recognise iconic locations from the first title, such as the Roscoe Station subway, the slum apartment block, the docklands container terminal, Max’s house, and the towering glass-and-chrome Aesir building. Fans of the game are also likely to receive a rush as they pick up on little touches like the Valkyrie graffiti tag that decorates many a wall. The film makers must be commended for their attention to detail in faithfully replicating the look of the game on the big screen.

Performances in Max Payne ar…

Crash, bang, boom

Ah, there really is no better way to start the day than thinking you've just been shot at or attacked...

I pulled into my parking at work this morning and while I was bent over, fiddling around under my seat for my handbag, I hear an almighty bang. Looking up, my back windscreen was completely shattered. My heart racing, I slowly get out of the car to look around for evidence of thrown bricks or stones... but nothing. My windscreen has shattered for no apparent reason.

Although, on second thought, there actually is a very good, valid reason...

I had heard about this problem with 2004-2006 model Corsa Lites for at least the past 2 years, but it had never happened to me before now.

Fortunately, as the breakage is a design fault - something to do with "an excess heat build-up in the glass demister terminal of the rear windscreen" - it means the repair will be done by the dealership for free. Thank goodness.

And thank goodness this all happened while I was already stationary.…

Ciao, Bella! 4 days in Italy

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The best weather we had during our Contiki tour was in Italy, where it was sunny and warm – without ever being oppressively hot. I’d also definitely go back to the country, if only to spend more time in the Vatican and Florence, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed (but which I can imagine are packed and polluted nightmares during the Summer high season). Rome, with its pollution, graffiti and scraped cars in narrow streets, reminded me a great deal of Athens, which isn't at all a bad thing actually.


Venice, frankly, I found overrated, although it probably wasn’t helped by the fact that on the Saturday we were there several cruise liners had unleashed their thousands of passengers on the island. Away from the main area, as I roamed the maze of backstreets and bridges, I could begin to see Venice’s charm and uniqueness, but people going on about it as “the most amazing place ever” have seriously overhyped the city. Oh, and for the record, in September and October its waterways aren’t …

Today South Africa, brace yourself for maximum Payne!

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Well, I'm off this evening to see video-game-to-movie-adaptation Max Payne. And I'm actually quite nervous... Not quite at the anxiety level I reached on the day Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was released, but worried nonetheless. You see I'm really hoping that Hollywood hasn't stuffed up a film based on easily one of my top 5 favourite video games of all time.


Although Max Payne went to #1 in North America this last weekend, reviews have not been kind for this noir-ish action-thriller. With 19% on Rotten Tomatoes, not kind at all. So I'll be entering the cinema tonight with very moderated expectations.

As far as I'm concerned, and I'm probably in the minority here, the best game adaptation so far has been Silent Hill. Some of you may argue the case for the Resident Evil series, or Doom, but for me Silent Hill, however flawed, really captured the feel of the video game better than anything else.

Of course, I'm now hoping that 2010'…

Happy Smurf Day!

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I wouldn't even have realised this special pop culture occasion if it wasn't for a discussion on the radio this morning, but today marks the 50th anniversary of the first ever appearance by those little blue Belgian dudes (and occasional dudette!), the Smurfs.


It was on 23 October 1958 that cartoonist Peyo (real name Pierre Culliford) introduced the Smurfs to the world through Belgian comics magazine Le Journal de Spirou... This said, I'm sure more of you reading this are familiar with the incredibly popular Hanna-Barbera animated series that ran in the 1980s, as well as the figurine collection (Hmmm, I wonder where my old box of smurfs is?).

Anyway, I'd just like to take this moment to wish Papa Smurf and co. a very happy birthday. May you be a thorn in the side of Gargamel and Azrael for many years to come.

To everyone else reading this, Happy Smurf Day!

As a side note I have to wonder if the Smurfs are going to receive the special Google Doodle treatment. On 13 October…

Pop culture consumption

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As you may have noticed I'm still busy with the travel report-back, which means my normal weekend rundowns and regular blog features have yet to kick in again. For those of you who aren't interested in my globe trotting, here's a short-ish post on what pop culture I've been consuming since I got back.

Film & DVD:

I've already written reviews for Taken and Hellboy II: The Golden Army, both of which I've caught at the cinema. I'm a bit undecided about going to see Eagle Eye, but this Friday Max Payne is released, and despite the appalling reviews, well I just have to see the film adaptation of one of my all-time favourite video games. "The flesh of fallen angels..."

Otherwise, I finally got to watch cult Russian fantasy film, Night Watch, which I think most people describe as being about wizards vs. vampires. I wasn't overwhelmed by it. Despite director Timur Bekmambetov showing more gritty visual flair here than in Wanted, Night Watch lacks …

The hills are alive…

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If the Rhine Valley in Germany was picturesque, Austria, with its snow-capped mountains, thick forests and wooden cottages set against a backdrop of green green fields, is absolutely majestic. This is after all the land of the Sound of Music! Again, after the craziness of Oktoberfest, our day in the Austrian Tyrol was a chance to unwind and enjoy the fresh, clean, country air.


Communication
Communication with locals, who speak a dialect of German, is on a par with Germany, really. You can get by with a few basic phrases. Politeness is important here.

Activities & Attractions
We were in the Austrian countryside so I can’t comment on all the cultural and historical sights of Austria’s capital Vienna. Away from the city though, it turns out that Winter is peak tourist season in Austria. Skiers and other snow sports enthusiasts rush to the region. In fact, the city of Innsbruck (which we passed at least 3 times) has hosted the Winter Olympics twice in its past, and it’s impossible to mis…

Germany and Oktoberfest

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One of the most pleasant things I found about my Contiki tour was its structuring – frenzied visits to large bustling cities were almost always broken by a stop-over at a quieter country destination. So after an evening of debauchery and half a day of culture-vulturing in Amsterdam we jumped on the coach and headed off into Germany, stopping first at the tranquil tiny village of St. Goar in the picturesque Rhine Valley. I don’t think there’s anywhere else in the world that has such a high concentration of castles and fortifications (put in place to protect the vitally important trade route that is the Rhine river).


I really love these little literally 2-street villages. I love the novelty of roaming around after dark, having the entire place to myself. It just feels really special, and peaceful.

The next day, Thursday, the traffic gods, if not the weather deities, were with us and we made the journey to Munich (Munchen in German), the heart of the Bavarian district, in good time. We di…