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Monday, June 20, 2011

Bmag June 21st 2011 - Trivia night terror

When my son Jack started school six years ago, I may have told the principal I was willing to do anything with a microphone as long as I never had to turn sausages! I say “may” at the instruction of my lawyers who are currently working on getting me out of hosting trivia nights for the rest of my life!

But it’s not just the school that invites me to host trivia nights – and truth be told, I generally always say yes!

You see, I have a head for useless information and I love asking quiz questions but for reasons I shall explain, running trivia nights is the most terrifying duty I am ever asked to perform! If you’ve ever been to one, you’ll have an idea where I’m going with this. But there are some behind-the-scenes goings on I am ready to reveal!

The obvious challenges for a trivia night host are: firstly, the people at the back who can’t hear, partly because of the ageing PA system, but mostly because of the people in front of them yapping all night; secondly, the people who are yapping all night but still ask you to repeat all the questions!

Then there are those who delight in pointing out others who are using their mobiles to phone-a-friend or search the internet and ask “What are you going to do about it?!”

Finally, there’s the table of professionals who go from trivia night to trivia night with specialists in different subject areas. They take their own booze informed (not adding further to the fundraising effort), drink too much of that booze and spend all night querying the answers. They also tend to win, much to the chagrin of the organising committee.

But sometimes it’s the organisers themselves who bring on the MC terror. Specifically, the person who’s been volunteered – probably against their will – to come up with the questions. At one bowls club trivia night the questions were written by a rail employee. The one which almost caused a riot was: in the Santa Claus Steam Train Special departing Roma Street on December 13, how many passengers are allowed in the dining car in each sitting?!!

Another time I wasn’t allowed to pay World War One as the answer because the question-writer insisted it wasn’t called World War ONE until there had been a World War TWO!

And once, the person in charge of marking made a simple mathematical mistake and the wrong team was awarded all the prizes. I hadn’t noticed either but at the very end of the night, whilst the chairs were being stacked, one of the actual winners whispered in my ear. (He’s now an MP, so maybe this story will one day surface in his autobiography!)

So what have I learned from hosting all these trivia nights? For one thing, always provide your own questions!

At least if you’ve done the research, you’re in a position to argue the toss. Unfortunately this still isn’t fail-safe. Thanks to the urban-myth-busting deliberately planting mistruths on its own website – apparently to teach people never to rely on one source! – I erroneously marked people down for saying the talking horse Mr Ed wasn’t played by a zebra! (And would you believe, the same aforementioned now- MP was there again! And yes, it is possible his team would have won the night if not for that one mistake by yours truly!)

But the main thing I’ve learned is that when Jack starts high school in 2013, I won’t tell anyone that I work in radio! Instead, I’ll turn up to the first P&C meeting with my barbecue apron on and tongs in hand!

Entertainment overload

In the last issue of bmag, I lamented the difficulty of keeping up with all the movies, television, books and music that are created every year.

Jen Hansen emailed: “There is never enough time to watch and listen to everything but if you keep an open mind, occasionally you stumble across some timeless pop culture gems.”

Bruce Redman tweeted me: “It’s awkward when a person marries younger
and they don’t have the same pop culture history.”

And Andrew Murrell said it saddened him to think of all the television he would never see – shows that will be made after we are all long gone. Time machine anyone?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Bmag June 7th 2011 - Keeping with TV, movies, music and books

Think how many movies are made each year. Add all the television hours that are produced. How are we meant to keep up?

We’ve had television in Australia since 1956 (1959 in Brisbane) and we’ve been making feature films since 1906 (The Story of the Kelly Gang was the first) and that’s just in Australia. Globally, the Internet Movie Database ( lists more than 55,000 television series (more than 991,000 episodes) and 257,000+ movies. And those numbers are growing daily.

My son Jack was born 28 years after me. That means, to hold his own in a conversation about popular culture, he has to absorb 28 more years of television shows and movies. Not to mention 28 more years of books. And then there’s music.

As a radio presenter, music is close to my heart. Sometimes when I give talks at service clubs and the like, I’m asked if I can play “better music” on air. What this generally means is “the music of my formative years”. The trouble is that we’ve had pop music – songs that still sound great in 2011 – since the 1950s. Certainly since the 1960s. Since I started on radio in 1990, there are 21 more years’ worth of popular music from which to choose. And still only 24 hours in each day!

Perhaps you think you have a firm handle on the popular culture of the past 50 years. But what about your children? And your children’s children? And your informed children’s children’s children?! The only way future generations will be able to keep up is for someone to invent a way of downloading movies and television series directly into the brain within seconds!

One thing you can do to help the next generation is to consciously expose your children to your favourite music, movies and television shows. So far at my place, I’ve scored wins with The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, The Goodies, Dr Who, Monty Python and The Muppet Show. I’ve had less success getting Jack hooked on 2001-A Space Odyssey. But there’s still time. He’s only 11. And I know I’ll be able to get him hooked on Man About the House!

When I asked my listeners if they’d done this, the phone lines went into melt-down. It seems many of us harbour the desire to preserve and pass on the popular culture that means something to us.

But it’s an uphill battle. Cast your mind forward and imagine what things will be like in 500 or 1000 years. Which movies will everyone still know and watch in 2511? As the years pass, the cut-off grade for a movie to survive the next generation and the next will get tougher and tougher. Sorry to say it, but perhaps none of the movies made until now will still be watched in 500 years.

Back to television in 2011 and one of the side-effects of these myriad shows on however many channels there are is an end to the mass watching of TV shows. There are exceptions – phenomena like MasterChef and our lingering attachment to the evening news, for example – but on the whole we’re heading away from the traditional notion of the nation watching something together. The downloading of television series, and their availability on DVD and Blu- Ray, further drives us to choose and watch TV in small groups or alone. And I reckon that’s a shame.

Back in the ’90s, I went to a Melrose Place party at a five-star hotel in Brisbane’s CBD! As a reporter, you understand! Across the country pubs would host weekly viewing nights. I can’t imagine too many shows these days having that sort of mass appeal or pulling power.

My blueprint for power (If I ruled Queensland) in the last issue of bmag sparked quite a reaction. The policy that appeared to resonate most was my promise that television shows would start and finish on time.

On Twitter, people were fighting over various ministries. For example, self-described Corporate Clown James Caldwell nominated himself Minister for Dr Who! James, you can be the Minister Assisting the Minister for Dr Who (because that will be me!)

Alan Clarke emailed: “Loved your article but you’ve missed one. Make it illegal for restaurants to insist ‘one bill per table’.” I agree!