It's Good, It's Blog!
A Moviegoers Lament:
: Thu 30-Jun-2005 16:00 PDT
The struggling and hardpressed Hollywood is currently bemoaning the fact that box office takings are experiencing a major slump. Aspersions are being cast at P2P and mediocre movies as possible causes. Here's another suggestion to add to the list; perhaps people are just fed up with such a poor overall experience that they just couldn't be bothered anymore. In some cases the DVD is out not long after the cinematic run has finished, and with home theatres becoming a more financially viable prospect, why subject yourself to the less than stellar cinema experience?
I don't think I see a lot of movies, I certainly see quite a few over the course of a year, but I'm not going once or twice a week. What I have found to be consistent every time I do go, and has been as far back as I care to remember now, is the following:
- The cellphone bandit. Despite at least one courtesy reminder asking that you switch your cellphone off before the movie, someone will undoubtedly leave it on. Not only will they leave it on, but it will ring during the movie _and_ they will answer it and have a conversation without leaving their seat. No, seriously.
- The gossip hags. Perhaps the same type of person who would do the above, but brings their phone-a-friend with them, will sit and talk throughout the movie. Not in a whisper either, but at normal volume. No, seriously.
- The lumberjack. The alternative to the talker is the snorer. In one movie I was lucky enough to sit in front of not one, but two people who fell asleep during the movie and started snoring, at considerable volume and bassy resonance. The movie was not boring either, so one has to wonder what conditions are like at home that they're willing to shell out admission to catch some shut eye and disrupt the experience of everyone within a 30ft radius of them. Where is an usher when you really need them? No, seriously.
- The jackhammer. This is the guy with the bouncy knee; the habit of resting on the ball of your foot and bouncing your leg up and down. This makes the most marvellous constant rustling noise, and if positioned correctly can also shake the row of seats, possibly two rows if the leg shaker possesses considerable skill. No, seriously.
Please people, I'm there to watch a movie, it's what I paid for. I'm not interested in listening to your phone conversation or your asinine opinions. Do the rest of us a favour and stay away.Top of page
A Name For The Ages :
: Sat 25-Jun-2005 17:00 PDT
I've always had a fond affinity for my name, I've been vain enough to create a website celebrating this fact, and am pleased to see it getting regular visits from family and friends. What I wasn't expecting was a namesake to happen across it and send me an email, but this is exactly what happened to me recently. Now that my search rankings seem to have settled perhaps it was nothing more than Googling your name to see what turns up. Regardless of how it came about, I received a 'Hello' email from another Alex Hand that had found my site amongst the wastes of cyberspace. It was an unexpected surprise and thrill to receive such an email. According to him, Alex Hand's are few and far between in the US, but the same cannot be said for Alex's. I'm one of 4 Alex's (well 3 Alex's and an Aleks) amongst our eclectic group. While it can lead to some confusion it makes for easy introductions.Top of page
What's Old Is New :
: Fri 24-Jun-2005 14:55 PDT
What seems to be a growing trend of dance covers of older songs came to a head today. As I was listening to Groove Coverage's cover of Alice Cooper's Poison in the shower this morning, I had one of those startling thoughts; I'm sure a generation of listeners now exists who are unaware that this, and possibly many others, is a cover song. I know I've been guilty of this more than once in the past, but this was the first conscious realisation that while I was aware, others may not be. Memories of the music video, in all its 80's glory, came flooding back, leaving me to wonder what (if it exists) the new clip is like.Top of page
It's Only Rocket Science :
: Sun 19-Jun-2005 23:45 PDT
Photos from the trip are now available at http://alexhand.com/Orlando/
By Sunday, Arlene had crossed the coast and the weather was rapidly improving, mocking me with sunshine and blue skies as I no longer had hours I could fill in lazing by the pool. As one outlet can often not be enough, we hit a smaller outlet on Sunday morning before making the short trip out to the Kennedy Space Center (KSC).
I had been to the KSC previously, but could remember very little of it, so I was understandably excited to be heading out for a return visit. It turns out that how much there is to do is one of the things I failed to recall. As a result, there were quite a number of things that were missed due to time constraints. Even with the late sunset, the KSC still closed at 6pm and with a mid-afternoon arrival, this did not allow much time for exploration. The last tour for the day had also already departed. However, with a full ticket and the benefit of a consecutive day re-entry it was possible to see most of the KSC Visitor Center and return the following morning for the Up Close tour.
I cannot express how much I geeked out, but space exploration still holds a huge fascination for me, so I was duly enthralled by everything I saw. The Visitor Center is a fascinating museum of some of man's most amazing achievements. (the Astronaut Hall of Fame is nearby, but unfortunately that was one of the features that had to be skipped, the IMAX features also had to be forgone). We skipped a couple of the features geared towards a younger audience, but managed to take everything else in. To keep the size of this post down I won't sprout too much about the various sights I did behold. Hopefully the photos will do a sufficient job for me, and everything is commented. What I will talk about is just how amazing and mind boggling it is to see this sort of thing first hand. To be able to stand in front of something, knowing it has successfully been to and returned from space, and seeing the technology that made it possible. Or as the case may be with the early missions, the lack of technology. What was able to be achieved in sending people to space and the moon, in a time where colour TV had only just come into existence, is a credit to engineering.
What could be better than seeing something that has been in space (or even touching a piece of Mars for that matter)? Why meeting someone who has been in space of course! Which is exactly what I did when I met Astronaut Winston Scott. The Visitor Center has daily Q&A sessions attended by an Astronaut, with a photo op at the conclusion of the session. I even managed some witty small talk while having my photo taken. Upon hearing my accent Winston enquired where I was from, to which I replied Australia. He mentioned that he had never been to Australia and hoped to go one day. My response was that I had never been to space, and hoped to go one day. With the day over, we stayed at nearby Cocoa Beach and returned the next morning for the Up Close tour.
The Up Close tour is a guided bus tour that takes you around the KSC to or past the International Space Station Center, launch pads 39A and 39B, Vehicle Assembly Building and the Apollo/Saturn V Center. I even managed to spot an alligator during the tour. It was great to be able to get that close to everything, and especially exciting since Discovery was due to be rolled out to pad 39B in the next day or two so you knew plenty was going on behind closed doors. The Return to Flight launch window is currently set for July 13 - 31 and I hope everything goes perfectly.
So that was Orlando and surrounds. Hopefully next time an inconsiderate tropical storm won't interfere with certain plans involving possible narcosis.Top of page
Tropical Storm Arlene :
: Wed, 15-Jun-2005 20:05 PDT
The wind speed was a few miles per hour to slow to bump it to hurricane status (75mph is needed, Arlene was at 70), but tropical storm Arlene still managed to prove itself to be a sufficiently destructive force. I've returned from Florida, lacking in both sun exposure, but more disappointingly no scuba whatsoever. In my few days there, Arlene blew though, bringing with it torrential rain, tornado warnings and 6ft ocean swell. However, the trip was still great despite the change in itinerary.
After a mind numbing and sleep deprived red eye down to Orlando it was off to Universal Studios on Thursday night for the Tech·Ed party. Universal had been completely booked for the evening, complete with free food and drink and 13 or so thousand conference delegates. Fun times! I hadn't been to Universal on either of my previous trips so it was a brand new experience for me. The quickest way to describe it would be like a Universal version of Warner Bros Movie World. It has theme park elements but the focus is more on their movies than purely on rides. Having said that, most attractions incorporated a ride of some description into the mix. Everything was fun, but of particular note for me are Shrek 4-D, The Mummy, and Men In Black. I won't give too many details away so as to spoil it, but each one was very well done and thoroughly enjoyable. A final word of warning; when they tell you that you're going to get soaked on the Jaws ride, they mean soaked. Try and sit on a bag or make it the last ride of your day.
Friday was hot and humid, perfect conditions for an afternoon visit to Wet 'n Wild. As it happens, I'd also never been to Wet 'n Wild. It was a lot of fun, but something seemed lacking overall. Perhaps after things like skydiving and scuba, waterslides seem a little passé. That's not to say they're not still fun to ride. The highlight was definitely the steepest and highest slide, not only for the speed but the manner in which you start. You climb inside a capsule and at a random time the floor drops out from under you sending you falling down the slide!
Sticking with a trip of firsts, we partook in our first dinner and a movie deal back at the CityWalk at Universal Studios. It turned out to be quite a bargain. Dinner was delicious, and the movie, Mr and Mrs Smith was very clever and humorous.
By Saturday Arlene was in full swing and with things like a state wide tornado warning and flood warnings it became apparent that scuba was out of the question. Needless to say this was very disappointing, but there was really nothing to be done. Absent a trip down the coast, it was time for some outlet shopping instead. The nearest outlet mall was a huge complex, packed with bargain hunting shoppers. Some almighty rain squalls plus a lightning and thunder show made it an interesting day out.
Stay tuned for photos from the trip, plus the next blog entry covering Sunday and Monday at the Kennedy Space Centre!Top of page
Not 'The' OC :
: Wed, 08-Jun-2005 01:45 PDT
It happens to be on the other side of the country no less, but at least it's actually in the Orange state so perhaps more deserving of the title. Ilana is currently in Orlanda for TechEd, and I'm flying down to join her for a few days. Apparently it's sunny, hot and humid, with evening showers, so it should be just like a good Brisbane summer. I had to rummage around and actually locate all my summer gear which has been packed away since visiting Jamaica late last year.
I haven't been to Orlando since my one and only visit many, many years ago, so I'm looking forward to going back. Apparently it hasn't changed all that much though. Apart from some vague memories of Disney World and Epcot my most vivid memory of Orlando is walking back to our motel from the local 7-Eleven with what I considered at the time to be the world's largest softdrink-in-a-bucket. So very strange what the mind can recall at times.
This trip I'll be taking in some much needed sunshine lazing by the pool, Universal Studios and a visit to Wet 'n Wild while in Orlando. Then it's off to the Kennedy Space Center and down to West Palm Beach, where a 4-tank dive day of scuba goodness awaits! Apparently it's an excellent and diverse diving spot, with the chance to dive a wreck or reef and see any number of underwater wonders like turtles, sharks, rays and grouper. I am really looking forward to it! As an added bonus it's all drift diving. :)
Stay tuned for what will probably be some large photo sets upon my return.Top of page
Summer == Golf :
: Sun, 29-May-2005 20:15 PDT
While it is considerably cooler today, the last couple of days have been sweltering at 30°C. It could make for an interesting summer. I was up in arms due to the lack adequate measures available here to deal with the heat. At least in Australia you make sure you have ceiling fans at the very least (preferable air conditioning), a nice wooden house or you go to the beach. Here I was stuck with just the heat, and not even a public pool where I could go and get sunbur, er, a sun tan.
What I have been able to do though, is start golfing again. I found a local driving range, conveniently attached to a local public golf course (That's the Bellevue Golf Course for those of you playing at home.). The first thing immediately noticeable to me is the grass! Hopefully you can see for yourself from the picture, but the grass is just amazing, and with the rainfall it's really no surprise. It certainly is a nice change from the hard and dry conditions you often find at home. The prices are pretty much on par (nyuk) with those at home and with sunset currently around 9pm the possible hours of play are great.
As per the usual method of attack I've been mercilessly clubbing balls on the driving range, with plans to head out for a round once I'm happy with my chances of playing something that resembles golf. I hadn't had a hit in about 9 months so was very pleasantly surprised to find that I was straight back into the reasonable form I had developed before I left Brisbane. Choppy and I would head out about once a week to the Victoria Park Driving Range to smash our way through a bucket. In that spirit, I've invited those who don't shun the game from their high perch to join me, and next weekend should see the start of a regular Sunday afternoon golfing event.
Thanks to Google Maps you can check out a satellite image of the course here.Top of page
: Thu, 26-May-2005 22:45 PDT
It was 36 hours late and a low quality feed, but I loved every single second of it! I am of course talking about one the first State of Origin, recently played at Lang Park in Brisbane.
I have been lamenting the fact that there were a few things I was going to have to miss, being so far from home. The State of Origin, a very location specific event if ever there was, was one of them. It wasn't until after the game that I realised I could have tuned in and listened to a radio stream of the game. Certainly not optimal but better than nothing, right? I now had a plan of attack for games 2 and 3.
As time passed after the game, my hopes of someone having being kind enough to have recorded and uploaded it were fading. I had sheltered myself from learning the outcome in the hope that I would get to watch it, unaffected by the Trans-Pacific delay. I finally decided that this was not to be, and headed off to read a breakdown of the game. Thanks to a very busy NRL homepage I happened across the Video link before the actual published result and thought that a highlight reel would at least get me all the point scoring, big hit and 'bring back the biff' action. Wasn't I in for a treat! I find not only a highlights reel available for viewing, but the game in it's entirety in an ad-free broadband stream! It seems that on occasion Telstra is due some praise, and this is definitely one of those occasions.
What a game it was! Sitting watching on my own in the middle of a hot Spring afternoon didn't quite have the same atmosphere as watching on a big screen over beers with your mates, but with such a sterling game this became of little consequence. It was a solid, brilliant, harrowing and ultimately victorious game of football, a really enjoyable watch. I'm only hoping that I will be able to watch the remaining two games in the same manner, and perhaps even the Grand Finals at the end of the season.Top of page
Year of the sequel? :
: Sat, 14-May-2005 01:25 PDT
Could this be the year the sequel rises like a Phoenix from the ashes of their failed predecessors and shines strongly and proudly? I hope so! Especially since it is the final chance for the once mighty Star Wars empire to do so. Revenge Of The Sith hits screens worldwide in a day or so, and maybe, just maybe this will be a sequel worthy of it's groundbreaking origins. The trailers are very promising, as are the bulk of the reviews posted so far. Find out, you will.
The other sequel that I'm awaiting with baited breath is Batman Begins, the latest installment in what has for the most part been one disappointment after another. I've always liked Christian Bale as an actor, and I think he's going to make a great Batman. The trailers look amazing, the story is worthy of telling, and that is what I call a Batmobile!
Oh yeah, and there's some wizard movie coming out towards the end of the year... ;) (Although IMO it doesn't have anything to atone for, hence it's inclusion as nothing more than a footnote.)Top of page
Lest We Forget :
: Wed, 27-Apr-2005 21:45 PDT
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
Given the number of expats over here I was surprised I couldn't find anything official on when ANZAC Day rolled around. Somewhat disappointing for me as I've always attended the city Dawn Service back home. Instead I had to make do with paying my personal respects from afar. Rach was actually over at Gallipoli so I'm quite interested to hear how that was. It's something on my list of things I must do.
I was however up for dawn the following morning, and as it was incredibly overcast sunrise wasn't even detectable, but then that's never been the point.Top of page
Scissor Sisters :
: Mon, 11 Apr 2005 17:44:00 PDT
It's not very often that I discover a new band that becomes an instant and complete favourite. Occasionally it may be a song or two, but to progress from that level to anything-by-the-band is rare. Scissor sisters is one of those bands. Their name, mannerisms and most importantly their music are all outstanding. I can't stop listening. They have a similar feel to another favourite band of mine, Machine Gun Fellatio. Their first album is self titled and well worth many a listen. They have music videos on their official website if you're so inclined.
They're originally from New York, and while they're currently touring in the UK I'm hoping they'll come to the West Coast. A concert would be excellent, especially if it included their fabulous cover of Franz Ferdinand's Take Me Out, which sadly is not on their album. they also do a marvellous bee-gee-esque cover of Pink Floyd's Comfortably Numb.
Song samples (and music videos as previously mentioned) are available for the curious at http://scissorsisters.com . Google for the Take Me Out cover.Top of page
Dam. That's a big canyon. :
: Fri, 08-Apr-2005 01:12 PDT
That pretty much sums up day two in Vegas. Except for the driving. So much driving. We ventured out early, our targets for the day the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon is a round trip of some 500 odd miles (~800km) from Vegas, so it was going to be quite a day of driving. We were certainly treated to the perfect sightseeing day, blue skies all the way. It didn't take long to hit Boulder, where we stopped briefly to snap Lake Mead before heading on to Hoover Dam. Something I had forgotten was that the freeway passes over the dam wall, and in a post 9/11 world, that means you have to pass through a police road block. We passed through unheeded, parked and signed ourself up for the tour.
There are a lot of facts and figures I could sprout about this engineering marvel, but I'm too lazy, and besides you can just visit http://www.usbr.gov/lc/hooverdam/ and see the official site for yourself. It's well worth the visit, as you can see a timeline covering the dams construction, plus plenty of photos and all those interesting numbers that come from an undertaking so mammoth in size. If you ever visit in person, the tour is well worth the time and minimal entry fee. You get a narrated presentation covering the history of the dam and then it's into an ear-popping express elevator that drops you from the top of the dam wall down to the very bottom, where the hydroelectric turbines are housed. Then it's back up and outside for a look over the edge and down to the river below. We had a quick wander around upon completion of the tour before rejoining the freeway traffic to slowly crawl our way across the dam wall. Apparently a bypass is planned, complete with 75' wall to shield against lolly gaggers.
Drive, drive, drive, drive, drive...
The next few hours were uneventful, and in our race against the setting sun we very nearly missed the bright orange 'your car is running out of fuel' light. Service stations are rather sparse out in the middle of Arizona, but we took a gamble (one of the few that paid off for the trip) and found petrol just before the canyon itself. With dusk rapidly approaching we headed straight for the nearest lookout.
Firstly, Wow! The Grand Canyon is aptly named. I had visited here on a previous US trip, but I don't think you could ever not be in awe of something so unique. Secondly, cold! The canyon is a couple of thousand feet higher than Las Vegas and where we had left a warm desert city we arrived at a literally freezing snow bound canyon, for which we were ill prepared. This lead to some comical trips between the warmth of the car and the frigid lookout. After enough trips we had managed to steady our hands long enough to get some photos.
We took a quick walk down to the visitors centre, which unfortunately had already closed. Most of the information is displayed on boards outside and after a very brisk read we headed back towards the carpark. What a treat! A group of Elk had wandered out to feed right next to the path. They didn't seem concerned by our presence at all and we managed to get some very good photos. By the time we were done it was right on sunset and we managed to get a few more good shots of the canyon.
Then it was back into the car to begin the long dark drive back. Thanks to Chopper's sharp eyes (I'm sure some of you appreciate the irony behind this) we made a quick stop so I could photograph a rather 'bullish' Kombi. Once we got going we made some _very_ good time. It seems speed limits are somewhat advisory, as there were trucks making better time than us. Traffic over the dam wasn't much better on the return trip, but we were still back in Vegas in time for a rack of ribs before heading out for another night of neon lit exploration.
These tales will follow in a future entry. Photos of the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon can be found on pages 3 thru 5 in the http://alexhand.com/Vegas/ set. Be sure to check out the panoramic shots at the very end of the series.Top of page
MSTT presents The Mousetrap :
: Thu, 07-Apr-2005 15:35 PDT
It's opening night of the Microsoft Theater Troupe's Spring production of Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap. Last nights full dress rehearsal went well, not without a few hiccups, but certainly nothing show stopping.
The set has turned out splendidly. I assisted with the construction, and have resumed my previous role behind the scenes. My hand also has a brief cameo appearance as the murderers hand (somewhat fitting eh?).
I had seen the original play when we were in London in 1990 (where it is still playing, the longest running play in the world) so I already knew 'who dunnit'. It was...
http://mstheater.org for details and tickets.Top of page
A Robert Rodriguez Digital Film :
: Tue, 05-Apr-2005 16:13 PDT
WOW! I am, of course, talking about Sin City, the comic book adaptation by Robert Rodriguez and the comic books creator, Frank Miller. While I haven't yet read the comic books (something I plan to remedy very soon), apparently the movie is very true to it's original material. That material is simply eye opening. The comic book art is brilliant, and Rodriguez is equally as brilliant in bringing it to life. It's a gritty, violent movie, filled with many great characters and memorable quotes. Far too many to make mention of here. I can only recommend seeing the movie for yourself, as soon as possible. Then see it again, something I hope to do this week.Top of page
April Snow :
: Mon, 04-Apr-2005 13:06 PDT
Spring arrived, and with it came... Snow! Not just snow, but lots of it. So much so that the Summit opened some of its runs the past weekend. Having not had a season there was no way I was going to miss this opportunity. Everyone else had this 'work' thing they muttered about, so I went up on my own. It was fabulous!
I was expecting a crowd, and was pleasantly surprised to find only a sparse number of equally excited people there. The snow was wonderfully soft, making for some excellent boarding. the reduced crowds meant there was no waiting for lifts and I managed to get a lot of runs in. It snowed for most of the day, quite heavily at times, and was all very conducive to a great day.
What's better than one day of snowboarding? Two! Upon my return I was quite happy to share my tales. Ilana was easily convinced, and with a little persuasion Yams decided to join us and christen his new snowboard.
Further snow overnight promised another excellent day of snowboarding. We started with a hearty breakfast at the Pancake House. Being the weekend there were more people, but still no crowds. The weather was slightly warmer and fine, but the snowboarding was still excellent. I've been gradually improving, as comes with practice, and joined Ilana and Yams on a blue run for the afternoon. We left just early enough to beat the closing exodus and stopped for Fatburger and Krispy Kreme on the way home.
All in all a wonderful couple of days, and with the promise of more snow, the Summit plans to remain open for at least one more weekend. I'm looking forward to hitting the slopes again.Top of page