Thursday 26 February 2015

Fri 27/2/15 - I Love Oscar, Assignment No.1 Down, New Screen Door, & This Week's Wristwatches.

- Friday 12:29pm ADST - 

               It was Oscar Night. I stayed away from Twitter and all news websites to avoid any spoilers. It's always tricky trying to pick the winners when you haven't seen all the nominees, but sometimes, you can base a hunch on everything but the movie itself.
I mentioned last week that I thought the Best Actress Oscar would go to either Rosamund Pike or Julianne Moore. Pike gave an extraordinary performance in Gone Girl, but I thought that Moore has always been gifted in every role she's ever done, so I was glad to see her get the award for her role in Still Alice. Of course, I think she should have won it for her role in Far From Heaven back in 2003.
Anyway, I could go on and on. Perhaps next year, I'll try to catch all of the nominated films prior to the awards.

I got started on one of my assignments. It felt a little daunting at first, but once I got started, I was surprised by how much of it I got done by day's end. I was wearing the Submariner;

As the SPECTRE Bondwagon rolls on, pictures from the set have been filtering through across the web. Here's the first pic I saw a few weeks ago of Daniel Craig as Bond in the Austrian Alps;

Of course, I spent a bit of time trying to get a better look at his wristwatch, since this is what Bond/watch nerds like myself tend to do. I narrowed it down to something on a NATO strap, and I suspected that it would be a sports watch, most probably either a Planet Ocean (like the one he wore in Skyfall) or the newer Seamaster 300 Master Co-Axial model that was released last year.
Then, earlier this week, we got some shots of filming that was taking place in Rome. Naturally, fashion police the world over tore this look to shreds, but it did give a better glimpse of his wristwatch. Sort of.

Some said he looked like a chauffeur, others said he looked like a mafioso going to a funeral. Many stated that he looked very un-Bondian, but none of this was keeping me awake at night. The close-up, above, shows a NATO strap. Omega have brought out their own range of these nylon straps, but you won't see me rushing out to get one. Not at their prices. I think these straps retail for around...actually, I'm not sure. They're either about $150 or $325. Ridiculous when you can get a nice NATO strap for fifteen bucks.

Here's a crop of the photo, showing a little more detail of the strap. Can't see too much of the watch, though;

This is a better shot of the watch. Looks like the Seamaster 300 Master Co-Axial it is.
Well, Bond fan or not, Omega fan or not, I won't be adding one of these to my collection. It's a nice watch, to be sure, but I'd have some serious doubling-up going on if I got one of these. And they're pricey as all-get-out. Nice watch, though;

Here's the fun part, though. Back in the days of VHS, if you'd sat down to watch Goldfinger, you would see Bond look at his watch in the pre-credits sequence and perhaps notice that his watch-strap consisted of a black and grey striping. GQ magazine ran a competition years ago where they had some of these straps made up as a giveaway.

And this strap on the right is how they looked; (Pic courtesy of

Since the advent of DVD, and especially BluRay, which offered a more hi-def view of the strap's true colouring,  this strap has been changed to something considered closer to the original strap worn by Connery back in 1964. Many strap manufacturers got on board and began coming up with what have been referred to as TrueBond regimental straps. I've bought more than my fare share of these over the years and they are very comfortable to wear, depending on what watch you put them on. I've tried them on my Omega Planet Ocean Seamaster, but found them to feel a little too flimsy compared to the thickness of the watch.
However, on my WatchCo Seamaster 300 or Rolex Submariner, these straps are perfect. Both of these watches are light enough to provide a comfy fit and feel.

              Switched to the Omega Planet Ocean while I messed around with some fountain pens. It looks like the 1946 Parker Vacumatic doesn't hold ink in its reservoir any longer. By luck, I found a pen repairer on the web who happens to be located about 45 minutes away. That's handy to know, but I'll deal with this some other time;

                   The new screen door finally arrived. The installer fitted it in under an hour. I'm still not happy with the overall experience and I filled in the customer feedback form to let them know about it, too. They wanted feedback, they got it.
Continued with a little more of the assignment and got it finished. Fourteen pages. Geez! Fiddled with watches and took the steel mesh bracelet off the Seamaster 300 and put a TrueBond NATO on it. Close as I'll get to Bond's current wristwatch, which is fine by me.

On mesh

Switched to NATO

I got a copy of Angelmaker in hardback off eBay for six bucks.

Somebody told me about this book recently and I thought it sounded intriguing.

Should be an interesting read. Now all I have to do is finish The Other Typist which is moving along nicely, but the print is a little small, so I'm not tending to read more than about six or seven pages a night. I'll get through it sooner or later, I guess.

          Assignment finished and submitted. That's one down. As this course of study is coming to an end, it's now time to really ramp up the job hunting. I went through my job search notes and discarded a bunch of old applications and other stuff that is no longer relevant. For the record, I will never apply for work at a department store ever again. My last two applications last year were never replied to. Probably a good thing, when I think about it, considering that I'm looking for work in the library industry anyway.
Therefore, I drafted an e-mail earlier today to send to my local council, regarding library work. I haven't sent the e-mail yet. I think I'll re-read it later today before sending it off. Might need to tweak it a little here and there.
Aside from that, another week done. The sun's out, and I should probably have some lunch. Need to go buy some coffee. We're running low.
Anyway, I'll leave you with one last pic showing my pair of Tom Ford sunglasses in tortoise-shell, which appear to be the same design that Bond wears in the pictures up above. My wife got me these sunnies about a year ago.

 It's nice when Bond copies me for a change. It's only happened twice in my life.

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!

Thursday 19 February 2015

Friday 20/2/15 - Gone Smartphone, Going, Going Don Draper, "Gone Girl" & This Week's Wristwatches.

                  - Friday 12:24 pm ADST -

Last weekend
                       Watched The Two faces of January (Dir: Hossein Amini, 2014). This was a good film, based on a Patricia Highsmith story. She had a great way of creating amoral characters. Viggo Mortensen does a great job as a stockbroker travelling the Greek Islands with his young wife, played by Kirsten Dunst, when they hook up with a shifty tour guide played by Oscar Isaac. The cinematography is nice, the wardrobe is superb.
We figured we'd take a break from slam-bang action films since my son was staying over at a friend's place and we felt that this might be the kind of film that our daughter may find interesting. It didn't knock her socks off, but I think she liked it. As parents we can sit there and tell our kids about the kinds of things that people will do in order to get what they want, but sometimes a movie, even though it's all make-believe, can encapsulate an idea more succinctly and lead to further discussion afterwards about why somebody did what they did. 
"But why did he such-and-such?"
"Because he knew that would etc, etc."
The idea is to make our kids think. Especially in an age where there are too many mindless distractions available.

Wore the Omega Railmaster for the weekend;

Sunday morning breakfast, Bond-style.
Green figs, yogurt, coffee, very black. 

Switched to the Omega Seamaster 300 on Monday. Wore it on its leather band until late Tuesday afternoon;

Before switching it over to the more comfy mesh bracelet once the weather began to warm up again.

Tuesday, Wednesday. Homework;

Thursday, more homework and on went the Submariner;


EDIT; 12.35pm- I've just had a look at the Best Actress Nominees for the Oscars next week. I think it's a toss-up between Julianne Moore and Rosamund Pike. Moore might get it because she's paid her dues and is consistently perfect. Pike could get it because she's seemingly come out of nowhere. I forgot to add to my typecast that I didn't think much of her as the Bond Girl in the dreadful Die Another Day back in 2002, but my recollection could be clouded by how bad that film was.

However, she appeared in a supporting role in An Education (Dir: Lone Scherfig, 2009), the Carey Mulligan film, and she was very adept at playing a ditzy English party girl. I'm glad to see that she didn't disappear without a trace after her Bond role. 
I think she's in with a very strong chance at getting a little golden statuette next week. 

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday 17 February 2015

2015 - The Year of Thespianage. No 1: Kingsman- The Secret Service

This year looks like it's shaping up to be a good one if you're into spy movies. Some blogs and websites have already dubbed 2015 as 'The Year of The Spy' based on how many espionage thrillers are slated for release this year. I figured I'd be hitting the cinemas quite a bit in an effort to catch as many of these films as I can.
First cab off the rank is Kingsman- The Secret Service, directed by Matthew Vaughn, screenplay co-written by Vaughn and Jane Goldman, based on the graphic novel series by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons. 

I've liked Vaughn's past work. He was the producer of both Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) and Snatch (2000) before turning to directing with the impressive Layer Cake in 2004, which served, in my humble opinion, as Daniel Craig's resume which got him the role of Bond in Casino Royale two years later.
Vaughn went on to direct Stardust in 2007, a clever and entertaining fairytale reminiscent of The Princess Bride (Dir: Rob Reiner, 1987) before going on to make the highly successful Kick-Ass in 2010 and X-Men: First Class a year later.
These last two films showed that Vaughn knew his way around an action scene. Much was made of the ultra-violent scenes in Kick-Ass because most of the carnage (and some incendiary profanity) was meted out by Hit-Girl, played by eleven year-old (at the time) Chloe Grace-Moretz. I suppose, given that this film was also based on a comic book, there was bound to be some violence in it. To be fair, though, the violence in this film is indeed stylised and flamboyant and I have to say that it didn't bother me. I get far, far more unsettled by the more realistic violence in 'kitchen-sink dramas' where an abusive parent takes their frustrations out on their spouses and children. I get more depressed by reading news reports of another cowardly IS hostage execution. And as much as I'm looking forward to seeing Eastwood's American Sniper, I'm sure that it will have some morally disturbing scenes in it.
So, for me, something like Kick-Ass was so unrealistic in its depictions of violence that I could sit there knowing that it was all just a movie and not be bothered by it all. 
You views may vary. Which is fine.

Anyway, back to Vaughn's latest film. I was greatly looking forward to Kingsman. With the new Bond film still about ten months away, I'll take whatever spy thrillers I can get. Kingsman had a nice sheen to it. I liked the idea of a secret organisation of gentlemen spies who dressed well and took on outrageous villains. As you can see in the poster above (a nod to the poster of For Your Eyes Only), there's a woman in this film with blades instead of prosthetic legs. You know they're going to be put to gory use. If you're not into this type of stuff, then go see something else. 
I was also looking forward to seeing Colin Firth 
in this type of action film.
I have a theory that a lot of actors want to play James Bond at least once in their careers. 
George Clooney did The Peacemaker.
Brad Pitt did Mr & Mrs Smith.
Matt Damon did the Bourne trilogy.
Tom Cruise has Mission Impossible 5 on the way.
Firth turns in a great performance in a role unlike anything he's done before. His character, Harry Hart, is sharp and refined all throughout the film. This scene here, which takes place in a church during a fire & brimstone service, comes out of left-field and we see just how 'efficient' Hart is at his job. I'll say nothing more about it. It's a scene that has garnered some controversy, to say the least, but it all makes sense in the fabric of the film's plot.
I won't give much of the story away. It concerns a young street punk named Gary "Eggsy" Unwin (Taron Egerton) who is taken under Hart's wing to be recruited into the Kingsman service. Naturally, it's a 'rough diamond' story where we see Eggsy having to prove himself worthy to be accepted into this secret organisation as he goes through training exercises with a few other youths, most of whom come from more affluent backgrounds. That's one part of the tale. The main story involves a billionaire tech nerd, played by Samuel L. Jackson, who is bent on saving the world by taking out a very large portion of its population. That's all I'll say.

There was one scene that marred this movie, in my opinion. In the film's final battle, Eggsy rescues a Swedish Princess who tells him that, if he can prevent the villain's dastardly plan from going ahead, she promises him...well, there's no way to put a polite spin on this. She tells him she'll let him have anal sex with her. This seems to spur him on to succeed in his mission.
My main problem with this scene is that it contradicts everything we've seen and heard thus far about the Kingsman organisation being made up of gentlemen. Harry Hart has a saying; 'Manners maketh man' and he later quotes from Hemingway, stating; "There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man. True nobility is being superior to your former self." The Princess's offer of this sexual taboo, and Eggsy's anticipation of its fulfilment, goes totally against all of this, and I felt that it wasn't needed in this film. 
One more thing- I really liked Colin Firth as Harry Hart. It's a shame that, if a sequel is made, he won't be in it. He was the best thing in this film.

This film is an obvious nod to Bond and The Avengers' John Steed, with their world of finely tailored suits, properly made Martinis and the sound of an automatic pistol being cocked. It definitely doesn't take itself too seriously and it moves at a good clip. With more than a few of the tropes that early Bonds like Goldfinger are known for, it shows that Matthew Vaughn and his team are well-versed in the world of classic film Bond and other spy films of the 1960s. The film is played for laughs, the action scenes are well-staged, and the entire cast does a fine job. Firth is a joy to watch in this film and newcomer (to me, anyway) Taron Egerton could be big in British cinema if he plays his cards right. 
Perhaps the only thing missing from a film such as this would be a car chase, but who knows, that may be in the pipeline if this film spawns a sequel. 
All in all, Kingsman- The Secret Service was a fun film. Not a perfect film, but if you view it with the right mind-set, then it's a great piece of entertainment. 

Okay, nothing left to do until the next spy movie release of the year. I think it's The Man From UNCLE remake.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday 12 February 2015

Fri 13/2/15 - Screen Door Hassles, Two More Subjects Left, & This Week's Wristwatches.



- Friday 12:51pm ADST -

Last weekend
                        We went to see Kingsman- The Secret Service.  I thought it was a great romp. Colin Firth gets to do his Bond schtick to great effect and there's one controversial scene in it that has gotten a lot of attention since the film's release. However, there's a scene in the Third Act where a Swedish Princess makes a tasteless suggestion to the film's hero and this piece of dialogue spoils the film a little, in my view. I'm no prude, but it just didn't belong in this film. I'll say more about it in a short review next week.
Aside from that one scene, the rest of the film was very good and a quite clever nod to the Bond films and Sixties spy movies in general. 

The 'For Sale' board went up in our front yard last Friday. Around midnight, some young punks who live further down the street in a Housing Commission rental decided that the board could use some graffiti, so out came some Textas (Magic Markers). My wife was positively incensed and she went out there to find five or six of them standing on the street outside our house. I followed.
"Are you guys right?", she asked them as I approached. The guys dispersed and began walking away. 
Do I need to call the police?", she added.
One of them responded with "Maybe call an ambulance" as he continued walking away. 
My wife and I turned to look at the board and that's when we saw all the graffiti. She wanted to approach them, but I told her that this would achieve nothing, and the last thing we need as we try to sell our house is to have a window broken or some other damage. We could have called the cops, but then what? The guys would know that we did and they might still come around to cause trouble for us. 
So I got an old cleaning rag and some methylated spirits and two minutes later, the graffiti was gone. It's a tricky one, isn't it? On the one hand, I would have liked to call the cops because this street isn't the Wild West and these punks aren't outlaws that everyone is too afraid to deal with. On the other hand, I just want to sell this house without any fuss or retribution from a bunch of unemployed kids.

Meanwhile, I was wearing the Rolex Submariner 5513;

              Contacted the customer service department of the store that we order the screen door from. They told me that the door is approx three weeks away. I reminded them that I placed the order and deposit back on January 23rd and was told it would all take 3 to 4 weeks. They explained that it "is 3 to 4 weeks from the date of 'check measure'", which is when the installer comes over to measure our doorway. I told them that this was not explained to me when I placed the order. They told me they'd have a word to the person at the store. That's all well and good, but it still means that this entire order will take six weeks or so from when I first made the deposit, since the store didn't follow-up on the undelivered e-mail that they sent to their installer after I placed the order and I had to call them back a week later to find out where things were at.
I explained to them that I could have gone with their competitors, who are a four-minute drive from my house, since they had a five or six week turnaround. 
It all irks me because, when I made my initial inquiry with this store via e-mail, it took them a week to get back to me. And, throughout this entire sage, nobody has offered any kind of apology for the inconvenience caused. I would have been happy if someone had said at some point; "We're sorry that this has been a problem for you."
Having worked for 22 years in hospitality, plus a further fifteen years in retail, I learned long ago that a little bit of 'sorry' goes a long way. Many people in customer service these days don't offer an apology because they think they personally have nothing to apologise for, but what they don't understand is that it's not them apologising for anything they have done. It's them apologising, on behalf of the company that they work for and represent, for any hassle that the customer has had to endure. Whenever I found myself in a similar situation with a customer, I never took things personally. Delivery delays, mix-ups in communication, whatever. I would always offer an apology along the lines of; "I'm sorry that this has gotten out of hand to this extent and, on behalf of the company, I apologise. Leave it all with me and I'll endeavour to sort this out. And I'll keep you posted as to any new developments. As soon as I find out, I'll call you."
Simple as that. It ain't rocket-science, people. It's just good manners laced with a dash of empathy. 
Rant over.

My wife brought home a mini-series called The Honourable Woman, starring Maggie Gyllenhaal. It centres on a woman named Nessa Stein, who inherits her father's business and has plans to build a broadband network running under the West Bank and Israel in an effort to bring peace and stability to the region. There is a helluva lot going on in this multi-layered story, which is replete with self-serving MI6 chiefs, shady business dealings, kidnappings and assassinations. It is told in a present-day setting, with numerous flashbacks to earlier events in the life of Nessa Stein. Written and directed by Hugo Blick, this series is a master-class in political/spy thriller story writing and Maggie
Gyllenhaal turns in an extraordinary performance in the lead role as the Jewish business heiress raised in England. Her accent is absolutely flawless, and her face and mannerisms betray all sorts of emotions as the layers behind her tortured soul are peeled away. We're just over half-way through and I'm very curious to see how this story will play out. The supporting cast is perfect, with Stephen Rea a particular stand-out as a George Smiley-type MI6 career man who goes about his investigation in a soft-spoken and world-weary manner. 

               Headed into town to go pick up a pair of prescription sunglasses. You may recall from my post about spectacles...

...that I had a pair of RayBan Wayfarer sunglasses that I bought in the mid-Eighties converted into prescription specs. Well, I decided to get them switched over to prescription sunnies for driving. I went to collect them yesterday. Then I caught up with a few old work colleagues before going to one of the few remaining second-hand booksellers left in the city. Managed to pick up a near-pristine copy of Thunderball in paperback (I already have this printing, but what the hell) and a copy of The Doomsters, a Lew Archer story by Ross Macdonald. You may recall I was having some trouble finding any of his titles on the second-hand market. Still had the Submariner on my wrist;

Dig those bullet holes on the cover. They're actual holes. Classic.

          Started writing this post. When I got to the part about the door, my blood began to boil slightly, so I grabbed the phone and called the store to voice my disappointment over this whole affair. The fellow I spoke with (whom I dealt with originally) explained that the door was on schedule to be delivered and fitted sometime next week or the week after. This I already knew, having spoken with customer service yesterday. 
And then this guy said; "I apologise for the mix-up." 
Finally! Somebody said it.

Anyway, that's it for me for this week. Gotta take some pictures of stuff to put on eBay. A reasonably quiet weekend coming up and then next week, I treat these studies a little more seriously and devote Monday and Tuesday to them as though I were in a classroom rather than on my computer at the dining room table. See how quickly I can get through these last two subjects. 
Took the Submariner off my wrist this morning. Decided I should mix things up a little. On went the Omega Railmaster;

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!

Friday 6 February 2015

Fri 6/2/15 - Poor Service (Overpromise, Underdeliver), Putting Down The Paintbrush, Picking Up the Screwdriver & This Week's Wristwatches.

- Friday 8:43pm  ADST - 

Last weekend's watch, the WatchCo Seamaster 300 on a black leather strap. I placed it next to this old photo of chef Ainsley Harriott because I've always found it funny the way the monkey is hugging his head. Anyway, I couldn't keep this picture forever, so I thought I'd save it on my blog. Already did a search on the web, to no avail.

             Spent the better part of the weekend attempting to log on to do the ACER Test. That's a literacy, numeracy and abstract reasoning test that, for some reason, I'm supposed to complete as part of my course requirements. As far as I knew, I thought it was for new students with English as a second language, but there you go.
So, on Monday morning, I made the half-hour drive to school in an attempt to try accessing this test on one of their computers on-campus. No luck. I still couldn't log in, so I called IT and they said they'd send me detailed instructions on three different methods for logging on. Later that night, I tried all three methods without success. I wrote them a semi-dirty e-mail stating that I was happy to do the test and that they should make it accessible, since this was now beginning to take up time that I could better utilise elsewhere with my studies.
Finally, on Tuesday morning, I got an e-mail with a code that I could use. This did the trick. I spent about 90 minutes doing the test, but didn't finish it. But at least that's one minor headache taken care of.
A lady from a venetian blind company came around to look at some faulty blinds in our lounge room. She said her company can't fix them. The company that made them for us 12 years ago went bust some time ago. The search for a repairer continues.
I wore the Rolex Submariner;

The matching NATO strap and belt are perhaps
as far as I go towards matching watch strap and belt. Some guys will always insist that one must match shoes, watchstrap and belt with the same leather. I have other, more pressing matters on my mind at any given time. 

              We ordered a new front screen door on January 23rd and have heard nothing more from the door company. I called them to ask on its progress. They said they'd check and get back to me. Like I said last week, I'm not too fond of the levels of service that I'm getting from tradespeople at the moment. Not much has gone to schedule and there have been a few too many instances of  "yeah, we'll call you back" and then they don't.
Time to get a little more assertive and maybe get a few of their promises in writing.

                   My wife got the wooden ladder out of the garage as we continue to get the house ship-shape for the imminent open-for-inspections. I went back into the house to get a screwdriver. That took me less than thirty seconds. When I returned to the backyard, this is what I saw;

I headed into the garage to get the aluminium ladder. What a friggin' life!

Very interesting news about the upcoming publication of Harper Lee's previously unpublished work, Go Set A Watchman. Although, there have been concerns raised about whether Lee's permission to publish was granted willingly and/or lucidly or not. There are some quarters who feel that Ms Lee may have been taken advantage of or been made to agree to publish without being made aware of all the legal aspects associated with her decision.
See this widely-read article: Be Suspicious of the New Harper Lee Novel

I read an article in Vanity Fair about how her former agent, Sam Pinkus, stole the rights to her classic novel. This was a convoluted affair and was settled in court in 2013, but it shows that there are some folks out there who are willing (and able) to take advantage of Lee without a second thought.
I only hope that this new book doesn't attract a new reef of sharks.

Still, this is big news. I just asked my wife; "Hey, how many times have you read To Kill A Mockingbird?"
"Oh...", she said and paused to think for a second.
"...probably twenty", she replied.
She has four or five different copies of this book. 

               We decided to spend the next two days on all the little odd jobs left to be done. I decided not to do any painting and grabbed the drill instead. Off came the Submariner and on went the Seiko 7002;

Needless to say, the front screen door saga is dragging on. The installer arrived yesterday to measure up the doorway. He said he only got an e-mail from the company on Monday (Feb 2nd). We paid the deposit on January 23rd. They told us it would be supplied and fitted in approximately 3-4 weeks.
This morning (Friday), I called the customer service number that I was given and the lady on the phone said she'd look into this, put an 'urgent' on it, and call me back. That was at nine-fifteen in the morning. I called her back at 3:40pm, since I hadn't heard from her. Never a good sign. I had to jog her memory regarding what I was calling about. She told me (natch) that she'd have news for me on Monday. She said she'd find out how long it would take and she would call me back.
I'll be calling her around 2:00pm on Monday and the news had better be good.

Anyway, enough venting. It's eight thirty-five pm and I am exhausted. My back is killing me. I got a few new bruises on my shins and forearms. My body feels like it was thrown from a moving car.
But I get get a little bit of a suntan while I was up on the roof today.
The glass is half-full, Teeritz, the glass is half-full!

I already mentioned that I had a pleasant shave after the shower;

Then I had a beer while I waited for my pizza to cook.

I put the Submariner back on, but I thought I'd switch back to its metal bracelet;

And that's this week taken care of.
Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!