intraspace: the review lounge

Sunday, April 29, 2007

6 films, 30 hours

my body packed a sad at the end of this week and so i decided to embark on a movie marathon. armed with a 5 dvds for $5 voucher i crawled down to the local video store.

i didn't have any films in mind, so after 20 minutes of browsing and visiting the bakery for an apple turnover, i returned home to start consuming my movie smorgasborg.

straight into darkness. with a title like that, i have no idea why i started with this one... anyway, it turned out to be a good use of a low budget, but what an odd film it is. i can't decide if i like it or not. it's about two american ww2 deserters who end up walking through an almost post-apocalyptic landscape before joining a group of french partisans who are fighting the nazis. what makes this really odd is that this group is mostly composed of special needs children, led by an old couple. the entire film is set either in bleak winter conditions or at night and sometimes almost feels like a horror movie. however, the movie climaxes in a showdown between this odd group of children (aided by the old couple and the two deserters) and an entire german regiment assisted by a tank... what the?!

everything is illuminated. brilliant film! i wasn't too sure about watching a film starring the doe-eyed elijah wood, but the synopsis sounded good. an american jewish kid goes to the ukraine to find out where his grandfather came from when he fled from the nazis during the war. wood plays a very quirky character - jonathan safran foer - who obsessively collects mementos of the life of his family. the film is narrated by an america-loving ukrainian break dancer named alex whose family runs a rather shoddy tour operation that helps american jews find out about their ancestry. alex and his family (especially his cranky grandfather) are the highlight of this film. jonathan (or "jonfan" as alex calls him) engages the help of alex and his family, and an amusing roadtrip with emotion commences. this film was a true gem and i have no idea why it hasn't won awards.

EDtv. a bit of a movie classic that i'd never watched, all about an ordinary guy who signs on for reality tv show that broadcasts his entire life live 24 hours a day. it is all fairly predictable, with the main character (played by matthew mcconaughey - who i don't like because his acting always seems a bit soulless) who falls in love etc and nearly lets fame go to his head before realising what is really important in life and fighting the tv channel to get out of his contract and return to normal life, so that he can get on and be with the girl he loves. when this came out in 1999, the reality tv thing was the latest craze, but i think the movie has dated pretty badly - which of course is the problem with films that deal with current crazes and issues. quite entertaining though, so no harm done in watching it. the most touching thing about this movie is that director ron howard gave his old 'happy days' mate ralph malph a bit part.

the ringer. in the middle of my marathon, this dvd arrived in the mailbox from, and suddenly my 5 movie marathon had grown into 6. this is a mildly amusing comedy starring johnnie knoxville, about a guy who pretends to be mentally challenged so that he can win the special olympics, rig a bet, and thereby get enough money so that he can pay for an operation to have his lawnmower man's fingers sewn back on. of course, he falls in love with one of his carers - but will she forgive him when he confesses his ruse??? this is real film tension, people. anyway, it is what it is - light comedy entertainment. so, after two fairly entertaining and unchallenging films, i was ready for something a bit more interesting.

criminal. i can't really describe this movie too much without giving the whole thing away. it is another film about con artists, but it is really rather good. the cast is excellent. the main character is a hardened con man (not a very nice fellow at all) who takes a young grifter under his wing and suddenly finds himself confronted with a prime opportunity to make some extra money by selling a forged rare banknote. the film is nicely done and is a character study as much as anything, but it still moves along at a nice pace with good changes in the direction of the plot along the way. well worth watching. produced, i see, by george clooney - so it has a little of the oceans 12 about it but without the glamour - a lot more grit.

atanarjuat: the fast runner. and the most unusual film last. not that i'm unaccustomed to festival and indie films, but i've never seen a film quite like this before. the story is based on an old inuit legend and is set in the canadian artic 1000 or so years ago. it is the story of two brothers: atanarjuat, the fast runner, and amaqjuaq, the strong one. a shaman casts a spell on their group and evil intentions enter their clan. oki, the son of the camp leader, and atanarjuat come into conflict over a girl named atuat, and then later when atanarjuat offends oki's sister. however, oki tries to kill atanarjuat and his brother but atanarjuat gets away - by running butt-naked across the ice flow. well, this is a long and involved story, so i'll leave the synopsis there. the movie is filmed at a steady pace that seems to match the arctic landscape and the film runs (no pun intended) to 2hrs 40min. it is shot in almost a documentary style and it is the first movie ever made in the inuit language. i'm not sure if i like it or not - but i was certainly impacted by it. so i'd have to say that it is a good movie.

and so, with this marathon film, my marathon came to an end. not bad going when you consider i had a full night's sleep in that 30 hours as well - although my apple turnover only lasted for the first 5 minutes of the first film.

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Saturday, April 28, 2007

10,000 songs:

i've been a member of online music network since may last year. just prior to reaching my 12 month anniversary, i hit another milestone: i have listened to 10,000 songs on my computer since signing up (an average of about 28 songs a day). i thought i'd celebrate this momentous occasion by reviewing

the basic premise of is this: create an account there, then download a plug-in for whatever media player you use on your computer (i use itunes). the plug-in technology that have developed is called 'audioscrobbler'. the scrobbler plug-in sends the names of the tracks you are listening to in realtime to the server. then displays to the world what you are listening to, and creates personal charts for you - showing your top 10 artists for the week, month, all-time etc.

based on your listening habits, then matches you with 'neighbours' - people who have similar listening tastes. there are also online groups based around various themes, and you are free to start up or join any of these groups. each group comes with a forum and combined listening charts of its members.

so for example, it is possible to get combined charts for all the users who live in new zealand. as i write this, the most listened to artist amongst nz users last week was muse - followed by red hot chili peppers, radiohead, tool and the beatles. there are 4,358 users who live in nz (there are 326,421 users in the states, 100,115 users in the uk and 24,127 users in australia).

for me, the main attraction of belonging to is a bizarre and somewhat simple-minded fascination with seeing the songs i am listening to magically appear on the internet as i am listening to them... i can't even describe, much less convince you, how exciting this is.

the second great thing is seeing my weekly charts - i think i take them as a kind of summary of my level of 'cool'. although i realise this is very arbitrary, seeing as everyone thinks that the music they listen to is cool. my charts are also an indication of my musical taste identity.

the third reason i like is that i can see what my friends (the ones that are also members of are listening to. it satisfies my curiosity, but it can also lead me to discovering new music because i know how my taste compares with my friends.

this of course brings me to the fourth reason why i like - i can discover new music. this is done by looking at my friends' charts (as i've said), by looking at my neighbours' charts and also through the music recommendations that offers based on your listening habits. also includes an online recommendations radio tailored to your taste (plus a range of other features) but i've never really got into this.

so here we have a very clever web concept which no doubt provides very valuable marketing tools and statistics to the music industry, but also provides a fascinating and useful user experience. when you consider the complexity of a system that is logging and processing stats to this level, the service works very well - there are occasional glitches but i think we can excuse them. in the time i have been a member the service has improved dramatically, along with growth which probably even took the site's creators by surprise. 10,000 songs later it gets a big thumbs up from me.

go and join up and when you do add hooseyfloot as a friend...

on the headphones: 'vertigo' by u2, from the album 'how to dismantle an atomic bomb'.

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Friday, April 27, 2007

our sunshine

our sunshine, by robert drewe

this, apparently, is the book that the film 'ned kelly' was based on. as is often the case though, i didn't notice too many similarities other than the fact that both were about ned kelly.

i picked this up as a quick read - a book that anna got at an op shop i think. it turned out to be quite good. the narrative style is almost a stream-of-consciousness approach - it has a poetic quality to it.

i think there is a connection here between the bush balladry of the likes of banjo patterson ('the man from snowy river' etc) - not that it reads like a ballad, but there is a connection in the atmosphere and feeling. perhaps this connection is merely a result of the australian setting, but either way, i think this is a very australian book.

the book presents the thoughts of ned kelly himself in a way that is almost dream-like and the narrative unfolds through recollections. despite the methodology, the narrative becomes coherent, and i think that this is the true skill of robert drewe in writing this book.

the main setting and climax of the book is the final showdown between the kelly gang and the police, and this climax is where the dream-like quality of the book comes to the fore.

drewe has used a lot of imaginative license with the story, but notes at the end of the book that this is fitting for a main character who is mostly known through legend.

good book, worth reading.

warandpeace-o-meter: 437/981 (volII, bookVIII, chapI)

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Cricket, what else: a trans-Tasman conversation

Possibly this is an appropriate posting for ANZAC day, an Aussie commiserating with his Kiwi mate...

On 21/04/2007 at 2:51 AM Jonathan Nalder wrote:
re: the NZ vs Australia Super 8 game
- why you guys do a sri lanka and leave out 2 of your 4 best? I'm staying up and i want a contest!

On 21/04/2007, at 5:34 AM, Andrew Killick wrote:
- sorry - doesn't seem that you are going to get a contest. it is our trick tactic, let you guys win and then cane you in the finals.

On 25/04/2007 at 9:04 AM Jonathan Nalder wrote:
re: Loss to Sri Lanka
- commiseration's as I was going foR you guys in this one. Maybe patel and franklin need to bat higher up!?

On 25/04/2007, at 9:43 AM, Andrew Killick wrote:
- oh man, it is very disappointing - we were playing so much better than we did in those last two games - but everyone will remember the season by those game. class teams we lost to, but nevertheless...

On 25/04/2007 at 10:30 AM Jonathan Nalder wrote:
- sad about fleming too, tho 10 years is a fair while to be captain... in an interview at the bbc cricket site ( he talks about how well they did with what they've got - sad but sometimes true - however that kind of attitude, that there's always that excuse is bad bad bad i think - I mean with Oram, vitori, bond and styris all fit - thats enough to take anyone down and they should see themselves as world class, not happy with 3rd or 4th if they're gonna go further. My thoughts. Might put this conversation up on intraspace. J

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

the importance of being foolish

the importance of being foolish, by brennan manning

this is a book i found sitting on a table at my mum's house and decided to take with me.

brennan manning is a franciscan priest best known for his book 'the ragamuffin gospel' (which i also have in my possession - review sometime in the future). faced with the choice of reading this book and 'the ragamuffin gospel', i decided to read this one because i like the cover design...

in the event, it turned out to be one of the most impacting christian books i've ever read.

manning begins by emphasising the toughness of the christian calling - as found principally in jesus' sermon on the mount. he notes that christianity has watered down the magnitude of what jesus has called his followers to. his point is that although jesus' teaching is a hard teaching, we should nevertheless still aim to fulfill what jesus has called us to, rather than making excuses for it.

manning goes on to describe the way in which western society is addicted to security, pleasure and power. he describes western christians as 'schizophrenic', and says that we have become expert at sharing ourselves between material concerns and our spiritual calling, rather than letting our spiritual calling consume every area of our lives. serving two masters, he says, leads to anxiety and stress as we are pulled in two directions, constantly trying to cater for both masters.

the antidote for all this, says manning, is an awareness of God's love and an understanding of the cross and resurrection.

when you condense manning's message down like i have here, it sounds a bit confrontational and judgmental, but he has a peculiar knack for being able to deliver straight truths compassionately (a character trait that he has no doubt learned from jesus).

the title - 'the importance of being foolish' - is a little misleading at first. this book is a rewrite of an earlier volume called 'gentle revolutionaries' - which, i think, is probably a more accurate title. there are a lot of verses in the bible that make it clear that foolishness is not really the way to go. but the 'foolishness' that manning refers to is the variety found in 1 Corinthians 1:22-24: "Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God." it is what manning calls "resurrection wisdom" - an inverted kind of wisdom that doesn't make sense unless there has been an experience of God's love and sacrifice.

protestants and pentecostals shouldn't be put off by the fact that this is a catholic author - manning is first and foremost a follower of jesus, and so his message is entirely biblical.

so all in all, an excellent and impacting book. for more info on brennan manning, go to highly recommended.

warandpeace-o-meter: 391/981 (volII, bookVI, chapXXIV)

on the stereo: 'green grass of tunnel' by múm, from the album 'finally we are no one'.

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

pocket symphony

'pocket symphony' by air

it is really is true that no matter how into downloading music you get, there is nothing like having an actual album in your hand. it is a concrete thing.

i was pleased to recently spend some music vouchers i got for my birthday on the new album from french band, air.

over the last ten years or so, air have become the undisputed kings of down tempo lounge electronic music - despite stiff competition from zero 7 (but air came first, so they win). i'll get straight to the point and say that i think 'pocket symphony' is their second best album ever (after 'moon safari'). their previous album 'talkie walkie' had moments of brilliance, but i think this new album is all up a better thing.

a feature of this album is a zen minimalist approach that they have garnered from japan, so the whole album has a slightly oriental feel (in a good way). the best indicator from 'talkie walkie' about the direction they would head for their new album was the track 'alone in kyoto', which was featured in the film 'lost in translation' (great film). so this new album is very mellow indeed - it floats along rather nicely.

guest vocalists on the album (which is, by the way, mainly instrumental) include jarvis cocker. i get the distinct feeling that jarvis is quite popular in france (there is a definite touch of the moulin rouge about him). i personally think he is a bit of tosser (excuse the term) but i'm grateful for his appearance on the album because he does a good job and his style blends rather nicely with air's music.

another advantage of having guest vocalists is that it means the air boys themselves stay away from the microphone. our bonne hommes nicolas godin and jean-benoît dunckel insist on singing in english and their lyrics often verge on out and out silliness. thankfully all their vocal work on 'pocket symphony' is subtle - except on the track 'once upon a time' (which i think may be the single). a sample of the lyrics from this track:

i'm a little boy, you're a little girl, once upon a time
i'm a little boy, you're a little girl, once upon a time
time's getting on
time's over now

i ask you?! this is the only track i now skip on the cd. but air fans have become accustomed to this feature of air. afterall, their first big single ever was 'sexy boy' - not a song of tremendous lyrical genius. i also think that air fans have come to accept that the band has always trod a fine line between cheesiness and brilliance. fortunately for us, they come down on the side of brilliance far more often.

in this day and age of digital music, downloads etc, i think that any album review should cover the cd packaging and any bonus content that ships with the cd. the artwork on 'pocket symphony' is superb - the photography features resin figurines of nicolas and jean-benoît in different locations. for a feel of the artwork visit

the cd features 'opendisc' technology. you can rip the tracks an unlimited amount (it's not copy-protected), but inserting the cd into your computer rom drive launches a portal that allows you to register your copy and then access exclusive content online. this content includes two rather nice bonus tracks (including another one featuring jarvis cocker) and video material. apparently new content will be added over time - so they say. so, there is good incentive for buying the cd rather than just downloading the tracks.

all up, an excellent album that is well worth buying.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Review: Being 32

[I just turned 32, so thought perhaps I could contribute to intraspace best by starting with something ultra-personal.]

Now that I stop and think about it, 32 does actually feel different. Its taken a couple of years obviously, and I honestly thought there was no such thing as a 30's 'feeling'. Let me explain. I've always believed in mind over matter, being able to choose ones attitude to oneself. After all, why get carried away with random emotoins when one can pick and choose? So to admit that forces not of my choosing may be shaping my life is a big step.

At age 32, you really probably have done a few things. You've got at least one of the major things you'd always wanted. Probably more. And this feels fulfilling, not totaly empty as full blown materialism does, but good, ok even. Maybe you've travelled, had girlfriends, got married, experienced highs and lows and actually got a bit of a grip on what life is like. Life as an adult I mean. its a time when you've nearly lived more years as an adult than as a child. You really do start to look forward a bit more - with a better idea of what should fill the next years. you know at lesat what you don't want ahead, as opposed to hoping you do.

At 32, all this certainty for the first time starts to feel like not a bad thing. Having things locked down, being locked down strangely is ok, even preferrable. Seeing as 40 is the new 30, you have many years left before needing that sportscar or toyboy. This is perhaps the beginning of the best years of your life, for even when challenges come, your relative youth, developing wisdom and financial stabilty will stand you in good stead.

So, at age 32, let's not forget to be proud, but to watch out for pride. And please feel free to give or take a few years when reading '32' in this post.
- So say we all, J

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

the dawn of a new blogging era

some changes are afoot at intraspace! tired of just reading my own reviews of books that i've read, i've decided to open up the blog to other contributors and have also opened up the scope of the site.

so, now there will be reviews on all manner of things (books, films, albums, concerts... you name it) - well, that's the aim anyway. the majority of the authors will be christian in their worldview, although this won't necessarily be overt (sometimes it will be). we should end up with a rather interesting array of topics, opinion and content.

this is my first venture into team blogging so i suspect this will be an evolving process, including making a few adjustments to the site to make it more streamlined and suitable.

the best way to stay up to date with new content is to sign up to the automatic email feed on the right. when a new review is posted, it will automatically be sent to your email. don't worry, you won't be inundated - i'm sure all our writers have a better things to do than post endless reviews to intraspace! and, if you find that you are getting too much email, you can always unsubscribe later.

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this is something i should have thought of setting up earlier...

about 10 years ago i bought a copy of 'war and peace' - complete and unabridged. as you probably know, it isn't a particularly quick read. but in my determination to read the thing i hatched a cunning plan. when i flicked through my copy i found that it is actually divided up into 'books' and 'volumes'. so i decided that i would read 'war and peace' by reading one 'book' at a time, reading something else between each 'book'. this, you see, panders to my short attention span.

the plan is working, and i'm actually finding that 'war and peace' is a brilliant book, and i'm always keen to get back to it.

i suspect that it will be the end of the year or maybe even later that i finish the entire tome. meanwhile, at the end of every post where i review another book, i will place a 'warandpeace-o-meter' that will show what page number i am up to in 'war and peace'... it will be riveting internet media, and 1000s of people will visit the site just to see how far through 'war and peace' i am. cunning eh?

the warandpeace-o-meter will show the page number i'm up to followed by the total number of pages in the book. in brackets following will be the volume number, book number and chapter number. advanced physics all up really.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

blue like jazz

blue like jazz, by donald miller

over the last few years, this book has become a bit of a 'classic' among 20-something christians (especially in the states). i got my copy from mal and hazel.

don miller is dedicated to cutting through the religious and cultural aspects of american christianity to find the heart of believing in jesus.

i have the feeling that in the american context this book would be hugely impacting and maybe controversial, and i would say that this is part of the reason it has sold so many copies. in new zealand it doesn't explode christian culture quite so much (because christian culture is different here), but it is full of great insights and thoughts.

don miller is very good at writing honestly - apparently saying exactly what he thinks. it is largely autobiographical (a kind of spiritual autobiography), but in it he manages to cover some of the main aspects of christianity and get the reader thinking. it appears that his original aim was to write something for non-christians so that he could offer christian spirituality without the unnecessary trappings of religion. but i found that it also stimulated me to think from different perspectives - not just accept the status quo.

definitely recommended.

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