31 January, 2012

Eye of Newt

A criticism of not just Mitt Romney but all the candidates, past and present, in the Republican primaries is that it’s an incredibly negative campaign and that no one is offering a positive vision for the future.  They all say they have a positive vision for the future but when asked to quantify it, the positive vision seems to be to dig up Ronald Reagan and the future is 1986.

Then Newt Gingrich said something that most definitely qualifies as a vision for the future.  He said that by the end of his second term (and I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that he doesn’t mean a Grover Cleveland style second term) there will be the first permanent colony on the moon.  The need or purpose for such a base isn’t clear to anyone but the two pieces of speculation are that it’s either about minerals or that we’ve stuff this planet up so much that it’s time to look for alternatives.

Anyone who knows me knows there are few greater supporters of space exploration.  The return is far greater than the investment and the investment is a pittance compared to many other escapades.  The shuttle program could have continued for a few more years (or better still, a replacement developed) for the amount of petty cash that was lost in Iraq.  That’s not hyperbole – I’m talking about actual petty cash that actually went missing.  Having said that, the first question regarding a moon base is, Why?  Even some of the people who have already been there say that a return to the moon is pointless.  Been there, done that, let’s go somewhere new.

Here’s an even more interesting question:  What if such an outlandish idea had been proposed by, oh let’s say, John Kerry, or Howard Dean, or Dennis Kucinich?  Or even Hillary Clinton or Ron Paul?  Do we really need to imagine how much they would be mocked for it by the right wing?  Would it not surely have destroyed their campaigns even sooner?  Yet (and I know I’ve said this before) Newt Gingrich is still being taken seriously.  Why?  Is this fair and balanced?

We report, you decide.

27 January, 2012

A picture is worth a thousand words…

Most of them wrong.

This photograph of the prime minister and opposition leader being whisked away from a function yesterday when protests got ugly, went viral within minutes of it being released.  Some published it completely.  Others, including the ABC’s news home page cropped it to focus on Julia Gillard and her bodyguard.

Reports were quick to highlight how weak Gillard looks in this picture.  They mentioned how she is clutching onto the security guard, “visibly rattled,” or “clearly distressed,” or some similar description.  That certainly is the first impression of what was happening during this particular hundredth of a second of the fracas.  The problem is that it’s all projection.

Have you ever had your photo taken in the middle of falling over?  Or moments after a fall?  I’m guessing not, but if you did, you’d probably look a little frightened and helpless yourself.

What we also know about this moment is that Julia Gillard lost a shoe while being rushed to the car and that moments later she stumbled almost to the ground.  She was already the only person in the whole group wearing a skirt and heels, losing the shoe would make anyone additionally wobbly, she quite understandably loses her footing for one moment and… SNAP!

I suggest that you possibly wouldn’t look particularly dignified or statesmanlike in the same situation, regardless of how calm you might actually be.  Unless you would, give the woman a break and cut out the patronising crap.

25 January, 2012

THE LOVE WE MAKE - Paul McCartney (2011)

There are many stories surrounding the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001 that deserve to be told.  This is not one of them.

I’ll admit that I had written that line long before I put the disc in the player.  The blurbs and promotions give the distinct impression that this “chronicle of Paul McCartney’s cathartic journey through New York City in the aftermath of 9/11,” is a shameful attempt to use an atrocity as an ego trip.  Indeed, the promotional material stops just short of claiming that Paul McCartney came to heal America just as the Beatles had (apocryphally) helped America to get over the Kennedy assassination.

Fortunately, the film itself is nothing like what the descriptions suggest.  Shot in grainy black and white by Albert Maysles (of Gimme Shelter and early films of the Beatles in the U.S.), it’s a genuine fly-on-the-wall account of the lead up to the Concert for New York City on 20 October, 2001.  There is no commentary, either direct or implied and there are clearly no situations contrived for the benefit of the film.  The events that prompted the concert are only mentioned during snippets of conversations, although there is an interesting moment when McCartney ponders how an avowed pacifist should react to the attacks.

The film also isn’t cut to be too flattering to McCartney either.  Moments after gladhanding people on the street, he’s shown in the car saying, “Right, get me out of here.”  There are of course all the usual shots of fan mobbing and references to the Beatles, but it’s a refreshingly candid portrait of McCartney.

Things get interesting at the venue where we see Paul planning arrangements, instructing musicians and somewhat nervously presenting his idea for the new song, Freedom, and confessing to its corniness.  We also see how even some of the most famous people in America can be reduced to gibbering fanboys in the presence of The Beatle.  There are no complete musical performances.  That's fair enough since it's not what the film is about, but if that's what you were hoping for, you'll be disappointed.

Although The Love We Make is far better than expected, there is still much of it that is suspect – such as why Paul would hire a film crew to document his contribution to the concert, and why release it to coincide with the tenth anniversary of the attacks?  While the film is not quite as self-serving as I thought it might be, McCartney is not completely innocent of trying to make it all about him.

That would be forgivable if proceeds from this DVD went to the Robin Hood Relief Fund, as the proceeds from the concert and album did.  However, there is nothing to suggest that this is the case.  As such, The Love We Make is better than it looks, but approach with caution.

Feature:  * * ½
Extras:  None
Audio:  Dolby stereo, Dolby 5.1, DTS

22 January, 2012

Don’t be a Loser

“Who here has never been in love?” asks the host from under an umbrella while the contestants stand in the rain.  “Come on, be honest!”  she goads as a few sheepishly put their hands up.

“The Biggest Loser this year, is all about singles,” we are told and there is so much wrong with this that I’m going to have a hard time putting it all in order without punching a few walls.

We can see what the basic idea is here.  The Biggest Loser has been going for a few years so it’s time to bring in a new gimmick by mashing it up with Farmer Wants a Wife or some such.  That would be bad enough.  Hell, the original idea of The Biggest Loser is bad enough.  Making weight loss a race is unhealthy in itself and they make their participants try to lose unhealthy amounts of weight over a dangerously short time period which risks triggering the body’s starvation response.  Most reality television is merely stupid but The Biggest Loser is seriously irresponsible. 

Now they’re making it even worse by making the humiliation not just about body image but about their love lives as well.  The message is clear: they’re too fat for love.  Ha ha!  Look at the fatties out in the rain!  They’ve never been in love!   They’re probably virgins!  Haha!  But, as the captions inform us, they’re “ready for love.”

“You’re all here because you want your lives to change,” lectures the presenter, who goes on to list some of the torment they are in for before stating, “At the end of it all, sixteen singles will be ready.”

Ready?  Ready for what, exactly?  Ready to submit themselves to the judgement of people who wouldn’t have looked at them before?  Ready to present themselves with confidence?  That’s got nothing to do with weight and if that is what was sapping their confidence, shows like The Biggest Loser have plenty to do with that. 

That promo got me angry enough, but this next one is even worse:

The contestants are forced to explain themselves, to explain how their weight has stopped them finding love.  One perfectly attractive girl says she has never kissed a boy while another poor lady is shown wondering how she can give someone a loving relationship if she doesn’t have the confidence to look at herself in the mirror.  None of this is challenged as the wrong way of looking at things.  It’s never pointed out that they have internalised the media’s perception of beauty or that accepting yourself doesn’t come from changing yourself.

Then there’s the soundtrack.  The use of the Beatles’ final ever song to promote crap like this is vulgar enough in itself, but let’s just think about the words of the song in relation to what it’s being used for.
It’s real Love,
Yes it’s real.
No.  It.  ISN’T!

Real love is for better or worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.  If you need it spelled out for you, it also means for fat or for skinny you pricks!

We all know that ‘reality’ television is a social disease that chews people up and spits them out.  Most of the time, I don’t care.  If some precocious brats think that subjecting themselves to ridicule on The X Factor is going to set them on their way to becoming the next Miley Cyrus, or that their tomato-julienning skills are going to impress the pants off of Master Chef and have them rubbing shoulders with Heston Blumenthal, then more fool them.  I don’t give a shit.  But when television producers take a group of already vulnerable people and submit them to physical and psychological stress, and play on their insecurities, in public for fun and profit, under the guise of self-improvement – that’s when a civilised society should say Enough is enough!

I don’t blame the contestants.  I know what it’s like to be desperate for love and to be willing to try anything to find it.  To them I would say:  you are all beautiful and deserving of love just as you are.  If you want to try to lose weight for yourself, that’s fine.  But if you’re doing this because you think it’s the only way you can love or be loved, then I have to tell you that’s not how it works.  I never had a weight problem, but I never had a girlfriend until I was a couple of weeks off thirty.  I don’t know why, but I know it wasn’t weight.  Just because you’re single or lacking confidence doesn’t mean you have to put yourself through this.  And just look around at people who have partners.  Are they all TV beautiful?  Do they all have model figures?  Of course not!  If someone won’t accept you as you are now, then they don’t deserve you afterwards.  If there are people who would only love you if you lost weight, then fuck them and fuck anyone who tells you to.

There are many reasons why people watch reality television.  Some watch it because they’re silly enough to believe the premise of the show.  Some watch it to be catty about the contestants in their choice of song or frock or dish or whatever.  Some people watch it to hear what bitches the judges are.  As usual, the network and producers don’t care WHY you watch, so long as you watch.  That’s where you can make a difference.

Do NOT watch The Biggest Loser.  Don’t watch it, “just to see how bad it is,” or “just because it was on after ____,” or because they have a guest star you like.  Just do NOT watch it for any reason.  I want to be perfectly clear about this: if ANYONE watches The Biggest Loser for ANY reason, then YOU are the problem and I will blame you for it.

21 January, 2012

Choose your values

It’s always been taken as a given by all sides of politics that “values voters” (as if there are voters who don’t vote according to their values) are a wholly owned subsidiary of the Republican party. As the candidates tear each other apart in ways the Democrats only wish they had the nerve to, you just know that by the middle of the year, they will all be lining up behind one saying that he’s the one to lead the country and that all those awful things they said earlier about what a disaster he would be somehow don’t matter any more.

It’s not that Democrats don’t do this either, but they tend to be a little less rigid in their dogma. This recognition of nuance in such important issues often plays into the Republicans’ hands, allowing them to portray the Democrats as wishy-washy, but it also makes it less uncomfortable for them to unite behind one candidate once they’re chosen. Although Hillary Clinton had some vehement support, I can’t imagine there were too many Democrats who sat out the election just because Obama pipped her for the nomination. Likewise, if Clinton had secured the nomination, there might not have been quite as much voter enthusiasm, but surely not enough to swing the election for McCain. Even John Edwards would have been perfectly acceptable in terms of policy.
What a minute! John Edwards? That deadbeat? Are you serious? Don’t you know what he did?
Yes. More on that later.

This year’s Republican primaries will no doubt be chosen as 2008’s were - that is: in terms of who is the least hated. John McCain had few real friends in the party but he had the least sworn enemies. What makes this primary interesting, is watching to see which specific set of professed values the Republican party will be willing to sell out.

First, there’s the value of ideological consistency. If 2004 taught us anything (which is debatable) it’s that Republicans can’t stand a flip-flopper. Remember the footwear they brought to the convention to wave about as they taunted John Kerry? That should automatically rule out Mitt Romney who shifted the moderate positions he held on abortion and gay rights as governor of Massachusetts to reflect the hard line national Republican position in 2008. That’s nothing compared to what he did next though. The biggest weapon Romney has against Obama is that he made public health cover work. But since the official Republican position is that public health cover is bad cos socialism, Romney is saying that he will reverse Obama’s attempts to do for the country what Romney did for Massachusetts. Of course, anyone can change their mind. It’s a sign of maturity to amend one’s position according to new information, changed conditions or personal epiphany. Then again, it could just be rank opportunism. So we shall see if Republicans choose either nuance or opportunism, and flip-flop on flip-flopping.

Then there is the so-called tea party. By rights, the tea party should be right behind Ron Paul, a small government, anti-tax, isolationist, strict constitutionalist. The fact that they would support an idiot like Michelle Bachmann over someone who has spent his entire political career espousing the same ideals the tea party claims to, just goes to show what a bunch of astro-turf phonies they are.

Ron Paul scares the hell out of Republicans because he proudly represents the logical conclusion of many Republican policies. He wants to end the Federal Reserve, abolish the IRS, hand all government operations that aren’t nailed down in the constitution to the states and, most controversially, let the rest of the world take care of itself. The one point on which Paul has been willing to step back from his position of personal liberty and pander to the party is that he’s not too keen on the gays either. For all this, Paul is still regarded as mad old Uncle Ron. We are also constantly told that he is a marginal candidate. He has been in the past but this year he has been consistently placing respectable seconds and thirds while Cain, Bachmann, Huntsman and Perry have all dropped out. Ron Paul cannot be written off.

Now we come to that most euphemistic of values - family values. Somehow, Newt Gingrich is still in the race. I had to chuckle this week at reports of an ABC interview with “a former wife” of Gingrich’s who alleges that he asked for an (ahem) open marriage. Not “the” former wife, “a” former wife. This has to tell us something, no? Now I have always held that marital fidelity has no bearing on one’s ability to run a country. Indeed, history has shown as much. But Republicans like their candidates squeaky clean. Except when they don’t, which is why it will be interesting to see which side they come down on this time around.

Of course, marriages do break up. People change, people drift apart, these things happen. In Gingrich’s case though, it’s a case of ’tain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it. In both of Gingrich’s remarriages, the relationship began when his was still married to his previous wife. He left his first wife while she was recovering from cancer. Oh, that reminds me, what were we saying about John Edwards? He filed for divorce from his second wife while she was fighting multiple sclerosis. His affair with his current wife began around the same time as he was attempting to destroy Bill Clinton over the Lewinsky scandal. Whatever you may think of the Clintons, the fact is that they saved their marriage. I guess Newt is more the cut-and-run type.

None of this actually disqualifies him from becoming president or even implies he lacks qualification. However, Republicans also like to talk about character. Gingrich and his supporters tell us that it’s disgraceful of the media to bring this up at all. This from the same party that insisted the life and times of Bill Ayers had everything to do with Obama’s candidacy. For his part, Gingrich has acknowledged his straying and blamed it on the pressures of work and his love for his country. As lame excuses go, that ranks second only to the captain of the Costa Concordia’s story that he slipped and fell into a lifeboat. It surely suggests some malleability in family values that Gingrich is still a strong contender against Romney, who is still married to his first wife and has five children, Rick Santorum, who doesn’t even get an erection except for the purpose of procreation, and Paul, who would contend that it’s nobody else’s business either way.

It all reveals the contradictory nature of expressed Republican values. Of course, politics and government are all about compromise, but that’s another thing that Republicans are none too keen on as candidates try to outdo each other on their unwillingness to bend. It will be interesting to see which set of values is eventually set aside and how the other candidates will rationalise it.

11 January, 2012

Record Collection Porn: 80s 12-Inch Single Edition

Let me say from the outset that this is not about 80s nostalgia.  I have no time for it.  I was there the first time and they were crap – and crap isn’t any less crap just because it’s nostalgic crap.  In fact, seeing the 80s revised into some kind of golden ages gives me a slight idea about what it might have been like to grow up in the 1960s – pop culture has conspired to suppress all the crap so they end up looking much better than they were.

Of all the things we remember the 80s for – big hair, loud colours, new romantics, ra-ra skirts, stone-wash denim, poodle metal, superstrats – one that never gets mentioned is the phenomenon of 12-inch singles.  As mentioned on one of the records below, a 12-inch single was just like a 7-inch single, only bigger – and longer.  Although the format began in the 70s along with disco, and continued into the 90s before going the same way as the 7-inch single for the same reason, by the mid-80s, any single with an outside chance of charting was also released as a 12-inch and often with an extended remix.

It was not a remix as we interpret the word today.  In fact, on most extended versions, the mix (that is, the balance of instruments and vocal parts and their placement in the stereo picture) was exactly the same as the regular version.  In these cases, a better description would have been Extended Edit, or in some cases, Unedited Version.

There were many ways artists and/or producers made songs longer for the larger format.  Sometimes they were the full length version of the recording before it was edited down for released.  Sometimes they had extra parts added.  Sometimes they just let the song play out.  If you can get hold of the 12” of World Party’s Ship Of Fools, the extended version is created by not fading out until two minutes later, giving the listener a rare glimpse into what happens after the fade.  Dire Straits’ Money For Nothing didn’t need extending because the album version goes for 8 minutes anyway. 

A common method of creating a 12-inch mix was a simple cut-and-paste job.  Firstly, play the intro twice.  If you can’t resolve the intro musically in order to play it again, it doesn’t matter – just stop at the end of the intro, throw in some S-S-S-sampled B-B-B-beats and start again.  Next, play the first verse without the vocal.  Do the same with the chorus if you feel like, then start with the first verse proper.  If there’s a middle-8, play an instrumental copy of it before the second verse.  If there’s a guitar solo or other instrumental part, double the length.  Then repeat the final chorus with lashing of gratuitous delay and Bob’s yer uncle!  You’ve got yourself a 12-inch extended version.

12-inch singles also had a fascinating mystique to a young collector.  They were never played on the radio, not included on compilations and certainly not available on cassette.  The only way to hear the extended version was to buy the record.

I had wondered whether to include these examples in the order they were released or in the order that I discovered them.  In the end, I went with a bit of both.

Tina Turner:  We Don’t Need Another Hero
This is the first 12-inch single I bought.  The main reason was because I had just received a turntable for Christmas and this was the song I liked most in the 12-inch rack at my local record store.
It’s a bit of a tease as extended versions go.  It’s exactly the same as the regular version up until about two thirds of the way through.  The song is from Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, so composer/producer Terry Britten’s sense of drama may have had something to do with how the 12-inch version was arranged.

Thompson Twins:  King for a Day
I bought this a week later and it was the first 12-inch of a song that I really wanted to have the 12-inch of.  Yes, it’s the Thompson Twins, of Hold Me Now – what’s your point?  Despite looking very mockable, they had some really nice songs and don’t forget this record was produced by the great Nile Rodgers. 
It’s a particularly long version that in part follows the standard method mentioned above but also features some actual different mixes in parts and still doesn’t outstay its welcome.

Mike Oldfield:  To France
This was the first time I had heard this song, but I would buy anything with Mike Oldfield’s name on it, so at first it was hard to where it has been extended.  Even without comparing it to the album version, it’s pretty clear now that an additional instrumental section has been edited in just before the end of the song.

Marillion:  Market Square Heroes
I had never heard anything of Marillion before this, but the record was calling to me.  This is actually the B-side of Punch and Judy and I truly don’t know if that’s an extended version.  I suspect probably not.  Truthfully, the reason I bought this is… well, just look at it!  How cool is it?  Fortunately, the song isn’t bad either.

Paul McCartney:  No More Lonely Nights

This is where it all came together - Paul McCartney and an extended mix and a picture disc.  I was holding out hope when I bought this that it would be the ballad version of No More Lonely Nights, which is not only one of the greatest ever Paul McCartney love songs but also one of the greatest ever David Gilmour guitar solos.  Ah, but no such luck – it’s the playout version, which closed his forgettable film Give My Regards to Broad Street.  It might be just as well.  Doing an extended version of the ballad would be like trying to improve on perfection.

There were actually two extended mixes of this track.  This one was released in the UK and I actually like it better than the more collectable Arthur Baker mix released in the US.

Tears For Fears:  Everybody Wants to Rule the World

Probably a good example of an obligatory extended edit, although the bassline at the beginning does sound rather similar to Michael Jackson’s The Way You Make Me Feel, which was still two years away.  The full guitar solo is used until the recording appears to peter out and starts again for the final chorus and a repeat of the first part of the solo, which is faded early.

Prince and the Revolution:  Raspberry Beret
This “new mix” starts out with the same intro that is used on the official video but not used in the album or single version.  As the song nears conclusion, it repeats the minor key variation used in the intro (complete with cough) and finishes up just noodling around.  It seems like he started with an interesting idea but didn’t know where to take it.

Cliff Richard and The Young Ones:  Living Doll
In 1986, even a novelty charity record had an extended 12-inch (ooh-err!) and the fact is lampooned in the extended portion of the song.  There are also skits at the beginning and end that weren’t on the 7-inch version.

Genesis:  Invisible Touch
Um, I have no explanation for this one.  I was young and curious.  Don’t judge.

Men At Work:  Down Under
Not released alongside the initial 1981 single, but remixed for a 1986 best-of album.  I believe this is the version that was included on that compilation as well.  In terms of the mix itself, there are some subtle differences, with Colin Hay singing the beginning of the final chorus solo.  As an extended edit though, it’s awful.

Icehouse:  Crazy (Mad Mix)
At which point, we begin naming the remixes, preferably along the same theme as the song.  Rather than follow the same old formula, Iva Davies completely reconstructs the song in a genuine remix and re-edit.  We also discover that the guitar solo which is cut down to a middle-8 on the album/single version actually goes for a whole verse and more as originally recorded.  This mix takes an already bombastic song and cranks the dramatics up well beyond 11.  It’s all utterly mad but then, that is what it says on the label.
The B-side features the rather lovely Midnight Mix, which does away with the rhythm section altogether and suddenly it’s become a song of seduction – which goes to show how important mixing can be.

George Michael:  I Want Your Sex (Monogamy Mix)
Now this is creative!  I Want Your Sex was a controversy-baiting single dressed up as a safe sex message.  As nookie songs go, it’s exactly mid-way between Barry White and Salt’n’Pepa.  However, if this record had finished at the 5-minute mark, it would still have fulfilled all the requirements of a 12-inch.  Instead, it’s presented in three sections –  Rhythm 1: Lust, Rhythm 2: Brass in Love, Rhythm 3: A Last Request.  As I understand it (I haven’t heard the album), the first two sections follow the album arrangement, with the final section (also on the album but not in the same order) turns it into a 13-minute epic.
I was fascinated by the idea of three sections looking at the cover in the record shop, but couldn’t come at actually buying a George Michael record.  I picked this up at a market many years later.  Listen without prejudice.

Roger Waters:  Radio Waves
The Radio KAOS album is regarded as a bit of a mistake by most which is quite unfair.  Waters’ intention was to make a straightforward rock and roll album and naturally threw in some apocalyptic fear and a message of redemption for good measure.  In fact, the album’s other theme of corporate dominance and dedication to all those who find themselves at the violent end of monetarism are more relevant than ever. 
Appropriately for the musical objective of the album, an extended version of the lead single was released.  It’s a fairly formulaic mix, but interesting coming from an artist like Waters.

George Harrison:  When We Was Fab
George’s wonderfully dry sense of humour was all over this record.  The A-side is clearly labelled “unextended version,” but the B-side featured the “reverse ending,” where the song plays all the way through to the end, and then comes back playing backwards!

Paul McCartney:  Once Upon a Long Ago
A good example of an extended version being a less edited version than the single release.  An additional intro is tacked on at the front, but most of this version is the song in its entirety with an ad-libbed repeat of the first verse at the end and full length solos.  The extended string note right at the end is a nice touch.  A beautiful and underrated song.

Travelling Wilburys:  End of the Line
Even a band of five traditionalists like the Travelling Wilburys couldn’t avoid the obligatory 12-inch mix, and this mix is exactly what you would expect when fulfilling obligations.

Paul McCartney:  Figure of Eight

This is a rare example of a 12-inch single which features a completely different recording to the album version.  While not listed as an extended version, this live-in-the-studio take is longer than the album version and much closer to the arrangement that opened Paul’s live shows at the time.

Billy Bragg:  Sexuality (Manchester Mix)
It may just be coincidence, but naming the mixes after the cities they were done in (the B-side features the London Mix) looks like it may be a tribute to The Smiths, who named the three versions of This Charming Man Manchester, London and New York.  The latter was pulled almost as soon as it was released and never heard again until included on The Sound of The Smiths.
The Manchester Mix of Sexuality was mixed by Owen Morris, who would later produce Oasis.  This is both extended version and true remix, with Johnny Marr’s guitar pushed to the front of the mix.  What more could you ask for?

The Cure:  High
Curiously enough, I did actually hear this version for the first time on the radio and that’s what made me buy it because I’m not really a Cure fan.  This is both an extended edit and a remix and I think this mix is far superior to the album version.  As smitten as that!


10 January, 2012

Curb your outrage

There is an old and wise saying:
Never argue with an idiot. They drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.
I can’t help thinking of this piece of wisdom while watching the controversy over Teresa Gambaro’s comments about migrants.

“Who?” you may well ask.

Apparently, she’s the Liberal member for Brisbane and apparently she’s suggested that new migrants should be taught to use deodorant and how to queue politely.

Of course, we could talk about how this trivialises the issue of multiculturalism, we could talk about how it appeals to racists, we could talk about the irony of a daughter of Italian immigrants saying something like that but really, who cares?

Who had heard of Ms Gambaro this time yesterday? Anyone? And now, thanks to the outrage sparked by her comments, she has gone from being unknown outside her electorate and party room to having a national profile. Way to go! And don’t try to tell me this is going to harm her image. I’ll lay odds that no-one who has spoken out against her would have voted Liberal anyway. Meanwhile, every Herald-Sun reader has just become a fan. We all know there are Liberals and their supporters who wear pissing off the left like a badge of honour. I’ll bet Andrew Bolt has already written his latest “defending free speech” column citing this as an example. How many callers will talkback radio air saying, “She just said what everyone else is thinking.”? Menzies House must be creaming themselves.

Need I remind anyone that this is how Pauline Hanson got her start?
Previously unknown political figure makes stupid comment sparking moral outrage, suddenly becomes darling of racists and reactionaries.

To engage in assessments of Gambaro’s insensitivity and detailed rebuttal of her premise is to make her more important than she is. That doesn’t help anyone.

I was perfectly happy having never heard of Ms Gambaro. Forgive me if I am not shocked to learn a Coalition backbencher said something stupid. Rather than taking the bait and giving the reactionary right another matyr, progressives should let the inanity of her remarks be self evident and never argue with an idiot.

Update: Sal Piracha presents a differing view here: The Idiot and the Village

08 January, 2012


The title of Martin Scorsese’s documentary on the life of George Harrison is more than just a reference to George’s second solo album.  A recurring theme throughout the film is George’s ambition to leave his body (or the material world) in the best way possible. 

A little over half the film is spent on his time in the Beatles, but even the stories we’ve heard before, such as the Beatles’ rough apprenticeship in Hamburg, aren’t as stale as they might be because they are shown through George’s eyes.  Astrid Kirchherr recalls the time she photographed John and George in Stu Sutcliff’s room shortly after she had informed them of his death.  It’s actually a pretty well known photograph but I had never heard the history behind it before.

There is no narration, with George’s story being told via interviews with family and friends, and with George himself.  Many of these are from unused interviews for the Beatles Anthology and there are also some very interesting, rarely seen television appearances.  Elsewhere, Dhani reads passages from George’s letters and diaries.  The new interviews indicate just how long it has taken to make this film.  Billy Preston died in 2006 after a long illness and we all know where Phil Spector is now. 

Unlike so many similar projects, the breakup of the Beatles is not presented as some great turning point, but as a natural progression, which is just as George would have regarded it. 

No-one is written out of the story.  Patti Boyd is interviewed and reads passages from her book and her relationship with Eric Clapton is dealt with candidly.  Although George’s creative output at the time suggests he might have been more upset about the breakup than he let on, the film respectfully sticks to George’s story that he was cool with it so long as they were both happy.

The film discusses George’s work with Monty Python and the subsequent creation of his production company, Handmade Films, but curiously, no mention is made of his record label, Dark Horse Records.

On the extras side, there are additional interviews with Paul McCartney, Jeff Lynne and Damon Hill, a live performance of the Ravi Shankar collaboration Dispute and Violence (which sounds not unlike something Frank Zappa might do) and a lovely moment in the studio where Giles and George Martin listen to the multitrack of Here Comes the Sun with Dhani.  The Damon Hill piece also features home video by George.  The moment where he gate-crashes a doorstop press conference with Damon Hill after he lost the 1994 World Championship is priceless.

Living in the Material World is a beautiful film about a beautiful man and it flows like a well-sequenced album.  Just as it’s about to make you cry, it makes you laugh, but before you laugh too much, it reminds you that there are greater things – just like George’s music. 

Feature: * * * * ½
Extras: * * * * *
Audio: Dolby 5.1, DTS, Dolby Stereo

05 January, 2012

The Bonus Discs - Wish You Were Here

Wish You Were Here is generally considered by both band and fans to be the last true Pink Floyd album.  That may seem like an odd thing to say when the group remained a going concern for the next twenty years.  It does make sense though, when you consider that it was the last genuinely collaborative Pink Floyd album before a creative spurt from Roger Waters overwhelmed the others and his subsequent departure left them directionless.  It’s a bold and ambitious album even for Pink Floyd inasmuch as it combines parts that are almost ambient techno with parts that are almost country, yet it’s still accepted into that second most damning* of labels, “classic rock.”

The second audio disc doesn’t contain a complete live performance as with Dark Side of the Moon.  Instead, we have three studio out-takes and three live tracks from Wembley in 1974, before work commenced on the album.  There is a full run-through of Shine On You Crazy Diamond, before it was split into two sections, plus Raving and Drooling and You’ve Got To Be Crazy which eventually became Sheep and Dogs respectively on the Animals album.  Raving and Drooling is clearly unfinished and is of historical interest only.  Most marathon Pink Floyd pieces are careful to stay just the right side of tedium, but this one doesn’t.  By contrast, You’ve Got To Be Crazy is fully formed and was actually edited down somewhat by the time it got to the studio version.  As such, this disc could almost double as a bonus disc for Animals.  Since this disc also comes with the “experience edition,” it makes the 2-disc option more attractive than Dark Side.

Of the studio tracks, Wine Glasses is the beginning of Shine On You Crazy Diamond Part 1, then there is Have a Cigar featuring Roger Waters’ guide vocal.  It’s been said that Waters wasn’t happy with Roy Harper’s guest vocal on the song, but this reveals they definitely made the right decision.  The disc concludes with an alternative version of Wish You Were Here featuring Stephane Grapelli.  It’s a beautiful version, stripped of the radio effects in the album version.

Disc 3, the first DVD, contains the 48kHz stereo mix of the album and two multi-channel mixes; the original quadraphonic mix, and a 5.1 surround mix done in 2009. The quad version is quite different from the stereo version with the most noticable changes being different solos in Wish You Were Here and a rather clumsy execution of the “whoosh” at the end of Have a Cigar.  The 5.1 version follows the stereo arrangement more closely.  It was originally intended for an SACD release in 2009 and is now scheduled for release this month.  Both the surround mixes are available in either 448kbps or 640kbps Dolby streams.

The second DVD features the concert screen films with animation by Gerald Scarfe.  These are much shorter than the Dark Side films since they were only used on the first half of Shine On and Welcome To The Machine.  The darkness of the latter seems like a precursor to The Wall film.  Also included is a short promotional film by Storm Thorgerson from 2000.  It was created as a Flash animation and hasn’t aged well.

As with The Dark Side of the Moon box set, the Blu-ray disc has all the content of the DVDs in 24-bit, 96kHz, high resolution audio.

The box comes filled with the same goodies as the Dark Side box.  Conveniently, card sleeves are supplied for all the discs so that you can store them outside the box if you choose to.  The previous box didn’t include this.  Although the photo books are a bit better, featuring some very interesting unused cover art, the Wish You Were Here Immersion edition is considerably lighter on content than The Dark Side of the Moon Immersion edition.  This can simply be put down to the fact that there isn’t as much in the vault related to Wish You Were Here as there is to Dark Side, although they could have fleshed the set with a full live performance.  The high-resolution option is attractive, however the remixing and remastering engineer for the project, James Guthrie has stated that “The SACD is absolutely the best way to hear the new 5.1 mix,” so you might want to factor that into your decision.

Worth paying extra for?
Yes, but not worth as much as the Dark Side box.

Wish You Were Here - 1985 CD release

Wish You Were Here - from the Shine On box set, 1992

Wish You Were Here - 1994 remaster

Wish You Were Here - 2011 remaster

* The most damning is, of course, “progressive rock,” which Wish You Were Here manages to count as too.

The Hysteria Hysteria

Using etymology as an argument of convenience...

The story so far:
The latest issue of The King’s Tribune features some very interesting, if challenging articles from Justin Shaw and Ben Pobjie on the place of pornography in modern society.

This caused an almighty twitstorm, centred around the use in the articles of one particular word: “Hysterical.”
There are some excellent posts on the substance of the debate HERE, HERE and HERE and I have little to add to any of them.

My only observation is that it seems to be an argument of convenience to hone in on that one word and cite it as evidence of misogyny.  The word was originally used to mean (and I’m paraphrasing here) a woman’s ladybits causing her to go all funny.  (Disclosure: I learnt this about twelve hours ago)

Misogynist?  Absolutely!  IF used in that context.
However, you don’t have to be a professor of linguistics to see that Justin Shaw was using the word in its modern meaning of over-the-top, exaggerated, hyperbole.  Another modern definition of the word is to mean extremely funny, but that’s clearly not Shaw’s intended use.

If you’re going to pick apart the arcane origins of words and insist on classical definitions, you must be consistent about it.

Remember this the next time you use the word “Bastard” (a child of unmarried parents, sometimes called ‘illegitimate’ as if it’s the child’s fault and something to be ashamed of) as a term of abuse.

Remember this the next time you use the word “Gay” (it used to mean “happy,” don’tcha know!) to describe someone who is homosexual.

Remember this the next time you use the word “Bugger” (a verb, to sodomise, that is, to penetrate the anus with the erect penis as Gail Dines would probably describe it) as a general exclamation of dissatisfaction with something that has just occurred.  Or to describe a lovable rogue.

Remember this the next time you use the word “Terrific” (which is to “terror,” as “horrific,” is to “horror”) to describe something that is very good.

Remember this the next time you use the word “Fantastic” (meaning “of fantasy”) to describe something that is clearly real.

Remember this the next time you use the word “Incredible” (meaning lacking credibility) to describe something you might also regard as fantastic or terrific.

03 January, 2012

New releases for 2012

Which will be on your wish-list?

Paul McCartney presents Paul McCartney's Baroque Fantasy by Paul McCartney

 - Paul McCartney

Oi! Gaga! You Think That's Crazy? THIS is Crazy, Bitch!
 - Bjork

Half the Tracks That Were on the Last Best-of and Three that Weren't
 - Pink Floyd

Fuck You, Noel!
 - Beady Eye

Yeah? Suck This, Our Kid!
 - Noel Gallagher

I'm Just Awfully Clever!
 - Damon Albarn with Damien Hirst, Van Dyke Parks, Perry Farrell and the Academy of St Martin in the Fields

Tony Bennett sings Half of Your Favourite Songs and Someone Else Does the Rest
 - Tony Bennett

Hey, That Sounds Like a Good Idea

 - Rod Stewart

The Osbournes, Huh? Get Me Some of That Action!

 - Gene Simmons

Well, the Singer's Solo Career Didn't Go So Well
 - James

You Too, Huh?
 - Pulp

I'm a Scouser, Me!
 - Ringo Starr

Your Favourite Songs Murdered in Cold Blood volume 12

 - The Cast of Glee

Identity Crisis
 - The Black Eyed Peas feat. Adele feat. Snoop Dogg feat. Katy Perry feat. Kanye West feat. Kelis feat. Bruno Mars...

The One Where We Apologise for the Previous Album
 - Metallica

Oh Alright, "Buckingham Nicks" Then!

 - Fleetwood Mac

Aw Mum, You're Embarrassing Me! 
 - Madonna

The London Telephone Directory
 - Read by Stephen Fry

Beyond the Bottom of the Barrell
- INXS with Justin Bieber