Sunday, July 31, 2016

31 Days of Scotch: Day 31

Different Rules for Watson and Maxwell?

Let me say up front that, as a Cricket Tragic, I have no brief for Glenn Maxwell. I believe he is overrated, and despite his obvious talent with the bat, until he gets rid of these trick shots he plays he cannot be a cricketer at the highest level. When you see him play his on drive along the ground to the boundary, or play the pull shot, you can see what he has. But he just doesn't respect his wicket enough.

Having said that, is it not complete hypocrisy of our National Selection Panel to give Maxwell the flick in this way, when it held on to Shane Watson for YEARS when he did nothing?!? I realise that this is largely a different panel to the one who held on to Watson for so many years when he failed to deliver on any level, but was always held on to because of his "talent" as an "all rounder" and his "ability" to "win games" on his own. Sound familiar in regards as to what is said about Maxwell?

I applaud the NSP for recognising that he needs to work harder to gain his place. But given the number of chances that Watson was handed in the previous five to seven years with form similar to Maxwell's, it does smack of hypocrisy.

One would also wonder how James Faulkner and Matthew Wade hold their places in this team, and Travis Head, who was given one opportunity in the West Indies, is now on the outer.

Retro Round Brings Commentary Back to the Fore

The real pleasure of watching the league this afternoon was not the game itself. To be honest, with the way both of these teams have performed this season, I would under most circumstances not even have bothered to check out the Manly vs Newcastle match at all, and most certainly if I had had to watch it with the usual commentary team on Channel 9 I would have given it the flick.

But it's Retro Round, and Fox Sports, who are this season allowed to show every game live, have brought back some old friends from the 1980's and 1990's. Graeme Hughes was the caller of the game, with Steve Roach his expert in the box and Wayne Pearce of the sideline. And it was great. The commentary was not trying to create an atmosphere, it was informative and accurate. There was no hysterics, and there was no Phil Gould pontificating over every ruling or pissing in the pocket of every play that might be touched by a genius ten years in the future. It was entertaining just because it was old school and not trying to be something that it wasn't.

Congratulations to Fox Sports, you made the league watchable again, even when the game was a blow out. Now, get Graeme Hughes back on a full time basis please!

Jimmy Smith showing off his wardrobe

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

31 Days of Scotch: Day 26

The Cure: Is This the Greatest Concert Ever?

The title is not a faecetious question. It is one that is posed when taking into account that my style of musical taste is predominatntly that of the heavy metal genre. And I have seen all of the greats of that genre too. Iron Maiden, Metallica, Megadeth, Black Sabbath, Dio, Helloween, Ozzy Osbourne, Gamma Ray, and that's just to name a few. I have seen them all at their peak, and I have seen them all in their glory. So the question I pose not only comes from the background of what I normally listen to, but also from having seen a hundred different bands and artists in a multitude of venues, big and small. It is a question that deserves an answer.

Last night I journeyed to Homebush in western Sydney to Qudos Bank Arena (and yes this has changed its name a million times over the years) to see The Cure. My wonderful wife Helen has been a fan of the band forever, and she infused in me an appreciation if not a love for their music. I have rarely in my life chosen to put on an album of The Cure, but whenever it has been put on by others I have always enjoyed it. Disintegration and Wish have always been my favourite two albums, but my enjoyment of their music isn't limited to those albums. I have always wanted to see them live, to see what they would be like, and Helen had always seemed to miss them when they toured Australia. On this occasion we both managed to be on the same page.
There was no support act, it was all The Cure. They came on stage at 8.10pm, and put on a display that I have some trouble explaining just how good it was. The band was just amazing, truly amazing. The rhythm section of drummer Jason Cooper and bass guitarist Simon Gallup drove the night along. Jason's drumming was perpetual motion, rolling along his drum kit like liquid, not missing a beat and keeping the whole band in check. The guttural distortion on Simon's bass guitar reverberated throughout the arena, even in the songs where you would not necessarily notice that instrument. It kept that bottom end solid. Keyboardist Roger O'Donnell was unobtrusive and effective, while guitarist Reeves Gabrels was terrific, with a lot of technical stuff that may have gone unnoticed by those keeping their attention firmly on the main man, but he was very impressive.
Trying to not sound obvious and overly gushing about Robert Smith is somewhat impossible. His voice remains positively awesome after all these years. His guitaring throughout remained terrific, but it is his vocals that are extraordinary. They soar, literally soar, when necessary, and as the face and voice of the band he is still doing an amazing job.

It is a different style of concert from anything I have ever been to before. The majority of the bands that i see are energetic, jumping around the stage, trying to pump up the crowd and get them involved and rollicking. With The Cure, there is minimal movement by the players throughout. Simon walked around the stage most of the time, but the others held their ground, happy to be where they were and play their instruments as they were expected. But they didn't need to. The show itself was amazing. The light show was like none that I had experienced before, and the screens behind the band, that changed for each song and the mood of each song, was brilliantly done.

And the show itself? Well, the band came on at 8.10pm, and finished at 11.20pm. That's right, over three hours of music, 36 of their greatest songs in all. What impressed me most about this, apart from the technically brilliant way the band played, and kept faithful to each song while giving each its live performance, was that there was no pause between songs, no talking or interaction with the crowd that wasn't the music, no agenda to put forth. Robert spoke three times during the night, for a total of about thirty words. It was all about the music, and it was just magnificent.
The crowd loved it. From the slow writhing of bodies during "Let's Go to Bed", to the unadultered joy of "Friday I'm in Love", "Just Like Heaven" and "The Lovecats", they had them in the palms of their hands. All of their hits were played, and just about every song you could consider was there.
I was blown away by some of the live versions of songs. "Pictures of You" swam in to the start of the night so wonderfully well, and was the first real intoxication with Robert vocals. "A Night Like This" was just amazing, and was a high point for me. With no sax to be found, this came as close to a rock song as this band could play, and the exchange of horn for guitar worked brilliantly. This was followed by "All I Want" which continued in this vein. "Primary" conatined all the energy that was to be expected. "Just Like Heaven" and "Disintegration" and "Fascination Street" were all that could have been hoped for. "Burn" was another that was a highlight for me, it sounded terrific. The final closure of "Close to Me", "Why Can't I Be You" and "Boys Don't Cry" was the wonderful final punctuation mark on what was an unbelievable concert experience. The final scene, where an obviously emotionally moved Robert Smith uttered those words "We'll see you again", were received by the fans by raising the roof in appreciation.

So what is the answer to my initial question? As I said earlier, I have seen a lot of my heroes and a lot of great gigs. Last night's performance was the equal of anything I have seen. I truly hope that I get the chance to see them again in the future.

Set List

1. Plainsong
2. Pictures of You
3. Closedown
4. High
5. A Night Like This
6. All I Want
7. Push
8. In Between Days
9. Primary
10. Like Cockatoos
11. The End of the World
12. Lovesong
13. Just Like Heaven
14. From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea
15. Want
16. The Hungry Ghost
17. One Hundred Years
18. Disintegration

19. It Can Never Be the Same
20. Burn
21. A Forest

Encore 2:
22. Shake Dog Shake
23. Fascination Street
24. Never Enough
25. Wrong Number

Encore 3:
26. Lullaby
27. Hot Hot Hot!!!
28. Let's Go to Bed
29. Sleep When I'm Dead
30. Friday I'm in Love

Encore 4:
31. The Lovecats
32. The Caterpillar
33. The Walk
34. Close to Me
35. Why Can't I Be You?
36. Boys Don't Cry

Friday, July 22, 2016

31 Days fo Scotch: Day 22

Stephen King: The Shining pp. 47-78

By the time Part One of The Shining has reached its conclusion, we have firmly established the pattern of behaviour that the Torrance family has been operating under for the past few years, and where the mindset of each family member is at as they prepare to head for the Overlook Hotel for the winter season.

Jack is still dealing in secrecy, having made a special trip to the store in order to use the payphone to call his old friend Al Shockley, who not only got him the caretakers job at the Overlook, but was his partner in crime in going sober at the drop of a hat. It is during this section that we finally discover the reasons why their drinking stopped cold turkey, and that it coincided almost perfectly with Wendy's desire to talk about their future, or lack thereof.

“Danny said he dreamed you had a car accident,” she said abruptly. “He has funny dreams sometimes. He said it this morning, when I got him dressed. Did you, Jack? Did you have an accident?”

“Something had changed him. She didn’t believe it was just her getting ready to ask for a divorce that had done it. Something had happened before that morning. Something that had happened while she slept uneasily. Al Shockley said that nothing had happened, nothing at all, but he had averted his eyes when he said it, and if you believed faculty gossip, Al had also climbed aboard the fabled wagon.
"Did Daddy have an accident?"

That Jack had stayed sober is how the glue held firm on the marriage, and the relationship between husband and wife appeared healed for the moment. But Danny and his strange powers could still feel something below the surface, something that wasn't quite right.
More than this though was the dreams he was having, dreams of a house with large hallways, and of him being chased down those hallways by a madman, someone who wanted to hurt him. His were the final thoughts of Part One, and set up what is yet to occur.

"Danny… Danneee… 

"He started at the sound of that familiar voice and craned out the window, his small hands on the sill. With the sound of Tony’s voice the whole night seemed to have come silently and secretly alive, whispering even when the wind quieted again and the leaves were still and the shadows had stopped moving. He thought he saw a darker shadow standing by the bus stop a block down, but it was hard to tell if it was a real thing or an eye-trick. 

"Don’t go, Danny.."

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

31 Days of Scotch: Day 20

Stephen King: The Shining pp. 1-46

It's amazing, the vast amount of information that comes at you in the first 46 pages of The Shining about the individuals and the family unit that makes up the Torrance family. All three members of this clan, father Jack, mother Wendy and five year old Danny, are quickly and thoroughly summarised for the reader as the story moves ahead without delay.

Jack is being debriefed for a new job, a caretaker role at a hotel, something far removed from the teaching and writing roles he has performed in the past. But that is in the past, due firstly to a major drinking problem, and then due to an anger problem. Combine those two together and you would have some serious issues one would have thought. And such is the case. The family unit has seen better times, and has come close on occasions to breaking up because of Jack's issues, and his mistake in taking it out on his infant son.

Wendy is at home, a home she is obviously unhappy with, and a life she has become concerned about. Her husband has had his down times, and though she may not be exactly enamoured with the job he is seeking, she knows it is better than no job at all. But can this all survive in their current state? Doubts remain.

Danny is waiting for his father to return, and we are privy to the fact that he has a surprisingly fertile ability, one that may not be completely developed at his tender age, but one that is there nonetheless. That he can know how others are feeling, especially his parents, and often what they are thinking, makes for interesting times ahead. His 'imaginary' friend Tony has already shown his head, and would appear to have a role to play as the story moves ahead.

This initial stanza does a great job of backgrounding the story and the characters that we will become intimated with. If there is one thing Stephen King can do, it is set up a story with enough information such that we learn a lot without being overly bombarded. The first passages here have given the reader enough to be intrigued as to what is to come, as well as come to their own conclusions as to how these relationships will survive the test of what is to come. Indeed, the final paragraph of this section of the book sums up the atmosphere.

"Everything was all right. Daddy was home. Mommy was loving him. There were no bad things. And not everything Tony showed him always happened.
But fear had settled around his heart, deep and dreadful, around his heart and around that indecipherable word he had seen in his spirit’s mirror."

Monday, July 18, 2016

31 Days of Scotch: Day 18

Stephen King Book #3: The Shining

Book #3. The Shining. First published January 28, 1977.

I've got a confession to make. The Shining is one of Stephen King's most fabled books. The story of Jack Torrance and his son Danny is one that that has echoed through the years, some would say more notoriously for the Stanley Kubrick film that tears the narrative apart and is often referred to by fans, and King himself, as a stand-alone story that has little to do with his original vision. I have to admit here that I really have no idea, because... well... I have never finished reading The Shining from cover to cover. Oh, I've tried a number of times. I have on at least five occasions picked up the book, started reading, and having got about a hundred pages in I lose interest, and move on to other things. I even 'cheated' on another occasion, and just went to the last forty pages and read them, so I actually knew how it finished without having to try and go through the whole reading of it again.

The question I often ask myself, and which you are probably asking me now, is firstly, why have I had such a problem with the book, and secondly, if I've had that problem on so many occasions, why would I try and do it again? The answer to the first question is most likely a combination of the way the family of Jack, Wendy and Danny are so dysfunctional, of the difficulty they facing in remaining as one unit, and the obvious tragedy that is about to happen up there in the snow. It is a difficult start to the book, one that no doubt comes from King's heart, and the nature of storyline is lain bare for the reader. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that you know this isn't going to end well, and that this three person family is going to be mightily fractured by its conclusion. A lot of King's books have these storylines running through them, but my difficulty in closing the deal seems to hit a roadblock each time I try to push on through. The answer to the second part of that question is the reason I am doing this at all. I want to have read all of King's works, and by moving through chronologically, and reviewing as I go, I can't really back out can I? Thus this should ensure that I break my duck here with The Shining, and, for better or for worse, I should know the full story of the Torrance family's winter from hell by the end.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

31 Days of Scotch: Day 13

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S3 E25

Season 3:  Episode 25:  The Fugitive

The best Twilight Zone episodes tend to lead you in one direction, having you believe that this must be the way the story is heading... before it completely flips you around, and you realise that what you believed to be true was in fact something completely unrelated. This episode does this excellently, as you watch all of the local kids cavorting with Old Ben, an elderly gent who appears to be quite proficient in magic, or some type of magic. Not only does he easily hit a baseball for a loooong home run, he is then able to easily change into an alien, and then back again. This appears harmless enough, but we soon discover there are two men in suits who are desperately trying to find him, and one can only wonder why, and what he may have done or who he might be that makes him so interesting to these characters.

The episode plays out interestingly and with surprises along the way, and the several pieces to the conclusion of the story all fit together quite nicely in the end.

Rating:  Kings and queens.   5/5.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

31 Days of Scotch: Day 12

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S3 E24

Season 3:  Episode 24:  To Serve Man

This has always been a Twilight Zone classic, as much for the eventual twist conclusion as for any other part of the episode. I must admit it always tickled my funny bone in this regard. But there are those moments that annoy me through the course of the telling of the tale. The major one has always been the deciphering of the book that the aliens have brought with them to Earth. Firstly, that the aliens allowed this book to be taken by the humans in the first place. OK, so they probably didn't think anything would come of it, but why take the chance? Secondly, as was actually said by the character of Michael Chambers within the episode, how did they expect to be able to decipher an alien language quickly when it took so many years to break Japanese and German codes during the war? Seriously, in a matter of weeks this was accomplished, and pretty much most of it by one person by the looks. Anyway...

Apart from this, the episode winds its way to its conclusion, and our protagonist finds himself in a tight spot at the end. For first timers, this episode ticks all the boxes that the best Twilight Zone episodes can achieve. And Richard Kiel is the only man who could have played these parts so effectively.

Rating:   Flying on a rocket ship.   5/5.

90's Music Challenge: Day 5

90's Music Challenge. 7 songs in 7 days that define the 1990's for me. Day 5.

With their previous album "Insanity & Genius" a slight disappointment, I remember coming home from Utopia with this album, "Land of the Free" as part of my purchases. The first thing I noticed was that Kai Hansen had taken over the vocals as well as the guitar, reviving memories of the first Helloween album.

The first track of the album was a lengthy one, over 8 and a half minutes. It set the scene for the story of this concept album, and it also marked the beginning of the halcyon period for this brilliant band.

Song #5 is "Rebellion in Dreamland" by Gamma Ray.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S3 E23

Season 3:   Episode 23:   The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank

Welcome back to Roscoe P. Coltrane - sorry, James Best - for his second episode of the series. Here he plays the title role of Jeff Myrtlebank, who rather conveniently (or inconveniently depending on your point of view) 'returns' to life from his coffin at his own funeral. After some drastic convincing on his own part, given that his family and friends had all seen that he had not breathed for over two days, he is accepted back into their arms, and returns to his life. But things are different, and he acts in ways that were not of his normal dial before his 'return from the grave'. Those around him begin to believe he has been possessed by a demon, and now they must decide what they are going to do about it.

This is a fun episode, watching the swaying nature of the community and even his own family, and indeed trying to work out for yourself whether Jeff died and came back, or was in a coma, or if he is now possessed, or just WHAT may have happened. Whether the conclusion is predictable or not, it gives you food for thought for twenty five minutes.

Rating:  Roses of death.  3.5/5.

31 Days of Scotch: Day 11

90's Music Challenge: Day 4

90's Music Challenge. 7 songs in 7 days that define the 1990's for me. Day 4.

After four quite brilliant albums, the band W.A.S.P. had some personnel problems, not the least being the forsaking of longtime guitarist Chris Holmes. Despite this, their new album in 1992 "The Crimson Idol" was a rock opera, a concept album that drew on the experiences and emotions of band leader Blackie Lawless to create 60+ minutes of majesty, and an album that spanned genres and theatre itself. Of all the brilliant songs that piece together here to make the story, the crowning glory was the song that describes Jonathon's record producer, Chainsaw Charlie. Combining brutal drumming, brilliant riffing and magnificent vocals, this song is as awesome today as it was on its release.

Song #4 is "Chainsaw Charlie (Murders in the New Morgue" by W.A.S.P.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S3 E22

Season 3:  Episode 22:  A Piano in the House

To be honest, once I dissected the plot of this story, I thought it wasn't a bad storyline to base an episode around. Having an old piano that played many different tunes, and having those tunes affect different people in different ways, such that they revealed parts of themselves that they kept hidden and secret, was an interesting enough premise. So why did I come away from this episode once again with the feeling that it hadn't fulfilled its potential? 
The times that I have seen it seem to leave me feeling the same things - those being that I would take any opportunity to gaze upon Joan Hackett in her heyday, and that there seems to be so little negative reaction by those who have been exposed to this piano and forced to recall things they did not wish to that it hardly seems believable. Their actions, let alone the piano that does this. Certainly the conclusion was predictable, but just a fraction over the top from what I would have received as well.

In the long run, a good idea that for me doesn't come to as good a conclusion as I imagine it should have.

Rating:  Roll out the barrel.  /5.

31 Days of Scotch: Day 10

Friday, July 8, 2016

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S3 E21: Kick the Can

Season 3:  Episode 21:  Kick the Can

If I had seen this episode in the past, I must admit I had only very vague recollection of it. The story I knew very well, because it was remade for the Twilight Zone - The Movie back in 1982, starring Scatman Crothers in a role and storyline that was tweaked just a little from this story. The central role of Charles Whitley is played by Ernest Truex, who appeared in the first season episode "What You Need", and once again he does an excellent job in the role of the elderly man who is looking for an alternative to his old age, a chance to revisit his youth and not waste away in the home he has been placed. His friend and room mate, played by Russell Collins, tries his best to keep his obviously frazzled friend from going down the course he is headed. 

The conclusion of the episode is handled well, and leaves the fate of all involved somewhat up in the air. Probably the remake for the movie in 1982 ties up the loose ends in a better way, and gives more closure to the episode than this original.

Rating:  Olly olly oxenbury.  4/5.

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S3 E20: Showdown With Rance McGrew

Season 3:  Episode 20:  Showdown with Rance McGrew

Now, I can appreciate the humour that this was written and performed with, and it is one of those episodes of the Twilight Zone that allows that that to come through in the performance and not try to dilute it. And this is well acted in this respect by both Larry Blyden and Arch Johnson in their roles of Rance McGrew and Jesse James. 

So why does this not stick with me as one of the top echelon of the series? I guess because in the long run it sticks with this formula too long. The cross-over to the past, and the real Jesse James works well enough. What he has to say in trying to instruct the actor or the real person is fine. But the return to the present, to the movie in progress, and the appearance of Jesse James in the present, alive and kicking, and now creating changes himself... well, the storyline just went a bit far in the kooky direction for me.

Rating:  Watch the mirror.  3/5.

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S3 E19: The Hunt

Season 3:  Episode 19:  The Hunt

Another story that acts as more of a tome piece than a journey to the Twilight Zone, though it is reasonably effective. When old mate and his dog go on a hunt, but then 'fall asleep' and don't return home until the morning, what they discover is not that they have returned, but that they have in fact died that previous evening. As the episode progresses - and the pace is slow and sure, which tends to drain most of the intrigue from it, the pair move along the countryside until they meet first a man at a gate, which professes to be the entrance to the Elysian Fields, but won't let dogs come in! That proves to be a problem for someone so attached to his pet, and so he continues on instead. That was probably a good move in the end.

The episode works fine as it is, but it is slow, and a bit hokey when it comes to dealing with the different parts of the story. Perhaps that worked well in 1962. I feel it is a bit dated here 50+ years on.

Rating: Smell the brimstone. 3/5

31 Days of Scotch: Day 8

90's Music Challenge: Day 3

90's Music Challenge. 7 songs in 7 days that define the 1990's for me. Day 3.

In January 1999 I was on holidays in Kiama, and was sucked in to playing cricket for Kiama C.C. by Steve Holz. On the trip to Oakleigh Park (where else do I ever seem to play) Steve put a CD on and said "Guess who this is!" The ridiculous opening riff threw me, until the vocals started, and I knew who it was. Having avoided Bruce Dickinson since the Balls to Picasso album, I had missed that he was back in a big way, with Roy Z and Adrian Smith on guitars, and putting out an album that was, in itself, a majestic effort. "The Chemical Wedding" is a masterpiece album that almost slipped by without me noticing. Like yesterday's album, this sits comfortably within my favourite 20 albums of all time.

Song #3 is "Book of Thel" by Bruce Dickinson.

Today I nominate Dale Clark to get off his bloody motorcycles and see if he can come up with a list of 7 songs from the 90's that can compare to my own gems.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

31 Days of Scotch: Day 7

A photo posted by @westkiama on

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S3 E18

Season 3:  Episode 18:  Dead Man's Shoes

I must admit I had early reservations about this story line, of a man killed by a mobster who has his personality transferred into a homeless man on the street when he steals his shoes and puts them on. But the part of the homeless man, Nate Bledsoe, who transforms into Dane, is played so well by Warren Stevens that it makes the episode extremely watchable. He is able to make you believe that he is both of these men, and the way he especially plays the scene in his bedroom, where he changes personality as to whether he has the shoes on or off, is excellent.
All in all, this was a pleasant surprise, a simple story told well, but especially acted well.

Rating:  4/5

90's Music Challenge: Day 2

90's Music Challenge. 7 songs in 7 days that define the 1990's for me. Day 2.

At Easter 1995, the Alternative Nation festival was held at Eastern Creek. It was a mudbath. Wet, quicksand-like mud, food and drink lines an hours wait. Probably wouldn't have it any other way. I saw a lot of good bands that day.

There was one in particular I wanted to see. I had seen their poster on the wall of Steve Buscemi and Adam Sandler's room in the movie "Airheads", a band called Therapy? (Yes, with the question mark at the end). So at about three o'clock my mate Joel and I crawled our way up to the top end stage, and awaited their set.

The song they started with was this one, which is the opening track on their ridiculously brilliant album "Troublegum". To say it was a brutal and smashing way to start a set would be an understatement. The whole set was just brilliant, and the following week I had "Troublegum" in my hands, and it remains one of my favourite 20 albums of all time. Angry, belligerent and intelligent.

Song #2 is "Knives" by Therapy? Listen to it loud.

Today I nominate John Cincotta to show how little music he listened to in the 1990's and try and come up with seven songs he can remember from that decade.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

31 Days of Scotch 2016: Day 6

A photo posted by @westkiama on

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S3 E17: One More Pallbearer

Season 3: Episode 17: One More Pallbearer

OK, so it's always entertaining to see someone who is (surely) clinically insane take on some 'hostages' and try to torture them mentally, and then offer them a way out but only if they accede to his wishes. However, after the initial opening sequence, where our protagonist grills his three 'guests', and we discover the axe he has to grind with each of them, the story fails to gain in interest.

Why? Well, because it all seems too obvious. The way that the protagonist draws out the story, and the actions of the three he has drawn in, are all as one would expect.
Of course, the conclusion of the story does have its quirkiness, but in the long run it is an episode that offers little of consequence, and little moral fortitude.

Rating: 3/5

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S3 E16: Nothing in the Dark

Season 3: Episode 16: Nothing in the Dark

Probably the initial thing that threw me with this episode is that the young policeman that is shot at the start, and who begs for help from the protagonist of the story, is a very very young Robert Redford. Startlingly young one must say, even for Redford who has hardly seemed to age at times over the years.

One you get past this, and allow the story to roll on, it takes on its own pace. In reality, it doesn't really get going until about two thirds of the way through, when the contractor and the protagonist are talking about her having to move out of her home that is about to be demolished, and the particulars of the wounded policeman are brought to the fore.

This is a well acted, three person, one set play, a tome more than a fantasy or science fiction story. It's pleasant enough, but it doesn't reach the top echelon of the show, just the middle ground.

Rating: 3.5/5

90's Music Challenge: Day 1

Today on Facebook I have been nominated by Steve Holz to do the 90's Music Challenge. 7 songs in 7 days that define the 1990's for me.
Tough job to narrow it down to seven songs, but I'll give it a crack.

There are two albums at the start of the decade that defined the direction of 'traditional' heavy metal, that made the jump from the 80's into the 90's with a bang. Song #1 is the title track from one of those albums, Skid Row's 1991 release "Slave to the Grind". How do you go from the fun hair metal sound of their debut, to the riffingly brilliant heavy sound that punctuates this song and this album? What a jump. Everything clicks here. It's just such a shame of what became of this. It should have been the springboard to mega success. Instead, mediocrity awaited.

Today I nominated Anthony Fulton to get off his arse, fire up his Spotify and start showing us what he recalls from the '90's. But it probably won't happen.

Anna Meares Takes Hold of the Flag

There is no more deserving person in our Olympic team to carry the flag into the stadium at Rio. Anna has been an inspiration over so many years, and her results speak for themselves. A terrific honour for a terrific champion.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S3 E15

Season 3: Episode 15: A Quality of Mercy

Once again it's the cast that catches your eye in this episode more than the story itself, even though it is another Rod Serling thought provoker from the wartime period of the Second World War. This is a three sided coin if ever there was one. The washed out, war-tired battalion can't find the gumption to make any further attacks on their enemy, who are pinned down but also in the same boat. Then the young gung-ho lieutenant shows up and wants to make his mark, insisting that his troops make the effort capture or kill their Japanese enemy. However, before the attack can take place, the lieutenant finds himself in the Japanese army some three years previous to his own timeline, and he himself is now Japanese!

Dean Stockwell, whose career is long and creditable, makes a good fist of his role as the lieutenant, while a young Leonard Nimoy pre-Star Trek is also present within the story.

Rating:  High noon in the Twilight Zone.   4/5.

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S3 E14

Season 3:  Episode 14:  Five Characters in Search of an Exit

This episode always engenders opposing emotions in me whenever I see it. On the one hand, I find that the five characters in question - the army major, the clown, the ballerina, the hobo and the bagpiper - once they find each other and begin to discuss the situation they find themselves in, just don't communicate effectively enough to maintain my complete interest in the story. In fact, it gets downright annoying when they all talk as the characters they are, because it's damn difficult to track the conversation or take it seriously when you have the clown laughing away, the ballerina speaking stagnantly and the major, who is trying to find out where they are and why they are there, being so frustrated through all of it.

On the other hand, when you come to the climax of the episode, and the ending is revealed, you can only feel uplifted with how the story has been handled, and how it progressed so well to get to that point! And that is the malaise of the situation. I do struggle now to watch this objectively - because the first time I watched it I enjoyed it, the second time I loved it - as each subsequent time I watch this it loses a little more of its sparkle. As an episode though, it does come across as one of the better twists at its conclusion.

Rating:   A lonely cell in hell.  4/5.

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S3 E13

Season 3:  Episode 13:  Once Upon a Time

The real joy of this quirky episode is seeing Buster Keaton in a show that was pretty much made as a homage to his career as one of the finest actors/directors of the silent film era. It gives him the scope to not only play his role as he did in that era, by starting off the episode with him in the year 1890 as a silent one with piano and intertitles, before transporting him via the time helmet to 1960, where the episode reverts to a normal talking show, and with Keaton's character interacting as such. Stanley Adams too is excellent as the 1960's scientist Rollo, who wants to visit 1890 to enjoy what he believes is a superior era.

While the episode may be a little too off-beat for some, I think it is an excellent way to use the amazing talents of Buster Keaton. The support cast all play their parts well, and by jumping from silent to action back to silent, it allows you to appreciate a Twilight Zone episode with enough parts to it to qualify for this series, while also paying tribute to one of the greats of the industry.

Rating:  Getting the silent treatment.  3.5/5

31 Days of Scotch 2016: Day 5

Kyrgios Sulks and States the Obvious

Too freaking right you are sunshine! Once again you prove that you may have some skill on the tennis court, but you have no heart for the fight, you'd rather shout expletives at the linesmen or the umpire or your opponent, or your own entourage, and that it's easier to just stop trying than to fight to the end of the match and give it all you've got, no matter what the final result.

Another week of tennis where the occasional ray of brilliant tennis is overshadowed by the less savoury side of your demeanour, and where you again failed to comprehend just what a corkhead you come across as, and why it is that the media bait you, and why the majority of Australia's sports-loving public find it hard to support you.

Grow up, find some humility, and work harder on your game in silence rather than carrying on like a pork chop. It's not too late to become a beloved Australian champion, rather than heading down the Anthony Mundine path of never being acknowledged for your talent because you only care for yourself.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S3 E12

Season 3:  Episode 12:  The Jungle

This episode comes in the middle of a run of shows that didn't feel as though they were of the highest quality that this series could produce. I have no drama with the storyline of a man returning from Africa, where his company heads have been threatened with a curse from local tribesmen who do not want their dam project to proceed. It's just that it feels so formula-driven and predictable that the end comes and there are no surprises. You know - "don't burn your wife's talismen objects, they are to protect you!", "don't leave your tiger's tooth on the bar, it can't protect you there", "don't get in the cab, the driver will drop dead", "don't talk to the homeless dude, he isn't going to be able to help". And most particularly, "you can hear a roar from your bedroom? Don't open the freaking door!!"

I guess coming up with a twist in this situation is pretty tough. Some lesser people may suggest that finding a tiger in your bedroom IS the twist, but in The Twilight Zone it's more the normal than a twist.

Rating:  Superstition abounds.  2.5/5

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S3 E11

Season 3:   Episode 11:  Still Valley

This was another episode that I had a lot of trouble getting much out of, even though the premise of the story was perhaps interesting enough. Using the setting of the American Civil War, and the ability of the light and the dark to play their roles in a loaded game probably came too late in the episode for it to be saved for me. When Sergeant Joseph Paradine meets up with an army that has apparently been frozen in time, he wonders what on earth is happening. He then meets Teague, an old man who is the perpetrator of this phenomenon, and who claims that he could do this to the whole opposing army, thus ensuring victory for the other side. The meandering story then makes its way through the possible uses and consequences of such a power.

By the time we get to the point where the real nitty gritty of the episode takes place, I have lost interest. I can see the redeeming features of the concluding story line, but too little happens in the first half of the play to help catalog this in the best parts of the series.

Rating:   In the Devil we trust.  3/5.

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S3 E10

Season 3:  Episode 10:  The Midnight Sun

Throughout this whole episode, I was unable to get beyond one major point that just kept rankling with me. The basis of the story is that the earth has been thrown out of orbit, and is slowly falling towards the sun, thus the temperature continues to rise, and people are evacuating north to try and avoid the searing temperatures that are occurring. It is even said that it is well above 40 degrees at midnight, with the sun still out. Well, if that is the case then the earth is also not turning on its axis. Which means that only half the globe is in full sun, and the other half must therefore be in full shade, and freezing to death! But that isn't even considered in the framework of the story. I mean, the earth isn't flat... is it?...

Beyond that, the problem that lies in the story is that it isn't really getting anywhere, and then we find that it is just a fever induced dream... except that in 'reality' the world is actually freezing, not burning up. Well, there's a kicker.

No doubt my afore-mentioned aversion to the planet spinning or not spinning harms my enjoyment of this episode, but none of it seems even remotely likely given the event actually occurred. A store with food still available and not trashed? A random guy using a gun to get water, and then leaving? Yeah, none of this really works for me.

Rating:  Why not paint a sun shade?  2.5/5.

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S3 E9

Season 3:  Episode 9:  Deaths-Head Revisited

Not only does the Twilight Zone have a lot of episodes that deal with death and the possible afterlife, it also has a great number of stories that deal with war, and the people affected by those wars, both directly and indirectly. This episode is a beauty, with Rod Serling putting together a fascinating script, along with a hard hitting introduction and epilogue. On top of this, the performances of the actors of the two main characters are truly magnificent, and perfectly portray how you would expect these characters to act in the situation they find themselves in. 

Oscar Beregi, Jr. plays the role of Gunther Lutze, the former commandant of the Dachau concentration camp, with both perfect evil and pathetic substance. On his arrival at the camp, some 16 years after the war has ended, to reminisce and gloat over past glories, he meets one of his former detainees, Becker, played perfectly by Joseph Schildkraut. The acting between these two, as the story ravels out to reveal the true nature of what is happening around Lutze is particularly intriguing.

One can assume that this storyline was a particular interest to Serling, and he has written a piece that encapsulates the evil that takes place during war, and the consequences that would certainly prove to be justified should the Twilight Zone actually exist. And, in the end, who can say that it does not. One of my favourite Anthrax songs, "Intro to Reality / Belly of the Beast" uses pieces of dialogue from this episode, as well as exploring the basis of the story. I love both still.

Rating:  He walked the earth without a heart.  4.5/5

31 Days of Scotch 2016: Day 4

A photo posted by @westkiama on

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Stephen King: 'Salem's Lot pp. 1-87

The prologue to 'Salem's Lot always intrigued me, mainly because although King doesn't state it outright and there is plenty of room to manoeuvre in the opening of the book, it pretty much tells you that no matter what is about to happen in the next few hundred pages, Ben Mears is going to survive and he is going to have a young boy with him. The prologue names neither of the characters involved, but when you then move to the opening chapters and meet Ben Mears returning to the home where he spent four years of his youth, you immediately identify that this is the most likely character being described. This does then give you cause to believe that he will survive some calamity, given that he has to return to the Lot.

A week later he awoke sweating from a nightmare and called out the boy’s name.
‘I’m going back,’ he said. 
The boy paled beneath his tan. 
‘Can you come with me?’ the man asked. 
‘Do you love me?’ 
‘Yes. God, yes.’ 
The boy began to weep, and the tall man held him. 

Excerpt From
King, Stephen. “Salem's Lot.”

So the opening establishes Ben Mears, returning to town after what appears to be a traumatic death of his wife. It establishes his credentials as a former resident, and that the spooky house on top of the hill - the Marsten House - has some history with him, and that the mystery that surrounds the previous occupants is one of some interest. It also quite quickly establishes the mutual attraction between Ben and Susan Norton, and the likely problematic appearance of Susan's current boyfriend into the picture at some point.

The early passages here set up the Marsten House as a central figure in the coming story. Perhaps it is just me, but in writing this doesn't it seem just a little convenient that at the very same time Ben returns to town and wishes to rent out the Marsten House to live in and write his new novel, that the house, which has been empty for all those years, is suddenly sold? I mean, just a little too convenient? Yes, I know it is a fictional horror novel, and reality takes a backwards step in this regard, but come on. No one wants it, then two different parties want it within days of each other? Yeah OK Bill, leave it alone.

There is a lot more set up here in this book than there was in King's previous book Carrie. The characters of Eva Miller, Weasel Craig, Win Purinton and Mike Ryerson, to mention just a few, all within that instance of the morning ritual, shows a more elaborate effort in bringing to the reader's attention the folk of 'Salem's Lot, and suggesting that their roles in the story ahead will be somewhat significant.