Movie: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

I read J. R. R. Tolkien's book 'The Hobbit' many, many years ago now and found it to be a much more accessible than The Lord of the Rings Trilogy of books. I have a vague memory of the story which tells how Bilbo Baggins came to acquire the one ring, whilst on a journey with Gandalf the Grey and a troupe of dwarves, to face off with the villain of the book, Smaug the Dragon.

Director, Peter Jackson's version of the story has been expanded into three films of which The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the first. (to be followed by The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Dec 2013) and The Hobbit: There and Back Again (Jul 2014)).

Warning: What follows isn't so much a review of the film, rather it's my thoughts after seeing the film. There could be spoilers ahead. Don't read if you haven't at least read the book and don't want any major plot points revealed before you've seen the film.

Back to the film...

Unlike the individual films in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy the end of this film is a little more abrupt. Like they're making this new trilogy as one big film and just looking for the most convenient place to cut it. Hence you don't get any plot lines resolved... and won't for potentially a year and a half when the third movie comes out in 2014. The movies in the original trilogy hold up better as stand alone films where as The Hobbit doesn't at all.

This first installment is relentless with the action sequences, only really slowing down during the scenes in the Shire where Gandalf and his troupe of dwarves are trying to convince Bilbo to join them. Even then the majority of scenes are very busy with a lot going on. The sequence with the dishes being cleaned (supposedly), whilst fun and funny, seemed exceptionally out of character for a bunch of dwarven warriors more accustomed to camping and out door life than table manners and etiquette.

Speaking of the dwarves, something that bugged me from the start is that many of the dwarves aren't true dwarves. They're properly proportioned, but tiny men, particularly the leader, Thorin Oakenshield. It's only when you stand him next to Gandalf that you get a sense that he isn't just a normal sized human.

Thorin is supposedly a legendary dwarf warrior who's on a quest to reclaim his people's lost city of Erebor. Lost in the sense that the dragon, Smaug, kicked everyone out and now calls the place home (as opposed to lost - can't remember where it is). Thorin spends a good part of the movie telling Bilbo he doesn't belong in the group due to his inexperience and preference for the quiet life, yet it is Thorin who is the biggest obstacle to his group's success for most of the film.

He refuses to seek Elvin help to read the map they are carrying and he single handedly launches an attack on an Orc leader who, the entire group, only moments, earlier were trying to out run the leaders army (that are still in pursuit when Thorin launches his attack). As a result he is nearly killed were it not for Gandalf's giant eagles, saving the day.

(And why does Gandalf make everybody walk most of the way in yet another movie where he has flying eagles? All the trouble with Orcs, trolls, Stone Giants and goblins could have been avoided just by flying to Erebor).

For the most part this is an enjoyable movie with some really good humor and interesting villains. It's let down a little because, although we are introduced to most of the thirteen dwarves individually, you never really get to know any of them beyond Thorin. In fact, when I came out of the film I couldn't even name a single dwarf in the party. As a result you're constantly looking towards Bilbo and Gandalf as the familiar characters in the group.

The action, as I said, is often relentless, coming at you with hoards of pursuing warriors, thick and fast. Particularly in the Goblin lair where the group's escape crosses into 'Indiana Jones' territory (i.e. beyond belief even in this fantasy world). Often I felt I was in a video game shooter, where it's common for hoards of monsters to attack the game characters.

Clearly Peter Jackson is trying to expand this story to tie in more closely with the Lord of the Rings story by bringing in characters like Frodo, Saruman and Galadriel - all making an appearance even though none are in the original book. It feels like his intention is to weave some of what transpired in the original three films into the Hobbit as the beginnings of what is to come (much like Bilbo's acquisition of the ring).

Overall it's a solid start to the series, even if it comes across a little bit more of the same, rather than anything particularly new. As someone who likes Dragons, Smaug is really the draw card for me. This movie paints him as probably one of the most formidable dragons ever to appear in a film. That's what is really going to get me back to the next and probably the third installment.

It's Time We Armed School Children

Arming School Kids worked so
well in Tomorrow When
The War Began.
Not to make light of a tragic situation with the Newtown shooting incident or to discount the unnecessary loss of lives. However any incident that involves guns and innocent people being shot seems to spark debate online about gun control and, increasingly, mental health.

Clearly there is a mental health issue at stake. No rational person resorts to violence of any kind to resolve their issues. There's no real debate there other than what needs to be done to make it easier for anyone to get the help they need - before we see the next Newtown.

The gun control issue is a whole other discussion. Would disarming civilians or at least applying much stricter gun laws solve the problem?

In Australia, we have much stricter gun laws than the USA, and even had a gun amnesty where thousands of guns were handed in to police, it hasn't stopped supposedly outlaw motorcycle gangs from shooting each other (or not as the case may be - as they appear to have lousy aim). That problem appears to be escalating along with drive by shootings (often targeting the wrong house, apparently. Our criminals are just that dumb).

I don't have any precise figures on gun crimes in Australia, the above is just my general sense of the situation based on TV news reports. For all I know gun related crimes could have decreased since the amnesty - which was many years ago if memory serves me correctly.

So, back to the article's title. There is a general consensus on one side of the argument that tighter gun laws in the USA would make little or no difference. After all guns don't kill people, people kill people. Anyone wishing to get their hands on an assault rifle will find a way to make it happen legal or otherwise.

With that in mind, why not go the other way. Let's start arming our school children. Don't stop there either. Let's make gun ownership compulsory. Every individual should be packing heat!

Why? Because that's what governments and countries do. It's called an arms race. If one country has a nuclear missile then all countries potentially under the threat of being the target of such a weapon will make every attempt to arm themselves equal to or greater capacity. Thus ensuring that should a nuclear missile ever be fired at them you can be certain one or more will be fired back very quickly. This is known as Mutual Assured Destruction.

Now imagine one psychopath opens fire on a classroom of kids. A few may get hit but the rest could be shooting back. That gunman could be dead before he gets a chance to move to another room and open fire there. Knowing that the students are all guaranteed to be carrying a weapon would the gunman even try in the first place? That's how Mutual Assured Destruction works.

If you don't hunt for food, aren't a gun collector, sports shooter or work in a profession that requires you carry a gun, then isn't the only reason you buy a gun to protect yourself from other people who may be carrying weapons?

Then once you've got the gun you hide it away, just in case, when what you should be doing is putting up a great big sign in the front yard saying "I carry a gun and I will use it if necessary". Not letting people know you have a gun is like buying an attack dog then not putting up any warning signs. People need to know you have a deterrent that could get them killed. They need to be informed.

What we need is a return to the wild west where people could carry guns around openly and there was zero crime as a result... Yeah I probably don't have all the facts there but I seem to remember a lot of 'Wanted, Dead or Alive' posters from that era.

Look, I know the whole premise of arming children is absurd but the day is coming that someone somewhere is going to think it's a good idea to arm teachers and train them properly in gun use. So teachers can protect our children. Or that schools become even more like prisons with not just metal detectors at the gate but armed security staff making regular patrols.

If we go in that direction it will be a sad day indeed.

I am a supporter of tighter gun controls but I'm not stupid enough to think that's the answer. I could make that god awful statement of many bleeding heart liberals (of which I am proudly one) "If tighter gun laws saves even one life then it will be worth it". No it won't... if it only saves one life why did we even bother? The goal is to save everyone. One person isn't good enough!

As an observer and commentator I don't have the answers. People can snap for any number of reasons and no one will see it coming (but will probably be kicking themselves in hindsight). How do you even know if someone who is a 'loner' is likely to turn up at your place of business with an arsenal of weapons and a target body count? They're a loner. Who's going to see the signs?

Maybe there's just a need for building stronger more inclusive communities. A 'leave no one behind' approach where everyone looks out for everyone and all people can feel like they're making a valuable contribution to something bigger than themselves... kind of sounds like organised religion doesn't it?

Human nature is what it is. You don't have to go much further than the internet to see an endless stream of people who enjoy tearing others down with no thought to the consequences.

You can make access to mental health programs easier or more affordable. You can tighten gun laws and even improve on gun ownership education. All of which are worthwhile however, at the end of the day, you may decrease the incidents but the reality is, there's always a chance for 'shit to happen'.

You can't protect everyone from every eventuality. You'll go crazy if you try. You can only live positively and trust that others will too.

Online Distribution Killed Music and Other Dying Pleasures

A 12-inch (30 cm) 3313 rpm record (left),
a 7-inch 45 rpm record (right), and a 5-inch
(120 mm) Compact Disc (above)
Source: Wikimedia Commons
I'm of the generation whose first experience of buying the latest music was to purchase 45 rpm 'singles' - having been born at the very beginning of the 1970's. Other formats were around of course, LP's, 12 inch singles and audio cassettes but 45s were the cheapest to buy for someone whose main source of income was parental pocket money.

All of these formats were popular up until the mid to late nineteen eighties where music distribution transitioned onto Compact Discs.

As clunky as it all was, buying your favorite singles and then eventually recording them onto a compilation audio tape was quite an enjoyable pass time.

Not only that but if you had a favorite musical artist you'd buy all their singles, not just for the featured song but also for the possible gem of a 'B-side' that didn't appear on their LP Album (which you also bought). The real fans even bought the extended 12 inch singles in which the artist usually took a great song and ruined it by dragging it out longer into some kind of dance mix.

Then there was the album art to be enjoyed. Especially the art of a 'concept album' which usually went above and beyond the regular photo of the band - unless you were a Pink Floyd fan, in which case nearly every album cover was a work of genius (or an Iron Maiden fan who didn't care for their music but thought their album cover art was something special).

CD's kind of kept the album alive along with not just cover art but cover book inserts. However the smaller size diminished the appeal some what.

All through the nineteen eighties and nineties collecting and listening to music was a pass time that was quite important to me. Particularly in the nineties where I really started to search out newer, less mainstream music.. usually music labeled 'alternative'. So much of it was by bands that have become mainstream as they progressed.

I have a collection of LPs, 45s and CDs that people used to enjoy looking through to see what I had. A collection that I could browse and select an album of music that suited my frame of mind when creating art in my studio or just looking to sit back and relax.

As the music industry transitioned its self kicking and screaming into the online distribution of singles, thanks to online music stores like iTunes (and my entire music collection can now fit on my smart phone), I've stopped buying music.

Not only that but I've almost stopped listening to it as well (save for the fact that you can't completely isolate yourself from music if you watch TV or go to the movies).

It's not a purposeful thing. I didn't just decide not to buy music or try to avoid listening to it. Part of the fun of collecting music for me was the album. Even though artists still release albums digitally online it's just not the same as going out and buying music from a record store. Then bringing the disc home and listening to every song because it's on the CD. Hearing the tracks that never get any radio play because those songs are for the true fans.

When you buy a single online, that's all you get. There is no 'B-side' featuring a completely new song or even an alternate version of the single you might not have heard otherwise.

I know you can buy albums online but I don't feel compelled to do so if all I'm getting is the songs. I want the cover art, the book insert, the experience of learning to appreciate songs that would never work as singles but work within the context of an album. An album that I can hold in my hand and say 'yes I bought this'.

That's the real problem with online distribution and downloading music. You're not actually paying for anything tangible. You're just buying a code. Your MP3 player already has the ability to play every digital song released. All you're doing is buying the codes that make it play those songs you want to hear.

Collecting movies is going the same way with movies on demand services. You can still buy movies on DVD and Blu-ray but for how much longer? Will these download on demand services kill the one reason apart from the film to buy a movie on DVD... the DVD extras? Are they going to disappear like the 'B-side'.

Computer Software purchases are just about all digital downloads now. I haven't bought software in an actual box from a computer store in nearly 10 years, if not more. That's not really a bad thing but I do miss not having a printed manual. I can't begin to tell you how much easier and quicker it is to learn software with a printed manual as opposed to one displayed onscreen as a PDF file.

I'm actually not bemoaning these changes - well perhaps with music I am just a little. Being able to buy things online as digital products is a great thing. Particularly in terms of cost. I'm sure I would've embraced paying 99 cents for a single in a heart beat considering we paid somewhere between $5 and $7 for a 45 single back when I was a kid.

I just miss being able to buy the tangible, hold in your hand item. Maybe I need to start collecting something much more tangible... like action figures perhaps!

Disney's Song of the South - the Classic that Never Happened

Recently I listened to a Kevin Smith smodcast in which he mentioned Disney's Song of the South as being the film that Disney treats like it never happened. (Sorry don't remember the exact show but his comment was a brief, one sentence aside to another discussion).

A few days later one of my Social Network Friends posts a link to a new book, Who’s Afraid of the Song of the South? And Other Forbidden Disney Stories by Jim Korkis, as well as a link to the entire movie posted to YouTube (embeded below). If you have the time it's well worth watching.



I'd never seen the full film so I spent my some of my morning watching it on YouTube. I had become curious as to why the film had been largely pushed to the side by Disney since its last theatrical and home video release in 1986.

Apparently in a post 1986 world, the film, which was originally released in 1946, is now 'culturally insensitive' and even considered racist by some people.

After watching the film it's actually quite hard to see how this film is racist, or even culturally insensitive for that matter. Sure it's filled with stereotypes and perhaps its depiction of American life during the reconstruction is far too idealistic (shock, horror a Disney movie showing an 'idealistic' view of life - that never happens) but the heart and intention of the film is anything but racist.

It's especially odd that the film is viewed unfavorably in its treatment of African American people when the central character of Uncle Remus is dispensing all the wisdom and common sense messages of the film through his fun stories about Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox and Brer Bear.

I also recently watched the movie The Color Purple and I have to say the depiction of African Americans in both films was not that dissimilar. Naturally the Disney movie lacks the gritty realism of The Color Purple being a kids film but otherwise not that different.

If there is one thing the internet has taught people it's that context matters. For Song of the South to have been made and released in 1946, at a time when people were less culturally tolerant, this movie would probably have been seen as quite progressive I would think.

Though my research reveals it was considered racist even back then by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). NAACP seemed to take much issue with the stereotypical characters of the film and also felt it was revisionist of history.

Despite that, surely today's modern audiences are smart enough to know that a movie is a product of its time and should be appreciated in the context of the time?

As far as cultural insensitivity goes I see more African American people on TV shows like Hardcore Pawn causing more cultural damage than anything a film like Song of the South would do if shown to audiences of today.

Facebook Privacy Policy Summarized

As the latest Facebook Privacy Protection hoax goes slightly viral on many Facebook walls I'm again wondering why people, who supposedly care about their privacy, actually use the site.

The latest hoax, that you're supposed to post to your Facebook wall at least once in order to be covered by what it claims to protect, reads like this:
In response to the new Facebook guidelines I hereby declare that my copyright is attached to all of my personal details, personal or professional photos and videos, etc. (as a result of the Berner Convention). 
For commercial use of the above my written consent is needed at all times!
(Anyone reading this can copy this text and paste it on their Facebook Wall. This will place them under protection of copyright laws. By the present communiqué, I notify Facebook that it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute, disseminate, or take any other action against me on the basis of this profile and/or its contents. The aforementioned prohibited actions also apply to employees, students, agents and/or any staff under Facebook's direction or control. The content of this profile is private and confidential information. The violation of my privacy is punished by law (UCC 1 1-308-308 1-103 and the Rome Statute). 
Facebook is now an open capital entity. All members are recommended to publish a notice like this, or if you prefer, you may copy and paste this version. If you do not publish a statement at least once, you will be tacitly allowing the use of elements such as your photos as well as the information contained in your profile status updates...
The hoax began as a response to Facebook's recent decision to not allow users to vote on changes to their Governing Documents (however you can still give them feedback). With supposedly far less than 1% of the Facebook community actually taking the time to vote on policy changes, it seems fair enough to me to drop the vote altogether.

I'm sure if Facebook actually did change their policies to something truly evil we'd know about it pretty fast. No doubt there would be petitions and Facebook pages dedicated to bringing the company's moral compass back into the light.

As it stands less than 1% of people using Facebook care enough to even vote when they have the opportunity. Though it would not surprise me if more than 1% of Facebook fell for the hoax and posted the above to their wall. Way to go! Support something that won't protect your privacy but completely ignore a chance to vote on the issue, and maybe make a minuscule difference to something you supposedly care about.

When the issue of Privacy and Facebook comes up it is continually highlighted, by those who are at least smart enough to question if something's not legit, that when you signed up to Facebook, you agreed to be bound by their privacy terms - which are subject to change at any time by Facebook.

To save you some time, if you haven't read the Facebook privacy terms, I've summarized them for you below in two simple sentences that you can learn and recite:

Facebook Privacy Policy Agreement. 
We will use your information how we please.
Delete your account if you are not pleased.

That's really what a policy that can be modified at any time boils down to.

If you really care about your privacy on Facebook then learn how to use the tools they provide to set the privacy levels on your content... and use them.

Keep up to date with Facebook announcements on changes to any of their governing documents designed to protect your information and to let you know what Facebook will use it for. If, at anytime, you feel they've overstepped the mark then let them know - you probably won't be alone on the issue.

Don't waste your time posting meaningless legal crap to your wall. A status update is not a legal document no matter what you write in it. Well not unless Facebook themselves also agrees to be bound by the terms in your status update.

Bailey - The Newest Addition to Our Family

Bailey
I've written plenty about our Dog Oscar and our two cats Casper and Gizzy (both no longer with us) so I thought it wouldn't be out of place to introduce my readers to our newest family member, Bailey (pictured).

Sorry the photos a little dark. I didn't have any pictures to hand so I just snapped a photo of him sitting at the opposite end of the couch as I write this. He's resting after a busy late morning walk in some fairly hot weather. Fortunately we kept to the shady trees in the park and had plenty of water to hand for both Bailey and Oscar - who came along.

Bailey is an English Golden Cocker Spaniel and a rescue dog. He's about six years old. At present we're only his foster family - as his previous family wanted him gone as soon as possible. I can understand why, because so far he's a bit of a handful. He really doesn't like being by himself and even gets a little concerned if you go into another room without him. Plus he's very hard to get settled at night.

However in the four days we've been looking after him he is showing signs of improvement. He's not pacing as much and will even settle down for a snooze on the couch on his own accord if I'm busy. He also doesn't immediately jump up to follow me if I stand up from sitting on the couch anymore. He'll at least stay where he is if I don't leave the room.

He's supposedly not house trained but in four days we've only had one 'accident' in the house which I put down to him not being trained how to ask to go outside. Something he hasn't needed to do because we have a special magnetically closing curtain mesh that keeps the flies out but lets both dogs go in and out as they please. Bailey was quick to learn how that worked.

If it's cold at night we shut the door. Oscar knows how to ask to go out but Bailey seems to just accept that the door is shut and he can't get out. He doesn't make any indication that he wants to get out. Hence he somehow, sneakily decided the spare room was the place to 'go'. Aside from that he's gone out every time and hasn't had any overnight accidents thus far.

Oscar and Molly
Oscar has been the most put out by Bailey. I thought Oscar would love having another dog around because he's very sociable with other dogs at the park. I've seen him off the leash down at our local park 'working the room' with eight to ten other dogs. Making sure he made an effort to play chasey (his favorite game) with all of them. Other owners actually commented on how sociable he was.

Turns out Oscar at the park is very different to Oscar at home. He's not bossy or aggressive to Bailey most of the time except when Bailey crosses a line - such as eating out of Oscar's food bowl or trying to get up onto Oscar's couch while Oscar is on it.

Oscar's biggest problem (along with ours) is that Bailey starts humping things when he gets excited (and yes Bailey has been 'fixed' in that department). We're slowly discouraging that behavior but Oscar is apparently an attractive little dog.

Oscar is also a very playful dog that likes to bark, run around and generally go crazy. Unfortunately that gets Bailey excited in all kinds of inappropriate ways and Oscar has to do what he can to take cover - usually hiding under something Bailey can't get under or disappearing into our bedroom where Bailey isn't allowed to go.

It's a very different story taking them both for a walk to the park though. Oscar will act a lot more like 'Park Oscar' and make genuine efforts to get Bailey to play chasey with him. However the park's all new to Bailey so Oscar isn't quite so interesting to him just yet whilst he's exploring.

Usually when Oscar comes home from a walk he plays chasey with me in the back garden. When we got home from Sunday night's walk, our first with the two dogs, Oscar managed to get Bailey to chase him in the fastest game of chasey I've seen him play in a while.

Oscar's quick but can't out run bigger dogs like Bailey. His advantage is he can turn much sharper and run under things much lower... and he knows it. He gave Bailey a good work out before retiring to relative safety to avoid being humped!

Bailey's other issue is Thunderstorms. As it happened I was writing this post and a thunderstorm passed overhead. I'd heard he didn't like storms but wasn't quite expecting him to totally freak out, run around and bark persistently at every clap of thunder. Strangely enough he wanted to be outside so he could run around and bark but I wasn't having any of that.

Bailey models his 'Thunder Shirt'
after the storm.
I put on his 'Thunder Shirt' and for half an hour, as the storm passed over, I did my best to get him to sit still and calm down. It kind of worked but occasionally I let him run around just so he could spend some time reacting as he wanted to.

I don't know what the Thunder shirt was supposed to do but maybe without it he would've been even more freaked out.

After the storm passed over I let him run around the backyard which seemed to help him wind down.

Personally I've never met a dog that spooked by a storm.

So to finish this post off, Oscar who was very sick yesterday and unable to hold down his food (I think he drank too much creek water the day before) was feeling much better today.

He spent his evening goading Bailey into games of chasey and making sure Bailey stayed away from any food he got given - as well a stealing a treat Bailey was given (which Bailey had buried in our hallway despite not being able to dig a hole or cover his treat up with dirt - he still went through the motions).

There's some hope that Oscar and Bailey will eventually get along. Certainly would be great if they can.

Blogging from my Android Phone

I first blogged from a mobile phone back in November 2009. Back then I had notions of blogging from my phone more often simply because I could.

It wasn't to be. Typing on a mobile phone is not easy. Editing even less easy.

This post I'm writing on my new Android mobile phone and the experience is equally frustrating. Touch screen keyboards on small devices are clumsy at best. Maybe next time I'll try voice input.

For now enjoy this photo of my dog Oscar (who is much less frustrating than a mobile phone... most of the time).

Oscar - photo taken with
my Android Phone.

America Votes - will you take the Red or the Blue Pill?


America votes today to decide who will represent and run their country for the next four years. As an outside observer it hasn't gone unnoticed by me that the Democratic Party is strongly associated with the color blue whilst the Republicans favor Red.

This prompted me to think of an analogy from the first Matrix movie where Neo is offered a choice of the red or the blue pill. Which is about where my analogy starts to fall apart if the blue pill represents the Democratic party and the red represents the Republicans.

Take the blue pill and the life you live now goes on, even though it's a lie. You can believe what you want to believe and remain blissfully ignorant that all is not what it seems. Another four years of the life you've been living under Obama.... hmmm... maybe there's some kind of conspiracy going on that you just don't even know exists?

Take the red pill and you'll get to stay in 'Wonderland' but you'll be shown the truth, the reality of what your world is. You get to see 'how deep the rabbit hole goes' as Morpheus put it, and it won't be easy to take in. Mitt Romney will prove the Democrats have no idea and will show you the reality of what it takes to run a country by making the hard decisions... like giving big bird a pay cut.

When you look at it like that you might think the red pill is the best option. Truth is better than ignorance right? But I'm pretty sure you'll be just like Cypher from the Matrix. If Mitt wins, a year or so in, you too will be asking yourself "Why oh why didn't I take the blue pill?"

Well I did say my analogy falls apart... if you're a Democrat supporter at least. Republicans might read this and think it's right on the money... because money is what it's all about... and big, strong armies too.

Another Visit to Semaphore Beach South Australia

Semaphore Beach main foreshore.
Semaphore Beach is a favorite haunt of my partner and I. Oscar also loves it too. He's not a big fan of the water but he's not really scared of it either. With a bit of encouragement you can even get him to swim. He likes all the people and seeing other dogs.

I've written about Semaphore Beach before. It's a great family beach with plenty to do even for non swimmers like myself. You can see the main part of the foreshore in the image above. This area has playgrounds, a skate park, cafe, fairground, waterslides and even a miniature train that runs at least half the length of the foreshore.

The Frog Van at
Semaphore.
Semaphore is about 45 minutes to an hour away from where we live in Gawler. Part of the reason for going was to give my Frog Van its first long distance run since getting it up and running and back on the road. 

On the highway.
Obviously we made it there and back with no issues and not a single backfire from the van's engine. It happily flew along at the maximum speed limits for the fastest sections of the trip (110 kilometres per hour). It's a little hairy going at that speed in the van because it's so light and the roof vibrates a little too but otherwise it's okay.

Sotos Fish & Chips.
If you're ever down Semaphore way and planning to get a serving of fish and chips for lunch or dinner, although the Cafe/Ice cream shop on the foreshore is a good option, we prefer heading up the main street to Soto's Fish and Chip shop (be warned they don't have EFTPOS).

Oscar and I on the
foreshore.
In general Soto's food is just better quality and they cook all their chips fresh. Though we seemed to get a lot of scrappy little chips in our order but otherwise the fish and Calamari we ordered was very nice.

We ate ours on the grassed median strip that runs down the main street and features park benches and shady trees making it very pleasant despite the traffic running past either side.

There's not too much else to add. We enjoyed our day. The weather was great, with not a cloud in the sky and a breeze to keep the heat cool. Feel free to watch the very short video below for a few more images from our day.


Are Your Kids Posting Smut?

Tech blog, Mashable, recently posted an article titled How Kids’ Pics Are Going From Social Networks to Porn Sites which describes how child porn sites are getting as much as 88% of their suggestive or sexual images of children or young people from social websites, having been uploaded by the kids themselves.

From Mashable's article:
The Internet Watch Foundation spent 47 hours (over four weeks) monitoring sexually explicit images and videos uploaded to the Internet by children and young adults. During the period, the Internet safety organization logged 12,224 images on 68 various “social network sites.” 
Before long, almost 11,000 of those photos had been mined by pornographic “parasite websites” — sites created with the sole purpose of exploiting sexual images of underage males and females.
 It's a worrying study for anyone who has kids and perhaps doesn't monitor their internet activity as closely as they'd like to. Mashable's article might just be useful in starting the discussion with your children on just how far a compromising image can go, without the uploader's knowledge.

The article caught my eye for an entirely different reason.

Back in July of 2009 I created what became a hugely popular animated series on GoAnimate called The GoAnimate Complaints Department, staring Jim Benton's Happy Bunny. In it I made a throw away joke where an adult 'teacher' questions if the site's staff are aware that young kids use the website? (as a response to some 'adult themed' animations being posted with no warnings of Adult Content at the time).

Happy Bunny knew in 2009 where online 'smut' comes from!
To which Happy Bunny replies "Yeah... and I wish they'd stop posting smut!".

I don't think I was being prophetic when I wrote the joke but it doesn't surprise me that many of these questionable images making it to child porn sites comes from young people themselves.

I've seen it so often on GoAnimate with sexually graphic speech in animations made by young people who think it's funny or cool to make cartoon characters talk 'smutty'.

Rather than get on my soapbox about keeping a closer eye on your kids online activities, I'd just say be aware that this happens and discuss with your children how far some images can travel without their knowledge online.


Final Frog Van Update

As mentioned in the title of the post this will be my final update on the Frog Van project. Happily the van is back on the road and running well. Therefore the aims of my GoFundMe.com project have been achieved and, with this post, the spending of the generous donations people gave me have been accounted for far beyond the $500.00 I asked for and beyond the $520.00 that was actually donated.

There is a complete tally of money spent at the end of this post.

In my previous Frog Van Post I gave you a full run down of what work had been done on the van just prior to me booking it in for a major tune up, service and safety check. In the video below I also give a run down of things that have been done since my last video update plus you get to see my dog Oscar as well as go for a bit of a drive in the van.


After the full tune up, service and safety check I was very pleased that this did not reveal any major problems with the van's engine other than the points being completely worn. The mechanic basically recognized (correctly) that the van had not had a proper service in years.

Particularly pleasing was my work on replacing the blown manifold gasket appears to have held up as having been a success. Neither mechanic that looked at the engine picked up on any issues there - where as the mechanic that originally told me the manifold was leaking picked up on it within seconds of hearing the engine running.

I'm sure experienced backyard mechanics will be thinking 'it's just a gasket' but I've never pulled apart that much of an engine before on my own.

As mentioned in the video the next thing I'll look at is getting the brake pads replaced before moving on to more incidental cosmetic work like fixing rust spots and upgrading the interior. However I won't be making any further update videos.

The plan from here is, once the brakes are done, I'll start making some travel videos and show you a little more of South Australia. I'm also considering offering people the chance to sponsor these trips in exchange for advertising on the videos themselves. More on that in the future but if that is something your interested in let me know in the comments. The sponsorship wouldn't be huge, it may just be the cost of gas money that gets you a credit on the video.

To finish up, here is a run down on the total spend on the van:

Registration: $215.00
Battery $37.00
Battery Terminals :$5.90
Timing Fix and Carburetor Clean: $49.50
Tyres (x2): $140.00
Grey Primer and Glue: $21.90
Tune Up, Service and Safety Check: $280.00
Filler Putty: $11.95

Total: $758.35

Julia Gillard and Leadership

For the most part I'm a strong supporter of the Australian Labor Party (for my US readers that kind of equates to a Democratic Party supporter) however I can be swayed to vote for the opposition if they have strong leadership or a great, hard working local candidate.

One election I voted for my local Liberal candidate (read 'Republican' if you're a US reader) because he seemed to be everywhere. Visiting every community organisation, no matter how small. Where as his Labor counter part I never caught a glimpse of outside his campaign posters the entire election.

For anyone not familiar with Australian Government, we don't get to vote directly for our Prime Minister. We vote for local candidates and, at the end of the day, whichever party has the most candidates voted in determines which party leader will become PM.

Last week in Parliament our PM made a speech that got the country and, seemingly, even the world talking. It's essentially a 15 minute attack on the leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott and his hypocrisy relating to sexist phone messages sent by the now former Chair of the House, Peter Slipper. You can watch the entire speech below.


One could argue Tony had it coming but if he was any good as an opposition leader it would never have come to this in the first place. Tony lacks the vision to see where his leadership is going. He seems to lead in the moment, taking every opportunity to construct a sound grab for the media without really comprehending how everything flows on and works together as a whole.

If he hadn't gone on the attack with demanding Peter Slipper's resignation, and tried to take the high moral ground on sexism, he wouldn't have needed to have his wife front up to every talk show trying to convince everyone (yet again) he's really a nice, female friendly guy (though any excuse the media has to re-run that vision of his three adult age daughters in bikinis playing with Tony in their backyard pool is okay with me).

However, back to Julia Gillard and her speech. Personally the content of it is irrelevant to me. We already have laws about this kind of behavior and no one was questioning the content of Peter Slipper's text messages. What struck me about the speech is that Julia actually sounds like she meant what she said and said what she meant. In short, she sounds like a leader.

As a leader I've never had a lot of confidence in Julia because she often comes across as too measured and a little bit wishy washy. I wrote the following on my Facebook page about Julia's speech (which inspired me to write this blog post):
If Julia gave speeches with this much conviction all the time I'd have more confidence in her as a leader. She reminds me a lot of former leader of the opposition John Hewson, who currently is an excellent political commentator, but as a leader of his party he always seemed hamstrung by party advisers instead of believing in himself and his own instincts. Hewson started sounding like a leader again the day after he resigned as leader of his party.
The thing is, from what I've seen of Julia, she's anything but measured or wishy washy. She can think on her feet much faster than Tony Abbott can and should be running rings around him in any discussion. She can be every bit as brash and scathing as her Labor predecessors, Paul Keating and even Bob Hawke, yet she seems to concern herself with ensuring she says everything in politically correct, non offensive terms.

Former PM, Kevin Rudd was a bit the same way. Perhaps that's why people are yet again speculating about returning him to the Labor leadership... they won't gain anything but they won't lose anything either. Both leaders are a bit... 'Meh'.

Julia has the capacity to be a great and memorable leader. If her party advisers allowed her to take a few more risks and were more willing to follow her to the edge. She'd be unstoppable.

As things are now, she's probably going to become a great political commentator when she loses the leadership - whether that be at an election or through yet another party leadership challenge.

Another Frog Van Project Update

The Frog Van is a little closer to being 100% drive-able as I continue to work on getting it back on the road.

Since my last update I took the van into a local mechanic not too far from me where it was discovered that the van's timing was way out of whack. Not too surprising to me since the van hasn't really been tuned properly in several years and has only really been worked on by backyard mechanics (such as myself) since it was first returned to the road.

The mechanic adjusted the timing and cleaned out the carburetor with some cleaning spray which seemed to get the job done. Stopped most of the back firing issue and made the van a little easier to start. At the very least, this last couple of weeks, I've been able to drive the van around on very short journey's locally with few issues. Total cost of the repair: $49.50

It hasn't fixed the van completely though, as I've noticed through driving it, that it eventually starts to develop back firing issues and the engine gets sluggish. It's also still relatively hard to start the van from a cold start and the engine has no real power until something kicks in and starts to run smoothly. (It's almost like it's running on two cylinders then the other two kick in an it's all good from there).

Consequently I've booked the van in for a proper tune up, service and safety check with my local Ultra Tune who, hopefully, have the proper equipment and skill to really find out what's wrong with it. That's happening in a couple of days from now. The expected cost of which I was quoted is $235.00 but could be more once they give the van a proper look over.

Other things I've done is put two brand new tyres on the back at a cost of $70.00 each. This was because (as you may have seen in a previous video) the rear right tyre developed a slow leak, then the side wall of the tyre split from being left flat for too long.

Initially I replaced the tyre with the spare (which was nearly bald) but after one drive this also developed a slow leak. So I decided to buy two new tyres which would mean I'd have a good spare tyre too.

Finally I bought some glue and grey primer paint to begin fixing a rusted panel down on the bottom corner, just below the passenger door (which you may have also seen in a previous video). The two together cost $21.90. I've still to buy some putty filler to fill in cracks etc. before spraying the primer over.

All up the total spend on the van so far is:

Registration: $215.00
Battery $37.00
Battery Terminals :$5.90
Timing Fix and Carburetor Clean: $49.50
Tyres (x2): $140.00
Grey Primer and Glue: $21.90

Total: $469.30

I'll add the total for the tune up at Ultra Tune once I know the final cost.

Movie: Mental (2012)

I didn't know much about Mental, the new Australian movie by writer/director P. J. Hogan and staring Toni Collette (reunited for the first time since Toni starred in Muriel's Wedding). All it took to get me interested was that it was Toni Collette playing a borderline, obnoxious but somehow still like-able Aussie and Rebecca Gibney (who could pretty much be in anything and I'd watch).

Rather than re-write the plot outline, here's what the movie's website has to say:
The film follows the story of the Moochmore girls who are certain they all suffer from some kind of undiagnosed mental illness - because if they're not crazy then they're just unpopular. Their mother Shirley (Gibney), unable to cope with her demanding teenage daughters and philandering politician husband, Barry (LaPaglia), suffers a nervous breakdown. After Barry commits his wife to a mental hospital (telling his constituents that she's "on holiday") he finds himself alone with five teenage girls he barely knows. Desperate, he impulsively picks up a hitchhiker named Shaz (Collette) and installs her in his home as nanny to his daughters.
This film deserves to become a classic because it's one of the most original and least predictable movies you'll ever see. You know it's probably going to work out alright in the end but how it gets there is both hilarious, thoughtful and a bit of an emotional roller coaster.

A lot of the movie's humor plays out like an exaggerated cartoon or perhaps stylized reality but it works really well because it feels like there's an element of truth in the base of the jokes.

Toni Collette's character (Shaz) could easily become the focus of several movies given her back story of weaving her way into people's lives. For me it's just awesome to see Toni play not just an Aussie but a broad, stereotypical Aussie (dare I say 'bogan') with a few character traits that clearly show she's actually not that stereotypical really.

Shaz is actually highly intelligent and seems like the most sane person in the whole film to begin with. Partnered with a very formidable dog called 'Rippa' she could be the female Mad Max of Dolphin Heads (the town the film is set in). The woman with the answers and the plan.

It's difficult to say too much about the film without spoiling the unpredictable nature and surprises as everything unfolds. However I know I wasn't expecting giant shark stories, porcelain doll carnage, or even a couple of memorable cameos by Sophie Lee (Toni's arch nemesis in Muriel's Wedding).

As crazy as it all is the film has a lot to say about people, family and relationships that could make you reflect a little on at least having known people who are bit like many of these characters.

My only (very minor) irritation about this movie was that it references American culture in a few places where, it might have been more likely for an Australian equivalent reference. Particularly where Barry Moochmore relates the story of how his father thought he and his brothers would grow up to be like the Kennedeys. It's not out of place but it feels like the reference is made so international audiences can know who he's talking about rather than have him reference someone only Aussies may know.

The film does contain coarse language but don't let that put you off. Everyone turns in a solid performance in what is a laugh out loud comedy where everybody is just a little bit mental to varying degrees.

Go and see it.


The Frog Van's Journey Back to the Road Begins

After a bit of a break from regular blogging I'm back with my Frog Van's journey back to the road. Hopefully from here on in I'll be back to regular weekly posts. So, moving on to the van...

In my last update I said I'd start working to get the van back on the road at the beginning of August so the van would be ready to drive in Australia's Spring time. Unfortunately everything got delayed because I got really busy with animation work.

The good side to that is I was able to match the donations to the project with another $500.00 of my own money. Bringing the total budget to $1024.00.

The project got further delayed when I got fairly sick for a couple weeks during the beginning of September - nothing serious, just a really bad cold.

Anyway the first step of the project was to get the van registered, to give me a deadline, as I explain in the video below. (Hope you like the opening animation of the van, using my CafePress store design).



I was very disappointed that, between the last time I started the van up and now, the rear right tyre went flat for no apparent reason and the battery refused to recharge.

Fortunately the spare tyre was okay (though it doesn't have as much tread) so I swapped the flat tyre over.

The battery was no good so I ended up having to buy a reconditioned second hand battery - saving myself approximately $70.00 as a new battery would've been around $100.00-$110.00. Also had to buy some smaller terminal connectors because the new battery had significantly smaller connection points than the previous battery.

I made the video below to show you that the van is now working. I reversed it up onto my back lawn so I could sweep the drive way underneath it and just to turn the tyres after having sat for so long.



The next stage is to take the van to a mechanic, which I hope to do within the next week or so.

The Dark Knight Rises - My Thoughts on the Film


Knowing that The Dark Knight Rises is supposedly Christopher Nolan's last Batman film in this series, and that this third movie is how Bruce Wayne's story ends, one of my biggest questions was, how is Chris going to end it so that you're left thinking what happens after the movie is finished? (Which is something Chris likes to do with his movies - leave you thinking about how the story continues).

SPOILER ALERT! This is not a movie review. I'm assuming you've seen the film, know the story, and have seen all the reveals. I won't be outlining the plot here. If you haven't seen the film then I highly recommend you do then come back here. This is my thoughts on the film as a long time Batman on film fan ('on film' being important as I've never followed the comics... ever).

I was very impressed with how this movie ends because it makes you want to see that movie. The movie in which Detective John 'Robin' Blake takes over the mantle of perhaps Batman... or maybe someone else... Robin (doubtful), Nightwing (maybe?). Whatever... I'd just like to see Joseph Gordon-Levitt play the superhero that Bale's Batman promised but didn't quite deliver - the intelligent and strategic Batman.

Nolan and Bale's Batman has been very much about brute force more than detective work. Sure there's plenty of detective work through out the trilogy but it's kind of taken a back seat to Bale's 'force of nature' style Batman.

This is a Batman that takes on Bane in a fist fight for a second time after being decisively beaten - with ease - the first time around. It's like doing exactly the same thing again and expecting a different result (like, what one can only assume, is a lucky punch to Bane's face that breaks his mask). Sure, the second time around Batman is fitter - clearly they feed people well in that prison he was in, along with free medical too - but Bane won decisively the first time. How much fitter could Batman possibly get whilst harboring a stuffed knee and weakened back?

Bane is pretty smart too. He pretty much predicted Batman's every move in the first match up yet he doesn't do a lot to protect his own face the second time around.

Despite that The Dark Knight Rises is quite possibly my favorite in the series because we get to see Batman being a 'brute force of nature' in the day time. None of the dark lighting of the previous two films where you can't really quite see what's going on during a fight. It's Batman being awesome, right out in the open.

Plus this film has the coolest bit of Bat tech ever created since the 1960's Batmobile (yes, I said 1960's Batmobile), 'The Bat'. No silly aeroplane shaped like a Bat symbol, just a very functional and futuristic looking helicopter style machine.

How awesome is it that
they built a full size 'Bat'
Set photo by iFanboy
I need one of those to do my grocery shopping in!

So back to Batman being awesome. One minor issue I had with this film is that in the final act, where Batman returns to Gotham. He started to become a little omnipresent. Somehow, in a city as big as Gotham, he knew where to find all his allies and be there to save them at just the right moment. That's just a tad too awesome but, in a movie that's nearly three hours long, you don't want to get bogged down explaining every little detail. (Thank goodness 'cause I had a sore butt after this movie - how anyone manages several screening back to back I'll never know!).

At this point in the article I took a couple of days break from writing and listened to a lot of other people's thoughts on the movie in podcasts that I regularly listen to including Modern Myth Media's TDKR round table and Kevin Smith's Fatman on Batman TDKR Smodcast. Some of these people, including Kevin Smith, said that they cried and had moments that seemed almost like a religious experience to them. I'm not that invested in Batman.

I certainly picked up on some of the same moments that these people seemed to get emotional about but my reaction was mostly 'yeah that was a cool moment' or 'what a really interesting idea'. The closest I got to being emotional was the ending - and that was because, at this point, I know we're probably not going to get that movie with Joseph Gordon-Levitt as, possibly, Batman. Here's hoping the next director at least gives some thought to casting Joseph.

To digress for a moment... as someone who doesn't read comics I highly recommend Modern Myth Media's Podcast Round tables. Their knowledge of the comics does increase my enjoyment of Nolan's Batman because they can at least tell me which comics were referenced by the films and how much the films have added new ideas to the source material. For example, John Blake's back story is actually a composite of several different 'Robins' from the comics.

If you don't read the comics either but would like to see some of the ground breaking must read comics on film, Warner Brothers and DC Universe is currently animating some of the most talked about works in straight to DVD/Blu-ray movies. Already available is Batman Year One (which informed some of Batman Begins and includes a glimpse of the Cat Woman TDKR version is based upon) and Under the Red Hood in which you'll learn about at least one lesser known (in the mainstream) Robin and see a lot of Nightwing (A.K.A. Dick Grayson) and meet Ra's al Ghul. Soon to be released is Frank Miller's classic graphic novel, The Dark Knight Returns which informs some of The Dark Knight Rises.

Getting back to my thoughts on the film.

I really enjoyed Anne Hathaway's portrayal of Selina Kyle a.k.a. Catwoman. Thankfully I haven't come across too many people comparing her performance with Michelle Pfeiffer's in Batman Returns. Partly because it's like comparing Heath's Joker to Jack Nicolson's - both their performances were really great for the style of the film they were in - and partly because I really like Michelle's performance as Catwoman too.

Unlike other people I was never in doubt that Anne wouldn't give a good performance as Selina but I did think her casting was an interesting choice. All I really knew her from was the Princess Diaries movies (not that I've watched them but I noticed them because it was the first time I'd seen Julie Andrews act in anything for years). Though now that I've seen Anne's profile on the Internet Movie Database I've actually seen her in quite a few more movies than I first thought.

The character of Selina was definitely written fairly well, showing off her extended range of abilities, tactics and general outlook to life. As much as I know Catwoman and Batman have a kind of romantic relationship of sorts in the comics it didn't quite seem right that Bruce ends up with her at the end.

No matter which way you look at it Selina's more than just a cat burglar. She's done some pretty ruthless things and assisted the League of Shadows but apparently Bruce can overlook all that because she's trying to get out of her present predicament and start fresh. To be honest I can't see either of those two settling down to the quiet life.

Tom Hardy's Bane was really quite impressive. I knew the previous screen incarnation of Bane in Batman and Robin was nothing like the comics so I was interested to see what Nolan's take on the character would be. Aside from that scene where he apparently fails to protect his mask from Batman's blows I thought he made an awesome foe.

There's been a lot of complaints by fans that Bane's role is reduced to a Henchman - just like he was in Batman and Robin - once Miranda Tate is revealed as Talia. The best argument I've heard against that is that no one would consider Darth Vader from Star Wars to be just a henchman even though he is under much tighter control of the Emperor than what Bane appears to be under Talia.

I'm surprised Nolan went the whole way with the iconic scene from the comic of Bane lifting Batman over his head and dropping him over his knee. Obviously not breaking Batman's back, like in the comics, but getting as close as you can without putting him in a wheel chair for life. Presumably Batman's armor had a lot to do with it - since it's twice saved him from some seriously high falls in The Dark Knight.

Not a big fan of how Bane is beaten or how Miranda screws up any chance of an epic fight by sinking the dagger into Batman's side. After spending all that time setting up Bane as the immovable object to Batman's unstoppable force the final fight kind of fizzles with a double twist of a one time ally turning on Batman and a one time foe helping him out (turns out behind every great man there is a great woman - Bane and Batman included!).

I would have much rather preferred Batman go after Bane the second time with more of a strategy than just a head on fight focusing on breaking Bane's mask. With all Bruce Wayne's resources he didn't need a washed up prison doctor to tell him why Bane wears a mask - heck he found out virtually everything he needed to know about Selina Kyle within hours of meeting her. The prologue to the movie shows that the CIA are already looking for Bane so would have at least some information... and, if a washed up prison doctor knows the legend of Bane then some police force somewhere must know it too.

The only part of this film that really made me groan was the nuclear device. Even though it wasn't a nuclear device in the traditional sense i.e. a missile stolen from the military (perhaps?), it still lacked originality and dragged that element of the film back to being a comic book movie for me.

...and at this point in the article, I took a break from writing it of a few weeks, in which time I went to see TDKR a second time. Still a lot of fun on second viewing and I was able to pay more attention to things that I missed first time around.

In particular I paid closer attention to Batman's first fight with Bane and noticed Batman got in a few head punches. Not particularly focused on breaking the mask but, let's face it, Bane's mask didn't seem particularly strong. Talia clicked his little tubes back into place with very little effort in the final fight. Not a pair of pliers in sight.

Movie parody site How It Should Have Ended has also released a wonderful parody of TDKR highlighting many possible directions the film might have gone had only certain scenes been different. In particular, I never thought about how Batman could have dealt with Bane.. if only he'd worn the right utility belt that day... (watch the video below).



There really is a lot to talk about and/or debate about this movie. There's plenty of plot holes that could have changed the course of the movie if the characters had made the connections we get to make as an audience. However, despite all that, the movie as whole is so much fun you can kind of forgive the problems... why? Because he's BATMAN! (Watch more of How it Should Have Ended Superhero film parodies and you'll come to love the Superhero Cafe Scene at the end of the above video - it's become a tradition. I love the Iron Man one especially).

Overall I liked one particular theme of the movie which was "Batman can be any one". It plays well into the idea that Batman is the only one of the most iconic superheroes that an everyday person could be. In this case it also brings to the table the idea that Batman can be everlasting as a symbol - as Bruce stated in Batman Begins.

To Conclude... Finally!

Christopher Nolan's Batman Trilogy has been a fun seven plus years. As much as it broke out of the formula of the previous Batman films (Burton/Schumacher era) it still followed the formula of giving us at least two major villains per film as you can see in this trilogy image below (some might argue Talia should be there too).


I really do have to thank Christopher Nolan and his team for bringing Batman back closer to reality than the films that came before it. Chris realized that the audience for Batman is much broader and more sophisticated than your stereotypical, early teen, comic book fan boy.

In doing so he gave us a final send off for Batman that my partner, who isn't particularly a Batman (or any superhero) fan, walked out of the cinema and said "I want to see that again!" I rarely go see movies a second time in the cinema - even movies I really like... and she never said that about the previous two Batman movies I dragged her along to see... and she's a Heath Ledger fan! As mentioned above we saw it again.

As much as Christopher Nolan says this is his last Batman film, he knows, that should he, Jonathon Nolan and David Goyer find another Batman story they want to tell, they can take it straight to the bank. Especially if future Batman films by other teams start to lead the franchise astray into Batman and Robin territory.

That said it will be nice to finally be free of Nolan's strangle hold of the character for the last ten years. Maybe now we could see a live action Batman series on TV so that the character can once again become part of our daily lives, to find a new batch of fans, like Adam West's show did. Only this time, let's do the serious detective/crime show Batman that you just can't do justice in a major event film that requires big action.

That's where I'd like to see Batman next. On the 'small' screen. Get in some good detective/crime writers and CSI Batman could be the best show on TV. Maybe I should start a website to campaign for such a show? The people's superhero should be more accessible than a movie every 3-4 years. Who's with me?

What If Being Yourself Isn't Good Enough?

One of my most personal public videos is a collection of outtakes edited together with my narration, read word for word, from my blog post written back on August 5th, 2007 titled Is Being Me Good Enough? I made the similarly titled video the next day.

At the time the video (which you can view below) generated some discussion in the comments and was a real turning point for me personally in how I thought about myself and how I presented on camera. It took a weight off my shoulders.


[Note that especially for this article I've re-edited and re-uploaded the video to Youtube because the last sentence on the original version was cut off by Youtube's uploader. The new version is identical other than I've added a title screen at the beginning and cropped the footage for 16:9 ratio - plus added some length to the end to ensure it doesn't get the last line cut again.]

I came to be thinking about this video again because of my latest video diaries - which I will be the first to admit aren't that visually exciting. Particularly if the majority of the video is just me speaking to camera.

I started broadcasting on Youtube back in 2006 and whilst I'm much more comfortable with speaking to a camera, even today, I'm still pretty much the same as I was back then. Albeit probably a little less self conscious than I used to be. Which reinforces the point I was trying to make back then that you really are getting me as I actually am. I don't put on a persona for the camera.

Unfortunately being myself still leaves me wide open to criticism from both well meaning people offering advice to straight up idiots that will tear anything down that doesn't fit with how they think things ought to be.

Many of my contemporaries on Youtube have gone on to have thousands of fans whilst I'm still only just half way to my first 1000 fans. My videos do get views over time but nobody is rushing to watch them as soon as they are released.

Unlike on GoAnimate, with Youtube I commit the cardinal sin of releasing boring videos. Though I'm not wondering why very few people are watching, nor am I deluding myself that my videos are well crafted greatness - and people just can't see it.

Generally, being myself on Youtube isn't good enough - at least not to build an audience that will keep coming back to see my latest video. I don't blame people either. I wouldn't come back to keep watching the videos I make for Youtube.

The problem is that I really haven't found that one thing that I'm excited to make videos about. My diaries I make just to try and get making regular videos back into my routine. However that strategy is failing because I'm not excited to make them - and it shows on camera.

The one thing I know is that I do want to make Youtube videos. I'd be really open to suggestions on where I should go with my Youtube videos from anyone reading this that's familiar with what I do.

What do you think I should explore with my videos?

Same Sex Marriage in Australia

Here in Australia the right for Gay and Lesbian people to marry is once again in the spot light with our Prime Minister seemingly supporting their right but not willing to go the extra mile and turn it into law.

I'm not going to attempt to argue the issue here because there are plenty of articles that continue to cover the same ground, for and against, why same sex couples should or shouldn't marry. I don't want to write just a repeat of what the people who support the idea are saying.

For me, the idea of same sex marriages is a no brainer. It's not a question of should it be made legal it's more a question of why hasn't it been made legal yet?

In other words, it's a non-issue. Make it legal and you'll make a lot of couples very happy, life will go on and hopefully the world will grow a little closer to understanding what equal rights for all actually means.

I realize I'm some what progressive in my views. Heck I'd support making it legal for one person to marry several partners so long as everybody entering into that kind of arrangement were doing so willingly. For some people (and cultures) that kind of family structure works well.

Of course we could go the other way and make marriage illegal for everyone. I don't see us getting that kind of equality any time soon.

Australia is a country where de facto relationships - including same sex relationships since 1999 - share similar legal rights married couples. Which kind of means the step towards same sex marriage is hardly going to change our society as we know it. The debate really comes down to a moral issue.

Is it morally correct to discriminate against who can be married based on their sex alone?

I'm going to leave the question open since you know my view. However I am going to finish with a pet hate of mine in this debate.

The idea of marriage has transcended religion... non religious people get married every day. Hence it's not really a religious issue. So, to all those religious people that parrot out the line...

"God created Adam and Eve, NOT Adam and STEVE."

...leaves me wondering if God did create Steve would he be Gay?

Machine Uprising Update: 3D Robot Printing

3D printers are now being used to advance the machine uprising cause with one unsuspecting inventor printing parts for a very convincing robot arm.  This thing wouldn't look out of place in the movie I, Robot as a replacement hand. See the demonstration video below.



The arm is called the InMoov. You can read more about it in the inventors blog, as well as download the instructions for how to print and make one yourself... what the?!

Doesn't he know that robot floor cleaners are internet connected with their own social network? They're probably monitoring his progress already. Waiting for the day when the InMoov is a fully printable android ready to be mass produced as a robot army, Terminator style!

Could happen.

Frog Van GoFundMe Project Update

After setting up a GoFundMe page to get my Frog Van back on the road a little over a month ago I'm both surprised but very pleased to say I've reached my target funding goal of $500.00.

Many of the most generous donations were from family which I appreciate very much (and the timing of setting up the fund just over a week before my birthday was intentionally done to put the fund out there as a gift option for them.).

Just as much appreciated were the donations from people, mostly from the GoAnimate Community, that only really know me through my GoAnimations, blogs and Facebook. All their donations were very generous and welcome too.

As I said, I really wasn't expecting to have reached my goal so soon so... here's what is happening with the van now. The next three months is Winter in Australia, which means it's not the best weather to be travelling in, to what is likely to be, mostly outdoor locations.

Also, if I was to register the van now. The registration would last three months, in which I'd hardly be doing much driving, then I'd need to find another $200.00 to register it again, for another three months, in the Spring.

No doubt if I were to get the van fixed right away, it would need test driving, which can't be done legally if it isn't registered.

So I'm going to transfer all your donations into a high interest Savings account that I have for at least the next two months. If the money earns any interest in that time then that will also go towards fixing the van.

At the end of July to early August I will get the van fixed and registered. As the weather is usually starting to warm up by August, so I should be able to do some driving.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, just to reinforce the point. All of the money donated will get spent on the van. If it turns out I have money left over that will still get spent on the van (you've seen the van in blogs and videos, you know it could use a fair bit of money spending on it. New tyres would be my next purchase).

If you like you can still donate to the Van's Fund, even though I've reached my target. However that is entirely up to you. I'm more than happy with the generosity I've received and promise to follow through with spending the money as I always intended.

I may turn the Van's GoFundMe page into a 'Sponsor the Frog Van' page once I know for sure that the van will be back up and running. There may be an opportunity for sponsors to advertise in the blogs and vlogs I produce as part of my travels in exchange for gas money perhaps? We'll see.

Below I've embeded a video I created yesterday in which you get to watch me draw the cartoon of the Frog Van that accompanies this post. In the video I also talk about my plans for the van. Not quite as coherently as what I've written in this post because I was just rambling on so I'd have some voice over for the drawing. However I hope you enjoy the new cartoon.

Thanks again. I'll be sure to keep you updated on the Vans journey back to a road worthy vehicle.

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