Olympic Thoughts: Stephanie Rice, Status Quo, Coles and McDonalds Glasses

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 31st July 2012.

According to the latest Olympic themed ad from a well known burger chain, their promotional glasses come alive at night and practice pole jumping. That might explain why my collection of glasses from the 2008 Beijing games have all accidentally met their maker on my kitchen floor in the past few months.

Writing of the Olympics, I was enjoying the live television coverage when I was confronted by a commercial informing me that Coles was the official supermarket for the Australian Team. Ah, exactly when during their time in London would the Aussie athletes be shopping at a Coles supermarket? Of course, they’d be buying their bread and permeate free milk at the same imaginary one in the UK that Dawn French and English rockers Status Quo buy their Vegemite and Tim Tams. Sorry, my mistake.

 

Earlier this month, Coles became the first supermarket chain to release their own music video. That’s right, Status Quo have recorded a 3 minute promotional video for their reworked (and reworded) 1975 hit Down Down. Complete with big red foam hands, the tongue in cheek (I hope) video is available to view on YouTube. Expect to see it on Rage sometime soon.

Whilst I would never deny anyone the opportunity to make a buck, it seems a shame that Coles hasn’t enlisted the help of a washed up Aussie band to promote their stores. I’m sure the world’s greatest INXS tribute band, known as INXS, would happily adapt their hits. Get out your big red hands folks and sing along with Need Milk Tonight and What You Need (is Cheap Bread).

It shouldn’t be too hard to find an Aussie band whose best days are behind them. Just follow the signs to A Day on the Green. Come to think of it, I’ll take Status Quo anytime rather than hear another second of Normie Rowe’s awful Coles TV commercial. It’s hard to put your fingers in your ears with big red foam hands.

 

I really felt sorry for Stephanie Rice after her disappointing performance in the 400m individual medley. The expectations of a nation must be a pretty heavy burden, especially when you’re a returning triple gold medallist. So much can happen in a space of four years.

The state of the art LCD TV I bought especially to watch the 2008 Beijing games has already been replaced by a bigger and better state of the art LCD TV. I rented a unit in 2008. Now I have a house and mortgage. Four years ago, it wasn’t possible to photograph yourself in a bikini and tweet it to the world, along with some inappropriate gaffes.

Seriously though, the idea that you can continue to maintain the fitness, discipline and training to be the best in the world again, despite becoming four years older, is ridiculous. This simple fact makes the achievements of dual gold medallists even more miraculous and amazing, and everyone else, well, human. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

 

Four years ago, I had to pay an extra $50 for the Olympic channels on pay TV. This time around, I just had to add the Sports Package for $18 which gets me 8 channels in HD. Thanks Foxtel. Now I can feel less guilty when I lose interest in the Olympics after a couple of days and go back to watching cartoons.

Farewell Whitney, Dr House… Hello Steve Winwood

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 14th February 2012.

This past weekend brought the news of Whitney Houston’s untimely passing. When Michael Jackson died on June 25 2009, the pay TV music stations ceased their regular programming and switched to non-stop Jackson videos. This did not happen with Houston. I’m not particularly surprised. Although arguably as big in the late eighties as The King of Pop, Houston’s days as a viable creative or commercial act were long behind her.

I only own one Whitney Houston CD. I bought it in 1987 with the money I had saved from collecting aluminium cans. I lost interest soon after. In Whitney, that is, not in collecting cans for money. Most of her fans from the eighties probably did the same.

It is always sad when drugs claim a life, regardless of whether they were famous. In Whitney’s case, it is such a waste. The knockout voice had departed but she had real potential for a comeback as an actress. Although I don’t care for the film or Kevin Costner, Houston was showed charisma in The Bodyguard.

 

Why is it that every time I go to the new supermarket, they are playing Steve Winwood’s 1986 hit Higher Love? I hadn’t heard it for years, and then in the space of a few days, twice I’ve found myself singing along as I wander the aisles. They’ve obviously done their research. Somewhere in the world, lab technicians in white coats are testing the effects of Huey Lewis on the shopping habits of rats. Well, the Winwood certainly made me increase my expenditure. Unfortunately for the supermarket, I just bought my usual stuff and then went home to order a copy of Steve Winwood’s greatest hits CD online.

 

Fox announced the cancellation of House last week. After eight seasons, this current one will be the last. As far as I’m concerned, the show had flatlined years ago. Recent ratings would suggest that most people agree with me. There is no doubt that the acerbic Gregory House will go down as one of the great TV doctors of all time, brought to life by the brilliant Hugh Laurie (although someone should have taught him to hold his walking stick in the correct hand).

Although it initially made for fascinating viewing, House was very formulaic. If you were one of Doctor House’s patients, you might want to get another physician. You are guaranteed to get a little better, then much worse, then a little better, then much, much worse, whilst House’s team of medicos misdiagnose you over and over again on a clear perspex whiteboard. Eventually, you’ll survive but only after lots of convulsing.

As ratings began to slide, the producers and writers resorted to more outlandish and silly storylines. Dr House goes to the mental asylum. He finally gets together with Cuddy but they hit turbulence which results in House driving his car into her, er, house. He goes to goal and jumps over a shark whilst waterskiing.

If there are two things I’ve learnt from watching TV, it’s to leave town when Jessica Fletcher arrives, because someone is going to die, and to avoid being admitted to Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital (House) or Seattle Grace Mercy West Hospital (Grey’s Anatomy). The medical staff are incompetent or way too distracted with each other to keep you alive. Try Eastman Medical Center and ask for Doogie Howser, M.D.

My Christmas Shopping Survival Guide

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This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 20th December 2011.

I’ve had some very reliable information that Christmas is coming soon. Apparently, tradition dictates that you purchase gifts for everyone you know. To avoid meltdown, follow my thirteen simple instructions to survive the silly season.

  1. There’s nothing wrong with gift vouchers. If you have concerns that the recipient will know how much you spent on them, leave the price tags on all your other gifts so no-one feels left out.
  2. Your family and friends will love receiving gift vouchers for specialty stores in towns hundreds of kilometres away. Not only do they get to choose their own present, they get to have a holiday too.
  3. Avoid the temptation of singing along with the in-store music in department stores. They’ve done their research and found that it causes excessive spending on lab rats. Take your own music. I recommend a little Lou Reed to keep your Christmas generosity away.
  4. Don’t agonise on choosing presents that perfectly match the likes and interests of the recipient. Just buy them anything. That’s what your loved ones have done for you. How else do you explain the Jack Vidgen and Susan Boyle CDs you’ll get this year?
  5. A great choice for a present is a mobile phone. Nothing says I love you like a monthly financial burden for the next two years.
  6. Got a geek in your life? Pick up the Star Wars blu-ray collection for them. The high definition transfer is so detailed that the once magical alien worlds, characters and spaceships are reduced to what they really were: cheap sets, costumes and plastic models. You’ll spoil Star Wars for them and they’ll be a more interesting person for it afterwards.
  7. Don’t get upset that the shop clerk is slowly talking you through using the EFTPOS machine, even though you’ve already used one twenty times today already. With the stress of Christmas, you probably look a little tired, plus you’ve just tried to pay for your shopping with your Medicare card.
  8. Concerned about whether your friends and family might not share the winnings from the Scratchies you bought them? Try scratching them before you pop them in the card to avoid any potential conflicts.
  9. Do you have to buy a $10 Kris Kringle gift for someone at work you barely know? Postage stamps are a practical present that they probably won’t love but they definitely will use.

10. Trust me. No-one wants a digital photo frame for Christmas. They are this year’s equivalent of underwear and socks.

11. Buy your loved one two tickets to a concert that you really want to see and they are so-so about. You are almost guaranteed that they will take you, plus they’ll probably drive you too.

12. Glee is so last year. By purchasing one of their two hundred soundtrack CDs, you are supporting them to destroy popular music, one song at a time.

13. A pet is for life, not just for Christmas. Don’t buy anyone an animal, unless it is honey glazed or slow roasted.

On behalf of me, myself and Irene, have a satisfactory Christmas and eat cherries until you puke. I’ll be back next week with the best films and TV of the year.

Published in: on December 20, 2011 at 09:07  Leave a Comment  
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I hate Christmas shopping

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 30th November 2010.

It’s a big shame that Christmas falls at such a busy time of the year. Moving it to a quieter month would give me much more time to do my shopping.

I was in a fancy candle shop this past weekend, purchasing a Christmas tree shaped candle. Don’t ask me why. I suppose I’ll be able to experience the spirit of Christmas next time there’s a blackout. Anyhow, the shop assistant approaches me and asks if she can help. I ask her if she’ll do my Christmas shopping. She looks unimpressed, although not nearly as unimpressed as when she took my EFTPOS card and asks what account I would like it on, and I replied, “Yours.”

It was during this shopping trip I realised that with so little time left until the big day and with so many presents to buy, plus the fact that I hate present shopping, I should come up with a plan to purchase as many gifts as possible in one transaction.

I didn’t last much longer in the candle shop. Giving someone you love a Christmas themed candle on December 25 is pretty much a gift for the year after, much like giving someone a Christmas album. You also need to consider that no matter how beautiful a fancy candle may be, once it has be used, it will look exactly the same as every ordinary candle. Coincidentally, I’ve been told that after too much beer and turkey at Christmas time, and no exercise, my body resembles a melted candle, but that’s a different story.

Why not give everyone a calendar? They’re practical and unlike Bieber fever, will last a whole year. The problem is too much choice. There seems to be more calendar themes than there are people to buy them. Is there really a market for that,” Black Cats Looking Rather Startled and Slightly to the Left of the Camera” calendar? And I object to paying full price for something that will be heavily discounted eight days later, on January 2.

Gift vouchers can be awkward. Not only does the recipient know how much, or how little, you have spent on them, but it also indicates a lack of trust. “Here, instead of giving you money to buy whatever you want wherever you want, I’m going to force you to buy something in the store of my choosing, and you only have six months to do it or you miss out. Merry Christmas.”

Those charity cards are a great idea, but not necessarily a great gift to receive. Basically, you give somebody a card that says that you have bought a goat for someone in Africa. They’re a worthy concept, but a complete non-event in terms of Christmas excitement. I tried them on my family a few years ago and they were not impressed. I’m pretty sure the only way they could have been more unimpressed was if I actually bought them a goat each.

With Christmas ever looming, I decided that my only course of action was to bite the bullet and set myself a challenge. I went on one shopping trip to one store with two hours to buy all of my presents. I picked one of those big chain bookstores that also stocks movies, music and giftware. Two hours, one transaction and five shopping bags later, I was out the door and Christmas shopping 2010 was done.

So this Christmas time, why not save time and effort by purchasing all of your gifts at the one time with as little thought as possible? That way, you can spend your time enjoying the finer things in life, like relaxing by the pool, watching the cricket and laughing at people who still haven’t started their Christmas shopping.

Published in: on December 19, 2010 at 20:15  Leave a Comment  
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The Joys of Christmas

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 7th December 2010.

Don’t you just love December? Who doesn’t look forward to the warm dry summer weather, cicadas buzzing from every tree, cherries for sale on street corners and Australia dominating at the cricket? OK, so only the cicadas have eventuated this year so far but December also brings with it several other seasonal traditions, all of which I could definitely live without, namely bad television, Christmas music and movies.

Last year I wrote about some of the worst Christmas albums ever. They truly are a money grabbing exercise from our friends at the multinational record companies. What is the point of an album that is only useful for a few weeks a year? You know that it is all about the money when Kate Cerebrano releases a Christmas album. I didn’t realise that Scientologists celebrated Christmas. Maybe Xenu and Jesus have the same birthday.

There’s nothing that inspires me more when I’m doing my compulsory Christmas present shopping than some upbeat festive tunes piped into the shops. That is, inspires me to rip all of my hair out and stick hatpins into my ears. There are Christmas decorations everywhere. Santa hats and stupid t-shirts abound to reinforce the fact that it is Christmas. I do not need Mariah Carey screeching her way through All I Want for Christmas Is You to remind me that it is December.

How do retail staff stay sane with Christmas tunes on constant rotation all day? Surely this breaches occupational health and safety regulations? It must be even worst with those elf ears on. Imagine hearing Paul McCartney’s Wonderful Christmastime all day through gigantic super sensitive ears. I’d certainly frequent a shopping centre that uses the marketing ploy of “We know it’s Christmas, so do you, let’s not speak of it again, carry on as usual.”

December is also the time when the TV ratings people take some time off, leaving us to watch repeats, “summer editions” and all those shows that were axed after a couple of episodes in the US. Thank goodness for pay TV. How else would I get my fix of umpteen episodes of The Simpsons each day? Actually, the festive break is a good time to break out the DVD box sets and catch up on all of those shows I didn’t have time to watch during the year.

It is such a shame that the Cops LAC box set has been indefinitely postponed, due to lack of interest. I was really looking forward to reliving Kate Ritchie trying to be a hardnosed cop. Actually, I was looking forward to reliving Kate Ritchie trying to act. Poor Kate, even the Brady Bunch Variety Hour got a DVD release!

Christmas movies are another December inevitability. Personally, I like to watch movies to escape from reality. When I’m panicking about shopping, cooking and seeing my family, the last thing I want to do is see a Christmas movie about people panicking about shopping, cooking and seeing their families.

I’ve made a list and checked it twice. These Christmas movies are terrible.

1. Jingle All The Way (1996): Arnie struggles to find a Turboman doll for his son, and with the English language.

2. The Santa Clause 1, 2 and 3 (1994 – 2006): A trilogy? The Lord of the Rings and old school Star Wars deserve to be called trilogies. This should be known as a “we-accidentally-made-three-of-them-ogy.”

3. Christmas with the Kranks (2004): What is it about Tim Allen and bad Christmas movies? Unbelievably, this was written by John Grisham. Yes, that John Grisham.

So this December, bring on the warm weather. Actually, forget the heat. I just want it to stop raining. You’ll find me away from the shopping centre and television, enjoying the sun with my friends, being deafened by cicadas and eating cherries until I puke. I love Christmas.

Published in: on December 19, 2010 at 20:12  Leave a Comment  
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Charity begins in the home (and in the shopping mall)

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 9th November 2010.

They say that charity begins in the home. In my case, that would be at around seven on a weekday evening just as I am about to sit down for dinner. The phone rings and it’s an annoying charity telemarketer. I’ve developed a tactic to avoid these calls. Usually there is a delay between the moment you pick up the phone and the salesperson at the other end speaking. That is because a computer randomly picks you and your number from a marketing list or the phone book, calls you and when you answer, it then connects you to a salesperson.

My unproven theory is that by hanging up during the delay, you get to avoid a long sales pitch but the computer still records you as a successful call connection with the telemarketer. So far, this tactic has worked well for me, with the exception of a few times when my mum was a little slow off the mark and I hung up on her. If a call does manage to get through, the promised two minute sales pitch is inevitably a twenty five minute one. I have taken great delight in allowing the telemarketer to give me his or her full length spiel about children in Africa with Bieber fever before calmly telling them that I wasn’t interested. For those short of time, dismissing them at the very beginning of the call works too. However, if the telemarketer gets to start their speech, it is pretty hard to cut in as I’m certain that their script is deliberately written to have no gaps. In that case, try snoring sounds or faking the engaged tone.

Those charity people in shopping centres annoy me too. I really don’t mind someone collecting money for a good cause, but these bubbly and friendly kids don’t want your cash, they want your bank details. They’re not working for the charity as volunteers either. For the life of your monthly payments, someone must be getting a commission. I’d rather my charity dollar go directly to a needy cause. Supporting backpackers is not a needy cause.

If you get a chance, watch the area where the charity folk are spruiking from afar. It is amazing how far shoppers will go out of their way to avoid them. Whether it is pretending to check out that really interesting walking frame in that window over there, or simply taking the scenic route, just as Darwin predicted, we’ve all naturally evolved to evade predators.

Have you noticed how they try to draw you in by saying something quirky to you as you pass, usually about your clothes? Last week I got, “Hello, Mr red shoes, baggy pants, fancy jacket and messy hair.” I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt. Perhaps Bozo the Clown was walking behind me.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big supporter of charities and the work that they do. I just strongly feel that I should approach them to assist and not the other way around. Once I’ve shown interest in a charity, then sure, bombard me with information and requests for money but at least the initial contact wasn’t unsolicited.

If my call is going to be used for training purposes, then I trust that your trainer will use this recording to teach you the importance of not interrupting me when I’m trying to enjoy a meal with my family or friends.

Published in: on November 9, 2010 at 07:38  Leave a Comment  
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