Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Cat in the Hat turns 50, how's that?

The Cat in the Hat

On Friday 2nd March, at precisely 2.36 pm, school students all over the nation (and perhaps the world?) will celebrate the 50th birthday of the famous book character, The Cat in the Hat in a nationwide read-aloud. Famous for its rhyme and repetition, the original book by the late Dr Seuss (Theodor "Ted" Geisel, aka Theo LeSeig), contains only 236 different words. This wonderfully wacky picture book, and its sequel The Cat in the Hat Comes Back, influenced children in many parts of the world to develop good reading habits over the past fifty years.

Happy birthday, Cat in the Hat. Have a purr-fect day!

(The photographic evidence)

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The cosmic consciousness

There's a theory, isn't there, that writers and other creative people can tap into a kind of cosmic consciousness? And this is why two authors can seem to come up with an almost-identical set of thought processes at the exact same time. While some cynics may even try to label it plagiarism, I reckon it's amazing how often it is very definitely something more inexplicable than mere coincidence.

Last night, Jörg, a semi-regular Internet contact, was researching the Efrosian race, from Star Trek, and discovered that, only minutes before, I had added a comment to an old discussion page on Memory Alpha's Wiki on... Efrosians! We were both trying to ascertain details of a certain cut scene from "ST IV: The Voyage Home", for which a publicity still exists - of a short-haired Efrosian wearing a UFP (United Federation of Planets) badge. Had he ever been officially confirmed as playing a particular role? My theory was that he was intended to be an usher in the UFP Council scenes; the end credits mention "ushers", but the extras(?) playing them had no lines to spout in the final film, and didn't even seem to be visible in the onscreen footage. This comment of mine led my friend back to my blog entry about Efrosians. He'd been researching some embroidered patches bought at one of the big recent ST costume and props auctions from the 40th anniversary celebrations of TOS.

It was almost midnight here for me (and probably midday for him), but we shot an email back and forth - and suddenly he had new freeze frame shots from the various ST movies in my email tray. And lo, he found onscreen evidence of a male usher(!) in the matching uniform, but not the mysterious Efrosian. Technology is making us move so fast. I wasn't mentally prepared for obscure trivia after midnight, but it was fascinating (to us) anyway.

Efrosian UsherUFP PatchST IV Usher
Above: Cut scene of Efrosian usher (left); closeup on cloth badge (dignitaries wore blue-enamelled metal versions that hung under the "UFP" badge); human usher stands near UFP President and Klingon Ambassador (right).

Monday, February 26, 2007

Previewing The Tudors

I received a request from the marketers of this new production to inspect their site, because they'd seen my (very brief) movie review of "The Queen".

My first reaction was to ignore the request, but I watched the filmed preview - and, although I know very little about Tudor England, I found the acting performances, pacing and costuming of the preview most intriguing. It certainly helps that the always-dependable Sam Neill is in there. I'll certainly be checking out "The Tudors" when it turns up in Australia. Episode #1 previews on the Internet on 12th March, and on US TV a few weeks later.

About The Show:

"Lover. Warrior. Rebel. King. Jonathan Rhys Meyers is Henry VIII as never seen before. 'The Tudors' is the epic new Showtime Original Series that reveals the scandalous life of the stunning young monarch, who ruled his kingdom with ruthless abandon. With a lust for power and an appetite for love, Henry's affair with Anne Boleyn – and obsession with producing a male heir – changed the institution of marriage, and the world, forever. 'The Tudors' is the untold story of Henry VIII, the beloved tyrant whose reign was marked by treachery, betrayal and intrigue."

Cast: Jonathan Rhys Meyers is King Henry VIII.
Starring: Sam Neill, Callum Blue, Henry Cavill, Henry Czerny, Natalie Dormer and Jeremy Northam.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

New directions for Star Trek

Will it be a "reboot", a "relaunch", or just an untold tale of a new beginning? It depends on individuals' interpretations of terms, I guess, but the ST BBSs are buzzing with the news that JJ Abrams has announced that he's definitely going to be directing the new Kirk & Spock-era Star Trek movie project his production company has been working on. Exciting stuff!

By Tatiana Siegel

Feb 24, 2007
"The Starship
Enterprise finally has a new captain.

"After months of speculation, J.J. Abrams has signed on to direct the next installment of the 'Star Trek' feature franchise, sources said late Friday. 'Star Trek XI' revolves around a young James T. Kirk and Mr. Spock, chronicling their first meeting at Starfleet Academy and their first space mission.

"Abrams, the prolific co-creator/executive producer of 'Lost' and director of 'Mission: Impossible 3' has been developing the project through his Paramount-based Bad Robot shingle as a producer and writer. But Abrams never committed to directing the project until Friday evening, when the deal was finalized, sources say. Abrams reps at WMA declined comment on the matter."
(The Hollywood Reporter)

Not everyone races to an Internet glossary of terms when they hear "reboot" and/or "relaunch" being bandied about by the media and the fans so, for some, this "reboot" simply implies that TOS is back after 40 years, and with different, young actors. For others, it sounds like various canonical facts from TOS may be reshaped or tweaked by the new project, such as has happened with TOS-Remastered. For others, it's the end of the universe as they know it, because a new movie with young Kirk and Spock means a possibility of a whole new Kirk 5YM feature films, telemovies, TV series or holodeck interactives one day attempting to overshadow TOS.

I'm excited by whatever comes of the upcoming Abrams' project, reboot or no reboot. I'm enjoying "Lost" very much, and if he can bring that fun, complex storytelling, likeable characters and SPFX to ST, and have more people anticipating new ST adventures again, I'm all for it.

William Shatner is supposedly excited about the new film, and has had talks with Abrams about how the story might be shaped. Shatner, and Leonard Nimoy, have a measure of contractual approval on the actors who will portray young Kirk and Spock. Shatner (with the Reeves-Stevens) also has his own "Starfleet Academy" novel series coming out with Pocket Books, so the two projects will buoy each other along.

Meanwhile, IDW Publishing is advertising the forthcoming Star Trek comic mini-series, "Klingons: Blood Will Tell", with a very nice 45cm x 60cm poster (below) featuring Joe Corroney's cover art for issue #1, due April 2007. (If I recall correctly, the issue of the comic that will have this particular artwork is actually a storekeeper's exclusive. They only get one copy per 10 regular issues ordered; even more exclusive is the same issue without words obliterating the artwork.) Issue #1 will also be available translated into the Klingon language.

I may stick with the regular art cover and try to cajole a free poster from my local comic shop.

Klingons poster

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Fine feral ferrets

After yesterday's entry about my concerns that Jack will one day fall victim to a deadly snake, it was with a sense of dread that I released him into the yard at 7 am to do his morning ablutions, while I went off to complete my own.

I became engrossed with a book, then realised Jack hadn't made his standard low growl to ask, "Let me back in", so I went to find him. There he was, peering into the house from the other side of the flyscreen door, but when he saw me coming he scarpered back into the yard, hoping I'd relent and let him down into the pool area so he could sniff out any nocturnal visitors who'd left him a wee-mail on a tree.

Then: we both saw it at the same instant! A huge, pale yellow ferret was rummaging in the garden! Jack went instantly ballistic, of course, barking and carrying on, although the cheeky ferret seemed to know that Jack was still behind bars. It spent several minutes twisting through the agapanthus, finishing up whatever it'd been up to and finally selecting its favourite exit hole under the fence.

I think I've now solved the mystery of our most recent regular visitor, whose mission, should it choose to accept it, is to drive a poor little Jack Russell beresk (sic)*. Who knows what the wee-mail said? Probably the furry equivalent of "Your mother wears army boots." I wonder if Jack even knows the local ferret dialect?

In the past, we've had a fox, two different blue-tongue lizards, many suicidal frogs, crappy birds, next door's cats, and now a feral ferret! Welcome to the jungle.

* With thanks to Dorrie Evans, "Number 96".

Friday, February 23, 2007

Nocturnal disturbances

Jack, my Jack Russell terrier, has been "giving me evils", to quote Vicky Pollard, ever since I arrived home this afternoon. He really, really wanted to go-for-a-walk. (I'm sure Jack thinks it's just one word; my Dad's dog used to respond just to "go-for-a", when we purposely eliminated the W A L K word from the McLean family vocabulary.)

It was way too hot at 5 pm to go-for-a-walk but, finally at about 10 pm, the temperature had cooled down sufficiently. When Jack locked eyes with me, for what must have been the hundredth time, I said the magic phrase.

Nothing terribly eventful tonight, but the neighbourhood dogs do have a habit of being overly protective of their yards, and their whole street's privacy, when Jack walks by, no matter what time of day. So we regularly create lots of late-night canine ruckus on our 20 to 30 minute jaunt, and tonight was no different.

I heard yesterday that the drought has brought out the snakes here in Penrith, with several large brown snakes and red-bellied black snakes being spotted in my street. One Jack Russell has succumbed to a poisonous snake bite, I've been told, and - knowing Jack's fondness for seeking out all things scaly and slithery - I'm trying to keep away from the obvious snake havens that we pass along the route.

I encountered a huge red-bellied black snake just beside Penrith railway station two years ago. It must have just emerged from hibernation, and I'd been there with Jack only a matter of minutes earlier. The snake crossed my path while I was retracing my steps on my way to Penrith Plaza. Had I still been with Jack on the lead, he'd have been out in front and would have met the snake long before I'd noticed it. It was a close call; one I'd rather not repeat.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

I'm too funky for this shirt

Today, I attended my first district meeting of teacher-librarians (in nine years) at a high school. Several senior students from the host school were waiting in the car park for the attendees to arrive. As I approached my enthusiastic guide, she expressed her frustration. "I don't know who I'm supposed to be looking for!" she complained jovially, as several other adults could be seen moving towards the main building.

"We're all teacher-librarians..." I mentioned helpfully. "Do you think we look like teacher-librarians?"

"Not really," she said.

"You mean I don't look like a teacher-librarian either?"

"Oh, not at all!" she exclaimed. "With that shirt, you look more like a funky history teacher!"


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Do you know the way to ShiKahr?

American television audiences channel flipping for random episodes of original Star Trek (TOS) in syndication are enjoying all-new special effects footage, which is being recreated/repaired/enhanced with CGI in remastered, high definition versions of the episodes. Although current syndication advertisement ratios require extensive cutting of popular lines and (sometimes) whole scenes, there is an intention to release uncut HD DVDs of the "remastered" TOS.

TOS was made on film, not videotape, which means that it looks amazing on HD TV, but the FX made in the 1960s are simply not up to scratch, due to the number of composite film layers required to produce SPFX footage of transporter effects, phaser beams, ship passes and matt paintings. The episodes still look good on regular TVs, but DVD already shows up problems (the joins on Nimoy's pointed ear tips, for one) and HD TV and DVD will show up many more faults, especially in the old SPFX.

While some fans have been angered by any attempt to meddle with a cultural icon - especially the attempts to recreate CGI versions of the Enterprise's rotating nacelle caps, and the artists putting miniature, moving versions of themselves in the new computer-drawn matt paintings - the CBS SPFX team are doing an amazing job, from the still and moving examples I've seen so far.

But last week, CBS unveiled its remastered version of "Amok Time". Suddenly, that well-known scene of Spock and Kirk's battle for T'Pring, Spock's intended bondmate, has been elevated, literally, onto an impossibly precarious land bridge, similar to those seen in "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock"! And, in the distance, we can now see a CGI recreation of Spock's home city of ShiKahr, which had previously been named and visited in the Filmation animated episode, "Yesteryear" (TAS).

ShiKahr, TASwhiteShiKahr, TOS-R
Left: ShiKahr in TAS; Right: a distant ShiKahr in TOS-R.

While most of Filmation's TAS was shunted out of "canon" via a Star Trek Office memo in 1989, several names and events from "Yesteryear" (plus Captain Robert April of "The Counter-clock Incident") are embraced by the "Star Trek Encyclopedia" and the "Star Trek Chronology", with Gene Roddenberry's approval. Unfortunately, Spock's city of birth is misspelt "ShirKahr" in those publications, and that pesky error has permeated TAS mentions in other licensed Star Trek products.

Oh, and if you're wondering about the moon-like object in the sky over Shikahr in the "Yesteryear" still, that is "T'Kuht", coined in the 70s by fanzine identity, Gordon Carleton, to explain the misleading TOS quote, "Vulcan has no moon, Miss Uhura" (in "The Man Trap"). Jean Lorrah once wrote Sarek & Amanda fanzine stories for T'Kuhtian Press.

The TAS error in "Yesteryear" (ie. Dorothy Fontana had scribbled "remove moon" on the art she approved for Filmation, but it wasn't noticed by the animators) was retconned as "Vulcan's twin planet" in the booklet accompanying View-Master's "Yesteryear" adaptation, "Mr. Spock's Time Trek". The planetary body was also shown to dominate the Vulcan sky in "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" (TMP) in 1979 (below), although it was eliminated for the director's edition DVD.


Several years later, the planetoid turned up in a Pocket Star Trek novel as T'Kuht in "The Vulcan Academy Murders" (below) by Jean Lorrah, acknowledging Gordon Carleton for the name and explanation. The planetoid is even on the cover of "The Vulcan Academy Murders" (below left) and Michael Jan Friedman's "New Worlds, New Civilizations" (below right).

LematyawhiteNew Worlds, New Civilizations

The name is spelt "T'Khut" in Diane Duane's "Spock's World", Jeri Taylor's "Voyager: Pathways" and the books "The Worlds of the Federation" and "New Worlds, New Civilizations". It's called "T'Rukh" in AC Crispin's novel, "Sarek", with an explanation that the name changes are seasonal. It's T'Kuht again in "The Needs of the One" a DC Comics story in its TOS Special, Series II, and Geoffrey Mandel's book, "Star Trek Star Charts".

With the animated series often considered the bastard child of the Star Trek phenomenon, it's always a thrill to me to see TAS acknowledged. With the new version of "Amok Time", ShiKahr and TAS take a new step towards legitimacy and acceptance!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Nothing but the facts

In my new (old) job as teacher-librarian in a primary school, and after an absence of nine years from teacher-librarianship (in an actual school), it's been my delight these last few weeks to realise that the students at my school are actually exchanging answers to my lesson questions - in the playground! - so they can come into their library lesson knowing all the answers to the question I might ask.

All of Early Stage 1 and Stage 1 (Years K, 1 & 2) students are investigating nursery rhymes this term (and are swapping factoids such as "curds and whey" is another term for "junket"). All of Stage 2 (Years 3 & 4) students are investigating the solar system (and are swapping "Pluto is no longer a planet"). All of Stage 3 (Years 5 & 6) students are investigating rainforest environments this term (and are swapping varied information about "the three-tiered forest").

It's been both hilarious and very satisfying. I'm making a difference - and the students are hungry to learn, and are enthusiastic about impressing me. So cool!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Wasted day, feeling wasted?

Pieroth wines

Actually, Sunday wasn't a wasted day at all, but I didn't get much done from my original list of things "to do".

It was a glorious day to be on the Harbour, specifically the floating Sydney Harbour Ballroom, for the free annual Pieroth wine tasting and harbour cruise. A very relaxing, informative day, spent with three work colleagues and three Star Trek colleagues, soaking up as much wine as our palates would allow, and putting my order in for my semi-annual splurge on wine. Damn those trains, though; how come every weekend I want to travel into the CBD the trains are out for track maintenance?

Our cruise was booked for 2pm, but us Westies had to leave Penrith by 11am to guarantee finding somewhere for lunch first. Never a good idea to go wine tasting on an empty stomach (like last year). Sight of the day was AdamJ and SJ sprinting along Cockle Bay towards the ferry at 1.59 pm! For a moment there, we thought Adam was planning a giant leap across a watery expanse between two jetties. (Reminded me of a cross between The Six Million Dollar Man and the Long-Jumping Jeweller from Lavender Bay.)

We finished off with scrummy potato wedges at Cargo Bar, turning last year's accidental discovery (when searching for food to soak up the excess wine) into a tradition. And then a looooong walk back towards Central Station to get the rail bus home (and of course, it backtracked our trail all the way back to Wynyard, so we coulda saved time by walking the opposite direction in the first place).

Hedwig and the Angry Inch

I got home too pooped to write my review of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, as I'd originally planned. This (rather loud) musical was a very enjoyable Friday night's entertainment. Set against the fall of the Berlin Wall, this is highly reminiscent of Reg Livermore's Betty Blokk Buster, several characters from the "Rocky Horror Show", David Bowie's "Ziggy Stardust", and the bizarre rock 'n' roll science fiction stage musical, "Return to the Forbidden Planet" - even featuring "Return"'s own Tina Harris (as Hedwig's musical director and keyboard player)!

Where "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" was a comic tragedy, "Hedwig" is probably more of a tragic comedy. Young Hansel, an oppressed, androgynous boy from East Berlin, gets an unexpected opportunity to escape with an American GI - but only if he undergoes a sex change operation. The botched operation - the "angry inch" of the title - is the start of yet another set of terrible circumstances in "her" life, as the newly-bewigged Hedwig (played by iOTA) ends up in a US trailer park with no husband and no prospects. Life takes a temporary turn for the better when Hedwig finds success in music - and meets her "other half" in life, the intense and sweaty rock singer, Tommy Gnosis.

I've heard that the film version of "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" has one actor playing Hedwig and another playing Gnosis, but in the stage version, the versatile iOTA portrays both "halves", with a dramatically monochromatic lightshow bridging the transformation. I'm assuming the film covers a slightly different set of themes at this point. The message that came through strongly for me, at this climactic switch of scene, was the ambiguity of whether we'd been watching only one person's story unfold here, or two.

Favourite line: Hedwig introduces her band's drummer, Dave Hatch: "You have to admire someone who bangs on things for a living."

I also liked Hedwig's thank you to Tom Mann, whom she assumes wanted to celebrate his fondness for white Toblerone chocolate and ancient Egyptian pyramids by decorating his theatre appropriately. The audience glanced up, as one, to notice a ceiling covered with large, accoustical, white, Toblerone-like pyramids!

The musical grants us yet another transformation, with Saskia Smith's Yitzhak: one more troubled character caught between genders and society's expectations. As much as I loved "The Rocky Horror Picture Show", we did lose Frankenfurter, Eddie and Rocky in that. "Hedwig" is, in many ways, so much more uplifting. Now that my ears have recovered, I must get around to playing the CD I bought of its showtunes.

Berlin Wall souvenir of 1990
My friend Linda brought me back this souvenir of the Berlin Wall in 1990. She collected the pieces herself. I wondered if I'd ever have an excuse to share it online.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

I've got it covered. I think.

Mark Martinez has set up web pages cataloguing all the new "Star Trek" comics being published by IDW Publishing.

Wow. It's getting harder and harder to decide which cover version to go with for each issue. When issue #1 of "The Space Between" was imminent, I told my comic shop I'd be getting art covers, not photo covers. They did have the retailer incentive covers when I called in to collect my issue, but they hadn't priced those yet, so I was happy to go with the regular one.

For "Blood Will Tell" #1, I really like the first retailer incentive cover, which is the one IDW had been using to promote the mini-series in recent weeks, but I much prefer the Kor photo cover for the Klingon Language Variant than the incentive red-foiled logo cover.

Mmmm, decisions, decisions. I'm afraid my ST collection reached critical mass again a few years ago, so I really can't afford the luxury of (moving house again or) buying four and more copies of every issue just to say I have every cover in my collection.

Isn't also a tad wasteful for IDW to commission so much artwork and then make it so exclusive? I thought these comics would look great, side by side, on the shelves at my local comic store, but standing orders must have exceeded the size of their shipment because none of the issues of #1 even made it to the shelves, as far as I noticed.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Now we are six

How does a Jack Russell terrier celebrate his sixth birthday? Sadly, it seems that he spent most of it on his own.

Yesterday, after "Hedwig", I was telling some friends about Jack - and someone asked how old he was. To my horror, I realised that the 16th was his birthday, and that the most exciting thing to happen to him on that day was me racing in after work to change my shirt, knocking the little ants out of his dinner bowl (Jack having drank all the ant trap reservoir again) and feeding him, before racing out again to catch my train into the city.

It's a bit of a come down from the big puppy party he had for his first birthday, which had a guest list of local dog friends and their owners.

Sorry Jacko. Happy belated birthday, little matie.

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Angry Inch

It's been quite a week for curious, nudie rudie body parts, what with "Little Britain Live", the DVD "Shortbus" (homework for tonight) and now "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" at the old Tom Mann Theatre, Surry Hills, near Central Station.

A nostalgia trip, too, as the Tom Mann Theatre was the temporary home of the old Bob Johnson "Star Trek" Marathons after the ANZAC House theatrette, on College Street at Hyde Park, was demolished in the late 80s.

Captain's Log: Supplemental. I shall gather some thoughts about "Hedwig" for a future post. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

I smell... poo!

I arrived home tonight from my traditional, weekly, buying trip in Sydney's CBD - and it was one of those rare nights when there was nothing on my want list at Galaxy Bookshop or HMV - and the shipment hadn't turned up at Kings Comics, so I came home empty-handed.

Jack was let out into the yard for mere seconds (to do those doggy things that need to be done) and then as I entered the hallway, I could smell... poo. Really stinky poo. But not necessarily dog poo. This was... like something had died - but perhaps while covered in poo.

I checked my shoes, but they were fine. The smell was extremely intense in the hall, but not all the time. I picked up several items, expecting to find something unpleasant, but no. Whenever the smell returned, it was very intense but, then, it vanished again.

Maybe it was coming from the air-conditioning duct? Was there a dead animal up there? No. The smell wasn't in the bedroom, or the spare room, or anywhere else. Then, suddenly, it was in the bedroom.

Ah, it was Jack himself! He was covered, up both sides of the neck, in cat poo! Somehow he'd manage to find and roll in it, in the few seconds he was out the back after my arrival home. It's the Jack Russell way: smell like your prey! And no wonder the smell kept moving; the more Jack tried to help me find the source of the revolting smell, the more he was wafting it around in all the places I was inspecting. (The house does have a resident ghost, you know, but she smells of fish, and she's been here longer than the dog, so I knew it wasn't one of her irregular visitations.)

Jack has now had a semi-bath (at 10pm), been doused in aromatic incense water, and had 20-year-old Avon talc rubbed into his fur (I hope he's not allergic to people talc). But he still smells worse than a cat's litter tray.

Almost as bad as the day he rolled in goose poo on a friend's relative's farm, and turned himself into an intensely-green Jack Russell terrier with absolutely no friends whatsoever.

Be grateful this blogspot has no Smell-o-Vision facility. Thanks, Jacko. Thanks for, ugh, sharing.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

"Britain, Britain, Britain..."

Last night's performance of Little Britain Live was a triumph! Very enjoyable, but if you really want to see what you missed, the DVD of Little Britain Live is a great substitute, especially since the images of the performers on the Hordern Pavilion's big screens are like watching telly, anyway.

It was great to see all the great Matt Lucas and David Walliams iconic characters come to life - in real life. The performers were snappy, funny and had cleverly tweaked a few skits with some biting Sydney-, and Australia-, derived humour: Campbelltown, "Big Brother"'s infamous turkey slaps, and poor ol' Schapelle Corby (a friend of Vicki Pollard's, who's been strangely uncommunicative of late), came under fire in an squirmy, but crowd-pleasing, way.

Some friends and I had actually developed a theory about the first half's Des Kaye sketch on the DVD, whereby two hapless male audience members are seemingly selected "at random" to play a game of "Hide the Sausage". Both versions of the skit on the DVD involved the plain guy being almost-totally ignored by the amorous Des (David Walliams), while the Very Cute One turns red, gets kissed and groped - and inevitably loses his jeans, and has his bare bottom exposed to the audience (and in closeup on the big screens), in a rather lengthy sequence.

No doubt the cute guy was a pre-selected stooge. If our theory held, the guy selected would be wearing loosely-belted jeans - and, sure enough, he was. He did a fairly good impersonation of an embarrassed straight guy (or is that "a bare assed" guy?), although he did fluff the scene a little by claiming he was only "16, no 17 years old" - much to the delight of Des, but stretching suspension of disbelief a little too far. (And the closeups of the guy's rather peach-fuzzed bottom on the big screens seemed to suggest he was at least a little more mature than 17.)

It was still a very funny skit - "I should have tightened my belt", he adlibbed - and the young guy got a huge, second round of applause when he was picked out by the roving camera, supposedly innocently enjoying the end of intermission with his date. The guy got a third round of applause when psychiatric patient, Anne (as Whitney Houston, in "Stars in Their Eyes"; David Walliams again), slobbered all over his face during her wilder beserker moments.

Bubbles de Vere (Matt Lucas) in her latex nude fat suit, and cruel Marjorie Dawes (Matt again) - weighing a poor overweight "new member" of Fat Fighters, again chosen from the audience, but obviously for real this time - were wonderful. I really enjoyed the Tiny Dennis Waterman sketch, but mainly because I'd fallen asleep during that bit of the DVD a few weeks ago, so it was totally fresh to me.

Two other segments worked very well, I thought, because they were so off-the-wall: the Mr Mann buys paint sketch, where Matt and David totally gave up on the scripted performance for many minutes - and, after recovering from the wild deviation, started delivering the lines as each other, as if performing Lou & Andy instead! Later, in the Dafydd Thomas sketch leading into the finale, the two performers suddenly broke into a discussion of Matt's homosexuality - and then Matt, seemingly spontaneously, brought up David's oft-quoted media denials on the same topic!

"I'm not gay, but my penis is," David Walliams eventually shrugs, to huge shrieks from the audience. The informality of the performance had become so intimate, by this time, and so spontaneous, that I almost felt like they were guests making small talk at a dinner party at my place, after a few too many drinks.

The program - an almost mandatory purchase for me at any live show - was a steep $30, and I already had a miniature version of it that came with the DVD of this show. But... this program came packaged with sheets of character stickers, and its own mousepad, with humourless Carol Beer's catchphrase emblazoned across it: "Computer says 'No'!"

This reviewer says, "Yes!"

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Campbelltown, turkey slaps and Schapelle Corby

Having been reminded the other day that I hadn't missed a day of blogging in ages, it was with a minor sense of panic tonight, racing back from the Hordern Pavilion (at Fox Studios Australia) to Central Station with only seconds to spare to get my train home, thinking I might miss the midnight deadline to post something.

Happily, I made it, but the review of Little Britain Live will have to wait because...


Monday, February 12, 2007

Raindrops are falling on my head

It's very hard to feel too disgruntled by Sydney's heavy rain showers, when our country is so far into a major drought, the dam levels are dwindling, and government ministers are arguing the pros and cons of expensive desalination plants vs the recycling of sewage into drinking water. But try explaining to the dog why he's going to get damp on a toilet break.

The grass in the backyard is loving the relentless downpour, as do the flowers, the potted plants, and the frogs. I guess the translation of their mournful, communal cries is, "Quick, there's a puddle! We must procreate!"

I discovered tonight that the garage has flooded. Ick. That's the third time in six years. Not too bad, I guess, especially since I put everything up onto packing-foam blocks after the first time it happened. Two days of constant heavy rain is about the limit. By the third day, the ground and drains can't hold any more and the water just flows under the bricks, or through the mortar, or comes from somewhere - and across the concrete floor. The previous owners were here about 15 years and reckoned it never flooded in all that time.

It was a bit daunting once when the local newspaper showed a map of the Penrith Valley flood plain a few years ago - and there was a huge lake that theoretically forms, every 100 years or so, between my house and what is now Westfield's Penrith Plaza.

Ah, the dog needs to wee again. He has that look in his eyes. Let me just get the umbrella...

Sunday, February 11, 2007


Over at the TrekBBS, someone asked for the Star Trek fans to name their favourite Star Trek uniform, and I hadn't really felt the need to contribute to that thread - until someone wondered aloud if "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" was going to get any representation. And it helped that I was "taking a break" from yesterday's epic moving of magazines from one pile to another. (Today I'd progressed to "free some action figures from their packaging" to free up more space. But it's okay, I've always been an "opener", not a "MOMC" - "mint on mint card" - collector.)

Okay, back to ST uniforms: well ST:TMP on the big screen was my first really memorable ST experience, after TAS repeats on TV. So, call me biased, but I love the ST: TMP uniforms (even if they do look a little - okay, a lot - like 'jammies). In 1980, if I coulda put one on and leapt into the silver screen of Sydney's old Paramount Theatre and onto that starship, I'd have done so.


Above: From an early fanzine story; art by my penpal, Kamu. Note that I'd asked her to include the Andorian partial exo-skeleton mentioned by the Ballantine "Starfleet Medical Reference Manual".


Above: At the first Medtrek Convention (1982), at the historic Hydro Majestic Hotel, Medlow Bath in the Blue Mountains. Therin was on the debating team: "Federation vs Empire: Which is the Better Form of Government?"


Above: Therin, Arex and M'Ress join the crew after ST: TMP, with a little help from Photoshop.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Magazine Sorting Day

It's already threatening to become Magazine Sorting Weekend. Or Month. Sigh...

I moved house in January 2000, and every time I hold an event at my place (the original housewarming party, annual Midwinter Christmas, Jack's first birthday party, the Weber BBQ christening, New Year's Eve, etc) I usually spend a few hours stashing loose magazines into boxes and hiding them: behind the bar; in the Star Trek (Shrine) room; under the bed; in the built-in wardrobes.

It's now reached the point of no return - critical mass - and so, in order to get a little control back into my collection, every magazine bought since 2000 is now in piles on the lounge room floor. I've sorted them by title, and I'm now puting them in issue order. There are some ongoing magazines titles I make a point of buying every issue ("Starlog", for example: I have a complete set from #1; I started with issue #30 and found all the back issues in 1980 or so). Other titles I buy only when there's a meaty article about Star Trek, or something more fleeting that I'm particularly interested in at the time.

It's an awful job, this Magazine Sorting Ritual, and I know why I kept putting it off. I have no idea where I'm going to store them when they're all in order, since most magazines bought between 1980 and 2000 are in storage, and just as hard to use for research as the more recent ones when stashed in random piles behind the bar, in the Star Trek (Shrine) room, under the bed, and in the built-in wardrobes. Sigh.

But neither am I ready to downsize the collection, nor attempt to sell them off, nor create "tear sheet" scrapboxes so I can recycle the rest of each magazine. I watched a friend once try to sell off several boxes of really great, old movie magazines at a garage sale, but there was zero interest. She couldn't even give them away. Well, actually she did give some away... to me - and they're all here on the floor too, all those years later.

I haven't read all my magazines yet either. They've all been glanced at, usually in the train, on the way home from purchasing them. And - when they are handy to the computer - I do use them for research.

At the moment, I'm panicking - because there are certain issue numbers missing from the piles. I'm sure they'll be in another box somewhere, but part of me already wants to order... back issues! Someone, please stop me!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Comparisons #2 & 3: ST Magazine UK/Aust vs ST Magazine US

A few months ago, Star Trek fans were asking about differences between the UK "Star Trek" magazine from Titan and the version that has now been made available to the USA (filling the void left by the "Star Trek Communicator").

I ended up changing my old "Star Trek Communicator" standing order with my local Australian comic collectibles shop, Kings Comics, to Titan's US "Star Trek" magazine, but when the (renumbered) UK version turns up on Australian newsstands a whole month later, I buy it all over again - because the UK version sometimes has extra material, not included in the US edition. (I guess it's to discourage UK fans buying the imported American version when they pick up their regular pile of US comics, "Starlog" magazines and US import stuff from UK comic shops?)


#2 of the US version of Titan's Star Trek (NOV/DEC 2006) is 66 pages but the UK/Aussie version (#87 JAN/FEB 07; #129 UK) is 98 pages: same page count as both countries' first new issue. As I said last time, there are also differences in the magazines' dimensions: the UK version is 2 centimetres taller and one centimetre wider. The US magazine has a big "#2" in the Starfleet delta shield logo, while the UK mag again reads "New look". The placement, and sometimes rewording to suit local audiences, of the full-page glossy advertisements, is also changed.

* Main UK/Aussie addition: Celebrating 'Star Trek: Voyager' supplement in the middle pages, featuring:

* Voyager's Ten Best!

* Building the Future - interview and sketches with Tim Earls, designer

* "I Was a Voyager Alien!" - Patrick Jankiewicz, one of the magazine's regular contributors, tells how he once played a primitive alien cave person in "Basics", on location at Lone Pine, CA (previously used for the feature films "Gunga Din" and "Tremors". The photo credits wrongly mention the location as Vasquez Rocks. Interesting that should happen the same week as "Starlog" has an item about the trustworthiness/usefulness of captions!)

* Double-sided bonus poster: Janeway/EMH

* The Doctor is In - interview with Robert Picardo

* Top Nine Doctor Moments - VOY episodes

* The 9 Enemies - VOY episodes

* The Alpha Guide: The Borg

* Angelic Alien! - Pat Jankiewicz interview with Iona Morris, aka Umali of "Workforce" - and yet another former child extra who once appeared in "Miri" (TOS)

* Competition to win "The Q Fan Collective" DVD set

* Competition to win three Corgi ship models

* Tower of Commerce - merchandise page and order form.


#3 of the US version of Titan's Star Trek (JAN/FEB 2007) is again 66 pages and the UK/Aussie version (#88 MAR/APR 07; #130 UK), which turned up on newsstands this week, is 98 pages. However, the most noticeable difference is the cover art: Data on the US edition - with the headline "A DATE WITH DATA", while UK features Archer/T'Pol/Tucker and the banner "BACK TO THE FUTURE". Maybe Titan is scared that there is still a lot of viewer resistance to "Star Trek: Enterprise" in the USA?

* Main UK/Aussie addition: Celebrating 'Star Trek: Enterprise' supplement in the middle pages, featuring:

* Enterprise's Ten Best!

* Tucker's Luck - interview with Connor Trinneer

* Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid - 10 ENT spooky episodes

* The Ongoing Mission - Pocket editor Margaret Clark highlights the return of Tucker in novel form: the upcoming "The Good That Men Do" by Mangels & Martin

* First Frontier - interview with Rick Berman

* Double-sided bonus poster: ENT main cast/NX-01

* Out of the Blue - interview with ENT production assistant Doug Mirabello, who was a last-minute replacement for an Andorian extra in "Proving Ground"

* Action Man - interview with Vince Deadrick Jr, stuntman

* New Lifeforms and New Civilizations... - 10 ENT alien races

* Back to the Future - 10 ENT time travel episodes

* Voyage of Discovery - interview with Gabriel C Koerner, visual FX technician

* Strange New Worlds - 10 ENT planets

* Be My Guest - interview with Eric Pierpoint, aka Harris in four episodes

* Competition to win "The Klingon Fan Collective" DVD set.

Good news for American fans: the US "next issue" ad (ie. for #4 US; #131 UK; #89 AUS) promises a return of the 98 page (plus covers) size as a "Collectors Special". Mmmmm. I wonder if I'll still keep getting both versions?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Any faded surfers out there?

I have a really great idea for a piece of fiction I'm working on, and I'm hoping to find a few genuine Aussie surfies (from the 70s or 80s) with whom to have some dialogue.

Hawea Point

Is there anyone reading this who was heavily into that unique subculture in the late 70s, and through the 80s and early 90s? I'm interested in learning about you, your surfing techniques, "rules" of the "tribes", the beach fashions of the day, and hairstyles. Perhaps I can also build up a glossary of surfer terms, but specific to the 70s and 80s, please, and examples of comradeship with other surfies. Even surfie games and initiation rites would be excellent, or is there a code of silence like that of biker groups and freemasons?

I could read a book on Australian surfing culture, I suppose, like "Puberty Blues", or rummage some second hand bookshops for old surfing magazines, but I'd rather hear something first hand, and from the male perspective. (Frankie Avalon/Annette Funicello beach party movies aren't going to be much help for what I have in mind.) Please let me know...

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Bloggers unite!

Tonight was my second meeting of the Sydney Weblogger Meetup Group, hosted by Sara, aka The Bargain Queen (and her consort, who has taken to introducing himself to others as "Mister Bargain Queen"). The venue was the atmospheric Art House Hotel in Pitt Street in the Sydney CBD.

Last time had eleven attendees; this time there were probably 35 or so! No doubt the increased numbers (25 had RSVPed) were because a conference (Ad-Tech) had been in progress all day, and many of the pro bloggers had come from a full day's program of events - and had obviously brought some blogger buddies.

It's an exciting time to watch the whole blogger phenomenon unfold, and how it's been embraced by the business sector, not just the hobbyists. Comparing blogging in the 2000s to the rise of the talk-back radio phenomenon of a few decades ago, Mr BQ postulated, "If Alan Jones or John Laws were starting out in their public careers today, they'd be bloggers!"

Thanks again for organising the event, Sara.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

PURLs before swine

After starting up my blog last year, I was excited to discover that numerous friends - from various stages of my life - had blogs of their own. But sometimes I found that their online presence had been abandoned after only a few weeks or months of blogging; my messages of greeting and hopeful reunion perhaps never to be found. Sigh...

I sometimes find myself pondering what would happen to my various websites should I suddenly not be around any more.

Luckily for one of them, way back in 1999, my Number 96 Home Page was catalogued and "captured" for inclusion in the online PANDORA Archive. It was quite a thrill: my home page was selected for the first exclusive group of (three) Internet sites about Australian television programs to appear in the National Library of Australia's online public access catalogue, alongside the official websites for The Panel and the long-forgotten Good Guys, Bad Guys! In 1999, The Panel and Good Guys, Bad Guys were both current shows; my site honours an Aussie soap opera from the 1970s, and the site has been running since "the Year of '96" (wink).

Number 96

PANDORA has since catalogued many other Australian TV show websites. They simply web whack* the site as it existed at time of cataloguing (ie. mine on 26 Nov, 1999), but once only, and give it a PURL (persistent URL). They also provide a hot link to the current updated site (if it continues to exist, which - so far - mine does). The Panel's URL now only links to Working Dog's production house site, and the original Good Guys, Bad Guys website has vanished completely! ("Why wasn't I told?" Dorrie would ask.)

Even if, somehow, Ian McLean, web composer, vanishes, the Number 96 Home Page shall continue forever!

* "Web whacking" is when someone downloads a copy of an entire website to their hard drive. Of course, doing that means they never get to see any future changes that are made by the web composer. But it does preserve for posterity an early version that even the website owners might not keep in their files.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Mego Museum freebies

In the mail today came my complimentary set of fourteen Mego Museum trading cards, #39 to 52 inclusive, featuring the highly-coveted Mego 8" Star Trek action figures from the 1970s. All one had to do to get these cards was send both email and postal addresses to the guys who run the Mego Museum website.

Mego Museum cards

The photography is very nice. The designers and photographers have managed to get those early figures, including the ultra-rare Andorian and Romulan figures, into some great poses. The monochrome cardbacks feature "Mego Facts", and trivia questions and answers. Too bad the mailing list has been closed off for now, or they'd be swamped with more word-of-mouth orders.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

The move to New Blogspot

I put it off and put it off, but finally Blogspot cornered me and forced me to move the blog's files across to whatever it is they've been beta testing.

I'm not all that happy, since my iMac's Safari browser is unable to post responses to other people's blog pages, and Firefox doesn't view many blog pages correctly, often overlapping images and text. For some reason, Firefox also often refuses to cut 'n' paste text - and will sometimes refuse to refresh to clear the cache, and show me the latest version of my own pages. So I spend a lot of time juggling between browsers, trying to keep everything working. The most agonizing bit was applying for a Google mail account, so I could register the new version of the blog. Of course, the "word verification" image wasn't appearing in Firefox, but Safari was off limits. It took at least three goes, attempting to refresh the page, but the secret letters finally turned up. Whew! I really thought I'd been locked out at one point, with neither browser wanting to "publish".

They are slowly working their way through the blogsphere. I hope it all the "dust" settles quickly.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Dog Day Afternoon

Jack had his regular Saturday meeting today with doggy pals, Jessie, Tara and Billy. It was as predictable as it was typically bizarre. Jack, a Jack Russell terrier, wanted to run and run and run, preferably being chased by Jessie and Tara. Jessie, a border collie, and Tara, a miniature pinscer, were content to stay in the air conditioned outhouse with their mistress. Billy, a Maltese terrier, was content to stay inside the main house.


After tiring of running figures of eight by himself, Jack decided to investigate the garden for skinks. Of course, that requires his demanding that I get up, put down my book and go outside into the heat to watch him looking for skinks. I'm not sure if he expects me to get down on bended knee and help him look, but I am at least supposed to watch him. Eventually, there is a doggy toilet break and we all return to the comfort of the outhouse.

After about twenty minutes, Jack demands that I get up again, put down my book and go outside into the heat to watch him looking for lizards. Again. Eventually, we all return to the comfort of the outhouse. After about twenty more minutes, Jack demands that I get up again, put down my book and go outside into the heat to watch him looking for assorted reptiles. And so on.

Do you see a pattern in this madness?

When in doubt, Jack returns to running figures of eight by himself again. If he's in luck, Jessie will make a pretence that she's chasing him. Then they might have a barking contest. Tara will usually make a half-hearted effort to join this activity. Until a large water skink sticks its head out from under a rock in the garden, and Jack's off again, and the whole game plan escalates to a new level.

Who needs children when you have a Jack Russell?

Friday, February 02, 2007

The thrill of the hunt! Part 3

It's been a looooooong time since I've been surprised by a "new" Star Trek book, just sitting in front of me on a shelf. It happened to me this week and it gave me a rather nostalgic buzz.

The Internet really spoils things. I mean, thanks to places like Psi Phi and TrekBBS, I know the titles, authors, covers and blurbs of most Star Trek books for months - even years, sometimes - before they turn up.

On Tuesday, I started back in a school library, refreshing those forgotten, cobwebbed corners of my brain that used to understand the OASIS computer database, the Dewey Decimal System, and how many library books could be borrowed by a Year 4 child with a cloth library bag.

Refamiliarising myself with the Enquiry facility of OASIS, I typed in "Star Trek" as a search term - I'd recently donated a hardcover copy of the "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock Storybook" by Lawrence Weinberg to the library, which I'd found at a bargain price - and up came a single title I didn't recognise: "Rain May and Captain Daniel", an Australian fiction book for primary aged children by Catherine Bateson (UQP Storybridge Series, University of Queensland Press, 2002). It had a subject heading of "Star Trek: The Next Generation [Television series] - Fiction". Mmmmm...


How I missed it when the book first came out I just do not know. It was even shortlisted in the Children's Book Council of Australia's "Book of the Year" Awards. (My class had studied the picture book "Bear and Chook" that year, performing the story as reader's theatre at the assembly - and our group poster for the library was on the theme for 2003, not just one book.) Had I still been editor of "Scan", I'd have proofread the review, and organised the uploading of said review to our website.

Of course, even finding the book wasn't easy. My first scan of the "B" fiction shelves didn't locate the book, although it did turn up on Thursday. Then, last night, I found my own copy at Dymocks in the city. I was fairly sure they'd have it, since the book is also on the list of recommended reading for the NSW Premier's Reading Challenge..., of which I'm a member of the book review panel! Did I say, "The thrill of the hunt"? Yeah, "the hunt" is supposed to be enjoyable. It's why we crave it. But it's usually the "finding" that overrules all the previous feelings of frustration.

Now, "Rain May and Captain Daniel" is not a Star Trek book per se, but it is about a group of school students, living in Melbourne, Australia, who like (and/or come to appreciate) Star Trek - in all of its TV incarnations. Although Rain explains that she's named after a line in an e e cummings' poem, "Captain" Daniel assumes she was named for Rain Robinson, a guest character from the "Voyager" two-parter, "Future's End". Daniel seems to live and breathe Star Trek, keeps a diary he calls his "Captain's Log" (complete with stardates), thinks of his neighbours as alien colonists, and even knows a counsellor named Diana, just like Deanna Troi of TNG.

These kids identify strongly with the ST ideals and characters, mainly of "The Next Generation" and "Voyager". They support each other through some serious issues, in ways that would make Gene Roddenberry proud. They go shopping for Star Trek lapel pins at the real Minotaur Bookshop, can quote Kirk and Spock as readily as Deanna Troi - and are enthralled when a friend gives them a disk of the downloaded "Enterprise" premiere, long before it was to be commercially available in Australia!

There are a few glitches in the novel: references to Lieutenant Tom Parish (Paris), Counsellor Troy (Troi) and Volcan (Vulcan) three-dimensional chess, but overall the story rings true. In the 80s I knew several primary aged kids who got thoroughly immersed in the Star Trek phenomenon. It's rarer to find them today because the newer ST series screen on free-to-air TV sooooo late at night, and to such an erratic schedule of delays and pre-emptions for sporting events and infommercials.

Some fun quotes from the book:

"I haven't much bargaining power, as the Ferengi would put it..."

After watching the teaser of "Enterprise": "Then there was this dicky music and some credits started to come up." "... The music is so stupid... It completely sucks."

"And she thinks Scott Bakula is a total stud puppy."

From the back cover blurb: "Together these unlikely friends adventure where no one has gone before.

Hunt for it! It's a great little read.

Captain's Log: Supplemental.

Stranded in Boringsville
US title: "Stranded in Boringsville".

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Welcome Schwin!


Schwin the Andorian cook - to a group of Federation archaeologists - turned up in my email box this week, courtesy of a heads-up from Mark Martinez and the generosity of IDW Publishing's Star Trek comics editor, Dan Taylor. Thanks guys!

Previously I had blogged a brief review on issue #1 of "The Next Generation: The Space Between", and it was a tricky review to write because I'd already sent a general response off to the lettercol of IDW's mini-series, so what more could I say? - but then there seemed to be a lot of fan negativity to the artwork of that issue. I certainly hadn't had a bad reaction to it, myself, but suddenly I was reading online comments from people complaining that it would be their "last issue" unless the art "improved".

Their reactions still seem like overreactions to me. And since when is artwork the only reason to buy a comic? Of course, appreciation of comic art is so subjective and, as I said last time, expectations for TV tie-in comics - and the readership of TV tie-ins - are not necessarily the same as comics in general.

As someone who thought the art of issue #1 was fresh, clean and vibrant, I'm not sure "improvement" is the correct term, but I was thrilled to skim through the visuals of issue #2 this morning! I want to spend more time with the story right now, but I'll be late for work!

There seems to be two main differences with the art: firstly, the inked outlines are thinner, which takes away the previous "cartoony" complaints, I guess; secondly, the backgrounds are truly sumptuous! When Picard's archaeology team is outdoors in the rain, the backgrounds blur out slightly, and when they reach shelter the backgrounds sharpen again. Beautiful. Captain Picard gets a rare, coveted opportunity to play archaeologist (or alternatively, archeologist, as my "Macquarie Dictionary" allows), you see. This is a Season Five Picard, in a story set just after the "Unification" Spock-on-Romulus two-parter.

Meanwhile, Beverly Crusher, who was off-frame throughout all of issue #1 (a Season One story), gets to cut a rug on the holodeck, so the backgrounds on the Enterprise-D are richer and more detailed. The holodeck is appropriately moody in night club mode. Her scenes work very effectively as a "B plot" to Picard's story, in the best TNG tradition.

Dan Taylor suggested in a recent interview that each issue of "The Space Between" is fully self-contained, and indeed they are, but he intimated that we may eventually realise that there is an overarching link as well. I'm intrigued!

I hope Star Trek fans continue to support IDW Publishing's Star Trek efforts.

Captain's Log: Supplemental. I finally had the chance to read the story, and I found it very enjoyable, and I didn't anticipate all of the plot twists. The writer uses an economy of words in numerous places, and the main story really hums along. This issue could easily have been an episode of TNG. The characters ring true, and I'm looking forward to see what else this mini-series will cover. Thanks again, Dan!