29 July 2007

FilmFest#4: Build a Ship, Sail to Sadness

S and I wandered along to this on Saturday night. I was keen to go as it seemed a bit odd, but wasn't in the Incredible section - so I could legitimately say I was branching out.
If I mentioned 'highlands' most people would think of: hills, cattle, heather, snow and possibly Bob Dylan. Not discos.

I'm thinking this movie may make end up being my favourite of the festival. You know when you wander along to something and then get blown away by how good it actually is? This movie did that for me, it's sweet, innocent, sad, funny and poignant. The plot concerns a dreamer who (post epiphany after nearly getting run over by a train) wants to bring the farflung community together. His plan? Organise a mobile disco as people are 'lonely'. The music was composed by the main actor (and writer) and resembles the more quirky Belle and Sebastian tracks (think Lord Anthony style), but possibly darker. It's a lovely wee quirky movie with a lot of very funny black humour in it. There is a significant number of shots of the lead riding his moped through the highlands either drunk, or sniffing petrol. I could see how some people would find that boring, but I felt it added to the impression of isolation and themes of loneliness. The hi-8 grainy shot could also have detracted from the movie, but somehow it worked - kinda impressionist meets cheap doco style.
It's a shame more people won't get to see this movie, and being stuck in the Film Archive it wasn't the best viewing anyway (damm those chairs are uncomfortable), but if you get the chance - go see it.

love, B

What if ...

A kiwi had made Apocalypse Now?

"I love the smell of wet sheep in the morning."

Love, B xx

28 July 2007

FilmFest#3: Head

No. Not that type. This was a surreal mind*bother* with the Monkey's - the heyhey we're the Monkey's - after their TV series was cancelled. Apparently they, and Jack Nicholson, took some substances. And then some more substances. And then decided that writing a movie was a good plan, and in a strange and odd way it was a good plan. This is certainly a strange movie with a very weak plot, it's more a series of sketches linked by the fact the Monkeys are meandering through the set. I liked it. The cameo by Frank Zappa (and his cow) was great, or at least refreshing. I'm not sure. It was truely wonderful weirdness, and quite watchable. In places its very very funny, and the pop culture references are great.

For those of you who missed it at the the 'fest, it is available at AroVideo.

Love, B x

25 July 2007

FilmFest#2: The Lost

Sigh and already I'm behind.

The nice thing about just rocking along to stuff with only a vague idea what they are about is that you often strike gold. Ant had emailed around his 24hr MM kiddiwinks to say turn up for this one as the director would be there. So since it was in the Incredible section, used the word horror, and had the director I wandered along.

I loved it.

It was more of a thriller than a horror (the director described it as such too), although parts of it were graphic - it was nothing over the top. Sure there were some small continuity issues, and a couple of bits of rough dialogue, but all in all it was great. The lead actor was captivating as a kind of halfway elvis/emo kid. The movie starts off with a murder then quickly fastforwards to 4 years afterwards and explores the effect that action had on the characters. Really interesting movie, good use of graphic violence, some very funny scenes, and definitely recommended.
Sadly being an indie movie you might have trouble tracking it down.


We have the best crazed fan-boys in all the world!

From the Register (UK) concerning NZ fanboys...who run into church (with a car) and scream Steve Jobs.

Me x

24 July 2007

An excuse we all should remember

Lovemaking hedgehogs disturb the peace

German police called to investigate unusual noises in the garden of a Bremen house late on Monday were surprised to find that a pair of amorous hedgehogs were to blame.

After illuminating the garden with spotlights, officers discovered the animals making love beside the pond.

"The pair were loudly engaged in ensuring the continuity of their species," said Bremen police spokesman Ronald Walther.

"All those spectators did not worry them in the least, indeed they even intensified their activities, so the officers turned off the lights," he added.

The hedgehog breeding season runs from April to September and their lovemaking is typically accompanied by very loud puffing and snorting, usually by the female as she tries to ward off the male.
From Stuff

thanks to mrP for that one.

22 July 2007

FilmFest #1: Tales from EarthSea

I'm not the biggest fan of anime. There are some great ones out there: Vampire hunter D; Ghost in the Shell; My neighbour tortoro; Howl's moving castle spring to mind.
However my problems with anime are:
* the faces are largely expressionless, there's no excuse for that, it's not kabuki...
* the large eyes and small mouths don't look right
* all of the characters whenever they see something always make a small 'ahhhoo' noise
* there is no moral ambiguity in the characters, they are either bad, good or kinda middling but ending up good.

If you've ever sat through an episode Japanese animation (DragonballZ is a good example) you'll understand. Those programs are doubly annoying as the voiceovers are shocking.

I think it's the lack of ambiguity that really gets to me, the examples I listed earlier have far more character development (except for MNT which is just cute and lovely) making them a story rather than George Lucus characiture.

Tales from EarthSea
was an adaptation of a Ursula la Guin story. From my more knowledable movie mates, a very loose adaptation. Character development was poor, pacing was pretty dire (it could have lost 30-45mins), no moral ambiguity, plot holes aplenty.
As positives, the background paintings were gorgeous.

So, not the best start to my festival this year, but it did make Gary happy that he missed it. I wouldn't even recommend it to take kids to either, since it is 2 hours long and drags. And I'm still not entirely sure how the dragons fit into things.

Me. xx

Food Stuff - Blue Cheese Lasagne

I was feeling a bit creative on Friday night, and ended up being most impressed with myself. Here's a rough summary of what I cooked.
A chopped onion was caramelised (mostly), garlic and chilli added and let simmer for a bit. A large number of chopped mushrooms were added (quite chunky cuts) and slowly cooked with a bit of olive oil thrown in occasionally if it looked like things were drying. In the meantime a carbonara sauce (well kinda, since there was no bacon in it, but ya get the picture) was made and the lasagne cooked.
Once the mushrooms were cooked, finely chopped spinach was mixed through with the sauce, half a block of sundried tomato feta added, and a fair sprinkling of blue cheese. Smelt divine.
Pasta was mixed through and all dumped into a deep dish. Breadcrumbs, parmesan and tasty cheese topped the lasagne, which was slow cooked until the top went deliciously brown.

It also tasted great the next day. Mmmm.

Currently I should be writing other things.

But I have activeFMs jazz show on, so it could be worse.

B xxx

17 July 2007

Taser me baby!

With thanks to Scientific American for this one, using a 12 gauge shotgun you can now taser people! Apparently when it hits you it gives 20seconds of Pain! Also when it's sitting inside you and you grab it, it increases the pain!!! Woohoo!!! This from the non-lethal lethal ppl, Taser!

Info about it here, and even better the advertising video here! Watch the video, it's bloody marvellous.

I want one! I wanna be in law enforcement !!!


16 July 2007

My body makes me rich

$4275.00The Cadaver Calculator - Find out how much your body is worth. From Mingle2 - Free Online Dating

Mingle2 -

I did mine quicker!

In slightly happier news, one of the slowest PhDs has just been submitted. Brian May started his PhD 30 years ago. He's only just gotten around to finishing it. The slack bastard, even I didn't take that long (and no comments about Rudi...). Although Rudi, should you read this, procrastination by rock band is something you haven't tried...

Love, B.

15 July 2007

Michael Bay is an idiot

I was going to give you an indepth review of Transformers. But now I'm not. This reflects the effort that Michael Bay put into his movie.

Why did I go:
Because Whore Pothead and the order of the Penis was sold out.


* no character development
* special effects looked cool, the first time
* an hour too long
* some money should have been spent on a scriptwriter
* a bay/spielberg production should be avoided at all costs
* don't even wait for video, if you must watch it-find a torrent
* it's not even good in a b-grade sense
* any ppl who fund movies who read this, go fund some indie stuff - please.

Anthony Lane reviewed it to, check this out for a link between Herzog and Bay!

As a final word on the movie I'm leaving it to Trey Parker:
Artist: Trey Parker Lyrics
Song: The End of an Act Lyrics
I miss you more than Michael Bay missed the mark,
When he made Pearl Harbor.
I miss you more than that movie missed the point,
And that’s an awful lot .
And now, now you've gone away,
And all I'm trying to say,
Is Pearl Harbor sucked and I miss you

I need you like Ben Affleck needs acting school,
He was terrible in that film.
I need you like Cuba Gooding needed a bigger part,
He's way better then Ben Affleck.
And now all I can think about is your smile,
And that ty movie too,
Pearl Harbor sucked and I miss you


Why does Michael Bay get to keep on making movies?
I guess Pearl Harbor sucked
Just a little bit more than I miss you.

it was crap, B.

12 July 2007

Geek (ish) update

A few updates that have made me happy:
safari 3 beta which is now available for Mac and PC here renders websites much better than Safari 2 did. In fact I can blog properly with Safari3 on my baby, which I couldn't on 2. And it flies on a PC. Magic.

Also making me happy is the new LastFM client, I had been using iScrobbler to update my LastFM website, but the new LastFM client allows manual config of proxies, which I need for my workplace internet. All of which is good timing as the latest version of iScrobbler doesn't seem to update that well (v1.5) I had to keep shutting it down and starting it up again. That kinda defeated the purpose.

Oh and the new version of Quicktime (7.2?) allows full-screen on the Mac. About bloody time.

And Steve Kilbey is coming to Wellington, thanks to the hipsterDave for that one, and I've got my ticket. Woohoo!

Love and smoochies, B.

10 July 2007

FilmFest#6: Leonard Cohen - I'm Your Man

This movie is at the Wgtn FF in a couple of weeks, but the Wgtn Public Library also has it on DVD (Region 1). So after S mentioned that it was on and I couldn't find a quick torrent to download, I tried the library - woohoo!

I was wondering how to start this review, and have decided a quick overview of how I came to find Leonard Cohen (LC) would probably be the easiest way. I hated Aaron Neville's version of Bird on a Wire, had vague memories of First We Take Manhattan from the 1980's. Things took off more when I got into Tom Waits and various friends suggested some LC would be right up my alley, and then the stunning version of Hallelujah by Jeff Buckley led me back to LC. And from there it's been a voyage of love and happiness.

The movie details a concert at the 2006 Sydney Arts Festival where a collection of performers cover LC songs. Not your usual collection of pop singers as we have Nick Cave, Rufus Wainwright, the McGarrigal sisters, Martha Wainwright, Antony, Teddy Thompson, Jarvis Cocker, Handsome Family, Perla Batella, U2+LC. The performances are interspersed with interviews with LC detailing his song writing process, his childhood, influences etc etc. It is, without doubt, one of the most moving music doco's I've ever seen. I don't think it quite tops the Townes Van Zandt doco I saw a couple of years ago, but it's definitely up there.

Performances are generally superb. Nick Cave is incredible, but for me the standout performances were Rufus Wainwright's take on Everybody Knows (he plays it as a cabaret number) and the Teddy Thompson track. Aside from the McGarrigal sisters performance, which left me cold, the covers sent shivers down my spine - and with LC poetry there were a few emo moments. As anyone who has heard the Shrek soundtrack knows that Rufus does a great version of Hallelujah, and his version with Martha on backing vocals was divine (except for the other singer who wasn't in the Wainwright's class). I still have trouble listening to Hallelujah (any version), given it always cut me up before France died it certainly isn't any easier to listen to now. And Rufus' voice is pretty ethereal, and I'm starting to wonder if I prefer his version to Buckley's. Something I never thought I'd say!
It was great to see the Handsome Family there too, although Rennie wasn't singing, but Brett was - and it was good. Ahhh. Certainly one of my finds from last year, and probably my favourite concert.

So where am I going with this review? Just go and see it if you are a LC fan, and if you're not - go see it anyway, you will be converted. These are excellent versions of his songs, and will give you an insight into his incredible song writing ability.

NZ FF Link
Movie Link
Soundtrack link

Love, B.

9 July 2007

Anapsid v Diapsid II

Anapsid v Diapsid II

It appears the readership for this series is slightly larger than I originally thought!

Part I provided an overview of the problem of where Testudines fit within the Reptilia, and how this affects a traditional Anapsida. Part II will summarise research supporting various positions, namely:
• Anapsid hypothesis (AH) traditional morphological position
• Lepidosauria hypothesis (LH) Testudines are more closely related to Sphenodon and Squamata, leading to a paraphyletic Reptilia.
• Archosauria hypothesis (ArH) Testudines are more closely related to crocodiles and birds, again causing a paraphyletic Reptilia.
Most morphological work (but not all) supports the AH, I won’t summarise these, Part I lists some of the notable exceptions.

With the advent of DNA sequencing a while new way to explore phylogenetic relationships was opened up. Early work produced differing results. α-enolase grouped Archosauria and Lepidosauria as clades with Testudines between the two (therefore paraphyletic) (Hedges 1994). α-globin chains supported a turtle:tuatara:avian clade, and the β-globin placed Testudines as an outgroup to a tuatara:avian clade that led to the Squamata. Hb (haemoglobin) chains (Δ and β’, β’’) placed tuatara closer to aves and turtles with crocodiles as a sistergroup. α-D globin genes demonstrated that turtles were a sistergroup to a tuatara:avian branch (Gorr et al. 1998).
Analysis of Reptilian sperm demonstrated high similarities between tuatara, turtles, crocodiles and to a lesser degree non-passerine aves. Sperm morphology clearly demonstrated the archaic relationships between these Orders, compared to the derived nature of Squamate sperm. mtDNA analysis rejected the AH and most strongly supported the ArH, although the LH couldn’t be statistically rejected (Healy and Jamieson 1992; Jamieson and Healy 1992; Healy and Jamieson 1994).

Reviewing all molecular data in 1999 Testudines and Crocodylia were found to group closely, excluding the Aves. Increasing the number of mtDNA basepairs for analysis grouped Testudines within the Archosaurian branch (ArH). Although recent analysis of full mtDNA from a large number of Reptilia placed Testudines as a Diapsid sistergroup to Archosauria and that clade as a sistergroup to the Lepidosauria (Rest et al. 2003).

As an interesting morphological comparison, a study on snake eye formation placed Crocodylia as basal to the Testudines and those two as basal to a Sphenodon:Squamata:aves clade (Caprette et al. 2004). Again a paraphyletic Reptilia.

My interests involve chromosomal variation present within the Reptilia. Sphenodon show no variation in all populations sampled (Stephens Island, North Brother Island, Stanley Island, Poor Knights Island; Ruamahua-iti reflecting S. punctatus northern-North Island and Cook Strait groups, and S. guntheri) (Norris et al. 2004). Crocodylians show three chromosomal groupings based on chromosomal morphology (Bickham 1984), a situation that doesn’t reflect the two groupings seen in mtDNA analysis (Janke et al. 2005). I’ll come back to it later, but that point could be quite important. The level of chromosomal variation appears to correlate with morphology, and definitely with speciation.

Testudines are by far the most speciose of the archaic reptile lineages, numbering over 285 species (Zug et al. 2001). Chromosomal variaition is low; major macrochromosome variation is limited with most variation occurring in microchromosome number. It is reasonably easy to derive most Testudines from a primitive karyotype. Two families show a highly derived karyotype, Carettochelyidae and Trionychidae. Both families also who highly derived morphology from the Testudine lineage. The Aves also show quite limited chromosomal variation, generally a macrochromosomes complement of 2n=2x=10-20, with highly variable numbers of microchromosomes.

Squamata demonstrate high chromosome variation. Actually ‘high’ doesn’t even begin to cover it. Although 2n=36 is common, chromosome morphology is highly varied, making extrapolation of a primitive karyotype very difficult.

In one of those eureka moments, while sipping coffee with a mild hangover and idly flicking through a review of Reptilian karyology I noticed a number of tuatara chromosomes. Mislabelled as Testudines. Yeah, Testudine karyotypes are very very similar to tuatara. In fact the three archaic lineages show some similarities. Supporting an archaic chromosomal relationship between Sphenodon and Testudines. See my paper for more detail :)

Various work on genomic DNA sequences involved in sex determining genes resulted in various phylogenies. AMH (anti mullerian hormone) showed no variation between various tuatara populations and grouped with turtles, both splitting the Archosauria, with alligators grouping closer to mammals. WT1 (Wilms’ tumour 1, a sex determining and nephrology gene) split the northern and Cook Strait tuatara. Northern NI tuatara were closer to alligators, with turtles splitting the Archosauria. DMRT1 show tuatara to be highly derived. Testudines are basal to all reptiles and mammals, and the Squamata cause the Archosauria to become paraphyletic.

So where does this leave us? I think from a molecular perspective that there is very weak support for the AH. There is significantly more support for Testudines as members of the Diapsida, although where in the Diapsida they fit is a problem. Chromosomes and sperm suggest closer to Sphenodon (and therefore with the Lepidosauria), mtDNA, or rather the most recent mtDNA study using a larger dataset supported the ArH. gDNA showed various phylogenetic positions: AMH suggested turtles were closer to crocodiles (ArH); WT1 also supported the ArH, and DMRT1 supported a traditional LH as turtles appeared basal to all other animals in the analysis.

Strangely I have opinions on these too, but I’m going to save them for Pt III which is likely to explore my views on:
- reptilia relationships
- reptilian evolution
- anapsids, are there any?

As usual, any question/comments welcome !!

Love, B.

Bickham, J. W. (1984). Patterns and modes of chromosomal evolution in reptiles. Chromosomes in evolution of eukaryotic groups. A. K. Sharma and A. Sharma. Florida, USA, CRC Press. II: 13-40.
Caprette, C. L., M. S. Y. Lee, R. Shine, A. Mokany and J. F. Downhower (2004). "The origin of snakes (Serpentes) as seen through eye evolution." Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 81: 469-482.
Gorr, T. A., B. K. Mable and T. Kleinschmidt (1998). "Phylogenetic analysis of reptilian hemoglobins: Trees, rates, and divergence." Journal of Molecular Evolution 47: 471-485.
Healy, J. M. and B. G. M. Jamieson (1992). "Ultrastructure of the spermatozoon of the tuatara (Sphenodon punctatus) and its relevance to the relationships of the Sphenodontida." Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society London B 335: 193-205.
Healy, J. M. and B. G. M. Jamieson (1994). "The ultrastructure of spermatogenesis and epididymal spermatozoa of the tuatara Sphenodon punctatus (Sphenodontida, Amniota)." Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society London B 344: 187-199.
Hedges, S. B. (1994). "Molecular evidence for the origin of birds." Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 91: 2621-2624.
Jamieson, R. G. M. and J. M. Healy (1992). "The phylogenetic position of the tuatara, Sphenodon (Sphenodontida, Amniota), as indicated by cladistic analysis of the ultrastructure of spermatozoa." Philosophical Transactions Royal Society London B 335: 207-219.
Janke, A., A. Gullberg, S. Hughes, R. K. Aggarwal and U. Arnason (2005). "Mitogenomic analyses place the Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus) on the crocodile tree and provide pre-K/T divergence times for most Crocodilians." Journal of Molecular Evolution 61: 620-626.
Norris, T. B., G. K. Rickards and C. H. Daugherty (2004). "Chromosomes of tuatara, Sphenodon, a chromosome heteromorphism and an archaic reptilian karyotype." Cytogenetic and Genome Research 105(1): 93-99.
Rest, J. S., J. C. Ast, C. C. Austin, P. J. Waddell, E. A. Tibbetts, J. M. Hay and D. P. Mindell (2003). "Molecular systematics of primary reptilian lineages and the tuatara mitochondrial genome." Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 29: 289-297.
Zug, G. R., L. J. Vitt and J. P. Caldwell (2001). Herpetology: An introductory biology of amphibians and reptiles, Academic Press.

5 July 2007


Ok this just falls under 'way too much time' category:

Movies for the Flu

So I've been poorly and was managing to ignore this until Wednesday when I decided a day off would be a good idea. So I wandered via the library to grab a couple of DVDs on Tuesday. Figuring a bit doped up on stuff would lead to fun times with my normal movie fare I went for Flesh for Frankenstein. Directed by Paul Morrissey who is most notable for being the director that Warhol's Factory used. Described as cult-classic, even I found it pretty dire. It's predictable in its use of shots and story development. It's not sure if it wants to be a sex flick (like Flesh Gordon) or a cult-horror-pisstake. Storyline is Baron Frankenstein wants to create a race of beautiful zombies who will breed more zombies for him. There's incest, butchery, black humour including such lines as "To love life you must fuck death in the duodenum" - while he's in the process of doing just that. Classy. Ok, so it's not a bad b-grade, it's just it lacks something bgrade-ish to bring it up to the great bgrades. The kids are a nice touch, and I can so see this flick turning up in the 24hr MM based on one of the over-riding themes. Are you reading this Ant?

The other one I got out was the first in the revenge trilogy by the brilliant director Chan-wook Park. He who brought you the perfect movie Oldboy, and the slightly less great Sympathy for Lady Vengence. This one was the first in the trilogy, Sympathy for Mr Vengence. The first hour is slow and not at all visceral, setting up the elaborate (ish) plots in order to pay for a black market kidney. No really. It all revolves around that. There's also a deaf mute. It's touching - the lengths the mute goes to to obtain a kidney for his sister - it's moving - the plans the mute and his girlfriend go to for the sister. And above all its beautiful in the sheer violence in the second half, none of it is the Tarentino OTT violence, this is sudden, poetic, balletic and generally unexpectedly perverse. I prefer OldBoy, for the brilliance of the plotline, but I enjoyed this too. Worth viewing.

B xxx

1 July 2007

Ahh Devin Townsend

He of the quite extraordinary music, lyrics and general vibe. Here's the description of the 'concept' of his new album:

"The story as follows (without revealing too much): Ziltoid The Omniscient, a four-dimensional alien has come to earth and is currently hovering five miles above Qatar. Beaming messages to the earth, including video, music, and words, His Omniscient-ness has one dimension up on us humans, allowing him control over time. But, in order to bend time he requires the perfect fuel — BLACK COFFEE — found in abundance on only one planet in the omniverse... Earth. He plays guitar and sings, is moody and a bit sensitive, with his first record due in late June. Surrounded by nymphs and prancing plasma beings, the album was produced by Devin Townsend in the hangar of the Ziltoidian space barge. All hail Ziltoid and his Infinity metal! Prepare your finest brew! Ziltoid doesn't want to destroy the earth now...he just wants to be known as the best guitar player and get lots of chicks."



It's been a funny old day/weekend

I've managed to get the flu, or at least a frickin nasty headache. Stupid me. Stupid. That rooted my plans to head up to Fin and Tom's party last night. Which meant I missed the rugby, and in a stunning display of flu induced stupidity I taped the wrong station so haven't got to see the game. Dammit.

In other news, I've chosen a real estate agent to sell the apartment. Will let you know how that goes...

My couch has been sold and collected so the lounge is looking quite empty. Might try and rearrange it when I feel more up to it. I was going to tidy bits of the bedroom today, maybe.

finished watching season2 of Dead Like Me which I enjoyed. S2 seemed better focussed than S1 which got a bit confused near the end of the season.

Watched last weeks Power of Art on Picasso this morning, loving that series. Watched some DailyShows I had on tape, heh love that programme, the pisstakes on Dick Cheney last week were priceless.
Made some more crayfish stock so the house stinks. Can't have the windows open too much either as its pissing down. Ahhh winter, gotta love it. And I updated my RSS feeds for the NewYorker movie reviews.

Saturday mornings episode of The Steel Mill (the hard/extremem metal show) had the video by Necrophagia which incorporated plastercine action stuff by Bruce Bickford. A really really good documentary about him was at the FilmFest last year called 'Monster Road' - definitely recommend that one. I've tried to find a YouTube of the Necrophagia video, but haven't managed it yet.

Here's some links relevant to this post:

If anyone has the Necrophagia vid link, I'll dump it up.

Me x