LEGO 250 REVIEWS: 70424 GHOST TRAIN EXPRESS

Back to the Hidden Side today, with the second-largest set released so far, and the largest one in my collection, 70424 Ghost Train Express.

As much as I’m a fan of all things spaceship, I am singularly not a fan of trains: not in the real world, and not in the realm of toys. They’re boring.

So how did I end up with two of this set?

Continue reading “LEGO 250 REVIEWS: 70424 GHOST TRAIN EXPRESS”

LOVE IN THE TIME OF COVID, THE ALBUM: S IS FOR FOR SOME SWINGING SQUIRRELS.

If, by now, you’re not talking to squirrels and living in your own personal version of Hell, are you even doing Covid-19 properly?

This post is literally nothing but an excuse to expose you to my lifelong love of swing music, and revel in its 90s revival.

Swing, you dogs!

 

 

If you’re late to the party, get a few down your neck while you catch up to the rest of us:

LOVE IN THE TIME OF COVID, THE ALBUM: R IS FOR THE REVEREND

As the realisation that the conditions under which we’re living will continue for the foreseeable future hits — West Australian premier Mark McGowan is talking openly about maintaining our hard border closure for at least six months, and the Education Department has instructed teachers to prepare for home-based learning for all of next term, and to consider similar measures for term three — even the hardest hard-line brainless fuckwit morons anti-vaxxer flat earth climate denying conspiracyvirus yappers are coming to the conclusion that just maybe this has something to do with more than Greta Thunberg wanting the playground all to herself.

Not all of them, obviously: stupidity is notoriously hard to get out of fabric, and it knows no boundaries of class or intelligence.

It’s no surprise that people are turning to nutty theories, pretend sky wizards, and charlatans in a time of uncertainty. People have always preferred easy fallacies to difficult truths, and always trusted a facile smile more than a complicated, unflinching, logic. We are creatures of fear and logic, stretching back to a time when we were nothing more than slow-moving meat. In such a time, comfort food, comfort drink, and comfort removal-of-personal-responsibility provide much more… well, comfort… than the idea that we might have to suffer for a while and still, possibly, not prevail.

Religion and drinking. There are so many ways to combine them. Here’s one for today.

I first discovered The Reverend Horton Heat on, of all things, an album of TV cartoon theme song covers, where they tore up a dual cover of Jonny Quest and Stop That Pigeon like crazy people. I’ve loved rockabilly since The Stray Cats and punk since The Clash, so psychobilly was always going to be right up my personal alley: the moment I discovered The Cramps, it was all over, red rover. So yeah, I became an instant fan, and have remained so ever since.

That’s the religion part taken care of. Here’s the drinking. A special treat: two songs from The Rev, covering two-fifths of Larry Miller’s legendary ‘five levels of drinking’.

Mix up a bathtub of margaritas, climb in with your favourite straw, and enjoy.

(All those messages of surprise I received when people read my Orbital post and learned I like dance music: can’t wait to see how many I get now the rockabilly is out of the hill…)

 

 

 

If you’re late to the party, get a few down your neck while you catch up to the rest of us:

RIP, TB-T: SOMEBODY CALLED

One of the things that has been highly noticeable about the spread of Covid-19 is that it is no respecter of rank, position, or privilege. Like a true plague, it has struck indiscriminately, from Prince Charles, to Boris the Bastard, to Kenny Dalglish, to fathers and mothers and siblings and offspring less famous, but just as necessary to the wellbeing of the world.

Sadly, for everyone who contracts the virus and recovers, we suffer a painful loss: at the time of writing, over 144,000 lives have been lost worldwide, and the number grows daily. And while it could be argued that some figures might improve the world immeasurably by no longer being in it*, we’re also seeing the loss of people who have enriched our experiences through their work and their legacies. Gita Ramjee has died. Lorena Borjas. Terrence McNally. And last night, as Luscious and I were heading to bed, news broke that brought us both to tears.

British comic actor, writer, and absolute pillar of my childhood memories, Tim Brooke-Taylor, succumbed to the virus at the age of 79.

Continue reading “RIP, TB-T: SOMEBODY CALLED”

LOVE IN THE TIME OF COVID, THE ALBUM: Q IS FOR THE INEVITABLE CHOICE FOR Q

Yeah, look. I tried. Honestly. But Queens of the Stone Age suck arse, and all my Quincy Jones is stuff he produced for others, not any of his own material. So it’s Queen, okay? Of course it’s Queen. It’s only a matter of which Queen track to choose. We want something that offers some kind of comment on what’s happening to the world around us, but also something that you might not have heard before, just in case a taste of new music is what you need right now.

Not so easy with Quee….ah, got it.

It’s an easy out to blame everything that’s going wrong on a cookie-cutter old-white-man-in-a-suit boogie monster, but by the same token it’s also not exactly a really long stretch, either. The truth is, white-man-politics-with-money is at the root of an absolute fucktonne of the social, cultural, racial, and economic issues that Australia finds itself contorted by. And the truth is, many of those issues are the result of the ingrained xenophobia, racism, misogyny, empire-building, religious zealotry, and all-round just being stupid dumbshits-ery brought over with the Western European diasporas that have hit Australian shores with stunning regularity over the decades. I’m sure no other countries have issues with historical European imperialism.

So, you know what? Suck it up.

And I say that as an increasingly old white man from good, old-fashioned, racist English stock who has had to overcome a whole lot of inherited psychological bullshit over the years. You’re either part of the solution, or shut up. Nobody gets to be proud of being part of the problem anymore. That shit has to stop.

Adapt or die. The new world needs it.

And, hey: a Queen song you might not have heard a billion times on the radio. That’s something too, right?

 

 

If you’re late to the party, you can still get timey-wimey and listen to everything that has come before:

LOVE IN THE TIME OF COVID, THE ALBUM: P IS FOR PAINTING

Easter Sunday. Let us sit upon the couch, and tell sad stories about the death of our chocolate egg supplies.

We know, those of us who stare at each other through our computer screens and wonder what fresh catastrophe the mishandled greed and corruption of the Megabusiness Lap Dogs we trusted to run our societies will unload upon us, and just what will remain when we emerge, shamefaced and cowed, to look upon the aftermath of toilet paper riots and border-closing xenophobia we brought upon ourselves. We know.

We know that to return to the old way of things is to have learned nothing. We know that something has to give, that this epoch of money-worship and cultural isolation has been as close as anything else to bringing us to this point, where we blindly threaten our own survival simply so Frank and Edna can have that boat they only ever sit on the water and drink beer in, and so that Drumpf and Bezos and Reinhart can wipe their arses with ever-thickening wads of fifties. We know.

We know, and still we contribute to it.

Continue reading “LOVE IN THE TIME OF COVID, THE ALBUM: P IS FOR PAINTING”

LOVE IN THE TIME OF COVID, THE ALBUM: O IS FOR ORBITAL

Surely, by now, at least one of you has danced around the house in your underwear. Doesn’t even have to be your underwear. Doesn’t even have to be your house. Or inside. Or in underwear. Or clothes.

Look, just send me videos of naked people dancing, okay?

Dance music is some Marmite stuff. Either you love it or you don’t. But while we’re all tucked up in our living rooms, and the gym’s closed, and they’ve changed the locks to the gate at the pool so my your key is useless, you’ve got to do something to maintain that clean, high-energy lifestyle you’ve been telling yourself you’re just about ready to commit to any time soon, right? (The prosecution would like it noted that the defendant is literally eating a plate of cheese, pickled onions, and crackers while typing this unwarranted slur on everybody else’s reputations….)

Orbital are great. High energy, high octane beats with a ridiculously large slice of satirical side-eye and a self-awareness about the popular culture that surrounds them which borders on the perverse. They played a huge part in bringing dance culture into the mainstream, headlining Glastonbury in 1994 and delivering one of the all-time great gigs before becoming movie soundtrack staples throughout the 90s. They’ve been a staple of my playlist for years: songs like Satan, The Sinner, Belfast, and Chime are mood-lifting staples for when I really need them.

And then there’s this: the song that first brought them into my… uh… orbit. The song that brought Lord 15 into dance music. A song that should remind us that everything changes, everything evolves, everything continues, even if the surface details may alter from time to time.

I can think of no more resonant and symbolic cultural figure to hold onto in these times than The Doctor, and so here we are: Orbital, and my favourite of their tracks, Doctor?, performed live at the scene of their greatest triumph, with a special appearance by… well, let’s just say it’s perfect.

So, no matter what happens over the next few weeks and months, no matter what we suffer through, and endure, remember: One day, we shall come back. Yes, we shall come back. Until then…..

 

 

If you’re late to the party, you can still get timey-wimey and listen to everything that has come before:

LOVE IN THE TIME OF COVID, THE ALBUM: N IS FOR NINA

The school term is officially finished. All the little darlings are officially at home for two weeks, arse-glue liberally applied to the couch and TV-eyes firmly fixed in place. And Luscious and I have the joy of officially trudging into work every day to sit in empty classrooms, setting up and creating content for the next ten weeks of disinterest and objections that this is stupid and why do we even need to learn this crap anyway?

Of course, the truth is that we’ve been in this position for the last two weeks. But as of today, it’s at least official, and that makes all the difference.

So in the spirit of not even really trying and not giving a damn about the end result, I’m not even trying to link today’s musical choice to Covid-19, the political landscape, or the toxic, semi-liquid filth currently gagging Boris the Rock Spider’s brain lungs. And I don’t care about the result. So there.

I love a bit of Nina Simone, and have done ever since I discovered her via the medium of a short Aardman animation film, back in the days when they experimented with stuff instead of squeezing out a bland, never-ending package of twee homages to a Little England that resembles nothing more than being trapped inside the Kinks’ Village Green Preservation Society album and never once realising it’s supposed to be satirical.

So here it is. Settle back, mix the third breakfast margarita of the day, and enjoy the serenity. See you tomorrow.

 

 

If you’re late to the party, this is your perfect opportunity to catch up before the numbness reaches your fingertips:

LOVE IN THE TIME OF COVID, THE ALBUM: TIME FOR MADNESS

Oh, let’s be honest. Given that I’m sitting here in my Madness tee-shirt, and my Madness tattoo on my arm, writing on my website that uses a Madness quote in the sidebar to try to sum me and my lifetime’s effort up, with my lifelong conviction that Madness is the greatest pop band in the history of absolutely everything… it wasn’t likely to be Melodious Mikey and the Mangled Meltheads, was it?

Besides which, what better band name to sum up everything that’s happening throughout the world right now?

Lucky for you, Madness is one of those rare bands that actually get better as they get older. Idiot Child comes from their 2009 masterpiece The Liberty of Norton Folgate. It’s a perfect anthem for any of the Trimvirate of Evil Morons– apply it to Scum the Crime Minister, the Orange Humgruffin, or Boris the Bastard as you will.

 

 

If you’re late to the party, this is what the rest of us have been fiddling to while our respective corners of Rome burn:

EXIT, WITHOUT SO MUCH AS KNOCKING

Sad news this week, with the passing of Australian poet Bruce Dawe.

Like many Australians of my generation, Dawe was my first taste of contemporary poetry. His collection Sometime Gladness was a school staple in the 1980s. Unlike many of my peers, for whom using two forms of cutlery in the same meal was considered forensic proof of poofterdom (1980s. Rockingham. Because homosexuality was something to be feared and beaten, often with cricket stumps or boots, based on nothing more than a certain level of intelligence and perhaps not liking AC/DC that much. At least in my case.*), I fell in love with both Dawe’s work and poetry in general. It’s a love that has never left me: in my day I’ve been reader, writer, and performer of poetry, with a handful of sales here and there to salve my somewhat notions of credibility.

Continue reading “EXIT, WITHOUT SO MUCH AS KNOCKING”

LOVE IN THE TIME OF COVID, THE ALBUM: L IS FOR LISA

Deep into the second week of isolation, and apart from the dildoes up the road deciding that 2am is the perfect time to have themselves an Aussie-Standards-and-Shouting-at-the-Top-of-Their-Moronic-FIFO-lungs party last night, life is just frigging peachy.

Luscious is isolated more by (ill) luck than design, having taken a fall at work on the last day of term that we really shouldn’t have been here for anyway, which seems to have ripped half of her muscles away from her ankle bone. For those who have been playing along, no, the other ankle. Chance is a fine thing. It does, however, mean that she and Webex are working from home this week, while I sit in an empty classroom wondering just what the hell I’m doing here, anyway?

Weird that it takes a lack of students to realise what a second-rate teacher of students you are, but there it is.

Anyway, today’s listening is Britstralian songwriter Lisa Mitchell, who somehow managed to finish sixth in the 2006 season of Australian Idol behind the vacuous talent-free black holes of Damien Leith, Jessica Mauboy, and three blokes whose names I forget the moment I read them. Her first album, Wonder, was released when she was 18: it’s a delightful confection of whimsy, lilting tunefulness, and the sort of musical arrangements that must exist inside Stevie Nicks’ head when she’s in full elf-dancer mode. Since then Mitchell has moved further and further into a template of bog-standard female in her 20s Australian Music Industry plastic electric stylings, but for a moment she was the most original thing to hit Australian music in decades.

Oh, Hark! is a witty rumination on the fear of death, and particularly the things that lurk in the shadows between death and resurrection. It’s a fitting conversation starter for these times, when we sit between — hopefully –the death of right wing capitalism and wholesale destruction of the planet to fill the pockets of old, white, happy clapping zealots as the predominant thoughtform, and the potential for birthing something more fitting for the times to come.

 

 

If you’ve missed the party so far, here’s all the ways you could have self-harmed with the rest of us:

LEGO 250 REVIEW: 11910 MICROSCALE SPACE CRUISER AND ‘GREAT LEGO SETS’ BOOK

Every now and again, Lego-preferred publisher DK Books  puts out a tome specifically designed to part a fool and my money. Often, that book includes a special minifigure, or tiny build that you wouldn’t, for a moment, think of purchasing separately, but now that it’s attached to the front of a $50 book you’ll flick through once or twice and leave on the shelf to gather dust and give the cat asthma, weeellllll, all of a sudden, there it is, on your shelf, and the cat’s sneezing its box off…..

Anyway, this is one of those ‘tiny build’ examples.

Thing is: DK put out pretty good books. And the tiny build in question is one that, you know, has some resonance. Which is all well and fine and stuff, but is it any good?

Continue reading “LEGO 250 REVIEW: 11910 MICROSCALE SPACE CRUISER AND ‘GREAT LEGO SETS’ BOOK”

LOVE IN THE TIME OF COVID: K MEANS GETTING KINKY

Eleven days into self-isolation. By now, you’re beginning to see faces in the bowl of custard that’s been sitting in the fridge since January, and you know they’re starting to look pretty suggestive.

And let’s be honest, you’d be getting on with it, if it wasn’t for those damn neighbours spying on you via 5G radio waves, and the French trying to poison us all by blowing ill humours across the channel with giant bellows, and I don’t like the way that squirrel is looking at me, and being followed by a giant hedgehog named Spiny Norman….

It’s at times like these that a hero will rise and teach us all to lead the way. A Texan hero. A Texan Jewish hero, with spangly hat and a suitcase full of detective novels. A Texan Jewish hero with a fine line in tasteless, controversial, and unbelievably hilarious songs… provided you’re of a certain state of mind.

After eleven days of erotic thoughts about hatefucking expired custard, you’re probably in just about the certainest state of mind you’ve been in since Scum stole the election, and ready for some advice on what to do next. Kinky style…

 

 

If you’ve missed the party so far, here’s all the things we’ve listened to:

LOVE IN THE TIME OF COVID, THE ALBUM: J IS FOR JAMES

The second week of our Covid playlist arrives, and for some of you it’s been a lifetime since you’ve seen a human face that you remember you used to love but can’t quite remember why. Toast supplies are running low. Some bastard has put the Nutella back in the cupboard with less that a scrape in the bottom. The bottle shop knows you so well they have your daily three bottles under the counter waiting for you. Even floating photos of Scum the Crime Minister in the toilet bowl so you can play games of Stuka Dive Bomber has lost its allure.

Chin up, guv’. Worse fings ‘appen at sea. Spirit of the Blitz ‘n all that.

It’s probably no surprise that I’d pick James for this entry. Luscious and I have been mainlining the band for several months now. Laid and Getting Away With It (All Messed Up) were playlist staples for several years, but we’d never really thought beyond that until we let Google Home keep playing beyond those two once, and realised how many brilliant songs were following on from each other while we listened, agog.

There’s something about the band’s sound, and both the voice and look of lead singer Tim Booth, that remind us inextricably of Blake. They help keep him with us, and the pain is both bittersweet and bearable.

Crash is the opening track from their 1999 album Millionaires: arguably their finest, and one I will be taking with me any time I fly just in case I’m marooned on a desert island. The title might describe the way many of us are feeling right now. The lyrics certainly do.

 

 

If you’ve missed the party so far, because you’re not allowed out unless you’re somebody society is willing to sacrifice or this is a potential booty call, here’s what you could have been listening to instead of saving lives or bonking in the name of exercise:

LOVE IN THE TIME OF COVID, THE ALBUM: I’S NAME… IS IAN

It’s Sunday. Why are you even up?

If you haven’t heard of Ian Dury by now, you’ve managed to get to today years old without experiencing one of the most unique, magnetic, and brilliant wordsmiths to ever rise from the world of popular music.

I envy you. Oh, the things you’re going to discover as you lie about today, flicking from youtube video to youtube video, exclaiming “How the fuck did I not know about this?”.

Yes, the world is gloom. Yes, it’s doom. Yes, we still have to look at the smug, Dunning-Kruger, punch-here arsefaces of Scum, the Orange Humgruffin, and Boris the Bastard.

But it’s Sunday. Time to relax, just for a day. Time to think of reasons to be cheerful.

Why don’t you get back into bed?

 

 

If you’ve missed the party so far, because you’re not allowed out unless you’re somebody society is willing to sacrifice or this is a potential booty call, here’s what you could have been listening to instead of saving lives or bonking in the name of exercise:

MIXED MOVIE QUOTES: THE FLY

If there’s one thing Covid-19 is good for, it’s good for us no longer quite giving the shit we used to give about Lord 15 and movie ratings. So last night was The Fly, the 1986 R-rated remake version. Even after almost 35 years, Jeff Goldblum is amazing and Geena Davis…. has…… legs…… anyway: The Fly, mixed movie quote style.

 

The Fly

FIVE GRAPHIC NOVEL MINI-REVIEWS: XJLA OF THE UNCANNY GALAXY!

Well, at least if I don’t have to do any important grown-up things over the next couple of weeks, like herd the next generation of community leaders towards understanding why new dialogue should always start on a new line, at least I can do important grown-up things like read comic books and catch up on my Lego reviews.

Being grown up. Because they won’t let me be a kid anymore.

So let’s talk Justice League, X-Men, independent titles from decades ago that you’ve never heard of, and why you can’t go 80+ years without creating some absolute dud characters along the way…

 

Continue reading “FIVE GRAPHIC NOVEL MINI-REVIEWS: XJLA OF THE UNCANNY GALAXY!”

LOVE IN THE TIME OF COVID, THE ALBUM: H IS FOR THE HILLTOP

And so we reach the end of the teaching term. Such as it was.

For Luscious and myself, (and, you know, the 1600-odd other people who come to the school on a daily-or-less basis), it’s been a term interrupted by cyclone, injury, and family drama as well as Covid.

There aren’t many terms where you get to experience natural disaster and plague. I’m vaguely disappointed war hasn’t broken out. We’d have a hell of a bingo card filled out…

But now, thanks to the State Government eveeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeentuaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaallllllllllllllllllllllllllllly realising that we’re not ancient Aztecs, and that perhaps teachers are actual people and not sacrificial subjects, the school term is officially over a week early. The few remaining students are officially kicked out, and the rest of us will be isolated in our various classrooms from Monday morning, desperately trying to work just just what the frigging frig “prepare for alternative teaching environments” is supposed to mean.

So, what better way to celebrate the response to this pandemic by all levels of Government, as well as the policies and general mindset of Scum the Crime Minister and his Lieberal colleagues, than to indulge in my favourite hip-hop band: a collection of exactly the type of people they’d love to marginalise, with an anthem to the year they wish we were living in.

 

 

If you’ve missed the party so far, because you’re not allowed out unless you’re somebody society is willing to sacrifice or this is a potential booty call, here’s what you could have been listening to instead of saving lives or bonking in the name of exercise:

LOVE IN THE TIME OF COVID, THE ALBUM: G IS FOR THE WHOLE GANG

Here we are at the seventh day of our isolation watch. And it’s time to bring to the attention of the world– or at least the three of you reading this who haven’t witnessed a single Australian fireworks show since 1984 — one of my favourite underrated Aussie bands, GANGgajang.

Most famed for a nationalistic slice of 1980s pop perfection everyone thinks is called This is Australia, but which is actually called Sounds of Then, because Australians don’t actually listen to lyrics if the hear the world Austrayyyaaaa and they’re outside during a National Holiday (TLDR: pissed), their self-titled debut album inspired such lust in me that I begged my poor, long suffering mother for it for several months. Subsequently, she bought me a receipt…… and The Best of RamJam, because that was as close as she could remember when she hit the shop.

That receipt brought me a lot of joy over the years, as well as the album it enabled me to finally get my hands on.

Keen-eyed readers will have noted that I’m basically using these posts to comment on the world around me as the Days of Covid-19 (c) (IT’S MY MOVIE, DAMN IT! MINE!) continue.

So I leaned very strongly towards the classic House of Cards as an obvious metaphor for the way simple things are turning to shit around us. Seriously: today was food shopping day, and despite visiting both major supermarkets this town has, there was literally not one bar of soap or bag of flour of any type between them. Not even the ones made out of things soap and flour shouldn’t be made from, like toddler’s toenails, or charcoal, remained.

Instead, I’ve gone with the song that made me first fall in love with Buzz Bidstrup’s answer to getting shafted from some decent The Angels wages. Gimme Some Lovin’ might not be the obvious choice of title for our Apocalypsalooza, but given there’s some confusion as to whether you can Level 3 travel restrictions as long as you’re on a booty call, (I mean, I’m good, but even I might draw the line at classifying it as ‘exercise’) and with lyrics like

Well it’s happening again, like I always thought it would.

Mad men dancing in the streets and fire drains.

And it’s a strange infatuation, taking off across the nation.

Crazy darling combination. Since it’s one last move and it’s all over

perhaps it’s not so out of left field as all that.

 

So: thanks for helping to facilitate a lifelong love, Mum, and for the rest of you, enjoy.

 

 

If you’ve missed the party so far, because you’re not allowed out unless you’re somebody society is willing to sacrifice or this is a potential booty call, here’s what you could have been listening to instead of saving lives or bonking in the name of exercise:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LOVE IN THE TIME OF COVID, THE ALBUM: F IS FOR FAITH

As we slide towards the end of the first week of our album in isolation, thoughts turn towards our own mortality. The death toll worldwide continues to rise as the incompetent criminals such as Drumpf and our own Scum openly put their own interests above the safety of their countrymen. For all the jokes and sarcasm I throw about on this website, times are genuinely scary: nobody has any experience of this, and the more inaction and overt greed are the open directions taken by our leaders, the more the general populace is forced to act for itself.

No bad thing, perhaps: when faced with a Crime Minister whose policy seems to be to shut down Parliament, award himself oligarchical powers, and turn the actual administration of the country over to a select crew of mining cronies while he holes himself up and proselytises his inane happy handclapper zealotry like some sort of inbred bush league Adam Susan.

So, while Nero fiddles with himself and commits the country to his lunatic faith, it’s time to send a message of our own. You have your faith, Scum? We have Faith No More. And a song that may be in poor taste, but sadly, is timely as all buggery.

 

 

If you’re late to the party, here’s where we’ve ben so far: