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It has been a long couple of days – back from Bruce’s funeral, trying to catch up at work. It’s good to be busy, but this is getting ridiculous.

Anyway, a couple of totally tasteless ads from the 11 Points blog:

Rectal Christmas Fun

Nothing says Christmas fun like a rectal suppository!

Valentine Funeral Planning

Nothing captures the spirit of Valentine’s Day like ‘Let’s plan your funeral.’

Taxidermy Cheese Store

Try our Gorgonzola while we stuff your pet goat.

My brother David sent me these, and I though they were worth sharing:

Man Kills Self Before Shooting Wife and Daughter
  Got to admire those zombie firearm skills

Something Went Wrong in Jet Crash, Expert Says  
   Ya think?

Police Begin Campaign to Run Down Jaywalkers   
   Now that’s taking things a bit far! 
Panda Mating Fails; Veterinarian Takes Over   
   What a guy!   

Miners Refuse to Work after Death  
   No-good lazy so-and-sos! 

Juvenile Court to Try Shooting Defendant   
    See if that works better than a fair trial! 
War Dims Hope for Peace   
   I can see where it might have that effect! 
If Strike Isn’t Settled Quickly, It May Last A While  
   Anything’s possible!

Cold Wave Linked to Low Temperatures   
   Who would have thought! 
Enfield Couple Slain; Police Suspect Homicide   
   They may be on to something! 

Red Tape Holds Up New Bridges   
    You mean there’s something stronger than duct tape? 
Man Struck By Lightning: Faces Battery Charge   

New Study of Obesity Looks for Larger Test Group  
   Why? Weren’t the first lot fat enough? 

Astronaut Takes Blame for Gas in Spacecraft  
   They told him not to take the baked beans!  
Kids Make Nutritious Snacks   
   I bet they taste like chicken.

Local  High School Dropouts Cut in Half   
   That’s one way to get rid of them!  
Hospitals are Sued by 7 Foot Doctors   
   Boy, are they tall! 

And the winner is….  
Typhoon Rips Through Cemetery; Hundreds Dead  
   That was in Ireland, right?

Lots of news about the 6th ROBO ONE GATE Biped Robot Competition.

A few videos there, but this one is my favourite:

Definitely more impressive than Roxxy the sex robot, and probably cheaper:

Roxxy the Sex Robot, and Partner

I don’t know where I heard that phrase. I think was in a blokey discussion of the arts – Australia versus the US.

Wherever it was, the consensus amongst the blokes was that our poofters were indeed better than their poofters. There was even a touch of pride in some of the accomplishments, say, of Sir Robert Helpmann and Peter Allen.

So in that same spirit, I would like to wish Mr Byron Adu, Australia’s regional winner, all the very best of luck as he represents us in the Worldwide Mr Gay competition in Oslo in a few weeks’ time.

I saw this a few years ago, but came across it again today and thought you might enjoy it:

Toddler Property Rules

If I like it, it’s mine.
If it’s near me, it’s mine.
If I can take it from you, it’s mine.
If I had it before, it’s mine.
If it looks like mine, it’s mine.
If I saw it first, it’s mine.
If I am doing or building something, all the pieces are mine.
If you have something and you put it down, it’s mine.
If it is mine, it must never appear to be yours in any way.
If it’s broken, it’s yours.
If it’s broken, where’s mine?

The 2009 Darwin Award winners have been announced.

These are given to people who have done the gene pool a favour by removing themselves from it.

I know it is not fair to laugh, but you just can’t help it.

One sample:

Traffic was moving slowly on southbound I-95. Shawn M. had recently left a Pompano Beach bar, and now he was stuck in traffic. As the saying goes, you don’t buy beer–you just rent it, and Shawn couldn’t wait another moment to relieve himself. “I need to take a leak,” he told his friends.

Traffic was deadlocked, so the waterlogged man climbed out, put his hand on the divider, and jumped over the low concrete wall… only to fall 65 feet to his death. “He probably thought there was a road, but there wasn’t,” said a Fort Lauderdale police spokesman. The car was idling on an overpass above the railroad lines.

His mother shared her attempt thoughts. “Shawn didn’t do a whole lot for a living. He got along on his charm, just like his father.”

Though his death was tragic, Shawn’s downfall proves the old adage: Look before you leak!

Just a little music to end the day.

One of my all time favourites, and the archetypal Patsy Kline song:

An interesting list of the top money-making films.

Avatar has made it into the top ten in just two weeks. This makes two films by James Cameron in the top ten – Avatar and Titanic.

Of the others, three of the top ten are Harry Potter movies, two are from the Pirates of the Carribean series, and two are Lord of the Rings.

That makes nine – the other is Dark Knight.

With the exception of Titanic, all of the top ten are fantasy.

Further down the list is Jurassic Park, Star Wars Episodes one and three, Spiderman, and more Harry Potter.

If nothing else, this proves people go to the movies to be entertained.

A startling revelation, I know, but it still doesn’t seem to have made it into the heads of Australian film producers.

via Hyscience

Tiger Woods will recover as a golfer. Can he recover as a person?

Brit Hume says it depends on his faith – what he needs is forgiveness and redemption.

Brit’s answer: Think about what the Christian faith has to offer.

Wow. It is interesting (and encouraging) to hear that kind of straight talking in a secular news commentary program.

I went to see James Cameron’s movie Avatar last night.

It is everything I said it would be. It is courageous greenies in touch with nature, beating back the greedy Tasmanian loggers. It is Dances With Wolves with blue indians instead of red.

It is so PC that if its head were any further up its backside it would fall over.

But the strange thing is, it doesn’t fall over.

A film should never be dismissed simply because you read in it a political message you don’t like.

This does not apply to a deliberate piece of propaganda for something evil, like Dr Goebbels’ productions, or something plain stupid, like Thelma and Louise, or something libellous, like Baz Luhrmann’s Australia.

No artistic or entertainment value can redeem a movie (or book, or other work of art) which is bad because of bad intent.

But the expression of differing political perspectives in film or other media is a good thing, and there can be films which are genuinely good, even if the message is wrong.

Avatar’s central theme is that private enterprise is BAD, and that military power which supports private enterprise is even BADDER. Between them they destroy things and will wreck the world, and what will we do then?

That is wrong. Capitalism and free trade have done more than any other politico-economic system to lift ordinary people out of poverty, to encourage the exchange of ideas, to make medical and educational facilities available to ordinary people.

Societies which are wealthy can set aside large areas of forest or mountains or reefs as reserves. Poorer countries do not have that luxury.

Despite the clumsy naivety of its political message, Avatar is a good film.

It is not all good, of course, even after you discount the preaching.

There are a few wooden moments.

But this is Hollywood. Anything less than ten embarrassing dialogue blunders, or clunky plot errors, or distracting continuity mistakes, is a strong pass.

Much of the scenery looks like it was lifted from World of Warcraft – from the Night Elves and their world tree, to the floating mountains, to the bio-luminesence of Zangarmarsh.

The story is an amalgam of great sci-fi novels – Herbert’s Dune, McCaffrey’s Pern novels, Le Guin’s The Word for World is Forest, Heinlein’s Starship Troopers.

But you can’t play ‘spot the cliche’ or ‘spot the ripoff’ with Avatar as you can with Australia.

Taken as a whole, the film is original and engaging.

The story is simple, and is told without any artificial attempts to make it ‘deeper.’ You never find yourself thinking ‘What the hell is going on now?’ Every scene meshes with the next in well paced succession.

Character development is well done – vastly better than in the deeply disappointing recent Jim Carrey version of Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, for example.

In Avatar, you see and understand each step of Jakes’ journey to understanding the value of the Navi and their links to the ecology of Pandora. You cannot help cheering him on when he realises his loyalties have changed, and begins to act on his new convictions.

You may be thinking, as I was much of the time, that the story is a crock of doodoo. But suspension of belief is a necessary part of enjoying fiction in any form, and Pandora is a perfectly consistent world, and believable on its own terms.

Pandora is, without question, the most detailed and perfectly realised alien world ever attempted. It works because so much care has been taken with even the most minor details of sound and visual effects. It is difficult to overstate just how good the visuals in this film are.

This is true not just of individual effects, machines and creatures, but of how different parts of the world interact with each other to form a convincing whole.

But the special effects, powerful as they are, are not what drives the film.

From begining to end, Avatar is driven by the character of Jake Sully, his growing understanding of himself, the new world around him, and ultimately, what really matters and what he needs to do.

The film’s politics are a major flaw.

Nonetheless, James Cameron deserves recognition not only for great effects, but for a solid story, solidly directed. This is a film worth seeing.

I finally got around to seeing Baz Lurhmann’s Australia. I cannot remember ever having seen a film so offensively bad.

It is three hours of unmitigated drivel.

My mother-in-law said about half way through ‘This thing just goes on and on. It must be six hours already!’

My brother-in-law Bruce, at whose insistence we were watching it, replied ‘It’s almost over, just another half hour.’

‘Half an hour!’ shouted Bonnie, ‘I can’t sit here another minute!

We stopped for twenty minutes to let everyone catch their breath. I grabbed a very large scotch, and kept the bottle.

The movie started again. OK. I was pretty confident I could get through the next half hour without slashing my wrists.

An hour and a half later it finally dribbled to an end.

By this time Bonnie was comatose, and even Kathy, who had wanted to see it, was looking less than gruntled.

Australia is an abject collection of every movie cliche imaginable.

The overall effect is like Flying High or Scary Movie – ‘Oh, that’s from How The West Was Won’ or ‘That’s from Sixth Sense.’

But because Australia takes itself so seriously – and that is a key difference from Lurhmann’s earlier films – it doesn’t offer even the minimal amusement afforded by those other rip-off movies.

Australia is also a collection of every offensive half truth about about Australia’s history, and every offensive libel about official attitudes and policies relating to Australia’s indigenous people.

Some of the scenery is interesting, but apart from that, it is difficult to think of anything good about the movie at all.

Nicole Kidman is a competent if not brilliant actress (to be fair, she was brilliant in The Hours, a substantially less depressing film than Australia), and Hugh Jackman makes a good Wolverine or Peter Allen.

But in Australia, the limit of their expressive power is Jackman stalking about looking manly, while Kidman struts about looking concerned.

The boy who plays Nullah (Brandon Walters) is a nice looking kid, but he has only three expressions: happy, sad, and confused.

He looked confused quite frequently. He wasn’t the only one.

I am sure I looked confused almost as often as I looked bored or annoyed, depending on whether what was on screen at the  time was another gaping hole in the plot, another cattle stampede to the edge of the cliff cliche, or another malicious misrepresentation of Australia’s history.

Baz Lurhmann has produced three entertaining and original movies. How did he go so far wrong with this?

Reader James T suggests I should have given Andrew Bolt credit for my comments on James Cameron’s film Avatar.

Proper referencing is important for one’s intellectual integrity. It is also polite.

When I write about a newspaper article or other primary source, I always reference the source, with a link if possible.

If I have already begun to think about a story, to make a notes on a news item, for example, and then come across some commentary on the same story, I will not reference that commentary unless it changes the way I think, or leads me to other information on the same subject.

But where I have been alerted to a story by another commentator, I reference the original story, and the place I first read about it.

For example, in my comments about the Daily Mail’s fact avoiding article on the relationship between fundamentalism and violence, I referenced the Daily Mail, and Robert Spencer’s Jihad Watch.

In my story about the large group of scientists who wrote to Ban Ki Moon questioning the global warming orthodoxy as a basis for for economic or environmental policy, I referenced the scientists’ website and letter, and Australian Conservative, where I had first read the story.

In the case of Avatar, my story (which was basically just an approving note about Jim Schembri’s disapproving review) appeared a couple of hours before Andrew’s similar story.

There is nothing unexpected or untoward about this.

Avatar was in the news – it was due for release in Australia the following day. It is not surprising that two conservative bloggers should comment on the politics of a highly political film the day before its release.

From Jeff Lindsay’s Darkly Dreaming Dexter:

You don’t have to take an IQ test to become a reporter. Even so, I always hope for just the smallest glimmer. And I’m always disappointed. Perhaps I saw too many blacka nd white movies as a child. I still thought the cynical world-weary drunk from the large metropolitan daily was supposed to ask an awkward question and force the investigators to re-examine the evidence.

Sadly, as Dexter notes, the the awkward questions seem only to extend to ‘How did that make you feel?’ or ‘What was she wearing at the time?’ or ‘How high, Mr Gore?’

This afternoon Kathy and I went to see the movie of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are. We were the only adults in the cinema who were not accompanied by children. 

I wrote in April: if the director and producers have been able to resist the Hollywood temptation to tamper too much with the story, especially either by making the wild things ‘cute’ or by making Max (the hero) into some sort of spoilt adolescent with problems at home, it should be a magical movie.

There are three things to say.

  1. Where the Wild Things Are is not a children’s movie.
  2. It will not be a commercial success.
  3. It is a very good film.

It is a little scary in places, but that is not the reason it is not a children’s film.

The book is intended for young children. The film is too long and too slowly paced to hold the interest of anyone under forty. Well, that may be a slight exaggeration, though one family did leave about an hour in.

Jonze and Sendak collaborated on the script and have produced a remarkable palimpsest of Sendak’s book.

The book was funny, scary, and engaging. The film is all of these things and more. It is the ‘more’ which makes this such a good movie, and also not a children’s movie.

Essentially, the film is a parable about what the world means to a boy, any boy (but definitely a boy), and about how a boy can or should relate to that world.

The wild things seem to represent different aspects of Max’s personality. The goat, the chicken, the bull, the scary unidentifiable things.

This is just asking for a book – Which Wild Thing are You? – How to Release Your Inner Power.

The answer is that Max, and all of us, are all of the wild things. We are cowards, we are destructive, we are angry, we are hungry, we are brave, we are creative, we are kind.

In the course of his adventure, Max learns how his words and actions impact on other people. He learns about love, and that actions have consequences, and that some things cannot be undone.

That should give you a hint that the lefties, I suspect, will not like this film. Their dislike will intensified by the fact that there is not a hint of  greenie bovine manure in the movie.

Trees are knocked over with glee, violence sometimes solves problems (and causes them), throwing dirt at people’s heads is the best way to have fun together, and if you happen to have a small animal in your hand instead of a lump of dirt, well, chuck it anyway.

Despite the life lessons, and Max learns many valuable things, Where the Wild Things Are is never preachy.

I laughed out loud, and had tears in my eyes at the end. The kids around me just looked bored.

It is a great film. Go and see it. Just don’t expect your children to enjoy it. Not till they get to forty, anyway.

Two songs by Jewel. Thoughtful lyrics, and what a rich, pure voice.

Angel Standing By

Hands – If I could tell the world just one thing, it would be that we’re all OK – not to worry in times like these… only kindness matters…