An Open Letter to #Mashable, #Nerdist, #MamaMia and other sites that over use Auto Play Video Ads

Dear #Mashable, #Nerdist, #MamaMia and other sites that over use Auto Play Video Ads,

Remember back in the early days of the internet when display ads, pop-up ads and pop-unders ads were largely frowned upon but we eventually got used to these things because they helped make content free?

Well I can assure you the same is never going to be said for embeded Auto Play Video Ads. Especially when they're used so poorly by sites such as yours.

America, it's time to point the guns at yourself (wait... what?)

Note: I originally wrote this article earlier in the year and then didn't publish it as I felt the outrage over the mass shooting that inspired it had subsided and the article no longer was topical. However, looking at this list of mass shootings during 2015 in the USA  I can't actually recall which one inspired this article (it may have been the Charleston Church Shooting in June 2015).  However, looking at the list I noticed you only need wait about a week or so for the next mass shooting in the USA.

Unless of course you follow the FBI's guidelines for classifying mass shootings, in which case data provided by Mother Jones: A Guide to Mass Shooting in America is far more pleasing to the eye with only four mass shootings in 2015.

Will Drones Be the Traffic Jam in the Sky?

In the future when we look up will we see
a traffic jam of drones instead of flying cars?
Amazon released new and real footage of their proposed drone delivery service this week and it got me to thinking about how such a thing would scale up should it become a successful business model.

What if other companies followed suit? What if local delivery of everything from pizza to... well anything you can send through the mail now becomes more efficient to deliver via drones?

Not Even Summer and the Place is on Fire.

 As I write this, late evening, the Mallala fire is still burning out of control just over six kilometers away, north of Gawler, South Australia.

Unfortunately the fire has so far claimed the lives of two people (confirmed) and one not yet confirmed along with a number of homes and properties since it started around 2:30pm today.

Movie Review: The Dressmaker (2015) *Spoiler free*

At first glance at the poster you might think The Dressmaker is a bona-fide chick flick, however it's not often you'll watch a chick flick with a body count. I'm not going to say who gets it or how I'm just sayin' - I didn't expect the death rate to climb quite so high by the end of the film.

Kate Winslet plays Myrtle 'Tilly' Dunnage, a fairly well traveled, high fashion dressmaker who returns to her rural home town in outback Australia to try and unravel a curse that has plagued her since childhood.

The Star Wars Saga: Episode VI, Return of the Jedi *All Spoilers*

Continuing my series of posts, as one of my local TV stations shows every Star Wars movie in order, every Saturday, for the next six weeks leading up to the release of Star Wars, Episode VII, The Force Awakens, here is my response to and thoughts on the sixth movie in the series Star Wars, Episode VI Return of the Jedi.

The only real issue I had with Return of the Jedi (the original theatrical release) was that it made Leia, Luke's sister and that she has the hokey line "Somehow I've always known it" - didn't stop stop her giving Luke a big ol' passionate kiss in Episode V.

Perhaps if it had really been a surprise and her reaction had been like "eewwwee... gross, I kissed you back on Hoth!" I may have had less of a problem.

The Star Wars Saga: Episode V, The Empire Strikes Back *All Spoilers*

Continuing my series of posts, as one of my local TV stations shows every Star Wars movie in order, every Saturday, for the next six weeks leading up to the release of Star Wars, Episode VII, The Force Awakens, here is my response to and thoughts on the fifth movie in the series Star Wars, Episode V The Empire Strikes Back.

Prior to re-watching these films I probably would have said The Empire Strikes Back is my favorite in the series but now it comes in second to A New Hope. Mainly because A New Hope is more of a complete story but also because this film suffers at the hands of both the prequels and Return of the Jedi.

Before I get into the problems I'll run through some of the things I like...

The Star Wars Saga: Episode IV, A New Hope *All Spoilers*

Continuing my series of posts, as one of my local TV stations shows every Star Wars movie in order, every Saturday, for the next six weeks leading up to the release of Star Wars, Episode VII, The Force Awakens, here is my response to and thoughts on Star Wars, Episode IV A New Hope.

I'm from a generation that have seen and remember the original theatrical release of Star Wars (before it was sub titled 'A New Hope'). The version I watched this week was a Special Edition release, remastered, with extra digital enhancements and scenes.

The Star Wars Saga: Episode II, Attack of the Clones *All Spoilers*

Continuing my series of posts, as one of my local TV stations shows every Star Wars movie in order, every Saturday, for the next six weeks leading up to the release of Star Wars, Episode VII, The Force Awakens, here is my response to and thoughts on Star Wars, Episode II, Attack of the Clones.

After The Phantom Menace I just wasn't interested in seeing Episode II in the cinema. I don't think I made any effort to see it or even had any anticipation for it's release.

The Star Wars Saga: Episode 1, The Phantom Menace *All Spoilers*

One of my local TV stations is showing every Star Wars movie in order, every Saturday, for the next six weeks leading up to the release of Star Wars, Episode VII, The Force Awakens in theaters this Christmas.

I plan to watch each film, at least two of which I've never managed to watch all the way through. Then I thought I'd blog about each movie here. Not so much a review but more my thoughts about the film, ranging from what I like, to what I see as a problem and maybe my thoughts on original trilogy re-releases and updates.

This post I'll start with Episode I, The Phantom Menace but first, a little history of my fandom.

Surprisingly Little About Skateboarding?

TET. The Edge Skatepark.
Probably 1990?
I was browsing this blog wondering what to write about this week when it occurred to me that over the years I've written surprisingly little about skateboarding. Specifically myself and skateboarding.

Most likely because the heyday of my skating years was from 1988 to about 1996. I didn't start writing this blog until about 2003-4 long after I'd completely lost most of my skills beyond the very, very basics.

Book Review: Kizmet and the case of... Book Series by Frank Woodley

Kizmet, Gretchen and Spencer.
Frank Woodley is a master of physical comedy, silly absurd humor and is an Australian national treasure. I've always looked forward to his TV appearances whether it be a guest spot or staring in his own TV series.

I've followed his appearances for years, even so, it was news to me that he's also a talented artist/illustrator (I'm not surprised I just never knew that was something he did). When I saw him promoting his book series, Kizmet, on Channel Ten's The Project and got a quick glimpse of his illustration style I just had to see more. So I immediately got online and bought the first two, newly released Kizmet books.

Movie Review: Justice League War (2014) *Some Spoilers*

I caught Justice League War by Warner Animation on Netflix thinking, finally some new DC animation to watch. I do own a few DC Warner Animation titles and usually they're quite good.

This is the first title I've seen that's based off the New 52 comic book run that reset everything in the DC comic universe. If this is any kind of typical example of the new story lines, I'm really glad I don't waste my money on comics.

The Lexus Hoverboard - Not Quite Back to the Future II

Lexus Hoverboard.
I know it's been a while since Lexus showed off 'Slide' their version of a Back to the Future II style hoverboard but I couldn't not blog about it just because the buzz has died down.

I'm not going to explain how it works in any great detail, it's pretty much what you'd expect, super conducting magnets, both in the board and in the riding surface. Check out the Lexus Slide website if you want more detailed information.

Documentary: The Death of 'Superman Lives' What Happened?

If you're a fan of Superhero films or you're a filmmaker interested in the Sci-fi/Superhero genre then this documentary about Tim Burton's doomed movie, staring Nicolas Cage as Superman, from the 1990's, Superman Lives is a fascinating insight into the pre-production of a big budget film.

The Death of 'Superman Lives' What Happened?, a documentary by Jon Schnepp, follows the development of the movie from writer/director, Kevin Smith's early, and well documented involvement, right through to the final days of when Warner Brother's pulled the plug and transferred their funding to another movie, Wild, Wild West, that, arguably, should've been canned too.

Paprika Cottage - Heritage Accomodation North Adelaide

Paprika Cottage, North Adelaide, South Australia, doesn't look like much from the outside. It's a small, heritage cottage alongside the rear gardens of Buxton Manor Mansion that was originally built as the chauffeur's lodgings. However the inside has been beautifully restored and includes a modest two person spa making it an excellent weekend retreat or very homely longer term accommodation.

My partner and I recently spent a weekend at the cottage, our second stay, the first being about five years ago, and it was exactly as I remembered it. We love the cottage because it feels more like a home than a hotel room. Very much helped by the views of the gardens that can be seen out of all the windows instead of a city skyline.

Movie Review: Fantastic Four (2015) *Very minor spoilers*

I will be the first to admit that until I saw the first trailers for Josh Trank's Fantastic Four I wasn't that excited for the film. Like most people, even the announcement of the principle cast didn't add anything much of a spark.

Johnny Storm being played by Michael B. Jordan didn't really raise an eyebrow for me. I mean, sure a previously white character is now black but it's no great stretch of the imagination to see how that might be possible. The rest of the main actors I wasn't that familiar with, despite seeing some of their other work prior to this film. No one particularly stood out.

The trailers turned all that apathy around, making the Fantastic Four look far more interesting and inspired than their previous movie franchise from 2005 and 2007.

However, I think rumors of too many issues on the set and people's general lack of interest in the film's development, took its toll and set people up to just pan the film regardless of it's merits. If you read the reviews you'd think this movie was worse than Batman and Robin or even Green Lantern. It's not.

Movie Review: Ant-Man *Spoiler Free*

Marvel's Ant-Man is arguably one of the better movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe thus far. Some people have said better than Avengers, Age of Ultron but I wouldn't go quite that far. Mostly because, come on, no Marvel solo movie is ever going to top an Avengers team up - though Winter soldier came close by being a mini team up film.

The Awkward Amy Schumer Interview That Wasn't Her Fault

Amy has no idea who that guy is and
Monique forgot to tell her.
Last week comedian Amy Schumer participated in a very awkward interview with Mamamia, Columnist/Journalist/Senior Editor (sorry I'm not sure which job description is most appropriate) Monique Bowley. The interview went so badly that Monique simply had to just own it and write about just how badly it went, and podcast about it as well. Even better the whole interview was captured on video which you can watch below as a precursor to my thoughts on the aftermath.

Review: Beware the Batman - Animated TV Series

I first wrote about the 26 part TV series, Beware the Batman in my Animation and Video blog when the initial trailer was released back in June of 2013. At the time I was underwhelmed with the shows CGI and almost immaculate Gotham City streets.

For some reason the show was only ever aired at odd times on late night TV here in Australia, which seems to have been it's fate for the second half of the series in the USA too. As a result I only ever caught two or three episodes before the show disappeared. Apparently being declared a financial failure by Cartoon Network.

Response: Positive Reinforcement Of Piracy And The Invalidation Of Comic-Con

This past weekend was the 2015 San Diego Comic-Con, pretty much the Mecca of comic book and comic book movie fandom. Few other comic conventions attract as much world wide attention and non so much as the legendary Hall H panels for major studios like Warner Bros. Marvel, Fox, Disney and others.

Each year exclusive Con only trailers and other footage is shown for upcoming movies and each year some douche with a smart phone camera films it and posts their low quality, hand held shit online, probably for the views and attention or just because they can. Honestly, I don't really care why because I'll watch it anyway.

The Confederate Flag: Can a Flag Change Its Stripes?

For many of us outside the USA the Confederate flag brings to mind only one thing, The Dukes of Hazard and, specifically the show's iconic car, The General Lee. It was a fun TV show from our childhood that somehow taught strong family values whilst thumbing its nose at a mildly corrupt Police force and causing thousands of dollars damage to Police vehicles.

Back when the original show was hugely popular no one ever thought about the implied racism of the Confederate (or 'rebel') flag. Other than a severe lack of ethnic diversity in the cast, not uncommon for shows of that era, no one associated the show or the flag with racism. It's not surprising that several of the shows stars have spoken up (once again) supporting the flag and the values they feel it represents.

A Desk Can That Can Talk Back and Order Pizza

A talking desk that
makes you stand.
The development of AI (Artificial Intelligence) is falling down a slippery slope and gaining momentum very fast. That slope is turning common everyday things into robots of a kind.

It begins innocently enough with Siri, Apple's iPhone assistant that you can talk to and even have 'her' do small phone related tasks. From there it jumps to social robots like Jibo, Pepper and Robotbase's Personal robot.

Book Review: A Short History of Stupid

I must admit I was expecting a much funnier book from Helen Razor and Bernard Keane given Helen's background in comedy and Bernard's background in politics (how can anyone write about politics seriously?).

Their book, A Short History of Stupid, The Decline of Reason and Why Public Debate Makes Us Want to Scream, is a collection of essays that serve as a reality check for life with an awareness that we're all being manipulated by spin to varying degrees.

For me it finally answers the question of why TV news desks cross live to a reporter who is standing nowhere of significance to the report they are about to give. Apparently it's to give the daily news report that feeling of 'things are happening now' in a world where you can follow what's happening now live on the internet. It's a desperate attempt to say TV news reports are still relevant and current - even if the live cross is actually meaningless.

On the whole this was a very good read that puts the spotlight, mostly on recent public debates that you more than likely be familiar with, and looks behind the spin to not only look at the facts but also some of the consequences of following 'Stupid'.

Personally I found the first chapter, L'Oréal and the fade-resistant rise of liberal individualism, which attempts to track some kind of history of stupid from dead philosopher, John Locke, to actress, Heather Locklear a tedious and almost off putting read. Largely because it explores the kind of knowledge and book reading that only university philosophy students and people who have an obsessive desire to sound smarter have to endure.

Dead philosophers are hard to relate to outside of Monty Python songs. I feel the chapter was put in to give the rest of the book more authority. A 'look we're smarter than you' when it comes to this subject matter. (As far as I'm concerned both authors are more well read than me but just because Helen Razor has longed to slap Heather Locklear's face doesn't mean she needs to take it out on me with how well read she is).

Unless philosophy is something you've studied, power through that chapter. I wouldn't skip it but just know the rest of the book is much more relate-able and covers many things they may even be on your radar such as religion, politics, the war on terror, global warming, eating healthy, media, Kony and more.

Everything is put under the microscope to see if what we're being told is actually accurate and/or effective in achieving the desired outcomes (usually not since the book is an examination of 'stupid').

The book does try to inject some humor into the discussion but there was nothing laugh out loud funny. If anything the humor is more cynical which is entirely appropriate. Cynicism about anything at least makes you think about what you're being told. If this book has a message it is simply that: Think.

Think for yourself and, perhaps, re-engage in facts rather than opinion. You'll learn that much stupid occurs because opinion replaces actual facts as truth, personal stories are used to represent the mass experience even if those stories actually represent the minority and that data can be skewed to the desired outcome for political purposes rather than representing anything based in reality.

Consider this book a look behind the curtain on modern public debate and why it's going off the rails in nearly every forum. If you find yourself in many public debates or are a keen observer of public discourse then this book may open your eyes to the hidden stupid that you probably know is there but just can't articulate.

Well worth a read.

Movie Review: Tomorrowland (2015)

Tomorrowland is a movie I didn't know I wanted to see until I saw the first teaser trailer with only a few seconds of footage. That was enough to show that this film had a different idea about future tech compared to any other science fiction film I'd seen before it.

The thing is, whilst people of my generation and after may not have seen this future before, chances are your parents and grandparents will find it some what familiar.

The Tomorrowland of this film is based upon the one Walt Disney envisioned back in the 1950's and 60's and later  turned into a theme park. It reflects the optimism held for the future that my generation really only experienced in cartoon re-runs of The Jetsons.

Book Review: Carry a Big Stick - Tim Ferguson

Tim Ferguson is one part of the internationally famous 80's comedy trio The Doug Anthony All Stars. I say 'is' because, although they broke up in the mid 1990's (or there about) Tim is currently touring with a new DAAS line up of himself, Paul McDermott and Paul Livingston in a live show featuring classic and new material. I was fortunate enough to see their Adelaide (SA) show last year. Fantastic, with much of the new material being mined from Tim's current wheel chair status and the absence of Richard Fidler.

If it is to be believed, Tim's book, Carry a Big Stick, is a chance to set the record straight about his MS (Multiple Sclerosis) and many other things such as his early school life, not being as smart as he sounds, and how the All Stars began and ended. However Tim reminds us several times that he's the one writing the history so his version is the correct one. Just like the origins of how DAAS got it's name, Tim may have made it all up.

Book Review: So, Anway... John Cleese

It was such a relief to discover John Cleese's Autobiography, So, Anyway... was so easy to read with its conversational style. Not to say that other former Python, Michael Palin, with his Python Diaries is a bad read but when you open his book a kitchen sink pops out, such is the attention to detail (and the nature of a well written diary). John even makes a quip about Michael's obsession with recording every aspect of his life.

John's book takes us through his early life including background on his parents, school days, college, and early TV, radio and theater career.

Movie Review: Automata

Despite its dystopian future Automata seems closer than most films exploring robot intelligence to what may actually happen. The robots in this movie are not too far away from those already being developed now. Capable of fairly human like movement and intelligence that is all functional rather than athletic or super human.

Antonio Banderas, in one of his best roles where he just gets to act rather than be that guy with the exotic sounding accent, plays insurance investigator, Jacq Vaucan, working for a robotics company, taking on cases where robots have defied either of their two main protocols; harming humans or altering themselves (or other robots).

Movie Review: Mad Max Fury Road - What a Lovely Movie!

The trailers for Mad Max Fury Road promised something bigger and better than any of the previous Mad Max films. It not only lives up to the promise it delivers more than you could ever imagine, short of being director George Miller himself.

Honestly, after watching the film, I not only felt I'd been entertained, I also felt like the non stop action had taken its toll and worn me out too, in a good way, like I wasn't just a passive observer.

Handle Me Gently - Scuplture by Olga Cironis

Giraffe like Sculpture,
detail 'Handle Me Gently'
by Olga Cironis.
On a recent visit to the Fiona Stanley Hospital, Murdoch, Perth, Western Australia (as a visitor not a patient) I came across these contemporary sculptures by artist, Olga Cironis.

Collectively the animal like structures are titled 'Handle Me Gently' and are captioned "We don't bite: but we do get hot". Everything about them invites you to walk up and touch them and, specifically, I think, children to climb on them (though despite the shade cloth people are warned that the structures do get hot).

Should we let Robots kill - do we really get a say?

Ultron Prime may not be such a far fetched idea.
Recently Mashable published an article titled Should we let robots kill on their own? Highlighting the second multilateral meeting on lethal autonomous weapons, the article discussed some of the issues and ethics of allowing robots to decide on their own on whether to kill a human.

Presently, we are at a point where it is possible to create weapons that could identify, target and kill a human, all without human intervention on that final decision to pull the trigger. If you think we're not then look at this technology for a photonic fence that allows an autonomous system to identify and kill mosquitoes with laser fire. We're talking about targets you can barely see being identified and killed with precision accuracy. This tech can even distinguish between male and female mosquitoes, how hard could it be to identify a human?

Big Hero 6, Baymax and Real Inflatable Robotics

Baymax - a fictional example of
a 'Soft' robot.
Baymax, the inflatable robot from the animated Disney movie, Big Hero 6 is probably the most famous 'soft' robot in the world of fictional robots today. I didn't really give it much thought when I saw the film but it's not too surprising that Baymax is inspired by real research into the potential of soft robots.

I realize I'm a bit late to the party as Mashable wrote about this very subject in their post  'Big Hero 6' star Baymax was inspired by a real robot back in November of 2014 (which is where I first discovered real world soft robotics). However, since I'm somewhat obsessed with the almost certain robot uprising of the not too distant future, I thought it best to bring soft robotics to your attention.

Art Course Review: The Fast Start Art Marketing Primer

If you're just starting to think about selling your art or maybe you've already tried but not getting the results you hoped for then The Fast Start Art Marketing Primer Course by Owen Garrett of Marketing Tools For Artists could be the foundation course you need.

I came across this ten part video tutorial course through a Facebook advertisement and, at just shy of US$12.00, I figured it was worth a look. Particularly because it had a unique selling hook that I hadn't come across before... claiming that 90% of everything I'd heard about selling art was either outdated or just plain wrong. It also asked the question "What's the Number One Most Important Thing about Selling Art and Being an Artist?!"

Movie Review: The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel *Spoiler Free*

Many people are saying The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is even better than the first. Having now seen both (though I didn't review the first), I felt the first was a little funnier but the second is still a strong film that allows you to enjoy these characters all over again.

Presumably, if you're reading this you've seen the first film and are familiar with the characters and story thus far. All the major characters are back along with a couple of new guests played by Richard Gere and Tamsin Greig.

Automatic Dishwashers - The Fax Machine of the Kitchen

The Dishwasher... automatic? Really?
The house we recently moved into came with an Automatic Dishwasher that, despite being looked over by a dishwasher tech person, occasionally trips the safety switch in our fuse box (which is a whole other story that I won't go into).

Until now I've been largely responsible for hand washing the dishes in our house. I'm completely fine with this. It's a job I can do on autopilot whilst listening to my favorite podcast. You don't need to think too hard to wash dishes.

Review: Billy Connolly - High Horse Tour

I was lucky enough to see Billy Connolly's latest live show, High Horse Tour, at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre, thanks to my partner who managed to score some half price tickets.

I've been a fan of Billy for as long as I can remember and have owned various recordings of his live shows and TV series on VHS tapes - most of which I don't own anymore because I did a purge of 'old tech' that I didn't want to be hoarding when I no longer had a VHS player.

The Lawnmower and I: A New Generation Now with Hedge Trimmer

The Lawnmower, Hedge
Trimmer and I.
I haven't written about the bastard lawnmower from hell in quite some time because it died. You'd think I'd want to document its demise but the fact is, it went out with a loud bang (that I suspect was something seriously mechanical inside the engine breaking) and never worked again. Not much to say about it really.

Bicycle Riding, Songlark Grove Look Out, Hewett, South Australia

Songlark Grove Look Out
Hewitt, South Australia.
I haven't been out cycling in a while. In fact my bicycle has spent the best part of the last year or so with two flat tyres in the garage. So long in fact that I couldn't remember if the tyres were punctured or they just went flat over time?

Anyway, after moving house, I decided to go out and buy the pump connection I needed to pump the tyres up - which was the main reason I hadn't ridden the bike in quite some time.

Moving House Again.

The Frog Van moves us again.
In the backyard of our new home.
You may have noticed both my blogs went a bit quiet during the latter half of January and beginning of February. I've been in the process of moving house with one of those short distance moves that is the equivalent of picking up everything you own and moving it three feet to the left.

Movie Review: The Water Diviner (2014) *Spoiler free*

Russell Crowe's The Water Diviner is the kind of Australian story that it would be nice to see more of. Not necessarily more historic war stories but more stories that are uniquely Australian without going over the top with Australian-isms.

Case in point, there is a bit of obligatory Aussie slang in the film but it's not over the top and it's not coming out of every Australian character's mouth. I think international audiences could enjoy this film as is without getting confused by the slang.

Exercise... Are You Sitting Down For This?

The Tao Chair.
Mashable recently reported on the Tao Chair and I just had to look into it further. Finally an exercise device you can actually use in front of the TV without fear of mistiming something and being thrown into the wall.

Labelled 'an invisible gym for your living room' the chair is specially designed for isometric exercises along the lines of Pilates. By using various pushing and pulling techniques with your arms or legs against the chair's arms you'll watch the calories burn away through in built sensors and a digital display.

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