Dramatis persona*

helenhead Helen Chick

I've always wanted a bumper sticker that said "I'm a female, LDS/Mormon, Scout leading, geocaching, piano-playing, bicycling, mathematics educator with a PhD in maths ... and I VOTE"!

I think this makes me a minority group of cardinality 1!

* Since there's only one of me and "personae" is plural (I think), I've gone with dramatis persona.
August 2020
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Dragons, Springboks and airline galleys

What with one thing and another I don’t get to the cinema very often these days and so international flights are my catch up time for movies. I had some work planned for the flight to San Francisco, but I also hoped to do a little veging out … not least because I’d already done some work at both Melbourne and Sydney airports. For a while it appeared as if we might end up with a plane-load of very disgruntled passengers because the in-flight entertainment system wouldn’t start (which might have been good for the pile of marking) but eventually it got going.

I decided that I wanted something that wasn’t  too taxing, and so I picked How to Train Your Dragon. This is another of the CGI animated movies along the lines of Toy Story and The Incredibles and it has been interesting to watch the quality of the graphics evolve over the years. The mathematician in me is staggered by the computational complexity of producing not only objects and movement, but also the textures and lighting and especially the fractal dynamics of water and fire. As a “simple” example of this challenge, how do you generate the solid crunch and resulting explosive fracturing of a boulder hitting a mountain? And then you have nuanced emotional expressions on a face, which, in a cartoon, don’t have to be particularly subtle but which still require attention to the movements of eyes, eyebrows, and mouth at the least and which, cartoons notwithstanding, have been getting more impressively lifelike.

I didn’t spend the entire movie doing a mathematical and programming analysis you’ll be pleased to know! The story is fine, the script is satisfying with some humour, and the characters are rounded enough in a simple kind of way. I enjoyed it. 3.5 stars.

The other movie I watched — having pretended to everyone but myself that I had slept — was Invictus. Based on a true story about the success of the South African Springbok rugby team at the 1994 Rugby World Cup as the apartheid era ended it rather telegraphs its punches but is enjoyable enough for all that. The film highlights, in a somewhat simplistic way, the complex political, economic and sporting aspirations of a nation at a time of tension and upheaval. The film ends on a triumphant note but sadly it seems that the time since then has been rockier and less optimistic for South Africa as promises prove difficult to deliver. Anyway Matt Damon and the statesman-like Morgan Freeman do a good job in the main roles, the rugby is depicted convincingly enough, and a massed singing of “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika” is always worth hearing. 3.5 stars.

Remind me not to get a seat next to the galley next time, however. Not only are there the rattles and clunks as the trolleys are prepared, but the aromas cause salivation long before the food appears (since they start serving further down the plane) and the salivation is incommensurate with the actual meal when it finally arrives. The food isn’t actually that bad but somehow the aromas are better.

And what was with the sub-Arctic temperatures? Fortunately I had dressed for my Melbourne departure and not my California arrival, but even so I nearly froze. No wonder I didn’t sleep all that well/much.

2 comments to Dragons, Springboks and airline galleys

  • Doug took Kate to see How to Train Your Dragon. I still haven’t seen it, but I expect we’ll be buying it when it comes out on DVD.

  • Linda

    I really do look forward to your blogposts! Have been such a bad mother these school holidays and had hardly any time off work so haven’t been to the flicks with Ali at all. But I took myself to Invictus a few months ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. I watched the World Cup avidly but had no real concept of what impact it was having on other areas of South African life.

    The film did leave me wondering how different things would have turned out if Mandela had had more time – if he’d been a younger man when he became President could his charismatic influence over a longer time period have changed the outcomes for the South Africa we see today?

    And try as I might, I just can’t get even remotely interested in a round-ball World Cup in the same place. Soccer is just too boring for words…

    Hope you’re having a great time in the US!

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