peteg's blog

/noise/beach/2011-2012 | Link

Early-afternoon paddle in the Kattegat, in a bay just north of the Akvarellmuseet at Skärhamn, north of Göteborg, with Cath. I'd never been swimming in the sea in Sweden before, and the water was surprisingly not-cold, at least in a wife beater. Cath warned me to avoid a strongly-coloured jelly fish, sitting on the rocks in a metre of water, as apparently they have stingers floating in the water. On top of the bluff the wind was quite strong; good sailing weather I guess.

Wallabies 25, All Blacks 20 at Suncorp Stadium, Brisvegas

/noise/sport | Link

The Wallabies sure learnt their lessons over the past few weeks, and came out more strongly than they have in a long time. The backline was far from flawless but the All Blacks let them off the hook with even more costly mistakes. Ashley-Cooper had his best game all year on the wing, and Anthony Faingaa was solid in the centres. The Australian forwards were very impressive. Deans is going to have trouble shuffling in the recovering / returning players.

I watched the game with a couple of Australians and a sole Kiwi in The Dubliner on Östra Hamngatan in Göteborg, where I saw some of the Rugby World Cup in 2003. The current exchange rate takes some of the sting out of the beer prices: whereas it used to be $AU10 for a pint of Guiness, it is now only $AU9.

Burn After Reading

/noise/movies | Link

I saw this at the cinema back in 2008 and couldn't remember anything about it. Not the Coen brothers' finest outing, that's for sure. Brad Pitt fails to convince in this moronic role, and both Tilda Swinton and Malkovitch play themselves, or at least conform to their stereotypes. As a riff on the craziness of late Bush II homeland security, this is too heavy handed to really get on board with.

This is England '86

/noise/movies | Link

A follow-on TV series from This is England. At about twice the length, these four episodes feel less focussed than the movie, taking on more of the melodrama of a soap opera than a Thatcher-era skinhead biopic. I really don't like what they did to Woody, and Shaun seems too ineffectual, but otherwise the characters prove worthy of a revisit that fleshes them out. Riveting.

Elektra Luxx

/noise/movies | Link

I got suckered by Zacarek's review, and by Mr Brick (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) putting in an appearance. (I just remembered that Malin Akerman was in Watchmen.) A bit grindhouse. A bit off-the-wall. Not entirely successful.

This is England

/noise/movies | Link

Jake recommended this to me when I saw him last. I really enjoyed the English realism, set in 1983 at a time of Thatcher, the Falklands War, and incredibly pervasive social disadvantage/decay. This is the movie Romper Stomper and American History X wanted to be. The characters are well-rounded and the story just naturally ambles along, up to the climactic scene, where Combo, who was otherwise quite nuanced for a skinhead, flames out in a way typical for his kind on film. Before that point the movie only toes the edge in a most unsettling way.

There are loads of loose ends and so I am not surprised there is a follow-on TV show This is England '86, which I think is what Jake saw at the Sydney Film Festival.

I'll be looking for more from director Shane Meadows and these actors.

/noise/beach/2011-2012 | Link

Mid-afternoon snorkel at an unusually empty Little Bay. I got in with a wife beater and spring suit, and gloves (the usual for this time of year). Somehow the water didn't seem too cold after a bit, but it was pretty cloudy so I didn't see much.

All Blacks 30, Wallabies 14 at Eden Park

/noise/sport | Link

Not as bad as it could have been, but the Wallabies still don't know how to turn possession and territory into points. Disappointingly Vickerman looked lost when he came on, at least in the lineout where he should have been running noise. Conversely the pack did hold up all night. Genia did the work of two men, and Ioane often looked like most of the attack. Ashley-Cooper seems invisible these days, and Rocky needs to get fit. I was surprised to see the Kiwis fumble a certain try; their backline usually has impeccable handling skills. The refereeing was abysmal (he made dodgy non-decisions against both teams: knock-ons, crooked lineout throws, offsides, ...). I hope they get that right for the World Cup.

Carnal Knowledge

/noise/movies | Link

A Jack Nicholson classic from 1971, directed by Mike Nichols. Here's Bobbie!

Mother Fish

/noise/movies | Link

I found out about this freebie screening at the Law Faculty from the Shitz issue of Tharunka. Apparently it is nearly Foundation Day once again. They had some IT problems in Law G04, so after about an hour we got moved to the Staff Common Room on the top floor. This new law building, forty-something years in the making, is right next to the unibar, and this being Thursday night we got an earful of somebody's birthday party. I must say that the library there is full of studious people, very quiet, unlike the main one. It is totally full though, most of the time, including sitting room on the floor.

I went in cold, with no expectations of this movie. It opened in a way that reminded me of a song by The Herd, the Prime Minister (Rudd this time, Howard then) saying that though our refugee policy might be a bit crap, it's the least crap of all possible policies. The voice-over was sweet, but also a bit spooky, as the auteur Khoa Do (Anh Do's brother) was clearly trying to render the ancestral spirits. (It was in Vietnamese, which made it clear that it was the younger sister of the woman in the scene doing the talking. The English translation lacked a lot of nuance.) Once we get to the tailor sweatshop, though, things are pretty grim. Khoa followed Lars von Trier down the Dogville path of minimal sets but with less conviction; the camera became a water puppet as it followed the four characters on their river boat from somewhere in Vietnam to somewhere in Thailand, and as things slowed down I started looking at my watch. It didn't help that the boat people spoke English all of the way, and it seems the emotional crescendo happened while I wasn't watching.

Executive Producer cum "million-book selling author" Matthew Reilly (I took that to mean he wrote airport novels) opened proceedings by saying what a brilliant, arresting, and special story this is. I can only think that he has good intentions but no conception of Vietnam, for very similar stories have been rendered in English by Andrew X. Pham and Nam Le, the latter of whom cast a huge splash across literary Australia not a few years ago. (Let's just quietly ignore the truckloads of stories and movies from the 1980s.)

I also found it funny to hear presumably Southerners fantasising about phở tải, when everyone tells me it's a northern dish.

Good intentions, yes, I got that. Human suffering, that too, the plights of refugees, and so forth... but I had these prior to seeing this movie.

The promotional website is here.

Captain America

/noise/movies | Link

At the largely-empty 4pm session at The Ritz in 3D. That 3D was pretty jarring as it didn't add much to anything. I was intending to go to the late session but woke up at 6am this morning after a one-coffee Monday. (It seems that disruption of my caffeine regimen makes me sleep less, and in the short term work harder, at least on things that don't require much deep thinking.)

This summer I'm watching all these cartoons I didn't read as a kid. I'm sure they represent/debase many blokes' childhood, but to me there's nothing sentimental in it. This one is yet another genesis story, pushing the fascistic country-first buttons and not much else. It's not a great action flick, largely because the characters are entirely meh and the director has no conviction in the action scenes, resorting to an action montage early on for no apparent reason.

There are loads of cinematic hat tips: the flying fox is a no-tension ripoff of Attenborough's effort in Where Eagles Dare, as are pretty much the entirety of the World War II themes, or at least those that aren't fake and/or anachronistic. I guess returning to that war makes sense to Hollywood, for history has not been kind to America since. X-Men did a better job with their retro James Bond revival aesthetic; mutants are so much less fake than supermen.

Hugo Weaving really hasn't moved past Agent Smith. I liked him as Agent Smith, but I don't like Agent Smith trying to be Mr Evil German. Acting-wise he's solid but his character is mirthless/worthless, a generic bad dude, set on world domination and therefore timely liquidation at the hands of the superman. Perhaps the novelty was that he's "wearing a mask" for the first half of the film; one gets the impression that he watched Kill Bill Vol. 2 and decided to put Bill's theory of superheroes to the sword. I felt sorry for Hayley Atwell, she of the trembling lip and vacuous character; she should have been a companion of Doctor Who.

Captain America was the cartoon industry's contribution to the war effort; when we see him flogging war bonds and the kids running around pretending to be Captain America, that is what this character was all about. Those scenes are a 1940s update of the same in Once Upon a Time in America and resonate because they are timeless. (Or entirely of their time, take your pick.) My point is that this character makes no sense in the modern era: the burden of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are not spread around, and even the recent economic turmoil (that one might partially attribute to the cost of these wars) has had more effect on the class of people who are actually fighting, i.e. the women and men who aspire(d) to profit from their labour, than the people who once bought war bonds; it is not so easy to pretend that we are still in this together. So rather than rebooting these tired anachronistic characters, how about cooking up some new ones? This apparently being the last in the Avengers prequels (whatever that means), one has to wonder what's going to get the mega treatment in 2013.

Dana Stevens gave it a faith-testing thumbs up.

/noise/beach/2011-2012 | Link

Andrew T tells me this is a luderick.

I got in to Gordons Bay off the scuba ramp at the north eastern end at 1pm after too much flaffing about. Getting into the spring suit with a wife beater on is a bit tough, and I was lucky to get some help from some Asian (Korean? Japanese?) scuba blokes. The water was about the same as last time, a bit cold but not terribly uncomfortable, but not as clear. There were loads of sizeable fish in really shallow water. I wonder why. I still haven't found the big blue groper.

Linh Dinh: Night, Again: Contemporary Fiction from Vietnam

/noise/books | Link

Argue with a smart man,
Can't win.
Argue with a stupid man,
Can't stop.

— Vietnamese proverb

This is a high-quality collection of contemporary (1990s) Vietnamese short stories that I scraped from the ANU Menzies Library months ago. Linh Dinh is responsible not only for anthologising these but also for many of the translations. His overly-brief introduction provides an account of the authors and the situation in Vietnam, đổi mới and so forth. I wish it had been longer.

Memorable:

  • A Marker on the Side of the Boat is another war story from Bảo Ninh (translated by Linh Dinh).
  • Nguyễn Huy Thiệp's Without a King (translated by Linh Dinh), a tale of a lone woman in a household of five sons and a widower.
  • Scenes from an Alley by Lê Minh Khuê (translated by Bắc Hoài Trân and Dana Sachs) juxtaposes rising affluence and crassness of Westerner expat consumption.
  • A Stagnant Water Place by Thế Giang (translated by Cường Nguyễn) is a fly-on-the-brothel-wall.
  • Nine Down Makes Ten by Phạm Thị Hoài (translated by Peter Zinoman, up to his usual standard), tells of a woman's men.
  • In the Recovery Room by Mai Kim Ngọc (translated by Nguyễn Quí Đức) is an old man recounting his sex life to his son-in-law.
  • Đỗ Kh.'s The Pre-War Atmosphere is the most exotic of these stories, mixing the Vietnamese and the Lebanese in Orange County.

Near as I can tell the passion for translating Vietnamese literature has passed, apart from the odd angry shot.