Friday, 31 March 2017

Movie review: Ghost in the Shell, dir Rupert Sanders (2017)

The main character, Major (Scarlett Johansson) is a transhuman law enforcement android capable of tremendous feats of physical violence. This is a violent movie. Early in the piece, several senior figures in the company Hanka Robotocs - a government supplier that built Major - are targeted, and Major has to find out who is doing the devilry. She narrows the field down to one - Kuze (Michael Pitt) - who turns out to be a transhuman himself.

The plot turns on issues of identity. Hanka had told Major that her brain had been recovered from a person caught up in an accident but the story turns out to be untrue. In the process of unraveling the truth, people are hurt and killed including Major's fighting sidekick Batou (Pilou Asbaek) and scientist Dr Ouelet (Juliet Binoche). The stakes are high. And behind Major operates an outfit headed by Aaramaki (Takeshi Kitano) who reports to the prime minister and who has some independence from the company. In charge of the company is the shadowy Cutter (Peter Ferdinando).

As Major narrows in on the real identity and motivation of Kuze people are hurt, as we have seen. But the story becomes more complex and interesting. The relationship between Kuze and Hanka becomes clearer as the action moves toward the final battle between Major and the spider tank. Hanka is producing many lethal weapons for the government, it turns out, and not all of them were developed following ethical guidelines. This is a story where capital has a lot of answers to give to a lot of questions, which is not an unusual trope. But the problems of the plot are handled dexterously. In the centre of the maelstrom is the relationship between Major and Hairi (Kaori Momoi), who turns out to have a special relationship to our heroine.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Back into walking

It has been several months since I went walking. The hiatus was mainly due to the excessive heat of summer, which made walking uncomfortable. Now that the summer is over I can get back into it.

I went down into Darling Harbour today and came across an extraordinary sight. There were hundreds of mothers with babies in prams at the Darling Precinct, near the CBA buildings, all milling about and eating food from McDonald's. Some of the prams were in series, some in tandem. With some of the prams the babies faced backwards, with others they faced forwards. But the sheer scale of miniature humanity was staggering. There were mothers and babies on rugs on the grass, and mothers and babies sitting on the benches provided for the comfort of visitors. There were mothers and babies everywhere.

I continued on down Dixon Street and noticed that the council has installed lights in the footpath to signal to pedestrians when the traffic lights are red. Another tightening of the terms of existence in the public sphere, I thought. Another increase in severity of the level of control exercised over us by the authorities in their incessant search for obedience from the plebs.

Further on, around Harris Street, the traffic was quite heavy, and a new building site has sprung up where an existing building is being converted into apartments. There was a truck reversing through the Harris Street traffic into the driveway as I came upon the place. Everyone had to stop while the truck maneuvered into the correct position, including pedestrians.

I made my way back to Pyrmont and stopped in the sushi train restaurant for a few plates of sushi and a beer. Then I went home and got onto social media. I'm having a glass of wine now.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Remembering Cyclone Oswald

In 2013 starting on Australia Day Cyclone Oswald started tracking south down the Queensland coast at about 30km per hour. It went all the way down the coast into New South Wales and brought torrential rain to communities up and down the coast including those in the heavily-populated areas of southeast Queensland. I was living in the area at the time and I remember the downpours for two days that it took the system to pass over the area I was living in. The rain was literally horizontal, angled with the wind that thundered through the town for that time.

Today's Cyclone Debbie reminds me of those days. They were a time of fear and anxiety, when the weather takes control of the entire community, shutting down essential services and causing people to shelter inside. I am so grateful that we don't have these types of weather systems down here in New South Wales. They are terrible and bring an inordinate amount of anxiety to thousands of people.

In Sydney over the past three weeks we have had rain, but it has been a pedestrian, docile type of rain, not the grinding, pelting rain that you get with weather systems like Cyclone Oswald or Debbie. We are lucky down here to have pacific weather, calm weather that only occasionally steps over the bounds of comfort to cause problems for people.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Internet is fixed

On Wednesday I posted about the PC crisis which saw me buy both a new PC and a new monitor. The PC crisis, however, was immediately followed by an internet crisis, where the net slowed down to a snail's pace. It reminded me of when I moved back to Sydney in February 2015 and the modem immediately conked out as soon as I moved into this place. That seemed strange by itself, but because it is added to this new event things look doubly strange. How can a new PC cause your internet connection to go slow? It can't, said the Optus technician who came to my house this morning. "It's just a coincidence," he added.

The technician was only in the apartment for about five minutes then he went down to the building's communications room in the garage - he had gotten keys from the security office beforehand - and then he came back, put some things away in his bag and said that telecommunications provider Optus would be in touch with me probably within 24 hours. He said he wasn't sure where the problem was but agreed that the rain we had had so much of recently probably hadn't helped things. "Ït's probably the rain," he said.

So here I am again able to do internet banking. Which is a luxury for some but for us here in Australia it's just a normal part of life. We are surely blessed by such things being almost universally used. It takes so much of the effort out of banking, being able just to log in from your computer at home and transfer money from one account to another, and to pay bills online. I certainly don't take it for granted. People must think there's something strange about me when I go onto Twitter to say 'thank you' for being able to do online banking. Well, there you go. I'll just have to put up with people thinking I'm a little strange. Because I am thankful for this amazing facility. I'm also thankful to finally have a computer and internet that work properly, because life without either of these things these days is quite unthinkable.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

A new computer

I had had some problems with the display of the computer because it was blinking repeatedly, and so I thought I could get it to cooperate by pressing some of the buttons on the right hand side of the screen. This was on Saturday. It worked and my call to the technicians was anyway filled and I got the guy to reset my iPad instead. Then when I booted the computer the next day, I got the same problem, so I called the technicians again. Meanwhile, I made do with the laptop, which is a less-then-optimal solution because the screen is so small and it is so slow.

Another technician came out and he tested this and that and told me that the motherboard in the computer was broken, so I would have to buy a new computer. This was on Tuesday morning, and I had a spare 90 minutes between appointments so I got in the car and went down to the electrical store at Broadway Shopping Centre and bought a new HP. The technicians sent out a new guy to install it and bring across the data files from the old one, but in the process of doing that work he found that the screen was still not working. Therefore the problem of the blinking screen turned out to be either with the video cable or with the monitor.

I got in the car and the technician got on his motorbike this morning and we went down to an electronics store near Ultimo TAFE and I bought a new monitor. We brought it back and installed it and it worked fine - I now had a new PC and a new monitor - and it was also bigger than the previous one, so I have abundant screen room now. It was also cheaper than the previous one - which, admittedly, had been bought in 2009 - so I was marginally happy. The new technician - who had done work on two days for me - called his head office and they discussed my case and decided to waive the fee for the second technician, so I will only pay for the first technician.

This is a good outcome anyway because even though the computer was not broken, most computers only last for about 4 or 5 years, it would have been time to get a new one soon anyway. I gave the second technician the old computer and monitor in case he could get the monitor to work. He took them home to his place in his car.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Went out to get some lunch

This morning I was woken up by the telephone and handled the call then got some coffee from the pot of cold coffee. Then I had some wine, and a bit later I went up the street to get some lunch. I had to go to the ATM in the convenience store first, then I ambled up the street to the kaiten sushi shop and ordered a beer. I sat down opposite two young men who obviously knew each other, and started picking the plates of sushi off the track.

It feels fine being without the girl. I do miss her and that's something real that I can contemplate when things get boring, which they might do on occasion. But I do miss her as well. I miss not being connected to her daily life, being excluded. It's something of an adventure. I won't stop loving her just because I'm away from her, it's just that the feelings are different in quality and quantity. There's no downside - I mean no irritations coming from her, that there might be if we were spending time together - it's all a uniform blank pain gap that needs filling.

I'll be busy all day tomorrow. There are appointments from 9.30am through to 4pm. I have to do lots of things and be in different places. We'll see how the 1.30pm appointment with the dietician goes. I'm frankly not looking forward to that one, as it means being open about my drinking, which is something I don't feel like doing. But I am fairly open about it here, on the blog, if anyone is interested. It's just that there'll be someone who is close to me who will be watching all these things, like what I eat, and that makes me a bit nervous.