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Friday, November 25, 2011

Seat 34C: The Journey Home


And this is why it feels good to be home ^^^

My last days in Sydney were fair to partly cloudy (pun intended), but on the last day, the weather was beautiful and I had a really relaxing time soaking everything in: the ocean, wildlife, downtown, the food...just everything that was about to change.

I will miss this view for sure
I had a lot of free time my last few days, so my roommate Ian and I traveled down to Coogee and stayed there for a few days, planning to go to the beach pretty much every day. That definitely didnt happen, but we still had some nice days to swim and snorkel and explore on the cliffs. Besides our hostel being somewhat sketchy (a pipe above our roof was leaking I guess?), it was a time to enjoy things for the last time. Nightlife in Coogee for the last time, beach for the last time, gelato for the last time, downtown Sydney, etc.

A Kookaburra that let me get really close to take a picture

The cliffs are always interesting!
The last car that I purchased in Australia  :-(  
On one of the more cloudy/crappy/raining/Isn't-it-supposed-to-be-summer-here? days we visited the pylon for what would be some of my final viewings of the bridge, skyline, and Opera House. The pylon is one of the large structures located at the corners of the Harbor Bridge that are about 3/4ths the height of the bridge.

Opera House with Sydney skyline panoramic

Harbor Bridge with Opera House panoramic

The most famous building in the world with the
most famous person in the world
My final night in Australia was probably one of my best. It was really bittersweet. On one hand, I was with my good friend, Ian, and my Australian friend, Sarah, having fun discussions and enjoying Sydney. On the other hand, I knew that this would be the last time for probably a very long time that I would see Sydney again. That is hard to think about. To leave somewhere that became your home so suddenly for 4.5 months and knowing that you are not coming back for the foreseeable future; it makes you sad despite the fact you miss so much at home. Writing this now, not even being home for a week, there is a part of me that wishes I was back in Australia. I think whenever you live somewhere for that long, and have an experience where you meet so many people, see so many things, and just do so much, a part of you will always stay there.

The coolest bar I went to on my trip: the 360 bar on the Sydney Skytower.
It's above the entire city, and slowly revolves 360 degrees so that your view is always changing.
To say I felt like James Bond would be an understatement.

Crazy lighting structures in the 360 bar
Opera House at night (slightly above the direct center of the picture)



My first time trying Absinthe. It was called a green fairy,
and no I did not hallucinate. It was a very good drink though.
Strong, but delicious.

Darling Harbor at night. Another place I will miss





My girlfriend wanted to say bye to me in Sydney. You may
recognize her, she's a Victoria Secret model, no big deal...































But after my fun night out, I knew it was time to go home. My flights were pretty uninteresting except for my Ambien trip on my Sydney to LA flight. I took an Ambien to try to get some sleep, and I guess my mind just did not want to sleep. So instead, I was basically tripping on the plane: seeing double, some bending walls, and dots in front of my eyes. I pretty much just went along with it and had a huge grin on my face for about half an hour then I dozed off for a little bit.

It was great to arrive at DIA and see my mom and dad, then go over to Jeramy and Ashley's and meet Lauren who was easily the person that has changed the most since I last saw her! She is so big and active, she definitely has a strong personality and is a very entertaining baby. I got to spend a lot of time with her on Thanksgiving as well, so I think she is starting to get used to me...again...now. In addition, I also had Chipotle as my first meal back (with a Corona), and my God was it good. No offense to Australia, but they have nothing that can touch Chipotle.

Basically heaven on earth right here
And of course I was overjoyed when my white, four-legged friends came to greet me as I came in the house for the first time. At first, they weren't sure it was really me, especially Kolby, but after a while of me playing with them, they realized it was really me.

Kolby and Katy!
Next on my list of exciting returns was...you guessed it: my PlayStation. Let's just say that it has gotten quite a workout the last few days. And the games I just got are some of the best I have ever played, no exaggeration.
The games and movies that I got. Overwhelming in the best way possible
Ohhhhhh baby...it's been too long.
Lastly, it was so exciting to see all of my friends again. And I got to see friends that I hadnt seen for a LONG time...like two years. Several of my Mormon friends returned home from their missions while I was away, so seeing them and roaming around Highlands Ranch again, kinda felt like being back in high school. Fun times. And then there are my DU friends, who I was extremely excited to see and on Tuesday night we were able to have a party after going to the $4 movies and Buffalo Wild Wings. It was definitely a night that I will not forget anytime soon.

So...my time in Australia has now ended. That means that this blog is about to come to an end as well. I think I will do one more reflection post about a month from now, but other than that, it is time to say goodbye. I hope you all have enjoyed my stories of Australia, I know that I have enjoyed sharing my experiences with you. So there is really only one thing left to say:

G'DAY MATES!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Rath's Reviews: Warrior

I will start off by being honest. I am not a huge fan of sports movies. In my opinion, they are always either classics or terrible and I forget about them more easily than any other movie genre I can think of. I would have to say that my favorite sports movies, in order, are Space Jam, Remember the Titans, and Never Back Down. All three movies are memorable and I love each one in a different way. Space Jam is silly and reminds me of a time when sports had a lot more to do with fun than making money. Remember the Titans was just a great movie overall, with strong characters and a fantastic story. And Never Back Down is a bit of a wild card, but it is such a cool movie that is fun almost every time I watch it.

After seeing Warrior, I think I can confidently add one more movie to the list above. It is not a cool sports movie, or even a fun one, but I'll be damned if it's not an emotional one. The story is set up throughout the near-perfectly paced film and it basically goes like this: two brothers who are not very fond of each other are both into MMA fighting. They have completely different lives and backstories other than the fact that their father was a drunk and ruined the family. There is clearly a lot of drama between the entire family, especially since the mother has passed away. To make a long story short, both brothers need money, and somewhat unknown to each other, they end up in the same 16-man, bracket-style, MMA tournament fighting for $5 million. As Im sure you can guess, they end up fighting each other in the championship. Supposedly the movie is based on a true story, but I really wonder how much of it is true. I believe that two brothers maybe fought each other (I dont follow MMA), but I dont really believe all of the drama that unfolds behind the scenes. But that doesn't matter.

Tom Hardy as Tommy on the left and Joel Edgerton as Brendan on the right.
Random UFC ref in the center.
I do believe that Tom Hardy, who plays the younger brother, Tommy, is going to be a star very soon. You might recognize him from Inception, and he is, in my opinion, the best actor in this film. You can catch him next summer as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. Joel Edgerton plays the other brother, Brendan, and also does well as the father-husband-school teacher who decides to get back into fighting. Nick Nolte is in the movie as the boys' father, and to be honest, I think his character is the only negative of the movie. He is obviously an essential part of the movie since he is Tommy's trainer and the boys are kind-of sort-of working towards forgiving him for his alcoholic past. But I think the movie sometimes gets confused as to whether it is a brother drama or a father-son drama, and it is clearly a brother drama all the way. I guess what Im saying is that Nick Nolte got too much screen time and there should have been more time exploring the brothers' backgrounds.

Introducing: Tom Hardy's shoulders. I mean seriously, those would make
Dwight Howard blush. Can't wait to see him as the new Batman villain.
Daddy issues aside, the movie does a phenomenal job at everything else. Every fight is a memorable, bone-crunching, emotional event. The conversations between the brothers had me polarized and the reveal of Tommy's background in the Iraq war were astonishing, and they are all laid out perfectly. In the final event, most of the story is given to us by ESPN commentators and CNN updates, which I would usually hate, but here it works well. Even the must-have training montage that every single sports film has is done creatively and powerfully here. It does not overstay its welcome, but it also doesnt make it feel like they all the sudden got ready for the fight of their life.

"Here...smell my hand! SMELL IT!"
The thing Warrior succeeds at most though is that final fight. The movie makes each brother likable and unlikable, and you are rooting for each one for different reasons. It's a feeling that I have never really felt before in a movie: rooting for both of the good guys and both of the bad guys at the same time. It's hard not to become emotional during the final fight (although that wasnt the only time I was emotional) mainly because you dont know how to feel. What is Tommy going to do if he doesnt win? What is Brendan going to do if he doesnt win? And ultimately, Who is going to win? These questions and more are all racing through your head as you watch this beautifully choreographed fight play out with pitch perfect music and commentary. It is certainly not a scene that I will forget the next day.

I was surprised by Warrior. I had heard it was good, but honestly, good doesnt cut it for me in sports movies. I want a classic film or its not really worth my time. Warrior is maybe not a classic, but it gets so close and pacts such an unusual emotional punch that it might as well be.

If you are looking for a engrossing story, a great sports movie, and a somewhat unique movie experience, I would take a swing at Warrior.


Pros:

  • Phenomenal story that is presented logically and over the course of the entire movie
  • Top notch acting by all; makes it all the more emotional
  • The fight scenes are expertly done. They feel dangerous, real, and intense
  • Follows some sports movie cliches, but either does them so well or so little that it doesnt matter
  • That final fight is truly an experience. The movie comes down to that one moment, and in that one moment it is perfect
Cons:

  • The dad story line is necessary, but it distracts from the true drama of the movie. It should have had a less prominent role, or been explained via less screen time
  • Still has some sports movie cliches in there
  • The ending is abrupt. It's fine as is, but I would have liked a little more closure

Rath's Review Score: 8.5/10

Sunday, November 13, 2011

An Obscure Halloween

Such a hipster picture. Black. White. Up. Down. Face. Body. Just so obscure man...
So many of you might know that I get pretty into my characters for Halloween. 3 years ago I was DU's best Joker from The Dark Knight, 2 years ago four of my friends and I were making everybody laugh as gay cowboys, and last year, Pierce and I were Pauly D and The Situation from the Jersey Shore, respectively. So how was I going to celebrate Halloween this year in a country that doesn't really celebrate it and on a budget? Easy. Be a hipster. Now for those of you who dont know what a hipster is, let me explain. They are basically all of those odd characters that you see walking around downtown Denver who think they are better than you because they know of a band that you dont, or because they are an art-eest, or because they are unique in their fashion choices, etc. Hipsters are fans of the obscure...that is, if something is too "mainstream" then they dont like it. If you dont know who I am talking about, just go to a Starbucks and observe pretty much anyone using an Apple device.

Earlier in the first few weeks of being down here, my friends and I booked a Halloween Cruise, so this is where we would let out our inner hipster-ness. In order to do so, I poked the lenses out of my 3D glasses, bought a scarf from goodwill, and wore some ridiculously tight, black pants. Seriously, these pants were so tight, they almost did the walking for you. In order to get into the character, I tried to remain serious at all times. Judging by the pictures you will see, I'd say I did a fantastic job.

Before I get to all the pictures, I'll talk briefly about the cruise. The cruise ship itself was HUGE. Much larger than the harbor cruise ship we had the first few weeks here. Even better, the weather was great, and it was actually a joy to be outside. And to top it off, there was an open bar and a phenomenal DJ, not to mention we got free entry into a club on the harbor once the cruise ended. It was a great time so enjoy the pictures!

Three hipsters and John Daly...
A hipster and a cat...
Inside the cruise ship...pretty damn big
Harbor Bridge at night
Going under the bridge
Soren (left) is a rambunctious hipster. He is almost too mainstream for me and
my obscurity
Clearly John Daly has a drinking problem...
Some friends of the hipster. But still not smiling. It's too mainstream.
The Sydney Opera House at night. You probably haven't heard of it before...
it's a pretty obscure building. 
Clearly something very shocking just happened. No. Seriously. I remember it and it
was shocking. 
The scarf actually grew on me. I kinda like it.
Darth Maul! Maulin! I was actually way excited to see this costume. It was
the best one on the cruise in my opinion.
A hipster and a spider web.
Not sure what I was yelling about here. Knowing me, I was probably
excited to dance or something. Not very hipster, I apologize. Notice the
ridiculously tight pants cutting off circulation.
Ian seemed to forget that bunny ears are way mainstream...hes new to the hipster game.
I swear this was the only time I smiled that night. I think I was testing it out since
someone told me it was obscure. But it quickly felt too mainstream so I never did it
again.
Myself, Myke, Ian, and Soren. A very memorable night for sure!

The night was clearly a blast, and one that I will remember for a long time to come! Much like most of my trip to Australia. 

Its weird realizing that in less than a week of me writing this, I will be home. Within a day of travelling, I will go from the life that I have established here in Australia for four and a half months, back to my life in Colorado. It's sad actually. A lot of the people that I have met on this trip I will probably never see again, and it will be a long time before I have the opportunity to come back down to Australia and New Zealand again. It has been an incredible experience and I have learned a ton about myself. This time away has really been one of the only times in my life that I have been on my own. DU doesnt really count since it has become such a huge comfort zone in and of itself. It has been challenging, and ultimately, I think the best thing that I have realized while down here is how good of a life I have back home. How great my family is, how great my friends are (girls and boys), how great my living arrangements are, and really just how great my routine back home is. That isn't to say that Australia didnt excel in those aspects, it's just that I realized that overall, my life back home is highly desirable. 

Now there's an obscure thought...

See you all soon! And this time I mean it for real!


The Adventures of Gomer and Gomer Jr!

Recently, my dad came down to Australia to experience some of the greater things that Sydney had to offer. He was here for about a week if you eliminate travel time and we were able to get a lot done despite some bad weather on a couple of his days here.

One of the first things that we did after he became acclimated to the time change was go down into the city. In my opinion, seeing the Harbor Bridge and the Opera House are the best way to shock you into knowing that you are really in Sydney, Australia. As you can see from the picture, it was a really nice day, and that is the way the weather stayed for most of his trip here. After observing the Opera House and reading up on the architecture, we continued to the Opera House bar and had an Australian cider then walked around town and went into the Sky Tower. Since the weather was so nice, the clarity was amazing and you could really see all around the city. For the rest of the day, we sorta just moseyed around and I took some of the following pictures:

Occupy Wall Street: Sydney version. Needless to say, Gomer Sr. was scoffing at all of these people :-)
The police force present to contain OWS: Sydney
Awesome old Rolls Royce that was driving around town for a HUGE wedding
Grill of a champion


This is an elderly Asian lady walking that little
girl with a leash. I choose to keep my comments in
my head. 
One of the days following the walk around downtown, we returned back to the city and went to my personal favorite: the aquarium. Despite it being slightly crowded, it was just as awesome the third time as it was the first time and I even picked up a special something for Lauren! My dad enjoyed it too as Im sure it is the only time that we will probably see some of those fish in real life!

Blue Ringed Octopus. Very deadly despite the small size

Upside down jellyfish. 

OMFG! Its Nemo! But seriously, its interesting because
on my first trip to the aquarium, these clown fish we teeny, but now
they are grown up on my third trip! I feel like a proud father

Really good picture of Ellen Degeneres















































































On the last full day that I spent with my Dad, we did part of the coastal walk from Coogee to Bondi. I was able to discover where my child-like love for climbing on rocks comes from seeing as my dad enjoyed it just as much as I did. We spent quite a while walking around the cliffs looking for wildlife, mainly crabs, and talking. It is certainly a memory with my dad that I will never forget!




Finally, and probably most excitingly, my dad and I climbed the Harbor Bridge which was an awesome experience. We had an absolute perfect day to do it and managed to capture some great pictures. The Bridge itself is an engineering and architectural marvel, and climbing it was surprisingly fairly easy. But I guess it should have been easy for two studs like us. Regardless there were some moments that took my breath away: mainly when we were walking about 52 meters above the street below and you could see through the skinny steel floor to the street below (I very quickly remembered that I bungee jumped from 47 meters and did not remember it being quite so high...). In addition, getting to the top of the bridge was memorable because of its combination of amazing views in the open air and the incredible wind force. Here are the pictures that we chose of the experience:

In front of the skyline
Long story here about finger signs, trust me if you know it you will laugh. If you
dont know it, then take notice of my father's smile...now you see why we call him
Gomer from time to time
Classic picture in front of the Opera House
Well there you have it! The main events in the adventure of Gomer and Gomer Jr. while in Sydney, Australia!

Just a reminder that I have posted a ton of new pictures on my Facebook. Additionally, I think I will probably do one more Australia blog before I leave on the 19th and it will be about my Halloween cruise. Keep an eye out for it!