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Wednesday, October 31, 2012
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Nice, except for all the neon.
Couple interesting walks lately...well, interesting for the kind of stuff we've come along.

Our wee little strolls have lately taken us along the bikeway which cuts through the bushland near our house. They've been doing some renovations to it lately, including what you see to the right there.

It'll stop anyone who can't afford scissors.
Beyond the underpass which dips beneath Mount Gravatt-Capalaba Road, they basically closed the whole thing off. Of course I continued and dragged Mrs Speech over a metal fence in what is sure to be a violation of some council ordinance or other.

Mostly it's just a lot of orange temporary fencing to keep people from writing BAZ HERE '88 or something along those anti-social lines, in the wet concrete.

A few days back we came across a grisly mystery: a dead snake. And not just dead but mutilated! Cool. Totally ripped up in the middle with ants carrying what's left of its insides back to their nests.

It's a Sherlock Holmes because unless a bird of prey decided to have a go at the slithery thing on the ground, the only thing that really could have chopped it was a lawnmower. A ride-on one. And the grass in that area had been freshly-mowed. But snakes are skittish and it would have heard that thing coming a mile away and wriggled off to eat a mouse.

Some newly re-sectioned bikeway.
The game is afoot. Well, maybe not. Snake's gone now.

Saw another scrub turkey the other day. There's a Uniting Church which we sometimes cut through to get home, and they have a bit of undeveloped land in suburbia with some trees and a turkey's decided he'll make a home there, I suppose. It's always fun to see something that prominent running around suburbia.

However, not all animal experiences are fun. The other day a bug decided to fly right in Mrs Speech's eye as we walked along bikeways between Broadwater and Cresthaven Parks.

It was the size of a tennis ball. Mrs speech actually had me take a picture of the thing - for posterity I tells ya! Where can I get it framed! - so she could see where it was. She won't let me post it even though it's cool because she's holding her lower eyelid down like a zombie kid or something.

Gross! Cool.
We used a tissue to get it out and were very thankful.

The days end later in Brisbane now, seeing as it's late spring (yay! summer!) and even though the other day we set off late we came home at just the right time. A Brisbane sunset is a pretty amazing thing, especially in the warmer months when the blues melt into picturesque purples and greens before sliding past the horizon. Nice to look at - even with the neon signs.

An Australian Christmas. You know you want some.
So yesterday Mrs Speech and I painted the mall red. Well, maybe not red. Well, maybe we didn't paint it. But we definitely went to the mall.

Mrs Speech wanted to mail off some Jesse Tree Ornaments that sold from her shop. And since I'm a Christmas junkie, I wanted to see what the mall was doing for Christmas. Mrs Speech had told me that the decorations were up and that excited me.

Can't wait till Christmas. Only 58 days left, you know.

So, it was a beautiful day - Brisbane has these gorgeous spring days where the sky sings in colours of blue that will blow your mind, and the clouds are lost somewhere. Just blue, everywhere. Amazing. Hot, too. It must have been about 30°/90°-ish, and if you're out there too long you'll get a tan. And, dry. Brisbane's wet humidity yucky summer will come later. Yesterday it was a southern dryness.

Stepping into the mall in Brisbane's warm season is awesome...it's a bipolar temperature experience that shocks your body. From the sweaty bubble of get-me-a-drink-now, you step past the automatic doors and the discomfort slips from you, the airconditioned dryness enveloping and loving you.

Welcome to the mall. Let us make you comfy. Now spend some money!

So it was yesterday.

What is that? Is that Christmas decorations? No, no, NO!
Okay so they have their decorations up. I wasn't really impressed. I think they'll up their game closer to Christmas but for now, some garland with silver stars and baubles, sparsely placed here and there, isn't making me feel holly jolly.

When Christmas gets closer and they really want to milk it, they put up their massive Christmas tree at the top of the mall and their Santa's workshop thing where you can sit on some strange guy's knee and get your picture taken with 'Santa'. I'm gonna write a post soon about how my childhood Father Christmas at the mall experience beats any of the undercooked imitations I've seen since. But suffice to say, it's nice when Garden City puts their tree up. Their Santa thing doesn't do it for me.

Anyway, we took care of mailing off Mrs Speech's packages, then hit the puppy store. There's a petshop which, as a very simple and effective marketing ploy, puts its puppies front and center. People crowd around the window. It's absolutely joyful to watch but also sad: they always look so cooped up, like they just want a new home. I tell Mrs Speech that they'll get sold soon.

After that we had lunch. We somehow got two six inch Subway subs and a cookie (Mrs Speech loves some cookie) for $8.10. I'm not really sure how that happened. I thought it'd be over ten bucks for sure. I don't mind Subway as a healthier option, especially since I could lose some kilos. Ham salad, on white?.........okay!

Following chow, we headed to Big W. Mrs Speech always refers to Big W as Walmart. Probably because of the W. Also, it's a variety store (no supermarket) of the same ilk. Mrs Speech says they're basically the same but I think Big W is a bit nicer.

(Click image to enlarge in-screen.)

1. A Christmas masked ball, or something.

2. A very cupcake-y Christmas.

3. What an emo Christmas tree looks like.

4. No really, I want one for our Christmas tree.

5. That's one less Christmas present I have to think of for Mrs Speech.

They've put a few Halloween icons up in a cursory display - pumpkin, witches hat, spiderwebs I think - but Halloween's not special here in Australia. We don't make much of a thing of it, in fact, it gets less significant each year, which is odd because we're becoming more American, and it's a huge thing in America. If you're American, feel free to comment and let us know your Halloween traditions. I'm curious.

Big W has totally rolled out their Christmas stock though, which is fun. They keep their chocolates up front, a big department of multiple aisles of sugary temptation, and beyond, their Christmas stuff.

I tell you, you haven't experienced Christmas without the purple glittery reindeer (see post linked above), or pink glittery Cinderella shoe or blue glittery ball mask, or evil talking dog (we got one) or black Christmas tree. See left for pictures.

We got some baubles because my baubles were handed down and were bought during the Ford administration I think. When Mrs Speech moved here she didn't have enough space for baubles, so mine are all we have. And they need replacing.

We also got five 7 metre rolls of wrapping paper for $1.50 each which I just thought was filthy.

Y'know something I don't get, is why stores that sell DVDs don't have like, a Christmas section. Wouldn't they sell more if there was a display with all the favourites? White Christmas? A Christmas Carol? Jingle All The Way, even? (But not Bad Santa. Or The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause.)

We futilely searched Big W's many movies without finding a Christmas section. I'm in the mood for cheap Christmas movies!

Did you know I could levitate a ball with my thoughts? Didn't know that about me, eh? I'm psycho- um, psycho- errr, I can levitate a ball with my thoughts.
Then came the sports department. They've set up a hoop and backboard and I grabbed a ten dollar basketball and literally worked up a sweat, shooting. Haven't done that in ages. The ball kept ricocheting off of bikes and cardio trainers and Mrs Speech covered her eyes as it looked like I was going to destroy things. We moved on.

Our feet were gettin' sore by this stage so we headed for Coles (supermarket) which is always last before we go home. Mrs Speech picked up some more felt for her ornaments in Riot Art n' Craft, I wandered through JB Hifi as I do, and then, Coles.

They have the same superfluous Halloween display as Big W. Mrs Speech looked covetously at the pumpkins, which I would definitely get her but where in America they're 99c or something, a whole pumpkin here is $14.00.

However, their Halloween display did allow me to channel my inner Cap'n Jack Sparrah!

(Click image to enlarge in-screen.)

1. Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

2. Christmas pudding! My favourite.

3. Mince pies: my second favourite.

4. We're gearing up for Christmas. Two months early, sure, but...
To my delight, Coles has their Christmas puddings out. I love Christmas puddings. Mrs Speech tells me that Americans hate Christmas puddings and they're considered evil and don't you dare offer any to Americans because you can get put in JAIL for that!

Maybe they're an English thing. We love 'em. I put custard and warm mine up and oh, yeah.

Our holiday season is going to be interesting this year - we're having Thanksgiving with some other people, some of whom are American, so Mrs Speech only has to make one big meal this year (we are contributing vegetables to Thanksgiving). We were going to just do turkey hindquarters for Christmas but Mrs Speech is now gonna do the whole bird. So that's nice.

That was pretty much our day. We got home, worn but happy, and an hour later a tropical storm hit (not unlike this one).

Welcome to the hot season, Brisbane style.

Christmas is only 62 days away, you know.

If you have a little girl who likes dolls we have just the thing for you for our latest giveaway!

Meet Sally. She's one of Mrs Speech's fine rag doll creations, from her shop.

Sally is made from cotton fabric, thread, ribbon and stuffed with fabric scraps - a real rag doll! She is 11 inches tall and loves karaoke.

To enter, visit Mrs Speech's shop, and leave a comment telling her which item is your favourite! Also, leave us your e-mail address!

To earn extra entries:

1. Tweet about this giveaway and leave a comment with the link to the tweet

2. Like this giveaway on Facebook and leave a comment with the link to your share

3. Pin this giveaway on Pinterest and leave a comment with the url of your pin

4. Blog about this giveaway and leave a comment with the url of your blog post

5. Follow PinkScissorsDes on twitter and leave a comment with your twitter name

Remember, you can earn up to five extra entries, but make sure you leave a comment for each one, or it won't get counted.

The giveaway is open worldwide and ends midnight, 1st November 2012 (US EST)

Good luck!
It's the perfect marriage of old and new technology...no, wait...no, it's just stupid.
Apologies for the long time between runs...Mrs Speech spent the weekend away with girlfriends, leaving me with all the chores. I wasn't blogging because I had laundry to do. That's why. That's totally my excuse.

Anyway, I was having such an awesome time last week, remembering the TV of my youth for my TV is dying post...I thought I might reminisce (in ascending chronological order) some more on the tech of my day and what I grew up with.

And of course, which is now cream-coloured plastic obselete junk clogging up a landfill somewhere.

Dovetailing with this...check out these guys, cataloguing soon-to-be extinct tech sounds.

Rotary Dial Phones

Ours was a light olive colour.
What I remember most about these was the weight. Maybe it was just that I was a little kid when these were around - I mean, I can't test the theory since they haven't been in use for more than twenty years - but they always seemed like a house brick.

And of course, the receiver itself was connected to the brick with a wire. A WIRE! If you wanted to go chop some carrotts while talking on the phone (not a good idea regardless), you had to carry the whole thing over to the kitchen benchtop. That's not a phone, that's an ordeal. And possibly a missing finger.

But they just had this funky go-slow thing about them, didn't they? As though tech back then was less about clogging your life up with worry and rushing, and more about taking your time.


80's computers

The only thing stopping me from making fun is the sentimentality which comes flooding back when I see this ugly dog again.
We got ours in...ooh...I think it was '86.

It was this mortar-coloured monstrosity which I eagerly unveiled Christmas morning with massive raised keys that made a soft thunk sound when you typed the syntax to load your favourite game:


That thing was awesome. The royal-blue-surrounded-by-light blue default screen, the disk drive that was the size of a shoe box but weighed eight kilos or something, the cool midi sounds that were completely unreplicatable...priceless.

In 1993, when I started in grade 9 here in Brisbane, for accounting we used these boxy apple computers, all in one deal, y'know where the screen is connected to the machine itself? Like one of the newer all-in-ones only...nothing like. The screen was deeper than it was wide and the duochromatic picture it showed seemed completely acceptable. Almost space-age, even.

Floppy Disks

The last one of these I owned had Sim City 2000 on it.
These things were awesome.

Remember what it was like to actually hold physical media? A book? A tape? A CD?

Floppies were the ultimate in portable information. With a whopping 1.44mb of space, they could hold your school assignment, a game and STILL have room left over for a couple ones and zeroes.

I used to love the metallic part which you could pull over and it would snap back into place like vicious jaws if you tried to get too close to the precious, precious information inside.

Overhead Projectors

Yes, they were preindustrial, basically.
OHPs exemplified obselete technology: big, cumbersome, clunky, disproportionately high inconvenience-benefit ratio.

When I was in school, not every class had one. So if our teacher needed to show us all a map of pre-World War II Europe, she had to go next door.

'Sorry Rhonda...can I just borrow your OHP for a moment?'

Then she had to bring it to our class, an exercise which because of its weight, today would qualify as a workplace health and safety issue. Then she had to plug it in. Then she had to turn off the lights. Then she had to place the slide on it, which had to have been written/printed on special clear plastic paper. Then she had to flip it over so the letters were the right way.

The mind boggles.

Nokia 3315 and its ilk

Had this colour. Loved that thing.
Loved, loved, loved this thing. This was my first mobile phone. Got it in 2003.

I think it was like, $30 a month, on a phone plan that included x dollars' worth of calls included.

Obviously that's a crime these days but back then it was a different age. It was 1 P.F. (Pre-Facebook).

I loved its simplicity; its shallow colours, its smooth, perfectly-sized buttons which made a delightful soft clicking sound when pressed. Its two-tone screen. The blocky little picture you could set as the background.

Even the semi-coarse texture of the casing, which made it a tiny bit easier to hold when your palm was sweaty. The beautiful curvature of the casing.

I texted with this thing till I could do it in my sleep. Why does it take twice as long to do a text on our smartphone?

Dial-up internet

My earliest external modem. A wonder of teal and silver.
beep boop beep beep boop beep boop beep...

ner ner neee...brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr...


brrr brrrr brrr dun der DUN der...



The world wide web/information superhighway/early internet

Personally, I quite like it.
Remember when the internet began to totally take off? Wasn't it fun? All these ephemeral names for it kept popping up as if no-one truly knew what to make of a new social protocol for sharing information.

What would it be? What would it become? Would it take over our lives like Skynet and cause the Russians to obliterate Madagascar? Hey 01011000101, I thought that was supposed to be Tucson...

When people build a new paradigm they do it for function and not so much form, which makes sense; the Wright Brothers wouldn't have been THE WRIGHT BROTHERS, if the plane didn't fly. Who cares if the colour was so 1901.

But what the early internet unleashed on us...egads. My eyeballs. They is hurtin'.
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
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When I grew up we had a clacky TV. I Can still see it now: a brown wood-panelled ugly dog of a machine, with a bubble screen that made it look bloated from endless Happy days reruns.

And there was no remote. My goodness, no. Might as well ask for a smartphone back then. This was the mid-eighties. You had to actually get up off the chocolate brown cotton weave couch and change the channel yourself.

The buttons made a clack sound. Clack. Josie and the Pussycats. Clack. He-Man. Clack. Scooby Doo. Saturday Morning was clacks and Coco Pops.

I grew up in that era, where TV was the gathering point for our house, the watering hole of outside interaction and how many questions could we get right on Sale of the Century?

I was a fan of Tony Barber, but he always seemed a bit smirky.

Say it ain't so!

We have five main channels here: ABC, Seven, SBS, Nine and Ten. Each station owns one or more other stations which seem to be primarily for showing endless repeats of 'classic' shows (The Love Boat, anyone? Charmed? Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman?), bizarre guy shows (Coal, Ice Road Truckers, Megastructure Demolition) or in the case of Channel Nine and the Olympics, the exact same content on both channels.

Listen buddy...put some quality locally-produced shows on TV. NOW. Got it?
Channel Ten owns Eleven and One. One was created for the very valid purpose of providing sports content all day, every day. Its content was however last year 'rededicated' to shows like Bondi Rescue, Get Smart and M*A*S*H.

There are also infomercial stations broadcasting 'shows' like Oreck Air Purifier (my favourite!) and Ninja Knife Cutter (ooooh...Mrs Speech could use that for Christmas. All sewn up).

Channels Nine and Ten are in huge financial difficulties. The private equity firm, CVC, which bought Nine a while back, handed over almost $1.5bn for it, also purchasing $3.6bn in debt. The further two billion dollars they pumped into it is also gone.

Channel Ten's ratings are so poor they might as well start showing the Ninja Knife Cutter. After all, it slices and dices.

I'd rather watch grass grow

The main problem, at least on the surface, is the turgid lineup of prime-time programming, which of course is the time-slot where the numbers come from - both ratings and ratings' cousin, advertising dollars.

I haven't witnessed a disinterest quotient this high since Brisbane City Council introduced bikes for rent in the city.

All the star power in the world wasn't able to save this tired format.
The problem - and I know Mrs Speech will want to weigh in on this - is that prime-time content seems to be either a) US shows 'fast-tracked' (more on that later) ie Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men, that odd new self-serving Matt LeBlanc show, etc...or locally-produced shows which utilise trends discarded years ago.

People will think what they will about the American shows; most of them aren't to my taste. I've been meaning to delve into Breaking Bad and Mad Men, though.

But the Aussie ones are worse. They're mainly reality TV shows which draw on an ever-descending spiral of the concept of derivation.

That is, each year they're paler and paler copies of shows from the year before.

These are Channel Nine and Channel Ten's major locally-produced shows for this year:

  • Being Lara Bingle (let's follow around a third-tier celebrity!)
  • Can of Worms (panel discussion - things like, 'if you could have one superpower, what would it be?'...I kid you not)
  • The Shire (compared by many to Jersey Shore)
  • Everybody Dance Now (post-Olympic dance competition which, though massively hyped, failed spectacularly)
  • Don't Tell The Bride (what would happen if the groom was allowed to plan the wedding?)
  • Big Brother (grinding my teeth)

People refuse to watch these tv shows. Personally I'd watch...well, anything really. SBS shows the news from various countries. I'd listen to the Cyrillic intonations of Macedonian news before causing my brain to contract by tuning in to Can of Worms.

The Chicken had to have come first

Aussie programming has always been reasonably derivative. The Price is Right, Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune...Seven shamelessly copied Neighbours with its summer lovin' Home and Away. Those kids and their surf-related angst issues.

But the lack of originality alone is not imploding the major networks. A funny thing happened to Australian TV over the last five years.

It really, got lost in a back alley off a dark city street one night with rain falling heavy upon the well-worn concrete...and was mugged by the internet.

Let's face it...TV wandered down here after a night at the pub and really got what it deserved at the hands of the internet.
People wanted what they considered (and read, was) quality programming and stopped waiting for it from the US. Ten may fast-track Homeland within a week or two, but it's available on the internet within hours of being shown in the States.

A recent case involving the second largest internet provider in the country, highlighted this problem.

In 2008 iiNet was sued by the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT, on behalf of Channel Seven and many major international film distributors) alleging that iiNet had a responsibility to ensure its customers did not download content via BitTorrent. A judge in 2010 ruled in favour of iiNet and then earlier this year the High Court threw the case out.

The point is, people want their content NOW. And will watch it on a laptop, instead of a 42 inch screen if they have to. This is happening a lot.

Fewer people watching their favourite shows on television means less advertising money.

Poor local content means fewer people watching television too.

Both issues affect TV's bottom line. Ironically, the lack of advertising money is probably significantly affecting Aussie stations' capital outlay on new shows. Which then tend to be poor. And which people don't watch. It's like the chicken and the egg.

I refuse to watch the telly on my wristwatch

So what now? Who knows.

Seems reasonably clear that content is moving online. Smart TVs now can access the internet, albeit under the constraints of the manufacturer's frontend software. I can plug my laptop into our TV if I feel like buying a long HDMI cable.

The crossover is really, taking shape. Don your silver jumpsuits, and all that. Tron will soon be here.

No. No. No.
You can also watch on your phone too. You already knew that. Seriously, when the programming on your digital TV is so...analogue...why would you bother? The market has already proved itself aggressive enough to choose what it wants, when it wants. If the networks don't actively seek to catch up, they'll become about as relevant as CDs, which were essentialy relegated to the status of artifacts as soon as the internet realised that a four megabyte file could be downloaded in anyone's bedroom.

There's a blog post somewhere in the deintegration of the Australian home. Dinner in the fifties was around the table. Dinner in the eighties was in front of the TV. Dinner now can be wherever your laptop is; families have more than one computer.

The gathering point for your house, the watering hole of outside interaction, can be wherever you want it to be. It's fluid. It's not stationary. Don't try to fight it. The tube as we know it is dying, in this country.

Some days I bloody miss that clacky television.
Australian choccies. Num num num num.
Do you like chocolate?

'Course you do.

What about Australian chocolate?

Don't know?

Find out! We're giving away five Aussie choccy bars. Mrs Speech attests that they're delicious and amazing (go ahead and ask her) and you deserve a break with some chocolate, don't you?

'Course you do.

What's in it, mate?

Our choccy prize pack includes:

Terms & conditions? What terms & conditions?

International entries are welcome, and encouraged!

The contest begins midnight Sunday, 7th October 2012 EST and closes Sunday 14th October 2012 EST.

To enter please use the Rafflecopter below!

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

* Please note, flag not included.
Rag Dolls Betty and Darla are ready for Christmas cuddles.
Christmas is 80 days away! Or less by the time you read this post. You can keep up with the countdown here. Phileas Fogg made his way around the world in so many days...so, Jules Verne recorded here. In so many days, I'm preparing and stocking up Pink Scissors Design for Christmas.

My Elna has been busy and merrily humming away as Christmas gets all sewn up.

When I'm not out on a walkabout with Mr Speech, I'm with Elna filling up Pink Scissors Design with Christmas goodies with you in mind: quilts, dolls, finger puppets, Jesse Tree ornaments, and now . . .

. . . Christmas Stockings!

New in The Shop

Stockings are a necessity at Christmas. They are perfect for hiding sweet surprises and holding wonderful Christmas treasures. As a child in Michigan, every Christmas morning I found a beautiful round orange in the toe of my stocking - a delicious tropical delight! Now, living in tropical Queensland with my handsome Aussie husband, the toe of my stocking is usually filled with Cadbury chocolates. Christmas breakfast is typically a tropical fruit platter: oranges, pineapple, kiwi fruit, and mangoes.

Rag Doll Darla shows how easily she fits into the new Christmas stockings.
Last week, I started making stockings for Christmas 2012. You can view them in the shop by clicking here. This year's Christmas stockings are a beautiful blend of cotton fabric and muslin. Each stocking is one of a kind, having a unique patchwork design on the front, quilted in variegated thread, and lined with muslin. The 2012 stockings measure 11 inches long, have a loop for hanging up, and are machine washable.

The stockings are large enough to hold one of the rag dolls from the shop with plenty of room to spare in the toe and foot for lollies (candy) and other Christmas surprises. The sweet Russian doll finger puppets would fit nicely, too!

New Christmas Stockings in Pink Scissors Design shop!
If you visit the shop today, you will see only two stockings listed. One is in the popular chevron pattern made up in bright pink fabric and festive stars. The other is in a classic strips pattern made up in green with festive polka dots. If you would like to order more than one at a time, please contact me. I will gladly create a custom listing for you. Perhaps, you desire a specific colorway or pattern. I welcome custom orders.

I've got a lovely blue fabric on the table patiently waiting to be made into the next stocking. I haven't decided on a pattern for it yet. Any suggestions?

I'm linking up to:

Wednesday, October 03, 2012
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An Australia Post outlet. Not the one we went to.
In what has to be classified as good timing following my recent post on poor customer service, today has brought us a little addendum to add.

We bought a package online the other day. Tracked it online. It eventually was delivered to our local post office. Because I couldn't get to the phone in time to let the truck through our front gate. A small hassle, nothing major.

I phone Mrs Speech who was out at the time, and ask her to pick it up.

She wanders in and is given the full double-barrel treatment by Sandy, one half of the couple who works there. No, you have to have the card we left in your mailbox. No, you have to have ID. No, you have to have evidence you live at that address. She gives Mrs Speech the full patronising tone.

So Mrs Speech calls me and lets me know. I call the post office and get Sandy.

"Hi, can I speak to Ian please." Ian's the other half.

"Who's calling?" Total pleasantness.

"Just a customer."

"No, WHO'S CALLING." Alright, now a little less pleasant.

Ian gives me the full run down. Their procedures changed two months ago, he says. He can't account for why we went in last week on one of our walks and he gave Mrs Speech a package without asking for any form of ID whatsoever. This is how it always has been. Walk in, walk out, no ID? No hassles.

No longer.

He can't account for why we went in last week on one of our walks and he gave Mrs Speech a package without asking for any form of ID whatsoever.

So I go in myself. Ian starts to give me the run down. Told him I don't care and that I'm just there for my package. Ian goes the whole childish bit.

"Alright, if that's going to be your attitude."

Starts calling me sir. You hurt my feelings. Now watch, as I put some artificial space between us! Mumbles something about avoiding future mix-ups.

Yeah, you can avoid future mix-ups by not treating us badly. That's how you can avoid future mix-ups. Dilettante.

Anyway, I got my package and they don't got my business again. It's a shame with the massive centralisation of services like the mail, that a local outlet wouldn't try their hardest to keep their customers.

That's what you get, sometimes.
Wednesday, October 03, 2012
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Oui, il en manque une...en effet, le monde, c'est fin, c'est...c'est...c'est...

La Somme De Toutes Les Peurs!
Ben Affleck. You'll love him or hate him.

I thought he was great in Good Will Hunting, as bad as the rest of Pearl Harbor and forgettable in most everything else.

Gone Baby Gone was good, but elder Affleck was behind the camera on that one. It's like when he actually has to pretend for us the thespian takes a back seat (if there is one in him) and the GQ coverboy steps up to say hi and can I borrow a cup of sugar 'cause ain't I cute enough?

That was quite the tangent.

The Sum of All Fears is adapted from the 1991 thriller of the same name by Tom Clancy. Having never read this particular tome, I can't vouch for its faithfulness. I can however, say that all Tom Clancy books are the same.

The films translated from Clancy books are a different beast. I thought Hunt For Red October was okay and loved both Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger.

Mostly I really liked Harrison Ford and the way he reinvented himself in the early 90's as the forty-something professional with family on his mind, who is unwittingly targeted.

Ford brought seriousness and credibility to the role of John Patrick Ryan with a no-frills performance that was both believable and necessary. Because the rest of Clancy's books focus on situations of international conspiracy and intrigue which are so fictional you need someone to stop you from suspending belief entirely.

Give it to me in a nutshell

The Sum of All Fears revolves around Jack Ryan (Affleck) whose rapid ascension from mailboy, to senior aide to the Director of Central Intelligence (Morgan Freeman) is owed less to his personality and more to these three facts:

  • A rich Austrian Neo-Nazi named Dressler wants some sort of German hegemony;
  • He wants to create war between the USA and Russia to achieve this; and
  • He's found an arms dealer (Colm Feore) with a nuclear weapon.

You probably know much of the rest: new Russian Present Nemerov (Ciarán Hinds) ends up going mano-y-mano with US President Fowler after said nuclear weapon is refitted by three disaffected Russian scientists and rips apart a Baltimore football stadium. Cue explosions, fighter jets, snapcounts, red phones to the Kremlin and all sorts of associated politico-military ephemera.

Let me get something out of the way: this movie is anachronistic beyond all get-out.

'So, Morg...in about five years, I'm making Gone Baby Gone. Whatcha think, mmm?'
It was released - and substantively set in - 2002 at the beginning of the War on Terror, but the book was written when bricks from the Berlin Wall were still being gleefully hurled to the ground by grateful Berliners.

Which is to say, that in the chaos following the revolution and de-Sovietisation, a plot to secure nuclear war between Russia and the USA may have been credible in the world of political fiction.

But it became exponentially less likely as the years wore on and in 2002 was a dim afterthought from a different age, especially as the US was everyone's sympathetic figure after 9/11.

So what you have with The Sum of All Fears is a movie based on an axis of 1991 suspicions, but living in the age of Palm Pilots. I couldn't get past the cognitive dissonance being thrust upon me. But I know I think too much.

So, who did what?

Ben Affleck is not good in this. He's a biteless, presumptuous, anaemic schoolboy whom nothing ever rattles, showing little emotional range and less depth than a pancake. He looks so thoroughly bored in this that I am tempted to believe that he has a lot more in him as an actor and is stunted by the tripe being served up:

"...And Jack...we never had this conversation."

"What conversation."

Nonetheless, Harrison Ford brought a maturity and polished earthiness that Affleck lacks. Maybe it was just the way the character was written: where it seemed that Ford's Ryan would think the problem through to its conclusion and then go after the baddies, Affleck simply runs between calamities, recklessly throwing himself into the fray with the dwarved intellect of a nine year old.

The gravity in this image is betrayed by the fact that the National Security Advisor and Secretary of Defense are both asleep.
He's a coverboy in this, not a ten page article.

Freeman is good; Freeman's always good. As is James Cromwell, as President Fowler. Ciarán Hinds couldn't master a Russian accent if Gorbachev came along and stood behind him as his own personal puppet master, but he's still sufficiently dubious as the President about whose intentions nothing is known.

Some of the lesser characters were given to men of maturity and ability: Bruce McGill, Phillip Baker Hall, Ron Rifkin. Michael Byrne has accent issues too and is not quite threatening enough to be a henchman. He's too much the kindly uncle.

Liev Schrieber plays John Clark, the lynchpin of Clancy's Ryan-related agency sub-plots. Always thought Schrieber was pretty cool. He's underutilised. Bridget Moynahan is nails on a chalkboard. I don't want to talk about Bridget Moynahan.

It was no Pearl Harbor...that's a good thing

It's a Saturday night movie, and no doubt. The Sum of All Fears will not ever, ever, EVER make you think. Alright, it's not supposed to. But you're going to have to let go of a fair amount of belief, because this thing works as a vehicle for escapism.

It's mainly the 1991/2002 thing which overshadows the whole deal for me. The world had moved past the Cold War and this movie actually could have been made to fit a mould generated by the War on Terror. Maybe none of us were ready for that then, though.

Either way it's an odd fit. But there are explosions and the suspense, if not enough to make you wish for Lassie, is present as Ryan works to avert catastrophe.

Grab some popcorn and kick back. But if you fall asleep, I won't blame you. Just make sure it's after the aircraft carrier scene.
Monday, October 01, 2012
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...All sewn up.
Yesterday Mrs Speech and I went for our longest walk yet.

It took us the length of the Bulimba Creek bikeway, down Wecker road (the boring road), up an horrific hill that could have doubled as the downhill slalom for the Winter Olympics, and then basically through Mansfield and Wishart till we got home after 6:30. We left around 4:30.

And to our delight, we had not one but two brushes with scrub turkeys.

Bridge across the River Kwai, it ain't. But still kinda pretty.
The first one was behind Broadwater Park. It was manoeuvred into us by another family which approached it from the northeast. Scrub turkeys are extremely skittish (maybe 'cause they know cranberry sauce goes so well with them) and they dodge humans before you can get anywhere near them.

This one though, ambled hastily down the path to Mrs Speech and I, desperate to escape the clutches of the family stampeding through the bush. It came within a couple metres of us as I urged Mrs Speech in hushed tones to not move. It headed off into the undergrowth.

The second one was scrounging for food near a temporary fence erected around some improvements to the path, being done near a bridge over the creek, a little way down. It scattered quickly down the gully. The video is not nearly as compelling. Our phone camera is a scrappy affair that needs to be upgraded smartly. It does however take nice pictures of angels.

We met a guy on our walk who we recognised from a couple weeks back. The first time we saw him, on the bikeway, he asked me if there was something further down to be concerned with. He had seen me waving my hands around like a crazy guy and wanted to know what to look out for. It was just a spider web.

Okay so it's not an angel. As I said, we need a new phone camera.
We said hi to him and moved on.

On Newnham road, we had an interesting experience. A cop car did a u-turn right into our section of the pavement, tires squealing in high-pitched stress not five metres from us.

Seemed totally unnecessary given that they didn't light up the siren or anything. There's a donut joke to be made somewhere but I shan't.

We arrived back after dark to find the NRL Grand Final still on, so that was nice. I like me some football. Except when a guy's ear gets chewed. That's not fun.


Mrs Speech is linking this blog post up with Covered in Grace's Monday Meet Up!

Covered in Grace

And, reminding you to go enter her fabric giveaway which ends October 3, 2012 EST and is open worldwide.