Posts tagged “Walking

Four Minutes / Unqualified Parents

Four Minutes  -  Front DVD Cover  -  UK Release

Following on from the success of The Lives of Others and The Counterfeiters, the award winning “Four Minutes” sees wrongfully imprisoned piano prodigy Jenny, a Molotov cocktail of suppressed emotions and uncontrollable rage, locked in a constant battle with those around her.  Together with Traude, a professional musician who wants to expose Jenny’s talents at a national competition, the pair develop a volatile teacher-pupil relationship.  As the duo plan their intent to make it to the finals, it soon becomes apparent that, once there, Jenny will have only four minutes to prove herself, and no guarantee of freedom afterwards.  Starring multiple award winner Hannah Herzsprung (“The Reader”, “The Baader-Meinhof Complex”), “Four Minutes” is a cinema tour de force that combines music, gritty prison drama and powerful performances to winning effect.

2006  –  Certificate: 15  –  German Film  –  Rating Details: Strong violence and very strong language.  10 out of 10.

To do most things that people consider important in life, you have to study and then possibly pass some sort of test, exam or interview.  In other cases you need to read the instructions or practice, but in the end you’re required to be able to demonstrate a degree of competency before you’re trusted by anyone to do it ‘for real’.  Yet for some reason, with one of the most important and challenging things, we expect everyone to just get on with it without demonstrating the slightest level of ability.  That’s so stupid.  Where’s the logic in that?  It’s enough to make Mr. Spock freak out.  I’ve mentioned it before, but my journey to work involves walking almost past an infant school, at least close enough for me to run into lots of parents taking their kids there.  I don’t expect young kids to ever do anything remotely sensible; in fact it’s in their job description.  They live in a world that isn’t quite in phase with grow-ups. However, if fate has put you in change of a young person, you really ought to be trained how to do this important job, as most people clearly don’t have a clue.  In fact those that do know are generally too old to have any, which in my opinion is a really bad design error.  I’m generally a very tolerant person; yes, really.  But one thing that’s been testing me to my limits recently is the almost total inability of parents to wait at traffic lights and not block the entire pavement with hyperactive kids, bags, pushchairs, dogs and other non-essential stuff.  Hell, it’s only a short walk to the local school, not a manned mission to Mars.  Somehow, they think having control of a young person entitles them to inconvenience the rest of the universe, as if this is some sort of reward for proving their immense virility or fertility.  Seriously dudes, we’ve managed to reproduce adequately enough to keep ourselves going since life first evolved on Earth; it’s really not that difficult and it doesn’t reflect on anyone’s worth.  What does take skill and deserves admiration is dealing with the consequences, which many clearly fail at on an epic scale. I’m a Pavement Warrior and denying me my right of access is a direct challenge to my entire belief structure.  I’m not keen on making kids orphans, but sometimes, someone needs to make a stand.  Just today I narrowly avoided a serious incident on an especially narrow bit of pavement, when two young boys came flying out of a terrace house; the sort that has a front garden about 1m deep.  A guy coming down ‘The Mountain’ (as I call this particularly steep section of my route to work) had to take evasive action to avoid running into them and nearly swerved into me as a result.  Seriously, I was lucky to get out of that in one piece.  Then again, what do I know?  It was only very recently that I found out that you can’t just take the batteries out of them at night when you go to bed.  And now something a whole lot better…

This is a totally awesome movie.  One of the best 50 films ever made.  It’s German, so unsurprisingly it’s not a comedy.  (I guess saying that makes me a racist, unlike Nigel Farage because he’s got a German wife.)  However, it is a kick-ass drama and totally absorbing.  Slow, dark and smouldering, it just blew me away.  I have a soft spot for movies about mavericks, rebels and people who don’t play the game properly.  In particular the ones that do it for no other reason than to piss the world off and who’re willing to take themselves down along with everyone else rather than change.  (I like to think that I’m a bit like that, except in reality I’m probably the world’s biggest ‘yes man’ and enjoy nothing better than asking “how high?” when someone tells me to jump.)  Cutting off your whole head to spite your face.  Our hero Jenny isn’t quite as nihilistic as that, but she comes close.  The Four Minutes of the title refers to a scene near the end of the movie.  One of the best bits of cinema ever; you could never play it loud enough.  It’s not a perfect film for a range of minor but noticeable reasons, but I’m willing to overlook it small faults and consider the bigger picture.  An essential watch.

This is a movie about someone who plays the piano and as such without a suitable soundtrack to support the story, it would fail miserably.  Fortunately it’s a great mixture of original and (mainly) classical, (mainly) German composed music.  There’s an interesting article on the official website about how hard it was to find a composer for the original music used.

I think this trailer lightens the mood of the film slightly and misrepresents the relationship between the two main characters, so it’s a bit disappointing.  It really doesn’t portray the power or mood of the film well.

Movie Weather Forecast.  Cloudy and cool.  Stay indoors is my advice.

Recommended for pianists, lesbians, nurses, prison wardens, Nazis, abusive parents and rebels.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment?  The four minutes that give this film its title are as badass as it comes.  The closest you can get to sticking two fingers up to the world without saying a word; a great bit of punk and not a guitar in sight.

I wrote about this film here in 2010.  This is what I had to say then.

Four Minutes at IMDB (7.6 / 10)
Four Minutes at Wikipedia
Official Website
Four Minutes Trailer at YouTube


The Kennet & Avon Canal: A Survivor’s Tail

A random bit of Kennet & Avon Canal

It’s hard to believe I know, but I do occasionally leave Cactus World to visit mystical, far away places.  It’s good to reach out to other cultures and immerse yourself for a time within an alien environment, mixing with people who have a totally different word view to your own.  So I recently found myself spending five and a half days walking from Avonmouth back to Reading, along the River Avon and Kennet & Avon Canal.  For those that don’t know, Avonmouth is by the Bristol Channel and thus nearly in Wales, which is of course a real foreign country.  I endured 100 miles of physical and psychological torture, increasingly poor quality cider and lovely sunny weather, staring down at the path in front of me for hours on end, whilst acting as prey for psychopathic cyclists who prowl the National Cycle Network (mainly Route 4) in feral packs, searching for lone walkers to victimise and kill.  I spent most of the trip reading The Hunger Games Trilogy; by the end I think I’d lost my mind a bit and I really thought I was actually a tribute in the Hunger Games, what with the hunger, thirst, injuries and homicidal cyclists that I had to deal with.  Here then, is my story. 

Yoga / Keeping Fit With Indian Takeaway; and Beer

Yoga  -  Front DVD Cover  -  US ReleaseStriving for the ultimate inner beauty can be deadly.  Six gorgeous yet narcissistic women, driven by their superficial existence, are lured to the most prestigious underground yoga studio.  Their desire for beauty holds no bonds and each will stop at nothing to achieve it.  As they settle in the studio and begin their quest, strange and disturbing events start taking place.  Girls start disappearing and it is evident there’s an evil presence among them.  Their quest for beauty brought them to this haunted studio; their will to survive is the only thing that can get them out.

2009  –  Certificate: Not Rated  –  Korean Film
5.5 out of 10

My campaign to get fit, live forever, save the planet and save money, literally took a giant step forward this week, when for four days in a row I walked to work and back, a total of nearly 20 miles!  To celebrate this and mitigate the worrying fact that I may be turning into some sort of boring, fitness junkie, today I ordered a giant Indian takeaway for my dinner, complete with beer.  Oh well, it’s back to the starting line next week.  This film is about something not altogether dissimilar.

Like me, this movie is all about people who only care how they can use their looks to get on in life.  Consequently, it’s hard to sympathise with them when they start to ‘disappear’.  They’re simply obsessed with being bitchy in the way adults are and being more beautiful than anyone else.  They can’t even follow the yoga teacher’s simple rules.  It doesn’t help that all of them are already gorgeous looking anyway.  It’s very much an ironic case of, tough, but you can’t have your cake and eat it.  Outside of its six babes, this is a movie that looks good, in a gloomy, haunted house kind of way, but commits the number one sin for a horror; it’s simply not scary.  After I’d watched it, I didn’t have any problems going to the toilet via the dark hall outside my living room.  The best horrors can have me checking inside the shower and not turning my back on the bathroom door, ‘just in case’.  Testing the lock on the front door and looking inside the wardrobe are not unheard of either.  It’s passable as a film to spend an evening watching, but its lack of really scary stuff makes it quite boring at times.

Music.  There isn’t much, although it’s so forgettable that I’ve forgotten about it already.

Recommend for yoga teachers, TV presenters, shopping-channel aficionados and consumers of vapid, shallow, corporate-sponsored glamour and beauty.  Not recommended for yoga students.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment? Near the end of the film, Hyo-jung is in a subway station, where she starts to see people she thinks are dead.  The symbolism of it was all rather lost on me. However, at precisely 1:33:37 she lets out a wonderful, nine second long scream.  A great bit of movie mini-magic, which therefore makes it badass.  You’d never guess she had lungs that big.

Yoga at IMDB (5.0 / 10)

Yoga at Wikipedia

The South Downs Way – Friend or Foe?

Cactus World is great!  But however great somewhere is it can be nice to get away for a change of scenery.  So I’ve been on holiday. And doing my bit for the environment, I thought I’d not go too far; as far as Eastboune actually, to walk the South Downs Way. About 99 miles across the wussy south of England, along what passes for high ground in these parts. In the balmy summer weather, across one of the most highly populated parts of the country, along a path that for most of its length is suitable for horses and mountain bikes too, with boots that would keep my feet dry even in the wettest conditions; what could possibly go wrong? I took a tent. In fact, following my experiences along Offa’s Dike two years ago (when I carried a rucksack weighing around 3 tonnes), I bought a brand new tent especially for this trip, in an attempt to reduce the amount of weight I needed to carry. This will be easy I thought to myself. It will prove I’m still a fit, youthful man, well able to tackle any personal or professional challenges, save the plant and probably get the girl too. It’s basically just going to be a long pub crawl. What could be easier?

Well for starters, the tent was a nightmare. How hard can it be to put up a small, sub £30 tent? So simple in fact that I didn’t actually bother to unpack it and try, until the first night I needed to use it; I’ve been putting up tents for years, tents have been around for a long time, the technology of tents is mature, I’m a fairly intelligent person, what could be simpler? Oops; bad decision. From the moment I stepped off the train in Eastbourne, the wind had started howling from the west, which just happened to be the direction I was walking in. Hurricanes and tornadoes are little more than paper fans in comparison. It was windy, even worse than Offa’s Dyke had been which is saying something. I hate the wind. What’s the point of it? At least rain has a use, but the wind? Having your hat blown off your head and being pushed backwards by the wind is funny the first time they happen, but on a non-stop basis they’re probably the least funny things in the history of the universe. Anyway, back to that tent. I finally found a place to camp on the first evening, near the path behind some brambles next to a fence.

Camping  -  1st Night

Camping - 1st Night

 In 1,000mph winds it’s hard to do much at all, but trying to put up a tent you’ve never used before, when you’re tired, for which there appears no physical way to actually erect it effectively even in perfect conditions, is not in my Top 40 of favourite things to do. Every time I put some part of it down, it blew away. In the end I tied the tent to the fence and laid in it corner to corner, in an effort to both hold it down and to fit into it, as it appeared to have really been designed more with ballooning for midgets in mind. Once inside, it was noisy too; imagine trying to sleep in a crisp bag with 100 people cooking popcorn, (the latter noise added to the mix by the rain.) Twice in the night I had to get up to re-peg parts of it down too. I was glad when the next day arrived.

The next day dawned with a howling wind still blowing. It wasn’t that cold, but the wind chill factor made it feel colder than Absolute Zero. The noise of the wind blowing past my ears also rendered the chances of my hearing the beautiful, subtle, quiet sounds of the English countryside, all but futile.

Now I probably ought to point out that there were some nice things about my trip. Many of the views were great:

Looking North from the South Downs Way

Looking North from the South Downs Way

The chalk cliffs along the coast are amazing:

Some of the Seven Sisters

Some of the Seven Sisters

 The dew ponds up on the top of the Downs are intriguing and mysterious, (where do they get their water from?):

A Dew Pond in the Mist

A Dew Pond in the Mist

And the general weirdness of being in the south of England, yet feeling very isolated, are just some of them:

Lost in Southern England Somewhere

Lost in Southern England Somewhere

However, the highlight of Day 2 was crossing a small road in the middle of nowhere, to find a big mess of caravans and stuff in support of the London to Brighton Cycle Race. This included three ice cream vans. Near the end of the day, an ice-lolly, a can of Coke and a bottle of water can take on a significance of biblical proportions. The sugar rush from this lot was on the scale of a heroin hit too; as indeed was the price, a mere £4.20 for all three items. The temptation to just throw myself into the first aid tent and ask for salvation was difficult to resist too. Amazingly, this also signalled a sudden reduction in the wind. Despite all this, my attempt that evening to work out how to put up the tent properly, was again a miserable failure. I must have missed the part about “only suitable for people less than 3’ in height”; silly me.

Day 3 started with a bit of rain, no wind and no visibility. Great. Next time I’ll just sit somewhere cold and damp and stare at a grey wall:

The View from My Tent  -  Day 3

The View from My Tent - Day 3

Still, things were going okay really. I was averaging around 25 miles a day, probably as far as I’ve ever managed to walk in one go, even in the ‘old days’ of my youth where I thought nothing of doing the Pennine Way and Cleveland Way with equipment so old it was all made of stone. By midday, the fog had mostly gone, I’d found an amazing little caravan in the middle of nowhere selling nice things to eat, including vegan hot chocolate and the wind had (mostly) kept itself under control. The sun had even appeared from time to time. Cleary not used to this good fortune, I got as far as the early afternoon when I thought it would be an excellent idea to make things more challenging by suddenly falling over my own feet and spraining my left ankle; so that’s exactly what I did. This hurt, quite a lot actually. The one good thing was that no one saw me do it, so at least my dignity was reasonably intact. I also discovered that there is a God too. I know this to be a fact, as where I did it was about 100m from a main road and at the crossing point was a bus stop; statistically, I should have been miles from anywhere. Basically this was God’s way of saying, “go home Weeble and leave the tough guy stuff to those that can handle it.” So after doing totally the opposite to what the idiot on the telephone travel advice line told me, I got a bus to the station, a train to another station and a taxi home. So ended my summer holiday.

Well I got about half way, 50 miles in two days. I’m still suffering with my ankle a month later, although it’s slowly getting better (thanks for asking). I have taken it to a couple of gigs and found that skanking and generally jumping about on it hurts quite a bit. I haven’t walked into work on it yet, next week probably. And I will return to the South Downs Way again, once I’ve recovered.

Right now I’m listening to “Wrong Way” by the Undertones.