Sunday, April 30, 2006

Censorship, advertising and publicity

Authors walk on thin ice when it comes to writing Children’s literature, TV series and movies. A few years ago I was working on a script for a pilot of a Sci-Fi / Fantasy based TV series for kids. I met with an accomplished script writer for several series of the same genre and age group. One of his series was “Spellbinder”, an Australian series that was quite successful. I had much respect for the man who made time to meet me for lunch in Bondi. He gave me some fascinating insight into the world of children’s TV.

We discussed my pilot and as it turned out, it was far too violent for kids TV. Not that I wrote particularly graphic scenes of violence, but the fact that people died in a gripping opening scene immediately wrote my script off from any possibility of selling it to an audience of children.

What? Don’t people ever die in children’s TV, movies or books? A quick think revealed that in fact no, people don’t die in Never Never Land.

Perhaps it isn’t such a bad thing to protect children from violence in their media. Children’s imagination should be encouraged in the things they watch and read, so it stands to reasonable reason that their imaginations shouldn’t be filled with scenes of death. However, what else should be kept from their precious little impressionable minds.

When I was young I recall a book called “Forever” by Judy Blume being banned from school libraries due to a sexual reference or scene depicted within its sacrilegious pages. More recently, there has been a spate of attacks against J.K. Rowling’s books and countless other series featuring magic and other fantastic themes. The Sydney Morning Herald (April 30, 2006) had an article on just that, discussing the increasing amount of censorship in children’s literature.

It can be a real struggle for writers to get their books published in the first place, but if they do then finding a place for the book on the shelves of school libraries can be near impossible for some authors, such as J.K. Rowling who unexpectedly encountered such opposition from paranoid parents all over the world.

It sends me back to Judy Blume. Do you know what happened when her book was banned from school libraries across Australia? Parents horrified by the thought of censorship raced out to buy the book, encouraging their children to read it and discuss any issues that the book raised. It’s the same with Adult’s media. Controversy creates commercial possibility. A ban raises awareness and can be the kind of advertising that money just can’t buy.

How many people had heard of Salmon Rushdie before he wrote “The Satanic Verses” that resulted in a Fatwa being put on his head? In many ways it was the best thing he could have done, despite the stress to his life in having to leave his country and disappear in hiding. He was able to continue writing and he is one of the most respected writers living today.

A few years ago the French film “Baise Moi” caused a great deal of argument over its rating. While the Australian classifiers disagreed over a final rating, it showed in a few cinemas and with the amount of media attention given to the movie, it attracted more crowds than foreign films usually get. I saw it with friends just before it was rated X and banned from cinemas. It was very explicit and I agreed with the judgement, but regarding it being banned or not, I thought it should never have played in the first place because the movie really sucked.

All the same, media attention drew crowds, it’s an age-old adage. “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” That saying has never rung truer than in this world that seems to get more insane about censorship every year.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Is petrol/Gas too expensive?

As petrol prices continue to break record highs we can no longer ignore the problem of fading oil reserves. It stands to reason that oil prices will increase as global supplies diminish. We all knew the day would come, but in our fairytale minds we pictured postapocalysm ala Mad Max, and although our world is falling apart at the seams, no one is quite willing to admit that the time has actually come.

Why hide from truth when it's really not the end of the world? Many a Hollywood actor has been whipping around in an electric hybrid Honda or Toyota for years now, charging their metallic steeds in their garages and carports over night. These little whiz cars use petrol to get going or when a big hill gets in the way, then switch to electric power once the car is in motion, even recharging themselves on downhill slopes.

Research hybrid cars, here.

When I first heard of hybrid cars I also heard about hydrogen power, which was in its infancy at that point in time. I was thrilled to pieces by the concept of Hydrogen power, and vowed that at the very least the first car I bought would be an electric hybrid. I haven't bought a car yet.

Hydrogen power is still being developed, but there are hydrogen pumps scattered all around the world. I was surprised to find one in Perth, Australia. Not all the hydrogen outlets are in general retail locations. However, it does look like an emerging fuel source.

Find your nearest Hydrogen outlet, here.

Also promising is the upcoming release of Ethanol fuel cars. Ford are about to sell a former Gas-Guzzling pickup with a 3-way hybrid of Petrol, Hydrogen and Ethanol. The Car has 3 tanks, so depending on which fuel is cheaper at the time of refilling the driver can take their pick. I love, love LOVE the sound of this. While petrol remains the most readily available fuel, the driver may be restricted in choice at many Service stations, but as alternative fuels become the norm, petrol can be fazed out without any agony to the car owner. What an amazing piece of foresight on Ford's behalf.

Check out the Ford F-250 Super Chief, here.

I'm really thrilled about the future of the environment. Imagine a world of clean cars. Just imagine the air we breathe every day, the cities we live in. It's a huge leap and we're being forced to take it. Right now it's hell on our hip pockets, trying to scrape together the money just to get to work, but people need to stop whining about increased petrol prices and understand that it was inevitable, we all knew it would happen, and now it has. But don't worry so much, the technology exists and is already out there to get us out of so many of the messes we've found ourselves in.

Me? I'm feeling on top of the world!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Airplanes of the future

I've been looking at the specifications of the new Boeing 747-8 air mansion. The interior design is very nice and looks more like a fancy hotel than an aeroplane. Of course, the focus is on first class. It took me a while, but I found a video that shows economy class, and it doesn't look promising.

There is an option for economy passengers to pay a premium for an actual bed. The video shows about 8 beds in total. I can't even imagine what they'd cost. Will broke economy passengers like me who can't sleep while seated ever get a chance to have a nice, long-haul flight?

It seems no one is ever going to do anything about economy class. I came across one person's theory that it costs regular airlines with regular planes $20 to carry the weight of an empty soda can. Someone remarked at that rate it would cost $15,000 per passenger, which supports Jeremy's theory that it's the first class passengers paying for the entire flight.

I did a quick, random search on first class costs from Sydney to Rome. The price quoted was almost exactly $15,000 for a return air fare. Sydney to New York was $1000 more. The prices for economy travel to those same destinations? Around $2,800 and $2,600 respectively (and we all know you can travel for cheaper than that).

That's a pretty substantial hike-up in costs. If I could afford it, I would say it's worth it. As shameful as that sounds to me, as if $15,000 couldn't be better spent, I hate hate HATE travelling in cattle class so much, I'd pay the extra for a stint in first class if I had the pocket change. As it happens, forking out the cash for an economy ticket hurts me quite sufficiently.

Anyway, the news is great for business and first class travellers, and even the crew will be treated to luxury. The plane itself is very nice looking, you should check it out even though it'll just make economy class travellers even more depressed.

Images and video of the Boeing 747-8