Anouncement: The Passing of the Inventor & Designer Gregory Usher & The Sale of the Kneelsit Business

November 22nd, 2013

It is with sadness that we advise the inventor & designer of the Kneelsit died on 29 October 2013.
This has led to the decision by his family to sell the Kneelsit business.
The sale of the business will include
- the rights to manufacture & sell the Kneelsit
- the ownership & control of this website www.kneelsit.com
For more details of this offer please contact Danny Usher.

Protected: An Essay Comparing Two Films Historical Eras

April 13th, 2012

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A Comparison of Two Viewers of Film

April 13th, 2012

Introduction

This is an analysis of the social aspects of film viewing based on discussions between Greg Usher and his son Danny. Greg was born the year the Sydney Harbour Bridge was built, during the depths of the Great Depression and Danny in the year decimal currency i.e. dollars and cents replaced pounds and pence. For Greg, cinema as a child was the social highlight of the week. One significant movie moment for Greg was seeing the original Japanese version of Godzilla (Honda 1954) when it first released in Tokyo. Danny’s cinema experience was more of an event to see the latest blockbuster film on the big screen. The following aspects of film will be discussed: the social importance and relevance of film attendance; social influences and impact; how movie producers marketed their films towards audience based on this influence; the effects of segregation and discrimination on film attendance.

Social aspect of film attendance

From the 1930s to the 1960s, Australian cinemas were the social centre for many a suburb and town. While movies like Gone With The Wind (Fleming, Cukor and Wood 1939) held sway across the country, it was often the latest instalment of Tarzan (1932 to 1948) with Johnny Weissmuller that appealed to Greg and his friends. During the 1940s and early 1950s, attending the cinema or ‘going to the flicks’ on the weekend was the social highlight of the week, as Greg observes that it was “the social aspect of getting out of the house away from Mum and Dad” and “always with my mates and/or my brothers and sisters.” Pautz (2002, p. 1), cites U.S. data that in 1930 over 80 million Americans attended a cinema once a week, nearly 65 percent of the population where in 2000 the figure was 27.3 million, about 9.7 percent. Contemporary viewing habits reveal that cinema still appeals mostly for young people and women yet it is not a weekly event. According to a recent A.B.S. (2011) report on Australian cinema attendance, 93 percent of young people aged 15 to 17, saw film at least once a year while women outranked men, with 70 percent compared to 64 percent who went to the movies at least once a year.

Social Influences

While contemporary media is largely fragmented with it competing mediums of television, the internet and game consoles, cinema is still a dominant form of socialisation particularly among teenagers. Wyatt (1994, p. 9) observes “the connection between marketability and ‘high concept’ seems to be very strong within the entertainment industry.” Hollywood recognised the importance of market segmentation of its audience and developed within its mainstream of films, “an emphasis on style” or high concept: films that have a set of predictable elements that can be easily sold to a particular audience. One of the most sought after audiences are the teenage/youth market. Films from the 1950s such as Rebel Without a Cause (Ray 1955) and The Blackboard Jungle (Brooks 1955) were influential in their depiction of teenage angst yet it was The Wild Ones (Benedek 1953) that was a seminal film on teenage/youth rebellion. Greg cites Marlon Brando on his Triumph in a leather jacket as influential to his lifestyle of bike riding saying, “One of my first motorbikes was a Triumph Tiger.” The teenage based film genre is still popular both with producers and audiences when you consider the popularity of the Twilight (2008 – 2011) series of films with box office receipts nearing two and half billion US dollars worldwide according to the Box Office Mojo website (2012).

Effects of Segregation on Film Attendance

Racial segregation of audiences not only occurred in the Apartheid era of South Africa or in the USA where it was a legal requirement in the Southern states (Bordwell & Thompson (2003, p. 162), it was also prevalent in outback and rural Australia (NMA Exhibition 2012 website). As Greg observed that “working as an Usher in the Darwin Open Air Theatre in 1950, Aborigines were made to sit on the bare ground in the open, while the whites sat in chairs sheltered at the rear. So when it rained the poor Aborigines got wet while the whites kept dry undercover.” Currently laws such as the Racial Discrimination Act of 1975 make it illegal to openly discriminate based upon race and it is an anathema to contemporary audiences you could be segregated based on the colour of your skin. Yet accessibility to cinemas for the disabled is a contentious issue even with the Australian Federal government working with movie chains on a Cinema Access Implementation Plan (2010) to improve access. This is particularly so when Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott caused uproar with disabled groups in a TV interview (NineMSN, 2010), with his remark that Federal Parliament “go straight out of Question Time into the matter of public importance debate without waffly ministerial statements on things like the accessibility of cinemas.” Tony Abbott later apologised for his remark but it did raise awareness of the issue with able-bodied Australians, who take cinema attendance for granted, failing to appreciate how measures such as captions and audio description means that people with hearing impairment or impaired vision can also share the big screen experience.

Conclusion

Movie attendance is for the majority of people a social experience to be shared with friends and family. This experience harks back to the 1930s when films held greater prominence in people’s lives especially during World War Two when radio was the only other affordable form of entertainment and news for most people. Following the introduction of television and the diminution of cinema attendance, movie producers were forced to look at their market and so sought to produce films that would attract segments of their audience to the cinema especially teenagers and young people. The consequences of that action was the influence certain films had in their depiction of teenagers and the creation of the ‘teen’ flick market that still dominates within the movies industry today. Lastly, cinema was also subject to social mores and laws concerning racial segregation that prevailed in USA, South Africa and Australia until the latter part of the twentieth century. Even today, cinema has to confront discrimination of the disabled over access by creating technologies to expand its audience reach to the hearing and vision impaired.

Interview Transcript

This is an edited transcript of interviews between Greg and Danny Usher from 2 Jan 2012 to 10 Jan 2012.
Danny: What can you remember most about going to the movies as a child?
Greg: I looked forward to going to the movies on a Saturday afternoon, meeting up with my school mates as you’d never go during the week due to school. I enjoyed the shorts or short films before the main feature.
Danny: Was there any films that stood out for you as kid? Did you ever go by yourself?
Greg: Tarzan with Johnny Weissmuller was popular with us kids. I didn’t go on my own as it was always with my mates and/or my brothers and sisters and get out of the house away from Mum and Dad for a few hours.
Danny: I remember talks with you and mum that before TV in 1956, from the 1930s, 40s and early 50s, there was only radio and film. So where did you see the movies?
Greg: Mostly locally in Enfield and Strathfield where I grew up. Sometimes we’d go to Burwood by bus that cost tuppence.
Danny: What were the reasons for going to Burwood?
Greg: Partly to see a film not showing locally or to take a girl and avoid being ribbed by your mates if you took her to your local.
Danny: So what were the theatres like? How clean were they?
Greg: They were that as there were no complexes like today as it was a single screen. Most were clean but some like Croydon Park were flea pits as we called them. There were three sections divided up in into the mezzanine or upstairs, main theatre and front stalls and were priced accordingly. I mean that the most expensive seats were the mezzanine, main theatre then the front stalls.
Danny: Did you go into the city say the State Theatre?
Greg: Hardly, but I do remember how ornate and decorative it was especially with the organ at the front with its grand stairwell and entrances. In the late 1950s, there were two cinemas that showed foreign films, the Galaxy in the city and the Vahalla in Glebe. I can’t remember much about the Galaxy except for seeing a re-run of Fantasia
Danny: What did it cost for a ticket when you were a kid?
Greg: Prices start from a shilling for front stalls to one and three for the main theatre and one and six pence for the mezzanine.
Danny: Were their Ushers in the cinemas?
Greg: Yes there were. I was an usher in the Darwin Open Air Theatre in 1950/51. The front section was open to the elements so that where the Aborigines were made to sit on the bare ground, while the whites sat in chairs sheltered at the rear. So when it rained the poor Aborigines got wet while the whites kept dry undercover.
Danny: So it was racial segregation?
Greg: Yes it was. Just like in America with the coloureds in one section and whites in another.
Danny: Now that’s something to explore. Did you attend other cinemas in your travels around Australia?
Greg: No I was mostly working hard laboring jobs like cane cutting or droving cattle before I went to the Korean War in 1951.
Danny: What do you recall of movies in Korea?
Greg: Korea, not very much as I was in the frontline or ‘the theatre of war’. Occasionally in the mess hall back behind the lines there was a film shown on a 16 mm projector, usually a Bob Hope comedy.
Danny What like the ‘Road to Morocco’?
Greg: Yes, something like that but remember too, we had just come off the frontline and were more interested in R n R.
Danny: Rest and relaxation?
Greg: Well we called it rape n raving.
Danny: So watch out you local girls then?
Greg: Most certainly.
Danny: So back to the movies, you were in Japan after Korea, what can you tell about the Japanese movies you saw there?
Greg: I did see some films there but the problem was they were in Japanese and no subtitles. At that time in the early 1950s there was little in the way of movies and theatre was far more popular. Remember to this was only less than ten years after WWII so there was a lot of reconstruction going on. However I did see Godzilla (Honda 1954) in Tokyo when it first came out in 1954, all in Japanese.
Danny: That would have been great seeing the Japanese release on the big screen.
Greg: Yes it was as I was fascinated with it.
Danny: Was there any star or movie that was influential in your youth?
Greg: Marlon Brando in The Wild One (Benedek 1954) especially on his Trumpy and all the other British bikes they rode. One of my first motorbikes was a Triumph Tiger then a BSA.

References

Honda, 1954, Godzilla (Original title Gojira), Feature film, Toho Film (Eiga) Co. Ltd, Tokyo, Japan.
Fleming, Cukor and Wood, 1939, Gone With The Wind, Feature film, Warner Bros, Los Angeles, USA.
Tarzan films, 1932 to 1948, MGM, Sol Lesser Productions, Los Angeles, USA.
Pautz, M, The Decline in Average Weekly Cinema Attendance: 1930 -2000, 2002, Elon University report, website accessed 10 Jan 2012. http://org.elon.edu/ipe/pautz2.pdf
Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011, Cinema Attendance: Attendance at Selected Cultural Venues and Events, Australia, 2009-10, website accessed 10 Jan 2012.
http://www.ausstats.abs.gov.au/Ausstats/subscriber.nsf/0/527DC2F6CB079837CA2577FF0011EC88/$File/41140_2009-10.pdf
Ray, 1955 Rebel Without a Cause, Feature film, Warner Bros. Los Angeles, USA.
Brooks, 1955, The Blackboard Jungle, Feature film, MGM, Los Angeles, USA.
Benedek, 1953, The Wild Ones, Feature film, Stanley Kramer Productions, Los Angeles, USA.
Twilight Saga films, 2008 to 2011, Feature films, Summit Entertainment, USA.
Box Office Mojo, website accessed 10 Jan 2012.
Wyatt, J, 1994, ‘A critical Redefinition: The Concept of High Concept’, High Concept and Marketing in Hollywood, University of Texas Press, Austin.
Seats of Segregation: National Museum of Australia, website accessed 10 Jan 2012.
http://www.nma.gov.au/exhibitions/from_little_things_big_things_grow/behind_the_scenes/seats_of_segregation
Thompson, K & Bordwell, D, 2003, Film History: An Introduction, McGraw-Hill, New York.
Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cwlth).
Cwlth Govt Dept of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, 2010, Cinema Access Implementation Plan, 2010, website accessed 10 Jan 2012.
http://www.fahcsia.gov.au/sa/disability/progserv/govtint/Documents/cinema_access_implementation.pdf
Channel Nine’s Today Show transcript, 1 Aug 2010 of Laurie Oakes interview with Tony Abbott, website accessed 10 Jan 2012.
http://today.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=7938106
New report, NineMSN, 2010, Disability Does Matter: Shorten, website accessed 10 Jan 2012.
http://news.ninemsn.com.au/national/election2010/7938628/access-does-matter-mr-abbott-shorten

Kneelsit Latest Model & Pricing

August 15th, 2011

It has been a year now since we last blogged but are announcing our new model & pricing.

After much research & negotiations, we are pleased to announce that the chair is now made in Vietnam to our exacting standards.

We have reviewed our pricing to reflect the costs of manufacture & freight. This has allowed us to reduce the price for Europe by €50-100 but we had to increase the price for Asia Pacific by $50 - 100 USD.

For the USA the price for the Standard grey cloth model has now been reduced to $549.00 USD.

To order our chair please go to our ordering page.

Keynes & using Deficits for Fiscal Control

August 2nd, 2010

I recall being lectured in Economics II back in the early 60’s on Monetary policy and its usefulness in helping to control or manage the economy. Our lecturer at the time told us not to concern ourselves with studying this in depth since no government in their right mind would ever consider using such a bludgeon like instrument - like trying to repair a watch using a crowbar and sledge hammer.

Way back in Biblical times Pharaohs – stored up surpluses in the fat years in order to release the savings in the lean years. This is exactly what Keynes advocated in his writings. Because booms and recessions are a regular feature of the 10 year business cycle then all governments should be ready to tax appropriately as business activity picks up so that funds will be available for spending on essential services etc. thus maintaing employment levels and minimising the human suffering
arising from cyclical events.

This fiscal governmental approach can work quite effectively to help even out the worst effects resulting from business cycles. However, its success or otherwise will be entirely dependent on the willingness of the government at that time to begin taxing appropriately in order to build up a surplus to fund the next downturn. This absolute necessity is of course conveniently overlooked
in democratic economies where governments are so beholden to the votes of vested interest groups.
Taxes are always unpopular so the inevitable result is for the government of the day to put off taxing and just let the deficits keep growing and growing and growing.

Tempus Fugit

June 2nd, 2010

Looking at my email this morning I saw this strange message: “There are no new messages on the server.” This normally appears AFTER I have dealt with around 10 or 12 emails - the vast majority of which want to sell me some subscription to a scheme that can pour money into my bank account by the bucketload every day.

The only drawback to this wonderful news is that to find out the ultimate secret of how to achieve this marvellous result I must first start feeding barrowloads of MY money to the originators of these wonderful schemes. Now last time I looked a barrow holds a fair bit more than a bucket. So you do not have to be much of a mathematician to work out that your account will be wiped out much quicker than all those scam artists out there.

Now the Tempus Fugit of the title is referring to the fact that I have not made any literary entries for over 5 months. I need a good kick up the backside for that. I guess it all comes down to the fact that as we reach the twilight of our lives life seems to slip away so quickly; hence 5 months seems no longer than 5 days.

Labor’s Cyber Safety Policy May Still Not Get Through

June 2nd, 2010

If we’re lucky the legislation to impose mandatory filtering on internet providers may not actually get through this parliamentary term and be abandoned. As per the Sun Herald article on 30 May, “Filter goes ahead regardless”(1), Senator Conroy wanted it passed by June but it is now been delayed for ‘fine tuning’ and be ready by the second half of this year which could be any time from July to December.

What this could mean is that when the PM calls an election, one of the following may occur. Labour is returned and Senator Conroy is still the minister for his current portfolio, the legislation is introduced in the new parliament. This would be the worst case scenario because even if the Greens gain the balance of power in the senate (2) it won’t have any effect until after July 2011, by which time the legislation would have passed. Or here’s hoping Senator Conroy is shuffled to another less controversial portfolio and the filtering policy is ‘fine tuned’ like their ETS policy in an attempt to save political face.

The unknown in all this is the Coalition. A few Liberals like Joe Hockey have spoken against this policy(3) but we still haven’t had a clear position statement from Tony Abbott(4). If the Coalition wins and Tony Abbott utilises he political antennae, he will allow further ‘fine tuning’ i.e. give it to a senate committee to report at later date. Or revisit Howard’s optional filtering system and adopt similar measures as is done in the UK through greater education of internet use and reporting of illegal websites.

The U.S. State Department raised concerns about this filter(5) and their own ambassador to Australia stated on ABC TV, “we have been able to accomplish the goals that Australia has described, which is to capture and prosecute child pornographers and others who use the internet for terrible purposes, without having to use internet filters”(6).

The federal government argues that ISP-level content filtering is already occurring in other countries, including Canada, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom(7), However they fail to mention that according the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, Canada does not regulate the internet(8). The United Kingdom promotes self-regulation via IWF Internet Watch Foundation an ISP established service allowing the public to report on criminal online content(9). Electronic Frontiers Australia report on government policy and/or laws regarding Internet censorship in various countries around the world listed the various approaches that governments have taken on illegal material(10).

The federal government’s approach to use offline material that is regulated as refused classification as a basis to filter internet content is a burdensome and heavy-handed way to deal with illegal material. The Howard government’s free internet filter (11) may have had its flaws but at least was optional. If Senator Conroy succeeds, I wholeheartedly endorse all efforts to subvert this filtering system(12) and declare that this Minister is a clear and present danger to our democracy. His Stalinist approach in formulating and pushing this policy through against all reasoned protest is nothing short of fascist obstinacy.

References
1. www.smh.com.au/technology/technology-news/filter-goes-ahead-regardless-20100529-wmg7.html
2. blogs.abc.net.au/antonygreen/2010/05/how-the-senate-coul-look-after-a-double-dissolution.html
3. www.joehockey.com/mediahub/speechDetail.aspx?prID=913
4. www.theage.com.au/technology/web-filter-splits-opposition-20100406-rpf7.html
5. www.thepunch.com.au/articles/us-concerns-on-stephen-conroy-isp-filter
6. www.abc.net.au/tv/qanda/txt/s2864512.htm
7. www.dbcde.gov.au/funding_and_programs/cybersafety_plan/internet_service_provider_isp_filtering
8. www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/faqs.htm
9. www.iwf.org.uk/public/page.103.htm
10. www.efa.org.au/Issues/Censor/cens3.html
11. www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/08/20/2010161.htm
12. www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/internet-filter-offers-fresh-target-for-hackers-20100531-wr8u.html

Early Results

December 28th, 2009

The different thoughts swirling through my head about Korea, army life, carrying heavy loads and maintaining balance stayed with me and more or less forced me to put together a simple wooden stool which incorporated these principles of weight distribution, balance and movement.

Having completed the first model a number of others were also constructed and sold.
However, it was the realisation that the concept could be applied to full size seating
at desks, tables etc. which occupied my time, energy and funds over the next four years.

Meanwhile studies in anatomy, physiology and physiological psychology were
undertaken to discover those scientific principles, and any research experiments
which might help to explain the greater comfort experienced with the Kneelsit as
compared with all other forms of seating. Lessons were also commenced in the
Alexander Technique and closer observation was made of clients posture problems
which I encountered in my counselling practice.

Further research into back problems and their possible origins brought an understanding
that two common factors seemed to be relevant with those clients whom I counselled:-
a. Psychological problems, such as rigidly held attitudes, poor self image etc. feelings of strain, tension, balance awareness and poor posture were all inter-connected. …

b. Persons engaged in sedentary occupations appeared to be more severely affected in many cases and a number of them consistently complained of poorly designed chairs at their place of work.

Continuing investigations slowly made it clear that the proprioceptive sense was one which was little appreciated or understood by society in general, despite the important part it plays in our total feelings of well being. Secondly that this neglect has been exacabated through poor body use and the undue strain of badly designed seating.

During the development stages of the Kneelsit, checks were constantly made with
volunteers of various heights and build to ensure that the angles, distances, height
differentials etc, all felt comfortable for the people concerned. No special notice was taken of any ‘norm’ or ’standard’ (except for the standard or common desk height). The most important criteria was that the Kneelsit had to “feel right” for each person when it was adjusted for their particular body size.

Maasai, Meditation and Korean porters

December 28th, 2009

In 1988 while carrying out research for a paper on Meditation and Health which I was writing as part of a course in Psychology I decided to take on a course in meditation called Vipassana. Research had alredy been made into Yoga, Zen and Transcendental Meditation but I knew nothing about this new form.

A big attraction for me was the fact that when I asked about the cost of the course I was told that there was “no charge”. At the end of the course we were told that we had been able to attend at no cost to ourselves because someone before us had made a donation and we might like to do the same.
It may sound a crazy way of financing but it worked - and so well that within 10 years of their starting up Vipassana centres had sprung up in over half a dozen countries around the world.

The main emphasis of the Vipassana technique is to train you to fully focus your awareness on all sensations occurring in the body. As your mind wanders you have to bring it back again to focussing on the sensations. In essence it is a mental discipline which sharpens and improves your proprioceptive sense as well as providing other benefits.

The course involved sitting in silence for up to 15 hours each day, apart from meal breaks and occasional walks along the bush tracks which surrounded the centre. As can be imagined one of the main reactions to sitting on cushions on the floor for lengthy periods was aches and pains throughout the body with quite the worst being pains in the back.

Various devices such as plump cushions, stools etc. were tried and finally a small wooden stool with half round legs was tried and within a few minutes of sitting on it my back pain disappeared. I discovered later that this little stool was an exact copy of the camp stool used by the Maasai tribesmen over the centuries of their wanderings. Its exact origins, of course, are now lost in the mists of time.

As I now sat with much greater ease I thought about the reasons why this might be helping. First off I was above an exact balance or fulcrum point that continually moved slightly back and forth. The second thing was that my thighs were of necessity angled at around 105º to my body. The only slight drawback was that my knees started to become sore from resting on the floor. This observation reminded me of school-days and kneeling up in chapel. We were fortunate in that our kneelers were actually padded and you could lean back with your bum against the edge of the pew.

My mind being more free to wander again (naughty, naughty! - I was supposed to be concentrating solely on sensations in my body) I began to recall my days in the infantry during the Korean campaign. We carried some pretty bloody heavy loads up and down those steep hills. There was spare clothing, boots, bedroll, ammunitions and weapon - in all it was probably between 40 - 50 kgs yet we did not experience back pain since our load was spread evenly around our body - ammunition in our forward packs to balance the heavy load on our backs and all the time we kept moving. Balance and movement were the key features which allowed us to carry such loads without back pain.

Korean porters carriede even heavier loads of fuel and ammunition up the steep slopes on an ‘A’ frame of their design. I noticed particularly that at all times their backs were straight but leaning slightly forward and their knees flexed so that all the weight was carried over their hips and knee joints.

In my next blog I will outline the initial results which transpired from my ruminations.

Comments from Andrew

November 29th, 2009

Hi Chris,
I took a chance and bought my kneelsit chair in February, after trying as many high-end ‘normal’ chairs as I could find. I work in front of a computer, and was having problems with my upper back and shoulders, as well as feeling like my lower back was not being supported well enough in the office chairs provided by my employer. I was just feeling like my shoulders were hunched and my bad posture was a direct result of my sitting position.

Primary in my decision to go ahead and try one out was the truly risk-free nature of the trial…I must have emailed Greg at Kneelsit 5 times, confirming that if I didn’t like it, all I’d be out was shipping back to their California facility. He was very responsive in his emails, not to mention being very patient in answering the nervous questions of a hesitant purchaser. I also thought that the back support that is unique to the kneelsit chair, when compared to the other kneeling options, would be of primary importance, especially for extended periods of sitting. Honestly, I can’t imagine having a kneeling chair without the back support…it would just be too tiring!

I definitely like the chair, and it has helped out with most of the problems…my shoulders hang naturally now, and my core is involved in supporting me, so I feel like my spine is much more aligned. Also, I feel much more ‘poised for action’, like I am literally on the edge of my seat. It did take some time to get used to it, as well as some fiddling with the adjustments, but nothing too bad.

I hope I’ve answered your questions…I highly recommend this chair if you are finding yourself displeased with other ergonomic-type chairs. Design Within Reach in Houston (on West Gray) let me borrow a few of their chairs for a day (Aeron, a few others) to try at the office…I liked them, but I wasn’t all that impressed with them. With Greg’s customer service and willingness to stand behind his product, I’d say you can’t go wrong with at least trying it out! Several of my office mates are VERY jealous (but nobody has actually ponied up the cash like I did…unfortunately, I had to pay out of pocket!)
Let me know if there is anything else you’d like to know…good luck with your chair shopping!

Best,
Andrew. B
Texas