Monday, June 13, 2016

Did we ever consider our digital footprint?

Checking on an online app that I had first used back in 2007 prompted me to look back to when this blog began and it was.....Thursday 21 September 2006!
I am sure that when it all began for me that I did not pay much heed to the collective power of a decade of blogging. Back in 2006 I had no idea how long I would continue writing, or even if there was an audience for my random thoughts.... I am still unsure!
The blog first began as a test before I unleashed the power of blogging on my unsuspecting pupils in Cefn Fforest Primary School back in 2006. Little did I realise at the time that not only could it enthuse our pupils, but also that it would also give me a whole new group of online friends, many of whom I may never meet in the 'real world'.
What has 10 years taught me, mainly that I actually have the stamina to sustain my thoughts across a range of topics and of course a range of jobs. One truth that is certain is that I found the transition away from teaching and the classroom a challenge from a blogging perspective. As your pupils will tell you, writing for an audience is a powerful force. Once out of the classroom I lost that immediate contact with the group, dropped away from online forums that I had been active in, and eventually of course the blog lost direction.
There have been a few readjustments across the years, however, this blog remains the random thoughts of an untamed educator  released into the 'real world' ... this I suspect will never change.
I look forward to raising a glass of champagne on 21 September and wishing the Ddraig-Goch blog a happy 10th birthday!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Google glass ideas

I want to float my 'Google glass' idea to a wider audience.
Having used Apple FaceTime to take my grandchildren on a short tour of the Rijkmuseum in Amsterdam my mind drifted to how Google glass could be used for a similar purpose. I propose a business idea to run remote tours of museums and art galleries for those who are unable to travel either due to age and infirmity or simply cost.
Use 1 - for residents in sheltered accommodation who retain a love of art and museums. To run remote guide led tours streamed in 'real time' and recorded for future use.
Use 2 - for schools either (a) to prepare pupils for a forthcoming visit to a gallery or museum by giving them an insight into the geography and layout. (b) for pupils studying a particular period who are unable to travel to a venue. An educational guide would lead the class through a gallery answering questions as they move through. 

A further use was suggested by a colleague of mine who recently remotely attended a friend's wedding. The wedding was in New York however those present were usinga variety of social media tools to attend from 10 different countries. How cool would it be to use google glass to give an 'in the room point of view' for remote attendees. This could also be recorded for future use by the happy couple.

I see a use by Estate Agents .....letting agents to produce walk through videos for prospective buyers/tennants.

I look forward to hearing the thoughts of the community......and possible partners?

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Weight of Elephants

Saturday 17 May 2014 - Filmhuis Den Haag The Weight of Elephants (New Zealand)
We meet up with 10 year old Adrian in semi rural New Zealand. In fact the isolation of the film is enhanced by its setting, in and around Invercargill, one of the southernmost cities in the world being at the southern tip of New Zealand. 
Adrian has been abandoned by his mother and is being brought up by his grandmother. Gran is also caring for her disturbed adult son Rory, uncle to Adrian. In his lucid moments Rory bonds with Adrian over the youngster's love of sea monsters. As we meet our characters Adrian is objecting vociferously to having his head shaved by Gran in order to clear head-lice. The 10 year old foresees how this will further alienate him from his peer group in school
The cutting and camera angles in Daniel Borgman's movie enable the audience to experience the awkwardness that Adrian feels as he tries to fit in with his school peer group.
Adrian is haunted by the fact that everyone who is most precious to him abandons him. He is left to his own devices after school and creates his own fantasy world in the abandoned playground next to his Gran's house.
The Weight of Elephants - International Trailer from Katja Adomeit on Vimeo.
In a parallel storyline the TV and media is full of the search for 3 youngsters who have been abducted. While playing in his fantasy world Adrian becomes aware of his neighbours - 3 young children. He has not seen them before and they do not go to school..... has he discovered the abducted children?
After a number humiliating experiences in school Adrian gradually realises that fitting in is perhaps not the best strategy. He befriends his new neighbours particularly Nicole who is his own age. He also finds company with other 'outsiders'.
The cast inhabit their characters well with the children undoubtedly being the stars of the film - The naturalistic acting style of Nicole (Angelina Cottrell) and Adrian (Demos Murphy) in particular steal the show.

IMdB gives a score of 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes do not have any score yet as the film is quite new. I would suggest a score of 7.5 would be a fair representation of the film. I think that viewers will find this to be a rewarding experience.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

19th and 20th Century History in Pathe Buitenhof

Quite by chance over the past few days I have been fortunate enough to see two excellent examples of the historical film genre.
Buitenhof again was the venue, I was heartened to find that even after a break of two weeks of film attendance that I have retained the Foursquare Mayorship of the cinema.
The two films show the huge range and variety within a film type. On Thursday evening requiring escapism I headed for my favourite venue to watch The Invisible Woman.
Ralph Fiennes directs and stars in this recreation of the somewhat secret relationship between Charles Dickens and Ellen (Nelly) Ternan. When they first met Nelly was 18 and Dickens 45. He had been married married to his wife of 22 years,  Catherine with 10 children. Nelly was the third of the three Ternan acting sisters.
The film gives what seems to my sensibilities a very good evocation of 19th Century England. You can almost smell the mustiness and feel the confinement of the Victorian age. The acting is earnest and indeed Felicity Jones as Nelly gives a spellbinding performance. However,  I found the film uneven in its rendition of the story. this could be explained by stating that it follows Dickens turbulent moods however it meant that the film failed to fully engage me leaving me ultimately unsatisfied. IMDb gives the film a score of 6.4 while Rotten Tomatoes has the critics scoring the film 76% and Film-goers 52%. I would agree with the Rotten Tomatoes score which is sad as there could be a much better film somewhere in the cutting room!

Sunday 6th April - Pathe Buitenhof  - The Book Thief
I tried to put to the back of my mind some criticisms that have made of this film, and have not read the book on which is was based. I am happy to report that the film is sprinkled with wonderful performances which are drawn together into a well told story. 14 year old Sophie Nelisse gives a magnetic performance as the central character of the film Leisel Meminger. Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson are excellent as the very human husband and wife, with the acerbic Watson lovingly scolding the husband to whom she is devoted. Rush as the romantic and wistful father who holds the family together, but also threatens its very existence thanks to a promise given in a previous war.  I also want to make mention of Nico Liersch also 14 years old who plays Rudy, Leisel's love interest... his striking Aryan looks mark him.
I enjoyed the film the period was well presented and the characters fitted within this very well, each playing off each other. I felt that The Book Thief was everything that The Invisible Woman could have been. While IMDb scores the film 6.4 while Rotten Tomatoes scores the film with 46% from the critics and 76% from us the film-going public.
I think that the Rotten Tomatoes score for The Book Thief by film critics show that on occasions the critics in their earnest desire to give the viewing public the full picture can forget that an audience is often looking for a film which grabs them, takes them on its journey unfolding human emotions along the way. I am glad that I for one managed to banish the naysayers. This is a must see film.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Saturday Film - 29 March Pathe Spui: Captain America: The Winter Soldier IMAX 3D

I did not have my expectations set very high entering the cinema on Saturday, the main draw of Captain America; The Winter Soldier was to experience once again of Pathe's IMAX 3D experience.
One of the issues that I have with Captain America is that of all Marvel 'Superheroes' he has the most difficulty operating in a contemporary setting being rooted back in the global wars of the 20th Century.
Captain America has also been portrayed previously as a rather 2 dimensional 'cardboard character lacking a personality or a sense of humour.
Whether it is the inclusion of  The Black Widow ( Scarlet Johansson) as a foil for our hero, or the bright and crisp screenplay from a strong writing team. The result I found to be as refreshing as the exciting reinvention of Ironman back in 2008. We see Chris Evans breathe life and character into the character of Steve Rogers.
Of course we are not in the audience of Captain America for an in depth exploration of character..... This is after-all a blockbuster 3D tale about a soldier who jumps out of planes without a parachute and seems to be able to defend himself against a huge amount of bullets and rockets with a simple shield!
The story-line has also been used quite recently... I recall another hero,  James Bond and M in a recent tale about a compromised organisation which begins to turn on itself.
Taking the film with all of these compromises into consideration I still found this a credible superhero vehicle.

Of the supporting cast - Robert Redford, Samuel L Jackson and the previously mentioned Scarlet Johansson. Redford and Johansson give strong performances. I agree with others who have suggested that Johansson as The Black Widow has earned herself a film of her own. While Jackson's Nick Fury character I am beginning to find repetitive and too predictable.....There is the hope that change may be on the way regarding  the Nick Fury character(plot spoiler). However I believe that at least 80% of the audience could see through the seemingly actual demise of the character....note to director... must try harder next time!
I must admit I was relieved again to know that it was only really America that was at risk, and narrower than this that it was Washington DC that was the backdrop for our story..... the america-centric nature of the film is a little disappointing and this may ultimately cause it not to play well in the rest of the world.

However with all of its faults I did find the film well worth my time, it moved along at a good pace. Others have reported the final 20 minutes to be too full of over the top  'Bang! and Crash! I would disagree I felt that it was in proportion and leading us to the all to predictable ending.
IMDb give the film a strong 8.3 while Rotten Tomatoes scores Captain America: The Winter Soldier 94% from the critics and +99% from the audience.
I am of the opinion that the Rotten Tomatoes score is somewhat high presently, I would tend on balance to agree with IMDb with an overall score of 8.3 to 8.4.
While I wouldn't say this is a 'not to be missed' film and while it is unlikely to ever be thought of as a classic film, even of its type, I think that the film has merit if taken at face value, I have no doubt that audiences will continue to score this film highly.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

August: Osage County

Film: August: Osage County KL086 Singapore to Amsterdam
My film viewing was curtailed over the past week as I have been attending the IB 2014 Asia Pacific Regional Conference in's tough but someone had to do it!
I have never been a huge fan of watching in flight movies, preferring the big screen experience. However as part of my strategy for sleeping on my return to The Netherlands I wanted to spend the early part of the flight watching a film. August:Osage County has been on my watch list for some time having seen trailers where Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts appear to be on top form.
The film film certainly embodies the matriarchal society in its most powerful form, we meet the force of nature that is Violet Weston (Streep) and her immediate family following the possibly self inflicted demise of husband Beverly. Violet had been diagnosed and is being treated for mouth cancer as we saw earlier in the story. I think it ironic that such torrents of abuse cascade from the area which is causing Violet such pain. The object of this bile is eldest daughter Barbara (Roberts). Barbara is quite capable of looking after herself 'like mother like daughter'

Violet's other daughters do not escape the wrath of Violet whose intolerance while part of her character is also being driven by the medication being somewhat oversubscribed by her doctor. Violet gives Streep the opportunity to show her full acting power and her onscreen presence is played off effectively against Roberts who is similarly blessed. Mention should also be made of Margo Martindale playing Violet's sister Mattie Fae.
Interesting then that the undoubtedly strong male cast members are all consigned to to pay 'bit parts' around the lives of the Weston women. It can't be often that Ewan McGregor, Benedict Cumberbatch and Chris Cooper went so unnoticed in a film.
August: Osage County was first seen as a Pulitzer Prize winning play of the same name back in 2007. The film does show its origins as many of the scenes are based within Violet's house and have the feel of 'set pieces'. This does not however distract from the excellent performances from Streep and her acting sisters.
IMDb gives the film a score of 7.4 while Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 64% and an audience score of 71% presently. I am of the opinion that for all of its faults,  the performances of Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts alone are worth an 8.6.
The film set up a fine flight for me, we had 'lights out' just after the conclusion which for me heralded 3 hours sleep. An excellent result I think you will agree.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

A Wes Anderson weekend

Pathe Bioscoop Buitenhof: Friday 14th March - The Grand Budapest Hotel
Filmhuis Den Haag: Saturday 15th March - Moonrise Kingdom

This weekend I was transported to the world of Wes Anderson. The experience feels more like having been inside his head reading his thoughts or more worrying having participated in a therapy session for Mr Anderson's deep seated psychological hang ups.
So many of Anderson's themes are very personal: family instability, parental infidelity dead animals, young love, the importance of colour to create emotion, direct dialogue delivered in a deadpan style straight to camera, his musical heritage and of course.... Bill Murray.
Murray is of course only one of the family, Ed Norton, Tilda Swinton, Harvey Keitel and Jason Schwartzman are also essential to an Anderson film. Their participation the greater as seem willing to take small cameo roles in each offering.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is a tale told by an aging writer about his adventures at the hotel of the title.
When we first enter the establishment it is down on its luck and far from the height of fashion. We meet he owner of the hotel Mr Moustafa, who our guide takes a meal with. we find out how the hotel became Mr Moustafa's property as he came under the influence of the hotel's legendary concierge from early in the 20th Century, the charismatic but horrendous Mr Gustave H (played with panache by Ralph Fiennes). The story is fantastical and very Wes Anderson with a mix of animation and oddly artificial live action we are carried along as the narrative plays out.... watch out for Willem Dafoe playing a malevolent presence through the piece.

The ensemble just works as they seem to have a sixth sense on the requirement of their acting when working with Anderson.
IMDb gives a 8.4  and Rotten Tomatoes 91% from the critics and 92% from the audience.....I have to say that I don't believe the story works so well I would suggest that 8.6 out of 10 would be a fairer score... I may have to watch the film a second or third time, which would not be a unpleasant experience.

I spotted the showing of Moonrise Kingdom almost by accident as I looked through the film listings for Saturday.
We are back on familiar Anderson territory and angst. As the two young outsiders experience first passionate love. Against the backdrop of  rural New England we follow Khaki Scout and orphan Sam Shakusky as he encounters and falls for the enigmatic Suzi Bishop.
All is played with the support of music from Benjamin Britten - Noye's Fludde ( Anderson and his brother performed in the piece when they were around 10 years old) and the Young Persons Guide to the Orchestra.
Our tale is narrated by Bob Balaban and contains other Anderson stalwarts - Keitel, Swinton, Norton, Swartzman and of course the ever eccentric Mr Murray playing Suzi's father.

The cast is supported by Bruce Willis and Frances McDormand, however it is the juvenile leads Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward and their peers who carry the film.
IMDb gives the film 7.4 while Rotten Tomatoes is more generous in awarding 94% from the critics and 86% from film-goers. I felt that Moonrise Kingdom works better as a story than does The Grand Budapest Hotel and have no problem in awarding it a creditable 9 out of 10.
Wes Anderson's reputation and integrity are preserved by both films which are true to his movie credentials......Anderson is back on form with The Grand Budapest Hotel following  Fantastic Mr Fox which I found to be not quite up to the usual standard