Sunday, April 30, 2006

New Tool Album Released In Time For Mother's Day

10, 000 Days, the long-awaited new album from progressive metal band Tool, was released in Australia yesterday, just in time to take advantage of the Mother's Day shopping period. Record stores have reported brisk sales in the last twenty-four hours, with many ordering extra units in anticipation of a last-minute rush as the big day approaches.

"Tool are a favourite with mums of all ages," JB Hi-Fi buyer Davis Margarita told Sterne. "Their last album [2001's Lateralus] went platinum largely on the back of Mother's Day sales. We're expecting big things from the new album. I can tell you, I'll be buying a copy for my mum! She reckons she'd do Maynard James Keenan until her bits fell off."

Throughout their career, Tool have openly courted the "knitted dollar". For example, on their last Australian tour, special "mums with bubs" sessions were held, which proved extremely popular.

"It was great to be able to go along, have a cup of coffee, put my feet up and listen to some really fucking awesome metal," mother of three Josephine Wig, 34, told Sterne. "I've been dropping hints to my kids about the new album for months. Last week I nearly drove them crazy singing "Stinkfist" [a track from the band's 1996 album ├ćnima] every morning as I drove them to school. I've got my fingers crossed that come Mother's Day I'll be listening to 10, 000 Days in bed over my burnt toast and cold coffee."

Between albums, the band maintains contact with its legion of maternal fans with an annual Mother's Day card, featuring exclusive artwork by Tool guitarist Adam Jones. The 2005 card featured the words "Happy Mother's Day" spelled out with rotting cow intestine on the stomach of an obese circus clown.

"It's lovely to receive the card each year," says Balwyn grandmother Beverly Crimson, "but nothing beats a new Tool album. Like many women, I have a lot of middle-aged angst, and listening to the driving riffs, propulsive drumming and off-kilter lyrics of Tool is extremely cathartic. And I must say it makes a pleasant change from all that Human Nature crap I get lumbered with every other year."

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Test Your Citizenship

The Australian Government has once again raised the possibility of compulsory citizenship tests for all migrants. In a Sterne exclusive we have obtained a sample citizenship test, which we invite all our readers to complete. Are you a true Australian, or do you have to be sent to the new Australia Camp on Nauru for re-education?

Part One: Political Desirability

1. Are you a terrorist?

a) Yes.
b) Sometimes.
c) Only when I'm trying to impress my mates.
d) None of the above.

2. Are you a Muslim?

a) Yes.
b) Sometimes.
c) Only when I'm trying to impress the religious secret police of the country my family and I are fleeing.
d) None of the above.

3. Have you ever attended any of the following events:

a) Protest rally.
b) Meeting with Osama bin Laden.
c) Scout Jamboree.
d) Filming of Rove Live.

4. Which of the following phrases best describes you politically:

a) Relaxed and comfortable.
b) Pissed off and rioty.
c) Former high-ranking official of brutal police state.
d) Kim Beazley.

Part Two: Ockerness

1. Australia's greatest historical achievement is:

a) Mateship.
b) The Anzacs (mateship of).
c) John Howard (everybody's mate).
d) The ute (an Aussie bloke's best mate, aside from John Howard).

2. Henry Lawson was a leading exponent of:

a) Bush-themed doggerel.
b) Chastity belts.
c) Compulsory tertiary education for the higher apes.
d) All of the above.

3. Which of the following best describes your ideal holiday:

a) A week in Bali shopping for pirate DVDs.
b) Two weeks in Balie shopping for pirate DVDs.
c) Twenty years in Bali shopping for pirate DVDs and serving a prison sentence for drug trafficking.
d) Two nights in a caravan in Bairnsdale with a couple of pirates.

4. Which of the following lines is not part of "Advance Australia Fair"

a) "Australians all let us rejoice"
b) "For we are young and free"
c) "With golden soil and wealth for toil"
d) "Get a dog up yer, ya cunts!"

Part Three: Australian As She Is Spoke

1. The phrase "Aussie Digger" refers to:

a) A popular brand of shovel.
b) A member of the Australian Imperial Force (1914-1919), particularly a member of the frontline infantry.
c) Anybody who has ever served in the Australian armed forces, up to and including that fucking psychopath you went to high school with who had to join the army after the police rejected him when his psychological profile unfavourably compared him to Harvey Keitel's character in Bad Lieutenant.
d) John Howard

2. An "icy-pole" is:

a) A pole. That is icy.
b) An unfriendly person from Poland.
c) Sex without love.
d) A frozen confection.

3. When speaking, country Australians generally do not move:

a) Their lips.
b) Their brains.
c) Their bowels.
d) All of the above.

4. "Rex Hunt" is:

a) A venereal disease.
b) Something that smells like fish and rhymes with "punt".
c) Annoying as all hell.
d) All of the above.

Congratulations on completing the Compulsory Australian Citizenship Quiz. Your answers will be processed sometime in the next decade. In the meantime, please enjoy the many exciting amenities of your razor-wire prison camp. Good luck!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Top Secret!

This past weekend saw the continutation of our household's favourite intermittent film festival, Crap Fest 2006: Dodgy Films Daddy Used To Watch As A Child. The festival director (that would be me) again demonstrated his taste, or lack thereof, programming one of the lesser-known spoofs from the Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker stable, Top Secret! Although the festival director had to explain most of the jokes to the audience (that would be my seven-year-old), a good time was had by all. Highlights of the film included:

- The song "Skeet Surfin'", which includes lyrics to rival anything farted out by Tim Rice:
I've got a gun rack in my Chevy
For when the surf and the flak get heavy
And we'll have fun with our guns
'Till our lifeguard takes our ammo away
- The German-for-travellers cassette that teaches handy phrases like, "I'd like a schnauzer with my wienerschnitzel."

- A character named Hillary: "It means 'she whose bosoms defy gravity'". The word "bosoms" elicited the only genuine laugh from the festival's otherwise baffled audience.

- The Swedish bookstore and underwater bar fight scenes. Neither scene is actually funny, but there's a lot of technical skill involved. Because that's what you watch a zany spoof for.

- Numerous gags of the "I know a little German - he's sitting over there" variety.

- A villain who looks disturbingly like David Gower. (Although not in the linked pictures. But you try Googling "guy from top secret looks like david gower" and see what you get.)

- The hasty fast-forwarding of two scenes involving, respectively, a marital aid called "the Anal Intruder" and implied bestiality (comedic).

After the movie a free, compulsory seminar was held in which the festival director led himself in a free-ranging discussion of the film's virtues, dwelling in particular on the scene in which a number of flying men urinate on a giant statue of a pigeon. Finally, the floor was opened for audience questions. "Can I go to bed now, please?" was answered in the affirmative, and festival director and audience agreed to reconvene in a couple of weeks for an encore screening of The Three Amigos.

Thursday, April 20, 2006


Like most sensible people I am in awe of Pacino, De Niro, and the like, but my favourite actors tend to be subtle operators, capable of conveying more with a flaring of the nostril than most actors can with a full body contortion. I'm attracted to ambiguous characterisation, fully fleshed-out fictional beings that are at once appealing and repellent. Think James Gandolfini's finely-calibrated performance in The Sopranos: the guy can build or relieve dramatic tension with a slight modulation of his breathing. Think Kevin Spacey in L.A. Confidential, a performance that according to James Ellroy contained "some of the best self-loathing I've ever seen on screen". Think Walter Koenig in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. I for one came away believing that Commander Chekov was not only an actual Russian - as opposed to a hack American actor putting on an accent - but that he genuinely did want to find those "nuclear wessels".

Having watched the first few episodes of HBO's Deadwood, I can now add a new actor to my list. Ladies and cocksuckers, meet Ian McShane:

McShane plays Al Swearingen, Deadwood's foremost supplier of booze and whores. Al has the charm of a rabid wolf and morals to match, and even in a town where the word "cocksucker" is used to greet the wife at breakfast, Swearingen's potty mouth stands out:
"Now you lay there and shut your fucking yap. The only time I want you to open your yap is when I stick my fucking pecker in it."

"You owe me five dollars, seven if you ass-fucked her"
What a guy. But the thing is, for all that Al is an absolute cock(sucker), McShane is so cock-suckingly good an actor that you can't help but warm to the old pimp and murderer. He has these amazing eyes that can be as hard and grey as a starched dolphin in one scene (in which he cold-bloodedly murders a low-life business associate, for example), then in the next scene (in which, say, he contemplates the futility of the human condition, or maybe even adopts a puppy - I haven't watched the whole season yet so anything's possible) he looks as though he is about to cry, but he doesn't, which makes his big wet eyes all the more effective. So, Al's a crim with a heart, then, and I know this is not exactly original, but its incredible that McShane can pull it off given how much of a prick his character is.

If you're yet to check Deadwood out, it comes highly recommended. The Western hasn't been this much fun since Leone hung up his ultra-close-up lense. Although there are obvious parallels, it doesn't quite do for the old west what The Sopranos did for organised crime, but it comes pretty close. Great performances, excellent writing, "guest appearances" by Jeffrey Jones - you don't see shows of this quality every day.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

A Good Egg

I have always been a lover, not a fighter. Ultimately this is probably a good thing, but it does occasionally make me feel that I'm a wimp. Still, I hadn't realised the depths of my girly-manliness until last night when I verbally apologised to a Humpty Dumpty easter egg before I smashed his face in.

He looked so happy, all done up in his nice shiny foil wrapper, that big idiotic grin on his face. For a moment I felt as though smashing him up and eating him would be like smashing up and eating a baby chicken, or a market-research derived compilation of cuteness-signifiers from the latest Disney/Pixar film.

But then I remembered that behind that big grin was chocolate, lots of chocolate, and "beanies", those weird-tasting yet strangely addictive Smarties rip-offs.

So, having offered my sincere apologies, I smashed Humpty's fucking face in and ate him. Guess I am a fighter (of chocolate, at any rate) after all.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Wednesday Night TV: Rounded Up and Shot

I ceased finding Neighbours entertaining some time ago, even on an ironic level, but for whatever reason I still watch it almost every night. One of the fascinating things about Neighbours is the gulf between the show itself and the network's promotional rhetoric. "You won't want to miss tonight's sexy ep," breathes that ubiquitous female voice-over artist, sounding as though she is thrusting her hands down her pants in anticipation of Dr Karl's (or whoever's) latest romantic imbroglio. The reality, of course, is that Neighbours is as G-rated as it gets, and about as sexy as playing dice with a ninja. (Although I suppose that could be sexy, given the involvement of the right ninja.)

At the moment, Neighbours is running storyline #23 from the Soap Opera Manual: the evil twin bent on revenge. Paul Robinson's son, Cam, has turned up, but, in a twist absolutely nobody saw coming, he is actually Cam's twin brother, Rob, who is pure evil! Rob is so evil that the promos feature a death metal soundtrack (evil!) and graphics that say things like "Evil has landed". Even the breathy voice-over lady is taken aback by the Rob's malevolence. She's still sounds hot for it, though.

At seven o'clock it's over to Nine for the latest installment of Temptation. Things are clearly getting desperate, judging by the amount of "celebrity" specials they've had so far this year. I prefer the normal episodes, as the presence of celebrities tends only to encourage the hosts' mugging humour. Last night saw carry-over champion Hadleigh (yeah, seriously) knocked over by some other guy, demonstrating the cruel fickleness of the concept. One minute you're being called "champ" and getting hit on by Livinia Nixon, the next you're being sent on your way with a lousy "souvenir of your time at Temptation". You don't even get a Temptation board game courtesy of Crown & Andrews! Although I'm sure the $22 000 Hadleigh had secured would have eased his pain somewhat.

With the VCR taking care of Survivor, it's back to Ten at 7:30 for Thank God You're Here. After the egotism of The Panel and the populist sentimentality of The Castle and The Dish, it's good to see the Working Dog team producing something that actually qualifies as comedy. The first two episodes have been patchy, but still worth a look. Frank Woodley and Peter Rosethorn were very good last week, while Shaun Micallef predictably stole last night's show, more or less by virtue of being Shaun Micallef. The format works quite well, although "judge" Tom Gleisner is superfluous. There's also the usual Working Dog problem of poor female casting. Whatever talents Fifi Box might have, she doesn't have the presence to compete with her male co-stars. Last night's closing ensemble scene looked to have been planned to minimise her role as much as possible. For Gleisner to then give her the (admittedly meaningless) trophy was condescending in the extreme.

At 8:30 I checked out Spicks and Specks on ABC. As usual, it was nothing brilliant, but entertaining enough. I certainly prefer the dorky Spicks and Specks to the self-conscious rock posturing of SBS's Rockwiz.

There was nothing worth watching after Spicks and Specks, although I did catch the last ten minutes of At the Movies. I find David Stratton and Margaret Pomeranz very difficult to take seriously. Apart from the fact that they offer almost no genuine analysis of the films they discuss, Pomeranz's manner grates, while Stratton's funny little pink mouth is very distracting. In fact, it reminds me of nothing so much as the infamous Pit of Sarlacc. I know, I know - gross, huh?

After At the Movies, I switched the tv off and finished reading Alain de Botton's Status Anxiety. It wasn't very good.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

But Is It Art?

Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t wish to shock you, but you are currently looking at the internet: that well known democratic resource of infinite information dedicated to a single purpose – looking at people without their clothes on. Well, that and blogging. In my most recent effort to convince Tim that, given the general quality of readers who come to us via Google, we should capitulate to the dominant paradigm and have Sterne concentrate on bringing you a daily dose of hardcore pornography, he reminded me that, no, the internet should be about bringing art, culture, big ideas, not debauchery and material for self-abuse, to the masses. And though I gently scoffed at this after he left to go and check out a site that claimed to have mpegs of Primo Levi performing a striptease to the Bolero, it soon dawned on me that with surprisingly little effort, I could combine blogging, art and indulgent degeneracy into a single, highly tasteless, package.

Now, lest I be accused (quite rightly) of plagiarism, let me point out that Sorrow at Sills Bend should be your first stop for intelligent, articulate analysis of sculpture; inimitable bloggist and upstanding citizen Lucy Tartan regularly spends her Fridays examining Melbourne’s public statuary, and I highly recommend you head on over there. That said, since Lucy has confined herself to local artworks, and since intelligence and articulacy are not regular features here at Sterne, and since I come into constant contact with ‘art’ during the course of my job (cat burglar), I feel surprisingly little shame in sharing with you a brief eyeful of this.

Monument to Pro-Life: The Birth of Sean Preston

My gods, is it not glorious? Those of you who are up to date with your Woman’s Day reading will be well aware of who Sean Preston is. For the rest of you: that’s Britney Spears crouched upon a bearskin, pudenda waving in the breeze as she prepares to squeeze forth the spawn of Federline in highly improbable fashion. Note the many references to the quattrocento Florentine tradition - the concentration on a slick, marbled finish; the balanced rounding of the figure; the preternatural calm gracing Ms. Spears features (surely Mary could have had no less an expression of sublime unconcern as with gentle smile and faint blush she pushed out the messiah) bespeaking an idealisation of form – combined with grace notes towards a Mannerist celebration of motherhood – widened hips, swollen ankles, evidence of water retention. Mind you, this doesn’t stop the whole thing being monumentally tacky.

But does this mean it’s not art? Well, no. Were I more of a smartarse, I’d say that any object which is intended to or interpreted as conveying significance within an aesthetic frame of reference qualifies as art (i.e. any old tosh). Does that mean that it’s not good art? Again, no. As a testament to Motherhood, it falls well short: the ridiculous bear – so redolent of vapid 70’s porn - takes care of that, even if you can strain credibility far enough to allow for a. Britney Spears, b. birth in that position, and c. the apparent lack of travail (while thankfully having no first hand experience since my own entrance into an appalled world, I’ve seen videos of childbirth (internet again) and absolutely no-one involved in the process is that tranquil – no-one). What makes it good art is the title. The artist, who previously brought us The Ted Williams Memorial Display with Death Mask from The Ben Affleck 2004 World Series Collection, is an extraordinarily good deadpan piss-taker, who, amidst the inevitable controversy subsequent to the work’s unveiling, has said that he couldn’t give a damn about the political pro-life group – he’s just all for life, in general, and his sculpture is a celebration of this (although if the anti-abortion movement would like to use it as a symbol, he’s fine with that; especially fine since the anti-abortion movement appear to find any association with the Britney statue undignified and irritating). Fair enough: one of the better ways of celebrating life is to laugh at its ironies.

This is what I like about the tomfooleries of Postmodern – for all its faults, and let’s not kid ourselves: they are many and often grievous - it is probably the only art movement to regularly give me amusement. Face it, sublime though the Renaissance might be, or as stimulating as Cubism might, can they raise a belly laugh on command? Hideous and ridiculous though it be, but Monument to Pro-Life: The Birth of Sean Preston has brought a little ray of sunshine into my morning, as I hope I have to yours. That, after all, is my ‘art’; that and making small children weep with fear.

Monday, April 10, 2006

What's The Big Idea?

The Box Hill Festival of Ideas was held yesterday, and as the suburb's "most influential man with nothing to do on a Sunday afternoon" (The Age), I was invited to attend in an official capacity.

As you would expect, the ideas flowed thick and fast. Even casual conversation was loaded with brain-starters like "Let's get the hell out of here" and "I think I'll get Nando's takeaway for lunch". But it was the invited speakers who really impressed. Highlights included:

- Bottled lettuce pioneer Richard "Coeur de laitue" Taylor, who spoke eloquently of the possibility of forging world peace through the missionary dissemination of that weird multi-level chess game from Star Trek;

- Gail Cornish of the Clog Institute, who gave a thought-provoking presentation on the prospect of using flashers, streakers and other public nuisances as an alternative fuel source;

- Dr Tessa Ong's engrossing lecture, "'Nomological Danglers' and other cool-sounding terminology I picked up while studying philosophy";

- and linguist Professor Ian Kang, who demonstrated the innovative techniques that will finally allow Esperanto to be translated into armpit farts.

As chair of the event, I greatly enjoyed mixing with such esteemed thinkers. The day's only hitch occured when a specialist in radioactive medicine accidentally stabbed himself with a top-secret serum and mutated into a folding chair. Once he was safely stacked in the corner, however, the ideas were free to flow once more.

All in all it was a very pleasant way to spend a chilly Sunday. If only I'd had the idea to wear pants, I might have enjoyed it even more, as indeed might have the first few rows of the audience. As it was, only two people passed out, and apart from the inevitable law suits, everything will probably turn out fine.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Radiohead Don't Really Like Your Recent Stuff, Either

According to a new report, the majority of the members of British rock group Radiohead are unsatisfied with your latest musical offerings and prefer your earlier, rockier sound.

The group, whom you have criticised in recent years as "pretentious" and "too arty for their own good" are likewise disparaging of your own output. Guitarist Ed O'Brien says, "You have exchanged inspired indie rock for insipid electro noodlings". Meanwhile, bassist Colin Greenwood claims that he feels "betrayed" by your recent material's lack of chorus hooks.

Eighty-percent of the band feel your latest single lacks the "late-night pub sing-along" qualities of your earlier hit "Cad", with only Jonny Greenwood conceding that your new direction is "interesting, if not entirely satisfying".

This is not the first time you have been drawn into a war of words with a major act. In 2003 your criticism of Metallica's St. Anger album led Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich to label you a "talentless piece of ass mucus", dramatically effecting sales of your debut album, Crotch Pony Sauce.

Your latest album, Please Dispose of Yourself Thoughtfully, is available through Shock. Thom Yorke says it "sucks".