Australia - Seeing Beyond the Cities.

The more opportunity I have to travel through rural parts of Australia the more I wonder why many of us are attracted to the cities. Even more so I contemplate people who spend their whole lives city living and think perhaps they are just a little bit crazy.

Why do many of us settle for the convenience and comfort of city life over adventure and the open road?

Being born in Whyalla, South Australia (the second largest SA town outside of Adelaide I believe), I'm not really a 'country' person but neither am I a fully fledged city dweller either. I've lived most of my life in the 'burbs' (suburbs that is).

However, when I get into the wide open spaces of the Australian country side, where you can see for miles across the landscape, it speaks to me of travel and seeing what's beyond that next hill. Even if you're just looking across farming country, with field after field, separated by a line of trees or a road here and there.

Being able to see that much sky overhead is inspiring to me.

Although I'm not inspired to paint Australian landscapes I can see why many artists are. Somehow, no matter how good the photographer, nothing shows the depth and vastness of the Australian landscape quite like a well executed painting.

I've traveled past many tall grassy covered hills and wondered what the view from the top might be like if only I could walk up there and see?

Some day I hope to find out.

Nissan Vanette - The Frog Van

A few months back I wrote about everything I know about cars in which I can be found lying under my partner's son's recently acquired 'Frog' van (so named due to its lovely green colour).

Since then the son has upgraded to a better class of vehicle and the Frog van is now my pride and joy (well it's mine anyway and it's more of a 'project' than a 'pride and joy')

Long time readers of this blog will know I was the proud owner of a 1971 Chrysler Galant. 'Was' being the operative word. Whilst I really loved that car a van is actually more suited to my needs. I'm definitely function over fashion when it comes to cars.

With a little bit of 'mist' in the eye I sold the Galant - for a very nice profit I might add. Enough to recoup the money spent on purchasing the Galant and getting the Frog van back on the road. As well I bought a much needed set of retread tyres and some nice wheel trims (or 'hub caps' if you prefer) too.

The van is a 'project' because I hope to do the thing up and turn it into a basic camper van that can still be used as a load carrying vehicle if need be. Hence anything I add into the back in the way of tables, beds etc. MUST be able to fold up out of the way as much as possible.

As a small move in that direction I've added a padded seat to the top of the metal tool box that is currently fixed permanently inside the van. It's just the right height to sit on and will be ideal when partnered with a planned fold out table.

Long term I'll be installing power points for recharging my laptop which will eventually have 'mobile' Internet. When that happens I truly will be able to work from anywhere. Well anywhere that has mobile Internet coverage anyway. A step closer to my dream of becoming my name sake, The Extraordinary Tourist.

In the mean time I'm learning more about cars. After the van became mine I discovered it didn't like traveling up steep hills. Seriously it was like 'the little engine that could', "I think I can, I think I can..."

I thought it might have been an issue with a dud spark plug but I was talking to my partner's brother one day (who knows more about cars than I) and he mentioned it might be a fuel pump issue.

At the time I was sceptical because I knew the carburetor wasn't having any trouble filling with petrol but my spark plug theory turned out to be a dud so I moved on to the fuel pump suggestion.

Turned out a vacuum hose attached to the fuel pump had split at each end breaking the seal. I replaced it and the van hasn't had any problem going up steep hills since. I would never have thought to even look at the fuel pump - left to my own devices.

For the most part the van now runs fine however starting it for the first time on any given day can be a bit hard. It turns over confidently but struggles to fire. I'm thinking an oil change may help since I've been told the oil wasn't changed even when the cylinder head was pulled out and fixed. Who knows how long that oil's been in there since, prior to that, the van had been sitting in some one's garage/driveway for ages.

It still also runs on every now and then when you turn off the key. Again an oil change might help. I don't know really but it couldn't hurt.

If you know anything about four cylinder carburetor engines and the symptoms sound familiar to you feel free to share what you know in the comments. I'd appreciate the help.

Can KFC Help You With Anything Else Today?

My partner ordered a dine in meal at our local KFC restaurant. The girl behind the counter asked numerous questions like "What drinks would you like?", "Would you like to up size your order?" and of course, "Dine in or take-away?". Finally she totaled everything up, my partner paid for the meal, then the girl behind the counter asked...

"Is there anything else I can help you with today?"

It was one of those double take moments, like it kind of makes sense but doesn't.

"Sure, I'm struggling with my taxes can you help me out?"

I didn't say that but it was the first thing that came to mind as an observer of this transaction.

I'm sure the question is meant to be some kind of up-sell. Perhaps they'll catch you off guard and you'll place a second order that you didn't know you needed until just now?

Seriously though, once you've placed your order and paid for it, just what else can the girl at KFC actually do to help?

"Is there anything else I can help you with today?"

"Yes, there's someone sitting in your restaurant where I want to sit. Can you tell them to move please? Oh...and while you're at it, can you create world peace and end human suffering?"

Well you never know if you don't ask.

Nicole Kidman Avoids Her Films

Listening to an interview with Nicole Kidman on the radio the other day, Nicole mentioned that she doesn't watch her own movies and even tries to avoid watching them.

I've heard this from so many actors when interviewed. They don't like to watch themselves in their own movies. I presume it may be because they look at their performance in a self critical manner that may negatively affect their future performances.

There are two points I'd like to make about this.

Firstly, on some level, isn't not watching your own movies an insult to the director, editor, special effects crew, musicians, musical director and everyone else who came to work on the movie after the actors have finished shooting?

Many of these people have probably seen the actors performance over and over again, to the point where it becomes slightly monotonous, as they fine tune the work they're doing to the footage shot. Yet the actor isn't actually interested in seeing how everyones hard work came together - not even once through?

Nicole said she'd watched both movies she'd made with Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge! and Austalia) because it was Baz (who is a friend I guess) but she's worked with equally good if not better directors. Yet in the interview she admitted to only ever watching the films she's made with Baz all the way through?

The average movie is anywhere from 90 minutes to three hours. Would it really kill any actor to watch their film once just to see how everyone elses work enhanced their performance?

Okay, so enough of the rant. My second point is, imagine if other professionals subscribed to the idea of not viewing their final work due to negative self criticism.

Imagine a pastry chef doing all the preparation on their fabulously tasting pies but not wanting to see the final product come out of the oven or even taste them.

"No, I try to avoid looking at my pies once they're cooked."

"Why's that?"

"Well I just know I'm going to look at them and think how I could've made them better, you know, I just see all the flaws."

Or what about your plumber, coming in to fix a leaky tap...

"There you go all fixed."

"How do you know, you haven't tried it?"

"Well, okay I'm pretty sure it's fixed but if I turn the tap on I'm just going to think of how I could've fixed it better."

"Why didn't you just fix it better the first time?"

"Ummm... because that was the best I could do at the time but if I look at it again... well you know... hind sight..."

It's all a bit silly really.

What I don't understand is that an actress of Nicole Kidman's stature can pick and choose the films she works on. Presumably she chooses films because she likes the script and thinks her part is a good role to play. One assumes she doesn't expect the director to make her look bad or that the film will be an embarrassment to her name. Yet she still isn't interested in the finished product?

How then can anyone believe her, whenever she is promoting one of her own films, that the film is good? She doesn't know. She hasn't seen it.

It's like a pastry chef selling pies that he hasn't tasted. They're probably good but there's no point in asking the chef.

Can Batman's Robin Find His Cool?

Robin is arguably the most famous superhero side kick of them all. Introduced into Batman's world in April 1940 (DC Comics No#38, see image below), almost a full year after the very first Batman story was published. In general Batman fans are divided about Robin. There are those who like the character and there are those who feel Batman is better when he works alone.

Rumors have been around for a while now that a pilot episode for a TV show based on Robin's early years (pre-Batman) was in the works. To be called The Graysons the show, by television network CW, is seen as a possible predecessor to Smallville, the long running TV series about the young, pre-Superman, Clark Kent.

However, according to E! Online, the show has been canned due to the concept not being in line with Warner Brothers current Batman strategy. Whatever the reason I have to say I'm a little happy about that.

The idea that most of the major Superman characters seem to have either lived in or passed through Smallville in Clark's formative years has never worked for me in the Smallville series. Particularly the ongoing relationship between Clark and Lex Luthor (it's too big a stretch for me to think Superman's arch nemisis lived in the same 'no where' town as a kid). No doubt Dick Grayson's early years may have gone the same way, perhaps with a young Joker, Catwoman or The Riddler. No thanks.

That aside I'm a big fan of Robin and I want to see him back on film.

Unfortunately when most of the main stream think of Robin on film they think of Burt Ward's Robin (See image below) in the highly successful 1960's TV series. Why? Because think of all the Batman catch phrases you know and chances are it's actually something you thought Burt would've said as Robin, "Holy TV show, Batman!" - no he never said that but here's some 'Holys' he did say:

Holy demolition, Batman! - Robin

Holy heart failure, Batman! - Robin

Holy Long John Silver, Batman! - Robin

Holy Captain Nemo, Batman! - Robin

Holy costume party, Batman! - Robin

Holy bill of rights, Batman! - Robin

Holy haberdashery, Batman! - Robin

Holy atomic pile, Batman! - Robin

Holy priceless collection of Etruscan snoods! - Robin

You get the picture. Unfortunately Burt's Robin is cool when you're nine years old but, for anyone who's seen the 1960's TV series as an adult... not really so cool as you remember him.

Robin has been very cool for quite some time inside the DC comics world (see image right). Even when wearing that yellow, red and green suit of his - which makes no sense against Batman's Grey and Blue, or Grey and Black in the comics. Most people who hide in the shadows don't wear bright yellow capes.

Clearly it's not the suit that stops Robin from being 'cool'. Take a look at Chris O'Donnell's Robin in the two Joel Schumacher Films (see image below), Batman Forever and Batman and Robin. One could argue that you don't really think of Chris' Robin before Burt because these two films were so bad that you've erased them from your memory in the hope that you could believe they were never made.

For those of us that do remember (the films had their good points), the Robin suit in both these films was actually pretty awesome (with exception to the nipples on the suit fiasco). However Chris played Robin as a jealous, whiney, arogant, self centred pratt. All pretty spot on for a teenage character but not really 'cool'. Mostly you just wanted to punch him in the face and wish Joel had done a Christopher Nolan who has said he's not interested in bringing Robin into his version of Batman.

I've said several times in previous posts that the best on film Robin I've seen is Johnny Duncan's version in the 1949 cinema serial, Batman and Robin. The way he plays the character is very 'James Dean' cool and he has to contend with, not only the not so cool looking Robin suit but an equally dodgy looking Batman suit (seriously, you can't half tell that Robert Lowery, as Batman, often can't see where he's going).

So can Robin find his 'cool' on film again? I mean the character has earned it. Especially since, in the comics, there has been at least three Robin's to Bruce Wayne's Batman.

If Robin isn't likely to appear in Christopher Nolan's Batman world any time soon then I think a Robin TV series is a great idea. Just not a Robin 'origin' story. We don't need another Smallville. Plus if they had done The Graysons, as pitched, people would be forever comparing it to Smallville, which, despite my misgivings about the show, is none too bad story wise. A lot of pressure for a Robin TV series to live up to.

A more interesting Robin TV series would be one that focuses on Dick Grayson's transformation into Nightwing (see image right). If you're like me and you haven't read Batman Comics in years you may know that the first Robin, Dick Grayson, eventually graduates from being Batman's side kick to being a Superhero in his own right, Nightwing, but that's all you know about him.

A TV show focusing on this period could have everything that we love about the Batman universe. Not only could Robin be reworked into an edgier, cooler character (like Nolan did with Batman), but also you could have episodes that feature Batman, Joker, Catwoman etc. etc. In this time period where Robin becomes Nightwing all the familiar characters of Gotham City and beyond are fully realised as we know them.

There's no need for a Robin 'origin' story which, like Smallville, ultimately becomes limited as the main character gets closer to the Robin that we know. However a Nightwing story need not stop when Robin becomes Nightwing. Like Batman, the Nightwing story is open ended and filled with possibilities.

Not only that but Robin can still feature in Nightwing stories given that two other characters in the comics, Jason Todd and Tim Drake, have both donned the Robin suit as the 'new' Robin. Who better to bitch about Batman to than the original Robin, right?

The success of Christopher Nolan's Batman films and his statement that Robin isn't likely to appear in that world means that we're not going to see Robin on film any time soon. It's not looking like he'll turn up in the on again, off again Justice League movie either.

Robin's Nightwing story is a classic 'coming of age' story line. You may not think Robin is particularly cool but personally I think he is the key to a new Batman TV series.

By focussing on Robin there's less pressure to live up to what Chris has done with Batman. However the show could build on Chris's ground work with stories clearly targeted at the same adult audience who enjoy a good intelligent crime drama in a hightened reality.

Robin can find his cool because Batman does need him, even if Batman himself sometimes thinks otherwise. Batman and Robin are a team. Robin can get Batman back on TV sooner than Batman can because no one is going to pitch a Batman TV series. The fact that CW pitched a Robin TV pilot shows that some industry people think Robin is a viable option.

In a world that's been saturated with Batman, Nightwing is a way to come in to TV from the side. It's not more Batman, it's Robin and there are many of us that think Robin is cool.

Dreaming of an Electrocuted Pelican

At the side of a major road in my home town, I'm sitting with a group of friends chatting. Taking a moment to look up into the overcast sky I notice a lone pelican gracefully gliding at a fairly low altitude.

Portrait of a White Pelican
My eyes track its path when suddenly it flies through some power lines. The bird is large enough to connect the wires, its beak rests on one cable whilst its wings and body touch another. There are sparks and flashes and the bird shakes from the voltage coursing through its body. Electrocution.

The Pelican is stuck for only a moment then it manages to break free. Flying to one of the wires it lands and holds its perch. My friends and I all watch, amazed that the bird seems okay. We are about to return to our conversation when the pelican drops to the ground. Landing in a turn right feeder lane, safe from the immediate flow of traffic.

It's still alive but lying on its back. Stunned perhaps?

"Who wants to save a pelican?" I comment to my friends. One of them leaps up heading for the road and the rest of us follow to retrieve the bird and hopefully bring it to safety and help.

--o 0 o--


I'm not someone who remembers their dreams very often but when I do it's usually one of those dreams you have in a lucid moment of sleep. Such as early in the morning when something has half woken you up and you just kind of drift back to sleep, unaware that you're sleeping. This makes the dream seem like reality until you wake up and realize it was all just a dream.

This morning I was dreaming about an electrocuted pelican. There was more to the dream than described above. For example I knew exactly who my friends in the dream were but once I woke up their identities became a mystery that I can't recall.

The main road we were near is the main road just up from my home. We were just opposite a new development along that road where there is a right turn feeder lane into a service station. However there are no power lines directly above the feeder lane and there are no power lines as high or as modern as those in my dream.

I'm not much into dream analysis. I know my dreams are often filled with symbols but I rarely take the time to think about what they mean. The pelican dream was just an unusual dream that I thought I'd share. I'll leave it up to those of you that study dreams to suggest what it may mean.

The Dukes of Hazard Movie - My Thoughts

The Dukes of Hazard is a movie that I wanted to see when it was released in 2005 but didn't because, well, I just didn't get around to it.

Not only that but when I heard Johnny Knoxville and Jessica Simpson were in it my expectations were immediately lowered to "it's probably not going to be what I hoped it could be." Which is why I've never been pro-active about hiring the movie on DVD.

Last night I saw it was being shown on free to air TV. I happened to have the time to watch, so I did. To sum up my experience... I didn't get fired up by the movie until I watched the 'bloopers' in the end credits.

The Dukes of Hazard signature is the car. The General Lee flying through the air in some flat out impossible jumps. We know they're impossible jumps but they're just so cool you kind of want to believe the General Lee can do them. The point is, in the TV series, you never (or rarely) saw the General Lee not land safely and undamaged.

Thus, seeing the General Lee crash all over the place in the movies blooper reel, is spectacularly exciting. Finally you get to see what would really happen to the car, jumping that high and just how hard it is, even for a stunt driver, to maintain control.

The other positive I can say about this movie is that they did take the opportunity to really step up the driving sequences beyond what the TV series could. Seeing the General Lee 'drifting' around a city round-a-bout is something we've never seen the car do on TV.

It's all down hill from there. I'm not only glad I didn't pay money to see this in the cinema I'm also glad I didn't hire the DVD (although I'm sure, if the DVD has more 'bloopers' on it of the General Lee it would be worth it).

After watching the movie I got caught up reading the movies forum on the Internet Movie Data Base (researching for this blog article), specifically the thread Why do you hate this movie? Let's settle this once and for all.

The thread was started by AutumnRed who is a big fan of this movie and the TV series and, to those who have expressed a view of hate, he will defend this movie to the death.

I've read through the whole thread and people have hated this movie for reasons like, miscasting, bad acting, weak plot, crude humor, dumbed down for today's audiences, devalues the TV show, isn't true to the TV show, lower moral standards of the Dukes, the list goes on.

AutumnRed defends the movie by saying it is a parody of the TV series and/or a re-imagining of the TV series. It's a stand alone movie that shouldn't be compared to the TV series. All very true points though I don't believe it's a parody of the TV series. The closest it ever gets to parody is the city folk's reaction to a car with a Confederate flag painted on the roof (in this day and age). Beyond that it's more a re-imagining based on the source material.

Personally I didn't expect this film to be like the TV series. In fact I'd be disappointed if it was. Part of what makes a movie version of a TV series exciting is seeing how it is adapted, updated, re-imagined for the big screen.

When this movie starts you see a very old, beat up General Lee, with no Confederate flag on the roof, being chased through the back roads of Hazard County. In the TV Series the General Lee rarely looked anything less than having just been driven off the showroom floor so I immediately thought, maybe this movie has some potential.

After all this is a car owned by struggling farmers running an illegal moonshine business on the side. It's driven like it's forever competing in a perpetual rally race. It should look a little worn and beaten.

At the end of this chase scene we get to the phone book incident. For me that speaks volumes about why this film is widely hated by fans of the TV show. The Duke boys hitting each other, painfully in the face, with phone books to resolve a bet. It would never happen.

The movie introduces a kind of 'meanness' into the relationship between Bo and Luke Duke that really plays on the likability and charisma that these two characters had in the TV show. For all their failings as small time outlaws you can forgive them because they were so much fun to be around and just so likable.

Bo and Luke are cousins who spend so much time together because they enjoy each others company. They're the kind of friends that look out for each other. Competitive - yes but in a good way rather than a self destructive way.

Personally I don't want to hang around with fools who find humor in seeing their friends hurt or who do things like sleep with a girl I have a crush on behind my back. Hence this was a major hurdle to my enjoyment of the film. I didn't like this version of Bo and Luke. Even though they do look out for each other, there's an under current to the relationship that is like biting through a worm in a juicy looking apple. It's just off.

You can see this meanness in the scene where Bo drags Luke along behind Cooter's tow truck, as Luke is trying to open Boss Hog's safe which they've attached to the tow truck's hook. Bo clearly knows Luke wants him to stop but Bo says to himself "Sorry Cous' but you'd do the same to me." It's a scene that could have been far funnier if Bo wasn't aware of Luke's actual predicament. Instead, not only is he aware, but he's calculating and unnecessarily prolonging Luke's perilous situation.

I could go on and make all the comparisons about this movie to the TV show and how the shift in all of the interpretations of each character is a step backwards rather than forwards. The thing is, as AutumnRed points out, this is not the TV show.

When I finally saw this film I wasn't as disappointed with either Johnny Knoxville or Jessica Simpson as I expected to be. Johnny and Seann William Scott, as Bo, actually worked pretty well together. Jessica wasn't terrible either though stripping her down to a bikini was kind of unnecessary (I'm not complaining but seriously, Enos would've told Daisy anything if she so much as hinted he had even a remote chance with her).

When a TV show is brought to the big screen you kind of hope it will exceed your expectations and be a shining light for keeping the memory of a great show alive. Not only that but it may even be well enough received for a sequel (or better yet be the start of a great franchise or give rise to a new TV series).

As it goes, the best Dukes of Hazard fans can hope for is that people protested loudly enough about this film to hope another director will take up the challenge and show us how it should have been done.

I don't want the TV series in a big screen version of Dukes of Hazard. However when I think of movie adaptations of a TV series my mind goes back to The Adams Family (1964). The TV series was funny, charming and well written. The two big screen adaptations, The Adams Family (1991) and Adams Family Values (1993), enhanced what was good about the TV show and built upon it further.

The producers of The Dukes of Hazard movie thought it was just the car that made the series good but it wasn't just the car. The relationships between all the characters were important too. Somehow in this movie they weakened all the relationships to the point where no one was really that likable. Least of all the leads.

No matter how the series is adapted to the big screen the most important factor is that it be a 'buddy' movie. It's about two cousins that would die for each other if it came to that. They're fun to be around and they both can drive a car better than anyone. They're not perfect role models but you want to be just like them anyway.

I didn't want to be like either Bo of Luke in this version of the Dukes. In fact I'm glad I only knew them briefly because they're not people I'd want to hang with at all.

If you liked this movie then you're either very forgiving or it's your style of humor. For me, I kind of hoped for a more intelligent movie. The Dukes may be country folk but they were never simpletons (not even Daisy).

Most country folks I've met are very smart people. I know the Dukes aren't a family of brain surgeons but they are very resourceful and spent much of their time staying ahead of the law. You have to have some intelligence to do that.

John McCain: Serial Musician Offender

What is going on with John McCain and his Presidential campaign music selection? For someone who is in the running for, arguably, one of the world's most powerful jobs you'd think he'd have someone who could contact a musician or two and ask, "Can we use your song?"

In what seems to be a growing list of disgruntled musical acts John McCain has managed to get the backs up of The Foo Fighters (My Hero), Survivor (Eye of the Tiger), Van Halen (Right Now), John Mellancamp (Pink Houses and Our Country), Jackson Brown (Running on Empty) and, if you add running mate Sarah Palin to the list, Heart (Barracuda) and Bon Jovi (Who Says You Can't Go Home).

Come on John! You're supposed to be a man with influential connections. If you can't even connect with a musician's agent to see how their client feels about you using their song then what hope can anyone have in you when it comes to your foreign policy and extending U.S. Goodwill beyond the border?

I've read comments that Barack Obama has also used songs without the artist's permission in his campaign but this doesn't get reported. I don't know if this is true (and my casual Google search for Barack Obama Campaign Music didn't find any such reports on the first and second page) but for argument's sake let's say it is. It's highly unlikely that any musician would be unaware of their song being used in Barack's campaign (you'd have to be living under a rock not to know).

If permission hadn't been granted for the use of the song and the artist was supportive of the campaign then they're probably just going to have a quiet word to Obama's people ("Ahem... license and royalties please" or "Might want to ask next time but sure use my song if it helps").

Should the artist be against Obama's policies and campaign I'm sure you'd be seeing the reports, loud and proud. There are plenty of Republican sympathetic media outlets that would only be too happy to report the story (cough...Fox News...cough!).

The fact that John McCain's campaign has hit troubled waters with song choice more than once suggests that it isn't common practice for Presidential candidates to ask permission for the use of a song. If this is the case, with a growing list of musical protesters, what does that say about John McCain and his policies?

Everything I Know About Cars

This week I spent a couple of afternoons underneath a green 'frog' van (see photo) that my partner's brother got given and offered to my partner for her son to drive until he can afford something better.

The van its self is a 1989, Nissan, Vanette, ex-delivery vehicle. It had blown a head gasket and the owner didn't want the hassle of making the repair which, if done professionally, would have cost more than the van was worth.

My partner's brother and his backyard mechanic mate kindly offered to do the repairs which turned out to be a little more serious with the cylinder head having blown as well.

Now if you're not really an engine kind of person you're probably starting to scratch your head at words like 'gasket' and 'cylinder head'.

I'm not really an engine person either however I do know the 'broad strokes' of engine components and how they work. I learned most of what I know during my childhood years. Endlessly studying diagrams showing how various car components work so I could try and build scale model versions from my sizable Lego Technic collection.

I'm still fascinated with that particular challenge and have a new, smaller Lego Technic collection that I tinker with from time to time. See the animated photo on the right of a simple two speed gearbox I recently made.

Sure the gearbox seems simple enough but trying to make things like this with only the pieces you have is quite a challenge. I don't have a very wide selection of gear wheels.

The rest of what I know about cars I learnt from watching and assisting other people fixing my first car or from my own stumblings around various car engines since.

I'm rubbish at trying to fix modern car engines with their fuel injection systems and computer controlled components but anything with a basic engine like those of cars built in the nineteen seventies I'm willing to have a go. That's how I ended up under the frog van. It has a basic four cylinder engine, nothing fancy.

Although the van had been fixed it developed a problematic leak in the cooling system that meant it would overheat if you tried to drive at any kind of decent speed. I volunteered to 'see what I could do'.

Any real mechanic could have probably fixed the problem in under thirty minutes. It turned out it was just the position of a hose clamp that wasn't properly sealing off the end of the hose. It was the location of that hose that was difficult. Right at the back of the engine. I couldn't get to it from above and from below it was quite awkward to reach.

It took me two afternoons to fix because, initially, I thought it was a blockage causing the pipe to leak. I couldn't see anything actually wrong with the pipe its self but it did have quite a severe kink that appeared like it could be enough to cause a blockage. However shortening the pipe and straightening it out made no difference.

Anyhow, to cut this long story short, this is how I learn about things. I'm not the kind of person who throws up their hands and says 'I don't know' until I've really had a good look and applied whatever experience I have already to the problem. I'll even have a look at something and see if I can learn how it works to try and fix it.

It doesn't work all the time but each time I succeed it gives me just a little bit more confidence in myself.

As far as I know the van is no longer overheating but it does make a wonderful backfire noise from time to time. I think I'll leave that problem for when the van goes in for a tune up and service.

Roary the Racing Car is Evil

Well okay maybe the lovable little red racing car, that has his own TV show, Roary the Racing Car, isn't evil but I do suspect he's into brain washing. Subliminally teaching everyone his life lessons.

How else do you explain a fully grown adult, namely me, waking up in the morning from a dream about Roary? Before your mind begins to wander, it's nothing even remotely perverse (or maybe it is, depending on how you look at things), my dream was simply playing out like a typical episode of Roary the Racing Car.

Perhaps we should back up a bit. In your best 'Big Chris' voice say "Come on Roary!"

This all starts because I do my daily work out routine watching Judge Judy. Exercise is as boring as hell (oh dear, coarse language) so I watch TV whilst I go through my routine. At 3pm the most intelligent show on the box is, you guessed it, Judge Judy.

Her show is only 30 minutes long and my routine is an hour so at 3:30pm I need something else to watch.

Channel flipping (keeping in mind I only have four channels available on my studio TV), Huey's Cooking Adventures just doesn't cut it for me. Sorry Huey, watching you cook is like dialing for pizza that never comes. The dialing isn't the best part of a pizza. Watching someone cook isn't the best part of eating food.

Hi5 is no good either. No matter how good those five teens look (if in fact they are teens?) they still make me want to stab my eyes out with a pencil!

Then there's some New Zealand, Time Travel, Sci-Fi series, Time Trackers, featuring obnoxious teens running everything. It's badly acted, with naff special effects and manages to make Hi5 look like top notch TV. (Maybe I'm being harsh? It's just that I like time travel as basis for a TV show but, from the ten minutes I tried to watch, the kids made me want to stab my eyes out with a pencil!).

This leaves Roary the Racing car followed by several other short format kids shows, such as Maisy, Curious George, Pepper Pig and The Mr Men Show. What is the world coming to when Roary is the most intelligent thing on TV?

The trouble with Roary is his show has a catchy theme tune. Not surprising when you consider this show is from the same studio that gave us Bob the Builder ...can we fix it! Roary's theme tune may well hit the under age dance floors yet. If it hasn't already. It's been stuck in my head ever since I woke up from this dream.

If you're into dream analysis then my dream had Roary looking for some flash, bent (or maybe hook like) gold key. He was racing about everywhere looking for it... I don't know much more than that so here's a burning question I have about the show...

What is the deal with the out of control racing action on almost every episode? All the cars drive like maniacs - even for race cars. Seriously. The only time I've ever seen a formula one style race car jump three to five feet in the air during a race was when it was crashing! For all the shows moral preaching and life lessons what is it teaching the kids about driving?

"Come on Roary! Faster son and don't slow down for the bends!"

That's enough from me. Hopefully all this blogging about Roary will have exorcised him from my head. I think he is evil. If only just a little.

U.S. Economic Crisis - Someone Who Gets It

Sorry to harp on about the U.S. Economic Crisis (which is apparently a 'World Crisis' with the English and German markets taking a dive - I think - who cares really?) but I happened to be skimming through my Mashable feed and came across this article by Mark 'Rizzn' Hopkins, How Technology Can Help Alleviate Economic Fears.

Mark is one person who understands difficult economic times from the point of view of the 'common man' (or 'common woman' in his more feminine moments so I can be a bit PC) and realises that Stock Market fluctuations mean very little in the big scheme of things to the little people. Which is not to say it doesn't affect us.

As I pointed out in my recent post, The U.S. Economic Crisis - Bring It On, in times of crisis us little people make the best with what we have to work with. We don't fall in a heap hoping that Mom (or the Government) will come and make it all go away (How's that buy out working for you? Crisis over - NOT).

Mark's article is well worth a read as he demonstrates through personal experience this very principle and even highlights the point that with crisis comes opportunity. He concludes with this paragraph that speaks volumes about how real people survive:
No, what this is instead is me saying you, the reader, exercise your capability in the face of economic adversity (no matter what form it ends up taking) to survive this and perhaps even prosper. It’s less important for those of us in sectors outside investment banking to pay minute attention to every movement of the stock market than it is stay nimble, practical, resourceful and to keep an eye out for opportunity. Is that, after all, not the goal of all the great tools and services we talk about daily on these pages?

You have the ability and the resources. It will be OK.
I have to thank Mark for the photograph with this article as it's one of several images that appear with his piece. It kind of sums up my point of view in terms of all the real stock market players who are blowing this so called crisis all out of proportion.

If it's really so bad then JUMP. The rest of us will get on with the economic crisis we live through every day. I'm not saying I'm poor by any means but I've learnt how to make the best of what I have. Don't expect me to feel sympathy for you just because you may have sell your million dollar view for 1% of what it was worth when you bought it. That's what you do if that's what it takes to make ends meet.

Losing an Hour of Time

This morning I feel like I've lost an hour of my life. Is this how alien abductees feel when they say they're missing time that they can't account for?

Apparently everyone in the state of South Australia is also feeling the same way. This smells of Government Conspiracy!

Some time last night, I'm told, around 2am the clocks never made it to 2:01am. In no time at all it was 3am and I have no idea what happened between two and three? I hope I had fun though, since I was sleeping, anything could have happened.

Did we all just move our clocks forward for daylight saving or were we collectively abducted for an hour of lost time? Think about it. Few people are actually awake at the official time of 2am - when the clocks were moved forward. There has to be a reason they want us sleeping?

Why not move the clocks forward at 8pm so all the little kids could stay up late and see what 9pm looks like?

When we set the clocks back an hour, is that the hour that we lost? Is everything we do in that 'repeat' hour what we were doing in the hour we lost? So many questions. Maybe there should be an official, independent inquiry?

Conspiracy and the U.S. Government

Lately I've taken to listening to the Michael Groff show in the mornings (whilst I wash the dishes) because his show is intelligent commentary on issues mixed with humorous satire.

Whilst he claims to call U.S. Politics like he sees it, he does have Republican leanings in the same way I would have Democratic leanings (if I were a U.S. citizen). By that I mean we both can be cynical about all sides of politics but at the end of the day, if we had to vote, I think Mike leans more towards the conservatives. It's just a sense I get about him and his show.

Yesterday Mike made an interesting observation about conspiracy theorists. You know those people that think the U.S. Government can control the weather or that 9/11 was an inside job etc.

To sum up his point he observed that George Bush is widely regarded as the dumbest U.S. president to date. Yet conspiracy theorists credit his administration with all kinds of complex, highly planned, covert operations intended to deceive the American public. Good point but not good enough to debunk all the conspiracies.

Sure George Bush maybe the weakest link in his government but he's not the Unabomber (FBI sketch pictured). He isn't planning all this stuff by himself from a log cabin deep in the woods (the one he's probably built in case the Wall Street bail out goes pear shaped). The President has a very capable team around him. Any of whom could be the real 'brains' of the Bush administration.

I'm not a conspiracy theorist but I do think 9/11, at least, has too many questions side stepped or just completely ignored by the official investigation to warrant many people's belief that something suspect is going on behind closed doors.

On the other side of the fence I noticed that Barack Obama, prior to the vote for the newly revised Wall Street bail out bill was trumpeting that he had contributed a lot of input into the new document.

Effectively he helped turn, what was initially a three page solution, into a one hundred page document that no elected member (in all likely hood) would ever read in its entirety. Let's hope it had a fantastic executive summary! I know Mike Groff hadn't read all the new bill by the time he commented upon it on his show. He admitted he was only scanning pages of it as he was broadcasting.

Yay, let's all vote for Barack Obama - the man who can turn a simple idea into something no one understands or has the time to read. I can feel the conspiracies beginning already with Barack proclaiming...

"It's all written in Bill. Didn't you read it? Page 4689. It clearly states we can control the weather if we want to!"

The U.S. Economic Crisis - Bring It On

I am well aware that if the U.S. Government doesn't act to bail out Wall Street that the U.S. Economic Crisis will eventually affect me financially too - even though I live in a smallish country town in South Australia. However I say the U.S. government shouldn't spend a single dime on Wall Street. Bring on the crisis!

This morning I was listening to the Michael Groff show on Internet radio and he was telling me why I should be very concerned about the U.S. Economic Crisis and the Wall Street crash.

He said that if the American People and congress didn't support the government bail out plan, there would be chaos. That you may as well take your family, retreat to a farm somewhere and protect what little you have with a gun - because that is how bad it will get. Then in the next sentence he said that he wasn't trying to be alarmist.

Despite that he personally didn't want the government to bail out wall street but because of the potential consequences it was the 'right' thing to do. Otherwise the fallout will affect you and I personally (he is correct on that) and he wasn't ready to go there (presumably to his little farm somewhere).

However when was the last time you heard world leaders and big business talk like, potentially, the best course of action would be to dig a bunker somewhere, stock up on food and don't come out until the coast is clear if you don't act now to protect yourself? Think about it...

That's right. The Millennium Bug. Remember how the whole world was going to fall apart. There would be chaos if we didn't act to protect ourselves now. Didn't upgrade our computers?

Did you cave to the pressure? Did you start digging your bunker? Are you still digging your bunker? Sounds like you're going to need it again doesn't it?

Let's back up a bit. I'll humor Mike on the 'chaos' outcome just for a moment. Let's say that is a possible outcome of the crisis. The world collapses into chaos.

People who have that view fail to recognise the human spirit. There might be a bit of chaos, here and there but ultimately people prefer order in their lives.

Whilst banks, big business, small business, and you and I head towards chaos you can bet we'll be doing everything we can to make the best of it. To maintain order and stability until things start to improve.

Like the oil crisis. You can't afford petrol, you walk, ride a bicycle or use public transport. You lose your job because you can't afford the petrol to drive to work, you look for a job closer to home. You don't start robbing gas stations to get petrol. You make the best of what you have. That's what people do.

Perhaps the U.S. government should save it's trillions of dollars for supporting well fare programs, food stamps etc. I'd support that because apparently you and I aren't going to able to get our pay cheques, according to Mike, if we let this crisis continue.

Big Business and the banks can get its money back through us, the little people, spending our meager welfare cheques. The people who live through economic crisis every day because those F**kers up there keep scheming more and more ways to keep us in debt and them living the life most of us can only ever dream about.

This is what credit does. It lets you and I, big corporations and banks spend more money than we actually have until you reach critical mass and go bankrupt (well, that is, if you can't find someone to bail you out).

Credit is a great idea, if you understand it and use it conservatively but unfortunately stupid people don't realise it's money they've yet to earn and may never actually have. It's betting on the future. Well this time it's the big players that have screwed up. They bet on the future and it wants its money now.

David R. Francis of CSMonitor on September 8, 2008 wrote an interesting article, US financial crisis spreads towards your wallet which clearly describes how you may be affected by quoting economic consultant, Gary Schilling:
Consumers account for more than 70 percent of all spending in the United States. Since many families have relatively little savings and are deep in debt through credit cards, car loans, home-equity loans, etc., he foresees a cutback in spending. This will lead to a deep recession next year, one that will spread beyond US borders.
Personally I say don't bail out Wall Street. Don't bail out banks. Don't bail out big business. Don't bail out small business. Don't even bail out you and I. We're all in this together.

If the big players are going to go down and we're going to let them then we shouldn't expect to be bailed out either. At least we shouldn't expect any more assistance than that which we currently have available. Come what may and make the best of it.

A government bail out is simply a band aid to delay the inevitable. I say bring on the inevitable now. Things may get tougher. Prices may go up. You may not be able to get a loan or even your pay cheque but eventually the big players will realise that if they're going to survive then they need to give us and them products we all can afford. Stop throwing us into debt.

This is a real chance to bring a lot of people back into reality. Don't worry about retreating to some shack in the woods with a gun because you won't be able to afford either (apparently). Stick around and ride it out.

The U.S. Economic Crisis is just a lot of whiny rich people applying pressure because they're not ready to give up their million dollar views for chaos, a shack in the woods and food stamps either.

Armie Hammer - New Batman for Justice League

According to this report, Holy Double Take, Batman! Here Comes a New Caped Crusader by Marc Malkin of E! Online, Armie Hammer is not only set to play Batman in the upcoming Justice League movie but he's already tried on the suit!

I'm very surprised that Batman on Film hasn't reported this as yet (or if they have I can't find it). Seems to me they're spending too much time reporting on every other superhero comic movie and have taken their eye off the ball of late - it's BATMAN ON FILM Jett!. (Seriously. After all the hype leading up to The Dark Knight there's very little post TDK commentary to speak of).

Anyhow, BOF has posted a lot of discussion about the proposed Justice League film, most of which suggests the project is still very much an idea that hasn't really even been properly committed to paper. They've speculated about the appearance of Batman in this film and whether the likelihood of two big screen Batman's in cinemas at about the same time could be a very bad (or good) thing.

However, according to Marc's report, not only is Justice League a go ahead but the principle cast members spent time in Australia going through a very intensive, physical, work out routine in preparation.

As well, Armie says this about trying on the Bat suit:
"I was looking down, and I was thinking, This is the best. Then I stood up, and they turned me around, and I faced a mirror—there was Batman. But then it hit me like a ton of bricks—it's not just Batman, it's me!"
That, to me, sounds a lot like, the Justice League has a script, costumes and are getting ready to start filming.

Personally, I've never been a big fan of the Justice League, even though I watched the cartoon on TV when I was younger. The idea of superheros getting together, whilst a very valid and natural thing to occur, if they did exist, just seems a bit gimmicky and is more about money than a really great script. Too many characters and not nearly enough screen time for your favorites. But who knows, it worked for X-Men.

That aside, a new interpretation of Batman is always something to look forward to. As much as Christian Bale's Batman has been great, by the time we see him in a third movie I think it's going to be hard for Bale to maintain the 'rage' without becoming tired. Christian is a great actor who needs to challenge himself with different roles. He's more than set the benchmark for what Batman can be. He doesn't need to keep repeating himself.

Batman is continually reinterpreted and reinvented in the comics by many artists and story writers so there's no reason why the same can't happen on film. If nothing else it gives us Batman fans a wider range of choices for picking our favorite version of the caped crusader.

It will be interesting to see what Armie brings to Batman in Justice League.

Time Wasting New Look Facebook Protestors

Being a Mashable subscriber it has been hard to avoid the stories of protest about the new look Facebook. Apparently a hoard of screaming masses didn't like the new look and were widely drumming up support for the old look to at least remain available.

I didn't voluntarily change my Facebook account to the new look since I read it would eventually be changed over for me (why do something yourself if you don't have to). Today I logged into my Facebook account to be presented with the new look profile page and here is my perfectly blunt, no holds barred reaction...

All you protesting, squealing, whiny hoards are a bunch of dumb ass, change strangling, time wasters who should remove yourself from the internet immediately as progress and change are obviously too confronting for your nice little comfort bubbles.

Seriously. Are you all kidding me? A new, better organised and easier to navigate page is what you were all up in arms about?

Facebook profiles were a confusing mess. How anyone could actually prefer the old look is beyond me? The new, tabbed layout means you can cram a whole lot more into your profile whilst making it easier and quicker for people to find the content they're looking for.

Good on you Facebook. Your social network is still a boring, time wasting, useless distraction that I grudgingly spend as little time as I can on but at least it looks a little better than it used to. More importantly, we all can be thankful it's not Myspace!

The Traveling Painting

The Traveling Painting is a project started by YouTube user, DaliGoddess. It's a fairly simple idea. A single painting is sent around the world, from artist to artist, with each artist adding and filming their contribution then posting their video as a response to the original 'Bon Voyage' to the painting video.

A year since the painting began its journey it arrived on my doorstep here in Australia after being sent by a fellow Aussie and expatriate from Norway.

Below is my contribution to the project, which I'm posting here because I think it's one of the better videos I've made in recent times. Largely helped by a great old song which I've been itching to use ever since I came across it in the public domain quite some time ago.


If you'd like to know more about the Traveling Painting project then these are the all important links to follow:

Blu-ray Should Die

I want to see Blu-ray die or at least see no other newer digital video/storage format succeed Blu-ray. It's time the consumer spoke and said the current format is more than enough capacity and delivers more than enough video quality.

Blu-ray, like regular DVD, is a digital format, this means, in its self, it doesn't deliver any better quality. The use of a blue-violet laser, as opposed to a red laser, enables data to be packed more tightly onto the disk giving anywhere up to 500GB of storage capacity. Very attractive when you consider regular DVD have a maximum capacity of 8.54GB. (Both format capacities are achieved via 'layering').

High Definition (HD) video is the format delivered on Blu-ray disks. Currently DVD delivers Standard Definition (SD). HD offers five times the definition of SD making the picture incredibly sharp with vivid colors. It also offers access to substantially better audio than SD.

Blu-ray offers quite a few other enhancements for video but these are mostly benefits of the increased storage capacity (such as more interactive menu systems and an increased amount of extra content).

So, why would I want Blu-ray to die? It sounds fantastic doesn't it. Indeed it is. In fact now that I've reached this point in the article (having done all the research as I go) maybe Blu-ray shouldn't die. Perhaps it should become immortal.

When I started this article the point I wanted to make is 'enough is enough'. Do we really need better video quality? Better audio? More content? Interactive menus?

To be honest, I'm quite happy with what DVD, SD video delivers. It does the job. It looks and sounds great. It works. Sure Blu-ray is better but after the initial experience wears off I'm just going to think, 'meah'. It's not like seeing a movie on an IMAX screen where the experience blows you away nearly every time - and never gets old. At the end of the day it's just a new STANDARD.

Standard is exactly that, standard. It's what we expect and take for granted. Let's stop trying to improve on things that work far better than they need to. Let Blu-ray become immortal. The final standard.

Put some of those research and development dollars into something movie related that actually does need improving - like getting George Lucas to re-imagine the Star Wars franchise for an adult audience.

I'm a Top Six Video Producer on TubeMogul

I don't expect the honor of being a top 40 video producer on TubeMogul to last long but being number six on the list, even briefly, is nice.

TubeMogul.com is where I and other far more viewed video producers upload our videos for distribution to multiple video sites across the web. They've just added a new feature called Market Place which is described as a dating site for video producers. Essentially it gives you a TubeMogul profile page complete with your viewership stats across all the sites you distribute to.

Anyhow for a brief second I was the number six video producer on the site but in the space of half an hour had slipped to eight. My total views across all my video sites is still well under the one million mark so I'll be falling like a brick off the bottom of this list.

However, momentarily, I was number six all time - which is kind of cool.

Google Alerts - Do I Need This Lert?

Remember the humorous saying; stay alert, the world needs more lerts? I recently started using Google Alerts and I'm beginning to think this is one lert the world (or at least me) can do without.

The purpose of Google Alerts is to enter any word, words or phrases into the alert box and Google Alerts will inform you every time the words appear somewhere new on the internet. I have two alerts set up. One is meant to inform me everytime my real name, David Arandle, is used online whilst the other informs me everytime the phrase, The Extraordinary Tourist, is used.

The idea being that I can be alerted when people online write about me (because as a professional artist knowing who's writing about you can be a very valuable marketing tool).

The problem being that, ever since I set these alerts up, Google Alert has set about informing me of things that, not only did I already know about but also things that I actually set up and wrote myself. For example, recently Google Alerts informed me of my Artwanted portfolio that I set up several years ago and have a link to from my own web site.

I can understand that Google Alerts might pick up a lot of old references when you first set them up. I can also understand that there's no real way to tell if it was me or someone else that created the references that Google is alerting me to. However the latest alert that I received just this morning really brings the service into question. Allow me to explain...

I got up this morning to discover that Australian Artist, Hazel Dooney, had written about me in her blog, Self vs Self, in a post titled Google-eyed (I'm going to have to stop mentioning Hazel but I didn't pick this chain of events). Her post, in the first paragraph, contains both my Google Alerts i.e. David Arandle and The Extraordinary Tourist. No alert from Google despite Hazel's blog being on blogger.com (which is owned by Google).

I then write a post, Artists Obituaries - What Will Yours Say?, which links to the above mentioned Dooney post but does not contain either of my names. Within the hour, sitting in my email, is a Google Alert informing me of a reference to The Extraordinary Tourist with a link to my blog posts individual page which has The Extraordinary Tourist written just above the post (true - follow the link to see for yourself. The Extraordinary Tourist is written at the top of all my blog's sub pages).

That's like putting a shirt on in the morning and then having someone later in the day inform you you're wearing a shirt. Like you didn't know?

Hazel actually wrote her post some time Thursday night (September 4th). As of Friday at 5:30pm central Aussie time I still haven't received a Google Alert about it. (In case you were wondering how I found out about Hazel's post, I'm subscribed to her blog feed). Not that I need to be alerted now but, when you know about a definite and very recent reference to yourself, and Google Alerts doesn't tell you, well you have to question how useful the service is.

You especially have to question it when Google Alerts alerts you to an even more recent reference to your name that you created yourself.

It would not surprise me if I got a Google Alert about this post before I got one about Hazel's.

Artist Obituaries - What Will Yours Say?

The final paragraph, about artist obituaries, in a recent blog post, Google-eyed, by Hazel Dooney in her Self vs Self blog set my mind to thinking in the warped way that it does. First the paragraph in question:
As anyone who reads Self Vs. Self regularly would know, I'm a total media tart. I embrace any opportunity to promote my art and myself. Barney writes: "I subscribe to Brendan Behan’s view. He famously said, 'There is no such thing as bad publicity except your own obituary'." I wouldn't even draw the line there.
I can imagine the obituary of some poor starving artist including a paragraph along the lines of:
"In loving memory of __________. If you had just bought his art while he was alive he might have been able to afford the expensive, life saving, medical attention that he urgently required. Unfortunately it was not to be and he died penniless. Buy his art you bastards so we can afford to pay the funeral bills!!"
More fun than obituaries is the statements people choose to have written on their tombstones. Perhaps an appropriate one for our starving artist is:
"This will increase the value of my art!"
Or even more appropriately:
"Now's the time to buy my art!"

Google Chrome - You had me at Hello

I've just installed Google's new browser, Google Chrome, and I can safely say that this is a browser that had me converted at 'Hello'. To be more specific I was hooked as soon as I fired up the browser for the first time and saw the simple, clean design - before I'd even used it.

I decided to write this blog post about 15-20 minutes into my exploring Chrome's features because I'm convinced that Chrome is a better browser than Firefox 3 (the browser I was previously using) which positively looks so 'last year' now. The transition from Firefox to Chrome was almost seamless too. Other than having to relogin to various sites, all my bookmarks, passwords etc. have been imported into Chrome.

I'm not going to do any kind of review on all the features of Chrome other than to say, finally, someone's realized that the internet is all about the content and not the browser. A browser should be fast and intuitive. Chrome is both.

If you need to know more about Chrome visit the Chrome web site or watch the two videos below.

10 Features of Google Chrome


The Story Behind Google Chrome

The Gawler Show, August 2008

Promoted as the largest rural and agricultural show in South Australia the Gawler Show is always worthy of an afternoon of wandering around - perhaps a full day if you and/or the kids are into sideshow rides and games too.

Gawler is my home town, this is my local show. It's run over two days on a weekend (this year August 30-31). There are three things that attract me to these kinds of shows:

  1. The art, craft, and other judged competitions

  2. The On Stage Entertainment

  3. The fireworks.

I've never been that big a fan of amusement rides and games largely because they seem over priced and I succumb easily to motion sickness (particularly on things that go round and around).

I'm not much into the animals either, cows, sheep, horses etc. though these are a big part of why the show even exists in the first place. (if they had sheep dog trials I'd add them to my must see list - working dogs are just incredible).

Winning the art competition is more about the glory than the prizes which is reflected in the quality of art the Gawler show attracts. There are still one or two gems entered and generally the art is okay but you won't see any professional artists here (seeking the prestige of winning for their resume).

The craft side of things is completely different - perhaps craft is far more of a rural pass time than art? Anyway, you can see some really great quilts, tapestries, dolls, models and more. All of which make up for whatever it is that's lacking in the art section.

In with the art and craft is all the more agricultural competitions where it seems like you can win a prize for almost anything. Being a fan of Rowan Atkinson's, The Black Adder TV series, I can't help but think that Baldrick would be salivating at the thought of a prize winning turnip.

I'm sure people who grow turnips and other produce take these things very seriously but I wonder what kind of prestige the Gawler Show gives to a prize winning side of bacon?

The on stage entertainment is often a real highlight if you're at the show at the right time. In the case of the Gawler show that's Saturday afternoon and evening.

My partner and I got to the main stage just as local band the Rockin' Sox were getting started. They're a three piece rock trio of boys whose combined ages make them as old as me. The lead singer and rhythm guitarist is 12 years old whilst the drums and base players are both 13.

The Rockin' Sox played mostly covers of popular songs that they really had no business to be playing. For example a 12 year old in 2008 singing Bryan Adams Summer of 69 lacks credibility on every level. How can a 12 year old look back to a time that even I've never seen and sing 'those were the best days of my life'?

They continued in this vein with covers of AC/DC's Jailbreak and Long Way to the Top, Chuck Berry's Johnny Be Good and the Beatles, Hard Days Night (come on - a 12 year old singing 'Hard Days Night').

Despite their song choice, I have to say they played really well to a tough and some what sparse crowd (rain meant that numbers were probably down at the show this year). They were overly optimistic (but undeterred) with their lack of success in their numerous attempts to start some audience participation on various songs.

The highlight of their set was a cover of Lenny Kravitz, Are you gonna go my way. I thought their original song sounded great too even though the main line I could hear said something about 'feeling so alone' (arrgghhh - teenage angst from newbie teens - you shouldn't be depressed and lonely until you're at least fourteen!).

After that there was a puppet show with Funtime puppets which was your traditional Punch and Judy story. It was definitely aimed at the knee high set so we took the opportunity to get some dinner and come back for the main event - The Australian Elvis Show.

Performed by Joe Bikic and his backing band it was loud but good. I wouldn't say it was the ultimate Elvis tribute (as it's promoted) but if you're an Elvis fan I'm sure you'd love it.

Joe is kind of leaning towards the early, few too many cheese burgers Elvis in appearance which kind of reminds you it was all starting to go down hill from there for the great man himself.

It would have been nice to see a version of A Little Less Conversation as part of a tribute show - since it was such a big, recent hit that we'll never see Elvis perform live.

The evening ends on Saturday with the fireworks display. What can be said about fireworks. They're always fun to watch and they never go for long enough. That's very true of Gawler's firework display. It's a short display but a nice way to finish off the night.

The Bikini Proposal



As the war on terror drags on America looks to the humble bikini for a new way to minimize troop casualties. I'm experimenting with animation on Go!Animate and this is just a bit of fun I wanted to share. Hope you enjoy it.

read more | digg story

Is Tom Cruise the New Michael Jackson?

Ever since Tom Cruise Jumped the Couch (a phrase he inspired) on Oprah it has been pretty much a free for all on implying he's some kind of whacko. Granted Tom Cruise was pretty outspoken before the couch thing with his Scientology views but is he really the new Michael Jackson?

I've nothing against Michael, I'm a fan of a few of his songs, but the media and his own odd behavior, sent his career down a path that he may never recover from. Michael still has a strong fan base but the 'whacko Jacko' moniker will probably never leave him.

However Tom Cruise seems to be taking over as the media's main celebrity to target for bizarre actions or 'out-there' views. Hence whenever anything goes wrong or he happens to express a view that is a little less than media mainstream it gets reported widely. Particularly if it has links to Scientology thinking - like that's some kind of crime?

I haven't heard Tom express any Scientology view that couldn't be transposed to many other religious ideals. 'Scientology can unite cultures' according to Tom. Yes that is 'whacko' thinking right there... oh wait, isn't that what Christianity tries to do - unite people through religion?

What's worse is that the media extends it's coverage to Tom's partner, Katie Holmes, whom seems to get a whole load of bad press just because she's Mrs Tom Cruise.

This is particularly true of her performance in Batman Begins, which I thought was at least comparable to other supporting actors in that film and by no means so poor as to say she was miss cast. In fact I preferred her performance of Rachael Dawes over Maggie Gyllenhaal's (who felt a little too 'old' for Bruce Wayne in The Dark Knight).

Tom isn't that whacko and really doesn't deserve all the bad press. As a Scientologist, expressing the views of his church is no different from a Christian, Catholic or Muslim doing the same. That's not crazy behavior.

Jumping on Oprah's couch was a little crazy but in a fun, good natured way. The guy was, at the time, in a new, head over heals in love, relationship. He was simply expressing that in the irrational, silly way that most people do when they're deliriously happy. Like you've never done something nuts to express your joy?

I think the media is trying to manufacture Tom as another 'whacko Jacko' to sell content, magazines, pictures or whatever else it is they're pushing as 'news'. The fact is, he's still a great actor with a catalog of fine performances under his belt. The constant focus on his problems is unnecessary.

It seems like the media are reporting on every bit of bad publicity they can find related to Tom in the hope that it will paint the 'whacko' picture for them.

With any luck Tom is smart enough not to feed the media with any more couch like jumping frenzies. He isn't the new Michael. Not even close.

Blaring Out Michael Bublé

Blaring out Michael Bublé's rendition of 'For Once in my Life' is not my partner's idea of a relaxing Sunday morning but apparently it's good music to wash your car to. At least that's what our neighbours across the street were doing.

I'm not a particular fan of big band music or Michael Bublé but being able to hear this style of song, perfectly clearly in my lounge room, when it's blaring from a car stereo system across the street makes for a refreshing change. I mean it could be worse and at least it's not doof, doof, doof.

Maybe there is hope that one day they'll be washing their car to Björk's rendition of 'It's Oh so quiet'. That would be Sunday morning comedy gold!

Back Off, I’m an Artist!

“Back Off, I’m an Artist!”

This stern warning sent a shiver down the spine of customers who minutes ago had been patiently queuing for the next available teller.

“Careful he’s got a brush!”

Would this be the day that someone suffered for art? Paint splattered everywhere in an artistic massacre of modern art?

“Let me paint a picture for you.”

It was getting serious. It could only end in critique.

“I’m an artist… and a good one!”

How could anyone know that for sure? By who’s definition was this artist ‘good’? The way things were going it looked more like a confrontation with a bad artist. One with a disposition for performance art.

“I should be able to make a living from my art. I should be raking the money in!”

There’s nothing worse than a starving artist cornered.

“Why do people not buy my art?!”

A pathetic performance by any standards. Clearly no one understood. Letting art speak for its self is no way to put on an exhibition. One and a half stars. Stay away from this one, it’ll only disappoint.

I told you it would end in critique.

Note: The above text is a piece of my own 'free form' writing that first appeared in my Red Bubble Journal on July 6, 2006. Good writing tends to get forgotten on Red Bubble so I thought I'd reproduce it here as a way of drawing attention to my Gallery Shop, Slogans Section which includes the Back Off, I'm an Artist! design.

Batman 3 Rumors and My Thoughts

The dust hasn't even settled and already the rumors for the next installment in Christopher Nolan's Batman movie series are doing the rounds. Who will the villains be and who will be able to match Heath's Joker performance?

The success of The Dark Knight guarantees another film - not that they were counting on success to make a third film happen. As far back as Batman Begins it was already confirmed that Christian Bale, Michael Cain, Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman were all signed on for three films.

Live News is reporting in Batman buzz: Johnny Depp as The Riddler? that Johnny Depp has been approached to play The Riddler and Philip Seymour Hoffman is being considered to play The Penguin.

The story is questionable. On the one hand Johnny Depp would certainly be an exciting choice for any male villain in the Batman universe but on the other hand, mention of the Penguin suggests the source isn't reliable.

I've read direct quotes from Christopher Nolan stating that the Penguin isn't a character he's interested in. In fact Live News in this story, Jolie the perfect Catwoman, says original Catwoman, Christopher's quotes on the Penguin are, well, quoted as follows:
“In the first movie we use Ra’s Al Ghul and The Scarecrow, who had not been in the movies before, and had not been in the sixties TV show before. And there are dozens if not hundreds of other characters that fit that bill. Everyone says its gotta be the Penguin or Catwoman… well, I completely disagree,” Nolan told Totalfilm.
As much as I would like to see Catwomen in the next film hopefully that quote will kill any chance of Angelina Jolie getting the part (sorry, I just think she's too obvious a choice and doesn't have the range to bring anything new to the role that she hasn't done in other movies). I have no suggestions for Catwoman but I'd be looking for someone who has done gutsy roles and can handle the emotional baggage as well.

Back to Depp and the Riddler. I've heard it speculated that the Riddler might be a good choice as a Joker replacement (assuming the Joker was part of the third film - very likely since he didn't die in the second). If that's the case then my own thoughts are that the Joker should simply be re-cast. I think Depp could certainly fill Heath's shoes.

Heath was outstanding however, no matter how much people think no one can touch his performance, the Joker is Batman's number one arch rival. People will want to see the Joker again. Someone is going to have to play that role.

Depp is a great character actor and he puts the same amount of thought into each role as Heath did with his Joker. I think Depp would be smart enough to not only take on Heath's interpretation of the Joker but could build on it with his own ideas. Depp is 'fearless' like Heath.

All that aside, Nolan's quote reveals that another Batman movie may go for lesser known villains as he did in the first film. It would be a big gamble. The first film was an origin story, thus you'd expect lesser known villains. If the third movie doesn't have a popular villain then the story will need to be even stronger to compensate. A tough ask to pull off for a third film but Nolan's team are clearly up to it.

Nolan has also said he's not interested in bringing Robin into the series. I'm someone who wants to see Robin given the Nolan treatment. It's a difficult character to bring in but I tend to agree with this essay on the Batman on Film web site, OPINION: "Robin - To Be or Not To Be, the timing is right.

Batman lost the love of his life, Rachel Dawes, in The Dark Knight and the film ends with him being pursued as a murdering vigilante. Batman is at his lowest and could use something to help bring him back. Robin could be a good beacon of hope.

I haven't seen a good live action Robin since the 1940's cinematic series. In that Robin was played seriously, almost as an equal and was a very capable sidekick. I'd like to see Robin brought in by the very capable Nolan. It would certainly make up for the lack of a major villain. Here's hoping but I'm not holding my breath.

Getting back to the rumors...

I can't see the Riddler in the third movie because he's too similar to the Joker (at least if you go by previous, live action interpretations). I'm predicting it probably won't happen.

As much as people would like to see Catwoman, she's almost as problematic as Robin to bring into this new, more realistic Batman universe. Again, probably won't happen.

The Penguin I can see in Nolan's world (so long as you erase from your mind Tim Burton's origin story of being raised by real penguins) but he's hardly a 'super villain'. Seems more like a high society, rip off merchant side story than a major force in crime. I've read that Nolan thinks the Penguin is too campy for his universe so there's a good chance he won't be included.

I'm sure there are many more rumors out there. Surprisingly no one's talking Mr Freeze or Poison Ivy (I'm not serious - let's hope it stays that way). I could be wrong on all my conclusions.

What I do know is that it's too early to know anything about a third film for sure. I'll be looking forward to more rumors.
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