Wednesday, August 10, 2005

View on Vega

I fit the target market – 40-something, divorced and re-partnered mother of two (and a stepson) living in the ‘burbs. So, why does the new radio station aimed at people like me leave me cold?

Vega, 93.5 on the FM dial, was launched in early August, 2005, with the logo ‘on your wavelength’. But it’s not on mine.

That isn’t to say I’m not a fan of Angela, Wendy and Tony. I love youse guys. It’s the music played in between the 2BL-style chat that’s getting me down. I don’t understand why music programmers feel that once you hit middle age, you’re only interested in the ‘top-of-the-pops’ from back in, as my nine-year-old daughter says, “the olden days”.

But like its opposition on the FM dial (except 2JJJ) Vega has played it safe and, as a result, the music is generally pedestrian. Here’s a sample of the songs played on the occasions I’ve tuned in: The Voice/John Farnham, Everybody Wants to Rule the World /Tears for Fears, Ring My Bell /Anita Ward, She Drives Me Crazy /The Fine Young Cannibals, that mournful James Bond movie theme song by Carly Simon, the gut-wrenchingly bad (I Just) Died In Your Arms from The Cutting Crew and It’s Not Unusual sung by Tom Jones.

So, where’s the point of difference? Where are those songs from the ‘dark ages’ that grab me by the… um, get my gnarly old toes tapping, have me singing out loud like a maniac in the car while driving to and from kids’ extra-curricular activities (much to the embarrassment of my captive adolescent audience)?

I can tune into 2MMM or Mix 106.5 (2SM or 2CH for the old Welsh sex-pot) and hear much the same 24/7.

My bits ache when I think about the excellent music from “my generation” that is archived because no one’s got the guts to give it the airing it deserves. I understand that commercial radio can’t afford to be too radical – after all, you don’t want to lose the guy who’s been hanging out all night to hear Dean Martin croon Quando Quando. But maybe there’s room, in-between the non-challenging stuff, to squeeze in some surprises.

The problem is that most music programmers (and here I am talking across the dial) forget that many baby boomers grew up listening to some pretty funky stuff. It wasn’t all American Top 40/Countdown dross. Some of us went to the pub every weekend (where we drank too much and passively smoked) to see our favourite bands. We watched Rage and read The Face. We listened to The Ramones and Velvet Underground and checked out ground-breaking local bands like Radio Birdman, The Saints and The Boys Next Door. Later on it was The Birthday Party, Sunny Boys, Hoodoo Gurus, The Triffids and The Go-Betweens.

Just because most baby boomers born at the tail end of the era have kids, a mortgage, bad-back problems and no time to nurture their stagnating relationships doesn’t mean they’ve lost their ‘lust for life’ (as Iggy Pop put it) nor their love of the kick-arse music that helped form their musical education.

And the present is just as important. Just because I’m over 40 doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the amazing music that’s been generated by bands such as Green Day, Thirsty Mercs, Jet or Grinspoon.

To be honest, I don’t care if I never hear John Farnham’s The Voice again or anything by Michael Buble.

Ultimately, it’s up to the music programmers to take the occasional risk, to pump up the volume, kick arse, make a bloody statement! I don’t agree that playing I Get A Kick Out Of You back-to-back with It’s A Long Way To The Top is innovative. It’s spreading the Vega – mite too thin! But put the AC/DC classic next to The Hoodoo Gurus belting out Want You Back or The Lemonheads upbeat version of Mrs Robinson and you’ll tickle my fancy.

Us baby boomers might be, as Vega breakfast announcer Angela Catterns said, getting “vaguer”, but we’re not dead yet.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Food for thought

This morning I sat down to a breakfast of two slices of soy and linseed bead (recommended for "women's wellbeing"), toasted and spread with unsalted peanut butter produced by "The Health Food Company". All this was washed down with a cup of coffee - splash of milk, no sugar.

But my contentment didn't last long. As I nibbled on the last portion of toast, I started to read the a story in my local rag titled detox for dummies.

I shuddered (and then burped - what a relief) as I read the "Foods to avoid" list. It's no fun to learn that your sacred temple is, in fact, a toxic waste dump rivalling the Rhodes residential development before the extensive and expensive clean-up.

I had broken almost every detox rule in the book, having consumed at least 90 per cent of the items on the list in the past week. But wait a minute! I was under the impression that many of the foods on said list were good for me. In fact, if eaten in moderation I believed they could effectively enhance my wellbeing and chances of receiving a text message from whoever's ruling the royal or republic roost around 2060.

Take chocolate, which was included in the Sugar category, and which our family enjoys as an after-dinner treat. In the SMH health & science supplement (July 15, 2004) the benefits of dark chocolate were highlighted after a US study found that "types of chocolate … may help maintain cardio-vascular health by 'reducing blood vessel vulnerability and platelet clumping'". Chocolate with a high proportion of cocoa was recommended (By the way, the story's headline was "Why it's good for you").

Wheat products such as bread, pasta, noodles and couscous are also on the no-go list, along with dairy products, alcohol, caffeine, peanuts, peanut butter and concentrated tomato products. Bummer. I should be dead or worse still bloated, belching (oops…) and stressed to the max (arrgghh!).

Dare I touch last night's leftover pasta with tomato sauce beckoning from the fridge? And what about the rustic Italian bread on the benchtop? And I'm dying for that second caffeine fix of the day (it is instant, which places me in an older demographic, but that's another story). While writing this I've munched my way through almost 100 grams of roasted, blanched and salted almonds. Yum!

Many of the naughty foods on the list are prominent in the lauded Mediterranean diet. A reccent foodie yarn in SMH the American Medical Association, which recommends "a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, beans and legumes, fish and olive oil, with A DAILY GLASS OR TWO OF RED WINE THROWN IN"

And aren't noodles a staple food of many Asian countries (the omission of white rice must have been an author oversight)?

For mine, moderation is the key. However, I do believe there is nothing more cleansing than a meal at Norton Street's Portofino restaurant, which might include garlic pizza crusts accompanied by a rocket salad swathed in fresh parmesan shavings, plus a bowl of spicy spaghetti marinara. All washed down with "a glass or two of red wine", followed by homemade tiramisu and a flat white - complimentary chocolates arrive with the bill.

That's what I call detox.