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Archive for February, 2011

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Men At Work – Down Under

Posted by Big Boo on February 28th, 2011

Men At Work Down UnderDepending on where in the world you live, there are some bands who appear to you to be one hit wonders, whilst in reality they may well have been very successful in their homeland. Dexys Midnight Runners are a good example of band that will be well remembered in the UK, but abroad may only have had a single hit.

Here in the UK, Men At Work are the opposite to Dexys. An Australian band who were pretty successful there, in Blighty they are really only remembered for one song, and that was Down Under (sometimes known as A Land Down Under, thanks to the chorus lyrics).

Down Under was originally recorded in 1981, but when it was reissued the following year it took the world by storm, hitting the number one spot in Australia, the UK and Ireland, the US, and a few more countries besides. I guess it was seen as a bit of a novelty record thanks to the funny lyrics and the catchy tune (but more on that in a bit) and that’s why it did so well.

The song tells the story of an Australian traveller touring the world, who meets various people on the way who befriend him because of his nationality. For a country brought up on Marmite it also introduced the UK to Vegemite, the Australian equivalent of the love-it-or-hate-it foodstuff. I’m sure it must have been because of Down Under that us Brits were even able to buy Vegemite in supermarkets for a while (not sure if you still can, but I don’t think so). For more on this food by product see the rather amusing Vegemite entry in the BBC’s h2g2 (An online attempt at creating a real Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, in a similar manner to Wikipedia).

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The Family Ness

Posted by Big Boo on February 25th, 2011

The Family NessThe Family Ness was a cartoon first broadcast by the BBC in 1984, which was all about the Loch Ness Monster, or more correctly I should say Loch Ness Monsters, since the cartoon proposed that there were a whole family of Nessies living within probably the most famous Loch in Scotland.

The show was created by Peter Maddocks, who was also responsible for Jimbo and the Jet Set. Maddocks used the name of the Loch as a joke when naming the various members of the Nessie clan, by calling them names such as Ferocious Ness, Clever Ness, Grumpy Ness and two of my personal favourites, Her High Ness and Eyewit Ness (who wore an eye patch like a pirates). One must wonder though how the clan grew so big, given that there only appeared to be a couple of female Nessies (Her High Ness and Lovely Ness).

The cartoon was not just about the monsters though. Angus and Elspeth MacTout are a brother and sister who have befriended the Nessies, and are able to make them appear when they blow on their Thistle Whistles. It’s a useful friendship, as Angus and Elspeth help keep the Nessies safe when they happen to be spotted, and in return the Nessies help out the two children when they get into scrapes.

Mr. MacTout, Angus and Elspeth’s father, happens to be the keeper of the Loch (although he seems to spend most of his time playing the bagpipes), which explains how the children get to spend so much time with the Nessies. Like most of the adults in the cartoon, he is a complete non-believer in the existence of the Loch Ness Monster.

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Posted by Big Boo on February 23rd, 2011

Airplane!I noticed Airplane! was on TV the other day, so I recorded it as I could never remember having seen the film from beginning to end. Sure I knew most of the gags from it, but more from reputation than having watched them first hand.

So, I watched it the other night, and I have to admit I almost, almost, switched off after the first 15 minutes or so, because what I was watching was failing to live up to my expectations. Sure there were a few bits that made me smile, like the tannoy announcers arguing about which coloured zone was which, but everything seemed far too serious at this point.

Maybe that was the idea though, as when Airplane! was first released in 1980 it was pretty much the first film of its kind (I’m struggling to think of anything similar that came before it, though I’m sure there must be something) so perhaps it was intentional, to ease audiences in for what was to come later.

Signs that things were heading back where I expected them to be soon came though, when Ted Striker goes to buy a plane ticket and is asked if he wants smoking or non-smoking. He replies that he wants smoking, and is then handed a paper ticket which, yes, you’ve guessed it, is literally emitting smoke in his hand.

Things started to improve also when Leslie Nielsen finally appeared. If there was ever an actor to be linked to this type of film it is the now, sadly, late Mr. Nielsen. I admit I gave a little cheer when he appeared, and from then on Airplane! suddenly became what I expected it to be from the beginning. The running gags I had been waiting for started to appear, including Nielsen’s “Don’t call me Shirley” line, and the “…but that’s not important right now” jokes.

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Richard Scarry Books

Posted by Big Boo on February 21st, 2011

Richard Scarry Cars and TrucksOne of my favourite books when I was very small was Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things That Go. The books was literally jam packed with images of different animal characters riding around in different types of vehicles, and it was the kind of book where you could spend ages looking at each individual page looking for funny little details that you might otherwise have missed.

One of the aspects of this book that I enjoyed the most was that whilst most of the vehicles depicted within it were very realistic, in so far as a cartoon style drawing can be considered realistic, some of them were just plain silly, like a car whose bodywork was in the shape of a crocodile or perhaps even more absurd, a pickle!

This book can be considered part of Richard Scarry’s invented world of Busytown, a fun place populated with Scarry’s unique style of animal characters, who tended to look quite rotund with little arms and legs and very little in the way of a neck. Busytown might have been bizarre in places, but again most of it was quite realistic in nature, making the books educational as well as fun for the young reader.

Richard Scarry was born in 1919 in Boston, where he attended the Museum of Fine Arts School. His first book was Two Little Miners, which was published by Little Golden Books in 1949, but arguably the book which cemented his future popularity was Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever, which contained well over a thousand images of every day objects, all labeled with the name of the object. It was published in 1963, and over the next 12 years sold 7 million copies!

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Stocking Fillers - Suppliers to Father Christmas
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The OXO Family

Posted by Big Boo on February 18th, 2011

The OXO FamilyThere have been a lot of very long running advertising campaigns over the years, including the PG Tips Chimps, the Gold Blend Couple, and the subject of today’s post, the OXO Family, a series of TV ads which started in 1983, and ran for 16 years, coming to an end in 1999.

During this period over 40 adverts were aired, featuring a typical middle class family consisting of Mum, Dad, two boys and a girl. Amazing really that there were that many, because I really only remember a handful, such as the “Mum’s cooked something different one” (see video below), the “Dad does the cooking one”, and the Christmas one, where the daughter narrates over scenes of the family doing the usual Christmas things, yet poor old Mum only gets credited for making the gravy.

As with most of these advertising campaigns when they come to an end, the reason for the OXO Family being dropped were that they weren’t seen as being representative of the average UK family any more, and I suppose I can see how that is true given it seems that many families no longer sit down to a home cooked meal together any more.

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Posted by Big Boo on February 16th, 2011

kerplunkYou couldn’t have given KerPlunk a better name than the one it has, could you? What would you go for otherwise? Marble Drop? Too boring. Stick Pulling Game? Dull as ditch water. Nope, KerPlunk suits the game perfectly, as it neatly conveys the idea of marbles dropping and sounds kind of cool to boot.

KerPlunk first appeared in 1967, and is another of those stalwart games which is still around today and will be around for as long as people are willing to play board games. Even when we’re all connected directly via a brain link to some virtual world, we’ll probably still be playing it then, except our virtual avatar will be wearing a sombrero, have green skin and crab claws, which would actually make the game a fair bit harder to play.

If you happen to have never played the game here’s a brief overview. A transparent plastic tube has a number of sticks inserted through little holes in its side, half way down its length. When enough sticks are inserted it forms a sort of floor, onto which a stack of marbles are placed.

Players take it in turns to remove a stick, being careful to not drop too many marbles, as the player with the fewest marbles after all the marbles have dropped is the winner. It’s a bit like a more nail biting, and potentially noisier, version of Jack Straws.

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Love Is…

Posted by Big Boo on February 14th, 2011

Love is...With today being Valentine’s Day I thought a little look at the Love Is… cartoon strip might be quite apt.

Created by Kim Casali in the late Sixties, Love Is… was a cartoon strip that appeared in daily newspapers around the world. Strip is both the right and wrong word to use though. Wrong in that strip tends to suggest a cartoon with a sequence of images, whereas the Love Is… cartoons were normally just a single image with a single sentence starting with the words Love Is. However, strip could be the right word given that the characters are normally depicted in the nude!

The two main characters are a male and a female who are quite child like in appearance, yet are in fact adults given that they have children of their own. They are drawn in black and white, since this was obviously most useful for printing in newspapers at the time they were created.

As mentioned above they are normally not wearing any clothes, which is why they are drawn in a child like manner, so as to avoid the artist having to draw any male or female wobbly bits… 😉

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Baileys Irish Cream

Posted by Big Boo on February 11th, 2011

baileysOK, this isn’t one that would have been aimed at a Child of the 1980’s, more an Adult of the 1980’s, but it certainly has a bit of an Eighties vibe about it.

The Eighties was a decade that saw some people striving to try and make themselves look more “middle class”, for want of a better way of putting it. People started to live the Yuppie (Young Upward Mobile) lifestyle, and as well as carrying around a Filofax they liked to host dinner parties for their friends, and Baileys Irish Cream soon became an instant part of the make up of such an evening, along with Ferrero Rocher or After Eight mints.

Baileys first came onto the market in 1974, and though the bottle may say it was created by a certain Andrew Bailey of the R.A. Bailey Company, this is nothing but a big marketing lie. Baileys was however the first of the Irish Cream liqueurs, a mix of alcohol and cream along with some other flavoursome ingredients including chocolate and vanilla.

Cleverly the cream doesn’t go bad thanks to the alcohol acting as a preservative, although the shelf life of a bottle is officially listed as 30 months. Not that that will probably be of too much concern to most people as Baileys is one of those alcoholic drinks that is very easy to drink!

Baileys has since been imitated by a number of alcoholic beverage makers, but it is still undoubtedly seen as the cream of the crop, if you’ll pardon the rather obvious pun. In more recent years there have also been new flavours of Baileys released, including mint chocolate and caramel, and there was also a short lived attempt at creating a Baileys based alcopop, called Baileys Glide.