Monday, December 27, 2004

Christmas Party at Dave and Thuy's

Photos from the Xmas party. Much Alcohol was consumed, Lord of the Rings Risk Played and much fun all around. Below: Yui gets a special present from Santa.


From Xmas 2004

Monday, December 20, 2004

Albums

Inspired by xtn's list of most influential albums, I thought I mite do a list too. Favourite / influential / whatever, in no particular order.

Radiohead - OK Computer
Sure, so this one is at the top of everyone's list, but that's because it SHOULD be. Radiohead were always headed towards greatness, from the early 90's grunge of Pablo Honey to the darker follow up - The Bends. OK Computer is the masterpiece of a band at the height of their powers, and it's shadow still looms large over anything Radiohead does.

Bjork - Debut
Bork proved that originality and mainstream success aren't mutually exclusive. Just very rare. Bjork has gone on to produce an amazing body of work, but it all started here. She makes me violently happy.

Sigur Ros - Agaetis Byrjun
Vast, ethereally beautiful soundscapes but always human, Agaetis Byrjun is like taking a mental vacation to another planet. Or least to Iceland.

At The Drive-In - Relationship Of Command
The only album the band released before breaking up. This is real hard rock, with incredible passion and social conscience. This is music that makes you want to make a difference in the world.

The Cat Empire - The Cat Empire
Remember when music was just plain FUN? Well, this is where you can live that again. Simply the most catchy and uplifting record I've heard in ages! I listened to this least every other day while in Europe. A great piece of Australia to take wherever you go.

Bob Dylan - The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan
The defining moment in the career of possibly the most influential artist of modern times. This is Dylan at his most poetic, reflective and whimsical.

Nirvana - Nevermind
This album WAS the grunge revolution. I can still remember the first time I heard Smells Like Teen Spirit on rage. It changed everything. I stopped listening to pop and converted to grunge.

Loreena McKennitt - Elemental
The fusion of Celtic folk songs from around the world mixed with the works of poets like Shakespeare and Alfred Noyes creates an atmosphere you won't hear anywhere else. Her talent at arranging and musicianship is only surpassed by her voice.

The Avalanches - Since I Left You
This was the album that convinced me that sampling is an artform and music in it's own right. This beautifully mixed, flowing CD is made up completely from an insane number of samples, all working together flawlessly. The perfect album for a summer day.

Philip Glass - Koyaanisqatsi
The soundtrack to Godfrey Reggio's film of the same name, this was my introduction to the work of Philip Glass. Along with Brian Eno, Glass continues to bend, strech and break the boundaries of music composition and structure. This is possibly his greatest effort (the film would be in my 'most influential films' list too).

So there it is... I had to work hard to cull it down to ten. I left out many favourites, who I will mention : Zbigniew Preisner, Tool, Sarah Mclachlan, Pearl Jam, Hilltop Hoods, george, David Bowie, The Beatles, Tori Amos, Aphex Twin, Paul Kelly, Mercury Rev... I can keep going, but I'll stop there for now.

Carnivale

Saw the first episode of Carnivale last night.. What an amazingly brilliant show!It's everything I've been told, and more. It certainly has the feeling of Lynch's Twin Peakes and Shaun Cassidy's American Gothic (and also John Ford's version of Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath, according to amazon.com).

The show is worth watching just for it's production design and cinematography. Every scene has a mystical quality, the light is filtered and yellow-brown. Interiors are dark and shadows fill the corners... the Oklahoma dust is everywhere. The constant reminder of the super-natural is everywhere, though hard to pin down exactly.

Carnivale looks to be heading towards being truly great television, adding another trophy to HBO's already crowded mantlepiece.

Thursday, December 9, 2004

Mail Stats

I love my Procmail logs. Says many things, like

Total Mail for November 2004 : 4636
Mail from emailathon : 3155
Spam sent to /dev/null : 1324
Spam to manually check : 68

Emailathon was averaging 100+ messages a day, add about 10/day from me and that's a lot of hot air.

Monday, December 6, 2004

Australia's Favourite Book

Not too hard to guess if you've been following these lists forthe last few years, but it was Lord of the Rings, followed by Pride and Prejudice and The Bible.

Interesting to see that Harry Potter and Da Vinci Code made itto the top 10, but I think these are just anomalies. I seriouslydoubt that anyone will remember Harry Potter or Da Vinci Codein 20 years time. Compare that with 50 years for books likeLord of the Rings and 1984, 200 years for Pride and Prejudice.

Also of note, the first Dickens is at 48.

The top 100 is here.

I see that Magician by Feist and Dune by Herbert scored prettyhighly. My reading list just grew by about 50 books. :)

Saturday, December 4, 2004

Tee Vee Goodness

When Buffy ended, and then Firefly, Wonderfalls and Angel got cancelled, I thought that the TV scape was going to be pretty dull. Well, except for HBO. But apparently not.. a new bunch of shows have appeared on the wasteland of current TV programming. I wouldn't rate any of them in the same class as Firefly and Wonderfalls, but hey, you gotta start somewhere.

The first surprise was Lost. This show is really growing on me. The characters are great, and the X-filesesque mixture of reality / paranormal is brilliant. The latest episode, centered around Clare was a great exploration of the mythology, and was totally creepy. I was freaked out.

The biggest surprise for me was the new BattleStar Galactica series. I thought the miniseries was good without being brilliant, but the series is just beyond compare. Definately the best Sci-Fi since Farscape (not that there has been much since). The atmosphere of the desperate stuggle in BG reminds me a lot of Glen Morgan and James Wong's short lived masterpiece Space: Above and Beyond. BTW - I've never seen the original BG.

Add to that Veronica Mars (very good and getting better, plus Kristen Bell - HOT!), trusty Gilmore Girls, Scrubs and post-election frivolity from The Daily Show, things are looking quite good.

No, I'm not a TV junky at all.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Carnivale

Woohoo!!! The ABC is going to be showing Carnivale in December. I've really been looking forward to this since hearing about it a few months ago.

Carnivale was described to me as a American Gothic set in the 1930s, done by David Lynch! Which is pretty much my version of TV heaven outside of anything by Joss Whedon.

This is just more proof that the only place for high quality scripted TV is on premimum cable like HBO... After watching a Seinfeld "making of" docco, this is even more evident. There is NO WAY that a network will air (or even pilot) "a show about nothing" today.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Leaning To The Right

Anyone else finding their political leaningschanging as you get older? I've always been interested in why people changetheir ideology as they get older, now thatit's happening to me, I'm still not surewhy...

I was watching a discussion on Insight(SBS Tuesdays 7:30) about the level of debt inAustralia.

Five years ago I would be right there in thecamp of people saying that credit companiesand banks are bleeding people dry. Now I find myself with the other camp that saysthat people should take personal responsibilityfor their actions. I find myself saying "you got what you deserve"more and more...

So, what's causing this? Is cynicism unavoidable?Am I reading too much Ayn Rand?

Monday, November 22, 2004

Aussie Air

No, not air like in the stuff we breathe, but Air, as in the French electronica outfit.

There have been many Australian artists popping up in the image of Air - laid back, atmospheric elctronica. Decoder Ring made a splash with their soundtrack to the film Somersault a few months ago... I remember seeing them supporting george a couple of years ago... they were the first support act, and the audience was louder than they were! Maybe not the best live act at a rock concert, but they are simply sublime when it comes to a quiet night in at home.

Other groups I've been listening to are Architecture In Helsinki and Art of Fighting - who have released an absolutely brilliant album - Second Story.

In the realm of decidedly non Air-like music, I've been really getting into the compilation by Jordy Kilby - Blues, Roots and Beyond. Particularly love the songs by Abbie Cardwell (Aus), Joss Stone (UK), Jodi Martin (Aus) and Jim Moray (UK).

It's heartening to know that we have such a depth of talent, even though the attention of the public is tied to an imbecilic karaoke contest.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Dylan - Chronicles Volume I

Finished reading Bob Dylan's autobiography - Chronicles - Volume 1. It's an interesting read, though certainly not a "reveal all" account of his life.. which is completely in character for Dylan. I thouroughly enjoyed the first third or so of the book which explored his early days in New York - the people he associated with, his influences and the atmosphere of Greenwich Village in the early 60s. I particularly liked the style he wrote it in, which was very poetic and reminded me of his songs from that time.

The book then skips a decade, when Dylan is a married man and being harried by a public wanting him to be "the voice of the generation" - which he definately didn't want to be. It gives a small insight into the fugative life he had to lead in those times, and the extent he went to (recording lots of intentionally bad albums) to get people off his back. The latter part of the book covers his artistic recovery after years of stagnation (which he is remarkably frank about). However, the second part of the book didn't appeal to me too much.. it's mostly since I knew a bit more about that time, and also because of the conversational style it's written in...

Dylan hardly mentions any of the events or songs he wrote which literally changed the face of music, and you get a distinct sense that he doesn't like hyperbole like what I've just said.. :) Of course, it's not like there hasn't been libraries worth of books written on the great Dylan songs, though I'd like to have heard more from the man himself.

In the end, the book is a satisfying read, though I'd only recommend it to other Dylan fans and fans of 60s folk music in genreal (the book is worth it just for the few pages on Dylan's relationship with Woody Guthrie). Hopefully we will hear more about Dylan's story, as the title hints at more to come... or it could just be Dylan playing with his audience...

Monday, November 15, 2004

The "Abortion Debate"

I'm getting quite pissed off about this whole abortion issuein politics. Besides the conservative right highjacking the politicalagenda for their moral crusades, I have a problem with a bunch of(mostly) old men pontificating about what is right and wrong.

Least it's provided a clear indication of the type of arch conservatives Howards policies have attracted to the Liberal Party.

Friday, November 12, 2004

The Glass House

Just finished watching this week's episode of The Glass House. It was a bloodu funny episode. The Glass House can sometimes be a pretty hit and miss affair, but tonight's guests Molly Meldrum and Andrew Denton just hit it off perfectly. Many hat gags on Molly's behalf, and lots of funny stories about Elton John.

I just wish they would give it a more stable timeslot. Oh, and the ABC have an RSS feed of their program guide. Cool.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

The River

I've been listening to Missy Higgins' album "The Sound of White" (great song, not too flash a title for an album). It's really grown on me over the last few weeks, and I'd say I'll rate it as the best Australian album of the year.

Favourite song off the album is definately "The River", which sounds pretty innocent, but is a pretty dark tale. I absolutely love the narrative, and the imagery is just hauntingly beautiful. I wonder how much of the song is by Missy, and how much by producer Clif Magness, who shares a writing credit. Magness is one of those all-star producers record companies haul in... so I'm wary. I definately think that a lot of the songs are over produced, so looking forward to seeing Missy live.. Haven't seen her since she did support for The Waifs.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Guthrie, Dylan, Bragg and Wilco

I've been reading more of Bob Dylan's autobiography of late, and came across a section where he writes about going to see Woody Guthrie while he was at the Greystone Psychiatric Hospital and playing songs for him. He mentions how Woody told him about a bunch of unpublished lyrics, but Dylan didn't end up getting them... Anyways, then he says:

Forty years later, these lyrics would fall into the hands of Billy Bragg and the group Wilco and they would put melodies to them, bring them to full life and record them... These performers probably weren't even born when I made that trip out to Brooklyn.

Funny enough, it just happens that I purchased a copy of that album and had it on my iPod. So I've been listening to Woody's lyrics all day today... I never knew about the connection between Guthrie and Dylan, but guess the folk scene in New York in the 60s was pretty close...

Saturday, November 6, 2004

Veronica Mars

After the near unanimous recommendation of fellow Whedon fans I decided to give the new UPN show Veronica Mars a go.... and I liked it. A lot.

I can see why people are comparing it to Buffy, though I think that it's a bit early to make such a big call.. but I definately like the writing (very Whedonesque dialogue at times) and Kristen Bell as Veronica.. I def agree that there are some holes in the plot, but they are easy to look over. Lets hope this doesn't end up being another Wonderfalls

Thursday, November 4, 2004

Reading

This is a list of books I'm reading, waiting to read, and have read recently... It will move to the top of the list whenever I update it.. I'd also like people to provide feedback and make suggestions on other titles I might try.

Currently Reading

Waiting to Read

  • John Shaw - Nature Photography Field Guide
  • Stephen Erikson - Malazan Book of the Fallen (series)
  • George R. R. Martin - A Song of Ice and Fire (series)
  • Gollancz SF Masterworks
  • Brian Greene - The Elegant Universe
  • Lee Smolin - Three Roads to Quantum Gravity, Life of the Cosmos
  • Dylan Evans, - Introducing Evolutionary Psychology
  • Daniel Dennett- Consciousness Explained, Darwin's Dangerous Idea
  • Marvin Minsky - Society of Mind
  • Hofstadter, Dennett - The Mind's I
  • George Dyson - Darwin Among the Machines
  • John Brockman - The Next Fifty Years
  • Hans Moravec - Robot : Mere Machine to Transcendent Mind
  • Douglas Hofstadter - Metamagical Themas
  • John Ralston Saul - The Unconscious Civilization
  • Richard Dawkins - The Selfish Gene
  • Steven Pinker - The Blank Slate
  • Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson - Illuminatus!
  • Katie Hafner & John Markoff - Cyberpunk
  • Clifford Stoll - The Cuckoo's Egg
  • Morris Berman - The Twilight of American Culture

Recently Read

Wednesday, November 3, 2004

Watching the Vote

It looks like everyone here (IBM offices in Sydney) are keeping an eye on the US election results. Almost every other computer screen shows either CNN or PBS websites..

Bush has just been awarded Florida, and Kerry has Oregon. Bush needs 24 more votes to win. Not too many happy people around here, it seems.

Tuesday, November 2, 2004

Indecision 2004

Yup, it's almost time to decide the next President of the Greatest Democracy on Earth. Good thing they have all those lawyers to make sure everything is ok.

The Electoral-Vote website (run by Andy Tannenbaum of MINIX fame) calls the result in Kerry's favour 298 to 231. Of course as Andy says, according to Charlie Brooker of The Guardian, this means that Bush will win, proving once again that God doesn't exist. :)

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Regeneration Through Violence

Just came across a book by Richard Slotkin - Regeneration Through Violence: The Mythology of the American Frontier, 1600-1860 which has been referred as a significant influence on Joss Whedon's philisophy. I've never heard of it before, but after doing some reading it makes perfect sense. The book explores the premise that particular stories of expansion and exploration (like those of the Amerian west and Australia's colonisation) re-interpret the violent and brutal facts of history in herioc fairytales. This has particular resonance to the story of Firefly, but also in Buffy.

I've been watching Joss' increasing political activity over the last few weeks with interest. While it seems that he has always been politically minded, he has finally been pushed into public action by the current Bush government. "When I go to Europe, I just want to wear a T-shirt with a picture of Bush and the words: 'I'm sorry'."

Also worth reading is this brilliant article on Joss's politics, Firefly and how the politics are reflected in this work.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Jon Stewart

Have I mentioned that I love Jon Stewart of The Daily Show? Well, actually I just love the whole Daily Show. It's simplyone of the best programs on TV, anywhere.

It's a pretty sad state of affairs when the most insightful analysisof the US Presidential race (in fact just politics in general) comesfrom a supposedly "fake" news program. Least my daily dose of Jon and crewremind me that the US media isn't ENTIRELY devoid of intelligence (outsideof PBS, at least.)

One really interesting thing is Jon's appearence on Bush mouthpieceBill O'Reilly's show on Faux News. O'Reilly maintained that Jon's audience of 'stoned slakers' were a danger to the presidential election. It's interesting to see that in fact The Daily Show'saudience is much better educated, more affluent and moreinformed about the election than viewers of O'Reilly's show.

Looking forward to my Daily Moment of Zen.

Saturday, October 9, 2004

Three More Years

Of "Honest" John Howard. I'm just thrilled to bits.. no, really. (HTML needsa 'sarcasm' tag.)

The writing was on the wall pretty early, and it already looks like Laboris going to go backwards in the House of Reps, which is specially bad afterthe resounding defeat last time. Primary vote is less than 40%.

It's very obvious that the Libs have run a masterful campaign, and Labora pretty lacklustre one. It was very unlikely that they were going to gain the13 odd seats needed for Government, and that has borne out today. I've said this before, and I'll say it again. The Liberals have a much better'brains trust' running their party. Better campaign advisors, betterresearchers, and honestly, better politicians. It's very clear if you watchquestion time that the Libs are all over Labor.

The only positive to come out of this is that the Greens have increasedtheir vote to over 7%, mostly at the expense of the Democrats.

Wednesday, October 6, 2004

Compass

I've always found the ABC's Compass program to be very intersting. Last Sunday's show was definately one of it's best. The program interviewed the leaders of the five main parties (Liberal, Labour, Nationals, Greens and Democrats) about their beliefs and ideals.

There are a few things that really stick out in my mind. Democrats leader Bartlett was very evasive... maybe he's just not comfortable talking about these issues. Howard was the perfect politician we expect him to be. Never really committed to anything. Latham and Bob Brown seemed to have a distinct idealistic streak, and their ideals seem to be somewhat aligned with mine.. Though Brown did say that he's not exactly a Humanist.

Of all of them, it was Nationals leader Anderson who I found the most interesting / worrysome. This guy is really a Christian Fundamentalist. He's fit right into G W Bush's Republican Party. Mind you, Howard isn't too far from Anderson : "[I] regard the Judaeo-Christian influence on Australia as the single greatest influence for good in the Australian community".

A full transcript of the program is available here.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Dude, Where's White Castle?

Or more correctly, WHAT is White Castle? Yeah, I actually went tosee Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle. And I liked it..

That of course is completely weird, considering that it's certainlynot the type of movie I like.. I've not seen (director) Danny Leiner'sprevious effort Dude, Where's My Car?. Nor had I seen any of the other teenmovies like American Pie, Road Trip, There's Something AboutMary, etc. etc. So why watch this one? Mainly coz I just wanted tocatch up with the guys, and partly coz it actually looked prettyfunny.

And funny it was. Had me doubled over with laughter quite a fewtimes. Maybe I didn't find it QUITE as funny as the other guys,but it was the best laugh I'd had in ages. Specially Harold's elevator dream sequence and Kunmar's "getting married to a bagof dope" sequence. Oh yeah, Kal Penn who plays Kumar is frikking brilliant. Where has thisguy been? Apparently in a Buffy episode - Beer Bad and an Angel season 5 episode Buddy!

Oh, and Paula Garcés is SO HOT. I can't believe she's 30! She looks16!

Oh yeah, a main contributing factor was the fact that I didn'tknow that White Castle was a real burger chain... I'm not big on movies with commercial tie-ins....

Monday, September 6, 2004

muddy@au.ibm.com

or something like that I guess. I got offered the job at IBM which I mentioned last week. It will be with their On Demand Infrastructure Services division. So basically outsourcing. :)

It's basically a UNIX role looking after systems for a number of sites in Sydney. Looks like I'll be starting off at QANTAS. Anyways, I start in two weeks time.. it's all very exciting.

Friday, September 3, 2004

You Laugh Like A Girly Man

aaah, how I enjoy the antics of my favourite girly-man (TM Governor Arnie), Dr JD on Scrubs. Just finished watching the first episode of the new season I have some obeservations:

  • Heather Graham is so hot. Damn!
  • Don't like Sarah Chalke's new hair.
  • Sugar Hill Gang kicks ass!
  • Dr Cox's whole diatribe on things he doesn't care about...
    I suppose I could riff a list of things that I care as little about as our last week together... Let me see... Low carb diets, Michael Moore, the Republican National Convention, Kabbalah and all Kabbalah related products, high def TV, the Bush daughters, wireless hotspots, The O.C., the UN, recycling, getting punked, Danny Gans, the Latin Grammys, the real Grammy's, Jeff that Wiggle who sleeps too darn much, the Yankee's payroll, all the red states, all the blue states, every hybrid car, every talk show host, everything on the planet, everything in the solar system, everything, everything, everything, everything, ev ev ev everything that exists! Everything past present and future, everything in all discovered and undiscovered dimensions.... oh! and Hugh Jackman... (Hugh Jackman is Wolverine! How dare he!)

This was classic Scrubs... had me laughing out loud so many times. Specially with Elliots "Want me to rub ointment into your thighs?" line. Kudos to Eric Weinberg (writer) and Bill Lawrence (director).

In other Scrubs related news, the real group behind Scrub's "Worthless Peons", the a capella group "The Blanks" have a CD, and there are some samples on this website. Brilliant stuff!!!

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Job Hunting and Aptitude Tests.

As some of you may know, I'm currently looking for a job.. I've (almost) given up on actually finding a job that isn't a desk job, but going by the last few weeks of searching these are very hard to come by.. and if they do they are either waay out of town (I applied for a job in Dubbo!!) or pay really badly.. well, in comparison to what you can get for a "desk job" anyways..

So either way, I saw this unix position advertised at IBM GSA and decided to go for it.. got through the personality test (the "what would you do in this situation" type thing) and did the aptitude test today.. first time I did one coz I swore to myself that I'd never work for a company that made you do that sort of thing.. ends up that it kind of limits your chances quite a lot to adopt that attitude.. :)

Taking up a more pragmatic approach, I decided to go through with it.. and it was pretty much what I expected. There was a verbal part (pretty easy), numerical part (pretty hard, but time is the limiting factor) and the last part was a pattern matching thing.. that was quite hard because of the time constraints.. I guess some people just "see" the patterns while others have to look at it analytically. Subconcious versus concious processing.

I guess I'll wait to see how this IBM thing goes before chasing up any other leads... coz it might actually be worth it.. though DTran (and others) think that GSA isn't the best place to work..

Monday, August 16, 2004

The Maxx, Sartre and Joss Whedon

Odd mix, you might think.. but apparently not. I came across the connection completely by accident too..

I've just been watching The Maxx. Managed to track it down, well least the first six episodes of it.. not sure how many they made.. Anyways, I was watching it, and for those who don't know the show, well, lets just say that it screws with your mind.. You're never quite sure WHAT is real, or who.. or anything... The fifth and sixth episode sort of explains the "dream" or perhaps the collective delusion that our characters are experiencing.. but I'm not quite sure if that dream was itself within a dream.. you're never quite sure what is real... The Matrix ain't got shit on this.

So anyways, somewhere along the line, one of the characters says

And what cartoons? 'The Crappon Inna Hat!' Must be the stupidest cartoon ever made. I mean.. "The Crappon Inna Hat teams up with Jean-Paul Sartre to fight nausea!" Cartoons today are so pretentious!'

aaah, I love self reference. And of course there ain't no show / comic that digs into existentialism more than The Maxx.

So how does this tie in with Joss? Well, I'm the happy new owner of a Firefly DVD set.. and I was going through the commentary.. for the last episode "Objects in Space" Joss does a very nice commentary about the origin of this idea.. about how we are defined by the objects around us, and how we imbue these objects with meaning. Joss said that this idea originated from his discovery of Sartre's Nausea (La Nausee)..

So... not sure what this means.. if anything at all.. maybe there is a common thread in the kind of stories that appeal to me.. maybe it's all just co-incidence..

Sunday, August 8, 2004

MTV and Animation

You wouldn't really think so, but as far as I'm concerned, MTV has made some of the best animation coming out of North Ameria. This isn't mainstream stuff like The Simpsons, Futurama or South Park (though I love all three), this is usually edgier, darker and far more interesting stuff, IMHO. The shows I speak of are The Maxx, Aeon Flux, Daria and most recently Clone High. OK, so Daria and Clone high aren't in the same league as AF and The Maxx, but they are certainly outside the mainstream.

The first exposure I had to this animation was the Saturday night anime program that was on SBS starting in the late 90s. Not sure what happened to the program, I think they stopped a few years ago after showing Bubblegum Crisis (note that this was also the same show which ran Evangelion).

Anyways, lets take it in Chronological order... The Maxx - definately one of my favourite superheroes (or perhaps anti-heroes) along with The Crow. This one definately isn't for kids. Very dark and depressing. Not the thing you want to see if you're feeling down... For those who don't know it's about this huge big homeless dude who lives in a cardboard box, who wears a purple "superhelo suit". He's being helped by a freelance social worker Julie, and he's friends with this abused kid called Sarah. Oh yea, The Maxx also moves between this reality and another which he calls "The Outback" (a sort of twisted, post apocalyptic Australia, sort of Mad Max with mutants) where Julie is the Jungle Queen and he is her protector. Well, either that or he's just just completely insane. The Maxx is very definately making some pretty strong commentary on society and our need for heroes...

Some good links I found on The Maxx are:

  • Film As Art - A very good review. Looks at the themes of the series. Though the review is of the "movie" version which has some of the stuff from the series cut out.
  • The Maxx Homepage - an unofficial guide to the comic series. Has a useful FAQ.

OK, so moving on to Aeon Flux. This is one screwed up show. The show was originally a series of shorts which basically involved Aeon going out on a mission and getting killed in some interestingly brutal way. The following longer episodes weren't quite as violent as the shorts (I don't think anyone can take that much violence for 30 minutes), but involved much more intersting plots. Possibly too "interesting" because most of it just doesn't make much sense. People have accused of it of being all style and no substance, with pseudo-philosophy substituted for plot.. but hey, I like it. Though I'm still trying to work out the story myself...

Daria is probabaly the best known of the MTV animations. It survived for five years (if you go by IMDB). Definately another show of "outsiders looking in". Daria is based very much on the Buffy vein, with us following the social outcasts as they make snarky observations about the sillyness of highschool life.

And lastly, to Clone High. I only found this show via IMDB, when I was following the other work done by the Scrubs crew. Seeing that Clone was executive Produced by Bill Lawrence I decided to give it a go... and loved it! Besides the fact that lots of the Scrubs people do voices, the regular cast is just awesome. The premise of Clone High is described best in it's very cool title song:

Way, way, back in the 1980's, secret government employees
Dug up famous guys and ladies and made amusing genetic copies
Now the clones are sexy teens now. They're going to make if they try.
Loving, learning, sharing, judging. It's time to laugh and shiver and cry.
Clone High, Clone High.

Lets just say it's darn funny. Shame it lasted only one season. But it's probably pretty amazing that it lasted even that long considering just how bad networks are at supporting new shows.

Oh, and I just heard yesterday that there is a live action film of Aeon Flux being made with Charlize Theron as Aeon. I'll reserve judgement until I actually see something... but gee, I ain't that confident. A lot of Aeon was about the visuals, about how she moved, about the settings and of course the extreme violence. I'm sure they have the violence down pat, but the rest....?

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

A Tangled Web

OK, so I cringed as I wrote that title, but I'm gonna keep it.

So you know how sometimes you start browsing at a page and 30 minutes later you end up somewhere completely, radically different? I just had one of those. I started at Zach Braff's blog on his new movie Garden State (which I've blogged about before), and ended up at a full proof of Euler's Identity.

So, with the help of Firefox's history I shall record this journey for prosperity.

As I said, I started at Zach Braff's blog, to see if he had added anything new. From there I browsed along to the pictures of the premier, coz well they would have a certain Ms. Portman. While browsing through these very fine images, particularly those of the very fine Ms. Tishby, I noticed that Jenna Elfman was also there. Being an old fan of Dharma and Greg I decided to check out it's credits on IMDB.

At IMDB I remembered that Chuck Lorre was the producer, and that he would put up a vanity card after each episode of the show with various thoughts, which I always found interesting. So, I googled 'chuck lorre' and got to this fantastic website with all his 'vanitiods'. How cool was that?

Bookmarking this site I returned to IMDB to look at the latest box office takings. Looks like the new Bourne Identity movie is doing well. Out of curiosity I decided to have a look at the worldwide figures. Titanic was at the top as expected, but Lord of the Rings had done a few billion worth of damage too. Then I noticed that Passion of the Christ was actually one of the top grossing movies world wide. I missed a lot of the hype on this because I was on the big Europe trip and pretty much oblivious to what was happening in the world.

So I took a quick look at Passion and decided to read Ebert's review of the film. Looks like he liked it quite a bit. Anyways, he made a reference to the fact that the film would have been NC-17 if not for the fact that it was Jesus they were torturing. Since I wasn't quite sure what NC-17 was I googed that. Nothing useful, so I thought "might as well try Wikipedia".

Wikipedia certainly helped. It had a full description of the MPAA rating system and described the NC-17 rating pertty well. Interesting that in America that classification is optional, but it ain't so here... Anyways, that page had a link to a list of NC-17 rated films, so I decided to check that out. On the list I noticed that one of my favourite films Requiem for a Dream was originally NC-17 before being re-edited for a R rating.

Wikipedia even had a page for Darren Aronofsky the directory, and his previous movie Pi which I absolutely LOVE. Of course this being wikipedia the page had a reference to the real 'Pi'. Being a maths geek I decided to follow that and read that. It turns out that a whole bunch of people from Ancient Greece to China to India and the middle-east were fascinated by Pi.

Anyways, the Pi page had plenty of links to important theorems which need Pi, so I opened up a bunch of them in tabs (what would I do without tabs?). Of course a bunch of them are still sitting there as I type this, coz there is no way I can read all the stuff I opened just now.

So anyways from Pi, I head to reading about the Riemann Zeta Function. I'm sure we least brushed over that at Uni, but Dear Lord! that maths looks complicated! Anyways, I left Riemann there and went over to the next tab, which happened to be on Euler's Identity - see, we're almost at the end. We definately did this at uni, since the rule of e^jx = cos(x) + jsin(x) is a pretty fundamental part of signal theory and something they beat all electrical engineers over the head with.

From what I remembered, we didn't actually do the full proof of the Identity, so I decided to follow the link to the full proof of the identity. Which was actually quite understandable - maybe I did take something away from those years of maths at uni. It's funny how I now read for "fun" things which I hated at uni. Much the same way I decided Shakespeare and Austen were worth reading after I finished high school.

So I will stop my jouney there. But just to note the other tabs I have open: Taylor Series, Heisenberg uncertainty principle, Fractals, Mandelbrot Set, The fundamental Theorem of Algebra, Leonhard Euler, Augustin Louis Cauchy and Taylor Series. I think I have some nice reading to do for tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Munich and Amsterdam

I think that I will squeeze both of these places into one entry coz we didn't spend too muchtime in these places.

First to Munich. We took a trainfrom Berchtesgaden to Munich - via Salzburg. It was a prettyquick trip and got us at the main train station (hauptbahnhof - that's about the limit of my German :)to follow our now familiar ritual of trying to find accomodation. We finally managed to get rooms at aplace out in the burbs, but least it was really nice, in a sort of cafe district.

We went out exploring the city, starting off at the famous Marienplatz. We walked around the cafesand beer gardens for a while, and even though it was pretty early in the day (a week day at that!)the place was full of people downing beer from massive (probably 1 litre) steins. After seening theglockenspiel (sp?) which was pretty sad - and the bells were out of tune! - we decided to catcha movie.

We had tried to see Van Helsing in Salzburg without luck (no English versions) but we managedto find (with the help of the people at the hostel) an "art house" cinema near the Deutsches Museumwhich showed movies in English. Oh, and Van Helsing - pure Oportos magic. Easily the campiest movieI'd seen for many a year. Probably in running for best Oportos movie of the post-uni era along withHebrew Hammer.

After that, the only other place we wanted to visit was the Deutsches Museum. Kinda like the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, except like 100 times bigger. We spent almost an hour in the first room, which was on ancient ships. Once we realised that there was over 200 rooms like this, we went through it quickly..But even the seven or so hours we spent was hardly enough to scratch the surface. Definately coming back to the Museum.

After finishing up at the Museum we decided to take an overnight train to Amsterdam to save 14 hoursof travel. How bad could it be, right? Well, pretty bad, actually. For starters, the rooms are absolutelytiny, with bunks for 6 people. It could maybe fit two or three in comfort. So, six people would have beenok, if we got some nice germans to share the room with... but instead of nice Germans we got a bunch of drunk Croatians! Funny thing is that all along the trip we had met people who had gone to Croatia and weresaying how nice everyone was.. probably coz all the assholes were visiting Munich!

I mean, these guys didn't understand a word of English or German, would just talk (shout) all the timeand stunk like they had been in a gutter all day. The best we could hope was to stay in our bunks and justpretend to ignore them.. that was probably the worst time we had on the whole trip.. God it was awful!

Anyways they left in the morning, at the last town before crossing into The Netherlands... we got to Amsterdamat about 10 am. We had booked accom in the only hostel that had any vacancies, The Shelter. This was aChristian hostel right next to the red light district... oh well. :) So we finally manage to find it, aftersetting off in the wrong direction and walking for about two hours.. the place wasn't too bad, the staffwere very friendly, and everything looked nice and clean.. Only problem is that they seemed to have a"turn no one away" policy and quite a few of the people staying there were illegal immigrants! All throughthe day you could hear people talking about how they've been moving from place to place and avoiding thepolice and stuff. Very nice.

So we were in Amsterdam for a few days.. we did the usual.. took a walk around the city during the day.. visitedthe sex musuem (yawn) and the van Gogh Museum (yawn - I'm not a fan). But luckyly the van Gogh Museum had an exhibition of Dante Gabriel Rossetti - which I abosolutely LOVED!

Apart from that we walked around the red light district.. Paul was quite keen to go take in a show.. but I hadmoral objections and Lucky had monetary objections, so he didn't go.. That didn't stop him from stockpiling anumber of special DVDs that Amsterdam is famous for... :) Oh, and a word of warning, if you want to have a smoke,don't ever buy joints coz they're mostly tobacco.. roll your own...

Amsterdamn was also the first city we had been in almost three months with a sizeable Asian population. So we took every opportunity we could to eat asian food. We did pho (Vietnamese beef noodle soup) on the first daythere, and we did Thai, Malaysian and Indonesian for the rest of the time there. It was good to eat familiar stuffagain!

After a few quick days our time in Amsterdam was up, it was off to the Airport and onto the plane to Edinburgh!!

Monday, July 12, 2004

Berchtesgaden

So we finally made it to Berchtesgaden (BG from now on, it's too bloody long to type). It was just a short trip from Salzburg to BG, which was literally the end of the line.

It was just our luck to arrive in BG on a Sunday afternoon, so the whole place wasdead, there wasn't even anyone at the railway station. After much effort we managed toidentify the bus that MIGHT take us to where our hostel was.. and of course, being aSunday we had a 2 hour wait for the bus... when it finally got there the driver didn'tactually know where the hostel was along the route.. Having no other option, we tooka taxi.. cost us about 3 Euros each. Moral of the story - take a taxi!

Anyways, our hostel was another one of those HI type places a few Ks outside the townproper, in it's own little villiage. It seemed that there was a big scool group stayingthere, so we only had accom for one night. Having no option, we decied to stay there forthat night and find accom for the rest of our time in the town... Luckily, the three ofus got our own room, with a pretty cool view of the mountains from our window.

Lucky for us there was a resteraunt near our hostel.. unlucky for us it really wasn'ta touristy place, and the waitress didn't know any English... So I got to practice my(very bad) German. It was quite weird each time the waitress looked at me when she didn't understand what Mach or Lucky said... :) So after a dinner of schnitzel (they hadlike 15 different kinds!) and weizenbier we went for a walk about the villiage. Therereally wasn't much, it was quite deserted.. except for the huge ass military base right in the middle of town!

The next morning we set off for the town, with our packs... on foot. It wasn't sobad since we had some pretty awesome scenary to look at

So we finally managed to find another place to stay, which just happened to be at thetop of this huge-ass hill.. Great fun getting there with our packs. Anyways, after settlingin at the hotel, we headed back to town to hit our main targets, Dokumentation Obersalzburg (the museum documentingthe time of Nazi rule in BG) and of course, Kehlsteinhaus - the Eagle's Nest.

But then, our dreams were shattered. There was a sign saying that the Eagle's nest wasclosed for repairs! Argh! We asked the helpful dude at the information centre, and hesaid that it was being repaired after winter storms, and that it wasn't possible toget there on foot! aah! to be foiled after coming so far! Anyways, we went through themuseum and one of Hitler's bunkers which was built into the mountain and headed back home.

Since our plans were foiled, we decided to finish our tour of BG that day and head off to Munich.From Obersalzburg we headed to beautiful Konigssee. Of coursethe main attraction was the lake, which was just absolutely gorgeous. We went for a walk along the shore, and you could see the green water of the lake filtering through the trees...

We finally found a spot where we could climb down to the water (it wasn't easy) and just sat around fora while and enjoyed the view. Fantastic!

And that was pretty much it for Berchtesgaden. We headed off towards Munich the next morning (via Salzburg).Of course, there is one thing that I can say for sure. I'll be coming back to Berchtesgaden, and stayingfor a few weeks next time.

Tuesday, July 6, 2004

Austria - Salzburg, Ice Caves and "The hills are alive..."

So we arrived in Salzbug and booked into another one of those massive hostels.Fortunately this one was in a nice place, in the old part of the town, rightin the shadows of the massive fortress the dominated the whole city. That afternoonwe went for a walk around the city, well, the old part of the city anyways. It'sreally a very pretty town, with small cobblestoned roads and plenty of old buildings.The new part of town looks just like any other city, as Paul Kelly said, "Every f'ncity looks the same." Our walk pretty much ended in Mirabelle Plaza, which is abig house with a fancy garden. :)

The next day we decided to take a tour of Salzburg castle.. which was supposed tobe the biggest working castle in Europe.. whatever a "working castle" is.. Insidewas pretty much standard fare (we had seen many castles by this stage), though it was definately the most richly decorated castle we had seen. The guide tookus through a number of rooms, explainging how something-burg of somethingelse-burgadded this wing and how they were married to Hasburg of Ausbenburg or whatever. Therewere lots of "burgs" in either case.

Following this was our much anticipated trip to the "Giant" Ice Caves. Not just regular,but GIANT! So we took a tour with a bunch of others from the Hostel (a Canadian dude, anAmerican girl and a Costa Rican dude) and drove about 1.5 hours there. Right near thecaves there was this fantastic castle, on top of a sheer hill maybe 100m up from the valley floor..

So anyways, we got to the car park, and after a short walk we got to a cable car, whichwas apparently the steepest cable car in Austria.. or Europe.. or something. It wassteep, by any measure.. A quick trip up about 400m and we were near the top of the mountain.In the freezing cold. With big fat flakes of snow blowing around. This was late springand I don't think I had seen the sun yet, in Austria. From the cable car we had another15 minutes or so to walk to the entrance, through the freezing cold, wet and snowy path.

There were actually peple climbing up the side of that mountian, in the parts wherethere is no footpath! There was even a dude taking a small kid (maybe 8-10 year old).That's how they breed em in Austria, I guess. Anyways, so we finally make it to the cave,which happened to be warmer than outside... few minutes after we got into the cave thesnow really started coming down.. you can't see it too well in the picture below, but thewhite "fog" is actually snow flakes...

Unfortunately we weren't allowed to take pictures inside the caves (not that it wouldbe any use, coz it's really dark).. There isn't much lighting inside, but the guideshave flares which they light up when you get to an intersting part.. I must say that it wasreally quite amazing in there, some of the formations are HUGE, like 50m high huge.. andsome of the caves are massive! You couldn't see the top of them even with a bunch offlares lit..

The next day we did what apparently everyone does in Salzburg - the Sound of Music Tour. Iwasn't too keen on this, but went along anyways. There were five people from the Hostelgoing, us three and two other Aussies who were down for the weekend from England (Hi Ali and Heather!).It was drizzly and cold yet again, and it even snowed while we were driving through the hills that were alive. This was in the last week of Spring! The tour itself was so-so.. me not being a big fan of the movie didn't help, I guess.. but the guide was pretty cool, with a repertoire of bad jokes being told in a German (well, Austrian) accent, complete with "ya? ya?"s.. We went to a whole bunch of places where the fim was made, and theguide filled us in on the REAL story of the von Trapps. I didn't even know it was a realstory! :)

So anyways, we wrapped up our Salzburg adventure, looking forward to what is going tobe the highlight of the trip - Berchtesgaden and of course Kehlsteinhaus - the Eagle's Nest!

Monday, July 5, 2004

Austria - The Vienna Oddesey

OK, so after a few days in the Tatras, we have to start heading back west. Since we were so short on time we decided to skip Bratislava (will definately have to come back and see that) and head straight toVienna. On our last day in the Tatras, we decided to take the train to thewesternmost town of the Tatras, Strbske Pleso. From here we could lookover the magnificient lake, with the mountains in the background.

It was quite simple (and cheap!) to get a ticket to get usall the way from Stary Smokavec to Poprad, to Bratislava and Vienna.Thank God for the European railways! :)

The ride across Slovakia was amazing. There was just heaps of forest, butquite a lot of pasture / fields and pretty little postcard towns. And ofcourse there were castles everywhere! Only problem was that they zippedby so quick I couldn't get a picture of them. Anther thing noted downto do on the next trip to Slovakia.

We managed to change trains and arrive in Vienna without any problems..but we had some issues when we got there. All the accomodation was booked.And I mean ALL. Everything upto and including the 90 euro per night hotels!We finally managed to locate a HI type hostel out in the burbs of Vienna,which involved a train and a bus trip. After some difficulty finding the hostelwe were getting quite sick of Vienna.

This hostel was our first experience with the huge corporate-stylehostels in Austria and Germany. No more cute little places run bywierd locals - welcome to capitalist western Europe! Anyways, aftera pretty shabby dinner at the local "Wiener World" around the corner(where the dude serving us was quite surprised to see "Australians"), wedecided to skip Vienna and head straight to Saltzburg.

So, it was back on the train the next morning, headed for the "Sound of Music"city. Boy, was I excited!

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Garden State

Just saw the trailer to Garden State, a film written, directed and starring Zach Braff of Scrubs fame.

It definately looks interesting, and just quirky enough to work for me. Seems to have got some positive reviews and admitted to a number of film festivals, including Sundance... Has a release date of July 30th, hopefully it will come out in Aus on DVD if not in the cinemas.

Oh, I will update the travel log sometime.. too lazy right now. :)

Saturday, June 5, 2004

Updates? What Updates?

Sorry about the lack of updates for the last few weeks... We've been spending most of our time out of main cities, so net access is either expensive or not available...

Since the last update in Slovakia we have been to, the ice caves and Salzburg in Austria, Berchtesgaden in Germany, Amsterdam and the Highlands of Scotland.. I'm in Stirling (Scotland) now, heading to London tomorrow. Unfortunately we had to skip the rest of Germany due to the lack of time - spent too long in Slovakia and Berchtesgaden :). Will have to go back to Germany sometime soon.

Hopefully I'll get a chance to write up some of the stuff that's happened when I get to London..

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Slovakia - Tatras

We took a train from Budapest (after much difficulty finding theright one) to Poprad in the foothills of the Carpathian mountians.The train went through Eger in Hungary, and Kosice in Slovakia.

People were right about the Slovakian wilderness... a lot of it isstill forested.. and very pretty too.. This was the first glimpse wegot of the Tatras (highest part of the mountain range) as we were headed to Poprad.

Once we got to Poprad, it was a simple matter to take the new electrictrain to Stary Smokovic, one of the bigger towns at the base of the mountains.Accomodation was a problem, but Lucky finally managed to find a placecalled Penzion Vesna, which was a very nice place. Very highly recommended.The owner and his niece (?) was very helpful, and gave us plenty of info onwhere to go hiking and stuff.

The first day there we took a easy hike up the mountain to the first (lowest)Chata.. it was at about 1500m. The way up was pretty easy, and quite scenic too.

Even though it was mid spring, there was a sudden snowfall, which was quitenice.. lucky for us it didn't get too heavy.

There were some pretty good views of the valley and the plains below froma point just above the chata

And since the snow was melting there were streams and waterfalls EVERYWHERE.

The following day we decided to do a more challening hike.. to Teryho Chata, atthe top of the valley, at about 2050m. Paul decided to sit this one out becauseof his bad ankle.. so Lucky and I decided to tacle it ourselves.

The first 2 hours or so was pretty easy. The snowline had moved further upfrom the previous day, and it was melting in fornt of our eyes.. below thesnowline we were walking through a lot of slush.. kind of like a chocolate slurpy.

But once we hit the snow things got interesting.. the path was quite clearfor most of the climb, but it was iced over and quite slippery. So we had thechoice of walking on the ice-slicked path and risk slipping, or walkingon the snow on the side of the path and risk getting stuck in the deep snow.. :)

Lucky for us, we had a pretty decent view to look at while resting..

The last vertical 150m was probably the toughest.. there was a 70 degree climb up the mountain side, and the path was completely snowed over.. probably 5m+ ofsnow in places.. so we had to carefully scramble our way up the incline onour hands and knees. Lets just say it wasn't the easiest.. :)

At the top of the valley there was another 30m climb to the Chata.. thatwas the real killer.. but we finally got there..

One up there, we had some hot food (how the hell do they get supplies up there) andrelaxed for a while before attempting the trip down. There were about 10 otherpeople there who had done the climb too..

We decided to go for a walk to find a lake that was supposed to be aroundthe top of the valley... things are aweful big up there.. that little speckin the middle is Lu.

I finally managed to find the lake.. but only a small frozen section was visible, the rest of it was snowed over.

After some more sitting around, we had a look at the climb down. Lu doesn'tlook too happy at the prospect.

And this is what he was seeing. Our base was all the way down the bottom of the valley,past the trees.

Things were melting even more on our way down.. the snow over the rockswas starting to develop dangerous holes, and the slushy snow didn'thelp either.. the top 200m was probably the toughest, but it flattened outafter that.. There were even some flowers popping up through the snow.

And more flowers.

The streams were flowing faster as well.. though there was still quite a bit of snow around.. this was at about 1700m.

We finally made it back home safely.. very tired though.. Of course after we come back,our host tells us that some 13 people died in the high Tatras last year.. Nice to know. :)

Hungary - Visegrad and Esztergom

I think that's how you spell them, anyway.

The last two days in Hungary we spent doing trips to the Danube bend.. The original plan was to go to Eger in the east, but we just missed thetrain.. that's what you get for winging it, I guess.

We were always going to Visegrad, because it had a 13th century castle..We took a local bus from Budapest up to Visegrad, most of the locals werequite surprised to see three tourists on the bus, I think.. since mostpeople seem to be taking organised tours..

Visegrad is a small town, so we actually missed our stop, it wasonly when Lu saw the castle out of the corner of his eye that wegot off the bus and walked to the town..

Like everywhere else in Europe it seemed that all the school kidswere on excursions, and the town was crawling with them.. along withpeople from the local "medieval society" or whatever, doing demonstrationsof sword fights and shooting longbows and stuff... Alll the weaponslying around would have been an insurance nightmare in Aus, butI don't think they have stupid public liability laws in Hungary...

Like every castle we had climbed before, we discovered that there wasa road and BUSES to the top of the hill AFTER we climbed the Visegrad castle hill. This one was particularly hard because it was muddy, andraining too.. scrambling up a muddy hillside on hands and knees is notthe best fun.. anyways, the view from the top was pretty good. Therewas a nice museum at the top too.

We went to Esztergom to see the cathedral there.. the largest inHungary.. it was also full of school kids and tourists, but wemanaged to climb to the top of the dome.. very nice views.. and theinside of the church was amazing.. though not as detailed as ItalianBascillicas..No pics of this one..

Pictures from Greece and Budapest

Just catching up on some pictures from the last few weeks.

This one was taken in the town square of Napflio.. the floor was polishedmarble, and made for a very cool effect as light reflected off it..

This was the view of the town and harbour from our hotel in Nafplio

The view of the castle from town.. there are apparently 1000 steps to the top.I think we climbed up all of em.

The view of the harbour from the castle.. after climbing the said 1000 odd steps.

Lu and Paul were enjoying the scenary, on our trip from Nafplio to Tripoli.

Some of the scenary they were seeing..

Athens, what a pretty city... Really. This was the view from out of our hostel.Easily the ugliest city I've seen in Europe.

St. Stepen's Bascillica in Budapest.. A piece of Reneissance Italy in the centre of Budapest

The courtyard of Budapest Palace.. the President's residence, I think.

The "liberty" statue on the hill overlooking Budapest. One of the onlypieces of socialist realism to survive the communist downfall. It'sdefinately my favourite work of S.R.

Another SR statue, at the Statue Park in Budapest.

Yet another SR statue, at the Statue Park in Budapest.

Budapest casle at night. Need to clean up the picture and remove the crap fromthe foreground, but pretty good, still, IMHO.

The Chain Bridge, which crosses the Danube.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Hungary - Budapest

After antother night in Athens (only coz we had to) we got on a plane to Budapest.. two hours later we were there... Getting from the airport to the city was a problem, but we finally worked out the bus / metro system and got to the hostel.. which was located right next to Deak ter, which is the central railway system.

The following day we took a walking tour of the city to get familar with it.. the guide took us to a number of the famous buildings and monuments and explained some of Hungary's history.. Budapest looks a lot like Prague, actually.. comeplete with a big castle on the other side of the river...

The next day we headed up to the castle and explored for a couple of hours.. Very impressive castle, and the grounds were just amazing, covered in spring flowers.. We also climed to the top of the hill on the south soide of the castle, to look at the huge communist era statue.. it was called "liberation" or something to that effect. Very impressive, whatever it's name was..

Lucky and Mach then headed to some thermal baths while I headed out of the city to go to the "Statue Park" where many of the old Communist era statues and sculptures were being stored... Lets just say I got my fill of Socialist Realism there.. there were a couple of standout statues.. huge and imposing.. very impressive..

That nigh we went and saw Kill Bill Volume 2.. The theatre was just amazing.. it was an old theater converted to a cinema.. the old lobbey and the decorations in the actual cinema was still there.. just gorgeous... KB2 was pretty good.. I like it more than the first.. Gotta watch it on DVD when I get home..

For the third day in Hungary we took a trip up north to Visegrad.. a small town on the Danube which also happens to be home to a huge ass castle dating from the 13th century.. we spent the best part of the afternoon climbing up to the top of the hill (it was muddy and quite steep, not a pretty sight).. the castle itself was amazing... really big and still in quite good shape.. there are a numebr of museum type exhibitions as well, which is quite nice.

Again, sorry about the lack of pics.. will post em ASAP.

Greece - Gythio

Aaah, fair Gythio.. the final stop on our very strange tour of the Peleponnese. A busy little seaside town with lots of hotels and resteraunts.. most of them with smoked octapus hanging on wires outside... Still not quite sure what the point of that was. Most of them had a layer of grime from the road dust, so I didn't try any "smoked octapus" dishes..

So we get to Gythio and call up a place called Xania which is listed in the LP as a good place to stay.. and it was.. right across from Mani Island (where Paris apparently seduced Hellen) and run by a family.. they are basically letting out rooms in the their (very big) house.

We were planning on just sitting on our asses for a while in Gythio.. until we found out that there was a cave system with a river running through it... so we took a bus to the spot the next day, and took a ride through the caves.. Yup, it was a boat ride coz the caves are completely flooded.. but it was amazing either way.. the caves aren't big, but its absolutely covered in stactites and stalagmites.. in some places they look like a forest.. with thousands of tiny stalactites.. there aren't many stalgmites - due to the cave floor being a river..

After that, we pretty much stuck to our plans in Gythio.. which was a whole lot of doing not much.. well, a lot of eating.. but that was about it.. so it was a good few days to wind down after Athens..

Greece - Road to Gythio

So we take a bus from Nafplio to Olympia via Tripoli.. how bad could it be, right? We end up at a bus terminal in Tripoli (very nice bus terminal, very crappy city) with 5 hours to wait for the bus to Olympia.

Deciding that a 5 hour wait wasn't worth it (we didn't even have accom in Olympia) to turning up late in the night wasn't a good idea) we decide to head to Sparta.... only to find out that busses to Sparta go from another "terminal" (and I use that word kindly) some "500 metres" away - accoprding to the dude there..

So we trek to the next terminal - with our packs - which turns out to be quite a bit further than 500m. And it's not even a terminal! We were looking for some bus stop looking structure, until FINALLY a dude from the corner store says "you looking for bus tickets? This is bus terminal." It was a frikking CORNER STORE for crying out loud!

So anyways, we finally get on a bus to Sparta.. you know, the home of legendary warriors.. The ride the is pretty enough, lots of hills, mountians (badly constructed mountain roads - but thats another story) and olive plantations. Lots of olive plantations. And fields and fields of wildflowers. There were wildflowers of every colour just everywhere.. very pretty.

Then we get to Sparta. Not Pretty. In fact, it was probably the ugliest city we'd seen in Greece. And that was saying something. So disguested were we that we pretty much took the next bus out of there, to the seaside town of Gythio.

Greece - Nafplio

So as soon as Jem left, they guys put thing "winging it" plan into action.. or inaction, I guess, since there was no plan.

The same afternoon that Jem left, we packed our stuff, boarded a bus (which we found with great difficulty) and headed to the little town of Nafplio.. based only on the recommendation of Lonely Planet and the fact that there was an old Ventian Fortress built on a hill above the town.

We found two nights lodgings at a place recommended by LP, with a very cool owner, who we ended up calling "the 10% guy". This was because his english was good enough to understand 90% of what he was saying, but there was always a CRITIAL 10% we had no idea about.. so after each conversation with him (and BOY, did he like to talk) we'd walk away scratching our heads and saying "..or maybe he meant... do you think?... nah, what if..." Either way, he was a top bloke and the hostel in in a great location, at the base of the hill, right next to the Catholic Church (not so good if you don't like being woken up by Church bells tho).

The old town of Nafplio - which is build around the harbour - is very pretty. Almost Italian (coz of the Venitian influences). It's really touristy, tho.. lucky for us we were there early enough in the season, so the place was relatively quiet.

Of course the main reason we went to Nafplio was the fort. And what a fort is is.. Built on a big hill overlooking the town it covers pretty much the entire top of the hill.. it's bloody huuge! It's in decent condition too, for something 450 odd years old. The only problem of course was the 1000+ steps to get to the top of the damnned fort.. took us a good 1/2 hour to climb.. when we got (almost) to the top we find out that there is a bus that goes around the back of the hill!!! Arrgh!

After seeing all the sights in Nafplio in two days, we decided to head to Sparta.. but then our host (10% guy) convinced us that we HAD to see Olympia if we're in the Peleponnese, so we decided to take a bus to Olympia first..

And there started our Peleponnesian oddesey...

Friday, May 7, 2004

Athens Explosions

Just in case people are wondering, the first I found out about this was when a friend got an SMS from home asking how we were doing...

It seems that things blowing up is par for the course here and people aren't even a little concerned.. there doesn't seem to be any more security on the streets than before.. so all seems normal..

We're leaving Athens tomorrow anyway.. Went to the Acropolis today.. and I've had about as much of Athens as I can take..

Greece - Santorini

aaah, fabled Santorini, most dramatic of islands. Words cannot describe this place.. everyone knows that it is the resutls of a huge volcano blowing up and leaving a rim crater thingy, right? With sea in the middle, and the circular islands on top of sheer 500m cliffs?

Anyways, we tooka "ferry" from Iraklio (capital of Crete) to Fira, the big town in Santorini. Our Ferry arrived late at night, and the sight of vehicles climbing up the cliff was just amazing (sorry, no pics.. too tired at that stage).

Our hotel in Santorini was just faboulous. It was a few hundred metres from teh town of Firastephani, perched just on the edje of the cliff. No cheapo hostels for us here.. Pics of hotel coming soon, this net cafe is pretty sucky.

We pretty much spent our time in Santorini perfecting our adaptation of the now "Santorini Lifestyle" which was more relaxed than the one we had seen in Crete. The only thing we did was to take a tour of the volcano crater (the istland in the middle). Snapped this picture of Ia (the northen tip of the main Island) from the volcano crater.. with wildflowers growing on old lava floes.

After we stopped off on at the port on the North island (can't remember it's name) Lucky decided to go for a dip.. water was pretty cold, but he managed to look like a pansy of great renown.

We stayed in the town of Ia to see the sunset (nothing to write home about, IMHO, though others would beg to differ. This is one of the views of the nh island from Ia.

When we tried to leave Santorini by Ferry, it steamed for about 1 hour from the harbour, decided to have engine trouble and turned back. Since this was the overnight Ferry to Athens, the Ferry company put us up in a hotel for that night, and put us on a plane to Athens the next mornig.. so everything worked out even better. Moral of the story : Santorini is pretty darn good! :)

Greece - Chania

This entry goes between the last one in Czech Rep and the one for Samaria Gorge.. Iit got lost..

From Prague, we took a night flight to Athens.. arriving there at about 1am.. Our connecting flight to Chania was at 6am in the morning, so we tried to sleep as best as we could in the terminal.. whic wasn't very well at all.. but we finally got the flight.. and arrived in Chania.

Chania is a town on the western end of crete, with the sea on one side and snow capped mountains on the other. Very pretty. We were very lucky to have found a hotel in the old Venitian Port area.. in fact our room overlooked the harbou itself.. the lightouse was directly opposite from us..

Most of the time in Chania we spent getting used to the Greek lifestyle, which involved waking up pretty late, having breakfast, walking around for a bit, having lunch.. having a siesta for a few hours.. walking around for a bit, having dinner, sitting roud and chatting for a while, and then sleeping. Very hard stuff.

The old town of Chania was pretty nice, with lots of little olf cafes and bakeries and streets about 1.5m wide. This was the only nice pic I managed to nab in Chania.. the ones I took in the port have mysteriously vanished..

Greece - Samaria Gorge

We went to Samaria as part of a tour, though it was basically just a bus + ferry transfer. The guide doesn't go with you through the gorge..

So anyways, we set off early, at about 6am from Chania and drove through the still snow capped mountains of Crete to the start of the trail. It was at an altitude of 1200m, so still quite cold..

The initial climb down into the gorge is pretty steep, with a rough zig-zag path.. the view is pretty distracting too.. with massive cliffs towering on both sides of you.. After a few KMs of the initial descent, you hit the bottom, with the river.. and rocks. Lots of rocks.

The rest of the trip is basically climbing over lots of rocks.. not too easy on the feet and knees, but not really that hard. We had 6 hours to cross the 16km of gorge, so we took it pretty slow and enjoyed the sights..

There are pretty regular rest stops on the way... but the little ancient village at the half way point is just spectacular. Lucky decided that he would come and stay here if he ever decided to go bush.. Since it was spring wildflowers were everywhere too.

The others are heading off now, so just a few more pictures for now.. I'll finish the write-up later.

This is where the gorge gets really narrow. It is 3m wide at the narrowest point, and a few hundred meters wide at the widest. You can see Jem and Lucky on the bridge.

Near the end. Jem and Lucky - Lucky is showing off his walking stick / club that he picked up on the way.