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.