Sunday, February 14, 2010

Bongo and Born of Hope.

Looking South towards Erith health centre

A view of Erith Health Centre and the Riverside Shopping Centre, thankfully free of the usual winos and other undesireables that habitually frequent the place. The imminent opening of the police office in the town centre should hopefully remedy this though. As previously mentioned the local Neighbourhood watch is now up and running; you can see their Erith Watch website here.

I got off the train from London at Plumstead on my way to visit Dad in his nursing home earlier this week, as is my wont; I emerged from the station exit in Plumstead Road, heading towards Pettman Crescent, when I was assailed by a scruffy and toothless individual illegally riding an ancient pushbike of indeterminate parentage on the pavement; he screamed at me "Get out of the ****** Way!" As he approached me on the pavement at some considerable speed. I turned towards him, realising there was no time for me to evade the cycle borne psychotic, and he caught me a glancing blow as he passed; I made a grab for his jacket, hoping to prevent him from colliding  with an elderly lady who I had seen further along the pavement - unfortunately I was only partially successful - he carried on his illegal journey with a stream of colourful invective, wobbling and ranting as he went. This is not the first time I have encountered this woeful individual - hopefully the next time I will be in a better position to take effective action against him - there are times when I heartily wish for the services of a half brick in the end of a stout sock. Such scum should have been pureed at birth.

The video below is a bit of fun; I have immense respect for the producers of Bollywood films; they service a huge and demanding market with a stream of movies on a scale that Hollywood would baulk at. Having said that, the Bollywood quality control system does have its' moments, as you will see below - this is a musical remake of Superman, Indian style. Goodness knows what the Director was thinking. It is spectacularly abysmal. See what you think below.

I was on the 99 bus from Erith, heading towards Upper Belvedere yesterday morning; it got as far as the Pom Pom and the stop by the Jehova's Witness Hall, when a South American couple boarded. It quickly became apparent that the man had no credit on his Oyster card - when so informed by the bus driver, he hopped off the vehicle and headed across the road to the convenience store in order to top up the card. The driver informed his companion that he was unable to wait, as he had a timetable to keep; she was vehemently keen for the driver to remain and wait for the return of her companion. The driver was undeterred, closed the doors and moved the bus off to the next stop. The woman let loose with  what I can only imagine to be a stream of Portugese invective - as if she was of the opinion that the bus was her personal chauffer service; there were a number of other passengers only too grateful to be on their way. 

An article from the Register website:

Mattel, purveyor of the iconic Barbie doll, is running a contest to decide Barbie’s next career. She has quite a wide range of choices for her new job, including surgeon, architect, environmentalist, news anchor, and computer engineer. Barbie’s engineering speciality isn’t specified; we’re not sure if she’ll be outfitted as an ASIC designer, I/O specialist, or systems architect, to name a few options. I’m betting that, if asked what kind of computer engineer Barbie might be, Mattel would respond, “A cute and stylish one, with long legs and an enormous chest.” Much of the profit in the Barbie biz is in the accessories, not in the doll itself. So what kind of kit would there be? This is where “Computer Engineer Barbie” needs the most help. It’s easy to imagine a whole set of clothing and other gear that could be sold alongside “News Anchor Barbie” and “Doctor Barbie.” Even “Environmentalist Barbie” could have various shovels, rakes, tiny protest signs, and even tinier markers for writing slogans on the signs. But what would you sell with “Computer Engineer Barbie?” On the clothing front, not that much. But if we use our imaginations, we can construct an entire exciting environment that could be peddled for big bucks...Barbie’s cubicle, complete with a worn-out chair, a PC, and various types of cube litter, like sweet wrappers and empty cans of Red Bull. Or perhaps her own computer cluster, with a pink paint job and heart stickers. Upgrades would include adding more nodes, of course – and, over time, increasing the network bandwidth. Pretty exciting and compelling stuff, right?

On a similar note, the excellent Open Office has now had an upgrade to version 3.2 . Don't bother with the bloated, expensive and buggy MS Office, Open Office is both open source and free to download and use. You can get it for Windows, Mac and Linux here.

Below is a fly on the wall documentary video, taken on board the International Space Station - it gives an end to end run through of the facility. It would appear that the place is quite a bit bigger, if somewhat more cluttered than I was expecting.

Last night I embarked on an excursion to the depths of West London; I accompanied Ian's other half Julie to a bar / nightclub on Kensington High Street called Archangel. Not my normal choice of evening venue, but this was something special - it was Bongo's 40th birthday surprise party. All his friends and family were there, along with his fiancee Claire who organised the event. He was genuinely surprised at so many people from both his past and present turning up - about the only time I have ever seen him being momentarily lost for words. I did not take my Nikon D300 camera, due to concerns over travelling back on the late night train; I should have a couple of shots from others for next week; in the meantime, here is a photo of the main man taken a couple of years ago, whilst he was on a mission to Baghdad as the sound recordist for USA based ABC news.

Bongo portrait

A review from the Times Online of the utterly phenomenal Lord of the Rings prequel, Born of Hope:

Peter Jackson spent hundreds of millions of dollars on The Lord of the Rings trilogy and had the convenient resource of his own personal special-effects company and the whole of New Zealand to play with. Now Kate Madison, an enterprising young woman from Cambridge, has created an hour-long prequel to the trilogy, equipped with just enthusiasm, the run of Epping Forest and the goodwill of a particularly game cast and crew. Born of Hope, the story of Arathorn and Gilraen, the parents of Aragorn (played by Viggo Mortensen in Jackson’s films), was funded by Madison’s £8,000 life savings, plus £17,000 raised from posting a trailer on YouTube. Since its online premiere at the end of last year the film has become something of a phenomenon, attracting more than 500,000 views. On the strength of this near note-perfect homage to Jackson’s vision for the Rings, we can probably assume that Madison has a fair amount of natural talent and access to an extremely cheap or extremely understanding post-production facility. It’s almost inconceivable that Born of Hope cost just £25,000 to complete. While I would never want to accuse someone of massaging the figures to create a better story, it’s a testament to the epic ambition and the technical polish of the film that the mathematics of this equation simply boggle the mind. But then, as well as writing, directing and acting in the film, Madison is also credited as the budget manager, wardrobe manager, producer, prop maker, costume designer and camera operator, which gives us some idea of what kind of a film-maker we are dealing with. The woman is clearly a force of nature. We should put her in charge of the entire British film industry. Madison has made several shorts before, so presumably knew what she was getting into. It’s almost as remarkable that she would even consider a project of this scale as it is that she managed to pull it off. She breaks every low-budget film-making rule: her cast is huge, she has numerous locations, intricate costumes and special effects make-up, battle scenes, some convincingly repulsive orcs and even a CGI hill troll. There are two reasons the film works as well as it does. First, it’s very well cast. Christopher Dane, who plays Arathorn, not only looks rather like Mortensen, he is genuinely effective as the noble warrior and orc-slaughterer. Madison, who plays Elgarain, a soldier girl who secretly loves Arathorn, gives her character real depth. There’s the odd jarring note, such as an orc with a Brummie accent, but practically all the performances have a skill level far above that which is usually evident in low-budget cinema. But the main factor is the total absence of tiresome irony. Madison is completely earnest in her admiration for Jackson’s films. Her prequel is an homage rather than a knowing spoof. She embraces every trick in Jackson’s repertoire — including those, such as the swelling orchestral score and the slow-motion battle sequences — that are generally regarded as hoary old clich├ęs. Every frame of this film was made with love — and it shows. 

 So here it is; not the normal couple of minutes long video clip that I normally post; here is the more than a hour long film production, the full 720p Hi Definition version of the astonishingly excellent  fan movie "Born of Hope". You can click on it to show in full screen, should you so wish. Leave comments below, as always.

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