Sunday, November 30, 2008

Quantum of Solace. indeed.......

well, such is our schedule these days that one of the main reasons we got to watch the new James Bond film was that it seemed to be a good 30 - 40 minutes shorter than the average Bond. i momentarily forgot that deciding on a film to watch because of the running time is invariably an ill-advised method.

it's difficult to comment on Quantum of Solace without following the lazy path most reviews have; or for that matter without just taking apart those lazy reviews. i will do my best, then - something the makers of this film may have pondered doing but opted against.

plot? let's have a bash - it's something of a follow up to Casino Royale as we are all aware, pity i didn't think to re-watch that one to pick up some of the finer plot points. basically, it's Bond running around after stumbling on some sort of plot by an organization called Quantum who have opted to corner the world's "most precious resource" in South America, whilst possibly seeking some sort of revenge or information about (*** SPOILER ***) the dead woman from the end of Casino Royale, Vespa.

now, it's not an unreasonable fear to have if you hear the plot of a Bond film is "cornering the world market". it could be that Bond is taking a "serious" approach to a Dr Evil plot out of Austin Powers, the parody going full circle. fortunately this doesn't happen here, but unfortunately it's because there is next to no development of the "baddies" at all. there hasn't been all that much of that in past Bond films i suppose, but at least they were enigmatic or tantalizingly interesting in glimpses.

what also makes it tricky to follow the film is (*** SPOILERS ***) the astonishing array of people who could be bad guys. we seem to have various governments around the world that could be crossing, double crossing, triple crossing and, if it exists, quadruply crossing each other. it was a good deal more straightforward in the Cold War era, with a nice big wall through Berlin showing you where the good and the bad stood.

i suppose it's possible that this "Quantum" lot are being lined up to be a sort of equivalent of SPECTRE (or whatever they were called) from the 60's Bond films. it's hinted at with lines such as "we have people everywhere", and there is something in Bolivia (or wherever it is in South America that they are supposed to be) that does look like a slight homage to a massive hollowed out volcano. that no one has ever noticed before.

much has been made of this film being "action packed", and indeed it is. there's no arguing with the quality of the stunt work and chase sequences here, they are first class and all rather entertaining. they are, however, all rather frustrating, as the 30 - 40 minutes shaved off a usual Bond running length would mostly be those pesky scenes of dialogue that link it all together and make making sense of the film a straightforward affair.

a good deal of noise has been made of Bond "borrowing" from the intense and impressive Bourne films. the lazy reviews have left it at that, which is a shame. Bond has always borrowed from popular culture, be it music, movies, art, whatever. borrowing the action style sensibilities of a masterpiece that is the Bourne trilogy is sensible and no bad thing, at least. let's not forget the disastrous, ridiculous action sequences which turned up in Brosnan-era Bond films when they felt the need to be "inspired" by the likes of True Lies and Mission : Impossible.

allowing for the, shall we say "cheeky" re-creation of a rooftop chase from one of the Bourne films (i think the last one), what you kind of wish the makers of Quantum of Solace had taken from the Bourne films is the ability to make a linear, coherent story structure from a fundamentally incoherent plot scenario. that's a fancy way of saying could they not have made it in such a way that it made sense and was easy to follow? there's so many instances of Bond receiving information that's never handed over to the audience that every now and then you think you are watching National Treasure 2 again. enough! there will be another Bond, you don't need this kind of trickery to build suspense or anticipation in the audience.

Quantum of Solace does have one major redeeming feature, and that's Daniel Craig. despite being wildly indifferent to Casino Royale and rather ho-hum about this one, do you know i think in Daniel Craig they really do have the best actor yet to play Bond?

forget all this "the only Bond was Connery" business. whereas he was exceptional in two exceptional Bond films, Goldfinger and You Only Live Twice, he was rather pedestrian in the other, dull ones that he appeared in, and the "only Connery" bunch tend to mouth of from a stance of a false sense of nostalgia. my personal favourite will always be Roger Moore, because watching him in the part did what the films were supposed to do - entertain and thrill you. poor Timothy Dalton was never really given a decent chance with the awful Living Daylights and the "too dark for Bond at the time" Licence To Kill. and you can only wish that Brosnan's time as Bond was made as invisible as the ridiculous car in the last one he did.

Daniel Craig looks like he could well be the business. he made this film watchable for a start, which is the hallmark of a quality actor. if Mr Craig is going to survive in the role then they had better give him some decent films to be in, really. i'm still not at all sure why they don't go about remaking or "re-imagining" some of the earlier films with him in the part, there is plenty of margin to update the likes of Live And Let Die, The Man With The Golden Gun and, yes, even Goldfinger.

watching Quantum Of Solace isn't quite the "what were they thinking, exactly" thought provoker that Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull was, but you end up with a similar hollow feeling after watching it regardless. if whatever they do for the next one resembles chunks of this, expect the cries of "Bond has run its course, retire the series" to be louder and, of great concern to us fans, of more substance than usual.

if you head off to see it, best of luck!!!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

the surprise christmas party

hey everyone

well, hats off to Michele's place of verk for this one, although our hats were mostly on for the day today in the blazing hot sun!

every year her verk arranges a party for all the children of their staff, and this year was a spectacular event at the magnificent Johannesburg Zoo. i had never been before, but boy will i be going again!

first off, here's a picture of James and i, sensibly wearing hats in the sun. and an apology for the suggestion in posts past that New Zealand has some sort of obscure clothing crisis; thank you to Gillian, Grant, Katie and Daniel for the fine t-shirts that we have on! although i think the one James is showing off is from Grandma!

and what are we stood in front of? well, see if you can spot them!

look closely and you will see that there are indeed two Hippos in that picture! they are wisely bathing in the cool, shaded water! James was a bit disappointed that they didn't stick much more than a nose (snout?) or ear and eye out, but was pleased when they started making some ace noises!

now, it was only after we had walked around a large chunk of the zoo carrying James that we decided that yes, it would have been a good idea after all to hire James one of those buggy thingies we saw as we walked in!

of course, as soon as we had got him it, he decided for the most part that he would quite like to walk around instead anyway. nice one son.

James was very excited about seeing the one in the next picture too, as was i. when i saw him (or her), i got an open, jaw dropping sense of awe, but ultimately looked on with a heavy heart.

i'm in no position to question or doubt the work done by the experts of Johannesburg Zoo, but there's something rather irrational and, well, just not right about seeing a polar bear in Johannesburg on a hot summer day. as you can see, the poor thing was cowering away out of the sun. there is no way that the Zoo would keep her (or him) if they were distressed or uncomfortable, but all the same, an odd experience.

slightly more natural a sight in our place in the world would be these chaps, though!

i think James was a little wary of them. not sure why, as they weren't the biggest we saw, and they certainly didn't make any threatening moves. oh hang on, weren't Rhinos the "sort of" bad chaps in The Wild? ho hum, as he wanted to go back and see them a second (and third) time, i guess he got over his wariness in the end!

now, we probably didn't take quite as many pictures of the animals at the zoo as the average, even non-Japanese visitor would have done. sorry about that, we were having too much fun! i dare say that i will be persuaded to take James to see them all again during the holidays, so will do my best to snap a few more images!

i did, however, manage to take some snaps of James' perennial, actually still alive animals. sorry son, dinosaurs don't roam around freely anymore, but it was a delight to see your delight at seeing elephants for the first time!

quite a majestic animal, the elephant, and a bonus to be able to capture one of them in a picture using their trunk! and yes, fine people of verk, my infamous and prohibited "elephant trick" does look a bit like this. just bigger :)

another heavy hearted moment came along when we went to see the impressive, beautiful sculpture placed as a tribute to possibly Johannesburg's most beloved and certainly most sadly missed resident, Max.

for those of you unfamiliar with the remarkable story of Max, you can find many fine articles on him around the interwebnet thingie, or you can just click here to read all about him.

now on top of all of this, James also got to meet Father Christmas a bit early, as he had come along to give some extra special presents to all the children who and been good all year thus far. James, then, had a day filled with animals, ice cream, presents, Mummy, Daddy and Father Christmas. did he enjoy it?

very much so!!!!!!!!!!!!!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


hey everyone

well, i'm somewhat sunburnt and slightly tired, but we're halfway through a very busy weekend, so i guess i had better do an update now rather than let all the pictures mount up! those of you who, rather bewilderingly, only visit for my rants and raves around film, music and Frankie may get a bit bored with the next few posts. the sensible ones out there will however enjoy them!

it was James' school concert on Friday, and my what a difference a year makes. last year James got a dose of stage fright and didn't participate; this year you could not stop him from doing his thing!

first up was James and his class performing with the magnificent William, their "tanga nastix" teacher.

William is a wonderful gent; a fantastic role model for the kids and a sheer pleasure to be in the company of. apparently, every week before he arrives for his classes, the kids all gather and chant his name for 10 or 20 minutes. wow, sir, you have a remarkable gift, and bless you for it!

right, all year James has been driving us up the wall by singing a song. he sang it as "who hear this" or "who care this". neither of us could work out what song it was, and he wasn't telling either. it turns out that he was singing the fine Whoomp! There It Is by the long lamented genius of baggy gold pants, M C Hammer. we found this out when James and the rest of the class gave a dancing display to the melodic tunes of the M C!

go on son, give it some!

there was also an exercise display, featuring them running along a bar or pole type thing. needless to say, James rejected all advice around arms out for balance and what have you, and just went for it!

a little later on and it was time for some more conventional music for a Christmas concert, with my apologies to those who, when they think Christmas, think M C Hammer. now, we were wondering why we needed to send in a white pillow case to school about a month ago; the answer was revealed when the children came out to perform!

we had the pleasure of hearing a rousing version of Jingle Bells, with James going for it with the tambourine type thingie in a manner that either Bez, Liam Gallagher or (dare i say) Roger Daltrey would have been most proud of!

oh, go on then, a pic of James more or less on his own!

thank you to all the parents, children and teachers at James' school for a wonderful afternoon! we look forward to seeing the video disc thingie!

right, will try and catch my breath, and then do an update on today's great adventure!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

nice one son!!!!!!!!!!

hey everyone

James had a very special presentation at school today, with the added bonus of Mummy going along to watch him show off his skills!

sadly, if i write out what skills they are, this interwebnet thingie site will be not visible to my many friends at verk, so i will leave you to work it out from the pictures!

apparently James is rather focused as he does this, not bad considering he decided to start doing it about a year before they normally let the kids have a go!

and it would seem that he's done very well, as he got awarded a rather nice medal and a certificate!

well done son!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

what the world has waited for...........

measuring works of art, whatever form they be, can be done in a number of ways. to measure it by the time it takes to complete, however, isn't a very good one. think about it, what is it that you have read, watched, heard or gazed upon and thought "gee, it's good, but it could have been great if it was done a bit quicker."?

that said, there must be someone somewhere within Geffen records that regrets saying "take your time, Axl, deliver the album when you're happy with it.".

for all the bizarre, wild, inaccurate and oddly true stories that have circulated for the last 15 or so years about the making of Chinese Democracy, there really has only been one proper concern - why, if there have been tracks in circulation (by means of both bootlegs on the interwebnet thingie and and Axl doing the odd gig) since the late '90s, has it only been released on November 24 2008? considering Axl's general dislike for interviews (Rolling Stone magazine and an Uzi spring to mind here), we won't find out from him, and the many people that have been involved in the project have a somewhat tainted view of the experience.

Slash, the former Guns N Roses guitarist, has perhaps more reason than most to be bitter and twisted about anything featuring Axl, in particular with regards to his old band. this being the case, we should follow his lead, and his thoughts are just be glad that the album is out.

now, don't let the positive tone above mislead you. i am no Axl apologist. i had the dubious pleasure of seeing Axl with the band in the middle of 1992. it was a time when his ego had been allowed to, or possibly massaged to bloat out of all proportion. i got to witness the temper tantrums, storming off stage when someone looked at him funny, the whole lot. i pretty much became disillusioned with the band rather than take up their invite to use my illusion, and more or less went off them until Michele walked into my life with her love of the band.

there was one redeeming part of that gig, when i think back to it. well, one redeeming act from Axl; you couldn't fault the rest of the then "classic" G N R lineup. when Axl stared out into the crowd, in a manner that the likes of Liam Gallagher would learn and mimic in the years that followed, and introduced himself as "your pal Axl", well, he pretty much had you in the palm of his hand. not since the days of Freddie Mercury has a frontman been able to stand in front of thousands and intimidate them. that's the magic of Axl, and that's why, in the end, you actually do care for what the man is doing.

as for the bizarre stories of what he's been doing whilst out of the limelight if not out of thought, well, they are entertaining but utter nonsense. lazy journalists have called him a "recluse", much like they did with Kubrick, Brando and of course The King. much like those gifted artists, what one loses sight of when being critical is that the world needs or needed them a good deal more than they needed the world. when The King wished to see President Nixon, he didn't wait for an invite; he had his people call the White House and tell them to get ready for the arrival, which they promptly did. so when Axl wants to see something in the world, he doesn't go anywhere himself as he does not need to, you get a call, you go. the long list of people who have answered his call in regards of making Chinese Democracy bears this out, i think you will find.

right, if you want a lame joke, with an introduction to rival the length of the production of the album, is this Chinese Democracy album any good then? well, with the mythology it has built up, it was not going to be a bland, middle of the road average effort. it was going to be a colossal mess or it was going to be mindbogglingly spectacular. if i tell you that this album should have every editor of every magazine quickly re-working their "best of the year" album lists to have this firmly at number one, i presume you can presume we are talking of the latter option here.

when you put the album on, the first minute or so give you an "oh dear" feeling. we seem to start the title track off with a quasi-mystical intro sound, echoing Spinal Tap's intro to Stonehenge. this passes, perhaps thankfully, and off we go with a sound that makes it clear not all of Trent Reznor's participation or ideas were rejected, and for good measure some of the ideas that the Beastie Boys have about metal guitar are modified to fit in. lyrically the song Chinese Democracy has been discussed a fair bit, but not many have noted that these are some of the broadest commentary strokes Axl Rose has spread across vinyl - Appetite For Destruction was hardly loaded with socio-political concerns now was it?

that said, Axl has not turned into Bono or Jim Kerr, and as far as i have been able to pick up, it's just the subject of the title song that Axl feels of a mind to comment on with relevance to the world around him. the rest is Axl being Axl, brooding, beautiful, witty, reflective Axl.

the masterpiece of the album for me would be the remarkable track There Was A Time. in regards of the oddly true tales of the making of this album, the 30+ musicians and producers credited to this song alone is quite formidable reading in the booklet. the song doesn't suffer as a consequence of mass involvement. now the lyrics of this one are rather tricky. on the one side, it sounds like a heart bleeding with the lament of regret. Axl appears to be reminiscing about someone or perhaps a group of people, regretting it all in a "wrong place, wrong time" sort of manner. it could be a lost love, it could be the old band mates, it could be us humble fans. we will never know. but then again, if one makes an acronym of the song title, maybe i've got it all wrong and this is a real good go at one person in particular, that particular information being known to Axl and maybe the recipient.

i'm not going to go track by track, but one last honourable mention for one more gem, Sorry. Axl does like to do his ballad type tracks, and on this one he gets it spot on. again, this is aimed at either a really, really wide audience or just one person in specific, but no matter, it's soul bearing from Axl like we've seldom heard before, a brooding bass all but burying his defiant, strong will.

oh, go on then, one more track - forget the poor bootlegs that have surfaced of Madagascar, wait until you get a load of how the version Axl intended to be heard sounds.

a rumour from the recordings that would seem to be true is that he had his musicians play, re-play, record and re-record the whole of the Appetite album. in hindsight, a masterstroke. i am no muso, but to my music fan ears, it simply sounds like Guns N Roses. it doesn't matter that there's no Slash, Stradlin, Duff; the music is true to the name.

all the debates and lazy reviews about how Chinese Democracy will "be no Appetite For Destruction" are a waste of time. this is its own thing, and going on the reports i have read it is selling by the bucket load, or bucket head, if you will. it looks like it could well sell enough to see Axl walk into Geffen records and say "told you so, see you again in 15 years". i'd rather we didn't lose him again, quite frankly, but if for some bizarre reason he decides to make this his only effort for a decade or so, well, it underlines what i said before - as much has Axl Rose can annoy and frustrate the average music fan, nothing he does (or doesn't do) changes the fact that the world needs Axl Rose more than Axl Rose needs the world.

there's only one way i can sign off this review of sorts, really. if you are not one of the estimated 300,000+ who have bought this album during the 3 days it has been available, then go and buy it. now.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Elvis Presley Rotating Tree Of Christmas

Christmas is about many, many wonderful things for many, many wonderful people. needless to say, i greatly applaud those who, when they think Christmas, think The King.

needless to say, anyone who is looking for something for me for Christmas could do a lot worse than invest in this for me!!!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Batman? no thanks Dad.........

hey everyone

well, after finding him every product, item of clothing and whatever you can think up or name with Batman on it, wouldn't you know that James has all of a sudden decided that the caped crusader is no longer his favourite, and is now rather enamoured with this Superman fellow. just as well that we had the one rather smart Superman shirt for him to wear!

up to now we just get to watch the same bit of Superman The Movie again and again; the class scene where Superman reveals himself to Metropolis by saving Lois Lane and a helicopter. i suspect he will soon clock that there are more films and more bits to watch, which will give us some variety at least!

in the mean time, as you can see, James has discovered the art of "swingball". he's getting good at it, too - sometimes the ball actually manages to go further than the bat!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

and the stars look very different today....

hey everyone

well, those who have not looked up to the stars in either wonder or a dream just haven't looked properly.

behold, here are the rather poor and difficult to see first pictures of evidence of the planets outside of our solar system!!

i shall not waste time with a copy and paste job, if you search the interwebnet for info on pictures released by NASA of the new planets, well, you should get an abundance of information.

i just can't wait for the "fake" and "conspiracy theory" types to start going on about these images!!! in the mean time, just look upon them with awe.

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Birthday Party

hey everyone

busy times at home and verk means that this update is a little late, but there you go. Katie turned 3 at the weekend, and had what looks like an absolute stonker or a woo! woo! what a tomato! birthday party to celebrate.

she also got some really class presents, including this one.....

looking at the picture, you can almost hear her bellowing "Mamaaaaa! Woooohoooooo!" into the mircophone as she tinkers away at the ivories.

and, if Katie has decided she is Freddie, that means that Daniel has decided he is Elton....

otherwise, here's a great picture of the birthday girl and the proud Mummy!

and what a sensational cake they had for the party!!

nice one, New Zealand! we had better get cracking on party plans for James quickly!!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, November 14, 2008

a glimpse of how eating works in New Zealand

hey everyone

well, i am not sure if this is a general insight into how eating happens in New Zealand or if it's just a glimpse of how it works with my dear sister, but here goes with that glimpse!

i am much obliged to Daniel and Katie for appearing in these pictures. it seems that when one wishes to eat (either in New Zealand in general or at Gillian's house in particular), they gather the food stuffs together and get on the floor somewhere in the vicinity of a table.

then, of course, once you have finished eating, you are allowed to go and sit at the table.

actually, the more i think about it, this sounds like a classic, quality Gillian idea. i would imagine that the remainder of New Zealand eats in an all together more conventional way, but who knows, perhaps Gillian's ideas on how to do it will catch on!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hallowed Be Thy Bed

hey everyone

so, how's James getting on with his own bed? well, it was going rather well. now that he has Batman bedding on, it is of course going exceptionally well!!

they had a class double bed set of this in the shop, but Michele decided that it would probably best not to get it if we wanted to keep our bed to ourselves!

still, it looks mighty impressive on Master Ricketts' new bed!

the best part of all this is the fact that he all of a sudden does not wish to be up and out of bed at 6am on weekends! nice one!!!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

get well soon

just a quick update to wish a speedy recovery to our dear friend and family member.

get well soon, we all look forward to hearing that laugh once again.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

fun, fun, fun in New Zealand!

hey everyone

some more pics from New Zealand, and none featuring Grant or any comments about him this time! well, no comments except to say that there are no comments!

first off, here's Katie and Daniel playing on a rather ace looking play area! going on the experience with the slide (see earlier post!), it's good to see that Katie and Daniel are wisely looking around for Grandma and her helpful, meant well pushes before going too far up and in the play area!

blimey, that's quite a turtle you have found there, Katie! they must have some rather big ponds in the gardens of New Zealand if they wish to keep those as pets!

it looks like bedtime for Daniel! with Mummy and Grandma there to tuck him in and kiss him goodnight, i bet he's wanting to get into bed as soon as possible!

Katie and Daniel's wishes to get into the world of controlling perambulators powered by combustion engine devices seems to be as healthy as ever! it's good to see that Katie is helping Daniel with the steering, it would be wise not to use that flashy, expensive looking television set as an impromptu breaking mechanism!!

Daniel would seem to have the hang of peek-a-boo, or hide and seek if you will. if someone finds him, it looks like he has a vehicle at the ready to head off to the next hiding place!!

many thanks for the new pics, glad to see you are all having fun!!

be excellent to each other!!!!!

rollin', rollin', rollin', rawhide!!!!!!!!!!

hey everyone

lucky Lyla! it seems that her school decided to have their Christmas party somewhat earlier than one would expect an early Christmas party! they probably arranged it to allow for all those going away the opportunity to attend, which is certainly sensible and good!

Lyla, it seems, has taken quite a shine to the equestrian art!!

Lyla's Mummy tells me that it was quite some work to get her to get off the pony and allow the other children a go at riding!

nice one Lyla, glad that you enjoyed it! and as for Lyla's Mummy and Daddy, well, good luck with finding a pony to keep in the house for her!

it seems that Lyla and all the other kids rather enjoyed the train ride, too!

thank you for sending on the pictures, Erika! i look forward to finding out just how many Christmas parties Lyla attends between now and Christmas!!!!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

roaming around the fields of New Zealand

hey everyone

well, it seems that the people of New Zealand have well and truly lifted the photography embargo, as i got somewhere in the region of 80 new pictures from that fine nation today!

here's the Farnworth family going out and about. i think this one is taken in or near a place called Cornwall Park, a place that looks rather splendid to visit and hang around.

and here we go with Grant, Daniel and Katie going for a little bit or a runaround in the fields!

oh dear, Daniel! Daddy has gone the other way in the park. over to the fence. the fence that keeps the sheep in, or, if you will, tries to keep certain people out...

never mind, Daniel. whilst Daddy goes off to admire the sheep, you have a good old sit down and feed the ducks!

here's Gillian, Grandma, Katie and Daniel having a nice sit down and relaxing for a bit. a good idea after a long day walking around the fields!

but wait! where or where could Grant be? he's not in the picture having a sit down.

oh, Grant's still out in the fields. just walking about. near where the sheep are.

now, down here in the southern hemisphere, it is in all likelihood lambing season. whereas most of us would have a pretty conventional definition and understanding of what lambing is, to Grant lambing would appear to involve [TEXT OBSCURED ON LEGAL ADVICE], in particular after they have finished eating when they are a bit slower. presumably, that is. i mean, i have no idea, as i have not as of yet felt the need to [TEXT OBSCURED ON LEGAL ADVICE], let alone work out the optimum time for it.

it is fantastic that Grant sends me pictures of some of the sheep that he has taken quite a shine to. i can only hope that he takes these pictures before he [TEXT OBSCURED ON LEGAL ADVICE] rather than after. i am reasonably sure that he doesn't take them during, at least.

there are a number of other pictures of New Zealand, the majority of which feature hardly any sheep. will try and post some of those later!

in the mean time, be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!