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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Friday the 13th (Part 2)

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If this post seems vaguely familiar, like the feeling of trying to put a name to a face at a high-school reunion, it’s because we’ve shot the breeze on this topic before – back in April (HERE)

That’s the last time a Friday fell on the 13th of the month.

If you’re inclined to think we’re maybe a little hard done by having two old-school superstition-shrouded Friday the 13th‘s in the one year, spare a thought for the folk of 2009 and 2015 (ok so that’s still us!) ’cause in both those years there were three of the bad boys stalking the calendar. The next time the Friday the 13th trilogy appears is in 2026.

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Got your slide rule ready? It might help.

To explain why the year 2015 had three Friday the 13th’s, concentrate on the word ‘Thursday’.

The year 2015 started on a Thursday.

Whenever a year of 365 days starts on a Thursday, it’s inevitable that the months of February, March and November will start on a Sunday. And any month starting on a Sunday always has a Friday the 13th.

A grand total of eleven FebruaryMarchNovember Friday the 13th years take place in the 21st century –

2009, 2015, 2026, 2037, 2043, 2054, 2065, 2071, 2082, 2093 and 2099

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I’ve been accused before of being overly fond of multi-syllable words.

Friggatriskaidekaphobia (all 23 letters of it) by that account should have me flipping crazy cartwheels of joy.

That’s the word some linguist has coined to describe an irrational fear of Friday the 13th.

According to history-buffs known as folklorists, there’s no written evidence that Friday the 13th was considered unlucky before the 19th century. The earliest known documented reference in English appears to be in Henry Sutherland Edwards’ 1869 biography of Gioachino Rossini.  Does he look that scary to you?

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Friday has always gotten a bad rap.

In the Middle Ages, people would not marry – or set out on a journey – on a Friday.

There are also some links between Christianity and an ill association with either Fridays or the number 13. Jesus was said to be crucified on a Friday. Seating 13 people at a table was seen as bad luck because Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus, is said to have been the 13th guest at the Last Supper.

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My other favourite superstition is something known as The Curse of the Ninth.

This one’s an odd belief/theory connected with the history of  classical music.

In essence, it is the notion that a ninth symphony is destined to be a composer’s last; i.e. that the composer will be fated to die while or after writing it, or before completing a tenth. To those who give credence to the idea, a composer who produces a ninth symphony has reached a decisive landmark, and to then embark on a tenth is a challenge to fate.

Ludwig van Beethoven is the most famous example of a composer who died after achieving nine symphonies with other instances being Schubert, Dvorak, SpohrBruckner, Mahler and Vaughan Williams (depending on what music is counted as a symphony).

My first exposure to this bit of classical whackiness was an episode of MIDSOMER MURDERS called, oddly enough, THE CURSE OF THE NINTH.

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 Ps. For those who think their life is already a never-ending string of inexplicable events, happy Friday the 13th anyway.

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Pss.  12 boys and one coach makes 13!

Even Black Friday can’t cast a shadow over the good news story the world needed to have. What better way to end off this week then by showcasing what may turn out to be the news photo of the year –

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New Car Smell

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A few days back I did something I haven’t done in a long time.

I bought a new car.

Last time that happened was in 2006. Back then John Howard was still Prime Minister of Australia.

The step up from what we had to what we’ve now got isn’t maybe as dramatic as the top photo would have you believe. But that’s definitely how it feels. The images below tell the real story of the switcheroo that’s taken place.

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It’s only a small exaggeration to say that going from our trusty ‘ol Honda Jazz with its dinky gearbox to the blinding high-tech majesty of the Mazda CX5 feels like time-surfing  the Stone Age to the Space Age literally overnight.

I know I’ve been hidden away living in a (man) cave, technology wise, these last twelve years – but holy pimpin’ rear spoilers how things have changed! Try and suppress your laughter when I say a keyless engine start and a press-button hand brake are definitely new rides at the Fairground for me.

Here I go then with what’s gonna sound like a really average car-salesman impersonation (I’ve talked the talk with more than a few of these characters over the last few weeks so I should be able to do this) as I list some of the features that, as far as bells and whistles go, put this car, at least to my mind, on a par with the International Space Station (bear in mind the hands typing these words haven’t owned a mobile phone since late last century so I’m maybe a little more easily impressed than your average new car buyer) –

  • radar lane-departure sensors
  • separate air-con controls for front and rear seats
  • moisture sensing wipers
  • dark-activated headlights
  • ultrasonic wave technology rear sensor connected to reversing camera
  • electronically warmed seats for winter time
  • voice-responsive built-in GPS
  • fuel-economy automatic engine deactivation at red-light stops 
  • wall to wall interior noise dampeners ensuring the ride is somehow eerily smooth and silent 
  • blind spot computerised monitoring alert
  • **ejector seat

It took our sales guy (Nalin) fully 45 minutes to explain the car’s ‘Instrument Cluster Display’ and safety features. I was sitting quietly and nodding like a member of parliament all the while. I think it might be a whole day seminar with complimentary buffet lunch provided for folk in the luxury car market.

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What does the International Space Station (launched in 1998) and the Mazda CX5 (2018) have in common?  Quite a lot as it turns out.

As to what type of advanced kryptonite lies under the hood, let’s just say the two hobbled Shetland ponies that powered the 2006 model Honda Jazz have been replaced  with what feels like a veritable stable of Winx-calibre thoroughbreds.

Driving the new car the 18km home from the Toowong showroom felt for all the world like transporting a new-born home from the hospital. Displaying all the finesse and confidence of a nervous kitten, I’m pretty sure I came close to holding my breath the entire way.

After Nalin connected my wife’s mobile phone via Bluetooth to the car’s dash-screen, on our nerve-jangling journey home we took, with a mixture of giddy excitement and hesitation, our very first in-car speaker phone call. I think I’ll always remember that call. Those overseas telemarketers sure don’t waste anytime!

Now that our new best friend is safe and sound at home on our driveway, we can begin attending to the really important things, like trying to decide on the right word association to remember our new number plate – 051 YFR.

The 051 part is easy ’cause that’s my current age. But the letters have prompted a little more thought. So far the SWS staff writers have come up with the following possibly pretty lame memory prompts –

YOURS FOR REAL

 

YEARN FOR RUBIES

 

YELLOW FUCHIA RED

 

YOGHURT FRUIT FIGS

 

YUMMY FROGS FEET

 

YEARLY FOREST RAIN

Understandably the plate I’d prefer to see on the vehicle looks more like this –

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but artistry to that degree costs in the vicinity of $2500 from Personalised Plates Queensland (CHECK HERE). Unfortunately for the time being, the budget is now saying ‘No’ to all non-essential items.

Ps. Now I’ve decided to officially join the 21st century, it’s amazing the things one can begin to take an interest in that were previously off the menu. The very next night after buying the car, I watched the quiz program MILLIONAIRE HOT SEAT when this question popped up –

Which technology system uses in its logo two ancient Norse symbols ?

A. Wi-Fi

B. USB

C. Blue Tooth

D. iCloud

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Pss. FYI, the colour of the MAZDA MX-5 we bought is known as ‘Eternal Blue’. Just thought you should know that.

Psss. ** Joking about the ejector seat.

 

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