16 predictions for 2016

2016 is here, and promises to be a year of intense competition. We’ve got national elections both at home and in the USA, the two-week carnivale of the Rio Olympics, and all those pending legal contests between hoverboard manufacturers and their unhappy purchasers.

It’s a year of big prizes, like the $2 billion American Powerball draw, and big disappointments, like that of just about everyone who entered it.

While nobody can truly predict the future, especially those unscrupulous people who’ll try to charge you for doing so, I’ve donned my Nostradomus hat and peered into my tisane leaves to try and forecast what’s likely to happen in the year that, whatever happens from here, can definitely be said to have followed on from 2015. Continue Reading →

You can’t have edgy comedy without occasionally going over the edge

Ricky Gervais returned as host of the Golden Globes this week, and as sure as night follows day and regret follows the purchase of a hoverboard, his routine sparked off yet another chorus of controversy.

The comic himself predicted it, tweeting “Better get dressed and offend some humourless c—s, I suppose” before the ceremony even began. Whether or not you agree with his characterisation of the many people who took exception, Gervais certainly achieved his objective from the first moment he took to the stage, nursing a beer as a palpable symbol of his disdain for the audience and the gig.

The indifference was an affectation, of course, because if there’s one thing that matters to Gervais even more than his forthcoming David Brent movie, it’s his reputation as a stand-up comic.

Continue Reading →

Desperately seeking El Chapo

The actor Sean Penn and the narcotraficante Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán, who recently traded tequila shots in the Mexican jungle, have more in common than might be immediately apparent. They’ve both had a long association with products that have been blamed for the moral decline of Western civilisation – in Chapo’s case, illegal drugs; in Penn’s, Hollywood movies and Madonna.

I’m not sure which was the greater challenge, tracking down the Mexican drug kingpin or reading Sean Penn’s 10,000 word article about him. The former took six long months, while the latter certainly felt like it did.

But if you wade through the endless paragraphs which betray the author’s greater fascination with himself than with his subject, there is an extraordinary story to discover. Penn’s tale of burner phones and planes fitted with scramblers feels like a thriller, and his success in reaching Chapo seems so implausible that it’s lucky that the two of them took a photo together to prove it really happened. Continue Reading →

Forget Chris Gayle – let’s talk about Meg Lanning

Like Chris Gayle, Meg Lanning is a cricket superstar who can win a game single-handedly. Like Gayle, she averages more than a run a ball in Twenty20 internationals, and regularly smashes bowlers all over the ground with the carefree panache of Shane Warne on Tinder.

Unlike Gayle, though, Lanning is not serially sleazy towards female journalists. And if her bedroom has a mirrored ceiling, she’s not known for posting boastful photos of it on Instagram, a site upon which she has not chosen to nickname herself “UNIVERSE-BOSS”. Continue Reading →

We should look gift cards in the mouth

Dick Smith Electronics, that venerable merchant of gadgetry and geekery, entered receivership this week. It’s terrible news for the staff and shareholders, but will presumably make no difference whatsoever to the private equity firm that made a motza out of flipping the business.

That’s 21st century capitalism, folks!

The biggest impact for most Australians, though, will be for anyone who scored a DSE gift card for Christmas, or has put down some cash against a lay-by. Whether or not they’ll be honoured is unclear –the administrator Ferrier Hodgson says not, but they may not have the last word on it, given various consumer-protection regimes. (Watch this space was the advice when I spoke to NSW Fair Trading about this on the radio this morning.) Continue Reading →

This year of sequels does not bear repeating

The 2015 that Marty McFly visited in Back to the Future II was only partly like the year we’ve just lived through. We haven’t got flying cars or self-drying jackets, and let’s not say a word about hoverboards, especially to Russell Crowe.

That holographic shark that loomed at our hero to promote Jaws 19, however, was spot on. Because 2015 was truly the Year of the Sequel.

This year, it felt like most movie franchises with an admirable legacy jeopardised them with another instalment. The machine was as unrelenting as anything in Terminator Genisys, and also gave us a new Avengers, Fast and the Furious, Jurassic Park, Hunger Games, Mission Impossible, Bond and even Mad Max. Continue Reading →