Tales from the Cultural Wilderness - Journal

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2001-11-26 Entry: "Testing Times"

Well, that almost qualifies as a busy weekend!

Ignoring Friday of course, Saturday was supposed to be Christmas shopping day. This entailed getting up mega-early to get into Reading before the crazy rush of people. I failed totally at this - I woke up early, decided it was far too cold to get up and shower, and stayed in bed for another three hours, before finally starting the day.

So, eventually trucking into Reading, I somehow managed to miss a major rush of traffic - it was busy, but at least it was moving; managed to park in my usual free car park, and wandered into the shops (past the slightly unlikely Mawand Lion) - the shops were surprisingly not as busy as I'd expected and I managed to get most of the shopping done. Couldn't find a trace of the CD player / FM radio / 2 Time zone alarm clock that I was supposed to be looking for for my father, and I decided it'd be cheaper to get my sister DVDs online than actually pay the ridiculous prices most of the places charge, but otherwise things went reasonably well. I ended up buying more for me than I spent on anyone else, but that's the way these things are supposed to go isn't it? "One for them, two for me... one for them, two for me!"

A moment of crisis arose when I had to get a toaster for one of my random grandparents. Toasters are exceedingly dull, and my remit was purely "get a good one, that takes reasonable sized bits of bread!" Well, as I didn't have a clue where to look (it seems John Lewis do industrial ones, and that's what I was supposed to intuit from poor directions), I ended up in Comet (or as their adverts put it "Come to T"), where I was faced with a vast array of identical-ish toasters. So, after poking at them for ten minutes, trying to decide which took the biggest bit of bread, I picked one out that seemed to be of reasonable size, and had lots of useful features (like, easy slide crumb tray, auto turn off if bread gets jammed, and a roll warming rack). This was oddly unexpensive, so I had to buy more stuff for me to make up the bill.

Saturday (and Sunday) evening saw Channel 4 doing the "Hundred Greatest Films" which they'd picked and then allowed people to vote on to give a reasonable ordering - this gave quite an odd list. Usually, these things are compiled by experts / critics, and all the top slots are filled by films no-one watches. Or, they're compiled by the public votes, which give a list of films which were made in the last three years and did quite well at the box office. This list however, fell somewhere in the middle - the classics that no-one watches but everyone claims are great films (e.g., Citizen Kane) occupied the 30-10 slots, and then the top 10 consisted of reasonably recent films on the whole.

The top five showed an odd range though - 5. Some Like It Hot; 4. Pulp Fiction; 3. The Shawshank Redemption; 2. Godfather & Godfather Part 2; 1. Star Wars & The Empire Strikes Back. So we have a classic comedy at 5, a film someone would have to pay me to sit though at 4 (I can't stand Quentin Tarantino as a director), a brilliant film at 3, an overly long pairing at 2, and the trite space epic at 1. It's nice to see a sci-fi film up there (as the critics aren't allowed to like these sort of films), and all the celebs they'd dragged out to comment could gush enthusiastically about how great it is, but it's not as if it's a really great film (Empire is marginally better, but it didn't have Lucas making a mess of it).

And for some bizarre reason, "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" got lots of votes! It was in the top twenty (I can't look up exactly where as Film 4's site seems to be dead).

Sunday morning was an early start - I had a test to go and sit. In a vague attempt to acquire a social life, I went to sit the Mensa entrance exam. Now, I'm not convinced this is a good idea, and based on my own impression of my IQ (which, unsurprising, bears little relation to what other people think it might be) I'm unlikely to do particularly well. The tests were suitably evil - they gave far too little time for the first set and far too much for the second. This may be because I'm not particularly strong at the first set... but three minutes to spot the pattern in fourteen sets of shapes is a lot harder than eleven minutes to spot the synonym of 25 words. That's right - nearly four times as long for not even twice as many questions...

Anyway, I'll know the result in two to three weeks... lets all see how dense I am...

Afterwards, I dashed back into Reading to check that they'd actually given me the right computer game (they had - I was dense and read the box wrong in the shop on Saturday). Then I hit the Showcase in the hopes of a rubbish film to cheer me up.

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