Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Searching for inspiration

Day #51 of my 365 Photos project, and I was really scratching to come up with something interesting today. I did an impromptu train trip into the city this afternoon, because we have a staff dinner on Thursday, but it gt dark in the city too fast, and a few potential subjects weren't in a very flattering light.

I suddenly remembered that Photo #1 was on a train. So, returning home, I simply kept on the lookout for something similar, but different.

#51
Reflections from a train, passing through Granville Station.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Box office gold

old Spock

JJ Abrams' "Star Trek" has exited the Australian box office with ticket sales at a solid $AU16 million.

Not bad for a country with a population of 21,829,372, eh?

Today's pic:

#50
I loved the way the street light shone through
this tree at dusk, Mulgoa Road, Penrith.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

You must be joking!


#49
A selection of work by cartoonist, children's book illustrator
and director, Greg Holfeld, whose graphic novel, "Captain Congo"
has been nominated for the Children's Book Council Awards this
year!


I was thrilled to meet the talented and friendly illustrator, Greg Holfeld, this weekend, at Supanova Convention (Olympic Park, Sydney, Australia). I was able to tell him how popular "Captain Congo and the crocodile king" is proving with the students at my school, and he autographed some copies of his previous picture book, "You Must Be Joking!" (It was only later that I realised that the boy hero's pet in that book is a super-powered Jack Russell terrier!)

We enjoyed a laugh together about the bizarre prevalence of purple gorillas in classic comic books (and at least of his own works.)

Greg also threw into my package of purchases a copy of "Monkey, Bug, Rabbit & Goose have lunch and save the planet", issue #1 of a unique comic book reader he created for for fledgling "comicophiles" at his children's school.

Thanks so much Greg.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Urbane Mr Urban

#48
Actor Karl Urban (Dr Leonard McCoy in the new
"Star Trek" movie) signs autographs for fans
at Supanova, Olympic Park, Sydney, Australia.


Mr Urban was one of the celebrity guests at this weekend's Supanova convention.

After signing autographs all day, he then delivered a 45-minute presentation, starting from the aisle to the stage with his McCoy introductory speech from the movie ("Well, you were going to ask me to do those lines, weren't you?" he grinned), and then answering questions from the floor.

According to the charismatic Urban - in his, at times, Kiwi twang - he was in awe at just how funny, intelligent and talented his cast mates were. You can tell he's eager to work with them, and JJ Abrams, again next year.

Apparently, the "... everything but my bones" quip came from Urban himself - he was concerned that the Kirk of the new timeline wasn't the history buff the Shatner version was, so the "sawbones" nickname reference for McCoy was no longer appropriate, and the writers and JJ were thrilled by his suggestion, so it was included in the script.

The last question asked was about Leonard Nimoy. Urban seemed excited to tell this next anecdote, and it was a great moment to finish off with. Urban related the surreal experience of seeing Nimoy arrive on the soundstage in full Spock makeup, with the Vulcan ears and the eyebrows, but he didn't get much of a chance to get to know Nimoy until the rounds of publicity press junkets started.

He said that, after the movie had been viewed by the cast for the first time, Nimoy wanted Urban to meet Nimoy's wife, Susan Bay. She made a point of telling Urban, "You know, when you came onscreen as McCoy and delivered those opening lines, Leonard cried."

Urban as McCoywhiteUrban as McCoy

Urban as McCoy
"Wait'll you're sitting pretty with a case of
Andorian shingles, see if you're still so relaxed
when you're bleeding from your eye sockets..."

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Central to my shopping habits

#46

Returning to Central Station after a night on the town - or, at least, a night buying the week's latest batch of new comics, books, DVDs and toys. It was fun meeting up with Nathan so we could swap anecdotes about bargains from the days of yore.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

"I can hear his beard..."

#45

What a fun night at the cinema!

I was fortunate to be invited to a preview screening of the satirical movie, "Fanboys", at the Dendy, Newtown, courtesy of this weekend's SupaNova Convention and my contest-winning friend, Karen.

Essentially, it's a very funny coming-of-age "road trip" film featuring a group of dorky, "Star Trek"-hating, basement-dwwelling, "Star Wars" trilogy-loving fanboys who have tired of the lengthy delay required until George Lucas decided to make the prequel, "Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace". They re-hatch an old high school plan to invade the Lucasfilm production ranch, and earn themselves a sneak peak at the the rough cut of the new movie.

Sadly for them, and especially for one adult fanboy they meet (who has already tattooed the up-and-coming disaster, Jar Jar Binks, on his back), the sneak preview they so desire may not answer their cravings in the ways they imagine.

Lots of crazy celebrity cameos, including William Shatner as himself (Hey, isn't he Mr No-Cameos-Ever?), and some very funny and memorable one-liners.

How I missed the "Star Wars" boat

I came to "Star Trek" fandom, and "Star Trek: The Motion Picture", having purposely avoided the first "Star Wars" phenomenon.

I remember the huge level of fuss about the coming of "Star Wars": six full months of hearing how it had been a monster hit in the USA, the news reports of lines of fans going around blocks outside any cinemas screening it, and - much later - even the sign that eventually went up outside the Sydney cinema screening it, which read "Our 14th big month!"

Somehow, I also avoided "Close Encounters of the Third Kind", too. (And later, "ET: The Extraterrestrial".) I guess I avoided the first SW due mainly to its hype, and yet I was attracted by publicity for other biggies like "Superman: The Movie", "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" (oh wow!!!!!) - and then "Superman II" (a full six months before it premiered in the US).

As a result of TMP, I also got hooked on the then-quite-fledgling "Starlog" magazine. After reading lots of related articles, I eagerly attended "The Empire Strikes Back" in first-run (without having seen "A New Hope"). A friend and I even attended "Return of the Jedi" as Andorians! What fun! Silly film, but the atmosphere of the opening night was great.

It was the "Star Trek" film franchise which continued to be my fandom of choice, and catching up on TOS was a great challenge in the early 80s. The episodes weren't screening on TV, and I had to catch five new adventures at a time, at Saturday Star Trek marathons held at the old ANZAC House in the CBD. (Originally they showed six episodes per month, but I was working in my Dad's bread shop in 1980, and I'd arrive in the city partway through the second episode of each marathon.)

I had no initial comparison between SW and TMP whatsoever. Even though I did enjoy the first two SW very much, and the total ridiculousness that was "Jedi" (still a fun night at the cinema, though), I'd already been enchanted by TMP. I was 21. TMP spoke to me. It was an all-immersing experience. "Star Wars" - even "Star Wars pre-publicity - didn't speak to me; it was just a fun movie I eventually caught on television.

Once I'd found ST fandom in 1980, and caught up on every TOS episode I'd missed, I was part of a large group who went to first night openings of anything science fictiony. With "Star Wars", I'd kinda missed the boat. I was 19, in my first year at teachers college, studying hard, and firmly believed that one ever never went to the cinema alone. Most of my college friends were mature age students, and "Star Wars" never really rated a mention with them.

I've never really even checked the date before: according to IMDb, SW premiered Down Under on 27 October 1977. My family had just moved house, and I was deep into my first practicum as a student teacher: a class of 43 Kindergarten children. Lots of long commuting by public transport, and weekends spent making teaching aids and writing lesson plans. Wrong tme to discover a new SF franchise.

TMP, on the other hand, had premiered the week after my college course finished - and I was a free man! Its gala sneak preview had been a few days before my 21st birthday, and old school friends had been to that screening and couldn't stop talking about it the night of my party. I was inspired!

So much is in the timing, isn't it?

And, as for the SW revival: I had very much enjoyed the theatrical re-release of the first trilogy with their new prints, and new CGI and bonus scenes added. But then came "Episode One: The Phantom Menace". I was there, at a midnight screening (reading a "Star Trek" novel waiting for the curtain to rise).

Ugh! I loathed that movie. From the opening banner scroll that mentioned politics and trade routes, it was s tedious. Ick. "The Phantom Menace" was a mess! Give me "Star Trek" any day.

Hoodwinked
"Star Trek: The Motion Picture":
I felt like I was in that movie. Hence my first
fanfic featured one Therin of Andor.

(Drawing by Kamu; reprinted with permission.)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Grin


#44
The Cheshire Cat (from Disney's classic "Alice in Wonderland") meets a bird.

The power of 365 Photos

As regular readers know, a few weeks ago, I happened across two different references to a blogging project that was called "365 Photos". The concept is to use a digital camera to create one photograph per day, using an almost-impromptu, aim-and-shoot technique. Some days, one finds oneself putting a lot of thought into a photo, or at least the subject matter. Other days, a surprise opportunity just presents itself. And other times, it might reach 11.58 pm before one realises that the day has almost slipped by without a suitable photo opportunity. The family dog is useful for such moments of panic (even if he's asleep).

I've been uploading the resultant shots to my Flickr account, and assembling them as a cumulative "set". This also means that I can create a slideshow, as I did earlier today, by requesting an automatically-generated URL from Flickr. eg:

CLICK HERE

The slideshow presentation will get longer and longer as time goes on, of course. And there is an option to display captions - or not.

Although I'm doing this as a personal blogging exercise - and it has certainly ensured that I have no shortage of things to talk about - I'm beginning to realise there are endless ways to adapt this project for use with a class of school students. Not to mention the potential for using it to discuss visual literacy with them!

Today I also found a great online explanation of "365 Photos" here, and even the reflections of its first advocate, one Taylor McKnight.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The one that almost got away

#43
An angel fish mugs for my camera in window tank,
"Aquatic Pet", Penrith Plaza.


Okay, I know patience is a photographer's best virtue. Earlier this evening, I was strolling past this tank outside "Aquatic Pet", just on closing time for most of the shops in Penrith Plaza. I noticed a lone angel fish, in amongst lots of rather ordinary looking little tropical fish, and decided he was perfect as today's subject for my 365 Photos project but, as I raised my iPhone, he allowed himself to descend out of sight behind some greenery.

Tired of waiting, I moved to the side of the tank, instead of staying front-on, and eventually saw him again. I waited and waited till finally he moved into view. Then, it was as if he'd noticed me and he swam straight towards me, as if to pose, which is why the focus is no longer as perfect as it had been.

Despite my "aim and shoot once" rule, I decided to take a second shot as he moved away, convinced the first photograph was going to be too blurry to use - and suddenly two more angel fish jumped in to share the shot as I clicked (see below). And, believe or not, another second later there were two more joining the school! Where had they all been for the ten minutes or so I'd been waiting for that first one to come back into view?

#43a

These fish work for scale, but they're definitely more reliable than some human models of my acquaintance.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Where is everyone?

Five "Yes" RSVPs for today's monthly meeting of the Western Sydney Art Modelling Group, but...

... I can't believe that yet again it was me, sitting in my lounge room with all the furniture rearranged, and there were NO models to draw (all three were no shows) and NO artists to draw them.

And, by putting my disappointment in print like this, it only seems to give people a licence to do it to me again and again. Why do people RSVP "Yes" when they mean "Only if I have nothing better to do ten minutes before the scheduled time"?

In summer, everyone would rather be at the beach. In winter, it's too cold for them to leave their houses. Everyone else works weekends. And weeknights. Why does it seem that I'm the only one with the spare time on my hands?

I rearranged my life for today. Again. I told friends I couldn't join them at the movies, because I had a sketch day scheduled. My breakfast-in-the-mountains had to be cut short so I could race home and get set up for today. I spent several days worried that all the artists might show, and no models. Or that all the models might show, and no artists. And, if it's a cold day, do I have enough ways to guarantee that the room is warm enough for the comfort of the models and artists. And now, I can't even go out and buy milk, in case someone's running late.

Why do I bother?

I know things can (and do) happen, but this is ridiculous. The group has supposedly been running for over two and half years - and, so far, not one piece of charcoal has touched a piece of paper in the name of art.

And I'd love to own a dollar for everyone who has joined a group called Western Sydney Art Modelling Group and then asked, "Why do the meetings have to be in western Sydney?" Hey, I'd be prepared to hold the meetings on the moon, so long as I knew people were prepared to show up.

Photo souvenir of this morning's breakfast:
#42
Norman Lindsay's "The Magic Pudding", in delicious
dessert mode, at Lindsay's Cafe,
Norman Lindsay Gallery, Faulconbridge, NSW.

Last week's photo roundup

#37
Still life. 16 June 2009.

#38
Jack vanishing under the bed, just before midnight.
In a few minutes, after "lights out", he'll be
sneaking under the doona. 17 June 2009.


#39
Window display in Sydney's CBD, celebrating 60 years
of Onitsuka Tiger sneakers. 18 June 2009.


#40white#40a
Miniature glitter lamp in bathroom. 19 June 2009.

#41
Grass bunny in a bowl. 20 June 2009.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

It’s Trek, Jim, but not as we know it…

This September, highlights from all eleven Star Trek films will be featured – on a giant movie screen - with the music played by a full orchestra at the Sydney Opera House, venue of the recent "Star Trek" movie premiere!

The Sydney Symphony will take the audience on a journey back to 1979, where the "Star Trek" motion picture series began, with "Star Trek: The Motion Picture". The session concludes with scenes and music from the smash hit movie of 2009: JJ Abrams' "Star Trek". The first half of the program also includes the music and imagery from "2001: A Space Odyssey" and "Transformers".

I understand this world premiere concert is not to be missed – resistance is futile!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Big cat dreaming

#36
Big cats mural, behind bars, on the wall of Mount Druitt Office of the the NSW Department of Education & Training.

I pass this clever mural - I love the way it incorporates actual metal bars - every time I attend a regional meeting at Mount Druitt Office. Tohight, it was just on dusk when I walked by, but it still photographed well in the fading light.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Those scary moments of cinema

What movies scared the hell out of you?

The first thing that comes to mind is, bizarrely, the lead black-out windows going up automatically in Doctor Morbius (Walter Pidgeon)'s house on the "Forbidden Planet". Spooked me as a kid, watching it on TV. And the music ("tonalities") accompanying the coming of the invisible Id monster was pretty freaky as well.

In fact, I think my appreciation for movie soundtrack music probably came from seeing how effective music could be in the scariest parts of scary movies. The spooky music FX accompanying the astronauts finding the black monolith on the moon in "2001: A Space Odyssey" does it to me, too. I still cannot play the soundtrack when alone at night. If that track comes on I have to skip it forward to the next track.

"The Invisible Man", unwrapping himself in the British b/w TV series of the same name: he also gave me nightmares, but it was my Dad's favourite show at the time!

I never went to see "Alien" in the cinema, because I had a feeling that several scenes might be too scary, even as a guy in my early 20s at the time. Was very pleased I saw it on VHS first. (No problem watching "Aliens" or "Alien 3" on the big screen, though.)

Ah! And I just remembered! I was once followed home by a big black dog, at about 11.30 at night, after having seen "The Omen" at a local cinema!

#35
Robbie the Robot vs Monsters Inc.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Battle of the Smithsonian!

I had few hours to kill today, so I decided to catch up on the sequel to the movie, "Night at the Museum"; hard to believe that first film came out at Christmas 2006. Seems like only yesterday!

While this one moves the action to Washington DC's Smithsonian complex, and really ups the ante for potential exhibits that may soon come to life, it doesn't retain the freshness of the first film. Certainly a fun movie, but a bit sequelly and predictable - whereas I found the first one to be quite unpredictable! Owen Wilson, as the feisty diminutive cowboy escapee from a diorama again manages to steal the show with his snappy retorts. (At least this time he takes a screen credit!)

As a free publicity campaign for famous US museums, these films must have worked wonders. They certainly give me itchy feet to return to New York's Museum of Natural History, and the Air & Space Museum at the Smithsonian in Washington.

Today's outing was also a good excuse to snap this 3D display for my 365 Photos project.

#34
Cinema display for "Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian".

Friday, June 12, 2009

Wired for Trek!

The May 2009 issue of "Wired" magazine is guest edited by JJ Abrams - and contains a six page comic spin-off to his new "Star Trek" movie!

wired

Sometime it pays for a collector to keep one's irons in the fire. A bit of pre-planning was needed. Until a while ago, I hadn't heard of this magazine before but, panicking that it the "Star Trek" issue might be too obscure to find here Down Under, I immediately went off on a scouring/scavenging mission to see which stores already stocked "Wired". To my horror, the Pitt Street Mall locale of Borders, in the CBD, is now gone, just weeks after the huge Angus & Robertson closed. Massive rebuilding of the old Mid City Centre, Imperial Arcade, Centrepoint - and I presume, eventually, Sky Garden?

Borders and Angus & Robertson's city stores were usually a great source of "air freight" copies of many international magazines. Local newsagents often only get sea-freighted issues, and stocks can be several months behind the USA. Mmmmm. Where to now?

Anyway, I did find a batch of the April issue at a Nepean Square newsagent (also one city store), and I asked my local shopkeeper about getting an issue of the June "Wired" put away for me. The tricky thing was, there's also a magazine titled "Wire" - and that's not the one! On spec., today, I dropped into the store - on the way to a (ugh!) dental appointment - and I was in luck! Yay! "Star Trek" reading matter for my stint in the waiting room!

Just as "Countdown" was IDW Publishing's four-part prequel to the 2009 movie blockbuster, showing how and why Nero and Ambassador Spock time-slipped back to the 23rd century, so this six-page story, "When Worlds Collide" by Paul Pope & K/O* (pp 112-117, bound into the 138 pp magazine, not an insert), also ties-in to movie: it's set during Ambassador Spock's enforced sojourn on the icy planet, thanks to Nero, and involves Spock having brief flashbacks to his youth, serving on the Enterprise with Uhura (in TOS), playing his Vulcan lyrette and 3-D chess, battling Khan in ST II, and pondering a puzzle toy given to him by Sarek, his father.

It's only six pages (now online!), but it's fun, and definitely not a Trek collectible I wanted to miss! It seemed like they had no issues for the shelf? Were they all already snapped up?

And speaking of puzzles, the issue is filled with mysteries, codes and ciphers, starting with Abram's brown-paper-wrapped "Mystery Box", purchased many decades ago by his grandfather, from one of those amazing old magic stores Aussies only ever used to read about in mail order catalogue pages on the back covers of US comic books in the 60s! (Well, until we found Weirdo's Magic Shop in Centrepoint in the mid 70s.)

I haven't had the time or patience to work out all the myriad of clues scattered through the issue - many more than "47" that's for sure - but now I am curious: did JJ ever open his mystery box?

* Screenwriters Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci.

Photo roundup - now that we are awake

My 365 Photos project is ongoing. A near miss on Wednesday evening, having fallen asleep on the lounge. I awoke on the dot of 11.59pm and with only seconds to spare, I simply aimed and shot: the Andorian in the corner.

Don't you wish you had a full-sized Andorian in your lounge room?

#31

Andorian mannequin - in authentic screen-used robes from "Star Trek" productions, with "Scaredy cat" mascot. Okay, so the Andorian pirate's pet cat ate the parrot. Sounds feasible? 10 June 2009.
Next we get all doggy in theme again:

#32

A Jack Russell terrier applies a guilt trip as I get ready for work, and will be leaving him alone for the day. (And yes, I had made the bed.) 11 June 2009.
And finally, as my eyes returned to full focus...

#33

The view from my recovery chair, after full anesthesia at the dentist today! The stuffed monster toy has a very impressive set of healthy teeth (much better than mine!), presumably for demonstrating brushing techniques to little kids - note the giant yellow toothbrush beside him. 12 June 2009.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Something fishy

This tiny ceramic fisherman, sitting on my knee during the trip home from the city - is destined to sit under my artificial bonsai tree at work:

#28

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Catch up pics

Just back from Armidale, with my quota of images for my 365 Pictures project. We passed Tamworth's "Big Golden Guitar" on the way up to Armidale on the Thursday, but there wasn't time to stroll back to it and get a photo, hence the solitary, yellow bloom I found swaying in the breeze in the main street of Armidale in the afternoon.

#25

Friday's pic features some bizarre signage at the host school of the teacher-librarians' conference I travelled up to attend. I realised, while lining up the shot, that the two circles seemed kinda reminiscent of female breasts. Or have I just heard too many lectures on visual literacy at this conference?

#26

Finally, here's Alex the lion, a souvenir of Armidale. Alex the lion (voiced by Ben Stiller in the animated features, "Madagascar" and "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa") will grace the school library in time for the current Book Week theme, "Book Safari".

#27

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Collaboration!

Today Emma Quay, illustrator, and Lisa Shanahan, author, launched their exciting, new children's picture book, "Bear and Chook by the sea", at my local teacher-librarians' professional development day. Another Sassy Award coming their way, perhaps?

#24

I can't wait for Term 4, when I help to coordinate a book rap based on their two "Bear & Chook" titles.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Fantastic!

A work colleague, who knows I like superheroes, slipped this great Mister Fantastic (aka known as Reed Richards of the "Fantastic Four") action figure into my pigeon hole yesterday!

#23
Mister Fantastic