Saturday, October 30, 2010

American Gothic to Bondi

Yesterday’s item about the Beverly Hillbillies and Green Acres included a picture of Grant Wood’s American Gothic, which depicts a farmer and his unmarried daughter, modelled by the artist’s dentist and wife respectively. The image is so well known that it is one of the most parodied of art works. A Google image search on American Gothic parody will bring up Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie in a similar photograph promoting their reality show; an Arabic couple wearing traditional dress in front of a burning building, the picture entitled Iranian Gothic; and the American Gothic couple updated to the present day with its emphasis on the acquisition of belongings…

Golden Oldies: Green Acres and The Beverly Hillbillies

(This is a repost of a past email).

A still from the Green Acres/Beverly Hillbillies crossover episode.

Driving to work a few weeks ago with Tom with the radio on, I had the radio tuned to John Stanley and Sandy Aloisi as usual. I’m not as fond of the 2UE breakfast radio show since Mike Carlton left but still have it on, despite Tom’s protests about it being a FOP station, meaning an old person’s station. On that show each morning John Stanley nominates 3 separate items, listeners winning a prize if they are the first to telephone with the common link. This particular morning the 3 items were Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies and Mr Ed. The common link, something that I wouldn’t have worked our even with Googling, was that they all finished with the words “This has been a Filmways presentation.”

The point of my story is that I told Tom that these were great comedy shows and I began singing the Green Acres theme. The more he protested the louder I sang, moving on to The Beverly Hillbillies and then Mr Ed.

Memories came back of watching those shows after school. I winder did I ever do any homework? It seems that my time was filled by TV shows.

Green Acres and The Beverly Hillbillies were classics and would probably be a hit again, although lines such as “You are my wife! Goodbye city life” would need revising. It’s a shame some TV station does not have one evening per week devoted to the past classics.

In discussion this with Kate, my wife,  she raised some other favourites: Get Smart, Hogan’s Heroes (would they make a comedy sitcom today set in a Nazi POW camp?) and F Troop. From there we moved on to the British classic oldies: Steptoe and Son, Open All Hours, All In The Family, When the Boat Comes In, Porridge, Benny Hill and Dad’s Army.

Friday, October 29, 2010

In case you missed it #1: Baby names

An interesting and significant social indicator that the times, they are a changin'...
Mohammed displaces Jack as most popular boy's name in Britain

Mohammed has become the most popular name for newborn boys in Britain. It shot up from third the previous year, overtaking Jack, which had topped the list for the past 14 years but was relegated to third spot. Olivia topped the list for little girls for the second year in a row, behind Ruby and Chloe.

A total of 7,549 newborns were given 12 variations of the Islamic prophet Mohammed’s name last year, such as Muhammad and Mohammad. The second most popular boy’s name, Oliver, was given to 7,364 babies. Harry and Alfie came in fourth and fifth place respectively.

The official list, which covers all births in 2009 in England and Wales, has ¬Mohammed at number 16 but this does not include the many different spellings, which are all ranked separately. When they are added in, Mohammed zooms all the way up to top spot for the first time. In order of popularity, the variant ¬spellings used during the year were: Muhammad, Mohammad, Muhammed, Mohamed, Mohamad, Muhamed, Mohammod, Mahamed, Muhamad, Mahammed and Mohmmed.

In case you missed it #2: Hell's Angels

There is a 1991 movie called Suburban Commando, starring Hulk Hogan and Christopher Lloyd. In it Hogan plays an interstellar warrior who crashlands his spacecraft on Earth and who stays with Shep Ramsey, played by Christopher Lloyd (Doc in Back to the Future) and his family. The film was originally titled Urban Commando and was intended for Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger but they elected to make Twins instead.

There is a scene in the movie where Christopher Lloyd scrapes one of the bikes of the biker gang living next door. Appearing mean and menacing in their biker colours, they gather to look at the damage. The following exchange takes place:

Gangleader: Do you have any idea what we are gonna do to you? If we find any kind of scratch?
Shep Ramsey: Lemme guess. Your gonna pound my face.
Gangleader: What are you nuts? This is the '90s. We're gonna sue you.

I was put in mind of this yesterday when I read the following newspaper item:

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

East Bound and Down

My mate Phil land I both love Smokey and the Bandit. You know those commercials where two guys are sitting in a bar asking each other movie trivia questions? That’s what it’s like when he and I get together, quoting lines from Smokey and the Bandit.

Who will ever forget the classic scene when Cledus is beaten up by bikers inside the choke and puke (Aussie version: chew and spew) and tossed out the door.  Battered and bruised, he silently clambers into the cabin of his monster truck and drives away, in the process putting every wheel over their bikes.

Or when Sheriff Buford T Justice says to his son after still another foul up: “There's no way, no way that you came from my loins. Soon as I get home, first thing I'm gonna do is punch yo mamma in da mouth!”

You wouldn’t get away with that today.

So sit back, listen to some good truckin’ music sung and played by the late, great Jerry Reed, who happens to play the Bandit’s offsider Cledus in the flick, and watch some of the moments from the movie:

If you feel like listening to some more Jerry Reed, who died in 2008 aged 75, click on the following:

The Devil Went Down to Georgia:

City of New Orleans:


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Quote: Alice in Wonderland

'But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.
'Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: 'we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad.'
'How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.
'You must be,' said the Cat, 'or you wouldn't have come here.'

-  Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 6

Monday, October 25, 2010

Vintage Pics: Court House, Newtown

Old buildings have a charm and a feel that is all their own and this also holds true of Newtown Local Court. It’s in the wood panelling, the unique features such as the decapitated head of Queen Victoria looking down on those who enter the building. It is also the slate stairs, worn by over a century of feet, the prisoner’s dock in the centre of the court with its heavy iron bars, even the single awful toilet located quite some distance from the court room along a dingy, Dickensian corridor.

The Court House is located in Australia Street and was built between 1883 and 1885.

Here are some pics of it (click on the images to enlarge):

Great Replies: Marc Connelly

Between 1919 and 1929 a group of writers, critics, actors, journalists, editors, press agents and wits met daily for lunch at the Algonquin Hotel, the gathering becoming known as the Algonquin Round Table. Their wisecracks, wordplay and witticisms were brought to a wider audience through newspaper columns of some of the Round Table members. The group also contributed to hit plays and books.

One story of the Algonquin Round Table concerns playwright Marc Connelly. One evening Connelly was dining with friends when another member of the Round Table came up behind Connelly and placed his hands on top of Connelly’s bald head. To the amusement of those gathered, the friend stated “Marc, your head feels as smooth as my wife’s arse.” Connelly raised his hand to his head, rubbed his own head and, with a wry smile, said “So it does, so it does.”

Saturday, October 23, 2010

At the Ballet

I like the ballet, classical ballet rather than modern, although these days I don't get to it as often as I would like. From the opening notes when the orchestra members are tuning their instruments to the last curtain call and the lights come on, I am in another world. As Sheila sings in A Chorus Line, everything is always beautiful at the ballet.

That is why I am indebted to Byter Vince for sending me a video of a performance of part of Swan Lake by the Great Chinese State Circus Ballet Company.

Ironically, earlier today I was discussing with my wife and a friend the decline of the traditional circus. This has come about partly because of opposition to circus animals being confined and made to perform demeaning tricks but also partly because of changed tastes and demands. The decline of the traditional circus has seen a corresponding rise in alternative circuses such as Cirque de Soleil.

The Great Chinese State Circus presents Chinese circus arts to European audiences by regular tours. The acts included martial arts from the Shaolin Temple, artists from the Peking Opera, lion dancing, plate spinning, aerial silk acts and a combination of dances and contortionism.

The following clip of Swan Lake is an amazing performance that must be viewed to be appreciated.

Friday, October 22, 2010

An elderly woman in central England claims to have held the winning Euromillions lottery ticket worth 129 million in euros ($183 million), but that she gave the ticket to her husband who threw it away. She said that she recorded the numbers in a notebook because her husband is always losing things or throwing them out. After investigation, she was paid the prize.

- News item

Reading the above item started me thinking about past large prizewinners who may have thought that they were blessed with the win but who had, in reality, been passed a poisoned chalice.

Here are 3 such stories:

Vivian Nicholson

In 1961 Viv Nicholson, then aged 25, won £152,000 on the Littlewoods footballs in England. That equals about £5m today. She and husband Kevin, a trainee miner, had been raising 3 kids on a £7 a week wage and living in a tiny terrace house in Castleford, Yorkshire. She was working in a liquorice factory. Asked by the press what she was going to do with her winnings, she famously declared “Spend, spend, spend.” And spend she did, on cars, clothes, alcohol, holidays, a luxury home and in numerous other ways. She found that people she had known distanced themselves from her and she no longer related to them. When they moved, she complained, the new neighbours hated them as well.


The Poms have had 36,000 people vote on 1,000 jokes to find the top 50, according to an article in the Daily Mail. You can read all top 50, which are mostly one liners, at:

For those not minded to read them, here are the top 3, starting with number 3:
3. 'Dyslexic man walks into a bra...

2. 'I went to the zoo the other day, there was only one dog in it, it was a shitzu.'

1. A woman gets on a bus with her baby. The bus driver says: 'Ugh, that's the ugliest baby I've ever seen!' The woman walks to the rear of the bus and sits down, fuming. She says to a man next to her: 'The driver just insulted me!' The man says: 'You go up there and tell him off. Go on, I'll hold your monkey for you.'
Now I don’t know about you but I didn’t find them exactly side splitting

Let me offer an alternative.

Some years ago Phillip Adams and Patrice Newell searched for the archetypal Australian joke.  Adams and Newell found that the jokes submitted were mostly rehashed Irish jokes etc. They later published them.

The joke they thought was the best Aussie joke, taking into account humour, language, setting etc was:
Two farmers are chatting. One says "I'm thinking of driving down to Sydney for a few weeks."

The other asks "What route are you taking?"

"I thought I'd take the missus," replies the first, "after all, she stuck with me through the drought."

Quote: Albert Einstein

“Three Rules of Work:

Out of clutter find simplicity;

From discord find harmony;

In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”

- Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

(Click on the above  pic to enlarge, print out a copy and work through the maze to get from the start to the finish).

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Quote: Kerry Packer

James Packer has paid $245 million for a 17.88% interest in the Ten Network.
- News item

The above report brings to mind a famous moment and resulting famous quotation in Australian financial history. Since the inception of TV in Australia, the Packer empire had been associated with free to air television through the ownership of Channel 9. In 1987 Kerry Packer (1937-2005), the father of James, sold Channel 9 to tycoon Alan Bond for a record $1.05 billion. Bond subsequently ended up in financial difficulties and sold Channel 9 back to Packer 3 years after the purchase for $250 million. Packer commented:

"You only get one Alan Bond in your lifetime, and I've had mine".

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Cane Toad: What Happened to Baz?

Byter Arthur told me last night that his favourite Bytes are those that deal with the origins of well known Australian expressions. I told Arthur I would do one for him but I’ve been flat out like a lizard drinking, fair dinkum, so haven’t managed to do it yet.

Nonetheless, Arthur, here is a video that includes some of the expressions and flavour of the Australian character and idiom, Cane Toad: What Happened to Baz?  It has been around for a while so whether you have seen it before or not, take the time to have a butcher’s hook by clicking on:
It is a little gory at times.  Watch it to the very end for the final images.

Cane Toad: What Happened to Baz? concerns the conjectures of Darryl (“my mates call me Dazza”), as to the disappearance of his mate Barry (“Baz”) "because, pickle me grandma, the silly old bugger has gone bloody missing.” Those speculations reveal the disregard held for cane toads by the human population, understandable in that the cane toad is one of the least lovable creatures in existence.

The video was made in 2002 by David Clayton and Andrew Silkie, Queensland animators, who took 6 months off work to make the short film for submission to festivals. It has since become a cult classic.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Origins: Bail


The word “bail” has a number of senses, including:
-  to bail someone out of jail;
-  the government bailing out car manufacturers;
-  to bail water out of a boat;
-  the crossbar on top of a cricket wicket.

A number of these senses originate from the Latin word “bajulare”, meaning “to carry, to bear a burden”. This resulted in the French “baillier”, meaning “to take charge of” or “hand over or deliver”, as used in the most common meaning of bail, the release of a person who would otherwise be in jail, either upon payment of a security deposit (also known as “bail”) or into the charge of someone who swears to ensure the accused’s appearance at court.

There is an archaic meaning from the 16th century of “bail” as “to vouch for, to guarantee”, being a solemn commitment to see a task through. It is in this sense that the word is used in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island:

“I’ll go with you [in search of treasure]; and, I’ll go bail for it, so will Jim, and be a credit to the undertaking.”

“…I would have gone bail for the innocence of Long John Silver”

Sunday, October 17, 2010

RIP Barbara Billingsley

Back in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s there was a US sitcom named Leave it to Beaver. The Beaver of this show was a young boy named Theodore “Beaver” Cleaver, played by Jerry Mathers. The show concerned his adventures at school, at home and in his neighbourhood and it portrayed an idealised 1950’s suburban family, much like the families in Father Knows Best and The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.

This was a time when Leave it to Beaver’s Dad (named Ward and played by Hugh Beaumont) did everything, including relaxing on the weekend, in a coat and tie, and Mum, portrayed by Barbara Billingsley, did the housework in pearls and high heels.

Barbara Billingsley, aged 94, died yesterday at her home in Santa Monica, California from a rheumatoid disease.

Quote: Susan B Anthony

“The true republic – men, their rights and nothing more; women, their rights and nothing less.”

- Susan B Anthony (1820-1906), American civil rights leader who played a pivotal role in the 19th century women’s rights movement to introduce women’s suffrage into the United States. The above words were the motto of the weekly journal published by her, The Revolution.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

C and W, Slim Dusty and Trucks

(Click on pics to enlarge)

Elwood:     What kind of music do you usually have here?
Claire:        Oh, we got both kinds. We got country and western.
- The Blues Brothers

I have a soft spot for country and western music. Where else do you get a story and a life lesson, all bundled into a 3 minute song? Sure, it is the choice of music for good ol boys and rednecks, and it’s sophisticated to ask what happens when you play country and western music backwards? Answer: Your dog comes back to life, your wife comes back to you and your crops start growing again.

But can we not all learn from C & W songs such as:

Friday, October 15, 2010

Quote: Booker T Washington

“I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which one has overcome while trying to succeed.”

- Booker Taliaferro Washington

(African-American educator, author, orator and political leader, 1856 - 1915.  Himself born in slavery, he was the sone of a white father and slave mother, eventually becoming  the representative of the last generation of black leaders born in slavery.)


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Happy Birthday Mrs Thatcher

Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness of Kesteven and Prime Minister of Great Britain from 1979 to 1990, was born on 13 October 1925.

Following are some items by, and about,  Mrs Thatcher.

A widely quoted story by Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal about Baroness Thatcher has not been able to be verified and is conceded by Ms Noonan to probably be apocryphal:
The story as I was told it is that in the early years of her prime ministership, Margaret Thatcher held a meeting with her aides and staff, all of whom were dominated by her, even awed. When it was over she invited her Cabinet chiefs to join her at dinner in a nearby restaurant. They went, arrayed themselves around the table, jockeyed for her attention. A young waiter came and asked if they’d like to hear the specials. Mrs. Thatcher said, “I will have beef.”

Yes, said the waiter. “And the vegetables?”

“They will have beef too.”


Col and Frank were drovers who had come to town for a beer. At the bar, Col got into conversation with another man and said “So what do you do for a living?” The man replied “I’m a taxidermist. I stuff animals.”

“Do you stuff sheep?” Col asked.


“Do you stuff kangaroos?”

“All the time.”

“What about dogs?”

“Yes, often.”

Later, Frank asked Col “What is he then?”

Col replied “He says he’s a taxi bloke but I reckon he’s a drover like us.”

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Edward Behr

There are currently appeals in progress in Indonesia's Denpassar District Court whereby convicted Bali Nine members Scott Rush, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran are seeeking to have their death penalties lifted.  They are aged 24, 26 and 29 respectively.  Rush and the others were arrested on 17 April 2005, with Rush  being sentenced to life imprisonment on 13 February 2006.  Chan and Sukumaran were sentenced to death, the prosecution having claimed they were the leaders of the operation.  When Rush appealed his life sentence, he too was sentenced to death, the only one of the drug mules to be so sentenced.

During a TV news item on the appeals last Saturday night, an Australian reporter approached Sukumaran as he was led towards the court room, flanked by prison oifficers.  The report extended his microphone into Sukumaran's face and said "How do you think your court case is going?"  Sukumaran did not respond.

It beought to mind the following:

 "Anyone here been raped and speaks English?"

- The title of the 1978 memoirs of journalist Edward Behr (1926-2007), taken from a question he heard a BBC reporter shout to a crowd of Belgian civilians waiting to be airlifted out of the Belgian Congo c 1960. The title was changed for the US market to Bearings: A Foreign Correspondent's Life Behind the Lines.


Monday, October 11, 2010

Ironic Ads: Union Carbide

(Click on pic to enlarge).

With the Commonwealth Games in Delhi on in full swing, it is appropriate to pause for a moment and take a look back at another moment in history concerning India and technology.

The above advertisement, dating from 1962, shows a hand pouring chemicals into the air and soil of India, above the words “…working with Indian engineers and technicians, Union Carbide recently made available its vast scientific resources to help build a major chemicals and plastics plant near Bombay. Throughout the free world, Union Carbide has been actively engaged in building plants for the manufacture of chemicals, plastics, carbons, gases and metals.”

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Twinkie Defence

Watching Law & Order: SVU I heard one of the show’s main police officers, Detective Elliot Stabler, refer to a defendant’s proposed defence as a ”Twinkie Defence”.   Intrigued by the term, I looked into it.

(Note: this post uses the Australian spelling “defence” rather than the US spelling “defense”).

That expression is now used in the US as a general term for any improbable legal defence. It originates from newspaper coverage of the 1979 trial of Dan White for the murders of San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone, as depicted in the film Milk.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Movie: Soldier

I love this movie and never tire of watching it again.

Made in 1988,it was directed by Paul Anderson and stars Kurt Russell, Connie Nielsen, Jason Isaacs, Jason Scott Lee and Gary Busey.

It’s tagline is “Left for dead on a remote planet for obsolete machines and people, a fallen hero has one last battle to fight.”

Basically it is the movie Shane set in the future.

Now I know that it’s easy to take the piss out of it. Kurt Russell is in the lead, he speaks only 104 words for the whole of the movie although he is on screen for 85% of the time, and he portrays a densitised, automaton style soldier, how appropriate.

Nonetheless the pic is thought provoking and entertaining with Kurt Russell perfect in the role.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Quote: Henry Ford

"Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty.  Anyone who keeps learning stays young.  The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”

- Henry Ford (1863-1947)

Thursday, October 7, 2010


Australian athletes are doing us proud in Delhi by expressing opinions on officials through the use of hand gestures. Wrestler Hassene Fakiri expressed his displeasure at being disqualified by the use of the middle finger salute, thereby also waving goodbye to his silver gong that he would still nonetheless have otherwise received. Now cyclist Shane Perkins has gone one finger better by giving officials a two finger salutation after he was disqualified.

Those finger comments pale in terms of emotion and significance when compared to the Arm of Honour of Polish athlete Władysław Kozakiewicz at the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow.

That incident has been the subject of a previous Bytes posting, read it at:

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Quote: Albert Einstein

“Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.”

- Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Vintage Ads: Women

Last week I posted a 1950's ad that showed an office male, frustrated at a secretary's responses to a franking machine, ask "Is it always illegal to kill a woman?" 

I received a couple of comments expressing amazement that such an ad was allowed, even in the 1950's.

Notwithstanding that atitudes were different then, the thinking goes, there are some things so basic, so wrong - racism, misogynism, discrimination, intolerance, bigotry etc - that there should have been hostility to such ads even then. 

Not so.  In case you think that the franking machine ad was an isolated instance of sanctioned violence against women, look at the atitudes behind these ads from the 1950's and 1960's: 

(Click on pics to enlarge)

Sunday, October 3, 2010


There is a joke that asks “What is the last thing you hear before a redneck dies?” and the answer is: “Y’all watch this.”

I was reminded of that when I recently again came across a video of redneck fishing. To watch the video of a couple of good ol’ boys makin’ their mommas proud, click on the following link:

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Mad About The Boy

Some, no, many, years ago I first saw a movie called Paradise Road, a Bruce Beresford flick that tells the true story of a group of women in WW2, prisoners of the Japanese on Sumatra, who form a voice orchestra to help them bear the misery. I have seen it a number of times since and am still captivated by the opening scenes of Julie Anthony singing Mad About The Boy in a nightclub in Singapore. Unfortunately that clip is not available on the internet. If you have the opportunity of watching the movie, do so, you won’t be disappointed.

I love the song, a great jazz number that has been performed by numerous artists, the definitive and most widely known being the recording by Dinah Washington. It can be heard by clicking on the following link:

Friday, October 1, 2010

RIP Tony Curtis

Hollywood actor Tony Curtis, 85, died from a cardiac arrest on 29 September 2010 at his home in the Las Vegas suburb of Henderson.

- News report

It is sad when a man’s lifetime of work and dedication is summed up in a remembered line that is used to mock him. It is even sadder when that is not even a true or correct reflection. So it was with Tony Curtis and I confess that I was one of those who quoted that line.

Curtis was born Bernard Schwartz in 1925 in the Bronx, New York, the son of Hungarian Jewish immigrants. Until age 6 he spoke only Hungarian, resulting in his schooling being delayed. Life was not easy for the Schwartz family. Curtis’s mother suffered from schizophrenia and frequently beat her 3 sons. Older brother Robert was also diagnosed with schizophrenia and later institutionalised. When he was eight, Curtis and his brother Julius were placed in an orphanage for a month because his parents couldn’t afford food for them. Julius was killed 4 years later when struck by a truck.

Quote: Lewis Carroll

"You are old," said the youth, "and your jaws are too weak
For anything tougher than suet;
Yet you finished the goose, with the bones and the beak--
Pray, how did you manage to do it?"
"In my youth," said his father, "I took to the law,
And argued each case with my wife;
And the muscular strength which it gave to my jaw
Has lasted the rest of my life."

- Lewis Carroll (1832-1898), Father William from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland