Movie Shorts

We went to the cinema on Saturday to see the new Indiana Jones movie. Since we went to a matinee, the tickets were just $7.00. This seems like good value, but what made it truly outstanding was that we not only got to see Harrison Ford back as the fedora wearing archeology professor, but several other films.

No, this was not a return to the double features that I recall from my childhood, but the habit of putting a summary of the entire film into the trailer. In the case of comedies they also include every joke, so when you get to see the film all that is new is the padding between the all too familiar laughs. A trailer should pique the interest and not represent a visual equivalent of Cliffs Notes.

One of the most poorly judged examples of the very joke from the film model was for “Stranger Than Fiction”, which was not the zany Will Ferrell comedy that one was led to believe, but a far better and more involved piece of celluloid. However, those that went to see more of the same gags in the trailer may well have been disappointed by the far dryer tone of the complete piece.

Below is a thirty year old example of a trailer that captures the atmosphere of the film, but gives away nothing. If it was made today, I am sure it would include the stomach scene and several close-ups of the alien; just as Children of Men had its own key stomach moment included in the trailer.

An excellent summary of the modern movie trailer is contained in the trailer for the movie adaptation of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Published in: on 29 May, 2008 at 19:48  Comments (4)  

Fake Beer

One of the less believable stories that I read last week was that a company in North Carolina were selling kegs of beer with fake labels. Reading that summary you might assume that they were passing their beer off as some fine European lager, but no they were claiming that it was Bud Light. It is shocking to think that there is a beer so bad, so flavourless that Bud Light was seen as an improvement.

Published in: on 26 May, 2008 at 19:03  Comments (1)  

Fast Flights

There has been some recent research reported on NPR and on various web sites that you can recover from jet-lag more quickly if you fast yourself for sixteen hours. The article quotes all sorts of medical jargon like “circadian clock”, but I suspect that this an elaborate ruse to allow the airlines to stop serving food on trans-continental flights. I can be very picky about the medical advice I accept, despite the suspicious origin, I believe the University of Bordeaux’s research into the health benefits of red wine.

Published in: on 26 May, 2008 at 18:47  Comments (1)  

Holiday Weather

I felt as though I had slipped back into the UK on Saturday. It is a holiday weekend here in the US too and for the first time in several months we had rain. The almost perfect correlation between inclement weather and bank holidays is an English institution and it was odd to see it reproduced here. The sense of familiarity did not last beyond the day; back to sunshine and blue skies today.

Published in: on 25 May, 2008 at 11:13  Comments (1)  


John Kelly in his Voxford blog recently recounted the story of a bus journey from Oxford to Cambridge. The bus traversed seventy-one roundabouts; he kept a tally. He seems to think that it was surprising that he encountered ten in Milton Keynes alone. Since there are about three hundred roundabouts in the town, going round ten as you pass through seems far from surprising.

I do understand why an American does feel that this number of roundabouts is worth noting, as they are extremely uncommon road junctions here in the US. There are about 1000 roundabouts in the country as of January 2006, with ten percent of them in the state of Utah ( The city of Fairfield has just one, which is outside the urban area in the farm land that borders the freeway. It is the only roundabout that I know of in the area.

In the US junctions four way Stop signs or traffic lights are more commonly used. This is despite evidence from the California traffic authority that roundabouts reduce accidents and delays at junctions compared to those methods.

One of my colleagues at work who has recently spent a lot of time in the UK has observed nother advantage – if you are not sure which way to go at a juction the roundabout allows you the opportunity to go round a few times while you reach a decision.

Published in: on 23 May, 2008 at 21:25  Leave a Comment  

Prime Rib

I went out for a meal after work today with several colleagues, including a couple who were visiting from the UK. The restaurant at which we ate specializes in Prime Rib. This is a cut of beef that I have never seen in the UK. It is served as a very thick slice of roast beef cut, as the name suggests from the rib. It does seem odd that when beef is served so often in both countries that there should be a cut that is unique to the US.

Published in: on 20 May, 2008 at 21:44  Comments (3)  

Great chieftain o’ the puddin-race!

In my recent post on my holiday back in the UK, I mentioned that I had eaten various foods that were tricky to get here in the US. I had not realized at the time that one of those foods is actually banned here in the US. It is illegal to import haggis into the US. The ban was put in place in 1989 because of concerns about BSE. This seems odd, as Haggis is made from sheep; the lungs, liver, and heart wrapped in the stomach to be precise.

I imagine this restriction is a hardship to those of Scottish descent. Haggis is the centre of Burns Night celebrations where it will be piped into the room before Robert Burns “Ode to the Haggis” is read.

The US concerns about Mad Cow do seem to have been very specific, as they still allowed the British Prime Minister at the time to enter the country.

Published in: on 20 May, 2008 at 7:33  Comments (1)  

Indiana Jones and the Lego Crusade

When I was a kid my father and I used to make Lego models of buildings like tower bricks. Here in the US, as tradition demands, everything is larger. A bunch of Bay Area geeks used five million Lego bricks to build a replica of the boulder from the Indiana Jones movie and then recreated the famous scene, as can be seen here.

Published in: on 19 May, 2008 at 22:01  Comments (1)  

Obscene Coffee

A couple of years ago there was a major storm in the US media after Janet Jackson’s nipple was seen at the Superbowl halftime show. This was a reminder of the puritanical streak that runs deep in America ever seen since the Pilgrims landed in the seventeenth century. Any hint of nudity or bad language is strictly controlled on network TV, although the same limitations do not apply to cable channels as can be seen and heard on shows such as Dexter.

This week there was a story that further illustrated, what to European sensibilities, seems a totally bizarre fear of the human form. A church group in California is calling for a boycott of Starbucks because of the image that is appearing on their cups to promote their new regular coffee brew. What I found especially intriguing is the quote “has a naked woman on it with her legs spread like a prostitute”. The picture is clearly of a mermaid, so I am not sure what sort of dirty mind sees the fish tails as sexually provocative.

Published in: on 17 May, 2008 at 9:18  Comments (1)  

Time to Fly

A combination of frequently used aircraft with short turn rounds, extreme weather conditions, and airlines operating close to the edge of insolvency means that delays in the US seem a lot worse than back in the UK. This view may be distorted by the fact that when I was in the UK, most of my flights were long haul ones; which tend to run on time as there is a longer turn round and they represent the airlines’ most lucrative operations. I have come across a website that allows you to look at average delays for particular routes by the time of day. This might be useful, but in my experience one tends to book flights based on cost and the convenience of the time; I am not show knowing that there was a 10% higher chance of delay would have a significant impact on the flight booked.

Published in: on 9 May, 2008 at 7:30  Leave a Comment