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Seeing Brisbane's City Sights

Posted November 17th, 2009 by debritz

As promised last week, 612ABC's Spencer Howson and I went on the Brisbane City Sights on the weekend. We'll be talking about it on air tomorrow, but first here's the video:

BAT: out to launch

Posted November 15th, 2009 by debritz

As I post this, the Brisbane Arts Theatre is about to launch its 2010 season. Rather than me tell you what's in store, here's a video explaining it all:

How the council is making money

Posted November 14th, 2009 by debritz

One of the great Brisbane pastimes is about to disappear forever. No longer will we be able to drive around looking for an unexpired parking meter to grab some parking time somebody else has already paid for. The word on the streets is that the old-style meters will all disappear and be replaced by pay-and-display systems, where the credit expires when you move on. That, coupled with the introductiion of thousands of new meters as far out in the 'burbs as Chermside (and in the few inner-city places where they aren't currently installed) and a rise in the minimum fee, will put millions more into council coffers. But where will the money go? Hoepefully, it will be spent on improving the public transport system which, let's face it, could hardly be called world class.
PS: Expect to hear some justified grumbling from the folks of Newstead and New Farm when all the free parking in their area disappears soon.

Silence wasn't golden

Posted November 12th, 2009 by debritz

Here's some edited audio from the aftermath of the technical error at 4BC yesterday that saw the Remembrance Day minute's silence interrupted by music. First is Greg Cary in the immediate wake of the debacle, then Drive host Michael Smith reflects on it:

New voice at B105

Posted November 12th, 2009 by debritz

Radio B105 has appointed Matt Sutton as its afternoon announcer (12-4pm) and operations manager. Sutton, who was previously on the air in Hobart and Adelaide and on the Sunshine Coast, has spent the past year travelling the world affective immediately. According to a B105 media release, "his solo adventure lead (sic) him to being caught up in a military coup, hiking active volcanoes and losing all his possessions in Helsinki". Yeah, but is he ready for the cut-and-thrust of Brisbane radio?

Silence interrupted

Posted November 11th, 2009 by debritz

Radio 4BC has apologised after an automated system overrode the Remembrance Day minute's silence at 11 o'clock today. Station manager David McDonald offered his "deepest heartfelt apology" on the station's website:

"A directive has now been issued that the procedure to observe the minute silence will never again be allowed to be computer operated and instead, will be manually overridden on ALL future occasions."

Announcer Michael Smith has reportedly called on the person responsible to resign.

A day of challenges

Posted November 11th, 2009 by debritz

On Spencer Howson's 612ABC show this morning (audio here), I renewed my challenge to Queensland Transport Minister Rachel Nolan to catch the train for at least a month so she can see what it's really like for frustrated commuters. The way I see it, for the minister in charge of public transport to be driven around in a car is a bit like the CEO of Coca-Cola drinking Pepsi. (I wish I'd thought of that when I was on the air.)
PS: In return, Spencer Howson has challenged me to join him on a tour of Brisbane on the CitySights bus, and hopefully we'll be doing that this weekend.

Platform news

Posted November 11th, 2009 by debritz

Announcement on Fortitude Valley station about 6.10am today:

An express train not stopping at this station will pass Platform 7 in two minutes, please stand behind the yellow safety line.

Fortitude Valley station has only four platforms -- unless there's some sort of Harry Potter-type thing going on that we mere Muggles don't know about.

What's for breakfast?

Posted November 11th, 2009 by debritz

The word from the North Quay Austereo studios is that no line-up changes are planned at either Triple M or B105, meaning The Cage with Ian Skippen and Labby, Camilla and Stav should be back on air at breakfast time in 2010. I've also heard a rumour from Cannon Hill that 4BC's Jamie Dunn has signed on the dotted line, too.

Spencer's Christmas cracker

Posted November 9th, 2009 by debritz

.. or should that be shocker? After encouragement from his colleague Kelly Higgins-Devine, 612ABC's Spencer Howson has made of video of himself singing his newly penned Christmas song. Listeners to the breakfast show (on which I'm a regular guest) have been invited to do better:

This has all the makings of a so-bad-it's-good cult favourite; spread the word and let's see if we can make it a YouTube hit.

What to see?

Posted November 9th, 2009 by debritz

I regularly see the Brisbane City Sights bus rumbling through Fortitude Valley, and it's always empty. To be fair, maybe it's not yet in service when I see it. But I still can't help wondering exactly what Brisbane's sights are. Many of our oldest buildings have been knocked down, so there's certainly not a lot of historic interest. I snapped this picture when the bus went past the other day and I gather from the illustrations that the tour includes such highlights as City Hall and King George Square, the Old Windmill (fair enough from an historic viewpoint, but hardly spectacular), the casino, Suncorp Stadium (aka Lang Park), the "beach" at South Bank Parklands and the imitation Eiffel Tour in Park Road, Milton. I hope they don't charge too much.

Five commandments

Posted November 9th, 2009 by debritz

Spotted in the Queen St Mall in Brisbane on the weekend.

Railway daze

Posted November 7th, 2009 by debritz

Further evidence today that Queensland Rail isn't at all about the customers, and nobody in any authority there ever looks at the usefulness (or otherwise) of the service from a passenger's perspective. When I got off the train at Central today, I alighted near the barriers leading to the subway under Anzac Square. So I swiped my GoCard and proceded down the stairs -- to find the exit locked. A QR staffer told me the exits were always closed on weekends. Why then, I asked, were the barriers still operating? She explained that there was a sign above the exit -- but, of course, from the angle I approached that could only be seen once someone had gone through the barriers and started to go down the stairs. Once outside on to the concourse, I noticed one of the big escalators was being maintained but the down escalator was still functioning. People coming up had to use the stairs. On the way back, I asked the repair guy if it would make more sense to have the one operating escalator going up, since it's easier to walk down stairs then up them. "Not our decision, mate," he replied. "It's up to QR."

Changes at 4BC

Posted November 7th, 2009 by debritz

Brisbane Radio 4BC will axe its Sports Today program, hosted by Peter Psaltis and Billy J. Snith, and replace it with a new 6-8pm program hosted by Psaltis and Ian Maurice. According to a staff memo from station manager David McDonald, the new show "will have a much broader focus on sports and recreational activities" (maybe they were listening when I told afternoon host Peter Dick earlier this year that BC should have an arts and entertainment program as well as its sports show!). Walter Williams will replace Maurice in the 8pm to midnight slot next year. Sports Today will continue over the Christmas holidays with Rupert McCall and Rick Mitchell in the chair before the changes take effect in the new year. Smith will remain with the station as a fill-in announcer.

Getting QR back on track

Posted November 6th, 2009 by debritz

How can Brisbane commuters get a better deal from Queensland Rail? Well, how about it if everybody involved in QR management, from Transport Minister Rachel Nolan down, is forced to use only public transport for at least a month? Perhaps some enterprising media outlet can escort Ms Nolan and senior QR managers on a regular commuter train and let them hear what the passengers are saying. I'd wager that most QR and Transport bigwigs haven't caught a regular rail or bus service in years. Take away their taxpayer-funded cars and see how they fare!

Never again ...

Posted November 6th, 2009 by debritz

Surely, the lack of on-time performance is the problem.
PS:The story goes on to say that average on-time performance is 92.5 per cent. Well, I'd like to know how that is calculated. Every commuter I know has had to endure the cancellation of trains on a regular basis. Now, by my reckoning, that's an on-time performance of 0.0 per cent for those services, making it extremely difficult to get an average in the 90s. I'd certainly like to see separate figures for peak-hour services.

Valley violence: a proposal

Posted November 5th, 2009 by debritz

Clubs and pubs in Fortitude Valley -- the inncercity Brisbane suburb where I live -- are resisting a Police Union suggestion that they close early in a bid to curb late-night and early-morning violence. How about the licensees pitch in some of the money they make from the extended opening hours to pay for an increased police presence, and see how that flies?

Train pain, go away

Posted November 5th, 2009 by debritz

It's either a case of bad luck, or something is seriously wrong with the Brisbane suburban rail system. In the past few days, there have been serious disruptions on the Gold Coast, Cleveland and Nambour lines, and today it's the Ferny Grove line. Time, I think, for some enterprising journalist to make some freedom of information requests about maintenance and other issues at Queensland Rail, and to put some hard questions to Premier Anna Bligh and Transport Minister Rachel Nolan, who want to charge us more to use a system that is often, to use the technical term, stuffed. With a growing population, of which we are constantly reminded, it can only get worse.

Cut the confusion, please

Posted November 5th, 2009 by debritz

As I've said on this blog, and on radio, I am open to paying for online news, if what's on offer is appealing to me. However, most of the websites I currently visit have a long way to go before the deliver something I'd pay for. I definitely will not pay to see picture galleries of Jennifer Hawkins or Megan Fox. Apart from the actual content, I hope the people who are presumably creating the paid-for offering for the big publishers have a close look at the navigation systems of their sites. If I'm going to pay for content, I want to be able to find it quickly. Yesterday, I took my virtual protractor and slide rule to, which has one of the most confusing menu systems I've ever encountered. If my counting skills are functioning properly, the menu system offers up 13 main categories, with 12 extras underneath. With the dropdowns, there's a total of 79 options for the confused reader to try to work their way through in an attempt to find the content they want. Now that's just crazy. You'd be lucky to get 79 pages of news in the average daily paper, let alone 79 different categories. One of the things that's great about newspapers is that people know how to navigate their way around them: news up the front, features, opinion and business in the middle, and sport at the back. The website should be just as intuitive, and some streamlining is urgently needed.
PS: By way of comparision, the UK Digital Publisher of the Year winner, has 14 main menu items plus changing "hot topics" links.

Old news is new news

Posted November 2nd, 2009 by debritz

For those who missed it on Sunday night, here's original Channel 7 newsreader Brian Cahill back on the newsdesk 50 years to the day since he read the station's first bulletin:

Show off your BITS

Posted November 2nd, 2009 by debritz

With memories of the Brisbane Festival still fresh, the Queensland capital is to get another, albeit more modest, performing arts event. The BITS Festival is described as "an open-access, one-day event for independent theatre makers to showcase their work". The organisers say it's a preview for a larger event in 2010 that aims to give performing artists an opportunity to present their work to an audience and to their peers. If you're an artist who wants to be involved, or a potential audience member, the details are

A tale of two critics

Posted November 2nd, 2009 by debritz

Two quotes from different writers:

This production is QTC's triumph of the decade, so see it and be prepared to be taken out of your comfortable world and sit shivering on the edge of your seat - that is, when your heart starts beating again.

Powerful moments of fragile vulnerability are drowned out by yawning dullness. Provocative subtext is lost by basic presentations of the script. Moments of high drama seem contrived and uncomfortable ... And so the audience is left with awkward embarrassment.

QTC image of The CrucibleBoth are reviews of the same theatre production -- Queensland Theatre Company's revival of Arthur Miller's The Crucible, directed by Michael Gow and now playing at the QPAC Playhouse in Brisbane. The first quote is from the A Little Gossip arts newsletter and written by Alison Cotes, who I have known for a long time and has been reviewing theatre in Brisbane for more than 30 years. The second quote was published under the headline "How the Queensland Theatre Company crucified Miller's Crucible" and was published on the Brisbane Times website. It's written by Katherine Feeney, who I don't know but I believe has been writing for the BT website since its inception a couple of years ago, and pens a sex and relationships column called CityKat. While I have read arts interviews and listings under her name, I can't recall reading a review by her before. Readers who rely on published reviews to shape their ticket-buying choices would be confused by such a stark contrast in critical assessment, the likes of which I have not seen in years. Of course, I'm not claiming that one is right and one is wrong. I haven't seen the play but, from what I can gather online, the audience reaction on opening night was very positive. Another critic well known to me, Katherine Lyall Watson, says at that the play is "not without its flaws, but the joys of the production far outweigh them". And Eric Scott, a vastly experience journalist whose opinion I also value, says at his website: "This is the most powerful production from the Queensland Theatre Company I think I’ve seen. Director Michael Gow’s casting was perfect in this 20 character play, which used 19 actors, and he moulded them brilliantly into a gripping, suspenseful piece of theatre drama. It was the finest piece of direction I’ve seen from the company’s Artistic Director." At the end of the day, if you're thinking of shelling out the money for a show, I guess you have to trust the people you know and/or whose assessments have generally aligned with your own. After all, nothing can replace seeing it for yourself.

From the glass house ...

Posted November 1st, 2009 by debritz

A sub-editorial slip-up on the website today.

Seven's little tease

Posted October 30th, 2009 by debritz

A teaser for Brisbane Channel 7's 50 Years special:

I wonder if it will include the time I was on the quiz on their Saturday kids' show? Or when I was nearly on It's Academic, or when I was speaking about sub-editing will the lovely Jill Ray on Wombat?

Meshel Laurie's going nowhere

Posted October 30th, 2009 by debritz

There's been a lot of speculation (some of it by me) about how long Nova 106.9 breakfast co-host Meshel Laurie will be off the air after she gives birth to her twins. In a tweet, Laurie sets the record straight:

Sorry to disappoint the Courier Mail, but I won't be taking extended maternity leave. Probably just my normal Xmas break.

Is the phone book old fashioned?

Posted October 28th, 2009 by debritz

Have phone books had their day? Copies of the Yellow Pages are stacking up everywhere, it seems, because people now do their searching on the internet. I discussed this and other burning issue with Spencer Howson and Susan Hetherington on the 612ABC breakfast show. The audio is here.

Sharing the love

Posted October 26th, 2009 by debritz

Here, to the tune of Kim Durant's Love You Brisbane, is a taste of what to expect when BTQ7 screens its 50 Years of Channel 7 special on Friday night:

Goodbye, hello

Posted October 24th, 2009 by debritz

My spies on Mt Coot-tha tell me Channel Nine staff last night had a farewell party for a popular newsroom staff member who had accepted a job at another network. The party went ahead despite the fact that the staffer was enticed to stay at Nine.

Arts issues

Posted October 21st, 2009 by debritz

1) The Queensland Theatre Company has, no doubt, spent a lot of money on the billboard promoting its 2010 subscription season. It's strategically placed on Milton Road so it can be seen by motorists and train passengers. It's such a shame that a big chunk of it is impossible to read by somebody passing by at a moderate speed because it appears to employ white type on a yellow background. This is one of the worst combinations for legibility.
2) As Spencer Howson pointed out this morning on 612 ABC, The Queensland Orchestra has changed its name to the Queensland Symphony Orchestra -- which was the name of one of the two ensembles that merged back in the 1990s. As Spencer says, it's disrespectful to the former Queensland Philharmonic Orchestra and its members, some of whom still play with TQO. In fact, the media release that came with the company's 2010 launch season doesn't even mention the Philharmonic. Additionally, I'd like to know how much money was wasted on TQO stationery and signange that now can't be used and the costs of converting to the new name, including commissioning a new logo (pictured). It's public money, so we should be told -- along with the reasoning for the change in the first place.

Chinatown blues

Posted October 21st, 2009 by debritz

I'll withhold my final verdict until it's completed, but some of the barriers on the Chinatown Mall have come down in the past few days and I'm not impressed with what I see. Apart from some strange structure in the middle (which, hopefully, means something to somebody), it seems it has taken the best part of six months to repave it. Soon, I'm sure, I won't be the only one asking whether it was worth the time, disruption and expense.

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