Friday, August 27, 2010

The Song; The Memory: "Atlantic City" by Bruce Springsteen

The first time I went to Atlantic City, someone committed suicide by jumping from a 5 storey parking garage and our bus was diverted around the police and ambulance, so we had to run and catch it from a different hotel/casino combo, but my bag got caught in one of those stupid turnstile door things and we nearly got left behind. I didn’t see the suicide, because just as the poor soul was jumping, I was mesmerised by a homeless man digging into the trash can in front of me, where he found the remnants of a cheeseburger and started eating. That was before the screaming and shouting and alarms. It’s hard to know what to do when someone has ended their life as you watch a homeless man eat from a trash can.

I haven’t thought too much about that day, at the end of our two night stay in the place my $2 boardwalk-purchased T-shirt calls “Ultimate Paradise”. I was living in New York City, and my friend (and fellow everythingpopulariswrong.net blogger) Kelly came to stay with me. As a thank you for the free accommodation, Kelly offered to treat me to a weekend away from the city. She chose Atlantic City, based on the terrific experience we’d had in Vegas the previous year. We knew, of course, that Atlantic City was Vegas-lite. We had no expectations beyond some fun gambling, a nice hotel, checking out the ocean, and some good food (and salt water taffy for yours truly). All things being fair, I’d have to admit a trip to Atlantic City was almost like a challenge for Kelly and I. Just how funny will this weekend be? Just how Jersey-trashy and over-the-top? How many big-haired gambling addicts would we encounter? Yay!

The Boardwalk. Giant human stollers
not shown
The song Atlantic City by Bruce Springsteen is one of my favourites. It appears on the 1982 Nebraska album, and is one of those perfect, evocative Springsteen treats. It’s kind of a downer, actually, but I love it. It depicts a young couple's escape to Atlantic City as the man intends to take a job with a mob boss once arriving. The refrain: "Everything dies, baby, that's a fact, but maybe everything that dies someday comes back” pretty much sums up the mood. I love the chorus: “Put your makeup on, fix your hair up pretty, and meet me tonight in Atlantic City”. But the song has a sort of rousing, tragic, inevitability. Things will not end well for this couple.

I should have expected that underneath the beauty of the boardwalk, beach, swish restaurants, and truly excellent outlet shopping, Atlantic City would evoke much of the feeling of Springsteen’s song. He’s a master, and he knows how to capture a mood like no-one else (except perhaps Dylan). Kelly and I had a terrific time in Atlantic City. We ate crab cakes and drank cocktails, spent too much money shopping, wandered the boardwalk, admired the view, and had a giggle at the fun “Jersey-ness” of the place. But always, always, there was something else going on. The gloss of the casinos on the glistening shoreline couldn’t veil the hoards of homeless people asking for change, or the miserable sight of pensioners shoving their money into slot machines, waiting for that one last sign of good luck. We listened to Springsteen sing about this place, and his words could not have been truer; the tragedy of that last day undercutting the light and dark, the incredible mood, of his song. Strange days indeed.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: The Never Ending Election Campaign

Gillard and Abbott: all talk, no policies.
I don’t know about you – but I’m officially over the Australian Federal Election campaign. Just get us a Prime Minster already. It’s not that I don’t respect our democratic process, in fact, I love it. I’ve just had enough. So in an effort to wrap up the election that seems like it will never end…I’ve compiled my own list of the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

I will spare you all the ‘hung’ Parliament puns, which have been done to death in the past few days. And I’ve tried to keep the list a little balanced, but you might notice the Bad and the Ugly columns are pretty full. I think that pretty much sums up this election as a whole....


The Good

Social media emerges as a major player. This really was the first election where people (and not just journalists) engaged in debate and expression over the election campaign through social media like Twitter and Facebook. We even saw a couple of the major TV networks attempt to use a Twitter feed to broadcast public opinion during debates. It didn’t quite work – but it was a sure sign social media is here to stay. Never before have we seen an election where you could tweet Julia Gillard (@JuliaGillard) and tell her exactly what you thought. Sure, one of her press secs may have read it – but apparently she did start writing her own Tweets and even using hash tags (# topic identifiers) towards the end of the campaign. Labor seemed to get the message on social media and its importance by the end of the campaign - but the Coalition didn't get there at all. Tony Abbott didn't join the Twitterverse and obviously the party didn't see it as an important way to reach voters. The Coalition clearly need to move out of the dark ages.

Wyatt Roy the young gun. The 20-year-old has all but won the seat of Longman north of Brisbane; postal votes are still to be counted but Wyatt pretty much has it in the bag. I know he’s young and people will argue that he’s too young, no life experience, blah blah. But maybe the Australian Parliament could use some young positive naivety from a Gen Y-er. You go Wyatt. Just ignore the haters.

Wilson Tuckey is out. The maverick West Australian MP has made some appalling contributions to Australian political life during his time, but thankfully, we won’t have to listen to him anymore. He’s been accused of being acutely racist and even resorted once to calling Kim Beazley a ‘fat so and so’ whilst having a debate about an immigration issue. The fact that he lost his seat shows that all is not lost for a positive, progressive Australia. Great job WA voters.

A Greens candidate wins the seat of Melbourne. The Greens will no longer be referred to as ‘the party you waste a vote on’. The win by former lawyer Adam Bandt sends a warning shot to the major parties. The Greens are now (and some will argue were already) a real alternative to the major parties and can no longer be pigeon-holed as lefty greenies who don’t win seats.


The Bad

The ‘Real’ Julia. This was not a great choice of strategy for Labor. They clearly saw that the election campaign was not moving in their direction and that the media and public were sick of the spin. Julia’s attempt to free herself from this simply confused people and raised the question, who was she being for the first couple of weeks of the campaign when she wasn’t the 'Real Julia’? In her attempt to be the ‘real’ Julia we got ‘More of the Same Julia', and given the result (or lack of) at the polls in Saturday, neither were up to scratch for voters.

The debate about the debate. The back and forth between Tony and Julia on how many debates to have, when to have them and what to debate about became farcical towards the end of the campaign. Will someone just lock the pollies into debates and topics and end the pain for us all? I’d rather read stories about what their policies are, than how many debates we need to have and what they will or won’t be about. And it’s not the political journos’ fault. They are reporting on what’s going on day to day on the campaign trail – and if that sort of tripe is dominating the day, in the place of real policies, then we all lose. However, I think that with this election campaign, no matter what the trivial distractions were, we were never really going to see any real, solid policies.

The first hung Parliament in about 70 years. This is bad, if only because we don’t have a resolution yet. I’m sure I’m not the only one who is exhausted by the length of this election campaign. I know it shows democracy at work, and for that reason in itself it’s a great thing, but it will affect a lot more things than who is PM. It has the potential to affect economic stability. Confidence in our economy may suffer due to uncertainty about policy decisions. And it’s very likely that even if a minority government is formed, we could be sent to the polls again very soon (within the normal 3 or so years). It’s a pretty unstable situation.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The iPod Files: Heavy Rotation (Vampire Weekend)

I’ve been very confused lately. I just don’t understand how this has happened. How in the hell have I never listened to any of Vampire Weekend’s music until this last month? What on earth have I been listening to for the last two years?

My friend Erin and I have been on a bit of a concert kick this year. A sort of unofficial New Year’s resolution to see as many bands live this year as we possibly can – 2010: The Year of the Gig. Before we were off to see another great band, The Temper Trap, we were filling our evening with vodka and pizza and listening to music and Erin had put on some Vampire Weekend. Well damn! I love when you listen to something for the first time and it just fills you with this complete sense of joy and energy. So much fun! I knew she’d been a fan for a while and even had seen them live when they toured this year, but I had no idea what their sound was. I think in retrospect that I’d always been dismissive as I’d heard their name and thought they were some Twilight heavy emo-styled band. And now all I feel is a super case of jealousy. For if ever there was a band that is meant to be seen live – that is Vampire Weekend!

Formed by four fairly preppy-indie guys from Columbia University, Vampire Weekend’s music invokes old-school Paul Simon albums mixed with Afro-pop stylings. Their songs almost go hand-in-hand with Simon’s Graceland album. I’m not the most musically literate person on the planet, but if a song is catchy, has a great hook and crisp melodies, I’m sold. And Vampire Weekend fills that quota: fun, playful, and smart enough to pull it all off with aplomb.

Personal faves from their two albums, the self-titled Vampire Weekend (2008) and their latest Contra (2010), include M79, Walcott, Mansard Roof, Horchata and Holiday. There’s something about a cello solo in the middle of a song that is just fantastic!

Both albums are on heavy rotation on my iPod at the moment and I cannot recommend them highly enough. Their music simply makes me want to dance and spin – I may or may not have already freaked out a few people as I’ve walked home skipping and singing along to myself. I can’t wait until summer so I can listen to their albums as they really should be – out in the sunshine with a nice refreshing glass of Pimms in my hand.

I dare you to listen to Walcott and not want to dance!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

TV shows that rocked my world: Deadwood

Al and Bullock get serious at the Gem
I’m fairly certain that if it wasn’t for a subscription TV channel, I would have never given Deadwood past its first episode. In fact, I think it’s fairly safe to say that there’s never been anything quite like Deadwood.

Created by David Milch and running just 3 seasons (from 2004 – 2006), Deadwood is set in the 1870s in South Dakota, before (and after) the area’s annexation by the Dakota Territory. It shows the town’s growth from camp to town, covering broad themes like law and order, government and politics, business, and power. A huge ensemble cast breathes life into the grime and grit of the camp, with Timothy Olyphant’s Sherriff Seth Bullock and Ian McShane’s saloon owner Al Swearengen leading a charge of wonderful performances by terrific character actors. Deadwood is populated by true historical figures, including Bullock and Swearengen, Calamity Jane, Wild Bill Hickok, Wyatt Earp, Charlie Utter, and George Hearst. The historical truth of these characters is served up by Milch with a healthy dose of artistic license. And here is where Deadwood’s genius lies.


Sol and Trixie
 I had the chance to see Deadwood, all three seasons, back to back on Australian pay TV channel Showcase. Deadwood was on each weeknight at 7.30, and when the advertisements came to my attention, I was reminded it was one of those shows I’d always “meant” to see. You know the ones, we all have them, but late-night TV scheduling, or the  failure of commercial networks to air the great HBO shows at all, conspire against us. The advent of TV-on-DVD has certainly helped with series’ many of us would have otherwise missed out on. Deadwood on each weeknight was as good as a DVD for me! So I settled in for the first episode… and couldn’t understand a word they were saying. These people were speaking in some bizarre bastardisation of Shakespeare, with sentences and words inverting and swirling in on themselves, making a kind of peculiar poetry from phrases sometimes so vulgar I couldn’t believe my ears. The cursing and swearing was confronting (despite my knowledge of Deadwood’s reputation for foul language), but in the setting, made a sort of perfect sense as part of the lawlessness of the show. I’ve since read that Milch intended for his cast to use the curse words of the time, but they seemed to our modern ears to be more blasphemous than anything, and so the decision was made to give the words their full modern impact. And thus, C-bombs and F-bombs scatter the script like raindrops. And so it wasn’t the language in that sense that confused me. The show was going to take some getting used to, and I vowed to keep at it. Boy, am I glad I did.

The men of Deadwood
Deadwood fast became my favourite TV show. It is ugly, grimy, and offensive. The depth and smell of the place almost reeks from the screen. The characters are, with a few exceptions, deceitful, selfish, anarchistic, and so very human. The storyline is compelling and sometimes shocking. Death, mud, gunshots, scheming, drinking, and whoring are relentless. Deadwood has perhaps 40 speaking characters, and only about 5 of them are women. Two of those women are prostitutes. The acting is, almost without exception, first-rate. Milch has trusted his actors to deliver his precious and wholly original script, a script that often brought me to tears. The trick, I learnt after that first episode, is to watch with subtitles. To truly appreciate and love Deadwood is to truly appreciate and love language. For as gritty and foul as that language may be, it is also poetry in motion. The machinations of the script have been written like a sort of concerto. No television program, before or since, has had such an impact on me. I bought the DVDs, and have watched them countless times since. I’ve memorised sections of script and my favourite quotes, like I’d do with Tennyson or Dickinson.

Jane and Charlie. Probably thinking
about Joanie.
It’s not just the beauty of the screenplay, but the fantastic performances that sell you on Deadwood. A cast of characters to break your heart. Such perfect moments from such perfect actors: Robin Weigert’s drunken and kind-hearted Calamity Jane. Brad Dourif’s Doc Cochran, doing what he can under extreme circumstances. The burgeoning relationship between John Hawkes’ Sol Star and Paula Malcomson’s Trixie. The not-so-subtle rivalry between Al’s go-to men, W. Earl Brown’s Dan Dority and Titus Welliver’s Silas Adams. The scenes between the reformed madam, Kim Dickens’ Joanie, and the compassionate Charlie Utter, played by Dayton Callie, he boyishly in love with her, she so tentatively branching out on her own. The moments as Molly Parker’s Alma Garret makes critical choices like starting her bank, for the good of the camp, only to come up against the pure evil of Gerald McRaney’s George Hearst. The pathetic worm-like moments of attempted scheming from William Sanderson’s E. B. Farnham. It’s the people that make the town, and Milch knows it.

I’m so glad I gave Deadwood a chance. Re-watching offers even more rewards, as subplots and line readings you may have missed the first time around suddenly come into focus. In the end though it’s this simple scene, featuring a pep talk the incomparable McShane's Al gives newspaperman Merrick after Merrick's been beaten, that is my favourite of all 3 Deadwood seasons. It still brings a tear to my eye. “Pain or damage don’t end the world. Or despair, or fucking beatings..” Sublime. Comments below!

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: Books vs. Movies

It’s the age-old entertainment battle...is the book better than the movie? Or is the movie better than the book? Many a spat has been had over popcorn about which is the superior version of a particular story.

You could argue that more and more movies these days are being based on books. If you write a best seller, you can almost guarantee you’ll have Brad Pitt’s production company knocking on your door to buy the rights.

Should they be a genre all of their own? Boovies? Or Slashies (Book/Movies)? I don’t know. But to try to nut it out, I’ve compiled some of my favourite and least favourite adaptations.

The Good


Book - written by Mario Puzo

Movie - directed by Francis Ford Coppola, starring Marlon Brando and Al Pacino

Originally published in 1969, the book became synonymous with Italian mafia folklore and introduced now infamous Italian words like Cosa Nostra and consigliore to English-speaking popular culture. Puzo was Italian-American himself and he manages to capture, along with all the gangster action and violence, so many of the qualities unique to Italian family life; not just the dark side, but the strong sense of family loyalty.

And the movie; all you have to do is have a look at the cast list credits to see it was never going to be bad. The legendary Marlon Brando played the Godfather, Don Vito Corleone, and joined a cast including Al Pacino (Michael Corleone), Robert Duvall (Tom Hagen) and Diane Keaton (Kay Adams).

For me, this movie is an amazing adaptation of the book, probably one of best movies there is. Director Francis Ford Coppola created a popular masterpiece which spawned two successful sequels. I read the book first, and then watched the movie, than read the book again – and I just couldn’t replace the image of Marlon as the God Father or Pacino his reluctant mafia successor son. I think that is the mark of a good Movie/Book.

Carrie

Book – written by Stephen King

Movie – directed by Brian De Palma, staring Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie

Carrie was Stephen King’s first published novel and caused quite a stir when it was published 1974. It’s said to have been the most banned book in American schools and sold one million copies in its first year on store shelves. The book tells the story of Carrie White, an awkward and shy American high school student who is abused by her religiously fanatical mother. She discovers she has telekinetic powers and eventually uses them to wreak havoc on her classmates who tease her incessantly.

Following the success of the book, the 1976 movie adaptation was released and became a cult classic. It is often referred to as a ‘watershed’ film in the horror genre and the best movie adaptation of a Stephen King novel. Carrie was a thrilling book to read – King is a genius – and the movie did the book justice, and perhaps even brought it to life. Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie both scored Oscar nominations for their performances, almost unheard of for a horror film. Carrie is still a movie which scares the living daylights out of me, even though I’ve seen it countless times. It’s a big call, but perhaps the best ever book to movie adaptation!

The Notebook

Book – written by Nicholas Sparks

Movie – directed by Nick Cassavetes, starring Rachael McAdams and Ryan Gosling

For me, the movie version of The Notebook improves on the book. The book is a romantic journey about the lives of Noah (the poor boy) and Allie (his upper class love interest). They become separated by their social differences, but as with all good romance stories, they realise their love for each other through a series of plot twists and turns. The chemistry between Rachael McAdams (Allie) and Ryan Gosling (Noah) is incredible and is really the key to making the movie so touching. It’s no wonder they were a real-life couple after shooting wrapped.


Book – written by Dennis Lehane

Movie – directed by Martin Scorsese, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Ben Kingsley

Dennis Lehane’s book is a masterpiece, so it’s only fitting that Scorsese lent his mastery to the movie version of this incredible story. I won’t spoil the dramatic end for those who haven’t seen the movie or read the book, but both are an incredible journey. It’s 1954 and US Marshal Teddy Daniels is investigating the disappearance of a murderess from the hospital for the criminally insane located on Shutter Island. The movie version is a true and clever adaptation of the book – and even if you haven’t read the book – you’re immediately sucked into the complex and mind bending plot. A cast of talented Oscar-winning actors, including Leo, only add to the brilliance.

The Bad

The Time Traveler’s Wife

Book – written by Audrey Niffenegger

Movie – directed by Robert Schwenke, starring Eric Bana and Rachael McAdams

Audrey Niffenegger’s book is an amazing read. It has been hailed by critics and the reading public alike as one of the true original stories of the past decade. It follows the romantic relationship between Clare Abshire and Henry DeTamble. Henry has a rare genetic disorder, which sees him travel through time, having no control over where and when. The story jumps around from Clare’s childhood, to their tumultuous lives together as adults.

The movie was ok, but if you have read the book and loved it, you were probably disappointed with the big screen adaptation. I’m not sure that a movie, no matter how well produced, could capture the essence and even the timeline of the book. The movie was good. It was just never, ever going to be as good as the book.

My Sister’s Keeper

Book – written by Jodie Picoult

Movie – directed by Nick Cassavetes, starring Cameron Diaz and Abigail Breslin

Cameron Diaz and Sofia Vassilieva in My Sister's Keeper
On their own merit, both these versions are popular and enjoyable enough. Jodie Picoult’s book tells the story of Anna Fitzgerald who wants emancipation from her parents who have relied on her body to help treat her sister, Kate, who is sick with leukaemia. The story explores some deeply emotional issues including the death of a child and the impact on the family unit. I think the book is an ok read, and the movie is an ok watch, but if you’ve read the book, you might have been a little disappointed about the alternate ending provided and some of the detail missing from the character’s relationships with each other, particularly the parents of Kate and Anna Fitzgerald. These changes result in the movie adaptation being very different to the book.

The Ugly (otherwise known as bad adaptations AND bad movies)

The Power of One

Book - written by Bryce Courtnay

Movie – directed by John G. Alvidson, starring Stephen Dorff

I read this book when I was a teenager and for me it was an inspiring story. It centres on English boy, Peekay, who lives in South Africa during World War II. The story follows Peekay’s struggle as an English boy in a society dominated by Afrikaans culture. He desires to change the country and unite the African, English and Afrikaans cultures in a society where racism and violence are everyday occurrences. I found it, and its subsequent sequels compelling reading.

Unfortunately, the movie was shockingly bad. Not only did it lack the emotional development of the book’s characters and the storyline, it was marred by some pretty ordinary Afrikaans accents (Yes, you, Stephen Dorff).

The Da Vinci Code

Book – written by Dan Brown

Movie – directed by Ron Howard, starring Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou.

Dan Brown’s book was a bestseller and became a cult classic, inspiring countless pilgrimages to the many famous European landmarks used as locations in the book. The novel opens with a gruesome murder at the Louvre in Paris and clues in Da Vinci’s paintings, which lead to the discovery of a dangerous secret society which threatens the belief foundations of Christianity. The book is a great read and the exciting storyline moves at breakneck speed. The movie’s biggest problem is that it doesn’t move at break neck speed. It is incredibly long and incredibly painful, especially if you’ve already read the novel and know the twists and turns. Director Ron Howard tried to do justice to the intricacies of the book, but by doing that, he created a long, long, long movie – with perhaps too much detail.

That’s my list of the Good, Bad and Ugly Book/Movie adaptations. What are your favourites? Which ones do you despise?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

This movie made me want to die: Enter the Void

Movies are meant to provoke a response in us. Whether it be laughter, joy, fear, anger or sorrow – we as the audience are meant to be engaged. I’m not sure if this was the intention of the makers of the film Enter the Void, but after sitting through almost three hours of their movie, I seriously was ready to end it all.

What a load of crap! I have never had such an adverse reaction to a film. I felt so angry and frustrated, and quite frankly, somewhat visually raped. Even writing this post, I still feel quite worked up. I’ve seen my fair share of violent films, but the obsessive emphasis on sex and drugs -- to the point that I felt utterly bludgeoned by both -- made the film virtually unwatchable. And don’t even get me started on the relentless torture of the f@#king tracking shots used.

To give you some context of why I ended up seeing such a movie, I should say that normally I’m a fairly spoiler prone gal. I watch a lot of trailers online, I stalk movie magazines and websites and I consequently have a fairly healthy understanding of what movies I go to see are about. Breaking all my normal conventions, I went to see Enter the Void at the Melbourne International Film Festival based purely on the description of the movie on the website.

“A wild, hallucinatory mindf@#k for adults… defies cinema convention in every way.” – Screen International.

Great, I thought. I love a good mind@#k of a movie. Some of my favourite movies defy convention. Bring me a Charlie Kauffman or Christopher Nolan movie over a stock standard Jennifer Lopez rom-com any day.

Clearly this was my first misstep. Actually that’s a lie. The title of the movie really should have been my first clue of what I was in for.

The plot of the film itself is rather unremarkable. Oscar and Linda, two Americans, whose parents were killed in a car crash when they were kids -- an accident that they witnessed -- have been finally reunited in Japan. Unfortunately, Oscar is a drug addict and dealer and Linda a (pretty crap) stripper. Oscar is sleeping with his friend Alex's mother, and when Alex finds out, he arranges to get Oscar killed by the police in a raid at a club.

For the first 45 minutes or so, the camera is from Oscar’s point of view – as if the camera were lodged on his neck instead of his head. Although a fairly clich├ęd approach (and it certainly doesn’t help that the guy who plays Oscar is not a particularly good actor), this half of the movie was relatively engaging. Or perhaps I’m remembering it too fondly in comparison to the agony, misery, woe (and every other possible descriptor) that came afterwards. For after Oscar dies, we continue to follow him, but now everything is seen from above as if from the POV of Oscar’s dead spirit.

And what complete torture! Instead of cutting from one scene that the dead Oscar is observing to the next, the camera dives in and out of lights before flying over buildings in endless tracking shots before settling in the next location. This happens at least 20 or 30 times in the second half of the film, to the point that I was ready to scream. This whole section of the movie went for an hour and fifteen minutes!! I know. I counted. The slow ass pacing coupled with the relentless strobe light effects, boring storyline and dull pulsating soundtrack make this sequence absolute agony. Every time the camera dived into yet another light, I was begging that the movie be over soon. The multitude of endings in Lord of the Rings: Return of the King now seems tame in comparison.

The whole thing culminates in a ridiculous sequence where virtually every character in the film is having sex (quite graphically) in a Love Hotel -- even poor Oscar, now via the visual perspective of a friend, consummating his unspoken but clearly obvious incestuous desires for his sister. I guess we were meant to take away some kind of life-affirmation from this, but it all seemed too farcical for its own good.

Many reviews I have read since watching Enter the Void claim that while the movie is designed to make you uncomfortable, that’s not the point -- the point is the filmmaking. I’m all for a movie pushing the boundaries. Many movies can be excruciating to watch and yet still be fantastic. But when the movie is unapologetically thin drivel and claims that it is filmmaking art by hiding behind a cloak of pretentiousness – then I have some issues! Pace, Plot, Style – these things make filmmaking. Not a half dozen gimmicky shots that could pass as avant-garde.

If only I’d had the foresight to know that I should have walked out after the first hour.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The iPod Files: Guilty Pleasure Songs

We all have guilty pleasure songs, those songs that come on the radio and have us screaming the lyrics or playing air guitar in the privacy of our cars or homes, but that we’d deny even knowing if questioned. But what about those songs that actually make it onto your iPod, or CD? The ones that are such guilty pleasures, that as embarrassed as you are, you just need to hear them?

Having grown up in a family of music obsessives, my taste in music can be best described as “eclectic”. That’s a nice way of saying if my iPod were to be studied by a group of psychologists, I’d hate to think what they’d make of my personality. I choose to embrace the eclectic-ness, and as such, I’ll give just about anything a listen. But there is a secret shame, lurking within my iPod and just waiting to explode as soon as “shuffle” is hit. The songs that have me at once questioning my taste, and secretly tapping my toes and singing along. So, from my true iPod playlist, I give you my Guilty Pleasure Songs! Please share yours, or let us know what you think, in the comment section below.

Heaven – Bryan Adams

The lyrics are lovely, the tune is catchy, and I’ll defend my love of this song to my grave! But really, Bryan Adams? Oy.

Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now) – Phil Collins

I love Peter Gabriel, and he’s well represented on the ol’ playlist. But it’s the “less cool” former Genesis member, Phil Collins and this schmaltzy hit from some film called Against All Odds that makes my list for pure guilty pleasure purposes.

Don’t Rain On My Parade – Barbra Streisand

I absolutely adore Babs, she’s like buttah , and I recently discovered that a big fat dose of Don’t Rain On My Parade on my way to work in the morning actually has me smiling in the endless peak hour traffic. “I’m gonna live, and live now!” And before you ask, yes, I think I am a gay man at heart.

We Don’t Need Another Hero – Tina Turner

Tina’s song, from Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, takes itself very seriously. And so should you. It’s awesome.

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun – Cyndi Lauper

I defy anyone to hate on this Cyndi classic. I remember being obsessed with the video clip that aired during the ABC's Afternoon Show with Michael Tunn. Old school.

I Believe In A Thing Called Love – The Darkness

Power rockers The Darkness never took themselves very seriously, but I love this guilty pleasure hit like a heart attack.

Slice of Heaven – Dave Dobbyn and Herbs

Yeah, it’s a Kiwi song that makes us think of Footrot Flats. But it’s so damn catchy! The chorus of men – altogether now! “Ba da da, boom boom, ba da da, boom boom…”

Jolene – Dolly Parton

Dolly wrote this song about some skank who wanted a piece of her man. She’s begging Jolene not to take him. As if he could choose some skank over Dolly!

Hungry Like The Wolf – Duran Duran

So, this Duran Duran hit is apparently about the personal goings-on between a man and a lady who love each other very much. It’s becoming a theme, but … CATCHY tune!

Rocket Man – Elton John

I remember David’s men’s chorus singing this on Six Feet Under. Strange lyrics, guilty pleasure song.

Suspicious Minds – Elvis Presley

Suspicious Minds does that ploy of not ending when you think it has. Tricky! Favourite part: “All that our love survived…” That’s true pain in the Kings voice.

I Did It My Way – Frank Sinatra

Let’s face it, Sinatra basically talks his way through most of his most famous signature song. Still, what a great signature song it is.

Baby One More Time – Britney Spears

Oh baby, baby, how was I supposed to know that I’d love this song?

November Rain – Guns N Roses

Power ballad. YES. Remember Slash’s guitar solo outside the church in the desert, with his electric guitar plugged into… nothing?

You Can’t Stop The Beat – Hairspray

Love it. “The motion of the ocean and the rain from above!” You Can’t Stop to Breathe if you try to sing along to this modern Broadway classic though.

Don’t Stop Believing – Journey

Screw “Glee”, Don’t Stop Believing was a guilty pleasure song long before the fictional show choir’s (also terrific) take. Best use of the Journey classic: Last scene of the Sopranos.

One Night In Bangkok – Murray Head

“Bangkok, Oriental setting, and the city don’t know what the city is getting”. Murray Head is kind of rapping in this most famous song from “Chess”, right? Gold.

50 Ways to Leave Your Lover – Paul Simon

Apparently written as a rhyming game for his young son, this Paul Simon hit is nowhere near his best song, or best lyrics, but it’s a guilty pleasure all the same.

Umbrella – Rhianna

I love Umbrella like a fat kid loves cake. Plus, the lyrics are nice. That qualifies, right?

Okay, now it's your turn kids! Comments below.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Fiji: Island Paradise or Dictator's Paradise?

I saw an ad for cheap flights to Fiji last week – around the same time The Australian newspaper had an interview with the island nation’s nutso dictator (sorry, self-appointed military ruler), Frank Bainimarama, decreeing all sorts of things and giving plenty of poor excuses for his ever-increasing censorship of the pacific nation’s media.

I’d seen the media coverage over the past few weeks; most recently the expelling of our Acting High Commissioner, but what really got me was this picture.



(Image: Jachin Sheehy)

This page was run in the Fiji Times as a protest against increasing media censorship. Pretty shocking isn’t it? I wonder if Australians would put up with having half the front page of The Australian missing. I think not, but I guess when you have a military leader running the country, choice doesn’t really come into it.