Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2009 approaches...

Usually I have a quiet New Year's Eve. Pizza with a few friends. I think it'll end up being the same this year. I've tried having bigger New Year's Eve gatherings here, but no one likes travelling too far afterwards, and someone in each carload has to be the designated non-drinking driver.

I was excited to be invited to see the fireworks close up, from a rather unique residential tower on the north side of Sydney Harbour this year. I'd have to get there by 4pm, as all the ferry transport stops in preparation for the two fireworks shows (at 9pm and midnight). My friend, who lives there (opposite Nicole Kidman's apartment on the other side of the Harbour), is only allowed to invite a certain number of people, and even has to hand out passes. Reluctantly, I passed.

I think I rather prefer seeing the fireworks on TV these days. When I lived in Lakemba, I used to see them really well (but tiny) from my balcony. By turning on the TV we could even hear them as well! But no crowds. It really does get ridiculously crowded at Circular Quay on New Year's Eve in Sydney. Getting home again is the rotten bit. Everyone trying to get on the first train out of the city, idiots wandering through the subway tunnels, holding up the trains. Been there, done that, rather be comfortable and safe(r).

Happy New Year!

Meanwhile, here's yet another amazing Youtube fan mash-up on the upcoming "Star Trek" movie, this time using images from TOS:

The TAS mash-up is HERE and the official one it's based upon is HERE.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

What's hot in 2009?

Got some Cinema Cash vouchers for Christmas?

More than 2000 fans responded to an online survey, which was posted on in December. Since the Fandango Hot List is focused on next year's films, upcoming movies which do not have a 2009 release date were not included.


According to Men:

1. "Star Trek": 23%
2. "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen": 17%
3. "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince": 14%
4. "X-Men Origins: Wolverine": 9%
5. "Terminator Salvation": 7%
6. "Watchmen": 7%
7. "Angels & Demons": 5%
8. "Public Enemies": 3%
9. "G.I. Joe": 3%
10. "New Moon"("Twilight" sequel): 3%.

According to Women:

1. "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince": 25%
2. "New Moon"("Twilight" sequel): 15%
3. "Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen": 11%
4. "Angels & Demons": 9%
5. "X-Men Origins: Wolverine": 7%
6. "Star Trek": 6%
7. "Public Enemies": 5%
8. "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian": 4%
9. "The Lovely Bones": 3%
10. "Where the Wild Things Are": 2%.


Monday, December 29, 2008

Gort versus Gort

2008 Gort1950s Gort
Klaatu - Barada - Nikto!

It's the battle of the Gorts and - because I enjoyed myself on Sunday (despite a very disturbed night's sleep earlier on) - I'm declaring a draw!

Yes, I went off to see the remake of "The Day the Earth Stood Still". Even though I already knew the basic storyline, for me this remake was an engrossing-enough movie. I guess the fact that I didn't fall asleep, even though I was quite tired, is a good sign.

I actually like Keanu Reeves in most of his films. The "Bill & Ted" movies were such a cack, and I enjoyed his unique contributions to "Parenthood" and the first "Matrix". (I've had the DVD of "The Lake House" for about a year, purchased on the strength of his appealing performance in the theatrical trailer, although I haven't found the time o watch it yet.) So, if he's known for his wooden acting, then it certainly helped him bring an alien quality to Klaatu, this film's featured character made famous by the always intriguing Michael Rennie in 1951. Big shoes to fill!

Kathy Bates was also excellent. I had no idea she'd even been cast. A nice surprise. Jennifer Connolly was a likable female lead, and the young actor playing her stepson was appealing and capable.

I'd deliberately avoided the newspaper and Internet critiques, but I guess I'm now not surprised that it's garnered some rather lacklustre reviews... I suppose the main stumbling block is: did they really need to remake this classic, when the original still holds up so well? (I do have a great DVD version of the original - with a fascinating commentary by Nicholas Meyer and the then quite elderly director, Robert Wise. Coincidentally both men directed for the "Star Trek" features, so it was fun to hear them working together.)

The new film combines new SPFX with plenty of nostalgic homages to the original. The new take on what makes up Gort was interesting from a SPFX angle, and the swarms of alien, self-replicating nanite creatures seemed innovative. I guess most people were expecting Gort to use brute strength. I was surprised this Klaatu had no traditional flying saucer, but the network of giant spheres, which seemed to provide transport, communication and ark-like retrieval pods (for Earth's non human fauna) seemed efficient, and very pretty to behold.

There are some other interesting changes. The new Gort is huge! In the original film, if I recall correctly, he was played by an extra, whose day job was working as a security guard (Lock Martin) at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. Famously, the old costume was made in two versions - one with the zipper in the back, the other with the zipper in the front - so the "metal" suit would appear seamless. This time Gort's all CGI, I guess, and it's the US military who name him, not Klaatu. G.O.R.T. is now an acronym for "Genetically Organized Robotic Technology".

Probably the film's green messages were a bit heavy handed. But we haven't learned much by way of Michael Rennie's Klaatu's warnings in 1951, so will we also ignore Keanu's Klaatu as we approach 2009? Yep, I think we will..

Oh, and I also loved that the bridge in Central Park, under which the main characters shelter during the finale of the new "Te Day the Earth Stood Still" seems to be the same bridge used by the young heroes of "Cloverfield" in that film's finale. Next time I visit Central Park, that's a must-have holiday snapshot. Hopefully I won't pick a day of impromptu alien invasion.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Raiders of the lost weekend?

My frustrated Facebook entries tell the sorry tale. Of interrupted (my) sleep, and the bizarre effect the Christmas season has on some people.

* Ian is awakened at 12.10am by a violent, abusive domestic dispute across the road. 'Tis the season... [12:26am]

* I think they sent one police car per phone call made to 000. Thank goodness. [12:27am]

* Would you believe the police delivered him back to the house, drove off - and the abuse started all over again immediately? Now carted away for a second time... Happy New Year... [1:33am]

* Ian is still awake at 1.34am. [1:34am]

* Ian is going to try bed once more. Third time's the charm? [2:43am]

* Ian is awake and still feeling seedy. [7:11am]

* Ian is still hearing aggressive male voices floating through Penrith. Lighten up, everyone. [12:49pm]

* The thick accent sounded like it was the same guy from early this morning, but in a different house. I couldn't believe the police delivered this morning's idiot back after his first paddy wagon ride. [10:44pm]

* Ian is thinking of turning in, to regain yesterday's lost beauty sleep. (I have an excuse for not being beautiful today!) [11:21pm]

Sunday's magic number: 94.5 - Not too shabby, all things considered.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Australia vs Quantum of Solace

I saw Baz Luhrmann's Australia on Tuesday but, with Christmas preparations descending fast, I hadn't had a chance to write up a review.

It was a lot of fun, but I'm not surprised some Americans just don't get it. I understand the film - and star Nicole Kidman - came under some harsh criticism in the USA. Sure, the first twenty minutes or so were rather disarming, as to what kind of film it was going to be, almost as if even the director hadn't yet decided, but I also felt this was on purpose. The movie is definitely great reflection of the Aussie sense of humour.

I thoroughly enjoyed Nicole's performance - even though the character starts off as aloof and stuffy as her character in last year's disastrous and cold "The Golden Compass", she developed Lady Sarah into a very likable and warm person. Hugh Jackman was excellent as Drover, although he's also come off badly in some critiques on the film. And young Brandon Walters, as Nullah, acted the pants off the adults in every scene!

By comparison, today I chose to see the new James Bond film, "Quantum of Solace". I was using a Hoyts' Super Saver voucher, so it only cost me $11, but I'm afraid to say that this 007 movie literally put me to sleep. I stayed awake for most of it, but I kept "blissing out" in the action/chase/SPFX sequences. With "Australia" I was alert throughout, despite its considerable length. And I did enjoy "Casino Royale", but this new Bond flick was a bit hard to follow a few times.

I just read the Wikipedia synopsis for "Quantum of Solace" a few minutes ago and a few things clicked - Daniel Craig and the cast were great, but aspects seemed a bit tedious. I'm also a bit miffed they didn't play the JJ Abrams' "Star Trek" trailer with the movie, although it did play in the foyer of the cinemas while I was securing my ticket.

Next up, I'll try the remake of "The Day the Earth Stood Still" on the weekend. It opened today, but I figured its queues would be too long. And they were.

Australia EP

By the way, a five-track EP is now available for download on iTunes for the soundtrack of "Australia". I'd wondered why the full soundtrack album hadn't been in stores, but I was glad to hear it is coming. Eventually. Meanwhile, the EP is great, and is my first iTunes music purchase.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Three Wise Christmas Sock Monkeys

3 Wise Sock Monkeys
Merry Christmas!

Presenting the new Three Wise Monkeys: Skate No Evil, Blog No Evil and Fated-to-be-Zapped-by-Aliens (due to being a Starfleet redshirt).

Many thanks to Lori Custer for these gorgeous miniature sock monkeys, made from actual little socks.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Jingle bells, Batman smells...

Me as Robin

Okay, young whippersnappers! When did the words of this famous 1960s Christmas carol parody get perverted? (Well, even more perverted than from its "Jingle Bells" origin?)

Every kid I knew in 1968 knew it as:

"Jingle bells, Batman smells,
Robin flew away.
The Batmobile lost one wheel,
All on Christmas Day."

I'm sure that is the version that ended up in one of those June Factor & Peter Viska collections of Australian school rhymes and chants ("All right, Vegemite!", "Far out, brussel sprout!" and "Unreal, banana peel!", etc). In fact, in 1968 - or '67?, definitely around the time of the Adam West/Burt Ward "Batman" TV series - my Batfriends and I were not only singing it, we thought we'd invented it!

Imagine my surprise when someone at TrekBBS had, as their current sig line:

"Jingle bells, Batman smells,
Robin laid an egg.
The Batmobile lost a wheel,
And the Joker got away."

"Ummm," I told them gently, "You've remembered some lines incorrectly..." Now, even allowing for Chinese whispers-like variations, and numerous regional variations, "egg" doesn't even rhyme with "away"!?

"That's the point," I was reminded.

And, from someone dismissing mine as "the Australian version" (which it obviously is!), who boasted, "I know it doesn't rhyme, but we Americans don't need no stinkin' rhyming."

Then, yesterday, someone offered this 1992 clip, from "Batman: The Animated Series":

Mmmmmm. 1992? As if that's somehow definitive? But do I really want to pick a fight with the Joker? I don't think my Robin outfit (see top of entry) even fits me any more. Certainly not as well as it did in the 1980s.

Someone even offered other line variations: Batgirl broke a leg...; Mr Freeze cut the cheese...; and agreed that there were "lots of arguments about the correct lyrics". Even Wikipedia wasn't definitive. Not that it ever is, but then that's the point of Wikipedia. A disturbing number of uninformed youngsters on the Internet attribute the song's origins... to Bart Simpson!

Our guess, over on the bbs, was that the song was inspired by the Adam West "Batman" series, which premiered in the US in 1966 - but how schoolchildren circulated the, ah, "Jingle" jingle so quickly around the whole planet is a testament to pre-Internet communications.

In those days, a TV show which premiered in the USA in September didn't reach Australia until the next February, so the time lag was extremely useful for marketing departments, not to mention toy manufacturers, TV tie-in books, and their distributors - and most of the kids were oblivious to what they'd been missing out on for all those months.

The Internet is the great equalizer, since I'm usually as current for "Star Trek" and "Batman" goss as the rest of the world - and even ahead of the USA sometimes, when the International Date Line works in my favour, such as the upcoming premiere of JJ Abrams' upcoming "Star Trek" movie!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Decorating the outdoor room

Outdoor Christmas tree

I'm just back in from decorating the big pine tree in the back garden for the festive season. I had to make two trips up the ladder; I realised on one of the very last small baubles that tubes of Christmas balls from the bargain shop (@ $4 per tube of twelve) are not going to have a high level of quality control. One bauble was missing a string, and several others had to be retied - but I ended up gluing all of their plastic connectors, even though they were already on the tree, since the summer sun is bound to make the plastic brittle and they were only clipped into place.

The larger balls are sequined, and were only $1 this morning at The Christmas Cave's massive sell-out. Not much of a range left, but these balls will probably last okay. If they don't get blown over the fence. The previous batch of outdoor Christmas decorations lasted about three annual outings.

At least this year I didn't step back from the ladder to admire my handiwork when I was finished. Yep, straight in the pool that year... - wallet and all.

Outdoor Christmas treewhiteOutdoor Christmas tree and dragon

Sunday's not so magic number: 95.5 - 'Tis the season to be naughty.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Third season "Star Trek" bloopers

Someone has finally tracked down a blurry copy of the Season Three blooper reel of "Star Trek".

Blooper reels are traditionally made as annual entertainment for the cast and crew of series TV (or theatrical features) at their Christmas party, and were never really inended to scape into the public domain. Then along came TV specials and series, such as "TV Bloopers and Practical Jokes", but "Star Trek" has rarely been featured on such shows.

Trek bloopers became a feature of the early Star Trek conventions, a special treat for fans when Gene Roddenberry himself was in attendance. However, rumour has it, one convention committee, entrusted be GR to "mind" the reels overnight, managed to create their own hasty copies of the Season One and Two bloopers so they'd always have a copy on hand. And thus, bootlegs of bootlegs of bootlegs were distributed, much to the alarm of the cast.

The fans even made their own blooper reel, which is often called the third reel, but it's a cannibalisation of previously released footage, a little new stuff someone located, and reconstructed into a bit of a coherent story. And there was an infamous Season Three bloopers bootleg LP record, released by Blue Pear, which is made up of vocal track tapes found in a Paramount trash can.

The actual Season Three blooper reel has remained elusive. GR was more careful about keeping it close to his chest at conventions - supposedly Leonard Nimo wrote a memo asking if the cast shouldn't be receiving royalties each time it played - and fans who were lucky enough to see the reel at one of Roddenberry's US university performances in the 70s usually remember a sequence with Commissioner Bele (comedian Frank Gorshin, aka The Riddler of 60s "Batman" fame) and Lokai chasing each other through the Enterprise corridors, until they finally crash into each other. And it's there, along with Mr Gorshin calling himself "Belly" by mistake. Also Yarnek the rock creature singing "Mammy", some erotic Vulcan navel flirting (follow Nimoy's finger!), and footage featuring a pre-TNG Diana Muldaur.

After the bloopers, there are some (rare) alternate TOS titles and "coming attractions" ads. Who knows how long this particular entry will stick around on Youtube? So... enjoy!

Friday, December 19, 2008

"This does not compute..."

I am saddened to learn of the passing of "Star Trek" actress Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, aka Nurse (then Doctor) Christine Chapel, Mrs Lwaxana Troi, and the voice of Starfleet starship computers. And the animated felinoid character, M'Ress the Caitian...

You know, I was honoured to be a dinner guest in Majel Barrett's Bel-Air mansion in December 1991, when it was decorated for Christmas. Gene had passed away just a few months earlier. I was driven there in Gene's yellow limousine (by their driver, Ernie Over), and Majel was a most gracious and friendly hostess, with a delightfully wacky sense of humour.

Also at dinner was Majel's mother - and Rod Roddenberry, then an unassuming but friendly teenaged, longhaired, Californian skater dude.

Coincidentally, it was the night of an important Superbowl final, and Majel asked if I minded her having the game on during dinner, since "her team" was playing. (Who was I to argue? But please don't ask me who won; it's a night that's kind of hard to remember, because I was floating in a bizarre haze of disbelief, and there was a traditional house rule that "Star Trek" not be mentioned.) I did get a tour of Gene's office from Ernie and, when I got home, I wrote a column on the highlight of that US trip for my Australian Trek club. My piece was called, "For the Wallet is Hollow and I have Touched the Car."

It truly felt like I was meeting Mrs Troi - ie. Majel Barrett-Roddenberry wasn't acting whenever she played that character. Majel WAS Lwaxana Troi!

I understand that Majel recently recorded the Enterprise computer voice for JJ Abram's new ST film, which opens in May 2009. A fitting and timely reprise.

Star Trek fans the world over will miss her. Vale Majel.

The Roddenberrys

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A rainbow in hand is worth two pots of gold?

Rainbow 1Rainbow 2
Click on the photos to see bigger versions

This spectacular rainbow embraced our apres-work Christmas drinks! As the sky continued to darken, the colours of the spectrum turned more and more intense - and then a second rainbow arch appeared on the outside.

Sometimes it's a pleasure to be rained upon.

Monday, December 15, 2008


Me at fifty

Yum... Tiramisu supposedly means “pick me up” in Italian.

All 50 this year: Madonna, Michael Jackson, me... and the Smurfs!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Flowers? For me? You shouldn't have...


Mother Nature provides!

I'm just back in from rescuing 13 fallen agapanthus blooms that didn't survive Friday's rain and Saturday's wind. My birthday bouquet! Goes perfectly with the colour of my eyes. And skin. And antennae.

Sunday's magic number: 94.8 - Whew! Room for some cake tonight.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Feeling animated about the upcoming Star Trek movie?

Some clever Star Trek fan has been busy...

The teaser trailer for the next Star Trek movie, had it been produced by Filmation:

Here are some favourite (legitimate) stills from the more recent, longer trailer:

Vulcan city
A Vulcan city

Sarek and Amanda
Sarek and Amanda on Vulcan (aka Vasquez Rocks)

Alnschloss K'Bentayr of Monchezke, as featured on a publicity support website

Nero and prison guards

And... a special addition to the Internet version of the new, longer trailer:

old Spock
"Live long Star Trek, and prosper..."

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Monkeying around

From out of the blue (pun intended), I received a wonderful email this week!

An Internet friend from USA, Lori Custer, contacted me to say:

"Hope this finds you well! I went and checked out your websites, did a bit of reading up about you, and decided that you needed a little Therin [the Andorian], to go with your 'Lori Custer Monkey' collection. You now have three; that makes it a collection!


"All I need from you, is your mailing address, I`ve lost it, and I will get the little critter in the mail to you.

"There are a couple 'additions', but they will help him, not hinder, in his adventures. The 'tail' is equipped with the same 'feelers' they have on their heads, giving them a great advantage when being preyed upon from behind!

"The best to you this holiday season, Lori.

PS. I have enclosed a couple of snapshots, at his insistence... he is a bit of a ham..."

You're telling me, Lori!

What an amazing surprise! I lost contact with Lori not long after our eBay transactions were settled, but I found her again two Christmases ago when providing links to her sock monkey eBay projects. And then, this week, the email notification that something was on its way!


The miniature skateboard-riding Lori Custer sock monkey (above) was bought in an eBay USA auction in 1999, and is actually made from baby-sized "red heel" socks. The purchase started out as a joke when I was demonstrating to some colleagues (at the Scan office, where I was the editor) just how eBay auctions worked, and we all fell in love with this particular one. I decided he'd be perfect as a Christmas ornament for my tree that year. Note how he is hanging next to two M&Ms: "the candy of the Millennium".

Winning that eBay auction was fun, but the day the perfectly wrapped box arrived at Scan was a highlight of a great communal Internet adventure.

A few months later, when the creator, Lori, realised she'd overcharged me on postage, she sent me out a second miniature sock monkey for free: an editor sock monkey, blue pencil tucked over one ear, wearing spectacles, and working away at a tiny computer (below):

Editor sock monkey

I have no idea what size sock monkey little simian Therin is, but it'll be fun (and frustrating) waiting to find out!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

May the CPR be with you...


Of all the nights to have an extra staff meeting thrown into the mix! Yesterday, the staff at my school had to update our Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Emergency Care certification before the end of term and, of course, it fell on the same school night as the free teacher preview of "Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination".

The Lucasian gods must have been smiling upon me. It was explained that the order of the 24 of us doing the practical test on the CPR mannequins would be by lot. There were two examiners. What were my chances of getting away early enough to still attempt getting into the city in time? I was one of the last to select a number and it was... #2!

I was able to perform my test, then race for the train station. An express country train was due, so I ended up at the Powerhouse 30 minutes later, at only a few minutes past 6pm.

As I approached the museum, there was a wonderful photo opportunity: a pair of stormtroopers menacing people passing through the automatic doors. But the drinks were being served - and the (understandably) thirsty guards disappeared inside just as I raised my iPhone. Oh well.

The exhibition is excellent. Not only is it a great display of impressive props, costumes, robots and vehicles from the extensive "Star Wars" universe, but parallels have been drawn to modern-day science fact and speculative science theory-soon-to-be-fact-one-day. Advances in bionic limbs, robotics, hover vehicles, faster-than-light colony vessels, etc, were all represented, with many clever hands-on activities.

I had to admire the layout this time. The exhibit is on two levels - and its circuitous path took attendees through the "Star Wars" souvenir shop twice!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

In the picture


The ISLA group of teacher-librarians has posted some photos of the professional development day I was asked to speak at in Shellharbour last October. I was particularly chuffed by this line on their blog site:

"Many Illawarra teacher librarians are now busy planning and creating wikis thanks to the inspirational Ian McLean."

I look forward to seeing what they get up to!

Ian draws the winning raffle (er, guessing competition) ticket.
Also pictured, from left, are ISLA committee members, Margaret Cooper
and Celia Owen.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Staying fit in the workplace

When the original Star Trek crew heard there was a new movie coming, and that they might be replaced by all-new actors, Dr McCoy started up a new calisthenics program for the bridge crew.

Bridge 1

Bridge 2

Bridge 3

Bridge 5

Bridge 4

Sunday's magic number: 95.0. I need McCoy's advice, methinks.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Traffic stopper

Racing back to Central Station to catch my train home last night, after our monthly Star Trek Meetup, I noticed several wacky people whipping out cameras and mobile phones - and even a large tripod - while crossing one of the busiest CBD intersections.

I looked across to the Sydney Town Hall and realised what was up. Not only was the traditional lit Christmas tree in place, but a spectacular moving lightshow of colours and patterns was being projected onto the front of the building.


Town Hall
'Tis the season not to get yourself run over.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Smile, Sydney, smile!

Anyone else in Sydney get smiled upon last night?

No luck finding it at 9pm, which was supposedly the optimum time to witness the phenomenon. However, from a car approaching Penrith about half an hour later, and on a rather overcast and blustery Sydney night, we saw it very briefly when some clouds rolled back - but the face's right eye was winking!

Across Australia, the planets Venus and Jupiter were in formation with a three-day old crescent moon, appearing as a smiley face in the night sky. It will be another five years before the formation appears again. The phenomenon pictured here was taken by Yahoo! 7 user, Caroline, from Victoria.

Moon and planets

Monday, December 01, 2008

Reading with Rees, and on the mark

I was up and out of the house before 7.00am this morning, and did a detour past school, to drop off messages for my casual teacher replacement, so I could attend the Premier's Reading Challenge presentation ceremony, an annual event.

This year, a new venue, Riverside Theatres at Parramatta, and a new Premier of NSW, Nathan Rees. Once again, we had glorious weather, and the lucky groups of students who were invited to attend had a great time rotating around various activity stands, meeting lots of Australian authors and the newly announced PRC "ambassadors".

They tried something a bit different this year. Nathan Rees participated in a reading of a rollicking poem from Norman Lindsay's "The magic pudding", and Peter FitzSimons led a short panel discussion about favourite books. The student participants were so eloquent.

I was assigned to be minder/chaperone for author Frances Watts - a huge honour, since I'm a great admirer of the book she did with illustrator, David Legge: "Parsley Rabbit's book about books". Between denials to hopeful school students, many of whom assumed that I was David Legge (who at home trying to meet a deadline on their third book together), I was able to swap anecdotes with Frances about how her book is used in schools. She mentioned that many years of observing teacher-librarians introduce new books gave her the inspiration for the book.

What a coincidence that I wore my black and silver Superman jacket today; Frances was giving out bookmarks for her book, "Extraordinary Ernie & Marvellous Maud", the story of two unlikely young superheroes. And, yes, the bookmark even has its own secret identity! Flip it over and make your own superhero domino mask!