Happy Baby Jesus Day!

December 24, 2008

From everyone at The Outland Institute, have a very Merry Christmas, a Happy Holiday, and a Kwanzaa Kwanzaa Kwanzaa.

May all your Wong Kar-Wai Slippers come true.

Love,

John


House Of Games: Young Talent Time Game

December 20, 2008

John continues to explore what happens when you take popular culture and throw dice at it… You can even make today’s game your very own! See details at the end of the article about our exciting self-serving auction…

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Last time on House Of Games we reviewed the Thunderbirds International Rescue Game, and I admitted I wasn’t that familiar with the source material. That’s definitely not true of today’s entry, The Young Talent Time Game. I watched Young Talent Time a lot as a child. Partly because I wanted to be a member of the Young Talent Team, singing wholly inappropriate songs with PG-modified lyrics, but mostly because of my obsession with Evie Hayes. Veteran song-and-dance doyenne Hayes was one of the judges on Young Talent Time, but I knew that she was also secretly my real grandmother and would eventually come to take me away to her magical kingdom. She would feed me turkish delight while we flew on her enchanted wheelchair, and Evie would ask me – over and over – if my mother helped me make my dress, and then give me 79 points. “I loves ya, Evie”, I would say. “And I loves ya back”, she would whisper in reply, that being the litany of our people.

But let’s go back a step, shall we?

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How To Write Music For The News

December 17, 2008

Ever wondered who writes the theme tunes for the news? No? Oh… Anyway, this week on top TV podcast Boxcutters we talked to David Ashton and Damaris Baker about writing the music for ABC2’s News Breakfast. You can hear the whole interview by going here (and why not consider subscribing to the show through iTunes? Perhaps on multiple computers?).

You can hear the News Breakfast theme at whatsonthetube (scroll down for the second video clip), and here are some highlights from the interview:

Note that for the sake of simplicity I have combined all hosts into one question-asking entity I call “Boxutron“.

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Boxutron: How do you approach writing a theme tune for the news?

David: The thing about writing music for TV is that you’re told what to do, basically. It’s not like writing your own song where you just sit down with a blank page and think “what do I want to write a song about?”. They say “we want something like this” and that’s what you try to do.

When they say “something like this” do they mean “dark and moody” or “like the thing NBC is using but change enough notes so we don’t get sued for it”.

David: (pause) Somewhere in between… (laughter)

In the case of Breakfast News they had a piece of music they’d been using when they were throwing ideas around. They checked out how much it would cost to get that cleared and it turned out it would be cheaper to buy us. They didn’t tell us to copy it, they said “this is what we like about it”.

It came down to ominous, serious strings with a little bit or percussion under them – and that would be what they’d read the headlines over – then it burst into these big dancey drums and a bit more melody in the strings and that would be where the opening titles with the spinning graphics would go.

The theme is surprisingly funky…

Damaris: There was a bit of an issue as to whether it should have a tune or whether it was something that was meant to be dancey and funky but definitely not sing-able, whether it should just be hummable, or…

David: There was a phrase, you had to be able to “nod to it, but not hum it”, or something…

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And The Winner Is… Breaker Morant (1980)

December 12, 2008

David Ashton is watching all the AFI Best Film winners – so you don’t have to…

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1980, the dawn of a new decade. The Moscow Olympics are held (the USA didn’t go, Australia did). Voyager I visits Saturn (why wasn’t I invited?). The world loses John Lennon, but gains Iron Maiden. Cultural icon Pacman is unleashed onto a world of hungry ghosts. Lindy Chamberlain utters the immortal words “a dingo’s got my baby!” – there’s probably a film in that. Ronald Reagan becomes President of USA. In Australia, the state of Victoria decriminalises homosexual acts between consenting adults, and in Pakistan the Urdu typewriter keyboard layout based on Naskh script is standardised.

In the world of movies audiences were treated to a cornucopia of movies which went on to cult fame: Elephant Man, Raging Bull, The Shining, The Long Good Friday, Airplane! (aka Flying High), The Blue Lagoon, Xanadu, Flash Gordon, The Empire Strikes Back, The Blues Brothers and Altered States, to name a few. The Oscar for best film in 1980 went to the rather more mundane Ordinary People. The Cannes Film Festival were perhaps a little more adventurous that year with their top prize being shared by Bob Fosee’s All That Jazz and Kurasowa’a Kagemusha.

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In Australia there was a typically (for this time) diverse set of films released. We had nuclear meltdowns in The Chain Reaction (dir: Ian Barry); behind-the-scenes sports shenanigans in The Club (directed by Bruce Beresford, based on David Williamson’s play); foreign stars in films cheaply made for the international market such as Harlequin (dir: Simon Wincer); and the prison drama Stir (dir: Stephen Wallace). Stir – based on a true story and starring Bryan Brown – is one of the earliest (the first?) of the tough prison dramas that Australia seems to make so well. Other examples include Ghosts… of the Civil Dead (1988), Everynight Everynight (1994) and parts of Chopper (2000). Stir should not be confused with Stir Crazy, a US film released the same year starring Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor. It really shouldn’t.

Meanwhile another film starring Bryan Brown based on true events was sweeping the pool at the Australian Film Institute Awards. The winner of ten AFIs, including best film was…

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1979: International Year Of The Stamp Designer

December 10, 2008

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Last week in his My Brilliant Career review, David Ashton reminded us that 1979 was the International Year Of The Child. You may remember that many supermarket chains contributed by giving away children at the check-out – although this often led to car-parks full of discarded children that people had been too polite to turn down in the store. A lot was learned from this experience – Woolworths, for one, announced they would not be repeating the offer during the International Year Of The Disabled Person.

International Years are usually designated by the UN and since 1959 they’ve been using them “in order to draw attention to major issues and to encourage international action to address concerns which have global importance and ramifications”. That’s why 2008 has been the International Year of The Potato. No, really, it has. 2009 is the International Year of Natural Fibres, which should at least make for good T-shirts.

While obviously not as exciting as International Space Year (1992), International Year of the Ocean (1998), International Year of Rice (2004) or International Year Of Microcredit (2005), International Year Of The Child was a very important year for a group that often feels ignored and powerless – stamp designers.

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Jane Badler Speaks Near The Outland Institute

December 9, 2008

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This week on Boxcutters our special guest was Jane Badler, who is probably best remembered as Diana in the 1980s science-fiction franchise V. Actors in science-fiction often complain they get typecast and find it hard to work – I wondered if Jane ever worried she’d be stuck with hamster-eating roles for the rest of her career.

There’s a temptation to turn an actor like Jane Badler into a pop-culture punchline – look, it’s the evil lizard-lady from V! But that would not just be insulting, but also unfair – Jane Badler is no Limahl. She has an extensive body of work, ranging from guest appearances on Fantasy Island and Murder She Wrote to regular roles on Falcon Crest and the second Mission: Impossible series. Sure, it’s not Ibsen –  but who is?

So while I was looking forward to having Jane on the show, I wasn’t a crazy fan-boy – I mean, it’s not like it was Louise Jameson! (Louise, why don’t you answer my letters?) I had enjoyed the original mini-series of V, but I thought the ongoing series was pretty dire and I hadn’t watched any of it since it first aired. So I was surprised that an odd thing happened when she arrived – Josh and I were both a little star-struck by her (I can’t speak for Brett, as he is inscrutable).

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Great Literature Of The 20th Century: The Pop-Up Karma Sutra

December 6, 2008

Special guest Anne-Marie Peard pops up to talk dirty in this week’s Great Literature review… Beware, this article may not be suitable for minors, viewing at work, or people who don’t like Are You Being Served?

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Sting does it, Annie Sprinkle won’t do it any other way, and Frankie Goes to Hollywood summarised it in one word – relax. It’s tantric sex week at the Institute. Sit cross-legged, breath deeply and feel the energy of the universe flowing through your chakras.

There are many long and complicated books based on the ancient Sanskrit text known as the Karma Sutra. Indian scholar Vatsyayana wrote the original, but the Institute considers this 1984 version by Bob Robinson and Jonathan Biggs to be the definitive version.

Even a quick glance though the yoni shaped window on the cover reveals the essence of tantric sexuality, as within the all-embracing yoni lies a lingam shaped window. Why Play School never adopted these window shapes, I’ll never know. It also seems to reveal a polygamist, and there’s another little lingam within the lingam window. Look at the little lingam…

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