we recently came back from New Zealand (Aotearoa in Maori) to attend a wedding. no, it wasn’t bloody like the GoT episode – it was just the bride was Vietnamese and her gown was a shade of crimson.

despite also having a tea ceremony after the nuptials, it was not at all stuffy – i found their vows funny and they even had a jumping castle for the adults.

not only did we travel overseas to get there and drive a long way to attend the event but we really wanted to be there on that joyous occasion. unlike some destination weddings it made sense to me. although the groom (who’s my wife’s cousin), the bride’s a Kiwi and most of her relatives are still there. it was at a garden for people to feel more at ease and so that there could be other “fun” activities. it was a balance between fiscally responsibility and meaningfulness – i think most couples spend so much time, money, and effort on just one day instead of being mindful about the remainder of their lives together: there’s even a stat that states the more money that the couple spends on the wedding, the likelier they are to break up.

we also had a little time to do a few “touristy” things. we drove aways for most destinations but being on several OZ road trips the NZ views were much more picturesque. My son took several photos using a proper digital camera of the scenery – to keep the post downloadable, i exported a select few to “smaller” files.

Rotorua – Landscape
Rotorua Nightscape

DISCLAIMER: The copyright of all the pictures is his and these were shared with his permission.

we also saw a geyser:

Rotorua Geyser

while there are kangaroo crossing signs in OZ, NZ have them for cows. i thought the dairy products were already good in OZ, but they were better in NZ as their milk is much creamier (and i could tell as i like my cheese, coffee (although i’m partial to doppio and ristretto, i get lattes in countries that have good milk), and ice cream). That said, vegans close your ears, cows are bred better in OZ for eating.

there were too many photos so in the interest of space and download speed i’ve decided not to share all of them.

we had a chance to witness a Haka performed live – prior to that we’ve only seen it on TV, mostly by the All Blacks prior to a rugby match. we know it was for intimidation and, if possible to avoid conflict. it was also interesting to learn that it is used to “warmup” major muscles so it makes a lot of sense in the sporting context.

because i’ve always been a nerd (it would be a misnomer to call me a John Ronald Reuel Tolkien geek, although both can be socially awkward, because more than just being an enthusiast i can get quite cerebral about the topic. case in point, when Gandalf in the movies (played by Sir Ian McKellen) utters the words: “You shall not pass!’ in the original text it was will not shall – it was a “happy accident” that wasn’t edited out of the film) we also visited Hobbiton.

interestingly, the movie set is in Matamata which translated in Filipino means eye-eye and the whole Fellowship of the Ring was formed partly because of the expanding reach of the Eye of Sauron.

i even tried to read the books (as i was a fan of fantasy novels). alas, i wasn’t able to finish the books (i attempted The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring) as some words were a bit obtuse for me (my excuse was that i was young and English wasn’t my primary language) and the author was a Professor of English Literature at Oxford. i instead settled for the cartoons and movies.

in any case, i want to return for a longer time but their accessibility facilities can still be improved…

ironic

October 2, 2019

it was “surreal” last night.  on ABC last night, it featured MoJo (an iconic advertising consultancy and, eventually, a “full-blown” agency)that influenced and shaped Australia.  For those that don’t know, ABC  is a national TV channel that’s mainly funded by the government and disallows all forms of commercialism (including ads) – you can’t even discuss (much less promote) any brands on their shows.

it was so meta.  Admittedly, they have a programme called Gruen that “humorously” critiques ads but this somehow felt different as it impacted Australian culture.  It can be argued that it was simply a mirror and a true insight into the Australian zeitgeist.

While prior to them “proper” American or British accents were used to voice over commercials, authentic Australian enunciation and expressions were instead  used (although they were considered “vulgar” by the “establishment”). i think this “honesty” was greatly appreciated by the Australian public. i now believe that you should never be ashamed of your actual heritage despite what you were “taught” and the constant stream of messages to put you down. i’ve got a feeling that’s why they dislike the old country so much – it is said that POME was originally an acronym for Prisoner Of Mother England.

Hogs (Paul Hogan better known by some Americans as Mick “Crocodile” Dundee) was the human face of a former tourism campaign – i challenge anyone to say it wasn’t effective as Australia moved from the 78th preferred holiday destination by Americans to the 7th.  Prior to him, it was all wildlife (like koalas and kangaroos) and he was even recognised, arguably, as Australian of the Year for its success.  The catchphrase was even adapted to the Yanks: “put another shrimp on the barbie” – as no one Down Under referred to them as “shrimp” but as “prawns”.  They say a real measure of a tourism campaign isn’t just about the foreign visits but also abut how good the locals feel about their country.

nothing to see here

September 7, 2019

i came from my neurophysio the other day and a cab driver asked me, “what’s your problem?’ For a moment, i was tempted to answer: “Nothing. What’s yours?” i said the doctors don’t really know and just kept quiet for the rest of the ride – it would have been unfair of me to “pounce” on his ignorance.

there are systemic vestiges of the sigma of disability – that’s simply the reality.  i laud all those that want to change this but the pragmatist in me knows we are still far-off despite all the strides forward.  Pardon me getting on my “soapbox” but the encounter made me reflect.

The NDIS, although its implementation is very “problematic”, IMHO is very good in principle.  However, the reduction of my allocated funding by tens of thousands in the pursuit of the “almighty” surplus seem like a scenario to “rob Paul in order to pay Peter’,  I’m not an economist but encouraging the disabled community to spend can help “stimulate” the Aussie economy.

Maybe my argument is difficult to accept objectively given i’ve got a “horse in this race’.  Can’t the investigation of an inrease to NewStart be viewed with this lens: who says compassion and fiscal responsibility always need to be on opposite sides.

 

there appears to be a tendency of social media to focus solely on the good – there’a a plethora of “humble” brags and “unrealistic” posts.  i’m obviously not a big fan but i can understand why it’s worth it “following” certain people.  Don’t get me wrong – i’m all for democratisation and giving a voice to the traditionally voiceless but a lot of it is to me vacuous and inane palava (or palaver if you prefer) – not to mention the trolling and glaring divide.  i worked in ICT for a number of years prior to my ABI (Acquired Brain Injury):  technology can be a magnifier for “bad” and  not just a multiplier for “good” – in my experience, it’s a double-edged sword.  i believe posts shouldn’t be policed or censored (free speech and all) but people should be better equipped to discern the “wheat from the chaff” – a form of “natural selection” of sorts (if you will).  It would benefit from balance (like most things in life).

part of this is “processing”.  Some of it is “snobbery” (i’m only human after all).  That said, take from it what you will – i’m not narcissistic enough to discount any “unintended interpretations” of my writing.  My only caveat that it is partly out of need (and partly due to therapy) so it might not be most people’s “cup of tea”.

there’s undeniably some “good” occurrences recently.  Firstly, i’m nearly halfway in completing my online certificate in data science.  This will, “hopefully”, help me get into “gainful” employment again after being “sidelined in the wilderness” for over a decade now.  At times, I used to work a part-time job along with a full-time one – so being homebound was a “drastic” change.

over the last two weeks, i’ve been finishing online crosswords daily. It started with 2.5 hours but now i’m down to a little over 50 minutes usually and my best time is approximately 38 minutes.  i’m merely an amateur cruciverbalist who wants to improve and build up to something challenging like the New York Times Sunday crossword.

i’ve had no falls over the last several months despite my last two  SARA (short for the Scale for the Assessment  and Rating of Ataxia) tests showing slight deterioration.    i think this is mainly due to my neuro PTs’ advised interventions added to (or slightly modifying ) my daily exercise routine.  Sure the NDIS (Australian National Disability Insurance Scheme in case you’re not aware) is a source of much consternation and a bugbear to negotiate (even for mundane tasks) but thanks to it i can now afford to go weekly instead of monthly (which used to be the case).  I had several near-misses lately:  the point is I didn’t fall down where a couple of months ago i surely would have.  As in everything there is both good and bad – i’ve heard it referred as a major reform since MediCare:  there are obvious, signficant “teething problems” with its initial rollout but you can’t really fault the intention (it is the implementation where it falls down – pun intended ).

sadly, i’ve been binge watching a lot lately. Whether to “empty out” the numerous recordings on my DVR (Digital Video Recorder) or streaming over the Internet – i’m such a cheapskate that I only use free services (thankfully, Australia is quite “progressive”).  My  current darling is  “You’re the Worst” on SBS (Special Broadcasting Service) On Demand – the “Resume” function makes the bugs bearable.  I watched all episodes of the four seasons available on the web. I find the writing witty and funny (admittedly, i’ve got a “dark” sense of humour i liked the tv show Legit , i found the movie Pulp Fiction hilarious, and mostly laughed throughout the stage show, The Book of Mormon ). I enjoyed Seasons  1-3 ; S4 was ok (my “disappointment” with the new intro notwithstanding) and still will watch the last season (i’m curious how they will wind it down and then end it). i think Ricky Gervais was right to cap the UK  version of The Office after two series.  i use TV to distract from the thinking i do during the day – so “smart” and “subconscious” programming is much appreciated.  The last show made me think of the novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being although watching is supposed to relax me.  i sometimes read (with the aid of a magnifier) during ad breaks (i know this is counter to my intent but i can’t really help doing it).  i find it helps me think more broadly about things and i’m not limited to seeing things only in a certain way.

My Ph.D. has stalled and as of late i rarely write anything – and when i do i only mange a few words.  Maybe i’ve just “hit the wall” and i’m just tired given the number of years (when a lot of things usually pique my interest) and the effort to type compounded by my waning interest.  Maybe it’s not up to scratch given my exacting standards and past performances.  Maybe it’s my growing frustration with the admin required and my over reliance on altruism upon learning the hard way that it’s self-interest that often yields results.  Maybe it’s my substantially increased anxiety due to my health concerns or fast approaching conclusion of my candidature.  i suspect all of these factors play a role.  Thankfully i’ve got a supervisor who believes in me and my abilities – she’s doing what she can to make that path is still available to me.

i was told that walking outside would do some good – not only would it further develop my legs given a functional task but it would also expose me to fresh air and vitamin D.  I’m trying to incorporate this into my routine but admittedly i’m hesitant given my bouts with hay fever and uneven terrain and inclines.  On days when the pollen count is not too high, I go outside the front of our house to gradually acclimatise me to the irritants and eventually build enough strength to confidently tackle going around the block.

My speech difficulties have taught me to listen more to others.  My walking challenges have resulted in me losing weight (as the heavier i am, the harder it is to remain ambulant), made me appreciate more the challenge of getting robots to balance on two legs.  My greatly reduced typing speed has caused me to concentrate more on quality rather than quantity. As has happened in the past with other persons with disabilities, it has ‘forced’ me to adapt and strategise to perform common tasks.

It is easy for me to continue being negative: seeing silver linings does not come natural.  These are the cards i have been dealt and need to make the most out of them.  Admittedly, it still pisses me off when people whinge about what i consider to be “terminally trivial” things but i have to learn to focus instead on the things i need to do and how i can perform them better.  While the Chinese symbol for ‘crisis’ has been disproven to mean both ‘danger’ and ‘opportunity’ simultaneously, it is still useful to see both the  yin and  yang of things.

revengers

November 19, 2017

sorry, I couldn’t help myself.

Saw Thor: Ragnarok yesterday with my family and my son’s friend.  I liked it.   This wasn’t surprising given I’m such a fanboy of comic books (growing up I read a lot of Marvel and DC) and I enjoy the films of the New Zealand director, Taika Waititi.  Had to ask my wife given my bias if it was really good. Thankfully she agreed.

Like any superhero flick there was action and single-line quips but I found the humour quite refreshing.  Seeing as I found the movie franchise disappointing before this latest instalment, I didn’t have high hopes for this one.  It was inspired, if unexpected, to have the Kiwi direct it.

While the first feature was an amalgam with a love story and the second one tried desperately to be serious, I think the fusion with comedy really worked.  I knew that Chris Hemsworth was funny (maybe it’s the Aussie larikinism) but didn’t realise he had great comedic timing.  But for me, what I really enjoyed was the character of Korg voiced by the director – it was cue to not take the movie so seriously.  Sure it wasn’t the best film I ever saw (but it wasn’t trying to be) and it may not ‘pass’ certain tests or criteria.  It was simply and purely a popcorn film – a damn good one in my opinion.  When you watch  a film, it goes down to intent – sometimes you just want to entertained or distracted. It is what it is – one shouldn’t have to serious all the time.

almost famous

November 13, 2017

the other night I saw the 2015 dramatic film: “The End of the Tour” on SBS.  I wasn’t sure I was going to like it – it was essentially a conversation and given it’s difficult as medium skews heavily toward being visual- but I really enjoyed it.  It was an interview over several days by David Lipsky representing Rolling Stone magazine about the critically-acclaimed author David Foster Wallace (I must confess whose name I hadn’t heard before).

I found that actors cast, Jason Segel (for Wallace) and Jesse Eisenberg (for Lipsky) were well-thought choices.  They were both “smart” enough that neither performance seemed “wooden” (suffice it to say it wasn’t an enormous stretch to suspend disbelief).   This can be “tricky” given it was a mainly dialogue-driven plot.

Aside from the words, I think what drew me in was the shared “addiction” of watching too much television.  Moreover, I can relate to wanting a job where not too much thinking is required (as a respite of sorts) – it reminded me of a friend that once said that a “mindless” task was a welcome break for her from her usual job.  Furthermore, I liked that within it was featured an action movie that didn’t require a whole lot of mental horsepower to enjoy (to what I viewed as juxtaposition when the characters watched a black-and-white film on tv).

I found the scene meaningful when the proponents couldn’t find where they parked their rental car in the airport.  This just illustrates how there are different kinds of smarts and how book-smarts is not always preferable in accomplishing certain everyday tasks.  As the adage goes:  Common Sense is not that common.  This is a moment of levity that cuts the seriousness of an otherwise dry account.

I enjoyed the line:  “Nice but not real.” How some situations are artificial – one doesn’t have to look far for the often fabricated constructs of reality tv.  Don’t get me wrong; I’m not hating on the entire genre but, like all “entertainment”, some shows are more “watchable” given the individual’s purpose.

I’m now curios about Wallace’s opus of a novel:  Infinite Jest and Lipsky’s best-selling memoir: Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself. Hopefully, I’ll eventually have time to read them.

despacito

August 24, 2017

Maybe it’s just because I’m not a Belieber or due to nostalgia (I grew up watching Sesame Street after all and I am a fan of Ernie and the Rubber Duckie Song) but I really liked El Patito (a parody of Despacito).  I don’t typically share things online but couldn’t resist forwarding it to few people – sorry for the unsolicited e-mails.

Anyway, here it is – enjoy: