Thursday, September 30, 2010

Must-see footy viewing

I enjoyed watching the KHOA DO film "FOOTY LEGENDS" last night.
The plot template for the 2006 Australian film will be familiar to sports movie fans -- a ragtag group of unemployed men reunite their high school team to enter a tournament in which victory would change their lives.

"Footy Legends" is set apart by its setting -- the SYDNEY western suburb YAGOONA -- and the sport. There aren't many RUGBY LEAGUE films in movie history.

ANH DO (the director's brother) stars as Luc Vu, an unemployed Vietnamese-Australian attempting to maintain custody of his younger sister following the death of their mother.

Luc collects a group of his old high school footy teammates and prepares them for a tournament that offers a HOLDEN ute and a job modeling menswear for LOWES to the winners.

The film's characters are likeable, the music is great (any film with songs by HOODOO GURUS and HUNTERS & COLLECTORS is OK in my book, mate) and appearances by rugby league legends Bradley Clyde, Rod Wishart, Mario Fenech and Matthew Johns adds to the authenticity of the sports scenes.

The film also provides a look at Sydney life away from the Opera House and other iconic landmarks. We see Yagoona as an "anyplace," really no different from any working-class neighborhood.
You can view some clips by clicking here.

"Footy Legends" isn't necessarily a great film, but it's a must-see movie in the days leading up to the GRAND FINAL.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"I've been to Wollongong, Geelong, Kurrajong..."

Here's something you might not know: "I'VE BEEN EVERYWHERE," the famous country song that features a singer rapidly listing a succession of rhyming place names, originated DOWN UNDER.
GEOFF MACK made musical history in 1962 when LUCKY STARR (real name: Leslie Morrison) recorded and had a hit with the Mack composition, "I've Been Everywhere."

Starr sang that he had been to "Tullamore, Seymour, Lismore, Mooloolaba, Nambour, Maroochydore, Kilmore, Murwillumbah, Birdsville, Emmaville, Wallaville, Cunnamulla" and numerous other locations.

Later that year, Mack tailored his song for the Canadian country singer HANK SNOW.
Populated with American and Canadian place names, Snow's version topped the country charts in North America.
More than 130 cover versions later -- including some with New Zealand and British place names -- and "I've Been Everywhere" is a classic tune celebrating geography.
I've been listening to a Starr EP that includes four (Aussie, North American, Kiwi and British) versions of the song.

It all started with a bloke crooning:

"Well, I was humpin' my bluey on the dusty OODNADATTA road..."

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I'll cheer for the past's grand champions

I'll be sipping coffee Saturday night.
I want to stay up into the wee hours of Sunday, so I can listen to the NATIONAL RUGBY LEAGUE GRAND FINAL live online.

I'll be barracking (rooting) for the ST. GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS against the SYDNEY ROOSTERS, because the Dragons have spent more time between titles than their opponents.

A result of a 1998 merger of the St. George and Illawarra clubs, the Dragons have yet to win a title as a joint venture.

The St. George Dragons were once the dominant club in the history of the sport, winning 11 straight titles between 1956-66. Imagine an NFL team winning 11 straight Super Bowls. It boggles the mind, but that's how good the Dragons were in AUSTRALIA.

The Dragons' final title came in 1979 (pictured), when Harry Bath-coached St. George outplayed CANTERBURY, 17-2, in the first half and held on for a 17-13 victory.

The Roosters won the title as recently as 2002, so I'll cheer for "The Red V" in the predawn hours this weekend.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Beyond the profanity: Green's sweet soul

Wonder what music was like during the GOLDEN AGE OF SOUL MUSIC?
CEE LO GREEN gives us a glimpse, with a song tailored (in its original form) to avoid the radio.

The words of the Gnarls Barkley crooner's single, "F**K YOU," might be all about the rage triggered by a lost love in 2010, but the music is pure Motown vintage.

In a musical landscape dominated by synthesized vocals backed by identical musical templates, I find it refreshing to hear Green's homage to the R&B of the past -- even on the radio-friendly (but lyrically not as realistic) edit, titled "Forget You."

I took the dog on a walk this weekend with "F**K You" on repeat on my iPod. Green's propulsive tune kept me nearly skipping down the sidewalk.

Beyond the profanity of the lyrics, there's a true classic tune here.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Maybe John Hughes *DOES* direct her life

You might have heard that the new film by WILL GLUCK, "EASY A," is a modern take on the classic 80s-style teen flick, and how lead character OLIVE (EMMA STONE) compares her life to a film by referencing cinematic examples that include "The Breakfast Club" and "Ferris Bueller's Day Off."
She concludes, of course, by declaring that JOHN HUGHES did not direct her life.

KERSTIN and I saw "Easy A" in the cinema yesterday, and I had to laugh when -- later in the film -- Gluck subtly suggests that perhaps Hughes *did* direct Olive's life.


Please don't read any further if you want to be completely surprised by the plot of "Easy A" (which would be difficult, for although Gluck made a fun film, it's by no means characterized by serpentine plotting).

Still with us? Great!

There's a scene late in the film in which the character "Woodchuck Todd," one of Olive's earliest crushes and one of the few male characters immune to erratic hormonal urges, serves in a "white knight" role -- sheltering Olive from an unpleasant situation involving another guy.

Listen carefully as the pair sit in Todd's car. A CARY BROTHERS' cover of "IF YOU WERE HERE" plays on the radio.

Sound familiar?

The THOMPSON TWINS' original plays as Jake Ryan serves as Samantha's "white knight" after the wedding scene in Hughes' 1984 teen classic, "SIXTEEN CANDLES."

It was a little moment that made me laugh. Gluck references 80s-style teen films throughout his own movie, but it was the subtle inclusion of that song that stood out for me.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

My "Grand Final" day

My day felt like today's AUSTRALIAN FOOTBALL LEAGUE GRAND FINAL, just writ large.
There were little triumphs and bitter disappoints, fights and reconciliations, joy and tears and at the end, the realization that it will all happen again.

I'm hoping a family meeting tomorrow -- when JILL and ANNIKA arrive home from an out-of-town trip -- will help solve whatever problems KERSTIN and I experienced today.

On the field, COLLINGWOOD and ST. KILDA must wait a week to resolve their remaining differences.

I'm so thankful Jill talked me into taping this match on our DVR. It was a true classic.

St. Kilda's Lenny Harris scored a late, fourth-quarter behind (the one-point scoring play in Aussie Rules) and to make the result Collingwood, nine goals (worth six points), 14 behinds, to the Saints' 10 and 8 -- with both sides finishing in 68 points.

The AFL doesn't have an extra-time rule, so the result was only the third draw in the league's history of grand finals.

Collingwood dominated the first half, but the Magpies only boasted a 24-point lead for all their good play. St. Kilda spent the second half chipping away and ultimately eradicating the Magpies' lead.

It seemed like a lot like life. Or, at least my life, on a day like today.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Songs that make us smile

One of music's great abilities is the way hearing a specific song can make us smile.
This week, ROUTE 1 readers reveal these tunes by answering the following FRIDAY QUESTION:

"What song always makes you smile when you hear it on the radio?"

MIKE D. -- Aside from novelty songs like Weird Al's "Living with a Hernia," songs that make me smile are those that remind me of fun times from the past. At our family's 1997 Halloween party, my youngest brother arrived at the church hall wearing a huge skull mask and a black robe. About an hour into the festivities, he popped a cassette into the stereo. As Chumbawamba's "Tubthumping" blared from the speakers, he shed his costume to reveal a Michael Flatley get-up, and performed a spastic Irish jig that had us rolling. It was the first time I had ever heard the song, and it left an indelible impression.

KERI M. -- "Just the Way You" are by Bruno Mars.

SASKIA M. -- Katrina & The Waves: "Walking on Sunshine."

JOHN S. -- "Beat it" by MJ.

KERSTIN H. -- "The Tide is High" or any Culture Club song. I love them!

STEVE M. -- "Good Vibrations."

RICK T. -- A song by Charlie Pride called, "I Wonder Could I Live There Anymore." It's about your old hometown. Came out in the late 60's, early 70's when I lived in Florida. Love That Song!

MARY N.-P. -- Because they are so oddly bad, but wonderfully charming: "Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport" (1957, Rolf Harris) and "Wolverton Mountain" (1962, Claude King).

BEKAH P. -- Black Eyed Peas' "Tonights' Gonna Be A Good Night." That was the first song we played at our wedding reception (after the official traditional dances), and it proved very accurate!

ANNIKA H. -- "California Gurls!"

LISA Y. -- Cheryl Crowe: "Soak Up the Sun."

ERIK H. -- We heard it the other day on the Chris Evans Breakfast Show on BBC Radio 2: "Stay With Me" by the Faces. The frantic guitar fanfare that opens the song began to play through the speakers, and I turned to Annika and said: "It's the Faces! 'Stay With Me!'" Annika just rolled her eyes at my music geekdom.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Can "Good Feeling" help me feel better? Here's hoping!

I blame it on being a HEALTH REPORTER for a newspaper for the past 12 years.
Whenever I get sick, or sore, or otherwise unwell, my mind drifts over all of the HORRIFIC POSSIBLE DIAGNOSES -- when more often than not I am simply suffering from a sore back (last night and this morning) or slight cold or virus (also last night).

I tossed and turned in bed most of the night, visualizing my own funeral.

That's why I can't shake off the morning cobwebs. Well, I hope that's why I can't shake off the morning cobwebs -- you don't suppose it's something more serious, do you?

I work a later shift today -- giving me ample time to recover (I hope) -- so I just crafted an iTunes playlist containing the UK charting singles of Scottish band, TRAVIS.

I was lucky enough to get in on the ground floor of the Travis experience: I purchased their debut album "GOOD FEELING" when it came out in 1997.

Since then, the band has become increasingly popular (spawning 18 Top-40 singles in their native UK) and influential (Snow Patrol and Keane definitely took notes).

I am banking on the music of Travis and some AUSTRALIAN COFFEE (freeze dried) to help pave the way for my recovery from my various ailments.

If it doesn't work, who knows: Maybe I wasn't such a hypochondriac after all?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Grandparents' night

I just woke up from a most remarkable DREAM.
My family was visiting my grandparents in MAXWELL, CALIF.
What's so remarkable about that?
Well, my grandfather, WES "PAPA" SMITH, passed away when our oldest daughter KERSTIN was still quite young. My grandmother, MARGE "MIMI" SMITH, died in 1989 -- before JILL and I were married.
Yet there we all were last night. Youngest daughter ANNIKA and the rest of my family were visiting Mimi and Papa in their home. I remember there was much conversation and my grandparents were holding hands.
Sleeping, I just let the dream play out -- like a film.
I only started to consider what it might mean after I woke up for the day.
Was it just wishful thinking? Or is there some sort of ongoing connection between those who have gone before us and those of us remaining on Earth?
You might call it wishful thinking, but I am beginning to think it might be the latter.

Monday, September 20, 2010

A magical Mick Taylor moment

I just heard what must rank among my top one of two "guitar moments" in a ROLLING STONES song.
I'm listening to "STICKY FINGERS" while driving today, and as I returned from an assignment I heard "CAN'T YOU HEAR ME KNOCKING," the fourth track on the 1971 classic album.
The song's extended coda -- or ending -- features a MICK TAYLOR guitar solo that Rolling Stone magazine once ranked No. 25 on a list of 100 great solos.
I heard it just now and thought: Taylor's playing rivals Carlos Santana.Taylor's guitar playing is simply beautiful on the track.
No offense to fans of the 1960s-era Stones, but I just don't think the late lead guitarist Brian Jones could have pulled off the masterpiece Taylor produces on "Can't You Hear Me Knocking."
If you think you know the Rolling Stones and all they have to offer, and you *haven't* heard Taylor's playing on "Can't You Hear Me Knocking," then there's a gap in your education.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Football on a perfect "football day"

Skies were overcast, clouds dripped rain and the chill in the air practically spelled "autumn."
DUBUQUE had the same weather as much of BRITAIN today, based upon the conditions at OLD TRAFFORD.

Dimitar Berbatov struck a magnificent hat-trick -- including a sublime, overhead kick for a goal -- as MANCHESTER UNITED downed LIVERPOOL, 3-2, in a PREMIER LEAGUE match I watched live on television this morning.

Berbatov had already struck twice with an hour gone, when Liverpool's Steven Gerrard pulled the visitors back with a penalty and a well-placed free kick.

The Bulgarian had the final say with an 84th-minute tally.

I don't support either of these clubs, so I sipped coffee and enjoyed the spectacle as a neutral.

It was a morning perfectly suited for football.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

What should I include in my "Pocketful of Poses?"

I'm making a BIG POT OF CHILI and wondering what songs I would include on a soundtrack for a 1980s teen film. You know, like a John Hughes film.
I burned a MIX CD back in 2003 (*seven* years ago? I can't believe it) called "POCKETFUL OF POSES: A SOUNDTRACK FOR AN IMAGINARY 80s TEEN FLICK" that included a bunch of tunes that would sound great in a 1980s film, including "I Touch Roses" by Book of Love, "Blind Vision" by Blancmange and "Annie, I'm Not Your Daddy" by Kid Creole & The Coconuts.

The problem with the CD is that because of its format, it's limited to just over an hour of music -- and everybody knows a 1980s teen film should have two hours of music.

That's why I'm trying to decide what other songs I should put into my imaginary teen film
playlist on my iPod.
What should I include?
I want a Go-Go's song in my mix, but not one of the really popular ones. I'll go with "This Town" from "Beauty and the Beat" instead. It weds punky energy with girl-group melodies -- a perfect representative song for the Go-Go's.

I want a couple songs from the "World Machine" album by Level 42. Barely remembered today, Level 42's funky new-wave style sounds cinematic nearly 30 years later. Sure, the production tricks place the album squarely in the 1980s. Who cares? It's an imaginary 80s film I am trying to back with tunes.

There should be something with a definite edge on the soundtrack. I always thought the inclusion of these gritty, "punky" songs were used by filmmakers to give themselves a feeling of "street cred" with any Rayban-wearing hipsters who happened to see the film.
I'm going to pluck a 4 Skins song from obscurity. I had an album by the pioneering Oi band back in the day, and their violent songs would give any teen movie soundtrack loads of street cred.
I'm going to include "I Predict" by Sparks, too. Why? I just love that band, and they didn't appear on enough soundtrack albums.

There always seemed to be one "older" song included in these soundtracks (if it wasn't completely filled with new wave). I always thought these songs were included to appear to an older sibling or parent who was dragged to the teen film by the youngsters.

For my older song, I am picking "Winter Time" by the Steve Miller Band. It is an atmospheric gem -- perfect for a scene featuring the dewy eyed starlet of my pretend film.
This selection of songs could take all day. Good thing I have a lot of chili to make.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Have a holly jolly Sept. 17

One of the only things I wanted to get but couldn't in AUSTRALIA was a jersey for the rugby league team the WESTS TIGERS.
I had to put it on my CHRISTMAS list instead.

ROUTE 1 readers know it's never too early to start thinking about Christmas, and prove it by answering the following FRIDAY QUESTION:

"What is on your Christmas wish list?"

RICK T. -- Toys!!!!!! Lots of Toys!

BEKAH P. -- This year, I would VERY much love it if my husband granted me my one Christmas wish --- to be allowed to put up two trees instead of just one. And they both MUST be real, too!
KERI M. -- A treadmill.
SANDYE V. -- My Christmas wish is to have a nice holiday dinner with my kids and grandkids together, with no backbiting and everyone pretending to get along for a few hours. Sigh.

JOHN S. -- We are taking the kids to Disney World.

KERSTIN H. -- An iPad.

SASKIA M. -- A winning lottery ticket, or cash to pay bills.

ERIK H. -- A fair dinkum Akubra hat to wear with the Wests Tigers' shirt I also want.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Big up yourself, Ali G

In need of a few laughs during a hectic work week, I slipped the DVD for "DA ALI G SHOW" into the player last night.

I watched the first episode, in which Ali G participates in police recruit training in Philadelphia, and I marveled at SACHA BARON COHEN and his ability to keep a straight face while acting so ridiculously.

I certainly couldn't stop laughing last night, which is just what I needed after a second stressful work day.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Alarm clocks and synthetic-sounding songs

We're sitting around the breakfast table, listening to 102.7 KIIS FM LOS ANGELES online and complaining about the proliferation of synthesized vocals in today's popular music.
I can't wait for that fad to come to its conclusion.

The computer-aided vocals might make it easier to craft catchy songs, but the synthetic nature of the sound seems too far removed from music's roots for its own good.

It's like the difference between artificial sweeteners and sugar.
Here's something I do love: Waking up in the early morning hours, glancing at the ALARM CLOCK and realizing you still have an hour or more to sleep.
Rolling over after that realization is pure bliss. Unlike all of these fake-sounding songs.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Give me some Keane -- I need more mellow

I was in the mood for some KEANE today, after hearing "EVERYBODY'S CHANGING" on the radio and suffering through a day in which I toiled on four stories at the newspaper.
I dialed up the English band's debut, "HOPES AND FEARS" on the iPod and listened while driving around on a beautiful day.

When I first heard Keane, I dismissed them as Travis copyists.

Upon further listening, I now understand that Keane were similar but much different, thanks to TIM RICE-OXLEY.

The pianist takes center stage for the band -- serving a role even more important that vocalist TOM CHAPLIN.

The piano-centric approach sets Keane apart in the modern-day, soft-rock sweepstakes.

It's interesting to me that while soft-rock reigned on the American charts in the 1970s and early 1980s, it barely registers now -- supplanted by smooth R&B when people seek out the mellower musical forms.

Monday, September 13, 2010

A perfect day for "Hourly Daily"

Today's bright, sunny skies prompted me to listen to one of the catchiest albums of the 1990s.
"HOURLY DAILY" by YOU AM I debuted in the top-spot of the Australian album charts and later swept the 1996 AUSTRALIAN RECORD INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION (ARIA) AWARDS. The band led by TIM ROGERS (pictured) collected six awards that year -- for best group, best album, best independent release, best video, best producer and best engineer.

The album tells the story of the day in the life in another sunny city -- SYDNEY.

Lines such as "470 to Circular Quay, a present in your pocket for the TAB" cover Sydney's public transit, landmarks and betting obsession within just a few words.

Rogers said:

"The material really started forming in those long months towards the end of a tour. That's probably why the album is so referencial to Australia , not for any patriotic reasons, but because after so long on the road touring and playing, the whole process becomes perpetual motion and daily home life becomes surreal."

Listening to the album today and feeling the sun's warm glow on my face, I can close my eyes and picture the Sydneyside scenes of my recent vacation.
It makes Monday more manageable.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Lincecum, Giants shine while the Niners stink

Listening to the SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS on KNBR 680 (via was a lot more fun than keeping tabs of the SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS' score today.
TIM LINCECUM out-dueled SAN DIEGO PADRES' ace Mat Latos and the Giants pulled back into a virtual tie atop the NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST with a 6-1 victory.

Lincecum has now won three straight starts following a disastrous (for him) five-game losing streak.

Lincecum also knocked in a pair of runs with a single.

Buster Posey hit a two-run homer for San Francisco, who were heavily cheered by the crowd -- despite playing in San Diego.

Meanwhile, the Niners were awful, losing to the SEATTLE SEAHAWKS, 31-6, to open the NFL season. Undefeated exhibition season now appears to have been a false dawn.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Bad news for Tigers, better news for Garrett

I wish I hadn't heard it.
I woke up this morning, switched on 2GB 873 live online, and heard Shaun Kenny-Dowall score on an intercepted pass as the SYDNEY ROOSTERS beat the WESTS TIGERS, 19-15 in extra time, capping a remarkable NATIONAL RUGBY LEAGUE FINALS comeback from 15-2 down.

Dammit. I support the Tigers.

Ah well. There's better news for fans of MIDNIGHT OIL (of which I am also one, having seen the Aussie band live in concert).

Former front man PETER GARRETT (pictured) has retained his cabinet place in the new government of PRIME MINISTER JULIA GILLARD. Garrett was named minister for schools, early childhood and youth.

Garrett ran into trouble in his last cabinet position -- an environmental post -- when a home insulation scheme he supported failed badly. Hopefully he'll have more success in his new role.

Hopefully the Tigers have more success next week, when they'll face elimination in the NRL's remarkably complicated finals system.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Listening to and reading about footy

I woke up a half hour earlier than usual this morning. I had to -- the GOLD COAST TITANS open the NATIONAL RUGBY LEAGUE footy finals against the NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS, and the match coverage is available via 2GB 873 online.
I can't miss the finals, now that I have become exposed to what league fans call "THE GREATEST GAME OF ALL."

One of my prized acquisitions during my recent SYDNEY trip was "THE HISTORY OF RUGBY LEAGUE CLUBS," a 448-page tome devoted to the story of Australian rugby league by Ian Collis and Alan Whiticker.

Thus far, I have read the comprehensive histories of the "foundation" clubs -- those that got their start in opening year 1908 -- the Sydney (Eastern Suburbs) Roosters, the South Sydney Rabbitohs, the Western Suburbs Magpies, the Balmain Tigers (now merged with Western Suburbs to become my favorite club, the WESTS TIGERS), the North Sydney Bears and the Newtown Bluebags/Jets.

The story of the clubs also provides insight into the history of Sydney, with the impact of the World Wars, legalized gambling, immigration and gentrification changing the game as much as they changed the city.

Who knew a book about a simple, ruthless game could provide such depth?

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Recovering from jet lag

Last night was the first time in three nights I slept throughout.
Two nights after my return from SYDNEY, I found myself awake between 1-4 a.m., my biological clock wondering why I tried to sleep in what must have seemed like an AUSTRALIAN AFTERNOON.

I wasn't jet-lagged during the trip: I slept on the long flight from SAN FRANCISCO, woke up in Sydney in the morning, and my body seemed to glide right into Australian time.

Coming back has been a different story.
When I arrived home late Sunday night, my body was primed as if it were morning. By noon the next day, I was so tired I couldn't keep my head up.
Any jet lag has been well worth it, though. I fell in love with Sydney on that trip.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Route 1 returns with an apology

ROUTE 1 is back!
First, an apology.

I did not update my dedicated AUSTRALIA blog as frequently as I had hoped.

My sister INGER and I shared limited Internet access at our hotel in SYDNEY, and I decided it was more effective to post daily photographs to FACEBOOK than write on the Australia blog.

I plan to post photographs to the FETCH ME MY VEGEMITE blog, located in the links list on the right side of this blog.

In the coming days, I will relate more of my Sydney experience.

The FRIDAY QUESTION feature will resume next week.

Thanks for reading!