Monday, 25 January 2010

The Couples Retreat

The Couples Retreat – quasi review

This is not a film I would have gone to see but for the fact I am in Ghana and the other options were the Princess and the Frog, Alvin and The Chipmunks (the Squeakquel – Lord preserve us), Holmes (which I have seen) and Law abiding Citizen which just didn’t grab me.

Now it has come to my attention that things are edited for quite a conservative Ghanaian market. For instance we did not see Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) swanning around in her Victoriana underwear in Holmes and I think maybe they edited out other stuff that slowed the pace of the story making last weeks film review kind of null and void if you live outside Ghana but I will press on just in case anyone reads these things and wants to know how the Ghana version rates.

The couples retreat:

Genre: US Style Romantic Comedy/ Romcom (ie not written by Richard Curtis)

Stars: Vince Vaughan; Jean Reno, Kristin Davis (the brunette from Sex in the City you know the one), Peter Serafinowicz (not technically a star but go on do the voice…you know the voice…go on do it the one from Spaced….Just do the voice Pete!!!)

Plot: Couples A C D are conned into going on a couples counselling week by couple B who have “issues”. They are on Island West run by Marcel (Reno); with overly polite bureaucratic anglophile Sctanley (Serafinowicz) as the kill joy programme manager. There is a singles inland East where nubile young things dance the night a way. Is there hope of reconciliation or is it going to be an Island hopping bed hopping romp (no pun intended).

Well I have to say I liked it, I can’t say I loved because I think it sits in the shade of films like Old Skool, which was funnier, more poignant, slightly more crass (in a good way) and was my first brush with Ellen Pompeo and Will Ferrell. I don’t mean I brushed Will Ferrell, or Ellen Pompeo for that matter but to that point I hadn’t seen either of them and now I rate them quite highly. This is not a film of American Pie style innuendo (at least not in Ghana) and it has laughs but more cerebral ones. It gently scrapes at the humour and pain of real marriages and not Hollywood ones. Would this appeal to anyone not married – I am not sure. Certainly marriage has been treated with a healthy respect by Messrs Vaughan et al. This could be a case of Vaughan growing with his audience, the wedding crashers of yesterday (you know who you are Cross!!!) are now the married family men of today.

Would I go to see it again? Yes outside of Ghana just to see if it is an entirely different film.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Old bug eyes is back.

Yellow and black to yellow and black gives you twin headlamps and headlamps is what Enduros are about...that and desert raiding.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

The Rise of the Tenere

It appears I bought a Tenere from someone who knows less about bikes than I do. Despite Davenport’s insistence that I try and install a carb float on my old KMX125, I haven’t really grasped the essence of fixing your own. In that instance it appears that the bike n beer session may have prospered from less beer and more bike know how. You can imagine our joy when we managed to fit the float and kick the bike over.....and at the time we could only imagine it; as the second we kicked the bike over it revved way beyond normal parameters and the kill switch got hit before we got sprayed with molten Kawasaki.

Mad Jim, who bless him may be incontinent on your furniture after absinthe (allegedly) but is pretty good with bikes later informed us from the hospital to which all our bikes used to go that we had indeed fitted the carb up the wrong way. Who knew they had a way?? Certainly not me.

So I have embarked on restoring a slightly worn Tenere 660 (now to be known as The Mighty Tenere) bought from a man by the side of the road in Tema. I ought to explain I am in Ghana. So there is no Mad Jim back up or Davenport pontification out here it is just me and the machine.....oh and Robbo who has taken The Mighty Tenere for a quick burn and has fixed some bikes before but used to ask his mate’s dad for the difficult answers. I figure though as a source of moral support he could be invaluable.

The first set back was the registration and I say the first because I expect more not because this has already become a tale of woe. Normally when you buy a bike in the UK he gives you the reg papers signs his bit you sign yours and away you go happy as Larry. At worst, as in the case I lost the papers to my Varadero before selling it, you write a polite letter to the DVLA and they rectify the problem. Not so Ghana, it involves many many visits to people places and offices only to find out that the guy you bought it from for USD1600 wasn’t in a place to sell it; who was is anyone’s guess. I will keep you posted on this factor.

So today after spending a little time just getting the thing to fire with my team of pushers; namely the driving and grounds staff of Ethimex SA Ghana Branch. I have had a closer look at the electrics. Now I did ask for counsel from Facebook friends as to whether to go the trial and error route or the manual route. They wisely almost exclusively said manual; but the Davenport factor came in and I just wanted to tinker. This is crazy as he helped me fit a float upside down and often has bikes in various states of disrepair (never buy a bike with a warranty it spoils the fun). So I have gone the trial and error route n the initial stages. The fairing os off and neatly stacked.Results:

1.Yellow and black wire not attached to yellow and black wire; here in lies the answer to why only one of the iconic twin headlights of desert raider bikes works.

2.There is a small grey wire which is attached at neither end, use....pretty obscure but I have removed it and as long as it wasn’t balancing the bike I think we can live with it.

3.Dangling red and black end (insert your own gag here) yes it seems the “mechanic” that sold me The Mighty Tenere isn’t big on connecting two ends of a cable. Infact I think from discovery four that potentially the light came from a different bike.

4.The fairing mounting is sheared off at the base giving it a flappy effect in anything other than first gear - I think somebody has dropped this at some point.

5.There is a connecter just above the crank case that doesn’t appear to be connecting.

So down to Game, the local superstore to pick up epoxy resin, electrical tape, tie wraps and gaffa tape. Oh yes there will be tie wrap and gaffa action that would make a Hollywod hostage taking bank job film look tame. So to the Batmobile!!! Well the pick up.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

The shack a reasoned response

The URL is a talk by Mike Driscoll a chruch leader in...erm somewhere. He effectively attacks another Christian in words; this is my response.

Heretical is a big word and I would edge away from judgment of anyone particularly with this word. I think this attack on The Shack goes to show that doctrine often only goes to divide.

I think WP Young was trying to describe how he related to the trinity. I don't agree with everything in The Shack but I certainly don't see it as damaging to God. God knows who he is and if people come to God through this book and then discover him to be different they still have a relationship.

Mark Driscoll offers the huge question at the end "Who is God" - this can only be hinted at in books - even the bible. If we could capture God on paper he would be pretty mediocre; I can't even capture my wife on paper.

Sure there are negatives in the book and some of them don't stand up to theological scrutiny. There are though positives in the fallabilities of this novel. Maybe God does not come to earth as an African American woman - his ways are not my ways so I don't profess to know if he can or would - but the Poppa character does show that God is a loving tender God who is prepared to meet as where we are not where we should be.

And maybe Sayaru (or however you spell it) is only a touch of what the Holy Spirit is but the action in the garden of uprooting toplant something beautiful and new is a great way to see the pain we sometimes feel as God works at changing us into his likeness.

I don't have to agree with Mark Driscoll or William Paul Young to know that they are both searching for the heart of God. I pray blessings on them both and that God might prevail in their lives and bless their ministries.

Let's step away from doctrine which devides us and into relationship which allows for ongoing discussion revelation and growth.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

American Politics Day

For some reason today is American politics day, it may be that this is because American politics are more interesting than the grim inevitability I sense in UK politics - where anyone with a slogan "Yes we can" would have a little man following him around explaining that although technically we can we probably won't due to leaves on the line. Nor am I going to try and fathom the unfathomable politics of Ghana my home for the moment.

UNIVERSAL would have thought that Barack Obama had suggested paying for healthcare for the Universe, martians included. Instead he proposed a modest reform to ensure that the land of the free meant free healthcare. I live in Ghana and the BBC Worldservice (Yes I am approaching mediocrity, or expat eccentricity can't decide that London calling) so as I was saying the BBC Worldservice is broadcasting disgusted of Tennesse's attitude to the principal that everyone should get healthcare. The average Ghanain doesn't get this, I mean you pay for everything here and if you don't have the money to pay you go are taken hostage until you can. The step from hospital to hostage is a short one. I mean they literally hold you prisoner in the grounds of the hospital until someone pays your bill. Universal healthcare is a good thing no?

I am not even going to take a stab in the dark at what kind of fear makes Americans so selfish as to not to want to fund a healthcare system to treat one another. I mean i might cough Macarthyism but I really would only cough it because it just seems that there is a disproportionate emotional attachment to not help the weaker guy that I don't get. Don't get me wrong there have been some amazing philanthropists, Getty, Rockerfeller and even Bill Gates but as a nation there is a selfishness that defies belief. Democracy surely suggest that people not only have rights as a citizen but also responsibilites to the citizen. My concern is that the UK has followed suit voting for ever diminishing taxes; eyes averted the ever diminshing services and the ever growing underclass.

A return to the abortion issue

So Obama won and all the BBC world service seems to want to play is soundbites of the indignant republican. I was talking with L about Obama's policy on abortion. His personal outlook is that it is wrong from a moral and faith perspective but as a political position he understands that each must pursue his own conviction. To criminalise abortion only actually creates criminals, we can look at 1970/80's Eire to know that abortion went underground, women got sick, died and were jailed for living in fear of shame.

I guess it is important that I share where I am coming from, I would love to see a world where every pregnancy and pregnant woman was supported so whole heartedly by society that there was no potential for shame, suffering or loneliness. Yup that is essentially pro-life (very conservative of me eh?) - but it is an acknowledgement that this is a decision that the whole of society must make; it is not about individuals chosing life. It is about community reforming to a point where judgement falls away in the face of love. Not free love but the gritty real love of recognising someone's intrinsic worth beyond the mistakes they make. The gritty of love of living out the commitment to the unborn child that so many profess but when it comes to support of the mother shy away from. I applaud centres which offer all sides of the argument and gather volunteers that say we will stand with you in the hour of your need and I pray that those who walk in open protest at abortion do so in love and not judgement and become part of the solution and not the problem.

I am not for changing the law in the UK or anywhere else at the moment not beacuse I believe that abortion is right but because I think the law is a lapdog. I think it is in "Much Ado About Nothing" that one of Shakespeare's characters says that the law is an ass - it could have been Falstaff in a history play- , for me this works at two levels, the first level is that of a fool. For the scripting it works, the law is an ass and that is the affront to the law which the character wishes to invoke but I think the law is an ass because it is a beast of burden. The law changes nothing, I argued this with L and she sited William Wilberforce's struggle against slavery. Wilberforce pushed through a law that changed the face of a race....or did he? I am not arguing that William Wilberforce's contribution made slavery an abhorrent thing in society, I am arguing that the law was the lapdog to that social change. Wilberforce made himself sick in the pursuit of this counter cultural ideal. He triumphed and the world we know today where Obama has become president owes much to Wilberforce. The law did not change what society did it reflected it, Wilberforce changed society's perception not the law. The law is that beast of burden that carries the aspirations of a society that they might live in a world of moral agreement, not necessarily a state of heightened moral awareness and perfection but perhaps an agreed state of moral decline. Rather bleak eh? I think not i think it put's the challenge on those who care to find constructive ways of changing society and not punitive ones. If the law changes before society does we only create criminals; I think this is the prevalent state of UK politics and law making at the moment and it may reflect the rest of the western world. The law has become arrogant and thought that itself not the ass of burden but a thoroughbred stallion capable of carrying humanity, and we have come to believe it. Rise up the social transformers, that want society to change through love understanding and empathy. Rise up those would have righteous anger like Wilberforce. Those who can deliver a loving rebuke and then cradle those they have rebuked and offer them support and caring in walking out the conviction of that rebuke; stand up! The law IS an ass let us not entrust our future to a beast of burden but take it upon our own hands with integrity, dignity and urgent desire to society healed from within. Let's do it in love and not in judgment, the law brings only judgement.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Coke and Mentos Bomb

It is a quiet after noon and I have been you tubing and have found the coke and mentos bomb phenomena in the US. It even made it to mythbusters, discovery channels science for people.....well probably science for folk who smoke weed.

Once I had got past the fact that Americans mispronounce mentos as mentos....hold on that doesn't work. Erm they kind pronounce it as if it has a double 's' like doss, toss or Jonathon Woss. We brits favour the Mentoes sounding version with the oh - as in "oh what a surprise American's using sugary food stuffs to make armaments". There is absolutely no guidance over pronunciation on the packet going prove that the manufacturer don't give a toes about how we pronounce stuff as long as we just keep buying it.

Anyway back to my point, the US is clearly awash with both sugary foods and armament, I guess some sparky kids at school figured that probably eventually the human race would be crowded out of North American by their dual passion for sugar and munitions and combine the two. I might say at this point sparky kids overloaded with sugar creating munitions scares me - but hey said sparky kids have worked out you can launch a 2 litre coke bottle through the air in a ballistic parabola just by adding mentos. Well it is better than them surfing the net for recipes for C4 I guess.

You would think by my patronising tone to this point that I probably didn't think highly of these kids; but to be honest I like the shiny faced wide eyed glucose fuelled little scamps and I am off to the nearest convenience store to procure the necessary items before introducing my neighbours to the joys of sugar based explosives.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Grow Your Own Update II

Exciting News:

The two Salad Rocket seedlings have germinated and broken through, the first is strong and doing well but the second looks a little bent and gnarled, we await the outcome of the day. I have placed Team Veg on a small table in some moderate sunlight...the unfortunate thing about moderate sunlight here is that it quickly becomes blazing hot.

Fattah our gardner has become very interested in my little horticultural project and has already dubbed Team Veg's table the Nursery. He plans to construct beds to house the infant plants. I am not entirely happy with this as this is my hobby and I am keen to retain all rights to the sense of acheivement and indeed eating rights. That said this is one of the first things Fattah has truly engaged in so it seems crazy to desuade him.

Infancy beds...and I am pretty sure this is not a standard gardening term..... are being constructed behind the house in big tin troughs. The soil we have been sold is of pretty poor quality filled with dead wood and material that realistically will not biodegrade quickly in this climate. Which brings us on to compost.

I have to be honest compost brings back memories of the grass pile at the end of our garden when I was a child. The pros of this compost pile were three fold:

a. Useful for hiding behind in hide and seek.

b. Useful for treating as a castle and standing on top of.

c. Handy source of pollen rich material to throw at hay-fevered sister.

the cons:

a. Sooner or late when hiding behind a compost pile the smell of the leaching dampness of rotting vegetation gets the better of you. Very little can be worse (in purely compost terms) than leaning on a thin layer of dry grass cuttings only to get a hand full of gunk or kneeling only to arise with damp gunky kneed.

b. When King of the compost castle there was an inevitability to the shoe full of grass the lingered about with you for the rest of the day. The most frustrating element was when switching from compost based games to running based games. The running action would undoubtedly work the grass into areas unreachable with out shoe removal. Many is the time I have face planted through trying to run whilst also scratching at loose dried grass in my socks. I think it gave me the air of enraged Quasimodo.


All this leaves me a little apathetic about compost, but Mark Diaconc is sure that compost is the root to better veg.....although he does advise adding urine in a 4 to 1 ratio with water to your compost! I must seek the counsel of the mighty Goggle. Yes Goggle will have the answer, is urine in 35 degree heat a viable composting tool?

Monday, 11 January 2010

Grow your own update I

Well as of this morning no real action. I have watered and even talked to the seeds. I have explained my desire for them to germinate and fulfil their potential. A little of me wants to dig around to see if the little chaps and potentially chapesses have a little sprout of life. In David Attenborough films they grow so quickly with that time lapse photography but still no joy in the real world.

Perhaps I could investigate the germination periods on google? Hmmphhhh - the sound of mild disatisfaction of 1980's comics. I read up on mint, sowing depths, advice on thining, repotting and even recipes but no timeline for germination. This not being adequately frustrating it turns out that "Mint grows like wildfire"......not on my watch it doesn't!!!!

Saturday, 9 January 2010

SHERLOCK HOLMES - Downey and Law Style

I wanted to like this film, I really wanted to like it. I never bought it that genius would wear a deer stalker hat. I never thought the a sleuth would want a cuddly middle aged side kick. So an irrepresibly random Downey and Law as an Afghan War Veteran (the original one not the latest one) it looked so good....but it didn't deliver.

It wallowed..I mean it really wallowed no manner of action scenes and CGI explosions could really compensate for the lack of pace. There was absolutely no tension even as the whole of parliament is about to be gassed. The fact that some one thought that adding mission impossible style action sequences in essentially a period drama baffles me. Bad scripting or bad editing I just can't say potentially even bad directing. The acting was good Downey made the best of a paper thin character (why exactly does London's top crime detector insist on bare knuckle boxing?) and Jude Law equally did as much as he could with this dire lolloping story.

By the end of it I just didn't care..... it is open for sequel with the mysterious moriarty still bent on mischief but to my mind, Holmes better investigate the Crime against Conan Doyle's work before a sequel.

Grow Your Own

Now it may be that 20 years later my memories of grow your own are a botched attempt by Jim Morrison (yes that was his real name) to grow cannabis at the age of 16 - under lights of course 60 watt bulbs to be precise but this is not what I am on about.

I have returned to Ghana with a vigour to do the River Cottage thing, not start a farm per se or to start a campaign to free the chickens of the world - although I totally behind the chicken out campaign and applaud free range farmers.

I am talking of the ten small pots and one window sill planter full of .....well muck. It seems that plants like muck. My wife bought me Mark Diacono's Veg Patch book and well I am inspired. Muck is not muck anymore it is soil and I am looking for a good tilth. Tilth is not a word I had heard before Mr Diacono brought it to me. This is not however about growing a horticultural vocabulary this is about the ten contenders sat in small pots in our lounge.

Chives, Mint, Parsely, Rocket, Lettuce, Spinach, Basil, Rosemary, Pot these are not potential names for some 'A' listers child although Mint Beckham does have a certain ring to it - the y are in fact the seeds which I know hope are starting to germinate as I type.

This is effectively like reality TV but without prizes and no audience vote. You place a seed which seems unfeasibly small in to an equally small depression in your prime tilth, cover it and hope. Who will be first to germinate?