Richie Benaud – the Voice of Summer

He is being lauded as the “voice of cricket”.

I would go further — to me, Richie Benaud will always be the voice of summer.

I was too young to witness his considerable feats on the pitch, though I remember my first game of club cricket for the formidable under 11/3 side in 1975 was played at Richie Benaud Oval in North Parramatta.

Snapshots of those summers in Australia include the aroma of zinc cream and coconut oil, trying to eat your Splice ice cream before it melted, the backs of your legs sticking to the bench seats in the HR Holden, and the deafening cacophony of cicadas.

But above and beyond all that was the cricket. Playing in the backyard after school (I was always Viv Richards – yes, unAustralian I know), playing Saturday morning, then “Saturday arvo” club cricket — my SS bat was a prized possession, and of course watching the cricket on the telly and listening to Richie.

When Richie raised the microphone there were none of today’s seemingly endless blokey in-jokes and “banter”. Commentary teams of today could definitely do with his eloquence and grace.

I believe it was what Richie didn’t say in his commentary that had the most impact, those dramatic pauses that landed, followed by an insightful, sometimes gently cutting remark, spinning away with that droll and very dry sense of humour.

Richie Benaud was the absolute master of word economy and unlike most commentators, he knew we were seeing in our lounge rooms what he was seeing down the ground, he didn’t need to be constantly speaking, those periods of silence were not “dead air”.

His knowledge of the game and its spirit was incomparable, effortlessly moving from test matches to day / night games, from the SCG to Lord’s and every ground in-between.

I’m loathe to use the cliché “doyen” but…

Vale Richie Benaud. Thanks for those summers.

Words: ©Steve Williams 2015
image: www.joe-digital.com

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St. Patrick’s Day… Munich style

The 20th annual St. Patrick’s Day parade in Munich was a great day for the Irish…
and Germans… and Aussies… and Slovenians… and dogs… and…

A few of my random images…

St. Patrick's Day Munich

St. Patrick's Day Munich

St. Patrick's Day Munich

St. Patrick's Day Munich

St. Patrick's Day Munich

St. Patrick's Day Munich

St. Patrick's Day Munich

St. Patrick's Day Munich

St. Patrick's Day Munich

St. Patrick's Day Munich

St. Patrick's Day Munich

St. Patrick's Day Munich

St. Patrick's Day Munich

St. Patrick's Day Munich

St. Patrick's Day Munich

St. Patrick's Day Munich


St. Patrick's Day Munich

Images: ©Steve Williams 2015

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Why I won’t be going a Waltzing Matilda with the Apple Watch

Yep, the Apple Watch looks stunning and the technology is impressive, but I’ll pass.*

Apple Watch 2.0 :  iSundial

I’ve owned quite a few watches over the years, including an “unreal” Casio copy digital watch when I was kid. This hifalutin’ horological appliance played Waltzing Matilda (for un-Australian readers, this song is about a suicidal sheep stealer that should be Australia’s national anthem, as it doesn’t contain the word “girt”).

But I digress.

I wouldn’t call myself a hardcore Apple fanboy — I haven’t felt the need to break out the sleeping bag and queue up for a new product — but I have been picking Apple products for years.

Why? A) They just work. B) They look good.

My very first Apple was the Macintosh SE back in the day, which to be honest was fairly fugly and it was a bloody heavy thing. Since then iPhones, iPads, iMac, and MacBook. Love ‘em.

The Apple Watch? Yeah, nah. I don’t really see the point. I know it does stuff… but not enough to make me want to buy it. My iPhone does everything (and more) than I need.
Sure, call me iLuddite.

A good thing you can monitor your blood pressure, with the top of the range Apple Watch costing several gazillion dollars, you’d need it.

Do I want to give someone a “digital poke”? No. That’s called assault.

Do I want to share my heart rate by sending it to another Apple Watch wearer? No.

Do I want to pay for things or open a door with my watch? No, I’m actually good.

Do I want to look like a Dick (Tracy) talking into my wrist? No.

*Disclaimer: If there’s an app to stuff a jolly jumbuck into my tucker bag Waltzing Matilda style
I could be convinced…

©Steve Williams 2015

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Queen – Thirty Years : Sydney to Munich

Thirty years is a long time between fandangos.

Adam Lambert worships at the Church of May (photo: mlk.com)

The last time I saw Queen was 1985 in Sydney on the Australian leg of The Works tour.

I had followed their journey since my first purchase of a single — Bohemian Rhapsody in 1975, which still occupies the rockstar position in my record collection.

1985 seems like a lifetime ago, I was a fresh-faced twenty-year-old, but I remember the concert as though it was yesterday. “Spectacular” is merely one adjective.

Queen + Adam Lambert in Munich last Monday night was always going to be a different experience — Freddie Mercury’s absence, and John Deacon’s retirement from the band.

I was no stranger to Adam Lambert, having followed his 2009 American Idol journey, singing Bohemian Rhapsody at the audition, culminating in a performance with Brian May and Roger Taylor.

Lambert is no Freddie Mercury impersonator. A talented performer in his own right, possessing a rather insane vocal range and wonderful showmanship, he brought another dimension to the night.

It wasn’t Queen Karaoke — Lambert’s unique phrasing added another layer to the songs ingrained in music history. He brought a sense of playfulness — performing Killer Queen reclining on a chaise lounge, his powerful, arena-filling voice nailed Save Me and Who Wants to Live Forever, and he gave Queen’s time-honoured classics their due respect.

This wasn’t the Adam Lambert Show, he was the “plus” — it was all about Queen — Brian May and Roger Taylor were at the top of their game, enjoying performing to Queen fans and the new mix of “Glamberts” — deliciously indulgent solos demonstrating their extraordinary talent. The cliché “rock royalty” more than applies.

May mentioned recording in Munich — indeed,  One Vision (and the music video), Crazy Little Thing Called LoveAnother One Bites The Dust and Save Me among others were all recorded at Munich’s famed Musicland Studios.

Concert standouts? Hard to isolate one, but Freddie Mercury’s “duet” with Lambert on Bohemian Rhapsody had me back in 1985. Somewhat bizarrely, another of my favourite moments (or twenty two and a half minutes) was the background music playing before the band took the stage.
I always love that time — the audience is in place, the anticipation is building — everything is set. The piece of music was Queen’s atmospheric instrumental Track 13 off the Made in Heaven album.

It will be interesting to see how the fusion of Queen + Adam Lambert plays out.

Watch this space…

©Steve Williams 2015

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Down the drones

Remember those annoying radio-controlled model aircraft that were popular circa 1982?
Those whining, buzzing love children of a mosquito on steroids and the Red Baron that used to invade open spaces everywhere?

The ultimate drone-downing weapon

I remember playing club cricket many years ago and being continually buzzed by one of them.
Two blokes thought it would be hilarious to dive-bomb the batsmen. Hilarious until one of my (rarely) well-timed hook shots obliterated the flying bastard.

Drones are the new aerial annoyance.

I realise they do have benefits, taking out terrorist types, and the extreme opposite — so called “ambulance drones” providing oxygen to people caught in a fire, lifesavers using drones to spot sharks and rescue swimmers, to photographers shooting aerial photography and video.

That is potentially the problem.
Drones are like a flying version of Google Glass, with similar privacy issues.

An Australian woman sunbaking topless in her backyard was photographed by a drone operated by a real estate agent who plastered the photo on a billboard to sell the property of her neighbour. Noice.

There are many stories of privacy being breached, including a drone “pilot” being chased off a nude beach (for some reason I’m hearing the “Benny Hill” theme music.)

Enough. It’s time to take up arms against photography perverts, exercise our rights and our arms and down the drones.

The solution to these high-tech space invaders? A very low-tech weapon developed by the original Australians over 40,000 years ago: the humble, yet effective boomerang.

Think about it. Your boomerang will come back, and the drone won’t.

©Steve Williams 2015

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You’re un-Australian if…

To celebrate Australia Day, one gazillion rainforests have been slaughtered creating weighty tomes of “what it means to be Australian”. Bugger that.

As a Wattle-waving Aussie, I reckon you’re un-Australian if…

If you don’t know who this bloke is, you’re un-Australian

*You don’t use “yeah, nah” regularly in a sentence.

*You know the mysterious second verse of the Australian national anthem.

*You don’t return from a Bali holiday wearing a Bintang beer singlet and / or braided hair.

*You use the word “sheila”.

*You don’t know what Wattle is.

*You don’t know what “wanker” means.

*You don’t drown your meat pie in tomato sauce.

*You don’t eat meat pies.

*You prefer a Sauvignon Blanc with a melon and ripe gooseberry nose to a stubbie you’ve opened with your eye socket.

*You don’t know what a stubbie is.

*You don’t think Kylie is bunging on that pommie accent.

*You don’t know what “bunging on” means.

*You drink Foster’s beer.

*You call a “prawn” anything other than a “prawn”.

*You’ve never had a bindi stuck in your foot (not the Indian forehead decoration or Steve Irwin’s daughter).

*You like the song I Still Call Australia Home even with Peter Allen bunging on that crap American accent.

*You prefer to sit on the grass at the beach rather than the sand.

*You take a soccer ball to the beach.

*You call a soccer ball a “football”.

*You don’t think the lead singer of AC/DC is still “the new bloke”.

*You don’t return from overseas bitching about how everything is better / cheaper / tastier / bigger / less crowded / less smelly / less foreign than here at home.

*You don’t think Cold Chisel’s Khe Sanh should be the national anthem.

*You respond when some bogan chants “Aussie!, Aussie!, Aussie!…”.

*You don’t know what a “bogan” is.

Words and image ©Steve Williams 2015

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Christmas gifts that keep on giving (and other clichés*)

Left your Christmas shopping until the last minute? You slack bastard. Can’t think of what to get your annoying little nephew Trevor? (No, forget him, he’s a little shit.) Thank your invisible sky dweller of choice I’m here.

You won’t have to endure that stopping-at-the-bottom-of-shopping mall-escalators mass of humanity, and endless Christmas carols so bad you want to perforate your eardrum with a chicken skewer.

You’ll think all your Christmases have come at once with www.skymall.com – a vertiable one stop shop for all your Christmas needs.*

Always wanted a t-shirt that smells like bacon? Of course you have. Just stay away from rabid dogs.

Dress like a pig

Dress like a pig

Can’t say I’ve ever been tempted by time, whether Gothic, sexy, and / or crouching.
That definitely won’t change with The Gothic Temptress Calendar. Note the leather and S&M chains. Classy. Imagine having a meeting with some bloke with this on his desk. You would be tempted to ask if his views on women are still stuck in 1427.

Tempted? Er, no

Tempted? Er, no

I know what you’re thinking: “I wish some artisan would craft a bespoke Bigfoot Tree Yeti Sculpture.” All that kneeling at the foot of your bed worked…

Chewbacca and Abe Lincoln's lovechild

Chewbacca and Abe Lincoln’s lovechild

Now, the piece of resistance. I give you The Zombie of Montclaire Moors as discussed on various late night TV shows. I assume the plan is you stick old mate in the ground next to your magnificent Double Delight roses and scare the bejesus out of young kiddies and get blank looks and eye rolls from adults. Go on, you know you want to, you always were the “wacky and zany” one.

Zombie Holocompost meets Lawn of the Dead

Zombie Holocompost meets Lawn of the Dead

Go and sleigh him, Santa.

©Steve Williams 2014

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Phil Hughes – Forever 63 n.o.

Phil Hughes. What a wonderful story, other than the part after Tuesday afternoon.

image

The young cricket obsessed kid from northern New South Wales, moving down to the big smoke of Sydney to further his dream. And he did just that.

Phil crammed a hell of lot into his almost 26 years, living the dream of Australian kids to one day wear that baggy green cap.

I had that same dream, racing home from school, racing even faster through homework to get out to the backyard for imaginary test matches. “I’ll be Dennis Lillee!” The kids next door alternated between the Chappells. We’d play for a few hours then our mums would call us in for dinner. Stumps.

Great times. Then playing in a junior club team, getting a Stuart Surridge bat from Santa and a Kookaburra ball I would carry everywhere, polishing it to a mirror finish.

I spent many a summer as a kid watching my heroes at the SCG. I imagined walking off the ground, acknowledging the standing ovation from the crowd after a blazing century as the shadows lengthened from the Member’s Stand. Phil Hughes did that for real, five times.

Then life got in the way, for me, but not for Phil Hughes.

I obviously never had the relentless hunger, the burning desire and freakish talent that inhabited Phil Hughes. He made it.

All that work, those endless hours in the nets and countless pitches paid off. He earned the right to wear the baggy green and did it proud. The perfect fit.

This summer of cricket will sadly have a dark shadow, though Phil Hughes will forever be 63 n.o.

Vale.

©Steve Williams 2014

Gough Whitlam, Pauline Hanson and Me

I was only ten years old when former Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam was unceremoniously dismissed from office in 1975, but his death last week had a profound impact
on me, as it did on so many other Australians.

Prime Ministerial amusement

I am not only sorry at his passing, he was such a towering presence — physically and politically.

Many in Australia mourn that Gough’s political legacy has been tragically trashed over the subsequent decades, by both sides of politics. I doubt we will see a return to those heady days.

I had the pleasure of meeting “The Great Man” years ago when writing radio commercials
at Sydney radio station 2KY, which at that time was owned by the Labor Council of New South Wales.

Former NSW premier Barrie Unsworth was the General Manager and was showing Gough around the palatial corporate edifice.

I was rather a fan of the Mambo clothing company. On the day in question, I was suitably attired in the standard creative uniform of a Mambo t-shirt, my wardrobe resembled a Mambo shop.

My selection that day was a satirical parody of the famous Australian match brand Redheads (apologies to Australian readers for getting the glove puppets of explanation out). In place of the flaming caricature redhead, my t-shirt depicted controversial (for want of an expletive) “politician” and all round embarrassment to Australia Pauline Hanson. The word “Redheads” had been brilliantly replaced by “Rednecks” with assorted contents and warnings as you can see.

After exchanging pleasantries with Gough, he looked down (quite literally) at my t-shirt,
smiled and said “Well done, Comrade.”

A memorable moment from an unforgettable man.

Vale, Gough.

©Steve Williams 2014

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Plane Genius – must have travel gadgets

Forget the Knee Defender – the boffins at Randomswill Laboratories have burst out of the shed brandishing these must-have airline travel gadgets. You’re welcome.

Armrest Arrester™ A small, surreptitious, skin-coloured taser that adheres to your elbow.
Bastard next to you tries to occupy your armrest? Hello 50,000 volts.
Ask our operator about the optional Fart Away™ attachment.

BO Blocker™ Say goodbye to gagging when Mr Businessman who reeks like he ate curry in a sewer sits next to you. BO Blocker™ is industrial strength deodorant you engage like capsicum spray on passengers who pong.
With BO Blocker™ their eyes may water for a bit, but they won’t stink.™

Sit The F*ck Down™ Cabin crew will love this. A magic lasso Wonder Woman style to rein in passengers who like to stand up and get their bags as the plane is landing.
“Hey! You in 24G! Sit The F*ck Down™.”

Luggage Lucifer™ A convenient, pocket-sized flamethrower that gives you the pleasure of setting on fire the luggage of the selfish a-hole in 14C who has crammed his extra luggage
in your overhead locker. Luggage Lucifer™ “Burn baggage, burn.”

Headrest Hero™  Don’t you hate those passengers who pull the back of your headrest every single time they get up? Hate no more. Headrest Hero™ is an adhesive velcro strip covered in thousands of tiny, barely-perceptible-to-the-eye razor-sharp needles. Headrest Hero™ “They’ll only do it once.”

Bogan Begone™ An ingenious ultrasonic Bluetooth device that repels singlet, shorts and thong (Australian footwear usage) wearing passengers who sport “mystical” Asian tattoos.
Narelle and Gavin will be instantly repelled, as will their bogan progeny Brihannna and Montannah.

©Steve Williams 2014

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