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    Let’s see. In the last few months I have been-

    Watching-

    Land of the Dead You can’t really go wrong with a zombie movie, especially when you have one of the masters at the helm. The satire is a bit less subtle than in Dawn and there isn’t the same feeling of stalking death- you’re certain that some of the characters will survive- which takes a little of the edge off. More horror/action than pure horror, but a good example of it nonetheless.

    Revolver I’m going to sue Guy Ritchie for two hours of my life. This is probably the new low, replacing Catwoman. The thing is, certain elements were well done but were let down by being in such an awful, nonsensical movie. Whilst Catwoman was bad because every aspect was awful, this film was bad because parts of it could, could, have been so good.

    Pride and Prejudice Chick flick. I wanted to go and see Lords of Dogtown. However, this was still a good little comedy of manners. I haven’t read the book, or seen the BBC adaptation, so I don’t know how it stands up to what has gone before. And I still think the soundtrack album should have remixes by The Prodigy, Aphex Twin and Osymyso.

    The Dukes of Hazzard This was great fun in a lovely shallow way. Seann William Scott can be annoying and Jessica Simpson is just a pretty vacant space, but Johnny Knoxville is turning into quite a charismatic actor, within a limited range.

    Young and Dangerous I knew this looked familiar, but it wasn’t until a particular scene halfway through that I realised I’d owned it before. It seems a former housemate decided to trade it without asking me. Anyway, it’s a Hong Kong gangster movie about loyalty, honour and death. A gang of young hoodlums follow the same “uncle” for over a decade until betrayal sees one of them betrayed, the gang torn apart by jealousies and a rival crimelord taking over. Revenge comes in one carefully orchestrated night of violence. I can’t remember whether I’ve seen “A Better Tomorrow”, to which it gets favourable comparisons, but it’s definitely a powerful piece.

    One Down, Two To Go Blaxploitation and Kung-Fu collide. A Californian sensei and his publicist (played by Shaft) are robbed of their winnings after a tournament in New York. After being beaten and shot they call in two friends from the West Coast, Cal and J, who proceed to shoot a lot of mobsters. It all ends with a strange scene where mobsters and black avengers stand three feet apart in a smokey warehouse and trade shots. Not a great movie, but somehow better than Revolver.

    Stargate: The Director’s Cut After watching a lot of the TV series it seemed like a good idea to go back to the source. The series was quite faithful to the film, taking the elements and expanding on them. Above all, it’s quite a different mythos from all the other sci-fi that was out there at the time, and a lot of what has come since, and it was well done and entertaining.

    Reading-

    Neuromancer There’s a bit early on in this book where a character having 3 MEGS of hot RAM is an important plot point. It’s the only bit that really struck me as a quaint view of the future. The rest of the book holds up well. Yes, it is a very eighties vision of the future, but that is because Neuromancer was the break out cyberpunk novel and shaped so much of the eighties’ vision of the future.

    Nathaniel’s Nutmeg Consider this a companion piece to the author’s Big Chief Elizabeth. Whilst Britain’s colonists were trying to get a foothold in America, the British East India Company was trying to earn millions from the spice trade with the islands in the Indian Ocean. However they had to compete, in a genuinely cutthroat way with the Spanish and Portugese and eventually the Dutch, for the rights to trade. Central to the story, and the source of the title, is the defence of the tiny island of Run and its prodigious nutmeg harvest by one Nathaniel Courthope. For all that this is “bravery that changed the course of history”, very little of the book is devoted to it. Rather it concentrates on how the trade was established and how Britain and Holland used the island as a bargaining chip after going to war. Fascinating stuff well presented.

    The Mask of Command A very different type of history book. Whilst Nathaniel’s Nutmeg is history presented by a journalist and thus has a lightness and is easily readable, this is history presented by a historian and thus is laden with clauses and other traps. Taking the examples of Alexander, Wellington, Ulysses S Grant and Hitler, John Keegan attempts to convey the changing face of command and commanders. Alexander was a heroic commander, leading very much from the front, but as armies grew larger and became composed more of citizens than the elite, commanders had to move ever further away from the action to get a better overall view. Grant and Wellington were still on the battlefield and in some personal danger, but the generals of the First World War used telephones and runners to conduct their battles from fifty miles behind the lines. Hitler, whilst deriding their methods, was the chateau general writ large, dealing from Berlin in the minutiae of logistics without really understanding the conditions his soldiers suffered. Hard going, but interesting stuff if you have a thing for military history.

    The Men Who Stare At Goats Jon Ronson examines the nuttier fringes of the US military and discovers how a post-vietnam search for meaning became poisoned and led, directly and indirectly, to the horrors of Abu Ghraib. All the while he is also trying very hard to find the man who reputedly stopped the heart of a goat simply by staring at it.

    Enigma This is the sort of thriller The Da Vinci Code wishes it was, well researched, gripping and intelligent enough not to patronise its readers. Haven’t finished it yet, just give me until the end of the week.

    Playing-

    Command & Conquer: Generals I haven’t actually bought any PC games sinceI got this, though I think there’s a copy of Medieval Total War somewhere that Daz gave me. I gave up on trying to beat real people ages ago and have settled for overcoming ever harder computer enemies.

    Listening to-

    96.2 the Revolution

    Radio 4 (mostly at 6.30 in the evening for the comedy slots.)

    A big pile of tapes I just rediscovered.

    I don’t have the time to miss television.

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    If you can hypnotise chickens, then surely you can hypnotise other animals. I set out to find out which ones. (All searches were done in Google using the Americanised ‘hypnotizing’ and limited to the first four results pages returned)-

    Ducks There was nothing about mesmerising waterfowl, but I did get links to Buffy fanfic written by someone called Ducks, the Mighty Ducks and Scrooge McDuck.

    Sheep I don’t know why I didn’t think of this one first. If you are going to shave your sheep you first need to hypnotise it, which is done by dancing the Lambada. (One of the most disturbing noises in nature is the sound of a sheep laughing.) In a nasty turn of events, the YuGiOh trading card game has A monstrous sheep with a long tail for hypnotizing enemies.

    Goats Nothing on hypnotising goats. This is only right and proper as goats are so much smarter than sheep. A goat will escape from its field to go and have a look around, a sheep will escape so it can stand on the other side of the fence bleating that it wants let back in.

    Pigeons A Pigeon Hypnotizing Machine has been suggested as a less expensive and more humane alternative to setting up anti pigeon turrets outside your bedroom window.

    Rats Nothing for rats, apart from a suggestion that the Pied Piper was mesmerising them with the sound of his flute.

    Lobster Hypnotising a lobster is not, whatever you may think, the most humane way to prepare it for boiling.

    Dogs Small Yappy Dogs (Schnausers) can be hypnotised so their teeth can be cleaned without using anaesthetic.

    Cats You wouldn’t think cats were susceptible, being such willful little buggers, but Nostradamus hypnotised them into jumping off bridges. They got their own back by breeding radioactive hypnotising kittens.

    And, finally, How to hypnotise small lizards.