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Freelance writing for SMH.com.au, The Glebe, Cleo, SundayLife and elsewhere

A salute to Damir Dokic

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It isn’t said often enough, but Damir Dokic is a genius. In the vast pantheon of crazy fathers from Joe Jackson to Richard Williams, there is no-one to hold a candle to him for sheer lunacy. And while Jelena struggles for form, Damir’s latest outburst shows he’s absolutely on top of his game.

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A column about 2005

At midnight on 31 December, when the City of Sydney Council lights up the naff-sounding pulsating heart it’s putting on the Harbour Bridge to welcome in the new year, I for one will be absolutely delighted to see the back of 2005. Continue Reading →

A column about Amex touts

There should be a special circle of hell reserved for the guys who flog American Express credit cards. They are without doubt the most infuriating people working in Australia today, with the exception of everyone involved with Australian Idol. Continue Reading →

A column about the Socceroos

I can’t remember ever watching a more enjoyable sporting event than last Wednesday’s win by the Socceroos. I think the main reason it was so very, very good was because we weren’t expecting to win. A sporting victory is always sweeter when it isn’t expected. That’s why the Premiership wins by the Swans and Tigers were so intensely satisfying, as both clubs put aside decades of disappointment to finally taste success. I’m still waiting for the AFL to uncover some evidence, or hear some appeal, that’ll mean the Swans aren’t actually premiers – it’s almost surreal. Continue Reading →

A column about being cool

I was sitting with friends at the pub last week, celebrating someone’s 30th birthday with a few quiet, contemplative ales. But just as I was queuing at the bar, somebody drew a gun. Fortunately, though, was made out of pink plastic, and attached to a video game machine, Time Crisis III. It’s a fantastic game, actually – it lets you arbitrarily shoot a lot of terrorists dead, while accidentally slaying a few civilians along the waay. John Howard would like it. Continue Reading →

A column about iTunes

At the time of going to press, rumours were flying furiously around about the iTunes Music Store finally making it to Australia on Tuesday of next week. If the rumours are true, by the time you read this, the Inner West’s phalanx of white headphone-toting iPodders will finally be able to legally download music through the software that comes with their stainless steel status symbols. This is momentous news for both the inner-city trendies and the computer nerd community. How momentous? Well, it’s almost as good as if your computer could make you a latte and play Red Dwarf trivia with you at the same time.

If you’re neither one of the Coke-bottle-glasses brigade nor a black skivvy-wearing iPoseur who hangs tough at the Glebe Pt Rd AppleCentre, though, you could be forgiven for wondering what the fuss is about. The iTunes Music Store is the world’s most popular way of legally buying music for your computer. In America, songs cost 99c, and over 500 million of them have been purchased since the service started two and a half years ago. Albums cost only $9.99, which, at current exchange rates, is less than half the $30 we pay for CDs. The songs are automatically copied to your iPod, and can be burnt onto blank CDs. In short, it’s the best way to prevent stealing music. Or at least it would have been if those telltale white headphones didn’t make it so easy for would-be music thieves to just mug iPod owners instead.

It’s been a long time coming, and fans have been disappointed before. There were apparently plans to launch it midyear, and Sony/BMG’s disagreement with Apple was cited as the reason for the delay. I think they should have pressed on regardless – the store’s potential lack of Shannon Noll and Anthony Callea songs is actually a feature.

Why’s it taken so long? Sweden, Austria, Japan and even Luxembourg now have their own iTunes stores. So I can’t understand why Australian record companies have been so narky about all this. On the one hand they constantly complain about how piracy’s hit CD sales, and on the other they make things impossible for the company that’s doing most to promote legal downloading. Sure, Sony’s got its own far more unpopular range of music players, and is probably trying to lock its music into them. But they need to look at the big picture. Because piracy is absolutely rife. It doesn’t just happen through the high-profile offenders like Napster and Kazaa. These days, you can borrow a CD off a mate and burn a perfect copy in a couple of minutes – or just let software like iTunes digitise it for you. Entire TV series can now be downloaded from the internet, and while it’s mostly smut and Star Trek for now, it can’t be long before this starts eating into DVD sales of good programmes.

But the iTunes store is priced so low that it may just save the industry – and not just the music industry. The American store now sells TV shows for a mere $2 shortly after they go to air. And while it seems more humane to force Desperate Housewives addicts to go cold turkey than to allow them to download their fix the next day, the bottom line is that people are paying for content that, whether by downloading or swapping videotapes, they previously got for free. Selling downloadable feature films – the most popular content for illegal downloads as people get faster internet connections – is surely not far away.

Even after years of the industry lecturing us on how it’s wrong to copy things, it’s safe to say that most Australians aren’t too fussed if it’s “just for a mate.” So another way must be found of extracting value from this content. The answer lies in making it more pleasant and convenient to buy legal content. Which is exactly what the iTunes music store does. So when it finally arrives, let’s applaud a victory for common sense. It will lead to the spread of legal, paid-for content in place of the pirated. It may also lead to the dangerous proliferation of Desperate Housewives video clips. But that’s a price I’m prepared to pay.

A columns about Wests Tigers

In case you’ve been avoiding all news sources for weeks because of the clear and present danger of reading about Australian Princess, and have somehow missed the 18,492 other references to it elsewhere in recent editions of The Glebe, the Wests Tigers – or as they are more correctly known, the Balmain Tigers – overcame odds of 150 to 1 to win their first premiership since 1969. Or 1952 if you’re from the wrong half of the joint venture. So it was quite a big deal, with the game on the big screen at Leichhardt Oval a party at the leagues club on Victoria Rd raging on until well into the night – and hangovers raging on for far longer than that. Continue Reading →

A column about the Valhalla cinema

Sydney’s film community has taken a body blow in the past month, with two of the already small number of inner-city independent cinemas closing their doors. The owners of Glebe’s Valhalla cinema and the Chauvel in Paddington have found that the challenges of DVD and an ever-increasing number of multiplex screens have made things too difficult. And with DVD-quality pay-per-view movies now available on Foxtel Digital, and even higher-quality home viewing options like HD-DVD and BluRay on the way, you can see why they’ve decided that the odds for smaller cinemas managing to bring in audiences would be roughly the same for a new Police Academy sequel. Continue Reading →

A column about VSU

A couple of weeks ago, I went to Sydney Uni’s Manning Bar to watch a local hero lose $836,000. Tim Brunero, the Newtown journalist, went down in the finale of Big Brother 2005 to the muscly Logan twins of Wagga. I’d been predicting his eventual defeat by the forces of blokiness for most of the series, but on that night, fuelled by the Centrebet odds, the general buzz, and some very dull interviews with Logan Greg, I’d foolishly convinced myself that the public would get behind Tim. Serves me right for believing the Sydney Morning Herald. Continue Reading →

A column about Grand Theft Auto

A few weeks ago, the Office of Film and Literature Classification took the extreme step of refusing the classification of a videogame, forcing it to be withdrawn from sale. And not just any videogame – they banned Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, a best-seller which is widely viewed as the greatest game ever made, with the possible exception of Hungry Hungry Hippos. Continue Reading →