Radio Active

June 30, 2009

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Hello, dear reader.

I know it might seem lately that I’ve neglected you. I don’t write as often as I once did, and perhaps you think my love for you has waned.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Actually, that may not true – there’s probably some things that are further from the truth, like “space octopi open convenience store in Geelong”, but you get the drift of my gist. While updates to this site have been – let’s say “sluggish”, shall we? – behind the scenes it’s been all systems go. Or go-ish.

On Friday July the 10th the exciting new radio version of The Outland Institute will be unleashed, and your ears will never be the same. Every Friday from midday to 2pm (Melbourne time) we’ll be exploring pop-culture in audio form on Joy 94.9. There’ll be plenty of exciting guests, plus some boring ones to make up the numbers. And we have a glamorous selection of resident experts, including Josh Kinal from Boxcutters, Glenn Dunks from Stale Popcorn and Anne-Marie Peard from Aussie Theatre. There’s even a theme tune by David Ashton from Destination Moon – take that, ABC 2’s News Breakfast! Not so big now!

So please join us on the 10th of July – you can listen on the wireless at 94.9FM in the Melbourne metro area, or hear it streamed wherever you are through http://www.joy.org.au/listenlive, or download the podcast version from the Joy website (I’ll provide more podcast details in due course). And keep listening after the show for Flip The Tape, Joy’s fantastic indie/eclectic music show hosted by Adam C. It’s grouse.

The website will also continue to function, with both complimentary and new material, plus you’ll be able to comment on the radio show and basically make life just that bit more bearable.

To finish with, let’s look at some Canadian bilingual kite-flying, set to The Free Design‘s 1967 classic Kites Are Fun.

Au revoir!

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Accept No Irritation

May 2, 2009
bitter
(Bitter, lesbiany T-shirts available at http://www.redbubble.com/people/boxcutters.)

Last week we talked about Henrie Stride and – let’s be honest – I wasn’t very complimentary. In fact, I was downright irksome.

You may remember that Ms Stride is convinced that people are only interested in “pretty” and “upbeat”, so how did my low-level sniping affect the popularity of The Outland Institute? We had a massive spike of readers and Wednesday the 29th had the most visitors the Institute has ever seen. Why? Because misery loves company. Everytime I write something that drips of bile – like this review of BBC’s Survivors – the numbers shoot right up.

I think the truth is that “contented” is not the same as “interesting”. As our old friend Leo Tolstoy once said, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”. He’s a laugh-riot, isn’t he? You should see the thing he wrote for Adam Sandler.

I had been pondering on what this all meant when I found myself at a party, trying to talk to someone I hadn’t met before. The conversation was stilted, so in desperation I said, “Tell me five petty things that annoy you“. And let me tell you – it’s an ice-breaker. Soon we were all getting along like a house on fire. A funhouse on fire. Full of clowns. A funhouse full of burning clowns.

When it comes to misanthropy, of course, no-one beats the British. The BBC have an excellent television show called Room 101, which is like Enough Rope for the terminally depressed. A celebrity guest comes on to discuss the things they hate, hoping the host will remove them from existence (which is to send them to Room 101, in a strange conceptual mangling of George Orwell’s 1984). Starting life as a radio show in 1992, it moved to TV in 1994 and has even seen a Dutch spin-off (presumably as a form of revenge for Big Brother). And that’s without mentioning the “Grumpy” franchise, which started with Grumpy Old Men (2003), then led to Grumpy Old Women (2004), Grumpy Old Holidays (2006) and will presumably soon include Celebrity So You Think I Love The Make Me A Grumpy Old Supermodel, Get Me Out Of Here House (2010).

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And I find I like Will Self more knowing that he hates airport architecture. Knowing Meera Syal dislikes Austria is strangely comforting. And seeing that Michael Grade still feels the need to openly despise Doctor Who – nearly 20 years after he cancelled it – says more about him than the program in question. I find these petty dislikes give me a much better view of the person – they feel more intimate, somehow, and less filtered than hearing them talk about their love of fine wines, or charity work. (Remember how on Perfect Match everyone used to like “travelling, raging and meeting people”?).

So do the things we hate define us better than the things we like? I sent an email out to a number of the Institute’s Friends and Leavers Of Comment, to gauge their opinion, and to ask them to list five minor things that annoy them. I swear I have NEVER seen emails come back so fast. It would seem people love to talk about things that irritate – but does it give you an insight into their character?

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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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