Movie Review – Blindsight

18 February, 2008

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The annals of human history are full of incredible examples of bravery: in the theatre of war; during natural and man-made catastrophes; in the face of personal adversity; even from time to time on our sporting fields.

Some acts of bravery are never known to anyone apart from the participants, while others are celebrated and often retold. Sometimes there are great stories just waiting to be told, and when we hear them we are moved, inspired, and humbled by our trivial day-to-day worries.

Blindsight is a magnificent true story of the power of the human spirit to triumph over adversity. It follows the lives of six blind Tibetan teenagers who attempt to climb the Himilayan peak of Lhakpa-Ri, a 23,000 feet sister of Mount Everest.

The back stories of the participants are incredible – there is Sabriye Tenberken, a blind German social worker who has travelled solo to Tibet to set up a school for the blind; there is Erik Weihenmayer, a blind American adventurer who has climbed Mt Everest; there are a collection of sighted mountaineeting escorts who volunteer to assist the blind climbers with their ascent; and then there are the six Tibetan youths who have effectively been treated as social outcasts for their entire lives.

While the story is inspiring and emotional (there was hardly a dry eye in the house at my screening), director Lucy Walker (Devil’s Playground 2002) has made some interesting choices in the telling of the tale. Much is made of the building conflicts between the two factions of Westerners accompanying the Tibetans on the climb (caring social workers vs. gung ho adventurers), but there is little to show us what the Tibetans themselves are thinking while they are on the mountain. This has the effect of focussing audience attention on the Westerners, rather than the real heroes of the story. There is also surprsingly little in the way of reflective interviews with the Tibetans at the end of the film.

The scenery and cinematography is magnificent, and excellent use is made of graphical devices to demonstrate the route being taken by the climbing party as they ascend the mountain.

The story itself rates 5 stars; unfortunately the telling of it falls a little short of the mark. 3 1/2 stars.


Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale…

15 November, 2007

My best buddy and frequent Write On! contributor Colin Gray almost came to grief last Tuesday when a family outing went horribly wrong.

Here is his account of his own personal Titanic, Portarlington style.

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Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale,
A tale of a fateful trip
That started from this tropic port,
Aboard this tiny ship…

Allow me to tell you about a sea bound journey of adventure and rescue in a small dinghy off the shores of Portarlington on Victoria’s Port Phillip Bay. Read the rest of this entry »


The Algarve is heaven

15 July, 2007

What a place. We arrived here in Praia da Rocha, Portugal on Thursday, so far we have not seen one cloud. Temperature around 30 degrees max and 22 min overnight, just perfect.

We are staying at the Hotel Algarve Casino, with an ocean view room.

No USB on the internet here so cannot share any of my photos, which will undoubtedly be as crap as my previous efforts.

There is a fantastic fort at the end of the beach, constructed in the early 1600s. We sat at a bar there the other night and watched the most amazing sunset.

Back to the bar now, take it easy back there and enjoy your Melbourne winter.


Travel Writing 101

25 June, 2007

Our non-fiction class had a special guest speaker a few weeks back, Teresa Cannon, an accomplished and very successful travel writer.

Teresa is a contributing editor to several Lonely Planet guides, and is co-author of the wonderful Aliya: Stories of the Elephants of Sri Lanka.

I’ve long harboured a desire to become a famous, well-paid travel writer, flitting from one exotic location to another, on a never-ending expense account. Teresa’s presentation certainly put paid to that – I didn’t realise there would be hard work and hardship involved in my dream job!

Seriously, I was inspired by Teresa’s enthusiasm for her work and her ability to make a living out of something she obviously loves.

A few interesting observations:

  • Travel writing involves a focus on place and/or movement
  • Think about the various dimensions of the place you are writing about – physical/cultural/historical/political
  • Also, importantly, what is missing?
  • Try to evoke the images/smells/sound/energy of the place you are writing – and remember to bring your imagination
  • Think about your audience and the particular needs they may have
  • Be alert to the agendas of various people you may speak to in researching your story, and decide how you will deal with these
  • Take photos, if only for your own sake. They may rekindle/refresh some memories when it comes time to write

While on the Road:

  • Be in work mode*
  • Writing takes precedence*
  • Don’t miss any opportunities
  • Collect literature
  • Allocate time for writing
  • Try to keep to a general itinerary*

* Things I might find difficult to cope with in my travels…

The difficulties:

  • Homesickness/loneliness
  • Alienation
  • Cultural differences
  • Fear or strangers or strangeness
  • Find your own way to cope with these – they happen to everyone

Hopefully, I’ll be able to apply some of Hazel’s excellent advice when it comes time to write up the Tour de France next month.


Fish of the Day, Sir?

4 June, 2007

Underwater restaurant in Maldives

Check out this fantastic underwater restaurant at the Conrad Maldives Resort & Spa.

Measuring 5m x 9m and seating 14 people, the restaurant sits 5 metres below sea level.

Diners enjoy stunning views of coral, and can watch an endless parade of tropical fish, sting rays and other sea creatures. A bit like a reverse goldfish bowl perhaps?

The $64,000 question – will you be brave enough to order the Fish of the Day, knowing some of your meal’s family could be out there watching???


Flying in PNG

7 May, 2007

During my stint in Papua New Guinea (1994-97) , I was fortunate enough to do a bit of flying in light aircraft.

Generally this was as a passenger, however there were a couple of memorable (for me) and terrifying (for the passengers) occasions when I was handed the controls. More on that one day.

Some of my mates from Lae Hash House Harriers were pilots with North Coast Aviation and were happy to let freeloaders like me tag along for the ride if there was room.

Much of the flying was on the ‘milk run’, dropping off and picking up passengers and cargo at remote villages in Morobe Province. The airstrips were generally grass and some of them ran right to the edge of cliffs.

I’ve saved a few of my better photos over here.

A big hello to my ex HHH buddies Pimp, Pox, Biggles, Toejam, Porridge and Goose, who I am sure continue to abide by the ‘eight hour bottle to throttle’ rule somewhere in the world.


Walk around Mt Macedon

9 April, 2007

  Lisa and I took a 17km walk around (and over) Mt Macedon on Good Friday. Our photos from this outing can be viewed here. I’m planning on writing an article on the walk for submission to Australian Outdoor magazine.

I was a bit grumpy during the walk – my knees just aren’t up to hiking up and down mountains any more. During the gruelling uphill segment I amused myself by mentally composing the introduction to my article:

“Lisa, fresh from three months of training for a 17km run last weekend, set off up the track like a mountain goat,  while Bruce, fresh from three years of cardio inactivity and a knee operation, huffed, puffed and cursed his way after her.”