Tuesday, December 23, 2003
Wednesday, December 17, 2003
Friday, December 12, 2003
Pointing out the bleeding obvious. This new fangled "title" field doesn't seem to translate into the webpage properly (what I see in the below pane is not what I get through Mozilla.
I also need to add a chat facility.
Posting more would be good too.
Thursday, December 11, 2003
I've been trying to set up a new gaming group with my old friends Neil and Michael (what a sparse webpage) to replace the PGA when that folds after Pat leaves for England.
Last night we played the ultimate Knizia game Tigris and Euphrates. I came first, but Neil came a close second (there was something like two points between us.) Both Neil and Michael enjoyed the game, and next time we're going to do Knizia's Lord of the Rings.
T & E is considered one of the most complex of the new boardgames (or arthouse games as I call them) but I thought Neil and Michael would quickly catch on, as they're both used to the rule of RPGs and Games Workshop games.
Tuesday, October 07, 2003
Tuesday, August 05, 2003
It's been almost a month since I last posted. I know I've been sick, but this is ridiculous. I've been spending too much time on the Net buying stuff (predominately DVDs) than creating content. John Howard will be pleased.
[movie] I saw this last weekend in Canberra. The film makers film migrating birds (the original title is "Winged Migration" which is much better) from a distance of, oh, about a metre. To make the film they raised the birds from chicks and had them adopt an ultralight as part of the flock. So they could get a lot closer to flying birds (amazingly close) and film them flying under the Brooklyn Bridge, or through the Grand Canyon, or over Arctic ice. Almost pure cinema, if they could scrap the annoying voiceover and the euro-pap soundtrack. And they do cheat, with a couple of scenes using computer graphics that are, to my mind, unnecessary. Despite those little niggles, it is a fabulous film to see in a cinema, a throwback to the idea of cinema showing what exists but cannot be seen otherwise.
Wednesday, July 16, 2003
Friday, July 11, 2003
Tuesday, July 08, 2003
Monday, June 30, 2003
Friday, June 27, 2003
Plastic has a discussion on the Dawkins piece. Most of them are against it. Then again, most of them are American. Interesting fact cited - a poll in 2000 indicated that 95% of Americans would vote for a black president, but under 50% would vote for an aetheist. There's obviously still some work to do.
Monday, June 23, 2003
Friday, June 20, 2003
Wednesday, June 18, 2003
24 Hour Party People
The history of Factory Records which brought the world Joy Division, New Order and The Happy Mondays. Steve Coogan stars as Tony Wilson (although, in one of the many asides during the film, he says "The film isn't about me at all") who appears to be the Mancunian version of Malcolm McLaren. Very funny and, from my friend Nat's impromptu commentary, apparently very true as well (although another aside - "When you have the choice between printing the truth and the legend, print the legend." The mixture of archive footage, re-enactments and fourth-wall destruction somehow appear to create a truer version of events than a straight recounting. I was strongly reminded of an updated version of "The Greatest Rock and Roll Swindle", though Tony Wilson obviously took himself far more seriously than Malcolm McLaren.
Tuesday, June 17, 2003
So Labour have had their leadership challenge, to no real effect. A choice between Crean and Beazley to my mind is like the choice a hitman makes to his victim - "Do you want it in the head or the heart?". We can now go back to waiting for the Liberal party to win the next election and becoming even more unaccountable.
Sometimes I really, really hate this country.
Sunday, June 15, 2003
This is to catch up on a huge backlog of films that I should have reviewed earlier.
The Marvel Films
Okay, it hasn't been released yet, but in the trailer- he picks up a tank by the gun barrel and tosses it - Just like the real Hulk - I am so there!
So full of eye candy, my pupils felt like throwing up afterwards. Suffers from the first ten minutes being so fucking amazing that the rest of the film is an anti-climax - which then breaks down into a series of climaxes - which then have to lead into the next film. At least with The Two Towers, Empire Strikes Back, and Back to the Future 2 we knew we were half way through a trilogy. How many more X films are there going to be? At least Nightcrawler was in it. More spectacular but somehow not as satisfying as the first film. But it's good to have a big Hollywood blockbuster criticise the US defense establishment. I'm sure Brian Cox's villain, Stryker, is meant to bear a resemblance to Donald Rumsfeld - but others say it's meant to be John Ashcroft.
Just who was this film made for? The version of Daredevil is not really the Marvel Comics version so I can't see it appealing to comics fans that much. And most movie goers (who won't be familiar with the character) are going to wonder why a blind lawyer has to dress up in a fetish costume to fight crime. Why doesn't he get a gun? Or does he just like the feel of the tight leather against his skin? Maybe this is why Ben Affleck wanted to play the character so much. It can't be because he gets to look at himself in the mirror a lot...
I'm a big fan of Guillermo del Toro and I enjoyed the first Blade, much to my surprise (up until Spiderman I thought it was the best Marvel film adaptation, albeit of a fairly obscure character - hell, I was a big fan of Tomb of Dracula, I knew who he was.)
Blade II was a lot of fun as well, but more into comic book story dynamics than a non-comic book fan would feel comfortable. It keeps del Toro's insect obsession, looks marvellous and Wesley Snipes is still a great hero, but it's more of a fantasy film than a horror film. I think it was great fun, but not for non-fans, of the character or comic books in general.
A H.P. Lovecraft adaptation by Stuart Gordon and Brian Yuzna. Tedious, disgusting, juvenile crap a million light years removed from Reanimator , From Beyond (or even Society.) It's one saving grace is a final image that gets the closest to Lovecraft that I've seen in ages (since, maybe, In the Mouth of Madness.)
Another waste of time from Dark Castle, Joel Silver and Robert Zemeckis' horror film production company. Producing a horror film each year to be released at Halloween is a great idea, they could just be a little better than this, House on Haunted Hill and Ghost Ship. That being said, the worse thing about each film is how much they waste particularly good settings. It appears that all the effort and talent in the Dark Castle films has gone into the set design with none left for script, direction or acting.
Odd indie film set in the eighties about misanthropic loner who hallucinates (maybe) a demonic rabbit called Frank. One of those films you don't want to say too much about, but I would highly recommend it.
Cruise of the Gods
Funny piss-take on science fiction fans and the actors who exploit them - or do they exploit the actors? By the makers of Marion and Geoff with Rob Brydon as a self-obsessed actor who becomes a guest on a fan cruise. Says some very interesting things about the nature of fandom, both critical and otherwise.
A Larry Cohen script shat upon by Joel Schumaker's direction. Colin Farrell is everywhere at the moment, and it's nice to see (or mainly hear) Keifer Sutherland in films again. After 24 Keifer Sutherland is one man I don't want to hear at the end of a sniper rifle.
My Little Eye
A chilling take on the Big Brother phenomenon that could be considered a cyberpunk take on House on Haunted Hill. One of the scariest films I've seen in ages.
Thursday, June 12, 2003
Wednesday, June 11, 2003
Just got back from overseas. Here are the e-mails we sent out from our trip -
Our trip - Paris - Day 2
Dear All, I'm just trying to get used to this French keyboard, dang it. It also doesn't seem to want to do line returns. Anyway, we're just starting our second full day in Paris. After a very long and fortunately uneventful flight we arrived in Paris to find a nationwide transport strike. We were just waved through customs, my belief is that the officials knew that we would be unable to escape the airport for sometime, so any contraband would have revealed itself by the time we got into Paris proper: We managed to get to our hotel by taxi, only to have to wait for three hours until the room was ready. We spent some of this time following the strikers who were marching in the main street just past our hotel to the Republican Square. I got some nice photos (I hope) of the protest and also of the bouncy castle that the protestors were curiously not availing themselves of: We could finally check into our room to discover that the Hotel Little gets its name from its shower recess. We have to grease ourselves up to be able to exit its tight confines which unfortunately removes all benefits of the shower. However this experience stood us well in getting on a Metro carriage in peak hour the next day. The next day - we went to the Louvre in the morning and probably saw about 0.5% of it - so we're going back. We will be going to Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower today. Better end this before my time is up. Having a great time.
Am continuing this from a cybercafe with a better keyboard (but still zwith keys in wrong place.)
Notre Dame is awe inspiring but a lesser known church Ste Chapelle has astonishing stained windows. Somebody should clean them up.
Will post from London next, where they will hopefully have normal keyboards. Au revoir. Iain and Llyn
Our Trip - Day 9 - London
Another week has flown by and it's time to let you all know that we're still having a wonderful time. And, yes, London has normal keyboards.
When last we conversed Llyn and I were about to visit the Eiffel Tower - well, we finally found it after getting off at the appropriate Metro station. You'd think that something like the Eiffel Tower would be fairly easy to find, but on leaving the Metro station we could only see a sign pointing vaguely towards it. Using our limited knowledge of Parisian geography we went to the bank of the Seine (where we thought the sign was pointing) to find - no Eiffel Tower. This was getting silly. Then we noticed, over the other side of the road, behind a building that was next to the Metro station a huge mass of girders, looking vaguely Eiffel Tower shaped. Then we crossed the road to find the girders disappearing into the sky and forming a rather familiar shape. Next time we're in Paris I'm taking a metal detector.
The Eiffel Tower was also the first queue we have encountered so far. There are barriers set up to limit the number of people entering the top of the Eiffel Tower so it doesn't overbalance and collapse into the Seine taking the French Tourist industry with it. Also the French either don't know how to queue, or it infringes on the Liberte, Fraternitie, Equalitie equation which may explain why they all try to enter the same place at the same time. Unfortunately the metal barricades reminded me too much of a sheep run and I was paranoid we were going to be drenched and docked at the other end.
The view from the top is wonderful and reveals an amazing piece of city planning that Sydney could have learned from. Paris has a modern business centre (Le Defence) but it's way, way, way over the other side of town from the historical centre of Paris. One has the impression that if the Eiffel Tower was in Sydney it would be surround by high rise hotels and banking headquarters.
Enough about the Eiffel Tower.
The next day we walked to the Pompidou Center, a building that looks like it's turned itself inside out. It contains a fair amount of modern art but not a whole lot of substance. Though it does have a couple of Tanguy's - one of my favourite surrealist painters. Our favourite work is actually outside - a mechanical fountain designed by Jean Tinguely and Niki de St-Phalle that appears to contain all the losing contestants from Robot Wars (and Mae West's lips as well).
From the Pompidou Centre we inadvertantly followed the path of one of the mobs during the Terror to St Eustache (another bloody church) and then on to the Musee D'Orsay, another gallery we didn't see enough of. Though we did get to see the Impressionists and it has more famous (or at least recognisable paintings) then the Pompidou Centre.
The next day ( and our last full day in Paris) was reserved for a guilty pleasure - Parc Asterix. Yes those indomitable Gauls have built their own answer to Eurodisney. Due to our tender constitutions we didn't go on the more violent rides, but we did get a photo of Llyn with Asterisk and Llyn did get to meet a Golden Eagle after a falconery display. Mostly Parc Asterisk is very much like any other amusement park, only with the rides adapted to the characters from the books. Still it was fun and we hope to return there with kids who can go on the more bowel clenching rides.
The next day - London!
We took what is the equivalent of a short domestic flight in Australia - Paris and London are only 40 minutes apart by air. Again we were handwaved through Customs (we're bound to get a rude shock in Bermuda) and after meeting up with my old housemate Alison we were out of the airport in ten minutes.
Llyn has been trying to get rid of a cold that resurfaced in Paris, so we spent the next day just catching up with Alison and taking things easy, but we did get to go to Tesco's.
The next day - the British Museum. Like the Louvre it's just overpowering - there's far too much to see in one visit. We saw the Assyrian lions again and the Elgin marbles and the Sutton Hoo artefacts and then pretty much called it a day. Llyn calls the condition "visual skid" where you just can't take anymore in and you've reached the point where you're just glancing at priceless treasures.
And yesterday we finally got to use our London Passes and visited the Cutty Sark (who used to be a regular visitor to Australia), the Royal Observatory where we saw the most important watch in the world - H4 designed by John Harrison (for those who've read or seen Longitude) - a device that enabled Australia to be settled, so we're very grateful for its existence. We found a nearby church was designed by John Hawksmoor (one of my favourite architects) and held the body of Thomas Tallis (one of Llyn's favourite composers) and then we were off to the Tower of London. We were given a tour by a beefeater with immaculate comic timing and then saw the Crown Jewels - gosh they're purty. After too many damn stairs, we went home.
And today, more bits of London (St Paul's, Westminister Abbey and the Globe Theater) and then tomorrow we're off to Edinburgh.
Write to you again when we get back.
All the best,
Iain (and Llyn)
Our trip - day 16 - London / Edinburgh / London
How’s life without a head of state?
Anyway, enough of your news. After knocking off the last installment, we headed off for Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. There was a very lonely anti-war protest still outside, that was good to see. We went to see the dead monarchs in Westminister Abbey and Llyn stomped on a few (like Oliver Cromwell) just to make sure they were dead. We took a ride on a double decker bus. Whoopee! Then we visited St Paul’s which is currently undergoing restoration and refurbishment (apparently they’re going to put a Starbuck’s under the dome) and then down the Millennium Bridge to the Globe Theatre on the Southbank to meet Alison (ex-flatmate who we are staying with in London).
Alison had kindly arranged tickets to Richard II for us at the Globe in thankfully covered seating as, in true London spirit, it started raining on the groundlings during the performance. The Globe is a faithful reproduction of the original Elizabethan theatre which means, minimal protection from the elements and hard narrow benches for seats, for those gentry which can afford them (such as, well, us.) Fortunately the toilet facilities weren’t Elizabethan.
The production was good, but Mark Rylance’s Richard II was a little too effeminate for our tastes. Still it was much better than what else was on in London’s theatres – Toyah Wilcox in “Annie Get Your Gun” and two musicals based on popular bands – “Our House” based on Madness songs, and “Queen – The Musical” which speaks for itself. As “Queen – The Musical” was co-written by Ben Elton it made sitting in the open air watching a 300 year old play even more attractive.
The next day we took the train up to Edinburgh. We met an Australian couple on the way up (when I say met, I mean they were sitting opposite us – we’ve had a weird run of other Australians whilst we’ve been in the UK, we appear to be encountering more than the statistical average.) We were met at Edinburgh station by my distant cousin Joss, who is a living advertisement for life in Scotland (she’s in her eighties, going on forty.) We took our gear up to the car where we met Mac her husband and then off to their place in the charming village of Roslin, just outside of Edinburgh.
The next day, off to the Castle. We stopped by and saw Greyfriars Bobby, both his grave and his statue before the Castle. When we got to the Castle it started to rain heavily and we decided to revise our itinerary to include more roofed establishments. We had a taste of haggis in a nearby tourist trap (it was nice, but nothing to write home about, so ignore this sentence, I guess) and then off to the nearby whiskey centre to get drunk and pick fights – or rather pick up a souvenir for Llyn’s mother. Walked to the nearby National Galley and saw some great paintings by Scottish artists we’d never heard of, and some by Titian who we were familiar with. Then a long walk down the parade of tourist traps known as the Royal Mile (we were able to resist everything except the fudge shops, the Museum of Childhood and a second hand children’s book store) before winding up at the Queen’s Gallery for the Faberge exhibition (which we didn’t know was on, so it was a real bonus.) Mac met us at the bottom of the Royal Mile and took us for a drive around Arthur’s Seat (who must have been really, really big if his seat is anything to go by) for some views of Edinburgh before we headed home.
The next day (I’ve really got to stop starting paragraphs with “The next day…”) Joss took us on a tour of the border lands. We saw a wind farm (or as we call back in Australia, Parliament. Get it, Parliament? Oh, suit yourselves), a stately mansion (unfortunately there was no Batcave I could find, but they may not let tourists in that area) and a lookout known as Scott’s View as it was Sir Walter Scott’s favourite view. And we could see why. There was a huge statue of William Wallace (who really doesn’t look much like Mel Gibson, despite the Braveheart impersonators that hang outside the castle to chase away English tourists) and then a picturesque trip home.
The day after that (is that better?) we visited the nearby Roslin Chapel. Joss is a guide there, so she showed us the crypt and took us up the surrounding scaffolding to the roof. Roslin Chapel is our favourite church next to St Chapelle as it contains several knights templar, a few carvings of Green Men and possibly the head of our Lord, Jesus Christ (well, according the guys in the nearby pub.) Behind the Chapel is Rosslyn Castle in a Enid Blytonesque landscape, but try as I might I just couldn’t manage to overhear smugglers saying “Blah, blah, blah, secret plans, blah, blah” so I gave up trying. In the afternoon we visited the Botanic Gardens that were really quite nice despite the absence of man-eating orchids.
Our last day in Edinburgh was spent at the Castle, where we found that the Edinburgh Tattoo is performed in an area roughly the size of a postage stamp. Then down the bit of the Royal Mile that we missed and into a pub named after John Logie Baird (kind of a pilgrimage for me.) The train journey to London took twice as long as expected. We met a marine who had just returned from Basra who was 19 going on 40. He was good company as we were delayed for two hours whilst a jumper was scraped off the track outside York. When we finally got to London the Underground station was closed due to a security alert. I knew I had left a bag behind somewhere. We had to take a bus to make our connection out to Alison’s place which we finally reached without further incident.
Yesterday we visited the treasures room at the British Library (a holy site for Llyn and pretty much the same for me.) She tried to make off with Jane Austen’s writing desk by replacing it with a laptop, but the guard wasn’t fooled. After this I must relate that I dragged Llyn across the Thames to the National Film Theatre only to find that their bookshop had been closed for at least a year and replaced by a glass cabinet. Llyn says the look on my face was priceless. Our next stop was the Tate Modern. Lovely building that somehow got filled with modern art. Then back to Alison’s place to catch up on some Buffy episodes that we had missed.
Today – off to Bermuda. Woo Hoo!
Iain (and Llyn)
Our trip - Day 20-something - Los Angeles written by Llyn
As just about everyone knows, Iain and I had to
separate at Bermuda. He's home now, and I'm in L.A.
with my friend (and Peter E's intended) Jenny.
We didn't like the separation bit, so imagine our
reaction when Iain gets home, and finds out that he
can enter the US. Excuse me, I'm going to find an US
immigration official to kick....
Iain will be doing a bigger update on Bermuda, but for
the record, Bermuda is lovely when the sun is out (2
day out of the 4 we were there). The wedding was
lovely, the bride beautiful and the groom handsome
(stop blushing Ross). The reception was magnificant,
and I've had some great fish. Luckily, the one day of
sunlight and gentle breezes was the day of the
wedding, so Julia didn't get blown off the point
(unlike the next day, which was fine but very windy.
The sparrows at the place we had lunch at, were flying
backwards, due to the strong wind).
A warning to anyone attending weddings overseas: don't
combine alcohol and jet lag. No good. Falling asleep
with your face in the soup is not done at these
US Customs starts in Bermuda, so after a hurried
goodbye to Geraldine (who went beyond the call of duty
and got up at 4.30am Bermuda time to get me to the
plane), I got frisked. Well, they looked in my
suitcase and carry-on bag, and decided I was not a
"risk". HEhehehehe, little do they know.....
No problems getting between planes at JFK. Long walk
though. Arrived in LA and was collected by my friend,
Jenny (Peter Eisler's intended for those in the know).
Met her family, and her cats.... All are very lovely
people (that includes the cats).
The next day we went up the mountains behind LA to a
cabin that Jenny's family has. The views and the light
is magnificent. We watched a video (Brotherhood of the
Wolf, interesting, but very silly in places), looked
at the night sky (finally, it's been cloudy everywhere
else). The next day we went up Mount Pinos and looked
at the views of mountains and pines, and I saw my
first blue jay (none of these birds in Aus.).
Jenny's 13 year old nephew is really sweet, and keeps
insisting that I go to the zoo to see the Australian
animals in case I'm homesick.
We drove back to LA, and I went to Borders. Not much
different to home really. Got a just out book by a
favourite author, and something for Iain...
We are off the beach today, will try to contact Ben,
and I fly out to Australia at 11.45pm (yurk!). Land at
7.30am Sat. I can't wait to see Iain. Miss him
Also looking forward to my own bed.
Llyn (and Iain if he were here)
Monday, March 31, 2003
But I wanted to put it in here while I still remembered. This is a quote from an Ian Watson article on AI:
The subjective nature of awareness
A major assumption about AIs in the popular mind and in entertainment is that they will indeed be conscious and will have subjective experiences. The common image of an AI is one of self-awareness, not merely superintelligence. But how much self-awareness do human beings possess - and what is this "self" that we are aware of?
In 1985, the neurosurgeon Benjamin Libet performed some experiments with surprising results. He put electrodes on subjects to detect their brain waves and the flexing of their wrists. The subjects watched a revolving spot on a clock face. They could flex their wrists whenever they chose, but had to note the exact position of the spot when they made this decision. Libet was timing the beginning of the action, the precise moment of the decision to act, and the beginning of a particular brain wave pattern known as the readiness potential. When the brain preplans a series of movements, this pattern occurs just before the complex action.
Libet found that the readiness potential starts about one half of a second before the action, but the decision to act occurs about one-fifth of a second before the action. The conscious decision to act is not in fact the starting point. The event is already beginning before the person consciously chooses to start.
Conscious awareness lags behind what happens. You jerk your hand away from a hot surface before you consciously feel the pain. However, we do not realize this because of what Libet called subjective antedating. The brain puts events in order after the event. "I feel that I consciously did such and such," but tests prove otherwise.
Tuesday, March 25, 2003
My excuse is; I was only watching it because a friend was nominated. By lunchtime I knew he hadn't won, but we decided to go to his sister's house to watch the awards anyway.
Without further ado, here are my awards for this year's Oscars:
Best Performance by Banquo's Ghost
Most in need of a good feed and a slap
Best Reason for Limiting Speech Time
Worst Reason for Limiting Speech Time
The Visual Effects Guys from LOTR: The Two Towers and Adrian Brody (tie)
The Can't Believe They're Still Alive award
Olivia De Havilland and Michael Moore
The Laughing in the face of proposed murder award
The audience, after their response to Steve Martin's jocular reference
to the teamsters helping Michael Moore into the trunk of his limo (the
joke was funny, the response was chilling.)
Worst-maintained Fixed Smile
Julia Robert's when she realised she would be sitting next to old, ugly
Most In Need of a High School Education
Cameron Diaz acting like a bored 12 year old as if she was auditioning
for the next Roman Polanski film
Most Mixed Signals Award
Booing a political activist and cheering and applauding a statutory
rapist (sorry, got confused myself, Jack Nicholson didn't win, did he?)
And in other news, we find out why Steve Martin's quips were funnier than usual