25 July, 2010

In Japan!

Got to Tokyo today following an epic final week in Melbourne.
Will report fully when I have the time.


23 July, 2010

Random Review: Rambo Movies

Well, I've decided to throw together a segment called 'Random Review'. Again, if you've struggled to figure out why the blog is called Japandy or what a random review will entail, there must be something seriously wrong with you. Anyway, while nursing a mild hangover yesterday from an accidental trip to Turf Club the night before, (on the roundabout of death in Melbourne) I decided to watch through all 4 Rambo movies. Incidentally, I had an amazing time at Turf, and wish that I had've been a Melbourne Welcome (Melbourne University Exchange Student Orientation Week) leader for a 4th time.

Rambo: First Blood (1982)
One war against one man.
Rambo Kill Count: 1
Basic Synopsis: Rambo takes on the police and National Guard in America.

Based on the novel First Blood (1972) by David Morell, this is where Rambo begins spectacularly on the screen. With arguably the greatest storyline of the entire series, viewers feel empathy for the Vietnam vet as he is pushed over the edge after his return to an America his entire squad died to defend, but which now hates him for it. A young David Caruso (Deputy Mitch), stubborn Brian Dennehy (Sheriff Will Teasle) and accidentally hilarious Richard Crenna (Colonel Trautman) - 'God didn't make Rambo, I did!' round out a fine cast. This is actually a good movie.

Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)
No man, no law, no war can stop him.
Rambo Kill Count: 58
Basic Synopsis: Rambo takes on the Vietnamese and Russians while looking for POW's.

In this, perhaps the most ridiculously titled Rambo movie, we find that our protagonist John Rambo has been in prison after the events of First Blood: Part I. However, Colonel Trautman comes back to ask Rambo for help with a mission to find missing POW's who have been in Vietnam since the war's end. However, not everything is at it seems, and Charles Napier (Marshall Murdock) as a pencil-pushing bureaucrat has an agenda of his own for the mission. Without giving too much away, Rambo has to fight his way out past the Vietcong and Russian forces to his freedom, (the scene with explosive arrows is exceptional) after which he might be able to exact his revenge for one of cinema's most evil double-crosses.

Rambo III (1988)
The first was for himself. The second for his country. This time it's to save a friend.
Rambo Kill Count: 78

Basic Synopsis: Rambo takes on the Russians in Afghanistan while looking for a captured Col. Trautman.
Rambo has been living a simple life in Thailand since we last saw him, but now things are all about to change. Col. Trautman is captured in Afghanistan, so Rambo has to go in to save his one and only friend in the world. Unfortunately, this is perhaps the worst movie in the entire Rambo series. Granted, some sequences including the fight with the Russian pictured above (most specifically the spectacular conclusion), along with some helicopter scenes are pretty good, but they can't stop the movie as a whole from failing to be exactly what Rambo should be: simply entertaining.

Rambo (2008)
Heroes never die... They just reload.
Rambo Kill Count: 83

Basic Synopsis: Rambo takes on the Burmese while attempting to rescue missionaries.
20 years after the events of Rambo 3, Sly is back. The start of the film finds John J. Rambo living the simple life of a snake wrangler in Thailand (pictured above, lol.). However, he then agrees to take a group of missionaries up to Burma and they (the missionaries) are captured. He then flicks the switch from pensive to awesome, and takes a group of likeable mercenaries (including Matthew Marsden as Schoolboy and Graham McTavish as Lewis) up to Burma to try and rescue the missionaries. Cue awesome scenes. In terms of amazing action sequences (of which there have obviously been many throughout the four films), this last Rambo has perhaps my two favourites in the bow/rice paddy scene and the 50 cal scene (which is what is really pictured above). Most specifically, the moment when Rambo jumps onto the back of the jeep and blows away the guy in the front seat at point blank range into puree is one of the greatest things that I have ever witnessed in my life. This is Rambo as it is meant to be. Gritty, raw and action packed.

Overall John J Rambo is a great character and the Rambo movies include some of the very best action movies ever made. However, they are obviously geared towards a specific audience and there are some scenes (mainly in the fourth movie) which probably shouldn't be seen by children or squeamish women (eg. guy getting his legs eaten by pigs). If you're ok with that and love the idea of a guy mowing down hordes of bad guys, then you'll love Rambo. Just make sure that you enjoy these movies as they're supposed to be enjoyed. With you not having to think, and enjoying gratuitous violence at all times.

14 July, 2010

JET Pre-Departure Orientation

On the 3rd of July Melbourne JETs had their Pre-Departure Orientation session. In a nutshell: It was good. I was kinda scared going into the day that I would not find anything useful at all, and struggle to stay awake for a 9-5 day. Mainly because I hadn't woken up before 8am in about... 6 months, but also due to boring subject content. If there was one area I didn't really need to hear too much about it was the culture shock management segment, as a person who has previously lived in Japan. More on that later.

As I said before, my day started at some ungodly hour between 7 and 8am. Shower, shave, bite to eat and a stumble out the door to catch a train to Melbourne Central. While on the train I decided to test out the digital camera my Dad had given me the day before. My plan was to buy a digital camera for Japan, but when I mentioned in passing to Dad that I was gonna swing past JB Hi-Fi after buying all the winter clothing Kathmandu has to offer, he replied with: 'Oh, why don't you have this one and I'll buy another next time I go to Hong Kong?' Thanks Dad.

So there I am, sitting on the train and fiddling with the new camera I've just received and trying to figure out a few of the simple settings, the result of which you can see here ->
Feeling very happy with my efforts in pressing three buttons (on, shoot, off), I looked out the window as we were leaving another station. Oh, it's Melbourne Central
CRAP! It's Melbourne Central!
I ended up having to hop in a cab from Parliament in order to make it to the orientation session with 5 minutes to spare before the official start time. Good start to the day, idiot!
Well, at least the day can only get better, I thought. And boy, was I right, with the appearance of the Deputy Consul-General and his welcome speech to open the day.

He was talking about the bloody vuvuzelas at the world cup and said that he'd made his own Australian version in honour of the South African one. As you can see here, he was absolutely inspired in his construction, using what appeared to be some PVC piping, a homemade mouthpiece and a funnel at the end. When he rose his lips to the mouthpiece I wasn't expecting much because I used to play the trumpet for a couple of years and assumed he'd struggle to make much more than a fart sound. Instead, he played for several minutes, creating a sound similar to a didgeridoo.
I knew the day had taken a definite turn for the better.

Now, I can't speak for other orientation sessions around the world or even around Australia, but I thought that ours was pretty bloody good. Getting through some useful contract details to start with, we then moved on to the talk from the Japan Travel Bureau (JTB) rep. 23kg maximum check-in with $35 per extra kg? Now, I don't really have a wardrobe to speak of, but between a few pairs of shoes (which I'll struggle to find in Japan at 11 and a half), some real winter clothes (for -20 degrees rather than 5 degree 'winters' in Melbourne), some suits, normal clothes and Australian souvenir-y things including a footy and flag, I'll need to make sure that I'm ok before I leave. Luckily, it now turns out that my Mum's visiting her parents one week after I leave, so if I can't fit everything into my own bags I'll leave some stuff with her and she can hopefully mail it to me within Japan.

The entire day was being run by JET and the JET Alumni Association, with representatives from the embassy also turning out to be ex-JETs to boot. The next session was an introduction to what it's like being an ALT, with a lot of personal experiences, problems and questions answered by those who know what it's really like over there. After this session, we then moved on to lunch at... a Korean restaurant???

To be honest it was actually really good, with a communal nabe-style pot in the middle of each table and a group of other dishes to share. I think every single table ended up with piles of extra food, even though we were all enjoying everything on offer.

Wow, the formatting with photos on this blog really sucks. I think I might try to go with a 'slim' blog just so that my photos don't end up off the side of the screen or something ridiculous.

Anyway, with our stomachs now full of delicious Korean food we headed back around the corner to carry on with the information sessions, starting with the one I had been dreading most: Culture Shock.
When I was 8 years old I was unceremoniously dumped at my Mum's local primary school with only the ability to say 'konnichiwa' like the bloody gaijin that I am. To put things in perspective, some of the kids in my class had never seen a foreigner in the flesh before, and my Dad was in all likelihood the first white person to visit Tochio, Niigata Prefecture, Japan. Ever.
So I reckon I've got this 'culture shock' thing down pat and will fall asleep in about 10 seconds. Instead, the talk from a Melbourne Uni counsellor actually described things in a way I'd never thought of it before, and we then split into groups to discuss how we'd deal with some real culture shock experiences the alumni had been through, while asking them about more problems they'd encountered.

The Japanese conversation segment was cut short, though I still found it useful to talk a little bit about all of the different ways to work on improving our Japanese while in Japan, and realising that I really haven't studied Japanese in the same way as most of those heading over with the JET Program. Hopefully I won't need to think about grammar too much over there with my primary and junior high school kids.

The final session with the alumni taking questions, breaking into groups and basically just chatting with us was pretty useful too. I made sure to ask a few questions of a guy who had been in Sapporo, less than an hour from my placement regarding winter, and was pleasantly surprised with an answer along the lines of: 'don't worry about it too much, you'll be fine'.

After the day was over, I went around the corner with a couple of other people to get a beer then headed home, quite happy with how the day had turned out to be far better than my expectations.

12 July, 2010

I'm an Uncle!

Little Charlie Malpas was born this morning by caesarian section at 8:41am, weighing 3.97kg (8lb.12oz. to you imperial heathens!)
I guess this makes me 'Uncle Andy'. My sister, her husband and Charlie are all doing well. Charlie was my late uncle's name, so I'm feeling pretty special to be an uncle to another Charlie.

09 July, 2010

I told you so...

I am officially the master of Mario Party.

That is all.

06 July, 2010

With our powers combined...

So, on the 18th of June I had a going away party, which also doubled as my friend Ed 'Hoops' Hooper's birthday party. To put it simply, the night was awesome. Hoops and I went to college together for a few years, and he now works for ANZ. After searching for a few days, he managed to find us a great location in Ondergronds, near the corner of Russell and Flinders Lane. We started the night with some great early drink deals and also had our own VIP section which was pretty much a third of the whole bar. Add to this some free finger food Hoops scored by being a friend of a friend of the manager plus a couple of photographers and we were all set from the get-go. Besides a bunch of his work mates, I knew almost everyone at the party and vice-versa, so it was definitely worth our while joining the parties together. I held off on writing a post about it for a little while because we had been waiting for the photos, but here they are!
Because he found the location & photographers, pretty much my only job was to come up with a scrappy little blurb for the event, which I was actually pretty proud of in the end, and which is below: (note: Sid is my college nickname, which joins a list of names I get called alongside Andy, Sil - school nickname and Toru - my Japanese/middle name)

A few days ago, Hoops and Sid were talking to each other and mentioned that they were both thinking about having a drinks event in June/July.

Putting their combined intellect and immense creativity together, the imaginatively named 'Hoops Birthday & Sid's Going Away' party was formed.

Hoops Birthday:
Like many children, Edward was born.
Therefore in what has become a time honoured tradition, we must celebrate the passing of yet another year from this momentous occasion by consuming great quantities of alcohol.
Sid's Going Away:
Sid has to say 'sayonara' to everyone in Melbourne before he heads up to Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan for a year. While there, he'll teach kids to speak English, go skiing, drink sake and try to pick up. As a matter of fact, his goal for the year is to do all of them simultaneously.

While we know that some people are still at uni and possibly have exams and others might be tired after a week at work, we hope that you can at least pop in to say: 'Goodbye, and good riddance' or 'Whose birthday is it again?' or even both if you're feeling particularly generous.

If you're still not sure, then added incentives include:

Finger Food Provided
Party Photographer
and Hoops' Magic Show*

See you there in the VIP room!

*Disclaimer: Hoops' Magic Show may or may not in fact exist.

The funniest thing about the facebook event description turned out to be the magic show, which I had only tacked on as a joke and afterthought. Somehow, word spread like wildfire and I reckon half the people at the event were fully expecting some sort of magic show. I think Ed's boss even asked him what sort of tricks he was going to do while at work one day.
Ed, if you see this, we're still waiting on the magic show which may or may not have been promised by me on your behalf.

I certainly enjoyed my night, and so did Hoops from what I could see of him drunkenly picking up girls on the dancefloor (I mean physically grabbing them in his hands and lifting them into the air, haha). And, as with many a drunken night, a few of us blokes left over at the end decided to head towards some classy establishments afterwards...

A big thank you to anyone who turned up and gave me a most memorable send-off from Melbourne. Now I just need to actually leave so that you don't think I threw a random party for no reason. Don't worry, 18 days from now I should be on a plane from Sydney to Tokyo.

Next post: Melbourne pre-departure orientation, including the greatest deputy-consul of all time.