Rickrolling along

2014 rickroll essay

I couldn't understand why the UK's The Independent would publish Christopher Hooten's rickroll story - about the student whose quantum physics essay included the lyrics to Rick Astley's 'Never Gonna Give You Up' as the first word of every line. This must be old news; I blogged about this the first time it hit social media, back in October 2010. Gizmodo reported it then.


But I went back and checked, and it turns out - as you'll see below - to be an entirely different paper. Apart from the first word of every line.

So, as long as there are nerds who can string sentences together and remember the lyrics to an overplayed '80s track, there'll be teachers rickrolled. And online 'news' sources reporting it.

See you here again in another three and a half years.



Where are Santa's Reindeer?

Santa header small


What question regarding reindeer do kids ask Santa most?

You'd be surprised.

It's not 'what are their names?' - though it comes up often enough for Santa to need to know the answer without having to pause or think:

"Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder, Blitzen… and Rudolph!"

Rather than 'who', the most frequently asked question is 'where are they?'

Here's Santa's answer:




Kid's TV wasn't like this in our day!


In the time before the internet, it took something like Clive James On Television to bring to the attention to the rest of the world the folly of weird television and unfortunate [mis]translations. But this is the time of the internet, and news travels so fast that a story can break late at night and disappear before I've even had time to blog about it.

It was Clive, if you'll recall, who let the the rest of the world in on Japan's excellent game show, Endurance, in which contestants had cockroaches stuffed in their undies while they were hung upside down above snakes, and the like, in order to compete for some prize that couldn't possibly be worth all that they'd…  endured. But it wasn't just a matter of making fun of weird foreign television to satisfy and insensitive audience; Clive gave us a context and an explanation, presenting even the most ridiculous footage with a modicum of respect:

There had been a day when young men like these would have been taking off in planes they barely knew how to fly and heading for a sky full of flak, all in the hope of a different kind ofgrand prize - the chance to crash into an Allied warship.

(as told in Clive's fifth volume of autobiography, Blaze of Obscurity)

I'm not gonna wax as erudite for this one.




This was the story: a children's show in Japan featured a host whose jumpsuit bore rude slogans such as 'I LOVE SPONSORS', 'I LOVE C*CK', 'I LOVE P*SSY' and 'LOVE F*CK YEAH'. There was footage on YouTube.

That's it.



I knew, from recent experience with Cellular Solutions ("the leading communications provider to South East England") there'd be a little window of opportunity before the primary source was removed, censored or hidden.

So I quickly shot a video of the clip playing on my computer, with my phone. And then grabbed some screen caps. Before I finished, the clip was made private.




Here it is, for as long as it stays online, before it's taken down. Sorry. It's so low-fi, you're not gonna be able to read the costume. But you will recognise the design on the shirts the kids are wearing: they're in Nirvana t-shirts, bearing the instantly recognisable  logo - the acid house smiley with the stoned eyes and flakey mouth. Fittingly, the logo was adapted "from a downtown strip club called 'Lusty Lady'". As with the tribal patterns and kanji script that have become trendy patterns on upholstery, t-shirts and tattoos, the folks in charge of wardrobe for this show are interested in what the patterns look like inshot, more than what they might mean to an unlikely audience stumbling onto the program by accident.



A Hard Day's Nut: Chipmunks sing the Beatles



Today's record nerdery requires digging into my past.

My first introduction to the Chipmunks Alvin, Simon and Theodore, took place back in about third grade (1980) with the heavily TV advertised album Chipmunk Punk. I probably didn't recognise any of the song snippets at the time - 'My Sharona' and 'Call Me' - because I was a daggy kid; I knew I loved the Beatles, but it'd still be a couple of years before I'd by my first record ('The Beatles Movie Medley' 7-inch single, with 'I'm Happy Just To Dance With You' on the flip side, in a plain sleeve, from a shoebox full of singles at Mall Music, in 1982). So I wasn't going to know the 'punk' (actually 'new wave', if anything) songs like Blondie's 'Call Me' and 'My Sharona' by the Knack. (Okay, maybe Blondie are a punk band; the Knack weren't… much more than one-hit wonders in Australia at least. More on them in another blog, I promise! You can wait, I'm sure.)




What I didn't know about the Chipmunks back then was a lot. At least until some feature-length animations from later in the ’80s made it to television. Maybe there were some other cartoons that made it to Australian television. There was a boss guy called David Seville who yelled at Alvin a lot to keep him in line. In fact, there must have been a Christmas special, because I can remember parody lyrics to 'Deck the Halls' where Alvin sings, "Don't forget your gift to me…" that causes Seville to yell, "Alvin…!" while the Chipmunks are fa-la-la-la-la-ing.


I didn't know that David Seville was the 'real' voice of Ross Bagdasarian, who engineered the high-pitched musical shenanigans way back in 1958 - after he'd already had a hit with a similarly high-pitched novelty song, 'Witch Doctor', also under the name David Seville. (You know the song - with the 'Oo ee oo ah ah walla walla bing bang' chorus.)




Here's David performing it on The Ed Sullivan Show:



Bagdasarian/Seville's next single after 'Witch Doctor' was 'The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)' - where he got to use his novelty gimmick again. He performed that song on Ed Sullivan with hand puppets. It proved popular enough to warrant an album. By the time of Chipmunk Punk, David Seville was being played by Ross Bagdasarian, Jr.



As loathsome as The Chipmunks might be, just remember: without David Seville and The Chipmunks - or perhaps, just without 'The Witch Doctor - there'd be no David Bowie's 'Laughing Gnome'. And wouldn't the world be a poorer place then!



Here's another thing I didn't know about the Chipmunks: they originally looked like Chipmunks. Really.

Many years after Chipmunk Punk came out, I was working in a cool record shop called Egg Records, where I  stumbled upon a copy of Let's All Sing with the Chipmunks. An original pressing:


Original Chipmunks


I guess that's hardly earth-shattering news, seeing as the Chipmunks' most recent reboot sees them looking like chipmunks again. But after that album, the Chipmunks appeared in a comic book, and then on television in The Alvin Show, their images overhauled for these projects. (David Seville also got somewhat of a re-tweak). They now looked more like the Warner Brothers and Hanna-Barbera style of animation, popular at the time. The album was reissued, tying it in with The Alvin Show (as Theodore's libretto shows).




But that's not the only overhaul their image had - a few years later, Alvin and the Chipmunks were given Beatles wigs, Theodore lost the Alvin Show libretto (and Alvin and Theodore's right hands were slightly adapted) for an EP of Beatles covers.

I scored this at Revolve Records - an Erskineville emporium of eclectic vinyl, just a short walk away from Egg. Perhaps it was issued when the album and film of A Hard Day's Night were doing good business; everyone else was cashing in on the Beatles-led British Invasion in America, so why not the Chipmunks? No doublt the Beatles' version of 'A Hard Day's Night' had already topped the charts, since the cover of the record suggests this release shares the same title. But the  back cover and the record label gives the title as The Chipmunks Sing the Beatles Hits, with 'All My Loving', 'I Saw Her Standing There' and 'Do You Want To Know A Secret' comprising the rest of the tracklisting.




So how faithful are the arrangements to the originals? Are they rockin' quartet recordings, or orchestral versions with sped-up vocals over the top? Do you want to know a secret? I've no idea. I've not listened to the record. Nor will I. I probably got it for the cover more than anything else. And the fact that it's an Indian pressing makes it a little more interesting. That's right; even though it's on the Liberty label, the fine print tells me it's "Made in India by: The Gramophone Co., Ltd. Calcutta". Technically, EMI - the parent company that owned Parlophone, to whom the Beatles were signed, was also The Gramophone Company, Ltd., (fine print on labels and covers would also have explained that, until EMI was restructured in the 1970s) so it's kind of fitting.

There was a full-length album of Beatles covers recorded. The vinyl proves quite expensive nowadays.




Before I let you get on with your life, I'd just like to point out that Theodore-in-a-Beatles-wig, in either version of the Chipmunks as Beatles, looks quite a lot like northern comic Eric Morecambe in a Beatles wig. (The Beatles appeared on The Morecambe & Wise Show in 1963; music hall comics Morecambe & Wise would go on to be the most successful television comics of their time.)





Re-dick-ulous (or: What in the Dickens?)



"You've seen a woman wiv one breast; you've seen a woman wiv two breasts; but here we have the most amazing thing: a woman wiv free breasts! Count 'em: one, two, free…"

It was my English teacher, the Cracker, who also happened to be an Old Boy of my school, explaining the glorious heyday of the Brookvale Show by delivering the classic carny spruik.

The Brookvale Show was like the Royal Easter Show, but much smaller. It took place on the grounds of Brookvale Oval, in Brookvale. (Brookvale is an industrial suburb of Sydney that links Manly to Dee Why, nowadays mostly full of panel beaters and brothels, with a bunch of daytime cafés - to feed and water the workers - a McDonald's, a big shopping centre, some hardware stores, and more panel beaters and brothels). The school was across the road from Brookvale Oval.

By the time I was in high school, the Brookvale Show had diminished to almost nothing - and disappeared altogether for a couple of decades, until its very successful revival in recent years.

But back when my teacher was a kid, it was the full-on carnival with rides, games, and carni folk such as the multi-breasted maiden of which he spruiked, and the carny barkers of old, in whose style he adopted when spruiking.




I bring it up because, even if said triple-breasted damsel did exist - perhaps she does, and she would certainly trump the mono-mammed ma'am, even though I'd never seen one - she wouldn't be appearing in a carnival near you soon. She'd be online, like the dude with two dicks.

Don't pretend you don't know who I'm talking about.


DoubleDickDude delivered an AMA (an 'I'm A…' autobiographical profile) on reddit that was all the social media rage over the weekend.

It suddenly became the thing for online news and gossip sites to find a polite image to suggest the 100% bonus in his undies - an actual front-Y in his Y-fronts. There was a dish with two bananas, two hot dogs intertwined like rattle snakes rutting and of course, two snakes, intertwined…




Anyway, the point I'll eventually get around to making isn't so much that I hope he's making a great deal of money exploiting his lucky mutation, so much as, if there's a way to make money out of it, I hope he's the one doing it.

Not like the old days where someone born with... I'm avoiding words like 'abnormality' in favour of things like 'less regular physical appearances'... would end up in a 'freak show', billed as part human, part some other species. Like people presenting with Ectrodactyly, aka 'lobster claw syndrome'.


(Images via whatnot, phreeque, strangeoldepictures)


Suffering from psoriasis, it's the 'skin conditions' that fascinate me, none more so than Epidermodysplasia Verruciformis. The 'celebrity sufferer' is Dede Koswara, the dude who's frequently described as 'half man/half tree'. Not as sexy as two dicks though, so not as much of an 'internet sensation'.


(Images via forgetfulprincess, oddee)



DoubleDickDude explained that he's in a relationship with a couple. It's lovely he can make the most of his hidden talent. There must have been a time when it was embarrassing and he probably felt he had no chance. Although, like every dude in that position, DoubleDick or single, surely he would have made the most of it.

George Harrison once dismissed quadrophonic sound, a 'fad' he knew wouldn't endure, because "you've only got two ears, after all". Shane Bourne once joked that the shark, a creature with two penises ('penes' is probably more correct) was most unfortunate. Two penises. No hands.

But DoubleDickDude? Two penises, two hands. More than two handfuls is a waste.

And in his case, it's a good thing, too: if he doesn't relieve the tension by 'knocking the top off it' regularly, and thus clear the lines of excess fluid, he runs the risk of infection. So maybe he would have felt some annoyance, at some stage of his adolescence, not having that third hand to operate the mouse.

Let me digress for a moment.

Among the awesome quotes of a former Australian Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, is the story of the time he was having a suit specially tailored.

If you're not aware, every man's wedding tackle hangs either to the left or the right, and tailored trousers take this into account, providing the extra material on the side it is required. There is a more polite way of asking 'how's it hanging?', however.

"To which side do you dress?" the tailor asked the Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Whitlam replied, "Both!"

A great, funny line, of course. But it turns out that DoubleDickDude does dress to both the left and right at once.

Before I leave this, I should acknowledge that the Cracker's spruiking spiel, coming to mind in this context, reminds me of a bunch of comedy that if he hadn't quite introduced me to, he certainly encouraged.

There's the minor character from Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, for example: Eccentrica Gallumbits, the triple-breasted whore of Eroticon Six, who describes Zaphod Beeblebrox as "the best bang since the Big One".

From there it's a simple step to Monty Python's Arthur Frampton who, in the first season of Flying Circus, is the man with three buttocks.



Which ultimately reminds me of the story of the man with three assholes, who kept getting cornholed left, right and centre.

I think we're done, until the carny folk return to the Brookvale Show, spruiking "the man wiv free penises". Except they won't. Those days are gone. Nowadays, the unique people are going to turn up online rather than in a tent on sideshow alley.

Ah… Soul

I apologise in advance for any offence perceived in or caused by some of the images in this blogpost.




Ask me what recording I'm most embarrassed to admit I own and you probably expect it's something Paul McCartney-related - because you probably belong to that demographic still convinced that Lennon was the genius who died too young, and Macca, the one who sold out too early. Although you'll wonder why I have so many pressings of the same single, that you can't tell the difference between (it's okay, I can). Or it's something by Yoko Ono, because, of course, she 'can't sing' and 'broke up the Beatles' and all that other nonsense that makes you a day-tripper, no matter how much you claim to love the Beatles.

Clearly, the most embarrassing recording I own, is a particular piece of vinyl dating - I assume - from the mid-'70s. It's an Australian compilation album, on the Majestic label, called Souled Out (Majestic NA 450).




Some background: Majestic was an Australian TV-advertised label. Like many other TV-advertised labels, it leased masters from other labels to put together top 40-type compilations of current hits, or hits of particular artists. Initially distributed - and then taken over - by K-Tel, Majestic (and then the Australian version of K-Tel) was the local version of K-Tel International, a label that originated in Canada. An abbreviation of 'Kives Television' - a Winnipeg, Manitoba station founded by Philip Kives - the label existed in order for the station to make money through mass-marketing. By the 1980s, K-Tel proved to be the biggest source of compilation albums in most of the markets it existed in. And - (this may come as a surprise) - it still exists, issuing music digitally. (Lousy mastering and poor pressings were the norm for TV-advertised albums; this is much less of a problem with digital downloads.)



Anyway, back to this particular embarrassing record. I haven't owned it all my life. I picked it up a few years ago, probably for a fiver from Egg Records in Newtown (or even their city store, while it still existed), most likely at the end of a shift behind the counter. In fact, I reckon I would have paid less than five dollars for it; it would have been in the five-dollar rack, but the beauty of the Egg Records five-dollar rack is that you can have ten records for $25, and that's probably what I would have done to secure this particular specimen.



It's an Australian pressing. I doubt it could exist in any other territory. Because it claims to be a compilation of 'soul music' (ie black artists performing black music). There are a handful of artist photos around the border - but the central image is an illustration. A 'caricature', if you will. It's a horrible blackface golliwog image, wielding an acoustic guitar at a microphone.




Perhaps you could could perpetrate so racist a record cover anywhere in the world in the '70s. But remember, many Aussies were still scratching their heads in recent years, not quite understanding how or why a Michael Jackson parody on one of the reheated soufflé editions of Hey Hey It's Saturday was racist. It was a Red Faces sketch utilising blackface, leaving Harry Connick, Jnr with the reddest face of all. Meanwhile, mainstream media was still trying to work out how or why it was racist. That was in 2009. This record in the 1970s? I wasn't old enough to remember ads for it, or how it went down. I'm sure there was no furore in Australia back then.

I'm not questioning the offensiveness of the image, and I accept I'm as guilty of racism, presenting it here, even though I do so 'ironically'. I know I should destroy or discard the album. It's not quite like owning Nazi paraphernalia, but it differs in degree, not kind. I have friends who have walked out of potential employers' offices when they've spotted a golliwog doll on a shelf; I don't react so strongly, but I also haven't spent a lifetime being harassed by cops and fellow citizenry purely because of the colour of my skin. I do feel a bit guilty owning the record and bringing attention to it.

However, if you've read this far without having to close your browser, please allow me the indulgence to continue.


Souled out muso


Much as you'd rather put out your eyes, or at least wash them with methylated spirits, please take a moment to consider the image. For starters, note the shiny mirror-ball disco boots. Note also the musician's classic "keep on truckin'" pose, as made famous by Robert Crumb.




Of course, Crumb's also famous for his portraits musicians - a series of images collected as R Crumb's Heroes of Blues, Jazz and Country.

Had the 'soul' genre of the music not been illustrated by blackface caricature, the cover would be 'cutting edge'. Ish. Instead it's a rather rude misappropriation of Crumb's work.




And then there's the title pun. 'Souled out' is supposed to sound like it's filled to the brim with soul music. But to have 'sold out' has negative connotations in the music biz.

The best part is one of the truly evocative tracks on the compilation is that proud clarion call by Aretha Franklin: 'Respect'. Pity they compilers of this release showed none to her and her fellow artists.

In conclusion, I can only regard this album as a compilation for people who kind of only sort of slightly like soul - you know, the mainstream cross-over hits - without understanding any of the other cultural aspects or politics that go with it. And it can only exist in a culture that doesn't realise just how racist it is.

And yet, I hold onto the record, even though I know better. Should people walk out in disgust when they spot it on my shelf?

Half human half robot Lego minifigure

Kids Lego copy


Some time ago I blogged about my nephew, whose 'work around the house' consists of playing with Lego. It's still his primary occupation. (Well, those houses, trucks and spaceships are not gonna build themselves!)

However, he's ramped the work up a bit, going so far to design a new minifigure. He's sent his design to Lego's Australian office, with a note (transcribed by his mum):

"Please can you make a Lego man that is half man, half robot please. This is what it would look like. For the next minifigure series."

I think this would be a pretty cool Lego minifigure!









The 'Amazing T-Rex Illusion'

Pretty much everyone has seen the revolving hollow mask optical illusion, as demonstrated with an Einstein mask in this clip from QI.


But are you familiar with the the clip of the T-Rex who turns to face you?





It's because we're programmed to see faces, so our brain fills in the missing bits the way we'd expect to see a face. (I guess it's the same reason someone spotted the so-called 'Hitler Tea Kettle', manufactured by JC Penny, a while back…)


Which, of course, should not be confused with this little item!




Some hand-some artwork

Capitol Classics CLCX047_20cm

Not too long ago I blogged about my recent acquisition of an Australian pressing of the Capitol Classics edition of Copland's 'Billy the Kid', performed by the Ballet Theatre Orchestra conducted by Joseph Levine. I quite love the cover and was keen to discover who was responsible for it.

I asked my mate Coatsie, who is an artist, as well as other artist and record collecting mates if they happened to recognise the style or know who the artist might be.

Coatsie suggested it might be Thomas B. Allen. Not a bad suggestion. Turns out Allen did provide the cover art to a recording of Copland's 'Billy the Kid'. But not this one.

His work adorns the cover of The Copland Album, a CBS Masterworks release (nowadays it'd be on the Sony Masterworks label) featuring the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Leonard Bernstein, performing a number of Copland's pieces.





In my travels, googling 'Billy the Kid', 'Copland' and 'Capitol Classics', I stumbled upon an excellent website belonging to Nori Muster, outlining aspects of the Capitol label's history. Nori's father Bill spent some years as Capitol's merchandising manager during the 1950s. In addition to being a working musician, her stepfather, Don Hassler, was a sales rep for Capitol for the better part of that decade, beginning in 1953. Given the Capitol Classics Billy the Kid album was released in 1953, this could well lead me to the information I was after. So I emailed Nori.

Sadly, Nori's stepfather passed away a few months ago. It's likely he would have known the answer but we couldn't put the question to him. Instead, Nori offered to put the cover on her site and ask the question there.

Her historian friend, Mark H.N., suggested it might be the work of Donfeld, "better known," according to Mark, "for his costume design for movies and television". I admit, I didn't know Donfeld's work. Or rather, I did; I just didn't know his name. Mark gave me an excellent example: Donfeld designed Linda Carter's Wonder Woman costume.


Mark goes on to say Donfeld's first job, after graduating from college, "was as a designer and art director at Capitol Records starting in 1953, the year this album was released". He points out similarities in the Billy the Kid cover to some of Donfeld's costume sketches, "especially the upraised hand holding the gun":

Capitol Classics CLCX047_detail_southpaw

Mark offers, as an example, Donfeld's sketch of Sylvia Miles's costum in Evil Under the Sun.


 I will admit my ignorance of the work of Donfeld. I love how, like Sting, Bono and Miles, he gets around with just the one name. Although a little bit of research reveals he was in fact christened 'Donald Lee Feld' and his film and television work is as extensive as it is varied. (Spaceballs and Prizzi's Honour!)

That means the thing by the showgirl's thigh that looks like a bit of a running writing on its side is in fact just filigree or ribbon, and not a stylised signature.

CLCX047_detail signature

I hope he produced more covers. I look forward to stumbling upon more of his work. Meanwhile, check out his portrait and see if you aren't drawn to his hands, which seem very similar to the hands that he's drawn.


Call me now…

Doing the rounds on the interwebs last night was the link to Cellular Solutions' staff page.

It was awesome.

I thought it was a front for an escort agency.

You scroll down the page ofrow upon row of beauteous chicks, until you get to the upper levels of management. Who have every right to be smug.

Unsurprisingly, the site's currently down for maintenance, inundated with traffic, no doubt.

Wish I'd been clever enough to take some screen shots.

Thankfully Metro UK did.

(Thanks to Annemarie for pointing this out).