20 March, 2007

Karaoke: Where Were You When I REALLY Needed You?

*In the following post, I hereby eschew my usual self-deprecating schtick. Readers are advised that the following contains frequent references to rock singing, one of the few things I carry off comfortably and confidently. Fuck false modesty, okay? I do so rock.

The Love of My Life has four nieces and the eldest was having her 21st on a Saturday night in October. I had been given strict orders to leave my cricket match as early as possible so as not to be late.

But my team had managed a rare all-day batting performance. And as I’d also made my highest individual run score since Bradman was a boy, I reasoned that this was cause for celebration! I hung around the club a little longer than TLOML had specified but as my run total was way too low to inspire the blokey backslapping I pathetically craved, I showered, changed and headed across town to my sister-in-law’s.

I had been forewarned that it was a karaoke affair and sure enough TLOML was welded to the mike when I arrived, duetting on The Chicken Song (you don’t want a link to that shite, surely) with Curly & some young cousins. Larry was grinning and laughing with/at them while Moe was off somewhere dying of embarrassment. At that rate, Moe was going to be spending most of the evening flatlining.

I caught TLOML’s eye and mouthed a “sorry I’m late” but she just flashed her dazzling grin and gave a “you’re-here-and-that’s-all-that-counts” shrug. There are many, many reasons why she is TLOML. So I grabbed a beer, wished 21stGirl a Happy Birthday and did the hello round with all the people there that I knew.

But I had big eyes for that karaoke machine. I kept wandering into the open area where it was set up and when TLOML beckoned me over during a brief lull, I quickly keyed in “Satisfaction” by The Rolling Stones.

TLOML stayed on stage and then her sister joined us as a pretty close approximation of Keith’s opening riff razored through the party. I was just about to gesture like a complete tosser that hey, I was a solo act but narrowly dragged myself back from the precipice.

I reckon I might have turned a few heads with a near-enough facsimile of Mick’s bluesy drawl but then I have heard the song at least 10,000 times and used to do it in a garage band that exceeded its brief by playing at near-empty pubs and footy club functions.

Next up, TLOML and I duetted on Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me?” She is a wicked mimic when inspired and like most people with that talent, can sing too. We hammed it up a bit, she captured Susanne Sulley’s little-girl vocal stylings and I like to think we drew a few people into the area.

That was going to be it for me as no-one likes a karaoke hog. Off stage for a little more socializing and I was introduced to some of 21stGirl’s friends. A few of them seemed a little more interested in chatting to me than on the odd previous occasions we’d met, occasions they didn’t remember at all.

Some time later, three of 21stGirl’s contemporaries, DarkHairedFriend, BlondeFriend (two very attractive, charming, young women) and ReallyNiceBoy suggested we sing together. Sure. “You’re the One That I Want” by John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, I offered? No, how about the Mamas and the Papas’ “California Dreaming” Yee-eessss! I took Denny Doherty’s lead part and the girls and boy filled in Michelle and John Phillips and Cass Elliot’s call-response backing vocals quite creditably for non-baby boomers.

Getting cocky, I tried some on-stage zingers. “Look, I don’t really know anyone here tonight but I was just passing and heard the music and you’ve all been so friendly, treating me like I was, I dunno 21stGirl’s uncle or something.” I’m sure it wasn’t just nervous laughter that I heard.

I then suggested The Who’s “My Generation”, which they also knew and we ripped through that, key changes and all. A bevy of 21stGirl’s friends crowded around the front and cheered and clapped in a disarming mixture of genuine support and undergraduate irony.

In the euphoria of the moment, DarkHairedFriend stepped forward to hug her fans and tripped headlong over my microphone cable. She lunged across the floor and finished on hands and knees. Her short skirt had ridden up over her back. The mishap had caused her to assume a pose often seen in pornos. You know, on hands and knees, head down, legs apart, back arched. And I was right where the camera would have been.

I surged forward for two reasons: to help poor DarkHairedFriend up; to quickly change my point of view. She was unhurt but embarrassed about her tumble. I reasoned that as I’d been the first to reach her, I must have also been first to give up my vantage-point and so had an ironclad alibi against perving. It probably wouldn’t stand up to a withering cross-examination, but it was all I had.

A little later, TLOML sent me into the master bedroom to get her jacket and there were two more of 21stGirl’s friends in there. “Oh hi! We’ve just been talking about you,” one of them said in a flirty sing-song voice. “We’d like to sing with you too”. “Sorry. Stripped my vocal cords with that last number”, I explained.

I spent the rest of the evening just chatting and watching 21stGirl and her friends sing along with their favourites and have a ball.

So what was the point of all this lame, long, self-indulgence? Well, if there’d been fucking karaoke around when I was a pathetic single it might have made things a bit easier for me. It might have been a case of my hearing “How about you sing with me?” instead of overhearing “Oh God, he’s coming over.”

19 March, 2007

Philip K Dick You Were Spot On

I’m expecting some furious posting in the blogosphere following tonight’s excellent Four Corners examination of Second Life. Most other posts will be far more insightful and articulate than mine. And you can get another take on Second Life here. But I would mention about tonight's Four Corners that:

1. Ticky Fullerton’s report asked the questions I was thinking of;
2. She then asked a whole heap of questions that hadn't occurred to me;
3. That $7.50 virtual penis looked uncannily like mine;

But I was struck by how closely Second Life parallels a novel by prolific science fiction author Philip K Dick.

The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (1965) concerns a UN program of hallucinogenic drug induced proto Virtual Reality developed for the diversion of homesick off-world colonists. Users can take the drugs and then integrate themselves into Barbie-like model scenes that are more expensive the more lavish they are. Expensive scenarios become status symbols and characters deperately try to keep up with the Joneses.
What a brilliant, visionary author he was. I think I even remember reading in Lawrence Sutin’s, Divine Invasions: A Life of Philip K. Dick, (Carroll & Graf, 2005) that he was thrown out of a sci-fi writers conference in about 1980 for heckling keynote speaker Isaac Asimov. One year later, after his novella Do Androids dream of Electric Sheep? had been adapted and would become the movie Blade Runner, he WAS the keynote speaker.

And I have something of a background in futurology myself. After all, during a 1982 sociology tute at uni, I correctly predicted that the following things would completely die out within a few short years:

1. Voting Liberal;
2. Alcohol;
3. Tattoos;

Brushes With Fame I: Shane Warne

Our beach holiday over a recent Cup Day weekend got off to a late start. TLOML did all of the preparation while I was the useless drone that I usually am. So we didn’t get away until around midday and needed to stop off for a much-needed lunch on the way.

There we were sitting in the Elsternwick McDonalds. I had started my meal and so had lost contact with the outside world when I dimly heard Larry say “Gee that bloke over there looks like Shane Warne”.

I looked over expecting to see a nondescript chubby blond with a leering demeanour and a terminal hangover but blow me down it was him. He was with two little girls, so I took it to be an access visit. Aaron Hamill, the St Kilda footballer was with them too.

Anyway, Curly goes out to the playground and not long after, Shane takes the two girls out too. Seen through the window, Curly approaches Shane, words are exchanged, hands are shaken, then a few more words. Curly comes back inside and we head off to the beach.

In the car, Curly waited until we’d ALL breathlessly badgered him about what had been said and then reported the exchange thus:

“Hi. You’re Shane Warne. You’re my favourite bowler.”
“Gee, thanks mate. What’s your name?”
“Curly. Yep, whenever I’m playing my cricket 2003 game on the computer, I choose you to bowl because you’re the best.’
“Good on you, mate. Do you bowl a bit yourself?”
“Yes, and I’m going to be a leg spinner.”
“That’s the way. See ya.”
“See ya, Shane.”

Of such moments are lifetime memories made. Curly will be boring the daylights out of his little Curly descendants with ad infinitum retellings of this encounter long after my funeral barge has floated down the Nile.

*Thanks to www.boreme.com for the image.

18 March, 2007

Gratuitous Post Just To Provide Profile Photo

This is a Japanese-made Fender Telecaster that I sold on eBay last year for $820. I really miss it. And I think my Strat has intuited how I feel and is jealous, like the Tele was an ex-girlfriend.

The Light Bulb That Failed: My Einstein Factor Experience

What was the only film captured high-ranking Nazis were allowed to watch during their internment at Mondorf immediately after World War II? I was itching for host Peter Berner to ask me just that when I appeared on ABC-TV’s The Einstein Factor a couple of years ago. The Einstein Factor is a quiz show that requires contestants to answer 15 questions on a nominated specialist subject and have their general knowledge similarly tested during multiple choice and beat the buzzer rounds.

My subject was the Nuremberg War Crimes Trial, held during 1945-46. Revealing this generates some interesting responses from many people. The looks I get suggest there is a suspicion I might occasionally dress up in SS uniform for some domestic goose-stepping in the privacy of my own home. Not so, I hasten to assure you. But as I pompously explained to the producers during my February audition, the Nuremberg Trial represented an occasion where American action actually matched their rhetoric. One of the charges faced by the defendants was the waging of aggressive war, which if diligently followed up by the UN, major powers and the international legal community, could well have made war a crime ever after. Noble stuff, and worth contrasting with current US foreign policy.

Emailing the production team (check out www.abc.net.au/einsteinfactor/ ) will get you a contestant application form by return email. You fill out some details and nominate three possible specialist areas. Mine were: Nuremberg; Jefferson Airplane; & F Scott Fitzgerald. Nuremberg was my final choice because I thought the historical weight of it might make the producers lean towards giving me the nod to provide some difference to the large number of contestants who choose pop culture related topics.

I answered 25 general knowledge questions at the ABC’s Elsternwick studios while sitting at a table with the Brady Bunch; Harry Potter; Pink Floyd; & Birds of Australia and her External Territories. Getting 18 answers correct was some relief and then off to an interview with the charming producer and contestant co-ordinator. They had prepared some questions for me on my specialist subject, none of which I could answer intelligibly.

For example, when they asked me what happened on 18th July 1944 the appointment of Justice Robert H Jackson as American Chief Prosecutor eluded me. “Oh yes”, I stammered, “well Bob was quite a guy, a Supreme Court judge no less but not nearly as skilled in cross-examination as American Chief Judge Francis Biddle. See, they appointed a judge to prosecute, and a prosecutor to judge, amazing hey?” I could tell they were impressed by the way they looked straight at each other, their eyes rolling.

Frighteningly soon after, probably due to a clerical error, they rang to tell me I was on an episode to be taped in about four weeks. And to do some studying. In fact, they mentioned that twice in what was a very brief phone call.

You couldn’t say it wasn’t a nice spread for us in the contestant lounge on the night. Me, Ned Kelly & Liza Minelli were to appear on the first show taped that evening. I made small talk with the other contestants: asked the bloke why Ned was never charged with negligence over the 1969 Altamont concert and engaged in some gamesmanship with the woman, sowing the seed of doubt in her mind that maybe, just maybe, it really WAS Lisa with an s.

But I should have known that the very witty Peter Berner wasn’t about to play straight man to an amateur like me. I’d mentally prepared a number of zingers, like if he asked me why I chose Nuremberg I was going to tell him I didn’t actually choose it because, wait for it, I was JUST FOLLOWING ORDERS! My family and friends agree that would have got a big belly laugh, and I believe their stone-faced assurances. But they are divided over whether I should have gone with my planned Sergeant Schultz accent.

The other two contestants had already achieved near-perfect scores in their specialist areas when I sat down. After my 15 questions, I was a long way third with 900 points. The bonus round offered some hope: 200 points if the Brains Trust (lawyer & Australian Netball captain Liz Ellis; academic Dr Sue Turnbull; and comedian Anthony Moclair) could answer correctly a true or false question. After all, they’d already done the right thing by the other two, sending 200 easy points their way. They reasoned, they rationalized, they hypothesized, and then they got it wrong. Liz Ellis then asked me a very intelligent question which was in no way matched by my reply. Probably just as well they edited that bit out.

During the remaining rounds, I did well to maintain third spot, as Ned just pipped Liza. Handshakes all round, some more small talk between contestants and then off home. Larry, who’d sat in the audience desperately hoping no-one would connect the two of us, at least removed the paper bag from his head before we got in the car. Not as bad as Moe, who would later send ABC-TV an email requesting I be pixillated. The whole business had taken just over two hours, which compares very favourably with the eleven hours contestants on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire have to endure. I gave up smoking and started again three times during that shift!

Curly told all his friends dad was going to be on The Heinstein Factory and many watched it. Some even made a point of congratulating me and telling me how well they thought I’d done. Kids can be so cruel.

Oh, and the only film the Allies allowed those captured Nazi big shots to watch at Mondorf? Newsreel footage of the liberation of the concentration camps.

17 March, 2007

How The Hell Did I Get Here?

Alright, alright. You’re probably thinking this fledgling blog doesn’t have much to recommend it, what with no links and no profile photo but hey, I’ll be working my way through these and other blogosphere niceties as soon as my indolent nature brings them into my slowly developing skill base.

Enough excuses. I discovered the land o’ blogs quite by accident about five years ago. I had been a Crikey student subscriber during one of their generous try-before-you-subscribe offers and quite enjoyed reading Stephen Mayne’s tilting-at-windmills deflation of arch conservatives like Andrew Bolt, Alan Jones, Piers Ackerman and other usual suspects.

This led me in a roundabout way to BoltWatch, and from there to Anonymous Lefty, both of which are excellent blogs by Melbourne barrister Jeremy Sear. Figuring that if I liked his stuff, then I might enjoy a quiet read of his recommended blogs I was away, but not in a fashion that made me a true citizen of blogsville. You see, dear reader (puts on Sideshow Bob voice) I lurked.

And I lurked all over the place. I found myself drawn to very entertaining blogs like reasonsyouwillhateme; brokenleftleg; muchadoaboutsumthin!; watchdogofthewankers; audrey; the barfromhell; (Hey, how about another post on that one soon?) and Huniii. I read the comments too. It was a case of “I lurk therefore I am!” But I thought of it only as reading. I've always loved reading.

And I justified it on the grounds of a couple of not-quite-fitting analogies like: you go to the cricket just to watch it, not to chant or sing; or you enjoy a band but don’t dance; you're a part of the audience, not a participant. Plus I couldn’t be arsed. I told you I was lazy.

Now, it disturbs me how I’m strangely impelled in the direction of blogs by (ahem!) women who could well be a bit younger than I am. And who I wouldn’t on the surface appear to have much in common with. (more about this phenomenon in my next post, I promise) But can they write!

Shut up! I have NOT been eyeing girls with bad intent! Not, not not! Alright, I have been eyeing their writing styles.

So here I am, Lad Litter. And you’ll be hearing a lot more from me. If I can be arsed.

Now entering blogosphere..

Inspired by the many outstanding blogs I have shamelessly lurked at over the past two years, this blog will contribute in no small way to the lowering of standards in the blogosphere. There, I told you I was lazy.