Malcolm Young has died aged 64

AC/DC rhythm guitarist, Malcolm Young has died on Saturday after a three – year long battle with dementia and lung cancer. He was sixty – four.

The Young family released a statement, describing him as a “beloved husband, father, grandfather and brother”.

The Scottish – born guitarist was in the original AC/DC lineup in 1973, along with his brother, Angus. his late brother, Easybeats’ member, George, as their producer.

AC/DC has been a major part of Australia’s rock music history. Since the release of their debut album, High Voltage in 1975, AC/DC took Australia, then the world by storm. To date, they have sold over 200 million albums.

The 1980 passing of lead singer, Bon Scott from alcohol poisining could have seen the end of the band. However, former Geordie singer, Brian Johnson took Bon Scott’s place later that year. It was then, they made, what’s arguably become one of the best selling albums in hard rock/ heavy metal, Back in Black. 

Their success was far from over. In 1991, AC/DC released their twelth studio album, Razor’s Edge, which included Thunderstruck.

The past few years had been tough on the band. Drummer Phil Rudd faced charges of marijuana posession and making threats to kill.

There were fears about Brian Johnston when he was told that he’d have to quit touring becausecof the risk of hearing loss. Guns ‘N’ Roses, Axl Rose was his replacement. However, in August, Rolling Stone reported that due to evolving hearing technology, Johnston had his hearing maintained and will he able to perform again. He made a surprise appearance at the Reading Festival.

Since Young’s retirement, his nephew, Stephen Young has taken his place on guitar. Hopefully, with that, AC/DC can keep on rock for a few more years.

Malcolm survived alongside his wife, Linda, children, Cara  and Ross, grandchildren and brother and sister.

Rock in peace, Malcolm.

Do you have a favourite AC/DC memory (song, concert, etc)? Tell us about in the comments below.

 

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‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’ – a great end to a great series

Book: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
The last book of the Harry Potter series. A fine ending to the series.

I finally finished the seventh Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It was great. A fine end to what was overall a great series.

I started reading Harry Potter when I was about eleven. I got the first book either for Christmas or my birthday (can’t remember exactly. And I might have been twelve when I read it). It was like nothing I’ve read or (later in the movie), seen before.

It had a strong story line and characters. It was sad in parts. I cried when Harry Potter saw his parents in the Erised mirror in the Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone movie.

I thought the second book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, was better than the first. It had a great plot, and gave good context to the origin of Hogwarts, the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry and Ron turn out to be more mischievous.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
2nd Harry Potter book

 

I won’t go through the whole series. You can read them for yourself, if you haven’t already. What I will say is that, what the whole series did really well is revealing the true colours of characters. And often, it wasn’t obvious at the start: for example, Sirius Black (Prisoner of Azkaban) was not a wanted criminal, but a man who was falsely accused of being a Death Eater and Harry’s godfather, Professor Gilderoy Lockhart, celebrity and fraud who stole credit for other people’s achievements (Chamber of Secrets) and, of course, the revealing of Tom Riddle’s real identity – Lord Voldemort (a.k.a “He Who Must Not Be Named’).

I’ve got to say, my least favourite of the books and movies was the sixth one, Harry Potter and the Half – Blood Prince. It started off alright, with the revealing that Professor Snape was a Death Eater, but by the second half, I though the story fell a bit flat. The movie just went on for too long and there were moments in the film that I thought were unnecessary. This turned me off Harry Potter for a while.

However, I’m glad I finally did read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It took me over a month, but I got there (it was nice reading an actual paperback book, too, rather than a digital one). Rowling could not have finished the series any stronger if she tried.

Interesting things I’ve realised while reading the ‘Deathly Hallows’

When I was reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I realsed things throughout the series that I hadn’t noticed before. There are quite a few historical references (in characters’ names mainly), and strong social and political themes.

Historical names

Minerva McGonagall: Minerva,was of course the ancient Roman goddess of wisdom, intellect, arts and war. She did seems wise, I guess. I wonder if that was deliberate.

Another ancient Roman reference is the name of Professor Remus Lupin. Remus was believed to be a demigod; son of Mars, who along with his twin brother Romulus founded Rome. Remus ended up being murdered in a bitter dispute with Romulus, who ended up naming the city.

Does anyone know exactly why Rowling used references to ancient Roman mythology?

Social issues

If you look closely, there are a number of social and political themes in Harry Potter. The main one, at least I picked up on, is discrimination. That is first evident in the Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone when Draco Malfoy calls Hermione Granger a “Mudblood”; an offensive term used against those who weren’t born into a “pure blood” wizard/ witch family. The level of hatred toward non – Magic (Muggle) or mixed families becomes much more explicit in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, when Voldemort and his followers attempt to weed out non – pure blood witches, wizards and Muggles (non – Magical people).

Not only is there implicit and explicit discrimination in the wizard and non – wizard world, but there is also historical tension between wizards and goblins. In the Deathly Hallows this is revealed by Griphook’s lack of trust towards Harry, Hermione and Ron (Weasley), which prevents him from allowing them access to Godric Gryffindor’s sword.

The importance of friendship is also prominent in all the Harry Potter books and movies. Harry learns to allow his friends to help him when he needs it. In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Dumbledore admonishes Harry to allow Ron and Hermione know what’s troubling him. In the Deathly Hallows, Neville Longbottom pleads with Harry to allow him to help him defeat Voldemort.

 

Harry Potter is undoubtedly one of the greatest fiction series, at least in the past ten years. I doubt that such creativity and success will be reciprocated any time soon. I’m glad I’ve gone through the Harry Potter journey.

Have you read all the Harry Potter books or seen the movies? What’s your favourite? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Did you know these ’90’s hits were covers?

I didn’t know that Natalie Imbruglia’s hit Torn was a cover until this morning. It doesn’t surprise me, though. Growing up in the 1990’s, I remember that many songs that were hits were covers (as in being sung by another artist before), or had been written by someone else.

How many of these do you know that were covers?

All 4 One: I swear

This All – 4 – One hit was an R’n’B rendition of a country hit originally sung by John Michael Montgomery in 1993, while All – 4 – One did it the following year. The song is written by Gary Baker and Frank J Myers.

Daryl Braithwaite: Horses

This song is as Aussie as Vegemite! Or wait, no it’s not, actually.  The former singer of Sherbet did covered this song in 1991. The song was originally recorded in 1989 by Rickie Lee Jones. It was written by Rickie Lee Jones and Walter Baker.

Nothing Compares 2 U: Sinead O’Connor

Does everyone know this song was originally by Prince?

Baby Give It Up – Cut’n’Move

This cover from the Danish dance pop group in 1993 is my favourite. It was originally done by disco group KC and the Sunshine Band in 1982. Written by frontman, Harry Casey.

Without You – Mariah Carey

Mariah Carey was massive when I was a kid. I had a video of one of her live performances and used to (try) and sing along to it every time I watched it. This song was originally released by Harry Nilsson in 1971. It was written by Pete Ham and Tom Evans. (Sorry can’t embed the video at the moment. For some reason it always embeds the Cut’n’Move one).

 

What covers do you remember from the ’90’s? Which one is your favourite? Let me know in the comments below.

The Biggest Loser has come to an end

Woman standing on scales with measuring tape draped around feet
After 13 years, the American ‘The Biggest Loser’ comes to an end (image: iStock)

Content Warning: dangerous weight loss, disordered eating and emotional abuse. Please proceed with care if any of these issues are triggering for you.

According to women’s site, Ravishly, NBC’s The Biggest Loser is may be dumped. This year, Australia’s TBL Transformed was moved from Sunday evenings to weekdays due to plummeting ratings. 

Since it’s debut in 2004, The Biggest Loser has had it’s fair share of condemnation from the media, health professionals and former contestants. In 2016, New York Post published a damning article in which former contestants alleged that they were, among other things, forced to put on weight when applying and taking drugs, one which is condemned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and were encouraged when they became physically sick.

The tactics used in the The Biggest Loser, including their doctor, Dr. Rob Huezenga (a.k.a Dr. H). has been condemned in the medical community. Canadian obesity specialist Dr. Yoni Freedhoff slammed the show, calling it an ‘atrocity’ and vehemently saying that the tactics of the show are not endorsed by the medical community.

In 2014, The Biggest Loser was rocked by a scandal when winner Rachel Frederickson became unhealthily thin. Even trainer Jillian Michaels admitted to E News that Frederickson had lost too much weight after weighing in at 105 pounds (47.6 kg).

 

In Australia, The Biggest Loser has also copped criticism from fitness experts as well. Trainers went as far as to say to Fitness Enhancement that if they employed the same tactics as they do on the show, it’d get them fired. The types of exercises that the often – morbidly obese contestants to do without proper techniques. Trainers and health experts were also concerned at how injuries were handled.

In 2014, The Biggest Loser (Australia) was dealt a public relations disaster when it was reported by Daily Mail Australia that 2012 winner, Margie Cummins faced health issues due to rapid weight loss during the show. Cummins revealed that she had to be hospitalised for an infected pancreas and issues with her liver after she’d lost 73.2 kg (161 lb) during the show.

Emotional abuse accusations

It’s not just the strenuous exercise, alleged illegal drug taking and dangerous weight loss that has stained The Biggest Loser brand in the U.S. Blog Dance with Fat has condemned the trainers, especially Jillian Michaels of emotional abuse. In response to a YouTube video (which the blogger didn’t post, and neither will I), of Michaels  screaming at contestants.

The trainers of the Australian series weren’t exempt from similar condemnation. Trainers interviewed by Fitness Enhancement accused the Australian trainers, Michelle Bridges, Shannan Ponton and Steve ‘Commando’ Willis and Tiffiny Hall of ‘fat – shaming and ‘downright bullying’. While the 2017’s series TBL Transformed tried a holistic health approach, it wasn’t without controversy. with concerns that one of the contestants, Nikki being deemed by some viewers not heavy enough to be on the show at 78.1 kg (172.18 lb).

 

In reality, I think that the Biggest Loser was probably never going to be about health. It was about drama, pushing the limits, and of course, weight loss. And it seems like the public, both in Australia and the U.S. has spoken. They’re not buying it anymore.

Did you watch The Biggest Loser? Did you have any concerns about it? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comets below.

 

 

Harry Potter turns 20!

Harry Potter and the Philospopher's Stone in new cover
Harry Potter celebrates 20 years sine it’s publishing debut

 

 

This week, marked twenty years since arguably one of the most successful fiction series began. This was followed by six other successful books and eight movies, starring Daniel Radcliffe,  Emma Watson and the late Alan Rickman.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (alternatively called Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) alone has sold over 100 million copies since it’s release. The series has been translated into over sixty languages and been distributed to over two – hundred countries worldwide.

I think it was about 2000 when I first read the first Harry Potter. I was about eleven (if my date is right). I remember thinking it was very good. Very imaginative. That was when the Harry Potter franchise boomed. I remember the parts about Harry’s parents were quite sad. I cried when I saw the movie near the end.

I liked the second book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets more. I just loved it; the mischief, the mystery and the overall plot was fantastic. The movie was equally as good.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
2nd Harry Potter book

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban had the greatest surprise, when Harry Potter found out who is godfather, Sirius Black, was falsely convicted of being ally of Voldemort (a.k.a He Who Must Not Be Named) and sent to serial wizard prison, Azkaban.

The fourth and fifth books; Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows were also good and very well – written. To be frank, the sixth one Harry Potter and the Half – Blood Prince was my least favourite (and my least favourite of the movies). I think it dragged on too long and the end of the movie in particular was a downer. As a result, I haven’t bothered to read the seventh book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and I’ve only seen bits and pieces of the movies, which apparently is quite good, funnily enough. Since this anniversary, I might read it after all one day.

 

Of course, the series hasn’t been without its critics. In the height of Harry Potter’s fame, there was worry about its ‘promotion’ of witchcraft, something that is frowned upon in some religions, including some parts of Christianity. That was short – lived. Since I’ve read the books, I haven’t turned to witchcraft, so it’s all good, I guess.

Harry Potter has been a revolution in children’s literature and Rowling has been commended for sparking an interest of reading in young children. I think that’s a great achievement!

So, what makes the series so popular?

Here’s my take based on what I’ve read (which is all but the seventh).

Obviously the fantasy element was a big hit. Children have always been attracted to fantasy and magic. I remember that as a kid how popular Disney’s films were, many of which included magic. Beyond the magic, the overall fantasy of the books have been great and quite original.

Secondly, the characters, while fictional and largely witches and wizards, are characters that people can relate to. Everyone can relate to rebellious teens, friendships, high school competition and more. Plus, there are universal themes: good versus evil (that’s a controversial one, I know since some people think magic is bad period, but bear with me), friendships, betrayal, family, youth rebellion against authority and family are all themes explored in the books and movies.

I think it’s hard not to argue that the Harry Potter franchise is one of the most revolutionary series of fictional literature in the 21st century. It has sparked the imagination of young and old. I don’t think there will be another series that will be as influential as what Harry Potter was – not in the near future anyway.

What is your favourite Harry Potter book and/ or movie? Feel free to leave your thoughts below. 

 

Gender stereotypes and the role of popular culture in portraying attitudes

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Should Snow White be analysed for portrayal of gender stereotypes?

The Victorian State Government has come under fire for the “Resilience, Rights and Respectful Relationships” has come under fire again for allegedly encouraging children as young as three to see if fairy tales are sexist. According to news.com.au writer and Mamamia Editor in Chief, Jamila Rizvi, the Andrews Government is not banning fairy tales, but is encouraging children to look at fairy tales critically and see whether they enforce gender stereotypes.

If Rizvi is right, that’s not a bad idea for older children, not three, four or five. Children this age should be able to read fairy tales or other stories for recreation, without having to think too much about sociological issues.

Hearing and reading about this debate has got me thinking about fairy tales, especially Disney’s adaptations and their impact on society. I grew up watching “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and “Cinderella”. I always wanted the videos like one of my cousins did (I did end up getting them). How did it affect me growing up? Apart from wishing magic wands and magic carpets (i.e. from Aladdin) were real, it never really had an impact on me.

 

In terms of attitudes about gender, we have to realise that the times in which they originally came out. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was released in February 1938, while Disney’s adaptation of Cinderella came out in 1950. Apart from women starting to work due to the Second World War, gender roles would have been traditional… or at least that’s what was expected. These films were made before the Civil Rights era in the U.S, so even having a mixed – racial marriage would in film would’ve caused a backlash. What I’m saying is I think before we condemn fairy tales for being “sexist” or even “hetero-normative”, it’s useful to keep in mind the period and, quite frankly, the pressure Walt Disney and other writers, cartoonists, etc at the time would have been under to tow a line to be deemed appropriate.

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Disney’s Cinderella. Released in 1950

Disney tales and the 21st Century

Having said all that, growing up with Disney, I’ve also realised that the 1990’s and 2000’s have seen an expansion in story lines created by Disney cartoonists. Not all follow the prince/ princess narrative or portray gender stereotypes. The two I can think of immediately are Mulan (1998) and the four Toy Story movies (1995, 1999, 2010 and scheduled for 2019), and Frozen (2013).

For those who don’t know, Mulan is about a young Chinese woman who takes her father’s place in fighting the Hun army and save China. To do this,she dresses and pretends to be a man, (although, sometimes unconvincing, I must say). She fights with the men, along with sidekick dragon, Mushu, and becomes a hero, even after she is exposed for who she really is. She does fall in love with the captain, Shang, but only after she fights the Hun army and saves Shang’s life after he is wounded in battle.

Disney/ Pixar Toy Story series (which I’ve seen one and two), is largely about family, friendship and belonging. Apart from Bo – Peeps massive crush on Woody the cowboy doll, the first and second films are more based on the friendships between Woody, Buzz Light-year the spaceman figure and Jessie the cowgirl (in Toy Story 2). Toy Story Two deals with issues such as belonging, fears of abandonment and friendship – all issues that would be appropriate for educators, parents and teachers to talk about to their children.

While I haven’t seen it, I heard creator Chris Buck talk to One Plus One host Jane Hutcheon about the intent and the focus of the hit film. He said that the main focus of the film was about the relationship and love between the protagonist, Princess Elsa and her sister, Princess Anna and their reconciliation.

I can’t see why children couldn’t be exposed to both the traditional Disney fairy tales and the modern ones that break the fairy tale mould. At least it’ll give them more than one perspective if that’s what you’re worried about. Most importantly, let kids be kids. If a child expresses troubling behaviour, then address it, get Department of Community Services (DCS) involved if they are showing signs of abuse. Fairy tales are not to blame for that. And children’s entertainment shouldn’t be treated with such scrutiny from adults.

What are your thoughts? Did you grow up reading and watching Disney movies? What were your favourites? 

Yes! Prog rock pioneers to be inducted into the Rock’n’roll Hall of Fame

English progressive rock pioneers, Yes are going to be inducted in the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame on April 7, (Yes, We’re in the Hall, Kim Wilson, Sunday Herald Sun, April 2, p. 13). They have sold over 50 million albums since the release of their self – titled album in 1969. Despite their success, they only had one U.S. No. 1 in 1983 with their pop song, ‘Owner of a lonely heart’.

Almost fifty years later, the band has kept a loyal fan base, while attracting new ones. Lead singer, Jon Anderson, puts their success down to the ability to grow as musicians:

Music shouldn’t just be a commodity. It’s about evolving as a musicianand a group of musicians. And that’s what Yes did.

I’ve personally only heard ‘owner of a lonely heart’… at least that’s the only one I know of (I might have heard others sometimes without recognising who they were). I’m familiar with other progressive rock bands at the time, especially Pink Floyd and Eletric Lighting Orchestra.

It’s amazing how many singers/ bands from the ’60’s, ’70’s and ’80’s have made such an impact. Unfortunately, we’ve lost a few recently: Prince, David Bowie, Glen Frey (Eagles), George Michael, and one of my favourites, guiatarist, Rick Parfitt from Status Quo. Others have kept going. Rock legend Suzi Quatro came out of ‘retirement’ this year and performed in Australia earlier this year. I saw her for the fifth time, (yep, you read that right – four times in Melbourne, once in Mulwala). Fleetwood Mac performed in Australia earlier this year, despite a health scare that rocked the band.

Do you like the band Yes? What’s your favourite song?