Busytown by Jolisa Gracewood


A series of tubes

Ritual excuses for blog silence first: no, I haven’t been in jail, or unconscious, or on tour, or anything exciting, really. Just slowly waking up from my two year nap and attempting to establish a slender but reasonably sustainable professional life in the place where I actually live.

This precarious enterprise is held together by a couple of days a week of daycare (which a clever friend once described as a reverse kidnapping: unless you pay them a very large sum of money, they will give you your child back) and public school, which is basically state-sponsored child-care with lunch thrown in. Or thrown up, at which point, it becomes my problem again.

Which is to say, vile tummy bugs have held me hostage for a couple of months, on and off. Not me personally, which was actually kind of a bummer – who couldn’t do with a day in bed and a swift, minor weight loss? Instead I got a sick husband (the real thing, not man flu) and recurring cases of the boy flu, one of which sent the two year old to the hospital, where I spent a couple of not completely horrible days watching him rehydrate on a drip, master the buttons on the electric bed, and discover the hitherto unknown delights of 24/7 cable TV.

We do in fact have a TV at home, but we only use it for DVDs. I know, I sound like one of those people who used to say "Yes, we have a television set, but it's only black and white..." But I refuse to pay cable just to get the free-to-air channels to appear on our set. Plus my own tendency to media addiction, plus general oogly feelings about the horrible ads on the kids’ channels. But we're not opposed to a spot of mindless channel-surfing -- we just do it on YouTube. In fact, I don’t know how anyone managed family life before it. All those snack-sized moments of cultural history, tidily packaged and linked to all sorts of other delights.

Not only is it the only reliable source of hard-to-find gems like Krtek, the adorable little Bohemian mole, but you can also womble about rediscovering parts of your own childhood. Good old Mike Batt, although he did rather jump the shark with this one:

("In the middle of Manhattan"? "You'll know he's Super Womble, cos his name is on his vest"? Sorry, just, no.) I guess that was just before it all went downhill what with that unfortunate incident with Bungo and Adelaide at the Chelsea Hotel... God, they were so uncompromising, weren't they? I never get tired of this one:

Try following a vague tune from your tired old brain - Bernard Cribbins, say, singing “Right Said Fred” (original here) and before you can say “Lego Indiana Jones” you’ve arrived at this masterpiece:

Still, this may be the definitive Fred fan video - check out the special effects at the crucial “half a ton of rubble” moment:

You know Tom Lehrer, the Harvard-educated singing satirist and geek pin-up, one might say the Flight of the Conchord of his day? (And timeless - this is what Obama’s up against, this one is for recovering Catholics, and chemistry students everywhere know this one off by heart). But did you know he also penned a couple of kid-friendly tunes, which were given trippy animations by the Electric Company:

I’m always on at my sister Gemma to get her band to cover some of the righteous tunes off the 70s kids' album Free to Be You and Me. I prefer the longer version of "Parents are People" that's on the album, but this video sure is fiiiine. Harry Belafonte can push my pram any time he likes:

And if you’re short on dance moves, or indeed patterns for the sort of knitted vest my partner calls the Frank Spencer (having been on the receiving end of several of them as rather traumatic presents in his youth), you could certainly pick up a few interesting ones here:

But for sheer right-on-itude, you can't beat "It’s All Right to Cry", sung by the lovely Rosey Grier, the crochet-and-macrame-loving ex-football player and former bodyguard to RFK. This one gets me every time, thus neatly fulfilling its title.

On the other hand, if you're hankering for a spot of cartoon violence, you can’t beat the Goodies, who are a lot funnier than their lame laugh track would have you believe. Graeme Garden is an unsung genius of physical slapstick:

And then you stumble across clever little random things like this, by Dan and his editing suite, aka Dan and Dan:

Oh, it’s all very entertaining, but then I’m easily amused, and the boys certainly seem to have inherited that trait. Feel free to suggest more!

Speaking of music and memory, this may be the best book I’ve ever read on the subject, and certainly the best book I’ve read so far this year. I’ll be reviewing it in another forum, but if you were ever a girl or if you have ever loved music, you’ll need to get your hands on a copy. So that means everybody.

And finally, something I’d absolutely love to see: the new TV series New Artland. It’s directed by my astonishingly talented sister (I still can’t believe I used to kick her out of my room. Which was also her room) and fronted by the always winning Chris Knox (OMG, the new voice of Heineken beer! Great scoop, Danielle. Now I want one of the major diaper manufacturers to pounce on his song The Joy of Sex, with its insanely catchy chorus of "Baby baby baby baby baby baby baby baby").

New Artland is a nifty combination of one of those home and garden makeover shows, and a primer on the local arts scene. It’s screening on TVNZ6, but happily you can watch it online even if you don’t have the magic box decoder thingy. If you live in New Zealand.

I would love to watch it, but I can’t: a little notice comes up saying "This video is for New Zealand viewers only." I flipping well am a New Zealand viewer, dammit. Thank goodness I’ll be back in the old country next month and able to apply my patriotic eyeballs to anything that takes my fancy on the old tube.

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