Friday, February 24, 2017

Renshaw Runs and Starc Smashes to Start Series on Par

Day One in Pune probably went as well as could have been expected for Australia, and if you had asked most people at the start of the day would they have accepted a score line of 9/256 at stumps, they would have said yes. A number of talking points arose.

  1. Allan Border savaging Matthew Renshaw for retiring ‘ill’. It was harsh, and straight out of the old boys textbook, and certainly tough on Shaun Marsh who had to rush out to bat 15 minutes before lunch. But really, hard cheese. In this day of over burdening the ‘duty of care’ in the workplace, what did it matter? Border’s point was valid, but if Renshaw had been dismissed as a result of staying at the wicket, how would that have helped Australia’s cause? Move on.
  2. Renshaw’s brilliant knock. For all the talk before the series that he should not play, he proved to be the rock. I thought he was magnificent, and it took an unplayable ball to get him out too. In completely foreign conditions, he played as good an innings as you could wish to see. It wasn’t a century, but it was great viewing. Well played young man.
  3. The top order. Once again Dave Warner had done the hard work, and then hung his bat out to dry to play on. He’ll be dirty. Shaun Marsh got tangled up and bobbled the ball to leg slip. The jury is still out on his effectiveness. Peter Handscomb was dismissed in exactly the fashion that we all knew he would over there, LBW on the back foot. He looked good, but with his technique you would put money on him being dismissed in that fashion in every innings he plays in India. Then Steve Smith threw his wicket away, having grafted for over 90 deliveries. It was the same thing he did in Sri Lanka. Both he and Warner need to stop these types of dismissals repeating time and again if Australia is to be any chance on the sub-continent.
  4. Mitch Marsh and Matthew Wade. Both looked as bad as their recent form suggests. All at sea, with no real idea how to stop the onslaught that was coming at them. The fact that they have been retained in this team for so long now for no result means that they are stuck. Both are free flowing batsmen in other forms of the game, which suggests that they need to play their natural game in order to score runs. However, because there is now so much pressure on their positions in the team, if they get dismissed playing that way, they will be lambasted and the pressure intensifies even more. To be honest, I have no brief for either of them, but the only way for them to succeed now is to show positive intent at the crease against this attack on this wicket. Better to go down fighting than with a whimper. In the second innings they need to attack, get down the wicket, hit the ball hard, because if they bat like they did yesterday again, they will go just as meekly.
  5. Mitch Starc is the perfect example. There is no pressure on Starc to make runs because he is our opening bowler, so he can play the way he does best, with aggressive intent. When it comes off, like yesterday, he is applauded. When he fails, well, he’s just there for his bowling anyway. Marsh and Wade probably need to go in this direction if they are to save their careers and help Australia fight back.
  6. The pitch. When Ravi Shastri says at the toss “I have never seen a pitch like this in India” you know there is something wrong. Ashwin opened the bowling, and the other spinners weren’t far behind. Despite this, it was Umesh Yadav that finished with the best figures. It looks bad, but the positives are that it won’t get any better.
  7. Ashwin and Jadeja bowled well, but only finished with two wickets each. Australia showed they could be played, if you used your feet to go right forward or right back, and played straight, as Warner did against Ashwin at his most dangerous.
Everyone knew this was going to be Everest for Australia. Today will give a better indication of what the series holds. The batsmen showed promise without delivering the 400 the team needed as a first innings score. Now the bowlers must show they can restrict the Indian batting while getting the dismissals required to get through to the tail. Another fascinating day awaits.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S4 E10: No Time Like the Past

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S4 E10: No Time Like the Past

This episode which centres around the basic tenements of time travel, and the consequences built in, starts off fast and strong, and draws you in, but eventually ends with a whimper, yet another victim of trying to stretch an idea too far in the context of an episode.

I think the first fifteen minutes of the episode is as good as it gets on the Twilight Zone. A man goes back in time, trying to change the course of history in order to save those who died unnecessarily – firstly at Hiroshima, secondly in Nazi Germany, and thirdly on the Lusitania. On each occasion he is thwarted, and on his return to his own time it is the theory that ‘history cannot be changed’ that is sprouted. All well and good, and practical. He then goes back to 1881, to live his life out in a simpler time. Of course, the pall of history hangs over him even here, and he is forced to decide whether he must just allow events to take their course, or whether he is going to try and change them here as well.

These are all ideas I can get on board with – I like a good time travel science fiction story – but it peters out towards the end, which is disappointing. Still worth a watch though.

Rating: Just shoot Hitler already!! 4/5

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S4 E9: Printer's Devil

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S4 E9: Printer's Devil

There is nothing more enjoyable than watching Burgess Meredith chewing up the scenery, much like he chews on his cigar. He is - was - a fabulous actor, and no matter what role he is performing, he is eminently watchable.

Here in Printer's Devil, he appears from nowhere, ostensibly to help a failing newspaper as its linesman, and hopefully to make it a success again. Of course, somewhat magically, he appears to do so, charming its editor and his secretary/girlfriend. He is of course more than he seems - and doesn't he love it!

While the episode is enjoyable, once again it is just stretched too far, and it affects the way it is played out. Even Burgess Meredith can only hold the interest so long. The acting and characters are great, but a shorter episode would have made this much better.

Rating: And the Devil take the hindmost. 4/5

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Support Me in Relay For Life.

Rightio, so here's the deal. At 11.00pm on the Saturday night, February 25, 2017, of Relay for Life at Albion Park, they have a Ms Relay competition, where below average looking male type people like myself get dolled up in a dress and a clutch purse, and walk the track looking for donations. Apparently it's hilarious, but I tend to think otherwise.

Anyway, I'll make you a deal. If you donate to the link below, and I can get $250 donated to my page, I will enter this... competition... and will have pictures taken and posted online for all to see. Fair is fair. All it takes is 25 people to donate ten bucks each. Or 12 people to donate $20.25 each. And so on.

All donations will be gratefully accepted for this cause, of a disease that takes so much from us and leaves us with so little.

Thanks in advance.

Support me in Relay For Life.

Six and Seven the Keys to Aussies Indian Chances

It’s just over a week now until the Test series between India and Australia begins, and you would be hard pressed to find a single person who honestly believes that Australia has a snowball’s chance in hell of winning a single Test let alone the series. Nothing in the recent history of the cricket of either nation leads you to believe that anything can change that. 
In the 18 months since India played in Sri Lanka, they have played only one series away from home, a 2-0 victory in the West Indies. In that time they have played 17 Tests, winning 13 of them. They have been ruthless on home wickets prepared to exploit the relative strengths of their chosen players, and the disposal of New Zealand, England and Bangladesh has now led them to be at a peak for this coming series.
Australia on the other hand has more or less confirmed its flat track bully status at home, apart from being badly shown up by a more committed South African team in November, and also being completely obliterated in Sri Lanka by a team that has barely won a match since that series on overseas wickets. Concerns? Oh yes, yes indeed.

So how does Australia combat what is to come? How can they restrict the Indian batting line up to gettable totals, as well as finding 20 wickets in doing that? And how does our batting line up combat the threat that spin and reverse swing will throw at them on wearing wickets?
The selectors have almost shown their hand, in the selection of a number of players who they would consider to be all-rounders, of which precisely zero of them have shown they can be considered as such, which again raises a dangerous problem. In the Australian season, it appeared for a while that the ‘all-rounder’ position had finally been cast aside. Mitch Marsh simply was not scoring enough runs or taking enough wickets, and was moved aside in favour of a specialist batsman at number 6 in Nic Maddinson. Unfortunately for Maddinson he was unable to take his chance (a discussion that should be raised in a whole other argument about selection decisions), and with further concerns about the workload of Australia’s fast bowlers (yet another discussion point), the selectors fell back to their old viewpoint and decided to replace the specialist batsman with a different all-rounder in Hilton Cartwright. The folly of this was shown in Sydney, when the chosen all-rounder bowled a total of four overs for the match, and then wasn’t chosen for this tour. So how did he help the ‘overburdened’ bowling cartel? It seems strange that this discussion has not been further investigated.

In this touring squad, the selectors have resurrected Mitch Marsh and Glenn Maxwell, as well as budding all round candidate Ashton Agar, and given the selectors poor poker faces, it would appear one of them will be Australia’s number 6 come next Thursday. That is the first cause for concern, because it means that our selectors will once again risk weakening the middle order batting in an attempt to give the team another bowling option. The question is, does this help or hinder the team’s cause of winning on the sub-continent? Overall, Mitch Marsh was not terrible in Sri Lanka, but he made three starts with the bat without going on to a big score (not on his own there), and the overs he bowled and the very few wickets he took did not provide as much help to the bowling attack as may have been expected. No one expects a world beater every match with bat and ball. But if you bat at 6 surely you have to average 40 with the bat to be considered worthy of the position. Marsh isn’t doing that. Agar is still a work in practice, someone who may be worthy of that title in coming years. If he is chosen it is a gamble. Stranger yet, Coach Darren Lehmann said only a couple of months ago that you couldn’t pick someone in the Test team if they hadn’t score a century in two years – referring to Glenn Maxwell. And yet, he has now chosen him. X Factor? Z Factor I’d have said. Maxwell was not asked to bowl in the recent one day series in Australia, instead Travis Head was the go-to man. What does that say about his bowling, if the captain shows no confidence in it? Does that mean he is now a batsman, and a batsman alone? What on earth is going on here?

This article though is not to disparage those that have been selected and not selected, but to put together the best team we can with what is in India. No doubt the selectors will go with Mitch Marsh. It fits with their logic at the moment.

If it was me, I’d play brother Shaun Marsh at 6. Surely the top 5 must remain as to what finished the Australian summer – and that is even with the ridiculous notion that the selectors will dump young gun Matthew Renshaw for Marsh at the top of the order having just made a century in his last Test – and slotting Shaun Marsh in at 6 gives the batting some stability on paper. It means that only four frontline bowlers will be chosen, but it is what needs to be done. If Australia cannot score enough runs for the bowlers to bowl at, then it doesn’t matter how many bowlers you take in.

The bowlers pick themselves. Starc and Hazlewood will lead from the front, with Lyon and O’Keefe doing the donkey work. Starc bowled beautifully in the final two Tests in Sri Lanka, and something similar is what he will need in India. Hazlewood showed in Australia that he is improving his reverse swing, and that will be vital in India. And while no one would show complete confidence in our current spinners, they have the chance here to show that they are up to the task and can do this at the highest level in the toughest conditions. Mirroring their counterparts in Ashwin and Jadeja would be high on their agenda.

The series could well hang on Matthew Wade. Much has been said of his keeping and batting, in comparison to every other keeper in Australia. He cannot afford to miss any chance that comes his way, be it stumping or catch. Every missed chance will not only give the batsman a reprieve, it will add even more pressure to his own psyche. His batting will also be paramount. The selectors made it a priority that the keeper must score runs when they dropped Peter Nevill. If they are consistent, they must apply the same to Wade if he cannot manage to make a serious contribution with the bat in this series. If he has a clean series with the gloves and makes runs with the lower order, he will solidify his position in the Australian team. If he cannot, then he should be shown the same exit that Nevill was.

Australia are massive underdogs. Sometimes that can work in your favour. It would be a stunning turnaround if Australia managed to win the 1st Test, but you never know. If Warner and Smith can dominate, if Khawaja and Handscomb can find their feet, if Starc cracks the top order, and if Lyon and O’Keefe can spin webs, then maybe this isn’t the dead loss most of us believe it is. Whatever happens, it will be fascinating viewing.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S4 E8: Miniature

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S4 E8: Miniature

First off, I have to say that this episode was one of those in this series that felt really stretched, beyond what was necessary. What would probably have worked really well as a 24 minute episode had pieces here that were unnecessary to the story itself, and surely were only put in to make sure the episode made the requisite 48 minutes for airing in the hour-long slot that Series 4 occupied.

Apart from that, it is done well. An amazingly young Robert Duvall plays the lead, of the man who is unable to fit in to any place in his life, until one day he stumbles upon a dollhouse scene in the local museum, and he (and he alone) sees the figures inside moving as though they are alive, and he finds he falls in love with the lady of the house. This obviously causes everyone around him to believe he has lost his sanity. The subsequent scenes lead to a much more satisfying Twilight Zone twist than one may have imagined.

Rating: Boys shouldn’t play with dolls. 3.5/5

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S4 E7: Jess-Belle

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S4 E7: Jess-Belle

Yeah… this just doesn’t grab me in the slightest. It was a chore just to watch it all the way through again for this process I have been doing with all the episodes. And it’s only because I just don’t see it as such as a Twilight Zone episode. 
The story of unrequited love being reversed by means of magic, black or white, is not unusual in this series, but when this is almost a straight story without any ‘diversions’ into the Twilight Zone it lacks any drama. And the fact that none of the characters are particularly likeable doesn’t help much either. I mean, do you really care if the couple get back together in the end? Do you care if the girl’s bewitching powers end up succeeding?
The answer is a resounding no.

Rating: Which witch is which? 2/5

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S4 E6: Death Ship

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S4 E6: Death Ship

Back into a science fiction story with a mystery attached. I’ve probably mentioned it before, but I do like a science fiction story, especially one that has a conundrum which has to be solved.

As far as the story goes, for the most part it holds your attention and keeps you in suspense as to what is actually happening. Landing on a new planet in the search for inhabitable places for the human race to travel to, and finding your own spacecraft wrecked next to your landing site, and then finding your own dead bodies on board would be a touch unnerving. How to go about working out WHY it is there is then the difficult part.

While the thought processes of the crew throughout the episode meld together well, the ending seems to shortchange it all. Without Rod Serling’s monologue to end the episode, it would have been left completely ambiguous as to the crew’s fate. I felt that it could have been served better. Apart from that, I enjoyed it and the performances.

Rating: Just take off already! 4/5

Friday, February 3, 2017

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S4 E5: Mute

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S4 E5: Mute

I had my doubts that I was going to enjoy this episode from the opening, with the sets of parents seated around the table, discussing the experiment that they were going to begin with their own children, but I must admit that as the episode wore on I found myself coming to terms with it and accepting it for what it was. The concept of depriving a child all audible conversation in an attempt to increase the other telepathic abilities was interesting, and then to have this same child then thrown into the ‘real’ world and having to try and cope with that made for an interesting case study.

Did it all just fit together a bit too nicely though? The girl being found and taken home by the police chief, who with his wife had lost their only child to drowning, and then going to school, where her teacher had been taught the same telepathic ways before she had fought against it? Well yes, it was a bit convenient, but then again, this is what can happen it the depths of the Twilight Zone! 

At least in this story, everyone seems to have gotten what they want, and it is a happy ending. No twist, which is always a tad disappointing, but a nice enough story.

Rating: Read my thoughts. 3.5/5

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S4 E4: He's Alive

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S4 E4: He's Alive

What better way to highlight the state of the world in regards to fascism and other such activities than to utilise the Twilight Zone, to portray evil in this way as the face of the man who oversaw the death of millions? What I like most about this episode is that Adolf Hitler was brought right out into the light (literally) as the face of evil in this tale. There is no mucking around, here he is in the flesh. But is it really the man in the flesh? Is it truly Hitler himself? Or is it just the manifestation of the evil in the heart and mind of Peter Vollmer that is Hitler, and that he is merely imagining his presence? That is how well the episode is written and produced, that this question isn’t given a definitive answer, to left open to interpretation.

Dennis Hopper – a very young Dennis Hopper – is brilliant in the lead role in this episode. He moves wonderfully well between the angry ‘dictator’ to the scared, frightened small man that lives inside that cover. He made the whole episode believable because of his efforts. Ludwig Donath as Ernst Ganz was also terrific, especially his speech within the hall while Vollmer was engrossing the masses. I also found amusement in Howard Caine’s role as one of the ‘nazi’ henchmen, given his role later on as Major Hochstetter in Hogan’s Heroes.

This is yet another of Serling’s statements on the state of the world, and the evil amongst it. Once again he nails it perfectly.

Rating: "Mr. Vollmer! We ARE immortal!" 4/5.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S4 E3: Valley of the Shadow

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S4 E3: Valley of the Shadow

Peaceful Valley. Surely nothing unusual could ever occur in a place called Peaceful Valley, could it? It’s in the middle of nowhere, it’s a small place, nothing unusual about that. Well, as per always in Twilight Zone episodes or Stephen King stories, that’s not the truth.

Actually, the way the story pans out is terrific, and it is an excellently written episode, with Serling’s wonderful ability to weave a story about the human race and how power can corrupt paramount as to how the episode moves along. It is obvious early on that aliens are somehow tied up in the story, but it is not obvious in what way they are. The characters actions are so excellently written and performed that the motivation of each is difficult to pick right up to the very end, which is what makes the best Twilight Zone episodes.

Are there anomalies? Well yes,you could pick apart parts of the story if you wanted to – and you will at its conclusion – but it is an enjoyable journey before you come to that decision. And even once you have, you will return to this episode because in the long run it is a well written tome piece that still holds up and is still relevant more than fifty years after its first airing.

Rating:  The dog really should have eaten that cat.  5/5.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S4 E2: The Thirty Fathom Grave

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S4 E2: The Thirty Fathom Grave

Although it would have worked just as well in a 25 minute format, this episode does hold itself throughout the 50 minutes. The sprinkling of well-known faces, some who have made multiple appearances through the series, helps to keep the concentration on the episode.

I like the way the story pans out. Hearing the phantom knocking on the sonar, to moving above what appears to be a destroyed submarine works well. Obviously being the Twilight Zone, that banging could be anything. Surely not a man still alive some twenty years after the craft had been sunk, but… could it be?... and if not, what the hell is it? Then we have Commander Bell, who goes into sweating hysterics once the craft has been located. But why would he be so affected by the discovery of an old submarine?

The story is well crafted, and dealt with the care required to not only give away the ending too early, but also to help build the suspense along the way. Whether or not the ending is to your liking, it does at least give you that twist in deciding which way you like to believe what happened.

Rating:  Not a ghost of a chance.   4/5

Monday, January 30, 2017

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S4 E1: In His Image

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S4 E1: In His Image

Series 4 of The Twilight Zone was brought on as a mid-season replacement rather than a full season. To further complicate matters, each episode now ran to 50 minutes, making for longer stories and more room for them to be stretched. And in places, you can feel the episodes being stretched, to fill in that time, that in some cases would have worked better as a 25 minute episode. However…

In Thy Image works well in this universe, with Alan Talbot taking his fiancĂ© Jessica back to his hometown… where nothing is as he remembers it. People who he knew lived there are no longer there, and events that he has recollection of appear not to be in the timestream of the town itself.

While it might be a little slow in places, once the crux of the story comes to a head, the twist in the tail becomes apparent, and it is not until the final scene that the whole story resolves itself. While it may leave parts of the mystery without any real resolution or proper explanation, it at least finds its end in its own way.

Rating:  Oh to be the Creator.  3.5/5

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S3 E37: The Changing of the Guard

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S3 E37: The Changing of the Guard

Ahhhh... a Twilight Zone Christmas story. Well, perhaps once again this is a stretch to be a Twilight Zone story again, but it's a nice enough tale, and very sensitively and well acted by Donald Pleasance as Professor Ellis Fowler, a man who has been teaching for fifty years, and has just been informed that he has been effectively forced into retirement.
Fowler moves towards a very rushed and inevitable conclusion, but is moved away from this by the sound of the school bell ringing in the distance.

As much as I enjoy this episode, and the way it is written and performed, it is not one I truly consider to be a Twilight Zone. There is no real twist, the story lays itself out as you would expect. But that doesn't make it a bad episode by any stretch. I think Donald Pleasance is just fantastic here, and the mood of the episode is one that holds you in its stead throughout.

Rating:   A Christmas Carol.  4/5.

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S3 E36: Cavender Is Coming

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S3 E36: Cavender Is Coming

Apart from seeing a very young and demure Carol Burnett doing her stuff, alongside Jessie White as Cavender himself, there's not a lot exciting in this episode. The story of a guardian angel trying to earn his wings, on his final chance to do so, has every opportunity to make the most of the comedic talents of these two actors as well as telling a story that is both warm and humorous.

For me, it just doesn't succeed. It's 'nice' enough in its way, but it doesn't really tick the kind of boxes that I think a top shelf Twilight Zone episode has.

Rating:  Where's my guardian angel?  2.5/5

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Throwback Thursday: Dio's "Dream Evil"

Throwback Thursday.

In September of 1987 Dio released their long-awaited fourth album, and the first not to feature original guitarist Vivian Campbell.
It is another of those albums that heavily reminds me of my school days, in this case the finale of Year 12 and the Higher School Certificate.
It also reminds me of the school holidays that came before that, and my 18th birthday. I was on a family holiday in Coffs Harbour with my family and the families of my Dad’s two brothers, a week long sojourn that highlighted by almost everyone coming down with a 24 hour stomach bug which included vomiting and other such fun stuff. Dad was about the only survivor of this, with his technique of keeping his bodily fluids up throughout (ie a constant beer drinking regime) in order to stop the bug attacking him. Well played Dad. As I had bought the album the week before we went, I listened to it incessantly on this trip, and it always reminds me of that time (as does anytime I watch 'Three Amigos').

Moreso it brings back those fun days at the end of our school time in Year 12, and the HSC as well. I still remember vividly on the anointed ‘muck up’ night, where we gained entry into the school hall an spent the evening… playing up. At one stage during that evening, a group of us, which included Kearo, Dale, Bono, Joel, Brett Doney and Lewis Norman stood around singing (probably badly, but who was to know) this whole album out loud as it played through someone’s tape deck. This was followed by Kevin Pepper’s marvellous speech about the Australia Card, and the screaming of the cleaners when they arrived to witness the carnage at some stage early that morning. Great memories.

Dream Evil is a much maligned entry in the Dio catalogue. It may have dated somewhat since its release, but to me it still carries a punch with songs like “Dream Evil”, “Sunset Superman”, “All the Fools Sailed Away” and “Faces in the Window”. The great man’s vocals certainly don’t disappoint.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S3 E35

Season 3: Episode 35: I Sing the Body Electric

It’s hard to believe that this is the only episode that was written by Ray Bradbury given his standing in the science fiction world. I actually read his short story of this episode long before I ever saw it, and the episode here is a good one, though lacking the real depth of Bradbury’s descriptions.

What is easy about it is that it doesn’t have a time factor about it. Everything looks like it is set in the current day (circa 1962 of course) but with the technology available to build a robot that is in human form and has the ability to do and act as humans do. I like that aspect.

The story concept is simple, but it is also effective, and that’s what makes the best Twilight Zone episodes. It takes a believable concept, gives it a bit of a shake, and turns it into a watchable show without too much flesh being worked out. Perhaps it is a little schmaltzy at the end, but the right things have already been done to make it a worthy one.

Rating:  The perfect home appliance.  4/5

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S3 E34

Season 3: Episode 34: Young Man’s Fancy

I can openly admit that this is an episode of The Twilight Zone that should be avoided by anyone who is delving through the series for the first time. It has its place, and no doubt there are many out there who will enjoy it, but I find that it is terribly silly, and almost ridiculously out of joint with most of the stories.

Even for The Twilight Zone, it is a bit much to expect us to believe that a man who has gotten married just twenty minutes earlier can then come back to his dead mother’s house, only in order to finalise the sale and then head off on his honeymoon, will suddenly become entranced in the things of his past, and regress to a state of his nine year old self, as well as finding his mother there again to molly coddle him again. I mean… yeah… the degeneration to a child and the re-appearance of your dead mother is a bit of a Twilight Zone-ish tinge about it… but I don’t buy it as a viewer who is looking for more than that from this series. Add to the fact that none of the characters are likeable makes this a hard grind episode to dredge through.

Rating:  No sex in the past for you, pal!  1.5/5

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S3 E33

Season 3: Episode 33: The Dummy

I’m pretty sure that anyone who watches this episode will be able to predict the storyline from cover to cover. That’s not to the detriment of the episode, because it is acted well by Cliff Robertson as Jerry Etherson, the ventriloquist with his dummy Willie, who does seem to be more than just a stage act.

Perhaps the only downside of the storyline is that there are any number of opportunities for the character of Jerry to escape from the hell that surrounds him, not the least being just chop the crap out of Willie and burn him until there are nothing but ashes left. Of course, that’s not how the story is supposed to progress, but each time a chance to escape arises and it isn’t taken, the more frustrating it becomes for the viewer.

The final twist, what Rod Serling himself calls “the old switcheroo”, is a fair enough conclusion, but it seems to be a little rushed, and probably doesn’t do justice to the lead up.

Rating:  The start of a dummy ruling the world.  3.5/5

Monday, November 21, 2016

Throwback Thursday: Iron Maiden's 'Somewhere in Time'

When we come to this time of year, I almost always delve back into my CD collection, and drag out this album. Why? Well, because it reminds me of the late spring and early summer of 1986, when it was released. I was coming to the end of Year 11, and this album was the soundtrack of that era for me. It reminds me of the group of friends I had back then, a group that for the most part still survives today. We used to listen to this album incessantly – at our hangout at the back of the Year 12 common room, walking to and from double Games at the Sporting Complex, between classes, in classes, on the bus to and from school…

It was an album that captured that time of my life, and it never ceases to bring it all back to me when I listen to it, especially on muggy November days, which is how I remember those days back in 1986. The HSC had sort-of started for us, but it was still the end-of-year excitement and joy that I remember with this album. Back in the day when our youth allowed us not to care about anything in particular, except our own passions. The laughter of the antics at our hangout at school, and in subjects such as Ancient History with Russell Parkin. My obsession with cricket, playing at school, practicing after school, and playing all weekend. The love of discovering new music and sharing that around.

16, 17 and 18 were some fun years. A long time in the past now, but they still flood back when I put this album on. It’s funny how the subject matter of many of the songs, dealing with such elements as time, actually corresponds so heavily with my memories of this era, and that it has become timeless for me in so many ways. The memories that the whole album wouldn’t fit perfectly on one side of a 90 minute cassette, and either having to put it on a 60 minute cassette and add something to the end (which is what I did, putting the B-side tracks from the “Wasted Years” single on them, Adrian Smith’s “Reach Out” and the humorous “Sheriff of Huddersfield”) or cutting out a song. And the wonderful memory of walking to double games one day, and the question being floated as to which song on the album would you consider the one to leave off in such a predicament. When my answer of “Sea of Madness” came forth, I was ridiculed, and the answer that became folklore amongst us was that I “hated” “Sea of Madness” and that I had said it was the most reviled song of all time. Yeah, great. Thanks Kearo, Bono and Anthony, you can all get stuffed.

I just felt like writing this today, on a warm November morning as I listened to this album, reminding me so much of those late days of 1986 when that kinship with fellow classmates was possibly at its strongest, which grew through the next 12 months before we all parted on our life journeys, rarely to be seen together again. Melancholy and happiness rolled into one.