Sunday, December 09, 2007

Photos for October

Hey, look at this! Two updates in just one day! You lucky smeggers . . .

Looks like there were a few more things going on in October:
  • The girls went to the circus
  • Alicia had a birthday
  • We went to the Awapuni Donkey Stud Open Day
  • Pop came to visit
  • We planted our veges
  • We took the bike trailer for a blat
All this and more if you'll just click on this picture:

Comment away if you feel like it, email me if not.

More photos

Late I know, but not as late as usual.

These take care of August and September this year. It seems that not too much exciting happened in those months, or if it did, we didn't photograph it.

Click the picture for the slideshow:

As always, comments are welcome, or you can just email me.

Monday, November 19, 2007

July photos

Well, it's happened again - I've been wicked slack at updating the photos.

Here's some from July - more following in the next few days:

Your comments are invited and welcome!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

It never rains but it pours

Here's a few photosets that I should have put up ages ago.

The first slideshow is of Ella's fourth birthday celebrations:

Sorry there aren't more, but sometimes the camera just gets forgotten about!

The next slideshow marks an important watershed: Bethan is over two months old now, easily enough to start sharing her photosets with others. So, there's a mix of people, not just Bethan, in here:

The last slideshow for today (and possibly for a while, going on my past efforts) covers our visit to the Frankton model railway last weekend.

I can't believe I've never been before. Dunno what it's normally like, but they were having a (well-publicised) fundraiser for Hospice Waikato the day we went. This meant it was pretty busy, but even so, the queue never took very long - there must have been more than twenty different engines.

It's run by the Hamilton Model Engineers, and is $1 a ride (or $10 for 12 tickets). If you're in Hamilton on a nice Sunday, bloody go!

Interview with the pram-pire

I see it's been over a month since I last posted anything. I have a million excuses for this, none of which are good enough.

By way of apology, here is a video:

Monday, May 21, 2007

Bethan meets an Uncle and an Auntie

Bethan's starting to get past the generic grumpy old bloke baby look - she thought you might like to see a few of her different faces. Leave comments about who you think she looks like.

Since Uncle Barns is off to Japan in less than two weeks, Bethan thought it'd be a good idea to meet him before she goes.

She also convinced her Auntie Kendyl to fly up to Hamilton at the weekend to meet her.

Here's a short slideshow:

Let me know if you want a link to the plain photo page as well (like the last couple).

If you want to download any of these in a proper size, they're available on the flickr site. Have a bit of a hunt around and let me know if you want a bit of a guide for how to do it.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Photo barrage!

Well, it's been four weeks, everyone's home, I'm back at work (sob) - and I've finally got round to chucking some more photos of Bethan on the internet.

Thanks to everyone who's been to visit us, triple thanks for all the presents, extra added thanks to those who brought food!

Those we haven't seen - we'd love to see you!

Those who've already been round - we'd love to see you again!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Desperately Seeking Susan

I got this one mainly for someone else in the house rather than me. Although I do remember enjoying it when I saw it as a kid, I thought it would just be cheesy at best when viewed in the cold light of 2007.

Nope. It's still cool, just like Madonna (or Madge Ritchie as she seems to be more commonly known these days). Although it is a simple (some might say desperate) amnesia/mistaken identity storyline, the story is told well, with Rosanna Arquette perfectly cast as the daydreaming uptight '80s housewife.

Madge ain't bad either, in one of the very few acting roles she has not been savaged or derided for.

This is not a hard-hitting or important film, by any stretch of the imagination, but if you want to relive the past (or just get costume ideas for those ever-popular Eighties Parties), then fear not. This film allows you to do so with far less cringing than you might think.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Some more photos

A couple of links to some pictures of our new daughter:

Bethan Amalie Haszard was born at 4:45 a.m. on Sunday the 15th of April. Bethan is a Welsh name we liked - click on the name for more info. It is pronounced like Bethany, but without the 'y' (not BethAnne or Betharn), but you can call her Beth. Amalie is a family name, from Rach's family. We have not misspelled "Amelie'.

She weighed 7 lbs 11 oz (or 3.49 kg for metricians) and was about 52cm long (although how you measure a slippery, screaming newborn with any level of accuracy I don't know).

To me, she looks like the usual newborn combination of Yoda and angry old bloke, but I love her anyway. Seriously, I can't see any real resemblance to either of her parents, or to her sister. Feel free to weigh in with your own opinions though.

She is also very loud - not one of those newborns that has a cute little ignorable whimper.

She was born at the RREBC here in Hanimalton. It was a water birth, and as everyone told us, it was quite a bit easier than a first baby (not that I did a hell of a lot).

Big Sister Ella is being a Big Help with everything, and is quite often actually helpful.

Sunday, April 08, 2007


Wow, this is really cool. Yet again I am an idiot, leaving this one in the cupboard in favour of other things, thinking, 'it's Japanese, it'll be hard going."

As usual, I was totally wrong. This is one of the best films I've seen for a long time. It's got everything - violence, comedy, awesome fight scenes, history, dance routines . . .

Ostensibly it's kind of a kung-fu movie, based on the ancient Japanese tale of a blind masseur/master swordsman, who travels from village to village defending the downtrodden and fighting yakuza and injustice.

It's directed by Takeshi Kitano, who also stars as Zatoichi. He makes a very cool character, played very low-key and with a great sense of humour. The other characters are all wonderful, both baddies and goodies. My favourite is the insane fat man who thinks he's a samurai.

The fight scenes are intentionally quite different to your normal sword battles full of clashing blades. Zatoichi wins his fights with quick, decisive strokes, and barely a clang is heard. In the DVD extras, Kitano points out that this seemed far more realistic to him. Why would you waste time banging your sword into your opponent's, when all you wanted to do was kill him before he killed you?

By far the biggest surprise of the film is reserved for the end, however. It's a kind of Bollywood-style song and dance number. This might seem a little incongruous, but it fits perfectly with the rest of the film.

Watch it!

High School Musical

It's about time I ripped into this one.

My (a bit less than four-year-old) daughter has been watching this at her daycare since about the middle of last year. It's been the source of some amusing songs as she figures out the lyrics using her vocabulary, e.g.:

The real lyrics: It's hard to believe
that I didn't see

Her lyrics: Believe to believe
under the sea

Enough of Kids Say the Darndest Things (or Old Black Comedians Never Shut the Hell Up) - my daughter got a DVD of High School Musical amongst her 40,000 christmas presents.

So, I've now seen it about a dozen times at least, I only watched it all the way through from start to finish last week.

A lot of people call this the modern Grease. There are some parallels: it's set in a high school; it's a love story between two people from different cliques; it's a musical. However, there are also some important differences: HSM's stars are actually teenagers (or thereabouts); it's Disney, so there is no sex at all; I wasn't forced to sing a medley of the songs at intermediate, so I don't feel like blowing my brains out every time I hear one.

The plot is . . . well, it's a musical, so the plot's pretty much irrelevant. The acting is fairly unexceptional, aside from Ashley Tisdale as Sharpay Evans, who rules the movie. The singing's pretty good, but not mind-blowingly fantastic.

The messages in the film are cliched but good: embrace difference; work as a team; don't worry about what other people say.

So, I like it, but possibly more through familiarity than anything else. Not really a recommendation then?

Well, if you get a chance to see a stage version of it, go for it. My daughter and I saw Hamilton's Fraser High School's production of High School Musical a couple of weeks ago. It is far better suited to the stage than the screen. There are many subtle differences which make the whole thing work much better, and there really is nothing to compare to songs sung live by a full complement of singers.

Global climate change and religion

Well, holy shit, that title should bring the punters in!

Earlier this morning, I listened to an episode of Insight on Radio New Zealand National, all about "climate change sceptics". I use quotes, as this term is a little pejorative, with connotations of a bunch of tinfoil-hatted wackos.

Aluminium headgear or not, they put up quite a compelling argument - just as the (currently more vocal and respected) climate change proponents do. None of the people interviewed sounded like nutters, their arguments were reasonable, and seemed plausible.

However, I'm not here to debate the ins and outs of climate change: whether it is actually occurring; whether it is as severe as it is claimed; whether humans are the primary cause. No, you make up your own mind about those.

I want to weigh in with my opinion on a much heftier debate - that of Science vs. Religion. So, here's my crackpot theory:

To the vast majority of people who put themselves on the side of Science (and I include myself in this group), Science is a form of Religion in itself.

"What the fuck are you on about?"

Allow me to attempt to explain: it seems to me that much of the argument of those who are against Religion (and theoretically for Science) is centred on an objection to the blind faith that Religion requires. Since Science is all about the proof, Science proponents (I'll call them Scienticians from here on) cannot conceive of a belief in Intelligent Design (to give god his modern name) when there is no proof of such a phenomenon.

My counter to this is that very few of we Scienticians can claim to have anything other than the most vague and indirect proof for many of Science's claims. Let me put it this way: I have never seen an atom's component parts - I have not even seen an atom itself, come to think of it. I say I know that they exist, that everything is made out of them, but I do not really know this to be a fact; I have seen no direct proof that this is the case.

Instead, it is my belief that this is the case, based on the incredibly hard work of far more intelligent people than I, and documentation of such work. However, I am not even qualified to read the majority of this material. Instead, I must rely on others (who can understand it), who are able to translate it into a form which I am more easily able to comprehend.

These "others" can be anyone from overeducated friends, to high school science teachers, to celebrities acting above their station. All of them bring their own biases and interpretations to this information exchange, altering the "scientific evidence" still further.

Continuing this to the logical (maybe only to me) and dangerous conclusion means drawing parallels between the bible and the great scientific works of our time, between leading scientists and the clergy, and between scienticians and churchgoers.

In short, what I'm saying is that whether your explanation of the world hinges on tiny, invisible, largely empty particles, or on a supreme being conjuring everything up out of nothing, you are always explaining it in second-hand terms.

Unless you're Ernest Rutherford or maybe the Pope.

Feel free to call me out on any inaccuracies, and to put forward your own theories.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Good Night, and Good Luck

  • flawless acting
  • a fascinating and true story
  • George Clooney
  • beautiful, considered film-making (well, I thought it looked very nice
  • too many options to list

. . . somehow didn't manage to hold my attention like I thought it would. This may have something to do with me being preoccupied with work while I was watching. I should probably give it another go in the future, but I probably won't.

March of the Penguins

An amazing feat of endurance, filming and storytelling, about 60% ruined for me by Morgan Freeman's narration.

The original French version seems to have voices for each of the penguin "characters", so maybe it's better?

Donnie Brasco

I saw this ages ago, possibly at the movies, and remember really liking it.

This time round, it really didn't seem anywhere near as good. There's nothing outstandingly bad about it, but lots of it seemed a bit cliched.

The story's still a good one, though - based on reality, Johnny Depp plays an undercover FBI agent. He befriends Al Pacino's mobster, and gradually becomes more and more embroiled in the mafia world and lifestyle.

The best thing about the movie is Pacino's character. He shows us that mobsters aren't as cool as they're often portrayed, in fact, he's really a bit of a loser. He never seems to have any money, his crimes are often petty (breaking open parking meters), and just like lots of other working bozos, he can't get that promotion.

Not a terrible film, but not a great one either, I'm afraid.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

I am a holiday

Actually, that's not true, but I did go on holiday earlier this year, it was great.

If you click on this text or the photo below:


you can look at some photos from it. Clicking on the photo gives you a lovely slideshow, but you miss out on my hilarious comments.

There would be more, but I took the wrong laptop with me and couldn't delete any from the camera.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Machinist


Rather, the protagonist is a machine operator in a factory, operating machines that do various industrial things with big bits of metal. I'm reliably informed that it is correct to refer to such a person as a machinist.

Once you're past the disappointment at missing out on the workings of the mind of a sewist, this is quite a good film. It follows a man with chronic insomnia, which leads to all kinds of paranoia and hallucination, bringing him around full-circle to what caused the insomnia in the first place.

The plot's pretty cool, as is Christian Bale's mind-boggling anorexia. His extreme slimming is probably well-documented elsewhere, so I won't get into it here.

Also interesting is that the whole thing was financed by, and largely filmed in, Spain. Go the Spaniards.


On the face of it, this seems to be a typical Japanese kung-fu revenge flick - man is inexplicably locked away in a room by persons unknown for fifteen years, seeks retribution once released.

However, on the face of it, I'm an intelligent person - the truth can often be very different. This is, in fact, a Korean film (first one I've seen I think), and is highly recommended. I, it turns out, am a dumbarse.

The plot is pretty much as I outlined above, but with interesting twists here and there. This doesn't really sound that great, but this film stands out. To me, it seems that every part of the film has been created very deliberately.

I'm sorry I'm not writing this a bit closer to having watched it, or I'd go into more detail. Suffice to say, it's definitely worth a look, even if the plot or (broadly speaking) genre put you off.

Some parts are not for the squeamish, though.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Movie catch-up

Here are some short reviews of some movies I've watched since the last update. Some might be very short, as it's a long time since I saw them and my memory's crap:

Welcome to the Dollhouse

This was pretty cool, although not quite as good as some of the hype led me to believe. Possibly an earlier, female, low-key, better version of Napoleon Dynamite?

Dead Man

I've seen this a few times before, and it never quite compares to the first viewing (incidentally, this was at the cinema, so maybe there is something in that whole big-screen experience thing after all?). Having said that, it's still one of my favourite films ever.

Don't care how gay it sounds, Johnny Depp is fucking brilliant in every way, and the supporting cast are his equals. Fabulous soundtrack by Neil Young too.

Watch it if you haven't, or watch it again if you have.

Capturing the Friedmans

A remarkable documentary, comparable to this (which I'll talk about later) in the amazing access the cameras have to the lives of those involved.

Not sure if it is more or less amazing that the vast majority of the footage in this was shot by family member(s) themselves. As with any good documentary, the characters and plot would seem over-the-top and far-fetched if they were fictional.

Highly recommended.

The Cooler

Pretty much an absolute load of total and utter contrived crap. Not many films get a complete thumbs-down from me, but this one does. Not even interesting for its crapitude.

Les Triplettes de Belleville

Another one I originally saw a while ago. This combines Frenchness and wicked animation to great effect. Those that can't deal with subtitles need not worry either - there are only about two lines of dialogue in the whole thing.

So much that's good about this, but the deadly accurate caricatures are the standouts. These range from the rectangular mob henchmen, to the greyhound-like professional cyclists, to caricatures of machines, such as the bulbous American cars and the ridiculously lofty ocean-liners.


The Ladykillers

Another Coen brothers film, this time a remake of the 1955 film of the same name. Haven't seen the original, but I thought this was a bit hit-and-miss, and I had difficulty getting past Tom Hanks' thoroughly annoying character.

Apres Vous

Another fine French romantic farce, possibly a bit formulaic, but then that's not really a criticism with this kind of movie - they're kind of supposed to follow a formula, really.

If you like it, you'll like this (or most things by Francis Veber). I love 'em.

Bride and Prejudice

Heard a lot of raves about this, and with one-time Shortland Streeter Martin Henderson, it couldn't really be passed up.

Totally worth it. As the title suggests, the story is based on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, which would be a great Hugh Grant vehicle (and has been a great Colin Firth vehicle).

Adding gratuitous Bollywood-style dance numbers at seemingly random intervals doesn't really sound like a great idea, but it's absolutely brilliant. Having beautiful Indian women in it doesn't hurt either.

Dear Frankie

Maybe there should be a whole separate genre for movies with beautiful but poor and hard-bitten single mothers being overly protective of their children, only to rediscover love again at the end, through those children.

Of course, I can't think of any other ones right at this minute, but this one fits the newly-minted genre pretty perfectly. It's a very nice film.

The Deer Hunter

Yet another one of those old classics that seems like it ought to be compulsory viewing.

Quite a strangely-structured film, starting as it does with a lengthy wedding scene, which at the time seems a bit long and boring. Later on though, it becomes clear that this was a great way to set up a contrast between the normality of a bunch of young men's home lives, and the hell of Vietnam.

The film also provides a true (for once) example of a a stellar cast - the stand-out example for me being Christopher Walken.

I recommend you watch it to see why.

The Staircase

I said I'd come back to this. It's a six- (or maybe eight-? Too lazy to check) part series about a man who is charged with his wife's murder, after he finds her at the bottom of the title staircase.

The cameras have seemingly complete access to the accused and his legal team, which is pretty amazing. The most amazing thing is the plot (if it's called that when it isn't fiction). There are more twists and turns than M. Night Shyamalan could shake any type of stick at, astonishing and sometimes absurd revelations and character development (again, maybe not quite the right term for non-fiction) - you just couldn't make it up, as they say.

Some claim to have felt manipulated by the film maker once they reach the conclusion (the verdict, obviously) of the piece. I contend that this is all part of the plan, and is something pretty inescapable. There are always going to be elements of the presenter/author/maker's opinion in something like this, no matter how hard they try to keep it out. I think objective documentary is something incredibly difficult to do, and perhaps shouldn't even be attempted. Of course, I'm likely to be wrong about that.

Very thought-provoking. Cheers, Barns.

The Pianist

Ranks alongside La Vita รจ bella as one of the second-best films about WW2. Another one you must see.

Sin City

Pretty much as good as everybody said it was, with great imagery in virtually every shot. Some of the acting seems a bit wooden, but then again, that fits the comic-book style pretty well.


Yet another second viewing. This is probably the best music documentary ever, better even than Some Kind of Monster, just because of the mad, sad genius of Anton Newcombe.

I downloaded quite a few tracks by The Brian Jonestown Massacre, but sadly they just weren't as good as they seemed within the context of the film.

Sexy Beast

Got this out on the recommendation of a friend. It's a British Gangster Flick with a bit of a difference.

Pretty good, definitely worth seeing for Ben Kingsley's turn as a frighteningly unstable gangster.

The 40 Year-Old Virgin

On the face of it, this has the potential to be an Adam Sandler- or Rob Schneider-style shitfest. Thankfully, neither of those two total cocks appear to be involved, so it turns out OK.

Some great characters and jokes, similar to Office Space, Super Troopers, or Harold and Kumar go to White Castle. So, not one to tax the brain too much, but there's nothing wrong with that.

The World's Fastest Indian

A great little overcoming-the-odds story, which would be a bit crap, except that it actually happened. A bit of poetic (filmic?) licence has been taken, no doubt, but I really enjoyed it.

Der Untergang

The best film about WW2, and the best film in general I've seen for a long time. Based on the stories related by Traudl Junge in Hitler's Secretary, this is absolutely compelling viewing. I mean it when I say that too - I absolutely hate to use the word compelling.

This isn't just some dry character study either - great use is made of surround sound (a la Band of Brothers or Saving Private Ryan) in the battle scenes.

So many things about this are great, you really should see it.

The Constant Gardener

I think what I liked most about this was the dream-like atmosphere created through the use of interesting colours. Although this is a very short review, I did really like the movie.

The Godfather

A deserved classic, but, like a lot of films of its era, can seem a little slow-moving at times. If you can get through this, it's definitely worth it. The time spent getting to know the characters and situations gives even more impact to the faster, more action-based scenes.

Might get around to watching the subsequent two sometime.

Sione's Wedding

A modern Kiwi comedy classic, seemingly unblighted by the amateurism of some NZ stuff.

Love Actually

Fairly hideous and formulaic, except for Bill Nighy's character.

The Barbarian Invasions

Really good, a great celebration of life. Makes a bit more sense when you find out that it's a kind of sequel to an an earlier film (which I haven't yet seen).

School Of Rock

Possibly a bit of a potboiler for Jack Black, but reasonably good all the same. Seems like he could so easily have been another Sandler/Schneider shitheel, but he's far above their level. It's a Richard Linklater film too, which is generally a recommendation.

Herbie: Fully Loaded

Ah, the start of a bit of a tween-movie marathon. I like Lindsay Lohan - she has the best squeal in the business, and is just so wholesome (onscreen anyway). Not the most superb film (even of its genre), but enjoyable nonetheless. Ella managed to watch the whole thing, although she's a little bit below the target demographic.


Joss Whedon, the director/writer of this, is the brains behind Buffy (the TV series) among other things, so comes highly recommended. Serenity is actually the continuation of a rather short-lived sci-fi series (Firefly), and kind of finishes off the story after the series' abrupt cancellation.

It has the signature Joss Whedon sardonic humour, which is welcome in a genre that usually seems to take itself a bit too seriously.

L4yer Cake

I wasn't massively keen on this one, as I thought I'd probably be a bit bored by yet another British Gangster Flick. However, this one has Daniel Craig, the new James Bond, as its star. If I had to choose the next Bond, and I'd seen this movie, I would think he'd be perfect. I really can't see why people were bitching that he was all wrong for the part. This film turned out to be a lot better than I'd expected, and it has a great ending too.

Mean Girls

The next in my mini tweenies film festival. Oddly enough, I didn't get this out due to my minor fascination with Lindsay Lohan, it was for an entirely different reason. To give a small idea how part of my brain works, I originally found out about it when Scott Adams made a passing mention of someone called Tina Fey in his Dilbert Blog.

I had no idea who this was, and upon looking her up, found out that not only was she the first female head writer of Saturday Night Live, but that she also wrote, and had a supporting role in Mean Girls.

So of course, I got it out. I have a 3.5-year-old daughter, who will one day (sooner than I probably imagine) be a tweenie herself, so watching things like this can also be treated as research. Happily enough, this one's pretty good, full of plenty of snappy lines and other little amusing bits.

13 Going On 30

The last of the short, three-film tweenie season. I never got into Alias, so was never particularly into this half of Bennifer.

She's excellent in this though. For those that don't know, the plot is similar to that of Big (although I think a bit better done here), where the central character gets transported from being 13 in the '80s to being 30 in the '00s.

She's even better than the admittedly good Bomb Wanks was at acting like a child in an adult's body.

Just good old light-hearted escapism.

Pieces Of April

I still think Katie Holmes is pretty cool, even if she is pretty much insane by association these days. I mean, I haven't really seen a bad movie that she's been in - I'm sure they exist though. Maybe she can teach her bozoid husband how to pick good scripts?

Anyway, this one's a cracker (wince). It's very low-fi - I don't think it even had any music - all hand-held and grainy. It's sort of a redemption tale, which can be annoyingly heart-warming, but turns out to be nicely heart-warming instead.

Right, thank god for that, I'm all caught up now. Sorry it's so lengthy.

Hey look, labels now: