Tuesday, 22 January 2008
Lauren and I both really, really liked Ledger, who was one of the best young actors on the planet. Brilliant in Brokeback Mountain and Candy, I was really looking forward to seeing his taken on The Joker in The Dark Night.
Looks at the moment like suicide by drug overdose. If so, that's yet another talented artist to kill themselves. Very sad.
Saturday, 19 January 2008
We have seen some of London's best landmarks, including Tower Bridge, the Globe Theatre, and St Paul's church. Although see St Paul's every time I look out my window at work, Tane hadn't been there properly yet.
A highlight, though, was the Tower of London. I loved it - the Crown jewels were blingy, the history fascinating, and the Beefeater guard that gave us a tour hilarious. The guys in fluffy hats carrying far from from fluffy-looking weapons were pretty neat too. I wonder if they have to go to marching school as part of their training?
Inside the Tower, where the Beefeater asked if there were any Americans in the audience. A few stuck up their hands, at which point the Beefeater laughed and said "if you'd paid your taxes, this would be your history too!"
Another place we have visited this month that's worth noting is the beautiful Hampstead Heath. The heath was so overgrown, it could have been a park in NZ. That was, if you ignored the dogs being walked in coats from the Gap. Oh, and this house filled with paintings, including a couple by Vermeer and Rembrandt.
Between these trips and other fun times often involving drinking pints (all in the name of enjoying the tourist side of London of course) Tane and I have realised that perhaps we didn't have the cheap month we needed. But, I don't care - I managed to enjoy a January in the wrong hemisphere without wanting to cry when walking past the poster in Ealing promoting cheap flights to Auckland. And that's what counts, really.
Some very impressive guns outside the Imperial War Museum. I would not want those loaded and pointed in my direction. Once inside though free museums are O for Awesome when it's cold.
Tuesday, 15 January 2008
It's strange, feeling sad about someone you've never met and really know very little about. I felt that way because Sir Ed was, of course, one of the few people the overused words 'legend' and 'great' actually fit, but it was more than that. You saw his face every day on the $5 note. He was the only New Zealander most people in the world have heard of, a man whose death led the websites of all the major serious daily papers in the UK, and was big news in America, Australia and many other places. As residents of a small nation stuck in the bottom right hand corner of the map, a place that goes unnoticed most of the time, we are almost hysterically proud of anyone who makes a mark on a global level.
As the person who made the most famous mark of all, Hillary played a major role in defining how we see ourselves.
He was rugged, humble, generous, laconic, adventurous, environmentally and socially aware. A high achiever who didn't boast about it, a man who used his fame to help others more than himself. Helen Clark described him as "the quintessential Kiwi".
But was he, really?
For example, how many New Zealanders are at home in the wilderness, or even enjoy a few days bushwalking? More than many countries probably, but I think most of us would rather get out a DVD than go for a tramp, let alone drive a tractor across Antarctica. We, like the rest of the Western world, are getting increasingly fat and lazy.
How charitable are we? Our national aid budget is miserly. And most would rather stick a new tv on the credit card (or go on a big OE) than contribute much to saving starving Africans.
How committed are we to conservation? We talk a good game, but we're among the most wasteful of all nations. It's only our low population that has kept us from completely fouling up our islands. Since coming to London, where public transport is light years ahead of Auckland and environmental awareness generally seems higher, we've realised that New Zealand is behind the times.
There's truth that many of Hillary's qualities are part of New Zealand culture - we admire modesty and that dry sense of humour can be seen in Flight of the Conchords, for example. But overall, Hillary was someone we like to think we come out of the same mold as, rather than that actually being the case. He's the peak, we're the foothills.
Also, the strong, stoic Pakeha outdoorsman of the Hillary/Colin Meads/Barry Crump type plays too big a role in our gallery of heroes. Hone Tuwhare's passing reminds us that 'quintessential Kiwis' include Maori, women, artists, scientists and more. The kind of people we admire is changing - look at how Peter Jackson is revered. But the Speights men still have too firm a foothold in our national identity, particularly in rural areas, for my liking.
What do you think?
Wednesday, 9 January 2008
THE DARJEELING LIMITED
Be warned. This film will make you want to go to
Another low-key, kooky masterpiece from director Wes Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic), The Darjeeling Limited is named after the train taking three emotionally damaged brothers on a journey through the subcontinent. In typical
Another warning. As well as getting you on a plane to
Ridley Scott’s latest movie is a good, if not a classic, edition to the large catalogue of American crime films. Based on a true story, it’s essentially parallel but interlinked tales of two men (Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe) struggling to survive in criminal societies in
Crowe, as the cop, and Washington, as the gangster, deliver performances as strong as you’d expect from two men who regularly feature in ‘Best Actor’ nominations. It’s a long but well-paced film that keeps your attention without fascinating you. This is because while Crowe’s character is likeable, he’s not that interesting, leaving
Well worth seeing, but no Godfather or Heat.
Saturday, 5 January 2008
1. Delicious, rich, fatty, filling food
2. Very cool churches
4. The Rhine
5. Beer Halls
7. Seeing places that bring history alive
In summary, Germany was wunderbar. I don't know if I'll visit the industrial heartland of West Germany again, but certainly look forward to seeing more of the country in the future. Yay!