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As soon as I saw the previews for new Australian film ‘A Heartbeat Away’ I knew, and said, that it would bomb.

For the last several years, Australia has turned out movies which are preachy, boring, shallow, badly acted, have poor production values, or some ghastly combination of these faults.

Just who did script writers and producers think would want to see ‘A Heartbeat Away?’

This is a film about an irritating know all teenager taking over a brass band while the local community struggles against the machinations of an ‘Oh my God, please not again’ cardboard cutout of an evil property developer.

People who are interested in brass bands and band music are people of my generation or older. Did the film makers really think we would pay to go and see a movie that makes us look like a bunch of sheep – lacking commitment, whining, unable to organise ourselves?

Or were they aiming for the smart-ass teenager market? But smart-ass teenagers are not interested in brass bands.

If the film’s makers thought about this at all, the only group of people they could possibly have had in mind as likely viewers were people who go to the movies without having checked what is screening, and think to themselves ‘Well, there’s nothing else on, let’s see that.’

And once again, our money was used to make this. Thanks.

Ezra Dulis at Big Hollywood has posted a list of his favourite 25 songs of 2010. The list is in two parts, numbers 1-10, and numbers 11-25.

This is Ezra’s number six – The Innocence Mission – God is Love. ‘Rain or shine, this street of mine is golden.’ What a great line!

And this is one that is not on his list, but is definitely on mine – Gangstagrass – Long Hard Times To Come. This is the theme song from from the brilliant TV series Justified.

Over twenty years ago I wrote a short story for a church magazine.

I called it ‘Just Desserts.’  It was the story of a forty year old woman, Clara, moving into a small Australia town and trying to make a home there.

A small part of the story was about a failed cake which had to be repaired in order to keep a promise for a church stall.

Ten years later, I was a little surprised to find highly abbreviated versions of this story appearing on the internet as ‘The White Lie Cake.’ The story had been translated to the US, and stripped of everything I had meant it to be about.

I tried to get in touch with people who had reprinted the story, not to complain, but to set the abbreviated version in its proper context, and to ask for some acknowledgement. I registered the copyright in the US, something that is not necessary in Australia.

Eventually I gave up. It was in the wild, I had no control over it, and it was gone, a vagrant child.

Hollywood actor Barbara Kerr Condon found the story somewhere, and asked my permission to make it into a short film as a training exercise for her students. I was glad to agree, although there would be no financial remuneration. It’s a good little film, although Barbara’s version is much closer to the internet fable than to my original story.

By this time I had learned there was a one act play called ‘Just Desserts,’ and to avoid any confusion, changed the name of my story to ‘Sweet Vengeance.’

And here it is as a pdf file: Sweet Vengeance. Please enjoy!

Watch this:

Top Gear is in trouble (again).

Richard Hammond said Mexicans were ‘lazy, feckless, and flatulent.’ James May said Mexican food looked like ‘sick with cheese on it.’

Jeremy Clarkson then claimed that the ambassador to the UK wouldn’t complain because he would be snoring in front of the television at his embassy.

But the ambassador apparently woke up at the critical moment, because he complained to the BBC that Top gear’s remarks were ‘offensive, xenophobic and humiliating … ‘ and ‘only serve to reinforce negative stereotypes and perpetuate prejudice against Mexico and its people.’

A commentor on the Daily Mail website felt obliged to offer an apology:

I apologise on behalf of the British people for the insult to Mexico. The slur by Top Gear is blatantly untrue. On the other hand the terms CORRUPT, OPPRESSIVE, caing nothing for the rampant POVERTY and in the hands of the DRUG BARONS who slaughter your people are all TRUE. Oh yes and that your police, politicians and officials have their hands so far into the drug cartels money-pot that it will take a team of surgeons to get them out. So, there you go Mr “Ambassador”, no more insults, just the PLAIN, UNVARNISHED TRUTH, while you lord it up in your expensive diplomatic five-star residence.

I’d still love Top Gear if they described Australians as a bunch of drunken convict sheep shaggers.

But then, I know that’s not true, so there would be no reason for me to get upset.

Two videos from the thought-provoking and frequently sensible Andrew Klavan.

The Road to Hell is Paved With Good Intentions.

Yes, we’ve all heard that. But why is it true? And can you give some actual examples?

Why, yes I can, thank you for asking:

Is America Satanophobic?

Probably, but why not? Satan is bad.

No, in an age of tolerance, this sort of calling things what they are has to stop:

This is one of those ‘only in Australia’ stories.

A young couple grabbed two inflatable women they had lying around the house and took them for a ride down the flooded Yarra River in Victoria.

The man and woman, both 19, were left clinging to a fallen gum tree in the middle of the river in North Warrandyte when one of the dolls snagged on the tree and their caper went horribly wrong about 4.30pm.

An SES watercraft came to their rescue not far from Bradleys Lane about an hour later.

While it is understood the blow up doll and several other inflatable items were salvaged from the scene, the bottoms of the rescued woman’s bathers were long gone down the river.

A blanket was required to protect her modesty as she exited the water.

Modesty Protected

Victorian Police issued a stern warning that inflatable women are not approved flotation devices.

Via the Adam Smith Blog:

He, he.

The 11 most painfully obvious newspaper articles.


About a plane crash:  ‘So far, investigators have determined that the crash occurred when the plane hit the ground.’

About a crime: ‘Police have two theories. One is that the victim knew the person who did this. The other is that he didn’t.’

About teen pregancy: ‘Statistics show teen pregancy drops off significantly after age 25.’

Proof of psychic powers? Actually, no.

Just proof that academics are not easily able to think beyond their preconceived notions.

Professor Daryl Bem says his work shows most people have psychic powers.

He conducted nine different experiments on over 1000 students. Eight of the experiments showed some psychic ability.

I am willing to bet that the experiment that didn’t was the only one that was properly designed.


One experiment asked students to memorise a list of words, and then asked them to recall as many as they could.

The students were then asked to type a list of the words randomly selected – which tended to be the words they had earlier recalled.

It suggests they knew which words were going to be selected to be typed.

No it doesn’t.

The question is, how were the words to be typed selected ‘randomly’?

If they were just picked by another person, all this means is that some words have more impact than others, and that those words are more likely to be remembered, and chosen.

It is amazing to me – a non academic, but someone trained in problem solving – how quickly academics jump to the wrong conclusion, and how firmly they then insist on those conclusions being accepted.

I have a friend who is a PhD candidate. She is studying changes in Black Brim populations. Black Brim are a common fish in South Australian waters.

Her thesis is that Black Brim numbers have declined over the last fifty years because of changes in water quality.

She is extraordinarily diligent in examining ear bones from Black Brim. This enables her to track changes in water quality over the life of the fish.

I have no doubt she can get an accurate picture of water quality over the life of any individual fish.

But there are three problems with her thesis.

She has no idea how many Black Brim there really were fifty years ago. There were no accurate counts.

She has no idea whether water quality now has deteriorated in ways that affect Black Brim compared with fifty years ago. There were no accurate measures.

She has no idea whether other factors (eg, fish just move) might account for changes in Black Brim populations in the small area she is studying.

I asked her, since her theory was that fish numbers had declined because of changes in water quality, whether she thought it important to have accurate measurements of fish numbers and water quality from fifty years ago.

She insisted it was OK, because she had accurate measures of fish numbers and water quality now.

But surely, I insisted, if she was claiming changes in fish numbers over fifty years were a result of changes in water quality, she had to know what the numbers and water quality were fifty years ago.

She told me she could measure changes in water quality through studying ear bones.

OK. That tells you about changes over the life of an individual fish, but nothing about what the starting point was fifty years ago.

Nope. She just didn’t seem to understand the question.

Well, it doesn’t matter, really. She’ll get her PhD and work for Natural Resources and ruin a few fishermen’s businesses, or spend her life telling farmers to use less fertiliser.

Not much harm done.

But lots of harm is done in other ways.

As an example, there are reduced rates of HIV infection in males who have been circumcised.

So of course there claims that male circumcision acts as a ‘vaccine’ against HIV infection.

A couple of days ago the Deputy Speaker of the Ugandan parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, called on male MPs to be circumcised to give a moral example to others, and to help reduce the rate of HIV infection.

It seems blindlingly obvious to me that many men who are circumcised are either Jews or Muslims, and that differences in sexual behaviour in those groups would better account for the very small measured differences in rates of HIV infection.

Certainly behavioural differences might be worth investigating before spending vast amounts of money ramping up ‘circumcision services.’

But no, the World Health Organisation is right behind the circumcision prevents AIDS theory.

This won’t work. It is cruel and irresponsible. In fact, like dishing out condoms, it is likely to increase rates of HIV infection, because it encourages people to think they are safe.

The only thing that has been shown to make a long term difference to rates of HIV infection is changes in behaviour.

But that is an unacceptable conclusion, so Africans continue to be given advice which is known to be, or should be known to be, wrong. And more Africans die.

Africa has suffered enough from AIDS.

We have all suffered enough from the consequences of shoddy thinking.

This is just for World of Warcraft players.

And all I want to say is that for pure levelling, grinding works.

This is a partial screen shot of my level 70 death Knight, grinding a spot in Howling Fjord. Unrested – yes unrested –  XP per hour is around 195k.

Death Knight Grinding, Howling Fjord

In the olden days, a year ago, the fastest way to level was questing. But with the PUG system, I now think the fastest way is to find a good grinding spot (the one above will run you from lvl 69 to lvl 72 without problems), stay there, and constantly re-queue for dungeons.

Of course, doing quests is a large part of the fun of the game. But for pure levelling speed, it’s now grinding and instances.

One more showing rested XP, for those who were inclined to doubt:

Death Knight Grinding Rested XP

Darn good advice.

From The Mercury:

A well known Hobart psychologist has got some advice for those people still consumed with grief for Packed to the Rafters character Mel Rafter – get real.

Dr Harry Stanton said people still feeling sad over the TV death were likely to be bored with their own lives, and therefore identifying with people who are more exciting even if they are not real.

 So basically – ‘Get a life.’

It sounds a bit harsh, but the opposite (which is the more common practice), of encouraging people to think about their feelings, to go over what has upset them, and worst of all ‘to try to remember’ past traumatic incidents, does more harm than good.

If you are feeling down, get some sunshine, go for a walk, do something nice for your neighbour. You may not have a choice about how you feel, but you always have a choice about what you do about it.

This is neat.

Scott Wade is an American artist who wanders around supermarket car parks looking for dirty cars.

What he finds is dust. These are samples of what he leaves:

Mona Lisa from Dust

Car Dust Art

One of my wife Kathy’s relatives was Alex Anderson, the creator of Rocky and Bullwinkle.

I have never visited the US, and am sorry I never had the chance to meet him.

Alex was one of the great pioneers of animation, and the creator of the first animated programme for TV, Crusader Rabbit.

Rocky and Bullwinkle were amusing to children. To intelligent adults, they were frequently remarkably insightful social commentary.

Time has published a thoughtful reflection on his life, and especially on the crucial role he played in the development of animated movies and TV shows.

Perhaps even more important than his obvious energy, creativity and insight, he was a caring man who was much loved by his family and friends.

I like a good action movie.

I suspect that the action movie demographic is primarily us rednecks.

Liberal hippie types seem to like nancy movies like The English Patient. I watched that. I even tried to like it. But for heaven’s sake…

Then there was Sex and the City, Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants, Steel Magnolias, etc, etc, etc, ad infinitum. Meaningful stuff, apparently, about relationships and stuff.

Us blokey conservative types like movies where things actually happen, where there is a story.

So Machete, which features Danny Trejo and Robert de Niro, should be a must on the viewing list. Maybe not a blockbuster, but a solid box office performer.


Unfortunately, Machete is another example of a Hollywood director forgetting why people pay money to go to the movies.

To be entertained. Not to be lectured.

I’m not the only one who thinks so:

“Machete,” which opened nationwide Sept. 3, is as politically charged as a film can be without the words “Michael” or “Moore” attached. It doesn’t just argue in favor of letting illegal immigrants become U.S. citizens. It paints politicians who support enforcing the borders as cold-blood killers, sub-humans we should squash like insects.

And that’s … OK. My biggest beef with the film is that it’s borderline awful. Being a right-leaning film critic means you get used to absorbing film messages that clash with your own principles. You see it, note it, and then move on.

Yep. There are lots of well made films with political messages I don’t like. There are even video games with messages I don’t like, but still play.

I love Flower, for example. That is about as nancy a game as you’ll ever find. You are a petal, floating about bringing colour to tired landscapes, setting windmills in motion, etc. But it’s fun.

But no film can be fun when everything grinds to a halt every few minutes so one of the characters can nag you about how dreadful America is, and how it should let anyone in who wants to come, granting them full benefits and rights of citizenship.

Note to Australian directors: If you want people to watch your films, stop nagging!