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God Has a Sense of Humour
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Freaky Basketball shot to get into 2nd Overtime
Thursday, 1st February, 2007 Posted by Beren @ 08:54:26
As someone who plays (very poorly) on a basketball team on a weekly basis, I must say this shot is pretty nuts.

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Babel
Wednesday, 31st January, 2007 Posted by Beren @ 23:11:01

Last night a mate and I went to see the movie Babel. I really didn’t know what to expect from this movie, having friends saying that it was both really good, and that it was waste of space. I found that I quite liked the film, although found that it really is something you probably have to be in the right mood for. The movie which it is most similar to for comparison is Crash (by Paul Haggis). That said, where Crash was a commentary on racial and social issues within L.A, Babel is not so focused on a single area, or even a single set of issues. So while some of the performances perhaps aren’t as strong as those in Crash, the movie has a lot more depth to it.

Babel (in a spliced up story line) looks at 4 different sets of people around the world, although they are all linked which we learn as the movie progresses. There is an American couple (Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett) on holiday in Morocco. The children of the characters played by Brad and Cate, along with their Mexican nanny and family back in L.A and in Mexico. A Moroccan family who have a goat farm. And a Japanese girl (deaf mute), along with her friends and father living in Tokyo. The 4 stories are interweaved in the film, although they actually take place in a somewhat linear fashion one with only minor overlapping as the events in the movie unfold.

The movie portrays the shock and brutal effect of violence (even in this case of it being largely accidental) on people. The confusion sexually of several young people and in the instance of the Japanese girl the effects of peer pressure in that issue, and also that of Drugs and Alcohol. Several characters in the movie often do the most stupid thing they could possibly do in the world in a given situation, and one see’s the effects of these. Sometimes these actions are the result of a misunderstanding across the language barrier, or based off a perceived (or real) racial bias from another person. Generally as all these different interactions occur, and the characters struggle with their various issues in their situations, the movie has a very real and organic feel to it. Nothing is all that outlandish or unbelievable. This is a great asset to the film.

My one kinda nark with the movie is generally in its message. In one sense the message of the movie is that stuff happens in life, you can’t control it, and you have to go with the punches. Sometimes things turn out okay, sometimes not, but often there is a lot of pain and heartache along the way. The movie really does leave you with a sense of “what is there to hope for in this life other then pain?” Now as a Christian I know a good answer to that question. But the movie obviously doesn’t present that, so you are left with a general feeling of melancholy. That in itself doesn’t make it a bad movie in my opinion, but it does mean that to watch it one needs to be in the right mood. It certainly provokes thoughts along the way.
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Deja Vu
Saturday, 27th January, 2007 Posted by Beren @ 19:33:00


Well it’s been 5 days since I saw Déjà vu; and it’s basically taken that long to decide on what to actually say about this film. The film, in my opinion is not that great, but it’s also not that bad either. If you find yourself about to watch it by no means run away from it, as you will be entertained. But at the same time don’t expect a movie with a great message to take home, or a time good travel movie. The movie really delivers neither. Its message is mixed, to the point of probably not really having one, beyond a general discussion about fate or free will. But the result from this is unclear really, and the time travel parts of the movie which put these topics into practice have more holes then a colander.

The movie isn’t without merit beyond the fact it is entertaining to a decent level. The movie does poke fun at itself (and its genre) at several points. I think that some of the action/car chase sequences really do go so far past what would occur in reality (even with added sci-fi gadgets) that the director must have just decided “stuff it, let’s just make fun of this”. Which I really have no complaint about; those moments were highlights for sure. Denzel does a great acting job, and some of the camera work is fantastic. Tony Scott, as always, has produced a very nice looking film, with stunning effects.

One comment I will say from the Christian perspective, or perhaps at least commentary upon Christian perspectives, is that if you look around at some Christian review sites (which is probably more aptly titled “Christian review sites that have a political bias”) that have looked at this movie they totally over analyze parts of this film. They are harsh on the fact the bomber is a former service men, and the race of several “good guys” vs “bad guys”. Trying to imply that in the movie African Americans are the goodies and Caucasian and Jewish people are the baddies. To me this really isn’t evident in the film, and really is looking for a problem where one doesn’t exist. To me it only shows off a cultural and racial bias within the reviewers. So if you read such things on this film I would suggest you take it with a large cup of salt, and possibly pay close attention to other such comments they make in other films.
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Double Helix Found thanks to LSD
Wednesday, 24th January, 2007 Posted by Beren @ 21:47:14
Well you learn something new everyday, and this was today's little tid-bit which I learned. Could be interesting for a triva night sometime.
FRANCIS CRICK, the Nobel Prize-winning father of modern genetics, was under the influence of LSD when he first deduced thedouble-helix structure of DNA nearly 50 years ago.

The abrasive and unorthodox Crick and his brilliant American co-researcher James Watson famously celebrated their eureka moment in March 1953 by running from the now legendary Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge to the nearby Eagle pub, where they announced over pints of bitter that they had discovered the secret of life.

Crick, who died ten days ago, aged 88, later told a fellow scientist that he often used small doses of LSD then an experimental drug used in psychotherapy to boost his powers of thought. He said it was LSD, not the Eagle's warm beer, that helped him to unravel the structure of DNA, the discovery that won him the Nobel Prize.

Source
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Apocalypto
Wednesday, 17th January, 2007 Posted by Beren @ 22:13:47


Last night I went to see Mel Gibson’s latest directorial outing in Apocalypto. Now while I am more then happy to see people trying ideas and pushing the boundaries to avoid trolling out the same junk all the time, this movie was simply disappointing. It tried to side step the predictable average plots with boring characters trap by being so different. Being a period piece in a language that doesn’t exist anymore, involving a very interesting race of people, but basically wound up being disappointing.

While the movie is visually appealing, and some of the characters are interesting, the story line is simply not too believable (such a big city being all of 2 days away and these great hunters didn’t know it was there??). It turns into a predict-fest for the later half of the movie.

The movie basically does a lot of things pretty well. The Cinematography was above par (even the sometimes humorous camera placements); the actors were all pretty good. The make up and sets all looked great. What special effects that were present were seamless. It’s such a shame with all these ducks in a row that the writing of the main story was the thing that was lacking and really spoiled the movie.

Braveheart was an amazing movie. Passion of the Christ was pretty good (I understand its some people’s cup of tea and not others). Hopefully if he tries another period piece he will go back to the quality of his former works.

From the Christian perspective there is an interesting religious divide in the movie between the tribe and the Aztec people who capture them. The Hunter tribe isn’t too focused on deities, possibly just a single one, or perhaps more pantheistic, I would need to watch again to catch all of it. But what they do believe is that all men do wrong, and that it ruins their world around them. That there is nothing in the world they can get to satisfy their desire. That there is a hole in their heart that nothing in this world can fill. The phrasing I am sure Augustine would have approved of. So in turn they look after the world around them, and while there is a leader figure, they are generally all equals.

On the flip side, the people from the City (Aztec’s) try to subdue the gods with human sacrifice, and appear to be very materialistic and have a very strong class structure. Massive temples, jewellery, slaves all abound. Virtually the direct opposite of the hunter tribe. If there is any intended message in the movie it probably relates to this comparison, and also back to the discussions about man’s place in the world, both in relation to each other and to the world itself.
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Japanese Extreme Sports TV show
Monday, 15th January, 2007 Posted by Beren @ 10:59:33
I wish Australia had shows like this.. its amazing. Puts that gladiator rubbish from the 90s to shame.

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Up to 40 Years in Prison for Popups
Friday, 12th January, 2007 Posted by Beren @ 09:34:34
The following news item it appears to me to be one of the stupidest miscarriages of justice in quite a while. A teacher showing members of her class things on the internet gets stuck in a loop of pornographic popups. Result: Police get brought in, she gets put on trial and is found guilty of "four counts of risk of injury to a minor, or impairing the morals of a child".

Oct. 19, 2004, while substituting for a seventh-grade language class at Kelly Middle School, Amero claimed she could not control the graphic images appearing in an endless cycle on her computer.

"The pop-ups never went away," Amero testified. "They were continuous."

The Web sites, which police proved were accessed while Amero was in the classroom, were seen by as many as 10 minor students. Several of the students testified during the three-day trial in Norwich Superior Court to seeing images of naked men and women.

Computer expert W. Herbert Horner, testifying in Amero's defense, said he found spyware on the computer and an innocent hair styling Web site "that led to this pornographic loop that was out of control."

"If you try to get out of it, you're trapped," Horner said.

In looking around at other sites one finds that the security expert who examined the computer wasn't allowed to fully testify. His examination it has been reported showed that there was a lot of spyware on the PC. Further the schools content filtering software's licence had expired. The investigating detective admitted on the stand that no search was made on the computer for malicious software during his investigation.

Now I am all for protecting children from pornography and other content on the internet that is not suitable for them. But just because they are children doesn't mean that the teacher (in this case a substitute teacher) has no rights at all. Because looking at what one can read about this trial, Amero is getting anything but a fair trial. The possibility of 40 years in prison for popups is ridiculous.
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Blood Diamond
Wednesday, 10th January, 2007 Posted by Beren @ 18:24:03



Last night I managed to pull myself away from the cricket on the TV to go to the movies and catch Blood Diamond. Now going into this movie I had heard some mixed things. So, beyond the obvious political message to be presented in the movie, I did not really know what to expect. In many ways this is the best state of mind to go into a movie. If the movie is very good, then you aren’t disappointed; but if it is good, you really enjoy it for all its worth. Blood Diamond falls into the second category for me. It was a really good movie.

Now for those of you who remember the Constant Gardner last year, it was another "African" movie that held a political message. And while Rachel Weisz (as always) was good, and overall it was only just better then par. Blood Diamond on the other hand waves at par as it flies right past it. The movie delivers its simple message about the effect of the diamond trade on several African nations, and the lives of the millions of people that live within them, quite powerfully. It highlights the usage of child soldiers within such conflicts, and the effect that that has on the families of the children.

Now the message of the film aside, the movie itself is very well done. The one complaint people might have is that it is rather long (considering the simple message). But it is well paced throughout. And on looking over the film, there is nothing that really feels like it could or should be cut. The characters are quite rich, and really do add to the depth of the movie, without being too much of a distraction from the core message.

Leonardo DiCaprio does a great job, and despite complaints in some other reviews I thought it was pretty good. It was certainly consistent throughout. To follow up the movie Departed with this really shows what talented actor he has become. Although, while I think he deserves an award come that time, having two such good performances might just result in simply splitting the votes, and then missing out altogether. Jennifer Connelly also did a great job, although not a great deal worth of comments about her spring to mind. Djimon Hounsou also did an amazing job during the movie. And was truly a very likable character really was great to watch up on the screen. He was great in Gladiator; hopefully we will see more of him after such a major role in this movie (I know he has been in other stuff since then, but not a great deal I liked or even saw).

From a Christian perspective there are two things really. One, the message of the movie should be one that Christians pay attention to. As Christians it is our duty to speak up as much as possible when we hear of such atrocities that happen around the world. Those of us in nice rich western countries need to pay attention, and when things like this happen we need to speak up to our political leaders to try and get things done. We need to be socially aware not only of on goings in our own countries, but globally.

The second thing is that this movie is very powerful in the images it presents. It is really not a movie for children, or those who are sensitive. There is imagery of children being beaten, and having limbs cut off and being forced to kill people. Rape is spoken about numerous times. Some characters swear also. But this really is the point. This is what has gone on and does go on. To try and make a movie without all of these things would be to hide the truth. If you don’t like these images, then I would imagine the reality of it you would also not like. All the more reason to take the message of the movie on board.
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Wasp turns Coachroach into a drone
Friday, 5th January, 2007 Posted by Beren @ 09:42:12
Another amazing story from the insect world. The creation we live in never ceases to amaze.
The wasp slips her stinger through the roach's exoskeleton and directly into its brain. She apparently use ssensors along the sides of the stinger to guide it through the brain, a bit like a surgeon snaking his way to an appendix with a laparoscope. She continues to probe the roach's brain until she reaches one particular spot that appears to control the escape reflex. She injects a second venom that influences these neurons in such a way that the escape reflex disappears.

From the outside, the effect is surreal. The wasp does not paralyze the cockroach. In fact, the roach is able to lift up its front legs again and walk. But now it cannot move of its own accord. The wasp takes hold of one of the roach's antennae and leads it--in the words of Israeli scientists who study Ampulex--like a dog on a leash.

The zombie roach crawls where its master leads, which turns out to be the wasp's burrow.

Source
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Praying Mantis Eats Humming Bird
Thursday, 4th January, 2007 Posted by Beren @ 00:06:58
Creation certainly is full of surprises.



The other day while I was working in the yard my son urgently called to me. "Dad, a praying mantis caught a hummingbird!"

Not sure what to expect, but knowing my son is not one to make things up, I came running to see for myself. By the time I arrived it was too late for the poor hummer and my scientifically minded son had already begun taking pictures and studying the scene.

As you can see from the photographs this hungry mantis captured and killed a hummingbird not much smaller than itself. The mantis used its spiny left foreleg to impale the hummingbird through the chest while leaving his right leg free.

We surmised that the mantis ran the hummer through and dangled its full weight on its foreleg while he consumed the flesh of the hummingbird from the abdomen. After he had his fill, the mantis gave his foreleg several swift jerks and freed his leg.

This was an unfortunate experience for the hummer, but we are amazed to realize how fast, precise, and powerful the mantis must be to accomplish such a feat!

Source
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Indiana Jones 4
Wednesday, 3rd January, 2007 Posted by Beren @ 16:39:36
Well after several attempts at getting a script that the 3 of them can agree on, it looks like Indy is now set for another movie. I for one can't wait.
Nineteen years after chasing down the Holy Grail in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," Harrison Ford will return to the big screen in the character of the globe-trotting archeologist in May 2008.

Producer George Lucas and director Steven Spielberg confirmed details of the project Monday after Lucas tipped off the media to Indiana Jones' imminent return as he prepared to serve as grand marshal of the Rose Parade in Pasadena.

After years spent in script development, a fourth installment of the famously successful franchise is set to begin production in June in locations around the world and in the U.S.

More here

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The Holiday
Wednesday, 3rd January, 2007 Posted by Beren @ 16:36:03


Just a quickie review for this one. Caught it last night while out with the wife (our 1st Anniversary) and some newly wed friends of ours. Going into this movie I was really not expecting a great deal. I am not a big fan of American romantic comedy type movies. I much prefer their british counterpart. Further, I am still a bit dirty on Jude Law from the trash that was the movie Closer. Kate Winslet hasn't done anything I have enjoyed in near on a decade. Jack Black while funny in his normal type of movies, I couldn't see what he would really do here. And Cameron Diaz has never done a great deal for me.

But the movie was great. It is probably the best romantic comedy movie out of the U.S in years. The characters were all really well written and developed through the movie. The script was very character driven, resulting an a very enjoyable, although longish movie.

The four loading actors all did a great job, only to then be eclipsed by the supporting actor Eli Wallach in the role of Arthur Abbott. Behind Wallach, Jude Law and Kate Winslet were both fantastic, and have probably both regained my respect. Diaz and Black were also very good. Diaz funnier then her normal roles, and Black smarter then his normal roles. Both quite watchable.

So all in all a quite good movie. From the Christian perspective the only real issue the extramarital sex which is depicted within the story (although not shown, no nudity etc in the film). However, the message of the movie, if indeed there truly is one to be found, is that the relationships that several of the characters are in at the start of the movie (affairs) are extremely unhealthy, and definitely not fulfilling. And that as the story progresses they find the opposite within a monogamous relationship with someone who is likewise committed to them.
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American Dreamz
Monday, 1st January, 2007 Posted by Beren @ 04:54:59


Find it here on Amazon

Today was a great day. After waking rather late, I played cricket with friends for a few hours, came home had dinner with the wife. Had a nap on my beanbag for an hour and a half, and then threw on the American Dreamz DVD. And it really fitted with the day very well: quite light and relaxed, some good moments of humour and generally not really requiring a great deal of brain activity. A great start to the new year.

Now before I delve into my thoughts more on the movie, I will just a brief comment for context on this review. I am not a fan in the least of the Idol series (which is satired in the film) and I really enjoy satirical works. I am also a Hugh Grant fan. So I am probably the ideal audience for the film.

The movie itself is obviously no master piece. But it really isn't aiming for that. It is aiming more towards the amusing comedy which is taking the micky out of the entertainment industry, while also getting political taking aim at the Bush Administration. With such large targets to aim at the film obviously delivers plenty of humour throughout, but it does fall short having me in stitches. My favourite moments involve the events and characters surrounding Omar (the failed terrorist who is sent to live in America with relatives), and Dennis Quaid who plays President Joseph Staton (*cough*Stalin-joke-here*cough*).

While I am glad I didn't pay to see this in the cinema, I am happy to have it in my DVD collection and will watch it again. If you rent it on a rainy day you won't be disappointed. Generally, I think we need a lot more films like this which really highlight the obviously hollowness of the entertainment industry, and the falibility of our political leaders. A lot of people are about as socially aware as a door knob on the impact of the entertainment industry on peoples everyday lives. And while this film is a virtual tongue in cheek kind of self examination, I certainly can't see any harm in getting more of this. In terms of the political aspects, I likewise can't see any harm in more films on this topic. Although, it might be of more use to not attack the current president as such, but the process as a whole. While I am no huge love or hate for GWB, I don't think he is that much of a problem. In my opinion the electoral process and party system that needs reform.

From a Christian point of view there really isn't a great deal worth mentioning. There are obviously a few veiled quips in terms of GWB's faith. And while I could see some Christians blowing it out of proportion I don't see any value in that. If you are in the political Arena, and you state that you are a Christian (or of any other faith) you are bound to draw attention on such matters, especially if you say or do something which appears contrary to that.
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Game: Tower Defence
Saturday, 30th December, 2006 Posted by Beren @ 21:11:10
Oh how the simple things in life bring such amusement.



I just lost a few hours to this thing: Tower Defence. My best is 81.
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Lone Wolf and Cub: The Assassin's Road
Saturday, 30th December, 2006 Posted by Beren @ 20:48:26
A book by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima


Find it here on Amazon

Now for this to be the first book I will review on GHASOF is a little odd. I Have only recently really got into graphic novels, and have never really liked much I had seen over the years in the Japanese variety of these. But as the case has it, I was lent the first two books in this series, and finished this one (the first in the series of 30 odd volumes) last night.

So keep that in mind as you read my short comments here that this is not the kind of book I normally enjoy. So if this is up your ally you can probably add a few extra cool points to it then what I would rate it.

Now I thought the book was actually pretty good. I was not really expecting to enjoy the book a great deal, but I was pleasantly surprised. The story itself really does lack a lot on the depth side of things, but from what I can gather, this is merely setting the scene for the next 25+ volumes.

The story follows a Ronin (Lone wolf) and his son (Cub) as they wonder across a somewhat segmented middle ages Japan. As he wanders he deals out a kind of rogue justice to those he meets. Although this usually comes at a high cost, but at various times he does stick up for the oppressed who can't afford his talents.

The artwork, which while only in black and white, was really quite good. I certainly enjoyed it far more then the (coloured) artwork present in Frank Millers "Ronin" which I also recently read.

So while I was not crazily impressed by the story, I am going to read the second volume. If it contains a storyline with more depth (compared to what kinda amounts to 9 fight scenes, each with a small lead in story) it may well be a series I then follow for a while. So it is a book I recommend to anyone who is after something a little bit different from their normal fare. It certainly isn't "too Japanesey" like one feels with a lot of manga.

In terms of Christian/non-Christian content there is really not that much overall substance to the work, which I believe is then rectified in the subsequent volumes. There is obliviously frequent violence being a book about a Ronin, but its somewhat muted, and doesn't really have anything considered as gore. a Now while there is a few swear words (although some of those felt rather odd, and were possible due to poor translation), a few moments of nudity, there was nothing terribly obscene. Likewise there was an occasional reference to spiritual things, but it was only cursory, and is something to probably watch for in the other volumes.
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