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10.56 pm

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Went and saw Indiana Jones 4 last night. It was Kiff groan-worthy.

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

 

The 21st century... ruining your childhood one movie at a time

GOOD

– The wit and charm of the original trilogy is at least somewhat retained.

– Shia LeBeouf is a great actor and a perfectly charming sidekick. Keep an eye on this whippersnapper. He’s the next Tom Hanks.

– The scene in the desert town was great because it’s bizarre to see Indy with his leather clothing and whip running around in a perfectly pastel-coloured 1950s suburb, and then becomes even better when it’s full of creepy dummies. Of course it’s then irredeemably tainted by the fridge bullshit, but whatever.

– The cafe fight scene with the greasers and soshers was hilariously good. It may not be the 1930s anymore, but Indy’s still got it.

– Seeing Marion again was appropriate (as was IJ having a son), though it seems the actress playing her got about 5% the makeup budget Harrison Ford did. Indy looks youthful, even if he does walk like he has the rickets, but Marion’s face was ravaged by time.

– The wedding was okay. I don’t mind seeing Indy getting married now that he’s in his twilight years and has finished sowing his wild oats. Sallah should have been one of the guests, though.

 

NOT SO GOOD

– Not enough globetrotting. The movie takes place entirely in Peru and the USA.

– Marcus Brody’s cheaply constructed statue.

– Cate Blanchett, the most poorly fleshed out villain of the franchise.

– The English traitor, the most poorly fleshed out sidekick of the franchise.

– The retarded quicksand scene, with a stuffy out-of-character monologue by Indy and the fact that SNAKES DON’T WORK LIKE THAT.

– Shia swinging from vines with his loyal army of monkeys (this is the event horizon in a black hole of stupidity; the movie never really recovers).

– The explicit alien stuff. It would have been okay to hint at it, but no, we go the whole hog and see terrible CGI saucers and aliens that look like they escaped from the set of I Am Legend.

– The aforementioned fridge.

– The set design, which frequently overdoes it. Welcome to Peru, where wearing a poncho is required by law!

– Excessive use of CGI. The jungle/cliffside chase looked awful. And what was with the exterior military base scenes in the beginning looking like they were filmed indoors?

– The corny message at the end. KNOWLEDGE IS THE REAL TREASURE, STAY IN SCHOOL KIDS!

On the whole, this was always going to be a bad movie. You can’t have a classic, beloved trilogy of movies from the 80’s and then make another one TWENTY YEARS LATER and expect it to slot in alongside them. It just doesn’t work like that. And while it’s not all bad, it does cross a line somewhere along the way that earns it an overall thumbs down, and applies a taint to the franchise.

George Lucas sure knows how to disappoint people with movie resurrections.

26. The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman (1985) 207 p.

The title should never take up 80% of the cover

I like young adult fiction a lot. It’s a guilty pleasure. Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines series are probably my favourite books of all time, and Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy is also awesome. So I expected this earlier work of his to be quite good. It’s the average mystery/adventure novel featuring a young protagonist and the shennanigans she gets up to in “the murky streets and opium dens” of Old London after her father’s untimely death in the South China Sea.

While Pullman captures the (exaggerated) spirit of Victorian England quite well – with its grimy streets, Cockney urchins, fetid river slop and so forth – the story itself is unfortunately pretty mundane. Not precisely unputdownable. I suppose he was a much younger man when he wrote this, and was still learning the craft. Oh well. Marginal thumbs down.

Books: 26/50
Pages: 7782

Scuba diving is an activity which:
a) I really want to do
b) Scares the shit out of me

I am not good with technical equipment. Valves and hoses and such. “Clumsy” and “lack of common sense” are tags frequently applied to me. I cannot even cook for myself. I am the kind of person who requires other people to take care of me. Placing me under thirty metres of seawater in control of what is essentially a very complex life support system is probably not the best idea.

Chris, on the other hand, is a rugged and competent he-man who has recently decided upon “divemaster” as his latest career ambition, and enrolled in a six-day course scheduled for June. I’m probably going to go to Sorrento Quay and enrol in the same course tomorrow, because there are certain destinations on the Hypothetical Round The World Trip where a diving certification would be very, very useul. This includes virtually anywhere in the South Pacific or Caribbean, but the place I’m most intrigued by is Chuuk.

(Images courtesy of Where The Hell Is Matt, my favourite travel blog, in which the writer spends a substantial amount of time below the water in Chuuk.)

Chuuk is an island in the Federated States of Micronesia. During World War II it was a major base for the Japanese Navy, right up until the Americans attacked it in the largest aerial bombardment in history and sent them down to, wait for it, a watery grave. It was essentially the Japanese equivalent of Pearl Harbour. About twelve battleships, fifty merchant and supply ships, and a whole heap of planes are now lying on the seabed all around the island.

Due to the fortunate presence of a thick reef barrier, the lagoon all these shipwrecks are located in is well sheltered from waves and currents. Meaning that all the ships are still there, at a very shallow depth, with great visibility. It’s basically the best wreck diving in the world.

To do list: sit in the cockpit of a sixty-year old Japanese fighter plane, underwater.

In order to accomplish that, of course, I first have to spend a surprisingly large amount of money and six consecutive days dipping myself into the TURGID GREY SEA that encroaches on Perth during the rainy, wind-whipped months of winter. Summer would have been a much nicer time, but them’s the breaks. It will be either one of the best or worst weeks in my life.

Either way, it should be worth it.

Episode 12 – “There’s No Place Like Home, Part 1”

Not a greeeeat episode… hopefully the next part will pick things up a little.

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Where the hell have you been? Do you know what time it is? I've been WORRIED SICK

1. In the reunion scene, it was touching to see Hurley introduce Sayid to his mother, since he had no family to greet. It was hilarious to see Jack completely fail to do the same for Kate.
2. YESSSSSS the Others are finally back after being sidelined all season.
3. Desmond certainly seems friendly with the freighter crew now. I guess they’re all a little spooked by their captain’s murder and need a burly, rugged Scotsman to take the lead. Also the boat’s pilot had a hilariously terrible Australian accent.
4. The explosives on the freighter are clearly triggered by the thing on Keamy’s arm. I’ve got a really bad feeling about Jin, Michael and Desmond now. I don’t care about Jin and Michael, especially since their deaths have been heavily foreshadowed, but Desmond is one of my favourite characters, and I want to see him get caught up in Ben’s plot to kill Penny.
5. Jin: “I told you I would get you off this island.” You didn’t do shit, Jin. Sayid and Daniel did.
6. Hey, I got a question for the press conference: how the fuck did the survivors supposedly end up in the Lesser Sunda Islands, considering that they’re about five thousand kilometres away from 815’s flight path? That’s like a plane disappearing enroute from New York to London, but finding the wreckage and survivors floating in the Gulf of Mexico. Even flying off-course for a couple of hours can’t explain it, since there’s no way it wouldn’t be picked up by air traffic observers in Australia and Indonesia. It’s basically an awful cover story and the fact that nobody questions it makes me assume it’s a fuck-up on the writer’s part. Way to go, writers.
7. Why would Jack’s family wait about seven months to hold Christian’s funeral?
8. So did Locke just walk out of the cabin all like “Seeya later Claire?” I guess that’s the kind of thing that idiot would do.
9. Throughout this entire season, the amount of crash survivors seems to have shrunk to less than 20, for both Jack and Locke’s group combined, including all main characters. What’s up with that?

What the fuck, South Africa?! You’re supposed to be the good one!

The front page of the West Australian yesterday depicted a police officer extinguishing one of the poor guys who had a flaming tyre placed around his neck. His face was charred. Probably the most horrific front page I’ve ever seen.

First Kenya, now this. It’s like every African country where things were starting to go okay and people weren’t constantly trying to wipe out each other’s ethnic groups suddenly decided to do a handbrake turn.

Chris and I have started throwing darts at the map in a form of loose planning (or daydreaming) about our round the world backpacking trip set vaguely sometime next year, i.e. as soon as we can scrounge up about ten grand each. This is probably the most fun stage of planning, since most of it involves browsing lonelyplanet.com and WikiTravel instead of doing my university work.

LOCATION SPOTLIGHT: MALE’

There are islands in the Indian Ocean. This was news to me. Even more surprising was the fact that not only are there islands, but those islands have cities on them, like this:

it's been out there this whole time?

(full resolution)

According to most travel guides the Maldives is insanely overpriced – an archipelago of paradise resorts for rich people, with tennis courts and swimming pools and rented yachts. There’s great scuba diving, but nothing you can’t see elsewhere for a fraction of the cost and without a bunch of braying California socialites being herded around by their tour guides (good Lord, I’m already an elitist and I haven’t even left the southern hemisphere yet). Overall, it’s not really a feasible destination for shoestring backpackers.

But man. That city!

It would have been yet more visually impressive if it wasn’t for some fuckwitted dipshit…

Formerly it was a walled city surrounded by fortifications and gates (doroshi). The Royal Palace (Gan’duvaru) was destroyed along with the picturesque forts (kotte) and bastions (buruzu), when the city was remodelled under President Ibrahim Nasir’s rule after the abolition of the monarchy.

…but still! That city!

25. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (1985) 357 p.

oh, the eighties

I recently heard a lot of people describe this as one of the best books they ever read, so as usual my expectations of it were unfairly inflated and it was nowhere near as good as I expected it to be. Not that it’s a bad book.

Ender’s Game is vaguely set about a century in the future, at a time when humanity has just barely survived two catastrophic invasions by alien “buggers” and is preparing for a third. Exceptionally intelligent children are taken from families at the age of six and sent to the Battle School, a military installation in the asteroids where they are daily pitted against each other in simulated war games. Ender is considered by the top brass to be one of the best students they have seen in a long time, and possibly humanity’s only hope. The book follows his trials as he is guided by various factions and unwittingly shaped into a perfect battle commander.

Card’s writing style is nothing special, but it gets the job done, and he gets bonus points for thoughtful explorations of concepts such as self-defence and the social hierarchy of children. Parts of the story were quite familiar for me, and probably for every other reader who ever strayed close to being a nerd or outcast while in the public school system. There’s a crushing sense of inevitability, of no escape, of being in a constantly hostile environment. Ender fights back as best he can, and you love him for it. If there’s one message I took away from Ender’s Game, it’s “Don’t let the bastards grind you down.” I thoroughly agree with it.

Not the best book I ever read, or even the best science fiction book. But certainly a thumbs up, and I’ll probably read the sequels at some point in the future.

Books: 25/50
Pages: 7575

One of my favourite webcomics, Rice Boy, recently concluded after a staggering two years and 439 pages. Finishing something. Man, I wish I could do that.

Rice Boy is the story of the titular “rice boy,” a small, innocent, limbless thing living in a surreal world filled with bizarre and dangerous creatures. His adventures begin when he is sought out by The One Electronic, one of my favourite fictional characters ever: a long-coated robotic man with a monitor for a face, which flashes early 20th century footage to roughly correlate to whatever mood he’s in.

Rice Boy and The One Electronic

T-O-E and his comrade Calabash have been tasked with finding the messiah by God, who has kindly allowed them to live for as long as they please until they accomplish their mission. So far they’ve spent three thousand years becoming increasingly disillusioned by countless false candidates, who often go mad with power and wreak havoc upon the world. Rice Boy is the latest in a long line of failures and fuckups – but T-O-E has a good feeling about this one!

The One Electronic and Calabash

So begins an epic and intriguing voyage into the creative fantasy of writer and illustrator Evan Dahm. His art is not great, I’ll say that up front (I suspect this may be partly due to time constraint, since his side projects are often of a much higher visual quality). It’s Dahm’s wild imagination that makes Rice Boy a gem of a webcomic. This is fantasy as it’s supposed to be – creating fresh concepts and ideas, not retreading stale old genre tropes that wore out three decades ago. Throw determinist philosophy and religious parables into the mix and it’s a winning combination. Go ahead and spend the small hours of a rainy night reading through the archives – one of the technological age’s greatest pleasures.

In the wake of Hillary Clinton’s easy yet irrelevant win in West Virginia, she says:

“I am more determined than ever to carry on this campaign until everyone has had a chance to make their voices heard… This race isn’t over yet.”

 

YES IT FUCKING IS

 

I don’t know why I’m getting so obsessed with the US presidential race. Any one of the three would be better than Bush. But now that I’ve experienced, via Kevin Rudd, how awesome it is to boot out a deeply entrenched conservative government, I want the same thing to happen in the America. Even though it won’t affect my life at all.

If she runs as an independant (which would irretrievably destroy the Democrats’ chance of winning), I hope somebody assassinates her. And no, it’s not harsh to wish for the death of someone, considering it would prevent the deaths of many Iranian civilians and yet more US troops, which is what will happen if another Cold War veteran takes the reins and gallops off with a catastrophic, widely-loathed foreign policy.

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