“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
― Søren Kierkegaard
There’s a look on Titanescu’s face that sometimes brings to mind a tortured but not defeated soul. Perhaps a Russian writer after ten winters in a gulag, lasting twelve months each.
The enigma of cats, who do not judge but reflect: a throw back without absorption, and a convoluted intro to three shots I took at the Strybing arboretum. I really liked them, which is what I want to share…
Most San Francisco visitors I encounter seem eager to run through certain areas of the City, just so they can snap a few pictures here and there, before returning to their hotel satisfied they’ve pretty much seen it all… Fools.
It is like this:
The photos below were taken at tremendous risk, hence the shaky quality of some shots, but one does not simply tangle with raccooneers and expect to hightail it fully intact.
For those few who understand there’s more to the park than meets the cursory glance, I say go to the Conservatory of Flowers, Bison paddock or Stow Lake, all those storied places worth hours if not days of exploration, “but I do warn ye, if ye value yer life: ye stay well clear o’ North Lake. Place be full o’ monsters with ’em little teeth”.
We ain’t – I mean we’re not talking about cute Strawberry Hill over in Stow Lake with them owls and their neighbors, the blue herons. No.
I’m talking about that gloomy islet, New Barbary Coast, where Charlotte Raccoon (née Badger) and the others, like the Harpes, scourge of squirrels and raiders of birds’ nests, ply their trade from dusk ’til dawn…
One last word of warning: don’t feed the raccooneers, they’re turning into fat b****s… This ain’t no Disney movie.
Counting down to Halloween on this gloomy Tuesday morning, let’s stroll through Autumn, Ray Bradbury’s country.
I hope you’ll enjoy these photos as I do, taken between the beaches of San Francisco, Golden Gate Park and the Shoreline at Mountain View, CA.
“That country where it is always turning late in the year. That country where the hills are fog and the rivers are mist; where noons go quickly, dusks and twilights linger, and midnights stay. That country composed in the main of cellars, sub-cellars, coal-bins, closets, attics, and pantries faced away from the sun. That country whose people are autumn people, thinking only autumn thoughts. Whose people passing at night on the empty walks sound like rain.”
Somewhere deep in Australia’s Northern Territory, a group of tourists embarks on a tour boat piloted by guide Kate Ryan (Rhada Mitchell). As they prepare to turn back in the late afternoon, the group notices flares going up somewhere deep in sacred aboriginal land.
Reluctantly, they push on in search of the distressed party.
As they consider returning to town, in a wider part of the river forming a lake with a tiny mud island at the center, they come upon a small boat partly submerged and nothing else. Before they have a chance to discuss their next move, their boat is almost lifted out of the water by a huge crocodile hitting them from below.
With the hull breached and rapidly taking water, Ryan steers towards the island and beaches the craft.
With the tide rising and ill-equipped tourists far away from civilization, the group’s survival comes in serious doubt, especially as the huge crocodile begins to pick them off in an inexplicable display of aggression.
Watch the trailer:
Director Greg McLean describes “Rogue” as an old style horror film and I suspect he refers to his suggestion of violence rather than graphic displays. In fact “Rogue” uses both and it’s a good blend. Some reviewers took issue with the pacing, others with a perceived lack of gore. There are several things which set “Rogue” apart from other entries in the so-called killer-croc sub-genre.
One of these are the locations. The setting of the film, the Northern Territory, is one of the main characters, absolutely stunning from the features of the landscape, waters, sky and shifting colors beautifully captured by Will Gibson, the director of photography. Sadly, he passed away in March 2007, and from what I’ve seen in the extras and the way he shot the film, I’m sure he must be dearly missed.
Anyone who loves the outdoors owes it to themselves to check out “Rogue”: footage of this quality and of this part of the world is all too rare.
The music score, written by Frank Tetaz, is excellent: while I was always aware of it, I never felt it intruded, as others have.
The extras have him describe how he integrated certain tonalities to not only ‘support’ the action and mood but define characters: tapping strings on violins and violas, using wooden and metal containers immersed in water as percussion instruments and a simple piece he composed as a foundation for improvised Aboriginal vocalizations.
Very well thought out, and best: it works great, not unlike the soundtrack designed for “winged migration”.
As mentioned above, McLean effectively ‘suggested’ some of the kills, using clever editing and scene set-up rather than showing people getting chomped. This gave those kills he did show more impact. And those were complex scenes to design, between stunt work, CGI, mechanical crocs and editing. What gore there is has more of an impact, not just because it looked very real, but because there wasn’t that much of it throughout the movie. He had a fairly solid group of actors as well, with some unspoken characterization notes, glances, looks and smiles which actually worked better than much of the dialogue, which was on the weak side.
Where McLean avoided gratuitous gore, he gave in to gratuitous cussing, which was unnecessary and ‘jarred’ a little.
Given the shooting conditions, heat, humidity, flies, having real crocs and snakes around, not to mention spending a fair amount of time in murky waters, the actors pushed themselves. As Michael Vartan, who plays American travel writer Pete McKell, says in the extras, he did not have to act afraid, he was terrified. There is a real element of danger shooting a movie in an uncontrolled environment, especially doing take after take in the water as Sam Worthington had to do, knowing a three meter crocodile had been seen in the area. Sure, there are security guys with rifles around, but as they told the actors: “if we have to use the rifle it’s too late.”
And the mechanical croc head with chomping jaws? You can hear them clamp shut hard in the final confrontation in the crocodile’s lair, as Vartan humorously put it, he ‘peed a little’, you’ll know why once you hear that sound: special effects or not, that mechanical croc head could take a limb off.
This was a work intensive production for sure. The island on which the tour party seeks refuge was man made for the movie, in an artificial (and large) lake. The croc’s lair was a set on a sound stage, and the CGI and animatronics were complex blends of real and digital.
I don’t know how much of a return was made on this movie but it deserves to have done well: it is superior in most respects to others in the genre and I would rank it up there with “jaws”.
Most of our hikes have been within about a 70 miles radius from the San Francisco peninsula, so this day trip to Pinnacles Monument, 145 miles to the South of San Francisco and just East of the Salinas Valley, promised to offer something different. Well accustomed as we are to the greenery of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (G.G.N.R.A.), I was particularly keen on visiting what I expected to be a blend between the Bay’s woods and forests and the California desert.
Much of the landscape on the way there bears the marks of seismic activity spread over many centuries and Pinnacles itself is so named because of the spectacular jutting remnants of the long extinct Neenach volcano.
We arrived at the park after an early lunch in Hollister and promptly bought more bottled water at the visitors’ store as the sun was almost directly overhead by then. Even in March, and although it had rained in the previous couple of days, you can never have too much water outdoors.
In addition to some unique geological features, the park is also one of very few places where one can observe California Condors in the wild, thanks to outstanding efforts to re-establish the species. They remain one of the main attractions of the park and we spent a good while learning about them and conservancy efforts from the volunteers at the visitor center.
From the Bear Gulch visitor center, we set out onto the Moses Spring trail:
This took us to the Bear Gulch talus caves, which are the result of huge rocks tumbling down narrow gorges during massive earth tremors. Thankfully, it is possible to exit the caves in several places, since in some spots, water was ankle deep and the low ceiling would force us to our knees. Navigating, or rather, contorting through the narrow, claustrophobic passages, I kept thinking we might enact a 30 seconds or less version of “a bug’s life” with a tragic ending should the earth decide to move again, but at least it wouldn’t be thirst we’d die of:
And from there, we climbed up stairs to the Bear Gulch reservoir, a nice place to catch your breath and stretch, where the views are both serene and spectacular:
Hiking the Rim trail was an easy walk away from the reservoir, with plenty of interesting rock formations along the way back to the High Peaks trail, not to mention views very much reminiscent of old Disney nature documentaries. Although we took the High Peaks trail a couple hundred yards towards Hawkins’ peak, we managed to catch sight of only one Condor gliding high above, but were too unsteady to get a clear picture (sorry!). For more information on this national treasure, check this National Park Service link:http://www.nps.gov/pinn/