Sunday 28 July 2013

Top Ten Movie Villains

A while ago, I wrote a post called Rooting For The Bad Guy where I admired the evil that appears in TV and movie fiction.
As a follow up to that post I would like to offer to you my top ten movie bad guys. As a rule, I love movie villains, possibly more than the heroes themselves and many have made me cheer out loud, there evil and nasty ways triumphantly upsetting the status quo and spitting in the face of lawful and decent behaviour.
Without further ado, here are my top ten movie villains:

10. Lord Voldemort
Before you start laughing, yes I did enjoy the Harry Potter novels and movies. I realise that J.K.Rowling wrote them for kids but I found myself drawn into them on a day when I was off work sick. Mrs PM had left Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone next to the bed and I had nothing to read – so I went for it. And I loved it. The books, and films, steadily became darker and darker as they progressed – and in my eyes better and better. 
Lord Voldemort is like a dark shadow luring throughout the story and as the tales progress becomes more sinister and more evil culminating in fantastic confrontation in the final book/film. He is evil personified and his appearance is quite disturbing given the nature of these so-called children’s films. 

9. Emperor Commodus
I loved the Roman epics of old, movies like The Robe, Demetrius and the Gladiators, Ben Hur etc. and when Gladiator appeared, I was delighted that this genre had been modernised. The film remains one of my favourites. I particularly like Emperor Commodus, a twisted power hungry individual who murdered the family of the hero Maximum Decimus Meridius, murdered his own father and became the most powerful man in the world – the Emperor of Rome.

8. Darth Vader
As a kid, Darth Vader was the ultimate villain to me. Every box was ticked in the villain checklist. He was a fabulously powerful villain, dressed entirely in black with a deep booming voice  and had the Dark Side of the Force at his fingertips. Had I had anything to do with the Star Wars franchise, I would have preserved his malevolence and not allowed him to succumb to the power of virtuosity as he did in Return of the Jedi. Darth Vader should have remained evil.

7. General Zod
Superman is the ultimate superhero and in order to conquer him, you need an equally powerful supervillain. Enter General Zod who appeared in Superman II and the new offering Man of Steel. General Zod is a power hungry psychopath whose only desire is to rule everything, a kind of superpowered dictator. The greatest thing about him is that he has all the powers that Superman possesses and can stand up against him on equal terms, unlike other more feeble nemeses such Lex Luthor.

6. The Terminator
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s original Terminator is a superb villain. Devoid of emotion, extremely resourceful and incredibly powerful he has one purpose and one purpose alone; to kill Sarah Connor. He feels no remorse and anybody or anything that stands in his way are crushed with maximum prejudice. I realise there have been a few other Terminators but the original one suited Arnie’s limited acting ability perfectly. Arnie at the time was built like a leviathan and his physique and general demeanour was perfect for the part of a relentless killing machine.

5. Hannibal Lecter
I read the book Red Dragon by Thomas Harris before The Silence of the Lambs hit the big screen and I regarded Hannibal Lecter as more of a monster than Francis Dolarhyde, the central villain in that book. Hannibal Lecter came into his own in the two sequels, The Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal and Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal of the psychopathic killer in the movie adaptations is phenomenal. What I particularly like about Hannibal Lecter is the fact that he is a brilliant psychiatrist as well as a psychotic murdering cannibal, and this gives him the edge and the ability to get into the minds of people. The way in which he kills Inspector Pazzi in the film Hannibal is extremely disturbing and is a truly magnificent piece of cinema.

4. Colonel Hans Landa
Inglourious Basterds is one of my all-time favourite films and the star of it for me is the multilingual, intelligent and extremely brutal Jew Hunter himself Colonel Hans Landa, played so brilliantly by Christoph Waltz. Landa is a ruthless Nazi whose job is to hunt Jews, a job he loves and does extremely well. The character is wonderful because as well as being completely detestable, there is a charm about him and a undercurrent of malevolent humour. While watching the film I always think “I should despise this guy – but actually I love him.” That’s what makes him so brilliant.

3. The Joker
When I refer to the Joker, I mean the character played by Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight. In the old batman series, the Joker was one of Batman’s most famous nemeses and in the first Batman movie, he was also played wonderfully by Jack Nicholson. Up to that point he was more of a humourous comedy character but in The Dark Knight, all of the humour was stripped away and the Joker became a totally evil, psychotic and very disturbing terrorist who was deviously clever and almost certainly totally deranged. The Dark Knight deserves all the plaudits it gets but without Heath Ledger’s Joker it wouldn’t have been such a great film.

2. Agent Smith
The star of the Matrix trilogy, for me at least, is Agent Smith, a computer generated artificial intelligence who detests humanity, referring to them as a plague for which he is the cure. By the end of the trilogy he has become as powerful as the hero, Neo and the movie’s finale is the ultimate confrontation between the two. Agent Smith is played by Hugo Weaving, who delivers the dialogue in the way you would imagine a predator speaking to its prey just before devouring it.

1. Khan Noonian Singh
Khan is not only the greatest Star Trek villain; he is my favourite movie villain. He first appeared in an episode of the original series of Star Trek and then resurfaced in my favourite Start Trek movie, The Wrath of Khan. Khan is a genetically engineered superhuman who blames Kirk for marooning him on a planet that becomes a wasteland after a planetary explosion, leaving Khan and his followers to survive on their own in an extremely hostile environment. He plans revenge with dire consequences for Kirk and his crew.
“I’ve done far worse than kill you. I’ve hurt you – and I wish to go on hurting you!”

And finally...
Over to you, dear reader. 
Who are your favourite movie villains? 
Do you agree with any of mine?

Tuesday 23 July 2013

The Geek

I have a confession to make.

Some of you may already suspect this but I am going to tell everybody anyway.

I think I am a geek.

There – I’ve said it. And do you know what? I don’t really care.

Some of you may disagree with me, based on some of the crap I’ve written in previous posts, but for you doubters out there I have compiled proof that I am indeed a geek.

I wear glasses

With that statement I can imagine that there are rational people all over the world complaining that if you wear glasses it doesn’t necessarily mean you have crossed the nerd line into fully fledged geekdom.  There may be an element of truth in what you say, particularly since wearing spectacles became cool some time in the last ten to twenty years, partly because super cool and extremely handsome celebrities started to wear them.

When wearing glasses became cool...
I didn’t start wearing them to look cool; I was forced to wear them as an 8 year old and there have been many years of pain because of them. Believe me in 1970 wearing glasses WAS NOT COOL! I had to suffer lots of abuse such as "Hello Four Eyes!".

Glasses added more to my geekness than just appearance. For instance, I love football but playing football in glasses is not only stupid but also likely to get them destroyed by a wayward ball blasted at your face from close range. Without glasses I may as well not bother because I simply cannot to see a ball hurtling towards my face until it is around two feet away, by which time it is far too late.

And this is why glasses wearing geeks are crap at sport. They simply can’t see and therefore have to pursue more cerebral pastimes.

I have abominable hair.

If left unchecked my already unmanageable hair mutates into a blonde mess that kind people would say is a white afro. Sadly most people just say “get your hair cut you bloody freak”. Combined with my glasses my long curly hair makes me look like an insane version of Einstein without the vast intellect and vast moustache.

I have played dungeons and dragons.

In my youth I succumbed to temptation and joined a bunch of sad individuals in a basement room in the student union at Liverpool University and played a stupid role playing game consisting of cards and dice whereupon I did battle with crazy imaginary creatures such as gargoyles, goblins and griffons. I found myself arguing with another sad individual about who should open an imaginary door and confront the troll we knew was lurking behind.

I am ashamed. 
I have since seen the light and although it was 32 years ago, I still cringe inwardly when the memory surfaces of rolling dice to help me fight a dragon. 
Maybe there’s hope for me.

I love science fiction.
I love science fiction so much that I actively spend my time surfing the internet looking for information about my favourite science fiction TV shows and sequels to my favourite geeky movies.
I have leapt on my soapbox to point out flaws in movies like Jurassic Park and Independence Day because of plot holes so vast you could steer a planet through them. I have watched all manner of garbage on the SyFy channel in the hope that it can satisfy my weird craving for wonderful monsters, aliens and space operas.
Some of my favourite authors write vast series of novels with more than a thousand pages in each book spanning millennia and universes.
I love shows like Star Trek and Dr Who and avidly watch any other strange series that come to my attention.
I draw the line at visiting conventions dressed as my favourite characters – thankfully.

I work in IT.
In the 1970’s and 1980’s software engineering (or as it was known then computer programming) was a career reserved for geeks. Over the years, the stigma of geekdom has drifted away from IT. Nevertheless, there are still people out there who associate sitting at a desk all day, trying to get computers to do as they are told, with sad nerds.

I love gadgets.
I have a collection of gadgets that I simply cannot do without, including my smartphone, Kindle, iPod, tablet and PSP. There are numerous other gadgets knocking about my house and I am always on the lookout for the next big thing. 

I am quite clever.

One of my female friends once said to me: “I wanted to speak to you but I was scared of you.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because you look so clever.”
I have often wondered whether that was my problem with women in the past. Either I look too clever (the stereotypical mad hair and glasses as described above) or they simply don’t like geeks. 
I am quite clever but in some aspects of like I am totally thick – like dealing with and understanding the fairer sex.

I have friends who are geeks.
Not only do I have friends who are geeks, I actively join in sad conversations that only geeks understand. I also work with geeks (anybody reading this who works with me – I am not talking about you). 

And finally ...
Having said all that, there are many aspects of my life that are not geeky at all. For example, I love to go out for beers and talk about football, I used to play a fair amount of sport and I haven’t been a single man since the age of 21. 
Nevertheless, the geek within me surfaces fairly often and I spend far more of my life being a geek than not.
I guess I really am a geek.
How about you, dear reader. Are you a geek? 
Do you have geek tendencies?  
Would you confess to being a geek even if you were?
Have I made a colossal mistake admitting to a personality that exhibits elements of geekdom?
Do I care if people think I am a geek because of this post? 
Probably not – because I think being a geek is OK!!

Saturday 13 July 2013

Too Casual

Temperatures in Manchester are soaring.

My daily two mile lunchtime walks have become rather uncomfortable recently. Each lunchtime I stroll around the local area at a fairly fast pace, fuelled by decent equally paced music, in order to escape the stress of the office and give myself a smidgeon of exercise. Usually I arrive back at my desk refreshed and raring to go again.

With the recent heatwave, however, a brisk walk around the block in temperatures approaching 30 °C, I have arrived at my desk with sweat pouring down my neck, my shirt sticking to my back like glue and a slightly reddened and extremely sweaty face.

Nothing annoys me more than having to sit in an office in the traditional stuffy office uniform while the world outside bakes in beautiful weather.

Let’s face it, in the UK it is so rare to have consistently high temperatures that we are all possessed by a mad urge to leap out into the sun whenever we get the chance.

Yesterday, still reeling from my afternoon walk, I arrived home and wanted to make the most of the weather. I peeled my sodden clothes from my body, fumigated my shoes and hurled my underpants and socks into the linen basket, hoping that the sweat wouldn’t somehow animate them and allow them to run riot in my house.

After a quick cold shower, I waited for Mrs PM to return from work.

As soon as the door opened, I presented myself to her, dressed in a polo shirt and crisp clean shorts, attire that I rarely get a chance to wear in Manchester and usually only wear in Spain or more exotic locations.

“Let’s hit Manchester,” I suggested.

“Good idea,” she agreed and also changed out of her own office uniform.

Last month Metrolink opened a new spur from Manchester City Centre to East Didsbury and now it is extremely easy to catch a tram into the city centre, rather than having to catch a bus that takes ages. The bus is usually so slow that we have avoided the city centre but now the new tram system has opened it up to us.

A twenty minute tram journey and a short walk found us in the sunshine outside a bar in Spinningfields, sipping cold beer and basking in the sunshine alongside lots of other happy people enjoying the fabulous weather.

I felt like I was sitting in a city in southern Europe rather than a stereotypically grim city in northern England.

We decided to enjoy another beer in another bar before finding a restaurant.

Mrs PM suggested a bar that for their benefit shall remain nameless, even though I am tempted to name and shame them.

We strolled up to the bar entrance and noticed that two security men were standing outside, eyeing me suspiciously. As I approached one of them looked me up and down and shook his head.

“What’s the problem?” I asked.

“You’re dressed a little too casually,” he replied.

I stared at him incredulously. It has been many years since I have had to deal with this kind of ridiculous policy. In the past I have usually had considerably more beer and this has given me enough courage to dive into an argument with meathead bouncers, risking a good beating for showing the world how stupid they are.

This time, however, I was genuinely shocked into silence and, having only had two beers, didn’t have the alcohol fuelled courage to stand up to this man and his preposterous regulations.

Mrs PM seemed to accept his decision and walked away, gently pulling my arm to encourage me to go with her. She also knows how much I despise these petty policies and presumably didn’t want to have to wait around while I argued the toss with yet another symbol of overt oppression.

“What does he mean dressed a little too casually?” I finally spluttered, making sure that I was in earshot of my oppressor.

“I’m wearing a lovely polo shirt that cost as much as his bloody shirt and proper trouser-styled shorts. What the hell does he bloody well mean?

I was annoyed. I was even more annoyed because Mrs PM, who would no doubt have managed to get into the bar with a skirt that was shorter than my shorts. My anger was fuelled even more by the fact that even at that late hour I was hot and flustered by the heat. I was still hot and had I been wearing trousers, I would have had to peel the things off my skin.

We found a pub that was quite content to let me cross the threshold with my slightly too casual  look and I ended up spending the entire time in that bar moaning about bouncers, dress policies and sexual discrimination.

“If this had been Spain," I ranted, "I could have entered that bar with my head held high and not been thwarted by a stupid dress policy policed by MEATHEADS. And another thing – you’re skirt is shorter than my shorts and you can see more of your legs than you can my knobbly-kneed sparrow legs. That’s sexual discrimination, that is. I’ve a good mind to go back and show the world what a bloody idiot that MEATHEAD is. I’ve got a good mind to complain to the manager of that place. I’ve got a good mind …”

Oh for God’s sake shut up!” said Mrs PM finally.

“OK,” I said, still fuming. I contented myself with watching the highlights of the Ashes to calm me down a little.

Afterwards we strolled to Chinatown and enjoyed a Chinese banquet in a lovely restaurant with one important policy – they did not mind me wearing shorts.

Today, I am happier about it and have now added that bar to the list of places to avoid. Sadly, Mrs PM likes the place so I am certain I will have to swallow my pride in the future and quaff some of their ale.

The good news is that today, the temperature is soaring and the outlook is fine. We are even going to have a barbecue tomorrow with Mrs PM’s mum (yes, that's right – a BARBECUE in Manchester!!)

Mrs PM's mum and her other half will be welcome through my door – even if they are both wearing shorts.

Saturday 6 July 2013

You Got Mail - D'OH!!!!

I received an email similar to this at work the other day:

Hiya my little Peach Drop,
Are we doing anything on Saturday? Debbie and Sebbie want to go out for a drink.
Let me know.
Lots of love
Cuteybeauty xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

The terms of endearment and other names have been changed to protect the innocent and the guilty.

The one person I won’t protect on this one occasion is Mrs PM.

Because she wrote it.

Now while I don’t mind her using pet names in a personal email to me and me alone, I do object when she accidentally adds a group of work colleagues to the distribution list.

I replied with the following email.

Three things:

(1) Yes we are free on Saturday to meet Deb and Sebastian for drinks (does he KNOW you call him Sebbie?).

(2) Did you mean to copy in your entire IT department? 


Yes, I know points (2) and (3) are the same point but it is such an important point that I felt it needed to be made twice. Now your entire IT department knows that you call me “my little Peach Drop” and that I call you “CuteyBeauty”. 

Do you think you will hear the last of this?

Mrs PM replied with something like:

OH SHIT!!!!!!!!

However, her reply never got to me because it fell foul of our profanity filter, a kind of firewall against swearing in emails. The profanity filter is a little like a jobsworth employee who feels that the company will fall apart if it doesn’t throw any emails containing dodgy words into the bin.

Our profanity filter is very keen, so keen in fact that it throws out words that contain dodgy words within them or words that have a meaning that can be either a swear word or not, depending on the context. Words like:


If a person joined my company called Richard but preferred to be known as Dick in his emails he would never get any. You can complain to the IT department by sending an email like:

Dear IT,

Can you please configure the profanity filter so that my emails to Dick Scunthorpe and Ed Balls are not thrown out?


Plastic Mancunian

The problem is that it will never get past the profanity filter because it contains the bloody words you want to complain about.

Suffice it to say that Mrs PM’s email didn’t get to me. All this goes to show is that email is a dangerous thing, particularly if you don’t proof read it before you send it or carefully check the recipients of the email. Once you have pressed that SEND button, it is too late.

One work colleague sent a personal email to his girlfriend but forgot to remove the formal signature added automatically at the end. It sounded something like:

Hi love,

Can you buy some chicken on the way home? 

Kindest Regards,
Anthony Wallaby
Project Manager

Her reply was something like:

Dear Anthony,

I will procure some chicken for you. Can you obtain a signed purchase order? 

Best regards,
Fiona McNulty
Head of Chicken Procurement

One other trap you can fall into is to accidentally click on the wrong name when sending an email. I once saw an email pop up in my inbox saying something like:

Hi all,

It’s Dan’s stag party on Saturday and I have booked a kissogram for him. She’s a police woman and will “arrest” him in The Hogshead pub at 9pm. Make sure you’re there for it – should be a scream. It’ll cost £5 a head.

P.S. Dan hates kissograms so keep it quiet.



I replied:

Hi Bob,

Did you mean to include Dan on the distribution list?



If Dan had been called Dick, perhaps Bob would have got away with it.