Thursday, 30 October 2008

Michael Atkinson is Pure Evil

The Rudd Government is apparently gunning to out-conservative the conservatives, with a proposed mandatory internet filter that will

(a) significantly slow internet speeds,

(b) put Australian censorship in the same category as that enjoyed by China and Iran, and

(c) fail to stop one single person from downloading illegal content if they want to.

There's naturally been a major industry backlash, so here's hoping the whole ridiculous idea gets shelved.

Then, straight into this maelstrom of Luddite lunacy comes the announcement that Michael Atkinson (remember him?) is no longer satisfied just passively resisting the introduction of an R18+ rating for video games, but is now actively scuttling any chance of advancing the issue by blocking debate.

Back in March it was announced that there would be public consultation on the issue, which has apparently now been completed. It obviously had the results I predicted it would, because Atkinson has rejected its publication.

Just who the hell does this guy think he is?

The Five Horsemen

I don't normally put much stock in apocalyptic signs.

But surely this is a herald of the end of days.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Twilight of the Phoenix

NASA is reporting that the Phoenix lander, which arrived with much fanfare on Mars just over five months ago, is gradually being shut down.

The Phoenix has some life in it yet, but it's already outlived its original 90 day mission and now its power sources are failing.

The heaters keeping the Phoenix alive will be turned off one by one, keeping it running for as long as possible, until it can no longer be sustained.

Soon it will be over. The Phoenix will sit, still and quiet, waiting in the cold thin atmosphere of Mars.

It will wait for the day, hopefully soon, that we arrive in person on the red planet.

Then the Phoenix will be found, gathered up and preserved as a cherished memory of one of our earliest steps towards the stars.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Here 'Tis

Another minor blog drought, although not for the (occasional) lack of attempts to update.

I spent yesterday in Sydney, with a conference in the morning and meetings in the afternoon. The plane home was delayed for half an hour leading me to think: what a perfect time to blog! And to complain about QANTAS's's visibly deteriorating service standards!

But sadly free WiFi was nowhere to be found, only an outrageous $5 per hour service. I was almost annoyed enough to pay the price just so I could bitch about it. But sanity prevailed and now I'm bitching about it from home. As nature intended.

Beyond such trips to exotic places, there's been lots happening. Some bits blogworthy. Some not.

Visits to work last week by the industry regulator (nothing untoward . . . they love us). A funeral on the weekend for a friend of my wife's family. And the continuing saga of packing our lives into small boxes ready to move this weekend.

As tends to happen in these times, it'll all get distilled down to the stuff that's going through my head when I actually get around to writing.

And this time around, this was it. Hope you enjoyed it.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Get on the Bus

Atheism has found its voice in the UK, with a campaign to raise funds to advertise a humanist message on the sides of London buses.

And the slogan?

"There's probably no God. So stop worrying and enjoy your life."

Not bad. I'm not a fan of the word "probably" (there's certainly no such uncertainty in religious advertising!) but I can understand why they've used it.

Anyway, the aim was to raise £5,500 for the cause (pledged to be matched by Richard Dawkins), and this goal was achieved just after 10am yesterday, the first day of the campaign. Current donations are just a touch under £60,000.

This is fantastic. It's an under-appreciated fact that for so many people, religion is an object of anxiety and distress rather than comfort.

A lot of people will find a lot of consolation in this message.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

New Star Trek Pics!

Some new images from J.J.Abrams' re-imagining/reboot of Star Trek are up at

Here is a mere sample:

On the bridge, Chris Pine doing his best Shatner as Kirk, Karl Urban as McCoy and Zachary Quinto as Spock.

Da Crew. Note Simon Pegg in the back as Scotty.

And the winner for inspired casting and make-up goes to . . . Eric Bana as bad-guy Romulan Nero.

All signs are positive, but a quick note to Abrams and Co:

"Don't fuck it up. We're watching you."

Not-So-Invisible Hands

In a move that has stunned journalists who know nothing about basic economics, house prices have jumped in the wake of the Government's increase to the first home-owner's grant.

What's really funny is that this was precisely the Government's intention in the first place. They want house prices to go up. That's what K-Rudd means when he talks about "growth in the housing sector".

At least I'm pretty sure that's what he means. It certainly doesn't mean building more houses.

We're coming off the end of one of the longest housing booms in history, and people are conditioned to see the value of their house as a measure of economic health.

What they don't seem to realise is that the economy's temperature is being taken rectally, and the thermometer is being artificially heated by a systemic colonic imbalance in supply and demand.

Prices are high because there just aren't enough houses.

A nice fibrous diet of more houses in the system would clean things out, but it would also end up very messy. K-Rudd knows this. So for the moment, he's decided it's better to stoke the fires.

Friday, 17 October 2008

(She's) Stranded

After almost two weeks in London / Barcelona / Cape Town my lovely wife is finally on her way home.

In fact, she was supposed to be here by now . . . scheduled to arrive at 6pm this very evening.

Notice the time? Yeah. 8.10. PM. A late plane and missed connection and she is still, as I write, stuck in Johannesburg.

It's obviously not the funnest place in the world to be stranded . . . highest violent crime rate in the world and whatnot.

But luckily she's managed to find herself some bodyguards. I got a text saying she was having drinks with the St. George Illawarra Dragons. And their documentary crew.

It's got to be a rare thing to be told your wife is hanging out with a football team, and for it to make you feel better.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Obama/Biden/McCain/Palin = ?

There's a sensational new meme over at Fark, in which people can elegantly express, in simple visual terms, their thoughts on the US presidential and vice-presidential candidates.

This one's my favourite:

But of course I've also gone ahead and made my own:

Bias? What Bias?

Two headlines in today's papers, both reporting exactly the same story:

In The Age:

Rudd flags rescue plan for economy

and in the Murdoch papers:

Cash thrown at economic woes.

Sigh. I thought this sort of shit went out with Howard. Apparently not.

Still, please note the number of left-leaning readers not lining up to blast Murdoch employees with accusations of nefarious and politically-motivated bias.

Battlestar Galactica Case Mod

This is one of the nerdiest things I've ever seen.

And I want one.

You can't do that on a Mac, can you? Ha.

Monday, 13 October 2008

V Returns? Maybe.

Rumours are swirling that the ABC network is in talks to re-imagine the 1980s science fiction classic V.

Even Perez Hilton (whom I would not have picked as the nerdy type) is getting all excited.

While I'm all sorts of keen too, let's not start ripping our faces off to show the reptilian flesh underneath just yet.

Producer Kenneth Johnson's official website reports that ABC is looking at developing a new pilot, but Kenny's real plan is to make a feature film.

Either way it could be great, if only so we can see this scene as it was meant to be seen, because surely this wasn't it:

Although at really low bit-rate, and if you squint a bit, it almost looks ok.


RMIT Kaleide Theatre, Swanston Street.

Dylan Thomas' play Llareggub (often referred to by its US title Under Milk Wood) is a patchwork of voices floating on the ether, as we imagine ourselves drifting through the minds of the inhabitants of the eponymous village.

While this makes it perfect fodder for radio (its intended medium) it's very difficult to translate effectively to the stage. But the recent RMIT production faces this challenge with some success.

In a very engaging production the setting is one of organised chaos, with all actors on the stage at all times. This seems to be an attempt, mostly successful, to recreate the wafting movement of sound implied in the radio play, by constantly having the eyes of the audience moving in circles to follow who is speaking.

While this was fine, some of the technical limitations were distracting, such as characters passing around the few hand-held microphones. Also distracting was the wide variety of accents on display (some of them somewhat impenetrable) and, as can be expected in a student production with this number of speaking parts, the range of the performers' abilities.

Overall though it was very enjoyable, with particular standouts being Samantha Bond as the harridan Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard and Sam Sejavka as the Reverend, who, amidst many other competent but mannered performances, managed to take the play into the surreal places it's supposed to go.

3.5 out of 5

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

The Mentalist

It's nice when local boy makes good. And for Simon Baker/Denny/Baker-Denny, this may finally be the show that washes the vestiges of Home and Away out of our collective memory.

I'm only one episode in, but I can say with some confidence that The Mentalist is a great show.

There's the usual good writing, good characters, blah blah etc. But what makes this really cool is the skeptical tone it takes, and its outing of psychic investigation as the fraudulent nonsense that it is.

Baker plays Patrick Jane, ex-television psychic (a thinly-veiled reference to John Edward . . . notice how they both have two first names?) who now works for the police as a sort of consultant. He's one of these guys who can walk into a room, spot the important clues and have the thing solved while his colleagues are still finding their notebooks.

His powers seem paranormal to those around him, but when asked by one of the civilians he meets "are you psychic?" he simply answers, "no . . . just paying attention."

There's shades of Jonathan Creek in the crime-solving elements, and shades of The X-Files in the mood and characters. The latter is actually no great surprise, given the presence of regular X-Files helmer David Nutter as director. In addition, Baker's mentalist has a whole Mulder/Scully thing going on with colleague Teresa, but this time around, Scully's both the guy and the star of the show.

It's great to see some science-based fiction on TV, and hopefully this'll go some way towards countering the mountains of crap like Medium and Ghost Whisperer.

4 out of 5

Nuthin' Guv, I Swear!

Monday, 6 October 2008

Moving (Slowly)

It's just under four weeks until we move into our cool new place, and my lovely wife's decided to go overseas for two weeks.

Well . . . "decided" is maybe too strong a word. She's off on a work trip to Europe and South Africa. As I write this I'm guessing she's somewhere over Turkey on her way to Barcelona via London. I'm missing her terribly.

Still, that leaves me to continue with the packing on my own.

Like every other time we've moved house (and this'll be the fourth time in five years) we're going through a process of throwing away as much stuff as we can before we go.

There's something about having to pack boxes and pick them up and lug them to the truck and drive them to the new house and take them out of the truck and unpack them that really focuses the mind on a doing a jolly good cull in advance.

And like every other time we've done that, there's agonising over what to get rid of, an emotional wrench as the decision is made and then, five minutes after the load is dumped at the op shop, a struggle to name more than two of the items in there.

It's probably just in time. With international travel comes international purchases.

So I'm sure there'll be one or two new things to fill in some of the gaps.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Toni Childs

The Corner, Richmond

Not being a huge fan of hippie diva Toni Childs, I wasn't hugely keen to see her play live.

My wife was keen, but apparently only because it would in some sense be (quote) "hilarious".

While that's all very well, I'm an old-fashioned guy and I have this old-fashioned pre-post-modernist view that I should spend my time doing things I actually enjoy, rather than things I might ironically enjoy.

Still, long story short: I had no intention of going, someone cancelled at the last minute, and I went.

And to be fair, I quite enjoyed it. The band was great and the show was energetic. Toni's vocals aren't quite what they were back in the day, but she still managed to belt out a decent version of Don't Walk Away.

Stop Your Fussing was just as annoying as it was 20 years ago, but at least it was the opening number and so got out of the way early.

Following that, the show was good if not startlingly good, and the usual dip-in-the-middle that comes as they launch into tracks from the new album was actually a highlight, because I hadn't heard them enough to be sick of them yet.

2.5 out of 5

Which is good. I was expecting to give it 1.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Dead Pool September Update

The competition's heating up.

The 1st of the month was a veritable celebrity catastrophe, with no less than three notable personages dropping off the perch.

There was Australian actor Michael Pate, the first man, in a 1953 television production of Casino Royale, to play the iconic Felix Leiter.

Then there was Don LaFontaine, a man whose name you may not know but whose voice you certainly do. This was the guy famous for his narration of film trailers, particularly the way he would say "In A World . . ."

Still on the 1st, we bid farewell to television gardening presenter Kevin Heinz. I remember as a youngster turning on the TV to see Sow What, and getting annoyed because it meant The Goodies wasn't on. Cheerio, Kevin.

On the 6th silent movie star Anita Page, the last living attendee of the original 1929 Academy Awards ceremony, died peacefully in her sleep at the age of 98.

On the 15th musician Richard Wright, one of the founding members of Pink Floyd, passed away at the age of 65.

Finally, on the 26th the world lost Paul Newman; legendary actor, director, humanitarian and racing car driver. The outpouring of emotion that accompanied news of his death was huge . . . not least amongst our dead pool entrants, as a prescient tip meant that first-place holder Kate was usurped by Spoon.

The leaderboard now stands thus:

Spoon 17
Kate 16

But there's three months to go, and a lot of precarious names among the nominations. So anything could happen.