Jun 27

Before there was The Bill, there was Cop Shop. One of the great televisual pleasures of my childhood was settling down on the lounge, bowl of ice-cream on lap, for my twice-weekly dose of this hard-hitting Aussie drama/soap.

Cop Shop had everything a good cop show needs. Hard-arsed detectives. Bumbling Constables (anyone who says Reg Hollis is not a blatant copy of Roy Baker can go and get stuffed). Crotchety old desk Seargent. Cops with principles and cops who can be bought. Comedic relief (Gil Tucker as Roy Baker is a modern Chaplin).

And then there are the crims. No gay basher or payroll robbing thug in Melbourne stood a chance against this crack group of law enforcers. No sooner had the balaclava-wearing, sawn-off wielding crook stumbled out of the bank when up would screech a late model Kingswood, and out would pop a couple of pissed-off, brown-suited detectives, guns at the ready. Next stop Pentridge.

And then there were the policewomen, notably the lovely Paula Duncan (cor blimey) and in later seasons the buxom blonde sex-kitten Lynda Stoner (as Gareth Keenan would say, “Look at those!”). Here are the two crime-fighting femme fatales side by side – or is it two early ’80s soccer mums set on revenge?

The great thing about Cop Shop was that you would get a new story each episode, but also catch up on longer-running plotlines. We saw the cops at work and at home. We got to know and love (or hate) them. We saw the cops having family troubles, we saw them fraternising with saucy ex-strippers. We saw them gunned down, buried and mourned, only to rise from the dead for the next TV Week cover. It was great.

The show also served as a training ground for new, young actors. Anyone who couldn’t get a bit-part on Cop Shop clearly had no future as an actor in this country. Mel Gibson appeared in early episodes alongside fellow NIDA graduate Steve Bisley.

Cop Shop was a Logie-winning, crime-fighting machine. But tragically after a mere 582 action-packed episodes the series ended in 1984 due to – you guessed it – declining ratings. Ah, the fickle hand of public opinion. Now, sadly, Cop Shop is almost forgotten. I couldn’t even find it on DVD, which these days is saying something.

Someone has been kind enough to put a few clips on YouTube, but unkind enough to disable embedding, so I provide here links for those who wish to reminisce.

Here are the original opening credits from 1977.

Here are the updated opening credits from 1981, featuring the delectable Lynda Stoner.

And finally, the opening credits from the show’s last year.

Jun 23

Just as urban legends exist in society, many families have their own “household legends” that are passed from parent to child. My mother was particularly good at creating little stories to deter me from unwanted behaviour. Usually these stories began “I read in the paper about a little boy … “. Here are a couple of examples.

A child in England jumped up and down on his bed so much that the electric blanket exploded

Like most kids my bed doubled as a trampoline. I had an old, springy bed and you could really get a good bounce going if you kept at it. I also had an electric blanket that I adored, and kept on most of the winter.

One day mum caught me jumping on the bed and calmly related how a boy in England had recently been blown to bits when he jumped too hard on his electric blanket. This terrified me. I was too young to see that there is no obvious way for an electric blanket to go off like a landmine, so I took mum at her word. It is an electrical device after all, so I suppose a misplaced jump, a tiny spark and KABOOM!

A child in Scotland ate so many scrambled eggs that his eyes swelled up and he couldn’t see

I loved scrambled eggs as a kid – still do in fact. I would’ve eaten them every day if I could, but for some reason mum didn’t agree with my dietary preferences and concocted this little tale to get me to cut down on my egg intake. Perhaps eggs were as expensive back then as they are now.

The story was that excessive consumption of eggs would make your eyes – maybe even your entire face – swell up like a balloon. Mum had read this in the paper one morning, and passed it onto me as she dished me up a steaming scrambled egg breakfast for the fourth time that week. I had trouble getting those eggs down that morning and to this day when I eat scrambled eggs I picture that poor little kid with his eyes puffed shut.

Jun 20

You’ve probably seen footage that has come out in the wake of “Iguana-gate”, of an incident in parliament between Belinda Neal (ALP member for Robertson) and Sophie Mirabella (Liberal member for Indi).

During a fiery parliamentary debate Ms Neal can clearly be heard saying to a very pregnant Ms Mirabella, “You’ll make your child a demon” and “Evil thoughts make a child a demon”.

These are such odd statements, especially in federal parliament, and the use of the word “demon” seems archaic and just a little creepy. Here is video of the incident, and Ms Mirabella’s later demands for an apology that Ms Neal is most unwilling to give.

I was so taken by Ms Neal’s deadpan, almost rhythmic, delivery that I thought it deserved the remix treatment:

Make Your Child a Demon (Satanic Remix)

Jun 18

I am not the luckiest of people when it comes to competitions. There are only a few competitions I have ever won, and even these have usually been disappointing in some way.

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Jun 16

There are moments in time when the coming together of two individuals has altered the course of human history. Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin. Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels. Fidel Castro and Che Guevara.

To that list you can now add John Howard and Humphrey B Bear.

This is quite a remarkable photo. It demonstrates that when it comes to being a man of the people, of having that rare ability to endear oneself to a nation both collectively and individually, there is nobody quite like Humphrey B Bear.

It goes without saying that it was the young, fresh-faced John Howard who requested this historic meeting. Indeed, Humphrey had been riding a wave of fame and success for almost a decade when Liberal wunderkind John Howard was first elected to federal parliament in 1974.

For Howard this meeting was an opportunity to pick Humphrey’s political brain. One can only guess the questions that Howard may have asked during his brief audience. Humphrey, how did you develop such a thick skin? Humphrey, how can I become as mute as you on sensitive political issues? Humphrey, where did you get that tie?

Humphrey has seen pollies like Howard come and go. When Humphrey came to power Menzies was in the Lodge! When Malcolm Fraser was caught without his trousers it nearly destroyed his career. Humphrey hasn’t worn pants in almost four decades and is still going strong. Humphrey even survived the rumours that it was he who orchestrated the sacking of Fat Cat by the Governor-General in 1987. Humphrey has that rarest of rare qualities: staying power.

The facts stand for themselves; Humphrey’s sheer longevity is unmatched by any politician. He discovered early on that the secret to gaining true power in this country is to stay in the background, say nothing, and to duck when the cream pies get tossed.

Humphrey was once asked during an interview why he never made a bid for the top job, Prime Minister. He paused for a moment before raising his hands to eye level, fingers splayed, palms down. Then he twiddled his fingers slowly and grinned. His answer was clear: why be the puppet when you can be the one pulling the strings?

Jun 12
Cubic Rube
icon4 Jun 12th, 2008 | icon2 Memories | icon3No Comments »

In March of 1981 I was nearly eleven years old. My sister Ruth was still living at home then, while she studied for a science degree. One day I wandered in to her room, and on her desk I noticed this magazine:

There was something about this image that fascinated me. Now we all recognise it, but at that time it was something very new. I asked my sister about it, and she explained that it was a new type of mathematical puzzle called Rubik’s Cube.

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Jun 10

Rach and I have just witnessed an interesting piece of social intercourse between two of our cherished neighbours.

We had just finished an episode of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, when we realised that the shouting on screen was continuing outside in the street. We crept out onto the front balcony and, peering through the foliage, watched the drama unfold.

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Jun 5

When I was a kid I got hooked on Class B drugs. That’s B for Biscuits.

It started out innocently enough; my mum would let me have a bite of her Milk Arrowroot or Morning Coffee. Little did she know that she was setting me on a path to biscuity ruin. Soon I was sneaking Scotch Fingers from the pantry. After I had my first sugar hit from a plate of Nice crumbs there was no turning back.

In the mid-’70s there were less biscuits on the market, but they were much more pure than today. I had my first taste of a Honey Jumble around age seven. Before long I was hooked on Chips Ahoy and Chocolate Wheaten. These were an addict’s worst nightmare; once you had a taste you ate until the packet was empty.

Most days I’d score a Wagon Wheel on the way home from school. My poor mother had no idea that’s what I was buying with my 20c pocket money each afternoon.

This led me into the next phase of my addiction, when my cravings could only be satisfied by chocolate. I moved from Chocolate Wheaten into the fully chocolate-covered biscuits; Tim Tam was the most popular, all my mates used to take it. I’d have two Tim Tams for breakfast with a Chocolate Monte chaser.

Around age twelve I tried to wean myself off chocolate by moving back to cream biscuits. I gradually got down to six Delta Creams a day. Sometimes I’d mix things up with an Adora Cream or Shortbread Cream. I would go down to the park at night with friends and we’d crack open an Arnotts Cream Selection. It seemed like fun, we didn’t know the harm we were causing ourselves. But let me tell you, I never, ever touched the Orange Cream … man, those things are nasty.

In the early ’80s the market became flooded with a wide range of new biscuits. Old favourites were coming out in new varieties. One day I scored a pack of Tim Tams only to find it had been cut with caramel. Soon it was becoming difficult to find a pure Tim Tam anywhere.

New biscuit markets started to form. Even the yuppies had their own boutique biscuit: the Kingston. This was popular in night clubs and at celebrity parties, it wasn’t for a suburban kid like me.

My moment of clarity came after an all-night binge on chocolate Tiny Teddies. I came to in the grey dawn, cardboard and chocolate crumbs strewn about my room, and began to weep at the ruin my life had become. My family was very supportive, and with some detox and rehab I was able to kick my habit of many years.

My story has a happy ending. Now I only eat biscuits socially. I avoid the biscuit aisle at the shopping centre and don’t keep biscuits around the house. At Christmas maybe I’ll celebrate with a Mint Slice or two.

Remember, the first step is to admit you have a problem.

Jun 3

You’re probably familiar with the music video game Guitar Hero, in which the player uses a “guitar shaped peripheral” (sweet Jesus) which interfaces with the game controller. By following on-screen coloured prompts and mashing the corresponding “frets” on the “guitar”, a pre-recorded version of the song is played. In this way, the player gets the impression that he or she is a musician, actually “playing” the song.

Just take a look at the guitar peripheral:

Leo Fender is rolling around in his grave.

As if all this isn’t bad enough, the concept has been extended to create a new game called Rock Band. Now we have multiple instruments: guitar, bass and drums, as well as vocals. As with Guitar Hero, each of the three instruments follows their own on-screen colour-codes thus forming a sort of “virtual band”. If each player follows the colours correctly, once again a pre-recorded version of the song is produced.

Before I start my rant on this ridiculous piece of 21st century shite, have a look at this video of a “rock band” murdering Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” (you don’t have to sit through it all):

As someone who has played the guitar since I was a kid this is a travesty.

In my day, if we wanted to play in a band we went out and bought shitty instruments, and played them ’til our fingers bled. It was the summer of ’69. (Or ’84 in fact). My first guitar was a cheap second-hand Stratocaster copy from Hondo. I got it for Christmas in my 14th year, and it cost a whopping $125, strap and case included. It was fucking beautiful. I had no amp, but would happily plug it into any available electrical device with a 1/4″ input jack.

A couple of my mates were likewise struck with the urge to be a rock demigod, and they both begged, borrowed or (most likely) stole until we were kitted out with guitar, bass, amps and drums. Pretty soon we were rocking the suburbs from New Lambton all the way to New Lambton Heights. Coincidentally, one of the first songs we played together was “Paranoid” by Black Sabbath, of which a cassette recording is extant. It sounds pretty awful in retrospect, but our joy and passion shines through the distortion and subsonic rumble.

Something was nagging at me as I watched the video above. I couldn’t put my finger on it at first, then I realised what it was. The players are all staring glass-eyed at the screen to follow their colour codes. They aren’t looking at each other. They are missing out on the sense of joy that you feel when you stand in a room and make music with your best mates.

Nobody will convince me there is any skill involved in Rock Band. These players will never know the feeling of mastering a difficult riff or solo after hours of painstaking, callus-inducing practice. They will never create their own music, they will never improvise. I feel genuine pity for this generation of wannabe musicians doomed to stand in front of their X-Box and plasma TV, wanking off on their plastic imitation guitars.

I’ll leave you with a video of the one and only Black Sabbath playing “Paranoid” live circa 1970. If the black t-shirt wearing cock-foreheads from the abovementioned “rock band” ever saw these four hairy geezers from Birmingham they’d run a fucking mile.