Tuesday, September 05, 2006

the sky is clear and blue / lets go swimming

Ok, back to business.

I had an email today from some person suggesting, strongly that I delete my Australia Zoo post of some months back in respect for the recently departed Mr Irwin. With the greatest respect for both the correspondent, and Mr Irwin…no, and why?

I’m not sure where respect ends and my right to express myself as a blogger starts, but I don’t think either Mrs Irwin or the kids will read this anyway, so it doesn’t really matter. Hole….dig….

I can’t help feeling that Australia has found its own Princess Diana, if one is to believe the television. The performance by the ever odious John Howard, a man I wouldn’t trust with my loose change, let alone a country, made me nauseous. The bugger was close to tears, politically motivated of course. Some of my Australian friends (actually the same people whom we visited the Zoo with, and they, Blake & Sandra, also provided the image and are actually New Zealanders, so deportation must follow methinks, or a spell in Queensland’s friendly cells) mentioned that the Australians were going to discover that the Stingray was Indonesian sooner or later (Australians regard Indonesia as the root of all evil), and that led me to the thought that it was perhaps a member of Al Qaeda and then Howard could, if Bush tells him to, link the whole thing to Islamofascism and TWOT (the war on terror).

I sat in the gym today and saw a MySpace, whoops I mean FoxNews, half hour on the guy, or at least that’s all I saw, it may have been going on for hours, who knows. It was an endless litany of tributes to our Steve, tear stained and full of unquestioning idolatry…..clearly the first step in the process to rename the Great Barrier Reef or maybe Queensland after the bloke. One git, from the Queensland RSPCA suggested that he was perhaps the planet’s finest husband and father. Of course he was mate, no question…was that before or after he dangled his sprog near a salty’s mouth?

It's led the CNN website for two days...meanwhile the bodies of 33 Iraqi innocents have been found and largely ignored. And they are talking state funerals in Australia..

Get a grip please, this gruesome sanctification is making me a little unwell, and it’s just, I fear, begun…

Thing is, if you spend that much time poking around with deadly creatures then sooner or later one is going to get you. The irony of course being that it was the humble Stingray, not one of the world’s great killers that topped him. Which brings me to the second part of the Diana parallel…the conspiracy theory which must now raise its head, taking into account the humble nature of said stingray. Clearly someone put the fish up to it; the question is who……

I wonder if the rubber stingrays have disappeared from the endless souvenir super-marts at Australia Zoo yet…

Monday, September 04, 2006

I blew you up / and then you blew my mind

Yesterday I came across that bizarre (and that’s the only word for it) story in the Sunday edition of the NZ Herald where the “judges” of the rather sad NZ Idol show took some of the icons of New Zealand popular music to task for being, and I quote, “snobs" for not supporting their show. Of course they do themselves no favours as the names quoted have, and have had for years, overwhelming public respect, and indeed, affection, that Idol can only dream of. Whilst both Russell Baillie and Russell Brown have successfully demolished the rather puerile criticism (although neither countered the ‘what has Graham Brazier done in the past twelve years’ twaddle by pointing out that, unlike any Idol “stars”, he has an album in the NZ Chart right now, and plays to full houses), I might use the story as a place to let my thoughts wander from…

The story underlines the real issue highlighted here…and that is that Frankie Stevens and, indeed, most of the cast and contestants over all these shows from Popstars onwards (because that’s where it all began) still delude themselves by thinking that any of this has anything to do with music. I guess that’s because no one has actually sat them down and said the music, the records, the temporary fame and the like are only peripheral to the their real role, as objects to increase advertising revenue. No-one, outside a small, self deluded circle ever sees these people as musicians, artists, or even singers, really. Their stardom, however much it can be stretched by clever management (as in the US), is no more real than an increase in soap powder sales as the result of a successful campaign. They are soap powder.

So maybe there is a responsibility for those that are purveyors of this sort of soap powder to explain to their products, be they the “judges” or the “stars”, what this is really about, rather than allowing them to think that this might be the beginning of something big, something of importance beyond temporary ratings boosts.

As I said above, the whole global Idol phenomena can be easily traced back to Jonathan Dowling’s NZ Popstars show which launched a band called TrueBliss. They had a spin-off album, the fastest selling album in NZ history, selling double platinum in a week, complete with a number one single and a sold out frenzied tour. I was backstage at a few and had seen nothing like it.

But it soon began to go sour, as the second single didn’t do so well, the third completely flopped and the calls stopped coming with weeks of the show ending. I was called in at the end of the TrueBliss story to try and help work out what was an increasingly uncomfortable situation. Despite the spin on the TV show, which had my old friend Peter Urlich as “manager”, he was a hired actor and management was handled by the very astute Dowling.

Without going into details, the end did not come easily for TrueBliss. They were all very pleasant girls, and not without talent, but it was hard for any of them, with the exception of Carly, to understand that it was over. As it ran out, there were recriminations and accusations about money, which the media leapt on with shameful glee, and indeed the girls even bought in a lawyer who had to leave a meeting with her tail between her legs. But Dowling had kept scrupulous books and the endgame was that the girls actually owed him money which he’d waived.

The real problem was, like Idol, that no-one had explained the real rules, expectations and parameters to the girls. At one of the last meetings, shortly before the end, a couple of them kept asking “why don’t we just go out on tour again?”. It was hard, and heartbreaking to try and gently explain that, four months after the mania, nobody wanted to know anymore. The fantasy world that had been invented for them by the combination of a very smart idea with shrewd marketing, was over. I felt extraordinarily sorry for these five who had such unrealistic and impossible dreams foisted on them.

Frankie Stevens et al remind me so much of TrueBliss, flailing out as it falls apart. Lets face it, he was never a big name as such, before this, and awful and unwatchable TVNZ variety shows beckon again very shortly…. and its even more pathetic to see Megan Alitini back where she started.