JustClik News and Blogs

Views, news and features about the Goulburn Valley. Showcasing a variety of local writers and their views.

A Voice in the Wilderness

A Voice in the Wilderness

In the tradition of the great Charles Dickens, I present to you a tale of two television shows.
 
I'm watching The Voice Australia season 5, and although I am well versed in the ways of modern television vis-a-vis self promotion and cross promotion, I still find it irritating to have to endure the 'coming up after the break' previews, and the 'before the break' reviews. At the beginning of the show, there's a recap and a preview and then a review and a preview at the end of the show. It's hugely repetitive, and for people like me who watch it all rather than dipping in and out, it's maddening. In my opinion, it minimizes a lot of the potential drama, and diminishes interest and excitement.
 
Classic case this week. All the advertising for the upcoming blind auditions on The Voice featured a dramatic moment when a singer collapsed on stage. Every single promo, both during the program and between episodes, showed her falling down. I had seen her fall down 47 times before I actually saw her full audition. There was no shock or surprise, no drama at all really. Had I seen it not knowing what was coming I would have been stunned, as were the coaches and the live audience, but I was only relieved that I would not have to see it anymore. Not for a while anyway.
 
I was reminded of a time I was watching The Footy Show (NRL). They held an arm wrestling competition which featured some current and ex players. Ben Ross and Wendell Sailor met in the final, and during the struggle, on live television, Sailor broke Ross's arm. The audience fell silent, horrified, as were the show's hosts and the television audience. Producers quickly cut to a break. I could not believe my eyes.
 
No one knew that was going to happen. It was an incredible and horrific moment. I've seen the accident a number of times since, and each time it has less impact, as was the situation with the Iranian singer who collapsed. I was ready for it, and she was perfectly fine not long after her fall, which I knew was the case as well because if she wasn't, we would have heard about it. The event was pre-recorded and as I said, I had seen her crumple on to the stage 47 times already.
 
I think the way shows like The Voice is produced and presented to us as viewers, as consumers, says something quite poignant about us as people. What do you think?

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How Bitterness Can Haunt!

How Bitterness Can Haunt!

“Walking to the kitchen, I see Angus lurking in the darkness, floating, hovering like a ghost. I feel cold. I open the fridge and stare into the bright light without seeing anything. I’m not hungry. My appetite has been AWOL since Angus left.

I occasionally eat, albeit absently and in mouthfuls rather than meals. Now and then I become ravenous and eat greedily, but it makes me feel sick, and I have often had to vomit up the meal soon after consuming it. I know I’m shedding weight rapidly, but I am afraid to jump on the scales to measure my decline. I don’t need hard evidence.
 
Angus is a wraith who will haunt me to my grave.”
 
Lovesick chapter 32
 
Forgiveness can be difficult, but it is possible. It happens. People let go and free themselves of the burden of bitterness. However, forgetting is virtually impossible. Certain memories of people, places and events do not fade with time, no matter how much we wish they would. Sometimes, we are haunted because we cannot, perhaps do not want to, let go.

On other occasions, we may be victims of those who do not wish to let us go.
 
The word haunt is also used to refer to a lingering regret which follows us through life. I wish I had have done this or that. I wish I had not done that. If only…
 
In most cases we cannot change what we have done: the past inscribed in stone, bears witness to history and its offspring. We have to find some way to make peace with ourselves about the wrong things we have done, and the bad choices we have made. For some people this is easy; for others perhaps not so. The latter may be doomed to a stained, spoiled future.
 
Let go, my friends. Let go, and your ghosts will vanish into the ethereal mist form which they emerged.
 
Have you ever been haunted? Are you haunted?

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A Proper Kid!

A Proper Kid!

This is my mature me self-reflecting on the how things must be difficult for children and teens today — to be proper kids.

Maybe it's peer pressure? Certainly some of the challenges kids face are directly related to media focus on fame. What does Johnny want to be? These days it is common to hear a response such as I want to be famous. The traditional doctor, soldier, fireman, teacher, even astronaut answers can be lacking.

Rewind 40 years. I was playing footy in the streets in the Winter until dusk. When it was dark, it was time for dinner. In the Summer, we played cricket in the streets. And when we weren't playing sports we'd adventure into the local orchards and channels. Yabbying, swimming and just enjoying each other's company.

We kept safe; we looked after each other. Sure we were testing limits at times, but that is part of growing up.

We even built a clubhouse with a skull and crossbones flag, marked with letters G.R.O.G (Get Rid of Girls). Think "The Goonies" and you have the picture of my childhood.

These days it's a rarity to see kids playing in the streets. Digital screens seem to soak up a lot of their time. Smartphones, iPads, computers are all useful things — but seriously; some moderation, please.

Then there's the consumerism. A lot of kids, particularly teens, get sucked into the fairy floss of brands. I know teens who will not be seen dead in something from Target or Woolworths. It has to be a brand like Nike or Adidas.

No hand-me-downs, no St Vincent de Paul seconds and definitely no High street brands.

In my time, a pair of new Levis jeans, complete with zippered fob pocket was worthy of "show and tell."

Sadly, I'm beginning to paint a picture of "plastic" kids whose connection to the outdoor world is limited. This disconnect I believe is a dangerous thing. Yes I'm generalising and there are still the exceptions but most of the today's generation are soft.

My teen years were pretty straightforward too. Going to the record shop or the movie theatre was a real treat. Sport still kept me entertained when I wasn't studying. The structure and its simplicity to this day holds me in good stead.

Geelong Grammar has long had a school policy of encouraging some old-fashioned discipline in Year 9. Arriving at Timbertop, in the wilds near Mansfield, the teens are stripped of all technology and find themselves in a "sink or swim" environment. Chop their wood, cook their meals, clean up after themselves. Loads of extracurricular activities like bushcraft and survival skills. In a way, like a para-military style of training of our youth.

Talk to any ex-grammar student and they will say "Timbertop" was the best year. Kids need discipline and structure, they often just don't understand it's good for them.

Not every family can afford an "outward bound" style experience, but there are ways to encourage kids and teens to get outdoors. Sports and recreation in the fresh air are affordable ways to supplement their modern inclinations.

Volunteering is a good way for young people to learn from adults. I was fortunate enough to be in the company of a proper kid and his mum on the weekend. Without complaint, he spent the day helping his mum in a fundraising activity. He was like a sponge, soaking up as much as he could from the events and people around him.

A proper kid who is lucky enough to have a strong, good mum.

 

 


A

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The Ten Gallon Black Hat

The Ten Gallon Black Hat

Don't we all secretly love an anti-hero? — the tall figure in the Western movies who is bad, possibly dangerous, but you can't help but like the character.

I started thinking about this after watching a complicated, evil, twisted but charming character in a Marvel Daredevil episode.  The Punisher, a brutal combat-hardened soldier, takes revenge to a whole new level.

What makes us love the bad boys? Sometimes you catch yourself hoping the baddie will escape or will live on to fight another day. Is it their charm?  Think of McEnroe having a hissy-fit on the court.  We loved that!  It was alarming but still we loved it.  Wiley Coyote, despite his desperate attempts to catch and eat the Road Runner, is quite endearing.  He's not bad; he's just misunderstood!!!

Some of the not-so-obvious anti-heroes are often thought of as heroes.  James Bond for one. Holden Caulfield from "Catcher in the Rye," Prince Hamlet from "Hamlet," Harry Callaghan in "Dirty Harry," Michael Corleone in "The Godfather."  It's a massive list, just Google anti-heroes for more.

When you think of the Ten Gallon Black Hat types, you start to ponder what makes them so appealing.  There seems to be some truth to the "good girls love bad boys" concept.  But I believe this is true for actors seeking fulfilling roles.  Some of the best characters are the baddies.

Leonardo DeCaprio in "D'Jango Unchained" is charmingly evil.  De Niro in "Heat" is another example of a charming bad guy who meets a sticky end.

Throughout history, there have been monsters, men of pure evil who have been depicted on modern celluloid because we are fascinated by the dark side.  Vlad the Impaler, Ghengis Khan, Caesar, Hitler, Black Beard, Jesse James, Ned Kelly have collectively been depicted in film multiple times.  We seem to have a fascination with what motivates people who reside in the darkness.

The original Batman too must be the all-time most complex, tormented soul fighting for apparently the right reasons yet dispatching justice with extreme malice.

Hollywood loves the bad boys and girls. There's something more fascinating and endearing with Zorro compared to the Lone Ranger.  The man in black is infinitely more mysterious and often more complex. And without the baddies, wouldn't the storytelling be boring?

 

 

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Technology Shift — Paradigm Shift

Technology Shift — Paradigm Shift

My adulthood has been full of technology shifts.  The ebb and flow of constat technology updates bulletpoints my years.  Some for the better, some not so.

This topic came to mind when some kids I know asked about record players and vinyl records.  "What are those black things ... and how do they work?"

So let's rewind to the 1970s, when I was first getting into technology.  Concorde was zooming about the world during its first proving exercises.  But on a smaller level I had just replaced my grandfather's valve radio with a transistor radio.

The radio had become smaller but it was less sensitive than it's analogue cousin.  No longer could I drag in the Sydney station that i used to tune in to on the Radiola.

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Whitby — a Gem in Yorkshire's North

Whitby — a Gem in Yorkshire's North

If wanderlust takes you to the United Kingdom, here's on place that you should not miss.  Whitby, in North Yorkshire, is a historical jewel in the crown of places to visit.

It is the home of Captain James Cook's museum, where you can see where he worked and slept as a maritime apprentice.  It is also the inspiration for much of Bram Stoker's "Dracula".

The harbour boasts loads of period architecture, dominated by the Abbey ruins atop the Southern cliffs.

Harbourside also has the Magpie fish and chip shop, famously known for producing "the best fish and chips in the UK."

It is also a place that Charles Dickens spent a considerable amount of time while at the height of his authoring.

Ghosts and ghost stories abound.  Haunted pubs, worm holes, the Bargest Black Dog and many other mysteries are revealed by guided ghost tours.  Some of them are excellent.

It is also the site of many scenes shot in the long-running TV series, "Heartbeat".

On weekends you might get to take a ride on a surviving Stanley Steamer.

There's plenty of accommodation and for those on a budget the Youth Hostel is just 28 pounds a night for members.  The hostel is in the old abbey stables, accesible by road or for those fit enough at the end of the 100 steps from the harbour.

 

 

 

 

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What the Dickens?

What the Dickens?

“Mr Chadband is a large yellow man with a fat smile, and a general appearance of having a good deal of train oil in his system.” (Bleak House by Charles Dickens)
 
In literature caricature is a description of a person using exaggeration of some characteristics or over simplification of others. Men do not have gargantuan noses or elephant ears, not do women possess bird faces and hourglass figures, but these description paint potent pictures in the mind.

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Cans, Cans and more Cans

Cans, Cans and more Cans

Shepparton Motor Museum has acquired an amazing beer can collection from a bloke in Albury. Graeme Balfour and Tiddy travelled to the Border District to collect some 3500 cans and shelving. they have spent the weekend mounting the pine shelves to make ready for launching the exhibit. They have mounted the shelves on the mezzanine level behind the motorcycle exhibit. Not a lot going on in this picture but you can see the new shelving in place ready for cans, cans, cans!!!

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Do Yourselves a Favour ... Watch Molly!

Do Yourselves a Favour ... Watch Molly!

The legend that is Ian “Molly” Meldrum and Count Down has been immortalised by Channel 7.  The irony is not lost on me, given the iconic Count Down program which shaped Australia’s embryonic music industry during the 1970s and 80s was born at the ABC (our taxpayer funded national broadcaster).

The drama which showed on Channel 7 last night, starring Samuel Johnson as Molly, was outstanding.  His depiction of the crazy, talented visionary that was Meldrum, is simply outstanding.  Johnson looks and sounds like Molly and carries the role with great gravitas.

Molly is based on Meldrum’s hit book The Never, Um ... Ever Ending Story, released last October, which was written with acclaimed journalist Jeff Jenkins.

For those of us who grew up with Count Down and Molly’s regular review segment can vividly remember the randomness of the one hour long live television every Sunday night.  From its beginnings it had become part of youth culture’s essential diet.  Rock, pop, disco ... you name it almost any professional act that wanted to “make it” in Australia needed Molly’s blessing to do so.

The show touched on Molly’s troubled childhood and even mentions him seeing the Queen as a child in Shepparton.  He also spent some time growing up in Kyabram, where his father had a hardware store.

The show starts with Molly preparing his outdoor Christmas decorations, leading to a near fatal fall from his badly placed ladder.  Rushed to emergency he lapses in and out of consciousness remebering his tumultuous rollercoaster ride to fame.

For me it was a wonderful trip down memory lane.  Seeing the “behind the scenes” storyline about stars like John Paul Young, Russell Morris, Sherbert, Split Enz and so many more was uplifting.  Was it really 30 to 40 years ago?  Indeed, it was.

And it became apparent that many of the acts that became household names would never have reached the giddy heights they did without Molly’s nod.  Those big names he influenced include ABBA, Kiss, Olivia Newton John, Little River Band, Madonna, Leo Sayer, Renee Gayer, Marcia Hines, Hush, The Ferrets, Supernaut ... the list is semingly endless.

The drama defines itself around Molly’s antics and confused sexuality and the ABC’s battle with its own standards.  Poor old Aunty ABC found herself with this crazy genius who held the highest ratings of any show on any network in their midst.  Tough for the men in brown suits trying to adhere to standards dictated to them by an Act of Government.

The second installment looks likely to be just as brilliant and I am looking forward to seeing the rest of the story.  They say that the gap between insanity and genius is, in fact, very narrow.  Molly absolutely fills that void.

Part Two is on Network 7, Sunday 14th from 8.30pm.

 

 

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Special Forces — a Netflix Gem

Special Forces — a Netflix Gem

For foreign film and war drama fans, Netflix has posted a gem called Special Forces

The movie is about a French journalist (played by Diane Kruger) who is investigating the war crimes committed by a local Taliban leader, who is then kidnapped by said Taliban leader, and must be rescued by a French special forces unit. The unit runs into a serious snag and abandons chopper evac and must escape on foot back to Coalition controlled Afghanistan.

This isn't your ordinary cliche action movie. There is something in this movie for everyone, especially the fans of foreign language films. If I had to compare this film to others I'd say this one have the feeling of Platoon, Tears of the Sun, and Seven Years in Tibet all rolled into one.

9/10 for Entertainment Value
7/10 for Tactical Accuracy
7/10 for Technical Accuracy

This is a soldiers' movie, for sure. Excellent!

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Alan Rickman Dies Hard at 69

Alan Rickman Dies Hard at 69

Alan Rickman, the British actor who played the brooding Professor Severus Snape in the "Harry Potter" films years after his film debut as the "Die Hard" villain Hans Gruber, has died after a short battle with cancer, a source familiar with his career said yesterday..

He was 69.

A smooth-voiced London native, Rickman worked on stage with the Royal Shakespeare Company and in UK television projects before earning his first film role: the German terrorist Gruber, opposite Bruce Willis' John McClane, in 1988's "Die Hard."

He had been in Hollywood only two days.

It ended up being one of film's more memorable villainous roles, but he told The Guardian in 2015 that he almost didn't take it.

"What the hell is this? I'm not doing an action movie," he said was his reaction after reading the script.

But, he said, the progressive storyline won him over.

"Every single black character in that film is positive and highly intelligent," he said. "So, 28 years ago, that's quite revolutionary, and quietly so."

Despite wide acclaim as an actor, Rickman never won an Oscar in a career that spanned parts of four decades. He did win a BAFTA Award for supporting actor in "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" and was nominated three other times, including for his roles in 1990's "Truly Madly Deeply" and "Sense and Sensibility" in 1995.

He won a Golden Globe in 1997 for best actor in the HBO biopic "Rasputin."

Rickman is probably best known to younger filmgoers as Snape, the antagonistic and bullying wizard who, in the end, plays a crucial role in the Potter saga.

He took the role in 2001's "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" without knowing much about the role.

"People thought I knew a lot, and I didn't," he said. "When I was asked to do it, there were only three books written."

But that changed over the course of the series, he told the Los Angeles Times in 2011.

"It was a punctuation mark in my life every year, because I would be doing other things but always come back to that, and I was always aware of my place in the story even as others around me were not," Rickman told the newspaper.

His presence was invaluable, "Potter" producer David Heyman told the LA Times.

He had a real understanding of the character, and now looking back, you can see there was always more going on there -- a look, an expression, a sentiment — that hint at what is to come," Heyman said. "The shadow that he casts in these films is a huge one, and the emotion he conveys is immeasurable."

Rickman fans still have a few more things to look forward to.

His film "Eye in the Sky," about drone warfare in Kenya, is set for a March release. He also did voice work for the upcoming "Alice Through the Looking Glass."

 

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The Last Kingdom — Netflix's Crowning Series

The Last Kingdom — Netflix's Crowning Series

Bernad Cornwall, author of the Sharpe Napoleonic Wars series, has penned this wonderful eight part first series called "The Last Kingdom".

It was first shown on ABC (America) and BBC 2 in 2015. Netflix Australia has the first series as a special offering for the New Year.

Set in the late ninth century AD, when what is known as England today was several separate kingdoms. The Anglo-Saxon lands are attacked and, in many instances, ruled by Danes.

The Kingdom of Wessex has been left standing alone.

The protagonist Uhtred, the orphaned son of a Saxon nobleman, is captured by viking Danes and reared as one of them. Forced to choose between a kingdom that shares his ancestry and the people of his upbringing, his loyalties are constantly tested.

Beautifully shot and a plot that cascades like a rollercoaster, this drama is of exceptional qualty and well worth watching.

Netflix (Australia) has sponsored some excellent content. The most obvious being the epic Marco Polo series and this.

The first series' storyline roughly covers the plot of the original two novels, The Last Kingdom and The Pale Horseman although condensed for the purposes of television.

A further series is planned for filming this year.

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Full Steam Ahead for Tornado

Full Steam Ahead for Tornado

The Brits love their nostalgia. In particular, they love steam trains. They have such an affinity with old steam locos that on any given weekend you can choose from up to 50 volunteer-run steam railways across the nation.

One of my most exciting experiences while visiting in Yorkshire was to see the 60163 Tornado in final stages of construction.

Funded and by a Trust made up of volunteers and supportive philanthropists, the project saw the birth of a class of train that had never before graced the railway lines of Britain. The Peppercorn Class Tornado, unlike the Flying Scotsman, never went into service as it was designed around the time diesel class trains were taking over.

The Darlington group, which started in 1990, raised millions of pounds to make their dream come true. And as the build of the steam engine was a "new" build rather than a restoration, they were able to introduce modern-world safety features like bigger, better brakes, better lights and larger water carrying capacity etc.

This meant that the train meets safety standards for running on the mainlines of the UK and sets her free of the limitations of preserved lines. No other steam train gets permitted to run on the main lines without a special permit. It also means the train can be wound up to its top speed, which is more than 100mph (160kmh).

This makes her faster than The Flying Scotsman and our Australian steam equivalent, 3801. Her mainline trips attract many thousands of trainspotters and has revitalised the entire steam enthusiasts culture.

The Darlington group has plans to develp, build and operate an improved Gresley class P2 Mikado steam loco.

There is no substitute for a the romance of steam.

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