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Keeping pace with payroll

A recent article I wrote for Human Resources Magazine on implementing payroll software has belatedly gone online (and even more belatedly been noticed by me, I might add).

They phunked with my heart

IT journalists rate pretty low on the social scale, so it’s no surprise that most of the time we feel like pond scum. But it was hard not to feel a little bit elite at last night’s Motorola’s ROKR launch, which featured the Black Eyed Peas in a ludicrously exclusive concert for 400 or so people, at least a dozen of whom were humble tech hacks.

I can’t claim to be a Big Black Eyed Peas groupie, but even I can appreciate that it’s a big deal to get a performance on this level by a group which has such current chart dominance. On every previous occasion that I’ve been this adjacent to a major celebrity, they’ve been at least 10 years past their prime. As Val Quinn, who was standing next to me in the audience, a scant four feet from the stage, remarked: “Can you believe we’re this close?”

I was relatively sedate in the face of such celebrity exposure. Nicole Manktelow got photographed with three members of the group, Roulla Yiacoumi got signatures from all four on her concert ticket from the night before, and Jeremy Roche wasn’t going to be happy until he got a photograph with Home & Away‘s Kate Ritchie. I was just happy to be there, as the photos attest. (Thanks to Ian Yates for tidying up my rather dubious original shots and making them more presentable!)

The Black Eyed Peas strut their stuff.

The Black Eyed Peas strut their stuff.

Fergie gets funky.

Fergie gets funky.

Even celebrities pick their noses.

Even celebrities pick their noses.

The boys shake their groove thangs.

The boys shake their groove thangs.

'I can't believe we got $300K for this gig.'

‘I can’t believe we got $300K for this gig.’

Fergie is pursued by avid IT journos.

Fergie is pursued by avid IT journos.

The perils of quotation

When I’m interviewing someone in my professional life, I make a point of either recording the conversation or taking copious notes. This ensures that the information I utilise is fairly accurate. Because blog entries are often inspired by random conversations, I’m not necessarily going to have those kinds of notes or recordings — which is a potential cause of problems.

In my recent posting about my Luddite tech habits, I quoted Roulla Yiacoumi as saying to me: “My God, your phone is black and white!” Roulla was fairly quick to inform me that she didn’t say those words. Her actual comment was: “My god, I can’t believe your phone has a mono screen!”

You might think that’s a hair-splitting distinction, but as Roulla pointed out to me, a phone that could display white on screen could probably handle other colours as well. Quite true. I’ve amended the relevant entry, and resolved to be more efficient about note-taking in future. So if you’re conversing with me and I pause to write something down, now you’ll know why!

In love of Chess

An obsession with Chess, Benny & Bjorn’s musical with Tim Rice, has always been a major element of my ongoing ABBA fandom. So it was only logical that when Elaine Paige — who originated the central role of Florence Vassy both on record and on stage — decided to tour Australia, I would be going along.

I wasn’t expecting to get a night filled with material from Chess when I went to her first performance at the Sydney Opera House last night, and I didn’t. Indeed, my original guess that the only Chess number that we’d get would be ‘I Know Him So Well’ turned out to be almost accurate. I say ‘almost’ because a large section of the main ‘Chess’ instrumental theme was played as part of the overture — a welcome addition, but not really a performance by Ms Paige in the strict sense.

The other challenge in singing ‘I Know Him So Well’ is that it’s a duet. Elaine did an admirable performance of the song, but there’s no denying that to experience its full melodic majesty, you need the interplay of two voices. On the other hand, at least now I can say I’ve seen Elaine do Barbara Dickson’s part in concert, having already seen Dickson do Elaine’s bits during the 1997 Melbourne production of the show.

The ticket. Obviously.

After opening with ‘Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina’ from Evita, Paige then performed ‘Another Suitcase In Another Hall’ from the same musical — a novel concept for her, since she didn’t sing it in the original stage performance. I would have loved it if she’d taken the same approach to Chess and performed ‘Someone Else’s Story’, which was only added to the musical during the Broadway production (though it now gets shoehorned into most performances). Maybe next time.

Chess obsession aside, it was a great concert, even if I was yet again in danger of being the youngest person in the audience by some margin. Over the course of a two hour show, Elaine played with a dizzying array of musical theatre styles, finishing with a version of ‘I Honestly Love You’ which she said she had “only thrown together” that afternoon. I was particularly taken with her performances of Noel Coward’s ‘Mad About The Boy’ and Edith Piaf’s ‘Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien’.

(Incidentally, if you’re concerned that the heading for this post appears to exhibit appalling grammar, it’s a direct quote from the Chess lyrics. So there.)

The INXS backlash

With all the hoopla surrounding INXS’ recent televised search for a lead singer on Rock Star — a search that’s now concluded with JD Fortune joining the band — it was only a matter of time before someone dug up a comment from Jon Stevens, the former Noiseworks singer who worked with INXS for three years before departing in late 2003.

The Daily Telegraph reports today in its Confidential column that Stevens is none too impressed with recent developments, calling the show ‘Mock Star’ and advising Fortune to get a lawyer, lest he be “raped and pillaged” by the band.

Fun stuff, but Confidential then messes up by confidently asserting that “Stevens spent three years touring as the lead singer of INXS after singer Michael Hutchence’s suicide in 1997, but never recorded with the band.” I’m not a massive INXS fan, but I do know that Stevens did release a single with the band, 2003′s ‘I Get Up’, which emerged just before his departure from the group and was also featured in EA’s Rugby 2004 computer game. Still, why let the facts get in the way of a good sledging?

INXS, Jon Stevens edition

Confidential also has a brief report on yesterday’s Kerri-Anne shenanigans, though it’s rather less detailed than my own account. On the other hand, thousands more people will read it.

The Kerri-Anne connection

Phone fiend Kerri-AnneI’ve just achieved a minor career milestone: writing a story about Kerri-Anne Kennerley which is actually true. The infamous daytime TV host was roped in by Vodafone to launch a new phone range today, and I wrote it up for IT Wire. Surely it’s now only a matter of time before Bert Newton gets utilised by a tech vendor, especially with The Producers about to close.

Tech confessions of a junket whore

My reputation as an excessively well-travelled journalist/junket whore (delete as you see fit) continues to flourish. In a recent posting on his blog, Dan Warne (news and features editor at APC and one of the people who keeps me in gainful freelance employment) opens a discussion of how he’s been making use of the latest technology (on-plane Internet, GRPS access to email while roaming through France) on his travels with the words: “Angus Kidman would be proud.”

This is flattering, but kind of inaccurate. Although I don’t travel anywhere without a notebook, as often as not I make use of old-fashioned dial-up access if the hotel in question doesn’t have in-room broadband. My machine doesn’t have built-in wireless and at the moment the PC card slots aren’t working — an annoying saga of multiple repairs which means I won’t be buying a Toshiba next time around — so I’m not using wireless on planes, in cafes or even in conferences. And my phone is an ageing Nokia model which certainly isn’t up to handling email. Indeed, the other day when I used it at a conference, gadget queen Roulla Yiacoumi couldn’t help exclaiming: “My god, I can’t believe your phone has a mono screen!”

All this might change in the next few months when I can financially justify replacing the notebook and my equally clunky PDA with something a tad newer. But I don’t think I’m ever likely to be as ambitious as Dan in the communicating-on-the-road stakes. Nor, for that matter, am I ever likely to use a Mac, but that’s another story.

Big bucks for Bec’s baby

What's a million between friends?When I spotted this week’s cover for Woman’s Day, I immediately thought “something’s going on here”. Personally I’m not that fussed about the rushed engagement, Opera House marriage and sudden pregnancy of Bec Cartwright and Lleyton Hewitt, but clearly it helps shift the trash mags. To date, the Hewitts have sold a series of “exclusives” to New Idea, which reportedly has done very well out of the arrangement. So their appearance on the cover of Woman’s Day, in what was clearly an approved interview rather than a report relying on unnamed “friends”, suggested some serious back-room dealings.

Even I didn’t guess quite how serious. The Daily Telegraph reports today that ver Day has paid one million bucks for the rights to cover the Hewitts for the next 12 months, which will include the all-important first baby pics. The arrangement was brokered by Jennifer Gilbert, herself a former New Idea editor before a brief stint at Channel 9 as communications director. Apparently she’s now working as a consultant for Woman’s Day. The Diary column in the Australian‘s Media section also notes the deal, though without the reputed price tag, and adds that a key player in the earlier arrangements with New Idea was Monique Butterworth, who has recently jumped ship to work for the Day but is being made to work out her notice.

Doubtless ACP (the Day‘s publisher) will make some of its money back by on-selling the articles to the UK trash mags which helped originate the practice of paying for celebrity coverage (and giving celebrities full approval in the process). Whether it will significantly increase the circulation results won’t be clear for a year, though by then new rules will be in place which mean weekly magazines get audited quarterly instead of twice a year.

Sex beats blogging every time

I commented earlier this month that bloggers tend to wildly overestimate their influence. Proof of sorts comes from a recent Media Guardian story about a survey of UK taxi drivers, hairdressers and bar staff. Only 30 per cent had heard of blogging, and just 10 per cent were aware of podcasting. Conversely, 40 per cent knew about ‘dogging’, which is basically shagging in a public car park and not caring if people watch or join in. No numbers sadly on how many people actually participated in dogging (or blogging).

Tegan returns!

It’s been a few weeks since I went on one of my customary Doctor Who news searches, so I was in for a very pleasant surprise when I hit Outpost Gallifrey. In amongst the expected casting news for the first David Tennant-starring series was the revelation that Janet Fielding had finally been persuaded to return to the role of Tegan Jovanka for Big Finish‘s excellent series of audio Doctor adventures.

Signed by Janet Fielding, 2003

I’ve seen Fielding — a feisty and intelligent woman who left acting some years ago to pursue a career in writing and administration — at two Doctor Who conventions in recent years: Whovention 2003 in Sydney, which marked her return to the convention scene after a decade-long absence, and Dimensions in Stockton last year. At both events, Fielding made it clear that she had no intention of returning to the role. Big Finish producer Gary Russell made it equally clear that he intended to keep asking her.

Persistence has paid off, and Fielding will now come back for a one-off story, Summer In The City, due for release in 2006. This will see her reunited with Peter Davison’s doctor, but will take place after her final appearance in Resurrection Of The Daleks. Doubtless part of the appeal of this model to Fielding — who has stressed this will not lead to her continuing to make appearances in the CD series — is that it will allow some character development that wouldn’t be possible in the confines of Tegan’s original series chronology. However it plays out, I’m looking forward to it.