The Sixth Day

Its been a while between movies for the Big A lately, with his last effort being End of Days, which if I recall correctly came shortly after he’d just had some heart surgery or something like that. End of Days was given a pretty lukewarm reception despite being Arnie’s big comeback movie, but I still enjoyed it (Arnie kicking the devil’s ass? Awesome!).

The Sixth Day is an pseudo-sci-fi action flick set in the near future. As an aside, there’s some cool examples of networked technology which would be awesome to start seeing in common appliances (like a fridge that tells you when you’re running low on something and allows you to order more from a panel on the front).

Uh, anyway, the world is a different place (as usual). Apparently the world was on the brink of starvation, or something, before some combination of ninja genetic engineer Dr Weir and entrepreneur richman Michael Drucker were able to figure out how to make good, reliable and safe clones. From here, I assume that Drucker, being a capitalist pig, was able to turn the scientific advances of Weir into a giant fortune, which he used to build a bigger fortune, and, inevitably, became Evil.

After some early cloning of humans went horribly wrong (apparently), a multitude of laws were passed to make cloning a human extremely illegal, and had ramifications which would have you dropping soap for forty years. Despite this, Drucker was doing it anyway. This, of course, opens up a whole kettle of philosophical fish for the characters, AND the audience, as they have to grapple with the theory of ‘does a clone have a soul?’

Enter Arnie – a helicopter pilot who has been happily living out his family life with loving wife and daughter (aka, plot accessories) until he becomes embroiled in Drucker’s cloning conspiracy when anti-cloning activists start messing with Drucker’s plans. The writer cleverly put in a reference to the hypocrisy of the anti-cloning people by having Drucker denounce them.. uh.. as hypocrites… pointing out that his cloning technology has saved millions of lives by providing food (after all the fish in the oceans died or something, which obviously had the snowballing effect of wiping out all the cows and bananas), and then pointing out how cloning humans could improve people’s lives. This left the activists with nothing to stand on but the soapbox of God, so I’d say the writer/director was an advocate of Darwinian theory, at least to some degree. Oh yeh, the plot. Anyway, as is evident in the trailer, this leads to a brief bit of confusion whilst Arnie tries to figure out what the hell is going on – eventually, of course, someone starts trying to kill him (to erase the evidence of the cloning) and before you know it, we’re bumper-deep in a chase scene with laser bolts flying all over the place, a steadily increasing body count, and several witty Schwarzenegger-esque lines.

Like just about every movie that is ever made, its full of disgusting plot holes. Arnie was pretty boring in it; there was way too much hilarity and Arnie being jovial at the start instead of walking around laying down the smack like I wanted to see. They need to stop him being happy and get him mad earlier on.

Now, I’m going to run the risk of a spoiler here and throw in a very brief bit of the ending that might SHOCK and SURPRISE you – Arnie triumphs over the bad guys and wins.

The bad guys, in this case, were Drucker and his cronies. Drucker, you see, is a multi-uber-billionaire after developing, patenting and selling his quality cloning techniques, and has more money than (I would imagine) anyone else in the world in this particular story. Every scene with Drucker in it, and his wealth is displayed in lavish ostentatiousness, just in case you missed the fact that the main building the thing is set in is a technological gold mine.

Despite all this money, and setup, and sound business planning, apparently Drucker is a bit clueless when it comes to a) choice of employees and b) planning ahead. The main cronies are just the typical Hired Goons, which are somewhat out of place in the surroundings. I would have been expecting some sort of vat-grown, genetically customised and optimised killing machines (like the ninjas that come out of William Gibson’s Chiba City). Instead, he chose a mildly good-looking chick, who didn’t really do anything that useful, and this total tool of a guy who had nothing better to do than die repeatedly in a manner very reminiscent of comic relief.

Of course, after Arnie dispatches the simple guards, he has no problems in defeating Evil and Saving The Day. The 450,000 other security guards that were wandering around the building were apparently too busy to bother coming to battle Arnie until it was way too late to save the Evil Boss. I took very careful notes on the downfall process, so one day when I’m a Good (or Evil, or whatever) uber billionaire like Drecker, I don’t make the same idiot mistakes that he does and get taken out by some punk ass pilot.

Overall, I must confess I was pretty unimpressed. I’ve always been (and still remain) a big Arnie fan, but I thought this movie was pretty lacklustre. The surroundings were good, the futuristic technology was cool (but integrated a little awkwardly, I thought). The laser gun things were sorta boring, which resulted in the gun fighting scenes being average as well. Arnie did pop out a couple of good calls though, which I giggled at (big fan of stupid bravado movie calls). Special effects were boring and barely noticable (which I guess means they were good?); I’d go so far as to say you could live without seeing this on the big screen.

Summary: Make more Terminator movies, or only accept roles in James Cameron movies from now on, please Arnie! I BEG YOU!

Ahhhh, Its Holiday Time!

Well, not really, but close enough. Today I ended working fulltime at WebCentral. I’ve been there since something like March 2000, working full time in the technical department as a senior tech sorta dude. It was good fun, but I decided I wanted some more time to follow up other interests, and go to the beach more, and try and get fit again, and actually start playing computer games again (since Quake came out, all I have is a big FPS blur).

So, now, I’m kicking back to 2 days a week working (still at WebCentral), which gives me 5 glorious days of doing my own thang. Naturally, the dark side of my destiny decided to slap me in the face on the day I finished by bringing in non-stop rain, thus puncturing all my plans to go to the coast in the near future.

Bedazzled

Went and saw Bedazzled the other night, expecting it to be few mildly pleasant and amusing antics as Brendan Fraser bumbled around in his typical gumby manner. Instead, I was basically treated to what was a non-stop visual rollercoaster which demonstrated in precise detail EXACTLY how hot Elizabeth Hurley is.

Simply put, she spends most of the time strutting around in costumes that have been designed from the ground up to prove that English chicks can be hot, despite their horribly flawed accent (and country’s current cricket team).

The movie, directed by Harold Ramis (aka Egon from Ghostbusters) is based on the first movie from a way long time ago back when movies were black and white or something. OK, so I don’t know anything about the earlier movie, but suffice to say it sure as hell didn’t have Ms Hurley in it. Anyway, being by Harold Ramis, you might think it is going to be quite the funny story (as I did). Basically, the plot goes something like this: Brendan Fraser (loser, nerd, and hated by all) runs into the Devil in a bar – Liz Hurley. She offers him seven wishes, whatever he wants, in return for his soul.

What follows then is a 7 different iterations of Brendan Fraser turning into a rich, or athletic, or compassionate, or super-intelligent, or suave, or various combinations of the above, whilst at the same time trying to make the object of his affection fall in love with him. None of these had me rofl’ing, but at the end of each adventure he runs back into Elizabeth again, wearing some different outfit that makes her look ever spootier than the one before.

Oh, and its set in San Francisco – they could have redeemed some of the boring story bits with some awesome scenery shots, but they didn’t.

To summarise, in case you haven’t read between the lines, Elizabeth Hurley is hot in this movie. There is really no other excuse for wanting to see it. Don’t delude yourself. Ramis, what were you thinking!@#

More Neal Stephenson: Mother Earth, Mother Board

Another article that a friend sent me by Neal Stephenson: Mother Earth, Mother Board. It’s about the FLAG, a fiber-optic cable being built from England to Japan. It “is a skinny little cuss (about an inch in diameter), but it is 28,000 kilometers long”. It touches on the history of laying submarine cables and is (as usual) an excellently written, well-researched document that is worthy of reading.

Integral Trees

On the way back from the USA, I read the Integral Trees, by Larry Niven. Niven is a well-respected SF writer who’s written a stack of other acclaimed books. The Mote in God’s Eye and Footfall are books he’s co-authored with Jerry Pournelle, both of which are awesome reading.

Integral Trees is a pretty short novel; its basically a story of evolved humans that live in primitive societies without gravity in a gas cloud around a neutron star. Its a pretty cool world; very different from the normal fare about invasions on Earth. Its weird having to remind yourself that the story is set in a predominantly zero-g environment, which has been meticulously detailed by Niven.

Its a pretty short read, so therefore: a short review. But definitely something that’s worth picking up if you’re into SF for something differnet.

CTFi Practice Round

Well, we had our CTFi practice round. Me, Storm, FactorX, BadKarma, Limpz, Harkonnen, and Wog all kicked some ass against Team D, who I couldn’t be bothered to name here. Had some server problems towards the end of the game, but they were resolved. And continued problems during the game, because I’d cleverly forgotten how to put a password on the server, so cluepon-worthy people kept joining the server.

The first game in q3wctf2 was a draw, 2 all. We only got our 2nd cap because Kuffs dropped out, so they played damn well to come back and finish the game in a draw. Some awesome plays all over the place, especially by our team in defense, executing a stack of great movies to get our flag back when I thought it was lost for sure.

Second game was q3ctf3, which is a damn defensive one. Fortunately, we somehow managed to sneak through like damn legends and took it out 1-0 with some awesome teamwork co-ordination to cap.

Last game took a while to get going, and we ended up a player down, but fortunately scoob was playing like an child and only using his keyboard or something lame like that. In any case, we played like legends while the other team floundered around whinging about lag and generally trying to see if they could play better through tears. Next game is on Thursday – looking forward to it.

San Francisco Part IV

Spent four hours in the car driving north west to Lake Tahoe, one of the biggest lakes in the US and home to the best skiing in California. Now, four hours in the car isn’t fun in general, but my whole family and I were crammed in there with all our supplies and Christmas presents for the rest of our family (17 Harrisons in total going to Tahoe), so it was, needless to say, quite horrible.

It was neat watching the temperature drop, degree by degree as we went further north and gained more altitude. Snow started appearing, and before I knew it, it was -1 degrees. Somehow, we managed to arrive there at the same time as the rest of the family, even though we left from two different places at two different times. We headed over to the uber haus we had rented (which would hold 12 people) and started unpacking and getting stuff ready for the fun.

After that was all out of the way, we went exploring; the skiers went to buy their passes and rent their gear, and I went to the pub and sucked down a pint of Sierra Nevada, a tasty brew that is popular around there but like most American beer, sadly lacking in comparison.

The next day, we dropped off all the skiers/snowboarders and left them to have their fun, whilst a few of us drove down to Lake Tahoe itself. Its damn big. Aside from that, it was like many other natural bodies of water. The surrounding scenery was pretty impressive though; snow-covered peaks all over the joint.

We also nicked over the border to Nevada for a while. Interestingly, there mustn’t be gambling allowed in California – as soon as you cross the border, there’s casinos everywhere.

Probably one of the best things about Cal though is the fact that they have no smoking inside laws – anywhere. Its awesome; I didn’t SMELL a cigarette until we were in Nevada and we went inside a Casino. What a great idea. Wish Queensland at least was awesome enough to have a law like that to prevent me from having to suck down smoke from other assholes that are too inconsiderate to drag their stinky cancer stick inhaling asses outside. Anyway.

We then went down to Truckee, which is the closest “large” town to where we were staying. I spent a grand total of 10 minutes walking up and down the main drag looking at the shops.

The day after was Christmas; that was pretty fun with 5 small kiddies doing the young-child-at-Christmas thing. We also dug out a cool toboggan thingy behind the house which we all had turns screaming down – good fun. After all the excitement, I lay down, read the Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe, then went to bed.

The day after my aunt and I decided to try The Tube – the tube was basically a small ride for people which involved getting in a tube and caning down a hill and going round this one bend thing. I did it a few times, and quickly decided I needed to spice it up a little. You see, there were these phat rubber mats carefully placed before the bend to slow you down. I had isolated these mats as the main reason that you didn’t get a hell of a lot of speed or height on the bend, and resolved to try and find a course down the hill which would involve missing said mats.

Eventually, we came back late at night. There were these two girls working up the top, and I casually asked if I could try taking a running jump. They sort of ummed and aahhed about it, but then one of them gave in, and I did so. I took about a 5 metre running start, and leapt head first onto my tube down the hill.

I bounced off the left side of the track, avoiding the groove that had been carefully eroded into the ice by the bodies and tubes of others long gone. I realised quickly that I was going to miss the mats! I hit the bend at the end, going basically straight to the top – a bit more velocity, and I would have gone straight over. At the peak of the trip, I realised that not being in the groove, whatever would happen next would be unexpected.

So, I started going down the wall – instead of gracefully sliding around the bend to a gentle stop, I went almost straight back down aiming towards the fence. I tried to exert some futile control but ended up falling off the tube, landing on my skull, rolling for about 5 metres and taking out the whole fence on the other side of the thing.

The groundstaff there then proceeded to lay down more rubber mats and post a person actually on the ramp to force them into the standard groove path in the event of any more hotdoggers.

San Francisco Part III

Spent some time in a hotel in the city for a few days with the family, which was pretty interesting. Most of the city of San Francisco is pretty hilly – you’ll have seen a lot of the terrain in car chases in movies like Bullitt (Steve McQueen) and The Rock and stuff, giant hills everywhere.

Standing at the top of some of them is pretty freaky, especially when you’re looking down into the CBD. Its like some bizarre runway at the bottom of a canyon; these big 4 lane streets that scream down with giant 50 story buildings looming over you.

We spent a bit of time doing a favourite tourist pasttime – the cable cars. The cable cars are one of SF’s most well-known attractions, and they’re actually pretty cool. The sure as hell make going up and down those giant streets a lot easier. One thing I noticed on these cars that most of the other tourists on there were American; I guess they get a kick out of it too.

San Francisco Part II

Fort Point:

Day 2 began with me finally shaking off a horrible sore throat, the final chapter in the cold that hassled me on the plane. Dad and I jumped up early and headed over to Fort Point, an old military installation built back in the late 1800’s to guard the coastline. It was also used in World War II as part of a submarine net to prevent nastly little subs from sneaking in and wreaking havoc upon the city. Normally, the Fort is open for tourists but unfortunately is currently closed for restoration, so we can’t go in and check it out.

So, we just moseyed around for a while. Fort Point is behind the Golden Gate Bridge on the south side, and offers extraordinary views from that angle. From there, it just looks incredible; the giant span being supported by the amazing array of steel and concrete that you are standing right next to. You can hear the peak hour traffic rattling across the surface of the bridge.

The Presidio:

We didn’t really spend enough time there to fully check it out, but its worth of a separate heading. Maybe more later if we go back. The Presidio is an area of San Francisco that was established over 200 years ago as a military base by a Spanish expedition that arrived from Mexico. After the US won the boringly-named Mexican-American war in 1821, the US Army moved in and stayed there until 1994, at which point the National Park Service took over (I imagine this probably happened peacefully, not in a war-like scenario).

Something that may be of interest is that there is word on the street that George Lucas will be setting up shop in the Presidio, building a giant uber-studio thing. The land value alone there in normal terms would be absolutely enourmous – as a historical attraction though, I can’t even begin to speculate.

Academy of Sciences:

After lunch, we made a family trip to the Academy of Sciences, an old favourite from our first SF venture back in ’84. The Academy was founded back in 1853 primarily to study the surrounding California flora, fauna, geology and anything else worth poking a stick at, putting under a microscope, cutting open, or blowing up. It was originally housed in Market Street, but then the uber-earthquake of 1906 hit and basically destroyed the building and everything in it.

The citizens of San Francisco, flexing the arms of democracy, decided that the Academy should be rebuilt in the Golden Gate Park. It was reopened in 1916, and has spent the time since then going through several upgrades and expansions, including the awesome Steinhart Aquarium.

Anyway, that’s what we did this afternoon. My sore throat thing came back, rendering me useless for a while until I managed to get back to home plate and hit the ice cream.

One of the main things I miss in Australia is chocolate chip icecream. Sure, you can sort of buy some variants of it, but you can’t get anything like you can over here. The best I’ve found so far is Dreyers – they make a huge variety of different ice creams, but I can happily sit down with a human-skull sized container of this stuff and eat the lot of it. Oh – so yummy.

After knocking back a cubic metre or so of this stuff I started to feel human again, and then tried to brave the cold (10 degrees or so) out on the veranda watching a quite spectacular sunset. Too cold though; I ended up back inside and had a quick bash of q3dm17 and laid down the smack .au style (all without using the railgun), and then had to listen to the Americans whine about it.

Kicking back tonight waiting for my grandfather to arrive from LA, then we’re having a roast dinner and probably going to drink some rum or something. Tomorrow – the city!