23 December 2008

Obligatory holiday post

Hi all.

I'm off on Wednesday for a few days up the coast soaking up the balmy sea air and avoiding sunburn.

For those of you who read my blog from colder climes, there is something truly wrong about singing Christmas carols about snow, roasting chestnuts and one-horse open sleighs when the weather outside is verging on 35 to 40 degrees. Celsius.

(Or, if you like, spare a thought for Sean the Blogonaut. He lives in the middle of Australia where the temperature gets into the mid forties during the day, and then plummets to seriously cold levels overnight. Thank goodness we at least have the moderating influence of the sea where I live)

On Christmas Day, normally, I will be up around midday - because I like to sleep in. Then I will get up and stuff myself silly on turkey, ham, salad, maybe some chicken, prawns, Balmain bugs or lobster (depending on availability - looks like lobster is out this year), mussels and a variety of deserts including pudding.

Then we might get in a trip to the beach before opening presents, having a nap and then finally passing out in front of the TV in a bloated state.

It's all good.

So anyway, on to my annual holiday post.

Bloke of the year goes to Joe Biden, who, after spotting that Dick Cheney was planning on scuttling away without anyone noticing, put the boot in and shitcanned him, calling him, 'the most dangerous vice president we had probably in the American history'.

Dick Cheney, you might recall is still currently the Darth Sidious character to George W Bush's Dark Helmet. An odious guy who will be remembered for pulling the strings in the worst administration in US history. Oh yes. Harding, Nixon, Hoover - they had nothing on the Cheney Bush Administration in terms of general awfulness.

But enough of this. Here's some holiday reading for you:

Dikkii's Greatest Hits for 2008

=10. Go Placidly Amid The Noise and Wait

=10. Something I noticed recently

=10. Are Fiscal Deficits Really That Bad?

=10. Yes, I have a new favourite TV show

9. Keysar Trad on polygamy

8. The art empire strikes back

7. Brutal carnage!

6. Denial. Or why people actually drink.

5. One more and then I'll shut up. For a while...

4. Holy Frottage, Batman!

3. Blackmail And The Catholic Church

2. An open letter to artists everywhere

And, you all know how I love to big-note myself. I bet you can guess what is going number one here:

1. This blog is culturally significant. Official.

So party on and enjoy the summer. And, if you're reading this from the Northern Hemisphere, OUCH!

Edit 05/01/2008: Yes, I know that this didn't go up until January. I totally thought I'd posted it, when I in fact hadn't done so. I was in a hurry to pack and go off to the coast at the time. For the record, Christmas lunch was turkey and cranberry sauce sandwiches in a picnic area in the remotest corner of East Gippsland, Victoria.

04 December 2008

Guest Rock Epic of the month


Dikkii has graciously allowed me to present this month’s rock epic. I am not really sure of the format but will endeavour to produce some interesting reading. I have decided to give everyone an insight to a wonderful performer who I finally had the privilege of seeing over the past weekend so the basis will be a run down of the concert and some quiet thoughts from the Hulk. I hope you enjoy.

It is a rare occurrence these days when one has the opportunity to witness a truly great performer, artist, lyricist and ambassador to the music industry who has been around for more than a couple of years and whose music catalogue extends further the one great album. I truly believe these days that so many are quick to point out how good a performer is based on nothing more than maybe one or two top forty hits. Sure they may be a good performer but will they one day be truly great? Do they write their own lyrics? Do they play an instrument? Do they have a degree in music of some sort? Have they played with some of the other truly great performers of the world? And furthermore has their music stood the test of time where they are respected worldwide not only for their performances but for the substance that their art has delivered and continued to deliver over many years?
I had the privilege of attending a show with one such artist on Saturday night and if I were to use the word great to describe it that would be a gross understatement. I am talking about none other than Billy Joel. A man whose humble beginnings playing in a piano bar turned into international superstardom over a 30 year plus career. From the very beginning before even entering the concert you can tell how this man has survived for so long in arguably one of the toughest professions in the world, especially at the present. The excessively wide age gap between the crowd said it all. It was clear to see how many generations had been positively affected by this man's art.
Song one answered many questions such as: Is he going to be able to play his songs as good as he used to? Is he still just as adept on the piano? etc. To put it in perspective, the man is 60 plus years old and starts the show with "Angry Young Man". For those who don't know this song, it starts off with one of the fastest piano pieces imaginable and for a person of that age endeavouring in such a task and completing it perfectly quashed the questions you may have had in relation to this with the utmost authority. Proceeding on, many performers I have noticed do little or the bare minimum to incorporate the crowd and personalise it. Come out, play songs, say thanks, concert over. The same cannot be said for Billy. Immediately after this first song he addressed the audience and when I say that, he actually had a chat like we were sitting on the couch at home having a beer and a ciggy. This made it feel like you were the only person in the room. A refreshing change I must say. But what I think it says more is that it shows the difference and maturity compared to someone a little less "seasoned" in the art form.
From songs such as Big Shot, Allentown, a haunting and a slightly bluesier rendition of New York State of Mind to the later classics such as We didn't start the fire, he did not miss a beat (Pardon the cliché). Other notable performances were, You May Be Right, Only the Good Die Young (which was a song written in reference to him trying to top himself apparently) Its still rock and Roll to Me etc. The most wonderful thing he did though was too play some of the more obscure songs that are never heard on the radio but are equally as good, at least for all the die hard fans. I refer to this as he played a song off the Turstiles album called Vienna. A song that he wrote referring to the 2nd World War where he is basically saying "Don't worry, Vienna will always wait for you" being the city that remained independent of the war itself, (or mostly). This was a treat which I did not even imagine witnessing. Having said that, it was a clear illustration of what a great performer or wannabe great performer should try to accomplish.
The rest of the show had all the bells and whistles without "over production" and ridiculous pyrotechnics which do nothing but take the emphasis away from what you are actually there for. Also worth a mention, he decided to get one of his roadies up on stage and while he jumped off the piano and grabbed a guitar, his roadie sang Highway to Hell by AC/DC. Another indication of a performer who understands his audience. Skilled art? I will let you decide.
Through the many great albums and an endless list of “actual” hits that most would know coming off albums such as Streetlife Serenader, Turnstiles, Piano Man, Glass Houses, 52nd Street and so on, the concert could have gone on all night without a break from the crowd singing every word, but it did not need too. It was all answered in the climatic ending when 15,000 or so people, all on their feet, arm over each other shoulder, Billy on the piano and a Harmonica around his neck singing the one and only...... Piano Man.
It was a a remarkable experience and one I will remember affectionately for a long, long time and even though I am a tragic fan, I would still, as unbiasly as possible, recommend giving yourself the honour of being in his audience if you get the chance. Most of today’s acts are incomparable, but I do hope some of the musical talents in the world take a leaf out of Billy Joel's book so future generations can experience what we all have.
This will conclude my guest role on Rock Epic of the Month. I do thank Dikkii for the opportunity and hope you enjoyed it. I will look forward to any comments you may have.

The Hulk.

The Series Reboot

A little comedy gem that I found this year was Review with Myles Barlow. Hilarious. Basically, it's a bit of a waltz through the sheer pretence that is arts review programs.

ABC and SBS have a few of these, but after Review has been on air, I'd be surprised if the ABC shows one again for a little while.

The twist is that Barlow (played by Phil Lloyd) reviews anything.

Here's Barlow reviewing bareknuckle boxing:

And here's Barlow reviewing open heart surgery:

Barlow reviews lying:

At The Movies co-host David Stratton reviews Barlow:

Which leads to this exchange where Stratton kicks Barlow's arse:

I start with Myles Barlow, because I'm going to do a review of my own. Basically, the series reboot is totally in at the moment.

I've just seen Quantum of Solace, the second in the rebooted series of James Bond flicks and boy, do I feel confused.

The series reboot thingy is more than just a remake. It goes beyond just remaking a movie franchise to completely redesigning it from the ground up.

When Casino Royale came out in 2006, it basically threw away the previous movies and started from the beginning again. It was as if Blofeld, Tracy Bond, Q, Pussy Galore and Holly Goodhead didn't exist. Which might have been a good thing.

Bond was probably getting stale. I once remarked that tradition dictated that each Bond movie had to be more over the top and unbelievable than the previous one. This tradition had to come crashing down in a screaming heap eventually, which it did with Pierce Brosnan's last outing as 007 in Die Another Day. I enjoyed Die Another Day. At least I did up until the clearly fake computer generated wave off the coast of Iceland that Bond surfs down the face of. After this I felt a bit queasy for the rest of the movie and didn't enjoy it so much.

The spy thriller movie had a serious workover with the superb Jason Bourne trilogy. Obviously, this made the producers of the Bond movies sit up and take notice, because they completely re-engineered Bond for Casino Royale.

Not long before this, though, Christopher Nolan had given Batman the reboot treatment with the excellent Batman Begins, followed by The Dark Knight which was also excellent. Soon enough, others had to follow - Superman Returns did a partial reboot in pretending that the (admittedly piss-poor) Superman III and IV movies were never made, and The Incredible Hulk tried to make up for the Hulk movie of 2003.

So on to Quantum Of Solace. Is it just me, or was I watching two movies at once?

We had an old Bond movie - tuxedos, hotels, incidental music with new Bond - improved car chases, fight scenes, rooftop chases.

We had two plotlines - a simple one, and an utterly convoluted mess.

We had the same actor playing M (Judi Dench) as the old M. And essentially the same character. I still think that this might be a smidge anachronistic.

We had hi-tech resources at MI6, but no hi-tech toys for Bond himself.

And we had a bad guy with a stare that seemed almost like Auric Goldfinger was back.

Don't get me wrong - Daniel Craig is great as the new "gritty" Bond. And I like the idea of a reboot - let's face it, the old movies didn't have a great deal of respect for fans with their cavalier attitude to continuity. But are they "Bond movies"?

Stratton and Margeret Pomeranz gave this three stars. I concur.