Sunday, September 28, 2008

100 friends - nostalgia plus!

Congratulations children's author Geoffrey McSkimming (aka Cairo Jim), and information specialist Karen Bonanno who just made the cut: I now have 100 friends on Facebook. For what it's worth. Not bad for three weekends of diligent combing of virtual nooks and crannies.

Through Facebook, I also made renewed contact with two colleagues from my Guild Teachers College days, and have found myself rummaging through photograph albums, and dusty nooks and crannies of my brain, to swap anecdotes.

I particularly love these two photos from the 1979 College Yearbook, which I edited in my last term at college:

Jog to College Day
Ian with Peter Morris in George Street, Sydney, "Jog to College Day" (1979)

Kermit (Angela), Miss Piggy (Manny), Ian McLean, and Fozzie (Simon) in
Circular Quay Park, Sydney, about to head off to Guild Teachers College
at Smail Street, Ultimo, "Jog to College Day" (1979)

Sunday's Magic Number: 94.0 - No pain, yet no gain?

"Bloggers of Sydney Meetup Group is closed"

My still-fledgling Bloggers of Sydney Meetup Group was closed yesterday "because nobody stepped up to become the Organizer", or so said the Meetup email message. Quelle surprise!

"But don't worry!" it continues, "There are over 48,963 groups on Meetup with 128 groups near Sydney. You can join another Meetup Group and meet up with real people who share your interests."

Oh yeah?

Meetup started out as a free site, and it's still free to join up. As a few very strange individuals have proven, it's possible to join every one of those 128 Sydney groups and make out you are into every hobby, pastime or interest listed, but never turn up to any of them. Eventually, Meetup started to charge group organisers a fee - you can run three groups for the monthly charge, which is very reasonable if you run a moderately-sized group and everyone dutifully tosses a coin into the hat at each meeting.

What it doesn't cover are the groups that attract only one or two other people to each meeting - usually a different one or two, frustratingly enough. I've corresponded with a TV interest group out of New York, whose coordinator boasted his false advertising of a "free trip to Hawaii" prize (his co-leader was going anyway), and supplying enough free alcohol at meetings to get the women tipsy so the guys who attended would have a better chance of scoring for the weekend. If that's what I was supposed to do to attract more people to Sydney Meetups, then "No, thank you".

Re the Bloggers group: I still don't understand it. People joined with such enthusiasm - we gathered about 30 people over the first six months - but it was as if the act of joining was the end of all participation. The inaugural meeting was very encouraging, but it was to be a one-off success. The worst event involved me travelling into the city (from the outskirts of Sydney) on a weeknight - additional to my regular Thursday night trip - because a few people had said Thursdays were impossible. So we tried a Wednesday, and I was expecting to meet seven other bloggers at the Attic Bar of the ArtHouse Hotel. An hour later, I was still sitting there alone for an hour, with my pathetic little sign on the table - and then Neerav turned up, after having already RSVPed "No". (I was so glad to see him, but all we could do was commiserate and try to understand why no one else could keep commitments.)

The other local Bloggers group supposedly has over 100 people - and only about five of them have even gone back to the site regularly since it was reactivated, even though they'd all get regular automated emails from it, and I did several mail outs. Strange. I've stepped down from an organisational role with their group, too. Maybe someone else can resurrect that particular phoenix, but I doubt it.

Way back in about 1998, I joined an Australian site called School Friends, which expanded to include New Zealand, then UK and is now international and known as Friends Reunited. It, too, was originally free, then started charging a smallish fee to be able to send messages. Receiving messages, and replying to old, stored messages was still free. I chose not to pay but there was nothing more frustrating that to get an unexpected email about an old friend or work colleague, and have to consider if they were worth paying a fee just to be able to read the contents of their message. Savvy use of Google was often enough to track them down via their other web presences, but that didn't always work.

Friends Reunited eventually locked all old correspondence stored on the site, unless you became a paying member. Interestingly enough, earlier this year, Friends Reunited again became completely free - Facebook and MySpace would be huge competition to pay sites - but I've have very little reaction to attempts to contact people from those now-free Friends Reunited lists. Probably people haven't returned to update email addresses.

Only this morning, a penpal in the USA mentioned a scam from a big, similar reunion site he'd joined. When first joining, as a free member, he'd performed a search for someone but they weren't listed. now, he's received a message that records show that person has signed up to look for him. He can't read their details (beyond some very sketchy ones) until he becomes a premium paying member of the service but... he originally signed up with a pseudonym, so there's no way that person was searching for him under that alias.

How long before Facebook starts to charge a monthly fee, I wonder, or will the advertising keep it afloat?

A bizarre little item while playing around with Facebook last night: a message on a friend's page that said something like, "You would not believe what someone just said about you on this blog...", and when you click on the hyperlink provided, it takes you to a facsimile of the Facebook page, and puts up a "Please enter your username and password to read this message". Curiouser and curiouser... A quick glance at the URL revealed "fanebook", not "facebook". It was yet another phishing expedition!

Where there's a will there's a scam.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

"Banned from Argo": the music videos

Continuing yesterday's theme, I found two fan-made music videos, on Youtube, which use Leslie Fish's "Banned from Argo" filk song.

They are both very cleverly put together. The Star Trek one makes very efficient use of the popular Star Trek blooper reels, plus other Trek and science fiction footage, including the rec room "jam session" with the hippies of "The Way to Eden".


"Banned from Argo", sung by Leslie Fish; 5 min 17 sec version

And here's one featuring a slower version of the song, set to scenes from the more adult "Doctor Who" spin-off, "Torchwood":


"Banned from Argo", sung by the DeHorn Crew with Leslie Fish; 3 min 23 sec version

According to the cover of Vince Emery's "Star Trek Comedy: The Unofficial Album" LP, the DeHorn Crew also included Carol Shuttleworth, Kathleen Taylor, Robin Oye and Mary Frohman.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Filking with Leslie Fish

Andorians' antennae

Over breakfast this morning, an unexpected but very welcome email arrived from "first fandom" identity, fan artist and filk singer/composer extraordinaire, Leslie Fish.

Way back in the 70s, Leslie was the author of numerous Star Trek fanzine stories, often featuring the Andorian character Thelin, briefly seen as Spock's replacement in an alternate history in "Yesteryear", an episode of Filmation's animated Star Trek (TAS).

In 1997, I sought Leslie's permission to upload an online version of her fascinating speculative article "A Summary of the Physiological Roots of Andorian Culture" by F. Sigmund Mead, Journal of Xenoanthropology, June 2341 - originally published in Sehlat's Roar #2, a 1976 Star Trek zine published by Randy Ash. Leslie's extrapolation of Andorian culture was way ahead of the licensed tie-in fiction, which didn't succeed in describing Andorian genetics or social aspects until the post-Deep Space Nine TV series novels, which commenced in 2001.

Leslie recalls that she drew the original artwork that accompanies the article in simple pen-and-ink, and Randy traced over them onto mimeograph stencils! Leslie says she's amazed that they came out readable at all. Furthermore, the added texture you see in the illustrations I uploaded came from the original (amazingly grainy) recycled paper. For republishing them online, I simply cleaned up good photocopies with Liquid Paper and ran the pictures through the photocopier a second time, only on coloured paper, then scanned them. (The grain of that old textured paper played havoc with my first attempts at text scanning the article, too.)

I love the old cover art for Randy's issue #1, too: each cover was hand printed from a linoleum block master! Check out that cover art on Randy's blog.

Leslie's Andorian essay still gets plenty of comment from online readers, especially from people seeking a comparison with the four-partnered Andorian paradigm (suggested by Data in TNG - "Data's Day"), as extrapolated by the recent licensed tie-in novels, and what Leslie had proposed in 1976 with her three-sexed stages of Andorian development.

I was telling Leslie, who's been out of touch with Trek fandom for a while, about recent Thelin appearances in the licensed Pocket Books fiction: in the "Crucible" trilogy (extending the scenes from "Yesteryear") by David R George III; and in a "Myriad Universes" omnibus story, "The Chimes at Midnight" (an alternate history from "Yesteryear" thru to ST VI) by Geoff Trowbridge.

Thanks to her fellow folk singer, Joe Bethancourt, Leslie now has her own website, at While investigating the site tonight, I noticed the Youtube song clip on the front page: Star Trek novelist, Julia Ecklar, singing a Leslie Fish song, "Hope Eyrie", about the Apollo 11 moon landing. Check it out! It's great!

Leslie Fish is probably best remembered for the Star Trek filk song lyrics she wrote in a desperate hurry to fill a hole on an album of songs. "Banned from Argo" is still sung at Star Trek conventions the world over (to the tune of the traditional song, "Boston Burglar"). The song isn't her favourite, but it's certainly gained her many fans over the decades.

Sing it with me:

"And we're banned from Argo, everyone.
Banned from Argo, just for having a little fun.
We spent a jolly shore leave there for just three days or four,
But Argo doesn't want us any more..."

Leslie Fish logo

By the way, for those of you wondering, "filk songs" are science fiction media folk songs - often, but not necessarily, parodies. The term "filk" came about as the result of an infamous typographical error. A fan named Lee Jacobs meant to type the word "folk" in a program schedule and typed in "filk" instead. It struck his colleagues as being hilarious at the time, so it stuck.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Blaming the scales

So how come I celebrate any minor weight loss (with a donut or two, or three), and am willing to blame the same scales when the figure that appears on the liquid crystal display is higher than expected?

They are Weight Watchers brand bathroom scales, only a few years old, but some days I have to get on and off about five times, and take an average, because the variations are really so wild. Two or three kilograms in either direction: a minor fluctuation in either direction is meaningless when the scales seem to be capable of being so random.

So stupid.

Me, I mean, not the scales.

I'm not so sure I'm getting anywhere, but at least, I guess, I've essentially held to the same mass for a whole year now. But my willpower is so unreliable. I find I am craving certain treats and, if I do buy, see or am offered something naughty, I rarely refuse it, and if I know there's a whole packet lurking nearby, I'm likely to polish 'em off.

A typical Sunday, I've wasted nearly the whole day fiddling around with my Facebook page (when I probably should have been walking round the block - several times). This time last weekend I had 35 friends, and now a whole lot more acceptances have come through and I'm up to 80.

There are still plenty of other tasks awaiting round the house. Welcome to my latest period of... Denial.

Sunday's magic number: 94.0 - Or, just pick any random three digits and a decimal point!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

"I Am Jack": a triumph!

Tim as Jack
Tim McGarry of Monkey Baa as Jack

I have such a fondness for Jack.

For once I don't mean Jack, my Jack Russell terrier. I mean Jack, the charming, hilarious, resilient boy at the heart of Susanne Gervay's very important children's novel, "I Am Jack".

I was fortunate enough to be given this book to review for the teacher-librarian's journal, Scan, in 2000. It was in a stack of about fifteen assorted new books, but it just stood out. First of all, the intriguing cover (as below) was at once bright yet ominous, and, within a few pages of reading, I was rallying to the cause of its appealing protagonist - who goes from lovable, normal, happy-go-lucky kid, to unexpected victim, to proud and empathetic victor, throughout the course of the book. The story really touched the heartstrings. It was probably no surprise, bumping into the author at a literary function some months later, that I learned how much autobiographical truth there was in "I Am Jack". Susanne and her son, whom I also met at another function, bravely shared their true story of playground bullying so that other children might be empowered.

A few years later, in my role of editor of Scan, I worked with a school team of educators who'd used Susanne's book with students, and wanted to share their journey and results in the journal. The Scan article went through quite a long consultative process. Crossing over several Key Learning Areas as it did, and being about such a sensitive issue as bullying, it was so important that the article - not to mention the teaching notes, and my interview with Susanne) would cross all the t's and dot all the i's (or is that cross all the eyes?). The article(s) eventually appeared in Scan 21(3) August 2002.

A few weeks ago, I heard that "I Am Jack" had been turned into a play for schools. By coincidence, Susanne and I had just found each other again - this time on Facebook, and she gave me some days and venues. It had already been playing relatively close by: at Parramatta, but I'd missed that. In a panic, I realised that all of these other times were for weekdays. Drat. Except today... 2pm. If I felt like getting myself to Campbelltown.

Or I could wait until its return season... Next year. D'oh!

The radio was warning about a blazing hot day but I decided that, if there was no railway track maintenance when I checked the online timetables this morning, and if I could leave it till after 10.00am before I left the house (having confirmed with the box office that there were some tickets left), then I'd venture off to the unknown wilderness that is Campbelltown to see the play.

Timing worked out perfectly. After two longish train legs, and a leisurely walk from Campbelltown Station, past lots of intriguing shops I was sure I'd never get back to, to the beautiful Arts Centre, I was there in plenty of time to have lunch!

At about 1.50 pm, I wandered over to the theatre area and there was Susanne signing copies of "I Am Jack". It was great to see her again. Her fellow authors, Di Bates and Bill Condon, both of who I knew well from my early days as a teacher-librarian, ended up sitting next to me - another happy reunion - and I also got to meet the real "Rob", template for fictional Jack's gregarious and supportive future step-Dad in "I Am Jack".

How to describe the set? It's a one-actor tour de force, with Tim McGarry portraying Jack and ten supporting characters, surrounded by oversized, scribbled-on furniture that at once recaptures Cathy Wilcox's unique illustrations in the book, and makes Tim McGarry the size of an eleven-year-old schoolboy!

I am Jack

Tim had an array of wonderful shorthand mimes to cue the audience as to which supporting character would be appearing next. Feeble Nanna playing "Uno" against Jack was a hoot, as was Rob driving the car, one hand on the wheel. Also amazing was Jack playing handball against unseen opponents, without a tennis ball being thrown.

The anti-bullying message is crystal clear, both in the book and the play: it can happen to anyone, at any time; bullies isolate someone, in order to improve their own sense of power, and they can peck away at whatever self-esteem the victim has/had until he or she is further and further isolated from the very people who could have helped; it takes the whole group to stand firm against bullying, so it's a change of culture that will affect a change in behaviour.

The play concluded with a question-and-answer session with Tim and Susanne. Apart from some perceptive questions about bullying and writing by the young audience, a real hit, prop-wise, was Jack's amazing science experiment: the ponto in its glass jar: an onion grafted onto a potato, which has seemingly successfully sprouted and may, one day, make Jack a fortune as an impossible hybrid plant! Amazingly, the play's ponto was made from plastic vegetables bought from a two-dollar shop by the Monkey Baa propmaster. (You know what? I want one!)

After that, Susanne invited a group of us back to the Arts Centre's cafe for coffee. Even though they were "closing in ten minutes", I'm sure we got in a good twenty extra minutes of gossiping.

I had such a great day. It was well worth the long commute, and maybe I shouldn't mention how I was waylaid by some amazing DVD bargains in the Borders store in Macarthur Centre while looking for the station entrance after Susanne and her "Rob" dropped me near Macarthur Station.

So, if you notice that "I Am Jack" is coming to a theatre near you, or if you know anyone who has ever bullied, or been bullied, this play is one to see! And, in the meantime, read the book. Or its excellent sequel, "Super Jack".

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Dragon it out

I watched, with great amusement, tonight, as the helpful and polite staff at Galaxy Bookshop struggled desperately to get a dragon (statue) back into its foam packaging. Where's the dragon wrangler when you need one, and I wonder what is the going rate for dragon restraint?

Would be been so much easier if the customer had just ridden their dragon home...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Gold Class Brendan

Terracotta warriors
Terracotta Warriors on the march in Sydney (Chinese New Year, 2007)

I just arrived home from seeing "The Mummy 3: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor" in Gold Class comfort.

Luckily I left my brain at the door and, although I almost blissed out, and off to oblivion, during the endless, supposedly-climactic battle - Zombie Army w/ O'Connell Family vs Resurrected Terracotta Warriors - I must say that Brendan Fraser is always fun in every film he does.

I guess it was timely to have a Chinese-themed "Mummy" sequel to follow on the coattails of the Beijing Olympic Games, but I certainly can't think of the Terracotta Warriors in the same way again. Especially after seeing the costumed Warriors in the city earlier this year (see above).

The film was certainly fun, but nowhere near as fun-and-suspense as the first movie. I'm afraid I don't remember too much about #2; mainly that The Rock was in it - and his Scorpion King spun off into its own sequel (which I never got around to seeing). A good movie to see in Gold Class - and congrats to Greater Union for the delicious rocket and parmesan salad with fetta-stuffed peppers. And the lemon/lime tart. Yummo.

And Darren - thanks for eating all those Magnum ice creams during the last week so we could get in cheaply! Very Magnum-imous of you!

Brendan's having a good few months at the moment. The 3D adventure, "Journey to the Center of the Earth" is forthcoming - I assume a loose remake of previous versions and a connection with Jules Verne's original novel? (Ah, IMDb says that the new characters use the old novel as a guidebook for their mission.)

Looking forward to that one!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Reversal of fortune, or, About Face

In complete contrast to yesterday's gorgeous weather, today was overcast/drizzling/pouring all day.

I spent the day finally tweaking my Facebook page. Sorely neglected, and never of particular interest, I get the occasional automated email from friends updating their Facebook profile.

Considering that, in a very short time, I'd jumped from five to 35 friends I'm quite pleased! I can certainly see that it could become as all-consuming as a blog, or Flickr, or a bbs (bulletin board service).

I'm sure I have plenty of other tasks awaiting, but all these acknowledgments of linking keep popping through on the email! What fun! It's like a virtual school reunion here!

Sunday's magic number: 93.6 - Okay. Drat. 'Cos I felt much skinnier!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Spring is sprung

What spectacular weather today! Spring is really here Down Under.

I spent some time this afternoon cleaning up the glass cups of the six-candle candelabra which hangs above the outdoor table on my back deck, with the idea of having a few friends over to share some takeaway pizza. The candelabra sounds a bit extravagant, but it looks really great and it really sets a relaxed mood, far from the clutter of my museum-like house at the moment.

Funnily enough, we made plans for Saturday night a few days ago, and most evenings have been quite chilly, so the pizza gods were most kind.

The back deck is a regular breakfast venue throughout summer. A great way to start a day!

Jack was conspicuous by his absence tonight - he disappeared under the bed the moment I turned on the ultraviolet mozzie zapper! At least I avoided being eaten alive by the first mosquitoes of the season.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Virtual housekeeping

Why is it more pleasurable and stimulating to spring clean and detail a blog site than a real house?

Ah, sweet irony, as I sit here surrounded by clutter, whether at home or work, but it's so rewarding to tinker with HTML, jpegs, widgets and gadgets until they're just so.

Pardon my virtual dust!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Webloggers' Meetup Group (not!)

Due to my disappointment in the membership of the Webloggers' Meetup Group, the Assistant Organiser - ie. me - of the Sydney Webloggers' Meetup Group has stepped down, without nominating a successor.

Although the group has over 100 members, and about 80 on an automated mailing list, only twelve people have even visited the Meetup site in recent months. Since I started as Assistant Organiser last February, not one member (who wasn't also a member of my other Bloggers' Meetup) has attended a meeting of this group. Attendances of myself, my guests, and members of the other group, have been:

six, two, five, four, eight (five of whom were friends from outside both groups), one, zero (ie. cancelled due to lack of interest)... and tonight: two.

What these figures don't show are the number of people who RSVPed but failed to show. The lack of support for bloggers' meetings, beyond the simple act of joining up, has been bizarre.

Maybe someone else out there will express interest to the list owner, and try to kick start the group again? It used to be so much fun when Sara was coordinating it, and it seems I've failed utterly to spark so much as a glimmer of interest.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Testing, testing

Take 2.

Well, you almost didn't see Take 1 because the screen froze and I had to reload, so I'm trying again. I haven't had the chance to read and absorb all the instructions yet and, if I did, I'd be offline for ages.

I haven't had the capacity to have titles before, and have had to add them manually with HTML. So we'll see how they look...

While I stress over the appearance of my blog's template (now known as a layout - see I know that much!), my Jack Russell terrier is running "wacko" all around the house. I finally found him a new (supposedly indestructible) black nylon cylinder, with orange stripes (as close as a tiger as I could find! If you've been following the Toy Tiger Saga, you'll know how it's embarrassing to ask a dog to "Get the tiger" and then have to praise him for retrieving a yellow ring toy.

This new toy is a "Crunch 'n' Crackle", filled with all manner of crinkling sounding objects. The tube is supposedly "designed for the toughest chewers" and even "suitable for visually impaired dogs".


Well, Jack just took "Crunch 'n' Crackle Tiger" to bed for me - and both ends are already looking frayed.

Mmmm. Back to the old drawing board, perhaps.

Stumbling around

Take 1.

All dressed up - or rather, half-dressed - and absolutely nothing crosses my mind to post about, and thereby test out my new template.

Frozen screen...

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

A bold new look?

Yesterday, I noticed an error in the way my blog's template was (not) creating new monthly archives - I guess it's a holdover from my template disaster of a few months ago.

So I've taken the opportunity to switch templates, as a precursor to some more revamps. I'm still trying to work out how to restore a few regular elements of the old template.

Watch this space...?

Monday, September 08, 2008

Vale Barbara

Today I heard that my friend and teaching colleague, Barbara, passed away yesterday afternoon, after her two relentless battles with cancer. I've been struggling all day to come up with some appropriate words, but I keep self-editing as I search for a better way to convey just how funny, talented, generous, perceptive and determined she was - about so many aspects of Barbara's family life, her career, and her friendships.

Barbara took me - a complete stranger - under her wing when I ended up in a very unique teaching situation, about this time of year in 2002. It certainly made that five-week stint a memorable time, and such a valuable learning experience. It helped to mould me into who I am today.

The annual school shopping trip is coming up again in November, and this year Barbara's seat will be empty. However, I can guarantee that as soon as we start sharing favourite Barbara anecdotes, the bus will be filled with happy memories and much laughter. Which is exactly what Barbara would want.

RIP, Barbara...

Sunday, September 07, 2008


I'm a real sucker for DVD commentaries. I love them. Especially the ones that make you feel like you're in the darkened room with the commentators. I never really mind buying a DVD all over again if the new edition has extra commentaries!

I think my favourite DVD commentary would have to be the track on the extended edition of "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring", in which the four main hobbits (Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd), and Legolas the Elf (Orlando Bloom), share their escapades on the film, gloat about who got more bonus scenes, and reveal how these actors enjoyed mentally torturing their younger colleague, Elijah Wood. Hilarious stuff.

As I was typing up yesterday's blog entry (which was originally planned to be a review but ended up more of a revamped list of episode descriptions, because it's going to take me at least one more 16 hour-sitting, ie. watch 'em all again, to compile all the details I wanted to share), I suddenly realised I hadn't yet played the commentary track of Episode #680 of "Number 96".

I put it on about an hour ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. TV historian, Andrew Mercado, invited Chantal Contouri to discuss her character of Nurse Tracey Wilson in the show. It was essentially the first time Ms Contouri had seen the episode, not having seen more than brief clips in the last 33 years, and her surprise at so many aspects of the show - its characters, the fashions, the writing, the camaraderie of the cast - came across as honest and enthusiastic. Great job Andrew!

Sunday's magic number: 93.1 - Okay!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Coming up for air: Number 96 and the Pantyhose Murders!

Number 96 DVD cover B

With thanks to Andrew Mercardo and Umbrella Entertainment for my contributor's copy of "Number 96: The Pantyhose Strangler"! I've had a great time reliving the 70s.

Beware the spoilers!

649. (First aired 8/11/1974) Tracey Wilson (Chantal Contouri) is falling for Andy Marshall (Peter Adams), but she knows that her husband won't agree to a divorce. Matt Barrington (John Paramor) distresses Lorelei Wilkinson (Josephine Knur) when he peeks at her in the shower. Andy is unable to partner Tracey to the hospital ball as he has to work late. Dudley Butterfield (Chard Hayward) is still in Melbourne, which depresses his partner, Don Finlayson (Joe Hasham). Arnold Feather (Jeff Kevin) is upset about his wife Patti's new job as a private nurse, and he drowns his sorrows with Don in the wine bar. A chilling sight greets Norma and Les Whittaker (Sheila Kennelly & Gordon McDougall) when they return from the ball: Lorelei has fallen victim to the Pantyhose Murderer.

This was the very first episode of "Number 96" to be broadcast in colour as Channel Ten commenced a series of equipment tests.

650. (11/11) Arnold is furious with Patti. The publicity about the latest murder means that business is booming at the wine bar. The ghouls are out in force; however, Matt has disappeared. Arnold is without an alibi. Don is tortured by doubts about Dudley, while Michael Bartlett (Peter Flett) seems evasive. Alf Sutcliffe (James Elliott) is sure he heard Dudley talking to Lorelei on the night she was strangled.

651. (12/11) Aldo and Roma Godolfus (Johnny Lockwood & Phillipa Baker) seek assistance from "Dig Up A Treasure". Reg MacDonald (Mike Dorsey) reminds his wife, Edie (Wendy Blacklock) of the forthcoming Kerbing and Guttering Ball. Flo Patterson (Bunney Brooke) begins work at the deli. Lucy Sutcliffe (Elisabeth Kirkby) disturbs an intruder and follows up a clue concerning Michael. Herb Evans (Ron Shand) loses a baby at the movies. Roma hears more news of her son, Irving, who faces a gaol term in the USA unless she can send him the money he needs.

652. (13/11) Andy claims that he was seeking a divorce from his wife on the night of the murder. Les catches Detective Sergeant Short (Ken Fraser) in his trap. Herb gets a legacy from his job: an abandoned baby. Dudley learns of Lorelei's death. Matt finally seems to have an alibi, courtesy of Maisie Burnett (Josie McKay). Patti suspects Peter Wilson (Dennis Miller) of murder, but finds incriminating evidence in Arnold's pocket; what does he need with a packet of pantyhose?

653. (14/11) Don confronts Dudley about conflicting information. Aldo suspects Reg of murder. Arnold is told a lie about a gift. Arnold and Aldo try to dissuade Roma from sending money to Irving. Edie discovers she must let Reg take Alderman Mrs April Bullock (Judi Farr) to the Kerbing and Guttering Ball. Dudley is the one to suffer when Don decides to be ruthless.

654. (15/11) Vera has a strange dream about stolen paintings. The MacDonalds' key is missing from Dorrie's master keyring, which means that Marilyn MacDonald (Frances Hargreaves) is in danger. Dorrie Evans (Pat McDonald) departs for a week in Epping to visit her widowed sister, Connie. Meanwhile, Herb becomes Edie's escort so that a Cinderella can go to the ball. Vera Collins (Elaine Lee) is stunned by her own predictions.

655. (18/11) Dudley inherits $2000 from Lorelei's will, but Alf sticks with his story. To Reg's horror, Edie does a stint of waitressing at the wine bar. Arnold is surprised to find that Patti's new bracelet has an inscription from Graham Thompson, her patient. April plots to keep Edie occupied with committee work so that she can spend more time with Reg. Don finally gets the truth, if not an explanation, out of Dudley.

656. (19/11) Dudley finally tells Don that he was in Sydney the night Lorelei was killed; he had spent time with his ex-wife and son. Roma must decide whether her true loyalties are to Irving or Aldo. Don's spare room is in use again now that his sister, Carol Finlayson (Paula Duncan), has arrived. Carol approves of Dudley. Arnold offers Roma his share of the deli as collateral. Reg believes he has ascertained the identity of the killer when he finds Don on the landing.

657. (20/11) Is Tracey jealous of Andy spending time with Vera? A postcard from Tokyo disproves Andy's alibi. Les's hopes for a reward are dashed when Flo finds an article about stolen paintings in the paper. Michael is confused and manages to upset Alf. Vera is being used by Andy against her will.

658. (21/11) Edie's suspicions about April have been aroused. Carol warns Don about her boyfriend's homophobia. Alf is suspicious of Lucy. Les has lost his key and Don is implicated. Everyone at Number 96 feels uneasy, but none more so than Marilyn when she finds a sinister package on the doorstep.

659. (22/11) Who sent Marilyn a pair of knotted pantyhose? Vera's situation is hopeless. Peter apologises to the Feathers and begs Tracey to come back home. Andy takes Marilyn to the police station. Aldo has prepared himself to make a big sacrifice.

660. (25/11) The police think Vera knows too much about the Pintor paintings. Flo suspects Dorrie of being an intruder. Andy admits the truth about his whereabouts the night of Lorelei's murder; he was asking Peter to divorce Tracey. Dorrie has a theory that the strangler only murders blonde women. Will Marilyn be the next victim? Arnold's sacrifice makes two people very happy, while Patti is confronted by a terrifying sight: Tracey has become the latest victim of the Pantyhose Strangler.

661. (26/11) Tracey has miraculously survived the attempt on her life, but several of the tenants have some explaining to do. Sergeant Short insists that the perpetrator is a tenant of Number 96. April flirts with Reg, while Carol fights with her boyfriend, Brad Hilton (Terry Bader). Alf's peace of mind is shattered by a chance meeting with Mrs Cole.

662. (27/11) Alf quizzes Lucy about Mrs Cole. The Godolfuses are unimpressed with the new deli owner, Freda Fuller (Sheila Bradley). She plans numerous changes. April cannot restrain her feelings for Reg any longer.

663. (28/11) Arnold and Freda have their first confrontation. Dorrie has thought of a form of protection against the strangler: a brunette wig. Times will change for Arnold as his old friends, Aldo and Roma, make a sad departure from Number 96.

(Trivia time! The publicity machine issued media releases as to Roma and Aldo being "written out" but, in fact, the actors were on vacation. Johnny Lockwood even had to turn down a lucrative job offer with another production company, and was unable to explain his reasons.)

664. (29/11) Dorrie has a premonition of a plane crash. Norma is disturbed when she sees the ghost of Lorelei in the kitchen. Another premonition disturbs Vera. Andy seems to know more about I Kid You Not's poor performance than he will admit. Who doped Vera's horse?

665. (2/12) Don and Dudley need dates for their night out with Carol and Brad. A scandal embroils Andy and Vera. Strange occurrences at Number 96 keep alive the tenants' memories of Lorelei. Freda asserts her authority. Andy is fired over the scandal involving I Kid You Not.

666. (3/12) Marilyn attempts to warn Edie about April's intentions towards Reg. Alf delves into the past, but Michael's latest news involves Lucy even more; she has inherited money from Tom's will. Dorrie and Flo are vying for supremacy when the Senior Citizens require a new president.

667. (4/12) The Feathers meet up with Carol and Brad at the Red Baron restaurant. Freda offers temporary work to Dorrie. A meeting in the stairwell with Peter both puzzles Alf and arouses his suspicions. Arnold is saddened by memories of the past and Patti urges him to apply for a new job. Tracey's happiness with Peter is curtailed.

(Forgotten trivia! Freda Fuller is not only revealed Sir Ormsby Fuller's niece, but she is also the goddaughter of Mrs Terry, Dorrie's nemesis at the Senior Citizens' Bowling Club! Was this an attempt to make her a little more connected to the regular cast of characters already, or even to set up future confrontations?)

668. (5/12) Edie doesn't understand when Reg tries to explain about April's crush on him. Vera is frightened when she finds Michael in her flat. Les disguises himself as a sidewalk artist to catch the strangler. Detective Constable Mallett (Tony Wheeler) believes that Vera's ex-husband, Harry, is still alive and may be hiding in the area. Lucy must deal with the appearance of a ghost from the past: Tom is alive and well. It is obvious that Michael has been playing some kind of game. Don and Dud join up with some "bonza sheilas", Shirl Boothroyd (Zoe Salmon) and Petal Wagstaff (Terry Foggarty), in an attempt to fool Brad.

669. (6/12) Arnold must travel to Canberra for an interview with a hotel chain. A distraught Tracey claims that Peter has tried to kill her, but refuses to call in the police. Arnold is the new assistant manager of a luxury hotel in Tahiti. The truth about Brad is revealed: he would prefer being with Don. Tragedy strikes once again as Arnold's moment of joy turns to horror: Patti is the murderer's latest victim.

This episode's cliffhanger endings would not be resolved until the 1975 ratings season.

Number 96 DVD inside strip

670. (13/1/1975) Marilyn's news about Reg shatters Edie. Arnold cannot accept that Patti is dead. Carol makes serious accusations. Dudley is unable to establish an alibi. Michael's motive for lying to Lucy may have been revenge over his mother's death.

671. (14/1) Dorrie is jealous about Flo's election to president and Flo finds herself homeless. Les is found with pantyhose around his neck, but he is just conducting an experiment. Andy's plan misfires. Arnold must face grim reality.

672. (15/1) Flo makes a sacrifice. Carol ends her disagreement with Don. Dudley's wallet reveals a strange secret.

673. (16/1) Marilyn and Carol are both scared, but for different reasons. Tanya Schnolskevitska (Natalie Mosco) and two Russian men hide from the KGB in the wine bar. Andy must prepare Vera for a shock.

674. (17/1) Dudley tells Don that he has found another photo in his wallet: Marilyn's! Vera is unable to attend Patti's funeral because she is needed at the police station. Detective Sergeant Short arrives to arrest Dudley for murder at the climax of a very sad day for the tenants.

675. (20/1) The Sutcliffes have arranged for Arnold to stay with their son, Jim, in Perth. Vera explains that Harry did not die in the car crash after all. Dorrie's babysitting duties precludes her attendance at Claire Houghton's luncheon, but Les provides a solution by dressing in drag. Don's attitude has everyone puzzled. Tanya considers taking a job in the wine bar. Vera's dream may have revealed the killer's identity.

676. (21/1) Marilyn and Michael try to console Edie over Reg's absence. Freda wants Tanya to work in the deli and she takes up the offer. Lucy takes Vera's dream seriously and wants her to tell the police that she "saw" Marilyn's murder. Flo discovers that Dorrie had actually been waitressing for Claire, not socialising, at her luncheon. Reg returns from a week's sojourn in Woy Woy, which he did to punish Edie for neglecting her domestic duties. Michael reaches a most important decision; he and Marilyn get married.

677. (22/1) Edie takes Marilyn's news better than Reg. Tracey tells Vera that she thinks Peter is the killer. Reg realises a marriage cannot be annulled if it has been consummated. Vera's health is a concern: she has been poisoned. Tracey lets out a secret that upsets Marilyn.

678. (23/1) Les considers a career as a nanny. Dudley is hiding out in a hotel. Carol has resigned her job and seeks work in the wine bar. The Whittakers have an increase to the family when Norma's mother, Mrs Florentine (Aileen Britton), comes to stay. Les greets her at the door dressed as Dorrie. The trap is closing in on the murderer.

679. (24/1) Marilyn's lunch is a complete disaster. Andy raises suspicions. There is a happy reunion for Norma when Dudley returns, but terror for Marilyn in the laundrette when the murderer is revealed to her.

680. (27/1) Following Tracey's arrest for her attempt on Marilyn's life, the police think the mystery of the Pantyhose Murders is resolved, but Tracey has other plans. Mrs Florentine does not approve of sleeping on a camp bed. Tracey tells Andy how she escaped from the police, but leaps to her death from a Flat 6 window.

(Forgotten trivia! Tracey's first off-screen victim, the blonde hairdresser found in Chestnut Lane, was named Denise Coleman. Tracey describes how they met, and why Denise had to die. In the episode where victims' photos turn up in Dudley's wallet, we do get a brief look at Denise.)

It will be very interesting to see how this volume of 32 episodes sells on DVD. If it does well enough, there will be more! Do let Umbrella know what you'd like to see next!

Friday, September 05, 2008

Premier premiere

With the closing date of the Premier's Reading Challenge passing this week, and my recent attendance at Keating, the musical celebration of one of Australia's big political switcheroos, it was a surprise to hear the evening news tonight and realise it had happened again.

All change!

The radio this morning noted that NSW Premier, Morris Iemma, would be reshuffling his cabinet and choosing a new Deputy. Instead, Iemma realised he'd lost the support of his caucus faction - and relative newcomer, Nathan Rees, was suddenly Premier in his stead.

So there'll be a different signature on this year's Premier's Reading Challenge certificates!

Monday, September 01, 2008

Read, read, read...

Yay! Right up to the wire, I was concerned that my students hadn't achieved a better result in the Premier's Reading Challenge than last year, but suddenly the results were finalised and we had sixteen more students (ie. 329 out of 410) than in 2007. (So we've gone from two students in 2005, to 209, then 313 and now 329.) One of our students earns their Gold Certificate this year; our school's first.

Less Stage 3 (Years 5 and 6) than I'd have liked but more students total is better than less. The Stage 3 students do have to read fifteen books from a prepared list of recommended titles, plus five books of their own choosing. Since there is a considerable number of picture books on "the list", it means that even students not willing to commit to novels can achieve results. (The younger students have it comparably easier: 30 books, mainly picture books, that must be read to them. Most of the class teachers found that, after a year, they'd read at least 60 or so of the listed titles.

I shall have to make a concerted effort next year with those students who've managed to avoid participating in the Challenge. The enthusiastic readers will read with, or without, the annual PRC. It's the ones who need a bit of a shove who still need... a bit of a shove.