Monday, August 26, 2013

Pitch drop custodian, John Mainstone, dead at 78.

In the decades that Professor John Mainstone was custodian of the Pitch-Drop Experiment he didn't once see the moment when one piece of pitch became two.

Pitch perfect patience.

Pitch Drop
By Amber Cunningham (Afternoons producer)
Did I tell you how much I love my job? I love my job.
We get to meet the coolest people on ABC Afternoons and today I think we met the most patient man in the world. 
Professor John Mainstone has been custodian of a single science experiment for 52 years. Enough time for eleven Prime Ministers to move in and out of Kirribilli House and for the passing of seventeen olympic games. The experiment is called The Pitch Drop wherein it takes between ten and twelve years for a lump of pitch to schmooze through a funnel and drop. Pitch is solid enough to smash with a hammer but its solidity co-exists with fluidity. I know. Crazy.
In terms of visible thrills and spills, there are none, yet science egg-heads the world over watch this thing on webcams and obsess about seeing the exact moment when one piece of pitch becomes two. It happens in one tenth of a second. You can ignore it for nearly a decade but after that, look away at your peril.
Professor Mainstone has been watching since 1961 during which time the pitch has dropped eight times and on every occasion ... he's missed it. Once in 1979 because he took a Sunday off and once in 1988 because he was getting a cup of tea. That right there would rot my socks. Yet he remains the most patient and sunny-natured man, he didn't even throw his cup of tea at a wall. On the most recent drop Professor Mainstone had cameras rigged to capture the moment, the cameras failed. 
So while the dual properties of pitch might excite the science-y types among us, people like Professor John Mainstone inspire in me equal levels of wonder. It was lovely to meet him.
P.S. Sarah Knight has been standing in for a poorly Gillo. Quite literally standing in, Sarah has jerry-rigged a stand-up work station, stacking her computer on top of a couple of boxes. Apart from that, working at the ABC is exactly like being on the Starship Enterprise. True.

Dark arts? Or just a game?

Ouija-board-650x427By Amber Cunningham
Afternoons Producer
My family did loads of stuff that was weird but probably the weirdest was whipping out a ouija board after a Sunday roast and calling for visits from the spirit world. Hindsight's a fine thing. At twelve years of age I didn't understand that my Grandparents might be clinging to the possibilty of communicating with their son, dead at twenty-one. Or that on account of their age, this kind of thing wasn't unusual, a parlour game played when they were kids. Harmless, not weird, like a telephone. Sort of. 
Today I wanted to hear other people's stories about ouija boards, I thought we could kind of hold hands over the radio and gang up on the thing that scared us when we were kids, say BOO to it. Put it back in its box. 
Somewhere along the line I got the idea that if I stood up and roared at the thing I was afraid of I could conquer it, (the fear). Public speaking, volcanoes, shopping for a swim-suit. Two out of three? Nailed 'em. I wanted to hear a collective "Phooey!" from our audience and be able to go to bed without burying myself under the doona using a snorkel to breathe.
The ouija board loomed large in my childhood nightmares, it was a conduit for a ghost botfly to take up residence in my soul and hatch a writhing demon. Based on some of the texts we received on the show today, I wasn't alone. There was no "Boo!," no "Phooey!". There were only warnings. Stay away.
But guys???? Haven't you read Harry Potter? (The dark-arts will never triumph over love!) Haven't you seen Monsters Inc? (Laughter is more powerful than fear!). Even so, if you asked me to take part in a session with a ouija board? I'd run for the hills. 
I still want to hear your stories (group therapy?). Maybe tell me here. Sleep tight. 

Maylands I love you but you're freaking me out

Maylands Boat Yard
By Amber Cunningham
Afternoons Producer
Comment on our facebook page today: "720. Stuck in the 1970's [sic], just like it's [sic] audience. These days it's a yuppie central [sic], it's got a good ethnic mix, different wealth brackets, it's got some nice urban grit and it's not gentrified."  Correct on all nongrammatical fronts.

Maylands was today named as Perth's "next big thing". The buzz word used was "buzz". Great news for Maylands and all who sail in her, but. But.
Maylands was thus described by an international travel publication of such massive popularity that it has the knack of turning the world's hidden gems into heaving tourist meccas. That which was familiar and lovely to the local few becomes sexed up and kind of cheap. It's like coming home and finding your Mum has had a boob job, botox, died her hair yellow-blonde and started listening to Nickelback. 
I might not have grown up in Maylands but my bestie did and our memories have osmosed. She grew up a river-rat on the muddy foreshore of Maylands. Took off from home, aged seven, to leap off the Bath Street jetty, was dragged home by the ear by her Mum. Snuck off at night with her sister, armed with rope, a bandaid and a torch, to explore the semi-derelict brick works with its clay-pits and sleeping machinery, ladders leading to nowhere but a precipitous drop. Went hooning around in the mud flats with her Dad in his car, hoping to get bogged and be late for school. Maylands had bush, orchards, horses. What remains unchanged at Maylands is the boat yard, there are flaky-painted hulls that have sat in the same spot for forty years. So, shhhhh, international travel guide, don't tell anyone. You'll ruin it.
The claypits are now a new development, a crop of Fediterranean ticky-tacky houses with 'ornamental' lakes. The couple of chi-chi eateries which are now operating in Maylands are no doubt amazing and fabulous and filled with pretty ballerinas from around the corner. But. But. 
With regard to this; "it's got some nice urban grit and it's not gentrified". The shiny fame-glow bestowed on a place by a hugely popular travel guide has a way of changing things. 
Maylands? I loved you just the way you were. 

u2 me R everything. SRSLY

Eddy Amoo 1

A Love Letter To My New Husband: cc: Eddy Amoo,Singer,The Real Thing c/o: Liverpool, UK

You To Me Are Everything took up residence in my 10 year-old heart in 1976 and stayed there quietly, lyrics and all, doing nothing, for a couple of decades. During which time I processed it as being a true story, a thing that I might grab hold of in the love stakes, ie: that one day I might love someone enough to want to take stars out of the sky, move mountains etc, etc. Which is why eventually that song started to make me cry, big fat tears of self-pity. 

When I started working on Russell Woolf's Drive programme at the beginning of the year the Vinyl Tuesday baton was handed to me by Patti Brook who had jumped ship and gone over to Geoff-Land. Three years of chasing rock-stars and screening for the kind of acid-flash-backs that are okay to talk about on the radio versus the kind of acid-flash-backs that aren't okay to talk about had taken its toll.

With complete disregard for anything that Russ might like (sorry, Russ) I set about stalking the singers of songs that had meaning for me. Eddy Amoo from The Real Thing was at the top of my list. When an email lands in your in-box and its author is someone you've revered since you were ten, it's hard to stay cool. And by the way, it's Eddy who puts "u2 me R everything" in the subject bar. Because he is a righteous dude.

It was one of my first "pre-interviews" - interview is over-stating it. My opening words to Eddy were a gushy "EVERY TIME I HEAR THAT SONG I CRY AND I WANT TO GET MARRIED". His response, "DON'T DO IT!". Righteous. Dude.

I got to shoot the breeze with Eddy Amoo for about half an hour during which time I learned his daughter lives in Queensland, he grew up in Liverpool, on the night before the band appeared on Top Of The Pops his Mum was sewing costumes for the band. Check them out, they're incredible. He spoke about growing up in Liverpool and being British Black, the gist of which is here.
In an email he said this:

"It's only when we really think about it that we realise that a hit song becomes a footprint in the lives of people we will never meet. When you weigh this up it's quite humbling, I thought of this when you mentioned your feelings towards U 2 Me. I hope everything goes well for you."

Back to the tears. Three weeks ago I got married. After fifteen beautiful years together and a couple of gorgeous kids we shot off to New Zealand and eloped. We thought we were rubber-stamping an already sealed deal, but here's the thing, we've been like a pair of kids and we can't stop staring at the lumps of gold on our fingers and each other. Ew. I know. 

Last week I chopped up a little slide-show with You To Me Are Everything running under a bunch of stills from our holiday, each of them up for less than a second, I ran some words, rolling-credits-style, at the beginning, wherein I said to my new husband that I would take stars out of the sky for him. I let my teenage son preview it and he said it was way too cheesey. I said it's not all about you.  

These are the words that stick in my throat like a stiletto and stop me from speaking.  
This song used to make me cry because of what was missing, now it makes me cry because of what I have. cc: Eddy Amoo, Singer, The Real Thing. c/o: Liverpool, UK.