Oh My God. Carol Brady Is Having Sex And Enjoying It

Sadly, one of the cornerstones of my so-called misspent childhood, was watching a television show called the Brady Bunch. To the uninitiated, the Brady Bunch was an American situation comedy, based around two families, the wife and three daughters and the husband with three sons and, as the title song goes “they knew it was much more than a hunch, that this group must somehow form a family and that’s the way they all became the Brady Bunch.”

I can’t believe I still remember that. Damn.

It was corny and goofy and lame but somehow endearing. The Brady Bunch were a group of people who portrayed themselves as the almost perfect family, loving towards each other, supportive and helpful, always finding a way out of a tight spot, all the while looked after by a doting housekeeper. It’s not that you ever wanted to be the Brady Bunch but they were a safe pair of hands in the Department of Entertaining Distractions.

The matriarch of the family was Carol Brady, attractive in that homespun kind of way, always cheerful and happy. Played perfectly by actress Florence Henderson. So you can imagine my shock, but certainly not horror, when I read that Carol Brady, gasp, enjoys S-E-X. She sure does, according to a magazine recently published in the United States. Not only does she enjoy sex, Carol Brady, aka Florence Henderson, now aged 80, has a friend with benefits. Henderson told the magazine, Closer, that she has gotten considerably better at sex as she’s got older and that it’s a complete myth that people her age aren’t having sex.

And the shocks, they just keep coming.

Henderson said she had one main sexual partner but that they were not exclusive to each other. “He lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and is a chiropractor,” she said. “I really enjoy his company, but I am sure he sees other people, as I do. “(Sex) keeps getting better. You learn to do things with more experience, intelligence and the ability to choose more wisely,” she said. “I like to date younger men [in their 60s] because they need to keep up with me.”

Oh my God. Squeaky-clean Carol Brady, say it isn’t so? Hah. Too late he cried. She’s already said, it’s not only so, it’s so, so good.

These days Florence Henderson, who incidentally looks great for her age, hosts her own television cooking show in between hosting lovers it seems. But that got me thinking? Should we be disgusted by this revelation? Or should Florence Henderson be applauded for continuing to embrace life and all of the joys that go with it? It doesn’t disgust me but then I’m not far off being old enough to be one of her ‘toy boys’. What a thought? But the reality is age is not much of a barrier when it comes to the elderly having and enjoying intimacy. Some years ago, the first detailed examination of the sexuality of older Americans was published. Although the study relates to older Americans it would apply to older people all over the world. It was a nationally represented survey of 3 thousand Americans, men and women, aged between 57 and 85. It found that half to three quarters of those surveyed, remain sexually active, with a significant proportion engaging in ‘frequent and varied sexual behavior.’ The survey found that sexual problems do increase with age and the rate of sexual activity does fade a little but interest in sex remains high and frequency is stable among the physically able who are still lucky enough to have a willing partner. It also torpedoed one of the great myths that constantly circulates among the younger generation irrespective of what era they live or lived in. “There’s a popular perception that older people aren’t as interested in sex as younger people,” said Stacy Tessler Lindau of the University of Chicago, who led the study, that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. “Our study shows that’s simply not true.”

In fact it found that older people value sexuality as an important part of life. The study paints a portrait for older people, that includes a previously uncharacterized vitality and interest in sexuality and one that has not been fully appreciated. The survey found a close link between sex and health, with healthier people reporting the highest rates of sexual activity. In addition to supporting the well-known idea that illness can interfere with a sex life, the survey suggests that a healthy sex life may itself help keep people vibrant. “Individuals who remain sexually active gain the benefit of the physical exercise that comes with sex,” Lindau said. “It’s also possible the hormones — the endorphins released by orgasms — give a general sense of well-being that could be beneficial. The psychological benefits of being loved and cared for may also trickle over to physical health.”

What makes this kind of study so unique and different is the fact that despite the intense focus on sex in popular culture, political sensitivities have severely limited funding for reliable, detailed studies of sexual activity among Americans of any age. Smaller, more limited studies have provided glimpses into the sex lives of the elderly, but no one had previously attempted an in-depth, nationally representative survey among this rapidly growing segment of the population. “We just don’t know very much about sexuality in the later years,” said Robert N. Butler, president of the International Longevity Center in New York, a nonprofit think tank. “There’s been a tremendous amount of resistance to such studies. That’s what makes this so terrific.”

In their the study, researchers conducted face-to-face interviews with a randomly selected sample of 3,005 Americans from July 2005 to March 2006. “We found people to be grateful to have an opportunity to discuss these issues,” said Lindau, noting that researchers achieved an unusually high 75 percent response rate from those they approached. “The topics we were asking about resonated with people. Many said they had never had a chance to talk to anyone about these issues, not even a spouse or their physicians.” About 28 percent of men and about 14 percent of women said sex was very important, and about three-quarters of those with partners reported being sexually active, which is about equivalent to what previous research had found for people in their 40s and 50s. Being sexually active was defined as having had mutual voluntary sexual contact with another person within the past 12 months. “Our findings indicate that when it comes to sexual activity, older people are really just younger people later in life,” Lindau said.

So true. So true.

“There’s no reason to believe they give up the basic human desire for love and intimacy and the kind of pleasure that comes from intimate relationships,” Lindua said.

As you might expect, the proportion of those having sex did decline somewhat with age. By ages 75 to 85, it was down to 39 percent of men and 17 percent of women. Among those who remained sexually active, frequency also fell with age. But even among the oldest age group, 54 percent of those who were still sexually active, reported having sex at least two to three times per month and 23 percent reported having sex once a week or more. “This just shows that the light doesn’t go out. The flame doesn’t go out,” said Todd P. Semla, president of the American Geriatrics Society.

Ok. This is a reader warning, We’re about to get a bit grubby.

The most common sexual activity was vaginal intercourse. But the survey found a significant proportion of respondents reported engaging in oral sex, both giving and receiving, as well as masturbation. Mirroring their younger counterparts, elderly men reported more sexual activity than women, but researchers said that was largely because women live longer than men, giving the surviving men more opportunities to have sex than women. (Go you good thing). “This doesn’t necessarily mean that women aren’t necessarily interested in intimacy and sexuality,” Lindau said. “A substantial number of women say the reason they are not having sex is they don’t have a partner.”

Among those who remained sexually active, nearly half reported at least one sexual problem. Forty three percent of women reported a lack of sexual desire, 39 percent of women reported vaginal dryness, and 37 percent of men reported problems achieving an erection.But, given the availability of new medical treatments such as Viagra, the findings did indicate that older people would benefit from more frank and open discussions about sex with their doctors. “This should increase awareness among physicians to pay more attention to this,” said John E. Morley, Director of Geriatrics at St. Louis University. “This is extraordinarily important, and we need to pay more attention to it.”

My word it is. If you are still not convinced, just ask Carol Brady.

Texas Executes Intellectually Disabled

Driving in the United States, I saw a bumper sticker that read: Texas. It’s like a whole other country. And judging by what has just occurred, the Lone Star State is living up to the billing. It’s certainly another country when it comes to recognising, or in this case not recognising, some of the rulings in the United States Supreme Court, especially when those rulings involve the death penalty for capital crimes such as murder. The good people of Texas have just put a convicted killer to death by lethal injection after he spent almost 20 years in prison on death row. So what’s the big deal? The prisoner, a man called Robert Ladd, had an IQ of 67, which would constitute a legal mental disability in most US states, making him ineligible for execution, but not in Texas.

Now, before anyone gets on some high moral horse and starts galloping in my direction, I am not here to defend Robert Ladd. There could be no defence to the crimes he committed apart from intellectual impairment. He strangled a woman, 38-year-old Vicki Ann Garner, beat her with a hammer and then set fire to her body. When he was arrested in 1996 for her slaying, Ladd had been on parole for about four years after serving roughly a third of a 40 year prison term for the murder of a Dallas woman and her two children. How and why he received parole is an interesting question that authorities are yet to answer.  Ladd had pleaded guilty to all three murders. He deserved to be incarcerated for what he did. In all probability locked up for the rest of his life. No-one would seriously suggest otherwise. But did he deserve the death penalty? That is an interesting question and it’s where Texas goes it alone, earning the dubious title of America’s most active death penalty state. Texas put Ladd to death by lethal injection having deemed him to be not sufficiently disabled or mentally impaired, according to its own bizarre criteria for the condition. But before I discuss the Texan criteria for mental disability, its important to understand what the United States Supreme Court has said about intellectual disability and the death penalty.

The death of Ladd has exposed a flaw in the normally stringent safeguards imposed by the federal courts on States in the United States that carry out the death penalty. Although the States are generally allowed to set their own standards, the US Supreme Court has twice ruled on the issue of intellectual disability in order to set what it considers to be the parameters for humane and civilised conduct. In the rulings – in 2002 and last year – the Supreme Court banned the execution of people with “mental retardation” on the grounds that it was cruel and unusual punishment, prohibited by the eighth amendment of the US constitution. It also said that death penalty states had to conform to standards set by medical science and not impose their own arbitrary definitions of mental disability. Clearly someone forget to point that out to the good old state of Texas.

The Texas definition is bizarre to put it mildly. Many would be familiar with the John Steinbeck 1937 novella, Of Mice and Men. It is a classic piece of American literature. But in Texas the book is more than just a classic, it has legal status. Under what are known as “Briseno factors”, the State establishes the profile of an individual who ordinary Texans would agree was intellectually disabled. It points to Lennie Small, the lumbering and childlike character in John Steinbeck’s book, identifying him as the legal yardstick. In other words, the Texas definition of intellectual disability has to match the degree of mental impairment depicted by a character in a fictional novella.

I’m sorry but that is crazy.

“This case is indeed stranger than fiction. said Brian Stull, senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Capital Punishment Project and Ladd’s attorney. ” Anywhere else in the country, Mr. Ladd’s IQ of 67 would have meant a life sentence, not death.  But the Texas courts insist on severely misjudging his intellectual capacity, relying on standards for gauging intelligence crafted from ‘Of Mice and Men’ and other sources that have nothing to do with science or medicine. Robert Ladd’s fate shouldn’t depend on a novella.”

Ladd came within hours of being executed by lethal injection in 2003. Finally, a Federal Court agreed to hear evidence about Ladd’s juvenile record that suggested he was mentally impaired. But that appeal was subsequently denied and the Supreme Court last year refused an application to review Ladd’s case. The courts no longer accept juvenile records as an argument in favour of intellectual impairment. His Attorneys made a renewed push for clemency, using similar arguments as his execution date approached. “Ladd’s deficits are well documented, debilitating and significant,” Stull told the court.

But despite the pleas on his behalf Ladd was executed by the State of Texas. His final statement was to his victim’s sister. telling her he was “really, really sorry. I really, really hope and pray you don’t have hatred in your heart,” he said, adding that he didn’t think she could have closure but hoped she could find peace. “A revenge death won’t get you anything,” he said. Then Ladd told the warden: “Let’s ride.” The ACLU said the execution of a mentally impaired prisoner proved that “we are in the midst of a complete systems failure in terms of honouring the constitutional protections the Supreme Court ordered for intellectually disabled people.”

The writer, John Steinbeck once said, Texas was a state of mind. But, if the State of Texas continues to use one of his characters, as a legal benchmark for intellectual disability, out of its mind might have been a more accurate description.

Fastest Electric Car In The World-When It Goes Into Insane Mode So Do Passengers

The other day I was reflecting on how technology is changing the way we live. The way we think and act. How we relate to one another and how we get from point A to B. Petrol driven cars are a thing of the past. One man who fundamentally knows this to be true is Elon Musk. For those who have never heard of him, he is the guy that brought us PayPal. An absolute necessity for any E bay user. Musk dabbles in a lot of what he considers great ideas. One of those great ideas is to spend a lot of money developing an electric car. As a concept it ticks plenty of boxes. Environmentally friendly, electric cars emit no greenhouse gases. Lets face it within the next 15 to  20 years the world is going to be driving a lot of electric cars. Putting aside environmental concerns, the planet is running out of fossil fuel.

Musk’s company is called Tesla. And Tesla Motors makes beautiful cars. The man behind some of those designs is the electric carmaker’s chief designer, Franz von Holzhausen, He and his team create the signature Tesla look. And the Germanic in him means he pays great attention to pedantic detail that includes taking a fresh look at something as innocuous as door handles and coming up with something fancy, like gullwing doors that will appear on the company’s next car, the Model X. Not a new concept, but the gullwinged Mercedes sports, first introduced in 1954, still has the ability to cause severe cases of car envy.

“What I really wanted to achieve was this moth-to-the-flame (result). You don’t really realize what you are looking at or why you are attracted to it, but you are,” Von Holzhausen said. “That engagement is what sparks curiosity.”

Von Holzhausen has the enviable job of creating the design benchmark for Tesla, which is trying to carve out a market for electric cars and convince the public that gasoline rides are destined to become obsolete in the same way that motorised cars put the horse and buggy out of business.  Von Holzhausen joined Tesla in mid-2008 after designing at Mazda, General Motors and Volkswagen. There are, of course, other automakers that come up with sexy curves and slick looks for their cars. But Tesla, so far, has stolen a march on its competitors in the good looks department.

I don’t want this to sound like I am doing some kind of sales pitch for Tesla. It’s just that I have a soft spot for David and Goliath like stories. Part of Tesla’s appeal, for me, is how this upstart, which has upstaged long-time carmakers already, may go on to become a major player in the auto world one day. And how this niche fledgling electric car company takes an unconventional approach to elements of a car that some might regard as unimportant and use them to win over a car buyer’s heart,  An example of that is the door handle for the Tesla Model S. It slides out and retreats with the control of a key fob. It’s something that carmakers usually don’t spend a lot of time or money on. But Tesla’s designers thought differently. “As you approach the car for the first time, your first contact is through the door handle,” von Holzhausen said. “It’s a memorable experience. It needs to elicit an emotion.”

Tesla’s all-wheel drive Model S P85D is the most supercharged model of any electric sports car to hit the market.

It retails for US$133,500, but this not your average automobile. For a start, its 691 horsepower, dual-motor is capable of running on autopilot by using cameras and ultrasonic sensors to read speed limits, monitor other cars on the road and park automatically.

However, the most impressive addition to the car is a feature called “insane mode”. The aptly titled feature lives up to its name with one push of a button accelerating  from 0 to 95km/h, that’s a click under 60mph, in just over three seconds.

In order to test Tesla’s latest mode, a drag racing website took unsuspecting victims (members of the public) for a spin in the S P85D to experience the car’s rapid acceleration for the first time. They recorded the spectacle on camera and if the screams, shocked facial features and profanities are anything to go by, it would appear Telsa are on to a real winner with this sports car if you can afford the asking price. But the reactions to ‘insane mode’ are priceless.

I’ve posted the video here, profanities included. Hopefully it will give you a laugh and a half.


What Do Women Want When It Comes To Sperm Donors? Not What You Think

What do women want? Now there’s a question worth answering. Not by me. But if, by some miracle, I was, ever able to accurately answer that question, as opposed to providing what I think might be the right answer, then I would be exceptional indeed.

Now before anyone jumps to conclusions, I don’t even come close to having an answer. I’m not even going to try. But some researchers in Australia have. Especially in relation to what women are looking for in the prospective father of their chid. And what researchers discovered might surprise you. It surprised me.

A study of online sperm markets shows women value more than just money when it comes to choosing a father for their children. Queensland University of Technology behavioural economists, Stephen Whyte and Benno Torgler conducted a survey of 70 women who were shopping for sperm donors via the web, instead of traditional fertility and IVF clinics.

Ok. But let’s just pause the narrative for a moment. Why would women be shopping for sperm donors on the Internet instead of the traditional methods and means? In Australia the answer is because of dwindling anonymity for sperm donors. In fact, around 95 per cent of the sperm donations are sourced from overseas, the vast majority coming from the sperm export powerhouse, the United States. One of the dwindling few Australian men willing to donate said his decision to donate sperm was influenced by the inability to conceive with his wife and the lengthy process of adoption. “I knew the trouble some couples go through to conceive and just how emotionally draining it can be – that feeling of helplessness at times,” he said. “I was happy to help other families overcome these challenges in any way I could.” But he is very much the exception. Unfortunately, most Australian men remain extremely hesitant to donate sperm because they fear they might be identified by their potential offspring at some future time. The shortage of sperm donors is an issue across the entire country. IVF Australia spokesman Professor Michael Chapman said the shortage continues to force many to turn to the United States for a steady supply of sperm. He said imported sperm was being used to alleviate waiting lists and shortages. “In New South Wales the waiting time for donor sperm for married couples is two to three months, while single women often have to wait six months,” he said. The discrepancy is due to some donors specifying that their sperm is only to be used by couples wanting to conceive a child. City Fertility’s chief executive Adnan Catakovic said his national organisation imports between 50 and 200 sperm donations from the US each year. Melbourne Law School Professor Loane Skene said the right of children to identify their genetic parents. once they become adults, has undoubtedly reduced the number of sperm donors in Australia. “Although the child can find out who their parent is once they turn 18, there are no legal rights associated between them – a genetic father can’t be made to financially support the child,” she said. So are donor children interested in meeting their genetic father? The answer probably lies somewhere in between. Donor children are often not interested in meeting their fathers but want to know that their genetic father is a person and not just a number . The law in Australia is very clear about separating parenting rights from donor rights.

Anyway, lets get back on to the topic we began discussing at the very start. And that is the research that suggests women value more than just money when it comes to choosing a prospective father for their children. One of the behavioural economists, Stephen Whyte, responsible for conducting the survey of 70 women shopping for sperm donors online said the results were totally unexpected. “We’re interested in cognitive, psychological or emotional factors that are involved when people make decisions,” Whyte said. “Probably the biggest economic decision you’ll make in your life is your choice of partner, and having any subsequent offspring.” But the women surveyed were motivated not by money or career when considering a prospective father. He said women using online sperm markets provided a unique opportunity for a study of this type, because it took the issue of “parental investment” – the amount of time a potential partner would invest in the child’s growth and welfare – out of the equation. “This is an opportunity for women to go out and choose a donor that fits their aesthetic, the purely physical characteristics that they’re after,” he said. “But the study actually shows the most important things to women when they choose a donor in this online market are behavioural traits, like kindness, openness and reliability.” Whyte said those were traits taught by parents, arguably making them unimportant when it came to choosing a donor, but women still rated them as most important. He said the study also showed women didn’t value men with a high-profile or high-earning careers as much as popular wisdom might suggest. “They’re putting behavioural traits at the top, physical aspects like eye colour and hair colour next, then, at the bottom, the least important things are income and occupation,” Whyte said. “It’s a step away from the evolutionary psychology argument that women favour resources or indication of resources in a partner, to help them bear the heavy burden in having kids.” The world-first research will be published in the Journal of Bioeconomics, but Whyte said it wasn’t the end of the story. “These sorts of sperm sharing websites have only been around for about five years, and what’s going to be interesting is will that change, and will more women seek to use these services?,” he said. “It will be interesting to do a larger study into the why – are they going to those services to get better contact than at current fertility or IVF clinics?”

He also said work would be done in examining the male side of the equation. “When we did the survey we collected both women participating, and men donating, but we’re still in the process of finishing the paper on the men,” he said. In fact the findings in relation to men could be just as crucial as women. Men forgo any right to anonymity when the donate sperm online. And that is what interests scientists like Stephen Whyte.  “But it’s the same thing… why are men happy to participate in this online sperm marketplace, when a regular donation at a clinic is completely anonymous? “ It’s a change in the way the human race is mating.”

You could say that again.

What Mobile Phones Will Look Like In 20 Years From Now

When I started in journalism, thirty plus years ago, there were no computers, or the Internet. We used to write our stories initially with a pen and notebook and then on typewriters back in the office using carbon copy paper. It wasn’t quite the Stone Age, although there was a person called the stone sub whose job it was to make the last minute changes to hot metal used to print a newspaper. When I think about the past, I get a little misty eyed. It makes me nostalgic. There was a certain romance in the way newspapers used to be written, created and printed which I kind of miss. But you can’t stop progress. Then came computers, email and mobile phones. In the case of mobile phones, we’ve discovered we can’t live without them. They’ve undergone their own revolution. In the 30 years since the first mobile phone was offered for sale, we’ve seen it morph from a wallet busting brick, into a super slim computer that can do virtually anything we want from entertaining us to saying what we should be doing next. But what interests me is where to from here? What if we could see into the future? What is the next generation, and several generations after that, mobile phone going to look like? What are the innovations already being played with by engineers and scientists in Hi Tech laboratories around the world? Is the future of the device set to change at warp speed? So, somewhat ambitiously, I thought I would try and answer those questions. I did some digging and this is what I came up with by way of research and the best guesses on where mobile phone technology is heading. To make it easier, I’ve divided the technological predictions from the next two years, all the way through to the next 20.

Let’s begin with the next 1 to 2 years.

Mobiles were truly ugly when they were first introduced but at least they could withstand rough treatment. In recent years there’s been a tradeoff in mobile phone design, with resilience winning out in favour of artistic beauty. But the future will witness yet another transformation with the introduction of unbreakable mobile phones. Weatherproof handsets are already proving to be a surprise hit with consumers who want their mobile device to be made of tougher stuff. Manufacturers will be looking to use the latest materials, including scratch and shatterproof infused glass, as well as liquid metal for cases, to make them virtually indestructible and, able to bounce back to their original shape after being dented.

Modular mobile phones will hit the market where customers can buy a handset made from features they pick and choose to be included. There’s already a project under way that will allow consumers to decide what their custom handset can do and what it will look like so they can create a phone that perfectly fits their needs. For example, if there’s a phone that has a great camera, but you don’t need the other stuff, this modular approach would allow you to have the best of everything or cherry pick the bits that are important to you. Expect to see the pick ‘n’ mix smartphones shift the goalposts in the immediate future.

In 3 to 5 years, with smartphone screens getting bigger, and people spending more time on mobiles than any other device, expect to see super high resolution, cinema quality displays on handsets. This will be a quantum leap from the monochrome, one line displays of the 90s. We will be looking at full 4K screens, that’s four times the resolution of High Definition, right in the palm of your hand. This feast for the eyes is only just reaching our television living rooms today but mobile makers are already eyeing it up for pocket size gadgets. It’s unlikely that mobile sizes will continue to grow at this stage with around five inches or 12 centimetres fast becoming the optimum size. But within three years, stunning 4K screen will be the de rigueur. And If you think 4G browsing on your phone is pretty fast today, just wait a few years and you’ll be falbbergasted. The next generation wireless mobile network will be at warp speed by comparison, quick enough to download a high def movie in just 30 seconds. It will also make storage size obsolete as everything from your apps including entertainment could be accessed from the storage cloud within the blink of an eye. The infrastructure for this technology is being prepared for release in 2020.

The camera will also evolve in our smartphones to do far more than just your standard selfie. It will have 3D technology using wide angle lenses and sensors so you will be able to map your surroundings, that will mean you can actually walk around inside your photos. Mobile cameras will understand and process the space around you and then remodel it into a 3D image. For example, you could revisit old birthday party pictures, explore old holiday photos, or take a look around hotels, houses for sale or eBay items in great detail. The technology is currently being tested in mobile handsets.

In 6 to 10 years, the fabled foldable mobile phone, which has been talked about almost as long as the flying car will become a reality. This remarkable innovation will be brought about by breakthroughs in material technology — in particular a super thin, super strong and conductive wonder material called Graphene. There are already mobile phones on the market that have a slight bend in them and manufacturers are showing off these flexible devices at tech shows, but within ten years we could see mobiles that can change shape to suit our needs and roll up right into our pocket. There wouldn’t be a need for both a tablet and a mobile, or for you to decide what screen size to choose— imagine being able to unravel a screen that adapts to different sizes? You can make it bigger for browsing the internet or smaller if you just want to make a phone call. Mobile manufacturers are keen on this flexible, wrappable, mouldable, unbreakable mobile device and research labs like the Human Media Lab at Queen’s University in Canada have already begun producing a prototype. Batteries last about as long as a sneeze these days but in the Hi Tech future, our devices could run for 20 years on a single charge. A team at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, have developed a titanium dioxide gel that stores lithium ions in its nanostructure which makes it the Holy Grail as far an everlasting battery is concerned. But that is not the only development in battery technology. There’s a team in South Korea looking to transform the heat that’s generated from our bodies into electricity to power mobile phones. There’s also the idea of piezoelectricity, which converts movement into energy so we could walk and charge our mobile phone at the same time. Believe it or not researchers in California have created a tattoo that generates electricity from human sweat. So if you will pardon the pun we won’t have to sweat the future of a mobile phone’s power supply.

In 10 to 15 years those holographic floating displays that used to be the stuff of science fiction movies, will burst out of our mobile devices. Researchers are working on a 3D screen that materialises into thin air which we can move and manipulate. It’s already being developed by a startup company called Ostendo Technologies. Their ‘Quantum Photonic Imager’ is a mini projector that can beam a high resolution image into the open. That technology could be fine tuned so that we’re fully interactive with the floating screen — we could watch sport being played in front of us, get inside maps and play games in a 3D space created for us. Wearable technology is even trying to remove the necessity of carrying a phone and in future years the physical handset could disappear altogether. Just as the smartphone managed to overwhelm the hardware of developments like Sat Nav, MP3 players, wallets, and to some degree watches and compact cameras,the new smart watches and smart glasses will be operated by spoken command and they will become the primary communication device. The screen would be projected in front of the glasses in a Heads Up Display or through a pill sized holographic projector that would unfurl in midair. It would spell the end of the selfie. What a shame.

Finally, in 20 to 30 years we’ll look back and be highly amused at how we once had to actually hold a mobile phone to operate it. Going way beyond wearables, is a smart contact lens that could offer a device free experience to display messages, web pages, directions and video literally right in front of your eye. A lens with basic computer circuitry is currently being tested, which includes sensors that will provide important medical alerts such as when a diabetic reaches dangerous glucose levels. With nanotechnology having the potential to build robots the size of blood cells, the prospect of developing computing components small enough to fit on a contact lens is a distinct possibility. As the memory of clunky, manual mobile handsets morph into a world of invisible communication devices, plugged straight into our bodies, we will also see highly sophisticated operating systems that we can talk to as if they were another human being. Artificial Intelligence with built in personal assistants which become intuitive, knowing what we like, where we’ve been and what we’re doing.

If our mobiles can already work out and tell us when to leave work in order to catch our usual train home while reminding us to say happy birthday to an office colleague  and warning us about the number of calories there are in a biscuit even before we’ve eaten it, how hard can it be to imagine what else it will be able to do? Forget about asking Siri if it’s going to rain, you can have a full blown conversation, if you want to, about the state of the weather all over the world.

A computer has already been designed to dominate the television game show Jeopardy,  providing complex human like answers to questions. Some, like me, might find all of this terrifying but techno geeks, I’m sure, can’t wait. As one wag suggested, Artificial Intelligence is coming so you better get your small talk ready or you will run out of things to say.

Chinese Company Builds Apartment Block And Mansion Using 3D Printer

There are some naysayers who think climate change doesn’t exist. It’s a greenhouse, or should I say, outhouse myth. Don’t get me wrong. I am not one of them. To me, the evidence is unequivocal. Sea levels are rising and the world is getting warmer. Time is also running out. Some scientists believe we are close to midnight in terms of doing anything meaningful to stop climate change from destroying our world.

But this is not meant to be a discussion on climate change as worthy as that might be. What I am really wittering on about here is the remarkable something that just happened in China, indirectly related to climate change. It may change the way we live. It will certainly change the way we build.

A Chinese company has just constructed an apartment block, and what is quaintly described as a McMansion, using (wait for it) a 3D printer. Go figure. In case you are wondering, is it the same kind of ink jet print used to print copy on pieces of A4 paper? Absolutely. Obviously, we are talking about a ginormous version. The printer is 105 feet or 30 metres long, 33 feet or 10 metres wide and 21 feet or 6 metres high. In fact it resembles a giant piping bag used to decorate cakes. But instead of using ink, the giant 3D printer lays down a cement like material partly made from construction waste, like concrete dust, fiberglass strands, sand and a hardening agent to build walls and ceilings tough enough to withstand an earthquake. The company called Winsun Decoration Design Engineering, constructed a six storey apartment and a mansion, of about 11 thousand square feet or 1,100 square metres, side-by-side in an industrial park in eastern China. And how long did it take for them to do it? This part you are not going to believe. The answer is less than a week, for both buildings. The five storey apartment took one day to print and five additional days to assemble. Not only is it quick, it is environmentally friendly.

The construction method is extraordinary. 3D printing works through a process of layering. The printer reads a file, the same as a deskjet reads an image, and then translates that into a physical object the way your printer spits out ink on to a page—one strip at a time. The “ink” in this 3D printer is recyclable construction material that shoots out of a nozzle and onto a platform. It will gradually build layers with curves until it reaches the top. You could call it a bottom-up process. What is so exciting about this technology is that it’s better suited to creating or prototyping new shapes rather than reproducing existing ones. The Chinese company Winsun constructed preforms for its two buildings that are simply bolted together in much the same way as you would do if you were building a giant Leggo set. The prefabs are then reinforced with steel and filled with insulation, which is the procedure followed in every other traditional construction project. Of course this method of building has produced some remarkable statistics. The company says it cut construction costs, when compared to a standard built project, by 60 percent with 70 percent lower production time and an 80 percent lower cost. The mansion, although huge in size, cost as little as US$161,000 to build. Speed is the key feature. The company says completing the various elements of the structures takes only 30 percent of the time needed to finish a similar structure using traditional construction methods. The company wants to use 3D printers to build bridges and skyscrapers.

This is definitely a new way of building and the possibilities are endless. In fact, last year, Winsun wanted to prove a point so it constructed ten houses in less than 24 hours, each of them about 2,100 square feet, costing US$5,000 to build. Can you imagine how this would benefit low-income housing projects, disaster relief in poor countries, or refugees fleeing war? Instead of living in tents or other crude or rudimentary forms of shelter, these houses could be either temporary or permanent accommodation. These developments have caused a lot of people all over the world to suddenly get very excited. It is not hard to see why. There are key benefits, too good to pass up, for using a 3D printer as a method of construction. Ironically, as a design becomes more complex, the cost of 3D printing drops substantially when compared to traditional methods. And the reason for that is because a 3D printer can literally reinvent the wheel. It can create any prototype you want. The only limit is your imagination. Or course that has architects, all over the world, positively licking their lips. It means that architects can dream up and build all sorts of fantastic structures that are currently either too difficult or too expensive to construct using traditional methods. These kinds of buildings would also be safer for the people living in them as well as the people constructing them. Structures built with curves are inherently stronger. Pillars with greater density towards their edges are sturdier and because fewer construction workers will be needed to build these buildings there will be fewer deaths and injuries. But nothing is perfect. It also means there will be less jobs in the construction industry.

3D printers can also be used for construction of a different kind. For years, scientists were able to “print” types of human tissue using a 3D printer, but in a significant leap forward by both American and Australian researchers, scientists can now make that human tissue survive on its own.

Until now, a major barrier to medical researchers moving from printing tiny sheets of tissue, to entire 3D organs, is that they hadn’t worked out how to develop the vital blood vessels that provide the cells with nutrients and oxygen, and allow them to excrete waste. This essential process is called “vascularisation” and is necessary if researchers are to prevent cells from dying before they can grow into large, transplantable organs. But in a major joint medical breakthrough, researchers from Sydney and Harvard universities have managed to use a 3D printer to bio-print capillaries, the tiny channels that allow vascularisation to take place so that cells can sustain themselves and survive. The process is ingenious. This high-tech “bio-printer,” allows researchers to fabricate tiny, interconnected fibres that serve as the mould for artificial blood vessels. They then cover the 3D printed structure, with a cell-rich protein-based material, which is solidified by shining light on it. Finally, they remove the bio-printed fibres, leaving behind a network of tiny capillaries coated with human endothelial cells, which form stable blood capillaries and all of this happens in less than a week. Biomedical engineer and a leader of the research team, the University of Sydney’s Dr Luiz Bertassoni, said printing organs may still be a couple of decades away, but this was a “great step” towards achieving that goal. “We have shown that we can print these capillaries, we have shown they are functional, that they mature to form capillaries and that we can tailor make them to the sizes and structures we need,” he said. “Tissue engineering to make simpler tissues has been a reality for a number of years and through what we have been able to achieve, we can start talking about larger, more complex tissues that are able to survive longer.”

While the majority of the research was carried out at Harvard University, Bertassoni said a laboratory had recently been established at the University of Sydney so the work could continue in Australia. After the findings were published in the journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry, Bertassoni said he was contacted by patients, wanting to know if this technology means organs can now be printed? While that is still a number of years away, what the medical team had achieved was ‘game-changing.’

But it hasn’t stopped scientists from trying to make human organs using a 3D printer. Harvard researchers are trying to print functioning human kidneys, while a team at the University of Louisville in Kentucky is trying to create a 3-D-printed heart. “Thousands of people die each year due to a lack of organs for transplantation,” Bertassoni said. “Many more are subjected to the surgical removal of tissues and organs due to cancer, or they’re involved in accidents with large fractures and injuries. “While printing organs may be a couple of decades away, I also wouldn’t be surprised if I was wrong about that because this type of engineering is moving so rapidly. I would so love to be wrong.”

I think we all hope that you are Doctor Bertassoni.

Doctor Taken To Task For Including Junk Food In Daughter’s School Lunch

Now here is something really thought provoking. A father was strongly criticised by his daughter’s substitute teacher, because she considered the school lunch, he packed for the little girl, was too unhealthy.

I can’t say I’ve ever heard of that happening, but maybe it needs to happen more often than it has.

The teacher sent a note home with the child demanding that the father promise to do a better job in the future. In the note, the daughter’s substitute teacher, at Kirksville Primary School in Missouri, listed the unhealthy foods in the little girl’s school lunch, which included four chocolate bars, a bag of marshmallows, crackers and a pickle. It ended: “Please see that she packs a proper lunch tomorrow.” The letter was followed by a request for a parental signature, which the father refused to give, because he was so offended by the letter’s contents.

Wait. There’s more. Here’s where the story gets really interesting.

The Dad in question, a man called Justin Puckett, also happens to be a family Doctor from Missouri. He posted the contents of the letter on Facebook.

Now I am sure many will think, some might even say, as a Doctor, Justin Puckett, should know better than to send his daughter to school with a lunch containing so much junk food.  In his defense, the Doctor and father said “I have the ultimate responsibility to raise my children and I take that role very, very seriously and so maybe I took it bit more personally that there was some offence that maybe I wasn’t doing a good job in that duty, something that is my number one job.”

Of course a cynic might say if it’s your number one job Justin, you need to be doing it better.

To be fair, Justin Puckett, also made the point that the teacher did not give an accurate description of what was in his daughter’s lunch: “Unfortunately, the letter didn’t have what she had, correctly. She had four pieces of ham, a whole protein meat, she also had some pickles, which we admittedly cheat on pickles every once and a while as a vegetable, because some fights just aren’t worth having. She also had four marshmallows in a Ziploc bag and then she had three very small pieces of chocolate, of which she ate one for lunch and then she also gave her brother and another friend one at an after school program,” Puckett said.

The school later called the family to apologise saying the substitute teacher was out of order. The school released a statement saying: “we had an individual take it upon themselves to send a note home to parents ……this will not happen again.”

Puckett went on to say “The issue isn’t what happened at the Primary School and with my daughter because she is very independent and going to be completely unaffected by this. But what does bother me is that it just seems that we are constantly being inundated with the inability to be parents of our children,”

Has Puckett got a point? Or was the substitute teacher in the wrong here? In the court of public opinion I am not so sure. The substitute teacher obviously takes her job very seriously. She sees herself as an educator whose role is to promote healthy minds and bodies. She thought she was doing the right thing. No way could that school lunch be said to be healthy. The child might have got away with one piece of chocolate but if you were to ask any nutritionist, four pieces of chocolate and a bag of marshmallows is definitely a bridge too far. Now, you might think it silly to be having an argument over some junk food. But what isn’t silly is the latest missive from the World Health Organisation, warning that diseases linked to lifestyle choices, including diabetes and some cancers, kill 16 million people prematurely each year and urgent action is needed to stop what it describes as a “slow moving, public health disaster”. Unhealthy habits like consuming too much fat, salt and sugar along with smoking and alcohol abuse, are causing an epidemic of diseases, which together constitute the leading cause of death globally. The WHO says this “lifestyle disease” epidemic “ is a much greater public health threat than any other epidemic in human history.

” Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), like cardiovascular conditions, diabetes, and a range of cancers, killed 38 million people around the globe in 2012 — 16 million of them under the age of 70, the WHO says. ”  Not thousands are dying, but millions are dying … every year in their 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s, not in their 80s and 90s.”

Forty two million children under the age of five are considered to be obese, and an estimated 84 per cent of adolescents do not get enough exercise.

In Australia, for example, some leading health groups have called on the Government to consider introducing a tax on junk food and sugary drinks. The Consumers Health Forum, the Heart Foundation, the Obesity Policy Coalition and the Public Health Association of Australia are calling on the government to take decisive action to end the widespread marketing of junk food and drink. The groups surveyed 1016 people, and 50 per cent supported a government imposed tax on junk food and sugary drinks, similar to the tax on alcohol and tobacco. The research also showed 79 per cent of people believe if a child’s intake of junk food is not lowered they will live shorter lives than their parents. Seventy-seven per cent of people polled, support making it compulsory for all packaged foods to have a health star rating. Eighty five per cent of people surveyed, say unhealthy eating habits is now a major problem for Australian children. It is the first time four major health groups have joined forces to demand action from the Government, which they say is now urgent.

“Despite at least six reports from task forces, obesity summits and research papers in the past 20 years advocating firm measures to stop marketing junk food to children, the advertising of fat, sugar and salt drenched products continues largely unrestricted,” the groups say in a joint statement. “Unless immediate action is taken to address dietary related illness there will be a significant increase in cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.” Heart Foundation National CEO, Mary Barry believes introducing a tax will help protect Australian children and stem the cost of obesity in this country which is estimated at $56 billion a year. “The obesity crisis is threatening a whole generation of children,” Ms Barry said.

Those are compelling reasons for why a dispute over four chocolates and a bag of marshmallows isn’t so inconsequential after all and why a father and a doctor should know better, and a substitute teacher might not have been so out of order in reminding him.

Five Year Old Invoiced For Failing To Attend Classmate’s Birthday Party

Enough of this, pussy footing around, I’m declaring an undeclared war on political correctness. Yeah, I know it sounds like a contradiction. But, if I’m not prepared to put up my dooks, and fight against this crass piece of insidiousness, no one else will. Not many anyway. What do I mean by political correctness? Really dumb decisions, like attempting to rewrite the well known, children’s fantasy, nursery rhyme, Baa-Baa black sheep, on the grounds that it promotes racial stereotyping. Get over it. It’s a nursery rhyme and nothing more. I ended up having a huge online dispute with a woman who, point blank refused to accept it could be nothing more than a form of entertainment for children. Baa baa humbug.

Here’s another example of PC, that’s enough to get people like me, positively raging against the dying of the light of common sense.

A five-year-old British boy was handed an invoice for a “Child’s Party No Show Fee” and threatened with court action after missing his schoolmate’s birthday party so that he could spend the day with his grandparents.

Torpoint Nursery and Infant School in southern England said that one of their teachers had been asked to pass on an envelope from the birthday boy’s mother, to youngster Alex Nash, as he returned from the Christmas break.

Inside the envelope, father Derek Nash found a demand for £15.95 ($29.40), in the form of an invoice that appeared as if it came from Plymouth Ski Slope, the venue of the “slide and ride” children’s party that included three toboggan rides, a hot meal, ice cream, jelly and balloons. In case you are interested.

“It was a proper invoice with full official details and even her bank details on it,” Nash said. But the bill has not been paid and the family is now threatened with action in the small claims court, which deals with minor civil disputes.

“The money isn’t the issue. It’s the way she went about trying to get the money from me,” Nash said.

The author of the invoice is Julie Lawrence, who is also the organiser of the birthday party on behalf of her son. Her attitude was less than sympathetic to five year old Alex Nash’s non attendance. “All details were on the party invite. They had every detail needed to contact me,” Lawrence said.

But in their defence the Nash family claimed to have lost Lawrence’s contact details.

Of course, the meat in the sandwich, in this storm in a teacup, ( how about that for a couple of mixed metaphors ) is Plymouth Ski Slope, the venue that hosted the birthday bash. The ski slope manager was at pains to point they were not in the business of issuing invoices for people who fail to show up. More importantly, they were not in the habit of issuing invoices to five-year-old children.

At this point, allow me to make some general observations. The trouble with this kind of lunacy is that it becomes a breeding ground for even more lunacy. For some reason everything seems to turn to custard when children reach school age and they start making school friends. Parents have been known to enter a competition for who can throw the most expensive and elaborate children’s birthday party. What matters most is who will come, how many attendees, and whether the birthday host child can expect invitations in return. Picture this piece of A grade lunacy in Sweden where an eight-year-old handed out birthday party invites to all but two of his classmates, which prompted the insanely PC class teacher to confiscate all of the invitations on the grounds of discrimination.

Ok. Let’s just pretend for a moment that the invoice sent to five-year-old Alex Nash, is a serious legal demand. Under the law, what chance does Julie Lawrence have of recovering the amount she claims she is owed for five-year-old Alex’s no show? I would say about a snowball’s chance in hell. Make that around the same time hell freezes over. According to my credible legal sources, any claim would be on the basis that a contract had been created, which included a clause that a “no show” fee would apply. However, in order to have a contract, there needs to be an intention to create what is called legal relations. And a children’s party invitation would not create legal relations, under the law of contract with either the child “guest” or its parents. Even if it could be argued that the contract is with the child, it is utterly inconceivable that a five-year-old, would be ruled by a court as capable of creating legal relations and entering into a contract with a “no show” penalty.

It’s hilarious to imagine what a children’s party invitation seeking to create a contract might say: “I, the ‘first party’, hereinafter referred to as the ‘birthday boy’, cordially invite you the ‘second party’, hereinafter referred to as ‘my best friend’, to the party of ‘the first party’.

Give me a break.

“She(Julie Lawrence) didn’t treat me like a human being, she treated me like a child and that I should do what she says, ” Derek Nash said, which pretty much summarises the situation.

It is pleasing to note that not everyone has lost their sense of humour. All of this nonsense prompted one British wag to write what he called, the unwritten rules of children’s parties, which I reproduce here for general amusement. Birthday boy/girl must be given preference for starting all activities. Small guests pushing past should be restrained by attending adults. Party bags or gifts are mandatory for each attending child otherwise the children who didn’t get one will never forget they missed out. If you don’t RSVP, don’t think you can just turn up. And if you do, don’t expect a party bag. Avoid any post-party talk around the parents of the uninvited. The host child MUST win at least one round of pass the parcel, and children must be given 15 minutes at the buffet before adults are allowed to hoover up the remaining cocktail sausages.

That’s not PC that’s PR as in perfectly reasonable I would have thought.

Karma For Humiliated Pizza Guy- Ends Up With Lots of Cash

The other day I wrote about how  extraordinarily serendipitous Karma can be. I made the point that it doesn’t happen as often as it should but when it does the results can be exquisite.

Social media had a big role to play in the Karma that was ultimately delivered on behalf, of all people. a pizza delivery man.

Here’s the background to the story. A group of car dealership workers at F & R auto sales, in Westport, in the American State of Massachusetts, decided to order pizza. The delivery guy brought them their order.  Most people, in the United States, understand the concept of paying a tip for good service because is also a fact of life that people in service industries, like waiting tables and delivering pizza ,don’t get paid a hell of a lot for the job they do. So a few bucks, here and there goes a long way in making ends meet. But someone forget to relay that important information to the employees at F & R auto sales.

Ok. The trouble began when F&R paid for a $42 pizza order with two $20 bills and two $5 bills. The denomination of the bills is important, and you’ll understand why very shortly. The delivery guy thought the payment was out of character enough to go to the trouble of actually asking if the change was intended to be change and not a tip. I mean why else would you pay $50, if no tip was intended? All they needed to do was give the delivery guy $45 and the intention would be crystal clear. But, after the delivery guy made his delivery, and was on his way back to the pizza shop, F&R called his manager to complain that he’d “stolen” their change. Nice people. The pizza shop of course then told the delivery guy to turn around, drive back, and return their change, which is what he did and that is when the ‘fun’ started.

F & R decided to video the conversation when the Pizza delivery guy returned. They were going to have some fun at his expense and post the video results on social media. I am sure, in their delusional and misguided state of mind, they thought everyone else would see the ‘joke.’ This, was a big, big mistake. In fact, describing it as a big mistake really doesn’t do it justice. In the true spirit of Karma it came back to bite them on the bum, a mouthful the size of a small country.

It’s important to note that, as the driver says on the video, there was no logical reason to give him that extra $5 bill unless it was intended to be a tip; they owed him $42, gave him $45 in bills to reach that amount, then left an extra $5. But if you are dealing with people whose sole motivation is to bully and humiliate, it makes perfect sense. The extra $5 was a type of honey trap which they could then use as a justification for saying it was never intended to be a gratuity and quite frankly how could  the pizza delivery guy have the temerity to think otherwise?

On the video we see the delivery driver make this point to which one of the F & R employees replies in a typically passive aggressive threat so common among bullies :”So listen: The manager apologised once for you. Do you want him to apologise again for you?”

Finally, the Pizza delivery guy who remains incredibly polite throughout this ordeal says, “It’s OK, you got your $7, so the world is right now,” and heads out the door. But of course, in the world of vindictive, small mindedness, it is never right. You can never have enough ritual humiliation. The F & R employees were not done. One of them, a female says : “Out the door before I put my foot in your ass.” Charming and so respectful. Then, another F&R employee proclaims, “Get the f….ing owner and the manager on the phone, I want that motherf…er’s job. I want him fired. To make matters worse, the F&R employee then proceeds to make good on his suggestion, calling the Pizza shop and complaining about the delivery driver. Fortunately, this is where the story starts to take a U turn in a positive way. The Pizza shop manager asked the delivery guy what had happened and ultimately took his side. Apparently, this wasn’t the first time the Pizza shop had issues with F&R auto sales. Why am I not surprised?

Then, F & R did  a thing that was incredibly stupid  and, I am sure they would admit, they now bitterly regret. Karma, karma, karma. They posted the video online for the world to see. Instead of getting the reaction they were expecting, it morphed into something else entirely. The social media posts, a trickle at first, turned into a tidal wave, with sentiments along these lines: “The employees at F&R Auto Sales in Westport all deserve to get fired. Such scum I can’t even believe it.”

“How could you treat a Pizza guy like that? Congrats on ruining your business.”

And this: “ You think you have PR problems? Check out F and R Auto in Westport MA.”

The review pages for F & R auto sales on Yelp and Google were flooded with negative ratings. In fact such was the tirade of abuse, that F&R ultimately stopped answering their phones or responding to any contact requests on social media. Revenge truly is a dish best eaten cold. The owner of F&R (it’s unclear whether he was in the video, although I’m going to guess not) went to the Pizza shop and personally apologised. Like he had a choice. It was either that or kiss goodbye to his business.

But the good news gets even better. Karma was not done. Not by a long shot. It turns out that a GoFundme, crowd funding account, was set up to benefit the  humiliated pizza delivery guy in Westport. The total amount raised has reached….wait for it…….$US30,000. In fact such has been the effect of this incident, that there’s been an outpouring  of community generosity towards all pizza delivery people. For example, a real estate agency in Ann Arbor, gave a pizza delivery guy a $2000 tip and a letter of encouragement.

Absolutely the best news I’ve heard all day. Yippee ki-yay.

Controversial Michael Moore At It Again. Taking Aim At Clint Eastwood’s New Movie

I confess to having a soft spot for controversial, American filmmaker, Michael Moore. I am saying this upfront because I am painfully aware of the polarising effect he has on most people.  You either love Michael Moore, or you hate him. I neither love nor loathe him. I have a grudging admiration for him, even though he I believe he has a propensity for bending the truth to suit his agenda. But let’s face it, plenty of people have been known to do that, such as 99.9 percent of our political leaders. Moore is a bright guy. A self made man who dropped out of University but relied on his writing and documentary film making talent to take him ultimately to Hollywood and Academy Award success. You have to admire the fact that he takes on causes that most shy away from. Moore grew up in Flint, Michigan and saw first hand how the General Motors plant closures ravaged his local community. GM was closing its factories and opening new ones in Mexico where workers were paid less. Moore decided to make a film about it called Roger and Me. It documented his personal journey and glorious failure to confront Roger B. Smith the former CEO and President of General Motors. To be fair, Moore has his critics and his flaws. For example, Harlan Jacobsen, editor of Film Comment magazine, rightly accused Moore of deliberately mixing up the chronology of events relating to the General Motors plant closures to suit his political narrative. In the film, Roger and Me, Moore makes the events that took place well before the GM  redundancies, look like they were a direct consequence of laying off workers, which is not accurate. Film critic Roger Ebert later defended Moore’s reinvention of the GM timeline, as an artistic and stylistic choice, that had less to do with his credibility as a filmmaker, and more to do with the flexibility of film as a medium, that allows the truth to be bent for the noble cause of satire. I personally tend to side with Jacobsen rather than Ebert, on this issue, because to me credibility is everything.

Moore was the producer and director of Fahrenheit 9/11, which took a critical look at the Presidency of George W. Bush and the American War on Terror. It became the highest grossing documentary of all time and won a Palm D’Or award for Moore. He also won an Academy Award for the best documentary, Bowling for Columbine, which examined the causes of the Columbine High School massacre. Moore is a strident critic of America’s liberal gun laws. He once controversially said America’s national symbol should be the gun and not the bald eagle. It was said deliberately to create shock and outrage. And it did. Similarly in responding to the American gun lobby’s claim that guns don’t kill people, people kill people, Moore said: “they’ve got it half right. Except I would amend it to this, guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Enjoy the rest of your day and rest assured this will all happen again very soon.”

Moore has a happy knack for getting himself into trouble or maybe trouble has an even happier knack of finding him. His latest foray into controversy is over the release of the Clint Eastwood movie, American Sniper, starring Bradley Cooper. The film has so far been a huge box office hit, grossing $US 90 million at its opening. I haven’t seen the movie and even if I had I would not want to be the spoiler who gives away the plot. So I am not going to talk about what happens in the movie. But, American Sniper is based on an autobiography written by real life, American Sniper and Navy SEAL, Chris Kyle, who was credited with saving hundreds of American lives by making 160 confirmed kills, which is the most in American military history. He claimed to have shot 255 people. Kyle’s autobiography not only reveals how he became so good at his job, but also how the trauma of fighting in Iraq never left him.

Raised in rural Texas, Kyle started out as a cowboy and his initial application to join the Navy SEALs was turned down because a rodeo accident left him with metal pins in his arms. However, in the late nineties, the SEALS relaxed their entrance policy and Kyle was put through the tough selection and training regime, and he was good enough to become a Navy SEAL. In 2003, Kyle was deployed to Iraq, where he made his first, long distance sniper kill, even though he had not been trained as a sniper. Showing obvious talent, he was sent to the SEAL sniper school, where he was taught warfare’s loneliest and most controversial job. In 2004, Kyle was posted to Fallujah, west of Baghdad and a major battleground of Iraqi insurgency. It was during the battle for that city that he made his reputation. However, it was in 2006 in Ramadi, a city in central Iraq, that Kyle earned his nickname, ‘The Legend,’ from his fellow SEALs. One day, while positioned on a roof-top, Kyle watched a moped being ridden by two men heading down a street. One of the men dropped a backpack into a pothole. Realising it contained an improvised explosive device, Kyle fired a single shot at the speeding moped from a range of 150 yards, killing both riders at the same time. In 2009, after four tours of Iraq, Kyle retired. Not only had he shot more enemy than any other American sniper in history, he had also been awarded a chest full of medals, including three Silver Stars for gallantry. Ironically, Kyle found peacetime back in the United States far more dangerous than his tours of duty in Iraq. In February 2013 he was shot dead by a fellow American soldier, he was trying to help, who was suffering from severe post traumatic stress disorder.

American Sniper is the hot tip to win Oscar glory, nominated for six awards including Best Actor and Best Picture. It has also been tipped for the best adapted screenplay, sound mixing, film editing and sound editing. But the release of the movie and the publicity surrounding it, was a temptation Michael Moore found too hard to resist. Moore, who famously criticized the Iraq War in his 2003 Oscar acceptance speech, fired off a tweet calling snipers ‘cowards.’

This is the actual transcript of his tweet:

“My uncle killed by sniper in WW2. We were taught snipers were cowards. Will shoot uin the back. Snipers aren’t heroes. And invaders r worse” — Michael Moore (@MMFlint)

As he should have expected, or might have even known it was coming, Moore was roundly criticised for his Twitter remarks. Both controversial American politician Newt Gingrich and actor Rob Lowe waded in to attack Moore:

“Michael Moore should spend a few weeks with ISIS and Boko Haram. Then he might appreciate@AmericanSniper. I am proud of our defenders.” — Newt Gingrich(@newtgingrich) ”

“Michael Moore Blasts #AmericanSniper Hero: Gunmen Are “Cowards”He’s kidding, right? — Rob Lowe (@RobLowe)

“Who’s taking more shit today, Michael Moore or the Packers coach? — Rob Lowe (@RobLowe)

Plenty of other Twitter and social media users were equally outspoken or more strident. That prompted Moore to adopt a more conciliatory posture claiming that he had never referred to the movie or Chris Kyle. Moore then tweeted a link to a lengthy Facebook page entry where he explained why he was tweeting about snipers in the first place, accusing the American press of drawing a mythical connection between his remarks and the Clint Eastwood film.

Moore later tweeted:

“Hmm. I never tweeted 1word bout AmericanSniper/ChrisKyle. I said my uncle killed by sniper in WWII; only cowards would do that 2 him, others “ — Michael Moore(@MMFlint)

That tweet was followed by this:

“So ppl want me 2tweet something bout American Sniper? Great acting! Powerful message. There “— Michael Moore(@MMFlint)

“Oh, and Iraqis are called “savages” throughout the film.” — Michael Moore (@MMFlint)

Moore wasn’t going to let the argument rest without having yet  another swipe at America’s involvement in the Iraq War.

“Sorry to have to state the obvious again: Invading a country that hasn’t attacked you is illegal & immoral. History will judge us harshly.” — Michael Moore (@MMFlint)

It was classic Moorespeak. Creating controversy and then bending the narrative to suit his political agenda and draw attention to his anti war message. He may not have expressly referred to the Clint Eastwood’s movie but make no mistake that was his implicit rather than explicit intention. He doth protest too much and the ends justify the means is pretty much the way I would sum up Michael Moore here. Yet again he polarises people but then again it would be a surprise if he didn’t.

And while we are on the topic of the latest Clint Eastwood epic, American Sniper has attracted criticism on a couple of fronts quite separate of anything to do with Michael Moore. Apparently author Chris Kyle made a number of claims in his book that were patently false. Rather than deal with them, Eastwood chose to pretend they never existed which prompted this outburst from film critic Amy Nicholson: “ The falsehoods in American Sniper are so dangerous because a lot of the audience (will) leave the theatre thinking that Chris Kyle was a role model.”

But the bit I find the most fascinating is the fact that the film has come under fire over what has been described as the ‘stilted’ and ‘awkward’ scene in which actor Bradley Cooper, playing Kyle, holds a fake baby with his wife portrayed by Sienna Miller. Yep. No fooling. A fake baby. The Twittersphere has been full of it:

“Can everyone stop arguing about the politics/religion in #AmericanSniper, and focus on why warner bros can’t afford a less creepy fake baby? “ — Jillian Acreman (@jillianamelie)

“ That $90 million opening for American Sniper is 100% due to audience curiosity about the hilariously fake rubber baby in the second act “ — Zac Bertschy (@ANNZac)

Longtime film critic Anne Thompson wrote: “ Basically film professionals know that Eastwood likes to move fast on movie sets and recognise that he took the easy and less expensive route of using a fake baby – not even animatronic – that Cooper had to move himself to make it look lifelike.”

So if you ever needed a reason to go and see this movie, ironically Michael Moore has given you plenty, even if he might not think so. Forget about the Moore controversy I want to see this movie just for the scene with the fake baby. It sounds like a laugh riot.