peteg's blog

When too much hardware is not quite enough.

/hacking/mac | Link

Finally Apple released a new MacBook Pro that was worth buying; I'd been waiting about two years for this. Somewhat surprisingly, given Intel's problems with the SATA interfaces on their new Sandy Bridge chips, Apple managed to roll out the new laptops pretty much under the radar and at a time that suited me: NICTA wanted me to pay off my salary sacrifice by the end of March (the end of the fringe-benefits tax (FBT) year, I believe), so I hurried off to the Apple Store at Bondi, where the service was terrible but everything was shiny.

The calculus of which one to buy was pretty easy, as it turned out. The 13 inch ones, which I would be inclined to buy, only have two cores and crappy Intel integrated graphics, and the bottom-end 15 inch one has an ATI/AMD card that is apparently worse than the previous-generation's NVIDIA one. That left the top-end 15 inch, of which I got the 2.2GHz one as I'm not going to miss 100MHz of CPU performance. I was going to get a high-resolution screen and faster hard disk, but they don't do that in the shop, and teeing up a delivery was a bit tricky, being on holidays and all.

It ended up being a lot of cash with the AppleCare and the 8Gb iPod Touch, free with a mail-in rebate. Yep, I got suckered the same way last time, but this time it's free! What could go wrong with that...

Performance-wise this machine smokes the old Core2 Duo MacBook; building my stock Isabelle theory takes about a third of the time, albeit by toasting my thighs. Given that the unibody is (even) more durable than the plastic case, I expect to easily get four years out of this thing. Moreover I can play finally all those games of yesteryear, such as Portal. I think there are a few issues for Apple to iron out yet, though; it's a lot crashier than the old MacBook, perhaps due to immature graphics drivers.

/noise/beach/2010-2011 | Link

Early-evening paddle at Little Bay with Loan. Most people had left by then so it was pretty quiet. Same as always. Beautiful day for it.

/noise/beach/2010-2011 | Link

Morning paddle at Depot Beach. Beautiful and quiet. Went for a walk with Loan afterwards through the rainforest.

Early evening paddle at Mystery Bay, another camping spot on the South Coast, amongst the rocks. Again it was pretty much perfect.

/noise/beach/2010-2011 | Link

Early evening paddle at Depot Beach, an isolated camping spot on the South Coast. The water was a tad cooler than around Sydney but still quite pleasant, and Coogee-ish in its flatness.

/noise/beach/2010-2011 | Link

Late afternoon paddle at Gordons Bay. Loads of people around, some backpackers. The tide was way out and the water very clean. Would've been good for a snorkel.

/noise/beach/2010-2011 | Link

A brief paddle, late afternoon, at Little Bay with Loan, Jake and Barb. Beautiful day for it, no surf, tide right out. Later on dinner at the Duke of Gloucester for the first time in years.

Peter Lloyd: Inside Story

/noise/books | Link

I've been keen to read this book since it was published back in October 2010. Luckily for me Borders was offering 25% off and free shipping from their online store, an offer which doubtlessly triggered their bankruptcy. I find it ironic that these bricks-and-mortar shops bleat about how the internet is destroying commerce while offering steeper discounts via that very same channel than I can get in-store anywhere.

Anyway, I knew of Peter Lloyd from his coverage of events in Asia for the ABC, and was saddened to hear that he'd gotten busted for drugs in Singapore in 2008. I completely understand the need to do drugs while in Singapore, not that I condone being there in the first place. Given that he lived in India and previously Bangkok and presumably had events to cover elsewhere, why in hell subject oneself to the tyranny of Lee? Well, his boyfriend works for Singapore Air.

Lloyd is one of those intelligent restless people who quickly learns enough about whatever to sound authoritive without actually being so, and moves quickly enough not to be caught out. Therefore his small stuff-ups irritate me immensely, such as his "mister ant" — it is highly unlikely that he met a male ant in his Singaporean gaol cell. Also Australia is not the biggest continent (that would be the one he was incarcerated on), merely the biggest island. Moreover the swearing in this book brings the tone down and does little more than signify that he's in a non-professional mode here. He doesn't even pretend to be objective about Lee Kuan Yew, and it is unfortunate that his venting about Lee/Chinese supremacy is so damn unsurprising, or that the wheels of justice are square-shaped in that city.

Perhaps fatally for the longevity of this narrative, doing time in a Singaporean gaol is terminally banal, and possibly even less violent than on the streets of that city. So this is more of a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diary, a story of survival by someone who was never going to go under; an account of a small dip in an otherwise upward trajectory that won't even be noticed by the proceeds of crime mob. He's back "home" now, entangled in Lateline; what with Leigh Sales moving to 7:30 he may even be the anchor.

The gay stuff always leaves one wondering who's wearing the trousers. He seems unaware of the cliche/exploitative overtones of/colonial vibes of Western man finds solace in Asian man/woman, and does nothing to defend himself on that front. How did they meet? Who was looking for what? Pisani was great on this front as she always had a reason to be anywhere, and was sure enough of herself to let all this sexual perversity in the orient wash over her.

He leaves us hanging at the end: did he get his diary out? Did he break up with his bloke? We have a right to know!

Here's a thoughtful review by an ex-journo and Lloyd interviewed by David Marr at Gleebooks last November.

The Apostle

/noise/movies | Link

Robert Duvall as a Southern preacher. Pretty much what it says on the tin. I didn't really get into it, and I guess I don't know who would.

Escape from Alcatraz

/noise/movies | Link

It's 1979 and Clint has to escape from Alcatraz, just like Frank Morris and his mates may have done in 1962. This is a bit of a plodder, but does not suffer terribly for that.

The Dead Pool

/noise/movies | Link

... and that about wraps it up for Dirty Harry. It's 1988 and Clint must have run out of money, merely starring in this one with an unbelievably young Patricia Clarkson. The old lion needs a few wrinkles yet. This one is mercifully only 90 minutes. Perhaps the best thing in it is a pre-famous Jim Carrey proving that Guns and Roses will rot your brains. Liam Neeson always strikes me as a good actor who never does any good acting.

The Enforcer

/noise/movies | Link

On a Dirty Harry roll here. Rife with cliche, this one is. Eastwood does OK with a few more lines in his forehead in 1976, and it makes reference to the battle-hardened but adrift young men who returned from Vietnam just a few years before. The terrorists could have used some more back story, as I wonder how they were going to link the soldiers to San Quentin Prison. San Francisco is radiant again in that Technicolor treatment.

Sudden Impact

/noise/movies | Link

Clint Eastwood / Dirty Harry slinks into the 1980s and things are so terribly modern. As producer / director / star here he tries out a lot of things and has no problem being heavy-handed about it. Unlike the first three this one really does get on board with the vigilante: Clint might think it helps that's she's blonde and pretty and victimised, but it's all pretty feeble in moral monochrome. This one isn't set so much in San Francisco as Santa Cruz, and some of the fantastic Technicolor is lost too. I guess we can say that while computer technology was embryonic in 1983, Hollywood had less of an excuse for pumping out this dreck.

Somewhat confusingly, Albert Popwell morphs from community organiser Mustapha in The Enforcer to cop Horace King. I missed him in Magnum Force.

I dunno if these were the template that the late-80s action movies were cut from (Die Hard and Arnie's ouevre in particular), but if not these then what? Clint is all-action, has all the best lines (or even the only), and in this we get a splendid Leone ripoff of the man-with-hand-canon in silhouette. I guess the 1980s weren't kind to many who made it out of the 1970s.

Magnum Force

/noise/movies | Link

Yeah, Eastwood revisits Dirty Harry to everyone's joy/dismay. San Francisco 1973 looks great in Technicolor.

Dirty Harry

/noise/movies | Link

The only thing that isn't black and white is the cinematography. If they'd spent more time on San Francisco itself it might have been worthwhile. Eastwood is better with fewer lines (or more wrinkles).

/noise/beach/2010-2011 | Link

After-work paddle at Gordons Bay. A fair bit of plant material in the water, and some scummy areas. Very pleasant otherwise.

Network

/noise/movies | Link

Robert Duvall as a body-and-soul corporate man. This is a strange one with four strong leads; Dunaway comes off fake as she hams it up a little too much, as does Peter Finch in the crazy man role. William Holden is sincere, too sincere. Duvall goes over the top less successfully than he did a few years later in Apocalypse Now. This is one of those high-concept pieces they don't make any more, something like The Great Gatsby, a tale of the emptiness at the core of modern America without the pizzazz of a Hunter S. Thompson. Here the TV itself has some humanity while the corporation behind the network gets massaged by the events of the 1970s.

Parked at #198 in IMDB's top-250.

The Hunger

/noise/movies | Link

Just another vampire movie, an impressionistic style not really looking for substance. Bowie is solid but marginal; it's the early 1980s and he's in the business of selling out. Can Sarandon act?

I dredged this one up after reading about David Bowie's film career on Slate.

/noise/beach/2010-2011 | Link

Midday snorkel with Rob at Little Bay. Bloody hot. I didn't see much. Rob took this photo of a decent-sized crab in about two metres of water.

Get Low

/noise/movies | Link

Robert Duvall is solid in the lead. Bill Murray is fine as a deadpan shyster-ish funeral home director. It's a funny little period-piece that was somehow generally overlooked.

Good review by Anthony Lane.

/noise/beach/2010-2011 | Link

Yet another after-work paddle at Gordons Bay. Perfect weather for it and it is yet to rain or thunderstorm.

Fair Game

/noise/movies | Link

What a crock. I had some expectations after the glowing reviews of Naomi Watts in this. I expected Penn to go over the top, as he always does with these People versus Uncle Sam things, but his and the rest of the Hollywood histrionics overpower what should have been a story sufficiently forceful in itself. All the President's Men this is not, and the fault is with the scriptwriters. Are we to believe that a woman employed for her analytic abilities is so unreflectively emotional? It is not enough to gesture at the investigations when they are the sole kind of justice on offer. This is a deadening lesson in heavy-handed civics.

Margaret loved it, but I'm on David's side.

/noise/beach/2010-2011 | Link

After-work paddle at Gordons Bay. The water is quite pleasant now. The wind was up and the water a bit unsettled, but still clean.

/noise/beach/2010-2011 | Link

After-work paddle at Gordons Bay. The water seems quite clean, a little cold in places. The afternoon thunderstorm predicted by the BOM did not manifest.

Love and other drugs

/noise/movies | Link

What a turkey. Rife with the American mythology, the gold inside every misanthrope. Gyllenhaal can't save this, he's too sincere, and nor can Hathaway with or without clothes. (AFAIR this is the first time I've seen her on film.) It is something of a mishmash of American Pie histrionics and naivety and the knowingness of Thank you for smoking without the plasticity of an Eckhart. The scene in Chicago where Hathaway goes all gooey over the community spirit broke everything (that was yet to be broken). I really did expect more from this premise and these actors, and wasn't I suckered.

True Grit

/noise/movies | Link

I've seen the last few Cohen brothers films at the cinema. This film at the Verona was not what I was expecting. I had some difficulty following Jeff Bridges' mumbling; he was a lot clearer, even when drunk, in Crazy Heart. It was a bit too Lord of the Rings for me, too much moving around the countryside while not much happens, sparse but not Leone sparse, or tense or whatever. The dialogue is good in the O Brother Where Art Thou? sort of way and Damon was actually pretty good. Brolin has a very brief time on screen, which might just be OK as I'm still getting W vibes when I see him. Hailee Steinfeld is solid in the lead and was given only a very few childishly out-of-character lines to utter.

I haven't seen the "original" with the Duke, but I can imagine just how over-the-top it is. I also don't think it's as good as those last few Cohen brothers efforts, perhaps for the simple reason that nothing much stayed with me after I exited the cinema.

Dana Stevens was more impressed, as was Paul Byrnes.

/noise/beach/2010-2011 | Link

Late-morning snorkel at Gordons Bay, from the scuba ramp on the northern side. Perfect day for it, hot, dry, almost cloudless. The water was much clearer than it has been. I spotted a fairly large groper as soon as I got in, green but with blue rings around her eyes, and the massive blue one soon after. There were a few schools of fish east of the ramp, and the stingray was sitting in some sand trying to look inoffensive.