Jun 30

News just in. Apple’s online music store iTunes is reporting that it has completely sold out of all electronic copies of Michael Jackson’s back catalog. Owing to increased demand following the singer’s sudden death, and a shortage of electrons at their Jacksonville plant, they are unable to produce digital files until an emergency shipment arrives from an electron supplier in Taiwan.

Meanwhile, what’s your favourite Michael Jackson album?

We’ve got a few of Jacko’s records, but our favourite would have to be Off The Wall. This was Jackson’s first solo record as a grown-up, and I don’t think he ever improved upon it. I know Thriller had the hits, but Off The Wall to my ears is the winner. The arrangements are more sparse, there’s some room to get in there and boogie! It’s a bit like comparing Revolver to Sgt Pepper. Sure, Thriller sold a gazillion copies, but the production is just so dense, and lurking in between the hit singles are tracks such as the McCartney-Jackson duet “The Girl is Mine”, a song so painfully mawkish and contrived it almost makes me physically ill.

The mention of McCartney’s name raises the question of what will happen to the publishing rights to the majority of Lennon/McCartney songs, which are currently part of Sony/ATV Music, of which Jackson owned a 50% stake. (Background: Northern Songs, the company created in 1963 to publish Lennon & McCartney’s Beatles output was aggressively bought out by ATV in 1969, with ATV Music then being bought by Jackson in 1985. He later merged with Sony to form Sony/ATV Music.) There has been some speculation that Jackson had of late felt sorry for nicking his old mate Paul’s songs and had included a clause in his will that they be returned to McCartney upon Jackson’s death. This seems optimistic in the extreme given the realities of the music industry today, and Jackson did not have total ownership in any case. Still, I personally would like to see the day when a living Beatle has control of their own music!

Finally, there seems to be some sort of frenzy on eBay with countless auctions for Jackson-related domain names. Most of them are awful, such as MichaelJacksonNaked.com or LifeAfterMichaelJackson.com, with asking prices in the millions of US dollars. Seriously, what sort of clown is responsible for this nonsense! I tells ya!

Jun 12
I’m giving it five stars. Margaret?
icon4 Jun 12th, 2009 | icon2 Cinema | icon3Comments Off

Last night we saw Samson & Delilah, the new romantic comedy (just kidding!) from Warwick Thornton. It’s an impressive film for many reasons, but you must see it on the big screen. Don’t wait for the DVD for this one.

Although the cinema was mostly empty, we had to put up with the usual array of irritating patrons. Four elderly cinemagoers (from roughly two hundred empty seats they chose to sit directly in front of us) spoke in wheezy whispers at key points in the film, to our extreme annoyance. We had to “shush” them twice. They would also tut disapprovingly or groan with exaggerated melancholy at appropriate moments. (I’ve written about this before.)

[Warning, minor spoilers follow.]

Of the small audience, most stayed until the end of the credits. As the lights came on and people rose from their seats, it seemed that many felt something needed to be said about what they had just watched on screen.

“Well, now I’m depressed!” said one lady.

“But there was hope at the end”, replied another.

“Well, that was a different slant on it”, said one budding movie reviewer.

A different slant? On what?? This is the sort of thing you say when you don’t know what to say.

“You know there’s more than seven thousand aboriginals here on the Central Coast …”, said a voice to nobody in particular.

In the words of Molly Meldrum, do yerself a favour, and see this film! The “verandah band” alone is worth the price of admission.

Jun 4
That’s Incredible!
icon4 Jun 4th, 2009 | icon2 Weekly Retro Classics | icon3Comments Off

Does anybody remember this show?

Yes, it’s That’s Incredible!

Anyone who watched TV in the early ’80s will remember this programme – it was certainly compulsary viewing in our household. It focused not only on your run-of-the-mill “beard of bees” type stunts, but also had a paranormal bent, with regular appearances by psychics and whatnot.

And how about the hosts? I’m pretty sure I had a thing for Cathy Lee Crosby at the time. I suspect John Davidson had a thing for himself. Third wheel Fran Tarkenton is there to make up the numbers.

If you cast your mind back a few years earlier you may remember another of my favourite shows, Thrill Seekers. Presented by Chuck Connors (star of the US TV Show The Rifleman, and not to be confused with Chuck Norris), this show is perhaps the earliest example of the TV stunt genre. It originally ran for a couple of years around 1973-74, but I probably saw it as re-runs on Australian TV during the late ’70s.

Thrill Seekers was geared towards your typical daredevil/stuntman type activity – jumping a motorbike over a row of cars, falling from a building while on fire, and so on. I have always remembered the opening monologue, which Connors repeats at the start of every show – he reminds us that there is a special kind of person in this world, a person who has no fear; in fact they like to confront their fear, or in Connors’ immortal words, they “chase it, challenge it, and lick it.”

I could find only one clip from Thrill Seekers, it’s about big wave surfing, but you can watch just the intro to get a feel for Connors’ style of delivery. Notice how he glances off screen every few seconds to read his cue cards. (Actually, the surfing footage is pretty cool, so watch on if you like that sort of thing.)

Amazingly, there is almost no information about this show on the net. The Wikipedia article is exactly one line in length, there is bugger all on YouTube and not much else.

Does anybody else remember Thrill Seekers?! Let’s keep the dream alive, people!

Jun 2
We’re all goin’ on a …
icon4 Jun 2nd, 2009 | icon2 Travel | icon3Comments Off

So we just got back from a week in northern NSW, staying at a little place called Wooyung, doing some fieldwork for Rach’s PhD. You may have heard about some floods they’ve been having up north, which meant we were forced to take the New England Highway rather than the more direct Pacific Highway.

Our trip started off nicely – in Scone we had a tasty bacon & eggs breakfast – but apart from that it was a pretty tedious drive. Tamworth, Armidale, Tenterfield, Casino, Lismore – these aren’t just lyrics from Peter Allen songs, they really exist! The constantly changing speed limits – 100, down to 50, back up to 80, back down to 60 – nearly drove me to despair.

The flat tyre in Ballina was the last thing we needed, but it did mean we were able to stop at one of the region’s great landmarks, the Big Prawn! By my (admittedly rough) calculations, this monument to crustacean life-forms outdoes in terms of sheer magnitude Coffs Harbour’s so-called “Big Banana” by a factor of at least ten to one!

Our enforced stopover also meant I could relive my youth by wasting a dollar (it was 20c in my day) in their Flintstones pinball. Sadly, the machine had been belted into submission by countless long-haul truckies, and the flippers were annoyingly unresponsive. All my best pinny moves were wasted on this poorly maintained pile of junk. What’s more, with all the flashing lights I wasn’t seeing the ball too clearly after 12 hours on the road.

The rest of the week was spent in the rainforest, or driving to and from. Let me say this about whoever designed the roads in northern NSW: they should invest in a ruler. I think the longest straight stretch of road was roughly twice the length of a Toyota Hilux. If I didn’t get to have fun by running down stray hippies I would’ve been really annoyed.

I’ll end by giving you a tip. If you’re ever in a small town on the southern edge of Nightcap National Park called Rosebank (which you probably won’t be) stop at the Green Frog Cafe and try their pumpkin soup. Tell ‘em Snubian sent ya.