How Music got Free (Part 2)

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“HOW MUSIC GOT FREE” written by U.S. author Stephen Witt documents in brilliantly researched detail the roughly decade-long-period from the mid 1990’s through to the mid 2000’s that witnessed the explosive growth of the on-line ecosystem dubbed the ‘World Wide Web’ and the resulting never-to-be-fully-recovered-from crippling of the global commercial music industry. 

In terms of revenue earned, the music industry that exists today in 2017 more resembles the ‘after’ picture of an obese person who’s undergone drastic weight loss surgery.

HOW MUSIC GOT FREE begins  with an account of a group of German inventors who specialised in running experiments into the way humans perceive sound and, after years of being cloistered away in secret listening labs, emerged with a technology they named MP3 that would not only conquer the world but in doing so also unleash pure chaos on a worldwide industry.

The true-life cast of characters in Stephen Witt’s book are in the main a hobbit-sized collection of super crafty, ‘Beautiful Mind’ type nerd-geniuses attired in sandals, socks and Hawaiian shirts who, after undertaking literally tens of thousands of hours of trial and error investigation, discover a method to drastically compress sound using a super-computed-devised splicing device.

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It helps the reader to know that information in the digital age is stored in binary units of zero and one termed ‘bits’ and that the goal of any music compression technology is to use as few bits as possible. In its day, compact disc audio used to use 1.4 million bits to store a single second of sound. Using microscopic snippets of sound sorted into narrow bands of pitch – the audio version of pixels – MP3 technology could do the same using just 128 000 bits.

Coupled with encoded algorithms, flawless, elegant computer code and a veritable thicket of filed patents, what soon followed was the ability to ‘stream’ and ‘digitally store’ music, sending it directly to the user from a central computer server.

A generation of adult adolescents now had the limitless capacity to reproduce and share music files, and neither the income nor the inclination to pay.

From humble beginnings – the first consumer grade MP3 player was a box-sized contraption with a tiny monochrome screen that cost $600 and held five songs – this lab-conceived revolution heralding the new digital age of music very quickly launched nothing less than a tsunami of copyright infringement.

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Together with the rise and rise during these years of the dot.com deluge, the idea of compensating artists for the music they created rapidly came to be seen as some kind of quaint, antiquated belief held by an enslaved music-buying public of a previous era which no longer applied to generation Eminem.

Anyone who had ever paid full price for a forcibly bundled collection of songs called an ‘album’ only to find one good track on the entire record, cassette or CD could suddenly feel rightly justified in ‘ripping’ free music from the once powerful and all-conquering record companies.

With the birth of ‘shareware’ and ‘burning’ of files, stealing music had been taken to a whole ‘nother level and the file-sharing revolution was in full swing. Then when Apple launched its first iPod in October of 2001 (which saw its share-price septuple before the year was out) they succeeded in not only creating the most popular gadget in the history of stuff but also elevating musical piracy from an underground subculture to the mainstream.

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As HOW MUSIC GOT FREE ably shows, these elements as well as the paradigmal shift in slimmer ‘n trimmer economics that was taking place in western societies of the day spelled disaster for record companies and an entire industry sent into profit freefall was the result. In a world of largely unregulated digital abundance, it suddenly became much harder to make money.

By 2010, the global commercial music industry was less than half its 2000 size. From the smoking wreckage emerged ridiculous discounting from artists like Lady Gaga who sold her album BORN THIS WAY for 99 cents via legal download. Going one better were artists such as Prince and U2 who famously each gave away newly released albums for nothing.

Legal download sites like iTunes came into existence and sought to restore revenues to the music industry via alternate pay models but have so far managed only to generate drop in the bucket revenue streams for the major labels compared to the golden years that belonged to the previous four decades.

This Friday I conclude my three-part look at the file-sharing revolution of the late nineties and early 2000’s and its devastating impact on the once mighty record companies of the day as revealed in Stephen Witt’s book HOW MUSIC GOT FREE.

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Ps. Looking for that special gift for the wordophile in your life? You could do worse than buy them one of these spanking-good story telling type games –

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How Music Got Free

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What better way to kick off discussion of a book documenting the rise and rise of illegal music downloading than with a confession.

From the age of eleven, I openly flirted with what might reasonably be termed, at least in the context of what’s about to be talked about here, low-grade criminality.

See, for at least a good decade, I was pretty handy at and was quite frankly an open practitioner of, the home music-taping craze that began sometime around the late seventies and continued on right throughout the 1980’s.

I remember it well.

Every night after dinner I’d be ensconced in my bedroom, seated at my flourescent lamp-lit wooden study desk with one eye on my ‘social studies’ homework while two lightning fast trigger fingers were poised at the ready hovering like the tallons of a ravenous eagle over the plastic ‘Play‘ and ‘Record’ buttons of a cutting edge piece of tech known back then as a radio cassette recorder (with a duel-head tape deck – I can still talk 80’s when I need to!).

Junior criminal mastermind that I was, I’d have my ear cocked like a soldier on midnight sentry duty listening for the opening notes of any of my favourite songs. When one started playing, I’d spring into action literally at the speed of sound and slam down those two next-to-each-other plastic buttons on the cassette recorder faster than you could say “Video Killed the Radio Star” and whamo, the net was dropped on another Top 40 piece of free ‘tune loot’ I’d most likely had in my aural crosshairs for days, maybe weeks.

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I made countless mix tapes by this means and in doing so denied the recording industry of the time, of what, over the years, would have amounted to thousands of dollars of income had I chosen to buy this music on cassette, vinyl record or later CD at the bricks ‘n mortar music stores you don’t see around anymore.

And like flared jeans, Kodak ‘Brownie’ cameras and Radio Station 4IP (later briefly Radio 10) that all seems so long ago, some days I wonder if maybe I imagined the whole thing.

Fast forward twenty-five years to the early 2000’s and courtesy of the advent of the internet coupled with file-sharing and streaming technologies not to mention the birth of the MP3, and the plundering of an entire multi-billion dollar industry was now happening on an unprecedented industrial scale.

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While four decades ago, I and armies of adolescents like me, armed with $50 radio cassette recorders and enough patience and spare time, could eventually gather together a handpicked collection of songs without paying for them simply by waiting around for hours on end for the right Top 40 hit to come on the radio at a randomly selected moment chosen by the radio station, by the early years of the 21st century with the digitized assistance of such major league behemoths of the ‘ripping’ scene as Napstar and BitTorrent, stealing music had become an infinitely easier and far more abundantly rewarding past time than previous generations could ever have imagined possible.

Millions of songs along with the entire albums from which these tunes were birthed were now available for free 24 hours a day at the click of a mouse.

How exactly the music industry of this time was brought to its knees quite to this extent is the subject of the book HOW MUSIC GOT FREE, written by U.S author Stephen Witt. Stated simply, this is one of the most unputdownable books I’ve read in recent years, which, in a great many of its chapters, is written more in the style of a Tom Clancy hi-tech espionage thriller than a modern history account.

In my next post I’ll attempt to lay bare some of the advances in music compression technology that gave birth to the MP3 revolution and unleashed pure chaos on an industry that was transformed forever, and today, in terms of earned revenue, resembles nothing but an emaciated shadow of its former self.

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Ps. Recently I mentioned a newly released short story collection by Hollywood A-lister Tom Hanks called UNCOMMON TYPE. The book features 17 stories that all revolve around, to varing degrees, typewriters. Apparently Hanks is a vintage typewriter collector. With that in mind it’s understandable he (and a company called Hitcents.com) have released a free app for iPhones and iPads that reproduces the sound and feel of typing on an old manual typewriter (including the ‘bing’ sound when you reach the end of a line plus the manual carriage return audio fx). If you have a nostalgic hankering to return to a part of your pre-digital life, check out the app HANX WRITER. 

View a product review HERE (forward to the two and a half minute mark for a demo of HANX WRITER

Pss. It may have taken 174 years but someone’s finally written a sequel to Charles Dickens‘ novella A CHRISTMAS CAROL (published in 1843). It’s called TINY TIM AND THE GHOST OF EBENEZER SCROOGE.

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Psss. Speaking of Charles Dickens, there’s a new movie out based on “the inspiring true story” of how he wrote A Christmas Carol. It’s called THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS and stars Christopher Plummer.

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Pssss. Sporting bio time again! Everyone’s favourite Melbourne Storm fullback Billy Slater has just released his autobiography and will be signing copies this Sunday morning at Garden City Shopping Centre Mt Gravatt.

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Book clubs? They need their head read!

 

Rambo

I’ve never been in a book club.

Nor have I known any other male who has.

The reasons for the first statement are two-fold:

  • For the majority of my life I’ve not been what you might reasonably term ‘a joiner’.
  • The idea of meeting once a month in a public place such as a library or coffee shop or alternatively someone’s house to come together with a bunch of people I may have nothing else in common with besides a love of (some) books, to give a chillingly lifelike impersonation of a 1st Year English Lit Uni student dissecting and pontificating on a book I probably wasn’t overly keen on reading in the first place – selected by another person – never struck me as my idea of a kick-up-your-heels, slap-dash good time.

I envisage your average bookclub to be a turn-taking exercise in slightly competitive  literary opinion-giving that, in the wrong hands, has the definite capacity to turn some people attending into pretentious bores. Not sure what I mean? Try this on for size –

‘’The characterisation was excellent, though I felt the protagonist had been blurrily drawn. While the descriptive passages were rather too meditative, I enjoyed the nods to Dickens and, if I may, even Woolf, that pervaded the homage to Gide in the middle passages.’

Throw in an extended meditation on the ethics of pronoun preference and I’d be snoring like an outboard motor while dreaming of bathroom and plumbing displays at Bunnings before you could say “Existential counter-argument”.

Bookclub

While book clubs abound (via local libraries and MEETUP) and I have been known to tune into ABC TV’s FIRST TUESDAY BOOK CLUB (hosted by Jennifer Byrne and now in it’s 8th season), it seems I am not alone in my distaste for this form of organised literary intellectualism.

Writing last year in her weekly column in STELLAR magazine, author Frances Whiting (WALKING ON TRAMPOLINS) expressed the following thoughts –

“I know people are mad for book clubs but I’m not one of them.

I find them very stressful, from the selection of the book part where you have to pretend you don’t mind other people’s choices (“Science Fiction? Great! About a giant worm you say? Can’t wait!), right through to the bit where you have to pretend a few weeks later that you actually read it. (“Well, I thought it was, um, interesting, and I really liked the bit  with the, um, giant worm.”)

I’ve been in quite a few book clubs over the years and while everyone in them has been really lovely, I can’t say I’ve enjoyed them.

For me, reading a book is a very solitary, personal experience, a joy I hug to my breast, almost like a secret I have, so sharing my thoughts about it somehow spoils it for me.”

Book clubs are for those who like that kind of thing. Me? I’d rather sit on a cushion of rusty nails than debate what I think vs what others think in an atmosphere that, from what I’ve heard and read from others, can tend at times towards a sort of aggressive intellectualism and intelligence one-upmanship.

Rest assured, I get my fill of both those things in work staff meetings! (Oooops! Where did that shard of qualm come from?)

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Ps. Last week I mentioned the release of boxer Jeff Horn‘s autobiography THE HORNET. Another published-this-fortnight sporting story worth reading is former tennis player Jelena Dokic‘s authobiography UNBREAKEABLE. Even though Dokic rose to the rank of World # 4 back in 2002, in some ways her personal narrative is a story of unrealized potential and what might have been, given the off-court dramas that dominated her tennis life (she ceased playing professionally in 2014) including her well-documented turbulant relationship with her father-coach Damir.

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Pss. There’s a new movie just started playing in Brisbane theatres called THE TEACHER. It comes highly recommended by a couple of people I know who’ve already seen it. The plot is intriguing to say the least. 

At the start of a new term at a suburban high school, a seemingly empathetic and kind new teacher, the middle-aged Maria Drazděchová greets her class. She asks them to introduce themselves and share what their parents do for a living, explaining that it’s important to know how their parents might collectively help the group. Soon after, she gradually begins to pressure both students and parents by seeking favours – grocery collection, handyman assistance, lifts and haircuts – and connecting them with special treatment in class and, most significantly, good grades. As the story progresses, Maria’s demands grow more complex and dangerous.

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Psss. A big thankyou to all the loyal readers last week who helped me set the comments record for an individual post on SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK.

Pssss. Your bonus read this week is a short story about two remote lighthouse keepers who sincerely wish they didn’t have to live together.    VIEW IT HERE

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s your Band Name?

The Doors

Back in my overconfident university days I played drums in two different bands.

What I remember most from that period, apart from the jokes about drummers being people who hang around real musicians, was all the lugging and setting up of equipement I had to do. Much, much more than my fellow band members. ‘That’s the lot of the drummer’ I told myself, ‘especially one who plays a double-bass drum’. It still didn’t stop me wishing some days I was the group’s harmonicist.

One of those early wide-eyed, group attempts at fame was called THE GROOVEDIGGERS (later renamed DEMENTIA 13 after the 1963 horror movie of the same name, a remake landing in cinemas in 2017) and the other, THE JIVING GARGOYLES. I know what you’re maybe thinking. With names like those, the odds were against us from the beginning, right? Wrong! A quick glance at names of mega-conquering musical acts down through the years can show only one thing: names given to bands are the absolute last predictor of future success.

I got thinking on this topic after a recent visit to my local library. (One day I’d like to be able to write how I got thinking on a topic after a recent trip to the ski fields of St. Moritz or the sandy beaches of Belize, but for now, it’s my local library). I spotted a book about the etymologies (that’s right, etymologies!) of band names. Forty-five minutes later and now seated in a council provided leather armchair next to a sign that read “Reading seriously harms idiocy”, I was still leafing through its pages, proving those rumours of me having a short attention span are completely, OK mostly, unfounded.

Rock band names

There’s been some well documented stories over the years of how certain bands got their names. ABBA was an acronym of the band member’s first names: Agnetha, Benny, Bjorn and Anni-Frid. AC/DC came about after Angus and Malcolm Young’s sister saw the letters on the back of a sewing machine. KISS was thought up by Paul Stanley one day while driving around with fellow band mates in a car. Drummer Peter Criss had previously been in a band called LIPS. DURAN DURAN used to play at a club in Birmingham called Barbarella’s. They took their title from the name of a character in the 1968 movie Barbarella.     Don’t believe me? Click here..

And as for music’s most famous ever band, THE BEATLES, theirs was originally conceived as a homage of sorts to one of their favourite musicians of the time Buddy Holly and his band THE CRICKETS.

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Of course there’s never been any shortage of musical groups not afraid to embrace the ridiculous in what they called themselves. Think actor Russell Crow’s old outfit THIRTY ODD FOOT OF GRUNTS or even the ultimate exercise in ironic-naming, the recently reformed British alternative rock group THE THE. With their oddly placed question mark, PANIC! AT THE DISCO (2004 – Present) also deserve mention in this category.
Apparently the lads decided to drop the exclamation mark in 2008 when they released their Beatles-inspired Pretty. Odd. (Punctuation written here as it appeared on the album cover). The fans revolted and the exclamation was reinstalled.

This book had me recalling bands I’d long forgotton, one example being the 80’s British synth-pop new wavers THE THOMPSON TWINS. If you were around back then you probably realise none of the group members were twins or named Thompson. Or related. Instead they derived their name from a character in the original comic strip The Adventures of Tin Tin.

My prize though for the weirdest band name with the most interesting origin story goes to the American alternate rock band TOAD THE WET SPROCKET (1986 – Present). Back when I was teenager there was a Monty Python sketch called “Rock Notes” that hilariously parodied the idea of ridiculous band names. TOAD THE WET SPROCKET took their name from one of the made-up bands named in this sketch.    Listen to it here

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So now I’m asking – what would be your band name?

Peak out from behind the tree you’ve been standing behind these last few minutes and drop your idea into the comments box at the bottom – wacky, freak-show worthy, wantonly pretentious or Wembley Stadium headline act sounding – I’m not fussed.

If you get stuck for inspiration you can always resort to the ‘ol DAVE MATTHEWS BAND (1991- Present) formula for group naming. Or… you can use an automatic band name generator like the one found     here     or    here     or       here .

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Ps. In a week that also saw the passing away of 1960’s hippie cult leader Charles Manson and hopefully also the pop-culture phenomena that surrounded him while he was alive, came the sad news for tennis fans of the death of former 1998 Wimbledon champion Jana Novotna at the age of just 49. During her 14 year career she won 100 titles (24 in singles and 76 in doubles) and reached a career high ranking of #2 in the world (#1 ranking for doubles). She was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2005.

CapturePss. Speaking of sports people, local boxer Jeff Horn now has a biography on the bookshelves. The front cover banner-line says it all – My journey from bullied schoolboy to World Champion.” 

Jeff Horn

Psss. Your bonus read this week is a little story for anyone who enjoys cupcakes.

Taste it HERE

 

 

They’ve got me this time!

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Not to put too dramatic a spin on it, but there’s a warrant been issued for my arrest.

And though the grammar used to communicate the message couldn’t exactly be labelled Oxford standard, I understood enough to at least begin entertaining the notion, within the deepest,wildest recesses of my imagination, that maybe, just maybe, the jig, as  Humphrey Bogart or someone of his ilk might have said seven decades ago, was finally up.

This is the word for word transcript (grammar errors included) of a telephone message left on our answering machine (yes they’re still around and some folk like me still use them) earlier this week –

Caught. 

We have received a complaint of you from Australian Taxation office. 

We have your reference number as WX 2754.

As there is legal case going to be filed against your name including warrant for your arrest.

Now before the case is sent for execution and you receive a legal course of notification, you can call the Taxation Office on 02 8006 7069.

That number again – 02 8006 7069

Don’t ignore!

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Do these people have any idea who they’re messing with sending an only 98% grammatically correct piece of hokum like this to the likes of me?

I’m not ashamed to admit my inner ‘Cambridge University English Professor’ enjoys nothing more than the challenge of uncovering the weird syntax clues that expose this message to be the bogus imposter of authority it really is.

Pull up a seat (ok, you’re already on one) while this shameless shyster gets dismantled slightly-off sentence by sentence:

  • An opening sentence of just one word? Attention-getting I’ll give them that but in a phone message?  First red flag.
  • “A complaint of you”? No fellas. It’s gonna be either ‘complaint against you’ or ‘complaint about you’. Second strike.
  • Think you forget the ‘the‘ before ‘Australian Taxation Office’. It’s the little things that count.
  • You left out the ‘a’ before ‘legal case’. Whoever composed this piece of comedy has no regard at all for articles. No regard at all I say.
  • Sorry if I’m coming across as a stickler for correctness but that whole line that begins – “As there is legal case…” is not even a sentence goddamit! Sentence fragments just don’t cut it gentlemen!
  • As for the dramatic signoff ‘Don’t Ignore’, I can’t quite put my finger on exactly why this screams ‘non-native speaker riddled fraud‘ so let’s just say while I can maybe picture a finger-waving parent talking to their own flesh and blood in this manner or a born-to-be-stern schoolteacher laying down the law to their class, I’m not entirely convinced the Australian Taxation Department would choose words so dripping in ‘over the back fence’ speak.

And bumping up the weird factor even higher was the fact the ever-so-subtley mangled English was delivered in what might best be described as a robotic, computerized version of a (Sir) Derek Jacobi accent. If you’re not familiar with the English actor, hear him here (he’s the one wearing a tie and black vest in the clip)

To be clear, these shysters will have to get up a lot earlier in the morning if they’re to have any chance of fooling leather-elbow-patch-brown-cardigan-wearing English Professor Donaldson.

Anyone up for a taste of comedy gold should click here for a look at someone hilariously turning the tables on an over-the-phone scammer.

And if that in any way tickled your funny bone, go straight to the three and a half-minute mark of this video and watch a guy call two different random-dial scammers at the same time and then place the mobile phone’s up against each other so each scammer can hear the other one and they think they’re talking to each other. Good humored revenge at its finest!

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Ps. ‘Pun of the Week’ award goes to the 4BC radio commentator I overheard while on one of my marathon (2.5km) morning drives to work, who, when speaking about the news that Canada is in danger of running out of maple syrup, wondered what the local politicians might use instead to go with all their waffling.

Pss. A short while back I mentioned about the release of the 35-years-awaited sequel to the movie BLADE RUNNERThis article shines a revealing light on precisely why the movie failed to ignite the box office.

Psss. Coming soon to movie theatres is a sports film set in an era back when I was totally in love with the game of tennis. See the trailer here for BORG VS McENROE.

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Pssss. This bonus read is a story for anyone who’s ever found a book they’ve tried reading totally or even partially indigestible, for any reason including – an overly complex plot, too many characters to keep track of or highfalutin or period-specific language.

 

Reliving Old Magic

magic

It was funny back in the day but way less funny now.

Recently I unearthed an old notebook, its pages now yellowing with age.  I once owned and used this paper jotter back in my late twenties. Back then this was my little reservoir for storing quotes, witty remarks, memorable lines of movie dialogue and other wordery bits of flotsam and jetsam I thought worthy of preserving.

As observed before on these pages, some things hold up over the passage of time better than others. Written just below an old flames’ phone number, still preserved for memories sake, was this bit of, what evidently my twenty-something self considered comedy gold –

Five things You Don’t Want When You Are A Magician

  1.   When you’ve got a cold and you pull a handkerchief from your pocket but it turns        into a dove before you can use it.
  2.    When the plumber says “You’re the magician.. you unclog it!”
  3.    Caperash
  4.    Stores that don’t accept coins taken from people’s ears.
  5.    When you mistakenly murmur  ‘Abracadabra’ in your sleep and then wake up          to find half your furniture is missing.

Like I say, certain things hold up over the passage of time better than others.

In some quarters I think they call this short-term memory nostalgia.

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Ps. Last week I looked at a book which uncovered the life of bestselling British author Ann Perry and the murder she was involved in as a teenage girl long before she became famous. Another well-known author Sue Townsend (1946-2014), writer of the children’s series THE DIARY OF ADRIAN MOLE, was also caught up in unfortunate events early in life. 

Back in 1953, at the age of just eight years old, Sue Townsend witnessed a child being strangled. The then Susan Johnstone had been hiding up in a tree with two other friends in a forest near her Leicester home when a scene of unbelievable horror unfolded incredibly right in front of her innocent eyes.

She and her friends watched helplessly as 12 year old Janet Warner was murdered by 31 year old Dublin born labourer Joseph Reynolds. The young girl was asphxiated with her own school tie. Afterwards, the children climbed down silently from the tree, stepping over the body, and ran to a nearby sweets shop to report the crime. The shopkeeper didn’t believe them and ordered the three out of his shop. The next day the children’s story was vindicated when police arrested Reynolds for the crime.

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PPS. Hot on the heels of actor Tom Hank‘s newly penned collection of short stories titled UNCOMMON TYPE, comes a new short story collection from British author Jeffrey Archer (who famously went to prison for two years in the early 2000’s for perjury) called TELL TALE.

Archer, whose books have sold around 330 million copies worldwide, has now released a total of seven short story collections over the course of his writing career, interspersed with his more popular novels, but TELL TALE is the first in seven years.

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Naming Rights (and wrongs)

Horse

Horses for courses, of course, but really – what’s in a name?

I remember as a child showing interest in the sometimes unusual-sounding names of horses competing in each year’s Melbourne Cup. For the benefit of people reading this who may reside outside Australia, the Melbourne Cup is this country’s number one blue ribbon event on the thoroughbred horse-racing calendar.

It may no longer be Australia’s richest horse race as far as prize money offered to the winner goes (that honour now belongs to The Everest’ event run at Royal Randwick racecourse in which even the horse that finishes 12th still collects $175 000!), but it is without doubt the one race that ‘stops a nation’ and in doing so captures the hearts and minds of the mug punters – if you’ll pardon the expression – who, at any other time of the year, wouldn’t know their way to a racetrack if you gave them a pre-plotted GPS smart- phone and the cab fare to get there.

Back in childhood, the name of the horse is about the only thing you have to go on when it comes to getting a feel for what’s doing on the track. There’s not many nine and ten-year olds that know their way around short course odds, track conditions, jockey weights and who the winning trainers are.

Sad to tell, but in my case not much has progressed since those very early days. The name (and a half glance at the betting odds) is still what persuades me to choose one horse over another.

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And haven’t there been some great names for racehorses over the years! The ones on the list below belong to real horses that all ran on race courses for prizemoney.

Waikikamukau – Pronounced ‘why kick a moo cow’ was an evil trick played by New Zealanders on Aussie race callers.

Maythehorsebewithu takes out the prize for the corniest of Star Wars puns to ever grace the race track.

Sotally Tober – Is this a dyslexic drunk’s idea of a joak?

Muff Diver  What’s so funny? Despite what you may be thinking, this horse was named after a cocktail made from Baileys Irish Cream and Creme de Cacao. Then again, just because you can rationalize it, doesn’t make it right.

Ha Ha Ha – A nightmare for commentators to pronounce without looking stupid, it seems the last laugh was actually on those who named him. In a six-race career, he finished last twice and was pulled up on two other occasions.

Geespot – It might itself make you snigger like little school children on the playground, but the naming is sheer genius based on its pedigree. By the sire ‘Pursuit of Love’ and out of the mare ‘My Discovery’, one can only admire the creativity of the naming of this mare.

AARRRRRRR – Clearly named on ‘Speak Like A Pirate’ Day, this equine athlete was forever a pain for live commentators. On the upside, this hurdle-hopping horse was probably the only animal able to kind of say his own name – a real skill in itself.

I challenge you not to split your sides laughing at this audio of an American race caller commentating on a race which includes the horse ARRRRRRRRR.

Take the challenge here

If that one doesn’t grab you try this one instead.

Final copy

Here’s the list of horse names for this year’s Melbourne Cup –

  1. Bondi Beach 
  2. Max Dynamite 
  3. Johannes Vermeer 
  4. Rekindling 
  5. Big Duke 
  6. Ventura Storm (My pick)  (Jockey Glen Boss) 
  7. Libran 
  8. Wicklow Brave 
  9. Boom Time (My seven-year-old daughter’s pick)
  10. Amelie’s Star 
  11. Single Gaze 
  12. Hartnell 
  13. Humidor 
  14. Almandin (Last year’s winner)
  15. Wall of Fire 
  16. Marmelo (Race favourite)
  17. Cismontane 
  18. Gallante 
  19. Nakeeta 
  20. Who Shot Thebarman 
  21. Thomas Hobson 
  22. US Army Ranger 
  23. Tiberian 
  24. Red Cardinal 

Apart from Who Shot The Barman? (late news: this horse has now been scratched from the field) a little underwhelming in the names department I’d suggest.

Personally, I’d prefer to see a race which included the likes of the following –

  • Fidget Spinner 
  • The Donald
  • Fake News
  • Netflix And Chill
  • Duel Citizen
  • Pork Sausage and Wheat Beer
  • Scenic Writer’s Shack 
  • Accidentally Inspired
  • 2 and 2 Make 5
  • Hayne Plane Crash
  • Smart Phone Zombie
  • Annastacia
  • Palaszczuk For Premier
  • Side Hustle
  • Cocaine Cassie
  • Airbags On Lampposts
  • Rocket Man
  • Coal Fired Power
  • Goneski
  • The Kim Jong Haircut
  • Breakfast Beer
  • Footballers Behaving Badly
  • Vanilla Coke
  • A Man Named Horse
  • Chocolate After Glow
  • Jeff Horn Rematch

More interesting wouldn’t you say?

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Murder She Wrote

The search for Ann Perry

Three words: Damn. Fine. Read.

I’m three-quarters of the way through this page turner which I borrowed from our local library. Not to put too dramatic a spin on it but I’ve breathlessly lived every one of those pages. Fascinating does not begin to describe the vice-like grip this true crime/biography has held me in this past week.

Anne Perry is the international bestselling British author of over fifty novels, which to date have sold over 25 million copies. She is currently 78 years of age. At the age of fifteen she was convicted of participating in the murder of her friend’s mother, in 1954. She changed her name to Anne Perry after serving her five-year sentence.

The centrepiece of this story is the outing of her, and her secret past life, back in 1994. That was the year Peter Jackson’s (Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, King Kong and the forthcoming Mortal Engines) movie Heavenly Creatures was released. The film, which was actress Kate Winslet’s screen debut, was based on the real life relationship between two New Zealand school girls, Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme who, on June 22nd 1954, murdered Parker’s mother in a Christchurch park. Juliet Hulme was later to become the person the world would know as Anne Perry.

After serving  five years in prison, Juliet Hulme was released and left New Zealand to start a new life in Scotland under the assumed name Anne Perry. By the time the movie came out, people knew Anne Perry only as the crime fiction writer read and adored by millions. A ‘slip of the tongue’ at one of the film’s official launches exposed the connection between the adult Anne Perry and the teenage Juliet Hulme.

 Compelling if you’re into this type of thing and almost as hard to put down as the last non-fiction book I read, which happened to be on the subject of anti-gravity. Heard that one before? Maybe so, but if it’s originality you crave, this story has it – if you’ll forgive the bury-the-body related expression – in spades.♠

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Ps. Not fussed on the idea of writing a 100 000 word novel but still feel the itch to cast the odd mesmerizing word spell? A competition being run by the Queensland Writer’s Centre could be just what you’ve been looking for. Entrants have until November 24th to submit a story of just eight words. The best will be seen on Goa Billboards throughout Brisbane. Go here to see some of the entries.

For the benefit of inspiring others to the firm belief they could do better, here’s mine –

Rich uncle Toblerone was finally off to prism.

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PSS. Academy Award winning actor Tom Hanks also a writer?

Who knew?

Hanks has just published his first book of fiction, a collection of seventeen short stories entitled “UNCOMMON TYPE“. Everyone’s got a favourite Tom Hanks movie (mine are SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, CASTAWAY and FOREST GUMP) and now we have a chance to check out his writing smarts as well.

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Tonight orange is the new black!

Halloween

Here at Scenic Writer’s Shack we’re all about fun and we’ll take it anyway we can.

Tonight is Halloween but this year I’ll be locking my doors and keeping the ‘fun’ outside.

That time-honoured ‘switching off the lights and pretending you’re not home’ method of ‘enjoying’ the evening will be in full swing at our place.

Last year we ran out of ‘candy’ for the pint-sized door knockers pretty quick but then had to continue answering the door empty-handed for the next few hours. That led to some awkward renditions of ‘witch face’ played out on the doorstep.

Speaking of witches, a couple of them got inside the barricade early this morning. This still from an internal house security camera shows what was captured on film. No doubt a breach of this magnitude is sure to make its way onto the agenda at our end of year home security audit. When it comes to protecting your own amidst the sanctity of one’s castle, ‘vigilance’ as they say, is key. Lesson learned.

.Witch Lia

Up until around maybe 10 years ago, Halloween, the word itself meaning ‘holy evening’ and whose first usage dates back to 1745, was never really a thing here in Australia. Over more recent times however, ably supported by the retail and merchandising industries, Aussies have shown they’re up for ghoulish fun as much as the next person.

In 2006, Brisbane started its own Zombie Walk in aid of Brain Research and as this video proves, we can now apply splatter makeup and attach gouged eye balls en-masse as fiendishly as any city worldwide.

Watch Brisbane Zombies here

2Now to my Halloween story, which is really what I’ve been building up to all along.

A vampire bat came flapping in from the night covered in fresh blood and parked himself on the roof of the cave to get some sleep. Pretty soon all the other bats smelled the blood and began asking him where he got it. He told them to all go away but they persisted until he finally gave in.

“OK, follow me,” he said and flew out of the cave with hundreds of bats behind him. Down through a valley they went, across a river and into a forest of trees. Eventually he came to a stop. All the other bats milled around and waited in expectation. “Now, do you see that tree over there?” he asked. “Yes, yes yes!” the bats all screeched in a frenzy. “Good,” said the first bat, “Because I DIDN’T!”

Enjoy the festivities, and if you have children remember this: tonight is one of the few times you’ll be able to legitimately convince other people your kids are the little monsters you often claim them to be.

Happy Halloween!

Parade

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PS. Today’s bonus read has got Halloween written all over it. View it here

 

 

Happy World Cranky Control Freak’s Day

Nazi

Not sure how a mistake of those proportions got past the mildly OCD-bolstered eye of the editor of this blog, but naturally that headline should have read HAPPY WORLD TEACHER’S DAY.

The world inside the classroom rarely gets a mention on SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK and that’s the way I intend to keep it, but today marks an exception.

In the gloriously overstuffed calendar of World commemorative days which includes the likes of less weighty odes such as –

World Puppetry Day   (March 21)

World Purple Day       (March 26)

World Pizza Day         (May 9)

World Towel Day       (May 25)  (This day remembers writer Douglas ‘Hitchhikers Guide                                                               to the Galaxy’ Adams)

World UFO Day           (July 2)

World Toilet Day        (November 19)

World Teacher’s Day stands solid as a deserving acknowledgement of those individuals who play their part in helping guide and shape future generations in our increasingly complex, multicultural and technological society. As managers of the greatest resource on the planet – young developing minds – teachers, as the old saying goes, affect eternity since they can never tell the full extent of where their influence may reach. Gosh, a person would never get out of bed in the morning if they thought too much about the weight of that responsibility!

For anyone who believes I may have my dates mixed up, here’s the information-scented portion of this post. World Teacher’s Day is celebrated in over 100 countries and has been on the International Day Calender since 1994 when the United Nations brought it into being. It falls traditionally on October 5th but in Queensland, Australia we commemorate the occasion on the last Friday of October since October the 5th usually occurs here during the school holidays (which it didn’t this year).

WTD

In honour of the occasion, I wanted to include some sort of vaguely humorous story about the teaching profession.  I found it when trawling through an on-line teacher forum. These are the words of a Prep teacher describing the uneasy working relationship she has with her teacher aid. The final line is definitely worth reading to the end for.

On this particular day I got to work…quietly. My aide came in all bubbly, ready to talk. I gave yes and no answers. Her response..”Oh, you’re a late riser I see.” After a while, she realized I was not going to talk the entire day, just work.

What struck me as odd was a project I left for her. I had some leaves with all the children’s names, and I wanted her to put them on a board. I stepped out for a minute, and she had put up all the leaves, and took an extra one I was saving, and put HER name on it, and put that up there as well. So, as soon as I noticed it, I took it down, and said I needed that extra one because it was my original copy. She said, “We always put our names up with the children’s work.”

I am a bit perturbed by this “we always…” stuff. Because good co-worker should understand and respect that new people sometimes do things differently. But the bigger issue is to take something off my desk and put your name on it, without asking me first. The kids are what’s important…seeing your name is not. What gives her the right to put her name up there with my last copy, especially if you noticed I wasn’t finished, and MY name isn’t up there. I didn’t leave her name off on purpose…I wasn’t finished! Now, I have to white out her name to make more!!

I am disturbed by that line of thinking… That is not initiative to me. That is going ahead with something because that’s how you want it.

I agree that it is great to have a partner, and someone who is able to share the load. My issue is with people who are more interested in running the show, and not ready or willing to have their own class. If you are content with being an assistant..or co-teacher, then that is fine. But when you start taking matters into your own hands…that is drawing a line…especially with a new teacher.

I think new teachers need to understand and find their way, and will begin to bring more into the classroom. But I know I personally have trouble with my aide trying to get me to do things her way. And, she sees I will not be talking all day, (which I saw was part of her attempt to change the subject) while she tries to convince me to do what she likes.

Less words, less discussion, more work.

I can listen to her ideas…

and I know it’s our room.

But it is my class.

I have to do things that work for me.

Make it work for both of us….yeah, okay.. but, how can I work in your fast lane?

Maybe that’s why I’m not married…

Swear to gawd, hand on heart, I did not make that up!

I’ve heard a few first hand stories over the years, including the one about the teaching partners who shared a class – one working two days a week, the other working three days a week – who used to drive each other crazy because one would always leave thumb tacks and paper clips mixed in the same box in their shared desk, but that one ‘leaves’ me near doubled-over with laughter.

As always, funny when it happens to someone else – not so funny when you find yourself the main character.

Little Billy


 Ps.
To view the finalists in this year’s Queensland College of Teacher’s Teacher Photo Competition click here

PPs. I like a good mystery as much as the next person. So it is with an uneasy mix of pride on the one hand and loss of face on the other I  report that I am currently on the case of one such real life puzzle that’s proving quite the unguessable charade.

A month ago, on the occasion of Ariana Grande visiting Brisbane to play her sold out concert, I wrote a post (here) comparing the koala-boasting charms of Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary with those of Australia Zoo. I mentioned that for many years I had owned a black and white photograph of myself, aged around six, holding a koala on a day out back in the 1970’s at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary.

Seems I’m not the only person who retained such a cultural artefact of growing up in Brisbane in those far more innocent times. During the week I was anonymously sent a black & white photo of a young girl of similar age and challenged to accurately guess who the person (known both to me and a great many of you) in the picture was. I would love to enlist others help in cracking this decidedly Holmesian identity riddle. If you’ve got any clue, by all means feel free to deposit it in the comments box below. I need help on this desperately ’cause in the last seven days I’ve been to near Helen back trying to work out who exactly this could be…

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