The Australian Surf Movie Festival 2011, Ritz Cinema, Randwick

Monday, 31 January, 2011

This one crept up on me, the Australian Surf Movie Festival is on now until early March at locations across Australia, and makes a stop at my film HQ, the Ritz Cinema in Randwick, on Thursday, 3 February, 2011 from 6 to 9pm.

Check out the Ritz’s Facebook page for more details on Thursday’s screenings.

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Would you believe they thought of a military base on the Moon?

Monday, 31 January, 2011

A chilling question… could Earth’s satellite, the Moon, have military value? Possibly, though tremendous effort would be required to realise any sort of advantage.

The moon also has two very important resources that would be useful for some country to control by military means, water and helium 3. Lunar frozen water, recently discovered in great abundance, can be used to sustain a lunar settlement and refuel space craft headed to other destinations in the solar system. Control the water and one controls access not only to the moon but to destinations beyond. Helium 3, an isotope not found on the Earth, is envisioned by some scientists as a clean burning fuel for future, fusion power plants. If and when fusion power becomes reality, control of the Moon becomes the rough equivalent of control of the Persian Gulf.

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Something to write home about, a tour of a nuclear power station

Monday, 31 January, 2011

Charles Stross’ account of a recent visit to a nuclear power station in Scotland.

I can report that, standing on top of an operational 600 MW nuclear reactor weighing several thousand tons, all you can feel is a slight rumbling vibration like distant traffic felt through a road surface – there’s no indication that metres below your feet, hundreds of tons of gas compressed to conditions more normally associated with the surface of Venus are being blasted through the guts of a radioactive inferno.

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She was graduated at the top of her class at the Beatles academy

Monday, 31 January, 2011

Mary-Lu Zahalan-Kennedy has graduated with the first ever master’s degree in The Beatles, Popular Music and Society, from Britain’s Liverpool Hope University.

In 2009, the Liverpool university launched the programme The Beatles, Popular Music and Society, which examines the “significance of the music of the Beatles in the construction of identities, audiences, ethnicities and industries, and localities”. Zahalan-Kennedy was one of 12 full-time students; she graduated yesterday.

Think you have what it takes to earn a Beatles’ masters? This short quiz will help you decide… I scored seven out ten, maybe I’m a chance for a bachelor’s degree?

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The King’s Speech, literally… a recording of the 1939 original

Monday, 31 January, 2011

A recording of the actual speech (YouTube) made by British monarch King George VI in 1939, which features towards the end of The King’s Speech, the film that depicted his efforts to overcome a debilitating stammer, with the help of Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue.

The recording effectively contains spoilers, best to listen in only if you’ve seen the film already.

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Writing as usual? Maybe not, a week of blogging instead of writing

Monday, 31 January, 2011

Michael Chabon reflects on a week he recently spent blogging, as opposed to his usual work as a columnist at The Atlantic. Whatever the final published format though, writing is still writing.

I’m not exactly a slow writer – when I’m really cooking I can do 800-1,000 good, polished words in two hours, that’s not bad – but it can take me a long time to get cooking, and sometimes one sentence can hang me up for an hour. (Those are usually the first sentences, in the next draft, to be cut. You would think I might have learned by now.) I have a hard time writing an excuse to one of my kid’s teachers, a recipe for Dutch babies, an apologetic email, without sinking into a revisionary funk. I’m also slow to know what I think, and slow to know how I feel: we’re talking reptile time, rock time, empires rising and then crumbling to dust.

That’s all familiar to say the least, but up to 1000 “good, polished words in two hours”? That’s impressive… I’m sure I’d need at least a day to match that sort of output.

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Seduced by cunning floor plans and product display at IKEA

Monday, 31 January, 2011

Alan Penn, a scientist at the Virtual Reality Centre for the Built Environment, part of the University College London, claims to have to uncovered the strategy used by superstore retail chain IKEA to entice its customers to buy more items than they originally intended to… a situation that is probably familiar to many of us:

Using a strategy employed by out-of-town retail parks – “trapping” the customers in store for as long as they can – IKEA places as many distractions as possible between the customer and the item they may have come for. The path is “effectively their catalog in physical form” says Penn. “You’re directed through their marketplace area where a staggering amount of purchases are impulse buys, things like light bulbs or a cheap casserole that you weren’t planning on getting … Because the layout is so confusing you know you won’t be able to go back and get it later, so you pop it in your [cart] as you go past.”

I’m not sure I’d call IKEA’s floor layouts confusing, but there’s no denying they’re trying to put as much merchandise in front of their customers as possible. I’ve always come home with a few extra items after a trip to IKEA, but given such jaunts are three to four years apart, I can’t really say it bothers me greatly.

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Dhobi Ghat

Friday, 28 January, 2011

4 stars

The premise

Dhobi Ghat (trailer), or “Mumbai Diaries” as it is also known, is the directorial debut of Indian filmmaker Kiran Rao, who also wrote the screenplay. Rao used several formats, film, video, and black and white photography to capture what she considers to be the different layers, or cities, that constitute the greater city of Mumbai.

“Dhobi Ghat” is the story of four quite different people who are living, or lived, in the bustling Indian metropolis, whose lives become intertwined, if only fleetingly. While three of the characters know each other directly, the fourth is only known to one of the three, as connections form despite the cultural and social divides of the city.

The play

Shortly after returning to Mumbai, Shai (Monica Dogra), a banking consultant on extended leave from her job in New York, meets Arun (Aamir Khan) an artist, at the opening of his latest exhibition. The two quickly strike up a rapport, and Shai ends up going home with Arun, though by morning it is clear he is not interested in a relationship.

Mildly distraught, Shai focuses on her interest in photography, and after meeting Munna (Prateik Babbar) a local washerman (clothes washer), asks if she can trail him around and take photos of him at work. This suits the handsome Munna who aspires to be an actor or model, anything other than a washerman, and asks Shai to create a portfolio for him.

Meanwhile Arun moves a new apartment and discovers a small box left by the previous tenants. Curious he opens it and finds, among other items, three video tapes. As he plays them back he learns a beautiful young woman, Yasmin (Kriti Malhotra), once lived where he is now, and soon becomes both inspired by, and obsessed with finding, her.

No one else in the building seems to remember Yasmin though, or where she went, but as Arun continues to play through her tapes, messages recorded for her far away brother, he gradually works out what became of her. Shai and Munna meantime have become close… if not for class differences might a relationship have been possible?

The wrap

“Dhobi Ghat” which forgoes a structured plot, and could be better described as a slice of life take on the lives of its four characters, just might differ from some of the other Hindi cinema, or Bollywood, films that you’ve seen before, as it leaves much open, and up for interpretation, at its conclusion. This has bothered some viewers, but not all.

The city itself, Mumbai, is hailed as the film’s fifth character, and it is a vibrant, diverse, colourful, and at times unsettling, city that graces the screen, thanks in no small part to some skilful cinematography, but also the art of Arun, the city is his primary influence, and the fly on the wall photography of Shai.

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All you need to know, here’s what happened on the web in 2010

Friday, 28 January, 2011

The way of the web in 2010 as seen by The Oatmeal.

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Galaxy wars, when is a collection of stars no longer a galaxy?

Friday, 28 January, 2011

Following the recent argument over what constitutes a planet – which famously saw Pluto downgraded in status a few years ago – debate is now raging over whether groups of stars should be considered galaxies when they may in-fact be star clusters instead.

Star clusters and galaxies both contain stars bound together by gravity, but while the members of a star cluster are thought to form simultaneously from a collapsing ball of gas, galaxies have richer histories. In the most popular cosmological model, they form along swathes of dark matter and contain enough gas to form many generations of stars. Yet the distinction is not always clear-cut. Take Omega Centauri, a round swarm of stars that orbits the Milky Way and is visible to the naked eye. It has long been classified as a star cluster, but there is now evidence that it contains multiple generations of stars, suggesting it is actually the remnant of a galaxy.

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