Saturday, March 28, 2009

Earth Hour '09

Earth Hour

Icky dental things

Today I'm recovering from a big sleepy-bye dental adventure yesterday. Extractions of two broken crowns, a root canal prep for another crown, and various other Very Scary Things. I am grateful that they pampered me. (No one in this area does laughing gas, and my previous dentist moved to Perth...)

I became very dental phobic as a young kid, and several years of secret teen rebelliousness (ie. not brushing often) resulted in massive amounts of silver fillings in my early 20s, which set me on a path to oral destruction. Being needle phobic doesn't help either.

Unfortunately, I found the more gentle/kind wave of younger dentists way too late in life to cure me of my phobias, but nitrous oxide was the only way to get me through some the really difficult years, and having all those awful silver fillings replaced by the newer technologies. Mind you, gas never works as well as that very first time; my current dentist likens laughing gas to heroin. Your second or third, or any subsequent hit, will never be as... glorious as that first one. (Ah, I still remember. 80s dentistry hurt, but you just didn't care.)

So, yeah, yesterday's general anaesthetic experience was actually very civilized, and my mouth is surprisingly okay. They were removing roots, since the crowns had already broken away - "mechanical" failure rather than decay, but that wasn't totally reassuring - so what would have been awful even with nitrous oxide, is blissfully not even a memorythanks to the full anaesthetic.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Red carpet gamble


Star Trek (2009) poster

Paramount Pictures Australia will release a strictly limited allocation of special tickets for sale for the World Premiere of J.J. Abrams’ (MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: III, LOST, ALIAS) action adventure STAR TREK at Sydney Opera House on April 7.

Those who succeed in buying tickets will be the first members of the public in the world to see this hotly anticipated film.

They will have the opportunity to walk the red carpet that will also welcome director/producer J.J. Abrams and cast members Eric Bana, Chris Pine (SMOKIN’ ACES), Zachary Quinto (HEROES) and Karl Urban (THE BOURNE SUPREMACY) on their first stop of a world tour to promote the film.

Those who purchase tickets will then join invited guests in the Concert Hall of Sydney Opera House for the first film premiere to be held in this particular performance space of Australia’s most iconic building.

“Although we have a tremendous demand for tickets to this event, we are delighted to be able to make some tickets available to the general public so that they can share in the excitement of this unique World Premiere screening of STAR TREK here in Sydney,” said Mike Selwyn, Managing Director of Paramount Pictures Australia.

The limited allocation of tickets will go on sale from 9.00 a.m. Australian Eastern Daylight Time (AEDT) on Monday, March 30 and will only be available online via or by phoning Sydney Opera House box office on +61 2 9250 7777.

Tickets will be $100 each plus booking fee and each ticket purchase will entitle the purchaser to a bonus souvenir STAR TREK theatrical poster.

Oh, and there's a new USA television trailer for the movie, with a few new scenes: Here!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Star Trek Barbies: couldn't help myself!

Okay, my excuse? Mattel's Barbie and I are currently the same age. She looks very well preserved for 50, though.

I wasn't planning to buy this trio: Ken as JJ Abrams' Young Kirk (Chris Pine), Ken as Young Spock (Zachary Quinto), Barbie as Young Uhura (Zoe Saladana), all from the upcoming "Star Trek" movie in May. But I saw them in a collector shop last night - the very last set left at High Court Cards, Penrith - and couldn't leave them there. Beautiful figures! (Kirk's real hair is wonderfully tousled.)

Star Trek Barbies 4
Click: My Flickr slideshow (Seven images)

I decided to open the figures, as you can see, but Uhura's hair, the third one I released, was a bit of a nightmare to set free from the backing material. I accidentally discovered a certificate and a "Star Trek" doll stand and post hiding inside the cardboard backing form of the red Uhura movie poster. Kirk and Spock have these goodies, too! Don't chuck out your packages!

Comparing these dolls with pics of the Playmates 12" action figures, I'm actually liking these Mattel characters better as young versions of the recast crew, and the costumes are well done too. (I'm only intending on buying a 12" Nero - Eric Bana - from the large Playmates line, but I'll be getting all smaller series offered.)

Barbie and Ken first joined the world of Star Trek in 1996, in a hotly coveted "30th Anniversary Star Trek Gift Set". A more generic-looking blonde Barbie posed as a Starfleet yeoman, and Ken posed as a Commanding Officer, standing beside cardboard cutouts of Shatner's Kirk and Nimoy's Spock. This time, they're boldly going even further!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

World Book Day: April 23

I'm fortunate enough to share the same literary agent as Tara Moss, the successful Canadian Australian novelist, model and TV celebrity. Tara has decided to get behind the concept of "World Book Day", and is happy for me to pass on her recent Facebook posts about it, should you wish to mobilise and get something happening in Australian schools. She says:

"Let's celebrate 'World Book Day' on April 23, and encourage it to become a recognized and significant day on the Australian calendar.

"The connection between 23 April and books was first made in 1923 by booksellers in Catalonia, Spain, as a way to honour the author Miguel de Cervantes who died on that day. This became a part of the celebrations of Saint George's Day (also 23 April) in the region, where it has been traditional since the medieval era for men to give roses to their lovers and, since 1925, for the woman to give a book in exchange. Half the yearly sales of books in Catalonia take place around 'World Book Day', with over 400,000 sold (and about 4 million roses). In 1996, the United Nations (UNESCO) declared April 23 'World Book and Copyright Day' and, in 1998, Tony Blair launched 'World Book Day' in the UK, where there have been strong programs each year since, involving booksellers, schools, publishers, parents, writers and readers.

"Can we be next?

"Books are key in my life, and I believe that an officially recognized and notable celebration of 'World Book Day' in Australia could go some way to ensuring a future where books continue to hold an important place in Australian lives.

'If you share my interest in making this happen, please join this ["Facebook"] group, and give a book to someone you love on April 23. (The rose, I dare say, is optional.)

"... Let's get the word out there so that 'World Book Day' becomes a notable date on the Australian calendar each year. 'Book Day' eclipses 'Valentine's Day' in Spain, so I say, 'Enough with the Hallmark greetings. Let's get all of Australia to give their love a book on April 23 instead. Am I asking too much?'

"Happy reading, Tara Moss."

So there you go! Now, of course, the "Facebook" group won't be accessible through many educational institution firewalls, but if you celebrate in your school, post your ideas here and I'll relay them back to Tara. Maybe all those great "Library Lovers" ideas from February 14 can be recycled more than once a year?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Nostalgia for comics

IDW's comic mini-series "Countdown" to the new "Star Trek" movie has lots of fans reading comics for the first time in ages, or ever. Someone asked me today, "What's so special about comics?", as in why not just watch a movie or read a book?

For me, the magic of comics comes from nostalgia. My brothers and I were not bought comics as kids, although we did read the Sunday strips in the newspaper every week - including a wonderful, now-rare, newspaper introduction to the character of Batgirl, which ran during the weeks and months before Batgirl turned up on the third season of the wonderful "Batman" TV series in the 60s. And, if we were sick, Mum would buy us a few British comic books, "Beano", "Bunty" and "Sparky". And a "Phantom" comic was traditional in a Royal Easter Show showbag!

Then, perhaps every 18 months or so, we'd receive a brown paper grocery bag of comics, passed on from a cousin we hardly ever got to see. In that bag would be Disney and Harvey comics, plus the odd "Archie" or DC superhero comic. Once there was even... a "Teen Titans" comic! We would devour the whole pile over a week or so, often sitting in the tent belonging to the girls next door.

It was only many years later, when I'd see an interesting title on a newsstand, that I realised how expensive a single comic was, especially for the brief time involved in reading it. However, a beautifully drawn, well-written comic does withstand multiple readings, and even multiple casual browsings. So when I found Star Trek fandom in 1979, I rediscovered a few Gold Key "Star Trek" titles in second hand shops... and then Marvel's new post-TMP line. As bad as some of those were, the nostalgia was also strong. Different to watching the ST movie at the cinema, different to episodes on TV, and different to reading the Bantam novels, but better than Gold Key.

About the same time, I began to follow "New Titans", a revival/revamp of "Teen Titans" (again remembering that lone TT issue from my childhood) and the coming of Nightwing, when Dick Grayson abandoned his Robin persona. And then I rediscovered "The Fantastic Four", while researching their uniforms for a convention.

So, what's special about "Star Trek" comics? I dunno. They just are.

What I loved about the "Watchmen" movie two weeks ago: even though I barely new the original mini-series/graphic novel, and read the first four issues/chapters before seeing the film, it captured the nostalgia for days gone by that, for me, is intrinsically entwined with comics.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Down Under to boldly go down under

Sydney Opera House, as depicted in "The Outsiders" #42, DC Comics.

JJ Abrams' "Star Trek" movie is almost upon us, but it's just been announced that our own Sydney Opera House is the venue for the world premiere/official preview!

Paramount Pictures Australia announced yesterday that Sydney will host the special screening event in front of 1,600 "tastemakers", ah... guests - in the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall on Tuesday, April 7.

The premiere will feature director/producer JJ Abrams and cast members Eric Bana (Nero), Chris Pine (Kirk), Zachary Quinto (Spock) and Karl Urban (McCoy) presenting the movie. They will be supported by Zoe Saldana (Uhura), Simon Pegg (Scott) and presumably Aussie actor, Chris Hemsworth, who's playing Kirk's father, George Kirk Sr. Following this world premiere, an international tour launches: to countries such as Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Japan, Korea, Netherlands and New Zealand.

"Not only are we honored to have JJ Abrams and the cast here in Sydney for the World Premiere of the stunning new STAR TREK," said Mike Selwyn, Managing Director of Paramount Pictures Australia, of the world premiere, "we are also very excited to present this event at one of Australia's - and the world's - most famous locations, Sydney Opera House."

It is slated to open in US cinemas on May 8, but thanks to our differing release schedules and the International Date Line, Australia gets its regular release a considerable number of hours earlier, too.

I've put out a few feelers to see if I actually rank as a "Sydney tastemaker", or even as the "nerdy friend of a Sydney tastemaker", who perhaps has a double pass and no date on the night already.

Have phaser in pocket, am pleased to see you, and will travel.

By the way, notice how Vedek Winn Adami already has a hat for the big occasion?

Vedek Winn 2whiteVedek Winn

Friday, March 13, 2009

Happy anniversary, "Number 96"!

Here's an anniversary that may have passed me by, had it not been for an emailed request for a radio interview that came through on my iPhone this morning...

ABC NSW radio was doing a "Local Legend" retrospective with Liz Kirkby - former soapie actress and former Democrat MLC politician, and now a resident of Temora - about "Number 96", which originally premiered on this day 37 years ago! Such a long time ago, but the memories of Lucy Sutcliffe in her laundrette uniform, gossiping over bundles of frilly knickers, are still fresh in the collective consciousness of Australian TV viewers.

Hosted by Fiona Wyllie, her guests included Andrew Mercado, who was able to announce the next batch of 32 episodes on DVD from Umbrella Entertainment (yes, "The Pantyhose Strangler" sold well enough for more releases to be viable). I was able to confirm details about the "Number 96 Cookbook", the theme song, and reminded Fi that we recently lost actor Reg Evans (Lucy's boss at the laundrette, Mr Thorburn) in the Victorian bushfires.

The segment finished off with Abigail's iconic rendition of "Je t'aime", which had peaked at #6 on the Australian music charts of 1973.

Number 96: Aftermath of Murder

For those of you curious to know about the contents of the next "Number 96" boxed set of DVDs from Umbrella Entertainment, here is a brief episode guide. Beware of spoilers!

(Originally aired 28/1/1975) Vera Collins (Elaine Lee) is released from hospital, only to learn of the news about the death of Tracey Wilson (Chantal Contouri). Vera realises that Tracey must have been the one who poisoned her. Les Whittaker (Gordon McDougall) commences teaching Dorrie Evans (Pat McDonald) to drive a car. Freda Fuller (Sheila Bradley) offers Arnold Feather (Jeff Kevin) the job of manager of the deli. Don Finlayson (Joe Hasham) has mysterious health issues, and is still a cause for concern. Dorrie finds that her driving lessons are not incident-free.

682. (29/1) The taxi normally driven by Alf Sutcliffe (James Elliot) causes a disturbance in Norma's Bar. Trixie O'Toole (Jan Adele) returns from Brisbane and moves into Vera's spare room. Carol Finlayson (Paula Duncan) and Dudley Butterfield (Chard Hayward) wonder why Don has chosen not to confide in them. Dorrie wants to work as a fashion model for Vera to earn the money she owes Alf. Norma Whittaker (Sheila Kennelly) can't believe what her own eyes tell her: Aldo and Roma Godolfus (Johnny Lockwood & Philippa Baker) have returned home!

683. (30/1) Reg and Edie MacDonald (Mike Dorsey & Wendy Blacklock) plan a surprise celebration for newlyweds, Marilyn and Michael Bartlett (Frances Hargreaves & Peter Flett), but Reg has given a budget of only $15. Arnold breaks the news to Aldo and Roma about Patti and Tracey. Marilyn and Michael consider moving out of Flat 5, while the Godolfuses move into Flat 6. Don receives some shocking news from his doctor: he has only six months to live.

684. (31/1) Reg has invited the "TC" (Paddington's Town Clerk, Mr Buchanan) to the party and raises the budget by $40. Arnold can see a glimmer of hope. Dorrie applies for a job advertised in the paper and is almost skewered by a professional knife-thrower. Edie's fruit punch has been laced with several different additives. Marilyn and Michael reach the right decision. A change of luck is in store for Alf: he has won the lottery!

(3/2) Freda refuses to pay Tanya Schnolskevitska (Natalie Mosco) and Arnold their wages. Roma and Aldo's new plan to go into the restaurant business will involve Arnold. Alf lets Dorrie off the hook regarding the damage to his taxi after his lottery win, but his joy soon turns into rage. His partner, Chiller Thomas, had put the winning ticket into his own name only and is refusing to share the winnings.

686. (4/2) Trixie attracts the attention of TC Buchanan (Brian Moll). Les has arranged a piano for "Happy Hour" in the wine bar, to be played by Flo Patterson (Bunney Brooke). Lucy Sutcliffe (Elisabeth Kirkby) hears from Michael's father, Tom Bartlett in New Zealand, who can't understand his son's silence. Dorrie's financial situation is desperate again, while Alf's attitude is unrelenting.

687. (5/2) Life is much brighter for Flo, but storm clouds are gathering over Aldo's shop. Freda fires all her staff. Marilyn and Michael are bickering. Will Dorrie become the new tea lady at the Paddington Town Hall? Freda has put the deli up for sale.

688. (6/2) Norma wants her own bed back, but Les assures her that a Murphy bed is on order for her mother, Mrs Florentine (Aileen Britton). Dudley is very concerned about Don, so Carol decides to take the initiative; she discovers that Don's illness may be terminal. The Godolfuses try to turn back time. Andy Marshall (Peter Adams) horrifies Arnold; he wants to move back into Flat 6.

689. (7/2) Trixie continues to fight off the attentions of the TC. Vera is angry about some unusual overnight visitors: two near-naked young unicyclists. Les creates havoc with the Murphy bed he installs for Norma's mother. Marilyn makes some accusations which silence Michael; a phone call from New Zealand has revealed the existence of a secret wife and child.

690. (10/2) Reg is promoted to ADTC. Lucy lends Dorrie $500 to pay for the damage to Alf's taxi. Changes are planned for the deli, but Tanya may lose her job. Reg's plan to surprise Marilyn and Michael works perfectly, to their horror; he knows they are not actually married. Dorrie has a shock of her own for Flo.

691. (11/2) The TC proposes to Trixie. Alf threatens Chiller about the lottery money. Les's attempts at matchmaking Norma's mother with the TC result in disaster. The sausage machine causes trouble again in Flat 1. Edie has a wedding to plan, but Marilyn and Michael decide to elope instead. Alf has a surprise when Chiller's wife brings him a substantial cheque.

692. (12/2) Don's high calorie diet is of concern, but he is following doctor's orders. Andy has a solution for the dilemma which has embroiled Tanya; he offers her a job as his secretary. Dudley and Carol plan to contact Don's Aunt Amanda in Heidelberg about his condition, while Vera has strange visitors once again.

693. (13/2) Dorrie has plans for the Town Hall. Lucy threatens Alf, while Marilyn suffers a shock.

694. (14/2) Trouble is looming over Number 96. Amanda Von Pappenburg (Carol Raye) learns about Don's problem, while Trixie decides to put Vera's plan into operation.

695. (17/2) Dorrie requires help from Don. Vera learns the truth. The tenants get ready for battle.

696. (18/2) Reg is in deep trouble, while Aldo and Roma have a surprise visit. Andy is out on a limb.

(19/2) A long-forgotten talent is recalled by Edie. Trouble pursues Dorrie as Trixie interferes.

698. (20/2) Maggie Cameron (Bettina Welch) has a shock for Don, but saves an angry tirade for Andy.

699. (21/2) Roma's latest career venture has repercussions. Lucy is unhappy while Maggie shows a side of her character which is rarely seen.

700. (24/2) Andy is furious. Dudley and Carol find it difficult to hide their unhappiness.

701. (25/2) Arnold's patience runs out. A letter from an old friend arrives for Vera.

(26/2) Dorrie has a new scheme, but Arnold refuses to take part in it. Maggie has a surprise for everyone.

(27/2) Trixie is left with some explaining to do. Reg shocks Edie with news of a move.

704. (28/2) Maggie has a warning for Andy. Carol and Dudley are caught in a compromising situation.

(3/3) Alf and Les have formulated a plan. Marilyn loses her temper. Vera has another premonition.

706. (4/3) Norma determines to investigate the new restaurant. Maggie tries to take over Vera's latest boarder, Adam Shaw (Julian Rockett). Roma and Arnold stubbornly refuse to resolve their differences.

707. (5/3) Lucy's news is a source of horror for Alf: she is expecting a change-of-life baby! Les's latest scheme does not impress Norma.

708. (6/3) Arnold disappoints Aldo, while Tanya makes a mistake.

709. (7/3) Tanya has a surprise. Andy refuses the offer of a bribe. Carol is distressed by some news.

710. (10/3) Dudley has an important decision to make. Arnold is determined to fight for Aldo.

711. (11/3) Dorrie and Herb Evans (Ron Shand) arouse the wrath of Maggie. Marilyn has a proposition for Adam.

712. (12/3) Vera's suggestion proves a shock for Adam, while Les is desolate. Confusion reigns for Carol and Dudley.

Number 96 on DVD

Monday, March 09, 2009

Happy birthday, Barbie!

Magic Circle Club Barbie ad

An ad for Barbie dolls, featured inside the program for a stage version of the 60s Australian children's TV series, "The Magic Circle Club". Early example of hard-sell product placement?

Happy 50th, Barbie! I only just beat you to it!

Sunday, March 08, 2009

I'm watching the Watchmen


I've been reading the first few chapters of the acclaimed graphic novel, "Watchmen", in preparation for seeing the new movie today. I have had conflicting reports about whether to read it all yet. Some movie reviewers are insisting that people must read the graphic novel first, in its original form, but having always had a vague idea of the premise, I've probably now read enough - up to Dr Manhattan's origin story in Chapter 4 - to have a good grounding in the whole Minuteman/Watchmen eras.

Avid comic collectors, who read the graphic novel when it first came out in twelve parts, seem to be loving the new movie, but a few friends reread the book in recent weeks, before seeing the movie, and then wished they'd gone into the cinema with vaguer memories.

So I feel I'm prepared, but not over-prepared.

Later that day...

I'm baaaaaaaaack!

Ok, advice for everyone. Yes, do what I did if you don't know the story. Buy the graphic novel and read the first four of the twelve chapters. Enough to see the pre-history unfold in the film, but all the McGuffins are left intact, and the changed ending will be fresh and new no matter what. The "visual literacy" of this comic (and movie) is... astounding. And the songs in the soundtrack are perfectly chosen

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Favourite showbag?

Royal Easter Show logo

The Sydney Royal Easter Show will be here before we know it. I was asked about my favourite showbag.

Now, showbags have certainly evolved a lot over the decades. When they first appeared, they were free, and specialized in promoting various commercial product brands by way of cute, miniaturized bottles and packets.

Then there was a move to full-sized products, collected by theme or manufacturer, in reasonably-priced bags, complete with a few plastic novelties and a "Phantom" comic.

As a kid in the 60s and 70s, our traditional Easter Show gift from my grandmother was a Minties showbag each, made of thick paper and with string handles. I think she must have analyzed all the showbags one year, and designated this as the best value for money. There was always a cellophane-wrapped cardboard box of Minties, plus a box of Jaffas, a box of hard Marella Jubes, liquorice novelties, and some sweets you only ever saw once a year - in the Minties showbag! (Plus a few plastic novelties. And a "Phantom" comic.)

These days, there seem to be two types of bags: a bag of novelties, or a bag of varieties of packaged sweets plus one novelty. Most bags are plastic, except the ones promoting non-plastic, recyclable alternatives.

Back to nostalgia, though, my grandmother's own annual purchase was the Easter Show bumper-sized box of Vincent's Powders, a size that wasn't ever available in regular chemist stores, corner stores or supermarkets. Can you even buy Vincent's Powders any more? They seemed to fade away once the codeine had to be removed from them...

Friday, March 06, 2009

Ducking for Mardi Gras

Tomorrow night is the annual Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade.

I gave up on going into see the Parade the year Australia's one dollar gold-coloured coin came in - a group of friends and I stood at the barricades from 3.00 pm to get a good spot to view the floats, but still had people push in front of us anyway, just minutes before the parade started. We got pelted in the head with dollar coinsas people behind us tried to throwing donations into charity buckets for the Bobby Goldsmith Foundation. Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!

The Freak from TV's "Prisoner", actress Maggie Kirkpatrick, was on one of the floats and had a megaphone. She was asked to call out "Don't throw money!"... but people were deafened by the music and heering and only heard "...throw money!"

This year they can again party on without me...