Tuesday, February 26, 2008

ANYONE not wearing two MILLION sunblock is going to have a really FUCKING BAD DAY!!!

I present: T1.

I know Terminator is on TV now. I've watched it and it rubbed my brain up the right way a couple of times, but I just don't have the patience for the non-Cameronesque filming and the Ahnold-less dialogue. Lena Heady does a good job, the cutie chick robot needs more jokes and the thing that made all the Terminators from the movies good was their personalities. Please don't bother hitting the comments page to make ironic little quips about the lack of engaging renaissance-style wit possessed by action heroes in general because it ain't what they say, it's how they say it, when, where and with how many weapons. The Terminators I've seen in the TV show are just big tough guys who got chosen because that's what they looked like. They needed to be chosen for their resemblance to what an artificially intelligent computer defence system has gleaned to be appropriately human-like in both looks and behaviour. See how complicated and dorky TV shows need to be nowadays to actually be worth anything? I'm re-reading Chris Turner's excellent book Planet Simpson (which I have discussed before) and taking note of the interesting things he has to say about the effect that The Simpsons has had on television comedy and comedy in general. He talks about the Freeze Frame Fun gags, wherein the writers would decorate the backgrounds of each scene with hilarious jokes, ads, graffiti and other writings that actually move past too fast for the casual viewer to take in. Due to the (now not) endlessly repeated nature of The Simpsons in syndication, we now all take care to read all the signs in the background of Simpsons shows precisely because they are funny. Family Guy has inherited (stolen) this trait and any other comedy movie or TV show worth watching makes the entire world it depicts funny, not just the dialogue going on between two actors (Naked Gun, The Incredibles, The Iron Giant, 40 Year Old Virgin, Drawn Together). This has resulted in a decline in the effect that previously hilarious shows have upon me, the obsessively observant viewer. Last night I watch Bedazzled, the original 1970s version. It was still funny, but only a bit funny. Something funny would happen and the laughter would stop almost as it began because it was only funny on one level. Pigeon shits on toff's hat. Funny. Dudley Moore fooled into being a nun. Funny. But that was all, because since comedy began to become a real art, the question is no longer 'Why is that funny?', but 'Why else is that funny?'

Sorry to come off all snooty and boring, but recently my church has been dismantled. It is no longer possible to watch The Simpsons on free-to-air television. Every day now at 6pm when I've finish working I ... nothing. I sit forlornly in my bean bag and stare at the wall.

GTH - Points go to River for her public conversion and to a personal hero of mine, Adam Y, for the best suggestion I've heard in years.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Monday Morning Spook-Out!!

Did you know ... ?

creationism is being taught in science classes in increasing numbers?
That these same schools are teaching sex education to their students through a program called "No Apologies" that asks their students to sign pledges that promise that they will remain virgins until marriage?
That this isn't one of those Only In America! bits of whimsy that normally gets trotted out by chortling bloggers from the rest of the world to snigger at a superpower, but are actually facts culled from an in-depth story from The Age about Australian religious schools?
That I'm actually shaking a little as I type this?

I've written about religion before and decided that it was largely a good thing for those who used it to find personal happiness. This report found that under the Howard Government there has been an increase in independent schools because of the educational funding models he brought in that were an attempt to get exactly this kind of thing to happen: lots of little religious schools setting themselves up so that education would either be cheap or espousing of the kind of teachings that would make more Australians fall under Johnny's ideal of what makes an Australian Australian.

And now we've actually got classrooms in this secular nation where this kind of thing happens (taken from The Age's in-depth report on faith-based education in Australia):

IT'S Friday morning and the combined year five-six class at Red Rock Christian College is conducting its Bible study and Christian living class. It's straight to the point: a reading from Peter's second epistle. "For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to Hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons ..." a child reads out loud.
"What are the consequences of us making the wrong choices?" asks teacher Victoria Carey.
"Death!" a cheeky boy shouts.
Ms Carey moves on: "And what are some good choices?"
"Watching movies you're allowed to and hanging out with the right people," comes the answer.
"That's right, it's easier to do the right things when you're hanging out with people who are doing the right things," Carey observes.

Anybody care to join me for a good shudder in terror?

And Murphy is, of course, the winner, but only slightly because of two reasons: one) he missed the point of connecting the photo to the post and two) he might have actually spotted himself and his own good old Dimage G500 in the picture ...

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Music: Proof that nobody is ever cool

Recent conversation with Triton's annoyingly-talented 13-year-old sister, Izabella:

We are looking through her iTunes music library, which she has recently replenished with a bag of CDs donated by yours truly.

Izabella: So, what's your favourite band?
Franzy: Uh ...
Izabella: Or bands, whatever
Franzy (Thinking in high gear of something he has been listening to recently that throw a thoughtful curve-ball to a school-cool 13-year-old who is into music): Oh ... um ... ah, okay, how about this: lately I've been listening to ... Timbaland.
Izabella (polite smile): Right.

While I find Timbaland's production work quite interesting in the way he uses odd samples and unique beat structures and often very dance-hall/techno sounds, there is no denying the fact that he has boosted the careers just about every bubbly pop artist around. He is in no way cool, hip or attached with any cultural cred whatsoever. And thus, neither am I.

And so, without further ado, I present two music videos for your delectation. Neither of them relate to Timbaland, but both are worth watching.

It might help to imagine the "Green and Groovy" one going for the neck.

Thanks to Jimmythins for putting me onto what could be the song of 2008. Already. Boop-a-doop-a-doop!


Why, oh why is the Fringe parade always on a chilly, rainy evening? I'm almost glad that Mele isn't feeling well so that we get to stay at home ...


GTH - Milly Moo (aka Kath Lockett) for her stories of sweat.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Wet Writing

Who else suffers in the heat? Is it just me? It's 1am and I'm exAAWWsted from a day of playing cricket, driving, hockey, more driving and stuffing myself with Greek food but I can't bear to lay down on a thick mattress because the sweat demons will get me. Sweat has only become an issue with me since my early-to-mid twenties. It must be hereditary because I have a very clear memory of going with Dad when he played squash and looking at the plastic chair that he sat in after a tough game and being amazed at how his sweat actually left a pool in the concave seat.
When I took up netball a few years ago I used to play it in a large tin shed without much airflow. After a forty minute game (36 minutes? Help me out here Moifey) I would literally be dripping. The moisture would run off my nose, eyebrows, elbows and knuckles and hit the floor as though coming from a leaky tap. I used to put away a two litre bottle of water per game.
That seemed to start the next stage in my development. Since then, I've become a sweater. All clothes, once worn in anything other than chilly weather, need laundering. When I first moved in with Mele this created a few arguments when she would do the week's washing and find herself hanging up ten or so t-shirts. The
arguments ceased when she encountered one of my just-worn shirts.
At hockey today, an opposition player had cause to put his hand on my back during the second half.
'That's disgusting!' he cried, wiping his palm on his relatively dry shorts.
'That's what you get,' I replied. 'And good luck getting the stains off!'
I thought I had grown out of waking up wet, but here I am some undisclosed years later, coming to in the early morning literally drenched. I often have to shower twice in a row. Once to wash myself and again to rinse off the sweat that instantly covers me from head to toe when I step out of the shower to dry myself.

Since I'm still up late I'll relate a little writing story that I've been practising on a few friends over the past couple of days. I'm not satisfied with the way I tell it, so maybe just explaining the events will illustrate it better. I see as a fine example of the unique juxtaposition of internal lives that writer experiences. I hope I can get it out before the laptop shorts out from my leaking wrists.

I have taken to writing in cafes recently. Despite the noise and the people and the cost of a cup of coffee, my work-rate increases hugely over whatever I achieve at home. I believe that this is because at home, no one is watching me so I can get away with checking my email, the weather, the news, eBay, my downloads, my email again, watering the plants, making a sandwich, stirring around pieces of important paper and checking my email for the third time in ten minutes.
At a cafe however, I am sitting there with my silver laptop open at a table and when people look at what I'm doing, if I don't at least appear to be hard at work, then I am just the wanker who brings his laptop to a cafe to check his email and look cool. I chose a particular cafe in Norwood primarily because it has no wireless internet and a comfortable row of bench seats along one wall. I generally sit next to the little staff table for no reason other than I'm a stubborn old creature of habit. The owner of the cafe recognises me and says hello on occasion, but none of the other staff really care to engage me otherwise (also a good work motivator).

This little scene happened just this week. I'm sitting at my table and working over a scene I've written out, but needs going over and tightening and finesseing. Missing words added, tenses fixed, over-long sentences torpedoed with a full-stop or two, that sort of thing. The owner comes and sits down next to me at the little staff table and this time he does engage me in conversation. He says that he has seen me working there a lot and asks me what I do (politely, not what I'm doing). I tell him I'm a writer and a student and he tells me that he likes to read and often thinks that he would like to tell a few of his own stories. I tell him that telling stories is why I'm studying writing and the craft of it is mostly down to hard work and slogging it out at the computer every day. We exchange further platitudes and he wishes me well in my work and I turn back to the sentence I was working on. I read it over and notice a missing piece.
'Aha,' I think. 'I know what this character needs to say to make this little remark make sense.'
I add in the word 'fuck' and feel very pleased with myself.

And that, my friends, is where twenty years of writing craft has gotten me: knowing when to schmooze and when to insert the word 'fuck'.

GTH - The points must go to Milly for the sad story.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Taken from the ABC report on The Apology in Adelaide:

A critic of the formal apology is Port Lincoln mayor Peter Davis.
He says he can't see it making any difference to the real problems facing Aborigines.
"As for instance granting equal citizenship the 1967 referendum, the same euphoria from the same southern (and I'm not being disrespectful) 'do good' sectors resulted in no real physical or mental better wellbeing for Aboriginal people," he said."

This is probably the same guy who doesn't let his children have a party and cake and singing on their birthdays. What good would it do?

I got a little bit emotional this morning watching it on television. Those stories hurt. I suppose I could understand what Nelson was meaning when he had to blah on about war veterans - that an apology for past actions doesn't mean a blanket of shame over everything - but if you don't understand that by now, then a politician's speech isn't going to educate you.

I think the difficulty that Australians who are against it have with the apology is a lack of understanding of what it means to the Stolen Generations and Aborigines in general. I think that in the decade of silence since the Bringing Them Home report was first issued, John Howard has taught Australians to act their political lives on a purely personal level and encouraged the belief that everyone was entirely responsible for their own circumstances. This equated to an attitude that those in need had, in whatever small way, placed themselves there. They were to blame for their situations. He took this attitude right to the end when he took full responsibility for the Liberals' election defeat.
But his ten years of "You Look Out For Yourself" policy had the effect of telling Australians that they were never, ever wrong, as long as they never admitted it. You can have a four-wheel-drive, as long as you don't feel bad about it. You can buy anything you want (education, health, etc) as long as you earn the money to pay for it.
The Stolen Generations and their request for an apology didn't fit into that brand of "self" politics. John Howard had trained the political hearts of Australians to look no further than their own immediate influences and something as complicated as assenting to an apology on their behalf by a democratically elected government in the present made on behalf of previous governments for now-overturned well-meaning-yet-horrifically-catastrophic policies that have effected all aspects of life for a specific group of people is just too far removed from the Howard-era mindset that truly believes that since they didn't physically take the children away then there's nothing that they can offer. Regret. Sure. That must have been tough, but you were only a little kid and plenty of people have had tough lives and have really pulled their finger out in this great land of opportunity and really made something of themselves.
These people can't get it through their skulls that they are not the ones saying sorry. They are not responsible in the way that Howard has taught them they were (or could be). They are also not the ones who have lived with racism and the pain of decimated families. To paraphrase Brendan Nelson in this morning's speech: I challenge any of those detractors to visit the Aboriginal communities where the results of past Australian governmental policy are all around and truthfully say that they wish they had been born there.

Sorry doesn't fix anything on a practical level, it doesn't bring families back together. But, for the people who needed to hear it, hearing it from the government they needed to hear it from, it does make a difference. It makes it a little bit better.

But what now?


Update: Further quote from Pt Lincoln mayor in a new variation of ABC story: "

"I mean, to me life is a lottery whether one is Aboriginal or black or white or blue or brindle.
"As far as I'm concerned [it] makes no difference; the past is past, we've got to make our life into the future.
"And I can tell you I personally have no sorrying to do, nor have I on behalf of the Port Lincoln community." (bolding mine)

Sort of proves my point really...

Sometimes I use the shard to pick my teeth

It's been a day for writing all around. The blog is really coming into its own name! Well ... the blog's author.
In keeping with the last post about the long essays I tend to bombard other people's comments pages with, I duly posted a long screed on Audrey's latest blog post (an article about the criminal human rights abuses that take place in Iran under the banner of 'religion') that actually concluded in an imaginary conversation between a Christian
fundamentalist and a Muslim fundamentalist.
I present it for your puzzlement below:

Sometimes I think it's a good thing that fundamentalist christians and muslims hate each other SSOOOOO much, because can you imagine what it would be like if they actually got together?
FC: Ah think thayt women should NOT be allowed to drive! No suh!
FM: Me neither! Those dirty sluts are always choosing their own clothes and thinking their own thoughts! It drives me crazy!
FC: Ah'm with you pardner! Drahves me raht up tha wall! Women in public ... hrm hrm ... BLASPHEMY!
FM: Yes! Blasphemy! Stone them! Stone them to death!
FC: Really? You can do that?
FM: Yes! Our holy book says it's okay!
FC: Is that true? What a great idea! Where does it say that?
FM: It doesn't ... really. Strictly speaking ... but if you read it in the right way it does!
FC: What if'n a woman tries to find out what's goin' on and change that law?
FM: Stone her! To death!
FC: Awl Raht!
FM: Let's be best friends and lock up all the women!
FC: Put her there pal!
FM: Death to the infidel!
FC: Let's get some ribs!
FM: How about KFC instead?
FC: Deal!

But that isn't the only writing in what I promised would be a blog full of it. 327 sent me an excellent link to a writer called John Scalzi, a very successful freelance writer, who has just published an article called '
Unasked-For Advice to New Writers About Money'. As I wrote to 327 earlier, I'm quite proud to say that I both know and have followed most of the ten excellent pieces of monetary advice he sets out in the piece.
All except number three. And I'm darn proud of it.

And finally, after sharing a sad coffee last night with The Shorter Ginga before her departure for greener, quieter, more round-about-filled pastures this morning, I found myself heart-thumpingly awake and full of caffeinated vim at 2am. So I Googled myself of course (*insert smarty-pants reference to masturbation here*)
and I discovered that my first ever properly published story, and also the reason Mele and I met, is now online in the form of a Google Book!

If you haven't read it before, then I must assure you that the main set piece is based upon a true story.


GTH - River and Milly went neck and neck with this one, so I'm awarding a point to each (from hazy boozy memory it is the Port Augusta chimney you're looking at there. But I'm also going to award double points to Jono for the most interesting comment. Thus is a new rule added to the GTH Points Tally! Yes, aside from guessing the picture, I'm giving out kudos to the person who leaves the most interesting comment. Correspondence will be entered into, bribes will be taken.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

At last, an entry that matches the title

I often find myself reading the (excellent) blogs of friends and becoming inspired by their posts. That inspiration generally manifests itself in a long rambling comment on their blog which they may or may not care for, but which I wish I had written on my own blog.

So when Shippy included a frankly glowing reference to me in his own blog I felt moved to respond. About halfway through my answer, I realised that it was actually full of things that I wanted to share with others and keep the glory for myself MWAHAAAGARH!! So, I present below my response to Shippy's post on Talent:

Mate ... I'm truly touched. And not 'touched' in the church carpark sense of the word either. It's a genuinely flattering thing you've written about me up there and I appreciate it.

What makes a writer? Writing.
What makes a talented writer? Work. You know that boring old saying about 10% inspiration 90% perspiration? It's bloody true. Michelangelo once said "If people knew how hard I worked for my mastery, then it wouldn't seem so wonderful after all". Then again, he was a mutated amphibian.
Most of the writers I know also share a thick skin. I've gone through undergraduate and postgraduate courses and the people who hung around through all of it were the ones who came back for more. Who were told "75% of what you've written here is bullshit and the other 25% is just boring" and took that as a challenge to improve, rather than a final statement on the very best their hearts had to offer.
I've also come to the opinion lately that every single writer is also, somewhere deep in their systems, an inherently selfish, self-absorbed personality. I just think that you have to be. You truly need a rock solid streak of unrepentant, blind self-confidence to believe that what you're writing down is interesting and valuable enough to other people for them to read it. I think it's called the shard of ice in the heart (or something more poetic). Every writer has it. It's that thin, dark flicker on the edge of one's vision in every situation that whispers 'I could use this!'. I think Jono would be able to tell me who the famous author was who recounted that even at his own mother's funeral (or some such personally traumatic event) he was still visited by that cold little flash that carefully noted down every feeling and emotion for exploitation on paper at a later date.

Shippy, I think if your talent lies with people and happiness you can't bloody lose.


GTH - Nice try, River, but no points I'm afraid. The header was a genuine, life-size car known as The Redback Spyder. An Australian-made two seater road-going (?) race car.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Film School. Lesson One.

Triton and myself have been toying with making films for a couple of years now. I believe our first effort was a stunt piece with Triton filming me attempting to consume a hamburger in a single bite while driving a rented car at 100km/h. In New Zealand.
Our second attempt was a Lego animation piece called The Crazy Count, which contained no animation. Here it is below.

Late last year you all enjoyed the single shot masterpiece that was my birthday invitation.
The basic flaw with all of our film-making efforts has been lack of planning. Having both been involved in the creative arts since we were old enough to remember, we often take process a little easy, relying on basic skill and spontaneous talent honed from years of falling over for the benefit of small children.
The creative process on the birthday invitation was me thinking about it for a few minutes each night before I went to bed and then luring Triton over with a promise of beer and perhaps, like, you know, making a little movie or something. We were lucky with that one because we planned it on the run and it was a simple concept. We were unlucky because it turned out just as good as we hoped it would, teaching us no lessons about actually working out what the hell it is you're going to do before you run out the door and start filming everything.

Our latest effort, an audition tape for the Australian version of Top Gear, was just such a learning experience. After talking about it for weeks and regularly promising "To go out and film a few cool things" it came down to a boozy Saturday night at Triton's new house on the final weekend before auditions were due.

'Right. Tomorrow. Definitely. We gotta go film this Top Gear thing.'
'Yeah. YEAH. How about ten thirty? Let's give ourselves time. Be here and pick me up at ten thirty.'

At one thirty in the afternoon I opened my crusty eyes, popped a few panadeines and felt a great deal of relief that Triton had not followed through on his offer of a ten thirty wake-up call. However, it only left us with around three hours to conceive, script,
location scout, rehearse and film a ten minute audition tape with enough panache and quality to actually make it worth doing in the first place. So we went to Vili's - a well-known 24 hour pie factory - to work out what to do. Fortunately, since Vili's is located in an industrial area, it also turned out to be A Brilliant Idea In The First Place. Filming was another matter. We recorded about half an hour of me standing knocked-kneed in front of my car saying 'Um' and occasionally breaking out into dance and then we called it a day.
What we produced was a rag-tag bunch of shots that bore also no resemblance to one another, so I spent every night that week editing the piece together and recording dodgy voice-overs in an attempt to thread the thing together. It was like getting all the lumpy bits from the bottom of the biscuit barrel and attempting to assemble a complete biscuit.
On the Thursday before the tapes were due, I spent eight hours straight in front of the computer editing and looking at the clock. It's fascinating the brilliant ideas you come up with and jettison when time is running short. The good news is that I did actually finish, render, burn the thing to DVD, fill out the application form (with fuck knows what) and make it to the post office in time for an Express Post delivery to Sydney. The bad news is that I went home and discovered that I had included a doubled-up sequence in the video, one without voice over, of an inexplicably silent pan over my car's dusty dash, followed by the same shot with me saying the car's dash isn't so pretty to look at. And I did that twice.
That isn't the version you see below. Pride made me edit at least that bit out, but I didn't go back and add in any music or extraneous clips. All you see below is me reasonably hung-over and attempting to sound scripted and knowledgeable off the top of my head. A complete biscuit.

Goes to Murphmeister for his speed, his creativity, his connections ... and his recent engagement to a lovely young lass in Florence.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Franzy's Law #3

If your cookbooks don't have food stains in them, then you probably aren't doing it right.


I was in a book shop yesterday and saw Maggie Beer's foray into the cooking bible market Maggie's Food. It looks delightful and has an embroided cover and the recipes are divided into the seasons and there are whole sections on loquats and rabbit. It costs $125 and is around three inches thick. It looks as though it would be more at home on a lectern than bench top. Heck, it is a bench top. Only you wouldn't cook on a padded, porous bench top because it would soak up whatever you spilled into it. Same with Maggie's Food. It is such a beautiful object that you would hesitate before getting anywhere near anything sticky or decomposable. It is truly a tome to be treasured ... but not cooked with. If you were cooking your artichokes with waxy potatoes from the thing it would be a true pain in the arse to keep running out to the seminary to check how much verjuice to use.

So, get your cookbooks dirty, I say! Stand them up with the cutting board and let the sweet stains of chopped herbs and fragrant fresh blood splash the pages! Make the food your bookmarks! 'Have I cooked this before? Aha! The transparency of peanut oil! I remember now! It was delicious!'
And so forth.

Cookbooks should be designed like bathtime books, made of bendable durable plastic. But then they'd be too easy to wipe clean again ... hmm ...

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