Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Visual Aspects - Battlestar Galactica


YourZ and I have been in love with this series for ever.  I'm sure his love is largely borne from a certain red dress worn by a certain Cylon, but I can forgive him that.  Can't you?  Go on, Google "Caprica Six" and forgive him here and now.  Remember to come back!

I had an interesting conversation with my brother-in-law about the merits of BSG versus The Wire, which of course we also love.  He is of the opinion that it's "cheating" for BSG to tackle difficult issues, because it's science fiction and therefore the writers can make any situation fit; whereas in The Wire they're restricted to real life situations.  Of course, I think that's a load of hooey.  Both of these series are fabulous, in different ways.  It's just BSG has the most fabulous CGI to go along with the amazing acting and top-notch scripts.  Shiny! Oh, wait, that's another TV series, I'm getting ahead of myself here.  We recently watched BSG end-to-end, because last year we finally bought a flat-screen TV - so we wanted to watch all our great visual-effects movies and series over again, with the oh-wow picture.

OK, so BSG takes places in a universe where there are 12 colonies of humans on 12 planets which are kind of named after signs of the Zodiac and they worship multiple gods and they've formed a truce with the Cylons which are robots that became self-aware and then rebelled years ago and now the Cylons are back and some of them look like humans and they're still pissed off so they nuke all the human's planets and only about 40-thousand people get away on a bunch on spaceships including... Battlestar Galactica.

After that it gets complicated.

My favourite part?  The way the series examined summary executions and imprisonment - from both sides of the human/Cylon debate.  I loved how this series put the issues being tested in Iraq and at Guantanamo on to prime-time US screens, right then and there.  And vote-rigging!

My favourite character?  Gaius Baltar.  Selfish, self-serving, cowardly, tricksy and an unwitting traitor, he manages to survive through the basest of human emotions. Yet toward the end, he seems to redeem himself - by supposedly laying bare his soul in a tell-all autobiography.  Whoever thought him up deserves all the writing accolades there are.

My favourite squeeze?  Chief Galen Tyrol.  I don't know why, there are some much more conventionally handsome men featured - Anders and Helo spring to mind - but I love the Chief.  He's huggable.

And while she's frustrating and impenetrable and likeable as well as facepalm idiotic from time to time: I love Starbuck.

We haven't seen the BSG spin-off Caprica, and it can't have been that good if it got canned after one series, but I guess we will when it's released here on DVD.  Completists that we are.  Hey, that reminds me - we haven't re-watched The Plan yet!



Initially, my review was going to be very simple:

"Watch it if only for the bodacious, deadly Clyon babe in the painted-on red dress."

But on careful deliberation, I decided this would make me appear extremely shallow.  I'm now gonna go for some depth:

Watch it if only for the magnificent cast, the effects, the story, the drama, the intrigue, the pointy-headed robots from hell and cool spaceships.  And, if this isn't enough, watch it for the bodacious, deadly Clyon babe in the painted-on red dress.

I think you can guess who my favourite character is, can't you?


Sunday, February 6, 2011

Visual Aspects - Walking in the Royal National Park


You know, sometimes I need to be reminded how bloody lucky I am to live where I do.  Our recent trip to Royal National Park was one such time.

At Mine's behest, I went to a great website called Wildwalks and printed out a handy guide to what's known as the Bundeena To Marley walk.  According to the guide, the walk is about 9.5 km and would take us about 3 1/2 hours and rated 'hard' but we were up for a physical challenge.  It also meant I could cross it off my list as I'd always wanted to go.

The park is about 30 km south of Sydney CBD.  It was first established as a park in 1879 and is the second oldest national park  In 2006, it was added to the Australian National Heritage list.  It is mainly coastal heath with belts of littoral rainforest where shallow valleys dip the walker down to the coast.  We followed easy instructions that led us to a dirt car park on a stretch of the Bundeena road.  

The track starts out on opposite side of the road.  Ducking under the natural gates of She-Oak, the path starts out very easily and leads the walker gently down to the first ridge.  Here, I indulged my love of panorama photography.

Royal National Park panorama
We heard rather than saw a few of the local birds but spotted a New Holland Honeyeater as it made its rounds of the Banksia and various heath flowers.  But apart from the occasional skink, the heat of the day was obviously keeping the local fauna under cover. Along the track, we saw some beautiful banksias, red gums, and numerous unknown flowers like these:


The next stop was Deer Pond, so named because at one time, Royal National Park had quite a few deer in it and this was one of their favourite drinking holes.  The cooling fresh water and lovely shady strip of sand made it a welcome stop for us too. 

Deer Pond
After a refreshing dip and a quick snack, it was onwards to the beach.

This part of the track was probably the hardest going.  We're reasonably fit but while we didn't struggle, we didn't talk much either.  The track led out on to a much larger fire break that switch backs down to the coast line.  It was more exposed and we really felt the heat but could also hear the ocean pounding in the distance.  The payoff came after some good hard slogging, with the heath opening up to views like this one.

Looking down to the coast
Not too long after, we dropped down the final part of the track, one way leading to Marley Beach, the other to Little Marley.  We went north to the big one, hoping to find some shade and a spot for a picnic.  Marley Beach, however, is quite exposed and the surf was huge and angry.  We headed back south to Little Marley.  Almost conversely, it has a nice overhanging low cliff at one end, which offered up a great shady spot to stop and have a break.  The sheltered little beach provided a picturesque backdrop too.

Little Marley Beach
After a bit of relaxing, it was time to get going back up although this was a little tougher, 'up' being the operative word and all.  We stopped again at what I've renamed the 'Yes, Dear' Pond, in tribute to Mine as its one of her favourite expressions.  After another cooling dip, we hit the final stretch back to the car park.  

I think we worked out the whole round trip took us 4 1/2 hours, but given we'd stopped along the way, this is hardly surprising.  What is surprising, however, is how beautiful the area is and how close it is to the city.  It is truly one of Sydney's hidden jewels and well worth a day out.  Next time, we'll do the overnight coast walk, okay Mine?  Mine?  Hello...



For one reason and another, YourZ and I have decided this year to scrap our pricey gym membership and take more time exercising au natural. (No, you Philistines, not in the nude, in the open air!)  Thus, the desire to tramp around large parts of parkland.  It's also part of our desire to take in as much of  what Sydney has to offer as possible, as we've decided it's not going to be our forever-home.  When we have a free weekend (and with other commitments plus my moving shift schedule, these are rare) we plan to see what the many national Parks in our area have to offer.

I must admit, I didn't look too closely at this walk before YourZ suggested it, and if I'd noticed it was rated "hard" I might have protested.  But even though it tested us (I had sore calves and glutes for a couple of days) it was so worth it.  The scenery!  The wildlife! The beaches!  And all less than an hour from our front door!

I guess the main thing I found from this - apart from the fact that I want to do more, please - is that I've often driven past Royal National Park without actually seeing quite how big and wild and varied it is.  And while I'm sure the next walk will be somewhere else - Ku-Ring-Gai Chase or Lane Cove perhaps - I do hope we go back to it.  It's spectacular.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Because We Don't Do Everything Together - Primal Scream


I'd ummed and aaahed about going to this gig for a while - chiefly because all the tickets sold out and were being hawked on eBay for ridiculous sums.  But then!  They moved the venue to a larger one, issued more tickets, and finally I got to go and see one of The Albums That Changed My Life being performed in its entirety.

Screamadelica has been reviewed in these pages before, when I wished for a fairy godmother to grant me a trip to see just this show.  You know how I feel about it, so I won't be telling you about the songs.  What I will tell you is that Bobby Gillespie is still as skinny as a streak of pelican shit, has his own hair and a well-developed dress sense, and the band... the band can play their bloody socks off!

Although it was in a way quite fabulous to see them at Selina's, a venue I used to frequent a lot in my youth - it's just down the road from a few places I've lived in over the years - in many other ways it was awful.  There are much better venues in Sydney these days, and just because you can fit more people in to see a band, doesn't mean you should.  Also, this was the first time I'd been screened by the Coogee Bay Hotel's new identification system - which scanned my fingerprint!  How high-tech and deeply Big-Brotherish. 

But although I'd timed my arrival so I'd miss the support act (sorry about that, but going to a band on my own means they get the heave-ho) the distinct lack of bar facilities per head of punter meant I saw the first two songs off the album while waiting in line for a drink.  I'd had the foresight to stand in the line closest to the stage, so managed to shake my tailfeather while waiting - that is until some gurning twat proceeded to pant and sweat all over me while - get this - trying to pick me up!  Truly, it was hard to resist the temptation to point out I was old enough to be his mother's younger sister (ahem), but I must admit thinking to myself "That Revlon Photo Finishing Powder was well worth the cash" - well, it was either that or his drug-addled eyesight.

After grabbing two vodka-and-somethings I found a place to stand at the side of the stage where there was just barely enough room to breathe.  Fortunately Screamadelica  has some nice quiet songs in the middle section.  Unfortunately the Essex Girl in front of me was using them to discuss something (her truly appalling haircut?) with her boyfriend.  In fact, the whole place appeared to be backpacker central, and it reminded me just exactly why I've enjoyed our move one suburb down the coast - less Likely Lads and Lasses throwing up on the footpath every weekend.

After the album was through, the lads came back on stage for a bunch of great songs from other albums - Country Girl, Jailbird, Suicide Bomb and Rocks - after which I quickly ducked outside and into the first cab I could find, before that crowd came boiling out on to the pavement.  I wouldn't have missed it for the world, even though I had seen them before ('95 Big Day Out).  These guys can play.  That gig was stifling hot and they rocked its collective socks off.


Sorry there's no pics - I am truly useless with a camera phone, and most cameras generally.