A Depressing Train Journey!

This train journey takes us to plenty of stops. It’s starts particularly well but the destinations get less and less favourable as the journey goes on. Let’s start at the beginning and sadly, the best stops come first!

Train released their eponymous debut album in 1998. It’s got a countryish vibe and includes beautiful songs such as Blind, I Am and Rat as well as hit song Meet Virginia (Well, it made number 20 in the US charts!).

The band’s second album was titled as per the song that earned the band worldwide recognition. Drops of Jupiter is a great song but a number of other titles on the record shouldn’t be forgotten. She’s on Fire, I Wish You Would, Helpless, Let’s Roll and Respect are high quality songs in their own right. Launched forward by the sound of the hit single, the album reached the top ten on both sides of the Atlantic.

Next came My Private Nation. Singles Calling All Angels and When I Look to the Sky were anthem like hits, to some extent at least. It’s another solid album with a number of decent songs. As well as Get to Me, I particularly like Lincoln Avenue and I’m About to Come Alive. They appear later on the album and are a little understated.

Next came For Me It’s You, which again, is punctuated by a few good songs (Cab and Shelter Me being the standouts) but unlike its predecessors, the really good songs start to be few and far between. It’s still worth a listen and a perfectly respectable album.

From there, things start to rapidly go down hill, in, agonisingly aptly, a train wreck sort of way!

From a country fused indie vibe through to soft rock pop, we now head into out and out pop before stopping at the ultra cheesy pop stop and finally falling out of love with Train!

Save Me San Francisco features a decent song in the form of If It’s Love as well as repeated radio hits Hey Soul Sister and the album’s title track. It’s not horrendously bad but the tide has well and truly turned and the music seems to be being made specifically for a market and less for the soul. Hey Soul Sister!

Follow up Drive By features a couple of respectable songs (Bruises and 50 Ways to Say Goodbye) but we really have reached ‘A couple of singles then album fillers stage’.

As for the next three releases, Bulletproof Picasso, Christmas in Tahoe and Train does Led Zeppelin II, I’m not qualified to offer an opinion, because, you know… I haven’t actually listened to them!

By the time we get to A Girl, a Bottle, a Boat, I’m longing for the days of the first few albums. Still, if you’re going to give an album such an appallingly bad name then you may as well fill it with appallingly bad songs!

Frontman Pat Monahan’s solo album, titled Last of Seven, released somewhere in the middle of Train’s journey, was a high quality album featuring some really good songs, Always Midnight being one as well as Great Escape, Ripple in the Water and Two Ways to Say Goodbye.

Whether or not Monahan has released anything else or Train intend to create any more music is of little interest to me. I’ll listen to the first four (Particularly the first two) albums often enough but unless Train are going to return to their roots then their music will likely only disappoint me… and that’s a shame after such a beautiful start!

215 million views!

Five Oz/NZ Based Films to Watch During Lockdown

Welcome to another ‘Five Films to Watch’ post. For clarity, this selection features films that take place in either Australia or New Zealand. It may be that the films were funded or produced etc. elsewhere.

The Hunter (2011)

Willem Dafoe stars in a film that left me obsessed with the Tasmanian Tiger (I can’t be the only one!). Frances O’Connor and Sam Neill co-star in a movie that’ll make you want to get on a plane and fly to Tasmania… and keep at least one eye peeled for the Thylacine!

Based on Julia Leigh’s 1999 novel of the same name, Dafoe is paid to find the elusive creature but becomes part of a broken family whose husband/father disappeared whilst himself searching for the elusive marsupial.

It’s visually stunning but also heartbreaking!

Siam Sunset (1999)

Disclaimer: Not even an actual trailer, just one of the stunt guys uploading a scene!

One of those films that I likely discovered somewhere between 2 and 4am on either BBC2 or Channel 4 about twenty years ago.

Linus Roache, who I’m sure is a far better actor than his career record suggests, is a paint company chemist who travels to Australia to search for the colour Siam Sunset following the death of his wife. She was killed when a fridge fell from a plane and landed on top of her!

Walkabout (1971)

Jenny Agutter and her little brother are stranded in the outback and try to survive. They receive help from a local (Played by David Gulpilil) who is performing the aboriginal right of passage of going walkabout.

This 1971 film by Nicholas Roeg is held in extremely high regard my many.

Love Birds (2011)

Rhys Darby (Band Manager in Flight of the Conchords), Sally Hawkins and Bryan Brown star in this New Zealand based romance.

After being dumped by his girlfriend, Darby nurses a duck back to health and falls in love with a veterinarian (Played by Hawkins). It’a a kind of sweet (As bro!) light hearted romance sprinkled with the odd dose of serious stuff.

The Rage in Placid Lake (2003)

This film was my introduction to Ben Lee and so I went searching for other films starring him, only to buy all his albums instead… because he isn’t really in any other films!

Rose Byrne co-stars in an odd-ball sort of coming of age, borderline romance that, well… was just my thing!

Another Australian film worth watching that stars both the aforementioned Bryan Brown and Rose Byrne as well as first and foremost Heath Ledger, is Two Hands. Basically, he loses somebody else’s money… and he didn’t want to do that!

Auzkin Dehumidifier

It’s neat, compact and absorbs water. What more do you want? Fancy lights… okay!

This is a tidy little addition to the house if you’ve got moisture, condensation and/or mould etc. It requires plugging in and makes a little noise but the sort of white noise that can help put a child to sleep. The water can build up to its maximum capacity (1000ml) quickly (Four or five days), well, in our small house it can! It’s extremely easy to pull out the draw, dispose of the water then return the draw.

It cost somewhere in the region of £40.00 and you certainly can’t argue with the volume of water that it collects. As you can see from the image, it doesn’t look too intrusive and the noise it makes really is background noise. It’s not going to disturb you, day or night. If you’re having moisture problems at home, this won’t completely solve the problem but it will help.

Song of the Week #002

Hi all

Song of the Week number two comes from Sara Bareilles. The track Fire is the opening track on her most recent album titled Amidst the Chaos that was released in 2019. The song is a particular favourite of mine but Bottle it Up and She Used to Be Mine are, amongst others, extremely good songs from the American singer.

Anyway, here it is and have a great week!

You can find last week’s selection by clicking on the link below…

https://planetpaul.blog/2021/01/18/song-of-the-week-001/

Jennimer Coffee Container

I wanted something slick looking that I could store my coffee beans in whilst also keeping my kitchen looking tidy.

I purchased the Jennimer Coffee Container for around £22-£23. It can store a little over 600g of coffee beans which is more than two packets of the beans that I buy from my local supermarket. You can adjust the date on the top so that you know when you put the beans in. It also comes complete with a measuring spoon.

It’s got some fancy dan technology (CO2 release valve) which is beyond me but basically it keeps it fresh!

The canister is,l available in black, silver, grey and red.

Five Films Not in the English Language to Watch During Lockdown

You’ve watched the documentaries that I recommended…

https://planetpaul.blog/2021/01/16/five-documentaries-to-watch-during-lockdown/

Then stayed up late to view my animated film suggestions…

https://planetpaul.blog/2021/01/21/five-animated-films-to-watch-during-lockdown/

Now it’s time to get over your aversion to subtitles (To be fair, you did that with some of the animated films!) and check out five films not in the English language. Enjoy…

The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)

An exhaustive insight into a motorcycle (Would you believe?!) expedition taken by Che Guevara and his friend Alberto Granada. Gael Garcia Bernal excels in the lead role.

Walter Salles’ 126-minute biopic showcases a beautiful landscape and possibly paints Guevara in a way that some might not expect… well, going off my limited knowledge as to who Che Geuvara would become anyway! Of course, the film is based on Guevara’s own diary.

The Beat That My Heart Skipped (2005)

There’s an awful lot of high quality French cinema from which to choose. Romain Duris just stands out to me as an actor who is on another level and so The Beat That My Heart Skipped makes the selection this time!

This remake of 1978 American film Fingers (Thought it was usually the other way around!) is a slow burner of a film. It’s intense which allows Duris to be at his best… or maybe he’s at his best because he’s being intense?!

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)

This film is just so original and different yet with a sincerity that makes it essential viewing. Sheila Vand and Arash Marandi are both superb in the leading roles and the soundtrack provides excellent accompaniment. If you haven’t seen an Iranian vampire film before then this is the place to start!

Goodbye Lenin (2003)

Another outlandish film, this time from Germany, with Daniel Bruhl in the lead role. The Berlin Wall has fallen but should Bruhl’s mum, who has just woken from a coma, receive such shocking news, it could be fatal… and so Bruhl and co. must prevent her from finding out!

Love Me if You Dare (2003)

Back to French cinema with Marion Cotillard and Guillaume Canet starring in this pushing the boundaries and tragic romance. Did I give too much away?

The pair begin playing a game of dares as children… but when will it stop?!

This is definitely a category that can accommodate a ‘Five More…’ post, so keep your eyes peeled!

Mars 2049

I was looking for a game that required greater skill and tactics than many luck focused games. I mean, is there really skill in rolling a dice?

That said, I didn’t want something ultra complicated. I wanted a game suitable for adults but that hopefully the kids can play in due course too.

Mars 2049 was the game that I found. Like most board games, it was selling for somewhere in the £20-£30 region. That’s around what you’d expect to pay for Monopoly etc. and much, much cheaper than some other board games. I’ve seen another Mars themed game going for £60-£70!

Quite simply, you need to colonise Mars. You’re required to use resources and build stations whilst making your way to the Martian North Pole. I’ve found that when two of us are playing we can find ourselves approaching the pole at the same pace but to be fair, this depends how aggressive you are tactics wise. It was very enjoyable to play with a total of four people which seems a sensible amount of players. Anymore and you could get frustrated waiting for your turn!

It seems as though the game isn’t too easy to acquire at the moment but if you can get your hands on it then it’s an enjoyable and moderately but not overly challenging game. I’ve enjoyed playing it before and look forward to doing so again.

Five Animated Films to Watch During Lockdown

Following on from ‘Five Documentaries to Watch During Lockdown’…

https://planetpaul.blog/2021/01/16/five-documentaries-to-watch-during-lockdown/

Here are five animated film recommendations. This selection is geared toward films aimed at adults though some are suitable for children.

Waltz with Bashir (2008)

Israeli former soldier Ari Folman wrote, produced and directed this fascinating film. Told in the Hebrew language, it recalls Folman’s experiences in the 1982 Lebanon War. The film is at times a little slow, which may not be to everybody’s taste. It’s visually stunning however but so are many animated films, crucially, Waltz with Bashir provides substance to support the stunning visuals.

The Red Turtle (2016)

Like Waltz with Bashir, The Red Turtle is far from fast paced. Again, stunning visuals are on display but so is brutality. I found that the film, which has no dialogue, posed many questions but to draw upon them would provide a little too much on the spoiler front.

Quite simply, a man is shipwrecked on a deserted island beach and… meets a red turtle!

April and the Extraordinary World (2015)

Science is banned. Komodo dragons take over the world. Yeah, that’s it in a nutshell!

French language film April and the Extraordinary World features the voice talents of Marion Cotillard in the lead role of April. I’ve long been impressed by French cinema and this is another addition to a long list of high quality films to originate from across the channel.

Loving Vincent (2017)

I watched Loving Vincent only recently. It was the first film that I’d seen in quite some time (Two kids, blah blah blah!). It’s difficult to comprehend how it, the world’s first fully oil painted feature film, was put together.

Most of us know at least a little bit about Vincent Van Gogh and are familiar with some of his work. By watching this film, I learned a lot more about him and after checking out his work post viewing, it was fascinating to see how his work had been inserted into the film.

Moon Man (2012)

I originally watched this film sometime ago and though I enjoyed it, recalled it being a little slow. However, I managed to half watch it with my daughter recently and found it even more enjoyable as well as being a little more quick paced than I remembered.

Stunning visuals, stunning visuals. I know, I’ll be repeating myself here but I really did like the art in this film. The 95-minute long effort is based on a 1967 picture book by Toni Ungerer. The general consensus is that it can’t quite keep kids interested but my very young daughter seemed to enjoy it and like I say, I found it a better watch than I had remembered.

Nine, a film lost between being a kids film and not a kids film, A Scanner Darkly and Watership Down, a film familiar to many, are also worth watching. The latter is brutal but brilliant! The opening sequence is original. The blood covered fields are superb imagery and of course Art Garfunkel’s Bright Eyes will forever conjure images of rabbits.

Where Will Cricket’s Next T20 League Be?

It all started with T20 matches in England (Which almost seems hard to believe!) but it’s in other traditional cricketing hotbeds that T20 cricket has thrived. Namely in India (IPL) and Australia (BBL) as well as Pakistan (PSL) and the West Indies (CPL).

Beyond those regions countries such as Hong Kong and Canada have also produced T20 leagues that have attracted the world’s premier short format players. Some of these leagues haven’t necessarily had full status or lasted the course however.

But where will the next breakout T20 league be? USA and even Europe as a whole (Well… Scotland, Ireland and Netherlands) are certainly trying. Beyond that though, where could we see T20 freelancers flocking to next?

My prediction is… Qatar!

Of course Qatar are soon to host a football (Soccer) World Cup and they seem to be putting some energy into cricket too…

https://www.qatarcricketassociation.org

The Arab nation are up to 22nd in the men’s T20I rankings having usurped the likes of Kenya, Bermuda and USA, all teams that have played at major tournaments.

https://www.icc-cricket.com/rankings/mens/team-rankings/t20i

One thing that Qatar isn’t short of is clout… or money! Creating the infrastructure, ie: fancy stadiums and fancily named financially backed franchises would be no problem for the wealthy personnel that reside in Qatar.

It was in capital city Doha that cricket began in the country and its been simmering under the surface for a while. The nature of modern society and cricket itself really could see T20 cricket explode on the Persian Gulf. Presumably the dry pitches would favour spin but I’m sure that the knowledge and technology exists for organisers to maintain decent playing surfaces regardless.

Qatar gets a bad rap for its treatment of workers but doesn’t every non-white country that’s building World Cup stadiums? It’s easy for a reporter to take a photo of a worker having a break on a hot day and portray it as mistreatment. That said, if thirty four people have died building football stadiums then there’s clearly cause for concern. We wouldn’t want anymore deaths just to lay the foundations of cricket.

The average summer temperature in Qatar is between 35 and 45 degrees so games may primarily have to be day/night affairs. I can’t claim to be an expert on Qatari dew!

The population of Qatar is sub 3 million. I’ve read conflicting figures but most of the countries people live in or around Doha. I should probably point out that Qatar is only around a third of the size of Belgium.

How the football World Cup plays out could effect sentiment for future opportunities such as a bristling T20 cricket league in Qatar. Anyway, that’s my prediction for the location of the next T20 franchise league… The Qatar Premier League or Doha Sixfest maybe?!

What are your thoughts? Where will cricket thrive next?

Edit: It later came to my attention that Qatar has had a T10 league though unfortunately there were some fixing concerns!

Five Books to Read During Lockdown

Come on now! You’ve had plenty of time to watch the five documentaries that I recommended…

https://planetpaul.blog/2021/01/16/five-documentaries-to-watch-during-lockdown/

Now it’s onto literature…

Fire Season by Philip Connors

Connors’ memoir of many summers spent as a fire lookout in New Mexico’s Gila range beautifully details his summers spent saving forests (And lives) from fires. Man, wilderness, solitude… basically my staple reading material!

Connors’ follow up, All the Wrong Places, is also worth a read and though it’s not completely necessary, I feel that there’s value in having got to know him via Fire Season first.

Living Fossil by Keith S. Thomson

Thomson’s Living Fossil details the find and scientific investigation of a fish presumed extinct for millions of years… only it was still thriving (Well, surviving) all along!

This book is an amazing insight into how much remains unknown about our planet, or about how much some know but others don’t. It’s scientific yet readable for the layman.

Mountain of the Dead by Keith McCloskey

In 1959 nine Russian students died in absurdly mysterious circumstances whilst hiking in the mountains of the country’s extreme north. The records of the investigation were off limits for many years and what actually happened to them remains unsolved (Or at least unconfirmed) to this day.

The remotely located students abandoned the relative safety of their tent (By abandoned I mean ripped their way out using knives!) and ran into the storm battered night with almost no clothes on.

McCloskey’s work, subtitled The Dyatlov Pass Incident, provides details of what appears to have happened and theories as to what may have been the cause.

A Soldier’s Tale by M.K. Joseph

If I recall correctly, this is actually the author (M.K Joseph) detailing a story that was told to him by someone in the trenches. Of course he spices it up but regardless of its origins and truth, it’s a beautiful piece of work. Its conclusion is stomach churning and I can literally remember reading (And feeling) the final few pages.

A quick web search to refresh some details didn’t help me much but did suggest that this book wasn’t everybody’s cup of tea. Someone once said that “The object of art is to divide opinion”. Well some people may not have liked A Soldier’s Tale but it’s one of my all time favourite reads!

Freefall by Oran Canfield

In contrast to A Soldier’s Tale, I’m not even going to look this one up. However, like A Soldier’s Tale, I read this whilst in New Zealand. I can vividly remember walking down a street in Napier and seeing this brightly covered book jumping out at me on a sun laden table positioned outside. I seem to recall that there were quite a few copies and they were going cheap. The whole thing is just crazy. It involves drugs, circuses and well… why not have a read and find out?!