Monthly Archives: September 2012

Nihongo no blog?

I’ve been so lazy. If I haven’t mentioned on here before (and I cringe a little when I mention it in ‘real life’ because I think it makes me sound pretentious), I’m learning Japanese. I have been since 2008 in evening classes (with the exception of 2009 when it was cancelled due to lack of interest). It’s really a fun group, and an amazing teacher.

Parallel to this, I’ve been using Rosetta Stone (helpfully provided through work), an online software language thing that teaches you through “immersive learning”. In other words, no explanations in English, just firing pictures and text at you until you get the hang of what they mean. It’s a good system for some things, but grammar points are often too difficult to pick up just by guess-work, and some of the activities are difficult to the point of being chores.

I need to get off my lazy arse and really start pushing this though. I don’t revise my evening class notes, and get by because a lot of the others don’t seem to pick up the stuff as well as I do.

So I have semi-decided to start posting on lang8.com, a community-based language site. So far I’ve only used one side of it – people post things in the language they want to learn, and other users make corrections or comments on each sentence. It’s been quite addictive to see people writing in English and being able to make myself useful by helping them fine-tune it.

But I’ve chickened out of writing anything myself. No reason why, it’s a supportive site, and it’s not THAT hard to type in Japanese script … so I should really make a push. I recommend anyone else try it out, whatever language you are learning!

A bit of a dry blog post today, so here’s some Japanese music. How can you not like a song called Chocolate Disco?

Leave a comment

Filed under Talking rubbish again

Movie: “Anna Karenina” (2012)

Aren’t I high-brow? Well I tried at least, and decided to make another of my periodic trips to the cinema to see something a bit more cultured. This time I saw the latest in a catalogue of screen adaptations of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. I admit I was sucked in by the spectacular trailer, which looked as much like a perfume commercial as anything (not least because Keira Knightley is in it)

After a parade of rather poorly-aimed trailers for the audience (echoing my seeing the Anna Karenina trailer before Total Recall), I was quickly engrossed by the story once I got to grips with who was who, and got to grips with some peculiar choices of artistic direction.

The biggest curiosity was setting the majority of the film in a theatre, with people moving the scenery around between seamless scenes. A bit of a bewildering way to start, particularly as none of the story is actually set in a theatre, nor was the original story written as a screenplay. Director Joe Wright doesn’t maintain this premise all the way through, which makes me a little confused as to why this device was used at all. At times it feels like it’s going to spring into a musical too, but that’s another diversion.

Still, I can’t deny that it’s a visually stunning film, almost to the point of distracting me from the dialogue. But the star-studded cast do really flesh out their characters well. Keira as the titular Anna seems to be stuck in one of her Chanel commercials, when she’s not looking teary-eyed and conflicted. But still she’s completely watchable and suits the role well.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson (nee Johnson, taking part of his cougar wife’s surname, how modern) was devastatingly handsome, with as many costume changes as Keira and those piercing blue eyes… I may not have been entirely concentrating when he was acting, apologies. The supporting cast, including a straight-faced Soviet Jude Law and whats-his-name off Spooks, you know, plus all the supporting ladies felt well-characterised.

All in all, it really didn’t feel like hard work – a worry I always have with these adaptations of old novels. But fans of these sorts of films shouldn’t be disappointed, and even ignorant try-hards like me aren’t left behind. What more could you want?

Leave a comment

Filed under Films, Reviews

Album: Mariah Carey – “E=MC²” (2008)

This Mariah album voyage hasn’t worked out very well so far, I think I’m just never going to be a big R’n’B fan. Though that might not be the impression you get after this review, because E=MC2 (I’m not faffing around with superscripts btw) turned out to be QUITE GOOD. OK yes it does seem to pander to whatever was big in R’n’B at the time, much in the way The Emancipation did, but this is only 4 years old so (for now) it’s still sounding quite fresh.

09 Migrate – Ha-ha-haaaahh *ears split*. But NO! It’s not another shriek-fest, that initial squawk is re-sampled into a really distinctive little riff, and I LOVE THAT. OK she does use a lot of language I’m not used to from her, but I like that too. It’s got a good tune to it, I like her voice. Frankly I could have done without T-Pain, that’s even before he starts trying to rhyme things with Migrate and Mariah, which all makes it sound a bit generic and almost certainly going to be the thing that dates this song in later years. But a great opener, and I almost want to listen to it again before carrying on. I’d call THAT a success.

09 Touch my body – I was fascinated by this video for a while, but the song wore out quite quickly. But it’s like listening to it again with new ears … maybe I am actually listening this time instead of being distracted by the visuals. Love some of the lyrics, and she certainly doesn’t hold back when she talks about the sex stuff *blush*. I like the psychopathic feel given by the sweet-as-pie vox singing “I will hunt you down”. I just have very positive feelings when I think about this song. That chorus is just simple and adorable, a great return to form.

08 Cruise control – OK I’m not a favour of the Marleys, so I was expecting some cruddy reggae ball-ache here, but it’s quite good isn’t it? The verses are a bit blah, but I love it when she goes full-on Jamaican bacon. HEEE’S the FLYYYEST THING(!!). Not sure how convincing this all is, but an enjoyable experience all round. Can’t say I’m a convert to Damien Marley but I guess this won’t date as badly as a T-Pain guest spot will it? He’s OK though.

08 I stay in love – Did some of you hate this? OK I can see why you might think it’s a bit drekky but I’ve taken a SHINE to it. That little pipey sample is quite sweet and summery, a bit of a 90s throwback. I guess I can see shades of We Belong Together but in no way is it as blatant as Don’t Forget About Us was. This at least has a nice melody to it. Nothing really much new lyric-wise but it’s a good chorus that stuck with me and I’m in no rush to skip the track. PLEASANT. The VOXTASTIC last third is awesome. A bit rubbish how it just fades out though.

08 Side Effects – More will-be-dated guest raps now, but sounds alright for now. A real edge to this one, I like the production a lot. But some REALLY emotive lyrics here, is this about Mottola or something? “Shining like a chandelier that decorated every room inside the private HELL we built” … steady on! The delivery of the lines in the bridge (about crying forever) really does make me stop what I’m doing. There are a lot of things going on here but it doesn’t sound too busy at all. Well balanced and immersive. POOR MARIAH.

07 I’m that chick – Not sure about this, a bit of a flaccid disco-lite track now. It’s a nice change of tone and I can appreciate it’s catchy but not in a way that really makes me remember it. For a while I thought she was singing “I’m that chicken leg”, which patently made no sense but it was difficult to hear anything else once I’d heard it (see that time I thought she was saying exclusive-rageous). Can see why it didn’t get picked up as a single though, I think maybe it could have been with some different production.

06 Love story – Oh dear, another front-loaded Mariah album over all ready? As you can imagine from that, I’m not exactly wetting myself with excitement at this one. Hate that intro, the chorus is bland to the extreme, the vocals have their moments but this is a bit of a dead duck.

08 I’ll be loving you long time – I was expecting the worst with a title like that… but it’s rather GOOD isn’t it? The verses are bouncy with a great beat, and the chorus is pretty catchy, though lacks a killer blow in there. This does benefit of the welcome continuing trend of keeping the tracks short, I think this one hadn’t got much to give after the first 3 minutes. Does she say she doesn’t want another ankle? Anyway, JOLLY GOOD.

06 Last Kiss – OK at some point she was going to lapse into the sort of RnB that does nothing for me (SORRY FOR FEELING THIS WAY LAMBS, I was BORN THIS WAY). It’s alright, but just feels like a drop in momentum, there’s nothing special about this one. I’m struggling to find anything to say about this.

08 Thanx 4 Nothin – More mid-tempo stuff but at least better than Last Kiss. A bit more MISERY. I don’t want her to feel bad but that often seems to bring out more interesting songs (YOU TOO, ALANIS). Does she sing about a PSEUDO-romance? I totally get that *sigh*. In fact I feel like I relate to this a little TOO well, people are constantly not meeting my expectations and getting away with it because I fancy them. THANX 4 NOTHIN GUYS.

06 O.O.C. – I like the maracas or whatever they are using on percussion. Hmm, is that the best thing I can comment on, seriously? It’s alright again (“Scusa me!”), but there isn’t enough melody to it for me to get too attached to it. And you know me and my MEL-O-DEE, it’s pretty important as far as I’m concerned.

07 For the record – Is it just me that feels this has a bit of a Asian feel to it? Maybe it’s just stuff from over there that’s aping stuff from the USA in the first place. This is an improvement, I like the vocals for the most part. That electric violin sample is quite nice over short periods. Again, the chorus lacks a bit of punch, the verses feels like they are carrying this one. THEY.CAN’T.COMPETE.WITH.M.C. *squeak*. Yeah, it’s alright.

06 Bye Bye – Hmm, is this trying to be a catch-all anthem for emotional soundtracking on TV shows? I hope so, because that’s probably the only way I’d say this doing its job. It comes over as quite insincere and one-note. Chorus? Just say bye-bye bye-bye bye-bye about 10 times. Some of these lyrics are beyond inane, it’s like child’s poetry. I hate saying that because it’s probably about something really traumatic that’s happened to her, but JESUS it doesn’t come across.

07 Wish you well – I thought from the title it might be one of those “we give them positivity” moments, and I guess it is a LITTLE bit, she’s singing about someone who turned on her when things went to shit. All very understanding, and weaves in an impressive array of bible chapter references(!). The power of the Lord hasn’t quite won me over here, but it’s got a nice BUILD to the whole thing. The guy is a bit offputting, like picking up a taxi’s radio on your speakers as it drives past. Guess I don’t like gospel that much (unless it’s Eternal ft Bebe Winans).

OK that’s that! Actually I feel a lot less positive about this now I’m at the end. I have listened to the first half a lot more, it’s just so much BETTER. She does fall into her usual elephant traps of blandness, but I think all-in-all it’s a good album. Not sure if I’ve listened to ANY Mariah album yet that I would think about listening to again as it stands, but I’m grateful for another batch of keepers. God, we’re nearly at the end now aren’t we?!

Keepers for the iPod: Migrate, Touch my body, I stay in love, I’ll be loving you long time.

Leave a comment

Filed under Albums, Music, Reviews

Game: “Final Fantasy Theatrhythm” (3DS)

Poor Professor Layton. I was all psyched up to play his 3rd game (I can’t remember the name, something about tea and being a gentleman, presumably). That was about December, and while there was nothing wrong with the game at all, I am easily distracted. I wasted the best part of this year pretending to complete Final Fantasy IV on DS, in my ongoing quest to finish all the main Final Fantasy games. To force myself to finish that, I renounced all other games until I finished, but all that achieved was me playing nothing for about 6 months. I WILL finish it one day…

Professor Layton was about to get a look in as I put FFIV away again, but I had a rare 3DS shopping spree last month, and picked up two games: the rather disappointing and non-addictive New Super Mario Bros 2, and on a whim Final Fantasy Theatrhythm. Fortunately that’s a lot easier to play than it is to spell (Theatrhythm?!).

To celebrate 25 years of Final Fantasy, Square Enix created this for the fans of the musical scores contained in the main Final Fantasy series. Much like those rhythm games like Dance Dance Revolution and Tap Tap Revenge etc, you use the stylus to tap, flick and drag the rhythm according to on-screen prompts, along to selected tunes from the Final Fantasy series.

Each entry in the series has 3 different tunes, covering the 3 types of course in the game: fast-paced battle music, chilled-out field music and … twirly event music. You can play tracks individually or all three of a game’s tracks (plus some opening and closing music in a weird non-game setup) in a set.

Replay value is based on you wanting to get high scores at all skill levels, on all tracks, on all play modes. There are also tons of collectables and unlockables, like info cards and unlockable characters. Nothing too compelling really, apart from the unlockable videos perhaps.

It feels like it should get repetitive really quickly, but it’s just difficult enough for me to want to keep trying. Perfection is achievable, at least on the basic and expert modes. Ultimate mode is a bit much at the moment … and yet I feel I haven’t used a lot of the options in this game. I’ve stuck to my core group of my favourite characters (Cloud, Tidus Lightning and … well Zidane’s making up the numbers a bit), and not really touched the older ones. I’m keen to unlock more characters, but will I use them?

Even as a keen FF player, I’m not really that familiar with the music on a lot of them, I tended to have my own music on instead, so I thought the whole premise might be a bit lost on me, but the game itself is addictive, and totally cute. I love playing the songs I do remember though, so I imagine hardened FF music fans will love this.

Only down-side I think is that there are so many songs available as downloadable paid content. Sure, they’re only 90p each, but considering the amount of unlockables, it really is a bit tight of them not to have any unlockable music. As it stands I’d have to pay £36 to buy all the additional content, more than the game itself!

Fans of the series should really consider this, even if it’s just to shore up the still disappointingly thin 3DS library. Now we just need the first 6 FF games to be put on the e-Shop, you teases!

Anyway, 3DS owners can download a free demo from e-Shop. The video below I think is one of the expert levels (i.e. the middle difficulty)

Leave a comment

Filed under Computer games, Reviews

Anniversary

I can’t believe I’ve made it to a year with this blog! Today’s the anniversary, by the way. Also I’m still totally drained and don’t quite want to do another music review JUST yet. But humour me, I’m nearly ready.

I think it’s not a great time to think of a retrospective of the last 12 months, as I’m practically still in the same position as I was about 11 months ago … I got my job back after a abortive attempt to move abroad, but I found a great housemate which is really priceless considering some places I’ve lived.

I think I’m just in a funk because I need a BFF. I had one until I was about 13, and he ditched me for a mean girl. I’m pretty sure he’s super gay now though so at least she didn’t win *cackle*. OK maybe I don’t need a BFF but I definitely want one. Maybe I’m too clingy, maybe I’m really annoying.

Sure, I have a handful of great friends, but I think it boils down to wanting someone who needs me as much as I need the. Therein lies the problem, as I at least think I have quite lop-sided relationships with people, and without trying to sound melodramatic, I think I need them a lot more than they need me.

God, I’m just rambling a lot tonight aren’t I? I’ve been prompted onto this train of thought by some recent events in my ‘romantic’ life not playing out well. But I’m sure I’ll bounce back.

Why am I saying this? If the stats are correct, you’re probably only here to see Ott Lepland’s penis and Swiss roll bowl cake! Now that doesn’t sound like a bad idea…
Anyway, back to normal reviews soon!

Leave a comment

Filed under Talking rubbish again