Friday, 31 December 2010

Goodbye to 2010. Hello Roller Babies.

End of the year. Do we care? Anyway, why do we make the counting of years so significant?
And I believe it's just fifteen months until the start of year 6000 in the Hebraic calendar. That sounds like a big deal. Must check it out.
Hey, remember the Chinese hurdler who knocked down most of the hurdles in his race by charging straight through them? The video clip has been pulled, following officially-inspired legal objections. That's consistent with mainland government touchiness re anything deemed to be insulting to China ... plus that the original posting of the clip appeared to be from a Taiwanese source. Beijing would hate that.

So what's left?  Let's finish 2010 with a look at a multi-award winning Evian ad. The roller-blading babies. Some very cool CG work,  but based on live shots of the babies' faces and of acrobatic movement by top bladers. There exists another clever and funny video on "The Making of .."  The agency's creative guy is Michael Gracey.

But here is the original that all the fuss is about ...

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

No mention at all should be made of the cricket

The end of the year approaches. How has yours been?
Today the mail brought me a Medicare refund cheque for $34 and I took it to the bank right after I'd paid $32 nearby at the chemist's for an eye-drop prescription which is renewed once a month - hopefully to keep at bay ill effects of my glaucoma.
Then, wondering what to do with the net two dollars in hand I headed to Edithburgh for some sea air, and at a secondhand market nearly spent it all on an elderly biography of Ian Chappell whom I'd just been listening to as one of the Channel Nine commentators on the disastrous Test Match. But cricket is a bit on the nose. England won. Damn.
So, you are thinking that I finished two dollars ahead. But no! I bought instead for THREE dollars a copy of SF stories by Jack Dann, an author I do not know at all. The anthology is called Jubilee and was published in 2001. I will enjoy exploring its contents.
I reflected that the day's finances present a very fair model of life in general for 2010. You know - the old thing of two steps forward, three steps back. Or in this case dollars. What the heck. The house was still waiting for me when I got back from the sea breezes. Health is OK too, so nothing to complain about there.
The other day with fellow Terry Pratchett fan Gwenda I watched all of UKTV's 3 hour presentation of Going Postal. Love it. We'd both read the book. Did I mention this before? On Friday we plan to be in Stansbury for their "Seaside Market" Fair and general New Year's Eve celebration. There will be fireworks later, but since that will be long past my bedtime I expect the festive visit will be afternoon only.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Post Celebration Stress. Sporting nonsense.

I hope that all readers of the blog who celebrate Christmas had a happy time, with the mix of family, friends and a certain amount of overeating which seems to go along with the season in fortunate parts of the world. For many it is a time of spiritual reflection. Gift-giving is of great importance in many homes ... and drives commerce. How nice if we could even it out so that kindness and tolerance were normal throughout the year.

But we are about to embark upon a New Year, as the most-common calendar is reckoned. 2011 will be with us in a matter of days. Opportunites!

Sport. Cricket. The Ashes Test. As an Australian supporter, today I must keep very very meek after yesterday's clobbering by the English team. It will need a truly heroic effort from the home side to keeps hopes alive of winning back the famous trophy in this contest. Can it be done?

In yachting, via Channel 7, I saw the nearly disastrous collision between Wild Oats Eleven and the motorised media boat as the Sydney-Hobart fleet raced for the open sea beyond Sydney Harbour. The skipper of the media boat, interviewed after the incident while still at his wheel, seemed unabashed, but he would have known as well as anyone that the onus was on him to stay clear, instead of deliberately placing his craft right in front of the large yacht bearing down on him at a brisk rate of knots. The commentator (his back to the fast approaching yacht) nearly got more than he bargained for. No doubt the viewers would have thought it worth a few lives, just to supply some extra excitement. (Oops. Sorry. Being cynical ... one New Year resolution of things to give up.

Enjoy the week, everyone.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

No trees in sight: Steve G Jones and street hypnosis

Now, this might be achieved - David Copperfield style -  by collaboration between stage hypnotist/illusionist and a complicit  "subject".  I happen to believe that Steve G Jones is the real thing. You will form your own opinion, on this example and no doubt on the whole phenomenon of induced illusions. (Many such example are to be seen on the Web. Are ALL faked?)

The most interesting aspects for me are the implications regarding human perception in general, and the nature of  "reality". Anyway ... take a look. Can't see the wood for the trees?

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Satellite TV and a local blood sport

Beautiful day here and good to be alive. The telly shows floods in California of all places; London Heathrow flights staggering back into the air after snowbound shutdown for days ... all the rest of the global mayhem.

Should I feel guilty about our current perfect summer solstice weather? Not a bit of it!

Anthony from Balgowan attended yet again, our local Austar technician, just one week after he installed my new MyStar decoder. Darned device didn't play back recordings nicely: audio OK, pic all fluttery. Ah, says Anthony, I know what that is, and fixed it (apparently with a replacement decoder box).

What, I asked in all innocence, did you do?

If I told you, says he with a smirk, I'd have to kill you before I  leave.

Main thing is I can now record Going Postal from UKTV on Christmas Eve, and still go to the Warooka street parade (where Don is being Santa Claus) without being struck off everybody's invitation list.

In country towns - as I am learning - social invitations are a blood sport.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Books, that kamikaze hurdler, and a cricketing finger

Roving reporter hardworking Jenny Oldland from our local weekly rag - OK, it covers the whole Yorke Peninsula which is, after all, one eighth the size of Italy and nearly the same shape - was here at my place today. She took pix of me (I'd put on a clean shirt even) with a sort of display of the six books I've recently authored on The books are now on sale at

We're half-promised a 600-word article to appear on 5 January. Saluting the New Year with this incredible breaking news??  Not really. It's just a traditionally slow week. But not to worry.

Meanwhile you could try sticking in my name as Will Smyth in the Amazon book title/author search panel - or even the gender-bending pen-name Kimberly Hansel. The latter will get you to my two books on FOOD. The former will bring up a miscellany of three others. Tell you more soon.
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Remember that hustling hurdler in the last video? First posted on 17 December, I believe, it has gone viral as they say. It has around a million views. Maybe more. No-one seems to know exactly WHERE  the athletics meet was, somewhere in regional China. This was NOT an elite international event. The comment posted in Chinese characters with the vid which I embedded on this blog was in the characters used in Taiwan, and it was a comment - not info on the event (so far as my minimalist Chinese suggests). Across the web the range of viewer-comments covers the spectrum from the standard obscene and stupid, through the merely amused, right on to many from thoughtful observers impressed by the hurdle-busting runner's sheer determination and disregard for the hitherto sacred conventions of track athletics. A kind of Zen kamikaze approach.

It's actually not against the rules to knock over a hurdle. Running straight through ... well, THAT might fit the analogy of bodyline bowling in cricket, from another era. However, encroaching on another runner's lane and interfering - that's definitely agin the rules. Commentators were incredulous that nobody seemed much upset by the whole bizarre process. That might be a skewed impression simply from the shortness of the video clip; or could be it's a Chinese thing. All very interesting. And funny to watch.

Speaking of cricket, the Oz team got up to level the Ashes series at the cost of a Ricky Ponting cracked little finger. Two matches to go, starting on Boxing Day. Too bad: we'll all be watching the Sydney-Hobart Yacht Race. No other major world news is permitted.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

A hardy hurdler and lessons to be learned

No more comment needed, really. Contemplate ...but don't try at home, promise?

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Beware the side-on view

It is the season to be jolly fat. At our song group end-of-year lunch-outing to the delightful Ballywire Farm Tearoom, Denise went crazy with her camera and snapped, among other scenes of feasting, one corpulent chap I hardly recognized. Alas, 'twas I. No! That cannot be, he cried.

So I am starting New Year resolutions early. More exercise (why am I sitting in front of the blasted computer screen? Why are YOU?) and only the very best of nutritious unfattening food in small portions. One cornflake, maybe.

Yes, that'll be the day.

Meanwhile, in case I forget, have a safe and happy fortnight to year's end. Do you say 'fortnight' in your patch, meaning two weeks? I think half the English-speaking world does and the other half doesn't. In this country it varies from state to state. Back in Shakespeare's day some areas even had se'nnight for week (that is, a seven-night). Ho hum. The joys of speech.

Got three minutes? Here's a treat. It's a clip featuring Jon English and Simon Gallaher with "Pour the pirate sherry" from the iconic Australian production of Gilbert & Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance. YouTubers, much too young to have ever seen that production, rave about its humour, the bouncy music and still-cool "men in tights" look.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Matt Melis's Space Shuttle lift-off movie

You will maybe not care to watch all 45 minutes of this study put together from 125 engineering cameras, but a glimpse is worth your time. Spacey nuts would like it. The Space Shuttle program is 30 years old and coming to a close.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

The Ask and the Answer

Did I tell you? Guess not. The second volume of Patrick Ness's Chaos Walking series, The Ask and the Answer, arrived by Australia Post. Contrary to the strange email from the US Postal Service a week ago, I didn't after all have to collect it in person from their Undelivered Mail office. Hooray. All credit to the bookseller, who had offered to send another copy in the event that the first failed to make it. The final link in the chain was Wayne the Postie who left the package propped against my side door ("the yellow door") knowing perfectly well that nobody ever uses the front door. My bedtime reading is safe for a little longer.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Weather, Writers, Country Singers, and Going Postal

Hi. Pleased to report that the rain has started - showers forecast for much of the day - ruling out the gardening chores I'd lightly penciled in for this morning. Sigh of relief.

Of course the rains have been a pain locally for farmers harvesting. Not  to mention massive flooding in the eastern states as river systems burst their banks and peaks have reached 8, 9, 10 metres above normal levels. Our area has been lucky.

This week I was invited along to a friendly celebratory function to mark 20 years of the active Writers' Group meeting in Minlaton. My role was to help eat the food. Thanks Gwenda. I enjoyed hearing about the achievements of the group; also meeting new faces and country singer David Croser who performed a couple of numbers from his recent CD (he's done three albums); plus well-known bush poet and singer Jeff Cook who lives in the town - telling me and others of his recovery from surgery this year, and a "classic" NDE (near-death experience). Amazing stuff.

Also caught up with thespian Neil Longbottom whose role in the British farce Not Now Darling - not too long ago - was a wow. Jenny Oldland from the local press YP Country Times orchestrated with aplomb and efficiency a group photo of ... how many? ...25 individuals, not merely capturing the happy snap but grabbing all names in due order. THAT impressed me. Power of the press indeed.

Discovery of the day in my house is that the UKTV channel on Austar satellite pay-TV will feature on Christmas Eve the first in the 2-part production of Going Postal, from the Terry Pratchett novel. The blurb says that the book has sold 65 million copies. Big number, but I am not surprised. I own both the hardback and the audiobook which, if I recall, lasts for the whole 6-hour Adelaide return trip. The name of the main character, Moist von Lipwig, must rate as one of literature's excellent inventions, as opposed to the appearance of the name's owner, a  con-man character said to be so ordinary that nobody remembers what he looks like. A hoot of a book, vintage Pratchett. Read a synopsis of the plot in the Wikipedia article.
The cast list has a few names which are a blast from the past, including Timothy West, David Suchet (Hercule Poirot) as Reacher Gilt, and Andrew Sachs (Manuel from Fawlty Towers) as Mr Groat, and from a younger generation the fine comedienne Tamsin Greig (Black Books) as Miss Cripslock. Yes, even Terry Pratchett in a cameo role. The filmshoot began in Budapest last year. The lead role of Lipwig is played by Richard Coyle.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Sherry trifle, Cricket,: Cats: fake or real? You decide.

Today's DIY lunch party was all one hoped for... excess, inappropriate foods, comic relief, sherry trifle, heavy rain and spectacular lightning. I got home a while back to a power outage which justified a nap until the electricity came back on.

The rain was about an hour and a half too late to help the Australian cricket team rescue a draw in the second Ashes Test across the Gulf in Adelaide. First time in 20 years that England has won by an innings against Australia, and they, the "old enemy" in this sporting contest, are looking very  good indeed. English cricketers generally show good sportsmanship in conquest or defeat; however, English fans are notorious gloaters. We shall see. Three matches to go. Each lasts five days (played in a different city). Non-cricket nations will find this absurd.

Last week, this blog presented three embedded videos; a Korean guitarist, a boy-choir, and a talking cat. I thought we'd got over it - but I cannot resist this one. You get ALL THREE connections. Yes, a concert - OK, it was a decade ago - in Seoul, by the Swiss-American Wey brothers Terry and Lorin, performing Rossini's Comic Duet of Two Cats. Humans being cats. Get it? Not the cat sounding human, and I do know it was faked. Nothing fake about this ...  The video will let you choose other versions of the duet after you watch the first one, including one where the same pair are in cat costume.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Yay! US Postal Service. A party. Kuwait?

Another week has come around. Monday night. The weekend was a bit of a waste of space, but at least I got to read the first book of Patrick Ness's Chaos Walking series, "The Knife of Never Letting Go". The dog is definitely one of the more endearing characters in recent fiction. It's a science fiction scenario, classic setting - a "colony world" where things have gone seriously wrong - but fresh in language and in the addressing of social issues while still being a rattling good adventure yarn. My difficulty is that Book Two has got lost somewhere in transit. The US Postal Service sent me a strange and barely literate email to say it had been returned to them undelivered "insufficiently addressed" (why not returned to the sender bookshop??) and that I could come and collect it in person.

But at least I'm going tomorrow to an end-of-year lunch, call it a party, which will restore my bonhomie and  blood sugar.

No more vids for now. That wretched talking cat was the last straw.

Stats for this blog in November showed me that the biggest contingent of visitors were from America, then Australia, with a reasonable representation from the UK, Russia ... and Kuwait, plus venturesome souls from elsewhere; Hungary, Malaysia (where I lived for three years as a kid). Never made it to Hungary but would like to - a land of mystery. Thanks everyone for visiting!

Friday, 3 December 2010

Fly your own A380 in perfect safety

Well, I've seen the demo and been blown away. Is there a person in your family - as Christmas nears - who is fired up by the idea of flying an aircraft? Not just any old Cessna or ultralight. Nope, any of over a hundred and twenty kinds of aircraft. Of course, we're talking flight simulators. Pilots and astronauts train on huge sophisticated multimillion dollar simulators, and until now the simulators on a personal computer were pretty much just toys. Not any more.

Once upon a time, parents put in for the offspring's model train set, at birthdays or major festivals. Guess who also played with it. That's right. Dads and uncles. Kids too. So think bigger, up in the sky. Some very lucky youngster just might be treated to a flight simulator, downloaded to a computer. Might be less lucky and never get near it. But hey, it was the thought that counted.

At least check it out.

I'll tell you a bit more. Click the ad at the top and it takes you to Dan Freeman's page. He's the Sydney-based vendor, and right now is offering an extraordinary $49 special for the holiday season. This product is something I'd have expected to cost in the hundreds. I'm an affilate, just for the sake of disclosure. And as it says in the heading, perfect safety, unless you fall off the couch in the excitement of a dodgy landing at Bangkok airport.

Ask the Cat. Who need humans?

There is an entire genre of voiced-over animal videos. This morning on my way to Facebook I chanced on this one over at YouTube. (And did you know that Facebook has just overtaken Google as the biggest website on the planet? Scary. YouTube comes somewhere after them.) Ask the Cat, why dontcha.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Young Choir Libera

Our own choir's last performance for 2010 was two days ago and well received by its Minlaton audience at Melaleuca Court, following the Stansbury effort (now on DVD) the previous day at the Elanora Home. Lots of feel-good satisfaction for all concerned - or, if not, nobody has told me.

As for the video clips on the blog this week, the youth theme can continue for a couple of days. Many millions of people around the world already know and love founder director Robert Prizeman's wonderful London-based choir Libera. The choir itself has been going for over 20 years, and has made several world tours. In the west most people remain unaware that its singers have something like rockstar status in Japan.

One of their best known performances from early days, and since, is the song Orinoco Flow. They have released several CDs and DVDs, and are familiar to a wide television audience through the B.B.C.' s popular Sunday half-hour Songs of Praise. Libera are a fusion of church music and secular numbers.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Korean guitar prodigy Sung-ha

I promised some people that the blog would reveal something of the young South Korean guitar whiz - currently on tour in the States, I believe - named Sung-ha Jung. You name it, Sung-ha can play it. His channel on YouTube has many super samples of the music, which you can of course explore for yourself.

In 2009 Sung-ha seemed to like doing Beatles numbers: here's his playfully brilliant take on All You Need Is Love which has had more than three million views. The boy-musician has got a lot better since then. At the end of the video click on his own composition 'Hazy Sunshine'.