Before home video

In the days before home video, we had to resort to other means to re-live movies and TV shows.

Novelisations of productions were common. I knew people who had hundreds of Doctor Who novelisations — virtually every story had a book published. I had perhaps a dozen.

WarGames book coverOther books made it into publication — scripts, programme guides, and spin-off material. Of course these are still common, but perhaps only for specific “cult” titles that the makers think will sell really well.

I used to have the script for The Singing Detective. At home I still have two books from The Goodies, which have a wealth of quite amusing material. I didn’t bought them, but acquired them both from the primary school library during clear-outs.

Some people would record TV shows onto audio tape. About a hundred 1960s Doctor Who stories are still lost — but audio recordings exist for every single one. (It’s perhaps a sign of the priorities of big bureaucracies like the BBC that paperwork exists for all the stories, despite the actual stories having been thrown out.)

In the 80s before I had saved up for a VCR, I recorded some stuff onto audio… from memory by just putting a tape recorder close to the TV, though I may have later rigged up a cord connecting the two directly. The Young Ones was an example — I had most episodes on cassette, and listened to them regularly for a while.

One of the movies I bought the novelisation of back in the day was WarGames, which as I’ve written about before, was very influential on me. As I recall it follows the movie script closely, but has a few extra titbits: such as that after the movie ends, David gets a summer job doing computer work at NORAD, and his school is convinced to buy some computers to teach computer studies to the students.

I don’t know what happened to my copy of the book. Presumably I got rid of it during a house move at some point. So in the best traditions of nostalgia, when I got curious and looked on eBay the other week, I found a copy for under $10, and bought it again.

I still love the movie. I bought the 25th anniversary Blu-ray release recently as well — it looks great in high-definition. I’ll probably re-read the book at some stage. It’s only 220 pages — it’ll be a pretty quick read I’m sure.

Nowadays, people can record anything off TV easily using cheap technology, and perhaps every major TV show and movie is released on DVD and/or Blu-ray, and (eventually) repeated ad infinitum on one of the many TV channels. No wonder novelisations have mostly disappeared, and few people record audio off the TV anymore.

  • Ever wondered about the term “Wardriving“, meaning to look for open Wifi networks while driving? It’s derived from “War dialling“, meaning to ring lots of phone numbers looking for computers answering… the word came from the movie.)
  • Speaking of scripts, there are over 80 made freely (and legally) available for download here: Go Into The Story

Waterproof jackets

My old Snowgum waterproof jacket, which I got about ten years ago, is finally wearing out — self-destructing from the inside, a little like the Snowgum stores themselves.

It’s been so handy that I want something similar to replace it: reasonably lightweight (but not flimsy and featherweight) but waterproof (not just water-resistant), that can be packed down easily to carry in a bag. And I’m prepared to invest in something tough and durable.

It’s sale season, so I’ve been exploring the cluster of outdoor shops around Little Bourke Street.

Kathmandu’s prices at sale time go down to something reasonable (why would you buy when they’re not on sale?) — and they have a few options in the $100-150 range, but I can’t help think the linings on them look just a little flimsy.

Macpac has a few different coats, but their lightweight one (“Dispatch”) seems a little too small and lightweight, and the heavier ones (“Endeavour” and “Copland“) seem a little too heavier than my old jacket — not easily foldable, for instance. They’re a bit more expensive ($229+) but they do look very sturdy.

Nothing in the Paddy Palin shop leapt out at me. I haven’t looked properly in Mountain Designs yet, though there are some in the current catalogue and online that look okay — but unlike shoes (which I’m now happily buying online, in part because I hate shoe shopping with a passion) I’m finding I really need to see coats in person, particularly to see what kind of weight they are.

I’m not looking for a fully-blown stockman’s coat, but Drizabone also has a few options. At first I thought the Darby might be good (despite being described as a “traditional styled anorak” — hello gunzels!), as it looks like the right weight, but I looked at them in David Jones, and they’ve got a peculiar cord-type thing that goes under the arm. I think it’d bug me. Perhaps I should try one of the smaller oilskin jackets?

Any other ideas, preferably in the CBD?

Postscript Sunday 29/6/2014: I eventually got past Snowgum and Kathmandu in Moorabbin, near home. The latter had a jacket I hadn’t encountered at the city Kathmandu — the Andulo — it’s perhaps not the most perfect jacket ever, but given I really need to replace the old one, it’ll do the job for now.

Who remembers Infinity Limited?

Sometime one morning in 1983 (I think) I was walking through Elsterwick Park on my way to the bus stop to go to school (year 7), when I saw a hot air balloon at low altitude.

On the basket appeared to be a Penrose triangle — the logo for Infinity Limited, the ABC’s science show for kids, which we used to watch at school. Turned out they were filming a scene for an episode — the park is less than a kilometre from the ABC studios in Ripponlea.

To my amusement, the someone’s found it and put it on Youtube.

In each episode, Infinity Limited’s Rick and Krystal would try and solve a science-related problem for their clients, with downstairs company Vortex Ventures, run by Vortex and his assistant Plankton, would try and steal their ideas and customers.

I’m not expecting anybody to watch the whole thing, but the balloon bit is at 16:20. There are also some scenes with Vortex and Plankton trying unsuccessfully to take-off using small balloons — I think that looks like Caulfield Park — the playground at 18:50 looks very familiar, though the big slide has now been removed.

Computer geeks might like to note the presence of an Atari 800 at 1:40. Wouldn’t be surprised if something like it was used to create the first part of the title sequence.

Who else remembers watching this show in the 80s?

RIP Rik Mayall

BBC: Rik Mayall, star of The Young Ones, dies aged 56

I’m quite upset by this news.

As a teenager, I grew up with – and adored – the shows he was in… The Young Ones of course, but I went hunting for those that people may have since forgotten (or never seen, because they didn’t make it to air here, or were on at obscure times)… Filthy Rich And Catflap, The Comic Strip Presents (including the Famous Five spoof Five Go Mad In Dorset, and Bad News, the heavy metal spoof which pre-dated Spinal Tap), The Dangerous Brothers, and later The New Statesman (once the subject of an angry letter to the Green Guide from me about Channel 7′s scheduling of it) and Bottom.

RIP Rik.

The Young Ones Book (1984)

PS. Here’s something from Wendy Harmer — another comic I admired in my formative years (and in fact asked for an autograph, on the school steps one day after she’d spoken at an assembly — she signed it “Thanks for asking”):

A little anecdote here. In the dim, distant past I found myself in a bar at the Edinburgh Festival with Rik Mayall and Nigel Planer and we struck up a conversation.

I was in awe of the both of them, obviously, and was looking for a discreet way to say to my idols, “I’m a comedian too”.

Just then a very pissed Aussie reeled out of the shadows and said: “Wendy Harmer! Big Gig! Fucken funny show. Love ya!”

Rik and Nigel both knew of The Big Gig and said they loved it.

For one moment there I was in the tent of comedy greatness and I thought I would die happy.

I can picture that moment, exactly. Recall my utter fandom and how pleased I was to think of myself as one of the “New Wave” comedy alumni.

They were the best, most thrilling times of my life. Inspired by all the genius performers in “The Comic Strip”.

All of you changed my life. Wouldn’t have run away and joined the circus without you!

And Rik – you were the daring young man on the flying trapeze.

The one we gasped to see.

And,whoever that pissed Aussie was… thank you.

Physical wreck: There will be snot

I’m a physical wreck this weekend, from head to foot.

Some new shoes are fine for me, but the ones I wore on Thursday resulted in three blisters: one on each heel, and another on one of my toes. I’m sure the shoes will settle down after a couple of wears, but in the mean time, I’ve got bandaids on every time I leave the house.

And I’ve got a head cold. It’s not at the top of the scale when it comes to colds and flu, but it’s not very pleasant either.

The movie In The Loop (which is a spin-off from the TV series The Thick Of It) has some very funny deleted scenes on the Blu-Ray disc. In one, Jamie (aka The Crossest Man In Scotland) rants to Malcolm about going to see the movie There Will Be Blood… he complains that there’s hardly any blood in it.

My weekend so far could be called There Will Be Snot. On Saturday I went through an unbelievable number of tissues, thanks to an alternating blocked/sneezy/runny nose. The house sounded a little as if someone was doing a day-long really really bad trumpet rehearsal.

So far Sunday is looking like it might be a day for a sore throat rather than lots of nose action, but we’ll see.

Hopefully this cold will be on the retreat by tomorrow. I’ve got important things to do during the week.

Here for your enjoyment is Jamie McDonald, the Crossest Man In Scotland. (Coarse language)

Finally, what is amazing about In The Loop is that they managed to construct a trailer with no swearing (apart from one bleep):