Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Brink

We made this short film a few years ago now. I think I was complaining about the effort required to make an 8 minute film - the long hours, the early mornings, etc. I remember Torstein, the cinematographer, saying to me, "There's a lot easier ways to make a living."

Sage words. A little more about this on my film page. But for now, I hope you enjoy The Brink.


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Chicken or Clown? Part 2

The purpose of this post, and the last, was to look at some irrational fears. In the last post we established that, no, we should not be afraid of chickens. We also solved the age old question of the chicken and the egg.

In this post, we will try and answer the question of whether we should be afraid of clowns. I know what you're thinking - of course we should be afraid of clowns - there needn't be a debate. But before we jump to conclusions, let's look at the problem in more detail.

Let's face it - a lot of people are scared of clowns. There's even a name for this type of phobia: Coulrophobia. Then there's the people that hate clowns but are seemingly not scared of them, such as the "I Hate Clowns" website. I think fear and hate often go together, but I'm not about to start a fight with the I Hate Clowns people - they have logo'd t-shirts.

I don't blame the clown fearers or the haters. I've always found the aspect of someone hiding behind a mask both fascinating and creepy. I've written two short stories about clowns; one was for "tweens" called Clown Town, and the other an adult story called The Clown. If you keep reading my blogs you'll also see quite a lot of clown cartoons.

On the clown side; dressing up in disguise can be quite liberating. It allows you to be another person - to let go of inhibitions (or so I am told). Okay, I'll come clean - I have a thing for novelty wigs - there, I've said it - admitting you have a problem is the first step ...


And further support for the impact parents can have on their children:


It warms my heart.

So anyway, clowns have also had a bad wrap in the world of story. Take for instance; Killer Klowns from Outerspace (1988). And now, 25 years later, I hear there is a new movie; The Return of the Killer Klowns from Outerspace in 3D set for release in 2013. Stephen King didn't help the cause when he wrote the book "It" featuring "Pennywise the dancing clown". Unfortunately Pennywise didn't just dance, although that would have been creepy enough. I could go on, but a quick search of the web will give you more than enough information, if you really want to go there.

So, it's looking bad for clowns. But what about the good clowns? The ones that do make us laugh and generally don't creep us out. Jerry Lewis for instance - my favourite "clown". Ben Stiller. Robin Williams. Jim Carey. You know what - they don't usually dress up. Neither do chickens. I want to know who I'm dealing with - and although you can't always be sure - it's easier when you can look someone in the face - and it's their face you're seeing - not a mask. We often hate things we fear, and fear things we don't understand.
So is fearing clowns irrational? There are many real risks in life that we seem to easily dismiss, and attach greater risks to stuff that's highly unlikely. That was the point of the original post in Part 1.  Things such as smoking, drinking, eating too much junk food, driving in cars, etc are all reasonably high risk activities that cause untimely death. Yet, we all partake in at least some of these activities. Clowns, on the other hand, probably rank in the very low risk category along with being struck by lightning.

Therefore, should we fear clowns?  The answer is yes ... but only a little. Much like with lightning - where you don't go out in a storm carryng a metal object - if you see a clown coming toward you, either cross the road calmly, or decline their offer politely.



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Journey into Stuff by Jeff Bilman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Please note, visitors to this website are solely responsible for the information they post. Any posting of copyrighted material is strictly prohibited and the owner of this website shall not be responsible for any copyrighted material uploaded by third parties.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Chicken or Clown? Part 1

So what's your irrational fear? I know some people are afraid of chickens - they get creeped right out by those squat, feathery, beady-eyed, lipless egg factories. I know a lot more people who really, really, really hate clowns (and fear them even more).

We have two chickens at the moment, and I had lots of chickens growing up. I'm not afraid of them. Chickens give me eggs and eat scraps that otherwise would go in the bin. They are sociable and sometimes amusing. I like the fact that their ancestry goes back to the dinosaurs - they're like little mini T-rex's (here's the proof). The thing I like least about chickens is that they are poop machines. That begs the obvious question: were T-rex's poop machines?

Unfortunately, that will have to be the topic of a future post. The real question is: are chickens something to be feared?




Incidentally, as a bonus to my loyal readershp, I shall also answer the age-old question of which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Clearly it's the egg.

The chicken had to hatch first, didn't it - so it was inside the egg. The egg therefore came first. At best you could say the chicken and the egg came at the same time, because from its most embryonic stage the chicken and the egg were forming at the same time. But then it's still the egg then isn't it - because it's an egg before it's a chicken.

But what if the egg wasn't a chicken type egg?  What if normally from that particular egg a chicken-like creature usually came out - but this time, through the miracle of evolution/mutation/transmogrification a whole new entity (ie. the chicken) arose. It was a chicken, and then from that point on that chicken began laying chicken-like eggs, from which more chickens came out. Okay, this is getting confusing.

... though I still think the egg came first.

See, in this instance Humpty came after the chicken, but at the dawn of the chicken, I think it was Humpty's ancestors (ie. the eggs) that were first.


What's my point? Anyone ... please.

I heard on the radio the other day a guy talking about how people often fear highly unlikely events more (and equate a greater likelihood of the event occuring), than they do for more likely events. The example he gave was the Western world's fear of terrorism (people fear and percieve the chances of injury from this event far more than the real risk) versus their (lack of) fear from, say, driving whilst sending text messages on their phone (there's a far greater likelihood of injury).

Curious, I had a little surf around the web to see what I could find out. Barring some extreme activities like, perhaps, base-jumping, the riskiest thing you can do in life (ie. leading to premature death) is regularly smoke. It's literally 20 times more dangerous than the next most dangerous activity - being in a motor vehicle. These two risks are classified as "Extra high" and "high" risk respectively.

The next rung down was "elevated risk", and that included things like being a frequent airline passenger, a regular skier, a moderate drinker, or a pedestrian. It went down from there: Moderate (background radiation), Low (cycling), Very low (Saccharin?), Extremely Low (Lightning).

This data was twenty years old, so I'd love to see something more current. For instance, where does eating processed meats, or highly saturated fat food products, sit on the risk scale? My guess would be, fairly high up. However, based on the above data, if you're a smoker who drives a car, enjoys drinking moderately, walks, lives on Earth and (adding my own) likes a nice salami every now and then - then you're in a lot of trouble. That fear of chickens is soon becoming pretty irrelevant.

By the way, maybe the cartoon below with help with those still confused about the whole chicken/egg thing:

Okay, I'm glad we got that sorted. Now stay tuned for Part 2: Should we fear clowns?


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Journey into Stuff by Jeff Bilman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Please note, visitors to this website are solely responsible for the information they post. Any posting of copyrighted material is strictly prohibited and the owner of this website shall not be responsible for any copyrighted material uploaded by third parties.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Dads have it Easy(er)

The Fathering Project

A friend of mine asked if I was interested in going with him to a seminar titled "Helping Men Become Better Dads." I had a look at the website, which is here, and decided it was worthwhile for the price of admission (plus you got a drink and a fairly decent snack!)

So I couldn't see too many downsides. Men want practical tips that don't take too much effort - it was also a chance to legitimately get out of the house and away from the wife and kids ...



But seriously, blokes (defined as your ordinary no-frills man) want things to be kept fairly simple, and not too touchy feely ie. no man hugs. This seminar hit all those marks. It was great to see the diversity in the Dads - white collar, blue collar and everything in between - there were no stereotypes - just a group of guys wanting to be better Dads.

We also received a 40 page booklet small enough to fit in your back pocket titled, "The Blue Book of Tips for Fathers and Father-figures". Just by implementing a few of the very practical tips in this booklet, a Dad can go from useless to being ahead of the pack (and for the single Dads, or the really bad husbands, this may also attract the attention of some of the Mums).

The Dad Effect

My Dad would be mortified if he saw this cartoon. Of course it's not true. I, however, did once dress up as a girl - but it was all my sister's doing. I was about 10, and for reasons I can't remember she put me in a very nice pink one-piece dress, a wig and some horribly large sunglasses (that might just be back in fashion). We went over to my Grandmother's house and apparently fooled her into thinking I was one of my sister's friends. Did I really fool her? I can't be sure. My Grandmother only spoke Polish and I barely understood a word she said. For all I knew, she was probably saying, "Stupid boy, get out of that dress, or you'll turn into a homosexual."

The truth in the cartoon is that Fathers, or Father-figures (uncles, grandfathers, coaches, etc), have a profound effect on children - this is what we are told and I'm not going to argue. To quote from one of the information brochures:
           
                       "The Link between good fathering and the outcomes of children is so 
                        strong that it is estimated that if all Australian fathers spent an extra five 
                        minutes a day with each of their children, $5 billion per year would be 
                        saved in the areas of law (less juvenile crime), health (less drug taking),
                        education (more engaged) and industry (greater productivity)."  (1)

Assuming you can transpose these Australian figures across the world (or at the very least to Westernized countries), then these statistics are staggering.


What is that look? Are you staggered, bemused, unimpressed?

Let me just say this ... I've come to believe my own Dad is a great guy. I know that he loves his own children and grandchildren as much as I love my children. But growing up, as a kid, I didn't know that.

I'm going to generalize here - The 70's Dad seemed to be almost stereotypical - the unemotional bread winner. The Father was the guy who went out to work - often before you woke up - came home in the evening, then put his feet up to watch a bit of TV with a couple beers before it was time to go to bed and start the routine all over again. Generally the Mum did all the other "stuff" ie. parenting.

The first time I really knew just how much he cared was when I was about 15. We were at a Christmas function for his work and I was speaking to one of his apprentices (who was about 18). He told me what a great guy my Dad was. I was a little surprised. Then he told me how proud my Dad was of me - how Dad was always talking about me at work. I was floored.

You see, it would have been nice to have been told by Dad himself. But he was a 70's Dad. I know for a fact there was a lot of them around.

Page 1 of the "The Blue Book of Tips for Fathers and Father-figures" says "tell your kids you love them often". That's a pretty easy thing to do - especially if you start when they're young. And it's not the 70's anymore.

Why Dad's have it Easy(er)?

Okay, again, I'm generalizing, of course. But let's face it - when it comes to parenting - the women still do the majority of the work - and with less of the accolades.

Mum comes to school to pick up the kids - child saunters over to her, "Oh, hi, Mum."

Dad comes to pick up the kids - child sprints with joyous grin on face, "DADDY!"

Put simply, and I don't know why, but the Dad doesn't have to do all that much to get the adoration of his children. Sometimes I feel a little guilty even ... but only a little.

There's so much more I'd like to say on this subject but, for now, if you're interested I'd direct you towards the The Fathering Project website, or there are many other good websites that offer advice to Fathers or Father-figures. I'm already using a few of the tips I learned - I don't know if my kids have felt the difference, but I certainly have.*


(1) taken from "Making time to be a Dad," information brochure from The Fathering Project.
* I have no affiliation with The Fathering Project.





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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Unrealized Potential


I wrote this cartoon about 15 years ago. The sad thing is, I still feel like it applies to me as much now as it did back then. Some (ie. my wife) would say I'm being too hard on myself. I agree - I always have been. But the idea of this massive gap between what I feel I could have achieved so far, and what I have achieved still gnaws at me.

Do you think George Clooney feels like this? "Man, I wish I'd done Water World instead of all those Steven Soderbergh movies." Okay, maybe that's not the best example. George has probably got close to his potential - but that's from an outsider's perspective, maybe he feels he hasn't?

Then there's the people who seem to have miraculously obliterated their maximum potential as perceived by class-mates, family or friends (from now on known as PPQ - Perceived Potential Quotient). Whether it's a great career, a really hot partner, or an amazing sense of inner peace - I don't know how to feel about these people that seem to be so obviously punching above their weight...



That's an egg by the way, not an egg-like depiction of me. I have no idea what he's doing up there, why, or his chances of successfully diving into that glass of water.

But I digress ... I think one of the problems is I tend to assign a value to myself based on my achievements. It's kind of like a "what you do" instead of a "who you are" focus. There's probably many reasons for this - but I blame (and there - I've said the word - BLAME) - yes, I blame the time I was in U8's Little Athletics. I won a Gold medal at the State Championships in the triple jump AND broke the State record (I also won bronze in the long jump). The following two years I made the finals but no medals, and it's been all downhill from there. Every time I hear Bruce Springstein's "Glory Days" it takes me back to the good old days. Imagine how a real athlete must feel.

And before I go any further, I want to acknowledge how lucky I am. Just by living in Australia I am better off than most people in the world when it comes to health, education, government, financial, etc. Ask someone in a poor country about unrealized potential. That's the real tragedy.

WHOA BOY! Hang on a minute.

I have a confession to make. I spent countless hours writing and re-writing the rest of the post after this point. It kept changing, and it kept getting bigger and bigger, and more complicated. I've trashed it all.

At one stage I thought I was on to the Holy Grail - so profound and far-ranging where my thoughts - they were coming together better than those physicists attempting to find a unified theory of everything (my calculations ruled out string theory - Strings - Seriously! Theoretical Physicists are on another planet man).

I was ready to print my enormous blog out, take it to the nearest University, dump it on their desk, and ask, "Can I have my PhD now please? Just call me Dr Jeff."

But I was also losing sleep - and I was beginning to have doubts. I began to ponder whether my thesis was actually making sense - occasionally it might even be contradicting itself. And even worse, I began dreaming about the damned thing. I woke up, disturbed, and knew I had to make a choice. I could spend the next 20 years refining my theory, or I could let it go. I soon realized that, to be honest, I wasn't that smart. And the last three nights I'd barely said a word to my family - so intent was I on refining my discovery. If it went on like this I could miss out on 20 years of their life, as well as my own. So I let it go.

I will definitely come back to this topic one day - let's face it,  there's at least another 4 blogs worth of material. But I will say this: the cartoon at the top of this page was written by a guy in his early 20's. As you get older things change, priorities change. And it was based on a very narrow focus - CAREER. So maybe I've not achieved all I've wanted to in that realm of my life (and hopefully there's a lot of years left if I choose to pursue it), but as you know there's so much more to life. And in many of those aspects I think I've done okay.

So with that in mind, I'll leave you with this totally irrelevant and unrelated cartoon.







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Journey into Stuff by Jeff Bilman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Please note, visitors to this website are solely responsible for the information they post. Any posting of copyrighted material is strictly prohibited and the owner of this website shall not be responsible for any copyrighted material uploaded by third parties.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Meaning of Stuff

Welcome to my first blog. 'Stuff' is a great word. It's so general. It can mean anything.

"Where'd you put my stuff?"
"What stuff?"
"You know, my stuff?"
"I didn't touch your stuff! Why would I want your stuff?  Your stuff sucks."
"No, your stuff sucks!"

So does anybody know what these two people are actually talking about? No...? Come on, of course you do - they're talking about stuff. And like the conversation above, I hope you get just as much knowledge and insight from this blog - my Journey into Stuff.

It's a collection of stuff from my past and the present, as I attempt to make some sense out of, well - please don't say it again... stuff.


Creativity
I've tried a lot of creative pursuits. I think it's been my way of trying to figure out stuff. The first thing I tried was cartooning. And since it was where I started - way back in the early 90's when Grunge AND Jeff Buckley ruled (a testament to how good Jeff Buckley was) - I think it's a good way of starting out here too.

These are some of my early cartoons.  Many were self-published on a now defunct website I called "Elephant Tales" - predominantly focusing on a quirky elephant named Eric (any emotional likeness to me is purely coincidental - and besides - it was a long time ago). I'll try and put at least one of these old cartoons up with each blog.

The first "Eric" I drew properly:

Another early cartoon.  This was one of my favorites.  I had it made into a t-shirt in the days when you actually had to go to a screen-printer to get it done.

I always felt like the black sheep, especially in my late teens/early 20's - ditching an accounting job to draw...

... and attempt to play music.


I still play (very poorly), and still harbor ambitions of writing at least one song that I actually like. I once wrote a song called Soul Destroyer - it was about somebody I used to work with. It was a hard rock style of song, but not very good. I tried several variations - one being acoustic - it still wasn't very good, but somehow it was sort of funny.

Until next time ...



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Creative Commons License
Journey into Stuff by Jeff Bilman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Please note, visitors to this website are solely responsible for the information they post. Any posting of copyrighted material is strictly prohibited and the owner of this website shall not be responsible for any copyrighted material uploaded by third parties.