It 2017 – nostalgia and criticism

The 1990 miniseries adaptation if It was my gateway into the horror genre. I was too young at the time to see it as a coming-of-age story that unfairly gave physical form to the terrors each individual faced growing up. Indeed, if my mother had realised that the blood exploding from Beverly’s bathroom sink was a metaphor for the dread of menstruation and the implications of impending womanhood in the face of a possessively protective single father, I don’t think that twelve-year-old David and his three siblings (youngest age five) would have been allowed to go anywhere near it.

I haven’t watched Tim Curry’s outstanding performance as Pennywise since the 90s, but It has always been a standard that I hold all other horror up to, and while I’m not a fan of Hollywood’s obsession with reboots, remakes, and sequels, I was excited and curious to see how it would turn out. Overall, I had a good time. Well, I can’t really say that. My relationship with horror is such that I tend to look away at the most tense or violent moments. I stay and watch despite myself. Overall, my objectives in watching the film were fulfilled.

Brave the spoilers below at your peril… Continue reading

Alien: Isolation is quiet… a little too quiet…

Oh good, a door!

I return to the elevator lobby, having repaired the security hacking tool that will get me into the lift, and up to the Sevastopol’s comms room, where I hope to get a ride out of this space station.

I’ve just had my first personal experience with the Xenomorph. It was scripted, but horribly tense, its demonically barbed tail uncoiling between my legs. It wasn’t aware of me, and that made the encounter all the more tense. It stalked off in the direction that I also need to go. I give it a head start — if I can’t see it, then it can’t see me, right… RIGHT?? — and head up to the lobby too.

Returning to the elevator lobby, I am simultaneously gratified and terrified to hear gunshots and screams. It’s obvious that the monster is having its way with the aggressive scavengers that I’d left behind. Soon, I won’t have to deal with the scavs. Of course that means that I’ll be alone with the Xenomorph. I spy a terminal. Maybe I can reroute power to some sort of distraction and then run for the elevator. Unfortunately the thing doesn’t have enough juice. I look up, realising that the noise has started to die down. Oh shit. What’s that bursting out of my stomach?

My vision blurs and then dims as that demonically barbed tail tells me that somehow it had got behind me. So, who was distracted?

Okay, so I’m over a year late to the Alien: Isolation “party”, but who cares? Survival horror like this is a very personal experience. I have that particular psychological quirk that reacts very well to the horror genre — insomniac for nights after a particularly “good” movie — and yet keeps coming back for more. I indulge myself infrequently at best, so I generally go for the best experiences. I did try Amnesia: A Dark Descent a couple years ago, but managed to freak myself out so thoroughly in about 20 minutes that I had to walk away. In fact, Steam claims that I haven’t even purchased the game. Probably for the best. Continue reading

GNU Terry Pratchett

The news is a little old now, but I wanted to acknowledge Terry Pratchett’s passing.

He meant a lot to many of us, and his was the first celebrity death that affected me emotionally. His brand of fiction shaped the way I think about the importance of fantasy to our humanity. That phrase – “where the falling angel meets the rising ape” –  is crucial to the way I see myself, and humanity. If we have the humility to see ourselves as closer to earth than heaven, then we are moving upwards to greatness. That’s a positive message, and gives me hope for myself.

As my own little remembrance, I am offering a little code snippet. Webmasters can all contribute to an ongoing commemoration by setting the following HTTP header: X-Clacks-Overhead: GNU Terry PratchettContinue reading

Ireland in four days (Part 2)

My travelogue for our Grand Tour continues. I don’t have a lot to report for the next three days, as I was working. The weather was lovely, and completely counter to any expectations I had. Each morning I woke up and walked ten minutes in warm sunlight to the office, across the Grand Canal.

Fair weather in Dublin

P was on holiday and did a lot of touring. Despite her misgivings about Dublin, I think she enjoyed herself and learned quite a bit, especially about the independence struggles in the early twentieth century.

Gravedigger’s Ghost Tour

I did manage to squeeze in a bit of tourism on one evening. The same group who operated the Giant’s Causeway also offer a Ghost Tour around Dublin. I’ve enjoyed previous Ghost Tours, as they offer a good look at a town’s history across a long period (there’s a walking one in Auckland that I particularly liked).

The Gravedigger’s Tour Busy

Stories of the Dolocher on the city walls of old Dublin

I found Gravedigger’s a bit cheesy — heavy on the comedy and cheap scares, and a little light on the history. Still, it was good to see something of the old city walls, Kilmainham Gaol, and finish up at Kavanagh’s Pub.

Kavanagh’s Pub

I had a good time, but had not to take it too seriously.

Book of Kells

The Book of Kells is a must-see for anybody visiting Dublin. It’s located in the Old Library of Trinity College, and quite easy to get to (ten minute walk from our hotel). The queue is round the block, but we ordered tickets online and were the second through the door in the morning.

Main gate of Trinity College in the evening

Samuel Beckett Theatre

Photography is not allowed in the exhibition, so you’ll have to go see for yourself. The book itself is an amazing piece of art. The illumination is exquisite, and the exhibition tells a good story of both the book’s history, and the construction of the book, and the scribes that wrote and illuminated it.

We then passed through an exhibition on Brian Boru and the Battle of Clontarf, which is a fascinating insight into how Ireland’s fight for independence began well before British rule, and then into the Long Room of the Old Library. Not having done a lot of research for this part of the trip, this was a genuine surprise for me…

Books from floor to ceiling!

The author (front) and Sir Isaac Newton (rear)

A beautiful vault

Panorama of the Old Library

The books! Thousands of books line the walls in dark oak shelves, watched over by the busts of great writers, philosophers and poets. People ask about highlights of the trip. This is definitely one.

Don’t forget to check out my travelogue photos from the trip, and then the nice fancy photos as well!

Ireland in four days (Part 1)

It’s been over a month, and I haven’t actually written anything about my travels, other than to make some observations about traveling styles and experience. Time to put pen to paper, as it were, and salvage any freshness in my mind.

I had intended to write about the actual experience of a 6 am flight on Emirates, the fact that “Now Boarding” and “Last Call” are synonymous in Dubai airport, and general observations on interpretations of espresso-derived coffee around the world, but they are just distractions at this point.

First Impressions

We arrived in Dublin after nine in the evening — possibly the last flight to land. The arrivals hall was certainly empty. Immigration and quarantine were a breeze (apart from being stuck behind a couple of amateurs that hadn’t sorted their visas out ahead of time), and we were soon in a cab.

Cabbies in Dublin are very friendly and informative. This one had actually spent a fair bit of time in Manly, and knew where Parramatta is. He explained that we were passing through town just after the All-Ireland Hurling Final. Traffic was a little slow passing near Croke Park, but we made it to the hotel in the city center within half an hour.

Pearse Hotel

Pearse Hotel – less impressive inside

The Pearse Hotel was a disappointment. I wasn’t expecting luxury, but for $130 AUD equivalent, I was expecting actual air conditioning (not windows that open onto the street), sheets changed daily (or at least the option), and a room safe. Oh, and a notification that we had been given a smoking room. I’m pretty sure I could get all that in Sydney for the same price. Nonetheless, we got two double beds, and a pretty central location.

The Lido

Start your party at the Lido

I can recommend the Lido — a chip shop across the road from the hotel. It was open late, and provided us with what seemed an appropriate refuel after 20+ hours in a slightly spacious sardine can. If anybody can explain the whirlyburger, that would be much appreciated in certain quarters.

Northern Ireland Bus Tour

Early to rise, and straight on a bus to see the Giant’s Causeway. I had originally intended to rent a car and drive through Northern Ireland myself. Given that I would be operating on 6 hours’ sleep, straight off one of the longest flights of my life, I decided not to risk it, and booked a tour. I cannot recommend Extreme Ireland’s Giant’s Causeway Bus Tour enough. It leaves Dublin early in the morning and makes for the coast of Northern Ireland almost directly.

Phil, our driver, was very friendly and spoke knowledgeably. As we passed through Belfast, he gave a great 10 minute history of the Troubles, describing the politics, violence and tensions that continue to this day. Nonetheless, he insisted that Belfast is a “great craic, and the people are very friendly.”

Our first main stop was in Carnlough, for a quick break. It’s a picturesque little town, with a nice harbour.

Carnlough Harbour

Carnlough Harbour

Most of the day was spent driving on the coast, or through the countryside. It’s all gorgeous. I don’t know what else to say. Rolling hills, rough cliffs, ruined castles, farms and tiny villages make Northern Ireland a lovely place to visit.

Before the main event, we stopped in to see the famous rope bridge at Carrick-a-Rede. For hundreds of years, salmon fishers crossed a rope bridge to a tiny rock. These days, it’s a tourist attraction. You have to walk over a kilometer from the car park to the bridge itself. It’s a very nice walk, but not particularly easy. The path follows the cliff line, and there are some fairly steep climbs. Definitely worth the effort, though.

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