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.

Sunday 19 March 2017

Worried most of the day

I was on the way up to get some lunch at the Vietnamese place when the girl called me and said that she had locked herself out of her apartment. I immediately turned back but she told me not to come. She would fix the problem by herself, she said. I demurred. I continued on my way to the restaurant and ordered a chicken pho, which I ate at a table outside on the street. When I had finished I walked back to my place. I noticed that my big umbrella - the one I had bought at the Fish Market one day when me and the girl had been caught there by some heavy rain - had broken; one of the plastic supports had snapped off and it is past repair.

When I got home I had more wine and settled down to social media. I had a long chat with a friend, who concentrated the conversation on birthdays. We went through the star signs and it turns out she's a Taurus on the cusp of Gemini. An interesting combination. I told her that the girl is a Pisces. "Very sensitive," she said. Yes, that was true, I admitted. It turns out her son is a Pisces too. I didn't say that the girl had barred me from contacting her - the girl - but I did tell my friend that the girl had locked herself out of her apartment. She said she would be alright. I tried to believe it too.

We talked for about 30 minutes and then I had a nap, where I stayed for a couple of hours. When I got up I contacted the girl and she answered me eventually on Facebook Messenger, telling me that she had got back into her apartment. I still don't know how she did it, but she got back in. I cried a little bit from relief, I had been so worried all day. Anyway the day turned out to be a good one, I didn't have to worry any more about the girl, and she was safe inside again. I was very grateful.

Monday 13 March 2017

A day at the beach

Yesterday morning the girl was over at my place and we got in the car and headed out onto the Western Distributor, taking the Cross City Tunnel to Rushcutters Bay. We turned into Ocean Avenue at the top of the hill and went down to Double Bay and parked the car. Then we went looking for an open restaurant.

We found one which has a Brazilian slant and took a seat. We ordered some entrees and a seafood curry main, as well as a coffee for me. The food was good except for the chicken wings, which were not fresh. I ordered some more rice to go with the curry, which we hadn't finished, and the girl ordered a coffee as well. She paid and we left the restaurant then headed east toward Watsons Bay.

There were a lot of cars around, making it hard to find a parking spot, but we managed to get one at the lower Vaucluse shops. We left the car and walked down Palmerston Avenue to Gibson's Beach then along Marine Parade to the baths, but the girl didn't like the look of the water; it was low tide. We kept on going and got to Camp Cove where we headed up on the bush walk to get to Lady Bay Beach. Once there we headed down the stairs - the landing at the top is an iron mesh and is completely transparent, not much fun for me who is afraid of heights - and onto the beach.

We took up a spot near the entrance, just where a waterfall splashes onto the rocks and the sand. The waterfall is not very heavy but you can definitely feel the water splashing down as you lie there on the sand, depending on where you position your towel. We only had one towel, and the girl used her jacket and shorts instead. I put some sunscreen on her back, while she did her front.

The surf beckoned, and we got in. There are a lot of rocks near the shoreline and the water gets quite deep quite quickly, so you have to be careful on both accounts. We bobbed around in the water for about 20 minutes then got out and lay down on our "towels". After lying there for about half an hour we got up and left, heading up the stairs onto the path, and back to the car located about a kilometre away. Then we drove home.

Once back in Pyrmont we went to Coles to get some makings for dinner, which the girl kindly cooked. I was starving hungry, and wolfed down the lamb chops she had given me. This morning we got up and I took her straight home as she had an appointment with her GP. I also drove her on to Broadway and then went home.

Monday 6 March 2017

A day in the mountains

Yesterday morning the girl and I met at Central Station as we had organised to go to the Blue Mountains for the day. We met in the Main Concourse near the newsagent. Inside the gates we bought sandwiches and water for the journey. On platform 18 there was a huge crowd of people waiting to get on the train. and once we were on-board and had secured seats the rest of the people crowded in, with young people sitting on the steps up to the top level and down to the bottom level.

The journey started, with stops at Strathfield, Parramatta, Westmead and Penrith before the long, slow ride up the mountain.We had eaten our sandwiches by this time and most of the other passengers around us were asleep. Slowly, the stations in the mountains passed one by one. We eventually arrived at Katoomba and got out with the crowds. We walked down the footpath to the Paragon and went in. We ordered pumpkin soup and a vege burger but the girl couldn't eat either of them, she said they weren't fresh. I realised later that the burger wasn't fresh but I ate it anyway. When we got out of the cafe I had to use the toilet. I went back to the cafe but there were too many new people waiting, so I found a public toilet. A man went in just before me. I heard splashing and a tap running and eventually knocked on the door. The man opened the door with a toothbrush in his mouth and said he'd be finished in a minute. He was soon out and I ducked in to use the lavatory.

We walked down the hill and turned off right toward Scenic World. There was a group of young Japanese men ahead of us walking down the road. We trudged along in the mist, eventually arriving at our destination. We went inside and bought tickets, then got onto the Scenic Railway and went out to the outdoor platform to get on. We queued in a line and eventually sat down in the cockpit. The vehicle took off with the music from 'Raider's of the Lost Ark' playing on the stereo. Down into the valley the train shot, like a bullet, and we all leaned forward and went "Ohhhhh" as it descended into the green treetops. We arrived at the bottom, where the rain had started falling lightly but persistently, and got out of the cramped cars. We all walked down the path away from the railway, into the bush.

The Hammond family that runs Scenic World has built a raised pathway through the rainforest. We saw a female lyrebird go down through the bush. Apart from the brief sighting the bush was mute today, except for a fairy wren - a tiny brown bird much smaller than a sparrow - who popped out and said hello while we were sheltering from the rain. We trudged along the path for about an hour and a half and eventually emerged back at the Scenic Railway, which we caught back up to the top. There was one photo stop on the way: a small, variegated waterfall that tumbled down the hillside under the pathway and over the rocks into the Jamieson Valley. There must be hundreds of waterfalls like this in the valley, all feeding the streams that congregate at the bottom in a creek.

When we got to the top the girl bought some icecream and ate it while we sat on some seats in the shop at the top of the hill. We used the toilets, then left, and waithed for the bus. When it came we paid with the Opal cards we carried and went down to Echo Point then back up to the station. After we got off the girl said she was hungry so we stopped at a kebab joint and had half a chicken kebab each.

At the station, I bought the girl a cappuccino before we went onto the platform. We waited for the train, which when it came was almost empty. Lots of people got on. We went down the mountain, onto the plain and across the Nepean River. When we stopped at Blacktown a girl seated near us asked us if we had passed Seven hills. I told her we were at Blacktown and that out next stop was Parramatta. She asked me to tell her when we arrived at Parramatta, We sat there waiting. When we got to Parramatta, I told her where we were and she got off, presumably to catch a train back west.

We got off the train at Central and waled to the Capitol Square shopping centre to buy some Thai takeaway. Then we caught the light rail back to Pyrmont and mooched around in the evening. It was cosy and dry. We were tired and felt lazy, and just hung around watching the Mardi Gras coverage on SBS. Then we went to bed.

Thursday 2 March 2017

A quiet day inside

Today I only went outside once: to buy lunch. The rest of the day I was inside. I got up to let in the cleaners and when they had left I went back to bed and slept for a few more hours. But the noise from the remediation works was tremendous, so my sleep was broken and shallow.

In the afternoon I wrote two poems, both about drinking. i started drinking this afternoon after about 3pm and kept on going until I went for a nap about 6.30pm. It was an afternoon of naps and writing. In the late afternoon i talked on Messenger with my daughter and ex-wife about the Japanese property purchase. They have been doing things over there for the purchase later this month. I sent some emails to the Japanese lawyer.

Otherwise, it was a quiet day. Nothing much happened. The poems I wrote are ok, but not my best work.