Thursday, December 18, 2008

I call paedophilia on Twilight

Since Twilight seems to be the movie of the moment, I'll jump right in. For those who've never heard of it, a quick plot summary: teenage girl goes to new school, falls in love with hot vampire guy, smouldering and sexual restraint ensue. They're in high school love, they protect each other. Cute. Andy Pants begs to differ, but I believe there is a more pressing concern yet to be addressed.

As mentioned above, the girl is a teenager, seventeen. The guy she falls in love with is also seventeen. At least, he looks seventeen. But about half-way through he explains that he was actually 'made' a vampire in 1918 when he was really seventeen. He's more than 80 years old.
And lusting after a 17 year old girl.
And everyone is okay with this??

Surely, even after decades of attending school with school children, he would have gathered enough experience to know that romantic involvement with children is not on.
But no. Everyone is flocking to the movie and simpering over Captain Hotness.
Neh.
Franzy no like.
Bad medicine.

***
GTH - Many points. Moify for coming out of the Enya closet (if you could get back in and lock the door, that'd be greeeaat), Shippy for Rick Price, River - not for the classic music, but for extolling her son's many many talents and Kath for sticking by ABBA.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Blip blip beep boop

I've got a Xmas party to help cater, I start a new job in less than a week, I have two book reviews for good grown-up books to write, one of which I haven't read yet, I'm supposed to cook tea, care for my wiff and edit my book but all I want to do is listen to Daft Punk's Alive over and over and over again.
I haven't been obsessed with an album since ... hmm ... Tool's 10,000 Days, which I had to listen to about a dozen times on and off before I found myself waking up at night with strange guitar riffs grinding down my cerebellum. Alive is an instant classic. I am absolutely smitten. I just sit here with my ridiculously large headphones clamped to my noggin, bopping my head, tapping my feet, missing phone calls, ignoring family members, waving my arms in the air like I've got two handfuls of glowsticks, a tummy full of ecstasy and a calendar set permanently to 1999. Aw Yeah. I robot dance while washing up. I actually sat Mele down, of all people, put the headphones on her head and tried to get her to nod her head in blissful appreciation of what is essentially the sound of twelve million mobile phone rings played simultaneously through really loud speakers. To her credit, she was very polite about it.

What was your latest music obsession? Not crush - I'm talking lust, people. Points go to most embarrassing story and/or worst taste in music. Bear in mind this will judged by a man whose musical taste reaches its pinnacle at Daft Punk and Underworld, a man to whom novelty songs are equal to songs whose lyrics do not contain punchlines, a man to whom lyrics have no meaning.

***

Many kind thanks to Myninja, Kath, LC, 327, Moify, Captain T and Tess for uniting the blogging world with the real and coming along to hear Mele and I read at Wordfire last night. For all those bloggers who are also large fans of Kath and Myninja's work, I can reveal that in person they are both devilishly handsome individuals and having them in the audience was as gratifying as it was daunting.

Photos pending spousal consultation.

***
GTH -
Points go to River for giving me the giggles with her wonderful Hydrantophiliac vignette. Honourable mention to the often silent, but always correct Will for being so amazingly spot-on with his art identification.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Mountin' Wimin

Flicked on SBS last night and watched a documentary called "Landmark Sex: Married to the Eiffel Tower" about women who fall in love with objects. Not as in "I love these shoes I got in Melbourne!" but as in "I love my archery bow, I have been in a relationship with him for six years, I have sex with him".
Like you, I had a lot of trouble getting my head around this. Firstly, there was understanding the fact that this wasn't a mockumentary. These were real women. Their most common object of love and desire were buildings. Structures. Bridges, walls, skyscrapers, that kind of thing. They love them. Romantic, sexual, committed love. The desire and passion with which these ladies talked about the Empire State Building, the Berlin Wall and various bridges around the world was identical to that fervor with which young lovers discuss their new paramours.
One lady in particular had fallen in love with a fairground ride called '1001 Nacht'. She went to visit him in the off-season where he was parked in a holding yard and wrapped in a tarp. After embracing various girders around the place, whispering odes of devotion and getting extremely red and bothered gripping the guard rail, she lay underneath 1001 Nacht and slowly, blissfully smeared her face with the thick grease from his joints. When it was time to leave she sobbed like a child being torn away
from its favourite plaything. She was covered in grease. This was the same lady who was asked to move along by a security guard after an extremely long and sensuous embrace with the Empire State Building.
Another woman couldn't help mounting just about every picket fence she saw. She even had a few favourite picket fences in her room. Just short ones, a few pailings long which she would take to bed. And stroke.
I wish I had the imaginative capacity to make this shit up, but sadly, I fall short of the mark there. This was a real documentary. About real people.


This picture is of one of the Objectum Sexuals (as they prefer to be called) during the aptly-named climax to the documentary showing her consumating her relationship with the Eiffel Tower one year after their marriage.
Yes.
Marriage.
She legally married the Eiffel Tower.
And yes.
Consumation.
Yes she hitched her skirts up and mounted a frickin girder on the frickin Eiffel Tower, vag to steel.
I am still not making anything up. I merely took very very close notice of exactly which girder so that whenever I return to The Eiffel Tower, I can say to loved ones "No! Not that girder. Let's get a photo over here instead. In fact, why not Italy instead?"
Or, if I'm there with Captain T, "Hey man, sit right there, I want to take a photo. No, in fact, how about giving the old Tower a kiss eh? It'll be hilarious!"

We were telling 327 and Jimmythins about this documentary tonight and conversation fell, as it does, to fetishes. What were the weirdest kind of fetishes we could think up? (Reader points for weirdest fetish, real or not).
Stobie pole fetish.
Wheelie bin fetish.
Council traffic light fetish.
Can you tell we were walking home at the time?
Brussel sprout fetish: "OOhh! So stinky!"
A fetish for being wrapped in toilet paper.
A fetish for being praised for neat handwriting:
"What do you think of this note that I wrote?"
"Very nice."
"Ooh. Do you like my enlongated loops on the lower-case gs?"
"Pretty good."
"Thank you."
I am proud to announce that I think I've come up with what might be either the weirdest fetish or cleverest prank to bring to a new workplace: a fetish for being ignored. But you tell people about it, be really upfront.
"Hi, how you going? Hey listen man, this might sound a bit weird, but I've kind of got this ... "thing" ... for being ignored. So if you don't always hear what I'm saying first time because I mumble or whatever, don't worry about it too much."
"Huh?"
"Mmm. That's it. Just. Like. That."
And then just walk away and spend the rest of your time quietly
sidling into the back of rooms, looking extremely satisfied until someone notices you, then lose interest and leave. Or just mutter a lot in the next room so that it sounds like you're always asking a question.
"..Mntleyh wondrf thtitle thngexist?"
"What?"
"Uuuuuuuuuhhh yyyyyyyessssss."
"Did you say something?"
"Hm? No, nothing. Don't mind me. Yeah. Seeya later. That's right, just like that, hhhhhhhhoolllyy sshhhhhhittyeah .... "

Tell me that's not hilarious. Picture the looks on your co-workers' faces when you enter a room:
Fuck,
they'll be thinking. It's that fucking guy who gets his jollies from being ignored! "HEEEEYYY!!! Franzy!! Hey man! What's been happening? Tell me about your day! Hey everybody! It's Franzy!"
"Oh! Franzy! Hi! Let me get you a coffee! No no! Stay right there! I'll get it!"
Even better would be when you were actually able to stand behind someone and ask a question in a really, really low voice for a while, and then they finally turn around and notice you.
"AH! How long have you been standing there?"
"Aaaaaaaaaaages ... you didn't ... even .... hear me .... ooooooooooooo ..."

***
GTH - ZING! Point to Ashleigh. The band was there to symbolise the best "I got a job" song of all time: One Bourban, One Scotch, One Beer as played by George Thoroughgood. Which is actually all about George avoiding his bitch of a landlady and blowing all of his cash on booze instead of on the rent he owes her, which he is able to do by telling her that he has a job.
I actually have a job, but I did sing the verse as transcribed for about 48 hours straight after The Phonecall.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

She said "Yeah?" I said "Aw Yeah."

I godda jawb.
Ahm gonna payda reynt.

An then she wuz so nais!

Lawd she wa' lubbydubby.


The sound of my phone ringing has always made me apprehensive. I hate to be the one without the info. I hate it when the tingle goes up and it could change your life. The wait after a job interview is in the top ten worst times for a phone to ring. At least when you get the little white letter, you know what's up before you answer the call.
But when the phone rin
gs it could go either way.
Or it
could also be a telemarketer. Especially at 5:15pm on a Wednesday.

"Hello, Franzy speaking."
"Hello Franzy, it's Mr Employer here. How are you?"
"I'm well." (gather strength, take deep breath). "How are you?"
"I'm fine, thank you. Would you like the good news, or the bad news?"
(Cover mouthpiece to muffle audible groan. Fail to muffle audible groan). "Uhmn. Gimme the bad news."

"The bad news is, my friend ... that you have the job."
(Access mental replay. Confirm information. Thrust fist in air). "What? That's great! Fantastic! Thank you!"
"No problem."
"Wha
t's the good news?"
"The good news is ... that you have the job! Aha!"

So, yes. The transformation is complete. We have moved back from Queensland and I am now employed at somewhere far less useless and more productive than The Coffee Club on Bribie Island. Now I'm drinking the coffee, motherfuckers!



Well - not quite. I start in January. And I'm apparently working for quite a prankster.
Thanks to Shippy for the job-search help. Points for you, buddy.

***

Everyone who was madly searching for The Mysterious Seven Story Structures can take a clue from a wonderful series I recently read called Action Philosophers! Joseph Campbell did many interesting things, but one of them was to ana
lyse stories and myths from a lot of cultures and came up with A Definitive Story Structure, otherwise known as The Hero's Journey. I have scanned it in with complete disregard for copyright below, but please, click the image and have a good look.



That should settle a few arguments.
Or start them.

Update - Ryan Dunlavey, Illustrator of Action Philosophers! has somehow found me! And directed me towards the real deal full colour Hero's Journey poster available for just US$3 (plus postage) (which makes it about $AUS4,507) from the Action Philosopher's website (please click on the image above). I urge everyone to either buy a poster or get their hands on Action Philosophers!

***
Far be it from me to heap scorn upon my learned brothers and sisters but mostly brothers in the sciences, but these two news items couldn't have popped into my reader with finer congruity or better timing.
The first "From nerd to word: maths geeks reclaim their cool" is about a new campaign by the Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers to boost the previously "dorky" image of maths. They are attempting to sell the many exciting and lucrative careers options offered by maths.

"It's all to do with imagination," says mathematical stand-up Simon Pampena.
"Most people if you say, `What attracts you to maths?', they wouldn't say, `Imagination'.
"It's usually what repels you from maths and they'd say `Because it's not cool, I'm not going to get a girlfriend doing maths'."

Which brings us neatly to news item number two:
"Male science students uni's most likely virgins: study"

Apparently maths can teach you many things, but good timing isn't one of them.

***
Enthusiasm for last week's movie clippette was so dramatically blunt that I have decided to take my revenge upon you readers who refused to inundate me with copy about your memorable movie moments so that I could rest upon my laurels.
What would you call the scariest movie you've ever seen?
The Grudge?
Saw?
War of the Worlds?
The Ring?
The Omen?
The Sixth Sense?
Scary Movie?

Nuh-uh. Be prepared for a new champion. It is only three and a half minutes long, but trust me on this: you will be curled up in horror as you watch. Many of you may not even make it through. Some of you may actually throw up.
It's safe for work and there's no gore. Just an ill feeling about your entire existence.
Think I'm joking? There's no punchline.
Just watch The World's Scariest Movie.



***

GTH - Points to Kath for the mental image of me busting a shit capoeira-style over a rural French toilet. Or 'toilette'.

Monday, December 1, 2008

I just want to contort with my shirt on

The wonderful thing about being unemployed and looking for a job is ... um ... well ... nothing, actually. It sucks Major Dogs Balls. It does lead to interesting little adventures though.
Last week my friend, Captain T the acrobat called and asked if I could still touch my feet to my head.
'Of course,' I said. 'I haven't done it for a few years, but you never lose that kind of talent as you get older, right?'
'Right,' he said sceptically. 'Anyway, shall I pass your details on to this woman? She's a casting agent.'

An hour later Angie was explaining to me that she needed a male aged around twenty-five who could touch their feet over their head for an ad. Suffice it to say that I had given it a few wobbly goes between the first phone call and the second and confirmed that I could.
'What do you look like?'
I challenge anyone to come up with a straight answer to that question. My first thought was 'Like Seth Green, but without the evil dad'. I didn't say that, of course, and ended up sending a photo. Two photos, actually. A blurry, ten year old one of me doing The Trick with my face in silhouette, and a professional shot of me from quite far away, on my wedding day, from the waist up, to convince her of my low visible-growth count. Above the waist.

So today I found myself at something called a 'casting call'. This has a similar ring to 'cattle call' for a good reason. I gave my name to the lady behind the counter and she ticked me off as 'acrobat'. The next person was ticked off as 'yoga'. Then three more were auditioning for the role of 'bloke'.
We all sat in a small holding office with the table they used in the hit Aussie film, Breaker Morant. According to the plaque on the side. I hadn't actually considered the possibility of other people being able to put their feet on their head until the two men who'd had themselves ticked off as 'yoga' began doing all sorts of strange things: removing their shoes, warming up their tendons and even
stretching. I had been busily chatting to a Cambodian woman who had been approached in a mall by one of the agents to be told she had The Look. Turns out that sometimes it's not just the world's worst pick-up line. The first yoga man to be let in soon returned from behind The Door, looking a little perplexed.
'They want a really good backbend,' he answered after we grilled him about how many casting couches we would have to dodge. We remaining two flexible gents smiled politely at each other and quietly but casually whizzed through all 48 possible back stretches, while maintaining the casual air of the seasoned performer. This is difficult to do cramped into a casting office wearing a sweaty Bonds t-shirt I'd chosen because it was the only t-shirt I had left that hadn't done that frilly skirt thing at the bottom that all tight cotton t-shirts eventually do.
Then it was my turn. Angie lead me through a couple of doors and stood me in front of a grey wall on some grey carpet. None of that music video, curved white backdrop today, mate.
'Sorry about the sweat-stains,' I said, indicating the large Jesus-shaped patch in the middle of my chest. 'I kept my warm-up jacket on until the last minute, to keep my shoulders warm.' I had hoped to impress them with my organisation and OH&S savvy. It seemed to impress them, but mostly of my sweatiness.
'That's fine,' they all said politely. 'We'll actually get you to take your shirt off, if that's okay.'
Like I said, unemployment does lead to some wonderful adventures. Or interesting adventures. I can't remember what I said. Point is: there I was in my daggy old soccer shorts in a windowless room with a bunch of smiling strangers wondering which one of them was going to ask me about my waxing habits first.
I shouldn't have worried. I did The Trick. I lay on the floor and did it a different way. I discovered that I can no longer hook both feet over my head from the front. Almost. But not quite. Not with dignity, at any rate.
Then they got me to sit in a chair (still with the shirt off, for some reason) and look like I'd just come back from the gym.
I sat in the chair. 'I feel awesome!' I shouted. 'Pumped! Not sore at all!'
'Sadder,' they said. 'More contemplative.'
I thought about sad things. I contemplated them.
'Do you drink beer?' one of them asked.
'What do you reckon?' I waved my wavy gut at them by way of reply. That went down well.
'Okay, that's great, thank you very much,' they said. 'If we could just get you to stand there, look into the camera and tell us your name and age.'
'Next to this sign with my name written on it?'
'Uh-huh.'
I didn't do my cute little trick of pointing out that
introducing myself while standing next to a sign with my name on it was redundant. Instead I did the world's worst Robert De Niro impression. That went down a real treat too. Maybe because I still had my shirt off.

***
GTH - A point to River for keeping it clean, and a point to Shippy for growing a stunning Chop Chop Mo and for turning up to cricket. It would have been two points for coming to the cricket, but I'm going to take the second one away and give it to River to teach you not to slog my bowling over the fence.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Pint of Pale, thanks

Every year, I make a video birthday invitation.
This year is no different.



If you're a regular reader, come along and say hi.

If you're one of the sweet folks who've landed here from you Google searches for "blazer teachers fucking students", "gear shift fuckers" or even "what's wrong with a 100 dollar mattress", then perhaps give it a miss, eh?

***

GTH - With her double-entendre, Mad Cat Lady takes the point, said the actress to the bishop. The photo was actually taken by me out of a hostel window in Derry on my first night in Ireland. The night before the Orange Marches were due to take place. Being a moronic backpacker, I had no idea of the perfect storm that the significance of date and place would have upon my stay. Garda vans patrolled the old city walls and cops with riot gear and machine guns barracaded every entrance with shipping containers and barbed wire. The riots the next day made the international news and I was forced to call my mother and explain that not all Derry was on fire, just the Catholic bit.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Heeeeeere's Emery!

I tend to resist the sinful blogger's temptation to post youtube videos and call it a blog. Unless I've made the film myself. But I was reminded of the video below recently when I saw the film again on SBS. Apart from being a great scene, it always reminds me of a certain time in my life which makes for a story in itself.

I once lived in a hostel in Belfast. For about six months between the summer and winter, I shared a room with four other guys: two drug dealing turkey pluckers and a masturbating Scotsman* who played in the Salvation Army band every Sunday. The number of times I woke up to go to my regulation Traveller's Kitchen Job only to hear a squeaking noise and look across and see those long hairy
red toes curling over in Celtic ecstasy was not a healthy way to come to terms with being alive.

The hostel was a terrace house in a row of terrace houses down the road from Queens University. What made this terrace house distinct from the other terrace houses was the fact that it was the only one that wasn't a condemned shell. We had all the luxuries a modern traveller could want: a laundry, two kitchens, a communal lounge room, a short walk to all the swanky, funky businesses which were springing to take advantage of Belfast's richest students, the internet. We even had an extremely loud stereo for parties.
There were a few problems (apart from the Onanistic Glaswegian): The greasy owner. The occasional Garda raid. The Comedy/Booze Hall across the street which closed at 1am like every other pub in that stupid, stupid city, flooding the streets with angry, horny drinkers, fresh from the 12:30 binge, who would roll around fighting and raping each other in the streets until I would lean out of my window
(third storey window - I'm not a complete idiot) and tell them all to shut the fuck up and go the fuck home at which point they would lob beer bottles at the hostel for me to walk through on my way to work at 7am the next morning.
But worst of all was the lack of available media. Seems insignificant now, but for some reason, there was only one CD and one video. The CD was Bob Marley's Greatest Hits. It took me 8 years to be able to listen to "Jammin'" again.
The one video was discovered by every "over-nighter" (that's what us long-termers called the backpackers with enough cash to keep moving) who found us in whatever out-of-date travel guide the greasy owner had managed to bluff his way into. Invariably American or Britsh. Always male. Even on the days when I returned home and it wasn't already playing, it wasn't long before that fateful, daily yelp reverberated through the paper-mache building:
"Oh awesome dude! Full Metal Jacket! I love this fuckin' movie!"
And we'd all sit there, watching the movie again because this loud-mouthed Yank loved the Marine Corps and could have like totally got in while his stupid London mate would be asking all these homoerotic questions about whether the Corps was really that tough.

That said, this scene is one that bears watching again and again. R. Lee Emery became synonymous with the image of the American military and there are many amusing anecdotes on his Wikipedia page, but watch the scene, think of it as tight-arse Tuesday for the really tight-arsed.




If anyone has a story to do with a scene from a movie, I'd love to hear it and post it, a la Sing A Song For Us Tonight. Since SASFUT is on hiatus over the summer, maybe Cheap Arse Chewsday can fill in for it. Let's hear those stories about movies! Pick a scene! Spill your guts!

* These are not euphemisms.


***
GTH - There was actually a bit of stiff competition this round. Miles had a truly stallion effort and has been the only reader to really have a shot at unpacking the little bit of quote I've taken to putting up along with the picture. TOoS came in strong with his speculation about the identity of Aussie Stig and Shippy tickled my fancy with "Not watch, analyse!". Kath was lucky not to lose a point for outing herself as a hat-wearing Volvo Driver and Squib might have come away with glory by explaining why she hates a TV show in which borish, white, middle-aged men behave as such and are applauded for it. But she never wrote back.
The winner then is none other than Third Cat for her sniper-style comment critique of my brilliant ideas for improving Australian Top Gear: "but you wouldn't really want another show where men put on dresses and we're supposed to think that's funny? Would you?"
You make a good point, comrade. So here's one in return.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Dear Top Gear Australia,

Well done on a first season. You were better than we all thought you'd be.
But, lads, you missed the mark.
The filming was brilliant. The look of the thing was bright, exciting and Australian. But you still missed the mark. In trying not to be UK Top Gear, you missed out the things that make UK Top Gear worth watching.
I've written about this before, but I wasn't clear enough. I understand now where I went wrong, and I apologise. It's not just that we all want to drive the cars with you, we want to understand them. Pretend they're ours. We want to be able to quote the stats at our mates and also potificate about how the air-conditioning comes from a Mondeo.
When you take out our Lambourghinis for a spin, we don't just want you to read out the sales brochure. We want you to interpret it. Don't tell us about the torque, tell us it would actually twist tarmac to ribbons if the tyres were any stickier. Don't tell us the thing is fast, tell us it's already next Tuesday. Exaggeration, hyperbole, superfluities, lies. How much power does the W427 have? Four Million kilowatts! That's how much! Yeah! Broom Broom!
The problem is that you have writers, but not motoring journalists. The staged-gags and wordplays are good, but not the car-related ones. The car talk is all written down verbatim from the nervous nellies handing over the Emotional Control Units to the hosts. There's no opinion, no criticism. I understand that car manufacturers are loathe to put their product images in the hands of so powerful a medium as Top Gear, but when you "do" a car, don't just tell us that you love it. Tell us it handles like a caffeinated chiuhaha. Tell us the interior reminds you of your accountant's tearoom (practical, sparse, boring and with little teabag expense accounts ticking away in the ether).

I never saw you dislike a car. Not even slightly. Praise is boring. The only reason you're still reading this is because I'm not blowing spun sugar into your dacks. Our eyes tell us that black GT is brilliant. Only you can keep us watching with the audacity to suggest that it's an ugly, over-powered brute with switches from a 1980s cassette recorder. Do some hotlaps in the R8 and then have a good old bitch about how it looks like the guy at your formal who didn't understand that cummerbunds were meant to go inside the suit.

The final show's Holden vs Ford showdown. You came out and tested the entry-level variations. The family cars. I was thrilled. I was excited.
'Aha!' I said aloud to the empty loungeroom. 'Here comes the tomfoolery, the japes, the mucking about and the falling over.'
You did doughnuts. Again. We've seen the doughnuts. We've seen the breaking test and the drag race.
Did the words 'family car' not ring any bells? No? I'll try another question: at the risk of borrowing too much from UK Top Gear, have you noticed
that when your English cousins do comparative road tests on less-than-thrilling cars the tests themselves are always mockeries of normal usability tests, the testing is a slapstick routine minus the pies and the results are ridiculously skewed and unimportant? Have you noticed how entertaining that is?
I'll give you a clue: how about a family car test that involves, oh I don't know, a family? Why weren't the hosts dressed up in floral dresses and skateboarding shorts and told to fetch as many groceries as possible for their respective vehicles? Why weren't a gaggle of school kids raced around the track in the back seat on their way to footy practices with points for whoever's surrogate children kicked the most goals? I just thought of those then, and I'm doing it for free.

The major clue to the mark-missing that's gone on all season was during the final montage.
'What a great season,' one of the presenters grinned. 'Check out what fun we had!'
Play montage. About thirty seconds in came a long series of clips of the presenters behind the wheels of very different cars all exclaiming 'How good is this?'
Yes, I know it's a classic example of Aussie rhetoric. What am I, an idiot? But taken out of that context, I can't help but notice that they never answered the question. We see the Porsche. We hear it. We watch our mates up there on-screen driving it and grinning like Luna Park winning a lottery ticket. Then they all turn to camera and ask "How good is this?"
'I don't know!' we all shout. 'Why don't you tell us?'

Come back next year boys. Review some cars. Don't be afraid to fall over and complain. And watch a bit of UK Top Gear. Take notes.

***
GTH - Points to the long-absent Moify for his usual brand of stalktacular guessing, and a point to Kath for offering to buy me a beer. Kath, you will receive TWO points upon receipt of said beer. THREE if you bring it to me before I have to go onstage and brave my famously acidic nervous farts.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Hello sunshine

In case this wasn't clue enough (and it isn't - obtuse, artsy bullshit that it is):


Should be good.

***
GTH - There were lots of excellent comments on two of the most commented-upon blogs I've written in recent times, and everyone who commented made interesting points and insightful remarks. But there can only be one. Or, in this case: two. Miles, for appropriately guessing what I was thinking when I put the rubble-filled tunnel as a header for a post about the woes of Kew's working poor (he misses out on an extra point for refusing to put a proper apostrophe in his blog title). And Third Cat, for swooping in at the end and rendering everybody's careful research and consideration into story structure useless with a funny joke.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I definitely smell a pork product of some kind

Shippy and I are having an arguement.

"Shakespeare was a plagiarist" states Shippy.
"Bullshit!" cries I. "Evidence! Solid facts!"
"Fine," says The Shipster, and sends me this:

"Shakespeare the Plagiarist

Shakespeare was a man of many accomplishments. Many were in his writings; others were in his great director and playwright skills. The play Hamlet is one of the most re-created and re-written books to date. Hamlet is still being performed in theaters around the world. Even though many people perceive Shakespeare as a literary genius, we can not give him sole credit for his plays and sonnets.

With a few exceptions, Shakespeare did not invent the plots of his plays. Sometimes he used old stories (Hamlet, Pericles). Sometimes he worked from the stories of comparatively recent Italian writers, such as Boccaccio - using both well-known stories (Romeo and Juliet, Much Ado About Nothing) and little known ones (Othello). Shakespeare has been proven, by many authors, to have borrowed from the Arts, the Histories and the Sciences. (Britannica Online, http://www.eb.com:180/cgi-bin/g?DocF=macro/5005/75/12.html)
"The first collection of information about sources of Elizabethan plays was published in the 17th century. Gerard Langbaines account of the English Dramatic Poets (1691) briefly indicated where Shakespeare found materials for some plays."(Britannica Online)
It has been shown in this book that Shakespeare quoted his contemporary Christopher Marlowe in As You Like It. He casually refers to the Aethiopica ("Ethiopian history") of Heliodorus (which has been translated by Thomas Undertown in 1569) in Twelfth Night. Chapman's vigorous translation of Homer.
[to view the full essay now, purchase below]
http://www.123helpme.com/preview.asp?id=37713

Fine and Dandy.

To counter that, you could posit that there are, in fact, no new stories. I remember learning in honours that there are around seven unique story structures which can be applied to any complete narrative (whether fact or fiction) published or told ever since language and writing has existed.
I can't bloody remember them all now, but they're things like
The love story (two separate entities come together)
The war story (one entity vanquishes another)
The tragedy (righteous entities experience entropy)
etc
etc

These structures can be applied to almost all stories from Sumerian fart jokes onwards through history to Shakespeare and beyond. If not literally, then metaphorically.
There are no new stories. Just better versions. If Shakespeare ripped off a few ideas from his contemporaries then why aren't we amazed at his talent for reference and pop-cultural appreciation. The Simpsons do it all the time and everybody loves them for it!
I think the greater contribution Shakespeare made to literature was that of the language he used. The beautiful, twisting, perfect words themselves, the phrases and stanzas in which they lived. Plays and plays and plays of the stuff.
I've also heard that he didn't write his own words either, but to that I say: bullshit!

***
GTH - Picture stays the same, points still count for sprightly comments in previous post, but double points to anyone who can supply me with that complete (and short) list of The Seven Story Structures.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Boo Fucking Hoo Part TWO!!!

I am well-aware of what schadenfreude is, and, as of today, how warm it can feel.

Premium suburbs bear brunt as real estate market reels.

"At auctions across tree-lined streets in Toorak, Brighton and Kew, bidders are keeping hands in pockets, with auctioneers forced to pass in homes and hope. "I would say th
ere has been a 10% to 15% fall."
Local agent Richard Mackinnon, from Bennison Mackinnon, referring to those suburbs.

Be strong, children. Think of the plight and thank your lucky stars and moons that you're not so unfortunate as to be selling a five-bedroom bungalow in Toorak!

I know, I know: shame on me, these people worked their whole lives, mortgage stress, etc, but hearing about 4-bedroom house going for
"only" a million bucks after years of baby-boomer bubbling, completely fails to make me reach for the hanky. Being told almost weekly that my generation is one that will never be able to afford a house has hardened my impecunious heart somewhat.

Except for you, Kath. You go, girl. Gouge those finnicketty buggers.


***
GTH - Last post's picture was of Mele's Nonno's greenhouse and his homemade tools. Nonno died last year, but he left behind an amazing culture of love and respect among his family and through the stories they tell, the pictures they show and the things he left around the farm. I wanted specifically to say with this picture that not all death is pointless, leaving nothing. It can be delicate and beautiful and personal. Points to everybody who had a go.


Sunday, November 9, 2008

Blood oranges

Three more idiots are dead. Does it fix anything? Does it make us better people? Does it allow us all learn as humans from our mistakes and live happier lives?
Nope.
Now 205 people are dead as a result of the 2002 Bali bombings. That's it.

"There is an unwanted chapter in my life that begins with violence and closes with violence. There is a sense of emptiness."

Brian Deegan, father of Josh Deegan who was killed in the attack.

***

GTH - To Shippy for the tooth-rotting metaphor and a grudging tick to 327 for nerding up in the old nerd box. The picture was of course meant to reference both the literal poor dental care resultant from a 'user pays' society and the metaphor of dealing with both HECS, Centrelink and self people folk what don't get the value of an educated community: eating shit.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Dear Big Brother Enthusiast ...

Of course we all dashed over to Ashleigh's excellent blog after the last post to read the very 2005 post about the braindeadness of HECS and the slight scamminess of the maths involved in making those who go to uni pay for their degrees a couple of times over, despite the apparent dopeness of not having to pay the fees up front while also trying to study, work, pay rent, buy food, drugs, beer, food, beer and textbooks.

I'm not sure if everyone might have made it to the comments section, because this little bewdy was first out of the gates:

"So that doesnt quite explain why the great mass of non-tertiary educated workers who pay the bulk of the tax end up funding an education system that they didnt use and which their kids may not use.. User pays I say!"

Thanks, Duncan.

I tried to explain this in my subsequent comment, but I think punching out a comeback some three and a half years after the original comment probably robs it of a little momentum.
That said, I am sick to my hairy head of the short-sighted shit that people drip around higher education in general.
"User pays"
Fine.
How about this:
Young lady wants to be a dentist.
No problem.
She goes to dental school.
There's no HECS, no help.
She works and borrows to get the upfront cash to fund her tertiary education.
She graduates.
She goes to work.
She charges double for her services, just like every other dentist in Australia because, although she wanted to fix teeth, she still had to pay for an education which other people are now receiving for the meagre price of keeping up her business loan, her staff payments and her living expenses. Her patients are using her education for free!
Fuck that, she says.
If education is an individually-allocated commodity, not a benefit to society as a whole, then she will be buggered if she's giving it away.
You're using her education to fix your teeth, Duncan. You pay for it.
Not just her here and now expenses, but the debt from the loans she took to become a dentist. The ongoing education for the repeat check-ups you will need at which you will probably prefer the latest technology, rather than a hammer and chisel. Fork out, buddy!

Or, how about the kids teaching your kids in the public schools? They're using those teachers' education for free!

"User pays".
Hoik. P-tooey.

***
GTH - Point to Ashleigh, for the inspiration, Kath (she's gotta get something for $7 a fortnight and a bleeding boob)(welcome to double figures by the way) and Shippy for feeling the grue at 40 degrees C for his education.
My feelings for the picture were that a blurry glance at a shave-headed assailant is pretty much what any interaction with Cennerlink feels like.


Saturday, November 1, 2008

Dear Drone,

As inspired by Jono:

Dear Recipient of Irregular Payments According to Spousal Income and Our Irregularly Changing Extra Income and Rent, Power and Telephone Bill Assistance Payments,

We realise that your payment differs in amount fortnight to fortnight, sometimes due to something you're doing that we won't identify and sometimes due to what we're doing that we also refuse to identify. That's why we are writing to tell you that the irregular amount you received last week wasn't due to anything you did, anything your partner did or any regulations that require us to pay you a monthly stipend, quarterly bill assistance or yearly lump sum. It was because we made an error that you would not have been able to realise or account for. It was our fault. Now pay us back the money that you didn't realise wasn't yours and may have spent in the last month because we assume that you keep all of your Centrelink income in a holding account for up to two months before spending it on anything.

Thank you for choosing Centrelink,
Apologetically yours,
Centrelink

***
And in today's news:

Personal Hero, Mark Davis
:


"... Having lived through 15 years of unbroken prosperity, [Gen-Y have] known nothing but good times. And now they're going to have to learn to face economic reality, and to deal with the hard times.

At last, the joke is on them.

.... Not all young people, it's true. But enough to make it matter, and to show a pattern of systemic neglect that the stereotypes seek to cover.

Much as we like to think that each generation is better off than the one before, the fact is that many of today's young people will never have a chance to own a home."

Makes me want to slash my wrists right through their ill-considered tattoos.

***

GTH - Even though there is a persistent lack of apostrophe on his site's title, the point goes for the hard kicking Miles. For effort if nothing else.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Rhinos Write Up 2008

Being one of the few literate members of the Adelaide University Hockey Club, I am often turned to by other club members in times of trouble and need. For most AUHC members, these troubling, needy times are mostly at the end of the year when each team has to collar someone to squeeze out the interminable annual team report.

You know the one: "We played well, we had fun, we didn't win a grand final, but we did drink beer and play hockey". It all gets printed out and put in a cute little booklet on the tables at the End of Year black tie event where we all get trophies and try our damnedest to get barred from another function venue.

And every year, just about a week before the event, a stern group email is sent to all coaches:
"Get your team reports in!"
which is then forwarded by those coaches to their teams:
"Please, does anyone want to stick their hand up for this? Please please please!"
Which then, inevitably finds its way to me:
"Uh, come on Franzy - you do a good one every year. Can I leave this with you?"
To which I reply:
"As long as I can write whatever I want and don't have to bother with minor details like "results" and "reportage"."
Of course, by that stage, no one is in any position to say "No, I think we'll have a sensible write-up with game-by-game results and a level-headed commentary on the overall season this year" and so, I come up with things like this. And, even after that effort I still get asked back, even though I neither played, attended nor paid much attention to the results of my old team. They still came a'knocking at my door.
Silly buggers:

2008 Rhinos Write-Up

How did the Rhinos do this year? It is … difficult to tell. You may as well point at Grand Final winning Hawthorne and ask whether they are sportsmen, or GODS.

No, on second thoughts – you shouldn’t do that. The answer is clear: Hawthorne are a feather-boa-wrapped flock of mincing dandies who are currently clearing a place among their teddies for the Guinness World Record Certificate for Most Consecutive Homers Pulled in an AFL Season. And that was in spite of the Prada bags and Blahnik heels the boiis in brown and custard insisted on playing in all year.

The Rhinos aren’t like that. Not even close. Any similarities between a Haw-Haw-Hawthorne player and a Rampaging Horned Impaler of the Nigerian Outback (R.H.I.N.O.) are utterly false, unverifiable and such claims will leave you open to a little impaling yourself (boys and girls, form an orderly queue).

‘But they both played in a grand final this year!’ I hear you squeak, desperate for recognition.

No. No they did not, sir. Hawthorne played in a grand final. The Rhinos didn’t.

‘They both play a sport?’ you try, once again attempting to subvert the dominant paradigm.

Nope. There’s that word again. Now, let me explain something to you, my friend:

Hawthorne plays.

Rhinos trample.

Other hockey teams play. Rhinos conquer. They demolish, destroy, debunk, decaffeinate and deflower. You play hockey. The Rhinos pillage.

Fun Fact: No Rhino has ever been a member of an orchestra or any kind of musical ensemble. The few times some foolish person ignored the old adage “A Rhino does not play, a Rhino wins”, always resulted in a lot of desiccated musical instruments and defeated saxophonists.

It might seem a little like overkill to link such claims of violence to the Rhinos’ hockey style in what is meant to be a non-contact sport. ‘Overkill’ is also an interesting and accurate choice of words. By the time the minor rounds had finished this year, no fewer than eleven episodes of Crime Stoppers had been dedicated entirely to Rhinos vs Whatever Cannon Fodder Dared To Show fixtures. Did anyone catch the True Crime Special on the Rhinos last week? How good was the bit where the guy’s head exploded after Fongy’s drag-flick?

So, you begin to understand how difficult it is to simply classify and explain the 2008 Rhinos Season in terms of ‘victory’ and ‘game play’ when the former is a given for any Rhino ever born and the latter is something Hawthorne players do in the change rooms between manicures.

In 2007 the Rhinos became heroes. Parades closed down the city. Stamps were franked. Commemorative plaques bloomed like Murray River algae. Special issue coins were pressed and there was a time where you couldn’t feed a parking meter without putting a Rhino into it.

‘How long shall we park for?’

‘Put in two Greenmans and a Pinhead,’ you’d say before trotting off to do some shopping down the now-more-aptly-titled Rhino Mall (unlike the Rhinos, John Rundle certainly wasn’t endowed with huge balls of polished steel and so it only made sense to change the name. A plan to replace the current scale models with life-sized replicas was on the cards, but the most of the steel required has since been appropriated by the state government to build a desalinisation plant).

In 2008 the heroes passed on into legend. Everything the Rhinos touched turned to gold and when they touched gold it turned into delicious BBQ chicken which, after eating, would be digested and shat out as diamonds. Whatever the temporary name for Burbridge Road was is now slated as Rhino Rumble. New congregations are springing up all over the city with hundreds, verging on thousands, flocking to hear the lilting tones of St Frenchie preaching from the horn-ed pulpit. Rhinology is being taught through the schools and universities of the country, ensuring that by 2010 our great land will be protected from the credit crisis, global warming and space alien laser attack.

Like all legends, this glory was built on the freshly hacked bones of their adversaries. Metro 3 Men, wicked and weak, all attempted to sully the name of Rhino with the hockey equivalent of your little sister’s first ballet recital (but with hockey sticks) and all payed the ultimate price. Their humiliation shall be magnified on into the pages of history as they are remembered, not as hockey ballerinas, but as the last, stumbling, faltering step which evolution took in that doomed direction before cutting short and winging off into the pure sunrise of Homo Rhinoceros.

***
GTH - Miles came out strongly, but faded early for failing to take the picture into account. He will receive an automatic point when he inserts a necessary apostrophe into his blog title. Arch-rival Shippy, therefore takes a point, as does old-time competitor, T-to-tha-double-O Sam for reminding me of the complexion gag (ha).

Monday, October 27, 2008

Men are generally sneaky fuckers

Here's how it happened: I used to work at The Eagle On The Hill. This was a pub turned Last-Drive-Thru-On-The-Interstate turned fine-dining restaurent turned Schnittie-Tuesday-Local. It turned other things after I was fired for asking for too many Friday and Saturday nights off (every Friday and Saturday), but this story isn't to do with that.

EOTH had a great view over the Adelaide Plane. Evening dinner guests would always try to book the few tables which perched right by the window so that they would have something decent to gaze at other than one other wolfing down chicken schnitzels the size of paving stones. It could even be described as romantic and most nights there were a couple of bookings of 'table for two, rum for four'.
There was even a motel downstairs. You know what I mean. That's right: 'Room for the night, thanks mate. Send down another bottle of Nepenthe.'
Anyway, you get the tone. Romantic and affordable. The way to every man's heart, (but surprisingly few women).
This one night I was on front of house, greeting customers. My job was to say hello, show them to a table, pull out their chairs and (after pushing the chairs back in) take their drink order and any subsequent shit a nervous first dater might feel it necessary to dish out in order to feel like a big man.
These two didn't just arrive, they rocked up. Nobody 'arrives' in a Commodore ute with truck mud guards. He was resplendent in Ed Harry's finest party shirt and she had decided on a dazzling silk-look halter-neck gown complete with black lacy bra, all designed to perfectly accentuate the large piping shrike tattoo on her shoulder blade. A true South Aussie girl and well worth a night of wining and dining at the famous EOTH.

Now pay good attention because it's going to move quickly from here.

I smile.
I show them to the prime table, front row centre for the night lights of Adelaide.
I pull out her chair.
She sits.
I ask her what she'll have to drink this fine evening.
He tells her to get whatever she wants.
She orders a Bundy and coke.
I pull out his chair.
I ask what sir will have.
He remains standing.
Eye to eye with me he says, 'Large pineapple juice, thanks.'
He winks.
He grins.
He sits.
The end.

Men are generally sneaky fuckers.

* If you don't understand, ask a man over the age of sixteen. If he doesn't understand, he's lying.

***

GTH - Mele was close, but Miles takes it away. Two from two. Nobody else gets points because nobody accused me of being a sneaky fucker (even though I just about burst a damn kidney not laughing in the story above) for fabricating the entire tale of Johnny Wade: Stephanie Rice Picture Tearer Upper.

"... finally throwing the pieces into the air and yelling 'Snowstorm'."??

Come on! That's gold!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Australia's Newest Shame

Investigative journalism is really getting into the cracks these days. Just when you think it's another article about Stephanie Rice, you read to the end and suddenly we have a new villain:

"Last Friday was a time of anticipation and excitement for
Sunshine Flowers pre-school student Kate Daly.
Kate was due to attend a swimming clinic on Sunday hosted by her hero Olympic Golden Girl Stephanie Rice and
drew a picture of Rice to go with the flowers she had planned to give Australia's newest starlet of the pool.
D
escribed by her friends and other parents from Sunshine Flowers as 'a little battler' and 'the truest Aussie around', Kate suffers from cystic fibrosis, has a life expectancy of just 10 years, and is forced to take 26 tablets a day to battle the disease. The swimming clinic is one of the limited range of treatments designed to extend cystic fibrosis sufferers' quality of life.

Enter Johnny Wade.

Known as 'a little terror', 'a definite candidate for pre-military-school' and 'a typical four year old boy', Wade seized on the much weaker Kate's drawing and tore it up in front of horrified staff and students. Unconfirmed reports say that Johnny was laughing and dancing as he destroyed the image of the triple gold medallist, finally throwing the pieces into the air and yelling 'Snowstorm'.

Four-year-old Johnny Wade's parents remained tight-lipped today after the youngster faced accusations of bullying, assault, destruction of property and defacing a national icon. Refusing to speak to media, they dashed into their modest home after facing the judge in a closed court session earlier today."

Is it going too far?
Not far enough?

***

GTH - Miles, Miles, Miles. Bullseye.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Boo Fucking Hoo

Why on earth should I give a fuck about a pack of spoilt rich kids behaving as such? Maybe I read The Age too much, but this has received national attention. Everyone is behaving as though these four-wheel-drinking-and-driving P-platers were going to behave any differently come muck-up day in a school which stakes most of its reputation upon the stunned mullets who managed to get a horse onto a balcony. Maybe they heard it was going to push back more, I don't know.
Xavier College famously suspended a couple of hundred of its larger breed of hormonal grunts earlier this week for creating a ruckus and breaking things in a posh area. Good. Except bad, because they all got to toddle off home to their Playstation 3s, their porn and their Sweet Sixteen Lexi to wait for Father to return home and reallign the planets so that the old scholars don't suffer the embarrassment of a thin reunion dinner ten years down the road.

Of course their parents all went bananas and threatened to sue if their little princes weren't allowed to take their $100,000 exams.

Boys + puberty + confined spaces - girls - responsibility + alcohol = a bunch of fuckwitted, blazer-clad penises running around your suburb and, given time and more money, your planet, fucking up your shit.

This is news?

How about " 200 Xavier students involved in a riot earlier this week were expelled for bringing the school into disrepute. "They will no longer be welcome on school property," said the principal today. "The expelled students may be able to access other options for completing their expensive education, but those options will only be open to these young men after a full year of community service."

How does that sound?
Ahhhh ....

***
Update - GTH - Point to Shippy for the creativity of the answer. I'm actually just giving him a credit because I don't understand it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

How the media works!

Thanks to Audrey's excellent, honest post, I was able to accurately answer Dad's question about last night's news coverage of the massive turnout at Britt Lapthorne's memorial service.

Dad: What the fuck are all these people doing there? They didn't even know her and they're showing up to her funeral? Just on the strength of what they saw on telly?
Me: Do you want to know why they're there?
Dad: Yes.
Me: I can explain it you in three steps.
Dad: Really?
Me: Exactly three steps.
Dad: Okay, go.
Me: She's cute. She's white. They're idiots.
Dad: Ahh ...

Thanks Audrey!

***

GTH will continue unchanged when I post blogs in quick succession to give everybody a chance. Sorry Shippy, your speed may have pushed you even further up the leader board.

How I was offered honours by pulling a Bradbury

One of the best and worst lecturers I ever had was in the last semester of my third year at uni. I had been slowly plugging away at various English and Cultural Studies-type subjects, all in the name continuing my big fish, little pond dominance of high school English, which surely pointed towards an immanent blast off into the interstellar fame and fortune offered by continuing to be good at reading and writing.
I had also continued to study Anthropology all the way through, somehow missing the discrepancy in grades between these two subjects which made up my major. I recently had cause to look over my thin little undergraduate transcripts and only then, with all the subjects and their grades lined up alongside one another, did I notice that in three years I only ever managed one single, solitary Distinction from Napier Building, Floor Six. Every other English grade was lined up nicely over the three years with a big, cheery 'C' for Credit. As in:

"You're a credit to yourself and your family in that you can use a spell checker, the library, a watch to remind you when the tutes were and a calendar to point out when the essays were due."

To demonstrate my Credit-honed grasp upon the beauty of the Mighty Scimitar of The English Language, I shall offer you the following sentence: My anthropology grades were exactly the same, in that they were the exact opposite.
I took just as many anthropology subjects as I did English ones and distinguished myself above other anthropology students and my own English grades time and time again.
Except, and now we come full circle, for that one little hiccough at the end of my final year.

Dr Power was not his name. I will not write his name to save him the embarrassment a self-google might bestow in years to come. He taught a very heady subject called 'Discourse and Power'. I know. I have no idea either, and I took the course. Myself and my two friends, Molly and Andy were the youngest people in the first tute by ten years. The two other youngest student, Craig and Anna, may have actually been near to our age, but Craig's soft, bushy beard and thin spectacles and Anna's dyed-black hair and tough leather jacket to match her tough eyebrows set them at quite a different atmospheric pressure to the floaty meadow breezes we three youngsters were used to.

I can't tell you what the course was about any further than its name. Dr Power was Sri Lankan and so used quite a lot of historical examples from modern Sri Lankan history to illustrate his wordy, complex points. Molly, Andy and I sat up up the back, madly writing useless notes and copying each other's useless notes.

During the first tute Dr Power gave us all his home telephone number with instructions to call with any course-related problems for a discussion any time up until about 11 o'clock in the evening. He explained with a benevolent smile that Sri Lankan households did note keep the same quaint early bedtimes as the Australian households he had experienced. There sounded as though there was much cooking, discussion and general activity in the Power household. Right up until 11pm.

He regularly took us over to The Mansions after tutes and bought us rounds of beers (only we three up the back shyly ordered schooners of ale, everbody else had water or juice). We all sat around trying to follow his leads on course discussion before breaking down into the customary get-to-know-you round the circle speeches before lapsing into further awkard silence and leaving.

A couple of weeks in, Dr Power handed back the first essays and sat quietly at the front of the tute on a chair while most of us worked down the gruel of our insanely low marks. When we could eventually gather the courage to meet our teacher's eyes, he was almost as shocked as we were. He was genuinely troubled. Most of us were all terrible. Particularly our little group of three up the back.
'I don't understand,' he said. 'There is such a discrepancy of marks! Some of you grasp the material quite well, but some plainly have almost no understand of the basic concepts we've been working with.'
We hung our heads.
'Do you ... do you talk about the material to each other?'
We glanced at one another. A couple nodded timidly.
'Outside this tutorial?'
The nodding ceased.
'Do you meet up to discuss your work?'
The absence of nodding continued.
'Do you perhaps even call or contact each other to go over the material?'
Apart from us three up the back, everybody else always left the class in different directions.
'You do not help each other outside this class?'
Head-shaking. Of course we didn't. The idea would have been laughable if there had been a few higher grades in the room to lighten the mood.
'That is a real shame. A real missed opportunity. Because students like Anna and Craig could really help students like Molly and Andy and Franzy.'

We were so shocked we didn't even get offended until about a fortnight later.

This story borrows nothing from The Mighty Ducks. I did not begin to improve. I continued to suck. But some of you will remember that I did escape with a credit for this course. Which is mysterious, given that my essays were so bad they could have sucked bowling balls up chimneys.
Here's how it went down. Or up:

At the same time, I was doing a gender studies course, one that I was quite good at and one that I ended up actually helping to run a year or two later. The fact that I was one of three boys in a class of fifty girls had nothing to do with my enrolment. Hey, I'm a learner. I wrote quite a good essay that examined the use of power in society with gender sprinkled on top. Or something. When it came time to hand up that final glorious essay which was to save me from failure (it was actually still possible to fail in those days, unlike today's courses which allow you to resubmit and appeal until you get the grade you paid for), I simply dusted off the larger chunks of gender studies and sprinkled on some of the bits of Sri Lankan history I had selected at random from our phone directory-sized reader. I slapped on a title which included the words 'Discourse' and 'Power', handed it up with a sigh and went on a very long and enjoyable road-trip to a music festival in Brisbane.

All the way there, I kept receiving messages from my parents. 'Call Dr Power', 'Dr Power is worried about your essay', 'Tell Dr Power to stop leaving messages', 'Why don't you call us once in a while?'.

I finally heard the message left by the deeply concerned Dr Power. He was extremely worried that not only had I handed in a gender studies essay to his subject, but that I had also handed up a brilliant Discourse and Power essay to my equally-confused gender studies professor.
I had to call him. I rang during the late afternoon when I was sure he mentioned something about Sri Lankan nap time, hoping to catch him relaxed and unaware.
'Some of these references are nothing to do with this course, are you sure this is not a different essay?'
The conversation on my part wasn't worth repeating. I mumbled, I prevaricated, I assured him that I wouldn't be handing in another essay and hung up.

He gave me a credit.

Although I never spoke to him again, somehow I'm sure he fobbed me off with the lowest acceptible grade possible so as be 100% assured of never having to deal with, or even speak to me again.

Or it was the typo that was cemented into history.

***
Please, once again, nip over to poetsquib and read another extended tale of my tepid youth. My first exposure to the most devout of choristers, I. Ron Butterfly ...

"...
We drank in pubs, smoked in laneways and began really obsessing about these new things called “mp3s” which you could get from this wonderful computer program called “Napster” which used “the internet” for something other than email and postage-stamp-sized pornography. We installed ever louder and more impressive speakers into our cars so crap they were cool. Or maybe it was the other way around ...
"

***

GTH - Shippy swoops in a plucks the points from all comers with a wonderfully-reflected metaphor and, in case anyone hadn't noticed, for the new write-up down on the Champions' Scoreboard. Give him a week and he'll be running this place without me.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A cutting review.

I know we all love it when I review children's books. I'm so witty. I'm so thoughtful. I'm so mean. How could I trash my peers so easily? Why would I say anything detrimental to that art of arts: writing? Why do I insist on shooting myself in the foot while punching my betters in the face? (Because, let's face it, they's published and I ain't).

Because they deserve it. I would expect the same and when I receive it, I will chew my knuckle in pain and make excuses and point fingers, but the reality is that you write for your readers, whoever they are. If they hate it and can articulate why, then that's your problem, not theirs.

***

Blade: Playing Dead
and Blade: Closing In by Carnegie medallist, Tim Bowler, are the first and second books in a four part series. The story follows the eponymous Blade on his adrenalin-fuelled adventures around a present-day British capital city. Blade is a fourteen year old tough kid with university-grade street smarts and a past. He narrates the action in first-person present tense, addressing the reader as ‘Bigeyes’ (an excellent touch) and placing his captive audience squarely beside him with instructions to keep watch or admonitions to stop asking so many damn questions. His voice is original and believable and his modern day street kid lingo almost conceals the fifty-five-year-old author behind it, trawling chatrooms, blogs and networks, straining for the holy grail of young adult fiction: authentic, un-self-conscious cool.

The Blade books are, on the surface, gritty, exciting, compulsive reading. Blade himself is neck-deep in action from the first page; shoplifting, back-talking, battling rival gangs, mixing up with murder, crime and intrigue and doing it all alone. He refers to past events and tragedies while still hiding them from the reader, as though Bigeyes too, must earn his trust before he will elaborate on exactly what they have to do with his current circumstances.

The target audience (reluctant, young, mostly male readers) will appreciate the honest, uncensored action and violence. Nothing is glossed over or hidden for their protection: people get hit, beaten up, stabbed, shot and killed, but the story doesn’t call for gore and glorification of the violence. We experience see these shocking events through the eyes of a fourteen year old boy who isn’t happy about seeing them. The realism of the action flows through its restrained telling.
However, the gruff, mistrustful fourteen year old narrator does create a problem. Despite the attempts to explain his verbosity and thoughtfulness through his hidden past and some-time penchant for books, the entire mis-en-scene, as described in relentless stream-of-consciousness by Blade, is shallow and black and white at best. While this is a deliberate decision by Bowler to maintain the tough, realistic feel of the story, it does rob the audience of any real sense of the world in which Blade lives. He breaks into half a dozen houses and visits different parts of the city, but none really differentiate from the others. Setting feels entirely unimportant as Blade is either running from predators through identical streets, lanes and parks or hiding quietly from them in equally-interchangeable safe house locations. There is no real vivid picture painting going on, just minimalist exposition: dark, light, locked, un-locked, urgent, quiet. There are no colours, tastes or smells. Physical descriptions are limited to functional details relevant to Blade’s progress. The sparse prose certainly serves the purpose of not impeding the action, but action without place is just interpretive dance.

There have been better action sequences. Bowler hangs grimly to his formula throughout: trouble, escape, hide, repeat. A few of the afore-mentioned realistically portrayed acts of violence are sprinkled in for (slight) variation. Suspense is drawn from the reader like an expected curtesy rather than something the author has worked for. Blade spends about half of his time demonstrating his uncanny extrasensory perception (foresight, x-ray vision and mind-reading) and the other half making decisions based on completely ignoring those perceptions. Maybe there’s a reason for this confluence of sixth-sense and foolishness, but, two books in, no explanation has been forthcoming other than Blade’s irritating mantra, ‘Don’t ask how I know, I just know.’

This reluctance to outline base facts and the Blade series’ approach to character development and structure all point towards one clear fact: these books are a rip off. Rip. Off. A rort, a scam. A tricky little scheme to make money. The series is comprised of a series of four separate books, sold as such for $14.95 each. All released at once, each containing the covers of the entire set within their back cover.

The problem is that each book isn’t a stand-alone story, designed to be enjoyed both separately and as a part of the whole. The first two books, at least, contain only minor parts of a single story arc; they provide no solutions and implore the reader on their back pages to purchase the next instalment. There are only hints pointing towards the major points upon which the story hangs: where is Blade going and from where has he come? In order to learn the answers, young readers must spend the better part of simply to finish reading a story with all the markers of an urban thriller and none of the intriguing charm. Blade should have been sold as a single book. There are no chapters to divide events into manageable sections for younger readers and the tone and subject matter both point towards an audience of an age easily able to deal with longer texts. As an artistic exercise this series is the equivalent of selling four full-price tickets to one movie and just as reprehensible on the part of the producers.

Coupled with the current fashionable hysteria in Britain over knife attacks (Blade, predictably, is a master with a concealed weapon), the Blade series reeks of savvy publishers striking while the iron is plugged in and ready to press the party shirt of the Zeitgeist. Dividing a single B-grade story over four separate, full-priced novels is a truly masterful piece of marketing at the expense of artistic product and the pockets of reluctant readers.

***
GTH - Shippy, Squib and River are all kicking goals and being awarded points. It might seem like a rip off, but it's really not!



Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Comictitian's Muse

If you needed further proof of my inspiring qualities, please check out this post from one of my (many) favourite webcomics, Welcome To The Future.



Throw another struggle on the fire, my darling

Scene - Suburban Super Mall - Gargantuan Cineplexiopolis. Mele and Franzy have spent an annoying day shopping for boring clothes and have decided to see a movie.

Franzy: Two students for Eagle Eye, please.
Ticket Seller: Where would you like to sit?
Franzy (sharing a puzzled look with Mele): In a chair?
Ticket Seller (assuming the polite smile of murderous fantasist): Ha. No, I mean where in the cinema? Front or back?

*Freeze frame*
Franzy strolls into view, wearing a tweed jacket with leather elbow patches and smoking a pipe. His speaking voice is so nasally that he must surely be endowed with all the useful knowledge of the universe and must be listened to.

Tweed Jacket Franzy: Rest assured, dear people, that this is not some bungle in the storytelling. We are not about to discover that in fact Franzy and Mele are at the front of the queue for the world premiere of this film. The diehard fans have already come, absorbed and left. Friends, this isn't even a whimsical anecdote about stumbling into the wrong mall, the wrong cinema or even the wrong queue. This is the twelfth showing for Eagle Eye this week. 3:40pm is not a popular time to be lining up outside the movie theatre to watch a film that will surely cut into the regularly regimented times associated with school holiday dinners, sleepovers and twilight football matches. Our stunning heroes are not going to go Seatless in Seatle or anywhere else this fine afternoon. There is plenty of room at the inn.

Tweed Jacket Franzy flourishes his pipe like a conductor's baton.

*Unfreeze*

Mele: Uh, in the middle.
Ticket Seller (barely restraining himself from spitting into the hand with which Franzy is taking his change and tickets): Okay, you're in K 18 and 19, Cinema 21, up there on your right!
Franzy: What the fuck was that all about?
Mele: They don't need allocated seating! There's no one here!
Tweed Jacket Franzy: I just told them that!

Mele and Franzy walk into the 300 seat cinema. It is entirely empty. They ignore their allocated seats and sit wherever the fuck they feel like. Around the middle somewhere. Mele puts her purse on the seat next to her. Franzy puts the box of popcorn next to himself. They relax and listen to the kind of cockless musak in which the singer sounds as though he has decided that the voice of a grown man singing about the emotional struggle of declaring his undying love for his sweetheart should sound just like that same grown man straining on a four-steak turtle-head and losing. You know: Matchbox 20.
Teenagers march in declaring exactly how the ticket seller can deal with himself and his seating allocations and sitting defiantly up the back.

Enter Tiresome Couple Number One. They are hunched over their tickets, checking the letters on each vacant row before arriving at whatever row Mele and Franzy ended up in the middle of. They edge along the row, checking each seat number. Finally Tiresome Woman Number One stops in front of Franzy's popcorn.

Tiresome Woman Number One (looking first at popcorn, then at Franzy, then at popcorn again): Is this ...? Would you ...? Does that ...? I got a ticket for ...? Can I ... just ...?

Franzy gazes glaze-eyed first at woman, then popcorn, then woman again. He picks up the box of popcorn just in time before
Tiresome Woman Number One engages the considerable landing gear and touches down, filling up the entire seat, right next to Franzy, in the middle of an almost entirely empty cinema. Franzy manages to keep his beefy arm glued to the armrest, but Tiresome Woman Number One is taking off her jacket, tossing her hair all over the damn place and generally acting as though she and Franzy were on a first and last date. Franzy and Mele share a second puzzled look, even more puzzled than the last.
Franzy, stubborn prick to the last, decides that he will die rather than move.

Enter
Tiresome Couple Number Two. They also carefully navigate the confusingly arranged seating using their tickets as treasure maps and arrive at the same destination, this time on Mele's side.
They check their tickets. They confer with one another. They check their numbers, their tickets, one another, the breeze and some handy fish entrails.
Mele and Franzy grit their teeth.

Tiresome Man Number Two (doing his Kindly-Cop-Produces-Arrest-Warrant bit with their ticket stubs):
Excuse me, what seats do you have?

Tweed Jacket Franzy (puffing on pipe): Bear in mind that the entire cinema is still empty at this point, some six minutes before the feature presentation is due to begin ...

Mele (sighing in a charming manner while looking about the cinema): These ones.
Tiresome Woman Number Two (tossing out a well-practised Anything To Avoid A Fuss Titter): Ha ha. Sorry, I mean: what does your ticket say?
Mele (turning to Franzy): What the fuck is going on here?
Franzy: I have no idea. (To
Tiresome Couple Number Two) I don't know. Do you want me to look? They're here somewhere.
Tiresome Couple Number Two watch Franzy and Mele slowly and unenthusiastically go through some of their things, digging in handbags and thrusting hips to reach low-access back pockets.
Tiresome Man Number Two (this time treating us all to his finest Traffic Cop Letting Young Driver Off With A Warning): Oh, look, don't worry about it.
Tiresome Woman Number Two (overbaked relief): Yes, we'll just sit up there.
S
he indicates the completely vacant row behind Mele and Franzy.
Tiresome Man Number Two (to Tiresome Woman Number Two as they shuffle back out):If anyone else comes along, it'll be tough luck.
Tiresome Woman Number Two: Here, it's just where we were supposed to be, but one seat back.
Tiresome Man Number Two: But if anyone comes along, it'll be tough luck.

No one else came along.

***
GTH - Oh lookie! Squib takes out two points! Hooray! Hooray for Squib!

An explanation of The Joy Division Litmus Test

Although it may now be lost in the mysts of thyme, the poll below is still relevant to this blog. In the winter of 2008, Mele and I went to live in Queensland. In order to survive, I bluffed my way into a job at a Coffee Club.
It was quite a reasonable place to work: the hours were regular, the staff were quite nice, it wasn't particularly taxing on my brain.
There were a few downsides: In the six weeks or so that I worked there, there was about a 90% staff turnover (contributed to by my leaving). This wasn't seen as a result of the low pay, the laughability of staff prices or the practice of not distributing tips to staff, rather it was blamed on the lack of work ethic among Bribie Island's youth.
However, one of the stranger aspects of the cultural isolation that touched our lives during our time "up there" was the fact that nobody at my work had heard of the band Joy Division.
The full explanation is available here.
But please, interact a little further and vote in my ongoing poll. The results are slowly mounting up, proving one thing: people read this blog are more well-informed about Joy Division than anyone who works at the Coffee Club on Bribie Island.

Have you heard of the band Joy Division?

Chinese food, not Chinese Internet!

Champions of Guess The Header

  • What is Guess The Header about? Let’s ask regular “Writing” reader, Shippy: "Anyway, after Franzy's stunning September, and having a crack at 'Guess The Header' for the first time - without truly knowing what I was doing mind you - I think I finally understand what 'GTH' is all about. At first I thought you needed to actually know what it was. Don't get me wrong — if you know what it is, it may help you. I now realise that it's more Franzy's way of invoking thought around an image or, more often than not, part of an image. If you dissect slightly the GTH explanatory sentence at the bottom of his blog you come up with this: “The photo is always taken by me and always connects in some way to the topic of the blog entry it heads up.” When the header is put up, the blog below it will in some obscure way have something to do with it. “Interesting comments are judged and scored arbitrarily and the process is open to corruption and bribery with all correspondence being entered into after the fact and on into eternity, ad infinitum amen.” Franzy judges it, but it's not always the GTH that describes the place perfectly that gets it. “The frequent commenters, the wits, the wags and the outright smartarses who, each entry, engage to both guess the origin and relevance of the strip of photo at the top (or “head”) of each new blog and also who leave what I deem the most interesting comment.” It generally helps if you're a complete smartarse and can twist things to mean whatever you feel they should mean - exactly the way Franzy would like things to be twisted." - Shippy Blogger and GTH point scorer.
  • Nai - 1
  • Lion Kinsman - 2
  • Will - 2
  • Brocky - 2
  • Andy Pants - 2
  • The 327th Male - 3
  • Mad Cat Lady - 3
  • Miles McClagen - 4
  • Myninjacockle - 4
  • Asheligh - 5
  • Neil - 5
  • Third Cat - 5
  • Adam Y - 6
  • Squib - 6
  • Mele - 6
  • Moifey - 7
  • Jono - 8
  • The Other, other Sam - 14
  • Kath Lockett - 15
  • Shippy - 19
  • River - 32