Short Film Digest 1

Over the past few years, I've enthused and rabbitted on about various films that you might be able to see in the local home-run cinema, or if you're feeling adventurous, the festival circuit, but the problem is its a bit of a pain getting it organised and travelling there. Short films are even worse, since beyond seeing them in a festival short film collection, you're unlikely to catch them again.

Buoyed on by the current crop of Sky Arts 1 short film collections (nightly from about 10pm), I've also noticed that a select few shorts are also cropping up on YouTube. This is the first in hopefully a series in which I dig about and present three of the best from the past few years.

Note: I take no ownership of these films, and they might be removed by the YouTube stormtroopers at any point without me knowing.

1.1: Photograph of Jesus

Almost like a sounding board for one of the exasperated members of the Getty Pictures archive, who are bombarded by requests for non-existent pictures.

1.2 The Horribly Slow Murder with the Extremely Inefficient Weapon

A great spoof trailer about a relentless, non-existent horror film.

UPDATE: If you liked that, be sure to check out it's 'sequel'.

1.3 The Pearce Sisters

From Aardman Animations, the tale of two women living by the sea who don't quite fit the description of 'sirens', given that they encourage washed-up sailors to run screaming from their little shack.

I'll do some more hunting soon!

Japan 2010: 0.1 - Okinawa Wildlife

My upcoming holiday to Japan will concentrate more in the southern area, I think, and while putting together a rough plan of the route this time, the subject of Okinawa came up.

The Okinawan islands are situated far to the south of Kyushu, the southern-most of the main islands of Japan. Sparsely arranged in the East China Sea, it is said to contain some of the most beautiful scenery and wildlife in Asia. Showing the diversity in the ecology of Japan, its southernmost extremes are subtropical in climate.

The capital city is Naha, which conveniently has an airport, and from there, access to the other islands is a lot easier than trying to come from the southern tip of Kyushu by boat, which due to the shrinking price difference and choppy seas, has become less popular recently. Doing a little digging, it might be prudent for me to invest in a 'Welcome to Japan' pass, which similar to the extremely useful Japan Rail Pass, allows foreign travellers to get pretty hefty discounts (maybe two thirds off) air flights all over Japan. For my particular situation, that potentially means chopping a 50,000 yen (~£250) ticket into 13,000 yen (~£80).

So it is worth the kerfuffle getting all the way over there? Well, this definitely got me interested:

It's the main tank at the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, boasting the second largest (although I think the term doesn't quite fit here) 'fish tank' in the world. It puts the Kaiyukan aquarium distinctly in the shade. Of course, going that far just for a big tank of fish would be a bit crazy and I'm not the sort of person to do crazy things, am I? So it's also good that Okinawa is also going to have a good few interesting nooks and crannies to explore while I'm there.

For a start, Okinawa is currently mired in a controversy that has recently forced the prime minister of Japan to resign, after his promises of removing a long-established but unpopular American outpost at Futenma went down the plughole. These bases often have small townlets springing up around them, and of course the 'locals' all speak English.

Okinawa is also a good place to go to explore the wildlife (some of the islands are barely inhabited) and being islands, a lot of the tourism is centred around water sports. Going scuba diving is a distinct possibility.

But then, there's these:

A fecking huge spider. Now over the years I've gone from screaming and crying in the presence of a spider to running away quietly to watching them nervously to blatting them with whatever came to hand to using the old glass and paper rescue method, to even holding small ones in my hand and throwing them out of my house, but a spider that actually guards the toilet and is considered by the tenants of the house to be a pet, that's just going to regress me back a few stages. That's not the worst of it either, at least this one isn't even poisonous. A bit of digging however reveals that some creatures over there are, including some spiders and snakes. Lovely.

Sooooooo.. I really want to go to Okinawa for a few days to see the beauty of the place and its people and nature, but I also don't want a spider on my face in the morning or a snake attaching itself to my extremities. I guess I'll have to make my mind up quick. There's only 2 and a half months to go....

Lets Go Round Again

It was some time coming, but I finally got off my backside to do it. This October I'll be visiting Japan for the second time!!

After spending some time running around the walls with excitement once I'd received the booking confirmation, it's time to start thinking of putting some meat on the bones of my holiday.

So far, I know this much: it will be for 22 days (1 less than last time) and I will be concentrating more on the south this time - Okinawa, Kyushu, Shikoku and Western Honshu (I didn't stray as far as Kyushu last time so that's definitely on the list). I'm going to look for some of the autumn festivals tuned to the turning of the season, and also try and sample both the cuisine and the traditions more. (Onsen was particular for its absence last time). There's the possibility of the Japanese Grand Prix, and I'd like to see Mt Fuji once more. The Ghibli Museum will get a look in, I'm sure there's a crapload more to think about, and it's 3 months away so there's plenty of time for a proper plan.

One thing I wont do is the mad dash around like in 2008. A 3-day tour of Hokkaido or similar is going to be strictly avoided; each place I visit will be looked at in a more sedate manner. Though temptation might encourage me to see more places, the burning desire to get around absolutely all of it is missing - I did that last time!

So, after day one of doing little else than thinking about it, I've got a few things I really want to do, but there is also much room for discovery of new things. Is there anyone reading out there who has any ideas or recommendations? Places you've been and really liked, or places you might have heard about but were never able to visit. If it sounds good I'll give it a good looking over and blog it all when I return!

Leeds 10K 2010 Result

Well, the race is run and the results are in. Considering I did a frankly atrocious 5k on Saturday (where my legs gave out about 2k in and I walked much of the rest), the actual day went pretty well. I guess the old saying about it being alright on the night works for runs as well. I ran from start to finish (excepting a couple of bits, as described below) and best of all, the amount raised for Macmillan Cancer Support stands at a healthy £205, with some more to come!

Thanks to everyone who supported me and donated their cash.

I managed to get around with a quite respectable 1:02:32, although it pains me to think I could have done much better; not just because of the less than perfect shape I'm in at the moment, but also because of the way the race was organised on the day. in 2007 when I ran the first one, there was about 3000 people taking part. Last Sunday there was more than double that. It meant that the start was a shambles; we walked up the Leeds Headrow for a good minute before getting going due to the sheer number of people, and just before the 2k mark, the crowds had pushed the barriers into the road, causing a bottleneck of frustrated runners there too. The elusive sub-hour time still eludes me. Perhaps the Leeds Abbey Dash or somesuch will come to my rescue later in the year.