About Me

I ramble about a number of things - but travel experiences, movies and music feature prominently. See my label cloud for a better idea. All comnments and opinions on this blog are my own, and do not in any way reflect the opinions/position of my employer (past/current/future).

27 July 2014

Movie: Dawn of the Planet of Apes

The reboot of the Planet of the Apes franchise has now got the possibility of tracing the full story of how the apes come to dominate a planet that was previously dominated by humans - a decade at a time. The movie is actually damn good - both from the perspective of story and effects; but it does degenerate to some clichés - the vengeful, backstabbing lieutenant, the good samaritan doctor, the great leader - but it is the packaging that makes it a good movie.

07 July 2014

Missing ...

I think this was the first time that I saw a live performance by the legendary John Kani in his new play Missing ..., currently on at the Market Theatre. The story charts the story of a fictional (but quite believable) loyal, intellectual ANC activist who ends up in exile in Stockholm. There, he marries and raises a family - but when the new government arrives in 1994 he is apparently forgotten. But, with his daughter's upcoming wedding, and a longing for home - he decides to go back to South Africa and at least confront the ANC leadership on being forgotten.

It is funny, and poignant - and above all a critical dissection on some of the ails of the new political class. Quoting Orwell's classic "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others", the second act is a stunning criticism of politicians in general - but the play is also a reminder of what political service and self sacrifice actually means.

The performances, especially that of John Kani, are impressive. It is a different angle to cover politics and the anti-apartheid struggle; and a performance that needs to be watched - and fully deserved the standing ovation.

Movie: The Railway Man

Set in WW2, The Railway Man tells the story of a railway fanatic, who was a POW in Burma, building the railway line for the Japanese. In part, it is a story of the history - of effectively being a slave, and of torture - but it is also a story of redemption and forgiveness; when he goes back to Burma to confront his captor. It's a touching tale with great performances from Colin Firth in the lead.

22 June 2014

SAA - 11th Best Airline in the World

I have always maintained that South Africans and SA media is overly critical of SAA. Yes, it is not as good Emirates or Singapore Airlines; and its financial management has hardly been stellar - but its service is good and usually on time. In the 2014 Skytrax awards, SAA was ranked 11th in the world - better than Turkish (crap in my experience), Cathay Pacific and Etihad. And the airlines often mentioned as better than SAA - British Airways and Air France - do not even feature.

21 June 2014

Defending the Caveman

Defending the Cave Man has been a hit show in South Africa for 18 years, with Alan Committie performing the show over 800 times. M & I had bought tickets about two years ago, but didn't go as I was out of town on a business trip. For a show that was written in 1991, it manages to stay quite relevant - and Alan's many performances means that the performance itself is very slick. It is surprisingly interactive, and that does lend some level of uniqueness for each performance.

The show is a funny, tongue in cheek set of observations on men, women and their relationships. Ultimately, it proposes that all actions that separate men and women are actually rooted in the past - in caveman behaviour to be specific. Many comedy routines build on the differences between men and women in their act - this is perhaps the finest exponent of that genre.

08 June 2014

Movie: Maleficent

It has been a while since Angeline Jolie commanded such presence in a movie. M has been wanting to see Maleficent ever since we saw a trailer a few months back - and Jolie's amazing performance is reason enough to see it. The movie, tells the backstory for the classic children's fairy tale - Sleeping Beauty; motivating that the curse laid upon Sleeping Beauty is not as it seems. The visuals are spectacular, and Sharlto Copley plays, yet again, a deranged character - this time, the king - and the twist with the meaning of "true love's kiss" was a nice touch. However, the rest of the movie - especially some of the dialogue, acting and general story line is quite bad at places; but then again - it is based on a children's fairy tale.

07 June 2014

NSA's Operational Security Failures

In the May issue of the Communications of the ACM, Bob Toxen does a thorough examination of the operational security failures of the NSA in the Snowden leak. Snowden, as an administrator did have privileged access to many systems, but the scale of the leak, and the access control failures that allowed for the leak points to wide scale operational security failures. 

I do not agree with Bob Toxen on the ease of detecting smuggled USB sticks (in or out of the organisation) - modern USB drives are far easier to smuggle in, and it is even easier to smuggle in SD cards and the like. I do agree with his assessments on the scale of logical access control failures: administrators in any large organisation should certainly not have access to all systems; and users with higher classification accounts should require multi-factor authentication to access highly sensitive information. These are not new dangles processes or controls, and in fact the NSA helped write some of the key theory and practical guides in this area.

The learnings of the NSA's failures extends to most organisations. Unfortunately, unlike the NSA, most organisations do not have effectively unlimited funds at their disposal.

05 June 2014

Movie: X-Men: Days of Future Past

Like super hero movie franchises like Superman, Spiderman and Batman - which have all effectively retold the same story in slightly different ways; the X-Men franchise was seemingly going in the same direction - especially when X-Men 3 killed off so many characters, and X-Men First Class and the Wolverine movies started telling back stories. Days of Future Past is effectively the best way to extend the story without retelling the same stories. 

At its heart, this is a time travel story - the current X-Men universe is over-run by killer robots that want to exterminate mutants; and so the solution is to send the ever-green wolverine back to the past to stop the extermination starting in the first place; and hopefully the mutants and humans will live happily ever after. The story now leaves lot of scope for new stories to be told - since the universe is effectively reset.

As an action, super-hero movie it is great entertainment. The opening battle scene is frenetic and the prison break scene is a touch of genius.That said, I hope future X-Men movies do with fewer characters - and really explore the myriad of great characters - instead of just throwing so many of them at the same time on the screen. In a battle for survival, it made sense (even though the mutant cast is substantially reduced) - otherwise they would just like become X-Men 3 - garbage.