Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride – Newcastle, Australia 2015

Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride 2015 (Newcastle Australia) from Steve Madsen on Vimeo.

Across the world over 37000 motorcyclists dressed in their most dapper threads ventured out on a (hopefully) sunny Sunday morning in September to raise funds for Prostate Cancer Research. The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride founded in Sydney Australia three years ago has grown quickly to raise over US$2000000 worldwide in 2015.

In Newcastle, grey skies and light drizzly rain enveloped us as we gathered at Cafe Inu for our ride along the coastal splendor of Australia’s best kept secret. Undeterred we pressed out into the gloom on some very fine motorcycles, and rain greeted us as we headed towards the harbour. The light rain was no match for my Scottish Tweed jacket, and I arrived damp but warm at our first stop in King Edward Park.

The sun reappeared for the final legs and by the time we returned to Cafe Inu most riders were dry and ready for lunch and a couple of quiet drinks with friends new and old.

Chappie: Movie Review

ChappieIn the near future, crime is patrolled by an oppressive mechanized police force. But now, the people are fighting back. When one police droid, Chappie, is stolen and given new programming, he becomes the first robot with the ability to think and feel for himself. As powerful, destructive forces start to see Chappie as a danger to mankind and order, they will stop at nothing to maintain the status quo and ensure that Chappie is the last of his kind. Written by Sony Pictures Entertainment

Chappie is the latest SciFi epic from South African writer/director Neill Blomkamp, follows the development of the world’s first self-aware artificial intelligence. The movie’s central theme is heavily inspired by Robocop, and Blomkamp pays homage by voicing the Scouts with Peter Weller’s Robocop voice, and styling the Moose (an alternate design) on Robocop’s ED-209. Although there are obvious parallels between the two movies, Blomkamp has interleaved a thematic complexity not present in Robocop.

Chappie enters the world as a blank sheet, a child with no moral code or understanding of the wider world. The movie follows his development, squeezed into a few short days, from innocent child to responsible adult exploring the influences and events that shape our personalities. I could probably write a thesis on the sub-plots and themes in this movie but here’s the principle questions I noted throughout the movie:

•    Should we allow machines employ lethal force without human intervention?
•    Can religious belief be twisted to defend amoral actions and ideas?
•    Will the creation of artificial intelligent life bring about the end of humanity?
•    How does parental abuse affect child development?
•    Does an abuser still love their child?
•    Is a child’s future determined by their environment?

Despite this subplot complexity, the basic narrative is enjoyable and action sequences believable given the technologic advances present in their world. Dev Patel gives a masterful performance as the awkward genius who creates life then fights to maintain its purity in a violent upbringing. Hugh Jackman has fun with the unfamiliar role of bad guy Vince Moore, a former soldier and designer of an alternate policing robot remotely controlled by a human pilot. The juxtaposition of Moore’s twisted Christian morals and Chappie’s simple adherence to his Maker’s commandants is the most poignant theme throughout the movie for me.

Die Antwoord’s Ninja gives an over-the-top performance as a criminal gang leader, and his partner Yo-landi is believable as gang member turned nurturing mother. Neither is going to win awards for their performances but I thought they worked within Blomkamp’s narrative, which he apparently developed while listening to Die Antwoord’s music.

Chappie is enjoyable and thoughtful scifi movie, and one day it will sit along side Robocop as a classic.


No More Regrets

No RegretsWe left the City Recital Hall with the intense imagery of Neil Gaiman’s stories vivid in my mind’s eye. Outside a gathering crowd of young people is waiting to get into a trendy Sydney club. I compared the evening of wonder we had just enjoyed with the many youthful nights I spent in similar clubs.

I regret how I wasted my youth going to clubs instead of seeking out to events like this one tonight.

You’ve been saying that a lot lately.

Have I?

Yes, and it’s a good way to become depressed if you keep thinking you have wasted your life.

A stomach complaint kept me awake most of the night, and I began to examine the arch of my life without my inner critic for a change. In the early hours of the morning I realised I always saw my life as a series of stages. The shy kid in school who became a sports fanatic who morphed into a military professional and more recently a creative thinker and maker. I locked each phase of my life into a niche without understanding my life’s real narrative, evolution rather than radical change. I continually try new things while maintaining a fairly structured, and in some ways habitual life.

I have always enjoyed reading, and I can sit for hours with my mind transported to another reality by the words but my reading habits evolved over time. As I studied for my Masters degree I read exclusively non-fiction; history, political science and engineering texts dominated by library. I also read endless volumes of design engineering documents for my project management work, so by day’s end I only wanted to chill in front of television or computer game.

When I returned to fiction I discovered a more nuanced understanding of the stories, and sub-plots than I had as a young reader. This evolution could appear a radical change to the people who suddenly found me talking about fantasy novels more often than military history or the latest political intrigue. The real change is more subtle, I have started to pull all the threads together into a coherent narrative of how I live my life. Instead of silos of excellence, keeping my gaming brain separate from the military tactician I took lessons from every aspect of my experience to enrich the current activity or discussion.

My kids joke they don’t me anymore but I don’t find many of these new obsessions too far removed from my past. The difference is the time I allocate to exploring new things, taking the time to look and listen to what is going on around me. Then follow the trails I find interesting, one such trail led me to Sxip Shirey‘s website today. Sxip is an eclectic, electric musician, his style defies definition and a few years ago I would not have stopped long enough to listen. As a teenager I continually discovered new music to add to my eclectic collection but at some point I just settled on a sound and set it on repeat. It became a habit rather than an experience.

Should I regret my life choices because I enjoy different things today?

Of course not, instead of pining over lost opportunities I embrace the past risks and adventures of my life. My trip to China, rugby championship and missing out on the coveted jobs were just as important as hearing Neil Gaiman read his latest stories or briefly discuss Mark Rothko with Adam Savage. Those early experiences led me to this point in life, it made those encounters possible and I am grateful for everyone of them even the soul crushing ones have value.

So, Colleen will never hear me lament the past again. Our future is built on dreams not regrets, and we have a lot of dreams to make real.