The 5 big pop culture moments I can’t wait for in 2013

Kalexanderson via photopin cc

 

It’s a tricky thing predicting the future.

H G Wells and Isaac Asimov, and reputedly even Nostradamus and The Bible have all taken a crack at it to varying degrees of success – and who exactly predicted we’d have flying cars by now? Yup that totally didn’t happen – but for the rest of us mere mortals it’s an inexact science with no guarantee of success.

Which is why detailing the five big pop culture moments that I think will make 2013 for me is a tad risky but giddy as I am with end of year expectation for an amazing year (in common with every New Year’s Eve mind you; I’m such a glass-half-full kind of guy) I am willing to take the plunge, nail my predictive colours to the walls, and yes mangle a few metaphors in the process.

So here are, in no particular order the nuggets of pop culture goodness I am most looking forward to in 2013, keeping in mind of course that in this big exciting world, they could all be swept aside by things I didn’t see coming.

And frankly that won’t worry me at all …

 

P!NK’s The Truth About Love tour

 

(image via fanpop.com)

 

I love this gutsy amazing lady.

She can sing like a diva, is refreshingly candid about life and all its many complications and joys, and isn’t afraid to be defiantly, delightfully herself in a world which bays for everyone to slavishly confirm to the same beige look.

And she is one of the most entertaining singers I have ever seen perform, holding the audience over a two plus hour concert in the palm of her hand from start to finish, and turning big cavernous stadium shows into intimate coffee shop shows (well, almost) by virtue of her warm, down to earth nature.

While like most performers, she probably has the songs picked out in advance and has the patter down pat (lovely alliteration), she goes to great lengths to inject some spontaneity and fun into proceedings, riffing off concertgoers with abandon, and gives you the impression she is having the time of her life.

And I suspect on some level she is.

 

(image via wikipedia)

 

You couldn’t possibly sustain a major tour like that – on her last tour of Australia in support of her Funhouse album in 2009, she did something like 58 shows and played to 660,000 people, making it the biggest tour in Australia’s history – without enjoying it to some extent.

Whatever it is she’s feeling on the night, she gives her fans the impression, and at the risk of sounding like a totally besotted fan boy I will repeat I am sure it’s genuine, that she is having the time of her life, and I don’t expect it to be any different when she tours next year in support of The Truth About Love.

WHEN DOES THIS HAPPEN? August 2013

 

 

THE RETURN OF THE WALKING DEAD 

 

(image via buyonlinefree.com)

 

If you had told me a scant six months ago that I would miss zombies stumbling about like drunk village idiots with vertigo chasing after a plucky band of flawed but likeable survivors  -with the exception of The Governor and Merle who frankly strain the idea of “likeability” to breaking point; unless of course you adore psychos – I would have laughed at you like you were infected with some sort of virus, done the sign of the cross, and run to hide under my blanket fort, which as we all know from childhood, keeps all the scary stuff at bay.

But here I am at the end of the year pining for the apocalypse.

Well not the actual apocalypse of course which I imagine would be far too cheesecake-deficient for my liking (not to mention the absence of iTunes and shopping on ebay).

But the end-of-the-world as featured on The Walking Dead, while violent, deadly and not the sort of place I want to spend any time at all in real life, has a certain seductive quality which frankly surprised me when I first began watching it.

 

“Please keep watching me! Please!” begs the less-than-attractive lady zombie. “OK sure,” I say “but please do not ever attempt to hug me. EVER” (image via geektyrant.com)

 

And it took a long time for my housemate to convince me.

Months and months of gentle and not-so-gentle cajoling led to me grudgingly watching the pilot episode, which was followed by increasingly less reluctant viewing of all subsequent episodes until I had watched them all, subscribed to all the show’s official and unofficial Twitter feeds and could discuss an episode like I had been watching it all my life.

And now I sit here typing away, wishing that season 3 would kick off tomorrow and not in February.

When it does I am expecting it to be every bit as good as season 3 has been to date.

The worlds of Woodbury, ruled over by a completely unhinged governor – losing your walker daughter to a big ass sword wielding Michonne will do that to a guy on the edge – and the prison – Rick is not off gaga bananas territory himself I’m afraid are going to collide and an even greater hell than already exists will rise to consume everyone.

(You can read a great article talking about the rest of season 3 here.)

And I will, of course, be sitting front and centre avidly watching every moment.

Who’da thunk it huh?

WHEN DOES THIS HAPPEN? February 13, 2013.

 

 

DR WHO’S 50TH ANNIVERSARY

 

(image via nerdapproved.com)

 

So the doctor is 50?

Why he doesn’t look a day over 30! (Matt Smith, the current doctor’s actual real age, by the way; yes I know far too much about this show.)

That’s the magic of regeneration, by which the doctor is able to reform his life energy into a brand new form whenever death threatens to claim him.

And so far he has escaped death a grand total of 10 times, which is a handy way of continuing the show every time the actor playing him decides it’s time to move on.

But it does pose tricky logistical issues for the 50th Anniversary since there’s an awful lot of people and footage to accommodate.

 

David Tennant is onboard for the anniversary special which warms my heart no end since he is my favourite doctor by far (image via tennantnews.blogspot.com)

 

But I have no idea they will find a way to fit every last juice morsel of Dr Who goodness into the 90 minute special, which according to the site nerdapproved.com, which in turn cites a quickly deleted post off blogtorwho.co.uk, will go something like this:

“… all eleven doctors will appear in the 90-minute episode, even the dead ones…somehow. Not only that, there are two scripts being prepared—one that prominently features Christopher Eccleston and one that doesn’t depending on how much he wants to be involved (keep in mind that Eccleston has historically been pretty adamant about wanting nothing more to do with the Who franchise).”

Frankly I don’t care.

Whatever form it takes, I know it’s going to be wonderful.

With a show this good, it would be hard to make a bad special really.

WHEN DOES THIS HAPPEN? April 2013.

 

 

 GREAT NORTH ROAD by PETER F. HAMILTON

 

 

I am an avid reader of science fiction.

I lap up book after book by writers like Michael Cobley, Kim Stanley Robinson and Kevin J. Anderson who take me off to the far flung reaches of space and time, wherein great interstellar civilisations, including myriad advanced versions of humanity, wage war, play politics, and change the destiny of whole galaxies in the short time it takes me to turn the page.

My favourite author by far though is one Peter F. Hamilton, a truly talented writer who is often lauded, and not simply by his PR people, as “Britain’s Number One Science Fiction Writer” (I am assuming this is because he writes brilliantly well, and not because he crossed the line first in a foot race between all the writers who showed up one day at Wembley Stadium).

His worlds, his breathtakingly expansive vision of the future, and the people who populate it are exquisitely realised, down to the smallest most intricate detail and you can’t help but be drawn into them and yes on occasion, wished you lived there.

 

(image via thewertzone.blogspot.com)

 

His latest expansive work, Great North Road, builds on the Commonwealth sagas that have gone before it (mighty efforts all) comes in at a whopping 1087 pages, and concerns the mysterious goings-on on the planet of St Libra whose bio-fuel “is the lifeblood of Earth’s economy”.

In fact, so important is it that it’s worth killing over, and naturally someone does, but who, and more to the point, why?

I have no doubt I will happily lose myself in it for as long as it takes to find out why, and while technically yes it was released late this year, I won’t have any time to read it till early January 2013 when I am on holidays.

WHEN DOES THIS HAPPEN? Supposedly soon.

(Memo to self: get an industrial-sized bookmark.)

 

ST. GEORGE OPEN AIR CINEMA

 

 

Held every year right on the Sydney Harbour foreshore at Mrs Macquarie’s chair, with sweeping views of the Harbour Bridge, The Sydney Opera House and the brightly lit neon beauty of the City skyline (which, have on occasion, successfully competed for my attention with the film being shown on the enormous screen in front of me), St George Open Air Cinema is one of my sacred rites of summer.

I invariably go at least three times during the season, which typically runs from early January through to mid-to-late February and shows a mix of recent releases and premieres – this year movies like Django Unchained and The Paperboy get their debut here – and fully partake of the summer movie-going vibe.

Yes it does rain occasionally, and I have watched one or two movies wrapped in a plastic poncho – with the right movie, it’s kind of romantically atmospheric; no really … seriously – but for the most part, it stays bright, sunny and gorgeous with views to die for stretching before you.

 

(image via dailyinspiration.nl)

 

This year, I have been the very paragon of self-control and restricted myself to just two visits (it can get a little expensive) during which I will be catching up on a movie I missed when it was in the cinema recently, the hilarious black comedy Seven Psychopaths, and a movie making it’s big splashy Sydney premier, I Give It a Year, which looks like it may just well be one of your better-than-average romantic comedies.

And if it’s not, well, there’s always the view … and the ice cream … and the wine … and oh, did I mention the view?

WHEN DOES THIS HAPPEN? January 18 and February 8, 2013

 

 

*What zeitgeist-infested events are exciting you in the year ahead? What can’t you wait to see/listen to/read/watch/immerse yourself in?

I have a bookworm for a pet: my 5 favourite books of 2012

Anna Fischer via photopin cc

 

I have loved reading books since I was a small child.

It was not uncommon for me to get through 70-80 books a year at school, and yes I even got certificates in front of the whole school assembly (which frankly wasn’t the aim of the exercise but it was nice to get the recognition; of course all it need was give the bullies even more ammunition to make my life miserable but hey that was going to happen anyway).

And while adulthood hasn’t proved as forgiving time-wise, I have kept buying physical books, and yes some e-books like they’re going out of fashion.

Of course reading them is a whole other story and I simply don’t get the time to read anywhere near as much as I’d like to.

But I did read some books this year and these are five books that really made an impact.

 

THE LONG EARTH by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

 

 

Multiple universes all stretching into infinity.

All very much the same and yet wildly different.

And all available to resource-hungry, crowded humanity to start anew.

The possibilities of this scenario are endless and Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter make the most of creating an engrossing imagination-gripping adventure that manage that rare feat of persuading me to postpone bedtime, repeatedly, to read “just a little bit more”.

Here’s my original review.

 

IS IT JUST ME? by Miranda Hart

 

 

She’s hilarious on her hit sitcom Miranda.

By all accounts just as funny and down-to-earth in real life.

And now she’s written a book and it’s damn near hilarious.

Taking the simple premise that we’re all well trained for the big questions in life – birth, death, marriage – and if we’re not we can educate ourselves, but woefully unprepared for those small awkward social situations no one ever schools for, she sets out to do her best to plug the holes in our knowledge.

And to side-slippingly funny comic effect.

Here’s my original review.

 

MR PENUMBRA’S 24 HOUR BOOKSTORE by Robin Sloan

 

 

The old (an ancient secret order who venerates the physical written word) meets the new Google, special effects and the ever-changing digital age) in this imaginative book about one guy’s quest to solve the mystery of the strange bookstore where he works.

As he does so, he ropes in his friends and eventually even his employer, who it turns out has different ideas on what should be done to solve the riddle to his superiors, and eventually criss crosses the country and back again in his pursuit of the “truth”.

The characters are delightful, the ideas intriguing and the adventure is never so brisk that there isn’t time for an important conversation or two.

This is a perfect summer read that won’t insult your intelligence.

Here’s my original review.

 

THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHTTIME by Mark Haddon

 

 

This is one of those books I have had on my bookshelf for years and wanted to read but never quite found the time.

Well I finally found that elusive time and what a joy to read it was.

Christopher, a boy who sits somewhere on the autism spectrum – though the author never specifically says he has autism; it’s just implied – sets out to find out who killed his neighbour’s dog and in the process sets in train a series of events that upends his family and exposes a lot of long held closely-guarded secrets.

It does have a happy ending and despite some traumatic events throughout a warm and happy tone to it thanks mainly to Christopher matter of fact perspectives on, well, just about everything.

It’s an enriching, entrancing read.

Here’s my original review.

 

THE PARTICULAR SADNESS OF LEMON CAKE by Aimee Bender

 

 

Poor Rose Edelstein.

Just turned up and suddenly cursed, or gifted, depending on your point of view with the ability to divine peoples’ emotions by eating the food they cook.

Traumatised by her new ability, she discovers that her outwardly happily, confident mother is instead deeply sad, and disappointed by life, totally unsettling her and causing her to question pretty much everything in a life that’s barely started.

As I noted in my original review though “it’s not all doom and icing-topped gloom. At it’s heart it’s a beautifully written book about how much goes unsaid between people and how the ability to pick up on these unremarked undercurrents can profoundly change the way you relate to the rest of the human race.”

If you want a book that deliver on its quirkily-titled premise, you’ll love the journey of Rose Edelstein and her unusual, life-changing ability.

* So which books have you (a) found the time to read and (b) really enjoyed … and why?

 

High on popcorn and candy: my 5 favourite movies of 2012

 

I am made of popcorn …

and choc-top ice creams …

and yes, big bags of brightly-coloured lollies (candy) …

At least that’s the way it feels given how much I spend at the local cinema, especially towards the end of the year and over the Christmas break, taking in all the amazing films that come my way.

I see so many in fact that picking just five of them as my favourite for the year seems almost like mission impossible (one of the rare times I can stomach Tom Cruise in a film) but I did manage to whittle down my long list plus two honourable mentions (otherwise known as cheating) so strap on your 3D glasses, fall face down in your tub of buttery popcorn, re-emerge and see what you think of my choices …

 

ARGO

 

(image via blogs.indiewire.com)

 

WHY I LIKE IT: A first rate political thriller with an intelligent script, beautiful attention to detail (with a willingness to suspend that attentiveness to the nitty gritty of historical accuracy in the interests of edge-of-your-seat storytelling, where necessary), and impressive performances from director/actor Ben Affleck, John Goodman and Alan Arkin, this is one movie where the heart and mind are well satisfied.

And by all accounts one for the Oscars next year too, with Argo in the lead pack for a Best Picture win come February 24, following in the footsteps of other acting and directing greats such as Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby), Mel Gibson (Braveheart) and Kevin Costner (Dances With Wolves).

You can read my full review of Argo here.

 

 

RUBY SPARKS

 

(image via tumblr.com)

 

WHY I LIKE IT: This clever indie take on the romantic comedy subverted the genre, daring to inject issues like self-will, manipulation, control and flawed romantic longings while at the same time keeping true to the idea of love as an all-conquering force.

It used the left-of-centre idea of a man’s ability to conjure his one true love into being just be writing her into existence and exposed the darkest and most true of human desires all at once while never losing sight of the one of the greatest drivers for any person … the need to be loved for who we are.

You can read my full review Ruby Sparks here.

 

 

THE AVENGERS

 

(image via theavengers2012-movie.com)

 

WHY I LIKE IT: It’s an intelligent fun-filled romp through the Marvel superhero universe with universally good performances by all the actors, a narrative that made sense and kept me engaged and a great balance of action and emo-moments.

And it kept me, a man who is not usually into watching superhero movies – with the rare exception of the similarly clever and robust Iron Man franchise and even Thor, which though a little more lightweight, was a hoot to watch (yes a hoot!) – thoroughly engaged from start to finish.

Thank you Joss Whedon for making superhero movies something that thrills the mind and the heart as well as the senses.

You can read my full review here.

 

 

MOONRISE KINGDOM

 

(image via awardsdaily.com)

 

WHY I LIKE IT: Its inventive, quirky, colourful, left-of-centre, character and witty dialogue rich, with an inventive premise, a fully-formed sense of its own circumstances, and I walked out of the cinema grinning from ear to ear telling anyone who would listen how great it was. (No, I was not arrested.)

While I had enjoyed Wes Anderson films in the past such as The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) and The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), they had appealed more because of their unusual approach to storytelling than anything else.

But Moonrise Kingdom had the lot in a gorgeously bright one-of-a-kind package and I frankly could have seen it again, almost straight away if I had had the time.

You can read my full review here.

 

 

BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD

 

(image via liveforfilms.com)

WHY I LIKE IT: It’s very rare these days that I find a movie that transports me so completely to another place and time that the four walls of the cinema cease to exist and I am living and breathing the action along with the characters on the screen.

Which is Beasts of the Southern Wild, which was an audacious mix of the searingly real and the trippingly fantastical was such a joy.

Yes what happens to six year old Hushpuppy, her daddy Wink and all the other residents of The Bathtub in Lousiana is heartbreakingly sad but the way with which Hushpuppy responds to it is a delight.

You can read my full review here.

 

 

Honourable mentions:

 

THE SESSIONS

 

(image via hollywood.com)

 

WHY I LIKE IT: Funny, poignant with characters that had actually had something worthwhile to say and kept you totally engaged while they said it.

It’s a reminder that just because someone doesn’t look “normal” (a horribly loaded term that is thrown about all too carelessly) doesn’t mean they don’t have the same needs and desires as everyone else.

 

 

NOT SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN

 

(image via cinematoria.com)

 

WHY I LIKE IT: Ryan Kwanten’s turn as a young man who suddenly discovers he has cancer and that the treatment is going to render him sterile thus setting a desperate race to father a child is one of the sweetest, most heartfelt movies I’ve seen in a while.

 

 

So what are your picks for the year’s best and why?

All hail the “Idiot box”: my top 5 favourite TV shows of 2012

 

I know.

You’re thinking to yourself how on earth did I choose just five – five I tell you! Just five – TV shows to be deemed the favourites in a year where you couldn’t move for high quality sitcoms and dramas?

How did I have the guts to go all Sophie’s Choice on this vast amount of brilliant television and not feel deep recoiling guilt that will haunt all my waking days and …

The answer … the answer dear readers is that I looked deep within myself and after wondering how I could possibly eat so many brownies in one sitting, I then considered carefully and with Tibetan monk-like calm, which shows I had actually looked forward to seeing, to the point where I would rush home to make sure they were safe on the PVR?

Once I was in that frame of mind, picking just five was marginally easier.

Just marginally.

And here they are …

 

THE WALKING DEAD

 

The Walking Dead (image via fanpop.com)

 

Right so you probably saw this choice coming a mile off.

(Unlike some of our hapless survivors who don’t see the zombie ambling behind them till it’s too late.)

It makes the list not simply because it is grade A drama that challenges, entertains and engages week after week, and not just due to its stellar cast and top notch direction, but also due to the fact that it is a show that went from can’t-watch-zombies-freak-me-out to must-see-TV in a matter of weeks once I finally watched an episode … and then three … and then them all.

As good an indication as any that it has totally got under my viewing skin is the fact that I am counting down the days till February 2013 when it starts again.

Trust me, though I follow and enjoy a lot of shows, that doesn’t often happen.

Even so, I don’t think I will having zombies over to dinner any time soon …

* Here’s a beautiful rendition of the show’s theme music from YouTube user, ShiftYoungAdults.

 

 

GRIMM / ONCE UPON A TIME

 

Once Upon a Time (collider.com)

 

Grimm (image via themortonreport.com)

 

OK I know.

I am cheating a little here but if I can’t bend the rules a little on my own blog, then where can I?

I have grouped these two excellent but wholly different shows together because they both take an imaginative postmodern take on fairytales and the mystical world that surrounds them.

I have become a real fan of shows that fold long held mystical beliefs and traditions into a modern narrative and these shows, along with others like Warehouse 13, do it exceptionally well.

Once Upon a Time, which centres on the town of Storyville which is, or rather was (things changed greatly at the end of season 1) populated by fairytale characters who have been transported from their magical kingdom to our more grim real world and robbed of their real memories by a curse did a wonderful this year – Australia has only just started season 2 so this is in reference to season 1 – of balancing their current lives with their far more exotic backstories.

It brought the fairytales alive for me in ways that still entranced and delighted as traditional tales but with a gritty robustness that comes from expertly marrying them to modern sensibilities.

Plus they simply told damn good stories!

 

 

Grimm is a completely different animal but no less watchable or cleverly put together.

This time the focus is on the story tellers, not the stories themselves, with the Brothers Grimm the ancestors of a noble line of warriors who have fought down through the stories to keep mankind safe from the “wessen” (creatures who can move between humans and animal physiologies with ease).

They weave in elements from the Brothers Grimm’s tales, which are far darker than Disney ever portrayed them, and add in an engaging hero Nick Burkhardt who discovers out of nowhere that he is part of the Grimm lineage.

While the news comes as a complete shock, it neatly dovetails with his professional role as a police detective, and so far the show’s creators have done a fine job of marrying the mystical with the police procedural to craft a television program that sits in a genre all its own.

It’s nice to have some magic back in my life …

 

 

NEW GIRL

 

New Girl (image via celebrity-oz.com)

 

I really liked this show from the word go.

I am real sucker for quirky, offbeat characters with some intelligence and backbone – total airheads aren’t fun to watch for too long let’s be honest – and Zooey Deschanel’s Jess is the perfect embodiment of someone who is trying to be different; they simply are and are totally comfortable with it.

But I didn’t truly fall in love with it, although there were signs of growing infatuation towards the end of season 1 when there were some brilliant episodes that perfectly balanced comedy and drama without compromising either, until season 2 when it truly came alive.

That’s happened with a few shows for me – Stargate SG1, Fringe – but it’s the first time I have seen a promising but inconsistent sitcom suddenly find its feet and blossom into a show that is consistently hilarious, heartfelt and profoundly well acted week after week.

I would happily live with Jess and the gang.

Yep I like them that much.

 

 

WEDDING BAND

Wedding Band (blog.zap2it.com)

 

A little hasty with this aren’t you?

To which I say (a) it’s odd that you’ve turned this blog post into some sort of weird chat room, feeling free to pepper me with questions as you please, and (b) no, not in the least.

It’s show I liked from the word go, and though we’re only two episodes in, I am glad I decide to add it to my crowded roster of shows, even though I was initially quite reluctant to do so.

The funny part was I voiced this reluctance on Twitter saying that while I’d heard it was wonderful and I really wanted to see it, I was tired and may give it a miss.

 

The guys from the Band – Harold Perrineau Jr (Stevie), Brian Austin Green (Tommy), Derek Miller (Barry) and Peter Cambor (Eddie) (image via midwesttvguy.com)

 

To my surprise, one of the stars of the show, Peter Cambor, who plays the married guitarist in the band, Eddie, tweeted back assuring me it was worth watching and I must watch it.

Now normally I’d dismiss that with something along the lines of “well he would say that wouldn’t he?” but there was something about the genuineness of his response and the fact that he answered me not once but twice – very few stars are that responsiveness of Twitter despite what you might have heard – that persuaded me to give it a go.

And I am very glad I did.

The scripts are witty and clever, the rapport between the cast, especially the four band members who are the emotional core of the show, palpable, and it’s not afraid to wear its heart on its sleeve which is refreshing since it must have been highly tempting to make them all cynical jaded musicians stuck playing in a wedding band and resentful they never got their big break.

But they love what they do, and consequently we love watching them do what they do.

Now all I have to do is persuade them to play at my wedding.

 

 

THE BIG BANG THEORY

 

The Big Bang Theory (image via fanpop.com)

 

I started watching The Big Bang Theory in 2009, when it was heading into its third season, largely because it was one of the best options on Air New Zealand’s inflight entertainment.

I had seen snatches of the show before that but oddly hadn’t been overly impressed with it, consigning to the almost-good-but-not-quite-there camp.

But somehow on that flight to Los Angeles where I consumed all the episodes they had on offer, which was about six if I recall, I fell in love with the four nerds who make up the nucleus of the show – since augmented by wives and girlfriends including Mayim Bialik as the very funny Amy Farrah Fowler – and haven’t looked back since.

What amuses me is that I ever thought the show was lightweight and not up to scratch.

It is actually one of the smartest sitcoms around at the moment with fully three dimensional characters who aren’t simply nerd cliches and the butt of everyone’s jokes.

 

A season 2 promo pic. It was one of the two seasons out on DVD in Canada that I snapped up after falling in love on a plane flight (image via bigbangtheory.wikia.com)

 

They are instead fully fleshed out people who are given a chance to realise the full extent of their personalities and as a result the show relies far less on obvious set up jokes and far more on humour flowing from highly believable interactions between the various characters.

That is a mark of intelligent comedy and likely what is keeping the show at the top of the ratings.

Currently in their sixth season, the show is going from strength to strength, and I heard cast members and even the show’s producers allude to the fact that they hope the show goes for at least ten years.

I fervently hope that that is the case.

 

 

“Thunderbirds” fall silent: goodbye Gerry Anderson

Thunderbirds (image via blastr.com)

 

Sad news today that Gerry Anderson, 83, legendary creator of Thunderbirds, died in his sleep overnight in the UK, after suffering from dementia for the last couple of years.

Using a process called “Supermarionation”, he was also responsible for groundbreaking shows like Captain Scarlett and Joe 90, as well as live action series like Space 1999 in the 1970s.

But it was Thunderbirds (first broadcast in 1965), with its memorable catchphrase, “Thunderbirds are go!”, that was his most famous, and much-loved show, and the one that has endured through the years.

The announcement of Gerry Anderson’s death came via his son Jamie’s website:

“I’m very sad to announce the death of my father, Thunderbirds creator, Gerry Anderson. He died peacefully in his sleep at midday today, having suffered with mixed dementia for the past few years. He was 83.”

 

Gerry Anderson (pictured in 2000) (image via zomboscloset.com)

 

You can read a full obituary of this talented, visionary man here.

The news struck me particularly hard because Thunderbirds was an integral part of my childhood, as was Space 1999.

I vividly remember spending summer holidays particularly at my grandparents’s home, first at Cronulla and then Noraville on the Central Coast, getting up before 6 am with my sister to watch Thunderbirds, a show that wasn’t ever shown on our local sole commercial TV station on the Far North Coast of NSW near Byron Bay.

I was utterly enraptured by the show.

I loved the characters, the great rescue adventures they used to go on  – the program centred on the secret International Rescue organisation run by ex-astronaut Jeff Tracy and his five sons, aided by the delightful Lady Penelope and her butler Parker (who Gerry declared in one interview was his favourite character) – and wonderful futuristic craft they used to carry out their missions.

 

My favourite Thunderbirds craft 2 (image via 54321thunderbirdsarego.blogspot.com)

 

It was obvious that the show’s creators, and at that stage, my knowledge of who Gerry Anderson was was thin on the ground to say the least, loved what they were creating and it came through in the attention to deal in every frame of every episode.

Space 1999 (1975-1977) was also a show that captured my imagination.

Set on the moon, which after a catastrophic accident in 1999, is sent hurtling out of Earth’s orbit and into the depths of space with the 311 inhabitants on Moonbase Alpha onboard.

It was imaginative, bringing these unwilling space travellers into contact with all manner of exotic alien life, who struggled to remain a cohesive force in the face of their unexpected journey into the unknown.

 

Space: 1999 (image via collider.com)

 

While I wasn’t aware of Gerry Anderson’s influence on my childhood at the time, as an adult I am profoundly grateful to a man of great vision and imagination who dared to create envelope-pushing TV shows that made my childhood a richer and more exciting place.

He will be greatly missed.

 

Get up and dance! Or not … My 5 favourite songs of 2012

emilybean via photopin cc

 

I love music.

That much would be clear when you check my blog which is littered – thoughtfully so I might add – with Sonic Bliss posts which group together my favourite songs for that particular point in time.

(Another tip-off may be my fervent declarations of love to my iPod on tumblr but hey that’s another issue entirely and one we best not speak of here.)

But they are just a very small sample of the hundreds of new songs I listen to in a given month.

The reason I stick to just five?

Partly time of course.

If I wrote about my 50 favourite songs of the week, I would never have time to write about anything else, and you would be driven, dear readers, to come after me (assuming you read the whole post which would be doubtful) and beat me with treble clefs, MP3 players and an old guitar once owned by Jimi Hendrix’s pool cleaner.

See? Not that pretty, and best avoided.

So here among the five songs, among the seething multitude, that were played again and again and again and … yeah you get the picture …

 

METRIC – “Youth Without Youth”

 

Metric (image via tumblr.com)

 

WHY I LIKE IT: It’s all rollicking punchy baselines and jangly guitars paired with an insistent melody (with a hook big enough to land a marlin) and the growling sexy vocals and yes exuberant vocals of Emily Haines who dares you to ignore her.

It drive and bounce and energetic momentum is the perfect addition to any commute, exercise session or frankly your entire life.

HERE’S WHAT BILLBOARD.COM HAD TO SAY (May 13, 2012):

“On Metric’s new single, ‘Youth Without Youth’, the Canadian electro-rock act embraces its anger with . . . a dance party. ‘Youth Without Youth’ fits in line with Metric’s MO — bold statements backed by synths and sweet female vocals -but this time, the subject matter is more political. Lyrically, frontwoman Emily Haines toys with powerful imagery, using phrases like ‘double dutch with a hand grenade’ and ‘rubber soul with a razor blade’ to describe a young life full of malaise and even criminality. Perhaps it’s fitting that a song about innocence lost and getting stomped on by the Man features a sleazy, sexy beat. Fans may feel bad about dancing along to these sentiments, but beyond the beat lies a simple riff and a high-pitched twinge of feedback, the repetition of which both inspires an eerie vibe and, more importantly, ties the music and lyrics together.”

 

 

ICONA POP – “I Love It”

 

Icona Pop (image via medleymag.com)

 

WHY I LIKE IT: Caroline Hjelt and Aiko Jawo, who make Swedish electropop duo, Icona Pop are not happy. They have been wronged by love gone wrong and are determined that the perpetrator of Cupid’s demise will not get away scott free.

So they channel all manner of deliciously appropriate revenge plans into a driving, and I mean seriously fast screaming-down-the-highway-in-a-Ferrari driving piece of perfect electronica that is all anthemic vocals, and enormously catchy melody.

I am in a very happy relationship that is quite likely to stand the test of time which is kind of pity in this one small teeny-weeny instance since this is the best breakup song ever.

Really. EVER.

WHAT I SAID IN SONIC BLISS #8 ON 15 MAY 2012:

“You want heart-poundingly powerful beats coupled with the most defiant of break up lyrics and want to dance yourself in the process? Then this song from Sweden’s immensely talented Icona Pop, which is made up of Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo, is your ticket to dancing over the grave of any and all broken relationships littering your past. (Even if you’re well over them; you can likely find some residue of resentment that will allow you to totally tap into the deliciously angry forcefulness of the song.)

It has attitude and then some which is married perfectly to a beat so all consuming and powerful you wonder just what an ex did to incite some hook-laden vitriol? Frankly I don’t care. All I know is that the song, written by the up-and-coming pop prodigy, Charli CXC, sweeps all before it with blinding passion and unstoppable force.

No word yet on when we can expect a full album from the Scandinavian twosome but if this song is any indication of what they’re capable of, then it’s a high likelihood you won’t see much of me when it is released. I will be the one with the headphones super glued to my head listening to this album on repeat. And repeat. And… you get the idea.”

 

 

HOT CHIP – “Motion Sickness”

 

Hot Chip (image via scoopempire.com)

 

WHY I LIKE IT: I know this will sound woefully twee and imprecise but it just makes me feel happy. I feel like breaking into a dance – though the unspoken laws of Sydney commuting preclude this happening on trains and buses upon pain of withering and condescending stares – and strapping on some Kangoo Jumps and and exultantly bouncing along every street in my neighbourhood over and over again.

It’s rare to find a dance song like this that still moves me to goose-bumping inducing dance almost a year after its release.

Yes, it is my Happy Song.

Everyone should have one.

HERE’S WHAT MUSICOMH.COM HAD TO SAY ABOUT THE SONG WHEN IT REVIEWED HOT CHIP’S ALBUM, IN OUR HEADS, ON 11 JUNE 2012:

“In Our Heads is Hot Chip’s strongest record to date. It kicks off with the colourful and vibrant Motion Sickness, with stabbing synths on the verse swelling towards an immersive and danceable chorus, as Taylor sings: ‘Remember when people thought the world was round?'”

 

 

BEAR IN HEAVEN – “Sinful Nature”

 

Bear in Heaven (image via drawuslines.com)

 

WHY I LIKE IT: This song is rich, luminously trippy electro pop with echoey far off vocals that seem to bounce off a 1000 walls before reaching your eardrums.

Listening to it feels like being transported to a far off place, removed from time and space, and has been played a lot just before bedtime or when I want to escape without leaving the room.

And again it has been looping continuously through my iPod like a burrowing rabbit on speed trying to find its way to the surface.

I will leave you to ponder what that means exactly.

HERE’S WHAT I SAID IN SONIC BLISS #1 ON 8 MARCH, 2012:

“Hailing from Brooklyn, this psychedelic rock/pop quartet pack a punch. But it’s a punch wrapped inside the most intense and seductive of melodies. This song in particular, which is the lead single from their forthcoming album, I Love You, Its Cool,  is gorgeous and I can’t stop listening to it.”

 

 

P!NK – “We Are What We Are”

 

P!NK (image via everguide.com.au)

 

WHY I LIKE IT: I am a huge, enduring fan of this feisty lady who tells it like it is, and has a huge amount of doing it.

This song kicks off her reasonably new album, The Truth About Love, and growls and struts in the fine spirit of all of P!nk’s anthemic rock songs.

The lyrics defiantly proclaim the sort of “f**k you” mentality that I heartily embrace these days (in the nicest way possible of course; there’s no point being a jerk about it) after a lifetime spent being ordered around by every Tom, Dick and Harriet in the church (for the uninformed, minister’s kids are regarded as public property by churchgoers).

I had high hopes for this new album and the moment “Are We All We Are” kicked off, I knew each and every one of those hopes were justified.

Plus it did wonders for my bedroom singing stylings.

You can read my full review of her album here.

 

 

Honourable mentions must go to …

 

KYARY PAMYU PAMYU – “PonPonPon”

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu “PonPonPon” (image via beautifuldecay.com)

 

This is my guilty pleasure.

Actually not guilty at all.

It has colour, kitsch fun and an unexpectedly insanely singable melody.

Cue oddly bouncy dancing.

You can read about my bizarre love affair with PopAsia here.

 

 

MNDR – “Draw the Curtain” / “UBCL”

 

MNDR (image via tumblr.com)

 

I bought her album on a whim one day because I liked the cover.

I had heard nothing about her or her music and did what I occasionally love to do, and just buy am album on hope and aesthetics alone.

It paid off big time!

Great electro pop, with darker overtones and an pulsating intelligence in every lyric.

Here’s to leaping off the zeitgeist cliff!

 

 

LANA DEL RAY – “BEL AIR”

 

Lana Del Ray (image via crazebase.com)

 

Pilloried at the start of the year and grudgingly lauded at the end.

Franjkly I don’t understand the leevl of vitriol she encountered.

She created a persona (like Madonna, Lady Gaga etc etc etc), reinventing herself in the process and went out to sell herself to the masses with a new sound.

Hardly a sin but you’d have thought she was clubbing kittens to death in her spare time.

It’s a pity because the new EP is superb and this song is hauntingly, gorgeously beautiful.

Here’s what I said in full about the new EP, Paradise.

* Behold an awesome wrap up of the year’s music from the Sydney Morning Herald. (You’re welcome.)

 

 

What are you favourite songs for the year and why? 

Merry Christmas to all … and to all a good night (of TV/music/cinema/reading)

(image via memegenerator.net)

Merry Christmas everyone!

I have had a wonderful year writing what feels like a million and one enthusiastic posts about pop culture and as I permit myself to relax a little (from blogging at least) while I race around the east coast of Australia visiting family for Christmas, I want to thank you for reading my blog and becoming pop culture partners-in-crime with me, and I hope you have the most wonderful Christmas possible spent with the people you love.

And that, of course, you find some time to read, watch, or listen to something special.

(After all, you can’t eat all day can you? Umm … )

 

(image via @nbccommunity (Twitter)

 

* And as a festive treat, I hope you enjoy this small animated treat from the hilarious Simon’s Cat, “Santa Claws” …

 

 

“Miranda” comes over all Christmassy: series 3 kicks off Boxing Day

Miranda Hart Christmas special 2012

 

Miranda is back people with a big, bold, funny Christmas special!

OK it’s on Boxing Day (9pm BBC One, UK) and it’s not so much a festive-themed episode as simply scheduled around Christmas but it does mean the return of Miranda and the gang absent Clive (James Holmes, for reasons unexplained).

It’s an episode, according to cultbox.com, that’s packed to the very hilarious rafters with all sorts of “shenanigans” (a favourite Miranda buzzword that should be repeated at least 3-4 times an episode, preferably with a gleeful smile) …

 

Is Christmas going to be cancelled? (image via tescomagazine.com)

 

Miranda’s shop goes under and she has to get a (short-lived) office job – featuring Jason Watkins from Being Human as a business manager – which features the sort of misunderstandings and pratfalls that are Miranda Hart’s very much loved stock-in-trade.

(I am imagining this will be side-splittingly funny indeed given her professed love of office work, as detailed in her book Is It Just Me?, and its possibilities for practical jokes and organised hilarity.)

Her friendship with Stevie, who was managing the shop, comes under great strain as a result.

She is still “friends” with Gary – seriously guys someone make a move! – and according to cultbox, is “accidentally featured in a local news report on obesity on television”.

This triggers some fun at Miranda’s expense, naturally.

“Stevie, played by the diminutive Sarah Hadland, goes all meta on us stating, “Of all the people to get on the telly, you! Really weird!” Cue knowing look to camera.”

 

Is it a busy episode? Why yes it is people! Plenty o’ shenanigans! (image via list.co.uk)

So phew!

Much busyness, and mirth-making all around and with the amount packed into the episode, it’s probably a good idea it’s on Boxing Day when we will be suitably relaxed after a no doubt, action-packed Christmas Day.

No word yet on when it will reach Australia but given the ABC’s track record, it shouldn’t take too long.

I should have hopefully crawled out of my Christmas pudding-induced coma by then.

 

 

On the 12th day of Christmas … I pondered the enduring popularity of “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens

“The Muppet Christmas Carol” is just one of the many productions that have been inspired by Dickens’ classic tale of redemption at Christmas (image via fanpop.com)

 

It would be a rare person indeed who hasn’t read, seen, or even listened to, a version of Charles Dickens’ classic novel A Christmas Carol, which has remained wildly popular ever since its publication on 19 December, 1943, and which shows no sign of slipping off the zeitgeist radar any time soon.

It’s enduring popularity can no doubt be attributed to a great many appealing factors – love of family, redemption, the shared celebration of an important event – but perhaps the most potent is that Dickens essentially redefined what Christmas means in a modern context.

The ghost of Christmas long gone
At the time of the novel’s publication, Britain had essentially stopped celebrating Christmas.

At least in the traditional sense.

Prior to the Cromwellian Revolt of the mid-seventeenth century, festive celebrations had taken place over a 12 day period called Yule, which mirrored the old pagan rituals of the Roman festival of Saturnalia.

But Cromwell, an intensely religious man, had put a stop to all this (and the monarchy, at least temporarily) and by the mid-nineteenth century many of the old Christmas practices, though vaguely remembered, weren’t observed any longer.

Christmas had become a drab and sombre affair with none of the flourishes we associate with modern observances, and despite the attempts of some writers to reacquaint people with the old traditions (The Book of Christmas by T. H. Hervey, 1837, and The Keeping of Christmas at Brucebridge Hall by Washington Irving, 1820), they failed to take hold anew.

 

Industrial England, though prosperous, was not a welcoming place with a great deal of social dislocation taking place. Many people concluded that you couldn’t celebrate properly Christmas far from family and friends but Dickens begged to differ (image via metrixcyber.blogspot.com)

 

The ghost of Christmas present
This was largely due to the fact that society had changed a great deal since Cromwell’s days.

The Industrial Revolution meant that many people had moved away from their extended families and church parishes, around which Christmas celebrations had been centred, to live in nuclear families in the big industrial centres like Manchester and Liverpool.

As far as these people were concerned, you couldn’t celebrate Christmas away from your home village, which dampened the appetite for festive observances of any kind.

But in A Christmas Carol, which featured the poor but spirited family of Bob Cratchit celebrating with no one but themselves, Dickens demonstrated that you could deviate from the old ways and still enter fully into the spirit of Christmas, something Bill Petro noted in his article  in A History of A Christmas Carol: A ghost story of Christmas:

“Dickens was one of the first to show his readers a new way of celebrating the old holiday in their modern lives. His Christmas celebrations of the Carol adapted the twelve-day manorial (Yule) feast to a one-day party any family could hold in their own urban home.”

Dickens was assisted in restoring a fulsome celebration of Christmas to British society by two main things.

Firstly a revival of carol singing – Wikipedia cites sources which note the publication of Davies Gilbert’s Some Ancient Christmas Carols (1822) and William B. Sandy’s Selection of Christmas Carols (among others) as being major influences in that regard – which re-introduced much of the festive musical canon back to people who had long forgotten it.

And secondly Queen Victoria’s marriage to Prince Albert of Germany, who had brought with him the northern European tradition of the Christmas tree which quickly became a must-have for Britain’s upper classes.

 

Charles Dickens (image via novelhouse.com)

 

The ghost of Dickens past
But it was Dickens’ Christmas stories, notes Richard Michael Kelly in his book A Christmas Carol (2003) – as well as the book that introduced Scrooge to the world, he also wrote four other Christmas books including The Chimes (1844) and The Cricket on the Hearth (1845) – that “resurrected ancient traditions and celebrated anew the earthy appetites that define human life.”

The book, which tells the story of Ebeneezer Scrooge, an astoundingly rich but miserable man who treats everyone he knows, especially his clerk Bob Cratchit, with contempt until he is visited by three ghosts on Christmas eve who force him to re-evaluate what matters to him in life, was informed by much of Dickens impoverished childhood.

He greatly resented being forced to leave school at the age of 12 to work in a factory after his father encountered financial difficulties and ended up in debtor’s prison, and it’s this resentment which fuelled much of the implied criticism of rampant commercialism and its social ill-effects that suffuses the book.

But it wasn’t just traumatic life influences that influenced Dickens.

He was also a firm believer in ghosts, fairies and the like, and participated in the revival of spiritualism which was all the rage on both of the Atlantic when he was writing the book.

This too made its way into A Christmas Carol and gave it the mystical otherworldly quality that still attracts people today.

The ghost of Christmas future (and our present)
in the end though I doubt even Dickens could have foreseen the impact his book, which was written in a hurry to make some much-needed money after his previous novel Martin Chuzzlewit had not done as well as expected, would have on people right around the world.

Nor the many and varied ways they would re-tell his story, beginning almost immediately after publication.

In his book The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits (2008), Les Standiford details the fact that three stage productions had opened by 5 February 1844, one of which, sanctioned by Dickens himself, ran for more than 40 nights.

These theatrical productions were quickly followed by many others throughout the rest of the century, while the book was also eagerly embraced by the emerging motion picture industry with the earliest surviving film Scrooge; or Marley’s Ghost (1901) being made by the British themselves.

And the pace has barely slowed since.

There have been countless television versions of the tale, an opera, a stage production which has been running in Raleigh, North Carolina’s Memorial Auditorium since 1974, radio plays and in a sign that you have truly captured the public’s imagination, parodies including Blackadder’s Christmas Carol (1988) starring Rowan Atkinson.

 

“Blackadder’s Christmas Carol” (1988), a parody by one of Britain’s foremost modern comedic talents, is one of the many homages to Dickens’ classic tale (image via catswire.blogspot.com)

 

The ghost of everlasting impact
All of these many re-tellings of A Christmas Carol across multiple media platforms speaks to the fact the message of Charles Dicken’s most famous book is a profoundly impactful one that continues to speak to successive generations.

People are drawn to the idea of redemption and a second chance and the idea that basic human values such as love and concern for your fellow man don’t have to be sacrificed in a ceaseless rush to modernity.

As Bill Petro notes in his article:

“Dickens demonstrates that even in poverty, the winter holiday can inspire good will and generosity toward one’s neighbors. He shows that the spirit of Christmas was not lost in the race to industrialize, but can live on in our modern world.”

It’s a powerful mesage and one I suspect we will hearing for quite some time to come.

Oh, and “God Bless Us, Every One!”

On the 11th day of Christmas … I found TV shows and movies I love rendered in LEGO

Irregular Shed via photopin cc

 

Let’s hear it for tenuous links to Christmas!

Yes I am basing the inclusion of the following highly imaginative recreations of TV shows and movies in LEGO on the fact that it is (a) Christmas and (b) it was at this very festive time that I was often given LEGO sets as a child and (c) I love television and movies (not a newsflash exactly; I mean look at the blog I am writing).

All very reasonable I would think and besides, they are so much fun!

And who doesn’t want to feel like a kid again at Christmas?

I think I have made my case.

So without further ado, I give you pop culture LEGO in all its glory …

TV

M*A*S*H as LEGO? Absolute gold! Ochre Jelly via photopin cc)

First up are 6 children’s TV shows represented, not by the newfangled LEGO figurines that have become icons all of their own, but by the basic single block pieces of old that I used to make my figures from.

This very imaginative use of these blocks is from an ad campaign from innovative German ad agency Jung von Matt who were profiled in March this year on one of the coolest sites on the ‘net, Laughing Squid.

They are meant to be readily identifiable but rather give you all the answers here, have some fun guessing and check if you’re right down at the bottom of the post.

 

(image from jvm.com via laughingsquid.com)

 

(image from jvm.com via laughingsquid.com)

 

(image from jvm.com via laughingsquid.com)

 

(image from jvm.com via laughingsquid.com)

 

(image from jvm.com via laughingsquid.com)

 

(image from jvm.com via laughingsquid.com)

 

MOVIES

 

A LEGO Wall*E? Yes please! Ѕolo via photopin cc

 

I could quite happily live in a cinema and watch movies all day long.

And, if I had the time, play with LEGO too.

So imagine my delight – go on imagine it! I’ll give you a few minutes – when I found the post 23 Famous Movie Scenes Recreated With Legos on a site called The Roosevelts.

They are painstakingly wonderful recreations of iconic movie scenes, all in LEGO, done by Alex Eylar who calls his brilliant creations “the Fruits of A Wasted Childhood”.

Time well wasted I would say.

 

Star Wars (image from Alex Eylar via rsvlts.com)

 

Inception (image from Alex Eylar via rsvlts.com)

 

Die Hard (image from Alex Eylar via rsvlts.com)

 

Bond, James Bond (image from Alex Eylar via rsvlts.com)

 

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (image from Alex Eylar via rsvlts.com)

 

American Beauty (image from Alex Eylar via rsvlts.com)

 

* TV ANSWERS: Ernie and Bert (Sesame Street), South Park, The Simpsons, The Smurfs, Donald Duck and Huey, Dewey and Louie, and The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

NOW … go make something of your own! I sure as hell as want to.