Sometimes the studio version makes all the difference

Melodifestivalen 2CD

There was a song in Melodifestivalen this year called “STOP” by Sibel. It took me a while to latch on to it but, when I did, I wasn’t impressed with the performance. Sibel’s notes seemed to be all over the place. And the two false endings of the song confused both the audience and me!

However, now that the Melodifestivalen double-CD is in my hot little hands all the way from Sweden, I’m gaining a new perspective on some of the songs that were performed live in the contest over the last 6 weeks. Yes, there are some really AWFUL ones on there – the R&B, hip-hop, rap type tracks are all appalling. I have to skip them when they come around on my mp3 player. But, other tracks have really grown on me.

One of those is actually Sibel’s “STOP”. I’ve really fallen in love with the studio version and I’m playing it all the time. I’ve done a bit of a 180 turn on this one but the recorded version and the live version are like chalk and cheese.

I found the studio version on Youtube and that inspired me to write this post. I don’t think this track would be out of place on the charts in the U.K., the USA or Australia. See what you think…


Watching the Melodifestivalen final

A group shot - most of the Melodifestivalen revellers

If you go to the Social page on this website, you’ll see a stack of photos from last Sunday’s get together to watch the Melodifestivalen 2010 final on the big screen. Shots are lacking captions because I am waiting on the lovely Patrick to get back to me and remind me of all the names I have forgotten. I am SHOCKING with names.

If you read my earlier post about spending all day Saturday trying to get software to work that would actually convert an .avi file to a DVD quickly….here is the rest of the story….

This is the technical side of it all…

When I got up on Sunday morning I reinstalled Roxio Creator 2010 on my PC with a wish and a prayer that it would work. After the tediously long installation process, rebooting, then having to download the service pack, install it and reboot again…it was time to do a test.

At this point the final in Stockholm had just finished and my friend was waiting for it to appear on the net so he could begin downloading. I thought I should be prepared so I got the instructions kindly provided by one of the Roxio forum nicest members and followed them to the letter.

I found an .avi file which was only about 16 minutes long to use as my test case. I did everything I was told to do and the result was a perfect DVD disc which played perfectly on my normal Panasonic DVD player (which is about 6 years old now!)

It was terrific to know that it had actually worked. Now it was about waiting for the actual Melodifestivalen final file to be downloaded. Yoda friend called about 10-ish to say it hadn’t appeared yet and, while we were on the phone, it suddenly appeared. However it was 1.3gb instead of the usual 700mb so he wasn’t sure how long it would take to download.

An hour later it was not even half-way through downloading so all thoughts of turning it into a “normal DVD” for playing were thrown out the window. I had to be at the pub by 12.45pm to set up as people were arriving from 1pm. We had to come up with another plan. In fact we went through Plans B, C and D in our panic 😉

I used Creator 2010 to burn a data DVD disc with one of last year’s finals on it as a test. I then played it in my newer, uber-cheap Palsonic DVD player and it worked fine. So we changed plans – I ripped out my Palsonic DVD player and the cords and put it into the bag of stuff I was taking to the pub. I rang Yoda and said I was going to shower and then head out to the supermarket to pick up some snacks for the day and go straight to the pub. It was agreed he would wait for the download to be complete, then come around to my place to use Roxio to burn a data DVD. His PC,for some reason, is being very recalcitrant and refusing to play nicely with discs. (Yes Yoda it *is* time for a new PC!)

He came around quickly before I left so I could show him what to do and I left the PC ready with the Roxio program on the correct screen ready for him to do this thing. Meanwhile I raced out and caught the bus to the supermarket, grabbed some snacks and then grabbed the next bus to the pub. I got there about 12.45pm and started to set up. People started arriving almost immediately. Ben, the barman, was a bit bemused cos he’d forgotten all about it – he was very, very drunk on the previous Tuesday night when we’d organised it with the pub’s manager and also told Ben about it.

On Saturday night, I had thrown together a 50 minute “highlights” of this year’s Melodifestivalen semi-finals to watch – using Windows Movie Maker/Windows DVD Maker – and although the resultant disc refused to play on my main DVD player, it did play on the pub’s machine. Thank god. Grant called to say the file for the final was STILL downloading and there was no way he could make it before 2pm at the earliest.

So thank god we had the “highlights” disc to amuse people for the first hour. Shortly after 2pm my friend arrived Grant arrived by taxi at the pub sweating like a grunter. He had the successfully burnt data disc. Fingers crossed the pub’s machine recognised it because I didn’t really want to have to start pulling machines out and plugging other machines in. They’ve got everything hooked into a sophisticated sound system which can play around the venue – it is also tied into Foxtel (the pay TV thing in Australia) which can play different programs on different TVs. So while we were watching Melodifestivalen, for instance, the other patrons in the pub were watching the televised Rugby League match in the beer garden.

The data disc was put in and the machine thought about it for a minute and then decided it would play it! HOORAY! Thank God! There were a group of expectant people sitting, waiting patiently.

From then on in it was smooth sailing – the afternoon was fantastic with lots of drinking, cheering, occasional boo-ing and a lot of tension as the votes came in from around Sweden. We made sure we didn’t know the result so it would be a surprise.

James rang us from Sweden where it was still the night before and he’d just been out to a club and seen Nanne perform live! (He made sure none of his Twitter or blog entries revealed the winner of the contest) He was totally smashed on Swedish beer and incredibly excited and happy – it was the first time he’d seen Nanne perform live and he was in the front row.

Meanwhile, the other punters who happened to be at the pub that day – and Ben, our barman – were completely bemused as to what was going on. There’s about 10 of us sitting, intently watching a 2 hour program in Swedish and shouting at the TV, occasionally screaming and clapping.

Still, we were having too much of a good time to worry about anyone else’s reactions. We had our giant Swedish flags on the wall, we had our snacks, our bevvies and we were having a blast. It was just a brilliant day altogether.

I seemed to have arrived home about 8pm and immediately slumped into my bed. I was completely knackered from all the effort of Saturday, the lack of sleep on Saturday night and the excitement of the event & gathering itself. I had around 10 1/2 hours sleep and next thing I remember, it was Monday morning and time to get up for work!

Melodifestivalen 2010 was over. A crap entry had been chosen as the winner – but it’s the journey that counts mainly, not the ultimate winner. A couple of days later, the double Melodifestivalen CD arrived from Sweden and Grant and I have been listening to the songs all over again.

Next stop, Eurovision 2010!

Yoda wants to go to Iceland

My BFF Yoda has suddenly announced he wants to go to Iceland for his 50th birthday. I’m all in favour of it! Although I am a little bit surprised he wants to do a 5 day tour of Iceland – I didn’t think it would take that long. Must be one of the larger stores.

Greetings from Iceland

Wish you were here!

Iceland...the perfect holiday destination

9 hours in my undies

Melodifestivalen 2010

What a strange day it’s been. I’m hoping to head off to bed soon and forget the whole thing!

Tomorrow we have a small, but expectant gathering of the faithful to watch a DVD of the final of Melodifestivalen 2010 in a nearby pub. As I write this, the final hasn’t even commenced. In fact, it doesn’t commence for about 6 hours. At which time I will be well and truly asleep.

In order to pull off this miracle of delayed broadcasting, my best friend Yoda will – all being well – download the final from the internet after it has been shown. He will then bring it to me to convert into a DVD image. And that’s where today’s crazy day comes in…

The DVD has to be ready by no later than 12 noon tomorrow – er, actually it’s today now. Arghh! The conversion process from the .avi file takes some time. We don’t have a lot of time . We may be able to play it for everyone on the big screen direct from the .avi file. But, then again, maybe not. So a “proper” DVD version is essential.

I spent nine hours today, sitting in an old T-Shirt and the undies I wore to bed last night, trying to find a program that would do the video conversion in a speedy manner. There’s all sorts of programs that do it slowly but they won’t cut the mustard given our tight timeframe.

Last night I bought Roxio Creator 2010 from the Roxio website. It took about 4 hours to download overnight and another hour or so to install this morning. Only for me to find it doesn’t work. I recently had the same experience with another Roxio program and it took their customer service section two months to resolve my issue. I did end up getting a refund which was nice – but two months to resolve a simple issue is clearly unacceptable.

So it was a real kick in the gonads this morning to realise the same problem was happening with Easy Creator 2010. The “Convert & Copy” function just refused to start. The button wouldn’t work. It was the same with DVD Copy Premier Version 4 a few months ago.

I previously had purchased another Roxio product called “Copy & Convert Version 3.” This did work – effectively but slowly. So that’s why I tried DVD Copy Premier and now, Creator 2010. All to no avail.

I spent part of the day trying to lodge a support ticket whilst also begging for help from their customer discussion Forum. The general consensus was that each Roxio product was conflicting with the other. They would have to be uninstalled and only 1 re-installed. Roxio had already uninstalled DVD Copy Premier as part of the set-up of Easy Creator 2010 on my PC. But there’s uninstall and really uninstalled.

Once you’ve installed a Roxio product on your computer, getting rid of it completely is no easy task. I spent another hour or so today downloading instructions from the Roxio website to completely uninstall my Roxio products. This involved multiple processes including installing a Microsoft clean-up application and also editing and deleting entries from the Windows Registry – something that is quite terrifying because one wrong move can see your PC become inoperative.

Meanwhile, my discussion forum friends were now advising me that, even if I did manage to successfully install Easy Creator 2010, Roxio had taken away the ability to convert divx files to DVD. Now I assumed buying the full version of Roxio’s flagship program would enable me to convert anything to/from anything. But not divx files apparently. So if the Melodifestivalen download happens to be in divx format, I’m screwed.

Meanwhile, I trawled the internet looking for other programs that promised to do the conversion I needed and fast. I installed a couple with varying results. One did the job quickly but the sound on the resulting disc sounded very tinny and lacking in bass. Enough to make me discount it as a solution.

Another program, which initially seemed promising, kept crashing about 2/3rds of the way through the conversion. I did finally manage to complete a test conversion but the picture on the resulting disc kept distorting – like a series of waves through the picture. So that was the end of that one!

Meanwhile I’ve been going back and forth into the Roxio discussion forum to see what others are suggesting for me. It’s always terrible when you’re a newbie and your first post to a forum is all about demanding instant help from others. I feel dreadful doing it – and a couple of the forum members haven’t been that helpful. Luckily, a couple of others have been wonderful.

After I have some much needed shut-eye, I intend to reinstall Roxio Creator 2010 to try and do the conversion and resultant DVD using instructions posted by a helpful forum member. Fingers crossed.

This evening, after getting out of those undies and having a hot shower, I spent a couple of hours putting together a video compilation of highlights & my favourite songs from this year’s Melodifestivalen. Something to play prior to the actual final tomorrow – er, I mean, later today!

The new Windows Live Movie Maker is, quite frankly, a pain in the arse. Yes, it has more features – you can add captions for example – but the way the work area is set out is clumsy and awkward – even compared to the old XP version of Movie Maker. What I attempted to do tonight took me twice as long as it should have. Live Movie Maker crashed a couple of times but I had pressed “save” after each edit just in case that happened. I wasn’t taking any chances!

After finishing the compilation, I then had to save it to DVD format. This took some time – not an unreasonable amount of time – but I am really knackered and I want to go to bed. I then find that creating the DVD is a further process with Windows DVD maker which now wants to “encode” the DVD file before burning it. Presently it is at 6.3%. It has taken the entire time I’ve been writing this blog entry to get just 6% done.

I just don’t understand why these programs have to be so unfriendly, complicated and agonisingly slow. My PC is a Core2Duo with 2gb of ram – it’s not something out of the dark ages. I have Windows 7 which is the latest hoo-ha from Microsoft. Surely that’s enough to enable things to just “work” (and make sense while you’re working on them)?

I am so disappointed in Roxio primarily. Easy CD Creator which became Easy DVD Creator which became Easy Media Creator which became, finally, Creator 2010….has been around for eons. It isn’t cheap. I don’t understand why it doesn’t just work. I don’t understand why potential conflicts between it and other Roxio programs weren’t solved years ago. I don’t understand why Roxio programs so contaminate my computer, it’s operating system and registry that they become virtually impossible to get rid of completely. Roxio programs seem to be like nasty viruses or colds that won’t go away.

I’m also annoyed with Windows Live Movie Maker and DVD Maker. By now, Microsoft should have made these products state of the art, slick, intuitive and fast. But they still seemed bogged down and rooted in some bygone era of computers.

16 hours after I started, I still don’t have a rock-solid video conversion solution nor a completed compilation DVD to show for my efforts. God knows what fresh hell awaits me when I wake up later this morning!

And the crazy thing is that, after the two discs are shown tomorrow, that’ll be it for them. They’ll end up in another pile of crap somewhere in my abode. Never to be used or probably even found again. SVT Sweden will release their official Melodifestivalen 2010 DVD in a month or so and Yoda and I will dutifully pay way too much money to send away to have copies flown to Australia for us. And Melodifestivalen 2010 will be done and dusted in our minds….until the pattern repeats itself next year.

Maybe by then someone will have invented a software program that converts all file formats quickly and efficiently, creates and burns DVDs and does it all without the user needing to have a PhD in software design.

Then again, pigs might fly.

Sometimes you just really need a sassy Gay friend

Why didn’t Shakespeare include any sassy Gay friends as characters in his plays? Why wasn’t there a Queer Eye for that Shakespeare guy? As these videos show a sassy Gay friend could have prevented a lot of needless death and heartache all those centuries ago.

Come to think of it, even today everyone needs a “Sassy Gay Friend” from time to time.

“There’s is something rotten in Denmark and it’s his piss-poor attitude!”

What were you watching on TV in 1976?

TV Guide Program Listing for 13 May 1976

You’ll need to click on the image above to see the full sized version and to read the program listings.

This is an actual scan of a TV Guide issue dated May 8, 1976. TV Guide was an Adelaide-only magazine that competed with the national magazines – TV Week and TV Times. It was smaller, cheaper and often carried unique content including local stories and interviews.

I found this edition of TV Guide recently and started looking through it – remembering the TV shows I was watching back then – some 34 years ago! Back when TV was everything – there was no computers, DVDs (not even home video!), mobile phones, pay TV, internet etc. Most families were pretty much glued to the TV as their primary form of entertainment – most cities had Channels 2, 7, 9 and 10 (or 0). In my family we still had a black & white TV in 1976 – colour television came to Australia in March 1975 but it would be several years before we could afford to “go colour”. When something special was on, we all trundled around to a friend or neighbours house to watch it on their colour set.

I’ve marked the shows I liked watching with red dots and those shows that were unique to Adelaide with a blue dot. I notice there’s a stack of British comedy shows marked with red dots – we really lived and breathed British comedy back then. Channel 7 even designated one night a week as “British Comedy Night.” The Dick Emery Show, No Honestly, Man About The House…they were all must-sees for me. You don’t see much of them on TV thesedays but you still do see American sitcoms like I Dream of Jeannie, Bewitched and Hogan’s Heroes. Thanks to Pay TV and digital TV channels, these shows are still showing over 40 years after they were made. (And people are still watching them!)

Australian night-time soapies like Number 96 and The Box were still going and I was hooked on both of them. They both featured Gay characters and The Box even had a lesbian – Vicky Stafford. She was a total bitch but we still loved her. When I think about similar shows on Australian TV now, you just realise how far ahead of their time 96 and The Box were.

What cracks me up looking at this old Adelaide TV Guide listing is a couple of the Adelaide only “advertorial” type shows. “A Touch of Elegance” was a one hour show hosted by Adelaide sophisticate Jaye Walton. I can still remember being home from school one day and hearing her say to someone from a Department Store (about a particular perfume), “oh, it’s only $98 dollars? That’s quite reasonable – you could buy two.”  I just about passed out on the floor. The thought of buying anything for $98, let alone something as flaky and useless as a bottle of perfume was absolutely shocking to me.

It would have been shocking to my Mum & Dad as well. We were a poor-ish, working class family living in a “Housing Trust” house. My first salary at age 17 was $72.10 – seven ten dollar notes, a two dollar note (not coin – they hadn’t been introduced yet) and a ten cent piece. And this was a couple of years after I’d seen this particular episode of “Touch of Elegance.”

Then there’s the 5 minute advertorials that featured on Channel 9 in the afternoons each day. Thursday May 13, 1976 it was “Feres Trabilsie” with Head Start To Beauty. Feres ran an upmarket hair salon for the ladies in town. Other days it could be “Figurama” with Pat Davies – a local fitness salon guru giving the ladies all the benefits of electric massage belts etc. Another hairdresser was “Joseph” and he had his own 5 minute spot each week. He would say (in an outrageously foreign accent) “Zees noo ‘airsty-els aye áve imported from Parr-eee.”

I guess these 5 minutes spots must have worked because they went on for years and these people became mini-celebs in little old Adelaide. Their salons always seemed busy so the ladies at home watching daytime TV must have been lapping up every word!

Adelaide also had its own kids TV shows as well. “Channel Niners” and “Young Seven.” I won a prize on a phone competition on “Young Seven” once back in 1970 – I am still waiting for the prize to be delivered! Bastards never sent it. It was 24 cans of Coke and a 7 point certificate. If you got seven 7 point certificates, you were presented with a free bike on TV. Needless to say, I never got a free bike!

Finally, looking at this TV Guide I remember “Epilogue” which was the last program on Channel 9 each night before the TV station closed for the night. Yes, they used to close overnight! “Epilogue” was a religious program that ran for about 5 minutes – they read out a prayer each night and showed religious imagery. They even had a little theme song that is burnt into my brain after all these decades…”Goodnight to you, goodnight to you, time for us to leave the air. Stay with us a moment more, it’s time for the evening prayer.”

Isn’t it tragic that I can still remember that over 30 years later!?! I can even tell you that prior to “Epilogue” was “On This Day” – a five minute historical recap (like the early newsreels at theatres) of events that happened in Australia’s history on that day throughout the 20th century.

But, and you won’t believe this…..just before the station really went off air for the evening, they played the national anthem which was then “God Save The Queen” and showed images of the Queen of England riding on a horse and inspecting the guards and so on. It had only been a couple of years earlier that we still had to stand up at the cinema for “God Save The Queen” each time we went to see a movie!

This particular TV Guide has transported me straight back to my childhood & teenage years. So many memories have come flooding back. For instance, looking at the program listing for “The Dudley Dog Show,” I can tell you that this was a children’s show with a character (man in a fur suit) called “Dudley Dog” and that, for a few years, Dudley had his own ice-cream sold in shops all over South Australia. It was, quite correctly, called a “Dudley Dog Ice-Cream” and the jingle went “Dudley Dog ice-cream, it’s such a nice cream…”

Those men-in-fur-costumes were big on Adelaide kids TV – “Channel Niners” had “Humphrey Bear” (“Wilbur Worm”), “Young Seven” had Sammy Seagull (and “Muffy”). Wilbur & Muffy were operated by someone below the hosting desk with their hand up a a bit of fabric/plastic. I won’t start on “Winky Dink” or “Fat Cat” or “Rock Wallaby.”

Oh dear, I’m really scaring myself now!

But have a really good look at the full-sized version of the picture of TV Guide above – you’ll probably find some of your own memories in there as well.

What were your favourite shows in 1976?

How about a nice big cup of BORING BALLAD?

Jessica's Barf-inducing dross

“Barfing (known medically as emesis and informally as throwing up and a number of other terms) is the forceful expulsion of the contents of one’s stomach through the mouth and sometimes the nose. Barfing may result from many causes, ranging from gastritis or poisoning to brain tumors, or elevated intracranial pressure. The feeling that one is about to barf is called nausea, which usually precedes, but does not always lead to, barfing. Antiemetics are sometimes necessary to suppress nausea and barfing, and, in severe cases where dehydration develops, intravenous fluid may need to be administered to replace fluid volume.”

The “headlines” should read: Melodifestivalen 2010: Alcazar was robbed!

Jessica Andersson’s barf-inducing “I Did For Love” is through the “Second Chance” final to the big-kahuna Final at Globen. Meanwhile, Alcazar’s amazing, pop classic “Headlines” is nowheresville. Not Happy Jan!

Did the Swedes have to vote in another f****** boring ballad? Just what Eurovision needs – another dull, lifeless piece of ballad-dross performed with all the gusto of a snail on valium. Jessica, unlike Alcazar, I definitely do not have your number on my underwear.

Jessica, the next time you feel like “doing it all for love” can you please go and do it in the privacy of your own bathroom and leave the rest of us out of it?

Meanwhile, someone has put up the studio version of “Headlines” on Youtube. It’s stunning. I can’t wait for my Melodifestivalen 2010 CD to arrive (hopefully in a week’s time – fingers crossed!)

As for Jessica – I’m sure there’s a lift needing muzak that could make best use of your song.

Go Alcazar! You woz robbed!