Scott’s MoTW – The Exam

The Exam

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Info – Suspense/Drama (not horror), 101 min, 63% on rottentomatoes.com

Why? – Do you tire of seeing the same 10 actors and actresses working a variation of 5 scripts? ME TOO! For better or worse (and I think it’s for the better), The Exam is a fresh idea with fresh faces. The movie provides a slow burn of anxiety as you gradually learn the purpose of said exam. The purpose and method of passing drive the movie to it’s climax, and I wasn’t the slightest bit disappointed by the finale. It has a diverse cast and diverse characters with naturally opposed personalities. However simple the premise, the journey to the film’s conclusion is as chemically imbalanced as some of the characters.

The film has it’s flaws, and there’s a lack of polish on the production that I can’t put my finger on… it just felt a bit cheap. And if you don’t know the meaning already, perhaps spend 20 seconds looking up the word “invigilator” quickly before hitting play.

How? – If you want a physical copy, it’s going to cost you – $8+ used, or $16 new via Amazon, it’s abnormally pricing, but it’s also an abnormal title. Digital rental is probably the way to go, at $2.99 from Google Play. Or, if you take my word as gospel and just want to buy it, plan on spending $10/$13 for the standard or HD versions.

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Scott’s MoTW – The Princess Bride

(Quickly – As a new feature this will NOT be a review process of newly released films. It will be a mix of new and old, popular and “lightly enjoyed.” The only common thread is that I enjoy and suggest all of them.)

The Princess Bride

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Why? – “It’s a classic.” Can’t tell you how many times I heard this exact comment. Well, it wasn’t a classic to me. It was a movie people clamored about yet never spoke in any depth about. “You haven’t seen it?!?!?!” was often the first audible comment, once their aneurism subsided. If you haven’t seen it, ask someone to explain it. Inevitably they quote “my name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die.” Not terribly descriptive, but always enthusiastically recited. You might be asking, “Scott, why not just see the damn movie?” The answer is: I’m adamantly opposed to reading books, seeing movies or indulging in popular culture simply because it’s popular. For that reason I’ve yet to see/read a single Harry Potter film/book (yes, I have many faults)… Yet for all my humbugery I finally took the plunge on this one, and I’m glad I did. Some of the dialogue, names, places and more of the movie are ridiculous, but they fit the mold of the film. The portions perceived as ridiculous are intentional, and work well as a fairy tale/fantasy much the way that Neverending Story was good because it was intended to be seen through an imaginative child’s eyes. It’s filled with adventure, comedic breaks, and content for children and adults. So bring your imagination and a large bowl of popcorn, because you’re in for a ride.

How? – For free? Netflix. You can own a physical copy for $4.75 via Amazon (or $9 for Blu-Ray, although that seems excessive).  Want to step into the 21st century?  Grab it for a bit more on Google Play for $9.95, or $12.95 for the HD version.

Love the movie already? Want to take it one step further? Follow this link to buy an incredible Etsy mug displaying your love of this 80’s masterpiece.

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Memory Soundtrack

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When I hear Fuel’s “Shimmer” I’m immediately transported to my small cab Ford Ranger in the La Costa Canyon HS parking lot.  For some reason it’s night time, but I’m there, in the cab driving home.  For Beck’s album “Guero” Rema and I are driving on the I-80 from Tahoe to Reno so we can get a space heater (and people watch) at Wal-Mart, perhaps the last time we shopped in one.  Filter’s “Take A Picture” brings me to a bathroom stall in Thousand Oaks, listening to a walkman, trying block out all but a single instrument in the song to sharpen focus before a tournament for USC.  Three notes from Seal’s “Kiss From A Rose and I can smell the football field from my freshman year… I can feel the excitement of the first day, and the disappointment of the day I pulled my groin and couldn’t kick for the team.  Silversun Pickups, Everclear, Linkin Park, Dave Matthews Band… a few notes, a relatively unoccupied mind, and I’m instantly taken somewhere.

This is but a small sampling of the songs tied forever in my mind to events, or periods of time in my life.  Until recently I had never paid attention to the association as it was building.  For some reason it just wasn’t interesting, or had simply never occurred to me that the music we listen to becomes cemented as part our memories.

So far, I’m happy to report that my acknowledgement of this association hasn’t seemed to have changed my song selections.  For some strange reason it does add to my enjoyment of the music I decide to entangle with my life.  There’s a comfort in knowing that, until my body or mind fail, I can get back to this very moment… or at least to one close to it.  I know that listening to Beck’s recent album “Morning Phase” will bring me to our early days of Australia.  I’ll be transported to the weather, people, food, unemployment (it’s not all positive association!), struggles and successes of this period.

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Sydney Stormin’

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When we moved one thing I was excited about was the weather of Sydney.  The desert of southern California has its benefits (read: consistent sun and a temperate climate).  But when you’ve never had much variation in the weather, the grass is definitely greener on the other side.  So far at least, it’s been incredible here.  We’ve had a great mix of sun, rain and lightning that has been, for lack of a better word, fun.

This last week has been something else entirely.  The three day total from 9am on Monday was about 255mm (a little over 10 inches).  In three days, we’ve had more rain than San Diego receives in an average year.  The most rain recorded in one day in San Diego is 3.23 inches… the first two days of this storm both dropped more rain than that.  Complicating the situation was the addition of cyclone-like wind speeds at 50 km/hr (30 mph) or stronger for nearly 48 hours straight.  Some gusts were recorded at twice that speed.

This is the second time that Sydney has popped up in the world news since our arrival. While in the U.S., I can recall exactly one time per year that Sydney would be on television: New Years Eve.  Each year, when the clock struck midnight, Dick Clark or his googly-eyed VJ offspring would announce the new year and show celebrations that had taken place around the world.  One of the shots would inevitably be of the Sydney Harbour.

It’s unfortunate that Sydney has been in the news twice in less than six months under such tragic circumstances.  First the Lindt hostage situation, now the Australian storm of the decade. One thing I’ve learned about Australians, and will try to take with me wherever we go, is the spirit that endures despite evident danger. Perhaps they’ve just grown accustomed to living amidst dangerous circumstances (snakes, spiders, and sharks!), or maybe they decided long ago that they would control situations instead of having it go the other way around.  No matter the cause, Sydneysiders have proven again that no matter what may happen, they will continue to move forward unafraid.

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But, it’s SO expensive to visit…

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Traveling to Sydney is expensive. The flights run anywhere from $1,200 to $2,000 for coach seats. Sticker shock here is a very real thing for anyone visiting. The first time you sit down to eat lunch and find that common items are $20-30, it can be tough to stomach. After being here almost a month, here are a few realities that make travel to Sydney more palatable.

1: Flights are expensive, but not $2,000 or more as I’d been warned of. Flights are long, but not the 20 hours I was promised. Comfortable flights from LAX can be had for as little as $1,200, and about 15 hours.

2: Food appears VERY expensive as you’re ordering. The trick, coming from the US, is to convert the price according to exchange rates and customs differences. Converting USD to AUD nets an additional 20% right now. Tax is already included in the price, and in general you don’t tip, reducing the visible price another 22ish%. This means that a $20 item in Australia is equal to a $12.50 choice in The States.

3: Sure, if you want to stay in a hotel in Circular Quay your stay will be pricy. If you’re flexible, Airbnb offers very affordable options, that easily trump hotel rooms in size (and Rema would add, personality). Greater Sydney is connected via a highly reliable ferry, rail, and bus system. Willingness to stay outside the tourist areas can cut cost by 75% or more and only cost minutes in transit. For a bonus you’ll get to see actual Sydneysiders living life in their city.

4: Speaking of public transit, its proliferation here means that you’ll be able to catch some form of mass transit to get anywhere you want, cheaply. Again, as a bonus, take off 20% for the exchange rate.

Travelling to Sydney will never be in the same cost ballpark as domestic options. 2nd/3rd world options will always be less expensive than travel here, but with a little consideration and planning, it can and should be done.

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I Miss You, Amazon.

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What do I want right now? I’m not even sure. I know it has something to do with charging all my US electronics in Australia, but specifically, I don’t know how it functions or what it looks like. Oh, and I want it in 48 hours or less.

Unfortunately for me, and any other tech-savvy ex-pats, what I want just isn’t currently possible here. I’ve been spoiled and, just like with so many other recent happenings, will need to adjust my expectations. Previously I would log onto Amazon, type a random combination of things I wanted in a device and see what Amazon came up with. I’d spend a few minutes refining my searching while mentally noting the pricing, brand names, and differences between items. Finally, and inevitably, I would find the item for me. 48 hours (or 24, depending on my impatience) later, at a very competitive price, and at very little to no additional cost for shipping, the item would physically be mine.

Fast-forwarding to now, there is no extensive list of options. Regardless of where you look, everything is one price – full price. There are perhaps 2 options in total, and neither of them is really great for what I want. The best I can say about each is, “I guess that would work.” But this is our new reality. It’s not too bad. We’ll still get what we need, we’ll just pay more for something a little less functional, or beautiful. When you think about it, it’s good enough for nearly 24 million people, it’ll be good enough for us (but I still miss you Amazon!).

Public Transit

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I can remember my excitement… I was 16, had just gotten my driver’s license, and was buying my Grandfather’s old Buick Century. The type of car didn’t matter to me, I didn’t even care when friends made bumper stickers saying “friends don’t let friends drive Buicks” (credit: Matt Evans and Mike Stengel). It was heavy with a strange velvety interior and a suspension that would roll like you were on the ocean in a skiff. But so long as it had four wheels and an engine, I was going to drive the hell out of it. From that moment until I sold my sixth car, three weeks ago, I had my own wheels.

Having a car certainly gives a person freedom. But after a few weeks of not having a car, living in a metropolitan area with good mass transit has taught me that not having a car brings it’s own freedom. There are no car payments, insurance, gas prices to worry about, traffic to struggle through. It feels like the day is longer, because I spend less of it driving. I used to enjoy driving, but that was when it was an escape. Working the closing shift at Jake’s at seventeen, 25 minutes from home, and driving US-101 along the coast at midnight… I was free. Slowly, over the period of seventeen years, driving became a chore and more about the symbol in my driveway (thanks Jack Johnson).

The only question left is: If I was in north county San Diego would I have a car? Absolutely, but I’m glad that I don’t need one here.