Weekly Photo Challenge: Windows

Windows is the theme this week for the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge…this is a shot I took from our kitchen window a couple of weeks ago when it looked like spring had finally arrived – then it rained again…I was struck by this little chap’s bright plumage – he’s not something we see that often…and that’s the coollest thing about our windows where we live – we never know what we might see next through them…

I’m on the road at the moment, doing a loop up through Singapore to Europe and back over the next couple of weeks…arrived at our hotel after dark so didn’t have a chance to check out the view til this morning…and was presented with a lovely view of old Singapore…

Had a smooth flight over – is there anything else on Singapore Airlines? – managed to squeeze in four movies:

tf3

More giant machines beating each other up…good violent fun – four-engined V-22s (v-44s?) are very cool…

gl1

A lot of fun that doesn’t take itself too seriously – Tem Morrision dies early in the story (always a plus)…

captain america

Captain America is ripping good yarn and pretty true to the original ‘Cap’ story as I remember it…
potter hallows 2

The (at) last Harry Potter movie – kinda anticlimatic after all the hype and build-up to it – the whole ‘Luke, I am your father’ thing has been done before and let’s be honest about it, once it was down, any effect from using it again is largely lost…

Another long haul flight tonight but think I’ll be all nigh-nighs for most of this one…

Pacific Dreams

Just perusing Facebook during one of my breaks and noticed that the New Zealand short film, Pacific Dreams, is an early announcement for the Show Me Shorts Film Festival here in November. Although I support most NZ film initiatives, Pacific Dreams is of particular interest because it is the brainchild of an old friend, Dave Strong and his company, Morepork Films. There’s nothing quite so satisfying as seeing someone leave the service and actually do what they set out to do and quite successfully too.

PACIFIC DREAMS was also accepted to compete in the Mobile SIFF Competition at the prestigious 2011 Shanghai International Film Festival in June, and screened at the recent 2011 New York City International Film Festival.

PACIFIC DREAMS was a recent winner at the 2011 Rhode Island International Film Festival, with Dame Kate Harcourt taking home first prize for Best Female Actress for her role.

Even though my part in the Lord of the Rings trilogy was minor and administrative, I have a healthy respect for the time, effort, resources and skills it takes to bring even a  short film to the big screen and so have nothing but respect for Dave for having the courage of his convictions and staying the course with his dream. Hope this is but the start of an illustrious and developing career in film…

For those interested and geographically able, the 2011 dates and locations for Show Me Shorts that are confirmed so far are:

Capitol Cinema, Auckland – 3-13 November

Bridgeway Cinema, Auckland – 3-13 November

Waiheke Island Community Cinema, Auckland – 3-13 November

Matakana Cinemas, Matakana – 3-13 November

The Internationalist, Rothesay Bay – 3-13 November

Paramount, Wellington – 10-20 November

Hollywood, Sumner, Christchurch – 10-20 November

Rialto Cinema, Dunedin – 10-20 November

Bay City Cinemas, Tauranga – 17-27 November

Mayfair Cinema, Kaikoura – 17-27 November

The Regent, Taumarunui – 17-19 November

The Monkey House, Whitianga – 5-15 January (2012)

Rapt to see the screenings planned for Taumarunui but, curses!! I will be shivering in European snow that week…will have to keep any eye out for any other local-ish screenings – or make sure I pick up the compilation DVD when it comes out…previous years DVDs are available here

Coming soon

I think it’s safe to say that there are many people who openly dislike “Transformers 2: Revenge Of The Fallen.”  And, after sitting with him for a half-hour yesterday to talk about the third chapter in the giant robots franchise, I’d say Michael Bay is one of those people.

So opens Drew McWeeny’s sneak preview of Transformers: Dark Of The Moon…I’m probably not in the ‘openly dislike’ proportion of Revenge of the Fallen fans but certainly I think it could have been a lot more than Transformers Do Night At The Museum And Then Wreck Egypt (like it needs help from massive robot aliens…Facebook seems to have done the job quite nicely, thank you very much) so, yes, I am expecting great things from Michael Bay’s ‘apology’…the guy who brought us Armageddon – one of my all time top 10 movies (bring it on, doubters!!) has set a high standard that he has yet to surpass…

Also in the works as a possible redemption effort for the first remake movie is Rise of the Planet of the Apes

“Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes” will be in US theatres 5 August 2011.

I actually quite enjoyed the Mark Wahlberg remake of Planet of the Apes and prefer it to the Charlton Heston original, while taking nothing away from the original status as a true classic. I enjoyed it right up until the final scene which, although straight out of Pierre Boulle’s original novel, totally kills off the story-line with a cheap and meaningless twist – unless you are one of the three people who have actually read the book…I’ll be interested to see how this prequel wangles its way out of the narrative quagmire that final scene created…maybe there’ll be a director’s cut version that simply deletes it…?

It looks like a Hobbit…

I saw the first footage from The Hobbit on the news last night – as expected impressive…with more comment at hitflix – less impressive perhaps is that Peter Jackson seems to have caught Lucasitis and has inserted a two year gap between Parts 1 and 2 of The HobbitThe Hobbit Part 1 opens December 19, 2012, and The Hobbit Part 2 opens in December of 2013.” C’mon, folks…sure, we’ll all wait AGAIN for the final part to be released but does the chain have to be dragged so?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Light

…is the theme for WordPress’ photo of the week challenge…I’m on the road this week and so don’t have access to my photo files at home…so will have to make do with a shot of DC by night from my hotel room…

I like DC…there are some cities I just can’t wait to get out of…I was starting to feel that way about Auckland before I flew out on Friday afternoon…just too much too slow traffic for this country boy…I’ve had a good wander around today and not too much has changed since my last visit and I braved the Metro today to get a round a bit more – think I have that pretty sussed now…

I was dreading the flight up as I opted to do Auckland-DC in one hit but it was actually quite pleasant – a lot of work has gone into slicking up the LAX arrival processes and these were actually pretty slick this time. My only adverse comment on the journey up is that if Qantas can’t get the onboard video playback system to work, then I can see why they might be having problems with their engines…

But while it was working I got to see (couldn’t sleep the whole leg to LAX):

tron legacy

I thought this was a bit slow but the special effects were definitely a legacy from the original. Due to the problems with the QANTAS playback system, I couldn’t figure out the relationship between Tron and Flynn, and certainly couldn’t recall from the only time I saw Tron in the 80s…hopefully they will both be released as a double pack in the near future. The ending, I thought, was a bit weak and rather predictable – a second viewing on a screen bigger than 7″ and with better sound might change that opinion.

true grit 2010

I stated in Fill your hand, you sunnovabitch!!! that I wasn’t sure that there was much new to look forward to in this year’s remake of True Grit with Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon (still a step up from Glen Campbell!). Even on the small screen, I was pleasantly surprised by the new version. I don’t think it is better than the original but it certainly complements it and I am going to buy the book to see which version most closely adheres to the actual story. The main difference between the two is that the ‘Le Beef’ character is not as well developed in the new version as it was in John Wayne’s original big screen telling – this underdevelopment is to such an extent that you wonder why they bothered with the character at all – apart from his being part of the original book.

RED 2010

A bunch of old hands running around having a ball and making a movie at the same time – a very entertaining and light-hearted way to kill off a couple of hours and highly recommended. Great to see Helen Mirren in a comedy role….

dawn treader

Even though I still think that Dawn Treader is a stupid name for a boat, this is a fine addition to the Narnia series and it certainly recovers the franchise from the damage done by the rather dreary Prince Caspian.

Assuming that QANTAS gets its movie system sorted in the next week or so, there are still a good bunch of movies in its April line up to keep me occupied on the long haul home…

No pictures as I couldn’t have maintained my death grip on the side rail and juggled a camera but I went ice-skating last night with the guys I’m meeting with next week. It’s a regular Friday night activity for them and the fact that I had just arrived after a solid 24 hours of travel was not considered any excuse for non-participation. I hadn’t skated since 1982 at the rink that was (still is?) out Kaikorai Valley Road in Dunedin and that was just a single night out…still by the time the hour was up. I was only touching the side rail a couple of times each circuit…I’m still here next Friday so may have another chance to risk life and limb before I fly out…

Fill your hand, you sunnovabitch!!!

johnwaynetruegrit

The Jeff Bridges’ version of True Grit opens here tomorrow…coincidentally, I only watched the original John Wayne version from 1969 on the weekend and commented to Carmen the other night that so much of the lines in the trailers for the remake were word-for-word from the original, I wondered if there was going to be much different about the new version other than Rooster gets to wear his patch on the other eye this time round…

So, imagine my surprise to read in today’s DomPost that “…where Wayne played Cogburn as a one-dimensional veteran gunslinger, the original Rooster of the novel (brilliantly rendered by Jeff Bridges in the Coen’s version) is drunken, half-blind, smelly and deeply flawed…” Furthermore, this amazing bad and inaccurate review, in this nation’s second largest daily, isn’t even by a Kiwi – it’s some loser called Ben Macintyre who writes for something called The Times…my recollection of John Wayne’s performance, only days old, is exactly of “…drunken, half-blind, smelly and deeply flawed…”

Dean’s comments yesterday notwithstanding – and they do apply more to general soldiery than to the specifics of those in sensitive roles – I really worry if that bumper sticker actually has a broader application beyond the intel community into the general information community. I’m reading Dean Koontz’ Cold Fire this week and parts of that also struck a similar chord with me as the reporter lead in the story laments to demise of good old fashioned ‘honest’ reporting in favour of what sells – and that was written in 1991…

I’m on base for the next couple of days and was able to catch the big TV in the bar free tonight and take it over to keep up with Coro – waiting to see how, not when, Molly and Kev’s little affair gets blown – but was reading today’s paper in the ad breaks. Maybe it was just a slow news day but I was disappointed at how superficial many of the items were…we don’t get  a paper delivered at home and, really, why would we bother if all it’s going to be good for is starting the fire and wrapping the frozens when we go away…

I find now that I get greater stimulus from the non-professionals on the internet; in fact, I would have to say that Michael Yon’s Facebook page, when he isn’t whining about milkooks, or general officers who have (apparently) slighted him, offers a very good range of cues; as do the Facebook pages for the USN’s Information Dominance Corp and Marine Corps Gazette; Small Wars Journal and Travels with Shiloh…

I wonder whether the maturity of the information age also means the demise of the true professional reporter in favour of info-marketeers who tailor their stories to specific markets (as opposed to audiences), and the rise of the information militia as the new voice of the ‘news’…?

I did find a couple of interesting titbits in the Dompost:

  • The capital of Afghanistan,Kabul, was rocketed by rebels – in 1993. It’s quite strange to think of a time where it was necessary to state that Kabul was the capital of Afghanistan.
  • And also on this day in 1944, NZ pilot Irving Smith led Mosquito bombers in a pinpoint raid on Amiens prison to save condemned prisoners. If nothing else, a timely reminder that airpower is more than just running a flying bus service and providing direct support to the troops on the ground.
  • In 1848, Mexico ends a US invasion by ceding Texas, New Mexico and California to the US. If Mexico does get a handle on the cartel wars soon, I wonder what they have to trade-off against the next US invasion..?
  • In 1979, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khoumeini becomes the de facto leader of Iran and the place has gone steadily downhill since. While Europe and the US get all antsy about Iran’s nuclear programme (but not Pakistan’s), the biggest risk offered by Iran to regional instability comes from its increasingly dissatisfied youth. The best thing that the US and NATO could do is invite Iran into Afghanistan, get it committed (entangled) by both its own rhetoric and the tarbaby mess that is Afghanistan; and then step back and watch it all unravel…Iran, that is – Afghanistan does need anyone’s help top unravel…just install an unpopular (in every sense of the word) leader and retire to a safe distance….

Homeward bound

brussels blurred

OK, so my memories of Brussels are somewhat blurred….had a great time, working with a great team from ASIC but very long days between meetings and then essentially another working days worth of networking each evening….

It’s the first time I’ve had anything to do with NATO itself as opposed to the various member nations and that was an experience in its own right…even the sheer size of the building itself takes some getting used to and it is easy enough to get misplaced…might have to take Kirk next time as my guide dog…he’d love the Belgian beer too…

Regardless of professional activities, I’ve had to add Brussels to my very short list of cities to revisit when Carmen and I do our grand world tour….without even trying we could spend a week just exploring the narrow winding streets and alleyways of the old city…

The public transport system isn’t that intuitive and I’ve had to do a bit more walking that entirely necessary after dismounting at the wrong stop…all the signs are bilingual but English isn’t one of the linguals so the 5th Form French has had a bit of a hammering the last week or so…it’s a good system once you get on top of it and I know for next time to always have a public transport Plan B…

A belt of crappy weather was just enough to send a few ripples across the European air transport pond but even with a number of delays, Singapore Airlines managed to get us into Changi 15 minutes ahead of the original schedule – guess that crew’ll be up for a bonus.

The October in-flight entertainment programme is no less bland the third time around as it was the first or second…

Untitled

I watched this before dinner was served and would rate it an average at best…too much game-like leaping around (yes, I know it was derived from a game – think I used to play the original on my Amiga way back when…) at the expense of what could have been quite a good story…

knight and day

Again I crashed out (the joy of an exit row!!) most of the flight and started (again) to watch this  – I’d caught the middle of this on the way up on an old 747 that lacked video on demand but landing came before the end of the movie. This time I got the beginning of the movie but still haven’t managed to get to the end….third time lucky on the leg to Auckland…

It’s a dampish day here in Singapore and I’m about to check out and go in search of food before heading off to Miniature Hobby and Hobby Mountbatten for some nostalgia shopping….

River Valley Oct 10

 

In “Singas” again

intercambio_singapore

I like Singapore…and it would have to be my stopover of choice when travel overseas…It’s not just that I lived here for two years back in the 80s although that certainly helps as I know my way around – although that’s a relative thing as the rate of change here has always been astronomical…I like the people, their go-getter attitude to life – and if anyone doubts that such an attitude exists they only have to wonder why such a small nation with no apparent natural resources has transformed itself into, not only a powerhouse economy, but also the major military power in the region…

It’s always warm here but never so much that it is intolerable and even if it were, it is a simple think to duck from one aircon complex to the next; summa-summa with the rain, you only really get wet here if you want to…the people are friendly and helpful and so (rightly) proud of what they are creating here. Unless you’re pretty affluent, the real shopping is so-so but it’s so much fun shopping in the likes of Far East and Lucky Plazas just to play the haggling game with the vendors. The food is fantastic and it’s well worth a stopover just to do some culinary experimentation – although to really do it justice, your stopover would have to be 3-4 weeks long…

There’s a lot that Kiwi cities (especially that amorphous all-consuming blob just north of the Bombays) could learn from Singapore when it comes to public transport. When we arrived here in 1987, the two main ways of getting around were buses or taxis (for us, the decision of which to take was generally driven by the amount of shopping one might have, although for two or people that taxis were simply just that much more convenient. That year, Singapore announced it was going to implement a light rail Mass Rapid Transit system. There was much disbelief because most of the land here had already been built on and where would a useful rail system go? Easy, underground…Singapore’s engineers could teach Tolkein’s and Feist’s dwarves a thing or two about underground construction as, in the last two decades, they have carved out a whole new sub-surface city, the existence of which is almost undetectable from the surface. The first MRT trains were up and running before we left in 1989, and offered (and still do) fast, clean aircon transport around the island. Two decades later, the MRT goes everywhere….

So I’m here just for a night of my way up to Europe for a conference next week. I’ve spent the morning having a wander and recce-ing out shopping for homeward stopover next weekend…apart from carelessly dehydrating myself by walking without enough water, it has, again, been thoroughly enjoyable…I picked up a little netbook off First-In before I left and have been experimenting with it as a means of maintaining comms and drafting thoughts while on the road. This post is my first crack at using Windows Live Writer to draft a blog post offline and certainly the experience so far is better than using the WordPress tools…I was a little miffed that First-In’s supplier screwed up the order and only sent me the 160Gb version instead of the advertised 250Gb one but First-In was very quick to refund the difference and let’s be honest about it – am I really ever going to max out a 160Gb hard drive on a netbook. I’m hoping that it will be quite a handy little staging area when I can dump downloads from the camera, carry on writing while I’m on the road (which looks like it will be for the foreseeable future), and keep in touch with Home Command….so far, I’m not disappointed…while perhaps no Kindle, it is certainly quite handy for e-reading and commenting on PDFs….

In a few hours, I’ll be winging my way through the friendly skies and the next update should come from the end the European summer (hopefully as I haven’t packed a lot of warm clothes…with a little luck, the movies on this leg will be an improvement on those on the Auckland –Singapore leg…

robin hood 2010

I was really looking forward to the Crowe/Scott take on Robin Hood and found it a real mish-mashy disappointment, neither Arthur, or Martha, closer to Men in Tights than Gladiator…..

toy story 3

Similarly Toy Story 3 lacked originality and was just more of the same from 1 and 2.

from russia with love

I did enjoy From Russia With Love (yes, the oldie from 1963), an old A-Team episode and a couple of episodes from Ashes to Ashes which I missed entirely when it screened on NZ telly…

Generation Kill

generation killGeneration Kill started to screen down here tonight…at the end of Episode One, I had two first impressions…

First up, it blows The Pacific away – totally. Like many viewers, I lost interest in The Pacific before it was halfway through…the characters were wooden and difficult to identify with and all the pretentious hype months prior lead to expectations it just could attain. Conversely, after 58 minutes of Generation Kill, the characters are people, easy to identify with…if there is to be a classic to follow in the vein of Band of Brothers, it may be Generation Kill.

Second, even though the events covered in Generation Kill were ‘only’ seven years ago, the first episode reminds me of a younger, more innocent time…before the blood and the brutality we take for granted in our contemporary environment…

I sing you to me…

…just finished watching Australia…and really liked it…in my younger days I had a soft spot for those Aussie mini-series like Sword of Honour, The Flying Doctors, The Last Frontier, etc…I think that they are something that Australia does really well and that it’s a good indicator of the domestic maturity of your film industry when you can make a movie about yourself where everybody DOESN’T die in the last five minutes, that isn’t controversial or revisionist and that keeps legends alive…we’ve become very good at making other people’s movies here, when will we see New Zealand?

To be honest, I still have a soft spot for movies with a upbeat conclusion – I really don’t need much reminding that the world can be a bad place and that the bad guys usually win and the little guy always gets ground down – I just don’t want to be reminded in ‘my’ time so I guess I am a bit of a sucker for true blue hero stories…more so when accompanied by a good soundtrack. Waltzing Matilda makes me sad from the time I first saw the original On the Beach: no longer upbeat but haunting…

What’s on at the movies at 38,000 feet?

I did promise some people I would do this so here it is today – I do have some more TFW ideas to punt up but left one of the source docs behind this morning so will aim to do that tomorrow (social schedule allowing!!)…

Singapore Airlines do everything with class and style and their entertainment capability is no different…in two legs I was able to catch up on six movies that have yet to screen in National Park (yeah, really…) as well as have dinner and have a damn fine snooze as well…

star rek 2009

First up from the selection of 60-70 movies was Star Trek which I enjoyed immensely but was somewhat annoyed at the seemingly pointless and unnecessary departures from established Star Trek canon (no pointy ears here but I do like consistency in a universe). I hope that a further release in this series will somehow re-establish the accepted timeline (noting that James Tiberius and Spock didn’t actually experience distortions in the space-time continuum til The Original Series. If William Shatner (writing almost autobiographically) can skillfully blend TOS, TNG and the movies (even the real bad ones from later in the series) together in a consistent manner, I saw no reason why this film could not also conform without deviating much at all from the actual story line. It was like it was trying to shock the audience and I for one wasn’t shocked just pissed off…

angels abnds demonsAngels and Demons on the other hand was great: not great drama or earth-shattering story but just a good story well-told with no aspirations to be anything else. It is not time-tied to The Da Vinci Code so it doesn’t matter which one you watch first – some nice twisty bits near the end just in case you think you’ve worked it all out ahead of time…

night museum 2Night at the Museum II: The Smithsonian – more of the same, light entertainment only…

terminator slavationTerminator Salvation – the storyline is finally back of track after the crap Terminator 3 albeit with yet another John Connor – good connections back to the first two movies but nothing really earth-breaking in terms of the story – at the end it felt like a long TV episode than the revelatory feel of 1 and 2

xmen wolverineX-Men Wolverine…great stuff, even as a prequel, it isn’t cute and doesn’t dick around with the accepted storyline…

battle for terraThe Battle for Terra – a real disappointment that I only watched because it distracted me from the potential effects of a dodgy curry at Changi just before we boarded – an animated movie will a weak story line clearly churned out now in order to be on DVD as a stocking stuffer by Christmas – don’t buy it, get another copy of  Toy Story or Monsters Inc instead – the kids will love you more for it…

Beautiful summer’s day in Shrivenham and the CLAW is in full swing now….