Archive for the ‘interests’ category


Searching for Murray Smith

09.12.2020

Earlier today Strangers, the 1978 TV series created by Murray Smith, came to mind. Smith created and wrote many episodes of one of my favourite TV series, The Paradise Club (which to this day has no DVD release due to the music rights), and penned an entertaining miniseries Frederick Forsyth Presents (the first time that I noticed one Elizabeth Hurley) and a novel I bought when I first spotted it, The Devil’s Juggler. He also wrote one of my favourite Dempsey and Makepeace episodes, ‘Wheel Man’, which had quite a few of the hallmarks of some of his other work, including fairly likeable underworld figures, which came into play with The Paradise Club.
   Yet there’s precious little about Smith online. His Wikipedia entry is essentially a version of his IMDB credits with some embellishments, for instance. It doesn’t even record his real name.
   Don’t worry, it’s not another dig at Wikipedia, but once again it’s a reflection of how things aren’t permanent on the web, a subject I’ve touched on before after reading a blog entry from my friend Richard MacManus. And that we humans do have to rely on our own memories over what’s on the ’net still: the World Wide Web is not the solution to storing all human knowledge, or, at least, not the solution to accessing it.
   It’s easy to refer to the disappearance of Geocities and the like, and the Internet Archive can only save so much. And in this case, I remember clearly searching for Murray Smith on Altavista in the 1990s, because I was interested in what he was up to. (He died in 2003.) I came across a legal prospectus of something he was proposing to do, and because it was a legal document, it gave his actual name.
   Murray Smith was his screen name, and I gather from an article in The Independent quoting Smith and his friend Frederick Forsyth, he went by Murray, but the family name was definitely Murray-Smith. Back in those days, there was a good chance that if it was online, it was real: it took too much effort to make a website for anyone to bother doing fake news. My gut says it was George David Murray-Smith or something along those lines, but there’s no record of that prospectus online any more, or of the company that he and Forsyth set up together to make Frederick Forsyth Presents, which I assume from some online entries was IFS Productions Ltd. Some websites’ claim that his name was Charles Maurice Smith is incorrect.
   Looking today, there are a couple of UK gazette entries for George David Murray Smith (no hyphen) in the armed forces, including the SAS in the 1970s, which suggest I am right.
   Even in the age of the web, the advantage still lies with those of us who have good memories who can recall facts that are lost. I’ve often suggested on this blog that we cannot fully trust technology, and that there’s no guarantee that even the official bodies, like the UK Companies’ Office, will have complete, accessible records. The computer is a leveller, but not a complete one.

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NewTumbl: a parting response

05.12.2020

After I posted that I would leave NewTumbl (not quite those words—I said I would still return to check out a few people I followed), I had a very nice note from Alex, one of the US folks there whose posts I regularly enjoyed, along with those of Marius and a few others. Alex reblogged my post and you can see his additional words here. Below was my response (italics added). He’s faced ridiculous actions against his posts as well, which I allude to. I suspect he’s slightly older than me (he recalls actress Angel Tompkins, for instance, after I posted about her—and I’ve a feeling he remembers her in period, not in reruns), but not by much.

Thank you for your good wishes. It’s ludicrous, isn’t it, that something as wholesome as Samantha from Bewitched would be marked O here? There were just too many examples where the inmates are running the asylum—I had a couple of modelling images marked M despite there being no nudity, for instance—and when that kept happening, it was time to depart.
   I never really felt comfortable having blogging presences across the ’net anyway. When I joined Vox I had some trouble deciding what to put there and what to put on my main blog. Eventually I decided silly stuff would go on Vox and business stuff on my blog. But as each presence shut down (Vox today is something else entirely), I lost content. Another website called Blogcozy also went a couple of years ago and I lost my content there.
   Tumblr was that “secondary home” for over a decade before I came to NewTumbl, and I only came here after noticeable censorship at Tumblr—you couldn’t search for the word NewTumbl, for instance. But the censoring here is worse than anything there now. I’ve never had any posts there taken down other than a few by their bot, which I appealed, and won. If there was an appeal process here I might have stayed. It was one thing Tumblr did right but I get that Dean and co. lack the resources.
   As I get older, the less patience I have for those who make daft decisions—and maybe middle age has taught me that there are some people too far down the intellectual food chain for me to waste time on. You and I stick by the rules and we still get penalized—there are régimes that do this and people flee those countries!
   So consolidating everything back to my own space makes sense, even if I have to pay for the storage. It’s my place, so I can put up what I like. Because of a lot of work content I will have to monitor myself a bit, and the image gallery plug-in doesn’t show the captions in the enlarged view (I may hack the PHP files to see if I can change that), but I welcome your visits. The car posts will still keep heading up, for a start. And I will return here to NewTumbl from time to time, principally to look at posts from you, @vergangene-automarken, and a few of the regulars I followed.

   I still would like to see NewTumbl do well, but they really need to refine their post patrols, which make Mary Whitehouse look liberal.

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Posted in culture, interests, internet, USA | 1 Comment »


When Sibelius started our TV day

04.12.2020

If I hadn’t mentioned this on Twitter, I might not have had a hunt for it. When I first came to this country, this was how TV1 started each morning—I believe at 10.30 a.m. prior to Play School. I haven’t seen this since the 1970s, and I’m glad someone put it on YouTube.

   I had no idea, till I was told on Twitter by Julian Melville, that this was adapted from the National Film Unit’s very successful 1970 Osaka Expo film, This Is New Zealand, which was quite a phenomenon, but before my time here. And I wouldn’t have given it any thought if it weren’t for American Made airing on TV last weekend, where the RPO’s ‘Hooked on Classics’ was used in the score, and I got to thinking about Sibelius’s ‘Karelia Suite’, op. 11, which was contained within that piece. I’m not sure if our lives were enriched by these interconnected thoughts or whether YouTube and this post have just sucked up more time.

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December 2020 gallery

01.12.2020

Here are the images that have piqued my interest for December 2020. For November’s gallery, click here (all gallery posts are here). And for why I started this, here’s my earlier post on this blog, and also here and here on NewTumbl.


 

Sources
   Auckland City Library opening, via Auckland City Council Residents’ Group on Twitter.
   Jono Barber scanned the Aston Martin DB5 story from newspaper clippings he recently found.
   From the Instagram of hairstylist extraordinaire, my friend Adrian Gutierrez. Photographed by Steve Yu, hair by Adrian Gutierrez, make-up by Meri, modelled by Chanel Margaux.
   Volkswagen Käfer advertisement from the Car Factoids on Twitter.
   Star Trek–Star Wars series from Alex on NewTumbl.
   Manawatū Guardian front page relates to this Tweet.
   Alexa Breit promotes masks by Peggell, via Instagram.
   Amber Peebles photographed by me in 2003 on a Voigtländer Bessamatic Deluxe.
   Google Forms’ 419 scam relates to this Toot.
   Peugeot 504 advertisement from the Car Factoids on Twitter.
   Triumph TR7 brochure cover from the Car Factoids on Twitter.
   Katharina Mazepa photograph from her Instagram.
   More about the JAC Jiayue A5 (JAC J7 for export) at Autocade.
   Tardis image from Alex on NewTumbl.
   More information on the Toyota Yaris Cross at Autocade.

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Posted in cars, China, design, Gallery, interests, internet, media, TV, UK, USA | 1 Comment »


To Scotland with love

10.11.2020


Danjaq LLC/United Artists

Time for another podcast, this time with a Scottish theme. I touch upon how fortunate we are here in Aotearoa to be able to go to the ballet or expos, and, of course, on the US elections (thanks to those who checked out my last podcast entry, which had a record 31 plays—sure beats the single digits!). That leads on to a discussion about A. G. Barr, Richard Madden, and Sir Sean Connery, who never said, ‘The name’s Bond, James Bond.’

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Autocade reaches 4,300 models before the month is out

31.10.2020

A very quick note, probably more for me than anyone else: the 4,300th model went up on Autocade tonight. It was slightly deliberate, since I checked the stats for the site to see we were up to 4,299. I’ve a folder of models to be added, and I admit I scrolled down a little to see what piqued my interest—having said that, it’s what I usually do anyway. But there was a desire not to add yet another two-box crossover (had enough of those for a while) or any model that would lead me to be obsessed about a full line (DAF 33, anyone?). As the 1980–4 Pontiac Phoenix is already on the site, the 1978–9 entry went up. (Yes, I disagree with Wikipedia, which has Phoenixes starting in 1977, which is true, but it was mid-year, it was officially part of the Ventura line, and Phoenix doesn’t appear in the 1977 full-line brochure.) Wikipedians can do it their way, and I’ll do it mine.
   At some point I’ll add the Oldsmobile Omega for 1975–9 and we’ll have the X-cars for those years all up.

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Was it six networks or only five? In all this excitement, they’re ‘Still the One’

23.10.2020

I’m sure there are many, many more examples of this tune being used to promote TV networks, but it seems to be a standard in at least three countries I know, and probably far more besides.
   It is, of course, ‘Still the One’, which ABC used in the US to celebrate being the top-rated network there in 1977 for the second consecutive year. It was rare for ABC to be on top, but I think the general consensus was that jiggle TV got them there.
   Australia, which has always had a lot of US influences, then used it for Channel 9 in 1978 and included the original American footage. It would have been properly licensed but in the days before YouTube, and less international travel, few would have known of the origins.
   It was then adapted for the Murdoch Press’s Sky One satellite network in the UK the next decade (did they first see it in Australia?), before being revived by 9 in Australia in 1988. It was adapted once again for TVNZ’s Channel 2 here in New Zealand to kick off the 1990s.
   The slogan was used regularly by 9 as the 1990s dawned though new songs replaced the original, and by the end of the 1990s, both Channel 9 and its NBN sister were using the familiar tune again.
   Was that the end? In 2003, WIN, another Australian network, brought it back for their promos. As far as I can tell, WIN, a regional broadcaster, doesn’t have a connection to 9, but instead has an agreement with the Ten Network there. Just to make things confusing, 9 was using it at the same time, and it continued to do so into the mid-2000s.
   A quick internet search on Duck Duck Go reveals it was originally a song performed by the band Orleans in 1976, from their album Waking and Dreaming. The song was written by the then-married Johanna and John Hall. It charted at number five in the US. Given that it was used by ABC in 1977, it would have been a familiar tune to Americans at the time. I wonder if the Halls expected it would become a TV network standard in so many countries, and what did they think?
   Let me know if there are other countries and networks that used this—I’ve a feeling it went even further!

Orleans

ABC, USA

Channel 9, Australia (1978)

Sky One, UK

Channel 9, Australia (1988)

Channel 2, New Zealand

Channel 9 and NBN, Australia (1998)

WIN, Australia

Channel 9, Australia (2003)

Channel 9, Australia (2006)

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Search engines favour novelty over accuracy and merit

01.10.2020

I was chatting to another Tweeter recently about the Ford I-Max, and decided I’d have a hunt for its brochure online. After all, this car was in production from 2007 to 2009, the World Wide Web was around, so surely it wouldn’t be hard to find something on it?
   I found one image, at a very low resolution. The web’s not a repository of everything: stuff gets removed, sites go down, search engines are not comprehensive—in fact, search engines favour the new over the old, so older posts that are still current—such as this post about the late George Kennedy—can’t even be found. This has been happening for over a decade, so it shouldn’t surprise us—but we should be concerned that we cannot get information based on merit or specificity, but on novelty. Not everything new is right, and if we’re only being exposed to what’s “in”, then we’re no better at our knowledge than our forebears. The World Wide Web, at least the way it’s indexed, is not a giant encyclopædia which brings up the best at your fingertips, but often a reflection of our bubble or what the prevailing orthodoxy is. More’s the pity.

I can’t let this post go without one gripe about Facebook. Good news: as far as I can tell, they fixed the bug about tagging another page on your own page, so you don’t have to start a new line in order to tag another party. Bad news, or maybe it’s to do with the way we’ve set up our own pages: the minute you do, the nice preview image that Facebook extracted vanishes in favour of something smaller. I’ll check out our code, but back when I was debugging Facebook pages, it was pretty good at finding the dominant image on a web page. Lesson: don’t tag anyone. It ruins the æsthetic on your page, and it increases everyone’s time on the site, and that can never be healthy. Time to fight the programming of Professor Fogg and his children (with apologies to Roger McNamee).



Top: The post Facebook picks up from an IFTTT script. Above: What happens to a post that once had a proper image preview after editing, and tags added.

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When not having something drives creativity

23.07.2020

I hadn’t expected this reply Tweet to get so many likes, probably a record for me.

   It is true. That book was NZ$4·99 in 1979, when it was offered through the Lucky Book Club at school, at a time when many books were still priced in cents. Some kids in the class got it, and I admit I was a bit envious, but not having a book in an area that interested you can drive creativity. While my parents didn’t make a heck of a lot in the 1970s—we flatted and didn’t own our own car at this point—they would have splashed out if I really insisted on it. After all, they were sending me to a private school and their sacrifice was virtually never going out. (I only recall one night in those days when my parents had a “date night” and my maternal grandmother looked after me—and that was to see Superman II.) But when you grow up having an understanding that, as an immigrant family that had to largely start from scratch in a new country, you have a rough idea of what’s expensive, and five bucks for a book was expensive.
   As an adult—even when I was a young man starting out in my career—I did not regret not having this book.
   Someone in the thread asked if I ever wound up buying it. I never did: as a teenager I managed to get my hands on a very worn Letraset catalogue, which ultimately proved far more interesting. But it is good to know that, thanks in large part to my parents’ and grandmother’s sacrifices, and those in my partner’s family who helped her in her earlier years, we could afford to buy this book if anyone in our family asks for it.

Were we fleeing anything when we came to Aotearoa? We left Hong Kong in 1976 because my parents were worried about what China would do to the place. In other words, what’s happening now is what they hoped for me to avoid. They called it, in the 1970s. And here I am.

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Posted in design, interests, New Zealand, typography, Wellington | No Comments »


Why I don’t find the Asiatic characters on Little Britain and Come Fly with Me racist

11.06.2020


BBC

I have a problem with blackface and yellowface, generally when there are more than capable actors who could have taken the role, but I make exceptions in some situations.
   Take, for example, the news that Little Britain and Come Fly with Me are being removed from streaming services because of what are now deemed racist portrayals. Matt Lucas, who plays half the roles in each, has even said that the shows were right for the time but they’re not what he would make today. Yet I don’t find myself being troubled by his and David Walliams’s characters, since in both they are equal-opportunity about it, even going so far as to address racism head-on with Come Fly with Me’s Ian Foot, a clearly racist character.
   I always viewed everyone from Ting Tong to Precious as caricatures viewed through a British lens, and it is through their comedy that they shine a light on the nation’s attitudes. Matt and David might not like me grouping their work in with Benny Hill’s Chow Mein character, who, while offensive to many Chinese, tended to expose the discomfort of the English “straight man” character, usually portrayed by Henry McGee. I can’t think of one where Mein doesn’t get the upper hand. I like to think these characters all come from the same place.
   Sometimes, especially in comedy, you need people of the same race as most of the audience to point to their nation’s attitudes (and often intolerance)—it’s often more powerful for them as it’s not seen as preaching. Where I have a problem is when characters are founded on utterly false stereotypes, e.g. the bad Asian driver, the loud black man.
   And can you imagine the furore if every character portrayed by Matt and David in Come Fly with Me was white? They would be sharply criticized for not being representative of the many cultures at a modern British airport.
   I don’t turn a blind eye to brownface in Hong Kong (Chinese actors playing Indians) or the mangled Cantonese used to dub white actors, but the same rules apply: if it shines a light on a situation, helps open our collective eyes, and make us better people, then surely we can accept those?
   I Tweeted tonight something I had mentioned on this blog many years ago: Vince Powell’s sitcom Mind Your Language, set in 1970s Britain, where Barry Evans’s Jeremy Brown character, an ESL teacher, has to deal with his highly multicultural and multiracial class. The joke is always, ultimately, on Mr Brown, or the principal, Miss Courtenay, for their inability to adjust to the new arrivals and to understand their cultures. Maybe it’s rose-coloured glasses, but I don’t remember the students being shown as second-class; they often help Jeremy Brown out of a pickle.
   Importantly, many of the actors portrayed their own races, and, if the DVD commentary is to be believed, they were often complimented by people of the same background for their roles.
   Powell based some of his stories on real life: a foreign au pair worked for them and brought home her ESL classmates, and he began getting ideas for the sitcom.
   However, at some stage, this show was deemed to be racist. As I Tweeted tonight, ‘I loved Mind Your Language but white people said the depictions of POC were racist. Hang on, isn’t it more racist to presume we can’t complain ourselves? Most of the actors in that depicted their own race.
   ‘I can only speak for my own, and I didn’t find the Chinese character racist. Because there were elements of truth in there, she was portrayed by someone of my ethnicity, and the scripts were ultimately joking about the British not adjusting well to immigrant cultures.
   ‘Which, given how Leavers campaigned about Brexit, continues to be true. I get why some blackface and yellowface stuff needs to go but can’t we have a say?
   ‘Tonight on TV1 news, there were two white people commenting on the offensiveness of minority portrayals in Little Britain and Come Fly with Me. I hope someone sees the irony in that.’
   However, if any minorities depicted by Matt and David are offended by their work—Ting Tong, Asuka and Nanako are the only Asiatic characters they do that I can think of, so east Asians aren’t even that well represented—of course I will defer to your judgement. I can’t pretend to know what it’s like for someone of Pakistani heritage to see Matt’s Taaj Manzoor, or someone with a Jamaican heritage to see Precious Little. However, unlike some commentators, I do not presume that members of their community are powerless to speak up, and they are always welcome on this forum.

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Posted in culture, Hong Kong, humour, interests, New Zealand, TV, UK | No Comments »