peteg's blog

QBE Travel Insurance, for the unlicenced rider.

/travels/2010-Vietnam | Link

From a tip by a mate of Darren: if you intend to ride a bike in Vietnam and don't have an Australian or local licence, QBE's policy does not rule out covering you provided the bike is 100cc or less. Read the policy carefully though, for they may still play some kind of illegal-activity shenanigans. I hope I don't have to find out.

You can get steep discounts by looking around. I got mine through Global Surf Travel for 30% less than going straight to QBE. Strangely QBE still process the payment and issue the policy directly from their website. It remains a lot more than e.g. AAMI (for me about $250 versus $165) but it might actually pay out if something happens.

Wrapping up Worker/Wrapper.

/hacking/isabelle | Link

At last I have completed the submission process for my worker/wrapper corrigendum-ish thing: the JFP emailed me the printing proofs and I have sent them back, all four and a half pages of it. I am told it will be online sometime soon, and in print at some later time.

Secretary

/noise/movies | Link

I remember seeing this when it was released, which must have been sometime in 2003. This is Maggie Gyllenhaal in her break-through role, and she is game and lustrous. Her love interest (James Spader) is a Mickey Rourke-alike, and this is indeed a 9 1/2 weeks sort of deviancy for the new new century. What's not to like?

The Twin Peaks aesthetic is sometimes a bit kooky, a bit creepy, but this is alleviated by a tight focus on the characters, and some of that Lebowksi dreaminess. Maggie is great and I liked how her character evolved; a more sophisticated take on power relationships that is not as readily trivialised as stereotyped feminism.

I reckon this would have made a great stage production ala Oleana, which I saw NUTS produce so many years ago.

/noise/beach/2009-2010 | Link

Late-afternoon paddle at Gordons Bay. Too weary to really enjoy it; it has been a while since I got a decent sleep, as the flat opposite my bedroom window is being renovated. The tradies have been there every day for the past week (including this weekend) from 7:30am. Anyway, the water was fine, the sky and water clear. Probably would have been perfect for a snorkel.

/noise/beach/2009-2010 | Link

Clovelly, Rob, gropers, stingaree, early evening, a bit rough but very clear, water a tad cool.

Johnny Mnemonic

/noise/movies | Link

Who would have thought that Keanu's power animal was a dolphin? This one has a bit of everything, except a plausible plot, characters, continuity, tension. As such it is fine except where it obviously fails to match grasp and reach; it is something of a dry run for The Matrix. Lundgren hams it up well as the preacher, but Rollins is only convincing when aggressive. Keanu markedly improves in his next few movies after this one.

The animation is Tron-ish. Gibson's work is debased as he is usually focussed on the immediate, the local: his characters don't save the world. Also there was a lack of sexual deviancy, a central theme of cyberpunk. It could have been worse, but it could also have been a lot more than just a quest.

Those with sharp eyes will spot a frequency counter (or something) with nixie tubes in one of the climactic scenes.

William Gibson: Burning Chrome

/noise/books | Link

A sparkly little collection of short stories by Gibson at the height of his neuromantic period. Bruce Sterling has an ego far larger than his talent, and his attempts early in his introduction to bracket himself with Gibson made it easy to skip the rest of it. Moreover I'd read their collaboration Red Star, Winter Orbit in Mirrorshades, and here it really jangles against the purely Gibson efforts.

Stand-outs were:

  • Johnny Mnemonic. Was the movie really all that bad? I guess I had better find out.
  • Hinterlands. Provincialism.
  • New Rose Hotel is much better than the movie, more's the pity.
  • The Winter Market is Gibson observing Vancouver, keenly. I wish he'd do more social commentary in general. (As well as, not instead of.)
  • The titular Burning Chrome is a dry run for Neuromancer, and is fine for all that.

Micmacs

/noise/movies | Link

Mr Amelie returns to his kooky childish roots in his signature style. I got a freebie from the distributor via the State Library. I could only make the 12pm screening at the Academy Twin today, and just one other person present. How can they turn a profit on these sessions?

The theme of this one is infantile, and taken on with the moral clarity of George W. Bush: the CEOs of two weapons manufacturers are identified with all the evil machinations of any and all such companies. They get the comeuppance that is so obviously in the offing from the first few frames.

The aesthetic is a return to his classic washed-out colours, ala City of Lost Children. Individual scenes are great, as are the sundry mechanisms and automata. He makes good use of his varied cast. The sexy stuff should be on the cutting room floor. So enjoy things while they're on the screen, and don't think too hard: this is like Amelie but more so.

/noise/beach/2009-2010 | Link

Mid-afternoon snorkel with a million others at Clovelly. Beautiful day, the water is supposedly still 22 degrees. As predicted by Rob, there were several mid-size gropers in the middle of the bay, and some large-ish fish. What I've been calling macklin are in fact Eastern Garfish.

/noise/beach/2009-2010 | Link

Mid-afternoon coffee and paddle at Coogee with Albert. The water is definitely getting cooler, but the weather is holding out, despite the BOM's forecast of showers and thunder and all that. We tried swimming out to the pool at the northern end, but gave up and walked like all sane people do.

K-PAX

/noise/movies | Link

Spacey and Bridges are in it, so it can't be too bad, right? Right? Well, it just might be. Spacey plays an American take on Douglas Adams's Ford Prefect, a too-human alien apparently compiling some kind of report for some unstated purpose. The plot tries to riff on the ambiguity of unAmerican alienness or (entirely?) American insanity, but falls apart at times as the man is clearly both. Spacey is always a bit patronising, and here he is positively encouraged to be godlike. Bridges does not look right with short hair.

The technicalities in the movie are irritating; for example, if K-Paxian reproduction was as terrible as claimed, the species would have died out, especially with long life spans.

Vale, Robin Milner.

/cs | Link

Vijay told me of his passing. Sad I never saw him speak.

/noise/beach/2009-2010 | Link

Yet another early-afternoon snorkel at Gordons Bay. The surf was about the same as yesterday, but visibility was a bit better. The water remains a perfect temperature. I didn't see any of the big blue gropers today, and I'm wondering why.

Belvoir Downstairs: The Suicide

/noise/theatre | Link

Six months after my last foray to Belvoir, I saw that the Hayloft Project have once again migrated north for these dying days of summer. The cheapie Tuesday price has been jacked up to $12. I was fortunate when the girl behind the counter sweetly squeezed me in with about ninety other people when some reservations didn't show. Apparently at least some in the crowd were watching it as part of their drama studies at Sydney Uni.

This play is a farce. The comedic elements are diverse and self-knowing, which is not quite the same thing as innovative and funny. Apparently the play was written in 1928 by Russian Nikolai Erdman: roughly, Lenin is dead, Stalin is just beginning to stack the bodies, and things are looking a tad grim for the locals. Semyon Semyonovich wants out because his wife is insufficiently servile, he has no employment and no real prospects of an outsize life. Once suicide is decided upon, there's the question of naming rights. Segue to a pre-wake and then a suitably improbable conclusion for Semyon.

I can imagine that the play originally manifested a lot of political commentary, but that has been toned down in this production. Mr Nip-it-in-the-Bud would make an excellent motivational speaker, and indeed all the actors were excellent. Gareth Davies has a huge role and carries it off as well as anyone could, playing (being?) drunk ala Robert Downey Jr for extended periods. Everyone keeps their undies on this time. However the ending dragged and I wanted Semyon offed at least twenty minutes before the actors took their bows. I have to say I much preferred the director Simon Stone's efforts on The Only Child.

This crew has a lot of fans, and maybe a good press agent. Perhaps that explains the lack of diversity in the reviews. Also there is no interval, just a hundred continuous minutes, which weirded me out as I did want a beer.

Tourist Visas for Vietnam

/travels/2010-Vietnam | Link

I headed off to the consulate in Edgecliff last Thursday to apply for a tourist visa, and back today to pick it up. They will give you a single-entry 3 month visa for $AU100, or a multi-entry one for $AU140. Seems like a lot less hassle than what people have done in the past, or trying to get a pre-organised visa-on-arrival.

/noise/beach/2009-2010 | Link

Yet another snorkel at Gordons Bay, in the late afternoon in some fairly rough surf. Visibility was a lot poorer than it has been, though the water remains warm. There was a fair bit of light and loads of fish in the bay itself; I found one of the male gropers straight in front of the scuba ramp.

Up

/noise/movies | Link

Delightful.

New Theatre: Feelgood

/noise/theatre | Link

I haven't been to the theatre in a while, so I figured it was worth risking the cheapie opening Sunday evening ($10 min) to see this political something-or-other. The crowd was small, which was somewhat due to it starting at 5pm.

Briefly: the presumably-British-Labour-Party is having their annual conference at some swank hotel, and protesters are outside trying to riot. Inside we see the speechwriters at work, the snowballing of a genetically-modified scandal, and a Pilger-esque journalist's possibility of influencing government policy.

The production was solid, as was the acting. The script itself was a bit flat: as the process of manufacturing political bullshit is entirely cynical, entirely banal, it takes a lot of effort to make it more than that on the stage. The concluding speech repeats some of what came before in combination with some jarring hackneyed realpolitik. I found the humour a bit forced at times, and while it has been mildly adapted to Australian circumstances, the original English sensibility leaks through. It is probably not so far from what Williamson might attempt if he were to take on this topic.

Zodiac

/noise/movies | Link

Apparently I saw this with Rob back in 2007 at the Ritz. It must not have stuck. The story and acting are pretty good, though Fincher et al have to massage some tension in there to keep us on the hook. It suffers a bit from an accelerating time-frame and no real conclusion.

/noise/beach/2009-2010 | Link

I invited Rob, Sandy and Albert for a snorkel today, at the same place I've been going to these past three days. We were quite slow in starting, getting in around 2:30pm. I gave the camera to Rob and this is the best photo he took, of the first of the three large mature male gropers we saw. I think they got progressively larger as we headed east along the headland. It is damn hard to get a photo that captures these magnificently languid creatures in perspective. Sandy didn't last too long as the water is definitely cooler than it has been: barely 22 degrees according to the life savers at Clovelly!

There were heaps of people around as it was an absolutely perfect day, and the water remains quite clear. I should head back and see what I can find in Clovelly.

Tender Mercies

/noise/movies | Link

I got this on the strength of the comparisons with Crazy Heart. Robert Duvall is the leading man here, and given the chance won the Oscar for it. He is excellent, reversing his psycho-with-some-empathy style (in my mind) to play a seemingly decent bloke whose boozing makes him plausibly dangerous. Indeed all the actors are great. I would have liked to see a bit more character from his new wife as she didn't seem to want a hell of a lot. Why did she get remarried? Did she want another child?

I think Bridges earnt his Oscar more than Duvall did here.

/noise/beach/2009-2010 | Link

I had to go back to Gordons Bay and try to get some photos of that huge groper I saw yesterday. I'm not altogether sure this is the same fish; this one liked ducking back under some rocks during the photoshoot, and I think yesterday's was significantly larger. The water seemed a bit cloudier than yesterday (perhaps due to me having the camera with me) and a little rougher with a mild northerly breeze.

/noise/beach/2009-2010 | Link

Mid-afternoon snorkel at Gordons Bay. The water has been too clear for too many days now not to snorkel. I got in at the scuba ramp on the northern (Clovelly) side. The tide being out made it a bit challenging, scrambling over the half-exposed rocks with gear in hand. I saw a huge blue groper, the biggest I've ever laid eyes on, more than a metre long, fat and cobalt-blue. Of course I didn't take my camera. Also a smaller one, some squid, and schools of juvenile marlin (?) and a jet-black fish I know not what, and the usual suspects. Lots of larger fish about presently.

/noise/beach/2009-2010 | Link

Late-afternoon paddle at Gordons Bay. A few people out snorkelling, a couple of blokes mucking around in a row boat. About the same as yesterday: absolutely perfect. Flat as, incredibly clear.

Wilde

/noise/movies | Link

I saw this biopic at the cinema back in the late 90s with an unlikely crowd. Stephen Fry is very good, as is Jude Law. The narrative arc is a bit lame; this writer's life is the tawdry, tragic flipside of his beautiful and timeless work. Martin Sheen holds up the home front.

/noise/beach/2009-2010 | Link

Got back to Sydney yesterday afternoon and probably should have gone for a swim. Today was just as perfect. The water is noticeably cooler than it was last time I was in, flat and very clear but with lots of street material at the fringes. There is a massive infestation of backpackers presently. Would have been perfect for a snorkel.

Massive Attack at the Sydney Opera House forecourt.

/noise/music | Link

mrak talked me into going to this, the tacked on second gig, after I passed on going with Jacob and Barb last night for pecuniary reasons. Cutely the tickets I got from the Opera House included a download of their new album Heligoland, whereas Ticketmaster wanted another $15 for their latterly-available ones. All I'm going to say is that it is less metallic than the preceding 100th Window and Danny the Dog soundtrack.

Martina Topley-Bird opened with an ethereal solo set. Awesome to see her.

As for the Massive, well yeah, I like their old stuff better than their new stuff, and I doubt there's anyone older than twenty who feels otherwise. The night was beautiful, the location perfect, but the music was missing something; as mrak observed, the canonical versions of their songs are on the albums, and production is a huge part of what they do. They rocked out a lot of their songs, with walls of sound that sometimes had the nuance that made them famous — Angel springs to mind — but often not. All of the vocalists were strong, including Martina on Teardrop and a fabulous Unfinished Sympathy featuring Deborah Miller. I expected them to close with Hymn of the Big Wheel, given the ambience and presence of Horrace Andy, but no. Mr Andy and the shrinking non-del Naja part of the group (now just Marshall) were criminally under-used. This group has concreted over its organic roots.

The stage was backed by an impressive display board running all sorts of things. Most incongruous to me was the monomaniacal focos on political issues, newspaper headlines, that sort of thing. I don't think of this band as political so much as personal, about the connections amongst people, not their divisions. Strangely, while their music casts long shadows over various parts of my life, I have never had much empathy for the core band members.

I saw these guys straight after they released Mezzanine back in 1998 with Jacob and many mutual friends. This gig just made me feel nostalgic.

Worth reading: a harsh-but-fair retrospective at the New Yorker. Not worth reading: Bernard Zuel in the Smage. Paranoia? Darkness? What about the first two albums?

Waterworld

/noise/movies | Link

Costner as a merman, and Dennis Hopper in his lamest effort yet. As one would expect from the hype when it was released, the narrative/plot is crap, the characters undercooked, and the whole thing is within a hair's-breadth of failure. They should have spent more on the script (as they always should). Generic good guys, generic bad guys, generic pirate imagery, a find-the-promised-land, booty, Rambo-esque rescue effort, etc. that would shame the makers of Mario Bros. There are shades of Indiana Jones and sundry American myths here, as one always finds with Costner.

I guess it is easy to see how Costner's ego got the better of him after Dances with Wolves. His acting here is reprehensible. Rob reckoned the premise is interesting and epically fumbled. It is somewhat like watching the Wallabies play rugby.

This movie is mythical, like Star Wars, and is a mandatory watch even if it is a turkey. The cinematography is pretty good and I did like his boat.

Sleuth

/noise/movies | Link

Michael Caine and a fruity Laurence Olivier play deadly games in a country mansion. The piled-up twists are let down by Caine's inability to completely mask his accent, which is a shame as he had me going for some of it. I reckon the stage production would have been superior. Rated at #203 on the IMDB top-250, as it should be.

The commentary on class/migrant relations/condescension in England circa 1970, when there was some pretension to a new classless society, was a bit pedestrian but articulately delivered. The automata are pretty amazing.

Apparently Caine decided to participate in a remake with Jude Law, using a script by Harold Pinter.

Tightrope

/noise/movies | Link

Another Eastwood, this time from the early 1980s. The cinematography is washed out, just right for some seemy police work in pre-Katrina New Orleans. It tries to fish for a new angle on the psycho-thriller, but that particular character is shallowly drawn and implausibly generic, along the lines of Malkovitch in In the Line of Fire. The focus is on the cop played by Eastwood, a bit of a down-at-heel Dirty Harry who gets organised with the lady from the rape crisis centre. Arnie plays a similar cop in End of Days; was it never a cliché?

Again, I saw this on the strength of that New Yorker article. Overall OK but difficult to talk up as anything great. One for the Underbelly crowd.

Smultronstället (Wild Strawberries)

/noise/movies | Link

I can't believe this is #151 on IMDB's top-250: it is pretty much the definition of arty pretentiousness. Briefly: a black-and-white dreamy life-wasn't-so-beautiful recreation of an old medical professor-ermeritus's life, a character study of an unpleasant sort of bloke. Narrative and plot are mostly absent. It is showy, I'll give it that, but I found no real depth in it, just allusion. Is he cold because he doesn't care about anything or vice-versa? Does this movie tell us anything we don't already know? The women are shallowly drawn, apparently lacking inner lives or anything but material motives for love. Manipulative too. Boring!

It doesn't encourage me to see any more of Bergman's work.

/noise/beach/2009-2010 | Link

Mid-afternoon paddle at Gordons Bay. All round absolutely perfect — the water is quite warm, the day temperate, little wind and some waves.

Crazy Heart

/noise/movies | Link

This feted vehicle of Jeff Bridges's performance-of-a-lifetime took an age to get to Australia. I caught it at 2:30pm on this, a cheap Tuesday, a week after release, four rows from the front of cinema #2 in The Ritz. I'm sure the oldies had their fun up the back.

Bridges is indeed awesome, inflating his character as Mickey Rourke did in The Wrestler, even looking like he'd been drinking steadily since The Big Lebowski to just this end. I'll admit I enjoyed the music, though I can never tell if it's country or western, or whatever it is that Leonard Cohen does.

Maggie Gyllenhaal lit up the screen as she always can, but the script cast a shadow long enough to prevent her being anything interesting. Indeed the narrative arc, the possibility of plot development, was restricted to wondering how the whole thing could possibly conclude, preferably satisfyingly. I don't think Cooper figured this out either. Redemption is popular in the U.S., and probably everywhere that God is thought to be a friend of humanity, and for it to fail as blandly as it does here makes one wish for the grand follies of past times. It couldn't even manage a decent double-dip. These days even failure tastes like success.

Robert Duvall is always a bonus to me, playing those unforgettable supporting roles in great movies like Apocalypse Now and Magnolia. (Didn't these movies show us how to screw up properly?) Here his character is too minor to rescue anything from anything. The IMDB boards are saturated with pointers to his earlier take on the same theme, Tender Mercies, a Beresford effort. It's enqueued.

This movie is worth seeing on the strength of Bridges alone; be placated by the musical interludes! ... and certainly don't read any reviews before you go. Afterwards you can nod along vigorously with Dana Stevens, Paul Byrnes and Stephanie Zacharek. Or not.

In the Line of Fire

/noise/movies | Link

I got sucked into this early-90s Eastwood thriller by an article in the New Yorker about his movies. Malkovich is a good psycho, but I rank him below his contemporaries Spacey and Hopkins. The plot has myriad holes large enough for a plethora of successful assassinations; perhaps the most ludicrous is Eastwood pulling up in a taxi on an otherwise baracaded and barren street, just in time to show us how intel was done prior to computers and save the PUSA. Eastwood is fun to watch, at times, but wooden at others, and while the scaffolding of his later signature moral complexity is assembled, nothing is made of it.

The article is better than the movie, trust me.