Sunday, June 25, 2006

What the hell, Sofia?

Yessiree, life is good in Grenoble. But no time to write about that... Let me just say this: I unfortunately suffered my biggest cinematographic disappointment today. I went to see Sofia Coppola's Marie-Antoinette with very high expectations. After all, Sofia Coppola is an absolutely fantastic director whose past work I've greatly enjoyed, and Kirsten Dunst is a good actress (and incidentally features as #3 on my list of supremely beautiful women I will probably never sleep with).

However I found the film to be, despite good acting, well thought-out casting, and some great photography, extremely boring. This comes as a complete surprise, as Lost in Translation doesn't have much action either, but I believe it to be quite the masterpiece. However this film was just slow moving and boring, to the point where I walked out 3/4 of the way out, not wanting to waste much more time (plus, y'sorta know what's going to happen at the end). Quite a shocker, given the wealth of content to write about. Marie-Antoinette being quite an interesting historical character, I regret that Sofia Coppola was unable to display her usual talent in painting a moving picture of her.

Actually, that's a bit unfair. I think everything was excellent except for the absence of a hook to keep the movie interesting (and I dont' really require that much). Cinematographic Parnassianism just doesn't work when it's pushed to the extreme.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Hey hey... I'm currently in the airport terminal, waiting for my plane back to Paris. Somehow I stumbled onto a wifi network offering free internet. Funny thing is, I really did just stumble upon it... honest. I can't send email from but everything else works. Anyway, never look a gift horse in the mouth, life is good (and I can feed my addiction to checking my mail/stocks/forums/weird hat fetish site/etc...)

I moved out today. It'd been a good year in Brandreth Close. It's also been a painfully annoying one in some ways which I won't go into here. So no regrets, but I think I have pretty good reasons to look forward to next term, for house-related reasons, and others as well. Should be good.

But first, summer time! Gonna go down to Grenoble visit some good friends this weekend, then back up to Paris for a few days, then over to Easton for a few days, then up to Boston for a few days (to visit the city, and check out MIT), then back to France again for a month and a half of reading, writing, and preparing a conference. T'will be smashing.

Woops, time to go. Boarding call. See you all later!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Last items on the checklist

Phew! Finally got everything packed up and up in the new house, with the help of my housemate Lex. We also had those bastards from the Broomhill Property Shop come by for a visit today. Put in plain words, they are are quite a bunch of dishonest rectal orifices (in polite terms), with the possible exception the their secretaries. If you're in Sheffield and are looking for a house, I strongly recommend that you steer clear of them, as they're money-grabbing conmen (well... perhaps that's a bit harsh, but really only by a few notches).

So I cleaned my room out today, and am getting ready to leave. I'm really looking forward to moving into a house which doesn't look like a converted youth hostel, with a working wireless connection, and without the bloody soulless lying idiot of a landlord. In a few days, I'll be kicking back and relaxing in Grenoble and in Paris. Good times...

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Socks on the Windowsill

Not wanting to break the established paradigm set by weeks of whining about exams, I feel it is my duty to do likewise about the current task at hand. If there's one thing I hate more than administrative work, and bit less than exams, it's moving/packing. I've had to do it quite a few times, but the last few times were particularly annoying/stressful (mainly because I had to actually do some work, instead of watching my parents pack up the house while I put a few belongings and my teddy bear into my little backpack).

I always feel it is more difficult for me than it is for my housemates and friends. Their parents come along with their big cars, and they literally stuff their things straight from their room into the boot and drive off to their homes where they can stockpile it for the summer until they move back. I, on the other hand, have to play an intricate game of three dimensional tetris, in that I must tightly pack all my belongings into a few boxes and suitcases. Furthermore, I also have to find a place to stash all this rubbish. Last year I somehow managed to bring part of my belongings home, and put the rest into boxes in the cellar of my former hall of residence. Alas that is no longer an option, and I have had to come up with an alternate solution, which was to stash all my belonging in the cellar of next year's house (with the permission of the current outgoing tenants and that of the landlord). However, next year's house is about a mile away, up very very steep hills all the way (think San Francisco). Considering that, and the fact I have more stuff this year than the last, and that I can't actually carry some of the boxes I packed, a car is very much needed. To not help things, I can't rent one here, and none of my friends have one available. I reckon it would require about 4 taxi rides, so forth and back, that would add up to a cost of about £40 ($80... ouch). I'll work something out, I think. But this is by all means not a very pleasant time.

And as the little added extra, I have to clean my room and part of the house, and it's bloody hot and humid.


Thursday, June 15, 2006

Football and more Colleges

I watched the England match in a proper pub today, and got a first-hand taste of the traditionally english yobbery. People got seriously worked up when England wasn't scoring, and when England snatched a last-minute 2-0, many nearly burst into tears of joy, then prompty either vomited or broke out into fights due to the considerably amount of alcohol ingested. The match itself was not exceptional, nor was my enthusiasm for it in the first place, but despite being glad to leave, I considered it all to be a rather spiffing experience... one that I shan't commit to again, I think.

After the match, I was supposed to go have dinner with Yorick at the Fellows' Dinner at Balliol College. Unfortunately, he was feeling ill this morning, and we had to cancel. Not that I really mind... I mean, this was really la cerise sur le gateau for this visit (plus, I didn't expect it either), and he's already treated me to two college lunches, and I managed to accomplish what I came to Oxford for (visiting colleges), so no worries. Maybe next time...

Speaking of colleges, I visited a few more colleges today, including Christ Church (for the third time, now). Christ Church is truly lovely, and leaves me hesitating which ones to ask for in my application. Naturally my first concern should be actually getting into Oxford, but as far as that goes, it's all pretty much alea jacta est for me. I might re-write and expand some past papers to submit as writing samples, and I'll have some time to beef up my CV a bit, but as far as exams go, all I can do is pray that the most recent ones went well 'cause I'll have had all my marks (seeing as I won't have received next term's exam marks by the time my application is processed). After that, should I be accepted, all further marks will only go towards getting a scholarship and/or AHRB funding.

But back to colleges. So few choices, so many to choose. I think I'll apply for University College as first choice, followed by Christ Church as second, although I might go for Balliol as second. They're all really nice, and offer interesting scholarships. University College, though, offers more for my profile, and usually offers two years of in college accomodation, at least. Tempting, tempting... I bet there's a hell of a lot of competition for it, though. Although at least one of the college fellows specialises in my area of interest, so maybe that will help. Wait and see, I guess. I'll be well chuffed if I get accepted by the university at all, so I can't really be picky (although I would "loathe", well not really, but "like a bit less" to be stuck in a modern graduate only college... a bit less fun, isn't it).

Oh well, back to Sheffield tomorrow. Gotta pack up over the weekend, and get my boxes to my new house. Ugh, I really hate moving and packing up. Gotta be done. And then, it's off to Paris, then off to Grenoble, then off to Paris, then off to the US, and then off to Paris again for a summer of cramming, working, writing, applying, reading, and lazing about...

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Freedom and Colleges

Finally free from the culling crush of exams, I've been spending the last few days sleeping in and being fairly useless. I somehow managed to forgo the completion of any non-BUPC-related to-dos (namely preparing to move), and am probably going to be looking forward to a pretty stressful week starting friday. Yay.

But until then, it's relaxation time. I took a train to Oxford yesterday (monday), where I will be spending a few days relaxing and enjoying the company of people smarter than I. So far it's been a nice change of pace from exams: last night, I went out for drinks with a few students from Magdalen College School, and greatly enjoyed the impressive knowledge of all subjects (including my own) they had to display. Then today I took a stroll around Jericho (not the one on the West Bank), had lunch with Yorick at Balliol College, where I am considering applying for postgraduate studies (well technically one really only applies to the department, and college applications are a pastoral matter). It was a bit more "modern" than I expected, having been considerably rebuilt at the end of the 19th, and during the 20th centuries (think Princeton-type architecture... it's not bad), but still quite pleasing (although not as quaint as some other genuinely older buildings, like those of Christ Church or Magdalen, which are absolutely gorgeous). I also got a quick-ish visit of the Oxford Internet Institute, which served as a convenient backdoor into Balliol.

On top of that, there was must discussion on Language and potential PhD (or hopefully DPhil) topics going around. I got to read through a rather quirky yet not uninteresting draft of a paper discussing (or perhaps just postulating) philosophical musings on matters of computational linguistics. Just two days ago, I doubt I would have ever predicted I would be keen on doing so so soon after the exams, but I admit it was quite an enjoyable experience.

Oxford is indeed a beautiful place, perhaps the most beautiful city I've visited anywhere. This statement could, of course, be linked to the good company and glorious weather (perhaps a bit hot on monday, but brief rainshowers today really brought it back down to a tolerable level). But then again, old buildings, canals, people in weird robes, loads of pedestrian streets, good schools, good colleges, bizarre shops, loads of public lectures and concerts, and all this only 45 minutes away from London... I think such statements are not entirely unfounded. I truly hope I get a place here for postgraduate studies. Time to start bribi...errr preparing applications.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Call of the Sirens

First of all, if you have a minute, check out the galleries on Garret Izumi's Website. A rather a brilliant photographer, he did a wondeful series of black and white stills of air raid sirens in LA. I appreciate the sense of silence and static I get from his shots, which contrasts quite well with the blaring tone the sirens must once have produced. Good stuff, give it a look.

Other noteworthy snapshot worth a looksie are those of Olly Dack, from the UK. I've included, with his permission, a few pictures of his I think are particularily noteworthy (don't forget to click on them to see them in full size).

I really liked this one, not only because I'm a sucker for old stone, but because it provides an interesting sense of depth. Have you ever been in a cathedral and had a slight spell of vertigo when looking straight up? The slight fuzziness of the flag in the foreground, and receding darkness of the ceiling create a satisfactorily realistic sense of immersion, something I find frequenly lacking in amateur photography.

It's fair to say, I think, that close-ups are one of Olly's fort├ęs. The tone of this picture draw the eye to the sharply defined centre of the flower, while the periphery of the petals (and, more understandably, the background) shift out of focus, replicating a certain sense of natural vision.

It wouldn't be a complete blog post without my friend Jez's hideous face. On a more serious note, I once more appreciate the focus brought by the colouration of the pupils, which give an impression of intentionality you don't always get from your average portrait. Although the natural focal point is the eyes, the actual object of the picture seems to lie outside the boundaries of the frame. The eye tends to follow the subjects gaze, giving the whole picture a sense of motion, of dynamism which is enhanced by the contrast in luminosity, and the forward-leaning of the head. A brilliant picture, although the man could use a shave (although who am I to talk of facial hair)...

I haven't included them here since I wanted to focus mostly on the black and white shots, but do checkout his wildlife series, which display a certain knack for capturing things in motion well. Some very impressive and promising work there...

NB: Pictures in this post are © Olly Dack.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M...

... except it's thursday, and thank god it's not 3AM yet, and I'm already ready to hit the hay...

If in 10+ years someone stupid enough to ask me for advice asks me when I first started feeling like a student/academic, I'd probably answer "When I found myself underslept, half-conscious, covered in pages of scrawled notes, lying on my book-strewn unsheeted bed with the desklight on, and with a strong desire to die (... to sleep, perchance to dream) while nursing a half empty glass of liquor" and it would be half true.

Productive day, actually. Got my exam essay plans done, and I'm pretty happy with them. Now I need to start researching my philosophy of mind papers. Looks like I might actually be able to fit everything into my schedule nicely.

On a side note: I'm very sad to announce that my iPod nano did not survive its brave encounter with the washing machine.
A silent tribute...

Edit: I know, I know, I got the date wrong. The first date should be "25/12/05". Can't edit it now, because I saved without layers, and I'm shite with this sort of thing. My bad.

On a more serious note, gotta wait till I get back to France to get it fixed. Damn specific warranty papers... Oh well. It's my fault, really...