Wednesday, April 27, 2016

... by any other name

On my quest to play racquet-based sports, I made the resolution to join a league so that I could hone my skills and maybe get a little more exercise as well. And all was well; I registered with the USTA and then went on with my naïve quest to join a league. This should be easy. Now, either I am living in the most affluent part of America (nope) or they are expecting the average pleb to fork out mucho dinero to become a member of their Scooby Doo Club. So, irrespective of whether I use any of the other facilities, this equated to $2500 for the membership and an ongoing $2500 per-year to use the facilities ... which also includes Tennis, thankfully. Needless to say, I wasn't impressed.

Back in the days of living in Australia, a six-month season of Tennis would be less than $200 (with balls) and a season of Football (RE:Soccer) would be even less. Apparently in America you need to take out a second mortgage on your house to play - in comparison to the rest of the world which somehow feel less interested in 'gentrifying' all the sports. I don't understand the mindset that exclusivifying sports is somehow a good thing. Yes, private lessons will still cost but the actual cost to play should be open to all those who have any desire to compete. So this might just be one more reason why the BMI of the average teen is moving skywards.

However, I did find a work-around. Thanks to which provided a willing troupe of players to bunk the system of exorbitant fees and actually play some Tennis rather than weigh up whether they would be eating a meal this week. Thank goodness for alternatives.

Friday, April 22, 2016

What once was old

I am noticing a trend. It has come to my attention that some of the traditions and technologies of yore are making a come-back. I have recently started buying milk from a local dairy that comes in glass bottles. Naturally, the milk tastes better and is more expensive but is nicely offset by a reimbursement upon returning the bottle. The end result is you're supporting local business and also helping the environment.

The same thing happened with my choice of razor. I have now reverted to my grand dad's double-edged safety razor ... and I'm loving it. I wouldn't say I've got the most illustrious of stubbles but it seemed that with the modern razors I wouldn't even get through a single shave before noticing the blade has dulled and clogged up. I would also get horrible shaving rash and ingrowns from the faulty concept of multiple blades. In contrast, the safety blade have fewer issues; easy to clean, stays sharp for longer and avoids many of the issues around shaving rash or ingrowns. The one catch is you need to be a little more careful to avoid nicks ... but that's fine. It's also, coincidentally, significantly cheaper. I bought a shaver + 20 blades for less than $15 shipped. That's enough to keep my appearance dapper for a whole year. I'm also using olive oil in an atomizer for shaving cream. It works better and results in a smooth shave and with no need for application of moisturizers post-shave. 

Side note: most moisturizers actually dry out your skin due to the prevalent use of alcohol as a core ingredient. 

And so, in conclusion, just because something is no longer new, doesn't mean we should set it aside. A lot of old technology (like vinegar / baking soda for cleaning) are making a come-back. Not because it's cheaper but because it's simply just better.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Something something dark side

So, it has come to my attention that Australia (where I formerly lived) is doing their best little brother impression of the US. It has got to the point where they are not content in simply replicating American culture or implementing favourable US sanctions. They have now turned their attention to raising the price of education and privatising health care. In the words of my favourite meme:

But, really, it is. For those who have read 1984, you would know that the best way to control the general public is by ensuring that they are permanently in debt. Having a mandatory private healthcare system and an overbearingly expensive education system (which was once free just a few decades back) would ensure that the average 20-something would have a prohibitive debt right out of university. They would be paying that debt for at least the next 10 years (on average) and would basically result in more taxes against the average Australian. All I can say is I'm happy I'm no longer in Australia.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Them's fighting words

Now that super-hero movies are no longer enough, movie-makers are now drawing on the hero v hero as the latest carrot. I will now break down the obvious outcomes for each of these versus movies.

For Batman v Superman:

Why/how Batman would win

He probably wouldn't ... but he would have a fighting chance if he:
  1. Built himself a suit made out of Kryptonite
  2. Surrounded himself in an atomised cloud of Kryptonite gas
  3. Only fired Kryptonite-laced bullets
  4. Infused Kryptonite into all food stuffs and slowly weakened Superman
  5. ... and in his weakened state, injected him with concentrated Kryptonite into Superman's blood stream (using a Kryptonite syringe)

Why Superman would win

He would easily win if he:
  1. Used super speed to fly through Bruce Wayne
  2. Used super speed to go back in time to kill Bruce Wayne as a kid
  3. Used his laser eyes to burn him to a crisp when he's out playing Bruce Wayne
  4. Went into outer space and threw an asteroid directly at Wayne manor
  5. Split the earth in half
  6. Threw Batman into outer space
  7. Froze Batman with his super breath
  8. Punched Batman into smithereens with a 'half-gauge' punch

For Civil War:

Why Iron Man would win

He would easily win if he:
  • Threw a few nukes at Captain America
  • Remote controlled his suits to chest blast from many directions at once
  • Remote controlled his suits to take cap underwater / outer space
  • Poisoned him
  • Shot him
  • Broke his neck
  • Gave him a nasty paper cut whereupon he exsanguinated 

Why Captain America would win

You be dead. There ain't no coming back from a nuke to the face.

Monday, February 29, 2016

What were they thinking?

I woke up to news of The Oscars winners. Finally, old boy Leo wins one of his own, George Miller wins a slew of awards for his Graphic Novel opus: Mad Max ... and Sam Smith wins best Original Song?

HANG ON: that unhummable ball-twisting rendition of something loosely resembling music which was then forcibly impaled into the torso of the Bond franchise has somehow been presented with something more than a wooden spoon? In what world does that even make sense?

To think that Sam's biggest hit 'Stay with Me' is basically just a pitch-shifted rendition of a song by Tom Petty explains a lot (and now has the songwriting credits to prove it). Having said that, the result is a little uninspired; I would like to think it's more the fault of Sam Smith failing to interpret a decent track rather than Tom Petty providing the foundation for mediocrity. Although, if you break it down, it is a very simple melody to begin with - kind of along the lines of Frère Jacques / LOL Smiley Face or Baa Baa Black Sheep / Somebody I used to know so it might just have been a coincidence.

But could it be that Sam Smith is nothing more than an another Darren Hayes? That is, his songs aren't any good unless he's copying (or had composed) his music and so, in a fit of not-so-quiet desperation, resorted to high-pitched wailings to hide the lack of musical coherence? All signs point would point to yes. It would explain a lot. At the point that Darren separated from Savage Garden was the point that his musical career took a nose dive. I guess it would be the same thing for Mr Smith, at the point where he's not stealing music from (at least my) musical luminaries.

I can only assume that the shambling corporate presence was somehow behind the push to incite interest in James Bond / Sam's career prior to the inevitable downward spiral into irrelevance. Kind of along the lines of Ryan Reynolds getting the accolade of Sexiest Man alive; it's just a puff piece to rally the mobs' interest in the elements surrounding the artist (in that case: Dead Pool). I have already known for a long time that The Oscars were nothing more than a ceremony with an agenda. I'm not sure it means anything any more to win an Oscar. Still, congratulations, Leo. It's been a long time coming.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

It's all getting a bit silly, really

Ah Jeremy. With your bouffant hair and deluded desires to expound your every whim upon the world, it is no surprise that at certain times you overstep your abilities (I am noticing a theme). I am, of course, talking about the furor (not that Führer) elicited from your 'grand dad view' on transgenders. However, if you are familiar with my blog, you will probably see that I'm not averse to sticking my neck out on occasion. And on that bombshell, to follow the Top Gear formula, I am going to defend Clarkson's right to have an opinion - heck, I might even support his view a little.

So 'the storm within the thimble-full of tea' is that Jeremy stated that transgenders only existed in Bangkok and were generally used as part of an allegory to your buck's night rather than actually existing. Now, if anyone understands humour, that was obviously just that. No one in their right mind should think that he was being serious. He then goes on to admonish a transgendered man's desires to have a child. And I would have to agree. That 'man' who had a child and then went on Oprah should be ashamed of herself. I have no issues with her desires to be a man but I do have issue with her still wanting to have a child. That's a women's rights; not a man's. At the point you decide to be a man is the point that you give up your right to have a child yourself. You can't sidle the fence and state that you like having stubble and playing 'Ken' (or Thomas in her case) but you also like to have the luxury of being able to procreate. You basically shat upon your desires to be treated or perceived as a man. Congratulations. You will always be a hairy masculine woman in my eyes from now on.

... not necessarily a horrible result

Clarkson also derides a parent's support of their son having a sex change prior to adulthood. And I would have to agree. At the age of 10 I was far from the grounded (some would still say childish) man I am today. My ideals and convictions have certainly changed over time and for his parents to make such a serious modification to his (and now her) remaining life is 100% insane. Even if their son's views were not to change, I would want him to be the one signing the consent form. Just as you are not allowed to smoke, drink, vote and drive prior to a certain age, you should not be allowed to make life-altering surgery just because 'this week' (note the hyperbole) you desire to be a girl. Even if you are a very pretty looking girl doesn't make your parent's current actions correct ... for now.

Now I am sure I have alienated some people with my views but, really, that is the point. I have a right to have a view that is not your own. That is what makes us human. For picketers to already be calling for Jeremy's unnamed show to be cancelled is ridiculous. If you truly want to make him ineffectual, *don't watch his show* and *don't respond in your own hyperbole*. It really is that simple. All you are doing is providing him an even greater platform and influence over public media. Similar to the call to ban Alice Cooper's 'School's out for Summer' (which made his album go platinum), all you're doing is putting money in his pocket. Genius. Well played, Jeremy.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Please think of the children

I had such high hopes for you, JJ Abrams. With your pseudo intellectual 50's glasses and Kramer-esque teased-up hair. I thought you were going places. And, yes, you are but not in the direction I would have hoped. I even forced my girlfriend to watch Episode 4-6 in anticipation of sharing in the enjoyment of this new film. Full disclosure: I have not seen your new ode to old but I have seen Into Darkness

Similar to the missteps in Into Darkness, I cannot help feeling cheated when the 'best scenes' from the movie are exact facsimiles of scenes from the original film. So, Into Darkness is Wrath of Khan but with a switcheroo (Spock = Kirk and Kirk = Spock for the Khaaaaaannnn!!!! scene) and sadly no mullets

Similarly, The Force Awakens is just A New Hope with a switcheroo on the gender / character names / planet / moon. And of course this will still make a bajillion dollars despite being a retread. I just feel uneasy supporting such lazy storytelling. Heck, I would rather have another Phantom Menace than something that amounts to warmed-up last eons' dinner.

So, despite being really excited to see this film I cannot in good conscience watch it. I would be supporting a film that should not exist in its present form. All I wanted was something that had:
  1. Actual characters with actual emotions (like episodes 4-6)
  2. New plot points and minimal retreads of past story arcs
  3. Reasonable pacing - a good balance of action to character to story progression
  4. A story which makes sense and avoids the unnecessary plot holes
  5. No 'kitchen sinks' thrown at the action scenes (like episodes 1-3)
  6. A distaste towards the over-reliance on CGI (like episodes 4-6)
  7. Less screen time to the original actors (no one likes to see their heroes age)
  8. Maybe a few winks to the past just for teh fanzzz
    NOTE: A few
And maybe JJ's troupe did tick a few boxes in my list but they failed at the fundamentals when they decided to insult our ability to recognize the chronic amount of recycling on display in this film. Think green, I guess. Also, the girl powerrrr movement is getting a little tiresome. When Mad Max is not the hero and Rey is the hero of this, it just feels like we're pandering to the fairer sex rather than vindicating the need for the main role to be female. I still think the poster child for Girl Power is Ellen Ripley. Her role in the film was justified - I cannot help thinking that this is not the case here. I'm pretty sure that Rey's gender could be changed without even a line of dialogue needing to change. Even (poor old) George Lucas laments the film's devolution into fandom. I would even be curious to see what he had originally planned. Dare I say it, it might have been better (or at least semi-original) - but only if JJ helmed the directorial duties and the political bits / novelty characters were cut out. I guess we will never know what that vision might have been but I can at least imagine a better scenario than the one that was rehashed.

My basic plot points:
  • The Empire is a shell of its former self, brought into disrepair after the events from Return of the Jedi / death of Emperor and Vader
  • Bolstered by their former success, The Rebels are the new peace keepers. They now control trade and order within the galaxy, with the last remnants of the Empire being merged into their forces (or decimated)
  • Luke Skywalker helms The Rebels and oversees the stamping out of any remaining Empire resistance. Han / Leia leave to raise their children  (fraternal twins) in a 'safer' environment after forces of the Empire almost destroy their ship. Luke wants them to remain so he can train them. Meanwhile, despite their waning strength, the clashes with The Empire intensify with sneaky terrorist-like techniques like IED's and suicide bombers etc.
  • Han and Leia move to a lush palatial planet where Chewie returns to his home planet with the Millenium Falcon. Han Solo dies of a nasty cough (love the anti-climax) and Leia brings up their children alone
  • A few years later, Leia is inadvertently killed when Luke feels compelled to take her children away so he can train them and maintain order. One of the children escapes while the other becomes his padawan
  • Luke becomes the new Emperor; no longer held in check by his friends or Mentors and compelled by his desire to decimate all those who oppose the Rebels
  • The child, compelled by grief, learns a new way, taught by the ghosts of Leia / Yoda / Obi-Wan / Vader; one which turns out to be far greater than any who have preceded him/her (gender doesn't matter) and picks up some new side-kicks (former Storm troopers, aliens etc.) along the way
  • The child opposes his/her sibling and then old uncle Luke and cool things happen (use your imagination)

It would be relatively easy to break this story arc into three episodes and would be thoroughly satisfying to watch. Who wouldn't want to see an evil Luke Skywalker? It would even live up quite nicely to 'The Force Awakens' moniker, too.