A little video from the Train Shed we went to last week.
Today we were told of the unfortunate and unexpected passing of Robin Williams. The popularity of the man was evident with the scores of tribute photos and posts that covered my Facebook feed. Most people at least in my generation would have grown-up with films that had Williams as one of the actors. I think nostalgia of youth and the things that brought laughs and entertainment are important aspects to many people’s identities. When someone was instrumental in forming these memories passes, it can be natural to feel a personal loss even though you didn’t have a real life connection to the man.
After the sad news broke today I went onto the man’s profile page on IMDB to see the legacy that he left behind. There is just over 100 titles of movies and TV shows that had one of the actors listed as Robin Williams. There were even a few films that have not even been released yet. The prolific acting career of the man was evident just by the list. But astonishingly Robin Williams was not just an actor but a comedian. I recall watching one of his stand-up shows and amazed how he could deliver 90 minute repertoire with a machine-gun like speed.
Here are my favourite Robin William films that I have seen:
Jumanji (1995) – Loved this movie growing up. The computer effects were top notch for the time. Watching grown-up Williams, his female childhood friend and two kids playing a game that absolutely pummels them with every roll was somehow very appealing to the young me. Oh what’s that you rolled a 7 here take a plague of monkeys!
Aladdin (1992) Robin Williams playing the voice of Genie without a doubt makes this Disney animations a classic in most peoples eye. Genies over-the-top magic, hilarious eclectic dialogue and constant anachronistic references made the already great cartoon even better.
The Birdcage (1996) the premise is this; a gay cabaret owner and his drag queen companion have a son who is engaged to a girl. It is time for both parents to meet for the first time; problem is that her parents are overly conservative and moralistic. This complete mis-match is a recipe for a disaster in anyone’s books, but with Williams on board the situation becomes a laugh out loud comedy.
Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) Looking at the year of all these movies it looks like the golden age of Robin Williams films were the 90’s. Mrs Doubtfire delivers another dose of Robin this time in a costume of an old female baby-sitter. The movie does have some adult themes of family separation that made this movie a part drama, but there was enough humour to make this another one of my Williams favourites.
Hook (1991) Man I was hooked on this film (see what I did there). Just a fantastic kids movie doing a retake of the old Peter Pan story. In it Williams plays a grown-up Pan trying to retake his youth. I remember at the time thinking why would the character want to stay a kid forever, but now all grown up I can see the appeal. Apparently the early reception of the film wasn’t that great, but eventually it develops into a cult-classic.
- Other notable movies are
- Good Will hunting (1997)
- Patch Adams (1998)
- One Hour Photo (2002)
I made it my mission to watch some of the other movies that Williams is famous for. On top of my list are:
- Good morning, Vietnam (1987)
- The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988)
- A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)
- Dead Poets Society (1989)
If you can recommend anything else i would love to hear it.
As prices of land and the multiplying population stretches the waist of our great city, it forces the belly to bulge perpetually further west expanding urbanisation . Having said that I am constantly amazed that the 40-60 minute commute from the epicentre of this great metropolis is still so close to the rural rustic life. Today we drove South-West to the much discussed location of the second airport. We were not there to say our goodbyes to the cow paddocks or the old rusty fences that stretch the roads leading to the proposed location of the Badgery’s Creek airport, rather we were there to visit a place that is directly affected by the recent government green-lighting of the project.
Charmaine first heard of the place through one of those deals websites that offers tickets at a much reduced price. The place is called ‘The Train Shed’ and the description told of the inevitable requirement to close their doors due to the new zoning regulations.
So before the doors shut completely we decided to take Levi and see what the place was all about. The Train Shed is a miniature train track that brings to life children’s favourite characters from the popular TV show Thomas the Tank Engine. Mind you Levi hasn’t yet caught the Thomas bug and probably can’t differentiate between all the types of trains featured in the show (I can’t blame him last time I checked there were 3 or 4 trains that has the exact same paint-job as Thomas himself, talk about lack of imagination from the producers).
The trains are miniature in size but still large enough to seat comfortably a row of kids and their parents in the cushioned carriages provided. Straddled and controlled by one of the employees (to my amusement usually a 30-40 year old guy with a stern emotionless physic, who probably is counting the minutes before he can escape to the local pub). These trains take the kids and their parents around a specially build track that bends around passing various farm animals and other little features such as creeks and even a tunnel. All this was meant to give the kids the experience of actually riding on Thomas and his posse, which they did a decent job of.
Charmaine took Levi on the first spin as I was busy with the camera snapping away. To my surprise Levi was unphased by the first 8-10 minute ride, keeping a poker face through the whole trip. Next it was my turn to ride with him. As we lined-up to board another one of Thomas’s friends you could see his anticipation building. It began with a concentrated focus on what is going on over the fence, then progressed to pointing and waiving at the passing trains and people. Perhaps all he needed was some warming up to the experience as the second trip proved to be nothing short of a blast. The whole time it was like we voyages into the great unknown. There was constant pointing, smiling and laughing followed-by him telling me in baby babble everything out there that is a must see! At one point Levi even sprang-up ready to jump head first out of the carriage and head towards whatever piece of landscape that caught his eye. When we pulled back-in his joy quickly soured and tears started forming with the realisation the fun was up and it was time for him to get out.
As mentioned each ride takes about 8-10 minutes, but the pricing is very reasonably. The unlimited pass for the child is $35 dollars otherwise it is $6 for every bum on the seat per ride. If you got a kid check it out before it closes later this year.
Levi found the local farm animals intriguing.
Charmaine and I finally got around to sorting and bagging all the old clothes that Levi doesn’t fit into anymore. Amazingly we didn’t purchase around 95% of the content in the bags. They were all gifts or hand-me-downs from others who were kind enough to give their no longer required stock. We’ll pass on the favour by giving the clothes to Charmaine’s brother and his soon expecting wife.
Folding the clothes into 0000 to 0 sizes has finally brought-out in me that feeling that Levi is growing up much too quickly. Charmaine has been lamenting that fact for months now, but I was always firmly in the camp that was excited to see Levi develop quicker. I am much more reserved now in my excitement in seeing him grow. Don’t get me wrong I am looking forward to many more things he will be able to do as he picks up speech, the ability to reason more complex problems and ask question that would even stump me, but let’s take it slow one day at a time. Makes me want to capture more of him each day.
Some weekends come and go, leaving a fleeting memory of the past two days. This weekend was not one of them.
It all started on last week’s Monday morning when I had a quick online scan of properties in our budget, with our requirements in the local area. That Monday I thought I would expand the search area by just a few minutes of driving north. With a click of the search button and a sort of the latest listing there it was a gem amongst rough. A house that ticked all the boxes and then some more, it was perfect for our needs. It is appropriate to mention that at the time our spirits were somewhat dampened from our previous unsuccessful attempts at securing a winning bid. Frantic price wars on other potential properties had made us realise that sometimes it is worth taking a step back from the action. This area was far enough from the hot spots to mean that potentially we can avoid the frenzy.
So come Saturday we rock-up a few minutes before the allotted inspection time. At this point our excitement, anticipation and fear of losing out have been building up inside us like pressure in a Champaign bottle. It needed to be resolved and quickly; will this be our dream home, or has the property photographer worked magic and turned a shack into a palace with mere angles and lighting.
We have all been told not to stereo-type people, but when it comes to inspection days sometimes we cannot help it. As we are getting out of the car, I am checking-out our competition. Let’s see young Asian couple, decent car, a smug look of confidence on their faces, at least no briefcase of cash, hmm this could be trouble. Then there’s that guy, standing all by himself, he looks too cocky for my liking, probably an investor who is dipping into daddy’s deep pockets. Enough already I remind my wondering mind, time to stop assuming and start looking. As long as we play our cards right the property could be ours. Charmaine has a theory that having a kid in our arms makes the agents favour us. I am still not sold on how true that is, but I guess anything to give us an edge will do.
As we step into the house, we approved what we saw. The inside contains a beautiful modern look incorporating whites, greys and browns that work very nicely together. All the rooms have had a facelift and were decorated with the same palate of colours. Sizes of rooms and the house in its entirety can be deal breakers, but this place was roomy. In fact Charmaine’s eyes lit up like a Christmas sparkler when she saw the previously omitted from pictures laundry area that almost doubled the size of the kitchen. Both of us were grinning like a pair kids who were told we can go to Wonderland today.
But without a pen to the paper and a pair of visible signatures the house was still anybody’s trophy. It was time to act; we needed to woo the agent lady with an offer she can’t refuse. We talked amongst ourselves what our limit would be, waited to till the agent lady was on her own and like hungry tigers made our move. At first we threw her a bone with little meat on it, an offer right on the asking price. It was our way to see what the other offers were. In this market the asking price tends to be the starting point with the final offer somewhere higher. She informed us that there was a higher bid but not by much. Fantastic, we still had a chance. We had another quick talk between the two of us and then pitched her an offer a few grand more. Boom we got the result we wanted, she was happy to take that back to her den and go from there.
It would be a few agonising hours until we got in contact with the agency again. To cut the already long winded story short, the agent contacted the vendor who accepted the offer, we were ready to sign.
So there we are 6 pm on a Saturday night sitting at the agent’s office going through all the legal documents that need to disclosed. Finally there it was and just like that with a simple few smudges of ink onto the contract we were signing one of the biggest purchases of our lives.
There is of course the 5+ days cooling off period and the 35 days before the exchange occurs. Oh and the current tenants have just recently signed up to stay there until February 2015, so it will still be some time before we call the place home. But the move has already begun in both of our minds.
When Levi is old enough I will have to share with him the fact that the internet and interconnected world he was born into was not always like he grew up knowing. I have accepted that I will sounds like an aged potato recalling to Levi the times when, if I wanted to play a game with a friend I would have to call the landline hoping they are home, wait patiently for them to come over, grab another chair and take turns playing the old school games that shaped my childhood. We never owned a gaming console so the PC was our sole avenue of electronic entertainment, but it was more than enough to bring many, some would say wasted, I would say invested hours into the classic games.
Here are some of my most beloved old school PC games, in no particular order.
This is the mother of first person shooter games. I first lay my eyes on the game before our arrival to Australia around 20 years ago. I still recall walking aimlessly around a some strangers house that my parents were visiting, when suddenly as if the curtains were ripped off and the holy of holies was beaming into my eyes, there in one of the spare rooms, a game that was so advanced to my childish eyes that it was on par with magic.
I didn’t get to experience the game hands on until after my family made the passage across the Indian Ocean to land of Oz. But when I did, I spend hours immersed in the wunder-game.
The game consists of you in first person running around in a maze like building shooting Nazis, finding ammo and better guns and of course looking for secret passage ways. This habit of slamming spacebar ad nauseam on all walls in hopes that a secret chamber would reveal itself, was copied in some of the later first person shooters.
Wolfenstein was ground breaking at the time and deserves to be raised on a pedestal as one of the greats in the historic gaming world.
Recently when my friends and I were playing Cards against Humanity, an adult party game of some note, one of the cards in the original set was Mecha-Hitler, which is a throw-back reference to one of the final bosses in the original Wolfenstein. The term derives from you as a player having to face Hitler who is in a giant robotic suit with quad machines guns on the sides. Some may say it is an obscure term, but those of us who got to experience the game growing up would find it comedic.
Commander Keen 4
Why 4, and not the three proceeding Commander Keens? I don’t know, maybe it was the fact that it was the first of the series I got my fingers on. I did eventually play the earlier releases of the game, which I found lacklustre. Perhaps it took four tries for the develops to perfect the gaming recipe and developed a true candy of a game.
Even after all these years this game makes me think of chocolates and sweets? The makers of the game took every opportunity to litter the 2D world with various lollies and candy-bars that you as a pogo-skipping, helmet wearing boy are tempted to collect. Commander Keen was not just challenging but lots of fun too. Everything from the stoned trees in the background to moving rocks that creep up to you before attacking made each level look flashy.
The vivid colours, easy controls of the character and just the fun theme makes this game a big hit for me. Like many games (looking at you Mario), water levels where you have traverse the map by slowly swimming around were a real pain. Those levels particularly brought on lots of fist banging at the outrage that the big buck-toothed fish had the audacity to eat you when you were this far in the level. But it was all in the name of fun. Still a classic.
Another installment will come when I feel like it.
Ever since I was a kid I have been fascinated with record setting facts. Back in the day my parents would satisfy my curiously with old thrift shop copies of the famous Guinness Book of Records. It didn’t matter that some of the copies dated to before I was born, as long as the pictures were unique (not always the case, as I recall Robert Wadlow the world’s tallest ever man at 8 foot 11 inches, would always be featured in the human body section with some random fellow dwarfed under this living giant) I was always happy to flick through the pages in awe.
My thoughts were if Guinness had their book why can’t I? The brilliant idea came to me shortly after perusing countless pages of humans taking themselves to the limit. I managed to get a hold of a small exercise book and began a records book featuring my very own personal human achievements; it would include things like jumping the furthest from a single point in our living room, most push-ups or how long I can hold my breath. One record I remember reading about was of a man in India standing on one foot for something like 72 hours. I thought to myself now there’s a maverick when it comes to record breaking. I told myself that I must set my own one foot record, otherwise one day I will go to my grave with deep regret not knowing how long I could really stand there balancing on a single foot. From memory I got bored and my foot starting aching after a measly half an hour. After hobbling to the pages of my record diary I scribbled the new record name and personal best time and in my head was satisfied that I have ticked off another record of my young minds bucket list.
These days I don’t jump around my lounge any more setting records (after all I might knock over Levi), but I have still kept my fascination with things that are the biggest, fastest, hairiest etc. My yearly ritual whenever I am in Kmart’s book section and I see the newly printed copy of the Guinness Records is to flick through the pages and check-out the newest pictures and interesting additions to the list.
A record category I find really interesting to read up on is the world tallest buildings/structures. Wikipedia has a great article on this.
The current world record holder for the tallest building is Burj Khalifa in United Arab Emirates at 829.8 meters in height. It surpasses the second place holder (as at the time of writing this) Tokyo Sky Tree at 634 meters, by nearly 200 meters. It is an amazing structure and feat of human engineering. I would love to stand on top of it and gaze out.
But I always enjoy looking over the horizon and seeing what if anything is going to top that in the near future. The Kingdom Tower that appears to be underway is set to be over one kilometre in height. Yep that’s over 1000 meters into the air.
I am not even going to talk about the theoretical proposals such as the space elevator.
One last thing that blew my mind when I was reading the article. There is a section on how long various previous record holders help the record as the tallest structure. An example is the Eiffel tower (300 meters) that held the record for 41 years from 1889 till 1930 when it was surpassed by the Chrysler Building (319 meters).
Do you know who held the record for the longest time? Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt (146 meters) held the record as the tallest human structure for a whopping 3871 years from 2560 BC till 1311 when it was finally surpassed by Lincoln Cathedral in England (160 meters).