Da Vinci tour

With the release of the new The Da Vinci Code movie, the interest in Dan Brown’s novel of the same title is simply phenomenal.

As another nice example of what is possible with Web 2.0, some creative minds has actually created a Da Vinci Tour and Da Vinci Code Map, both based on Google Maps. This is what is known as a mashup (of Web 2.0 technologies, that is) in Geek-speak. This means from now on you can actually navigate to all the key locations mentioned in the novel. Cool!

ps. For more examples of mashups using Google Map, there is always the Google Maps Mania.

Good guys, bad guys

While I was in Canberra, managed to find some time to watch a couple of movies. Coincidentally, both movies centred around topical Israel-Palestine struggles, where good or bad are not always as clear-cut as they are portrayed in the mainstream media. Both movies were also extremely thought-provoking in my opinion.

In the Steven Spielberg-directed Munich (also IMDB link) we see a fictionalised account of the retaliatory actions by the Israeli government following the failed and ultimately fatal kidnapping of Israeli athletes in the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. The protagonist Avner – played by Eric Bana – shoulders the responsibilities of a nation to hunt down the ones who plotted the incident. As the story unfolds, we see him torn between family, loyalty to country and his own conscience. We also see his struggle against becoming into a cold-blooded murderer himself, i.e. the very people he has been tasked to eliminate. In the end, you walk away feeling stunned, no longer sure who are supposed to be the “good guys” any more. Two peoples, both fighting endlessly for just a chance to have a place to call home. By the way, the soundtrack is also hauntingly beautiful that is sure to stay in your head once you leave the cinema.

Paradise Now (also IMDB link) shows us the life of two young men in the West Bank. They seemed bored with life and can see no way out except through a glorious and explosive death that will lead to paradise. It was both sad and ironic when one of main characters explained matter-of-factly why there was no cinema in town: there was a protest against the injustice of not able to work in Israel and when they reached the cinema they just decided to burn it down as there was nothing else better to do. Despite the gloomy overtones, the director does allow us a glimmer of hope towards the end of the movie. Let us hope that this can also happen in real life some day.

Fearless

Saw Jet Li‘s new movie Fearless last Friday. Fearless is a story about the Chinese martial arts guru Huo Yuanjia (1869-1910), played by Li, who founded the Chin Woo (also known as Jing Wu Men) martial arts school in Shanghai in 1909.

Apart from the breathtaking fighting scenes and dedication that we have come to expect from Li, this movie to me was quite different from any of his previous movies. For a start, there was much more raw and brutal violence, but this also gave the movie a better sense of realism. After all, real fighting is not necessarily suave and pretty. In those days, it was often a matter of life and death.

While much of the movie’s plot is fiction, so what was depicted is definitely not the true life story of Huo Yuanjia, in the movie we get to see many of the vulnerable, imperfect and therefore human aspects of a hero. This is where I think Li’s Buddhist beliefs and personal life experiences are most apparent. In particular, I found the exchange over tea ceremony the most illuminating: whether a type of tea is good or bad, we as bystanders are in no position to proclaim this. Who do we think we are to be able to judge and place a label on something which we cannot know fully? Similarly, it’s unnecessary and presumptuous to rank different schools of martial arts because there are no absolute truths. read more

Shadowlands

Just finished watching the DVD Shadowlands which I bought during the Christmas break. As a matter of fact, I first saw this movie close to almost ten years ago by now, but happy to say I was still touched by the magic all the same.

This is the story of C. S. Lewis, who is perhaps nowadays more well-known for his Narnia books than any of his more serious works. Despite giving the world the magical world of Narnia, this is the tale of his own discovery of magic outside the safety of books.

A couple gems of quotes: read more

Harry Potter 4

Watched Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, with some friends about two weeks ago. It was quite enjoyable, I must admit. The plot is getting more intricate and children’s-story feel is definitely much less for this episode.

Now, while the long wait between movie releases has been worth it in my opinion, I am nevertheless getting rather impatient to find out what happens next (given the annual release cycle for the movies). So, I did what any intelligent person would do under the circumstances, and sought out the print version, which is up to Book 6 by the way. 🙂

I immediately started with Book 5 – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – and I am about 1/3 of the way through now. The story is getting very interesting now and I can see why it is so appealing beyond its original intended audience of teenagers/young adults. The story is reasonably uncomplicated for an adult novel (good vs. evil, rising to great heights despite early hardship, prophecy and the destiny of a “chosen one”, etc.), and the setting is a world where magic and the “real world” co-exist side by side. At the same time, for Book 5, there is the usual teenager’s growing pains concerning loyalty and discovering the opposite sex. Sure, not your typical sophisticated thematic fiction, but I think it is unexpectedly entertaining so far.