May 20
R.I.P. D.I.O.
icon4 May 20th, 2010 | icon2 Music | icon3Comments Off

Heavy metal’s own woodland elf, singer Ronnie James Dio has died, aged 67.

Dio has a rock pedigree as long as Gene Simmons’ tongue. After more than a decade earning his rock’n'roll stripes, in 1975 Dio joined ex-Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore in the first line-up of Blackmore’s post-Purple project Rainbow. Their debut album is a classic of mid-’70s rock, an overblown, rich, creamy Baked Alaska of an album, full of guitar-posing, pseudo-classical wankery. (Here’s one of my favourite tracks, “Sixteenth Century Greensleeves“.)

Fast forward a few records and Dio has split with Blackmore to take over vocal duties for Black Sabbath, following the departure of Ozzy Osbourne. This is where I first came across the pint-sized vocalist, on his first outing with Sabbath, Heaven and Hell from 1980. What a corker! Sabbath fans could rest assured that their beloved band was in good hands.

Here is the promo video for the first track, “Neon Knights”, a manic rocker which has our friend Ronnie James delightfully invoking dragons, kings, circles, rings, and a host of other quasi-Tolkienesque imagery. Sort of like Bilbo Baggins on speed. (Please ignore the sloppily tacked on faux applause.)

Dio stayed with Sabbath for one more studio album and also appears on their double live record “Live Evil” – which I begged for, and happily received, for my 14th birthday. Yippee!

In the years that followed, Dio released numerous solo records, re-joined Sabbath and lived life to the full. Perhaps he should be best remembered for his stirring vocal on the 1974 hit “Love Is All”, the animated video clip for which I have fond memories of watching as a youngster. (It still brings a tear to the eye…)

Ronnie James Dio (1942-2010)

May 16
It’s a Small World After All
icon4 May 16th, 2010 | icon2 Bric-a-Brac | icon3Comments Off

Heard yesterday on the radio as Jessica Watson sailed into Sydney Harbour:

“I’m sure Jessica’s knockers have been put right in their place.”

Good to know.

The first circumnavigation of the globe is usually credited to Ferdinand Magellan, although he was killed in the Philippines midway through the journey. His expedition, led by Juan Sebastián Elcano, went on to complete the round-the-world voyage, arriving in Spain in 1522. The first Englishman to achieve this feat was another name you might’ve learned in primary school: Francis Drake. He did it in 1580.

The first solo sailor to make it round the world was the Canadian Joshua Slocum, who completed his voyage in 1898. Slocum’s method of navigation was “dead reckoning”, which involves estimating your current position based on your previous position and taking into account a guesstimate of your speed, direction and elapsed time. (It’s believed that certain animals, including ants and rats, use a version of dead reckoning to return safely to their home after a foraging expedition.)

“Around the world” in yo-yo terms means to fling the yo-yo outwards and then, with the yo-yo at full extension, to have it spinning in a wide circle to the side of your body. Don’t do this in front of a mirror or large glass window.