movie: Last Cab to Darwin

Movie: Last Cab to Darwin

I wanted an Australian film with lots of footage of the Northern Territory, and it offered that and more. Michael Caton (The Castle) is excellent as a Broken Hill cab driver who takes his first ever trip out of the town he was born in, in search of the NT’s newly passed euthanasia laws. Touches on the alcoholism and themes of belonging, but its attempt to deal with life and death with no reference to religion seemed a bit hollow to me.

If you’re a fan of Australian movies (and don’t mind a fair amount of authentic Australian swearing) and would like to be taken on a memorable journey across the country, it’s worth a look.

A day (almost) without podcasts 

A lift to the train station meant that it was too late, by the time I realised, to go back home for the earbuds I’d left in my jacket pocket. And so I faced to prospect of a whole day without audio entertainment, until I was finally – hopping In the car for an evening meeting – able to reconnect with some hands-free, sped-up audio entertainment. 

It’s not until a channel is inaccessible that you’re able to see how much a part of your psyche it has become. I have a large queue of podcasts waiting for my attention, and so to get through them, I listen  them at high speed whenever I’m alone (which is not all that often). 

With the silence, I was left to my own thoughts: a lost hobby. I miss my podcasting companions with their cheery ad-reads for Casper mattresses, mail chimp, square space, Harry’s razors, warby Parker, and Lynda dot com. 

book: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Even though I read the sequel when I was a child, I’d never actually read the more famous prequel. As it turns out, it probably only takes about an hour to read in its entirety – it’s a very short, dark, child-friendly tale, hard to read without hearing the songs and picturing the visuals of the film.

Dahl rants against TV in a long poem (sung by the Oompa-Loompas) in a way that is even more poignant in the age of constant internet distraction. Recommended.

Bedtime stories

One of the joys of reading bedtime stories is, through repetition, seeing the evolving ways the kids interact with stories. Tonight we read The tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck, a story about a good natured but simple duck who is (spoilers) unaware that her fox landlord is preparing to roast her for dinner. 

The story is written in such a way that a very young child only notices what the duck does – even as the narrator points out the culinary implications of the fox-provided shopping list. As the kids get bigger, they can see what is going on a little more clearly, though still with a wonderfully innocent take. “Where did the fox go? Did the dogs just chase him away? Will he be back?”

There is much to learn about storytelling from the classics. 

Customer service

I had another reminder of the gap between my own understanding of what constitutes a simple user experience, and what a less-savvy computer user might deem simple.

We still have a long way to go, but I’m continuing to learn. 

When helping someone use a computer, as in many things, listening is more important than talking. If one person can tell you their mental. Ideal of a proces, it’s a safe bet that others will have the same way of looking at things. 

book: the magic pudding

Book: The Magic Pudding

When I was in infants school, there was a 4-volume illustrated series about the Magic Pudding, but volume (aka ‘slice’) two was always on the book repair shelf, and couldn’t be read. It turns out that Kel had a copy of this book, so over the weekend I read it aloud to the kids.

I remember it being about a pudding that kept replenishing itself and can, on request, change flavours. In reality, it seems more about a pair of anti-heroes meeting up with someone with great skill in oratory, and their pugilstic ways.

The kids found it funny, and seemed untroubled by the archaic language and occasionally violent ways of the main characters. Being a pudding thief, it would seem, is a way to earn a certain amount of vigilante justice.

Netflix: the hundred foot journey

Netflix: The hundred-foot journey

Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Manish Dayal provide some strong performances in something of a formulaic story, but the parts about food and cooking lift it to be a better film than it would otherwise deserve to be. Reminds me of Ratatouille, Doc Hollywood and the Netflix Chef’s Table story in equal measure.  An enjoyable date-night-in kind of film, especially if you’re a foodie. 

netflix: overview of what I’ve watched

In a little less than four months of Netflix subscription, I’ve watched quite a lot, as it turns out. Going back through my viewing history (and ignoring the things I skimmed through but didn’t watch)

Complete Series:

  • House of Cards Season 3
    Dark, brooding, the continued rise of Frank Underwood is compelling, even as there is no small-time individual whose fate is safe from the greater good of the big plans for the US.
     
  • Orphan Black Seasons 1 and 2
    Bonkers science fiction, trashy drama: a bit too racy in places, but the intertwining plots and the breadth of characters played by a small cast makes this a cult-TV show that it’s hard to get past.
     
  • Chef’s Table
    Amazingly well filmed shots of food and biographical interviews with highly skilled chefs from around the world (one per episode) meant that we watched every episode and were keen to see more.
     
  • Arrested Development Season 4
    A shining achievement of non-linear, interwoven stories, with some genuine belly laughs, but less joyful than the previous seasons, and more a case of feeling sorry for these terrible characters. More clever than something I enjoyed.
     
  • Marvel’s Daredevil Season 1
    I originally stopped 10 mins into S1E1, but when I came back and finished the pilot, I went on to watch the whole season. More violent than any of the Marvel movies I’ve seen; the character studies are more interesting than the (shorter) cinema releases. The big story being told was complex enough to hold my interest (though very dark). Each episode has a long action set piece that was a chance to get back to the laptop and multi-task, but impressive visual achievements.

Movies: 

  • Muppets Most Wanted
    Less joyful and funny than previous Muppet movies; the kids weren’t so enthusiastic about it. Some good musical numbers, but I’d rather re-watch the original reboot.
     
  • The Mechanic
    Jason Statham paint by numbers piece: it’s no Transporter for action, nor Hummingbird for character. They manage to salvage a vaguely clever ending.
     
  • The Devil’s Double
    Set in Iraq, a childhood friend of one of Saddam Hussein’s son’s childhood friends is blackmailed into to becoming a body-double for the heir. Dark, terrible, troubling story of awful abuses: probably something better read about than watched.
     
  • Inglorious Basterds
    Tarantino takes on the WW2 genre in glory, over-the-top style. At once more violent and less violent than I was expecting.
     
  • 28 Weeks Later
    Six months after the zombie outbreak of 28 Days Later, attempts are being made to repatriate London. Will anyone survive?
     
  • Thor: The Dark World (already reviewed on the blog)
  • Arbitrage
    Richard Gere in a forgettable drama about corporate deception. A couple of good scenes of the ridiculously wealthy facing off against each other, but mostly B-movie fare.
     
  • Pick Pocket
    A petty criminal with a heart of gold tries to fix up his life. Some funny moments, but another B-movie
     
  • In the Loop
    Cynical political comedy with Pete Capaldi and James Gandolfini among others. Consistently, sweary humour abounds. Tom Hollander is great, and has introduced the phrase “X, X, lemon X” to our home.
     
  • The Sentinel
    Michael Douglas vs Kiefer Sutherland in a CIA B-movie with some ridiculous, suspend-disbelief-failing plot machinations and some weird action scenes.
     
  • The Town
    Ben Affleck directs and stars in an interesting pseudo-redemption story of crime and corruption. Worth a look.
     
  • Prisoners
    Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhall star in this bleak, but excellent film that pushes the boundaries of what people can do to each other.
     
  • Crazy, Stupid, Love
    Steve Carrell, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone and Julianne Moore in one of those romantic comedies that hits a lot of different cliches, but has some more relationship depth than many films in the genre.
     
  • Training Day
    I first watched this when it was at the movies in 2001, and wanted to see how it had aged, and how much my changed perspective had changed it. Still more complexity than a regular action movie. Worth watching just to see Ethan Hawke in a big cinematic role.
     
  • The Way Way Back (already reviewed on the blog)
  • Hummingbird (already reviewed on the blog)
  • Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview (already reviewed on the blog)

Odd episodes:
Here I watched up to a few episodes, but didn’t tap deeply into anything. 

  • Firefly (pilot)
  • Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
  • How I Met Your Mother (Pilot)
  • Mad Men (pilot)
  • The BlackList Season 1 (3 episodes)
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine (2 episodes)
  • House M.D. (S8, last few episodes)
  • Grace and Frankie S1E1
  • Stephen Fry Live: More Fool Me
  • Sense8: S1E1
  • Derek S2E1

So that’s a lot of screen time, and it’s not counting the shows the kids (or Kel) have been watching. The paradox of the all-you-can-eat subscription is finding the balance between watching too much.

humans are the future of wearables

I was chatting about technology and futurism today, and the topic of Google Glass arose. Google Glass makes a little more sense in the context of the Apple Watch – two different technologies (I’ve used neither one, so take all of this with a grain of salt).

The difference? Glass attempts to sit in between the interaction two people are having. Watch attempts to interrupt as discreetly as possible, and then let the interaction recommence.

For wearables to improve the communication that is taking place between two people, they need to be able to recede. Communication technology – at its best – is about facilitating the human interaction, not replacing or subverting it.