Monday, 29 September 2008


"If I calculate everything right, I will land in Dover. But if I get it wrong, I take a bath." - Yves Rossy (pictured right).

Well, Rossy did calculate everything right because last Friday, the Swiss aviator and former military pilot became the first person to fly solo across the English Channel using a single jet-propelled wing.

Known as 'Fusionman' by his friends and 'Jetman' by the media, Rossy aimed to follow the route flown by his hero, French airman Louis Bleriot, who became the first person to fly across the Channel in a plane 99 years ago.

Here are some facts about his flight:-
  • The flight from Calais to Dover covered a distance of 22 miles.
  • It was postponed twice last week due to bad weather.
  • The 49-year-old began the flight by jumping out of a plane more than 8,200ft in the air.
  • Rossy reached speeds of up to 125mph.
  • The entire flight took less than ten minutes.
  • The wing had no rudder or tail fun, so Rossy had to steer using his head and back. It is the closest anyone has ever come to flying like a bird.
I think this is an incredible achievement. Man has always wanted to fly (ever since the Superman cartoons of the 1930s) and now Yves Rossy has taken the first steps to making that become a reality.

Upon completing his flight, Rossy said: "I only have one word, thankyou, to all the people who took the journey with me."

Mr Rossy's name will now be up there with all of the best aviators: Superman, Boba Fett, Buzz Lightyear.

To infinity and beyond.

REVIEW: Righteous Kill

Al Pacino + Robert De Niro = ?

This film exists because somebody asked the above equation. What does happen when you put the world's greatest actors in the same film?

This has happened twice before of course.

Firstly, in the Godfather: Part II, although De Niro's scenes and Pacino's scenes were separated by about thirty years on account of De Niro playing a flashback version of Vito Corleone.

The second encounter of these two legends was more memorably in Michael Mann's Heat, where the two finally were allowed to share a scene. Admittedly, this was only five minutes long in a coffee shop but it was enough to get the hearts beating of even the most removed cinema-goer.

Well, that was in 1995. Thirteen years later and now we get a film where De Niro and Pacino practically share every frame. Surely, this is going to be the greatest movie ever?!

Unfortunately, no it isn't. But it was never going to be.

I read so many derogatory reviews of this film before seeing it (even my ever faithful Empire only gave it two stars) that I was pleasantly surprised because Righteous Kill is a very good film.

It is such a joy watching De Niro and Pacino acting as life-long pals onscreen. They are heroes of the old school, joking about The Brady Bunch and Underdog whilst making the young new bucks (played ably by Donnie Wahlberg and John Leguizamo) look like over-excited kids.

And De Niro and Pacino compliment each other, relying on their best catalogue of work. De Niro is the quick-to-anger Turk (see Goodfellas, Taxi Driver), whilst Pacino is the gum-chewing wise-cracking Rooster (Heat, The Devil's Advocate).

The criticisms of the film are fair in some cases. Empire commented that there is not one memorable shot in the whole film and that Jon Avnet is no Michael Mann (although the splitscreen therapy session is incredibly crowd-pleasing). But maybe Avnet is simply an actor's director. He certainly gets great performances from everyone he points a camera at - Carla Gugino's sexy CSI detective is particularly captivating.

Furthermore, many critics have said that the script borders on convention and is full of cliches. Maybe I haven't seen enough cop films but I think that's a tad unfair. The concept of a cop serial killer is interesting, the twist was impressive if predictable and the pace of the film never slows.

So ignore the reviews (except this one obviously) and go see this film.

No other film in history has these two great actors starring opposite each other to this extent and that alone is worth the admission. And let's be honest. Both men are getting old now. There won't be much opportunity for them to play cops anymore, so enjoy it while you can.

So if you ask me, Robert De Niro + Al Pacino = ruddy good viewing.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

REVIEW: RocknRolla

Happy days - Guy Ritchie is back on form!

It's been seven years since his last good film (Snatch) and after the shocking Cast Away and the trying-too-hard-to-be-clever Revolver, he really needed a hit.

And where better to find a hit than looking back at what made him popular in the first place: gangsters, London wit, good music, interweaving stories and black comedy.

In fairness, Ritchie isn't exactly re-inventing the wheel here: the opposing bad guys kill each other sparing the good guys, everyone is chasing a MacGuffin again (here it is a painting, previously it was a diamond and antique shotguns).

But Ritchie is sticking to what he does best. And why not? He has a natural talent within the British gangster genre and he might as well stick to it.

And he has matured. The film's main characters are a lot more fleshed out than in his previous films and he doesn't just rely on cartoon cut-out stereotypes (well, not as much as he used to).

Also, Ritchie doesn't get pre-occupied with comedy in RocknRolla. Whereas every other line in Lock Stock - and even more so in Snatch - was a tiresome sarcastic comment, here the humour is much more tethered and the film is better for it.

Ritchie still aims to emulate Tarantino a bit too much but, as always, he just ends up copying him: a silly dance scene between the two leads, walking in on characters in compromising situations, 'deep' theoretical monologues. Johnny Quid comparing life to a cigarette packet is very Tarantino-wannabe dialogue and falls short of the mark.

But small gripes aside, this is an enjoyable, exciting, stylishly-shot, cool-sounding film.

And there is no short amount of praise for the cast: Gerard Butler is charismatic as ever as One-Two, the relatively unknown Tom Hardy is likable as the closet-homosexual Handsome Bob, Mark Strong has confirmed himself as a rising talent as Archy (and is set to play Dr Watson alongside Robert Downey Jr in Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes) and newcomer Tony Kebbell is scarily watchable as rock star Johnny Quid.

Throw in a twist or two and you have a great film. And we are promised that the gang will return in The Real RocknRolla. A Guy Ritchie first: a sequel?

Rock on.

Flash Gordon

Shock-horror readers: I think I'm becoming a little bit more political.

During my pre-Sabb years, I was the first to say that I found the very notion of politics boring. In fact, my campaign slogan was: "Out with the politics, in with the Fairbanter!"

But I guess my year as a student politician has done me some good because I'm actually starting to care about regional and even national politics. Sort of.

Yesterday, during my lunch hour, I watched Gordon Brown's speech at the National Labour Conference in Manchester.
And I didn't get bored! In fact, it was quite interesting. Especially, the introductory cameo appearance from his wife.

I'm still too cynical and apolitical to actually have an opinion on his speech. But I didn't change the channel either, so at least my interest is heading in the right direction.
Smashing apathy begins at home.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Notts Freshers' Week '08

My fifth Freshers' Week began today but it is my first Freshers' Week at Nottingham.

I'm having a great time comparing it to how we used to do things Brumside - and I think Nottingham Students' Union might be winning!

1. Their Fresher's marquee is erected in the middle of campus on Nightingale Field, whereas ours was tucked behind our Guild building.

2. The marquee is so big that all the societies, the sports teams and the commerical stands can fit within the same tent. In Birmingham, everyone was scattered around the Guild building and the sports teams were miles away at the Munrow.

3. The marquee and its contents are there for three days running. At Brum, most people were just given one day or two at best. Usually, there was a rotation system, meaning that only certain societies would be present on any one day.

4. Nottingham have an absolute army of Week One reps that put our Birmingham Welcome Crew to shame. They are made up of student volunteers led by an elected Week One Exec and organise tours around campus, events for every Hall and the famous Freshers' Address...

5. Notts have a newly-introduced society sign-up system. You simply have to collect a barcode from the society you wish to join, head on over to the checkout and then you can pay in one go using chip & pin.
6. And the Freshers' Address is phenomenal! Every single first year is led by the Week One reps into the Sports Hall (this requires four sittings) and they are given a half an hour induction into student life by the SU President himself, Nsikan Edung. They are treated to a techno light display, an awesome DJ set and indoor fireworks. Also, they are shown a video or two aboutt he SU, various slides of the SU Exec/services and a safe-sex video acted in the style of a 1950s education video. They are also given a glimpse of the SU mascot, Easy Tiger, and note down the number for Nightline en masse.

Incredible. Impressive. Inspiring.

Week One has got it going on.

Friday, 19 September 2008

SNL Sarah Palin Parody!

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, two of the funniest women alive, recorded a Sarah Palin parody for last week's Saturday Night Live.
The sketch shows Fey & Poehler play Sarah Palin & Hilary Clinton respectively and absolutely rinses the new Republican Vice-President candidate.
The scary thing is just how much of the Palin dialogue has already been said publically by the real Sarah Palin.
Video clips of the sketch are on the left-hand side of this blog. Check 'em out.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Born to Run!

After the thrill and satisfaction of completing the Nottingham half-marathon on Sunday, I have now entered myself in the Birmingham half-marathon!

The race around Brum is being held on Sunday 26th October and is sponsored by EDF Energy. As such, the race has been coined: The Race Against Climate Change.

I'm giving myself the rest of the week off (drinking, eating bacon, etc) and then I'll be back in training, aiming to beat my recent time of 1 hour, 50 minutes and 48 seconds.

Game on!

Monday, 15 September 2008

The Nottingham Half-Marathon


Yesterday, I competed in the Nottingham Robin Hood Half-Marathon.

The race start and finishes on the Embankment by Trent Bridge, with thirteen miles of scenic Nottingham landmarks in between, including Nottingham Castle, the University of Nottingham and Wollaton Park.

It was my first ever attempt at 13 miles (my training regime peaked at 10) and it was certainly a challenge. Most hazardous were the drink stations, as the runners usually take one sip then launch the bottle across the pavement before continuing on their way. This leaves the pavement littered with obstacles and you have to keep an eye on your feet.

But happy days, I finished in 1 hour, 50 minutes and 57 seconds! This fulfilled my target of finishing in less than two hours, so I was well chuffed. I also came 1,725th out of 6,648 people so I finished in the top 26%. Not bad for a first attempt!

Upon finishing, I collected my Lace Panel (which will look nice on my wall) and one of those tin foil capes which is supposed to stop you cooling down too quickly. I met up with my supporters too, who included Laura Clark, my Mum, my Uncle and my Nan.

It was a great day and a great achievement - one more challenge ticked off my list! And ironically, my Dad won my sweepstake competition so the prize money is staying within the Fairbanks family.

The Birmingham half-marathon is just five weeks away. Tempting...

UPDATE: I have now discovered that I actually completed the half-marathon in 1 hour, 50 minutes and 48 seconds. My original time includes the time it took me to get to the start line, so this recent update is more accurate. So basically, I gained another nine seconds!


Friday, 12 September 2008

The Paralympics

Today I have discovered the joys of the paralympics.

It's amazing how obsessed I was with the Beijing Olympics and then for some reason I missed the whole first five days of the paralympics. And they are awesome!

Not only do you get to see the classic olympic games given an innovative and inclusive new twist - but you also get to see Great Britain beat America!

At the time of writing - the end of the Sixth Day - Great Britain are second in the medal table, tailing China by just four Golds and beating the mighty USA by a solid ten Golds!

So my enthusiasm for this competition has now been established. Using BBC iPlayer at work will be brought back into fashion next week.

Go Team GB!

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Life Goes On...

Well, it's Thursday which means our friend the Large Hadron Collider didn't destroy the world yesterday. I suppose that's a good thing... but it does feel like a bit of an anti-climax.

Anyway, I found out some awesome stuff about the LHC yesterday.

  • It is the largest and most expensive machine ever created by man. It cost 2.5 billion dollars! It is mostly funded by America - surprise, surprise.
  • It throws particles at 99.99% of the speed of light. Or 670 million mph.
  • These particles will collide with each other producing 800 million collisions per second.
  • It is circular and underground - like the Circle Line on the Underground map. And it is 17 miles long.
  • It stretches across the Franco-Swiss border (pictured right) and lies 100 metres below Lake Geneva.
  • Stephen Hawkings bet £50 that the scientists wouldn't find this fabled 'God particle'. He also said that he hopes they don't because that will make things more interesting.
  • We won't actually be able to find this particle for at least four years anyway.
So, whilst the world is watching the London 2012 Olympics, some crazy scientists in Geneva might be shouting about a particle which no-one really cares about. Except Stephen Hawking. And America.

Money well spent then.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

The End of the World?

The blogosphere is going crazy about this so I thought I might as well jump on the bandwagon too.

Apparently... the world is going to end tomorrow. This would mean that all of my marathon preparation would have been for nothing. And that would be rubbish.

This massive disaster is imminent because the world's most brilliant minds have assembled in Geneva and built the Large Hadron Collider - a ridiculously advanced particle accelerator that can recreate the conditions that existed just after the Big Bang occurred. And it achieves this by smashing parts of atoms together at high speeds.

The reason for doing this is because the Collider might be able to show us one of the most elusive particles in the Universe: the Higgs boson - otherwise known as the 'God particle'. This observation is supposedly worthwhile because it will confirm the Standard Model of Physics by unifying three of the four known fundamental forces - electromagnetism, the strong nuclear force and the weak nuclear force. It only leaves out gravity. Bless.

High speeds? Smashing? The Big Bang? God? Is this really necessary just to confirm stuff that we already know happens? And it only confirms 75% of these fundamental forces anyway. Pretty big risk for a half-assed job.

The primary reason people are panicking however is that a side-effect of this little experiment is that the Collider could produce a frickin' Black Hole. Error Geneva.

Admittedly, this is only a one-in-a-billion chance... but considering it could swallow the planet in less than a second, I really don't like those odds.

And unsurprisingly, everybody is looking back to see what old Nostradamus was talking about all those many years ago. Amongst his many ramblings you will find this:

"Leave, leave Geneva every last one of you,
Saturn will be converted from gold to iron,
'Raypoz' will exterminate all who oppose him,
Before the coming the sky will show signs."

Well, Geneva gets a mention. The sky will show signs? Well, it's been raining non-stop. And Sky News will no doubt be covering the event. Not too sure who this Raypoz character is though.

Either way, we won't know if the world ends so why worry?

See you tomorrow - hopefully.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Upper Odlington

This weekend we all journeyed through torrential rain to visit Alistair in Manchester. His house (pictured right) was full to the brim with money and pheasants and fox-hunting trophies. Rah!

By early evening, a whole host of engineers had arrived - not to mention Robzilla - and we ate BBQ, sang songs and drank everything.

We eventually found our way into central Manchester where me and Sean were denied entry to a club because we were wearing trainers. We hatched a cunning plan and returned five minutes later wearing black socks over our trainers. I had even put my t-shirt over the top of my shirt.

Unfortunately, the bouncer saw through my cunning disguise... so I offered him £70. That didn't work either. Although we did make him laugh a lot.

Plan B: myself, Sean and Mark left the group and got battered in a different club. And I literally can't tell you anything else about the following six hours.

Suffice it to say, we rocked up at Alistair's house at 4.30am after spending £32 on a taxi. And there was an empty bottle of wine by my bed.

Jolly good lash was had by all. Bosh!

Friday, 5 September 2008

My First Ever Traffic Jam

I got stuck in my first ever traffic jam whilst driving home from work yesterday. The usual ten minute drive took one whole hour!

It was an absolute nightmare and my legs were knackered afterwards from sitting on the biting point for so long.

The whole kerfuffle was caused by a lorry accident on the very cusp of the Nottingham Knight roundabout.

Luckily, I had the mighty Radio 1 and Nihal/Russell Howard to keep me company and get me through this traumatic ordeal.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

On the Run

In an attempt to get fit and complete my New Year's Resolution to 'Get Buff', I have decided to run the Nottingham Robin Hood Half-Marathon.

I have therefore been in training this past month. This involves less drinking, more healthy food and a lot of running around West Bridgford. So far it is going well and I can now run seven miles quite comfortably.

None of this would have been possible were it not for my awesome Nike+ iPod accessory. The sensor goes into the sole of my Nike+ trainers and the other bit goes into my iPod - and amazingly it records how far and fast I am running! This is a great motivational tool when pounding the pavement, as a saucy American voice speaks into your ear each time you pass a milestone. And if you record a new time or reach a new distance then you get Paula Radcliffe or Lance Armstrong telling you congratulations!

There are just ten days until the half-marathon and it's starting to feel real. My race number even came in the post on Monday - I am number 12024.

So until Sunday 14th, I will be gathering the last remnants of my sponsorship money and running as much as I can.

See you at the finish line!