Cliffs of Mohr, Ireland

In October 2013, Colleen and I travelled to Ireland and joined a wonderful Rick Steves tour group for a two week trip around the coast. After the tour, we headed back across the country to Ballyshannon and stayed in Colleen’s ancestral home, Cavangarden House, now a Bed and Breakfast.

Today I released my magazine Ireland: The Gathering on Blurb documented our experiences, and accompanied by my photographs. You can purchase it direct from Blurb for US$14.99 plus shipping. A free ebook version is now available.

Leather Pouch1

My son has a set of mini-cables he carries for work and wanted a small leather pouch to carry them on his belt. So I pulled out the sewing machine and fashioned the little pouch you see in the photo.

It’s a little rough around the edges but I kind of like the rough-made aesthetic, and it fits with the pen case I made him a few months ago. Making something useful from leather scraps, a couple of clasps and thread from Colleen’s sewing drawer is very satisfying even if it looks a little rough.

By making a few simple items I have opened myself up to many more possibilities when I have a need for something. My first instinct is to make it or re-purpose something I already have into a new use. It saves us money, and it just feels good to make a thing rather than buy it.

Leather Pouch2

 

Photographs of the Third Australian General Hospital at Lemnos, Egypt & Brighton (Eng.) / taken by A. W. Savage 1915-17

I wrote the following fictional letter for a guerrilla publishing campaign but I missed the deadline so instead I am releasing it here. I have written the letter in the voice of an Australian nurse serving on the Western Front as the Armistice takes effect on 11 November 1918.

The basic facts are true, and based on my research into an Australian soldier who died on 25 April 1915. The thoughts and impressions expressed in the letter are 100 percent an invention of my imagination, and in no way reflect the memories of any person alive or dead.My Dearest Mother

PoppyANZAC Day is next Saturday, and as the 100th Anniversary of that murderous day approaches the feeding frenzy is sickening. On one side is a parade of sanctioned and tawdry marketing campaigns using the anniversary to further their business success. On the other side is a cadre of journalists, historians and citizens shouting at business and the Government to stop using the memory of ANZAC as a marketing brand for commercial and political success.

So for just one moment, step back and consider this simple question:

Who will you remember on ANZAC Day?

For some families the answer is simple, a great grandfather, uncle or a distant relative in their family tree who served during the Great War. But many Australians, like me, have no direct link to the soldiers, airman and sailors of the First World War. So did a little research and decided I would pause to remember a soldier who originated from the Hunter region.

On ANZAC Day I will remember Port Stephens soldier, Private George Alfred Rush 1045, 9th Battalion AIF. George Rush landed  at ANZAC Cove on 25 April 1915, and was last seen in the firing line at 2pm and is listed as killed in action later that day. He has no known grave. His brother Cecil landed the same day, and was wounded but survived the war being wounded on three subsequent occasions and awarded the Croix de Guerre for his service. Their sister, Edith, enlisted on 26 April 1915 and served as a nurse throughout the war.

Find a name on your local Shrine of Remembrance or search the National Archives for a soldier or nurse who hailed from your town or suburb, and pause for a minute on ANZAC Day to remember him or her.

ChappieIn the near future, crime is patrolled by an oppressive mechanized police force. But now, the people are fighting back. When one police droid, Chappie, is stolen and given new programming, he becomes the first robot with the ability to think and feel for himself. As powerful, destructive forces start to see Chappie as a danger to mankind and order, they will stop at nothing to maintain the status quo and ensure that Chappie is the last of his kind. Written by Sony Pictures Entertainment

Chappie is the latest SciFi epic from South African writer/director Neill Blomkamp, follows the development of the world’s first self-aware artificial intelligence. The movie’s central theme is heavily inspired by Robocop, and Blomkamp pays homage by voicing the Scouts with Peter Weller’s Robocop voice, and styling the Moose (an alternate design) on Robocop’s ED-209. Although there are obvious parallels between the two movies, Blomkamp has interleaved a thematic complexity not present in Robocop.

Chappie enters the world as a blank sheet, a child with no moral code or understanding of the wider world. The movie follows his development, squeezed into a few short days, from innocent child to responsible adult exploring the influences and events that shape our personalities. I could probably write a thesis on the sub-plots and themes in this movie but here’s the principle questions I noted throughout the movie:

•    Should we allow machines employ lethal force without human intervention?
•    Can religious belief be twisted to defend amoral actions and ideas?
•    Will the creation of artificial intelligent life bring about the end of humanity?
•    How does parental abuse affect child development?
•    Does an abuser still love their child?
•    Is a child’s future determined by their environment?

Despite this subplot complexity, the basic narrative is enjoyable and action sequences believable given the technologic advances present in their world. Dev Patel gives a masterful performance as the awkward genius who creates life then fights to maintain its purity in a violent upbringing. Hugh Jackman has fun with the unfamiliar role of bad guy Vince Moore, a former soldier and designer of an alternate policing robot remotely controlled by a human pilot. The juxtaposition of Moore’s twisted Christian morals and Chappie’s simple adherence to his Maker’s commandants is the most poignant theme throughout the movie for me.

Die Antwoord’s Ninja gives an over-the-top performance as a criminal gang leader, and his partner Yo-landi is believable as gang member turned nurturing mother. Neither is going to win awards for their performances but I thought they worked within Blomkamp’s narrative, which he apparently developed while listening to Die Antwoord’s music.

Chappie is enjoyable and thoughtful scifi movie, and one day it will sit along side Robocop as a classic.