For the Love of Books

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I’ll admit it.

I’m a sucker for lists.

I could nominate a list of reasons why this most venerable of media formats is so appealing but since NEW YORKER magazine has already done that (HERE) there’s really no need.

Instead, for an insight top-up I offer this heavy duty quote –

“Lists or listicles as they are now sometimes referred to, spatially organize  information and promise a story that’s finite, whose length has been quantified upfront.

This creates an easy reading experience, in which the mental heavy lifting of conceptualization, categorization, and analysis is completed well in advance of actual consumption—a bit like sipping green juice instead of munching on a bundle of kale and celery sticks. And there’s little that our brains crave more than effortlessly acquired data.”

Maria Konnikova – author of MASTERMIND: HOW TO THINK LIKE SHERLOCK HOLMES (2013)

With that out of the way it’s time to move onto our main act.

Favourite books? I’ve had a few. And so have others, including these celebrities –

celebrity novels 2Celebrity novels

This ribbon-cutting post is dedicated to the unveiling of my list of 50 favourite books. The oldest of the books listed dates back to 1897 and at the other end of the timeline there are four books included published in 2017. There are also a couple of titles mentioned I last read back in childhood but whose fond memory has lingered for so long they literally begged to be on the list. Non-fiction books well and truly take centre stage.

used to be

Each and every one of the books admitted onto this list I have poured myself into their pages and they into me. I have scoured these books. Many of them I have read more than once. I have read until I was almost cross-eyed and the words merged into nonsense. I have lived their pages in breathless rapture and spent, in some cases, a lifetime studying the characters, both fiction and non-fiction. These are my favourite books –

Click (HERE) to go straight to it.

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Ps. Before you do, check out these shenanigans –

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OZ COMIC CON is on in Brisbane this weekend.

If you want a schedule of events GO HERE

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When One Becomes Two

 

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I’m expecting my second child.

The birth is only a few weeks away.

I couldn’t be happier.

My first child is counting down the days as well, with a mixture of excitement tinged with resignation knowing they will no longer be the sole focus of my attention.

And before this sleight-of-hand analogy gets carried any further let me make it clear -when I say second child I’m naturally meaning second BLOG.

Because really the pet project I’ve tendered to these past two years, known affectionately as SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK, has in many ways seemed like my own offspring. It talks like me, thinks like me and courtesy of gallery pictures, looks like me. By jove it is me! – just in another form.

Only now it’ll have a little brother. Or is that little sister? Better make that ‘relation’. Here’s what’s happening…

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A secret I’ve rarely shared is that from childhood I have been a life long dedicated fan of the 1960’s television series LOST IN SPACE. I lived, ate and breathed every frame of every episode of this space-age wonder of the small screen from roughly the age of eight. I might have had Charlie’s Angels’ posters on my wall growing up but my true heart belonged to the Robinson family, eeeeeevil Dr Smith and of course the robot!

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I have the box set. I have the robot figurine. I have the. What I don’t have is an outlet to express my admiration and mad devotion to this old-time show. Enter inspiration in the form of American wonder blogger Lady Emily Rose. She operates a spectacularly good site called KNIGHT OF ANGELS. (VIEW IT HERE) It boasts a literal treasure trove of fandom-based literary style writings on books, films, television and music. She holds a particular fondness for another 1960’s sci-fi tv series you may have heard of – STAR TREK. This year Emily began her great re-watch of all 79 episodes and is chronicling her thoughts as she goes – episode by episode. (READ THEM HERE)

The standard of commentary on KNIGHT OF ANGELS is first-rate and I wondered if I could aspire to something in a similar vein. STAR TREK (originally aired 1966 -1969) and LOST IN SPACE (originally aired 1965 -1968) were at one time direct rivals aired on competing US tv networks. I thought I owed it to my old flame then to raise the flag in its name and pay homage.

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With the launch set to take place early next month everything is being carefully prepared and assembled. What’s not in place is a name. The new blog is currently going by the working title of LOST IN SPACE ULTIMATE. Since that name could possibly be construed as having a slightly boastful ring to it, I think I can do better. 

This is where I need your help!

Below you’ll find a list of possible names under consideration for my new venture. I would  love ♥ love ♥ love if you’d deem to drop into the comments box below what your pick or picks of these might be. Here they are, in no particular order –

BLUE PLANET LOST IN SPACE

LOST IN SPACE MILLIONS

LOST IN SPACE HUNTERS

LOST IN SPACE AWAKENINGS

LOST IN SPACE FIRESIDE

LOST IN SPACE ASSIST

LOST IN SPACE FLARE

RECON LOST IN SPACE

LOST IN SPACE RISING

LOST IN SPACE CORPORATION

LOST IN SPACE FLIPSIDE

LOST IN SPACE REWIND

REVOLUTIONARY LOST IN SPACE

LOST IN SPACE DEPARTMENT

LOST IN SPACE GENIUS

LOST IN SPACE PREFERRED

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Thankyou!

 

 

Remembering September 11

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This coming Tuesday is the 17th anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks in New York.

Still deeply embedded in the American psyche every bit as much as the assault on Pearl Harbour was for a previous generation, the literally horizon-transforming events of this catastrophic day (it happened on a Tuesday) rewrote forever the socio-political landscape our world inhabits. 

This post is intended as a personal recollection of my memory of that day and it’s aftermath.

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Back in the year 2001, I was in the first of what would turn out to be three glorious years of living in Tokyo, Japan. I was working as an English instructor and thoroughly enjoying being in a foreign land. Life was all green tea and ramen noodles, removing ones shoes before walking inside, sleeping on tatami mats, adding ‘san’ to everyone’s name, wearing a collar and tie on the subway to work and snow in the winter time.

I remember the morning of September 11, 2001 clearly. I had just walked into the shared lounge room of the ‘Gaijin House’ (accommodation housing non-Japanese) I was staying in when a fellow Aussie  (I don’t recall his name but I do distinctly remember he had a beard and enough size to play front-row for the Brisbane Broncos) began pointing to the over-sized box television switched on in the corner of the room, saying ‘Check this out!’

We stood shoulder to shoulder for the next few minutes trying to make sense of what we were seeing in the news images flashed before us; two strangers bonded together ever so briefly in a moment of horror and disbelief. I am quite positive anyone over the age of 30 would be able to recount in similar detail exactly where they were on this day – when they first heard the news of the history-defining attacks that ushered in the ‘war on terror’, and in doing so, redefined both what a battlefield and a weapon could be while at the same time forever shattering the boundaries between war and peace.

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Not long after the events of September 11, 2001, alternative theories began to circulate about how the World Trade Centre Twin Towers (first opened in 1973, with construction commencing in 1966) plus Building 7 of the complex collapsed, possibly by means other than the hijacked planes crashing into them.

Various investigations commissioned by official organisations, including one in 2002 by the American Society of Civil Engineers and another in 2005 by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology concluded the Twin Towers suffered massive collapse due to the impact of the aircraft, and resulting jet-fuel ignited fires, ALONE.

These investigations were not enough to satisfy conspiracy theorists who claimed (and continue in some cases to claim) that the skyscrapers could not have been brought down in the pancaking manner in which they were by the impact of jet planes flying into them ALONE.

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The most popular alternate explanation for the massive structural failures experienced by World Trade Centre Buildings 1 & 2 is that their collapse was assisted by (and in the case of Building 7 – completely due to) controlled demolitions (ie. the buildings were pre-wired to explode). This theory gained momentum when it was reported explosives’ residues in the form of nano-thermite material (produced only by military industry manufacturing) were identified in dust samples taken from the area that became known as Ground Zero after the tragedy.

This hypothesis is tied to the incredible preposterous notion that the U.S government in the form of the George W. Bush administration had a complicit hand in planning and staging the cataclysm for reasons ranging from the need to destroy incriminating financial records contained within the buildings to a plot to benefit from a stock market insider trading scheme to the need to initiate war with the Middle East to manipulate world oil prices.

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Far more plausible explanations of the physics and architectural factors that conspired to bring down the three skyscrapers (all built using late 1960’s/early 1970’s construction methods) that day can be found –

HERE (4 minutes)   or  HERE (6 minutes)  or  HERE (2 minutes)  or  HERE (4 minutes)

That’s a lot of videos I know,  but if you’re still not convinced of the implausibility of the controlled implosion argument and far-fetched conspiracy theories in general – ones that  require hundreds if not thousands of people to keep a secret for life (in which case you’re likely also a flat earth theorist who believes the moon landings were filmed on a Hollywood movie lot) – then dang it, you may as well sample a bit of the lunacy for yourself by clicking…

HERE

Ps.This post has strayed somewhat to the serious side simply because of the nature of the subject plus the fact this coming Tuesday is a very sedate and weighty occasion. But given I’ve openly pledged before my intention to keep things for the most part light on these pages, best I end with this…

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While I was in Japan I purchased a SPIDERMAN comic.  It featured an all black cover and a storyline centred on September 11. I recall at the time I had some vague idea that if I kept the comic long enough, one day it might be worth considerably more than I paid for it.

Recently a valuation on ebay revealed that my investment plan for monetary growth of this once-off collector’s item is most definitely on track  – it’s just it looks like its gonna take roughly 200 years longer to cash in for a half way decent pay day than I’d thought.

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Pss. On a completely unrelated but no less commemorative note I give you my Top 4 Burt Reynolds movies –

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ENTEBBE

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There have been two previous Hollywood movies made about the 1976 hijacking of Air France Flight 139.

And now there’s another.

7 DAYS IN ENTEBBE had a very brief run in Brisbane cinemas back in March and has now been released on DVD.

It stars Eddie Marsen (DEADPOOL 2 (2018) – ATOMIC BLONDE (2017),  Rosamund Pike (GONE GIRL (2014) – JACK REACHER (2012) and Danial Bruhl (BLACK PANTHER (2018) – THE ZOOKEEPER’S WIFE (2017).

The film is helmed by fifty year old Brazilian producer, director and screenwriter Jose Padilha (ROBOCOP (2014).

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The 1977 telling of the story starred Charles Bronson and Peter Finch with the 1976 version boasting an all-star cast featuring Kirk Douglas, Elizabeth Taylor, Anthony Hopkins, Burt Lancaster, Richard Dreyfuss and Helen Hayes.

There was also a 1977 Israeli made movie named OPERATION THUNDERBOLT, which was the military name for the operation launched to rescue the hostages.

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The true events that inspired all four movies began on 27 June 1976 when an Airbus A300 departed from Tel Aviv Israel, carrying 246 mainly Jewish and Israeli passengers and a crew of 12. The plane flew to Athens, Greece, where it picked up an additional 58 passengers, including four hijackers (two Palestinian and two German). It departed for Paris at 12:30 pm.

Just after takeoff, the flight was hijacked and diverted to Benghazi, Libya. There it was held on the ground for seven hours for refuelling. During that time the hijackers released British-born Israeli citizen Patricia Martell who pretended to have a miscarriage. The plane left Benghazi and at 3:15 pm on the 28th, more than 24 hours after the flight’s original departure, it arrived at Entebbe Airport in Uganda. The Ugandan government supported the hijackers.

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Over the next week many diplomatic solutions were attempted to resolve the situation until finally on July 4th one hundred Israeli commandos inserted in the middle of the night to stage a highly successful rescue operation.

See the trailer for 7 DAYS IN ENTEBBE  HERE

Ps. A selection of some of the many books written on the subject…

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Pss. Check these jubilant scenes when the whole drama was finally over –

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Psss. Cheapest return flight today Brisbane to Entebbe?       $1485

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Pssss. 7 DAYS IN ENTEBBE releases today on DVD in Australia.

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100 Reasons to Celebrate

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I may not feel a day over 52 but the unvarnished truth is… today I’m celebrating my 100th birthday.

Or as I should say, SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK is  kicking up its heels on the occasion of publishing its 100th post.

And they said it wouldn’t last!

As regular readers of this blog would know, Centenary occasions around here are usually marked with the arrival of a congratulatory letter from one of this blog’s foremost admirers, Her Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Sadly, this time around, no such letter arrived. In its place was an email that landed in my inbox in the early hours of this morning from the next best thing – His Royal Highness Prince Charles Duke of Cornwall, Earl of CarrickBaron of Renfrew and Lord of the Isles (to give him his full due).

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Dear Glenald,

Firstly, allow me to pass on sincerest apologies from my mother Elizabeth who at this time has found herself predisposed with other royal duties at Harrods Kensington. She sends her heartfelt congratulations on the occasion of your 100th published post and has petitioned me to contact you on her behalf.

If memory serves me correctly (which these days I confess sometimes it does not) my first experience with the SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK occurred sometime last year while we were warming the royal footsies by the Swarovski crystal fireplace at Balmoral.

I recall that former young rascal now respectably married son of mine Harry was laughing in the most undignified fashion. I was about to chastise him (it matters not that he can pilot an AH-4 Hellfire missile-equipped Apache helicopter – I would take him over my knee today just as soon as I did when he was a wee lad) when he showed me on his mobile phone the cause of his merriment.

It was your post last year entitled “How Old is Too Old to Wear a Band T-Shirt?” Against my better judgement I momentarily came to share Harry’s view that this was indeed a real knee-slapper. I have found myself a loyal reader of your weekly antics ever since.

I have stared in amazement at reports of icecream handbags, chuckled at the prank played on Oxley Golf Course and cheered your battles against the likes of ParkRun noisemakers and sliding vanilla slice standards.

Having celebrated my 70th birthday back in May, age has granted me the certainty to know and recognise quality shenanigans when I see them. SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK has and is that quality.

May your little literary venture prosper for many years to come and endure like the rare metal tungsten. ‘An odd thing to say’ I hear you remark. Certainly, yet you may have read that is my term of endearment (nickname) for my daughter in law Meghan Markle. She loves it and now I hope you do too.

Cherrio and yours ever,

Prince Charles

Duke of Cornwall

P.s Do you partake of jam-on-top cream teas down there in Australia land? If yes, please go ahead and shout yourself one on my behalf. This is your day!

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Ps. Don’t know what the royal family uses to keep their books lined up straight but they’re welcome to take my lead and order a couple of these quirk-enhanced little book- end fandangos –

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Pss. As well as his congratulatory email, Prince Charles was good enough to forward me some bonus royal wedding footage. Most thoughtful of him I’m sure you’d agree…

Psss. 2018 will play host to a second royal wedding when Princess Eugenie ties the knot with fiance Jack Brookshank (former manager of the popular London nightclub Mahiki)  on October 12 in the same venue as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle‘s ceremony back in May. 

Word is Princess Eugenie is planning to enforce a strict ‘no plastic’ rule at her nuptials. That’s fine ’cause most people wouldn’t have her pegged as a plastic cups, knives ‘n forks gal anyway.

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Why did I pair a picture of the Royal Genie with a character from the retro television series LOST IN SPACE ? The plain-for-all-to-see headwear match of course!

Author Interview – Deborah Abela

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A resplendent marble ballroom is alive with the sound of champagne-enhanced chatter. Tuxes and gowns adorn the invited A-listers from among the Australian Children’s Writers’ fraternity who are attending the gala event.

Andy Griffith brushes past the press line on the way to sampling another piece of coconut-stuffed naan bread from the buffet table. Paul Jennings is working the room like a politician up for re-election. Jacqueline Harvey is rocking it in a figure-hugging sorbet green dress with matching drop earrings while pretending not to notice Morris Gleitzman doing silly poses behind her. And Matt Potter holds court under the light of the pineapple shaped crystal chandelier before making a beeline for someone he thinks is Stephen King only to realise he’s now engaged in conversation with the head of catering.

And then the moment everyone has been waiting for arrives. A woman from the publicity department appears at the top of the staircase and announces the star is finally about to make an appearance. All conversation stops and the orchestra begins to play. Every eye is directed to the top of the stairs.

Deborah Abela is standing there. She looks down at the expectant faces and they look back. As she begins her graceful descent with one white-gloved hand all the time clutching the banister rail, the crowd realise that soon this literary god made flesh will be among them and a collective sigh echoes throughout the room.

As one of the teeming mass gathered, I have been allowed to talk to the famous author. What does it matter if she won’t remember my name a moment later? I must think of something meaningful to say. Wish me luck and break a leg. Here I go…

Deborah, you’re the author of more than 20 novels for children. Could you tell us what you’re working on at present?

The third book in the Grimsdon series. Grimsdon is about kids who survive in a flooded city and after that I wrote New City because readers emailed demanding to know more. And now I’m writing the third book because I had even more emails. This will definitely be the final. It comes out in 2019. I’m also working on a new picture book about a bear who doesn’t fit in.

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How do you select the names of your characters?

A name has to be like the character…so sometimes it’s easy….like Xavier Stone who is a very confident hero in Grimsdon or India Wimple who is a shy girl in The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee, but other times it’s harder. I usually have to try a few different names before I find the one that’s just right.

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Do you think someone can be a fiction writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?

Oh that’s a fascinating question! All writing is about getting inside a character’s head….so if you can’t feel emotions, how can you know what a character is thinking and feeling? It’d be tough!

Have you ever written under a pseudonym or been tempted to adopt the credibility boosting ‘initials- for-name’ moniker favoured by the likes of D.H. Lawrence, J.K. Rowling, H.G. Wells, C.S. Lewis, T.S. Eliot, J.R. Tolkien etc?

No pseudonym but the Max Remy series was published in the UK under my initials D. Abela. I wanted my whole name but the publisher thought it would be better that the readers didn’t know whether I was a male or female. I still think it’s a strange decision.

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CaptureWhat other authors are you friends with?

Oh my! Most of my friends are authors and illustrators….like Oliver Phommavanh, Andy Griffiths, Sarah Davis, Susanne Gervay, Jules Faber, Tristan Bancks, Marjorie Crosby-Fairall, Gus Gordon, Jackie French, Ben Wood, James Foley, Jacquie Harvey….there are so many lovely people who make kids books!

The novels listed below all concern themselves in some way with the writing life and feature central characters who are authors. Have you read any of them?

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Oh no but they look interesting.

If you could enjoy a GNI (girls night in) playing CARDS  AGAINST HUMANITY (HERE) while sipping literary-inspired cocktails and eating gourmet popcorn and chocolate fondu with any TWO of these famous female authors, who would you invite –

Jane Austen (1775 – 1817)

Sylvia Plath (1932 – 1963)

Flannery O’Connor (1933 -2004)

Emily Dickinson (1830 – 1886)

Harper Lee (1926 – 2016)

Maya Angelou (1928 – 2014)

Agatha Christie (1890 -1976)

Mary Shelly (1797 – 1851)

Enid Blyton (1897 – 1968)

Oh so hard….but I’d have to go with Mary Shelly and Jane Austen. Monsters and feisty women…perfect!

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They’re the writerly questions out-of-the-way Deborah. Now for a few rapid-fire, crazy randoms from the lucky dip box –

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Favourite TV show of all-time?

Get Smart

If you were gifted a yacht what would you name it?

Hope We Make It

How often do you Google yourself?    

Mind, once a year, for someone with your kudos, could be considered an act of restraint.

Once a month would be perfectly acceptable and within the ‘normal’ range.

Once a week – mildly excessive.

Dailya red flag for acute boredom or something more serious.

About once every few months. I’m not a fan of seeing myself in pics or videos and I rarely read reviews.

You can live any year of your life over again. Which year do you choose and why?

2016….I went on a big adventuring holiday to celebrate a big birthday….there were hikes, friends and parties and I loved every minute. 

And to finish off Deb, just because I know we’re both born in the same year – so I’m quite certain you’ll remember them  –  which ONE of these back-in-the-day chart-toppers gives you a  ‘pinch yourself’  nostalgic fandango boost  (a description lifted straight from my eight-year-old daughter’s favourite cartoon SLUGTERRA) above the others?

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None sorry……I was obviously listening to different radio stations….I’m not sure JJJ would ever play any of these groups.

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** Since that final question ended up going down like a novice rollerbladder suffering  inner ear balance disorder, it was out with the dictionary and time for me to regroup, refresh and reword with a timely def (definition) –

                              ‘Fall Flat’

  If an event or an attempt to do something falls flat, it is completely unsuccessful.CapturePs. The final interview question may have missed its mark but this was still one of SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK‘s favourite and most fun author interviews to do. Just so you know..

War on Music (Part 3)

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Thought I was done with the goading ‘Who’s got the better music?’ gee-up?

Me too.

Then I saw this…

It’s a recent article from The Courier Mail Newspaper under the headline “POPULAR MUSIC LEAVES LISTENERS ON A LOW NOTE”

Once you read it I think you’ll understand why I couldn’t walk away –  

It is all too easy for the kids music to put you in a bad mood when it’s played at full volume from their bedroom. But there may be another reason it gets to you – today’s tunes are more depressing.

A study has found that music from 2015 is about 20 per cent more unhappy than it was in 1985. Upbeat pop from the likes of Wham! and Duran Duran has given way to the heavyweight ballads of people such as Adele and Ed Sheeran.

Researchers at the University of California, Irvine, analysed more than half a million songs released in the UK over 30 years to judge how music has changed. They found songs are less happy and “bright” than they used to be, based on a mathematical formula judging elements such s pace, rhythm and major or minor key.

Lead author Dr Natalia Komarova said: “The whole reason I started this study was because I was listening to the songs my teenage daughter played and thinking, what on earth has happened to music? Part of the blame for this trend in happiness might be related to social media. The social isolation of young people might play a role – perhaps that is being expressed through current music”.

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I’m as cynical as the next person (maybe more) when it comes to the findings of so-called ‘scientific studies’ but I’ll admit to relishing a ‘Yes!’ moment while reading that article.

While it’s tempting to point to the weight of the ‘evidence’ of 500 000 songs being put under the microscope with the resulting conclusion that today’s music hasn’t quite got the spring in its step of previous decades and say “I told you so!”, I’m gonna use every morsel of willpower I have left coursing through my veins and fight that urge.

What I will say is hearing the esteemed Dr Natalie pronounce judgement all ‘white lab coat’ style did sign my release papers from the Psych Ward I’ve been holed up in these past years together with the feeling “I’m not crazy after all. There really is something to this!”

Be that as it may, magic, and lots of it, still happens today. Of course it does. Case in point is what I’m gonna call the coolest ad currently running on Australian television.

Check it out HERE – but be warned the brilliance is not fireworks variety – more understated and ‘chilled’ which, come to think of it, is very Millenial.

Falling in love with that ad had me go hunting with the zest of a rampaging cheetah zeroing in on a fleeing wildebeest calf for the music in that commercial. I found it. The song is called MAKEBA and was released back in 2016 by French singer Jain. It peaked on the French Singles Chart at # 7 and has also been used in a commercial for Levi Jeans.

Jain was born in 1992 which stamps her as a patched member of the Millenial cohort, the generation at the heart of my recent weeks attack on modern music. She and her hipster team of super creatives have produced a song and video I’m openly declaring a goddam masterpiece!  Marvel HERE

Huge, huge points score for the much maligned Millenials as far as I’m concerned. Sing along with the main chorus lyrics if you like. I find it hard not to –

Makeba, makeba ma que bella

Makeba, makes my body dance for you

And that comrades, is where I walk away and this self-ignited war on music ends. There’s been enough quarrel,  enough one-upmanship and enough internet ink spilt on this topic. I need to quit acting like contemporary music has a bad head cold and I’m the paramedic sent in to set it all right. It’s time to bury the hatchet and give peace a chance. Wait! Wasn’t that a song by John Lennon? Back in ’69? Now there was an era for great music! Somebody pull me away before we get this thing started all over again…

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IT’S OVER HERE!

Ps. Can’t sign off completely without mentioning a novel that touches on some of the generational differences in music these last few weeks of posts have centred on. A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD won the Pulitzer Prize (the Oscars of the Literary World) for Fiction back in 2011 and was written by American author Jennifer Egan. It tells the story of an ageing Record Executive (back when they had records) who heads a company producing and marketing modern music artists he can no longer stand. It’s a story essentially about growing old in the digital age.

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Pss. The family that fights together makes Pixar money together! News that the movie THE INCREDIBLES 2 has gone past the $1 billion mark for worldwide box office receipts is surely cause for celebration for those that saw the movie and liked it. It is only the 7th animated movie in recorded history to do that. The other figure doing the rounds this week was generated on Tuesday night when the Australian population officially reached the 25 million mark. Jeepers! I remember as a kid the figure we were told was 14 million. Yeah, that was a while back…

Psss. This week’s ‘Total Crack Up Award’ goes to the image makers who have banned Disney’s just released CHRISTOPHER ROBIN movie in China because leader Xi Jinping  is prickly about physical comparisons between him and the character Winnie the Pooh. When you see the two side by side, I can kind of understand the sensitivity..

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THE REBUTTAL

 

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Last week, a person purporting to be me launched what amounted to nothing short of a marathon blitzkrieg aimed at belittling and tearing strips off modern music.

The kicks and punches came flying in wild succession amid a barely disguised all-out assault on young millenials and their alleged lack of taste and discernment in ‘tunes’.

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The bombastic beat-up ended up going longer than the Bishop’s speech at Prince Harry’s wedding and included such slights as labelling modern music, and specifically the Nova playlist as –

  • soulless drivel 
  • the musical equivalent of eating mushy cereal for breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • personality-stripped ditties that barely show a pulse
  • composed by songwriters who couldn’t be bothered writing a recognisable chorus
  • numbing for anyone under the age of dead
  • ‘easy-listening’ soup for seniors
  • limp-wristed, insipid, chill-out sludge
  • woeful excuses for songs that amount to waterboading torture for the ears
  • lame, gimpy and downright unbearable to listen to
  • as safe and easily digestible as baby food
  • sounds for all the world like something conceived from a corporate focus group
  • uninspiring and dull 4th-rate tripe that doesn’t even get your fingers tapping on top of a car steering wheel.

I think you get the idea.

30 examples of this ‘soulless drivel’ were cited including –

CALL OUT MY NAME (released 2018) by The Weeknd (Judge for yourself HERE)

BETTER NOW (released 2018) by Post Malone (Judge for yourself HERE)

SOLO (released 2018) by Clean Bandit (Judge for yourself HERE)

An attempt was then made to tighter the noose further with reference to a selection of songs from the 80’s & 90’s – all reputed to showcase the sort of bounce, energy and dash ‘real’ music has in spades.

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  1. POUR SOME SUGAR ON ME by Def Leppard ((HERE)
  2. I WANT YOUR LOVE by Transvision Vamp (HERE)
  3. THE LOOK by Roxette (HERE)

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4. HERE WE GO by C & C Music Factory (HERE)

5. ROCKIN’ FOR MYSELF by Motiv8 (HERE)

6. BITTER SWEET SYMPHONY by The Verve (HERE)

The whole critical shebang sent mini-shockwaves of controversy across the internet (ok, it received one reblog from JaeDee (HERE) who went so far as to call it a “hilarious self-described rant so entertaining (but also thoughtful) I think I need to give it a reblog just to keep up with it” but I’m still gonna label that a mini-shockwave).

With the critical blowtorch set on high throughout, the unrelenting vitriol was all a bit much.

A beating like that cannot go unavenged however, and so today comes the fight-back in the form of a letter addressed to the one-eyed perennial who penned last week’s milleniall’s-music-taste-bashing-manifesto –

Dear Glen,

Life got you down a little has it?

Someone not feeling as significant as maybe they used to?

Worry not, for salvation lies within the misguided wisdom of your own words from last week.

Don’t worry – it’s safe to read on. We’ll be gentle, and as you’re the first to admit, our kind already come naturally ‘chilled’.

You’ll recall you listed 30 songs from Nova’s current playlist and bravely admitted three of them – 

THE MIDDLE by Zedd & Maren Morris

NERVOUS by Shaun Mendez  

THIS IS ME by Keala Settle 

were sufficiently good enough to be exempted from your flame vortex of critical opinion.

Rejoice then young-at-heart kind sir, for this means there is hope that your mind is not yet wired shut to the possibility that good music may originate not just from your… how do we put this… ‘heyday’?

In fact, pausing for a moment for some inner accounting, we may see things are not as bleak as you may have first convinced yourself they are. Liking three songs out of 30 gives you a bullseye ratio of 10% hit – 90% miss.

Now think back to your glory days of the 70’s 80’s & 90’s (if you can remember that far back  Ooops! We promised this rebuttal would be delivered in a respectful manner and so it shall!) and honestly tell us if listening to the radio back then would have delivered any greater number of ‘keepers’ than the 10% hit – 90% miss ratio that you believe is at the center of your current unhappiness.

Fact is, it so often turns out you’ve got to kiss a lot of frogs before you meet your prince or queen, whether it be back in the day or now. Sorry to raise the touchy subject of selective memory but we may as well expose the elephant in the room right now – you had more than two decades to accumulate the hundreds of ‘classic songs’ coming from that past era working on an identical 10% hit – 90% miss ratio to what would still apply today.

How long did you listen to Nova radio for? A few short weeks? Even in that time you were able to unearth three songs you like. Imagine if you spent the next 20 years with your ear glued to current radio like you did when you were growing up. Then these current times would become your classic era.

Beginning to see a little more clearly now?

Once you’ve had one of those ‘ol skool vanilla slices we’ve heard you’re partial to and calmed down a tad, we’re confident you’ll agree it’s all a matter of how a person sees things. Some lads and lasses call that ‘perspective’ and apparently you oldies more experienced folk are supposed to have developed thimbles full of it by a certain age.

No hard feelings Yoda.

Chilled regards,

Young Millenials for Truth

Ps. Cheeky young rascals – calling me ‘Yoda’ and all. What were they implying – I’m old and full of my own self-perceived wisdom? Crash the internet! Surely not?

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Pss. Alright, maybe it is time to admit the era in which one grew up in will always hold a special place in that person’s heart, and really from all decades emerge ‘classic’ songs that live on in people’s memories.

Does that sound old and wise enough for the young whippersnappers?

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Psss. In a confounding update I can scarcely believe myself, I’m obliged to report that of the original Nova playlist of 30 songs I so brutally lambasted last week – of which I conceded three were surprisingly listenable –

THE MIDDLE by Zedd & Maren Morris

NERVOUS by Shaun Mendez  

THIS IS ME by Keala Settle 

in the intervening week an additional six songs have – how to put this – grown on me?

HEALING HANDS by Conrad Sewell

SHOTGUN by George Ezra

SOLO by Clean Bandit

BETTER NOW by Post Malone

NEVER BE THE SAME by Camila Cabello

SOLO DANCE by Martin Jensen

Is it shocking? Roger that!

I’m surprised as anyone and have to pinch myself to know I’m not dreaming.

Liking 9 out of 30 songs (I’m fairly certain given another few days I could easily have found another song to add to the right side of the Heath ledger) brings the hit miss ratio up to more like 30% vs 70%.  

Even back in my heyday, with selective memory factored in, I’m pretty certain the like proportion was never that high.

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And one more thing…

Adding the final touch of finesse to the perfectly executed circus acrobat’s backflip I’ve now performed from last week’s over-confidently stated insistence that music from the 80’s & 90’s is somehow innately superior to today’s songs is this –

Unable to sleep one night this week I switched on the radio and listened to MMM GREATEST – a digital music station that plays ‘classic rock’ chiefly from my ‘golden era’ of the 1980’s & 90’s. In close to 90 minutes of listening, not a SINGLE song appealed. If that type of reality check isn’t enough to help me get over myself, nothing will.

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Bah Humbug! It’s all a load of rubbish!

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Someone’s spoilin’ for a fight so may as well get right to it..

I know of no quicker way for a person (of any age) to transform into the classic old-man stereotype of bent-over, hard-of hearing pensioner shuffling along with ‘Gandalf staff’ walking stick and flowing grey beard then for that person to label all modern music as ‘rubbish’.

And that my friends, is exactly what I propose to do.

Attacks on the insipid nature of modern music have been gathering steam since the early nineties, making this post possibly one of my most unoriginal yet. So why have I suddenly decided to join the arm-waving chorus of disapproval?

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With our recent purchase of a new car came the roundtable negotiation of who would control the music when the whole family was travelling together. Foolishly I did a deal with the devil (my eight year old daughter) and got talked into agreeing she could rule the airwaves and exert the power of veto when it came to music choices whenever we would be Mazda CX-5-ing together.

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At the time of consenting to this totally ridiculous idea, I now believe I must have been distracted with adjusting the car’s a/c dials on the new ‘instrument cluster panel’ (dashboard) or some such other activity that barred me from being fully present in the moment. For I have now been forced to come to terms with the full terrible extent of the ear-aching and downright irritating consequences my rash choice in the face of baby-faced innocence has opened the door to.

Like a spider spinning a silky web to ensnare its prey, she began innocently enough by asking what radio station played ‘today’s music’. Matching her innocence with my own poor imitation, I dutifully replied – ‘Nova 106.9FM’. Three weeks later, after being forced to endure the limp-wristed, woeful excuses for songs this station foists upon it’s apparently satisfied listeners, I have truly rued the day when I first volunteered this information and in the process signed myself up to an unrelenting three weeks of waterboarding torture for the ears.

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Like a parent holding their nose while disposing of a dirty nappy, I’m going to see if I can bring myself to describe why the music I’ve been literally strapped down and forced to listen to these past twenty-one days is by its very nature so damn lame and gimpy (the legal team looking over my shoulder as I compose this post (ok, wife) has advised me to add the caveat ‘to my ears’ to (A) avoid personal opinion being misconstrued as slander and (B) because incredibly these type of songs are alleged to be loved by millions).

Time first though to name names and expose some of the incriminating evidence, so we know exactly who and what’s been causing all the stink. As a type of payback for the grief I’ve endured over the last weeks, I made my daughter carry a notepad and pen whenever we were out riding together and write down the name of the song and artist displayed on the car’s digital radio monitor. She carried out this task with a mixture of  evil-grinning enthusiasm and paralegal secretary efficiency to come up with this compendium of the bland, soulless sludge that’s been oozing out of our car speakers these past days and nights –

  1. OCEAN by Martin Garrix & Khalid
  2. ALL THE STARS by Kendrick Lamar & Sza
  3. FRIENDS by Marshmello & Anne-Marie
  4. HOLD ON WE’RE GOING HOME by Drake
  5. I SAID HI by Amy Shark
  6. SAY SOMETHING by Justin Timberlake & Chris Stapelton
  7. YOU DESERVE BETTER by James Arthur
  8. LOVE LIES by Khalid & Normani
  9. THE SWEET ESCAPE by Gwen Stefani & Akon
  10. CHASING FIRE by Lauv
  11. HANDS TO MYSELF by Selena Gomez
  12. NERVOUS by Shaun Mendez
  13. YOUNGBLOOD by 5 Seconds of Summer
  14. BETTER NOW by Post Malone
  15. NEW RULES bu Dua Lipa
  16. THUNDER by Imagine Dragons
  17. SOLO by Clean Bandit
  18. ALL RISE by Blue
  19. THE MIDDLE by Zedd & Maren Morris
  20. ONE KISS by Calvin Harris & Dua Lipa
  21. SHOTGUN by George Ezra
  22. CALL OUT MY NAME by The Weeknd
  23. HEALING HANDS by Conrad Sewell
  24. BROOKLYN IN THE SUMMER by Aloe Blacc
  25. FIRE by Peking Duk
  26. NEVER BE THE SAME by Camila Cabello
  27. HOW DEEP IS YOUR LOVE? by Calvin Harris
  28. GIRLS LIKE YOU by Maroon 5
  29. MIRRORS by Justin Timberlake
  30. THIS IS ME by Keala Settle

Everyone of these tunes, with the possible exception of just three – THE MIDDLE by Zedd & Maren Morris, NERVOUS by Shaun Mendez and  THIS IS ME by Keala Settle (from THE GREATEST SHOWMAN sountrack) – could all be described as heaving masses of over-processed grey pudding that scream ‘bland’ with every beat of their tinny $99 drum machines. Play lists like this one are the sort of ‘easy listening’, inoffensive, generic pop puffery that’s heard everywhere these days – from gyms and clothing stores to supermarkets, shopping centres and bars (insufferable muck of this ilk was even seeping through the speakers on-board an otherwise pleasant rivercruise I took on the Gold Coast last week).

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The majority of these personality-stripped corporate-style jingles sung by pretty faces sound indistinguishable from one another and as if they were composed in someone’s bedroom using a four-track recorder featuring just a drum machine and a synthesizer capable of playing three different octave sounds.

This barely alive, chilled and homogenized gunk, the majority of which most of the time doesn’t even feature recognisable choruses, reminds me of easy-to-digest soup served up to seniors who deserve better in retirement homes. Apparently young people love it. I know my daughter does. For the rest of us, it’s assuredly what used to be known as ‘elevator music’ or wallpaper for the ears. Drivel like this doesn’t  get me tapping my fingertips on top of the leather steering wheel but rather has me gritting my teeth and planning to eject myself from the car at the next set of traffic lights.

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So how did it come to this? Back in my day (there, I’ve just uttered the classic old-timer’s phrase so we can all relax now knowing that’s the selective-memory-territory we’re now in) songs had dash, songs had power and songs were alive with a hundred levels of instrumentation. Seems these days ‘stripped back’ musicianship is all the rage so there’s not an electric guitar, violin, flute or even goddamn cowbell within a 100 miles of the recording studios this garble was produced in.

Please don’t mistake my expressed misgivings as an attack on electronic music per se. Hell, I was head-over-heels loving the first wave of electronic music in the late 70’s from the likes of Gary Numan and Kraftwerk along with the genesis of hip hop and new wave at the beginning of the 80’s back when it was unpopular to do so.

No, what I’m dropping weights from a great height on (or, as they say, ‘Takin’ down to Chinatown’) is the assembly line, ultra-diluted and personality-stripped tunes that have somehow become de rigueur for today’s millennials. These are songs your average perennial (like me) is likely to find almost totally unbearable given the inevitable comparison to the anthem-like, near epic productions of previous decades that trump today’s drivel a hundred times over when it comes to memorable and catchy tunes that might stick in your head for, oh, let’s say longer than 30 seconds after you’ve just listened to them.

Some commentators would contend pop-music has been on the steady downward slope since it’s peak in the 1960’s, wheras I would pinpoint the noticeable decline from probably more around the mid-nineties onward.

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It seems I’ve been left with little choice but to put on my old teacher’s hat and, as condescending as this may sound, showcase what real commercial music used to sound like.

Ready? 

First, three songs from the eighties –

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1.SAFETY DANCE by Men Without Hats (This remix version 2010) BE INSPIRED HERE

2. OWNER OF A LONELY HEART by Yes (This remix version 2005) BE INSPIRED HERE

3. JUMP by Van Halen BE INSPIRED HERE

Next, three songs from the nineties –

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4. THUNDERSTRUCK by AC/DC COME ALIVE HERE

5. TWO PRINCES by The Spin Doctors COME ALIVE HERE

6. DAMN I WISH I WAS YOUR LOVER by Sophie B. Hawkins COME ALIVE HERE

Hear the difference?

All six of those songs literally throb with personality.

They’re alive! (not numbing).

None of them sound like they’re the offspring of some corporate focus group determined to produce music that’s safe and ultra-easily digestible  like baby food.

Could my own 70’s/80’s/90’s acknowledged music bias be possibly blinding me to the genius on show that’s in fact surrounding me in a creative pincer movement of mythological proportions on today’s airwaves?

It could be.

I just don’t think it is.

But just in case I’m wrong, tune in next week for the rebuttal.

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Ps. Though they’ve been delivered with all the finesse and precision of a baby giraffe taking its first steps, I’m afraid the unrepentant, all-out attacks on the iGeneration are not done with just yet. Has anyone heard of  ‘millennial pink’? It’s been said if ever a colour summed up a generation this was it. Millennial pink has been described as a dusty, marshmallow-soft, slightly confused apricot shade of salmon-pink. Apparently this hilariously named hue came into vogue following the release of the movie THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL (which was painted in the colour).

‘Essential wording’ said no one ever. Make it stop! Please?

(Actually, keep it going if you like. These loopy new names for interior-decorator inspired colour shades are a gi-normous barrel of laughs to play around with, I reckon). 

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Pss. That atomic wedgie pummeling of millennial’s  taste in music was pretty ferocious so time to ease down with something more ‘Brady’. We’re in the market to buy a new house. A few weekends recently have been spent impersonating people of means and wealth while attending ‘Open House’ inspections in and around the Centenary suburbs. Our deadline to buy is another three and a half years away – when our daughter begins High school – so we’re in no rush.

A blip appeared on my radar screen this week then when I heard news from Los Angeles that the home used to film exterior shots for an old tv show favourite of mine from the 1970’s, THE BRADY BUNCH (1969 – 1974), was going up for sale.

The asking price is $1.9 million. That’s about $1.2 million outside of our budget so unfortunately I’ll be sitting this one out. The average price of homes in Studio City (the name of the suburb the house is in) is apparently around the $1.3 million mark. The added $600 000 is the pricetag of the prestige that will come with owning a piece of popular culture history.

If they threw in some of Alice’s ‘ol pork chops and apple sauce I’d reckon that was a real bargain!

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Not so Incredible

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In the end I got off pretty easy.

During the most recent school holidays, that, like Jay Leno’s tenure on The Tonight Show or more locally Mark Latham‘s time as Labour Party leader now feels like so long ago you wonder if it really happened, I promised my eight year old daughter I’d take her to three movies at the cinema.

That ended up being reduced to only one, the not so incredible THE INCREDIBLES 2. Sitting through this film – the parts I stayed awake for – has prompted a ‘big moment’ life decision made mindfully on my part.

THE INCREDIBLES 2 marks the last time I will EVER pay to see a children’s animation film in the theatre again. I may be a non-believer when it comes to the nutty ‘Christmas in July’ but I’ll defend with staunch logic and balsa-wood-pulverising karate chops the soundness of making ‘New Year’s’ resolutions whenever the need arises. And the need just arose.

Over the eighteen month life of this blog you’ve been treated to my rampaging thoughts on a variety of kid’s pics –

SING (HERE)

MOANA (HERE)

BOSS BABY (HERE)

CARS 3 (HERE)

But all that ends today.

And I think it’s time.

Next year my daughter will be nine and since a great many of the Disney/Pixar movies are geared more for the 6 year olds market, she’s showing signs she’s about ready to move on as well. It’s been a thrill-a-minute second childhood for me but every one has to grow up sometime. My only regret is I have to say farewell forever to this Hollywood babysitter’s club on such mediocre terms.

From memory I found a lot to like in the original INCREDIBLES movie back in 2004. Problem is in the intervening 14 years the cinematic superhero landscape has transformed noticeably.

Nowadays, the sort of ironic, self-conscience and self referencing humor poking fun at the foibles of mask-wearing crime-fighter types that THE INCREDIBLES championed so likeably is now literally everywhere – think DEADPOOL 1 & 2, KICKASS 1 & 2, ANTMAN 1 & 2, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY 1 & 2, HELLBOY 1 & 2 (2019) as well as countless spoof-style sequences in the IRON MAN, AVENGERS and CAPTAIN AMERICA franchises.

Apart from the epilepsy warning that accompanied the release of this film, there just didn’t seem to be anything so uniquely incredible anymore about THE INCREDIBLES.

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THE INCREDIBLES 2 is colossally short on characterisation and comedy and huge on action and chase sequences. In this regard it reminds me of one of my bigger filmgoing disappointments of recent years MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015).

As mostly any one who’s seen that movie would be forced to agree, zero attempt at providing character ‘arcs’ or motives for actions amidst a two-hour overly long series of car chase sequences ends up becoming pretty tiresome (and this from a person who regards MAD MAX 2 (1981) as the finest movie to come from the Australian film industry – ever!) Seriously.

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What do The Incredibles 2 and Mad Max: Fury Road have in common? Quite a lot as it turns out.

My daughter ended up seeing during her holidays HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 3 as well, (not with me) so I asked her for ratings for both movies. This is how she responded –

HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 3  –  9 out of 10

THE INCREDIBLES 2           –   5 out of 10

The procession of small children in the theatre darkness I observed going down the carpeted steps accompanied by their parents and out into the foyer for a brain break was also testament, to my mind, of the inability of this film to engage and hold its young audience.

My self-imposed ban on kid’s movies means I’ll miss out on seeing FROZEN 2. That’s a bridge I’ll cross when I come to it – sometime in 2019. For the meantime I’m feeling emboldened by the new mature me which I now realise will also entail me giving up using my daughter’s pink cinnamon lip gloss. Could this be a turning point?

Ps. Does anyone else think the chisel-jawed Mr Incredible bears at least a passing resemblance to former St George Dragons NRL player Mark Gasnier who retired back in 2011?

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Pss. Seeing this movie wasn’t all bad. It made me recall a show with a similar name I enjoyed as a kid. It was called THAT’S INCREDIBLE! and ran for five seasons from 1980 – 1984. Check out this segment HERE profiling a very young Tiger Woods.

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Psss. One final vanilla slice update. A few days back I travelled 18km to sample the perfection I’d been told was on offer at Toowong’s French Patisserie. Life may have its disappointments but this was definitely not one of them. The rectangular block of sumptuousness I’d travelled across the western freeway for came with a middle pastry layer and custard filling impregnated with real strawberries. The to-die-for top icing layer was rendered in the colours of the French flag.

It was truly INCREDIBLE! and went a long way to restoring my shaken faith in the appeal of the modern vanilla slice

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