Company Dee Website

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company dee

If you’ll permit me a bit of shameless self-promotion, let me present the latest site rolled out by Universal Head, my design company. Since I still haven’t had the time to redo and update my company site—it’s long overdue for the full CSS treatment—I might as well give new work a plug here.

Company dee is a corporate communications, event management and documentary production company. Universal Head designed (taking cues from the company’s existing corporate identity) and coded the site.

Film review: Batman Begins

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Batman Begins

Waiting in the line for my ticket to Batman Begins, I heard a mother in front of me with four-year old in tow complaining that the film was rated M, and how ridiculous it was that a ‘comic book film’ was rated for Mature audiences. I couldn’t help myself. “It isn’t a film for kids” I said. She and her husband looked at me like I was an idiot.

When the lights came up and all the stupid—and borderline criminally negligent—parents ushered their terrified little children out of the cinema, I took solace in the fact they would be up all night trying to get their poor little kids to sleep. I do feel sorry for the kids though. Not only because they’d be having nightmares, but because they were cursed with such dumb, unimaginative people for parents, who couldn’t comprehend that anything in ‘comics’ could possibly explore adult themes.

Thankfully, Batman Begins turns away from such stupity (we were looking at you, Mr Schumacher) and gives Batman the treatment he deserves. Of all the films so far, this one comes closest to the Batman of the 70s I grew up with—the dark, haunted avenger of the crime- and drug-ridden streets of Gotham. It isn’t perfect by any means, but it’s the closest you’ll get. Of course if your idea of Batman is Adam West doing the batsusi and wrestling rubber sharks, you’re going to be very disappointed.

Director Christopher Nolan brings the shadowy, overcast realism of his previous films Memento and Insomnia to the Batman legend, and it’s just what the doctor ordered. The whole film is far more believable than previous efforts, despite the now de rigeur Gothic look of Gotham, and it is further grounded by a story that concentrates on Bruce Wayne more than his alter ego. Perhaps a bit too much, as the first half of the film is just a little too drawn out. At 141 minutes the film feels a bit long and a bit choppy—about three quarters of the way through I thought I was heading for the climax when in fact there was quite a way to go. However Nolan successfully manages to bring what is really two complex films, an origins story and a villainous plot, to the finish line together—albeit in a very noisy and chaotic way.

Thankfully in between the intense action sequences we get some good acting, and liberal dashes of dark humour too. There are a few histrionic lines, but on the whole an essential humanness remains, even in the face of Batman’s cape-wearing antics. Michael Caine sails beautifully through the role of Alfred, Morgan Freeman brings just the right note of good-humoured world-weariness to Lucius Fox, and even Katie Holmes is refreshing as the honest lawyer (hey, it is a fantasy after all) Rachel Dawes. Cillian Murphy at first seems too young for his role as Dr Jonathon Crane of Arkham Asylum, but he plays the part with such intensity and presence that he gets away with it. Also good to see back on the screen is Rutger Hauer. Liam Neeson, unfortunately, continues what seems to be a run of lazy performances as Ducard. But Batman himself? Despite being cursed with a far too distinctive mouth (“hey, you’re Bruce Wayne, I recognise you by your weird upper lip!”), Christian Bale makes a convincingly troubled Caped Crusader.
Just remember, Batman isn’t for kids. Thank goodness.

Four utility belts out of five.

Why I will never buy Sony products again


I have had it with Sony equipment. Not only do I hate how this multinational juggernaut is taking over the music industry and sticking their products into the film clips made by their artists, but they’re products are crap.

Why the rant? I own two expensive Sony cameras— the DCR-TRV20 digital Handycam and the DSC-F707 digital still camera. They are four and three years old, respectively. Apparently, despite the amount of money they cost me ($2,000 for the Handycam and over $1500 for the still camera), they are now long past their Planned Obsolescence date, because I am starting to have continual problems with both of them. Of course, past the warranty, Sony don’t want to know you, so you are forced to go to one of the very few registered repair shops with your problem; people who also could not care less, since they have a steady revenue stream from schmucks like me. So far I’ve spent $330 having the still camera repaired and over $330 on the video camera. I’ve also had to wait weeks and be treated like an inconvenience during the process. Plus the still camera apparently has one of those ‘intermittent problems’ that crop up magically when I’m using the camera and not when it is being checked for repairs.

I don’t think I’m being out of line in asking for two cameras costing a total of over $3,500 to last more than a few years, though I’m sure Sony considers me part of the throwaway generation that should have long since upgraded to the latest, grooviest Sony product. I mean, some annoying American rap star has it, so I should too, right?

Perpetual Ocean

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A good friend of mine, Peter Miller, when not doing sound design for movies such as The Ring or composing his own music, somehow also finds the time to create stunning digital artworks. He first exhibition biologika opens in June and features thirteen large format prints of his creations, which mysteriously straddle the line between mathematical inevitability and organic happenstance (he describes them far more effectively). If you’ve ever been frustrated with the efforts so far of artists trying to create beauty with computers, you’ll be amazed and delighted with these images.

To celebrate, I’ve created a new website for him, which I invite you to view at While you’re there be sure to check out his acclaimed music catalogue. Or to go straight to the beautiful biologika images.

Update: Check out the opening night pics.

Greedy bastards


I’ve spent the last twenty years of my life paying rent to landlords—and the last eight or so for both a place to live and a studio in which to work. And once again, I’ve been forced to get on the rental house search merry-go-round. I’ve spent a lot of depressing Saturdays looking at overpriced slums, but this morning has the distinction of being the most depressing of them all.

Sydney is a city obsessed with property and obsessed with money. But even I was surprised at the absolute shitboxes some people are attempting to rent at the moment, and the outrageous amounts of money they are asking for them. For a start, prices seem to have jumped 20% in the last nine months. What most amazes me however, is the complete lack of effort these landlords put in to make a house liveable before trying to get tenants. Houses smell, have plaster flaking from the walls, have shoddy built-ins made of unpainted chipboard and interior windows covered with brown paper. And this crap is described as ‘charming’. I saw a tiny passage which would hardly fit a chair described as a ‘study’. I’ve seen bathrooms that you wouldn’t let a dog use. There was a time that some attempt to make a place liveable was necessary to rent it; that time seems to have gone.

Sydney is trapped between obscenely high prices and the lack of a long-term rental culture. And for a couple trying to find a decent house to live in and unwilling to spend the ridiculously huge sums of money needed to buy a place, it’s a getting to be a hard place to live.

Update: Well, that weekend was the proverbial straw; it’s time to give landlords the finger and buy our own place. We’ve already seen the mortagage broker … and it’s not quite as scary as I’d imagined. Now, in defiance of the Sydney zeitgeist, I’ll try not to mention property again.

Back to Latin


I recently did business with someone on eBay, and in response to a query of mine I received this email reply:

hi peter,
it may b coz u put it thru ova tha w/e it may take 24hrs 2 process from the next working day. i definetely wil let uno wen it comes thru.
thx mel

I’m all for saving a little time when you’re in a hurry, but what’s going on here? When I sent this to a friend of mine who is equally annoyed with the demise of the English language in these times of email and SMS, and he had this to say:

Christ! Is there any genuine saving of time in the typing of this? There’s certainly a sensible diminution of comprehension in the reader!

My brain hurts… just look at this stuff:

‘ova’ hmmm, huge saving of ONE letter there

‘wil’ ditto

‘wen’ I’m seeing a pattern here

There’s not even any consistency, as we find ourselves lurching from “b coz u put it thru ova the w/e” to almost a phrase of complete words: “process from the next working day”. It’s like a beam of sunlight shining through dark and murky clouds.

As for ‘tha’: this person needs to be tied over a barrel and whipped with wet birch branches until they can show evidence of being able to spell. Mind you, with ‘eBay’ spelt that way, it’s no surprise these people are confused.

Bring back compulsory Latin I say.

” … whipped with wet birch branches …” Now that’s English!

Film review: Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith


Star Wars Ep III

To paraphrase a friend, what a complete load of Sith. George Lucas fails utterly to pull a rabbit out of his hat for this, the third and last interminable, overblown, badly acted and scripted—and the worst crime of all, boring—episode in the Star Wars merchandising franchise. If this is the future of cinema, God help us. Have a brief look at the fan sites and you’ll discover such hysterical comments as “the best movie I’ve ever seen!” I can only hope that particular kid gets out and sees a few more movies.

I’m waiting for someone to sit through the last three ‘prequels’ and count how many times there is a scene where several of the actors walk through some endless city corridor, or board a spacecraft, while regurgitating the same old dialogue about senates and republics and votes to set up the next video-game-like action sequence. There are so many bad decisions being made here, but let’s start at the place where Lucas should have started, and stayed for a lot longer—the script. Rumour has it Tom Stoppard was drafted in this time around to help with the leaden dialogue; but if so then Tom was having several off days in a row, for there is little improvement. Some scenes, such as when Skywalker goes over to the Dark Side, are frankly laughable; bad writing, wooden acting and even cheesy special effects blending into something that looks like a first year high school film project. Proven professionals—McGregor, Portman, Jackson—are here forced to chew on hackneyed dialogue and work in front of blue screens, and come out looking like friends drafted in as the actors (only Ian McDiarmid manages to inject some much needed ham into his role). I’m not exaggerating that much; the recent fan film Star Wars: Revelations is on par in acting and script quality.

I think one of Lucas’ mistakes is to assume that we like these characters because of their relation to those in the original films. Skywalker, (the young) Kenobi and Padme are cardboard cutouts going through the motions. Unlike the vivid characters of Han Solo, Luke and Leia, with their chemistry, their verbal sparring, their triumphs and tragedies, there is no one here we care about.
But the action, you say, what about the action? Well, there’s plenty of it—plenty of sound and fury, to paraphrase the Bard, signifying nothing. Lucas paints his screen canvas so thickly with frantic detail that the eye isn’t given a moment’s rest. There is no light and shade, no focus or subject, to what is happening on screen. Lucas is like an spoilt kid showing us all his expensive toys; but what happened to the role of a director? A director should expertly control our eye and our emotions. What we here is nothing but a multi-million dollar headache.

I’m giving Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith one star in recognition of all the hard work that so many people lavished on the film, but this last episode is ultimately doomed by its creator’s overweening hubris. Go watch the A New Hope or The Empire Strikes Back again; and dream of what could have been.

One faulty breathing apparatus out of five.

PS Give me the gritty, smartly written, well-acted sci-fi of the new Battlestar Galactica, or Firefly, anyday.

Close Encounter With a Turtle

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Saying hello to a turtle. Tortugas Reef, Playa del Carmen, Yucatán, Mexico.

On the ‘Hood

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Car hood ornament, Puerto Morelos, Yucatán, Mexico.

Live Music Review: Tori Amos


Tori AmosI imagine living with Tori Amos would be an exhausting experience; she comes across as 100% intense, involved, creative—almost not of this earth. I just can’t see her sitting in front of the TV eating takeway in track pants. Which is a shame, as a little more of a human connection would have been just the thing on Saturday night at the Sydney Opera House, where I saw her perform. The concert was intense, but emotional in a detached, ethereal, slightly scary kind of way. And that kind of experience ratcheted up to the top level of intensity for almost two hours can be exhausting, even draining.

As my girlfriend, who is not really a fan, pointed out, one of the best parts of the concert was ‘Tori’s Piano Bar’, where she played a couple of requests previously sent in by fans—in this case Suzanne by Leonard Cohen and Don McLean’s Vincent (Starry Starry Night). Unlike Tori’s songs, these two had room to breathe, and she played them beautifully, her strong voice filling the concert hall and complemented by a restrained but lovely light show.

Her own songs sometimes didn’t fare quite so well, and I missed the grounding prescence that a band usually gives to her sometimes self-indulgent pauses and phrasings. An example was Tear in Your Hand, from her first album Little Earthquakes, which was too drawn out and lost the strength of the original. The new songs from her most recent album The Beekeeper were more effective, perhaps because I have yet to hear the album versions. The eponymous song, in particular, had a wonderful repetitive organ line, which she played in a spotlight like a supplicant at an altar (an impression reinforced by the long flowing white dress and red hair).

There was not an empty seat in the house, and the audience were obviously ecstatic fans—mostly groups of women in their early twenties, I noticed. In fact we must have been one of the rare incidents of a male fan accompanied by a female non-fan. Oh well, I’m a Kate Bush fan too.

Tori’s voice was powerful to the last, hanging in the air at the end of each song; and her playing was amazingly assured and strong. But there was an imaginary wall hanging in the air between performer and audience. That word ‘intense’ keeps coming back to mind. Intensity is a wonderful thing when tempered by contrast, but alone as here, it can drown out the possibility of a real emotional connection.

Four earth mothers out of five (PS Thanks for the tickets babe!).

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