Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Cloak and dagger

In the wee hours of this morning, news broke that Kim Jong-nam, the half brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, had died at Kuala Lumpur airport. It came as no surprise when the story developed further, it was revealed to be an assassination. Authorities believe that North Korean agents were responsible. Kim Jong-un is well known for his cruelty. It would also come as no surprise if these operatives had their orders from the so-called Dear Leader himself.

Eagle-eyed readers will also notice a typo in the link below, and from Australia's national broadcaster, no less. Learn to proof read, people.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Get some perspective

Some of Donald Trump's more strident critics are comparing him to Hitler. For all his faults, at least there is a separation of powers, and constitutional checks and balances, as we have recently seen with the court challenge of his immigration ban.

Hitler had absolute power to do whatever he wanted. Criticise Trump. Raise concerns about his policies. Resort to hyperbole if you wish. The office of President of the United States is a powerful one, but it is not a dictatorship.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Lamenting the past

During my school years, I had neat, legible handwriting, at least for a male. That started to change when I went to university. This was long before lecturers used PowerPoint, and consumers had access to affordable laptop computers. I took notes in lectures and tutorials by hand, and had to write them quickly so that I didn't miss any important information. I noticed that my handwriting greatly deteriorated as a result.

Before I bought a computer in early 1996, I even wrote my university essays by hand before typing them on an electric typewriter. I did this for three of my four years as an undergraduate student. Looking back now, I don't know how I managed. Then again, since I was pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree, it's not as though I had a very demanding workload.

Observers of such things have noted that since the proliferation of email, instant messaging, text messages, and chat people are using handwritten communication less often. Writing letters and sending greeting cards has dropped off sharply.

It is as though my brain has been rewired. I have to concentrate hard to write neatly in greeting cards, and my shopping lists. Somewhat self deprecatingly, I wonder if there's such a thing as remedial handwriting classes for adults. I also wonder if handwriting is dying out.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Crying for Argentina

Brashs is a defunct Australian retail chain that sold stereo and video equipment, televisions, VHS video tapes, records, audio cassettes, and CDs. It has a tongue in cheek Facebook fan page.

The other day it had a posting about Evita, the 1996 film adaptation of the stage musical, with Madonna in the lead role. It is twenty years to the day that this film was released in cinemas. In one of those situations where a group of friends are at a cinema and settle on seeing a film because they can't agree what to see, I have vivid memories of seeing Evita in a cinema in suburban Melbourne.

The first thing that irritated our group were the opera influences, so that all of the dialogue was sung, and not spoken.

The cinema we went to screened a print in which the audio track and and the vision were slightly out of sync. This was amusing and annoying at the same time.

Then there was Antonio Banderas, playing the narrator. We bagged out his performance style, in which he used his eyebrows a lot. Reviewing the soundtrack album, one newspaper music critic was scathing of his singing abilities, saying that he sounded like he was "gargling sand."

I liked a couple of her songs back in the late 1980s, but I have never been a fan of Madonna. This is the only Madonna movie I've seen. Along with these issues, it made sitting through this film a real chore.

It seemed to drag on forever. I repeatedly discreetly checked my watch. Eva Peron died of cancer, which is sad, and I wouldn't wish that on anyone. Even so, as I fidgeted in my seat, I thought to myself, "Hurry up and die. I want to go home." That sounds terrible, doesn't it?

Somehow the movie was both a commercial and critical success. I admit, I bought the soundtrack CD because it was on clearance at another store that was one of Brashs competitors. I haven't listened to it for years. Perhaps I will the next time I feel like a laugh.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Geeking out

After the huge success of the first Star Wars spinoff film, Rogue One, the internet is abuzz with speculation about the plot of the Han Solo spinoff, which is due for release in 2018.

All that is known is that it will be a Han Solo origin story, and it is also possible that it will be a trilogy rather than a stand alone movie. Lead actor, Alden Ehrenreich is reportedly contracted for three movies. There definitely is ample scope for compelling stories to be told across multiple films.

It could explore Solo's friendship with Lando Calrissian, who will be played by Donald Glover, and how he won the Millennium Falcon from him in a game of chance, or his association with Jabba the Hutt.

No doubt fans are also itching to see how he met Chewbacca, and rescued him from slavery, events that have been written about in Star Wars spinoff books. The pair formed a lifelong friendship that ended when Solo was killed in The Force Awakens.

These stories are probably too big to be told in one movie. I'm sure it has never occurred to Disney, parent company of Lucasfilm, that it will be more lucrative to make three movies rather than one.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Sports casual

I received the new Alan Partridge book, Alan Partridge: Nomad, as a Christmas gift. Before I read it, I decided to firstly revisit his previous book, the parody autobiography, I, Partridge: We Need to Talk About Alan. 

I didn't read it again. I listened to the unabridged audiobook version, read by Steve Coogan, in character as Alan Partridge.

What detracted from my enjoyment of the book? It's not for casual fans. It assumes that the reader has either seen or heard Partridge's previous appearances on television and radio. If you haven't, then you might find the book hard to follow. It also frequently mentions both real and fictitious British celebrities. I needed to stop reading, and look up their names to see who they were.

Other readers who live outside the UK might find that they have the same problem.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Fairy floss?

Merry Christmas to my reader. My Christmas Day started at the gym. I turned on the video screen on my exercise bike, and lo and behold, Channel 10 was screening controversial televangelist, Joel Osteen's programme. Somewhat impulsively, I picked up my smartphone and took a picture of the screen.

The gym was mostly empty this morning. I couldn't hear what Osteen was talking about. The exercise bike has a headphone jack on it, but I didn't bring mine with me. Judging by his happy expression and body language, I could tell that it was a positive message. Osteen is known for preaching positive sermons.

I don't think that I'm the only Christian who goes to my gym, but I was probably the only one who was there yesterday morning. I thought to myself, I wonder if the other gym patrons had heard of Osteen. If they have, maybe they think he's another shonky American televangelist, just like other ones from recent years, using religion to finance his lavish lifestyle.

These smears are probably unfair. My issue with Osteen is his teaching. He heavily emphasises God's love and encouragement, but seems to overlook the other aspects of his character, such as His justice and holiness.

God could use Joel Osteen's show playing on a television screen in a suburban gym to plant a seed to reach the unreached, and perhaps compel them to look into Christianity more, and come to saving faith in Jesus. If they do, I hope that they find a church that offers more substantial teaching than Joel Osteen offers.