Monthly Archives: January 2009

A Movie About Nazis Needs German Accents

I recently saw a trailer for the the new Tom Cruise movie Valkyrie. You have probably seen either the trailer or maybe even the movie itself. There seems to be a bit of controversy about whether Tom Cruise, who plays the Nazi conspiring to assassinate Hitler during the Second World War, should play the part using a German accent or not. In the actual movie Tom Cruise does not talk in a German accent, he speaks with his normal American accent. Well, sorry, but to me that is wrong and because of that I will not go and see the movie. In my opinion  a German Nazi should be played by an actor who speaks with a German accent at least and probably should be played by a German speaking person and, therefore, with English subtitles.

Imagine if the war film Pearl Harbour had English speaking Japanese fighter pilots. It would not seem right would it ? Well, the same principal applies with all similar films. I would rather not have an A list actor like Tom Cruise playing such parts. I would rather have an unknown actor who could speak German.

I recently watched a great movie called Apocolypto, directed by Mel Gibson.  Apocolypto is the mythic story of a tribe of Indians who have been conquered by another tribe and taken to an ancient Mayan kingdom to be sacrificed by the kingdom’s rulers to appease the gods who are currently “punishing” the Mayan people through sickness, pestilence, drought and a myriad of other issues in what is to become the waning days of their mighty empire. The point is though is that this film uses local actors who do not speak English. The film is sub-titled and in my opinion this makes the movie far more authentic and actually pretty scary in parts as well.

I am a big fan of war movies and all the best ones have had German speaking actors if they have been about World War 2. Can you imagine John Wayne playing a German. He was far too macho for that !

Travel Blog Launched

One of the things that I intended to do with this blog was to write lots of travel articles, offer travel advice, suggest great holiday destinations and tell you about  holiday and flight special offers. I am a travel agent and I am constantly being bombarded with travel deals and information. In these tough economic times we all want a bargain and rightly so !

I have written a couple of travel articles on this blog but I have decided to launch a separate Travel Blog where you will be able to read lots of interesting travel information and hopefully get inspiration for your next holiday. My personal blog will continue to feature interesting news stories and other stuff which I hope you will continue to read.

Click here to visit my Travel Blog

House Prices Drop But By Not As Much

The Nationwide has reported that house prices dropped by only 1.3% in January 2009. That is good news as prices dropped by 2.3% in December. I thought that I would report some good news about the economic situation for once as I don’t hear much good news at the moment. I know that lack of credit in the way of difficulties in getting mortgages for new house purchases is one of the causes of a slow housing market. Also, of course with jobs being cut and rising uncertantanty about job security this causes a lack of confidence as people don’t want to commit to any large financial long term purchases.

What I don’t like about monthly house price statistics is that there is always someone predicting that house prices are going to fall further and I have heard so called experts predict that prices could fall another 20%. This strikes me as like shooting yourself in the foot ! If you are thinking about buying a house or moving home you are not going to do that at the moment, you are going to wait until the market bottoms out as you won’t want your new house purchase to reduce in value as soon as you have bought it. Why then make any predictions about house prices falling further as this just causes a crisis of confidence in the housing market and this then affects the mortgage companies who are making the predictions in the first place. These are the very same companies who want there businesses to start prospering again ! There should be a ban on making predictions about house prices.

Now is the time then, if you have the money, to think about improving your home. Builders are short of work and you will get a better price for doing extensions and other building work than you would have done 12 months ago. I have heard that builders prices are 20% cheaper than normal at the moment so if you shop around you should get a bargain. On top of that, of course, VAT is now down to 15% so on a £25,000 building project you can save £625.00 in VAT.

One way of paying for any house improvement work is by equity release. Did you know that if you are over 55 you can do this and not pay any monthly repayments? It could be the alternative to getting a mortgage.

My prediction is that house prices will not fall for much longer. By June house prices will start to rise again, so now could be the time to start looking if you have been putting off that house move.

Exercise For Only 30 Seconds A Day To Stay Fit !

Scientists have discovered that just 30 seconds of high intensity exercise, like sprinting or cycling fast, can improve health if done on a regular basis. The findings say that this increases the body’s metabolism, which helps to prevent weight gain, heart disease and diabetes. The study was conducted on 16 men who sprinted and cycled as fast as they could every other day for only 30 seconds.

The intense exercise was more effective than leisurely workouts because it depleted sugar from muscles forcing them to replace it with stores from the blood, so the insulin function within the body was improved.

I like the sound of this research because I have never liked running the streets, especially at night. Not that I have actually run the streets for quite a few years, but the thought was there. Now, I have an excuse to run up the stairs at home 3 or 4 times in quick succession as that will probably take about 30 seconds !

I Have Changed The way My Blog Looks

When I started my own blog it was just as an experiment. I wanted to find out how to use WordPress and I wanted to know if I could use my blog to write travel articles so that I could promote my travel agency. At the start I didn’t pay much attention to the look and feel of the blog as I wanted to start writing some reasonably interesting content first. After writing over 50 posts in two months I thought that the time was right to improve the look of my blog so today I have changed its design. Hope that you like it.

Ice Skating – It Can Hurt!

It’s at least 15 years since I last went ice skating but when I was asked if I wanted to support the Woodhouse Grove Ice Skating event I said “Yes”! The nearest ice skating rink to me is in Bradford. It’s a throwback to the 60′s and hasn’t changed at all since the day it was built. I have only been ice skating about six times in my life so I am not an expert but I can get round!

So, I managed to get my boots on and stumbled onto the ice and was nearly bowled over by a 10 year old wiz kid going at 30MPH. Hanging onto the side I plucked up the courage to push myself off and glided a few yards, arms flailing everywhere as I tried to keep my balance. I thought to myself Yea, this is good, I’m a natural, so I set off again in a straight line. It was soon time to turn a corner and this is where it started to get a bit trickier as I don’t know how to turn but somehow I managed it and I was off. After a couple of laps I was getting more confident and would have been ready for the TV show Dancing On Ice if I had been asked.

But the inevitable soon happened. I had only been thinking to myself that I had never fallen whilst ice skating and before I knew it I had lost my balance and had landed heavily on my right arm. The most difficult thing though is getting back up. I must have looked as though I was struggling because another 10 year old wiz kid skated up to me to ask if I was ok. I said I was ok but in actual fact my arm was throbbing but the worst thing was that my confidence was shattered. I knew that if I fell on that same arm again I would not be happy, so I decided that I would call it a day. My time on the ice was done and if I did get asked to do the Dancing On Ice show I would be saying NO!

Here I am on the ice. It’s a bit blurry..sorry

Ice skating at Bradford

El Gaucho Steak House, York – Review

As you may know from one of my previous posts about 10 things to eat before you die I love a good steak. In fact it is number 1 on my list. Last week I realised that I had not eaten a good piece of beef steak for quite a few months so I decided that I needed one!. My daughter is a medical student at York University so I decided to visit her and go out for a meal on the Saturday evening. After a bit of research I discovered that there is an Argentine Steak restaurant in York called El Gaucho so I made a reservation and off we went.

The best steaks I have ever had have been in the USA. There is a chain called “The Outback” which have an Australian theme to them. After that the UK has some good beef but Argentina is famed for it beef and after I had a good experience at The River Plate restaurant in Leeds I have been a fan ever since.

The El Gaucho restaurant in York is quite small and because I booked late there was only space for us upstairs, but the food is the same so it didn’t matter. The menu at the El Gaucho is quite extensive. They also have chicken and salmon on the menu but I was there for the steaks. I decided to go for the Beef fillet which included chips and salad. I also had a side order of onion rings. At £21 the fillet was a little expensive but as it turned out it was money well spent as the beef was very tasty, succulent and well cooked. I like my steak cooked medium to well done. OK, I know many people will say that you should have it cooked rare, but I like mine medium to well and always have!

el gaucho york

The service at the El Gaucho was very efficient and friendly and when I was paying even the owner came out of the kitchen to talk to me. I nearly asked him if he could show me how to cook the perfect steak but I didn’t! (My home cooked steaks are ok, but I am still working on the best way to cook a steak)

Overall my visit to El Gaucho was a very good experience. If you like steaks and you live in the York area then I can highly recommend this restaurant. Judging by how busy it was I think a lot of other people have realised that it’s a little gem too!

How About This For An Idea!

It’s official. The UK is now in recession, as if we didn’t already know! Everyday, I hear of shops closing and established businesses being denied credit from their bank. As a business owner myself I can tell you that these are very worrying times. Most businesses that sell anything must be seeing a reduction in sales. People are worried about their jobs and there is more unemployment which causes people to hang on to there money. As a travel agent I am seeing a shift to late bookings and I think that people will be reluctant to give up some sort of holiday this year.

In the past, people have found money easy to borrow for their holiday. After all, it is a major purchase and a family holiday for four people in high season to spain can cost £2,000. There is a definate shift towards All Inclusive holidays, where all food and drink is included in the basic price of the holiday. This makes it easy to budget as prices for buying things abroad have increased due to the fall in the value of the pound. I still think, though, that a holiday is good value for money compared to a holiday in the UK. Our travel agency is selling holidays to Greece at the moment for a week at a price of £199.00 per person which I think is great value for money.

The Idea to stop the rot

I think the government could have done much more to stop the recession in its tracks. Our greedy banks have been bailed out to the tune of billions of pounds. One of the main reasons for this was to get the banks lending again. This has not happened and the banks actually need bailing out again as the original sum has been swallowed up. The government has lent to the banks when it actually does not know the extent of their bad debts. I think the government should have missed out the banks and given money direct to the tax payer and to small businesses. What should have happened is that VAT and PAYE payments should have been stopped for 6 months and the slate wiped clean up to a certain amount. At a stroke this helps a struggling business and could avoid the need for shedding staff.

At the same time tax should have been reduced for 6 months, so that we all have more money in our pockets to encourage us to spend. This keeps the money supply moving and creates confidence in the economy.

Lets Build Houses!

In addition to this I think the government should have bought houses, thousands of them! It was only in the last year or so that the government said we needed to build thousands more houses for an increasing population. The building industry is in the doldrums, so why didn’t the government get the builders building by ordering houses to be built. The government could have done a deal with the building industry and they even could have become a huge landlord and rented these houses back so that they get their money back in rents. This scheme could even make the government a lot of money as these houses could be sold for a profit in the future. This makes sense to me!

I am not saying that the banks should not be saved but it strikes me that they were the ones who got us into this mess and they are being rewarded for that!

Twitter Tells The World What Your Are Doing!

I like to keep abreast of what is happening in the world and I also like to keep in touch with new technology and lately I have been trying to keep up with the new world of social media. I have got a Facebook page that I never use and I recently read that anybody who is anybody should really have a Twitter account!. So, I set up a Twitter account and tried to work out what it is supposed to do. As far as I can see it is a way of telling your Twitter followers what you are doing. If you have a Twitter account you can “follow” anyone else who also has a Twitter account.

Twitter has had a lot of publicity recently. A Twitter user was one of the first to break the news of the recent Hudson River plane crash. I did a bit of searching on Twitter and it is amazing how many people that I came across who had hundreds or in some case thousands of “followers”. I can’t understand though why they seem to have so many followers. Having a Twitter account allows you to send very brief 2 line messages either from a PC or a mobile phone. There is not much you can say in two lines but the system still seems to attract the followers.

So far on my Twitter account I have zero followers! Nobody, it seems wants to know what I am doing. I am probably, though, being a little harsh on myself because nobody knows that I have a Twitter account. If I had some followers I would probably be more inclined to tell the world what I was doing, although I don’t think it would be very interesting!

I have though some breaking news! I have signed up to follow three people so far – Barack Obama, Jonathan Ross and Stephen Fry. Stephen Fry has been sending messages very frequently. I followed his movements from Australia. I knew when he was in a taxi from the airport and I even knew when he was waiting in the Green Room at the BBC studios waiting to film the Jonathan Ross Show, on which he is a guest. Fry is an avid user of Twitter and apparently discussed Twitter with Ross on the show. I received a Twitter when Stephen Fry had finished the show but he was reluctant to say too much in view of the media interest.

So, here I am sitting at my PC waiting for my first Twitter follower. I will have a celebration when it happens but I am not holding my breath! One of the reasons I like to keep in touch with the likes of Twitter is from the business point of view as I am always looking for new marketing methods. I can actually see a good use for Twitter from a business point of view. It could make a very good way of keeping in touch with my customers. For example I could tell them when there is a special offer or some breaking travel news. Maybe I do have quite a lot to say after all.

If you want to be my first Twitter follower sign up here !

Barack Obama Body Doubles Wanted!

Following hundreds of threats to Barack Obama his security advisers have apparently recommended that the new President uses body doubles. The body doubles would be used for public photo opportunities where the President is not required to speak, but where he may be exposed to a possible threat. However, President Obama is understood to be against the idea of a body double as the tactic was used by the likes of Saddam Hussein, Stalin and Adolf Hitler. 

One of the best known Obama lookalikes, an Indonesian, who it is said is a spitting image of the President, has said that he does not want the job. He is reported to have said that “I don’t want to get shot”!

The new President Obama, who goes by the code name ‘Renegade’ to his secret service agents had an unprecedented amount of protection on the day of his inauguration. During the ceremony five tons of transparent armour was erected around the President to guard against a chemical attack and gunshots. Over 42,000 security personnel patrolled the streets, 15 intelligence teams mingled in the crowds, surface-to-air missiles pointed into the Sky where fighter jets were also on patrol. There were snipers on rooftops who are trained to hit an object the size of an orange from 1,000 yards and bridges and buildings were closed. The secret service have also recommended that Mr Obama wears a bullet proof vest when he is in public.

The last American President to have an attempt on his life was Ronald Reagan in 1981. He was shot and survived.

Any body double who gets the job, however, can’t expect to get the same level of protection. Due to the credit crunch he will have to ask some of his mates if they fancy a day out!