1990 Films

Best films of the year 1990

Here, in the order I saw them are my films of the year.

ARIA
Best combination of music and film since Bruno Bozzello’s film
“Allegro Non Troppo”.

Abyss
Since Aliens 2 I have waited for the next James Cameron film.
Although not as good as Aliens 2, still one of the best this year. I
think that the film could have been just as good without the alien
involvement at the end. As for the ending, a real let down. However if
it is re-released in it’s uncut form I will see it again. For me, this
film shows Cameron as currently the best director at the suspense-action genre.

Earth Girls are easy
Best comedy (American). Even if it is directed by a pom (Julien
Temple I think).

High Hopes
Best Comedy (British). At least I think I’m supposed to laugh at
the English class system being ripped into.

A Dry White Season
Best drama. A success in that it doesn’t give a rose-coloured end.
Sobering viewing.

Hunt for Red October
Best war film. Almost believable, suspense film.

Total Recall
Science Fiction film of the year. The boys at industrial light &
magic really pulled finger for the effects in this film. Probably cost
more to make than our national deficit.

Robocop 2 & Die Hard 2
Great cardboard cut-out characters fighting against all odds.
Die Hard wins the award for the most imaginative way to destroy an
aircraft. The end of Robocop has the best stop-motion animation work
done since Linda Hamilton survived the metal monster in Terminator.

Dick Tracy
If I was pressed for a film of the year it would be this
one. Much better than the over-rated Batman, the cinematography and design of this film is flawless. This film is a statement of the art of
the film maker.

Turkey of the year :
Navy Seals
Nothing but a vehicle for Tom Cruise. The action scenes contain
zilch in the way of suspense. By the half way mark I was bored and
had already guessed the end.

And while I am on the subject, I can still not see what anyone saw
in “sex, lies and videotape”. This was the most boring American “art”
film I have ever seen. Very self indulgent, the characters appear to come out of a psychology text.

 

Classical Sparks

Classical Sparks

24 Feb 1995 in North Hagley Park

Christchurch Symphony Orchestra
Conductor/Singer : Wayne Senior

M/C: Malcolm McNeill

with Singers
Leon Kearns, Jillian Bartram, Janice Bateman,
Peter Hewson, David McMeeking

The Program :
1. Galop (Masquerade Suite) Katchaturain

2. Buglers Holiday Leroy Anderson

3. The Bare Necessities
Sung by the conductor !

4. Pink Panther Mancini

5. I want to be like you
Sung by the conductor.

6. Grease Medley
The singers then sung (with considerable gusto) songs
from the show.
Greased Lightning Karlin/Gimbel
Summer Nights Jacobs/Casey
Hopelessly Devoted Farrar
Your the one that I want Farrar

7. Memory (cats) Lloyd Webber
Sung by Jillian Bartman

8. Hoe Down (Rodeo) Copland

9. Phantom of the Opera Lloyd Webber
Sung By Leon Kearns & Jillian Bartram

10. Aquarius/Let the Sunshine in
All the singers led the sing-along.

11. Superstar Medley
Fanfare
My Mind is clearer now
I don’t know how to love him
Sung by Janice Bateman
Herods Song
Sung by Peter Hewson
Gethsemane
Sung by David McMeeking
Jesus Christ Superstar
With all the singers

12. Pathetique Symphony Op 74 Tchaikovsky
3rd movement – Allegro molto vivace

13. Les Miserables Schonberg
Bring him home
Sung by Peter Hewson
14. Light Cavalry Overture von Suppe

15. Hey Jude Lennon/McCarthy
Malcolm McNeill with company

16. Ride of the Valkyries Wagner
Complete with fireworks.

The show was introduced by Malcom McNeill with a *very* bad joke about “Catch a turian”.

McNeill also thought there might be someone in the audience who
didn’t know who Henry Mancini was, even the dancer in a pink suit
didn’t help this one. The Panther without a saxophone just isn’t the
same.

This was the first time I have heard the conductor sing. He had an
average singing voice, but given the songs, Malcolm would have done
a much better job of it. The orchestra was in good form, however the
tempo was a bit too quick for some of the slow ballads.

Jillian had a go at “Memory”, but didn’t quite have to range to do
it successfully. The best songs were “I don’t know how to love him”,
“Gethsemane” and “Bring him home”.

The show ended with a firework display. Possibly not as good as some
in the past, but had sufficient bangs and crackles to get aaaaahhhss
and ooooosssss from the audience.

|\| Baker 26/2/95

Khalakovo

The Winds of Khalakovo
(Lays of Anuskaya #1)
by Bradley P. Beaulieu (2011)

Among inhospitable and unforgiving seas stands Khalakovo, a mountainous archipelago of seven islands, its prominent eyrie stretching a thousand feet into the sky. Serviced by windships bearing goods and dignitaries, Khalakovo’s eyrie stands at the crossroads of world trade. But all is not well in Khalakovo. Conflict has erupted between the ruling Landed, the indigenous Aramahn, and the fanatical Maharraht, and a wasting disease has grown rampant over the past decade. Now, Khalakovo is to play host to the Nine Dukes, a meeting which will weigh heavily upon Khalakovo’s future.

When an elemental spirit attacks an incoming windship, murdering the Grand Duke and his retinue, Prince Nikandr, heir to the scepter of Khalakovo, is tasked with finding the child prodigy believed to be behind the summoning. However, Nikandr discovers that the boy is an autistic savant who may hold the key to lifting the blight that has been sweeping the islands. Can the Dukes, thirsty for revenge, be held at bay? Can Khalakovo be saved? The elusive answer drifts upon the Winds of Khalakovo.

Firstly, this is long.. how long ?
The first book of this trilogy is 180,000 words. The second is 233,000 and the third is 204,000. Second, it’s very Russian. People and places have Russian styles names. How do you pronounce them ? Who Knows ?

So it better be good……. well…….. it’s not badly written. But after 20% of the first novel I have given up. The problem is partly all those Russian names (the main protagonist has two !). Then there is the slow pace and all that talking (and no action) that goes on. The only noteworthy action I read of was a hanging. But ultimately it doesn’t grip or intrigue the reader. It’s just flat and after a while it feels like work rather than pleasure.

 

 

O Brother Where Art Thou

This a very strange Cohen brothers film. The best thing about it is George Clooney. He’s smart, cocky and likeable as a criminal escaped from the chain gang. The story is ‘inspired’ loosely on Homer’s Odyssey even if the main protagonist is switched from a hero to anti-hero.   It’s difficult with the depictions of American southerners  to work out if they are supposed to be accurate or caricatures. More mildly amusing than  comedy or drama.

O Brother, Where Art Thou? is a 2000 adventure film written, produced, edited, and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, and starring George Clooney, John Turturro, and Tim Blake Nelson, with John Goodman, Holly Hunter, and Charles Durning in supporting roles. Set in 1937 rural Mississippi during the Great Depression, the film’s story is a modern satire loosely based on Homer’s epic poem, Odyssey. The title of the film is a reference to the 1941 film Sullivan’s Travels, in which the protagonist (a director) wants to film a fictional book about the Great Depression called O Brother, Where Art Thou?

One of the notable features of the film is its use of digital color correction to give the film a sepia-tinted look. Joel stated that this was because the actual set was “greener than Ireland.” Cinematographer Roger Deakins stated, “Ethan and Joel favored a dry, dusty Delta look with golden sunsets. They wanted it to look like an old hand-tinted picture, with the intensity of colors dictated by the scene and natural skin tones that were all shades of the rainbow.” Initially the crew tried to perform the color correction using a physical process, however after several tries with various chemical processes proved unsatisfactory, it became necessary to perform the process digitally.

Linda’s Memory

Memory
By Linda Nagata (2010)

A quest, a puzzle, and multiple lives: On an artificial world with a forgotten past, floods of “silver” rise in the night like fog, rewriting the landscape and consuming those caught in its cold mists. Seventeen-year-old Jubilee knows that no one ever returns from the silver–but then a forbidding stranger appears, asking after her beloved brother, lost long ago to a silver flood. Could he still be alive? And why does the silver rise ever higher, threatening to drown the world? Jubilee pursues the truth on a quest to unlock the memory of a past reaching back farther than she ever imagined.

This was  a strange  experience to read. The plot can be exceedingly slow, normally I would abandon such a book. But somehow it just kept drawing me on. Essentially it’s a long road movie, a quest to understand what’s happening to a world. Having read the ‘Red’ series; this is like a completely different author. Maybe it’s an early book (it could do with a good edit as it’s about 130,000 words long) with a different voice. I would only recommend this to someone who  has read and enjoyed other Linda Nagata novels.

Warcraft: The Beginning

Warcraft (alternatively known as Warcraft: The Beginning)is a 2016 American fantasy film directed by Duncan Jones and written by Jones, Charles Leavitt and Chris Metzen. It is based on the Warcraft video game series and novels set in the world of Azeroth. The film stars Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Toby Kebbell, Ben Schnetzer, Robert Kazinsky and Daniel Wu. The film portrays the initial encounters between the humans and the orcs and takes place in a variety of locations established in the video game series. The film was first announced in 2006 as a project partnership between Legendary Pictures and the game’s developer, Blizzard Entertainment.

It’s only got 29%  on rotten tomatoes, but it’s certainly not a bad film. Anyone looking for an old good vs evil plot will be disappointed. The Orcs are portrayed as equal to the Humans in deceit and heroism.  The CGI is outstanding, with large sweeping vistas and detailed city-scapes. The best thing about the film is the action, which has a real thump and intensity to it. The costume and art design is very faithful to the games. The story is about the Orcs leaving their land and invading the Human realm through a portal. It’s 2 hour length is well paced and the ending leaves space for a sequel. 

 

Starcraft Ends

Finally, after almost 20 years I have finished the main story arc of this popular strategy game.

The original game was released in 1998 and I probably started playing it soon after.  Starcraft 2 came out on July 27 2010 and I played it about a year later. Then came ‘Heart of the Swarm’ , released March 12 2013. The final part of the trilogy was ‘Legacy of the Void released November 10, 2015.

Now it’s all over (almost), there   is Nova Covert Ops a nine game mission pack. But with parts 2 and 3 coming out in Dec 2016, I can wait for everything to be released first.

In addition to the games, I have also read the following books:

Golden, Christie – StarCraft – Dark Templar #1 – Firstborn
Golden, Christie – StarCraft – Dark Templar #2 – Shadow Hunters
Golden, Christie – StarCraft – Dark Templar #3 – Twilight
Grubb, Jeff Star – Craft 1 Liberty’s Crusade
Mesta, Gabriel –  StarCraft 2 Shadow of the Xel’Naga
Hickman, Tracy – StarCraft 3 Speed of Darkness
Neilson, Micky – StarCraft 4 Uprising
Rosenberg, Aaron – StarCraft 5 Queen of Blades
DeCandido, Keith RA – StarCraft 6 Ghost – Nova
McNeill, Graham – StarCraft 7 I Mengsk
Dietz, William C – Starcraft II 1 Heaven’s Devils
Golden, Christie – Starcraft II 2 Devils’ Due
Golden, Christie – Starcraft II 3 Flashpoint

So until Nova, it’s goodbye the Jim Raynor, Artanis and the Queen Bitch of the Universe, Sarah Kerrigan.

 

 

 

 

 

Tech News

From 2006

Mr Brian Harcourt of Mayfield, South Canterbury has just
invented a remarkable new computer product. This as yet unnamed
device consists of two small directional microphones and a
microchip. The microphones are attached to each side of the
monitor, and the chip is mounted inside the computer.

The microphones pick up any noises made by the computer operator and relay these to the microprocessor. After processing, a suitable
response is computed and played through the computer’s speaker.
Results were interesting to say the least, try whistling and the
computer will respond with a counter-melody. Shout obscenities
and it replies with “You could be arrested for saying that in
public. The software knows 600,000 words if the English language
(including the naughty ones). Some responses include “Shouldn’t
you read the instructions first ?”, “How would I know that, I’m
just a dumb machine” and “If you did that to your child they
would lock you up for eternity (which is a sod of a long time).
In fact it is possible to have a limited conversation with your
computer (but you probably know that already). Experiments at a
local secondary school have been generally successful. “This is
great” a teacher claims, “with this device I don’t have to answer
a lot of stupid questions all the time, the computer does it for
me. The problem is that some students will believe the computers
more than the teachers”. after some thought she added “I suppose
that we always talked to the computers, it’s just that they now
answer back”.

After several weeks of trials the project has been
abandoned because of complaints from the teachers union. They
think it could put them out of a job. Mr Harcourt has refused to
give up. He has taken his invention to England where he plans to
put his idea to Clive Sinclair.

(c) 28/2/2006

 

At 60

Written for a relative who was having a 60th birthday in 2006.

10 Things good about turning 60

  1. Making the ‘6’ look like a ‘5″
  2. Getting more respect from your children
  3. Still being the youngest of your siblings
  4. Still NOT a grandfather
  5. Any slowing down can be attributed to ‘getting ready for retirement’
  6. Getting less respect from your children
  7. Friends now show you to the softer seats
  8. You now have an excuse for bad behavior
  9. A greater proportion of the ladies now look younger and sexier
  10. NO MORE DISH-WASHING

2015 Nebulas

 

Novel

Raising Caine, Charles E. Gannon (Baen)

The Fifth Season, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
My Review

Ancillary Mercy, Ann Leckie (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
Started the first book, never finished it

The Grace of Kings, Ken Liu (Saga)

Uprooted, Naomi Novik (Del Rey)
Read it, would recommend it

Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard, Lawrence M. Schoen (Tor)

Updraft, Fran Wilde (Tor)
Novella

Wings of Sorrow and Bone, Beth Cato (Harper Voyager Impulse)
“The Bone Swans of Amandale,” C.S.E. Cooney (Bone Swans)
“The New Mother,” Eugene Fischer (Asimov’s 4-5/15)
“The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn,” Usman T. Malik (Tor.com 4/22/15)
Binti, Nnedi Okorafor (Tor.com)
“Waters of Versailles,” Kelly Robson (Tor.com 6/10/15)

Novelette

“Rattlesnakes and Men,” Michael Bishop (Asimov’s 2/15)
“And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead,” Brooke Bolander (Lightspeed 2/15)
“Grandmother-nai-Leylit’s Cloth of Winds,” Rose Lemberg (Beneath Ceaseless Skies 6/11/15)
“The Ladies’ Aquatic Gardening Society,” Henry Lien (Asimov’s 6/15)
“The Deepwater Bride,” Tamsyn Muir (F&SF 7-8/15)
“Our Lady of the Open Road,” Sarah Pinsker (Asimov’s 6/15)

Short Story

“Madeleine,” Amal El-Mohtar (Lightspeed 6/15)
“Cat Pictures Please,” Naomi Kritzer (Clarkesworld 1/15)
“Damage,” David D. Levine (Tor.com 1/21/15)
“When Your Child Strays From God,” Sam J. Miller (Clarkesworld 7/15)
“Today I Am Paul,” Martin L. Shoemaker (Clarkesworld 8/15)
“Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers,” Alyssa Wong (Nightmare 10/15)

 

And the Winners Are:

Novel

  • Uprooted, Naomi Novik (Del Rey)

Novella

  • Binti, Nnedi Okorafor (Tor.com)

Novelette

  • ‘‘Our Lady of the Open Road’’, Sarah Pinsker (Asimov’s 6/15)

Short Story

  • ‘Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers’’, Alyssa Wong (Nightmare 10/15)