Saturday, December 31, 2011

As the world turns...

Well, here it is, the end of another year, and the blogernets will be overflowing with 'What a Year That Was' posts....

It's true we'll never see another like it, simply cos you can't go back (unless you're the Doctor's companion). But the world keeps turning and the sun will rise on 2012 without a jolt or murmur. Yet I will look back briefly, just to see if the monsters have stopped their chase...

I didn't make any new year's resolutions 12 months ago, so I can score 100% for not failing any. That's a good way to start. I'm still alive, and for a guy who has in the past been a step away from depression-related suicide that's also a bonus, although 2011 was not by any means a bad year. I can count my blessings.

For starters I have a wife who has stood by me through difficulties, slow times, unsure times and poor times. Love can inspire passion, but at bedrock it is patient, kind, forgiving, loyal, selfless and hopeful. I can't ask for more.

Work has been slow, with occasional photoshoots (I got to shoot the World's Greatest Treasurer...) and some steady delivery work to bring in the $$. So I'll be looking for something that can inspire me and be enjoyable while earning me a crust.

I've helped some groups and people get books published, and put out some 2012 calendars of my own work.

My trusty iMac crashed, so I had to replace that, which made me think what can I do on an iPad? Is it an expensive toy, or can I do my work on it? After a slow start where the apps seemed geared towards fun rather than functionality, I'm getting to discover that some serious work can be done, even on the original iPad (which is what I got).

I'm a photographer (among other things) so I've been playing with photo apps, and let me tell you, good ones are thin on the ground. The usual suspects are fine and fun - Camera+ and Instagram are great for the 'retro' look that's a craze on the internet. But I need something with a bit more bite, as I usually work with Photoshop, and those apps don't have the chops.

First up I tried Photogene, which has some good controls built in  - but runs out of puff before the finish line. A good try nonetheless. Then, hidden in the deep dark recesses of an app review, was PhotoForge2. Now we have controls for curves, levels, brightness/contrast, HSL, vibrancy, Unsharp Mask, white balance, and more. There's also a plethora of presets that people expect nowadays, to replace photoshop 'actions'. In the mix is a range of camera, film, lens, filter, flash, developer and paper choices! And layers, this app does layers! And it also comes with a multi-level undo. Now this is more like it! All this for $10, and it replaces more than 90% of what I would do in photoshop.

As a printer, I relied heavily on the Pantone PMS colour matching system. The print world revolves around it. But a PMS colour book costs hundreds of dollars, and there's more than one needed. So of course now there's a cheap app from Pantone with all that on board. One gripe I have is you can't do a search, typing in 330 and getting the colour and breakdown with it - seriously, why not? But it does have a good touch for designers, photographers, printers and decorators, you can upload a photo (of say a shop interior) and it will hunt up the PMS colours in that photo. Great for web designers and interior decorators etc. Get it!

For audio work, which  do occasionally for my radio show, I've got most bases covered, except for a decent replacement for Audacity, but I'm hopeful! I have Dragon for converting speech to text, Speak It for converting text to speech, and Translator who knows why as our guests are all English speaking, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. But I do need an app to do serious editing work on sound files and export as mp3's. I'll probably find one next week...

As for fun, I look to the early days of PC games and came up with Retro Pinball, which is Epic Pinball rebuilt for the iPad - seriously awesome :) Then to top it off, I came across that psycho pair, Sam n Max in the game The Penal Zone. Who could ask for more?

So with all its ups and downs, the year hasn't been too bad. The thing is, a lot of this stuff is just things. And things come and go. There's more important stuff that makes life worth living. So when I put my iPad down, life doesn't just stop! People are important, relationships go on, they sustain you, help you think and grow, and come with their own rewards. And above all that, there's a God who has proved to me that he will 'never leave me or forsake me'. He's there in the bright sunlight, he's there in the darkest pit. If I turn my back on him, I can't see him, but he's still there, guarding my back. That's my greatest treasure.

All the best for 2012.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Making it App'en

Although I use Apple computers for preference, my philosophy with phones has always been 'Keep It Simple Stupid'. I don't want a phone that takes photos. I have very decent cameras for that. I don't want a phone that tells me where to go, I have a Melways for that. I don't want a phone that knows all and answers my questions, I have a wife for that! All I want my phone to do is make calls and txts. That's it.

So the world of Apps has been growing around me with no discernible effect. Until now. 

Out of a mixture of curiosity and excess cash (temporary), I bought an iPad. I don't really know why. I certainly don't need one. Everything I do for my business I can do far far better on my iMac. So put it down to mild insanity.

Being part Scottish, I hate to spend list price on anything (and I mean ANYTHING). On the flip side, if something is on special and I don't need it, I may well buy it anyway, 'cos it saves me money! (refer back to the mild insanity part...)

So my iPad is an ex-demo iPad 1 from Apple. Not pre-owned as such, but pre-pawed, if you will. Saved a couple of hundred on it, thank you very much.

But the platform aside, it's the apps that the iPad is all about. Lots of them. Way too many to get all caught up in, as of Dec 2nd, there were 1,000,000 apps to choose from. So I trawled review sites for the low-down on downloading useful apps, just to keep things under control.

I kept my list pretty short, just to give me time to road test the apps and not be overloaded. In trialling them, so far I've only given two apps the flick, so prior research pays. The ones I'm left with are pretty good, but I'd love to hear from my readers what apps you guys find useful and fun....

To begin with, I went for apps that were free (that Scottish thing again), but a few apps I paid a dollar or two for.

I began using the 'Notes' app that came pre-installed, but soon switched to 'Evernote' as it synchs with my desktop computer. It will synch with yours too, whether you use Apple, or some monstrosity from the dark side :) It also can handle pdf's, pictures and websites pages.

I'm a reader (I used to read a book a day, for years), so this whole ebook thing is a boon. So yes, I have iBooks, and a few free novels on board. I also have Kobo, which isn't as intuitive. But it's great to have the flexibility to read books from all 'camps' and not have to own three different readers.

Being a photographer, I wanted some photo apps. I know, I know, the iPad 1 doesn't have a camera... But I have a dozen perfectly good cameras, both film and digital, so why can't I just upload pics onto my iPad? Well, I had to figure that one out myself, apparently MOST iPad users get one with a camera if they want to take photos, go figure! So after some experimenting, I found you CAN upload photos via an attachment for either an SD card or memory stick ($30 at Apple thanks very much). So you plug in your memory doohicky and the pre-installed photo app will upload the photos of your choice. 

Then you can use apps like Camera+ to manipulate them with a variety of built in 'styles', which is a bit of fun. It ain't photoshop, but none of them are, even the app from Adobe. But its fun and it works. One tip though... once you're done manipulating, make sure you 'Save' before you 'Share' or your pic will be a useless bunch of blurred pixels. Once 'saved' though, the resolution will be fine.

For those addicted to social media (and who isn't) the best app out there by far would be Flipboard. It's a home base for all your social media sites, and it does a lot more too.... First up, it works, visually, like a magazine. So if someone posts on facebook a link to a website, then pictures or video on that site are featured prominently, along with the lead paragraph of the story. And you can flip through facebook, twitter etc like a magazine, which becomes a visual feast for the user. AND if that's not enough, you can also choose a host of other services to include in Flipboard, alongside your social media sites. So I have News streams, Time magazine, Tech news, National Geo, Gizmodo, Dark Roasted Blend and more, all updating with their latest, and it was all  FREE.

When I go to church, I usually choose if I take a nice modern language Bible, or my trusty 'direct translation' version with me. Now I just take my iPad, cos its got both on board. I trialled a couple of 'Bible' apps, and the one that won me is simply called 'Bible'. Put out by YouVersion, it can access a huge range of versions wirelessly, or you can download them for use when your out of network range (which I often am). So I've got the NASB (for purists) and The Message locked and loaded. You can change the text size, and also have a 'low-light' option so the screen doesn't spotlight you if you're in a darkened auditorium.

I'm a news junkie, or more correctly, a newspaper junkie. I've had newsprint on my hands since I left school back in the 70's. I've printed them, done the layout, hunted up stories, taken photos, made up headlines, designed them from the ground up, owned them, published them, distributed them, and loved them. So of course, I had to have some newspapers on board. The best Australian paper (no arguments here, I'm right) is The Age. When I got it it was free, and I download The Age every day. You have access to all the stories, and galleries of photos (which I love, being a photographer). One small point, the Green Guide on Thursday has the articles, but not the TV guide - maybe cos I'm on the free version? Overall a marvelous app for news junkies.

Other news sources I keep up with via apps are: the ABC news. This app has access to all the news coming from the ABC, but the layout isn't as clear as The Age app, although the content is excellent.

Then there's SBS World News. Again, the content is up to the standard you would expect from SBS, but the layout is messy. Finding particular stories is harder than it need be.

I also have The Onion, satirical news from America. As their standard news outlets are too right-wing to be taken seriously, you might as well get the satire from people who know how to do it right! When is Fox News gonna realise they exist just to give comedians new material?

So that's news, what about magazines? Plenty out there, and I have AU Magazine, which seems to come out monthly, and has a great standard of layout and visual appeal to go with the written content. Not so much a lifestyle mag, but interviews with a large cross section of people/achievers here in Australia. Great stuff.

As I mentioned before, I like to get things for free, so when I saw I could get Inpress for free, I jumped at it. Very handy not just for an extensive gig guide, but as I do a radio show or two, the up to date info is a boon.

From the same camp as Inpress, you can also get Time Off, another music and band review mag. Also there's Three Magazine, only available on iPad (no print version), aimed at 'youth', its visually attractive, inoffensive, nicely interactive and surprisingly instructional.

Everyone raves about GarageBand. So I will too. Not because I'm a musician and know how to get the best out of it, but I've had musician friends run my iPad battery down playing with it. They love it. Get it.

Hate typing? Get Dragon Dictation. It's the best speech to text app, as they've been in the business for years and have all the bugs ironed out.

Want to play your music on your iPad? With Audiogalaxy you can get your music streamed from your computer to your iPad. It works, but seems to slow down your desktop while its running. But it does give you access to all your music without taking up room on your iPad's flash memory storage.

I have a guitar. I'm not sure why. Maybe I could learn to play it one day.... In the meantime, I have Guitar Tuner, which is a great little app to help you tune your 6 string accoustic to a variety of tunings, including standard, Drop D, Open D, Open G, Open A and more. Its great :)

Lastly, I have Wikipanion, which gives you access to search Wikipedia for answers to life, the universe and everything.

Let me know what apps you use, love or loath....

Monday, November 7, 2011

Red pill, blue pill.

In the film 'The Matrix', the choice is given to take either the 'Red' pill, or the 'Blue' pill. The blue pill lets you believe in the world as you have grown up to see it, but the red pill will transport your understanding of the world to how it really is.

Well, today, I'm offering you the chance to take the red pill!

You see, the 'world' that you live in is, not so much a lie, as a severe distortion. You (and I) are used to thinking that the world that we live in is the same world everyone lives in. 

And therein lies the lie.

Your everyday world (and mine) is actually more like a gated community, separated from the majority of the world and acting in a very insular way.

Firstly, to be fair, the reason we see our 'world' as the real one is because we control and consume the major media outlets. So our 'News' is largely a navel-gazing exercise.  We read about ourselves, we watch TV about ourselves, we listen to radio talking about ourselves and we visit websites geared to ourselves.

Yet we are the minority.

Now, I've made several claims here that I really need to back up, so I've used figures released in March 2011 by Nielsen Online. (Found at

Broadly, just 30.2% of the total worlds' population (now 7 billion) use the internet. To turn that around just under 70% of the world do not use the internet. The reason I'm picking on the internet first off is that it is the vehicle that most media people (and most companies) use to measure what they call 'the world'. For example, there's a lot of press given to the (unreal) claim that one gadget or another (e.g. iPhone) will 'change the world'. To believe this sort of hype, you'd have to completely ignore the fact that even less people use internet connected phones than use the internet in general, bearing in mind that internet users are in the minority anyway.

You may be rolling your eyes now and yelling at my blog that this is just marketing at work. Yes. Yet that's the way we think. We think that the world is 'connected' and that we're all in the same boat, living the same sorts of lives. We lie to ourselves, because we're too tired, too lazy, too brainwashed to think beyond the hype.

I'm in Australia, where just 60% of people use the internet. That's right, 4 out of 10 people I pass in the street don't use the internet. If you are reading this in Nth America (even more inclined to think they are 'the world') over 20% of your fellow Americans don't use the internet. If you are in Europe, almost half are not connected. In Asia, less that 25% are internet users. And in Africa, almost 9 out of 10 people don't use the internet. It all adds up to more than 2/3's of people in the world aren't online. At all.

So much for 'our world' being the norm.

So what's my point exactly?

Just this. Open your mind. Don't swallow blindly all the claims we hear/read/see every day that the way we live is the way the world really works. Get your brain out of the gated community and see the world as it really is.

Oh yeah, are you a Christian? Agnostic? Muslim? 'Middle-class'? Home-owner? Well, you're in a minority. 

Have a nice day :)

Ten bands for $10

26 November · 10:00 - 22:00


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Home is...

The picture that springs to mind when you mention 'Homeless' is the older man who sleeps near a dumpster, wears layers of smelly old clothes and rambles incoherently about paranoid fantasies.

In reality, being homeless can encompass many states of living. You may be couch-hopping, staying with friends for as long as you or they can stand it. You may be sharing part of a room, living behind a curtain to mark your space. You may be camped out in a caravan or bungalow, one step off the street. Being homeless has many faces.

People who are homeless are stereotyped as 'losers', long-term unemployed, addicted to drink, smokes and illegal drugs. In reality, many homeless have tertiary educations, a long history of reliable employment, families and friends. Life can take a turn and cast you into a precarious situation in very short time.

Employment problems, often outside your control, can make you lose your house. Relationship problems can escalate into marriage breakdowns, forcing you out without accommodation or secure income - bingo, you're homeless!

Anchor Inc recently asked me to get involved in a project about homelessness. The idea was to give 20 of their clients (who are 'at risk if homelessness') a camera, and get them to 'document' what they thought 'Home' meant.

These participants were from all ages, all demographics, and all were living in a variety of homeless conditions.

When they received their cameras (Panasonic Lumix DMC-S1) some were familiar with such a compact, while others said to me "this is my first camera, I've never had one before in my life".

I ran a session on how to operate the camera, another session on rules of good photography, then a last session on how to break those rules. 

After getting their photos over the next few weeks, I had to choose images, get them printed (thanks Croydon Camera House) and frame them all.

The exhibition that resulted is not an 'Art Exhibition', although if art is what moves you, then many of the images may be termed as art. Many of the photos, when they are put with words, open your mind to understand the impact on everyday life that such hand-to-mouth living makes. 

The exhibition is on at the Yarra Ranges Regional Museum in Lilydale until Nov 4 2011. I urge you to visit. You can also see the images on the website, or check out the presentation on YouTube.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Now on YouTube!

The Bat Cave (Yarra Valley FM 99.1 Mondays from 9 pm to midnight) have a fair few local artists in playing live and being interviewed. So the logical thing was to get those interviews onto YouTube for all to enjoy.

I'm uploading them under the name BatCaveRadio so you can probably hunt them up that way.

Genevieve Holmes

Shaun Kirk

Doc White

Rod Fritz

Ben Kelly

Stephen McCulloch

Grace Knight

Tom Rule

Franc Smith

James Wade

Jessica Isgro & Dean Morley

Marisa Yeaman

Marina Prior

Eddie Cole

Dom McKay

Dom BB Troughton

Leigh Sloggett

Catfish Voodoo


Dave Diprose


Barry & Rob Dickins

Adrian Austin

Ash King

Dylan Redman (and Jimmy)

David Knight

Cr Tim Heenan - Homelessness

Greg Carrick - Art & Photography

Hiding With Bears


Leticia Maher

Emilea Jayde (& Phil)

Tabasco Tom Rogerson, Tim Hackett & Kaitlin Rogerson

Levi McGrath

Compliments of Gus

Joel McKerrow

Katie Harder and Band


Madeleine Mei

Carolyn Oates

Buffy Sainte-Marie

As more interviews take place, I will post them here on Point & Shoot... Watch this space :)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Bat Cave

Sometimes great ideas don't come in a flash of insight, but insinuate themselves into place until you simply can't ignore them anymore.

So the 'new' show on Yarra Valley FM 99.1 each Monday from 9 pm has been a slow but sure process that has grown into existance over the last few months. Dom Troughton, Greg Carrick and Dave Ashworth have been steering the Folk/Roots/Blues show into a new direction mainly without even a solid plan in place.

'The Bat Cave' will still start from the base of Roots/ Folk/Blues music, and, as usual, will probably get hijacked and taken to strange and new territory within the first hour! The culprits for this may range from Iggy Pop, to Lou Reed, to some obscure Reggae artist... but the ride is always worth it.

We will also be trying hard to kidnap some unsuspecting local muso and grill them in The Bat Cave, forcing them to play live for us and tell their life story. We've recently had DYKO, before he gets on the plane for Germany, Jesse Mitchell, and Carolyn Oates who played songs featured on her latest cd.

Coming up will be: April 18, Madeleine Mei; April 25 Buffy Sainte-Marie interview; May 2 Simeon; May 9 Emilea-Jayde; May 16, Katie Harder.
Above: Buffy Sainte-Marie signed our Bat Cave signature guitar 
and posed for a photo after the interview.

So tune in to YVFM 99.1 or get it streamed live from the station website every Monday night from 9 pm. If you are a local muso who would like to come in and play, then email me at

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

"I eat up at the Logan"

Just back from a weekend at the Logan Pub. Logan is near St Arnaud, Victoria. In Logan, apart from the pub, there is.... nothing! 

So why go there? A friend of mine, Jim (pictured below) has this strange hobby where he likes to play music through a thumping big sound system, and he needs to find places remote enough to crank it up... so Logan Pub is perfect. The Pub is also famous in its own right, being quirky enough to win the Best Aussie Pub award at least once.

So we go there and set up two stacks of speakers, powered by a bank of three to five 1000W amps.

The weekend was actually a Bike Show, and we went up to provide music. Quite a range of bikers turned up, so there were nice sleek modern German numbers... marvellous British machines from the past.

This triumph was pretty much all original, and looked and sounded great.

Some dude started playing honky tonk jazz on the piano in the pub, but I never did get his name...

Among the 'shop-bought' machines was this home made chopper, with a Yamaha engine, very minimalist.

Of course, you have to have a bunch of Harley's at a bike event, so there was a good range.

This is what they think of car drivers...

A lot of the riders brought their swags with them for overnight.

There's a lot more drinking room outside the Pub than in.

This Harley was one monster of a bike, huge, heavy and powerful.

Here's the Logan Pub, where the meals are worthy of a song:
"I eat up at the Logan
the meals are really big,
you don't get any health food,
Just Bacon, Pork and Pig"

Very Australian.

Jim and I, during our 12 hour marathon of playing lots of LOUD music for the crowd.

The bikers set up their swags wherever they parked their bikes.

This Harley was ridden by a biker lady called 'Crackers', whose standard response to things was to calmly take a penny bunger from her pocket, light it up from her fag, and toss it at you.

This Easy Rider mural was set up behind the stack of amps, and although it looked pretty cool in the daylight, at night it was lit by ultra violet lights, and turned very trippy.

I was trialling a new camera, with a 36X zoom. This is it at the widest angle...
 ..and from the same spot at it's greatest zoom. I really should have used a tripod, but didn't bring one.

Here's the mural at night.

All in all a great weekend. Everyone behaved and had a ball. I recommend dropping in at the Logan next time you're anywhere near, it's quite an experience.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Yeehaa, I'm Country

Not being a musical man, I look in awe at people who can play instruments, sing and even write songs. A number of my friends are talented musically and have done the hard yards to make it all look easy, and it's a joy to hear them play their music and see people listen and enjoy it.

I'm pretty eclectic in my music taste, it's probably easier to say what I don't like, rather than list what I do. My 'don't like' list is pretty short: Disco, Country and 'doof-doof'. 

Now I know I've already put some people off-side and you may be thinking 'What's wrong with Disco/Country/doof-doof?' Well, it's all a matter of taste. And you don't need taste to like Country!

Whenever I hear the strained voice of a country singer, my insides clench, my brain tries to shut down and I look for an escape route. It's even worse when the singer is Australian and the sound coming out of his mouth is fake American.

Now, I will admit that some country songs have pretty good lyrics, praising love, faithfulness and a good dog, its just they sound like they are being sung by a constipated clothes wringer. Yet country music still evokes many of the backwoods, uncultured and uncouth sides of life, where the men are unwashed yokels, and the women are hard done by slaves. 

So I figured the best way for me to express what country music brings to my mind was to write a country song. And if you like it, feel free to sing it. If you don't like it, remember its satire :)

Ten Gallon Hat.
All lyrics by Greg Carrick:

I'm a simple country bumkin,
The banjo I did learn,
I play all kinds of musics
Both Country and Western.
yeah I'm Country
Yeehah, I'm Country

    Got a 10 gallon hat on my 1 gallon head,
    I had a lobotomy,
    I go boot scootin' every night,
    I'm proud to be country.

I got me a hoss, I got me a dog,
I married me a girl,
her name was Tiffany Moonbeam
but I just call her Merle
yeah I'm Country
Yeehah, I'm Country


I grew up in a trailer park
Got a gun rack in my truck,
I'd bulldoze all those greenies,
cos I don't give a stuff.
yeah I'm Country
Yeehah, I'm Country


I drink my moonshine whisky
That I make in my still,
I drink it by the gallon,
but 1/2 a pint's my fill.
yeah I'm Country
Yeehah, I'm Country


I hang around the pool hall,
In my check shirt and my boots,
I hang out with the good old boys,
We get back to our roots.
yeah I'm Country
Yeehah, I'm Country


I beat up on my woman
Just like my old Papa
She's black and blue and pregnant too
Just like my dear old Ma.
yeah I'm Country
Yeehah, I'm Country


I drink up lots of bundy
And I'm drivin' me a tank,
I'm ashamed to be an Aussie
Cos I'd rather be a Yank
yeah I'm Country
Yeehah, I'm Country