Apr 29
I Don’t, I Don’t, I Don’t
icon4 Apr 29th, 2010 | icon2 Bric-a-Brac | icon3Comments Off

I recently discovered, to my amazement, that it’s perfectly legal in Australia to marry your aunt, uncle, niece, nephew or cousin.

The Marriage Act 1961 SECT 23B specifically defines a “prohibited relationship” as being with a descendant or ancestor, or sibling. So you can’t marry your grandparent, parent, child, grandchild, etc. And you can’t marry your brother or sister (even adopted and step-children are considered blood relatives for the purpose of marriage, so Woody Allen would be out of luck here*). And that’s it. Everyone else is up for grabs.

Of course, all this assumes you are of the opposite gender to the close relative you wish to marry. The Marriage Act 1961 SECT 5(1) defines marriage as “the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life”. As you would be aware, marriage between same-sex couples is not legal in Australia. But you can marry your uncle Rodney. That is pretty fucked up. (To all my gender-reassigned readers, you will be pleased to know that you can legally marry as your reassigned gender, thanks to the successful case Re Kevin in the Family Court in 2001.)

Aside from the “yuckiness” of marrying a close blood relative, there is the issue of increased possibility of genetic disorders in any children that are produced. It’s for this reason that I’m surprised that marriages at first cousin level or closer are not banned. (Apparently the US is the only country to outlaw cousin marriage). In general, the Australian marriage restrictions as described above are typical of those in most Western societies. A few countries are even relaxed enough to decriminalise incest – Belgium, for example, where the age of consent for incestual sex is 16.

So, if there’s an aunty or nephew you’ve had your eye on, go for it!

—-

* This refers to Woody Allen’s marriage in 1997 to Soon-Yi Previn, the adopted daughter of Allen’s long-term partner Mia Farrow and Farrow’s previous husband André Previn. In fact, Soon-Yi Previn was never legally adopted by Allen. It was probably that Allen had known Soon-Yi since she was 10 years old, and the 35 year age gap, that led many people to think this was a tad creepy.

Apr 26
Vandenberg Unearthed
icon4 Apr 26th, 2010 | icon2 Memories, Music | icon3Comments Off

Rach and I spend a fair amount of time in op shops, and often the pickings are slim. The most disappointing area of the op shop, for me, is usually the record bin. Most op shops have one, and they are typically crammed with the absolute worst horrors ever committed to vinyl: pan pipe music, Hammond organ instrumentals, strange German orchestral easy listening (often with saucy semi-nude women on the cover), Kamahl records, and so on.

Imagine my surprise when on a recent op shop excursion, among the usual dross I came across this record sleeve:

It was a little beaten up, and had a large black texta mark diagonally across the cover, but nevertheless my pulse quickened considerably. To explain why, let me go back in time 25 years or so …

In 1984 I was committed to the cause of metal. But owing to my miniscule music-buying budget I was interested in only the best that metal had to offer, and I was especially keen on any record that could offer up some killer guitar solos. Around this time a good buddy of mine –  let’s call him Pete – travelled to the US with local High School concert band The Marching Koalas. On his return he had a suitcase crammed with records and cassettes from the States, apparently having spent his entire travel budget on music. One of the tapes he brought back was by a band I had never heard of, called Vandenberg.

Vandenberg were a Dutch metal band that formed in 1981, centred around the guitar exploits of Adrian Vandenberg. The tape Pete had bought was their second album, Heading For a Storm, from 1983. The cover illustration, featuring a pack of sharks cruising down a desert highway, is surely a classic of the genre.

The first I heard of this record was a song called “This is War”, specifically the guitar solo. Pete played it to me on his ghetto-blaster while we were on a bus during a school excursion. My mind was well and truly blown. We must’ve listened to the guitar solo fifty times on that bus trip, until someone threatened to throw Pete’s tape player out the window. You can hear the song in the clip below (audio only). Mr Vandenberg starts warming up his fingers around 2:03 and hits full stride at 2:30. Imagine it’s 1984 and you are an impressionable 14-year-old wannabe metal guitar hero …

Anyway, the years passed. I made a dodgy copy of Pete’s cassette and eventually bought the Heading For a Storm LP (available here only as an expensive import) in the late ’80s, but never got around to tracking down their first, self-titled album. Which brings me back to the Gosford Vinnies in 2010.

There I was, standing at the record bin, with a copy of the first Vandenberg album in my hands. Questions flooded my brain. How the fuck did this record get here? Who donated it, and where are the rest of their records? Am I dreaming? I quickly slipped the disc from the sleeve to make sure it wasn’t some shitty Perry Como LP, which thankfully it wasn’t. The vinyl was even in decent condition. The asking price was $1. Thank you very much.

The circle is closed.

POSTSCRIPT:

Vandenberg split in the mid-’80s after a third LP, with Adrian leaving to join David Coverdale in Whitesnake. Here’s a video of Vandenberg’s biggest “hit”, a classic metal-ballad called “Burning Heart”.

Apr 20

OK, it’s been a few weeks since I posted about our regular Sunday Night Classic Movie. Let me get up to date by quickly running through our last four films.

Electric Dreams (1984)

A piece of mid-’80s tripe from director Steve Barron. Nerdy architect Miles Harding buys a computer with a mind of its own. The computer, named Edgar, somehow manages to interface with every appliance in Miles’ apartment, and also falls in love with neighbour Madeline, a cellist (played by the delightful Virginia Madsen). Miles’ budding relationship with Madeline leads to a bizarre love triangle, with human-to-human love thankfully winning out in the end. The only saving grace of this cinematic disaster is the occasionally fantastic soundtrack, most notably the title track “Together in Electric Dreams”, performed by Philip Oakey (ex-Human League).

The Magnificent Seven (1960)

John Sturges’ classic Western remake of Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai was Gum’s inspired choice for Sunday Night viewing. A poor Mexican village is under the thumb of a gang of nasty bandits. An emissary from the village heads off to find some good guys willing to help. They bump into ace gunslinger Chris (strange name for a gunslinger) played by Yul Brynner, who decides to help out, bringing with him six others including Charles Bronson, James Coburn and the one and only Steve McQueen. The eponymous Seven return to the village and lay in wait for the Mexicans to return so they can kick some bandit ass. Eventually good prevails, although not all seven make it out alive. Brynner and McQueen are left standing of course, and ride into the sunset as the soundtrack swells.

No Retreat, No Surrender (1986)

Absolute rubbish. Young karate student Jason Stillwell watches as his karate teacher father cops a beating from some gangsters set on taking over his dojo for money laundering purposes. The family moves to a distant city, the father a broken man. Jason struggles to fit in to his new environment, quickly getting on the bad side of local karate hoods. Taking inspiration from his love for the late Bruce Lee, Jason works night and day to improve his karate technique, with the aid of Bruce Lee’s ghost and some very unusual (and occasionally homo-erotic) training methods (see clip below). As with many other films that follow this same path (Karate Kid anyone?) Jason has his shot at redemption when the gangsters arrive in town, bringing with them Russian karate expert Ivan Krushensky (Jean-Claude Van Damme). Of course, good wins out in the end, with Jason gaining respect and the girl.

Batman: The Movie (1966)

Way before Michael Keaton or Christian Bale there was Adam West as the square-jawed millionaire crime-fighter Bruce Wayne. This barely watchable film is the distillation onto celluloid of every implausible, stupid, camp moment from the TV series, stretched out to a mind-numbing 105 minutes. The Joker, Penguin, Riddler and Catwoman have banded together in an effort to take over the world. It is up to Batman and Robin to stop them. Every imaginable bat-device gets an outing here: the bat-copter, the bat-boat, the batmobile and other bat-related technologies too numerous to mention. The scene where Batman dangles from the bat-copter with a large, rubber shark attached to his leg is one of the great moments of cinema (see below). I forget what happens at the end, but needless to say the day is saved.

Apr 18
The Black Midget Phase
icon4 Apr 18th, 2010 | icon2 Television | icon3Comments Off

In the late ’70s and early ’80s two new faces appeared on our television screens. They looked like this:

This was when TV entered what I call its Black Midget Phase (BMP). That’s Gary Coleman on the left. He played wise-cracking Arnold Jackson on Diff’rent Strokes. On the right is Emmanuel Lewis who played the eponymous Webster.

Gary Coleman really got the ball rolling as far as the BMP was concerned, when Diff’rent Strokes became a major success, with Coleman as Arnold its most popular character. (In several countries the show was retitled as simply Arnold.) I watched Diff’rent Strokes religiously as a kid, and even then I realised something was not quite right with little Arnold. Rumours in the school playground said that he was actually a thirty-year-old dwarf, or that he had an incurable reverse-aging disease. In short, he was an adult trapped in a child’s body.

Whatever the cause of Coleman’s short stature, for some reason I’ve always assumed that Gary Coleman was indeed an adult when he was hired to play Arnold, as though the show’s producers had found a new kind of loophole in the child labour law; that is, to hire an actor with the appearance of a child but with the sensibilities and work ethic of an adult. But in fact Coleman (born in 1968) was only ten years old when Diff’rent Strokes first aired, his stunted growth caused by a congenital kidney disease. In hindsight, it’s amazing that a desperately ill black kid could rise to such dizzy heights of sitcom stardom. His famous catchphrase – What’choo talkin’ ’bout, Willis? – still reverberates in the minds of thirty-somethings worldwide.

And then came Webster. I was never a big fan of Webster. This blatant Diff’rent Strokes rip-off (both shows involved poor black kids being taken into an affluent white household) arrived in 1983, when I was moving onto more adult televisual fare, such as late-era Cop Shop. What made the comparison between the two shows even more acute was that Emmanuel Lewis who played Webster (full name Webster Long, now there’s a piece of trivia!) was, like Gary Coleman, a person of small stature, 12 years old when the show began. The BMP was now in full swing.

It’s difficult to find much information on Emmanuel, as even his Wikipedia entry is uncharacteristically sparse. It does give his height as 4′ 3″ – presumably his adult height, and certainly taller than he appears in this humorous clip of his appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.

It’s clear that Emmanuel (then in his early teens) had a good grasp of comedic timing, presumably why he was chosen to play a smart-talking eight-year-old on Webster. But as with Arnold on Diff’rent Strokes, Webster’s precocious cuteness could only carry the show so far. Webster limped along until 1989 when it was finally put out of its misery. Thankfully it is yet to see DVD release.

Thus ended the Black Midget Phase, some would argue a low point in American sitcom history. Nevertheless, I liked the Black Midget Phase much more than the earlier Red Dwarf Phase.