Wednesday, January 19, 2005


We signed a six-month lease on our first apartment today: moving in gradually over the next few days, not least because our bed doesn't get delivered until Saturday.

We're in Walnut Creek, 5 minutes from Safeway and a couple of blocks from downtown; close enough to the in-laws to visit easily without being in their pockets, and on the BART line into the city; and we'll see how it goes.

It's a good time of year to be apartment-hunting; lots of vacancies. It's more a case of seeing enough of them to determine what exactly it is you're looking for: location, layout, size, facilities.

The bigger problem for us is qualifying to rent; landlords here take up references, check credit, and expect a certain level of income, which for us as not-yet-working immigrants with (in the US, at least) no rental history and little-to-no credit history makes life a little difficult. But it's not impossible; proof of assets, a bigger deposit, or paying some months in advance is usually sufficient.

And apartments here are pretty much invariably unfurnished; the place looks awfully empty right now...

Movie roundup

OK, running behind as I am: one old, one new.

Ocean's Twelve: terrible.

Ocean's Eleven was fun fluff; but this one is forced and dull. The performances are limp: Brad Pitt and George Clooney don't spark off each other this time. And the plot's confused: the first movie's cat-and-mouse one-big-heist concept worked, but this one is a series of damp squibs with no real payoff.

1/5: a waste of 2 hours.

The Aviator: excellent.

It doesn't pull its punches: the trailers focus on Howard Hughes the aviator, but more of the movie is about Hughes the womaniser, the paranoid, the compulsive. We're shown how Hughes' odd behaviour affects those around him, but then we're shown how terrifying everyday situations appear to him: dirt, the public gaze, unfamiliar foods. One scene in particular brings this home: Hughes, in a restaurant bathroom, washes his hands compulsively to the point at which they start bleeding; uses all the towels; and is trapped in the bathroom by the dirty doorknob. A lot of "what a goofball" tittering from the audience early in the scene; but gradually, silence, as they realise that this isn't funny for him; it's painful.

It's not a happy story, and it's certainly not a happy ending; but we already knew that. It is however a story very well told.

Cate Blanchett plays very well as Katharine Hepburn; just up to the edge of caricature, but just enough within it to get away with it.

And an amazingly good performance by Leonardo DiCaprio — who would have thought he had it in him? Very measured, and full of little touches: I particularly liked the very brief shot in which, after taking his personal soap out of its case, he quickly but carefully aligns the two halves of the case with the edges of the sink.

4/5: often uncomfortable, but compelling.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Running behind

Sorry for the sporadic updates of late; much to do and little time to write. I have lots of topics in my mental queue, but getting them out of my head and into a finished post is running slowly at the moment.

In progress: apartment hunting. More later. Things are a little different here.

Time thief: Star Wars: KOTOR for XBox. What a game. Most people play this one through twice, first favouring the Light Side and then replaying on the Dark Side. I'm towards the end of my first play: about 45 hours in, and the end is in sight. KOTOR II is out now, but apparently not as good; I'm leaning towards Morrowind as the next game.

Rocking: the lemon. Love it.