peteg's blog

Hell or High Water

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This got Jeff Bridges an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. He didn't win. It's clear why the role appealed to him, though it isn't as rich as his one in Crazy Heart, largely because the whole thing is satisfied to cruise on its clever bank payback mechanism. Chris Pine and Ben Foster have the most fun as the brothers working the scam. The soundtrack is due to Warren Ellis and Nick Cave, in country-and-western mode, not quite apocalyptic.

Steven Strogatz: Sync: How Order Emerges From Chaos In the Universe, Nature, and Daily Life.

/noise/books | Link

Kindle. I enjoyed Strogatz's wonderment at moving amongst mathematics, biology, physics and bridge design. The idea of things (often brainless) synchronizing is fascinating, and appears to carry significant exploratory force, as he observes about superconductivity and other quantum mechanical phenomena. I would have consulted the significant chunk of endnotes (roughly 25% of the book) as I went along had I known of its existence. The main text may have benefited from a few equations, or more precise descriptions, or directly pointing into the literature, or to deeper popularizations. I didn't manage to visualize the waves he discusses at length, and the repetitions (many almost word-for-word) just made my eyes glaze over. My only beefs are that Strogatz emphasizes the aha moments of scientific insight and plays down the sweat of scientific validation, and that it would have helped if he had multiple metaphors and explanations at hand that target different kinds of thinkers. That sync is an important but limited concept is revealed by his extensive discussion of "small world" networks.

G. Bard Ermentrout's review for the AMS in 2004 is probably what I should have read (but I'm done with this topic for now).

/noise/beach/2016-2017 | Link

After lunch with Fil Mackay of Digital Asset in the CBD, I headed out to Gordons Bay via the Eastern Distributor. It was chockers at 2pm, and just barely moving; I can't imagine peak hour. Sydney may be on the move but it's pretty much ceased to go to the beach this season: at Gordons Bay almost noone was in the water, though many were hanging out on the rocks. A tad cold in, a bit filthy near the shore but clean out in the bay. I rode back to Newtown to pick up a pair of glasses from Out of Sight.

/noise/beach/2016-2017 | Link

Late afternoon paddle at Gordons Bay. Far emptier than it has been up to now; Sydney is back at work and forgotten its beaches. A bit cold in, but clear. Windy on the northern headland of Coogee. I had a lamb pizza from Erciyes, which I remembered as better than it actually is. Perhaps the one in Surry Hills does it differently.

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Vale, Kenneth Arrow. News from Al Roth. New York Times obit.

/noise/beach/2016-2017 | Link

After sending some paperwork to the IRS, and organizing a new pair of specs at Out of Sight in Newtown, I headed over to Gordons Bay for a brief paddle. The water was a lot cleaner than yesterday, which is to say that the plant detritus was spread over a far larger area. It was a bit cold in. Afterwards I ate dinner on the northern headland of Coogee and continued with Steven Strogatz's Sync. I wish he'd put in some more math, or pointers to math.


/noise/movies | Link

More Kenneth Lonergan completism. Music by Nico Muhly of Bedroom Community fame. I didn't find any of the characters likeable or easy to sympathize with. Mark Ruffalo's bus driver is clearly a cardboard cutout, and Anna Paquin as a teen in the lead is articulate, histrionic, absolutist and irritating. I found her particularly tedious. Many other characters are purified points of view, so unsubtle that it's not so much about what the movie is trying to say but why it is bothering to try to say it. The plot stems from the death of an unknown lady early in the movie. Lonergan himself is the father in distant LA, somehow successful professionally with a disastrous personal life. The classroom scenes exhibit a painfully circular lack of insight.

A. O. Scott.

It seems that just today the IMDB boards have been shuttered.

/noise/beach/2016-2017 | Link

The weather is very unstable presently, with two erratic and violent storms passing through on Friday and Saturday. Today was notionally clear. Of course the water at Gordons Bay was full of plant detritus (leaves etc.) and other stuff washed off the streets, though somewhat clearer once out in the middle of the bay. I got in off the beach due to an infestation of righteous Englishpeople (with boombox, without shirt) on the southern rocks. Another storm rolled through later on.

T2 Trainspotting

/noise/movies | Link

With Dave, 6:45pm session at Hoyts Broadway, $52.40 for the pair of us for the "extreme screen" preview. It wasn't entirely packed; we were five rows back with no one in front of us.

This sequel was better than I had any reasonable hope of it being. The continuity with the original navigates a narrow path between nostalgia and exploitation; much of it is a funeral for youthful selves, or in Sickboy's case, arrested development. I really liked Jonny Lee Miller both here and in the original, but it is Ewen Bremner's Spud who owns this episode. Robert Carlyle has to work harder at the Begbie snarl and seems too flabby to have spent twenty years in gaol; the voice is there but the psycho angularity is gone. Ewan McGregor seemed at ease, and I had hopes that Kelly Macdonald would let Diane fully rip once more. Newcomer Anjela Nedyalkova is not up to the standard of the others. There's a slightly clunky Gone Girl disconnection in the middle that is unsurprising and necessary for the plot. The music was interesting, featuring remixes of the old standards and some new stuff; Dad's Best Friend by the Rubberbandits is a standout.

More broadly this is an Edinburgh retrospective, showing the destruction of the buildings that once made Leith an industrial hub; now not even the geography remembers. Spud's residency in one of the few remaining projects is especially poignant. The plot is not much chop, and Irvine Welsh still cannot act, but that's not what anyone was there for.

The big thunder storm of the afternoon demonstrated that the roof over the kitchen of our current abode is not sound.

/noise/beach/2016-2017 | Link

After lunch with Clem at the Kirribilli Club I rode back to Gordons Bay for a paddle. I just signed up for an E-Toll account so I could go back over the Harbour Bridge; motorcycles do not need to carry a tag, but if you want to avoid the 75 cent plate scan surcharge you need to pay the $40 deposit. It's a bit crazy. I hope it got set up in time. Clearly they have a way of fining you if you don't have an account, so why not just handle all tolls with that mechanism? Oh right: natural monopolies must be privatized, Government's orders.

The bay was flat and quite clear; good snorkelling conditions. Loads of people, some even in the water. I got there a bit earlier than usual (4:30pm-ish).

Graham Greene: The Quiet American.

/noise/books | Link

A comfort book of sorts in these strange times, completed on the northern headland of Coogee beach. Somehow this is far superior to anything else I've read from Greene. I had come to think that he had completed this by 1953 and hence predicted Điện Biên Phủ, but the final lines of the book say he worked on it from March 1952 until June 1955.

You Can Count on Me

/noise/movies | Link

Kenneth Lonergan completism. Laura Linney so completely inhabits her character that I couldn't imagine anyone else doing it. She looked so happy clowning around with Matthew Broderick, and who wouldn't be soaked to meet Ferris in the flesh? Mark Ruffalo is also convincing in his role as a modern, young Brando. Upstate New York in summer, Rory Culkin playing the child of one sibling who is liberated by the other, both just holding it together in smalltown USA. I wished there'd been more to the ending, but it's life so things just continue, I guess.

Stephen Holden.

/noise/beach/2016-2017 | Link

Headed over to Gordons Bay a bit late, around 5:30pm. The traffic was predictably quite bad, but after some judicious lane splitting on Cleveland west of Chalmers I made OK time. The water was a bit too rough to enjoy. Had some dinner (that I brought with me) and kept reading Graham Greene on the northern headland of Coogee. The days are getting noticeably shorter.


/noise/movies | Link

Matthew McConaughey is a gold prospector. There seem to be a lot of movies being made about shysters, for instance American Hustle and I think Christian Bale did a better job there, with the elaborate comb-over. This one is about a whatever-it-takes gold strike in Indonesia in the late 1980s. Everything is OK but doesn't add up to anything.

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Vale, Raymond Smullyan. New York Times obit.

The Farmer's Cinematheque and Chris Abrahams @ The People's Republic.

/noise/music | Link

I had a nice ride back from La Perouse to the People's Republic, which I'd been to a couple of times before. The movie was a sort-of compilation of found footage of farm life from a while back. The daughter of one of the filmmakers provided the narrative focus and was present at this screening, as was Chris Abrahams who did the soundtrack. The whole thing was mildly familiar to me, though I never saw VFL played in western NSW. I got talking to an Irish bloke and his partner afterwards, before Chris Abrahams blessed us with a piano set. He apparently has a new album out.

I'm totally wasted: it's just too damn hot.

/noise/beach/2016-2017 | Link

I tried to sleep in after a few trying days but it was too hot. Mid-afternoon I headed over to Yen's for a late lunch and then down to La Perouse for a paddle somewhere. The somewhere turned out to be Frenchmans Beach, which was full of all sorts, and very flat, and the paddle turned into more of a soak. I think there was a shark there on Friday or so. The bike went well after a few days of being idle. I grabbed some dinner at Paris Seafood before heading up to Newtown.


/noise/movies | Link

Still parked at #14 in the IMDB top-250. Second time around. Made even less sense.

Ge Fei: Flock of Brown Birds.

/noise/books | Link

Kindle. Some sort of completism on my part, having read his only other book in English translation a while ago. It's something of a strange folk tale, heavy on the metaphor and symbols, shy of narrative and possibly meaning didn't make it all the way from the Chinese original. It might just be crap though; the author gives himself an out in the intro:

Whenever anyone complained to me about how difficult it was to understand, I would give the joking response, "I don't blame you. I'm not sure I understand it either."

One thing going for it is that it's short.

/noise/beach/2016-2017 | Link

I rode over from Glebe around 4:45pm with blue skies, but when I eventually got to Gordons Bay it was gray and grim. (I tried to be clever and went straight across Anzac Parade from Cleveland, and ended up going most of the way around Centennial Park. My geography is rusty.) Loads of people, hardly anyone in — a bit strange as the water was very pleasant. Read some more Ge Fei on the northern Coogee headland, talked with my parents, got some food at Tum's Thai, rode home.

/noise/beach/2016-2017 | Link

Early evening paddle at Gordons Bay. Loads of people hanging around on the southern rocks, so I got in off the beach. Perfect conditions, pretty much, after a day of extreme heat and threatened thunder storms. (I didn't see any, just oppressive humidity.) I saw some flying fish (long silver guys) while floating out in the middle somewhere. Afterwards I finished off Peter Carey's latest on the northern headland of Coogee and ate my leftovers. I head back to Glebe via the CBD so the bike gets some time at higher revs on the Syd Einfeld.

Peter Carey: Amnesia.

/noise/books | Link

Kindle. This is his latest novel, from 2014. Again I scraped this from the Chicago Public Library, but probably would have been better off giving it a miss. Carey knows he's not in a position to write a great cuberpunk / steampunk / Gen Y novel and so pads it out with extraneous conspiracies and historical detail that he's far more comfortable with. Are all of Carey's male leads born in Bacchus Marsh? He stumbles into David Malouf territory by canvassing wartime Brisbane (specifically the Battle of Brisbane), and I didn't see the relevance of the Dismissal or Gough Whitlam's gastronomics, though love letters to the latter are always welcome. This is ethnic lit of the kind Nam Le derides, and is why I won't seek out more from Carey.

Structurally we have two men and a woman in the foreground, her daughter and the daughter's lover in the inner story. There's a touch of Assange-like hacker-god sexual deviancy, a nod to generics like Jackman's risible Swordfish. The foreground settings change regularly but pointlessly, and annoyingly it is about the same for the story the journo is charged with telling. The endless staving-off of plot progression saps the thing of tension, and we're often stuck most uncomfortably between verifiable fact and light fiction. The burning house evoked Manchester by the Sea. I'm bored by Carey's alcoholic normalism, and his descriptions are far weaker than those he managed for high art. He really shows his lack of chops when championing the Nintendo, so thoroughly rubbished by Clune in his memoir of 80s gameplaying. Zork is beyond anachronistic, and who has even seen an acoustic coupling modem? The main weakness is probably that he has nothing to say.

/noise/beach/2016-2017 | Link

Lunch at Paris Seafood, La Perouse, same-old. I wandered up to the Yarra Bay Sailing Club and back. There's not much in the way of bubblers. After that I rode up to Little Bay for a coffee, and kept reading Peter Carey's Amnesia. Late afternoon I headed down to the beach, stood around and tried to avoid the blue bottles. The old Prince Henry site is rife with Audis and Mercs, and attitudes to match. The ride back to Glebe was fine, but I probably should have taken Southern Cross Drive rather than Anzac Parade. Done about 250km in a bit more than a week.

Manchester by the Sea

/noise/movies | Link

Casey Affleck is clearly the man for this job, and Michelle Williams makes the most of her limited screen time. It's good, and I have to wonder why Ben Affleck didn't try for something like this instead of continuing to trawl Lehane's oeuvre. Kyle Chandler in some ways anchors the thing. The structure is a bit Gone Girl, with some untelegraphed flashbacks that take some getting used to. There's something of Erskineville Kings here too. I wondered how the thing would resolve, and somehow the bleakness is OK. I'll be digging into the rest of Kenneth Lonergan's output presently.

Francine Prose wants to talk about life since Trump. Her conclusion is bleaker than the movie's. A. O. Scott is right, it's very funny, and quite geographically (Massachusetts) and socially (Catholic, white, male) specific. Anthony Lane. Dana Stevens is a bit off: Affleck's character is busted beyond repair. He's given up on himself, but honours his familial obligations.

Peter Carey: Theft: A Love Story.

/noise/books | Link

Kindle. Kate recommended this one to me after I told her I'm not a fan of Carey. I have vague memories of abandoning Oscar and Lucinda after the first 100 or so pages; perhaps I extracted it from mrak's Ashfield abode a long time ago. Ah yes, I did read Bliss. The Chicago Public Library had the ebook of Theft, and I was glad to find that my membership still works.

It is indeed an agreeable read, putting me in mind of Patrick White's The Vivisector and David Malouf's Harland's Half Acre that I read too long ago. (Here is Andrew Reimer expressing similar sentiments about Malouf, and Patrick Ness relating this book to a few of White's.) Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that Carey owes something to these predecessors, given he published this in 2006. Fundamentally these are all riffs on class and how art of all forms is somehow a weird conceit in this country; it seems that all Australian painters come from rough stock, and their art grants access to women and places otherwise denied to the likes of them. Carey goes to extremes with location specificity, naming streets, pubs, creeks, dating a place by the arrival of refrigeration and the presence of wonder (here in the patriarchal butcher). I liked the jag up to Bellingen but Japan and New York struck me as superfluous. The perspective switching between the first-person narration of the two brothers works well; Hugh in particular is a reactionary voice from an almost-extinct Australia. Marlene is from Benalla, for which I retain a soft spot. I have no idea if their high school was ever burnt down, let alone by a gamine.

The language here is completely unaffected, with both brothers trying to act normal, and the artist anti-snobbily refusing to dumb down technique and palette. Bacchus Marsh is where Carey was born, says Radhika Jones. James Wood.

New bike, new Ventura rack.

/travels/Motorcycle | Link

I had one of these on Betts. This time around I got a pack-rack (and not the sport-rack) as I saw it working very well with a milk crate on a Vespa. I ordered it last Friday, and picked it up from Close Motorcycles in Redfern yesterday. Installation was easy (it essentially replaces the grab bar) once one has the requisite Allen/hex keys, which I procured from Bunnings this morning. For reasons unknown the Kiwis decided to supply four bolts, two of size 6 and the other pair size 8, all for the uniform purpose of attaching the lugs to the bike.

You don't get a lot for your $350; the fittings for this CB400 are dinky. I think I would have preferred the rack to go straight up from the mount points, and may yet spin it around to face forward. As it stands a bag attached to the frame ends up sitting on the plastic beyond the pillion seat.

Next up, I need to fit the milk crate and see if I can wire up a USB outlet. The challenge is figuring out which circuit to use.