Nothing to say, just the photo.
My Mum was taking care of my son, ‘The Pok’, at home yesterday as he was sick and I was unable to take the day off work. Mum enjoys spending time with him and showing him things on YouTube sometimes. As she recounted the story of one video it prompted me to write this post. In the 30+ years since I was a child the changes in technology have been astronomical. Things that were cutting edge are now obsolete and for ‘The Pok’ and ‘Kiki’ they will only see this stuff being done in a museum.
1 – Winding an Audio Cassette Tape
This was what prompted the post. When ‘The Pok’ saw the video he was totally confused. He did not even know what he was looking at, and more importantly why the person had a pen stuck inside the hole of one of the reels. The two of them will never know about waiting up late at night to record the radio when your favourite songs were being played (and cursing when some silly DJ would voice over the intro of the song). Nor will they ever know how important someone with a dual cassette deck player was – the beginnings of media piracy.
2 – Use a Sony Walkman
My generation was the first to truly experience personal and mobile audio – via a Sony Walkman. Yes it was a machine that played audio cassette tapes, but it was also a personal machine that allowed me to escape in my own personal world of music. So when my parents were playing some daft music on the car radio as we drove on long car trips, I could listen to my own personal playlist. The Walkman came in all sorts of models, with a multitude of buttons appearing on the more expensive models. You were a lucky kid if yours was a Walkman Sport with radio, and MEGABASS. My favourite model was the first I ever received – and it was quite a basic model, with two advantages being ultra compact and light. It wasn’t fancy, just black and small but I loved it. Apple has a lot to thank Sony for, particularly for not taking their technology to the digital hard drive phase. The evolution of the Walkman was cassette, compact disc, and then mini-disc (which was great technology, but ultimately short lived). Some elements of this technology have lived on though, just have a look at the plethora of headphones that you can purchase for absurd prices.
3 – Need to look up a paper TV guide
I still can’t believe this, that to find out what was on the five television channels you had to buy either the newspaper or a special magazine like TV Week in Australia. By the time my kids are all grown up, media will be on-demand and you will interrogate any number of devices to tell you what is available. You probably won’t even type in what you are searching for, as the voice recognition software is already mature enough for the big electronic companies to be embedding it in everything – ‘ask Google’?
BTW – Kate Jackson was my favourite Angel, not Farah Fawcett. And I thought the 6 Million Dollar Man was a legend. I can’t remember a single episode of Starsky and Hutch but I do remember the car.
4 – “Tape” a TV show
VHS players and tapes exploded during my teenage years. This was a pivotal point in media technology, and so much so that when I speak to my wife about recording a show from cable TV I often say that I am going to tape it. My kids will never “Tape” anything. Tapes are pretty much a thing of the past, and in most respects this is brilliant. I can remember what would happen when the VHS player went on the blink and would develop and appetite for said tape. Or when one of your brothers taped over something you recorded to watch later, with the ensuing sibling conflict. Hard drives will soon be replaced in their entirety by solid state media, and no doubt that by the time my two reach adulthood that a new technology will be used to store their favourite media.
5 – Wait till a scheduled time to watch a show
Other than live sport and new TV shows or films, the concept of watching media to a schedule is almost obsolete. The same could be said with radio, where streaming and subscription services cater for what you want when you want it. Not only is on-demand now the way it will work, but the predictive software that analyses you audio and visual tastes will be able to prompt you to listen to other similar music or shows. With all of this, the only thing holding up the business models of the past is archaic and corrupt legislation – where lobbyists cajole politicians to favour their outdated media empires. Anyone for Netflix or Tidal?
Writing this post made me thing of a plethora of other things in this field. I think there may be a second post of things that my kids will never know.
As I wrote previously, I turned my son ‘The Pok’ into a first rate Star Wars nerd. So when his 5th birthday came up, you can guess what he asked for – a Star Wars party. We were a little stumped as to what we should do for his party. Games, costumes, decorations, themed food, and well… all of the above. The first thing that came to mind that ticked off two items on the list was toy lightsabers for the kids. I have to admit that this idea was not original, but I thought that I would bring it to life in the most perfect way.
First I had to source the blades, and foam pool noodles were the trick. I went to Kmart to grab six of them. In doing so I whacked some poor young woman three times while navigating the aisles (after the third time she thought that either I was annoying or trying a very bad pickup routine – the former was the truth). I grabbed two of each of the major colours seen in the films; blue, green, and red. Grab the hollow ones if you can, the solid ones hurt a bit if you get properly whacked.
The tools required were:
- Measuring tape
- Coping saw (not essential and can be swapped for a Stanley knife)
- Permanent marker
- Electrical tape to represent the lightsaber hilt (different widths and colours – but make sure that you have a grey colour on hand)
- Some sticker dots (again not essential but adds to the detail)
- Mitre guide on horse (not essential if not using the coping saw)
The six noodles would end up making 12 lightsabers. First we had to measure the halfway point so we could do some cutting. The Pok was obviously getting frustrated with my perfectionism. The noodles I bought where exactly 1500mm so a cut at 750mm would do the trick.
Then the noodle was cut in half using the guide and saw. The ends that were cut would end up being the hilt part of the lightsaber (so that the hilt could cover up any rough sawing and pen marks).
Now I had to measure the hilt, so from the edge that I cut I measured in 200mm. I came to this measurement as a good length for little 5 year old hands to be able to double grip the lightsaber. This length also offered enough room for detailing the laser sword’s hilt.
I wrapped the first band of electrical tape was around the noodle at the 200mm marker – which represents the emitting part of the hilt.
Then I wrapped the end in tape to top and tail the hilt of laser sword.
Filling in the gap with additional cuts of electrical tape allowed me to detail the hilt. I decided to be creative here and use varying cuts and colours of electrical tape to make a unique design for each lightsaber. A finishing touch was for the placement of one or more sticker dots representing the buttons to activate the blade (yes I am a perfectionist).
The end result was a collection of unique toy lightsabers for each child attending the party to could grab and play with, and at the end of the party take home along with their goody bag.
The Pok loved them, and as the birthday boy he received an extra special one with additional custom detail and some unique colours.
Kiki simply thought that her Daddy had just made up the largest ice lolly she has ever seen (then proceeded to try and whack her brother).
This was relatively cheap, a few dollars per noodle along with the cost of the electrical tape and a Saturday afternoon. The key was to make them unique. But watch out for; the kids fighting over the colours, little people ganging up on the parents, and a couple of bruised child egos from being left wanting in their fencing skills. As I was making them, my wife asked me “should we organise any games?” No need with these things, give them to the kids and let them whack each other for a few hours.
Last point – as a father yours must be red and of a b@d@ss design.
Sydney Harbour is without a doubt beautiful. Us Sydneysiders are quite lucky to have at the heart of our city this maritime masterpiece. Multiple levels of government have been making quite a bit of effort over the last few years to make the harbour foreshore accessible to people. I think that there is also a master plan to connect a continuous stretch of foreshore from Woolloomooloo (East of the Opera House – and yes I spelt that suburb correctly) all the way through to Balmain. So when the plans to redevelop the Western maritime shoreline of the Sydney CBD began, the opportunity to redefine the shoreline and reconnect a previously inaccessible strip of land arose. This part of my city is named Barangaroo.
Barangaroo was the name of the wife of one of Australia’s most famous indigenous Australians – Bennelong. She was a powerful woman from the Aboriginal clan of Cammeraygal, being a key figure in the local community.
After decades of construction and harbour reclamation, the original shape of the shoreline had been lost to the square shape of concrete docks. The plan to introduce a public park on the Barangoo shoreline was opened up to a design competition, and the winning design was a beautiful landscape proposal that returns the shape of the original shoreline. The driving force for the introduction of this park was Australia’s greatest Prime Minister from the few decades – Paul Keating. And we can now enjoy the fruits of the labour of the architects, landscapers, and builders who gave us this new park – and cycleway too :-)
C’mon, you knew that I would throw my two wheel endeavours into this.
So we took off on our bikes as a family, me riding alongside the Pok on his bike and my wife riding her bike with our Chariot trailer in tow shuttling Kiki. The distance from our place to the Barangaroo headland is just shy of 6km, a big distance for my little guy. But the reward was this:
The shoreline has been recreated with large hewn sandstone blocks. The stone that submerges with the tide has already taken to the green aquatic colours. There are two tracks the follow the shoreline. One which is composed of compacted earth for walkers, and a second asphalted path for two wheel steeds and runners. The views out over the harbour are great, and uninterrupted out to the inner West and the ANZAC Bridge.
The sandstone blocks are quite large, but not off-limits to walk on. Though the blocks do make you feel kinda small, but at the same time Balmain seems strangely within arms reach.
At the Northern most point of the headline was the opportune time for a refuelling pit-stop.
This gave me a chance to explore the park a bit more while the kids snacked. I rode up the hill to get a better view of the landscape of the park. The trees that have been planted have not matured yet, so hopefully in a few more years the shade will be more prominent.
My little Kiki was asleep the whole way to the park until we stopped. She was pleasantly surprised when we she woke up.
The view from the headland to the Sydney Harbour Bridge is pretty spectacular too, and the elevation provides a unique perspective. The short climb is fun to ride up.
The old maritime control tower which directed shipping is still in place and presides over the entire park.
Some of the sculpture pieces are pretty cool. This mini “stonehenge” from sandstone blocks was the site of a little game of hide and seek between The Pok, Kiki, and myself.
And I can never get enough of taking photos of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, but it is the colours in the stone that are a highlight to me.
We took the opportunity to have a few race sprints between The Pok and myself. My little man is turning into a bit of a speed demon on the wheels, hitting over 20kph in a burst of speed. Not bad for a five year old. But all that energy output lead to more refueling for the boy – a hot chocolate did the trick.
All up a great family ride and what turned out to be the longest ride that my little man has done – 13km! He loved it as did my wife and little girl. And we are lucky to have a new addition to our harbour front.
Our boy, AKA ‘The Pok’, says some really funny things with the reasoning of a 5-year-old behind his musings. Some of it is hilarious, or just bizarre.
Last night, after our first Friday dinner at the beach for the season (we are lucky us Sydneysiders), we drove back home via Oxford Street. If anybody is familiar with what goes on at Oxford Street you will of course know that it is the centre of nightlife for the Gay and Lesbian community. Anything goes after dark down that stretch of town. And I mean anything.
As we came to a stop at one of the many sets of traffic lights, The Pok got an eyeful of a drag queen dressed in a ballooning frock with a light blue bouffant as a wig – the whole shebang! My wife and I were both hoping that the Pok didn’t notice.
But the Pok was half stunned and half bemused, and had to know more.
“Dad, why is that woman wearing a funny dress and has blue hair?”
Searching for an answer I replied…
“um, [Pok], that is not a woman.”
Pausing to contemplate my response, he came back with one word,
I was speechless.
Given the fact that I am an adult born in the 70s and with a technical inclination, it would come as no surprise that I am a Star Wars geek. It has always very much been a private obsession since my childhood, but how could I not fall in love with X-Wings, lightsabers and Star Destroyers. In large part, the imagination of George Lucas pushed me onto my professional path – and I bet there are many other engineers of my vintage who would probably say the same. My childhood play was always trying to recreate the fantastical world of “a galaxy far, far, away.”
So when ‘The Pok’ (AKA my son) started to describe the Clone Wars in his adventures and play at daycare, I knew the time was right to indoctrinate him in the ways of the force. Particularly given that he was playing out these adventures without having seen any of the films or TV shows.
It got me thinking, “how should I do this?”
So on one of our Dad-Son Friday movie nights, I unleashed the ultimate weapon in the arsenal…
Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back!
Or at least the first third of it.
Let’s pause for a moment and contemplate the psychological assault that I was about to unleash as a parent on the mind of my four year old son. Here is the context of reality of his world.
- He lives in Australia, and has never seen snow. Deep morning frost, yes, snow and ice, never.
- The only things that he knows that fly are planes and helicopters (and his Mickey Mouse when he throws the rodent down the stairs – not really flying).
- What is an energy shield or power generator?
- As for armoured vehicles, they are pretty low to the ground and run on caterpillar tracks.
- The only things he know that cut are knives and blades, from the kitchen or my toolbox.
- Kangaroos bound around in the outback on two hind legs and have a tail.
- Robots in our world are a bit crap, and don’t levitate.
- The International Space Station is big, kinda… well not really. And it looks flimsy too.
- The only way you get better is by resting at home, visiting the doctor, or if really sick going to the hospital.
- If you make a mistake, you don’t get one more chance before you die.
So with these 10 items as my base of reference here is what left him speechless and stunned, forever changing his mind like a jedi mind trick.
The Opening Scene
Immediately proceeding the scroll, which as I read it out made no sense to him whatsoever, he sees a big spaceship (an Imperial Star Destroyer) shooting out rocket powered vehicles (which we soon find out to be Imperial Probe Droids) in different trajectories. The vehicle we follow is shoots off to a planet covered in ice – completely covered in ice (the ice planet of Hoth)!
So there goes reality number 1, number 2, and number 8 (with the last two properly getting sorted out later on).
The vehicle properly crashes in the ice planet and what emerges from the wreckage is an insect like robot (our starring Imperial Probe Droid), which… levitates! And it looks like it means business, nasty business with its sinister humming sounds.
There goes reality number 7.
Enter our Heroes
Immediately proceeding the sinister opening that pretty much sets the tone for where the film will go, we see a zooming aerial shot of the ice planet honing in on an animal with rider (none other than Luke Skywalker, farmboy, death star assassin, last Jedi knight, sister kisser, etc.). The animal is a horse size kangaroo with horns like a ram (a Taun taun, the trusty frozen planet steed of the Rebel Alliance). Time to throw away reality number 6. Not only that but these furry horned kangaroos are rideable, which contrary to popular belief we Australians do not have the pleasure of doing with ours.
Of course the big ice monster (Wampa – possibly one of my brothers in costume) emerges to whack Luke and his steed, and then try to go all carnivorous on them. And don’t forget that the other hero, Han Solo, rides the furry kangaroos too. Upon Han Solo’s return to the rebel military installation there is much talk discussion about the fact that Luke is missing. So Han goes out on his furry horned kangaroo to rescue him. Meanwhile Luke uses his blue glowing light sword (lightsaber) to cut himself from the hanging upside down from the ceiling, cut off a wampa arm, and then when Han finally does rescue him the sword is used to cut open his furry horned kangaroo belly. Scratch reality number 5 and begin eternal fascination with the most elegant weapon ever invented. Also cue the question that has been plaguing me since my childhood, “did Han shove in Luke headfirst? And if so, how did he breathe surround by all those guts?”
Rescue and Recovery
Our heroes are found again the next morning, by a team of pilots commandeering a bunch of flying, hovering, air speeder things (Rebel Alliance Snowspeeders). After all these years I still think that this is one of the best vehicle designs invented, though how aerodynamic they are leaves me wondering. The way the snowspeeders fly by hugging the terrain is just beautiful. Further reinforcement of new reality number 2.
When Luke is brought back to the medical bay, his recovery and recuperation is nothing short of otherworldly. He is hooked up to a breathing apparatus completely submerged in a tank of blue fluid (bacta tank) with robots monitoring and tending to him (2-1B medical droid and FX-7 medical droid), all while wearing the a pair of whities that would make Bridget Jones proud. How is it possible that one is fixed like this when sick or injured. Knock reality number 9 on the head. From now on, the Pok will cite the need to be tended by a medical droid when he needs fixing.
Discovery by the Galactic Empire
The master plot in the first third of the film is the pursuit of the Rebel Alliance by the Galactic Empire, and true to script they are discovered by that nasty levitating robot. This is where the sense of awestruck truly begins for my little guy, the introduction of the biggest spaceship he has ever seen. One so big that it casts shadows as it passes over the other smaller ones (which are themselves five times the length of a USN aircraft carrier).
Enter the Super Star Destroyer – the Executor. Flagship of the fleet, darker grey than the rest and no white space engines for this bad boy – all flaming orange. Soooo bad and truly beautiful!
Somebody recently tried to communicate the scale of this fictional space vehicle by overlaying it on the island of Manhattan. Now that is what I would call big! The bar has now been properly set for the new reality number 8.
Enter the Dark Lord Vader too, and he is a tough boss. His chief lieutenant overlooks the clue to finding the Rebel Alliance’s base, and he goes over the top of him to order his fleet to attack the enemy residing on the ice planet. There is a whole bunch of military gobbledygook that is spoken while the tension mounts for what is to be the big battle piece. In my boy’s world, no-one talks like that, and he now has a new set of phrases and terms added to his vocabulary. Then the poor Imperial officer, named Admiral Nozzle (or was it Ozzel – who knows…) makes mistake number two! When will people ever learn to not come out of hyperspace too close to a system? Cue the first addition to the body count in this film, with Darth Vader choking his officer… via Skype! WTF? Lesson to the unwise, don’t be clumsy and stupid and if some guy in a big black helmet / mask combo calls don’t answer. Reality number 10 – gone!
The Great Ice Battle
The preparations for the big attack in the snow begin. Pilots are briefed, troops rush to their stations. The key piece on the board is declared as the main power generator. Hmmmm… what could that possibly be. Evacuating ships launch off into space by opening shields, supported by a huge bulbous gun firing big energy bolts into thousands of kilometers into enemy ships. Zapping them into submission. He still has not said a word at this stage.
Then, the troops positioned in the trenches spot awestruck moment number two. “Echo Station 3T8, we’ve spotted Imperial Walkers.” Ginormous armoured dogs that walk like elephants and are bristling with laser guns (Imperial All Terrain – Armoured Transports, or AT-AT for short) are coming to get you.
You betcha, and a can of whip@ss is about to be unleashed. Reality number 4 is smashed out of the park and with the lumbering beasts becoming the true star of the movie for the next 10 minutes of movie magic.
In the ensuing battle, we bare witness to the second coolest aerial maneuver executed in movie history (some would argue that Maverick and Goose giving their Soviet counterparts the bird is the number one maneuver). Can you repeat after me, “Good shot Jansen.”? More importantly, who would have thought that this bit of flying was executed by a pilot named after a chunk of potato and a with all these laser guns they used a harpoon.
A bit more carnage and chaos occurs, followed by the lead walker reaching the main power generator and blowing it up with “Maximum Firepower”. You obviously need this amount of ordinance to blow up a main power generator – so that explains the new reality number 3. This makes the little holographic Dark Lord of the Sith happy, and the officer who scored the hit (General Maximillian Veers – the coolest name in the Star Wars universe) makes no mistake and doesn’t get choked to death by Skype.
And our Dark Lord gets to play in the ice cave base with his white hooded and kilted troops. A couple of them get whacked by the secret gun of the Millennium Falcon, but our heroes retreat to fight another day off into space (albeit with a great deal of misfortune to come in the final two thirds). That is where I stopped the film, and where he finally came up for air and spoke for the first time by asking a several of incoherent questions simultaneously. My wife took over at that point and took him to his bed to hit the sack, where he proceeded to replay what he just witnessed in a two minute babble. He crashed and my wife asked me what did you just watch.
My Boy is now a Star Wars Geek
Some would call me a bad parent for indoctrinating him into the world of Star Wars, and yes there is some stylized violence in this film. But this is a fight between good and evil, where the good guys are good and the bad guys are so bad that they are cool. As for the psychological manipulation, guilty as charged. I have held back on showing him the more violent parts of the other movies, like the whole of Episode III, because he doesn’t have the emotional maturity to comprehend. That will come in time, when he gets a little bit older. He can figure out the sister kissing bit on his own.
He now plays Star Wars every day with his friends at pre-school and wants to watch the films and TV shows with his Dad. I don’t mind, as it sure beats watching Thomas the Tank Engine. Of course he has also asked that his fifth birthday party be a Star Wars party.
In his new reality he talks about hyperspace, shield generators, wants a lightsaber, and thinks that we should build an R2-D2. Maybe he makes some of these things a reality in our world in the future. But for the moment, he is still a preschooler and there is still a bit of silliness to be found in this Star Wars stuff thanks to Robot Chicken.
Closing note – all the images are the copyright of Disney – Lucasfilm. I could be forgiven for including the film screenshots in my blog post given the amount of money I have contributed to George Lucas through merchandising. If you want to copy the images, buy the films.