Archive for the ‘Fun Things’ Category

Good reviews for Tickled

January 26th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Former Mediaworks journalist David Farrier should be tickled pink by the response to his debut documentary at the Sundance Film Festival.

Farrier, who recently left the broadcaster and his role on late night show Newsworthy, premiered Tickled at the prestigious Utah-based annual festival on Monday evening NZ Time.

A documentary that explores the world of “competitive endurance tickling” and boasts British comedian Stephen Fry as an associate producer, it has already received some impressive notices from renowned film industry magazines and websites.

Writing for Variety magazine, Dennis Harvey says that “what sounds like a fun look at a particularly outre subculture turns out to be no laughing matter”.  

“David Farrier and Dylan Reeve’s documentary traces the New Zealand duo’s investigation of an online tickling-video empire, behind which there lurks a monster of cyberbullying and litigiousness. An alarming cautionary tale about how easy it is in the Internet age to ruin people’s lives while hiding behind a cloak of anonymity, the pic boasts a humorously titillating entry hook that soon gives way to engrossing conspiracy-thriller-like content.”

Predicting that the movie will sell well internationally, Harvey says “the well-shot and tightly edited pic manages to maintain a sense of humour without belittling its subjects, and glimpses a somewhat gamey underworld without descending into a tabloid-style shocking expose”. …

“At times his [Farrier’s] perky narration, half indignant, half tongue-in-cheek, and the confrontational, hidden-camera style of some of the film’s investigative sequences, remind us of one of those exposes British comedian/journalist John Oliver used to do on The Daily Show before he became too well-known.

“But there’s something else going on in Tickled too, something a little more cinematic. Part of this is a portrait of a lost blue-collar America, a post-Springsteen world where young men from no-hope towns try to scrape some money together by letting themselves be pummelled in Mixed Martial Arts bouts – or being tied down and tickled, on camera. If that sounds a little reminiscent of Foxcatcher, at least in mood, it is.”

Marshall predicts the film will find a cinematic release and revealed that Vendetta Films had already signed up to distribute the film in Australasia. No release date has so far been announced.

I have an interest in this film as I helped crowd fund it. The guy being exposed started threatening all sorts of legal action, so lots of people online contributed to help out.

This review gives a good idea of what it is about.

 

The benefits of driverless cars

January 26th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The car barrelling down a Japanese freeway with New Zealand’s transport minister on board lacked a driver. Instead of drifting into a side barrier, the state-of-the-art ­Nissan seamlessly changed lanes to overtake other cars.

Simon Bridges was joined by long-serving Ministry of Transport chief executive Martin ­Matthews for the ride in one of Nissan’s ­autonomous vehicle prototypes, during a visit to Japan last July.

“There was a person in the driver’s seat but not doing anything, and we were on a motorway and this vehicle was changing lanes and passing ­other vehicles,” Matthews recalled.

“The manufacturer said that ­vehicle will be on showroom floors in five years.”

The hype around driverless ­vehicles and the revolutionary effect they could have has produced sceptics, and much remains unknown, including how the vehicles might operate in normal traffic.

But the Nissan ride impressed our top transport official, and his ­ministry is working out how radically the country’s transport system could change as technologies arrive.
In the US this week, the Obama administration proposed spending nearly $4 billion on driverless car ­development over the next decade.

Car-makers and safety regulators hope self-driving cars could eventually eliminate the 94 per cent of fatal crashes that involve human error. They also believe the technology could reduce greenhouse gas emissions and loosen gridlock.

Just as most planes operate on auto-pilot, one day are cars will also.

If one could order a driverless car to pick you up from where you want, and deliver you to your destination, I’d not need to have a vehicle for myself.

An OECD think-tank has ­modelled what a large move to ride-­sharing would mean for a mid-sized ­European city, Matthews told the ­select committee. It found Lisbon would need only about 30 per cent of ­today’s vehicle fleet.

Great.

“At the moment we tend to think of a binary choice between private ­vehicles and public transport,” he said. “Mobility as a service may well lead to a third choice.”

Public transport is great for some stuff but it is on fixed routes. A transport provider that can pick you up from anywhere and deliver you anywhere, at a much cheaper rate than taxis, will fill a niche.

Star Wars VII The Force Awakens Review (major spoilers)

December 19th, 2015 at 9:17 am by David Farrar

J.J. Abrams delivered. As one reviewer said, this is the Star Wars film you are looking for. It is the best of the series and I predict will break pretty much every box office record on the planet.

The detailed review with spoilers is over the break, along with thoughts on all those unanswered questions.

(more…)

20 Star Wars facts you might now know

December 16th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Have just finished reading How Star Wars conquered the Universe by Chris Taylor. A very well researched book on not just the films, but the cultural phenomenon. He has interviewed scores of peole involved and got holds of all the various drafts and amended scripts.

Picked up a lot of facts and trivia I didn’t know, so figured the day before Episode VII is a good time to share some of them. 20 facts you may now know:

  1. Lucas saw Star Wars as how a small bunch of primitive rebels defeated a huge empire.  It was loosely based on the Vietnam War with the US Government being the Empire, the Emperor being Richard Nixon and the Ewoks representing the Viet Cong!
  2. The original title for the first movie was “The Adventures of Luke Starkiller”
  3. Lucas was over budget for the movie so destroyed Alderaan to save the expense of filming what was to be several scenes on it
  4. Engineers once calculated that it would take 833,315 years for Earth to construct the Death Star and cost $852 quadrillion or $852,000 trillions.
  5. When Mad Magazine did a parody called The Empire Strikes Out, Lucasfilm wrote to then threatening a lawsuit. Mad Magazine responded by sending them a copy of the personal letter they’d received from George Lucas telling them how great the parody was.
  6. In original scripts C3PO was meant to die in Episode IV and Lando in Episode VI. They were changed to Obi-Wan and Yoda.
  7. Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher had an affair during the filming of Episode IV. It started when he surprised her by hiding naked in his closet with just a bow tie on.
  8. Economists have calculated that if you paid people minimum wage to mop the floors of the Death Star, it would cost $732 billion
  9. Fox Studios thought Star Wars would tank as it had only $1.5 million of advance bookings and it opened in just 43 theatres
  10. So many people just stayed in theatres to watch Star Wars multiple times (without paying), that this led to theatres now checking and clearing the audience between screenings of films today
  11. Fox stock went from $13 to $23 a share within one month of Star Wars opening
  12. The reasons Luke Skywalker looked so stunned to learn Darth Vader was his father was he got told just two minutes before the scene was shot. And the actor who played Darth Vader (not James Earl Jones who was the voice) only found out when he watched the film!
  13. The reason Had Sole got frozen in carbonite at the end of Episode V is because he had not signed up for Episode VI. If they couldn’t get an agreement he would have stayed frozen!
  14. The entirety of Boba Fett”s dialogue in Episode V and VI can fit into a single tweet
  15. After Mark Hamill learnt Leia was his sister (and before that Darth Vader his father) he joked that they should have Boba Fett remove Fett’s helmet and Luke discovers Boba Fett is his mother :-)
  16. Lucas named the Trade Federation leaders Nute Gunray and Lott Dod after Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott.
  17. The original script for the prequels sounded much better than the final scripts – Qui Gon is a minor figure so the focus is on Obi-Wan for Episode I.  Jar Jar speaks normally and is very wise, and the plot is about how Amidala’s race is prejudiced against his but she overcomes this prejudice. Also originally in Episode III Amidala was meant to found the Rebel Alliance, instead of dying.
  18. One fan queued up for six weeks for the first screening of Episode I.  His reaction upon seeing it was “Shit. Fucking. Sandwich”
  19. In the original script for Episode III Palpatine tells Anakin that he created him through the force, and that makes him effectively his father. That would have meant the Emperor was Luke’s grandfather!
  20. Han shot first!

Review Spectre Bond 2015

December 15th, 2015 at 11:00 am by Kokila Patel

By John Stringer   https://conzervative.wordpress.com/

Spectre

To switch obsessive Craig theme for a moment, from Colin to Daniel, I went and saw the 2015 instalment of James Bond 007 this week “Spectre” in a packed cinema. (With the Colin version, I feel I’m also watching a movie perhaps even in it: a black tragi-comedy).

The opening Spectre sequence is a bit creepy; naked dancing women caressed by embracing erotic inky black octopus tentacles in the style of Hans Ruedi Giger. It suits more Octopussy and Goldfinger than Spectre. Perhaps it’s a hat tip to those two past Bond films. But haven’t we moved past that 70s misogyny of women as dehumanized sex objects? No faces on these babes, just thighs and curves.

The modern Craig Bond movies (this is Daniel’s fourth) all begin with a hallmark opening chase scene (remember the chase up the construction crane?). This is no exception but has creative twists.  There is a chase by… walking, and through a crowd of close-packed people.

After an opening hint of the Bond music, the movie starts typewriter font on black screen  “The Dead…[pause]…are living.” Then BOOM we’re plunged in to the midst of the Mexico City Day of the Dead festival amidst floats and crowds wearing skeleton masks (Mardi Gras meets the grave). Bond is about to bed his seductive Mexican beauty but slips instead out the balcony window, as ya do, walks casually across the rooftops bringing his cool laser assassin gun in to kill mode as the dead pass below; kills two guys in a building opposite before a bomb unexpectedly goes off; building collapses almost on top of Bond and the chase is on.  And then, oh boy, it cranks up with a helicopter fight above a stadium filled with skeleton people worshipping gigantic skull floats. Dramatic EXCELLENT opening in the Craig genre. 10/10.

Spectre has the usual international conspiracy; a secret Illuminati organisation (“SPECTRE”) taking over the world (see your Bond history).  It’s CEO is revealed in dramatic back-lit fashion after a prospect has his eyes squashed out by a heavy (Mr Hinx) with metal finger nails (like Jaws with his metal teeth in The Spy who Loved Me;or Oddjob with his steel-rimmed death hat in Goldfinger). Hinx pursues Bond throughout the movie (oh and the girl of course). He’s as broad as an oak tree but has those metrosexual fingernails. Every self-respecting SNAG should.

We traverse Mexico City, the Tunisian desert, the Austrian Alps, London and the Thames as well as Rome. Nice Bond city cinematography tick box. I like the London scenes (James’ eternally unpacked flat; Thames-side modern architecture) and we get a lot more British M15, M16 and the ’00’ programme, ‘M’ (who as Judy Dench posthumously commissions Bond’s current mission, “If I’m dead, Bond, don’t miss the funeral in Mexico City”). There’s ‘Q’ and ‘C’ and all that.

Ralph Fiennes plays Bond’s very British boss ‘M’ (Dench’s’ successor) defending democracy and on-the-ground Intelligence against a rising technologically distracted surveillance mega-Geek ‘C.’  He’s an amalgamation upstart establishing a Joint Intelligence Service consisting of the recently merged MI5 and MI6. ‘C’ campaigns for Britain to join “Nine Eyes,” a global surveillance and intelligence co-operation initiative between nine member states, and uses his influence to close down the ’00’ programme.

[SPOILER] he’s actually in league with Big Baddy (combining the intelligence of nine nations which will be hacked and controlled by SPECTRE, a veiled ref. to the real “Five Eyes” agreement?  ‘M’ and Bond covertly fight a geo-political all-seeing”Big Brother” and defend British sovereignty. “Ru-uuule Britannia…” I’m air punching in the dark. I always want accountability and the human factor.  If you’re gonna play dirty spies, it has to be done with manners.

Bond has traceable blood fused in to him by ‘Q’ so he can be tracked by Her Majesty’s Secret Service after several roque operations which created political problems for the Home Secretary.

There are some great extended punch-up scenes (in a train; in a helicopter; in an exploding building, on boats; and one of those nasty protracted medical psychopath torture sessions in an impeccably clean white room with eyeball drills, similar to Dragon Tattoo).

There is a great scene in the rigged for demolition old HQ of M15/6 (ruined in the bomb blast in Skyfall) when target practice posters flip round with James’ face on them and he passes illuminated ante-rooms show-casing recent dead Bond characters put there by Big Baddy. I would have liked these to have been past 007s i.e. Connery, Brosnan etc. Nevertheless, Spectre has some great retro nostalgia.  For example, SPECTRE first appeared in  Diamonds Are Forever (1971and the Octopus ring central in this movie, inOctopussy (1983).  So this latest outing ties several old Bond movie themes together as well as story-cycles.  Tick.

Spectre1

The Bond back story is finally completed (hooray I hate it when things are left unresolved, like the entire LOST series). James’ dark past is revealed; Why ‘M’ (Judy Dench) was killed and by whom and for what purpose. Turns out [SPOILER]  that James was adopted as an orphan but German step dad preferred James’ blue eyes to his real German son who has nursed a psychopathic grudge ever since and killed off all James’ Bond girls, including ‘M,’ to ruin his life. “It was me all along James, to give you a life of pain.”  Boys need their Daddies attention.

There’s a nice play on the classic James Bond original Austin Martin (Goldfinger andThunderball; which recently sold for $4.4 million) and perhaps a hint at the end that this is the last of Bond and the departure of Daniel Craig.

Spectre2

Big Baddy is revealed as ‘Ernst Stavro Blofeld‘ aka Franz Oberhauser and is here presented as the ULTIMATE Bond villain. I’m not clear after a first watch if Franz has taken on the persona of this well-known previous Bond villain (the inspiration for Dr Evil in SpyWhoShaggedMe) or whether he was him all along. Franz receives the same eye scar as the classic Blofeld/Dr Evil fiend. He is rather ordinary till James’ up-scars his face and eye with a clever ‘C’ device while Bond is being tortured. He then becomes a much more suitable Big Baddy with a poppy dead eye and facial scar to Bond’s square jaw good looks. Bond: “Ouch, that must hurt!” 

A nice script quirk in that at the end James’ chooses justice over guns after his woman has worked on him psychologically. This is a visual romp but it’s well-worn James Bond franchise.

I enjoyed Spectre but this line from the film perhaps sums it all up,  “James what would you do if you stopped?”  “Stopped? I don’t know.”

And that’s the thing. Bond has no life. It’s just all – to requote the film- “liars and killers…liars and killers” and at some point we need something more.  Not sure how long James can keep on running, jumping, shooting, ‘C’ inventing, and fighting global conspiracies. It gets a bit “m-eh.”

Great “Shaken not stirred” dialogue at a bar at an Austrian alpine celebrity clinic.  “I’m sorry sir, we don’t serve alcohol here.”  Later “Do me a favor. Tip this organic fruit shaky thing down the toilet and bypass the middle man.”

There’s a few red herrings [SPOILER] : “the Pale King” is “Mr White” who introduces us to the ‘Bond Girl,’ the daughter of one of Bond’s nemesis’ who has to now protect her “because he gave his word” and sealed it by passing over his loaded Bond pistol to the bad guy who could shoot him or trust him.

I’d like to see James in the future reworked back in to the conventional Her Majesty’s Secret Service 007 assassin; maybe do a retro 1950s -look movie.  The new stuff is fun but it’s starting to lack soul and purpose.  We can only take so many cars crashing in to canals, zooming down luscious old Roman street steps (ala Bourne Identity etc) it’s all been done before so many times.

This is the cast with Moneypenny on the left and the Big Bad Guy (Franz Oberhauser) on the right.

Spectre3

Spectre4

YUP       and           NUP

‘Q’ (Quartermaster) has not really worked well recently: John Cleese and this guy (above right Ben Wishaw) a younger cardie wearing be-spectacled British computer geek).  Inventors are really old guys and I’d like to return to an older, perhaps retired 007, who is a whizz at making ever so British things like Dam Busting Bouncing Bombs and RADAR and magnetic mines and stuff. Desmond Llewelyn was a great ‘Q’ seen here in Octopussy in 1983 (above left).

Spectre has implausible falls and leaps and crashes without wrinkling fabulous suits (as we love with James Bond) but it’s plausible enough not to laugh out loud which I did once or twice, like when he fell several stories in a collapsing building only to land on a well-placed sofa. The British have all the lucky escapes (Dunkirk, Gallipoli).

But what I do like is the British counter to Americana BIG GUN IS BEST with James in his impeccable suit and wee suit pocket aesthetic Walther PPK pistol.  A deadly cigarette case.

Spectre is classic Bond and a visual fast-paced feast.  So go see it but the next James Bond has to turn over some new leaves or corners if we aren’t to get bored with the modern James Bond franchise.

Spectre5

I liked this but not as much as Craig’s first and second outings Casino Royale (2006) and Quantum of Solace (2008) but more than number three Skyfall(2012). This is Craig’s fourth Bonding.  Actually we’d have to throw one of my favourite ‘Bond’ movies in here, the in-between 2011 The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo also starring Craig. He may as well have been Bond. It’s brilliant.

I give this a 6.5 + 0.5 for the opening Death Festival sequence and the opening chase, so maybe up to a  7/10.

We were shaken, but not stirred.  ~ John Stringer (Christchurch)

Here’s one of the trailers…

Ranking the six Star Wars films

December 14th, 2015 at 7:17 am by David Farrar

USA Today ranks in order the six Star Wars films:

  1. Episode V – Empire Strikes Back (1980)
  2. Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)
  3. Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983)
  4. Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005)
  5. Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002)
  6. Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999)

I’d agree with those rankings.

Can’t wait for Episode VII!

Kill Bill 3

December 10th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

News.com.au reports:

FANS of Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill series can rejoice with news the much-loved director has not ruled out a third entry into the franchise.

A third Kill Bill volume has been talked about since the original two films were released in 2003 and 2004.

Tarantino even revealed his plan to set the third film ten years later, based around the child of Vernita Green, one of the assassins killed in the original films.

“I was going to do a new one every ten years. But I need at least fifteen years before I do this again. I’ve already got the whole mythology: Sofie Fatale will get all of Bill’s money. She’ll raise Nikki, who’ll take on The Bride. Nikki deserves her revenge every bit as much as The Bride deserved hers.”

Can’t wait. I loved Part I – one of my all time favourite movies.

Jackson set to direct Doctor Who

December 1st, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

A fun video from Peter Jackson that basically confirms he will direct one or more episodes of Doctor Who. Of course people are joking it will be a nine hour long episode split into three parts :-)

Ted Cruz acts out The Princess Bride

November 20th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

This is cool. He’s obviously seen the movie many times.

From the CIA 1944 sabotage manual

November 16th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

cia

I heard about these listening to the Slate Political Gabfest. This is from the 1944 CIA Manual on how to sabotage organisations.

What I loved about this is we all know people like this in organisations we belong to. They may not realise that they are saboteurs, but they are.

The gabfest participants added on a 9th one for the modern age. Schedule lots of meetings with video-conferencing in areas with poor wireless as you’ll spend half your time dealing with people dropping in and out!

The best Bond

November 13th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff rates the James Bond actors from best to worst:

  1. Daniel Craig
  2. Sean Connery
  3. Pierce Brosnan
  4. Roger Moore
  5. Timothy Dalton
  6. George Lazenby

I’d rank them differently. My list would be:

  1. Sean Connery
  2. Daniel Craig
  3. Roger Moore
  4. Pierce Brosnan
  5. George Lazenby
  6. Timothy Dalton

Star Trek returns

November 6th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

CBS announces:

CBS Television Studios announced today it will launch a totally new Star Trek television series in January 2017. The new series will blast off with a special preview broadcast on the CBS Television Network. The premiere episode and all subsequent first-run episodes will then be available exclusively in the United States on CBS All Access, the Network’s digital subscription video on demand and live streaming service.

The next chapter of the Star Trek franchise will also be distributed concurrently for television and multiple platforms around the world by CBS Studios International.

The new program will be the first original series developed specifically for U.S. audiences for CBS All Access, a cross-platform streaming service that brings viewers thousands of episodes from CBS’s current and past seasons on demand, plus the ability to stream their local CBS Television station live for $5.99 per month. CBS All Access already offers every episode of all previous Star Trek television series.

The brand-new Star Trek will introduce new characters seeking imaginative new worlds and new civilizations, while exploring the dramatic contemporary themes that have been a signature of the franchise since its inception in 1966.

Alex Kurtzman will serve as executive producer for the new Star Trek TV series. Kurtzman co-wrote and produced the blockbuster films Star Trek (2009) with Roberto Orci, and Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) with Orci and Damon Lindelof. Both films were produced and directed by J.J. Abrams.

Very excited by this.

There have been five main Star Trek series:

  1. Original 1966 – 69
  2. Next Generation 1987 – 94
  3. DS9 1993 – 99
  4. Voyager 1995 – 2001
  5. Enterprise 2001 – 2005

I never got into Deep Space 9 much. I rate Next Generation as may favourite series, followed by the original and then Enterprise.

The touching zones

October 28th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Print Print

The Herald reports:

Oxford University scientists have created a series of body maps that show just where we are comfortable to be touched. …

It also showed – again, unsurprisingly – that the less we know someone, the less comfortable we are to be touched by them. However, there was one noticeable exception.

Men, it seems, have no areas which would be completely off limits to a touch from a total stranger – as long as the stranger is a woman.

This is amusing, but also no surprise.

How often do you see men hugging each other?

I am an occasional man hugger – like when we have just got to the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro, or when NZ wins the rugby world cup.  Or maybe if someone has died!

In general the closer the relationship, the fewer areas of the body that were taboo, although people tended to be uncomfortable about letting anyone except their nearest and dearest touch their erogenous zones.

This meant that while a woman might be happy for her uncle to stroke her back, her front would be off limits. And male strangers should note that almost all parts of the female body are to be avoided, other than the hands.

Interestingly, the men studied had a different viewpoint.

They didn’t want another man touching them, with even the head and the feet no-go zones.

However, almost the entire male body was up for grabs to a female stranger or acquaintance, with no part considered taboo.

In fact, for men, a woman they barely know has similar “touching rights” to a parent and more than a brother or sister, the journal Proceedings of the Royal Academy of Sciences reports. Although the reason for this is not clear, the study did find that the more pleasurable a touch was believed to be, the larger the body area that person was allowed access to.

I could take a wild guess at the reason!

Hottest Heads of State/Govt

October 25th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

200 heads of state and/or government have been rated in order of hotness here.

jigme-khesar-namgyel-wangchuck

This is No 1 – Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, King of Bhutan. He is aged 35.

kim-jong-un

And at the bottom No 200 is Kim Jong-un, Supreme Leader of North Korea. He is aged 32.

No tag for this post.

Internet instead of TV screens on flights

October 24th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Daily Mail reports:

In-flight television screens are to be axed from long-haul flights in and out of the UK with carriers streaming content to passengers’ mobile phones and tablets instead, it has emerged.

WestJet, a low-cost airline which will launch transatlantic flights out of London’s Gatwick Airport next year, will be among the first to remove entertainment systems from the back of airline seats for long-haul flights.

The move comes in favour of allowing passengers to stream content directly to their own devices, with a superfast wireless internet connection set to be provided to each plane by satellites. 

The scrapping of in-flight entertainment systems by WestJet, which will fly from London to six Canadian cities from May 2016, will reportedly remove more than 1,500lbs of weight from each plane.

This will allow hefty fuel savings to be made, meaning other airlines could be set to follow suit.

Richard Bartrem, the vice-president of WestJet, told The Times: ‘Today, more than 80 per cent of our guests are boarding with a device. The new system will allow us to provide a better, more relevant service to our guests while continuing to offer low fares.’ 

 

I think this is a great idea. I’d much rather have Internet on board allowing me to view my own choice of movies or TV, than the limited supply on board.

No tag for this post.

Guest Post: Tinker to Evers to Chance to McFly

October 22nd, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

A guest post by Tom Hunter:

In Back to the Future II there’s a scene where the character of Marty McFly, transported thirty years into the future world of 2015, sees a piece of sports news and exclaims:

 “Wait a minute, Cubs win World Series? Against Miami?”

 It’s somewhat of an inside-joke. When the movie was released in 1989 there was no baseball team in Miami and the Chicago Cubs had not won the World Series (WS) in 81 years. But the Boston Red Sox drought had then lasted for 71 years. The Cubs cross-town rivals, the White Sox, stood at 72 years. Moreover, the team was in the playoffs that year and it must have seemed reasonable odds to the scriptwriters to think that by 2015 they’d win it all. Surely no club could be such losers for that long?

 It’s now 106 years.

 No other major team in any sport has experienced such a drought. For 69 years they’ve not even won the National League (NL) pennant, which merely gets you into the WS. The next worst baseball team are the Cleveland Indians on 67 years.

 A writer once said that there were two types of baseball losers. The first type were the Red Sox, who specialised in regularly taking their fans to the brink of winning it all – before stabbing them right through the heart. The second type were the Cubs – who never win anything. But as if to show the way, the Red Sox in 2004, and the White Sox in 2005, would prove it was possible, leaving the Cubs stranded almost alone on a desert island of dull mediocrity.

 It’s a cruel reflection on their players and fans that many would take the fate of the pre-2004 Red Sox at least once in a lifetime. The famous Chicago journalist (and Cub fan), Mike Royko, would exhibit this feeling by inventing what he called “The Cubs Factor”: in any World Series one could predict the winner by counting up the number of ex-Cubs players on each team; the winner was whoever had the fewest. Fans created the Emil Verban society, celebrating a perfectly ordinary Cubs player – no Hall of Famer he – as the perfect example of the team. Verban was still alive when the club started in the 1970’s and felt it to be an insult, until he met President Reagan and discovered that he too, was a member of the society and a fan.

 It did not have to be this way. Chicago always had the population and wealth to supply a team with all the cash it needed to buy good players or produce them through the so-called “farm” system, the layers of minor league teams through which young stars can rise. The Cubs were one of the founding teams in the 19th century, helping create the National League. They dominated the 1900’s, winning two World Series against the new American League, losing a couple of others, but always threatening. Fans of other teams lamented the Cubs powerful infield defence, even writing a poem about them  – “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon” – Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance,  who regularly destroyed opponents with their fielding. This strength continued well into the 1930’s, where they appeared in several post-season series, and lost, but no differently than did other storied clubs such as the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers.

 It was not until after the last World Series for the Cubs in 1945 that the decline truly began. For  almost four decades the team would linger at or near the bottom of the tables. This was not losing, it was futility. There was a brief burst of sunshine in 1969 when they dominated the NL teams – right up until the last month of the season, when they collapsed, the NY Mets sweeping past them to top the NL and enter the World Series, which they then won. Adding heat to the ashes in the mouths of Cubs fans was the fact that the Mets had only existed since 1962. It was in this period that the story of The Curse began to spread.

 The Red Sox had the Curse of the Bambino of course. The ghost of Babe Ruth, sold in 1918 after he’d pitched the Red Sox to yet another championship, because the owners thought his pitching days were done and that his batting did not fit the world of “small ball”, steadily moving runners around the bases. They were right on both counts but Ruth simply changed the game itself by hitting endless home runs, coming to dominate it as no other player had – and he would do it for their bitterest enemies, the New York Yankees, winning championship after championship. This was a curse of great power and evil, cast by the Dark Lord himself, a lightning scar stamped onto the foreheads of Red Sox players and fans for all to see and whisper about. The team that lived – while its fans suffered and died.

 The Curse of the Goat does not rise to that level, yet another example of the pallid nature of Cub-world. The story goes that in 1945 the owner of the famous Billygoat Tavern strolled uptown to Wrigley Field to watch a WS game, with his pet billygoat in tow. Refused entry to the stadium on account of the animal, he laid a curse upon the Cubs, declaring that they would never again win a championship. Nobody took any notice and the spread of the apocryphal story was likely due to the fact that the tavern was the watering hole of Royko, Studs Terkel and other Chicago scribes. But it stuck. So much so that at one point when the team had lost the first sixteen games of a season – leading a radio DJ to exclaim, “Come on guys! Let’s win ………. one” – the son of the owner was tracked down by fans, who persuaded him to walk a billygoat around the field before the start of a game. The Cubs lost anyway.

 Could fate be any more cruel.

 It turns out that it could. If anything the 1970’s were the bottom of the barrel. The real problem was not the magical powers of farm animals but ownership and management. The team had been owned for decades by the Wrigley Family (of Wrigley chewing gum fame) and they treated the team the way an ageing English Lord might treat some shabby castle he’s inherited. There was no focus, no fight, and perhaps not even much desire to make the team winners.

 Their fortunes only began to improve when the Wrigley family finally tired of their chew toy and sold out in 1981. Just three years later the Cubs made it to the playoffs. Perhaps not knowing how to cope with this, they lost against a team that seemed no better than they. The new owners were the Tribune Company. They made the team the centrepiece of their local TV station, WGN, and then linked it to other TV stations across the country to form a so-called “Super-Station”. With cable and satellite TV in their infancy the Tribune created hundreds of thousands of new fans and re-captured old ones in areas that had no major league team, or which contained pockets of Chicago and Mid-West retirees, where the big networks would often only show games from big name clubs. The team developed a substantial and unique nationwide following. But they were also pushed to win.

 They would hit the playoffs again in 1989, ’98, 2003, ’07, and ’08. Each time they fell short, but this was still manna from heaven for survivors of the Wrigley famine. Fans began to calculate that at a minimum the law of averages would begin to tell in their favour; make the playoffs often enough and sooner or later lightning must strike.

 The 2003 series showed that the game is something more than averages. Playing for the NL Championship against the Florida Marlins in a best-of-seven series, the Cubs were leading in games by 3-2 and, in the eighth inning of the decisive sixth game, by 3 runs to 0. With one out, a Marlin batter popped up a foul ball down the left-field fence, the ball falling just one row into the crowd. Moises Alou, a skilled and experienced fielder reached into the crowd to grab the ball with his mitt, his eyes following it all the way. But Alou suddenly found the hands of a fan – Steve Bartman – also reaching for the ball, which hit them and bounced further into the crowd.

 Despite his years of professional play Alou lost the plot, yelling at the fan and arguing for long minutes with the umpires. The ugly mood spread fast. It was as if a switch were thrown and the power drained from the fans and the players, although it would be in keeping with the Curse to imagine the feeling as one in which a magical, happy spell has suddenly been broken. In an instant stomachs fell, mouths went dry and throats closed as all the old fears rose up: the black bile that accompanies being the “Loveable Losers” of baseball, and cursed.

 The team went from being on cruise control to simply falling apart, the Marlins feasting on them for eight runs in that inning to win. A listless, demoralised Cubs team lost the next game and the series. They had been just five outs away from entering the World Series to play against a shaky Yankee team, whom the Marlins would beat up to gain their second WS win in just over a decade of existence. Steve Bartman needed four beefy cops around him to leave the stadium and found himself subject to almost intolerable abuse afterward just for being at the centre of sporting history and doing what any fan would – but the truth was that Alou, and then his team, had simply not coped with the ordinary adversity of a single mistake.

 Fans were annoyed rather than distressed at later losses in 2007 and 2008, when the Cubs were simply beaten by better teams. But 2003 was an introduction to Red Sox world. It was little consolation to know that the they had also fallen the same way that year – in seven games and getting to within five outs of winning the AL pennant. Naturally it was against the Yankees. Fans across America raised their eyebrows and marvelled at the power of the respective curses.

 So here we are in 2015 and the Cubs are in the playoffs again. Hopes, always pegged low, have steadily risen. They entered as a Wild Card team, due to finishing third in the Central Division of the NL. But this time it’s only because the two best teams in baseball – in terms of season wins and losses – came 1st and 2nd in the same division. The Cubs finished the season of 162 games with a better win-loss ratio than any other team in either league except those two – the Pittsburgh Pirates and old foes from down the I-55, the St Louis Cardinals. The latter had won 100 games, always the mark of a great team.

 Incredibly the Cubs have now beaten both, and beaten them well. They’re a young team and seem to be playing with joy and verve, uncaring of the weight of history. They will soon face the despised enemies of Cub fans everywhere, the New York Mets – a team whose evil I never fully understood until a TV break during a game when their “fans from Down Under” were introduced: Australian cricketers Greg and Ian Chapple. The series will decide the NL Pennant and see who goes to the show on October 27.

 So is this it? Will the capricious gods of baseball be appeased? Will the curse of the damnable goat be lifted? Will the shameful stain of Loveable Losers be wiped away? You’ll have to forgive this New Zealand fan if I turn my lonely eyes away from the All Blacks in late October. They’re already winners many times over and I must support the underdog of all underdogs.

 No Cub fan will ever get too confident, even if they’re leading three games to zero, holding a 10 run lead going into the 9th inning of the decider. But if a smoking DeLorean screams into existence at the entrance to Wrigley field on October 21st and Marty McFly steps from it to pronounce that the Cubs will win, the fans would not doubt their eyes and ears for a moment.

 After 106 years of failure they’ll believe anything!

No tag for this post.

The 25 Most Rewatchable Movies Of All Time

October 11th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Five Thirty Eight has surveyed readers on the most rewatchable movies. There is a difference between great and rewatchable. Two of the movies I have rewatched countless times are Life of Brian and Blues Brothers.

Their top 25 are:

Star Wars 98
2 The Wizard of Oz 76
3 The Sound of Music 58
4 The Lord of the Rings (series) 56
5 Gone With the Wind 52
6 The Godfather 45
6 The Princess Bride 45
8 The Shawshank Redemption 42
9 Harry Potter (series) 36
10 It’s A Wonderful Life 35
11 Forrest Gump 33
11 Grease 33
13 Dirty Dancing 32
14 Pulp Fiction 29
14 Titanic 29
16 The Lion King 28
16 Pretty Woman 28
18 Casablanca 27
19 The Matrix 25
19 The Notebook 25
21 Star Trek 24
21 Finding Nemo 24
23 Goodfellas 22
24 Pride & Prejudice 19
25 Caddyshack 18
25 The Avengers 18

What would you add to this list?

Earlier this year I rewatched all six Star Wars movies in preparation for Episode VII. And currently rewatching the Indiana Jones films.

If you’re reading this, they were wrong

October 7th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Telegraph reports:

This might just be one of the last articles you ever read because Doomsday is coming, a Christian group has warned.

So if you’re worried about being charged 5p for plastic bags for the rest of your life, then worry no more.

Just a few weeks after Nasa dismissed warnings of a blood moon apocalyptic meteor strike, the threat of another world-ending event has appeared on the horizon.

Chris McCann, leader of the eBible fellowship and all-round God expert, believes the world will be engulfed and destroyed by a great fire on October 7.

If you’re seeing this blog post, then I guess he was wrong.

No tag for this post.

Best sacking ever!

August 30th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Jeremy Clarkson will earn more than $23 million a year for his new Amazon car show, with James May, Richard Hammond and producer Andy Wilman close behind.

The former Top Gear host, unceremoniously sacked from the BBC show this year, will reportedly pocket $70m from the streaming service over a three-year period.

The rumoured fee means the 55-year-old would be paid nearly $2m per episode, making him Britain’s highest paid TV host.

Boy he’s really hurting being sacked from the BBC. His income has increased around five fold.

Amazon Prime apparently spent $380m signing up the trio, making it Amazon’s biggest single investment in original content to date. With 36 episodes in the pipeline, each individual episode will have a reported $10m budget.

In contrast, the budget for Top Gear was just over $2.3m, including the presenter costs.

Can’t wait to see it.

Blackadder V?

August 25th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Guardian reports:

A new series of the 1980s BBC comedy Blackadder is on the cards, star Sir Tony Robinson has said – as long as they can afford Hugh Laurie’s wages.

Robinson, 69, who played Baldrick in all four series of the sitcom, joked that they might struggle to pay Laurie, who went on to become a major star in the US with the medical dramaHouse.

“I do think a new series of Blackadder is on the cards,” the comedian and TV presenter told the Sun. “I have spoken to virtually all the cast about this now. The only problem is Hugh’s fee. He’s a huge star now – or so he’d like to think.”

A 5th series of Blackadder would make me very happy.

Lord Sandwich

August 12th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Saw an article about the “inventor” of the sandwich, Lord Sandwich – so checked out his Wikipedia page.

The modern sandwich is named after Lord Sandwich, but the exact circumstances of its invention and original use are still the subject of debate. A rumour in a contemporary travel book called Tour to London by Pierre Jean Grosley formed the popular myth that bread and meat sustained Lord Sandwich at the gamblingtable.[21] A very conversant gambler, Lord Sandwich did not take the time to have a meal during his long hours playing at the card table. Consequently, he would ask his servants to bring him slices of meat between two slices of bread; a habit well known among his gambling friends. Because John Montagu was the Earl of Sandwich others began to order “the same as Sandwich!” – the ‘sandwich’ was born.

Never realised it was named after a person.

But what I really liked was this part:

In a famous exchange with the actor Samuel Foote, Sandwich declared, “Foote, I have often wondered what catastrophe would bring you to your end; but I think, that you must either die of the pox, or the halter.” “My lord”, replied Foote instantaneously, “that will depend upon one of two contingencies; — whether I embrace your lordship’s mistress, or your lordship’s principles.”

Wonderful!

What To Watch This Winter (July 2015)

July 27th, 2015 at 11:00 am by Kokila Patel

By John Stringer

www.coNZervative.wordpress.com

fargo

Martin Freeman is brilliant as Lester Nygaard in the 2014 SOHO TV series FARGO spin-off of the 1996 film.

What does one watch after Breaking Bad?  Can anything be as good?  Is life doomed as half-baked forever afterward as you wait for the next season of GoT or The Walking Dead?

There’s Season 2 of True Detective (starring a surprisingly different-looking Rachel McAdams of The Notebook) or Season 2 of Ray Donovan. Both are great, but neither quite cut the blue crystal meth. When the rellies were over from Perth recently, I forced everyone to watch FARGO (1996), because you’re not truly human till you’ve watched FARGO, don’cha know.

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The classic and now iconic, Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) FARGO 1996.

FARGO was that supremely awesome 1996 genre-breaking neo-noir black comedy crime thriller set in Minnesota and North Dakota near the Canadian border and based on real events.  One of the key characters is dialect.

The Coen brothers are such excellent film makers.  In 2006, the film was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the Library of Congress and inducted into the US National Film Registry for preservation. Has won heaps of awards.

It starred that surprise find Frances McDormand (above) as Marge (‘Margy’) Gunderson, a heavily pregnant local Minnesota police chief, and other well-known actors, such as William H. Macy (Jerry Lundegaard) whose inept crime falls apart due to bungling and the persistent police work of the extremely normal Marge.  McDormand hasn’t been seen much since she played in a weird movie with George Clooney and Brad Pitt (Burn after Reading, 2008) in which Clooney plays an adulterating serial sex addict and Pitt plays his favourite crazy guy again (Fight Club and Twelve Monkeys). 

SOHO to eternal praise has extended the 1996 FARGO film by creating a TV series that picks up exactly where the film left off.  A suitcase of cash is stashed in the snow along a fence line in snow-swept wastes with a red windscreen scraper stuck in the ground to show where it is.  And the Fargo legend continues.

The TV series is as brilliant as the film (described by some as the best new TV series). It stars Billy Bob Thornton as a seriously evil psychopathic serial hitman working amongst a cast of ordinary Joes over several years. Main protagonist is Lester Nygaard (rhymes with Lundergaard from 1996) played by Martin Freeman (Bilbo Baggins The Hobbit).  All are just excellent. Allison Tolman re-plays ‘Marge’ but as Deputy Molly Solverson also pregnant like Gunderson in 1996. The Police Chief is ‘Sol Goodman’ of Breaking Bad (Bob Odenkirk) whose character in BB was so rich, the character spawned his own spin-off TV series as the ambulance chasing small-town crime lawyer. In Fargo 2014 he retires at the end of Season 1, due to the trauma, and Molly takes over as police chief, to complete the Marge Gunderson circle.

The series is full of black comedy and then sudden, unexpected violence, all the more black because of the ordinariness of it all (ceramic ducks on the back wall and sensible woolen jerseys with snow flake patterns).  The juxtapositions are jolting. Well worth a watch.

I just LOVE this series.  Season 1 is finished on SOHO but Prime is re-running it again on 4 and SOHO have SOHO POP-UP on 11 that runs the series as a marathon back-to back if you watch for that.

Here’s a quote from 1996:  “So that was Mrs. Lundegaard on the floor in there. And I guess that was your accomplice in the wood chipper. And those three people in Brainerd. And for what? For a little bit of money. There’s more to life than a little money, you know. Don’tcha know that? And here ya are, and it’s a beautiful day. Well. I just don’t understand it.” ~ Marge Gunderson.

Don’tcha know!

Here’s a  great clip from the TV series.

https://youtu.be/vXfej6ekBZI

Our most popular films

July 2nd, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Flicks has run a survey of NZers over which films are their favourites. The top 10 are:

  1. The Shawshank Redemption
  2. The Empire Strikes Back
  3. The Godfather
  4. Pulp Fiction
  5. The Fellowship of the Ring
  6. The Dark Knight
  7. Forrest Gump
  8. Star Wars
  9. The Matrix
  10. Goodfellas

Seen all but No 10. Happened to just rewatch The Empire Strikes Back last weekend. The best of the six.

The Shawshank Redemption is my favourite film and have viewed it a dozen or more times.

I’d have Kill Bill Vol I in the top 10. It didn’t even make their top 100!

They also have the 10 most hated films. They are:

  1. Battlefield Earth
  2. Sharknado
  3. Twilight
  4. Batman & Robin
  5. The Room
  6. The Last Airbender
  7. Jack and Jill
  8. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
  9. Movie 43
  10. Disaster Movie

Luckily not seen most of them. Actually loved Sharknado – but only because it was so over the top bad it was funny.

 

Some facts on alcohol

June 23rd, 2015 at 1:31 pm by David Farrar

Eric Barker at Time gives us some facts on alcohol backed up by research:

 

Taking the piss out of the sugar-free campaigners

June 12th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

This is very funny. A piss take by The Katering Show.