!EnglishRugbyTeam.wins(worldcupFinal, 2007)

October 21, 2007 at 8:00 am | Posted in Sporting Event | Leave a comment
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I got up at 8:00am to watch the live telecast of the England vs South Africa Rugby World Cup Final – The game I watched pretty much met my expectations.

Oct 21, 2007 by Show_Hanger

England 6 – South Africa 15

It was a typical game of finals rugby – everything to play for and everything to loose. So, it was not surprising to see a 10-man game. The game was a demonstration of defence and forward-play. There was very little running of the ball out wide. This was a kind of rugby that you seldom see – 80 minutes of controlled forward aggression – combined with the tactical and strategic thinking you normally associate with chess.

Most rugby games at this level is founded on achieving forward dominance – this leads to pocession of the ball and quality ball for backline options. Neither the English, nor the South African forwards truly gained dominance; so the whole game was spent trying to do so. To do anything else invited disaster; and both sides were playing percentage rugby – it was the world cup final.

The South African forwards matched the English forwards in the scrums, ‘rucks’ and mauls. They dominated the line-outs, and I think this explains why South Africa won. Both sides played great defence and so there were few line breaks. But the line-out dominace probably gave South Africa slightly more pocession at key times and more time-and-control to force errors from the English. These errors translated into penalties – yes, another tryless final.

So hats off to both the South African and English forwards. The purests in the northern hemisphere got the kind of final they have alwats wanted. Us southern hemisphere types got to see a tight final.

South Africa always looked slightly more in control – they led for the whole game. England were forced to play a waiting game – stay in touch and create something at the end. It was almost like watching a basketball match where the winning team is able to use up time and manage pocsssion so as to be in a position to score the last points, and gift the ball back to the opposition who have no time to score (or if they score, still be behind).

Both teams played for field postion and then contrive a situation where the referee will see some infingement and award them a penalty. South Africa did this better and won; their lineout dominace gave them slightly better pocession and so were able to put England under more pressure.

It was a game where the referee – unconciously – decided who won. I say this not in a negative sense. Rugby is such a complicated game with regard to obstruction and ‘contact’ that you can give away a penalty just standing still – this is exactly what happen late in the second half. Cueto ran into a South Africa loose forward on a kick-and-chase. So the team that wrong foots the opposition, or rushes them, can get a penalty. From the point of view of the players – good on them, they had more control of the ball and so were rewarded.

South Africa are worthy winners: they showed that they can play the expansive game; make few errors; able to fice and captialise on the opposition’s erros, have a good forward unit; have a great line out; and held their compose in some tight games.

England should not feel too bad. They made it to the finals, when on form they should not have – they have a 54% loss rate since 2003! They made it to the finals and 18 other teams did not.

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So one way or another, the officials decided the winner. Stu Dickinson’s decision to disallow the try was hugely influential, and has draw some negative reaction from the English fans. Even in slow motion it was not a clear decision. Why it was required a video decision is also unclear; the linesman was right there, why didn’t he make an instant ruling ? It is a game played, watched and afficiated by humans.

If you can’t rely on the linesman standing at the corner looking down the line, why not have a video official rule on the run of play that led up to every try – then the French would not have been awarded a try from a forward pass!

I have to say something about the modern ‘ruck’. Boy these are silly. Even though you cannot use your hands in the ruck – everyone does. How many times did the halfback reach in to the ruck and pull the ball out ? How many times did a mysterious hand pass him the ball from inside the pile-up ? If the last man in the ruck unbinds and picks up the ball, why are not all the players on the ground infront of him allowed to obstruct ? How come the side with the ball is allowed to stand players alongside the ruck in positions such that it would be a forward pass if the half back were to pass them the ball ? Bring back the boot I say !

Turandot

October 16, 2007 at 6:00 pm | Posted in Show Review | Leave a comment
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I went to Puccini’s Turandot last night; due to bad planning I ended up in ‘the gods’ – I was pleasantly surprised by how good the view was.

Oct 16, 2007 by Show_Hanger

Christopher Alden’s production was not like the 1994 wellington City Opera production. The latter was costumes in a faux chinese style. A few years ago I watched the DVD of the Zhang Yimou & Zubin Mehta production staged in the Forbidden City. So …

I found the this production’s stark setting a bit of a shock.

I took me more than the first Act to get into it. I guess that this was my own fault for not reacquainting myself with the plot. I found, in the first Act, that the music tended to drown out the singers. Maybe this was because I was up in ‘the gods’ – and so had a better audio pathway to the orchestra pit than to the stage. It took me a while to workout whether to read the sub-titles or not; I ended up reading the sub-titles during the riddles and glancing at them the rest of the time.

Act I introduces Turandot (the ice princess), Calaf (the wondering prince), Liu (the faithful slave girl) who looks after Timur (Calaf father and blind deposed king of the Tartars), and their short reunion, and the ‘competition’. I found the execution scene that cemented the harsh rules of the contest to win Turandot a little too stylised – especially given the stark 30’s communist Russia feel up to that point.

Once Ping, Pang, and Pong had finished their civil servant set-piece at the beginning of Act II, I found myself more on firm ground regarding the story, and was finally engaged. We see Turandot’s determination to be her own woman – a fairly common desire in the 20th and 21st centuries – surely an odd notion in Puccini‘s time. We see Calaf’s irrational need to pocess her and he plunges into the contest despite everyone advising him not to. Calaf answers the three riddles and in an act of ‘if you love someone set them free…’ he offers to free the princess of her obligations if she can answer one riddle in return.

I did not find the setting of the riddle contest believable: why would any empowered emperor allow some blind beggar to wander around his court – while affairs of state were in progress – and finally sit down behind the throne. I am sure there was some symbology going on that missed me. It was all a bit minimal – neither the Emperor nor Turandot had any attendents.

Act III opens with Turandot completely loosing it, and issues orders that everyone will be executed if they don’t find her ‘the name’. Throughout the opera Turandot is painted as an icy unfeeling person who has a bloody solution to any problem. No wonder the Chinese government would not allow this opera to be performed in China; they relented in the mid-90’s. The Liu character – and Maria Costanza Nocentini, the singer – almost steals the show by sacrificing her life, so that the secret love of her life – Calaf – can have the love of his life. Her torture and suicide was too symbolic – and what should have bee great suffering and great sacrifice seemed to just slip by: torture – tick, hidden love – tick, suicide – tick.

Then a simple kiss from Calaf wins over the princess. I can see that women sufferage was not even a twinkle in Puccini‘s eye. The curtain comes down on a variation of Nessun Dorma.

I did not like the 30’s Russia setting – though the overlay of a show trial upon the riddle contest was clever. I also thought the photo-portraits of all of the contestants was a nice touch – it emphasised how many men had died. But the parade of portraits at the end was just way over the top. It detracted from the relationships between Turandot and Calaf, and Calaf and Liu.

The singing in Act II and Act III was good. I am not a opera buff; but I was taken in and it mostly worked. That it was sung in Italian did not detract from my enjoyment. Margaret Medlyn, as Turandot, was strong throughout. Dongwon Shin, as Calaf, grew as the opera went on, and settled down to a strong voice starting with the riddles in the middle of the second Act. I suspect that voice and orchestra volume issues in Act I was due to the singers being a little tentative.

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Since Puccini died before this, his final opera, was finished – around the scene of the Liu committing suicide – I wonder if he intended a slightly different end. One, with another powerful piece of music, rather than a re-work of Nessun Dorma.

Enchanted (the trailer)

October 5, 2007 at 3:55 am | Posted in Film Trailer Review | Leave a comment
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Oct 5, 2007 by Film_Trailer_Hanger

This film seems like a film in the mold of Kate & Leopold, except that instead of time travel, there is inter-dimensional travel – from a story/cartoon to modern day New York. So we see a cartoon princess in a very ‘Disney’ kind of scene being cast into a pit by a witch – and she pops up in New York. Some kind of prince charming character and the witch cross over to rescue/finish her.

Seems pretty harmless; with a light look at the modern world through the eyes of a ‘foreigner’.

Based on the trailer I would be willing to see this film; I guess I like light romances.

This is a Trailer Review

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Hairspray

October 4, 2007 at 10:30 am | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
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Oct 4, 2007 by


Film Hanger

Paper Hanger Blog
Wellington
New Zealand

This remake of the 1988 original by John Waters – also based on the Broadway musical. John got to do a cameo right at the beginning – as the neighbourhood flasher!

The film had a ‘bright clean’ fell to it; I subsequently attributed this to the influence of the Musical and the involvement of the Musical’s writers.

The film exams all kinds of social segregation – fat & thin, black & white, even young & old. It is all very serious, treated in a very sugary way – i.e. there is no sense of ominous weight of history that a more ‘serious’ drama would have injected. One of the things illustrated through obsurdity is the segregation that took parts of the USA in 1962: the mlocal TV music show has a ‘negro day’. This is so un-PC, cringe matterial, and in real life unacceptable today, that you just had to laugh.

Tracy cannot appear on the local TV dance show because she is fat; the negros cannot appear on the show because they are not white.

Because this is a happy musical, everything ends happily – integration, true love, cheats exposed.

I found the film very political – all those subjects treated in a stark bright, yet clean, cartoon way – and so I was a little uncomfortable through the whole film. It achieved its intended effect of conciousness raising and condemnation. I laughed at times, but it was an uncomfortable laugh, because the alternative was to be depressed.

John Travolta playing the part of Tracy’s mother gave the film a different dimension: I was a little distracted – there was no way due to pre-release PR not to know it was him in the part.

I need to watch the original again, because my memory – poor – was that the original was not so overtly political.

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