Bowling is a Strenuous Sport Now?

My daughter Meg and her significant other Max invited me to a night of bowling; Max’s treat. As I am completely unable to turn anything down that is free; I leapt at the offer.

I was a bit hesitant at first though. I had not bowled in more years than I care to remember and back then I was not a great bowler, but a capable one. I could bowl almost silently with no loud crashes as the ball hit the middle of the lane. Things have obviously changed since I’d been an almost regular bowler. In the old days, you got told off for hurling the ball halfway down the lane.

Not now. I was about the only person who was bowling “quietly.” I was surrounded by the thuds of balls chucked ungracefully down the lanes. It almost sounded like bombs hitting, so much so that I felt like ducking for cover.

Still it was an enjoyable night and despite my protestations over my lack of practice and skill I managed to win two games and was well on the way to winning the third when our time ran out.

During the evening I only had one reminder of my age and that was when my knee “went” and I sort of hobbled my way to the line as I approached, ball in hand, to hopefully get a strike. I discovered that I wasn’t that bad even with the dodgy knee and I marvelled at the fact that I could even bowl at all. The last time I’d been down to a bowling alley you could still smoke as you played.

So the pleasant part of the evening was realising that I could still get the odd strike without smoking and without the aid of Anheuser Busch‘s Budweiser lager (beer). I guess it is sort of like riding a bicycle, you never really forget how to bowl.

The unpleasant part of the evening came the next day and the day after the next day. I felt like I had run the London marathon, twice. I went to roll out of bed the morning after our “bowl-a-thon” and wound up having to creep out slowly.

My catalogue of aches and pains started with my hips and moved on down my legs to my knees. I felt about a thousand years old and had definitely passed my “sell by” date. After taking my back pills it eased up enough that I was able to take my daily “heart” walk.

This morning, aka the day after the next day, I had the exact same experience upon waking. Creeping slowly out of bed was once again the order of the day and I was so sore that I actually cut my “heart” walk in half.

I am still amazed that the end result of such a non-strenuous activity could cause so much discomfort. A painful reminder of just how far I really have to go before I am even close to my old fitness level. It is a bit disconcerting.

Just as I am getting used to the steady daily improvement of energy levels and endurance levels, I go bowling and have a muscular set back that is as disturbing as it is amusing. I guess that before I go bowling again, I’d better train myself up for it.

Of course I could try something even less strenuous like competitive knitting although the damage to my wrists could guarantee that I never play the violin again. Perhaps Tiddly Winks or Jacks just to be on the safe side.

In reality though, I can be as competitive as I want on an on-line multi-player video game like COD or Black Ops II (which is just COD under a different name) and I will probably do that as soon as I’ve rested up from my one way excursion to Tesco.

I really would like to write more on the subject of my bowling night but it’s time for my session with some Deep Heat.

Now where did I put my Zimmer Frame

I may need this to get to the Tiddly Winks match…

Ghostquake: Haunted High (2012) TV Movie Rubbish

One of the “advantages” of living overseas is the ability to watch made for TV movies that are disguised as normal feature films. It is probably my own fault. I have a list of things I watch for: favourite directors, favourite actors, and whether the film is a horror film or not.

I am a sucker for horror films. The only other genre that comes close on my favourite’s list is westerns. But with westerns I am cynical and leery of new ones. Ever since the 1970’s when westerns became a gaunt shell of their former glory (mainly the introduction of the psychological element spelt the death knell of the western) I look at them with a jaundiced eye that wants to be surprised and pleased with what Hollywood has to offer.

Sometimes I get lucky; the Coen brothers and True Grit, their modern western No Country for Old Men and their noir western Blood Simple. Clint Eastwood and his film Unforgiven, or the cross genre film Cowboys and Aliens. All good and not a bit of dross anywhere, but, I do not take on face value anything that Hollywood trots out as a western as being good. Not, at least, until I’ve researched it…a lot.

But horror films are different. I invariably see a horror film and I’ll decide, like some overgrown wide-eyed Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, that this film is going to be good. “Look at who is in it,” or “Wow look who directed it,” or “That trailer is awesome.” And just like that, I walk into the world of the crap film all innocence and fresh-faced gormlessness.

Of course, these imported made for TV films are doubly disguised. At least in the US, you know from the get-go that it is a TV film. The real giveaway is that it is on TV and it is a “new” film. I don’t know if they have the quaint Movie of the Week anymore, but I’m sure there must be a modern equivalent.

I saw the title of this movie, Ghostquake and saw that one of my old favourites Danny Trejo was in it and that lovely alumni from Buffy and Angel Charisma Carpenter was in it as well, and I thought, “Well this must be pretty good, I mean, look who is in it.” And just like that, I paid a grand total of 3 pounds sterling for the film. New mind you not used or “pre-viewed” but new from Tesco’s; where most films go for between 10 and 20 pounds.

Danny Trejo one of the few times he’s not locked in the janitor’s closet.

I know what you are thinking, “Surely, the fact that it was only 3 pounds should have tipped you off.” But in my defence, I will state for the record that I have found some great films for mere pennies, thank you.

But not often and very rarely, okay?

A great clue as to how dreadful this film is can be gleaned by the fact it has taken me over 500 words to get around to talking about the thing.

Believe me when I tell you it is more than dreadful, it is almost beyond description. But in my attempt to save anyone else from the horror (pun intended) that is Ghostquake (or Haunted High as it was called on its television premiere, presumably on the Sy Fy channel) I will gamely try to discuss the film.

The film takes place in the fictional high school of Halloman. It is a preppy type “school uniform” school and it is haunted by the apparition of the old principal who was the leader of a satanic cult who killed students. His grandson is now attending the school and his presence combined with some cursed gold coins has caused his grandfather (and his evil sidekick, a demonic ex-student with a horrible complexion and very sharp teeth) to manifest and start killing the hapless students who are in the school after hours.

I had a good idea that this was a disguised made for TV film when I realised that there were no lingering shots of the dead students. There was not even a lot of gore. I knew for sure, when I started inadvertently putting in commercial breaks.

The level of acting (if you could even classify what most of the “actors” did as acting) was execrable and apart from Danny Trejo, who has a certain level of believability in most of what he does, the only other actor who even came close to “acting” was Charisma Carpenter.

Oh look! It’s Charisma Carpenter, now don’t blink or you’ll miss..Ah ya blinked.

Unfortunately Mademoiselle Carpenter was in the film for exactly one minute and thirty-two seconds. I know, because I timed it…twice. After meeting her maker by being half swallowed by a portion of the floor that looked suspiciously like that marshmallow stuff that comes in jars she never appears again, except as another name in the end credits.

Trejo made out a bit better as he made until the last reel, coming back as a ghostly avenger to drag the demon ex-principal to the hell that awaits all bad actors. Sadly he could not drag the rest of the cast with him.

I could spend another 1000 words talking about continuity lapses and sound problems (the main one being that the entire film sounded “looped”) and plot holes that were big enough to fly a Boeing 767 through. Not to mention the dreadful combination of over acting and wooden acting.

Most “bad” horror films have the slim redemption of at least being so bad that they are funny. I have seen quite a few of those and, oddly, they become favourites; almost as revered as the really good horror films. Ghostquake did not even come close to the “it’s so bad, it’s good” category.

In fact, I felt strongly like going to Tesco’s and demanding my 3 pounds back.

Final verdict: Avoid at all costs and if you see it, drive a stake though the packaging and burn it.

A rose under any other title would still stink like…NOT a rose.

The Tragic Case of James Bulger; Indecent Justice

On February 12 1993, 2-year-old James ‘Jamie’ Bulger was lead away by two 10-year-old lads while his mother paid for some chops for their tea. Two days later, his severed body was found on train tracks. He’d been savagely beaten and tortured and then as he was dying, he had been laid on the  tracks so that a train could hit his body.

The senseless and horrific death of a 2-year-old toddler shocked the nation and then the world. The police combed hours of CCTV footage and they spotted Jamie being led through the mall where his mum had purchased the chops. He was holding the hand of one of his killers.

The 2 boys responsible were arrested by the police and questioned after a neighbour of one of the lads had reported that Robert Thompson and his friend Jon Venables had skipped school on the day that Jamie was murdered and Robert had come home with blue paint on his jacket.

A tin of blue paint had been discovered near Jamie’s body.

The trial of Venables and Thompson began on 1 November 1993 and ended on 24 November 1993. The boys were given “life sentence” which in juvenile terms means that they would have to serve a minimum of 8 years of their sentence. Juveniles are sentenced differently from adults under English law. A “life sentence” means anything but.

Due to their young age (both lads were 10) the place of their “incarceration” was at a secure home or unit. Secure units are very different from a prison. Both lads “did well” and stayed at these units for their entire sentence.

In a move that stunned the public, in 2001 both lads were released from the secure units and given parole. They were given new identities; new passports, national insurance numbers and driving licenses, etc. The reports on both lads stressed that they were no longer a threat to the public.

It is interesting to note that both of the lad’s families were re-located and also given new identities while the trial was going on in order to protect them from the public’s outrage.

Despite the obvious indications that Jamie’s murder was sex related and that Thompson showed no remorse or culpability for Jamie’s murder either during the trial or later while he was incarcerated both boys were released with only one addition to their probationary licenses. That addition was that the parole officer should provide daily updates to their behaviour.

Not surprisingly Venables would be re-arrested in 2010 on charges of having indecent images of underage children on his computer and as that was a violation of his parole he was put back in prison. Proper prison this time and not the “nicey nicey” atmosphere of a secure unit.

Thompson has yet to re-offend. *At least as far as we know, he still has a protective anonymous cloak, courtesy of the courts.*

The aspect of this case that is so disgusting and that continues to shock and stun the general public is the amount of time and money the legal system has put toward guaranteeing the anonymity of these two offenders.

There was a worldwide injunction against the press that forbade any information about the two lads being published. Although this injunction was violated enough to tell the public that Venables was, in fact, back in prison and why.

But to the best of my knowledge, not one penny (or pence) was spent on aiding the family of James Bulger. The survivors of this horrific murder against a defenceless 2-year-old paid their own price. His parents Ralph and Denise both suffered from the strain of their ordeal and divorced.

The very idea of losing your child is too difficult to even imagine. The loss of your child by two other older children who were “coddled” by the system is even worse.

A few years back a couple of English “tabloid” newspapers featured a story on just how Juvenile prisoners are treated during their time of incarceration. A long list of “freebies” was listed (all of which is paid by the tax payer, and if you still don’t get it, that means by the victims and survivors of the crime committed) and that list included the use of PS3’s, PS2’s in the prisoners cells, Nintendo Wii‘s, televisions in their cells and day trips.

Incredibly this did not create an uproar. Instead the articles came out and after about three days, no one cared any longer. Despite the obvious message of “rewarding  bad behaviour instead of punishing it” the public’s reaction was not just disappointing, but puzzling.

It appears that more of the public have children incarcerated than children who are not. It appears that these parents are more than happy to have their criminal offspring set up with three square meals a day and all the benefits that the tax payer can afford.

If this is the case, it makes what happened to Jamie Bulger and his murderers obscene and indecent (and believe me there is a difference) and sadly, it does not appear that things are going to change any time soon.

Jamie’s father Ralph has finally broken his silence on his feelings about the whole thing. His book is on release and I can only hope that it provides some closure for the man and his ex-wife Denise. Hopefully the catharsis of writing this story will help him and anyone else in the predicament of seeing the criminals who’ve hurt their family living the proverbial “life of Riley.”

A big noise has been made by the government in this country about making prisons less enticing to criminals. But this is talking about the adult prisons. Juvenile prisons are governed by a different section of the Ministry of Justice and this section does not believe that juvenile offenders are anything more than misunderstood children.

Try telling that to Jamie Bulger’s family.

James Patrick Bulger (16 March 1990 – 12 February 1993)

All God’s Chillun Gots Phones

It just suddenly occurred to me this morning that everybody (and I mean everybody) has got a cell phone (or mobile phone if you’re English or European). Not only that, but, a good portion of these people have got an iPhone. If they do not have an iPhone, they have some other form of touch screen phone that uses the Android operating system.

I do not have either an iPhone or an Android operated touch screen phone. But I do have a mobile phone, a BlackBerry if you must know (and if you follow my blog you do know because I did a post about it) and as I said in my previous post, it’s almost too much phone for me to handle.

But here’s the interesting (or possibly disturbing) bit. Did you know that when you take a picture with your iPhone and upload via Instagram that the picture is automatically “marked” with a location code? This code is a boon to stalkers, cyber and otherwise. In essence where you take your photos is where you are. Easy to track and find.

And after checking just now, I’ve learned that Android pictures that are uploaded to the net also have the location of the picture. I also found out that you can turn off the location code part of your pictures on both operating systems.

On another track, most phones have GPS capability. I know I’ve used mine to get directions from where I am at the time. Just another great little device that also allows anyone like say a stalker find out where you are; or more helpfully the police if you are lost or missing.

In case you were trying to find me, I’m right here…

There are other ways for people to find out where you are though besides the location codes on your uploaded pictures; applications like foursquare, for example, allow you to Tweet where you are at that particular moment. If your stalker (sorry I mean friends) miss you at your current location they at least know that you frequent the place and have a good chance of catching you there (pun intended).

I seem to have a real “bug in my ear” about these modern-day communication devices that everyone seems to need. Oh and while I am on about the communication aspect of mobile phones, I’ll just mention how easy it is for a third-party to listen to your calls. I used the word party as a reference to the old “party” lines that the phone companies used in the old days. A party line meant you shared your landline with a group of other folks who could listen in on your phone calls, just like the mobile phone. Sorry, I know I’ve mentioned that twice now.

It’s no wonder that I feel like it is still 1984 and big brother is not only watching but the nosey bugger is listening as well. Modern technology is pretty great, but it is also intrusive. Not only that, but I am sure that the government likes being able to know where you are and what you are saying. Terrorist plots aside, these guys must know the best gossip about everyone who is someone.

The thing that amazes me more than the ability to find and listen to you while you have this mobile communication device on your body is the “about-face” on the “safety” of mobile phones.

A scant 10 years ago, scientists were warning about the “overuse” of mobile phones. They went on record stating that the things emitted too much radiation to be healthy (especially for the young and the elderly) and that they were basically cancerous tumours just waiting to happen. Not only that, but they were bad for your ears.

Now I don’t remember exactly but I am pretty sure the tumours were not ear related but brain related and all the information they trotted out was pretty scary. It was scary enough that I remember warning my then young daughter about using the thing too much.

But wait a minute; no one is talking about how hazardous the mobile phone is any longer.  It seems that all those tumours and ear damage have disappeared. I could not figure out why until I had a major epiphany while writing this post.

Now that's not scary...much.
Now that’s not scary…much.

People do not talk on their mobile phones nearly as much as they text on them.

Presumably that is why the scare mongering over the health threatening mobile phone has diminished. Not because the government want to keep tabs on us. (Even though we know that they really do) It is because that scant 10 years ago, the prophetic scientists could not know that texting would bypass talking on these “dangerous” devices.

I have yet to hear of one person who has gotten a life threatening tumour on their index finger from prolonged texting.

So the mobile phone continues to be a necessity for everyone over the age of 7? Presumably it is because I have seen children that young (and younger) talking on one and carrying it about; again one of the handier aspects of the GPS thing. I am sure that these young consumers even text on their mobiles, the spelling should not present a problem since texting does not require one to spell correctly.

Sorry, I really do need to wind this post up soon or it will cease being a pithy comment on mobile phones and their ubiquitous existence in today’s society and more of a paranoiac rant on stalkers and the government keeping tabs on the world’s citizens.

Besides, I need to get my Blackberry instruction book back out; I can’t seem to get foursquare to work on it properly and my Twitter has lost its link and my Facebook app won’t delete my updates. I also need to take a couple of pictures with my camera and sort out the video camera as well. And while I am at it, I may just type a new blog post on my WordPress application…

Oh no! The keys are too damn small!

Junk Shiryōgari (2000): Yakuza, Robbers and Zombies

Filmed in 1999 this schlocky bit of fun is a remake of a Japanese Mafia film called Score. Both were directed and written by Atsushi Muroga and both films pay tribute to the films Reservoir Dogs although Junk specifically pays tribute to Re-Animator and the original Dawn of the Dead. [Courtesy of Wikipedia]

The film is about a joint American/Japanese science experiment that deals with re-animating dead tissue. Due to a mistake, the experiment creates zombies. While the experiment is going on, a bunch of thieves rob a jewellery store that belongs to a Yakuza gang.

The thieves run for their lives being chased by the police and the Yakuza. The thieves take refuge in the building where the experiment has gone awry and pretty soon it’s every “man” for himself as the military, Yakuza and jewel thieves all fight zombies and each other.

Now this film is not going to win any awards for the acting. It is a real toss-up between the American General and the Japanese scientists English speaking as to who comes off worse. For my money it is the General hands down. I have never laughed so hard as during the scene where someone comes into the General’s office. His acting in the scene should have won a giant Raspberry.

But bad acting aside, it is one hell of a fun movie to watch and the main zombie (complete with white hair) is kind of scary and pretty much indestructible. Things do get a bit confusing in the middle and there could have been a few more Yakuza, but it all works out at the end.

The main has to do with the drug that the two governmental agencies have developed. The drug gets out of control with a bit of help by the first zombie. It then reanimates every dead thing it comes in contact with; creating an army of aggressive corpses.

There is a sort sub-plot about the scientist and the dead girl that they are experimenting on. She is either his fiancé (or rather was) or girlfriend and he’s hoping that the experiment will bring her back in a good way. But she comes back with scary white hair and one hell of an attitude that shows just what a bad idea this was.

The film is a little bit predictable in the ending, with the two characters that most people will pick as the obvious survivors. Until the end though the action is fast and furious and at times almost claustrophobic in places; it’s a great ride and the Yakuza with their bad-boy attitudes are quite funny.

If you are looking for a witty doppelgänger for Shaun of the Dead or the scariness of the Dawn of the Dead remake, you’ll be disappointed. But if you like your zombies wild, wacky and damn near unstoppable you’ll love Junk.

If you get a chance to see this you should. The atrocious acting by the American actor (who was obviously taken off of the local US Army base or the American Embassy) in his scenes with the scientist are worth the price of admission alone.

Not a “star” movie by any means, but a movie that is just so much fun to watch; you won’t forget it. Like the dead corpses that are inadvertently brought back to life (repeatedly) in the film, it will keep popping up in your head long after you see it.