Thursday, 28 June 2007

My Cat Max vs Paris Hilton

Things my cat Max and Paris Hilton have in common

1. They are both mammals

2. They both get photographed a lot, especially with one foot in front of the other for maximum appearance of slimness

3. They are both socialites

4. When we go driving, Max has to be in a cage. When Paris goes driving, she ends up in a cage
5. They both take being fed and cared for by others for granted

6. Paris Hilton went out a guy called Paris. Max likes to rumble with a she-cat called Max

Things Max and Paris Hilton do not have in common

1. Tane can't balance Paris on his back

2. Max is named after Max Power, Homer's alter ego, which Homer claims he got from a hair dryer. Paris is named after a city

3. Max doesn't need to wear hair extensions

4. Max loves to eat potato peels. I assume that Paris doesn't

5. Due to a cruel trip to the vet at three months, the movie One Night In Max will never be made

6. A news presenter has never tried to burn a script in protest because it is about Max

7. Paris wears necklaces made of mother of pearl. Max wears necklaces made to kill fleas.

Does anyone else have any more to add?

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Tane's reviews: Rise of the Silver Surfer, Zodiac, Becoming Jane

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

There are some superhero movies that only a fan could like. Ghost Rider, Constantine and the first Fantastic Four movie spring to mind. Then there’s Rise of the Silver Surfer. Not even a comic book geek with low expectations and a fair amount of Friday night drinks in him could get many kicks out of this movie.

Rise of the Silver Surfer sees superpowered team The Fantastic Four dealing with fame, the upcoming wedding of Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd) and Sue Storm (Jessica Alba), the appearance of the mysterious, immensely powerful Silver Surfer, the reawakening of Victor von Doom (Julian McMahon), and the end of the world.

There are some good points to Rise of the Silver Surfer. Chris Evans again brings cheek and charm to the Human Torch, there’s some decent action sequences – particularly the Torch’s chase of the Surfer – and three funny moments. But they are buried in the welter of lame one-liners and feeble attempts at drama. It’s a movie that’s clearly aimed to be lighter than most superhero movies, but it still needs to have more substance than it does.

As in the first Fantastic Four movie, the performances of Gruffudd and Alba are flat, while McMahon strikes the wrong note. Dr Doom is sinister, not smarmy. Alba is particularly annoying. She’s beautiful, in a Barbie doll kind of way, but if she has any acting talent, her invisibility powers appear to have affected it. Even Michael Chiklis, one of the standouts of the first film, is below par as the team’s forth member, the rocky Thing.

The literally shining light in all this mediocrity is the Silver Surfer. Played by Doug Jones, voiced by Lawrence Fishburne and animated by Weta, the Surfer lives up to his iconic status. He is as elegant, beautiful and powerful as a Renaissance statue, with a tragic grandeur.

A pity he’s not in a better film. The story of Surfer and his master is one of the most famous and interesting in comics. As a fan, the worst thing about Rise of the Silver Surfer is how it wastes that potential.



As the story of a serial killer, you might dismiss Zodiac as the kind of slasher flick that most moviegoers avoid like a rabid dog. Don’t, because it’s excellent.

Zodiac is based on Robert Graysmith’s book about a series of killings in the San Francisco area in the late ‘60s and ‘70s, and the search for the murderer, a man who called himself The Zodiac.

The Zodiac crimes captured nationwide attention and influenced many fictional portrayals of serial killers. This was largely because of how The Zodiac promoted himself. He wrote very creepy letters to newspapers and the police, some of them in code, and left messages bragging about his crimes. He was brutal, disturbed and clever.

Aside from the scenes where The Zodiac kills or attempts to kill people, the film focuses on those chasing him, particularly Mark Ruffalo’s cop, an extrovert crime reporter (a brilliant Robert Downey Junior) and Graysmith himself (the reliably strong Jake Gyllenhaal), who is portrayed as an obsessive geek.

Director David Fincher is known for making films with oodles of visual flair, such as Fight Club, but, aside from a couple of scenes, he treats Zodiac with restraint. This is exactly the right approach. He does not sensationalise the killings or the investigation, which makes the film feel more realistic. I particularly liked how the killer was shown as frightening, but also vaguely pathetic. Which is what he was – a ghastly, attention-seeking, socially inept loser.

Zodiac is a long but absorbing film. There’s some white-knuckle scenes, but much of its fascination comes from watching the characters slowly gathering pieces of evidence and fitting them together, and seeing the damage the case did to their personal and professional lives. It’s nice to see a film that does not rush through its plot or feel the need to fill it with gratuitous action.


Becoming Jane

What an unexpected pleasure this film is. I went in to Becoming Jane, the fictionalised story of young Jane Austen’s dalliances with love, expecting a frothy, lightweight, clichéd romantic comedy. For the first half hour or so, that is what you get. But Becoming Jane becomes something much better, taking real events in Austen’s life and creating into a powerful story that finishes with some very touching scenes. With its combination of sadness, romance, literature and humour, it’s much like Shakespeare in Love.

As Jane, Anne Hathaway is endearing, as is James McAvoy as her rapscallion lawyer love. They’re backed by a formidable supporting cast that includes Dame Maggie Smith, James Cromwell and Ian Richardson.

Stick these actors in nice costumes and lovely rural settings, and you have a film Jane Austen fans – so long as they are not too picky about historical accuracy - should not miss.


Saturday, 23 June 2007

Ninety Mile Beach and the best photo sequence ever

Yesterday, I went to Northland for what feels like the ma-zillionth time in the last few years. It was my last time in Northland before Tane and I head overseas, so I found myself looking out the car window a little more than usual thinking about how stunning it is up there. My favourite part of Northland is easily Te Oneroa a Tohe, Ninety Mile Beach. Which, apparently, ought to be called 55 Mile Beach. Regardless, for those of you who have not been there, here are some photos of it. I wish I could claim them as mine, but no, alas, they were taken by Geremy when we were there last year.

These photos make me seriously reconsider my current point-and-click method of photography. Stupid impatience.

Speaking of good photos, in the entry 'Best River Ever' (back when it was warm) I promised you the best photo sequence ever. You'd forgotten? You never even cared in the first place? Too bad. Here it is, the best photo sequence ever staring Tane and a river near Otaki.

Friday, 22 June 2007

How to relate to others, by Lauren aged 8

I recently found my old teenage diaries, well hidden and covered in dust. Usually, reading about the musings of the angst ridden teenager that grew into moi makes me want to go back in time with a giant rubber hand and administer some slap therapy. Every now and then, though, I found some gems. For example, I read my entry from ten years ago to the day, and I quote "I have been busy recently, but can't be bothered writing about it. It's not like I'll care in 10 years anyway." Given that I go on to describe my sister calling my Mum 'poo-juice' as well as other Keenan home shenanigans I think that me-of-ten-years-ago was wrong. I wish I'd expanded. Although, if whatever I was too lazy to expand on would have just made me of now want to look on Trademe for a time machine and a rubber hand anyway, it's probably good I didn't.
On the subject of old writing, I also wanted to share this list that my Mum found in an old school book of mine that I wrote when I was eight. Unfortuanately, I can't show you the handwriting and back to front letters.
How to relate to others By Lauren aged 8
1. Like other people's dumb work
2. Be kind to people who are being beaten up
3. Try and get on with people that you hate
4. Be kind and nice
5. Like people from other races
6. Lend things to people you don't like
7. If you are a girl, don't hate boys
8. Don't be mean
9. Don't gang up
10. Don't call people names that will make them sad

Friday, 15 June 2007

Tena nga kanohi kua tikona e Matariki.

Yay! It's Matariki, AKA the Maori New Year. To celebrate, I am going to eat kai moana and kumara, and drink beer. Tane has been wearing his Matariki beanie all week, both on account of Matariki and the very very cold weather right now. So cold, in fact, that typing right now is hard on account of feeling like I have frozen fish fingers connected to my hands rather than usual flesh fingers.

For those of you who aren't Kiwis, or don't know about Matariki, click here. It's a pretty cool celebration, and commemorates a star cluster that appears this time of the year. It's a time to celebrate anyway, so if you forgot about it and need an excuse … woohoo!
Tena nga kanohi kua tikona e Matariki. Let Matariki keep you awake!

Sunday, 10 June 2007

What tribe are you?

Ko Lauren au. Ko Taranaki toku maunga, ko Waiwakhaio toku awa, ko Te Atiawa ki Taranaki toku iwi.
And, according to the authors of "8 Tribes: The Hidden Classes of NZ" my other iwi is the Grey Lynn Tribe. According to them, both Tane and I are part of the tribe of Kiwis whose distinguishing characteristics include preferring to be “challenged” than entertained, seeking out authentic experiences, and blushing when talking about property values. We also, apparently, value ideas above material things and intellectualise every element of our lives. Interesting, and not inaccurate either. The other tribes include the Raglan Tribe, the Balclutha Tribe, the Otara Tribe, the Remuera Tribe, the North Shore Tribe, the Papatoetoe Tribe, and the Cuba St Tribe.
I have yet to meet someone who has taken this test and is not Grey Lynn, which probably says more about the demographics of central Wellington than anything else. I am sure that if I went to Otara or Gore it would be a whole different story. What are you? You can click here to take the test. Is the test a load of bollocks? I haven't decided yet. Either way, far as I am concerned, my primary tribe is still Te Atiawa ki Taranaki.

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

As inspired by Barney Gumble

It sounded like an impossible challenge. Two weeks without Coke Zero or Diet Coke. Two weeks without that refreshing "kshhhh" of a can opening. Two weeks of actually having to think about what I want to drink when I was thirsty. I have always maintained that I am not addicted to Diet Coke and Coke Zero, but merely like it very very much. So much, in fact, that I often think about Barney on The Simpsons when he wins a truckload of Duff and cries "plug it to my veins!"

Today, though, the two weeks are over and I am about to have my first Coke in what feels like years. It wasn't easy to break the habit of reaching toward the silver or black bottle (that is apparently supposed to be shaped like a headless woman which strikes me as very odd), but I persevered. It was even harder when I went out with my coke-guzzling sisters, shooting them evil looks as they smugly drank. The low point was when I went out with three girls for coffee last weekend and each of them ordered coke.

But now the two weeks are up. Plug it to my veins!
P.S. What is your favourite Simpsons quote? Mine is:
"My cat's breath smells like catfood" - Ralph Wiggum. Click here for more Ralph quotes.

Friday, 1 June 2007


I am on a crusade against grammar Nazis.

Being good at grammar is like have a birthmark on your stomach. No-one cares except you, and no-one knows unless you show it off. The difference between good grammar and a birthmark, though, is that unless showing the birthmark involves doing something anti-social, the person you are showing will not think that you are a git. If, however, you passionately believe in grammar, I suggest following these steps to ensure that you are only regarded as a quasi-git.

1. Ask yourself - why am I correcting the other person?

Is it because you love language and love to educate? Or is it because, deep down, you are a little bit insecure and want to feel superior to and more intelligent than someone else? Are you looking to teach, or dis empower?

Good grammar isn't a sign of intelligence, it's just a sign of someone who has learnt the rules. Thinking otherwise is like remembering the details of all the Presidents of the USA and fancying yourself an expert in US history.

2. Make sure that your 'correction' is correct

I recently completed a course on English grammar as part of my teaching English as a second language course. This course taught me three things. First - most grammar comes down to personal preference. Second - I would rather eat a porcupine than put that much energy into the English language ever again. Lastly - there are many Grammar Nazis out there (let's call them "Grazis") who aren’t the grammar gurus that they think they are. Just because someone will leap into a conversation to correct you does not make them right.
I can think of three recent examples of grammar being 'corrected' by different ill-informed Grazis:

The first was an eye roll at the "grammatically incorrect" title Bridget Jones's Diary. If this Grazi had put as much energy into reading up about the apostrophe rule as they did moaning about the common misuse of it, they would know that the title is not a grammatical faux-pas as either Jones' or Jones's is fine.

The second was after I had referred to a photo of Tane and me. I was quickly told that it was Tane and I. I wouldn't say "look at this photo of I" so why would I say "look at this photo of Tane and I"? The reflexive "me" is the grammatically correct way of saying this. Just because "Tane and I" sounds poncy doesn't make it right.

Third, a Grazi pointed out an error by asking "what's the first person possessive pronoun again?", referring to the word 'my'. This was wrong as 'my' is a possessive adjective because it always needs to be describing a noun. Grazis take note: it is especially important to get 'corrections' right if you are willing to use the poncy grammatical way of describing words in pointing out the 'error'.

If you are a Grazi and are starting to question yourself, don't worry. Apparently a number of errors can be found in the book Eat Shoots and Leaves, a Grazi bible. The author of that book is obviously an uber-Grazi and she can't even get it right. Read about some very funny criticisms of the book here.

3. Remember - there is a difference between essential and non-essential grammar
Basically, if the error can change the meaning of the sentence, it is important. If it doesn't, it's not. Language is always in a state of evolution, and there is a huge difference between the prescription and description of English. Also, pronouciation is different than grammar. Whether it's a to-may-to or a to-ma-ta does not change the fact that it is small, red, and delicious with tuna in sandwiches.

The more I learn about grammar, the more I realise how subjective and generally unimportant it is. Except for when I am at work, or writing something academic, I prefer to keep that birthmark well covered. Among other things, there are plenty more interesting things to talk about.

Unless, of course, I am on my personal crusade against Grazis.