All The Way - Australia's Involvement in the Vietnam War

The South Australian Government seems to have  made a point of honouring the Australian's who fought in the Vietnam war by naming crossover points of an expressway after various famous battles during the conflict. Possibly the most famous being the battle of Long Tan.

Being born at the very beginning of the 1970's it's a war most people of my generation probably know very little about. It's not like the World Wars that get taught in most schools - especially the history behind ANZAC day (which is on April 25th).

It's more like the Korean War, except without the comedy of TV shows like M.A.S.H. to popularize it in modern culture.

The most my generation really knows about the Vietnam War (unless they've actually done research) is that it was a massive failure for the U.S.A. and by default Australia. People protested it. There's was some chemical called Agent Orange that was extremely toxic to just about everyone and that many war heroes in movies claim to have "...fought in 'Nam".

There's also been a few Hollywood movies specifically about Vietnam, such as Oliver Stone's, Platoon, and probably the most famous of them all, Francis Ford Coppola's, Apocalypse Now. Neither of which give much insight as to what the war was really about since they focus of stories within the war rather than the war its self.

I'd always thought that once Western forces moved out of Vietnam that was the end of it but recently learned from an interesting documentary, Operation Babylift by Vietnamese refugee, Dai Le, that the war continued for another two years with South Vietnam eventually falling to the North.

I also learned from the same documentary (not surprisingly since this was the film's focus) that about 3000 Vietnamese Orphans towards the end of the war were airlifted out of Saigon orphanages and delivered into the arms of waiting couples in the US, Canada, Britain, Europe and Australia. It was apparently one of the biggest adoption programs ever undertaken in history (and I'd never heard of it?).

Just reading the synopsis for the documentary, before even watching it, the very idea is both shocking and confronting. On the one hand you're giving many kids a chance for a far better life than they might have had but at the cost of completely displacing them from their culture, relatives, places and people they know.

Interestingly the documentary follows the experiences of three adoptees, transported to Australia and their experiences 30 years later. One of the adoptees has a sister who stayed with her mother through out from the end of the war. 

Disappointingly the documentary misses an opportunity to contrast the lives of the two sisters other than to highlight that the one that stayed in Vietnam lived a very poverty stricken life. My question is was this sister just lucky to have survived or would her story show that perhaps the 'Babylift' was unnecessary?

I have actually digressed on this article. The reason I came to be watching Operation Babylift was that it was presented as extra material for another documentary about Australia's involvement in Vietnam called All The Way.

This particular documentary looks at how Australia came to be involved in the war (as a test of newly created alliance between the USA and Australia) and also contrasts how Australian soldiers fought the war using similar tactics to the Viet Cong with America's 'Shock and Awe' strategy of bombing and burning anything that looked even remotely hostile.

It does make the American Military look extremely ineffective in their approach to war whilst the Australians seem to have been able to hold their own and adapt, even when outnumbered dramatically, such as in the battle of Long Tan. Almost to the point where I was wondering how did the American Marines get such a reputation as a fighting force with military strategists commanding them that seem to think bigger, louder and greater numbers wins every time?

Kind of reminds me of Afghanistan and especially the Iraq war in the beginning. Almost seems like America suffers so many more casualties in war because they don't actually take the time to learn how to fight their enemy... it's just we're bigger, louder and there's more of us so we, naturally will win... kind of the mistake that the Viet Cong made at Long Tan... almost.

Haven't these people ever read the story of David and Goliath?

Anyhow, All The Way is an Australian documentary so for all I know it could be a little bias or just straight up propaganda for talking up our involvement in Vietnam. Never the less it is interesting to learn more about this war and get some real insight into what it was really like.

Especially if you can get some insight from actual soldiers - which is very rare for many reasons. However another of the documentary extras I saw was interviews with Australian Soldiers, years after they'd returned from Vietnam, and the psychological trauma they suffered as a result of being sent to Vietnam. 

Called What was the war like, Love? (I haven't been able to find a good link to it), it features a particularly moving account of one soldier who unfortunately shot a mother and child believing them to be Vietcong and realizing too late that they weren't. As he points out it's not the kind of thing you can tell people and receive understanding and sympathy for.

If you're interested to know more about Australia and the Vietnam War then there is a good website titled exactly that, Australia and the Vietnam War

Keen observers may even note a menu link on the site known as The Tet Offensive. Nothing to do with me, though I've known for a few years that Tet is actually the name of the Chinese New Year holiday period.

Machine Uprising Update: Robot Helicopters to Hunt Pirates With Lasers

A Fire Scout Drone.
Just a couple of weeks after I speculated that The Machine Uprising Begins with Quadrotors, tiny autonomous helicopters that could wipe out all life as we know it once they attach lasers, Mashable reports on the U.S. Navy developing Robot Helicopters to Hunt Pirates with Lasers. See the video below.



From Mashable's article here's what these 'Fire Scout Drones' are capable of in their mission to identify pirates...
These helicopters will use high-definition cameras and sensors, including laser-radar technology (LADAR), to collect 3D images. The technology is called Multi-Mode Sensor Seeker (MMSS) and will be attached to a robot called Fire Scout. Fire Scout and its advanced recognition software will sift through boat images captured by the camera and see if they match targeted pirate boats.
Yeah right! These autonomous helicopter drones aren't called 'Fire Scouts' for nothing. You just know that someone is going to eventually say "Let's cut out law enforcement and just attach proper lasers to our Fire Scouts so they can turn pirates to toast on the spot".

From there it's just a few small steps to reach the point where robot floor cleaners are commanding swarms of Fire Scouts via the internet and turning them against the U.S. Navy - Battleship toast, anyone?

If I owned a boat I'd be making a tin foil hat around about now.




Pay TV has Ruined Television


I don't know about in other countries but in Australia I am of the opinion that Pay TV has ruined television. Specifically television programming on free to air TV.

Prior to the wide spread adoptance of Pay TV programming on free to air TV viewing consisted of Breakfast , Daytime, Kids, Prime Time, Late Night then station close.

There was the Friday and Sunday Night Movie as well as Saturday morning cartoons to look forward to every week. Then there was prime time viewing each day where you could generally rely on your top rating sitcoms followed by perhaps one hour episodes of your favorite drama.

News was always at 6pm followed by some current affairs show. Sports were always televised, mostly on the weekend during the day, with those channels not showing sport putting on a couple of afternoon movies.

When a series of anything ended it ended until the new series became available, making way for something else to take its place in the mean time. We also had ratings periods followed by the 'off season' where all the quirky new stuff would get a look in for its chance to transition to a ratings period winner.

Pay TV programming schedules seem to have killed all that. On Pay TV you get episode after episode of a series shown one after the other on the same day. You get programs on demand and whole channels devoted to cartoons, music, drama, movies, documentary, news and sports.

Consequently free to air television appears to have adopted the Pay TV programming model. Now when a series of anything ends they just rerun it straight away. You can see repeats of a series running before or after new episodes of the same series. You can literally watch up to two hours of your favorite half hour sitcom all in a row, each episode a repeat with maybe one being the latest series.

Or, since free to air TV expanded into more channels, TV stations also run repeats of programs on their secondary channels too - all in a row. There is no real Sunday Night Movie anymore. There doesn't seem to be a ratings period or off season. Free to air channels just seem to stick to reruns of series all the time. Or at least when they don't have a new season to show.

Not just reruns of current series either. Now you can watch rerun after rerun of your favorite 1980's or 90's series too - during the daytime or very late at night.

Whatever they did to television it's just so hard to follow programming schedules. There's no specific time to look forward to something new because those slots are nearly always filled with reruns of something you saw as a rerun just last month.

Consequently, although I watch quite a bit of TV in the evening, I've stopped looking too much at program guides to see what I might like to watch. I pretty much watch the best of what I can find on the night. Often it becomes background noise to whatever it is I'm working on on my laptop.

There are the occasional shows that I'll watch out for – but only if they're first run shows. I don't like watching repeats, if I've seen an episode more than twice in the same year. Nothing is that good that I'll watch it over and over. I don't even do that with movies on DVD's that I own.

Television just isn't what it used to be and there's no way I'd pay for television just to get more of the same stupid programming.

Batman Television Series Reboot - It's About Time

Adam West is in this picture of
Julie Newmar - so I'm told.
It's been a while since I had a rant about Batman but I've been listening to recent Batman on Film podcasts where the team there again reiterated that a live action Batman should be exclusive to the Silver Screen as an 'event' movie that fans look forward to.

I completely disagree.

Batman's career on film started in serialized shorts in the cinema back in 1943 and again in 1949. It was the success of the re-release of the 1943 serial in 1965 that inspired the 1966 TV series and movie spin off. All of these series were quite popular and demonstrate that Batman works as a serialized product.

I haven't even mentioned all the Batman TV cartoon/animated series over the years.

More so than the films it's Batman on Television (mostly the '66 series and various animated series) that has kept the legend alive for main stream audiences - even more so than Batman comics. Personally I've never read a complete Batman story in the comics.

Having to wait 3-5 years minimum for a new Batman story on the big screen and having to wait around ten years just to get through a trilogy of films is a crock. I don't care how good a movie is. There's only so many times you can rewatch it on DVD.

Don't get me wrong. I love the films and they should be 'event' movies. I just don't see that you can't have a good Batman series on television that is its own thing. Completely unrelated to the movies. Audiences are sophisticated enough to know that a TV show is unrelated to the continuity of a movie franchise.

Live action Batman on television is screaming out for a reboot for a new generation. Batman on television has been defined by the 1966 series for decades. It's a series that you either love or loathe. I loved it as a kid. It's the reason I'm a Batman fan today. However it's somewhat cringe-worthy (but still fun) to watch it as an adult. Unsurprisingly Adam West who played Batman in the series is still popular and is fairly active on Facebook.

As a reboot I'm not talking, necessarily a Christopher Nolan style copy reboot. If I'm completely honest, Christopher Nolan's Batman isn't my Batman. There's a lot I like about his version but there's still something missing for me. What Chris has done, however, is shown that Batman can be popular as serious drama/action movie. It doesn't need over the top design, special effects and comedic scripts.

Crime shows on television are real popular right now with the CSI and Law and Order franchises. I've already written about how I'd like one of these shows to perhaps do their take on Batman in The Bat Suit and CSI: Batman.

I've also written about how there's an opportunity to put Robin on the small screen to tell his Nightwing story perhaps in Can Batman's Robin find his Cool?

More than anything though, the reason to put Batman on TV is not to create a series with self contained one hour episodes each week. Rather it's to tell longer and more detailed stories in serialized format.

As an example I'm going to highlight the 2003 British TV series State of Play which was adapted into an American film of the same name in 2009 and starred Russel Crowe. I am a huge fan of both for different reasons but one thing most people can agree on is that the series is better. Not because the movie is bad, it's just that the series has so much more depth in every aspect of the story and covers more ground.

Imagine a Batman series in the format of State of Play. Not single, self contained and similarly structured episodes with threads running through to future episodes but one complete story that unfolds over the entire series with twists, turns, surprises and more. Is that not how Batman should be done and is that not a good reason to put a live action Batman on TV? To tell bigger more detailed stories.

Forget this BS of live action Batman should only be on the big screen. At the rate these films get made I'm only likely to see two or three per decade and, to get a detailed story like Nolan's, it takes a decade just to tell one complete story.

There's plenty of room between movies to fill the gaps with a Batman television series. Especially now that Nolan's last film is set for release this year. It's a great time to bring Batman back to the small screen in a ground breaking, prime time drama series for adults.


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