Tuesday, May 30

Supertrooper modelling school

Originally uploaded by bigyahu.
I've seen so many photos of Australian SAS troops looking exactly like they did in Tuesday's paper, I'm starting to wonder whether the Defence Dept puts them through a compulsory modelling course in their final year of training.

It can't be a coincidence that they all have the same "blue steel" pose ready to unleash for the newspaper cameramen. The confident broad stance, the arms resting relaxed-but-alert across the weapons, the swathe of storage belts and pouches arranged just so, the inevitable sports sunglasses, the boom microphone, and in this latest example, a jaunty black sweatband.

Initially, I'm as impressed as the next reader: dress me in dark camouflage gear, drape me in 40Kg of guns, water canteens and dehydrated food, then stand me in the full heat of the Dili sunshine while the Herald's photographer frames his shot, and it would take more than a black sweat band to prevent me melting into a puddle in the road.

But then it gets me thinking: I've seen that look before! I've seen the exact same pose and the same jaunty Aussie take on regulation equipment again and again!

It doesn't matter whether they're overseas supervising disarmament in East Timor, returning from surveillance in Afghanistan, or just mucking about Sydney harbour threatening ferries in another anti-terrorism exercise, Australia's super-troopers always strike the same pose, with the same gear.

Is it a coincidence that legendary director Ridley Scott chose an Australian to play the toughest veteran special forces character in Black Hawk Down? The very same actor who played The Hulk for Ang Lee? I don't think so. I think the Australian SAS and their "blue steel" pose are now a stereotype as universally known as the Australian cricket team's expert sledging and the Crocodile Hunter's need to spoon with dangerous wildlife.

If I were the head of the SAS, of course, I'd be delighted. If I were the Defence Minister or the Prime Minister, I'd be very chuffed. Nothing looks more reassuring, defence-budget-boosting and vote winning on the front page of the daily newspaper than an Aussie Bloke Who's Got Everything Under Control, Thanks. I'm only surprised that other branches of the Australian defence forces have yet to cotton-on.

For years now, the Navy have given the press nothing but shots of patrol boats and destroyers with nary a human face in them, and even those in ridiculous white shorts and long white socks. Not even Eric Bana could make those look confident and quietly aggressive. The RAAF, meanwhile, has so few modern aircraft to work with, that the only time we see a photo in the newspaper is when they once again fall out of the sky.

Take a leaf out of the SAS book, people: get a big, boofy bloke in front whatever large, expensive piece of technology has just failed to deliver as promised, get him dressed like he knows what he's doing, and then train him to strike a pose!

The nincompoops responsible for the debacle with the helicopters that still can't fly in bad weather need a cocky, iron-jawed pilot/model to pose in front of the doomed chopper with a spanner, as if to say, "No worries, I'll soon have her right".

The bureaucrats who've let so much of the nation's armaments get a bit rusty need a slightly greasy, well-muscled Army technician to pose hefting a massive artillery shell as if confident it'll go off only when it's expected to.

And the drop-kicks who lost Private Kovco's body and then lost the report from the investigation need a buff, hunky desk jockey with one broad hand gripping the paperwork tight to his chest as he gazes out the window at the airfield below, all working smoothly and efficiently. Tightly cropped and correctly lit, we'll never be able to spot the cargo already beginning to spill off the conveyor belt.

In the future, you'll know when your work truly sucks

Michael Walsh of the Fourth Estate was invited to speak to graduating students at the Australian Film and Television School recently. Now I've recovered from the crippling wave of envy that hit me when I heard this, I have to admit he gave a far, far better speech about the future of the media than I could. For me, the biggest point was this one:

....until now film makers have blamed everyone but themselves for work that nobody wanted to watch. But with the internet there is no one to blame but yourself. The bad news is that the funding bodies and distributors who have subsidised so many creative careers up until now are not really going to be able to help you in this new world. The good news is, like leaving home, your parents are also not going to be able to get in your way.

And that message is true whether you're a film graduate, a TV director, an independent musician, a photographer, or even an author. Dwell on that.

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Tuesday, May 23

How about the black cables, Steve?

I definitely want a new black Apple MacBook 13" to go with my black iPod Nano, except (doh!) Apple's probably made the same critical peripherals error with the black MacBook that I discovered when I received my black iPod Nano: all the cables, headphones and other trimmings that come with it are still "Apple white".

I definitely don't want a black Apple MacBook 13" connected to my black iPod Nano by a white cable, and I definitely don't want the power supply for my black Apple MacBook to be white. What if I can't get an Apple Bluetooth Mouse and Keyboard in black? And if the video adaptor cable is white, I'm gonna scream, yell, and throw a little hissy Mac user tantrum, like Steve Jobs reportedly does when things are not 100% perfect. I'm surprised he hasn't noticed this himself. I may send him an email about it...

Apple - MacBook - Gallery 2

Saturday, May 20

Sunset walk

Sunset walk
Originally uploaded by bigyahu.

Sun goes down over The Hazards

Sun goes down over The Hazards
Originally uploaded by bigyahu.

The way all days should end

The way all days should end
Originally uploaded by bigyahu.

sunrise through the cottage window

Grasses on the dune

Grasses on the dune
Originally uploaded by bigyahu.

Mel and Alec traverse the Peron Dunes

You call it a paddock, I call it a cricket pitch

Originally uploaded by bigyahu.
Shame about the moo poo.

Visitors win again

Originally uploaded by bigyahu.
Derby's cricket grounds are in as bad a shape as their team.

Alec and Mel pose reluctantly

Originally uploaded by bigyahu.
Mostly they just want to get out of the shot and out of the wind, but I made them stay long enough for this. We're near the lighthouse on top of The Hazards.

God says hi

Originally uploaded by bigyahu.
Sun comes up behind the clouds over The Hazards - the most aptly named marine obstacles I've ever seen. Check the colours in the grass in the foreground.

alec on a rock

Originally uploaded by bigyahu.
6.30am, Freycinet Peninsula, North Eastern Tasmania. Alec and I leave Mel sleeping, put our coats and pants on over our pyjamas, and run down to the beach to watch the sun rise over the bay.

Friday, May 12

au.myspace launches, needs customer care, and bluepulse

Originally uploaded by bigyahu.
Looks like a softly-softly launch, since it hasn't been announced on the news wires that I could find, but when I went to login to myspace today I got this cute message letting me know that au.myspace.com was now live.

The world's biggest online youth community coming to Australia? You'd think that'd be bigger news than that. But maybe the softly-softly approach means some of the pieces are not yet in place. There's local banner ads already, but I couldn't find any obvious localised content.

Wow, big call to make: replicate the famously unstable myspace platform in a little market like Australia, with all the additional infrastructure, customer care and anti-abuse issues that come with a heaving, sweaty mass of yoof in one online room. And fracture one large online community of Aussies and Americans into two smaller, separate online communities? Does that make sense? Time will tell.

One important consideration for News Interactive will be its mobile strategy. In the US, MySpace has chosen to deliver mobile services via Cingular and Yahoo!. The Cingular offering seems very underwhelming - simple SMS notifications that require you to login from your PC to check what's changed.

The Yahoo! offering is richer, but hitches the MySpace wagon to the success/failure of Yahoo!'s mobile strategy - not easy to unhitch later on if Yahoo! turns out not to be the best partner.

Here in Australia, the mobile space is very different - many more mobile content consumers, really only two carriers that make sense to partner with, and Yahoo! possibly not delivering the same brand, reach and youth mobile usage it does in the US.

Smarter - much smarter - would be for News Interactive to use something like bluepulse to deliver a mobile solution that's richer and more network-independent than a Cingular deal. No need to share revenue with a greedy carrier, either.

And where News Interactive's online audience is not that far behind yahoo.com.au's (if you look just at content sites not search, Y! Mail and Y! Messenger), News would be smarter to leverage its offline newspaper and magazine mastheads to drive an independent mobile offering for au.myspace.com.

Come on Tom, try bluepulse!

Tuesday, May 9

People will pay to wear your schwag!

If anything still surprised me these days, this would: an enterprising team of folks running a web design consultancy for their day jobs is getting people to pay to receive a monthly package of Web 2.0 schwag, aggregated and distributed by the new service www.valleyschwag.com.

If it surprised me, it would surprise me because I always assume people wear schwag either because:

  1. They got it for free; or
  2. They work for the company
But, casting my mind back, I can remember nearly being bowled over when opening a box of Yahoo! tee-shirts at an internet expo back when hardly anyone knew what Yahoo! even was. Some folks just can't get enough brands.

Anyway, you signup for a monthly 'care parcel' from ValleySchwag, and each month you get a bag of t-shirts, stickers, pens, caps and other stuff, all emblazoned with the latest and one-day-coolest web 2.0 logos.

Young Nikita Kashner seems to be building a budding online audience just uploading a photo of herself wearing schwag. But then, she fills a t-shirt so much more alluringly than I ever have, or will.

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Wednesday, May 3

This plane has been hijacked and is en-route to Sao Paolo

Originally uploaded by bigyahu.
How many Brazillians is too many? How many emails do you need to receive in Portuguese before you begin to wonder if you're the only non-Portuguese speaker using Orkut?

So I cancelled my Orkut account today. I will miss the extensive network of veteran yahoos it collected, although most of them are also on LinkedIn and Y! 360 if I really need 'em. In fact, I never really need 'em, it's just good to be able to say I know 'em.

I shall also miss all those attractive Brazillian women, even if all they did was send me what I assume was spam (it was all in Portuguese, remember.)

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