Movie Review: Pantani: The accidental death of a cyclist

‘Pantani’ is a gripping Netflix documentary that delves into the life of extraordinary Italian road cyclist, Marco Pantani.

Filled with original footage and fellow cyclists, friends & family interviews, the documentary paints a satisfyingly complete portrait of Pantani – and in particular how blood doping ravaged the sport and his career.



In 1998, Pantani won both the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia – an incredible feat to win both in the same year, and the last cyclist to have done so thus far.


Nicknamed ‘The Pirate’ for his shaved head, earrings and bandana, Pantani was one of the best hill climbers of his generation and a crowd favourite.


Pantani would come from the back of the pack to attack on the hills: no-one could keep up with him.


When Pantani turned professional in the 1990s, it was into an era of EPO and blood doping.

Winning meant doping, with the athletes ultimately paying the price of a corrupt system.


Hematocrit levels

This graph shows hematocrit (red blood cell) levels for Italian pro-cyclists in the mid-1990s, with Pantani as the yellow triangles. In 1995, his hematocrit reached an astonishing 64%: an average male’s levels range between 42-54%.


Pantani’s career was clouded by doping allegations until he was expelled from the 1999 Giro D’Italia due to irregular blood levels.

It crushed Pantani and afterwards he fell into a deep depression from which he never fully recovered.


As Pantani’s career was ending, Armstrong’s was taking off – resulting in a nasty feud between the two.


This was a great documentary about the sad decline of an incredible athlete, and I highly recommend this documentary to fellow cycling nuts or anyone who enjoys biographies.

Sharing the wealth

Lately my Facebook feed has been clogged with opinion pieces on Canada’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis.


Canadians rallied all over the country this summer to do more for the massive numbers of displaced Syrian refugees. In response, the new Federal Government increased Canada’s commitment from resettling 10,000 to 25,000 refugees by Jan 1, 2016.


There’s no doubt that this is a polarizing issue for Canada, with more than half the Country opposing the Government’s plan, and yet the other half demonstrating outspoken support.


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Despite Alberta’s incredible prosperity, a whopping 62% of those opposed were located in Alberta – with the lowest numbers being 46% in Atlantic Canada.


As you might have guessed I’m a strong believer in sharing the wealth – and firmly in the ‘outspoken support’ category.



Calgary Mayor, Naheed Nenshi has urged the city to ‘open it’s arms’ to the 2300 refugees that are expected over the next few months. His position stands in direct contrast to the Saskatchewan Premier’s request to the Federal Government to suspend it’s refugee plan.


As a newly-minted Canadian citizen who has been welcomed with open arms, great generosity and boundless opportunity, I know that Canadians all over this fine country will do their bit for their new neighbours – as they have already been doing for so many years already.



For Calgarians, who are asking What Can I do?, check out the City of Calgary’s ‘How to Help’ page right here:


Aussie slang: swag

Unlike the North American meaning, swag has been used since early convict days and is still in use today.


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Meaning: ‘Swag’ means the essential possessions carried by a traveller in the bush. It especially refers to the blanket-wrapped roll usually carried on the back or across the shoulders by a traveling worker.



Swag was normally made by laying out a blanket, and then rolling up clothes and other essential items inside. The whole lot was then tied with a rope and slung over the shoulder.


How to use it: Swag is a noun used to describe a bed roll, or more generically a canvas pack used to protect your belongings when camping out.

Examples: ‘I’ve grabbed the swag’, ‘What’s in your swag, mate?’



‘We’re heading into the bush with our swags.’


Plus Plus: Now here’s a good one that will impress all of your Australian mates; ‘Matilda’ is an old slang word for a swag. In the classic Aussie ballad ‘Waltzing Matilda’ he is singing of traveling with his swag.


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To ‘Waltz Matilda’ literally means to travel with a swag.


Origin: ‘Swag’ came over with the British convicts that arrived in Australia in the late 1780s.



Despite popular urban myth, only 20% of Australians are descended from convicts.


Swag at that time meant a thief’s plunder or booty but soon evolved from a quantity of goods acquired by a thief – to the possessions carried by a traveler in the bush.

‘A Swagman’ was someone who carried a swag and traveled vast distances in search of work.

By the Gold Rush of the 1870s-1900s, ‘humping one’s swag’ was a widespread term used to mean carrying your essential gear in search of gold.


Movie Review: The Devil’s Advocate

‘The Devil’s Advocate’ is a 1997 thriller about a lawyer who unwittingly sells his soul to the Devil for vanity, success and oodles of cash.


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Director, Taylor Hackford had directed a handful of movies before this one including ‘An Officer and a Gentleman’.


Keanu Reeves plays Florida lawyer, Kevin Lomax, who hits the big time when he’s offered a job in New York City.



With a flawless record of winning cases Lomax is naive, youthful and cocky.


Little does he know that his new boss, John Milton, is the Devil, played splendidly by Pacino with charisma, a sleazy smile and a smug little cackle.


Milton is always out to have a good time, which quickly begins to take it’s toll on Lomax and his marriage.


The film follows Lomax’s descent as his insatiable appetite unravels his beautiful life – and beautiful wife.


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Charlize Theron plays Lomax’s wife, who just can’t seem to settle in once they move to New York City.


A modern lesson in selling out, ‘The Devil’s Advocate’ is a classic, creepy thriller which Pacino fans will especially enjoy.


With Remembrance Day poppies still fresh from Wednesday’s ceremonies, I am reminded of my father and the many sacrifices he made in honour of his country.







An Australian Army Reservist, he really was the very epitome of the Australian cultural value of ‘mateship’. Popular, fair, hard working, friendly, a family man – my Dad was liked and respected by all who knew him.

As a young child I knew when he’d been to army camp, because it was the only times I ever saw him unshaven – and he would return home with army-rationed tubes of condensed milk for us delighted kids.


Typical Australian army beverage rations include teabags, instant coffee, sugar, condensed milk (in the tube), and flavoured beverage base powder.


He had a deep commitment to the Army Reserves his whole life, and was one of the first officers to implement a no-alcohol policy at larger events so that families could attend with their young children.

One of the most poignant moments at his funeral was spotting his old slouch hat sitting up at the front while his fellow comrades paid respects.



ANZACs were originally Australian and New Zealand soldiers who fought at Gallipoli in WWI, but has come to include soldiers since that time. Australian’s do celebrate Remembrance Day, but ANZAC Day is considered one of Australia’s most solemn national holidays and is celebrated on April 25th each year.

So it this Remembrance Day that I recognize the incredible sacrifice of our military veterans – and indeed all those who commit themselves to standing up for what they believe. Thank you.



Canadian slang: Six ways to Sunday

Although I hear ‘Six ways to Sunday’ most commonly in Canada, there’s no doubt that this one is widespread throughout the western world.




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Meaning: ‘Six Ways to Sunday’ means to do something thoroughly or a lot – literally for the other six days after Sunday. It’s sometimes also referred to as  ‘Six ways from Sunday’ or ‘Six ways till Sunday’.



‘Six Ways to Sunday’ was also a 1997 film starring Deborah Harry.


How to use it: This is a colloquialism that relies heavily on context. The day of the week and ‘ways’ are the common factors  – with the number and preposition being changeable. It can be used anywhere you would say that you would do something a lot, or have a number of different approaches you can take to the same task at hand.

Examples: “You can fight it ‘Six ways to Sunday’ but there’s only one solution”, “That comment just knocked me Six ways from Sunday”



I love Radiohead Six ways to Sunday!


Origins: The origin of this expression is unclear and often falsely linked to the punishments that were meted out on the six days following a Sunday to a person who failed to attend church.



Sunday was presumably chosen because it was the most significant day of the week.


The main problem with this particular origin is that the expression has appeared in so many forms through the years. Although it is most commonly known as Six ways to Sunday, it has also been four ways, forty ways and a thousand ways to Sunday.

It dates back to a British origin in the late 1700s, with a jump into American vernacular by the early 1800s.

Movie Review: Spectre

‘Spectre’ is the latest Bond 007 film, and Daniel Craig’s official last film as the suave British spy.



This is Director, Sam Mendes’, second Bond film. After a particularly gruelling and arduous production schedule he has already confirmed that he will not be back to direct a third.


Although the movie is visually spectacular with some incredible locations in Mexico, Rome, London, and Austria – it packs less emotional punch than the previous two.


Yes, this is a real place! With an altitude of 3,000m, it’s the Ice Q restaurant – located in the world famous ski area of Solden, Austria.



The movie’s Palazzo Cadenza in Rome is actually Britain’s Blenheim Palace: a monumental country house in Oxfordshire.



The stunts are bigger and better than ever – with a number of helicopters & planes. And a good old-fashioned car chase to round things out.



Lea Seydoux is stunning in the film as the main Bond girl: the camera simply loves her. She gives a great performance and even a couple of surprises.



Christoph Waltz makes a great baddie – the polite ones are so much scarier.


Despite it’s outstanding stunts, beautiful women, nasty baddies and cool toys, this film feels a little more formulaic than Craig’s other two, and I can’t help but wonder if Craig is simply ready to move on.



When asked recently if he would consider doing a fourth film, Craig had this to say: “Now? I’d rather … slash my wrists,” he replied. “No, not at the moment. Not at all. That’s fine. I’m over it at the moment. We’re done. All I want to do is move on.”



Let’s face it, it might not be the best Bond film ever made, but the movie ticket is worth the price alone just to listen to the sweet purrs of this Aston Martin DB10.


Running the world at 44!

Whatever your political beliefs, one of the cool things about the new Canadian Prime Minister is that we are the same age (well almost – I’m six months older).



Justin Trudeau is the son of Pierre Trudeau, who was Canada’s Prime Minister from 1968-1979, and then again 1980-1984. Pierre was a polarizing, charismatic leader who passed away in 2000.


I try to put myself in his shoes and imagine myself – at 44 years old – running a country.

For a start, that’s far greater fame than what I would ever be comfortable with!


‘If you come to fame not understanding who you are, it will define who you are’ – Oprah Winfrey


To have achieved such an incredible career pinnacle at such a young age is a powerful testament to his focus and determination.

With significant changes already taking place such as gender parity in the cabinet (the 15 men and 15 women have already been announced), Trudeau is already making history and I look forward to great things from him.



Crowds waiting in the morning chill on the grounds of Rideau Hall for the swearing in ceremony that took place on Wednesday. It was the first time the Canadian public have been invited.


With a young family to raise and an engaging social media presence, part of Trudeau’s appeal is that he comes across a ‘regular guy’. Photos of their Star Wars Halloween costumes went viral (Trudeau is dressed as Hans Solo – that’s gotta be a good thing!).



Aussie slang: dob

In Australia, to ‘Dob’ on someone is a serious social taboo because it runs counter to the strong anti-authoritarian streak in the Aussie psyche.


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Meaning: ‘ To Dob on’ someone – or ‘dobbing’ – as it is commonly used, means to inform on someone. The notion of incriminating your mates – or anybody else for that matter, is considered profoundly un-Australian and contradicts some of the most revered Aussie values of mateship and giving someone a fair chance.

There’s also the double whammy of dobbing to an authority, which adds to the social taboo.


Cindy Brady was famous for her dobbing!


How to use it: ‘To Dob’ is a verb – with the act of informing on someone called ‘dobbing’. Someone who is in the habit of dobbing is called a dobber: which is a harsh insult and not to be taken lightly!

Examples: ‘Did you dob on him?’, ‘I don’t trust that girl, she’s a dobber’, ‘I think you’ve been dobbing’



‘Dobbing the ball’ is also an Aussie rules expression


Plus Plus: It should be noted that context should be considered as occasionally ‘Dob in’ is used to mean pitched in.


Steve Spowart became a local hero after he jumped on his surfboard to save stranded horses from rising floodwaters in Dungog.

Steve Spowart became a local hero after he jumped on his surfboard to save stranded horses from rising floodwaters in Dungog.


Origin: As with much of the Aussie vernacular, this is a late-19th Century word which ties in to the British usage – which means to throw something down clumsily.

There is an implication from the original meaning to throw something at a target – which has evolved into the sense of informing on someone and therefore ‘throwing something’ at them.


These two look ready to dob on each other!

These two look ready to dob on each other!


Movie Review: The Dead Lands

‘The Dead Lands’ is a 2014 Māori fantasy-adventure film with an intense parable-like story about two warring tribes.



Although Director, Toa Fraser doesn’t speak Te Reo (the Māori language), the entire film is spoken in Te Reo with English subtitles.


Featuring an outstanding ensemble cast, James Rolleston, Lawrence Makoare and Te Kohe Tuhaka in the lead roles are especially superb.


James Rolleston (‘Boy’, ‘The Dark Horse’) begins the film as a timid, dutiful boy who grows into his warriordom as he seeks vengeance on his tribe’s extermination.



Lawrence Makoare is both terrifying and fierce as a blood-thirsty cannibalistic monster: from start to finish, Makoare never lets up and contributes to much of the film’s intensity.


Te Kohe Tuhaka sets the belligerent, aggressive tone of his character Wirepa, early on in the film, by inciting war with his neighboring iwi (tribe).


With strong themes of utu (revenge), mana (respect), dis/honour for the tipuna (ancestors), and personal steadfastness (manawanui) – the film is particularly violent – with a lot of hand-to-hand combat.


No-one in this pre-colonisation movie is out of shape – thanks in part to the six weeks of boot camp that all of the actors undertook before filming began.


If you enjoy hard-hitting warrior action films or have a particular affiliation with the Māori (as I do), you’ll particularly enjoy this film. Be warned that there is a high level of gore and violence (not surprising given the subject matter).

Available on US Netflix, you can check out the official trailer by clicking on the link below.