Wednesday, 26 December 2012


To tell you the truth, I wanted to see the Hobbbit, but I was not DYING to see the Hobbit.  As part of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movie series, it was going to be well done, I had no doubt about that.

It's just that - and this is blasphemy to all Tolkein fans, and even to someone like myself who claims to like Fantasy - I have never been a fan of the the Tolkein Series.

Perhaps its because I read it when I was 11 or 12.  Maybe too young to appreciate the story.  Perhaps the language was too advanced for me.  I read David Eddings at that same age and thoroughly enjoyed it.

So as part of the Boxing Day tradition, my sister and her husband, my hubby and I, my dad and my aunt, all went to watch a movie - and The Hobbit was released in Australia on Boxing Day.

To paraphrase Galadriel's words:
"And then something happened that the Ring I did not expect."

I not only enjoyed the Hobbit. I LOVED it.  It was better than I had expected. It was more exciting that I had hoped.  It moved me in so many parts - and it reminded me, which I did already know, but had forgotten, why Tolkein was hailed as the creator of modern Fantasy to this day.

If you look at World of Warcraft, and many other fantasy stories, it's as if what was written by Tolkein has become the truth, or rather the lore upon which many other fantasy stories are based.  But I will write about that elsewhere.  I am going to talk about the movie.


It starts with older Bilbo (Lord of the Rings age) starting his tale "There and Back again".  There is an appearance by Frodo and it launches into how Bilbo landed into his grand adventure.

The background of Erebor, one of the great Dwarven cities, and how it was taken by a dragon which drove out the dwarves, leaving them homeless and wandering the lands, starts us off.  The tale of attempts to reclaim Moria against a white orc, Azog, who slew Thror, of the line of Durin, was told, and how Thorin, son of Thror defeated him in battle by cutting off his hand (hmm sounds like Isildur and Sauron).

Gandalf, who knew Bilbo from a young age, dragged Bilbo into a quest by the Dwarves to reclaim Erebor.  They descended unwanted into his house, disturbing his happy life of home, comfort and good food, and talked of their plans to retake Erebor, for there were signs to say that it was time, and Gandalf has a map that will lead them to Erebor (but needs some help translating it).  Bilbo reluctantly goes, and  they encounter many things during their quest.

The encounter with the trolls was amusing.  After the trolls captured them all and were about to eat them, Bilbo stalled them long enough for Gandalf to arrive and the sun fell upon them and turned them to stone.   Raiding the Troll's stash, they find some Elven weapons, with glorious names such as Orcrist (Goblin Cleaver) and Glamdring (Foe-hammer), which are taken up by Thorin and Gandalf.  Then, they are beseiged by orcs and wargs, who are minions of Azog, and they manage to escape after encountering the Brown Wizard, Radagast, who is an odd Wizard, who associates with animals and the like.  Radagast tells them of a necromancer who is weaving evil things in an abandoned fortress, and gives Gandalf a Morgul blade, as proof of his story.

The adventurers escape into a cave as the orc descend upon them, but an Elvish patrol appears and slaughters the orc company.  The dwarf company head down the cave/crevice and come to Rivendell, much to Thorin's disgust (he hates Elves, for their reluctance to help the Dwarves in their times of need).  Elrond assists them by reading the map, telling them they must open the secret entrance to Erebor at a certain time - and that time is fast approaching.  The Dwarves decide they must go, and go soon, if they wish to keep going with this mission.

Gandalf is summoned to see Galadriel and Saruman with Elrond, who are anxious to learn the necessity or the wisdom in this quest.  When Gandalf speaks of the necromancer, Saruman dismisses him, but Galadriel speaks privately to Gandalf saying it is of great importance.

As they make their way up the mountains without Gandalf, the orcs again start their pursuit.  However, the dwarves have more pressing problems - rock giants fighting in the mountains as they traverse it, leading to some CGI fun and action/tension.  They escape into a cave, and Thorin proclaims loudly how useless Bilbo is.  Bilbo decides to sneak out and go home while the others sleep, but then they are captured by The Great Goblin, a huge fat diseased looking Goblin who proclaims he is going to send Thorin's head to Azog.  Bilbo manages to escape them, but falls and encounters Gollum, who drops the ring and it is found by Bilbo.

The riddle game is played out quite well, and Gollum's expressions are classic.  Bilbo manages to escape Gollum (by wearing the ring) and spares Gollum's life when given the opportunity to take it, and rejoins the Dwarf company who are liberated by Gandalf and an action packed pursuit through the caves of the Misty Mountains occurs, which takes up a lot of time.

Gandalf realises when they emerge from the mountains that Bilbo is missing, and Thorin states that the useless hobbit has run off home.  Bilbo hears this and removes the ring and when asked why he returned, he said that yes, he did want to go to his home, but the Dwarves have no home to go to, and he wishes to help them get their home back.  Thorin is still dismissive but the other Dwarves warm to him, and Gandalf looks pleased.

However, Azog and his orcs catch up to them and taunts Thorin, leading the angered Dwarf to fight Azog.  Azog injures Thorin, and as they are about to take his head, Bilbo leaps to Thorin's aid, his courage inspiring everyone else who to join in the battle.  As hope seems lost, Gandalf's friends, the large eagles, come and fight against the orcs, and rescue the besieged Dwarves, carrying the company to safety.

Thorin's heart is turned around by Bilbo's courage, and that moment brought a big smile to my face.  Bilbo, so small, an ordinary, quiet loving Hobbit, shows how heroic even the smallest can be with his courage and bravery.  It was inspiring.

And that was the end of the movie.  Sigh, another year to wait for the sequel!  It was a magnificent movie - a lot of action was added in which dragged the movie out, but I thought that it helped draw in a larger audience.  The CGI was excellent, except the Wargs who still looked a little fake and robotic to me.  The action was a little unbelievable, with nobody getting hurt but hundreds of goblins/orcs being injured.  Another thing interesting was that some Dwarves could be hideous looking whilst others looked almost human - as in no enhanced brow ridges, noses or huge bushy beards.  They were almost handsome.  Thorin was, I hate to admit it, attractive, as well as Kili and his brother Fili (who are nephews of Thorin, so maybe good looks go in that lineage).

So what are you waiting for?  Go watch it already!!!

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

My son is singing!

He may not be talking properly yet (still in the 2 word stage) but my son J is actually singing!  He actually has 2 songs that he sings - Happy Birthday and the title song from the animated movie Rio (about a blue macaw).

He has been saying hi-day instead of Happy Birthday, and after my birthday I noticed that he would look at the picture of me and them on my phone with my birthday cake and he would say

"Hi-Day to wooo, Hi Day to wooo."

OMG, so cute.

The other song, is starting to get a little bit annoying.  He sings this part:

"Rio, Rio all bai sell, can seee ca wee"

when the line goes "Rio, Rio all by itself, you can't see it coming, can't really know by yourself"

He sings that very loudly and repeatedly.  And though I should be glad my son is vocalising, man I wish he would stop singing that song.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Westmead Anaesthetic Gangnam style

This was on the news last week, made by an anaesthetic peer from Westmead Hospital. It was shown on Channel 7 news and the health minister was unimpressed.  I think it's funny :)

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Eclipse 2012 - Day 7 - Atherton tablelands

A bit of a hike from where we were staying, the Atherton Highlands had some nice birding spots and waterfalls to view.

We started at Cathedral Fig - a 500 year old strangler fig with a "room" inside the roots.

And we saw a Victoria's Riflebird here!  It was right next to the strangler fig displaying but it was hard to photograph from our angle, but its call was very distinctive.

Then onto Millaa Millaa falls.  It seems like every time there is a body of water in North Queensland, everyone wants to jump into it.

Then we went to see some of the crater lakes.  Lake Eachem is a great picnic and swim spot, and Mt Hypipamee has crater lake (not for swimming) but Dinner falls has lots of swimming spots.

Then stopped by some wetland areas to do some more birding, with some success there and along the roads!
 Black kite and black winged stilts

 Brolga and Plumed Whistling ducks

 Brown cuckoo-dove and Red-tailed black cockatoos

And then our final stop was Curtain Fig in Yungaburra, another 500 year old strangler fig.

We saw a Wompoo Fruit-Dove AND a Lumholtz Tree Kangaroo (crappy picture though)!

Then the long drive back.... wrecked our record by letting the kids have McDonald's for dinner whilst we ate KFC!  We're heading back home tomorrow... it's been a great trip!

Friday, 16 November 2012

Eclipse 2012 - Day 6 - Kids stuff day

We were going to go to the Atherton tablelands today and do more sightseeing and birding, but hubby forgot his binoculars!  So we decided to move Saturday's timetable to Friday, which was to do kid friendly things.

We started off in the morning heading towards Cairns for the Kuranda Scenic Railway ride, but the kids were getting restless so we took a detour via Cattana Wetlands, just to let them stretch their legs.  However we decided to walk all the way to the bird hide and just as well we did because we saw a Royal Spoonbill there!  Well worth the trip!

It was damn hot so I was hoping to get out of there as soon as possible, and we headed off the the Scenic Railway to find that it leaves at 2 times, both before we got there!  So we changed plans and drove up to Kuranda and I caught the train down with the kids after we had a look at the Butterfly House.

Then onto the train!

It took almost 2 hours for a full journey, with one stop in between.  The kids seemed to really enjoy that, and also weren't scared of the tunnels.  Hubby picked us up at Cairns and then we headed to the Esplanade so the kids could play in the water for a bit.

My son was popular with Japanese tourists.  They all seemed to stop and look at him and take pictures of him playing with the small fountains in the shallow end of the Esplanade.  Hubby was out taking pictures of seabirds and he got some real beauties.

Then we had Japanese sushi train style for dinner.  It was one of the only times this holiday they weren't being forcefed their food, or them gorging themselves on potato chips.  I was happy because they were eating fish, vegies (seaweed, edamame and cucumber) as well as rice.  They fell asleep on the way home, and just as well, because we have an early start tomorrow for more birdwatching!

Eclipse 2012 - Day 5 - Cairns Highlands

More wildlife hunting for us!  Mostly birds though :)  We made our way back to Mareeba via Mt Molloy and headed out to Lake Mitchell.  It looked like it was something highly illegal because we had to open a chained gate to get in there... but it looked like lots of people do it (maybe it's a cattle drove area).

Here are some of the highlights from this area:

 Jabiru and Magpie Geese

 Large Billed scrubwren and white necked heron

 Grey browed babbler and Black Swans, Australasian Grebe and Blue billed ducks

There were also green pygmy-geese, lots of cormorants and pacific black ducks there too.

Then we went on to Mareeba wetlands, and saw figbirds and blue faced honey eaters on the way in.  Boy was I excited when I got there to see comb crested Jacanas!  There were a lot of birds out there to photograph.
 Comb crested Jacana and Darter

 Dollarbird and Emu

Green pygmy-goose and Little Pied Cormorant

Then onto the famous Skyrail from Cairns to Kuranda.  We were hoping to catch the cable car up and the steam train down, but it was too late in the day for that.  We started opposite to everyone else - we did a return from Kuranda, whereas most of the other tourists were doing it from Cairns return.  It was packed and one of the guys working there told us to take the cablecar all the way down, and then get off at the two stops on the way back.  It was good advice.

J was scared as we approached the cable cars - he had the wide eyed anxious look, and kept saying "No, No" as we approached the front of the line.  He wouldn't even walk into the area, we carried him in.  E was enjoying it, as she had done one before with grandpa in Taiwan.  However, once he got in, he loved it, and he wailed when we had to get off at the stops, wanting to go back to the cable cars.  It was a good experience of the rainforest but creature poor - no butterflies, birds or animals to be seen!  The only exciting thing we did see from our cable car was a black shouldered kite carrying a fish in its claws flying up to the forest.

The whole skyrail one way without stopping takes 35 minutes!  That's one hell of a cable car ride!  We stopped on the way back to do the quick boardwalks and by the time we got back to Kuranda the markets were closed.  What a shame!  Would have liked to check out the arts stores.  We had a quick walk by the Cairns esplanade before dinner.

 Masked dotterel and white faced heron

 I'm hopeless at identifying stilts, sandpipers - they all look the same!
We had dinner at Ochre - which was featured on the plane as an interesting place to eat.  They had typical tourist fare there with an Australian game menu, so we tried that.  The food was interesting, but unfortunately service was slow even though we booked for 5:30 (it didn't help that I didn't realise that the restaurant was 4 blocks from where we parked our cars) and the kids got really tired.  We didn't get to finish our mains, but they looked really fantastic on the plate!

Damper and Dukka

Spicy Prawn and Crocodile

 Crocodile Wontons and salmon mousse cones

 Kangaroo terrine and Emu carpaccio

Sliced Kangaroo on Bokchoy, Sliced Wallaby on Potato, and sweet potato fritters

Wattleseed Pavlova and Berry sorbet

We remembered late at night we forgot to buy the paper!  So we were driving around looking for the newspaper and finally found one at the BP petrol station.  Phew, a souvenir of the trip!