Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Who did shoot the deputy?

I'm feeling quite pleased with myself.

As you'll know, if you've dipped into the archived posts listed down the side of the page, I started guitar lessons in March of this year. Back then, I was attending a class alongside fellow students with an average age of about 8 years old. Not any more. No siree. The teacher, Vernon, soon realised that I was something of a natural and so suggested that I moved to the earlier class where my flair might be allowed to blossom more quickly, and the average age of 13 might mean I would feel more at home. But that's not the reason I'm feeling pleased with myself.

Over the summer there has been a break, and lessons start again next week. During the summer break we have been set bits of 'homework' to practice (or should that be practise? I'm never quite sure). One of these has been to continue to practice/practise the bass-line and the melody for 'I Shot the Sheriff' by Bob Marley. For those of you who don't know the song, it is in a reggae style where the rhythmic emphasis is outlined by the guitar playing chords on beats 2 and 4 and the bass drum accenting beat 3. At least, that's what I'm reliably told on page 26 of Guitar Encounters Book 1.

I am thoroughly sick of this song. I have been playing it over and over for what seems an eternity (it's actually only been a couple of months on and off, but still...). It's the bass-line that I find particularly awkward to play (even for me with my natural flair!). But today, I think I finally got it! I finally played it without any errors (well, pretty much) at full speed (I had found a way to slow down the version on the Guitar Encounters CD that comes with the book). I'm sure it was a fluke, but I don't care.

So that's why I'm feeling quite pleased with myself.

('The House of the Rising Sun' on page 30 looks particularly tricky so don't expect any further updates on progress this side of Christmas!)

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Say Yes More!

I am reading Danny Wallace's book, Yes Man (published by Ebury Press). It's very good, and at just 50p (that's right, 50p!) it really was fantastic value. At that price, even I didn't have any inclination whatsoever to 'accidentally' walk out of WH Smith's without paying for it (if you really want to, you can click here for an account of when £3 was deemed to steep a price to pay...). In fact, it was one of several possible 50p purchases on this particular day in this particular shop, with it being sat between Into the Blue (covering the boy band Blue on tour) and From Alliance to Conference (a book about the history of the Vauxhall Conference football league). As I am neither an adolescent girl nor am I autistic, I decided to buy just Wallace's book (and paying out £1.50 would have probably given me a nose-bleed).

The basic premise of the book is that we should say 'yes' more! We should be more open to the many of life's opportunities when they come our way. Danny Wallace took this to an extreme by turning it into a way of life. Not content with just saying Yes more... he was going to say Yes to everything! He turned it into a manifesto for life.

As I say, I'm still reading the book but it seems to be working out well for Danny. I had a quick look at his website, and it would appear that they are to make a film based on Yes Man, starring Jim Carrey. Which I suppose is a good thing.

Monday, 20 August 2007

If God was a cuber

Following on from an earlier post, if God did play with a Rubik's Cube, He would be able to solve it in less than 26 moves. It's official. Researchers at Northeastern University in Boston have used a supercomputer to calculate that the least number of moves needed to solve any cube, no matter how mixed up, is no more than 26 (the BBC news page can be found here). Apparently, within cubing circles, the least number of moves needed to solve any Rubik's Cube is referred to as "God's number" as any omniscient being worth His (or Her) salt would be able to solve the puzzle in the minimum necessary moves. I mean, God is not going to want to waste valuable time taking unnecessary extra moves completing the cube, whilst there are tsunamis to create or earthquakes to organise.

The actual value of "God's number" is likely to be even lower than 26... theoretical work suggesting it is probably in the low 20's. Here's hoping it ends up being 23. That would do a nice job of confirming many people's belief in the mystical properties of the number 23!

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Inaudible whispers

I finally got round to watching the movie Lost in Translation this week. I'm not going to review it here because you can no doubt find reviews elsewhere (here for example!). And I'm no film critic. Suffice to say it is a film about two people, Bob (played by Bill Murray) and Charlotte (played by Scarlett Johnanson), who meet in Tokyo. Bob is an actor who is in Japan to film a commercial for a whisky, whilst Charlotte is accompanying her photographer husband on a business trip. The film follows how these two lonely people connect with each other.

The reason I'm mentioning it here is because in a scene towards the very end of the movie Bob whispers something into the ear of Charlotte before they part. (I don't think I'm ruining the film for you by telling you this... but you might want to watch the film first before reading further; at the very least it will give you a context!). Thanks to the wonders of YouTube (and my new-found ability to post YouTube videos...) you can view the scene below:

We don't get to hear what Bob actually says, apart from he ends by saying "...OK?", to which Charlotte respondes "OK". Of course, you're not supposed to be able to hear what he whispers (the DVD subtitles say "inaudible", I tried it), but I was interested to know whether a line was scripted for the scene, or whether Bill Murray improvised a line, or whether he just mumbled a few meaningless words. And it seems I'm not alone. For example, one of the reviews I read (at was followed by many comments relating to what Bob actually says (the other main concern seems to be where can you get hold of the cherry blossoms like those that Charlotte hangs in her hotel room). What's interesting, is that there are a range of opinions regarding what Bob says.

Suggestions include:

"You have changed me irreversibly... [inaudible] ...Stay here and I will be back for you in a week, OK?"

"I was ready... [inaudible] ...on the way back, you should tell him the truth, OK?"

"I'll always remember the past few days with you... don't part mad, tell him the truth, OK?"

"You want to have a better performance? Go up there and tell him you love him right now."

"I love you, and everything you did. Go back there and tell him to try, OK?"

"Promise me... [inaudible] ... on the flight back, tell him the truth, OK?"

So I'm not any closer to an answer! I have just listened again to the scene and to me it sounds as though he begins with "Promise me..." and ends with "...and you tell him that you love him, OK?".

Some of those speculating on Bob's words even put forward some evidence in order to support their claims. For example, one points us to this website, that has scripts for hundreds of films including Lost in Translation. But when I looked just now, Lost in Translation wasn't there (it goes from Lost Horizons to Lost Souls)! Another points to a different website, where you can play the clip either with 'normal sound' or with 'enhanced sound', claiming that when you listen with the enhanced sound Bob clearly says "I love you, and everything you did. Go back there and tell him to try, OK?". Finally, one person points us back to YouTube, saying that if you search for "Lost in Translation whisper", you will find the answer. Well, folks, I did that. And, because I can, I have posted it here. Are you ready for the answer?

No way! I listened to it that time, and was convinced he ended by saying something like "... and you tell him the truth, OK?". It definitely was not "...but I won't let it come between us, OK?".
So I think we are left with not knowing. And not knowing is probably better than knowing. Because knowing is bound to be a disappointment. At least this way, whatever Bob whispers into Charlotte's ear can be what we want it to be, and from what we've seen (and heard) it seems that's exactly what people are doing. The idea is that you aren't told what is whispered. It's up to you to decide for yourself. I'll leave you with the words of one of the comments on which ring very true:
"The script isn't punishing you by not letting you hear the whisper, it's a reward. That whisper can be whatever you think it is. Whether you're a romantic, a cynic, or somewhere in between, the unintelligible whisper provides a perfect ending. I know exactly what he said, but I'm not going to tell you. You have to figure it out for yourself (hint: turning up the volume will not help)."
So we'll leave it at that. It is what you want it to be. I'm happy with that.

(But if you do have any inside information regarding what Bob actually does say...)

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Go with the flow

Another four-word phrase that has been going round in my mind for some time is 'go with the flow'. Some people seem to be better than others at doing this, allowing themselves to be guided by their environment and not getting unnecessarily upset when things don't always go to plan.

There's more I want to say on the idea of going with the flow, but for now I thought I'd share with you the video I stumbled across on YouTube (at the same time allowing me to show off that I'd figured out how to post YouTube videos to my blog!).

Saturday, 4 August 2007

Sliding Doors

One red paperclip

Kyle Mcdonald's story started with one red paperclip. He wanted to trade it for something better. A pen maybe. Or a spoon. His aim was to trade it for something slightly bigger and better, and then trade whatever he got for it for something slightly bigger or better again. His ultimate aim was to trade up to a house! And, do you know what... he did. Okay, it was a house in

You get to choose

I have a friend. Hard to believe, I know, but I do. At least I consider him a friend. In fact, he is one of my "official" friends certified by Facebook. So there's no denying it.

I'll call this friend Byron, primarily because this is his name. Hard to believe, I know, but it is (and if I was going to make up a name, I doubt 'Byron' would be in the frame...). He's also American. Not that there's anything wrong with that either. Some of my best friends are American. Byron, for example. (This is beginning to go round in circles.)

Now Byron likes his food. I'm not saying he's fat, because he's not. He's big, as in tall (I would guess around 6' 3") and he's not skinny. But he does like his food. Perhaps this is linked to the fact that he is American, I don't know. He particularly seems to like it when there is a wide range of choices for what or where to eat (and I think this is an American thing). If you were to visit Byron (and if you happen to know him, I'm sure he'd love to see you) then my guess is that he would reel off a long list of local eateries where you might be able to enjoy lunch or dinner together (depending on what time of day you visited). "Synchronization of stomachs" as he calls it. On occasions that I have visited him, he would be able to talk me through the menus (without even looking at them) for all the local restaurants and takeaways, whether they be Chinese, Indian, Thai, Italian, French, Mexican, or even, dare I say it, English or American.

The task ahead of us, then, was to pick one of these at which to eat. Now this was the stage of the process that I used to find really difficult. I would ask, "So which one do you think we should go to?", to which he would respond by uttering the four words that I didn't want to hear, "You get to choose!".

The thing is, I didn't want to choose. I felt that he was in a better position to make the choice, anyway, as he had been to these places and sampled the food and could therefore make a more informed choice. "They're all good", he would say, "you get to choose". But for some reason, I was really uncomfortable with being put in the position to choose where to eat. My protests of "but I really don't mind...!" tended to elicit the same four words in response. If I was being asked to choose for a larger group of stomachs in need of synchronization, I'd be a nervous wreck. Why did I have to choose? Why me?

And then, over a period of a year or so, the phrase “you get to choose” seemed to take on a much more profound meaning. It went from being an ever so slightly irritating prompt to get me to choose where we ate or what we would do next, to representing something much more important. I started to realise that in so many things in life you really do get to choose. Indeed, life is full of choices. Full of them. And often we feel that choices we may have made in the past may have been bad choices, or even ‘wrong’ choices. And we are now stuck with those choices. Our life is the way it is because of a choice, or series of decisions, we may have made five, ten, or even twenty years ago. And that’s that. We’ve made our bed and now we have to lie in it. Well, whilst I believe there is definitely some truth to that statement (in that we must live with and deal with the consequences of our choices), it is important to also remember that you always get to choose. Just as you got to choose back then, you still get to choose now. You can choose to change things whenever you want. Just because you have made your bed it doesn’t mean you have to lie in it. You could unmake the bed if you wanted to. You could choose to lie on the floor instead. Or you may choose not to lie down at all. Having made your bed you may decide you feel like jumping up and down on the bed, throwing the bedclothes out of the window, and weeing all over the mattress. I mean, it is your bed after all. Just remember, if you do choose to do this you will at some point probably need to retrieve said bedclothes and find a way of getting rid of the smell of urine. But hopefully you get my point.

Of course, the reason why we often feel as though we can’t change our minds once we’ve made our choice is that it can be difficult to feel as though we have the right to change our minds. Also, we may feel that it gives the impression of being indecisive and that would be awful to be thought of as indecisive, right?

Sometimes, though, there can just be fairly simple, but surprisingly strong, social pressures that prevent us from changing our mind. Let’s go back to the example of choosing restaurants that I lured you in with (“do we have to?” I hear you cry… no, we don’t have to, but on this occasion, I get to choose). Let’s imagine that I finally gave in and made a choice of restaurant. We go in and are shown to a table by the waiter (ooh, get him, waiter service), who then presents us with the menus before leaving us for a few minutes before he comes back to take our order. Now at this point, we haven’t eaten anything or even ordered anything. But what if, at this stage, you decide that you actually don’t want to eat at this particular restaurant? Maybe you feel that it’s actually a bit expensive or there is nothing on the menu that takes your fancy. Or maybe you feel that the waiter wasn’t very friendly, or the place it too dark or cold, or too bright and warm! Whatever the reason, you’ve changed your mind since you walked in. Now my bet is that you would find it quite difficult to tell the waiter that you’ve changed your mind and that you’re going to leave, or simply get up and walk out. At the very least, I would imagine that if you were to leave you would feel obliged to give an excuse to the waiter to explain your about-turn (“we have just had a phone call to say that our cat/aunt/friend has been run over/taken ill/won the lottery and we have to go and scrape her off the road/take her to the hospital/get pissed!”). More likely, however, is that you would politely remain seated and stay in the restaurant you have now decided you don’t like. Because there are strong social pressures that make it hard to act upon your change of mind. If you want to test this, then try it. It’s harder than you think.

But the fact remains that you always get to choose. You always have a choice.