Rambo and Me

The character of John Rambo has been a guilty pleasure of mine from the beginning.

Not from the VERY beginning, mind, since that would rewind us all the way back to 1972. That was the year the overwrought Vietnam War veteran named ‘Rambo’ (the addition of a first name came courtesy of the films) first came to public attention via author David Morrell‘s debut novel. (Morrell has since gone on to write a great many other books, including 27 more novels HERE ).

This is a book that has never been out of print in 47 years, has been translated into 30 different languages and has been taught in classrooms.

Yet John Rambo and I have had what people would rightly label a thing since the day the first movie came out. I remember walking out of the cinema after seeing FIRST BLOOD and feeling like I’d just been put through an emotional eggbeater. It was brains-into-putty affecting for me. I was 16 years old.

By the time the second movie came out three years later I was a University student. Amongst some members of the lentil-eating, left-leaning crowd I was rubbing shoulders with at that time, admitting you were a fan of monosyllabic, warmongering John Rambo was enough to have someone play darts with a picture of your face and run you out of town.

I hasten to add this image bears no physical resemblance to me whatsoever. I’ve never owned a gun, I’ve never had my ears pierced and I’ve definitely never ACCESSORIZED with live hand GRENADES. I’ll admit I did take to sporting a bandanna for a brief time back around this period. Hey, it was the eighties!

Three years on again and with the third movie about to hit cinemas, I was by that time writing film, music and theatre reviews for a handful of small press publications. I remember sitting in a preview-screening theatrette with a handful of very serious-looking television and newspaper critics of the day.

At the end of the screening I mustered the courage to approach a newspaper film critic who was at that time Brisbane’s answer to Pauline Kael . I sought her opinion on whether she considered films like RAMBO 3 could be held responsible for inspiring real-life violence, a debate that was in full swing at the time.

I can’t remember what she said but I know it was very short. No doubt I’d been hoping to claim the privilege of an extended conversation with one of the heavyweight opinion-shapers of the day. Instead she blithely swatted me aside like the garden-variety, over-reaching young upstart mosquito she very obviously took me for.

No matter. I got to keep some impressive-looking glossy press kit pics of Stallone going hell for leather on his .50 cal mounted machine gun. Come to think of it, I wonder what ever happened to those prized pics? For a long time they were amongst my most treasured possessions. Draw a breath while I say it for you – there’s no accounting for taste. Right? Yeah, especially mine. Back then!

Before I detail my thoughts on the latest incarnation of Rambo to hit multiplexes worldwide – having gone to see it yesterday – I will document the official body counts for all five films in addition to my personal rating for each.

With the level of depravity witnessed in LAST BLOOD, each of its inflicted deaths is worth the equivalent of five kills in any of the other, by comparison, far more tame Rambo films. This then actually blows out its kill count to past 300, making RAMBO: LAST BLOOD the king of kills.

RAMBO: LAST BLOOD has attracted it’s share of one star reviews (HERE) (HERE)(HERE)(HERE)(HERE). That’s about as unsurprising as hearing an American combat soldier during the Vietnam war complain their M-16 rifle jammed. The Rambo franchise has always copped a good face-smashing from critics.

The latest film, however, has the distinction of also being publicly disowned by no less an individual then the person who first created the character of John Rambo, author David Morrell. The renown writer has said he is embarrassed to have his name associated in any way with the film. In interviews (HERE) he has been quoted as saying the kindest thing he could say about the film is ‘it’s first two minutes were promising.”

Stallone and author David Morrell on the set of Rambo III in 1987. Back then Rambo’s creator was still a fan of the film series.

Overall, I found RAMBO: LAST BLOOD to be a solid actioner. The problem with it is that the action – or to be more precise rough brutal justice – that’s dished out is virtually indistinguishable from the types of comeuppance metered out to bad guys by just about every other gold standard film vigilante hero you can name.

The type of savage punishment inflicted on the badder-than-bad hombres in RAMBO: LAST BLOOD could just have easily been at the hands of Bruce Willis resurrecting his John McClane character from the DIE HARD movies.

Or perhaps Liam Neeson going through his paces in another TAKEN. Denzel Washington would have been another actor easily up to the task with his Robert McCall persona from THE EQUALIZER series. Hell, throw them all in if you like – Clint ‘GRAN TORINOEastwood, Charles ‘DEATH WISH’ Bronson, even my old mate KeanuJOHN WICKReeves.

VIGILANTES R’ US

Will the real JOHN RAMBO please step forward?

Point is RAMBO:LAST BLOOD is the least ‘military’ of all the Rambo films and much more like a mostly mechanical-feeling, by-the-numbers civilian revenge flick. By stark contrast, the distinction of the first movie was it had soulful moments – lots of soulful moments.

From the opening when Rambo’s told by the mother of his war buddy Delmore Berry he’s died the previous summer from Agent Orange induced cancer to Stallone’s final tear-splattered speech at the end before he reaches, child-like, for the embrace of father-figure Colonel Trautman (a part originally intended for Kirk Douglas but played sublimely by Richard Crenna), FIRST BLOOD (1982) was a movie infused from start to finish with what another character made famous by Sylvester Stallone, Rocky Balboa, would have described as ‘Heart and Soul’.

In it’s place in this latest outing we’re delivered buckets of blood and limb-tearing violence and cruelty the likes of which both Michael Myers (HALLOWEEN) and Jason Vorhees (FRIDAY THE 13TH) would be proud to call their own.

The R-rating is well and truly deserved. This is Rambo not just sticking in his signature serrated-edge hunting knife into his enemies but also twisting the blade. Then twisting some more.

In one scene, one of the Mexican drug cartel cutthroats that’s just fallen through a hidden trap-door and well and truly impaled himself on a bed of razor-sharp punji sticks is than further obliterated by a full 30 round magazine of bullets fired in hate by Rambo‘s Colt M16A1 machine gun.

Overkill was never the way of a trained special-forces soldier like John Rambo. Yet despite all the vengeance-seeking, LAST BLOOD remains strangely emotionally flat for just about all of its running length.

The only real nod given in the film to Rambo’s distinguished military background and training, apart from the HOME ALONE-style traps he sets for his pursuers back at his horse ranch/farm in the film’s finale, is the inclusion of the network of underground tunnels he has installed on his farm, presumably as some type of hobby-amusement to keep boredom at bay.

This part of the film reminded me of one of the best books I’ve read on the Vietnam War. THE TUNNELS OF CU CHI is a truly fascinating account of the discovery of a network of tunnels around Saigon during the Vietnam War and the resulting underground fighting between Viet Cong guerrillas and American special forces for control of those tunnels.

Since the soldiers who were selected to go down into those man-made tunnels on missions to hunt-down enemy Viet Cong soldiers – amid snakes, rats and booby-traps – were of necessity small-framed and wiry men, I always pictured myself as a ‘tunnel-rat’ in my imaginings about the Vietnam war. Ooops… digressing there!

As solid a civilian-themed action/revenge film LAST BLOOD is, it’s obviously not the military-hero film some fans of the series had been hoping for. In seeking to understand that mismatch, it helps to delve into some of the background development of the story. It begins with the myriad of rewrites that ensued after Millennium Films originally green-lit the movie way back in August 2009 with Stallone set to write, direct and star. (Rambo: Last Blood is directed by American Adrian Grunberg).

After years of on-again-off-again announcements, stalled meetings, creative differences and funding shortfalls, in 2015 Stallone and Rambo creator David Morrell re-developed the story for Rambo V; the actor wanted a ‘soulful journey’ for the character that the author described as a ‘really emotional, powerful story’.

Stallone pitched the idea to the producers, but they wanted to proceed with a human trafficking story instead (this is the central plot that is indeed the focus for Rambo: Last Blood) prompting Stallone and Morrell to abandon it. 

In October 2015, Stallone pondered on the possibility of a prequel, stating: “It’s intriguing to find the whys and wherefores of how people have become what they are. The traumas, the loss and the tragedy of being in Vietnam would certainly be a great challenge for a young actor, and it would be ironic that Rambo directs younger Rambo having played it for twenty years plus”.

In 2016, Stallone revealed that Rambo V was no longer in production. Principal photography for the movie that eventually did get made began in October of last year in Bulgaria.

Despite the end-of-the-line sounding name, there is genuine hope that Rambo: Last Blood may not be the last audiences see of the veteran film war hero.

During this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Stallone said he would continue portraying Rambo if the fifth film succeeded. Only a few weeks ago Stallone confirmed that he has plans for a prequel to the series. Although he would not reprise the title role, he was quoted as saying he would like to explore who Rambo was before the war:

I always thought of Rambo when he was 16 or 17 – I hope they can do the prequel – he was the best person you could find. He was the captain of the team; he was the most popular kid in school; and the war changed him.

A character study movie of that ilk is one I would see as a worthwhile addition to the franchise.

IT’S A FILM I’D LOVE TO SEE MADE.

Ps. The guy in this video rates the Rambo films in the exact order of quality I do. Coincidence? Or can I finally stop looking for my film critic soul-mate? Either way, for the final word on John Rambo check this out …

Pss. Did I say final word? Of course I meant this would be the final word…

FIRST BLOOD, the novel written by David Morrell, may have come out in 1972 but here’s something I bet you didn’t know. Another novel, titled THE FIRST BLOOD, was published the year before that in 1971.

As well as being a comic book artist, American author Lou Cameron (1924 – 2010) was indeed a prolific writer, with more than 300 books bearing his name.

His work usually boasted muscular, no-nonsense prose through a prism of wry cynicism, sharp observation and a signature combination of gusto with pulp-style gritty realism. He was also considered an expert at devising unexpected, 11th hour plot twists. Now you know.

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All-Time Top 50 TV Series

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There’s a trick some folk can do where they tuck the top of their ear lobe into their ear canal, place a skittle or M & M on it and then wait until the ear tip pops out and the candy (as the Americans call it) catapults across the room.

I’ve never been able to do it, despite for some mysterious reason making several attempts to try. At a certain point in everyone’s life they’re forced to admit the truth of where their real abilities lie.

I’m now comfortable saying I’m no painter of portraits, can’t disassemble a car engine (without a stick of gelignite) and I’ve never come what you’d call close to solving a Rubik’s cube. My crocheting-a-woolen-blanket abilities are likewise dead in the water.

Two things I have always been pretty handy at however are riding a bicycle hands free (apart from that time in the 5th grade when I spectacularly came off while careening down a Mt Everest-sized hill at 50 km/hr while a dozen friends watched on atop) and viewing  television.

The list that follows is dedicated to the countless hours I’ve spent over the decades perfecting the latter. There’s nothing heroic on my part doing all that, I realize, but there was an awful lot of pleasure.

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If it’s true what they say about one test of  love is the ability to watch someone else’s boring TV programs, then best prepare yourself now for a mixed bag of shows perfectly suited to probably no one else’s taste except my own – and maybe a handful of other folk still kicking on from the TV viewing stone-age.

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Given that this list is dominated by shows from my impressionable youth, it goes to prove the idea, I think, that nothing dates a person more than their taste in television. And that ‘nothing’ includes both music and movies, the two of which are frequently reincarnated under the same names for newer generations, which admittedly sometimes also happens in the world of television, but to a far lesser extent.

Sadly, I couldn’t find a way to squeeze into this list such staples of 20th century pop culture as STARSKY AND HUTCHMORK AND MINDY or LAVERNE AND SHIRLEY. I also felt pretty bad about not including Hall of Fame Australian shows from yesteryear such as BLUE HEELERS, MATLOCK POLICE and AEROBICS OZ STYLE(Possibly joking about the last one) Even SKIPPY got culled to the B-list when the tough decisions had to be made.

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With the introduction and explanations out of the way what else is there left to do but get on with the show…er, shows!

WATCH!

1.

Eleven Seasons – 255 Episodes – 1974 -1984  (USA)

View a clip here

or here

2.

Three Seasons – 83 Episodes – 1965 – 1967 (USA)

3.

Five Seasons – 138 Episodes – 1965 – 1969 (USA)

4.

Three Seasons – 63 Episodes – 1972 – 1975 (USA)

5.

Three Seasons – 98 Episodes – 1964 – 1967 (USA)

6.

FivSeasons – 99 Episodes – 1974 – 1978 (USA)

7.

Five Seasons – 152 Episodes – 1962 -1966 (USA)

8.

One Season – 14 Episodes – 1974 (USA)

9.

One Season – 64 Episodes  – 1981- 1982 (Australia)

10.

Seven Seasons – 74 Episodes – 1969 – 1973 (Britain)

11
Five Seasons – 82 Episodes – 1977 – 1982 (USA)

12

Two Seasons – 51 Episodes – 1968 – 1970 (USA)

13
One season – 30 Episodes – 1966 – 1967 (USA)

14

Two Seasons – 57 episodes – 1966 -1968 (USA)

15

Three Seasons – 79 Episodes – 1966 – 1969 (USA)

16

Five Seasons – 117 Episodes – 1969 – 1973 (USA)

17

Seven Series – 54 Episodes – 1972 -1976 (Britain)

18

Three Seasons – 120 Episodes – 1966-1968 (USA)

19

Eight Seasons –1114 Episodes – 1976 – 1983 (Australia)

20

Three Seasons – 58 Episodes – 1976 – 1978 (USA)

21

Nine Seasons – 207 Episodes – 1998 – 2007 (USA)

22

The Third Doctor – Jon Pertwee – Four Seasons – 128 Episodes – 1970 – 1974 (Britain)

23

Three Series – 23 Episodes – 1973 – 1978 (Britain)

24

Eight Seasons – 582 Episodes  1977 – 1984 (Australia)

25

Five Series – 38 Episodes – 1976 – 1979 (Britain)

26

Ten self-contained Story Arcs – 128 Episodes – 1962 -1965 (Japan)

27

Four Seasons – 95 Episodes – 1975 – 1979 (USA)

28

Eight Seasons – 172 Episodes – 1977 – 1984 (USA)

29

Eight Seasons – 692 Episodes – 1979 – 1986 (Australian)

30

Seven Seasons – 176 Episodes – 1982 -1989 (USA)

31

Seven Seasons – 301 Episodes – 1969 – 1975 (Australian)

32

One Season – 6 Episodes – 1981 (Britain)

33

Nine Seasons – 202 Episodes – 1976 – 1985 (USA)

34

Eight Seasons – 178 Episodes – 1973 – 1980 (USA)

35

Six Seasons – 144 Episodes – 1978 – 1974 (USA)

36

Four Seasons – 138 Episodes – 1962 – 1966 (USA)

37

Twelve Seasons – 510 episodes – 1964 – 1977 (Australian)

38

Five Seasons – 150 Episodes – 1964 – 1969 (USA)

39

Six Seasons – 40 Episodes – 1973 – 1976 (Britain)

40

Six Seasons – 118 Episodes  2005 – 2010 (USA)

41

One Season – 8  Episodes – 2011 – 2013 (Britain)

42

Four Seasons – 55 Episodes – 1968 – 1972 (Britain)

43

Five Seasons – 114 Episodes –1970 -1975 (USA)

44

Five Seasons – 88 Episodes – 1995 – 1999 (USA)

45

Five Seasons – 62 Episodes – 1989 -1996 (Australian)

46

Eight Seasons –  254 Episodes – 1964 – 1972 (USA)

47 A

Four Series – 25 Episodes – 2006 – 2010 (Britain)

48

Five Seasons – 121 Episodes – 1972 -1977 (USA)

49

Two Seasons – 12 Episodes – 1982 -1984 (Britain)

50

Two Series – 12 Episodes – 2017 – 2018 (Britain)

They Called Him Bruce

Back when I was a kid, my friends and I felt certain we knew how martial arts movie star Bruce Lee died.

It was by Dim Mak, a kind of kung-fu death touch delt out by masters who were angry Lee was revealing their secrets on screen. That was our theory. It was nonsense of course, but American author Matthew Polly does address it in his very detailed book (616 pages) BRUCE LEE: A LIFE, published last year.

Author Matthew Polly https://mattpolly.com/ is a former Rhodes Scholar who spent two years studying Kung Fu at the Shaolin Temple in China (he wrote a best seller about that entitled AMERICAN SHAOLIN)

Bruce Lee‘s estate apparently does not like talking about his death. Polly speculates that’s maybe because he died not at home as first reported, but in the nearby flat of his mistress, actor Betty Ting Pei, who is still alive today aged 72 and who was interviewed by Polly for the book.

Bruce Lee‘s cause of death is still shrouded in mystery to some degree, though many now agree it may have been an allergic reaction to a headache pill made worse by some underlying health issues related to the physical extremes of Lee’s martial arts training.

Polly spent six months in Hong Kong researching his book and was worried at first no one would talk to him. But when film producer Raymond Chow (who died just 4 months after the book was published in 2018) and Betty Ting both agreed to talk, he knew he was on his way to being able to definitely chart Bruce Lee‘s life and times in meticulously researched worthy detail (included, if you can believe this, are a hundred pages of pithy and revelatory footnotes).

Bruce Lee was the poster boy for the little guy fighting (and winning) way above his weight. He weighed 64 kg during his Hollywood hey-day and stood 5 foot eight inches tall. I weigh 68 kg and stand five foot nine inches. I’ve always found a lot to like about him, though I wonder if millennials will even know who he is.

Then again, there’s a Bruce Lee character getting screen time in Tarrantino’s latest film ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD so it might be a little hasty to suggest his enduring legacy has completely wearied just yet.

Naturally thirty-six year old Mike Moh (who is of Korean descent) knows a thing or two in real life about martial arts. He is a 5th degree blackbelt in Taekwondo and runs his own martial arts academy in Wisconsin, U.S. Mike Moh features in the soon to be released Chris Hemsworth film KILLERMAN.

This video has him talking about his role in Tarrantino’s movie as well as showcasing some of his slammin’ moves –

On a side note, apparently Bruce’s daughter Shannon (who believes her late father could easily have beaten Muhammad Ali in a fight) isn’t too happy about him being portrayed, in her words, as “some kind of arrogant obnoxious joke” in the movie. Click HERE to learn more on that-

Choosing a clip from one of Bruce Lee’s films to include here turned out to be just too difficult. Iconic scenes from all seven of his most well-known films have been played literally to death over the years so I saw little point in repeating more of the same here. Instead you’ll have to content yourselves with an almighty loop of his famous two-finger pushups.

Ok then, if you insist…

So no-one can complain of leaving without their taste for chop-sockey inspired, stylized violence having been at least partially satisfied, I give you this little treat from Jason Statham (who has always cited Bruce Lee as his inspiration). What he does here with a fire-hose is highly…. unexpected painful creative effective?

Putting out fires – Statham style.

And while things are still kinda on topic…

Click HERE for a review of a new movie – billed as a ‘dark comedy’ – THE ART OF SELF DEFENSE

which in no way known should/could be mistaken for this animated offering going by the same name delivered by that lovable eccentric from yesteryear… GOOFY.

Scenic Writer’s Shack puts the ‘old’ into old-school once again. Can something considered funny nearly 80 years ago still raise a laugh today? You be the judge.

Ps. Last year, on these very pages, I published my list of all-time favorite martial arts movies. You may not have woken up this morning with a burning desire to see that list again, but while you’re here, why not take a look-see HERE

World At Her Feet

Meeting a literary soulseeker who not only runs rings around you in the beautiful words department but happens to be forty years your junior had me recently trying to gather my dignity around me like a loosely fitted robe.

The occasion was a completely memorable red carpet book launch at my local library. Eleven year old Brisbane author Georgia Bowditch – who it can be reported wields her magic writing stick like Steve Smith is now once again wielding his cricket bat – that is to say with scene-stealing power, finesse and mad skill – was signing copies of her 40 000 plus word debut novel WOLFHEART – Moonlight’s Prophecy.

She agreed to speak to SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK. In return SWS agreed to grab the opportunity with both hands. With talent and an unmistakably severe intelligence like hers, it won’t be long before Georgia is showcasing the fruits of her imagination on much grander literary stages than this one.

And then the moment arrives…

A person from the publicity department appears and announces our author is finally about to make an appearance. All conversation stops and the orchestra (someone’s mobile ringtone HERE) begins to play. Every eye is directed to the top of the stairs.Ladies and Gentlemen…. Georgia Bowditch”.

Wonderful to meet you Georgia. Can we begin with you letting us know what your new novel is about?

Moonlight and Wildfire are the alpha’s of a group of wolves called Spirit Pack. Without giving away spoilers, these two wolves must seize the reins of the group when an ominous and mystery-shrouded danger threatens to tear the pack apart.

Use four adjectives to describe how it feels to have earned the title ‘published novelist’ at the age of just eleven.

Surprising – strange – cool – stressful (people expect the next book).

Tell us a little about your public book launch and signing session held at Inala library.

I sat on a chair and answered some questions about my book and signed them.

Apart from inspired plotting and flowing prose, WOLFHEART: MOONLIGHT’S PROPHECY showcases your flair for dramatic and natural sounding dialogue.

“You thought I was nothing! Just like they did! Well you’re wrong. And I didn’t get to introduce myself before. I’m Luna. Pleasure to kill you.”

“You wouldn’t kill a goddess!” Ki whimpered, her two tails wavering.

“You’re not a goddess, and I would,” Lana growled. “I have my reasons.”

“I don’t see any reasons”, Hail murmured, “at all”. (p50)

Were you taught how to have characters exchange words in that climactic way or does it somehow just come naturally to you?

I have not had training for writing, but have done some drama classes.

** Editor’s note: Georgia has just recently gained entry into a author’s mentoring program run by the Australian Writer’s Centre. Way to go Georgia!

Did you do any research into wolves and wolf packs for the writing of the book?

Yes, to learn about how they live and communicate.

** Editor’s note: After having devoured the first half of the book myself, I can attest to the extent that literally every syllable of this heart-stoppingly authentic narrative is imbued – subtly and skillfully – with no less than a zoologist’s knowledge of wolves: from the way they move, forage, interact and stalk prey to the means by which hierarchical social orders are maintained and ownership of territory is asserted. And it’s all done not in an overbearing, information-dump sort-of-way but in a manner which compels the reader to go along for the ride and intuit “This feels real’.

There’s an old adage that books are not written they are re-written – meaning authors may go through many drafts of a sentence, paragraph or chapter before they are satisfied they have the right words. What was the editing process like for you?

For me it was exactly the same. I changed many words and many character names when I wrote the book.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Erin Hunter and Kathryn Lasky

Any plans for a follow-up to WOLFHEART: MOONLIGHT’S PROPHECY?

Yes, I am currently testing writing pieces for book number two.

When you Google your own name now what do you find?

The first thing I see is WOLFHEART, but I still see a few people who have the same name.

Have you ever heard of a movie, from ancient times, called DANCES WITH WOLVES?

Can’t say I have.

Georgia, would you be up for some...

Please…

Do you have a nickname?

Not really.

** Editors note – How does ‘The Girl Who Cried Wolf‘ or just plain ‘Wolfie’ grab you? Ok you’re right. They probably wouldn’t grab me much either Georgia.

Name one thing you learnt in the last week.

I learned that Moon Bears exist.

How do you feel about putting pineapple on Pizza?

Don’t like it.

What’s your star sign?

Taurus

** Editor’s Note: Good news Georgia! A little research on my part came up with the following about what amazing writers Taurians make –

 TAURUS (April 20 – May 20)
You’ve been jotting down your thoughts since you were a small child; you’ve always loved poetry, fiction, and you’ve even dreamed of doing it professionally. Good thing for you because you happen to be very good at it.

You take your life’s experience and translate it into words effortlessly. You’re a natural storyteller and you are always able to wow people with your written expression. Hey, with William Shakespeare as one of your own, you come well represented!

Go HERE to get the complete astrological breakdown on which star signs make the best writers.

You are now Queen of your own country. What’s its name and where is it?

SPAGHETTI-LAND – on Earth.

Do you like your own handwriting? (And permit me to add, in all modesty Georgia, I’ve seen the complete gamut of children’s written script – from apparitions of mangled letter fragments that look like a chicken’s feet dipped in ink ran randomly across the page to motley sentence mishmashes that more resemble rare-dialect ancient hieroglyphics).

Sort of.

Last board game you played?

Chess.

On Sundays I like to…

Create animations.

What’s your spy name?

Agent Fish.

Favorite ice-cream flavor?

Vanilla.

Time suddenly slowed and with a puff of vanilla essence… she was gone. Georgia Bowditch had left the building – on a date with destiny and her next great writing adventure.

I removed my elbows from the table and sat a little straighter. In those brief moments, I’d met a young story weaver whose fantasy worlds are conjured faster than the weeds grow in my garden. In my midst was someone preparing to take on the world one magnificently-worded and intricately-plotted story at a time. Three huge fan cheers for you Georgia!

Ps. From a young imagination just setting out to a person at the other end of their writing journey…

American author Toni Morrison was a true colossus of the literary world. The author of eleven full length novels, she won the famed Pulitzer Prize in 1988. Five years later she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Among many other positions and accolades, she occupied the chair of Professor Emeritus at Princeton University. During her lifetime she also penned two plays, four non-fiction books, five children’s books, numerous essays and worked as an editor on a great many other publications. She passed away last week at the age of 88.

Master of the House

Who’s the master of YOUR house?

It’s a worthwhile question to ask, with a perhaps not too obvious answer lying in wait – if you’re ready to face the ugg muggs truth.

Until recently I’ve had the good sense to acknowledge, on a quite regular basis, that that title belonged, most assuredly, to my wife. In some circles a realisation as profound as that might even be mistaken for wisdom.

Yet recently I’ve come to question that belief.

See, when there’s someone, or more precise to say SOMETHING in your home that commands you sit in front of it for a great many hours a day in a room set aside just for ‘it’, and can positively bring you and a sizeable portion of your functioning universe to its knees should it on a technical whim ever decide to, logic will dictate that sooner or later it will dawn on you who the real Tony Soprano in your midst actually is.

And when that day comes, if it hasn’t come already, trust me – you will be on your way to coming to terms with what the scarey and spectacularly humbling true order of things may actually be.

Our LG computer is going on 13 years old. By some standards that should have had the good folk from Antiques Roadshow knocking on my door a while back. It got me thinking about how far these fandangled smart machines have come since ancient times (the 1950’s).

Come see…

The true jaw-dropping impact of this photo begins to come into focus when you compare the behemoth on the forklift to today’s USB portable flash drives (aka memory sticks) that are less than the size of a child’s thumb.

The ones with the LEAST amount of data storage space on them, that you can commonly buy these days from stores like Officeworks is a 8 GB memory stick. That’s GIGABYTES mind! Just a single gigabyte is equal to 1024 megabytes. And the piano-sized bit of kit in the picture could hold just five MEGABYTES – not GIGABYTES – of data.

Yep, it’s pretty easy to get a laugh from old technology. The Apple Macintosh 512K definitely fits the bill now as old technology but the ad that was created to launch it is still considered a timeless classic.

Take a look back –

So what’s the newest thing in the world of compunication and frankencomputers? IBM’s latest supercomputer, named SUMMIT and capable of a processing speed of 200 petaflops (apparently that’s like really, really good!) went sentient live in November of last year.

But most folk know the real cork-popping celebrations will be held off for the advent of quantum computers. If you think I’m going to attempt a technical explanation of precisely how quantum computing will be the mother of all game-changers (the digital world’s equivalent of a cold fusion type technology breakthrough, if you will) you’re going to have to now sit there for a full minute in all your wrongness while someone else explains it –

There are plenty of much longer explanations plying their trade on the internet unpacking what quantum computing is and how it works but I’m pretty confident you won’t come across another one this concise.

And if the cartoon above is anything to go by, it’s pretty clear who, or better said ‘what‘ will be wearing the pants in everyone’s home and workplace in the next decade to an even greater extent than is already the situation now.

Don’t say you weren’t warned

Ps. I attended a book launch last weekend at my local library. WOLFHEART: MOONLIGHT’S PROPHECY is a 40 000+ word novel written by eleven year old local author Georgia Bowditch.

It features flowing, beautiful prose in a story about two wolves fighting for the survival of their group, known as the Spirit Pack. It is a truly stunning debut for a prodigious young writer embarking on what will no doubt be an astonishing and fun-filled literary odyssey. Watch this space.

Art of The Niggle

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Clear the decks ’cause some 5th-rate fiction is headed your way.

MY 5th-rate fiction, to be precise.

In the fair-dinkum stakes it might actually bleed over in some passages to sixth-rate. Consider yourself warned.

This was an entry I submitted to a recent fiction writing competition run on the first weekend of every month by the Australian Writer’s Center. Entrants had just 500 words to sculpt a story that included the following ‘must haves’-

  • mention of the word ‘nineteen’ 

  • mention of the word ‘desert’

  • mention somewhere in the story of a list

  • some reference to ‘new beginnings’

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I wrote mine and submitted it. I then rewrote it, expanding it to double its original length. Before we get into it here’s a book-jacket blurb summary of the story… 

Kenneth and Anita Glossop can’t remember the last time they sent each other a Valentine’s Day card. But after 36 years of marriage would anyone really expect them to?  They’re a couple who believe Sun Tzu’s book THE ART OF WAR was really a marriage counselling guide. Though deep down they love each other, their worst kept secret is their devotion to ‘the niggle’ – the ancient art of verbal sparring.

They might bicker like the old married couple they are and somehow still remain on speaking terms but what happens the day Ken discovers a list written by his wife entitled 10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT MY HUSBAND. Has the niggle finally gone too far? Can the Glossops prove that marriage is more than just shouting ‘What?” from other rooms. And what’s up with the snail secretion beauty mask Anita received after their last fight?

Find out the answers to these questions and more in ART OF THE NIGGLE. 

Before starting you should probably know one thing. A lot of research went into the writing of this short story. And by research I don’t mean the Wikipedia and Google kind. Saying anything more about that could get me into a whole lot of trouble… so on with the main show.

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New beginnings?

Pfffft!

Not likely.

The flipped over page of the calendar may have read ‘January 1st’ but after 36 years of marriage, the last nineteen of which had witnessed, amongst other low points, the creation of custom made voodoo dolls in each other’s likeness, Kenneth Glossop and his gaunt, bitter wife Anita no longer bothered with New Year’s resolutions. In place of a calendar they may as well have had a cuckoo clock attached to the wall that sprang open on the hour, repeating the gloomy phrase – “Today is another day – just like yesterday.”

Over the years, arguing with Anita had become as natural as rolling on another pair of worn socks. And since he was by this advanced stage more likely to be deeply hurt by rude bus drivers than anything she could assail him with, ‘the niggle’ as he referred to the daily pantomime of working through marital gripes and annoyances, had become somehow more subtly enjoyable to him than soccer, his game of choice from back in his youth.

CaptureTo relax he devised cryptic crosswords and she practiced her violin, which she played semi-professionally with a local quartet. Their time spent together had evolved to fulfill what could only be described as barely the most functional form of companionship. Kenneth and Anita Glossop’s marriage had long ago assumed the look and feel of a barren desert of course non-affection and tactical belittling on both sides. There were also rolling hills of disinterest for as far as the eye could see broken up only by the mutual care of a golden retriever named Stradivarius.

That morning at the kitchen table Kenneth had formed his hand into a fist and brought it down hard onto the polished pinewood surface covered by a tablecloth with sunflowers on it. “I don’t want Grape Nuts” he said with absurd emphasis, in a querulous voice that saddened and diminished them both. Later in the day there had been a disagreement about the rights and wrongs of a reputable newspaper running an astrology column. Anita had agreed with her husband that astrology was an insult to the intelligence but had then added the caveat that the public had a right to get what they wanted even if it was bad for them.

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As with a great many of their disagreements, for a long time they seemed not to be arguing at all, but merely carrying on an extended intellectual debate, the locus shifting from breakfast table to kitchen sink while she washed the dishes, to the bathroom while he shaved, to the bedroom while they dressed. On some occasions, Anita would be handed a present the next day when a waxed-mustache-twirling Kenneth sensed things had tipped over the edge into outright animosity. His past offerings had included a snail secretion facial mask, a book of poems purportedly written by cats, pine tar soap and most bizarrely and impractical of all an absinthe making kit (Anita didn’t drink alcohol).

One day while searching the glove box of their beloved silver Plymouth Valiant, Kenneth had happened upon a list Anita had written one night some months previous while propped in front of their television set blaring news of a perilous world.  It was handwritten with the title “Ten Things I Hate About My Husband”. As his eyes moved down the charge sheet, a faint smile of recognition came to settle upon his face for the type of grievances he expected might be on such a list mixed in with mild shock and a feeling of persecution for the ones that took him in a sneak attack by total surprise. It incensed:

  1. He has to be taught basic life skills
  2. Snoring
  3. His stupid puns
  4. Driving
  5. He’s 79 years of age and plays video games!
  6. Putting tape across the tv remote control sensor stops being funny after the 10th time.
  7. He never puts the decorative pillows in their proper place when making the bed.
  8. His ridiculous ‘Lost in Space’ replica robot.
  9. When he goes to the bathroom at night I’m pretty sure he’s aiming for the walls.
  10. The time he admitted he used to be a serial streaker at sporting events was a new low.

Kenneth was intrigued and consoled himself with the fact at least she had not complained about his admittedly maddening habit of misplacing things, although he guessed that had the list been entitled “11 Things I Hate About My Husband” that would have rounded out what definitely looked to be an exercise in cataloging his perceived faults like pinned moths.

CaptureDeep down, Kenneth loved his wife but in doing so also realized, and sensed she did too, that they were both sufferers of the affliction known as Hyper-vigilant Personality Disorder (HPD). This condition classically manifested itself in asocial types who upset their fellows and distracted themselves by constantly searching for hidden meanings in ordinary things.

Still, having ridden the waves of the one-damn-thing-after-anotherness of a lifelong shared existence together, finding a list like that written by your partner wasn’t the worst thing that could happen to a person or a marriage.

Kenneth reached into his shirt pocket and found a half full packet of skittles. He pored a handful of them into his mouth, drew in a breath as if to say something, but then checked himself. For a moment he felt absurdly powerful at the thought of what was to come. He would save his energy, for he was a person who couldn’t resist the distraction a good argument offered. 

Kenneth knew it would be quite the sparring session with Anita later that night. He’d save what little energy he had for the important things in life: the things he could rely on to still give him pleasure after all these years. And he knew, deep down, Anita felt the same way.

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Ps. While putting this post together I came upon an old-school, single-panel comic called THE LOCKHORNS. It’s been going since 1968 and is syndicated in a jillion newspapers around the world (in 23 countries) still today. It centers on a married couple – Leroy and Loretta Lockhorn – who constantly argue. There’s been at least nine Lockhorns book collections published over the years.

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Go HERE  if you want more old school LOCKHORNS humor. For way more new-school humor go HERE

PPS. BelowKenneth and Anita in their younger days?

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Top 50 Songs (Another batch)

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It’s that time again music lovers ‘n loathers time to deliver my annual Top 50 Songs List.

When I originally conceived of the idea back in June of 2017 (HERE) I knew fully well the enormity of the task I had agreed to take on. How could one possibly manage to cram INXS of four decades worth of dedicated music listening into a meagre list confined to just 50 entries?

I’ve always been pretty rubbish at twisting and turning a Rubiks cube in order to find it’s solution and that’s what trying to compact the thousands of great songs still going around in my head after all these years into such a tiny list felt like. The sheer impossibility of the task saw me have another go twelve months later in June 2018 (HERE)

Three years on and by now I’ve concluded I easily have enough classic songs in my like  ‘worship the ground they walk on’ collection – catalogued in my head – to churn out an annual “Greatest Hits’ list for the next 10 years.

Maybe 20.

Music taste being what it is it’s very possible there may not be a single song in this collection you either like or are even familiar with. That said, there are songs here taken from every decade dating back from the 1950’s right up to the year 2018. That opens up the appeal factor of such a list, at least in theory, a little wider. As well, this catalog includes exactly seven songs from Australian bands/artists.

You’ve been kept waiting long enough so without further ado, I give you my all new list of TOP 50 FAVOURITE SONGS

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2

3

4

5

6.

HEAR IT NOW

7

HEAR IT NOW

8

HEAR IT NOW

9

HEAR IT NOW

10

HEAR IT NOW

11

HEAR IT NOW

12

HEAR IT NOW

13

HEAR IT NOW

14

HEAR IT NOW

15

HEAR IT NOW

16

HEAR IT NOW

17

HEAR IT NOW

18

HEAR IT NOW

19

HEAR IT NOW

20

HEAR IT NOW

21

HEAR IT NOW

22

HEAR IT NOW

23

HEAR IT NOW

24

HEAR IT NOW

25

HEAR IT NOW

26

HEAR IT NOW

27

HEAR IT NOW

28

HEAR IT NOW

29

HEAR IT NOW

30

HEAR IT NOW

31

HEAR IT NOW

32

HEAR IT NOW

33

HEAR IT NOW

34

HEAR IT NOW

35

HEAR IT NOW

36

HEAR IT NOW

37

HEAR IT NOW

38

HEAR IT NOW

39

HEAR IT NOW

40

HEAR IT NOW

41

HEAR IT NOW

42

HEAR IT NOW

43

HEAR IT NOW

44

HEAR IT NOW

45

HEAR IT NOW

46

HEAR IT NOW

47

HEAR IT NOW

48

HEAR IT NOW

49

HEAR IT NOW

50

HEAR IT NOW

Ps. Just saying…the completely mouth-watering idea that anyone would go so far as to leave a comment about a song from this list they have fond memories of is one that fills me with literally octaves of musical notes of joy…

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This is your Captain Speaking

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Back in February last year HERE I chronicled (I love ‘chronicling’ – I especially love just saying the word ‘chronicling’) my thoughts on a book written by ex-Navy Seal Robert O’Neil entitled THE OPERATOR (published 2017).

This memoir was devoted to chronicling (ha!) highlights from his 400 mission career. One of those highlights included firing the shots that killed Osama Bin Laden in 2011. Another successful mission spoken about in that book was the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips from the clutches of Somali Pirates back in April 2009.

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After recently seeing on DVD the 2013 movie CAPTAIN PHILLIPS starring Tom Hanks in the title role, it was time to read the 2010 book written by the real Captain Phillips (co-written by Stephan Talty whose 2017 book THE BLACK HAND – about Italy’s version of Sherlock Holmes – is set to also be made into a movie, starring Leonardo Dicaprio).

Like the movie, this book gripped nice ‘n tight. It didn’t disappoint.

The first 100 pages of the book details Phillips early life as a Boston cab driver, his graduation in 1979 from the Massachusetts Maritime Academy and his years working in the merchant marine prior to the events of 2009.

Phillips notes there are a thousand ways to die on a ship – from storms that produce 70 foot waves to mad cooks, scurvy, mutiny and just plain loneliness. His recollections of docking in ports of war-torn third World countries such as Sierra Leone, Liberia and Monrovia and seeing scores of people on the shore-lines whose right hands had been chopped off because they’d voted for the wrong candidates in corrupt local elections sends a chill down the spine.

The rest of the book renders a minute by minute account of the four-day hijacking of the container ship Maersk Alabama, captained by Richard Phillips, while it was located in the Indian Ocean, 240 nautical miles southeast of the Somalia port of Eyl. The ordeal began on April 8th, 2009.

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With a crew of 20, the ship was en route to Mombasa, Kenya. It was carrying 17,000 tons of cargo, of which 5,000 tons were relief supplies bound for Somalia, Uganda, and Kenya.

The four pirates who hijacked the ship and took Captain Phillips hostage in the orange-coloured covered lifeboat were aged between 17 and 19 years of age. Three of the pirates were killed by U.S. Navy SEAL snipers’ bullets to the head. The fourth is serving a 33 year prison sentence in a U.S Federal prison in South Carolina.

In the year prior to the attack on the Maersk Alabama there were 111 attacks on marine vessels by Somali pirates in that area of the Indian ocean, resulting in 42 ‘successful’ hijackings. What was noteworthy about Captain Phillip’s experience was the Maersk Alabama was the first successful pirate seizure of a ship registered under the American flag since the early 19th century.

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The hijacked container ship MAERSK ALABAMA (since renamed the MV TYGRA and now owned by a different shipping company) as it looked back in 2009. In the years since there have been at least four other attempted hijackings on the ship by Somali pirates, the first of these  less than six months after Captain Phillips’ experience.

The video below unpacks some of the reasons why Somalia (population 14 million) is such a hotbed for piracy on the seas. Ravaged by a 30 year civil war, drought and famine, with a life-expectancy of only 55 years and a GDP (Gross Domestic Product) output that ranks it 193 on a list of 199 countries (United States, China and Japan naturally occupy the top three positions) it’s not hard to see why the promise of big pay days via extorted ransoms (some running into the tens of millions of dollars) are a huge lure for poorly educated Somalians desperate to escape the poverty cycle.

In A CAPTAIN’S DUTY, Phillips relates the mind games played by both himself, the Somali Pirates and the American Navy destroyer USS Bainbridge across the four days. He details the insults, denial of food and water and mock executions he endured while all the time trussed up with ropes like a pig ready for slaughter. Describing one of the pirates as having “Charles Manson eyes” (p118), at one point they even tried convincing him the whole nightmare was a Navy training exercise they’d agreed to roleplay.

Richard Phillips used any technique he could to try to stay mentally strong in the face of prolonged psychological torture which included taunts he wasn’t a real sailor because he couldn’t tie certain intricate knots the way his captors could.

There are passages that are as entertaining as they are distressing –

“What did you do?” I yelled up to the leader.

“Shut up” he said.

The leader turned his head and spat.

“Shut up”

“Oh, you mean ‘Please be quiet Captain’ “

I heard Musso snicker at that. Even the leader cracked a smile. That was the first and last I’d get out of him.

The battle of wits and wills would continue right up to the end, with the pirates trying to constantly wear Phillips down, confuse and humiliate him. Sometimes they succeeded, causing him to pen thoughts in the book such as this –

“I’m a big John Wayne fan and I remembered a line from one of his movies THE SEARCHERS. A cowboy has apologized for shooting a desperado. And John Wayne says something like, ‘That’s all-right. Some men need killing’.

I’ve never met a man who needed killing. But right then, Young Guy did. He was like an assassin toying with his victim before he put him out of his misery. He was enjoying it all to hell.

Unlike this footage of an attempted pirate attack occurring in a similar part of the Indian Ocean in 2012, on board the Maersk Alabama that day there were no guns or rifles for the crew to use to fight back and certainly no trained security personnel.

Richard Phillips returned to sea fourteen months after the pirate attack, sailing as Master of the vehicle carrier M/V Green Bay until his retirement in 2014. His memoir is a powerful, intoxicating read.

Ps.  The video above might be titled THE REAL MAERSK ALABAMA STORY but as with most things there’s another side. Go HERE  if you want to know. If you’re not completely video-ed out by this point you’ll also get the gist here in this commentary as well –

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These pictures were taken more than 10 years ago. Today Richard Phillips is a 64 year-old retired ships’ captain.

Ps. On a completely unrelated note, the 2019 AP Stylebook (AP stands for Associated Press and has been published every year since 1953) went on sale this week and celebrated by officially removing the hyphen from “best-seller.” Henceforth, it’s just “bestseller.” Thought you should know.

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The Worst

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Now the third installment in Keanu Reeve’s JOHN WICK trilogy has made it into cinemas, I can think of no better time to share my thoughts a mere half decade late on the original film that lit the wick five years ago.

Put simply, I have no hesitation in declaring JOHN WICK (2014) underwhelmed me to the extent it was immediately relegated to my WORST FILMS OF ALL TIME / HALL OF COMPLETE SHAME list.

If that’s too ambivalent for you let me make it even clearer: I did not like this film – even a little bit. ‘Utterly Ridiculous’ is the best description I can use to sum up a story based solely on 100 minutes of non-stop slaughtering all because someone killed the title character’s puppy at the beginning of the film. I’ve seen some quality revenge films in my time but this is definitely not one of them.

CaptureIt’s a pity because the fight choreography in this movie (correction – the fight choreography IS the movie) is next level eye-candy stuff: a complete knockout in every sense of the word. Yet without well-drawn characters to cheer or boo for and something resembling an engaging, possibly twisting plot, it’s simply all desert and no main meal. That becomes unsatisfying well before the end credits roll.

I get that stripped-back movies like JOHN WICK  (MAD MAX 4: FURY ROAD is another example) which deliver spectacularly on the promise ‘never a dull moment’ represent pushbacks to the traditional Hollywood rulebook insisting that movies, no matter what their genre, be padded out with needless subplots, predictable romances and unnecessary character super tropes (eg the troubled teenage daughter, the beautiful girlfriend who delivers the moral speech which gets the main character back on track etc).

But in the case of JOHN WICK and it’s cartoonish, hard-to-like-or-take-seriously-for-a- single-moment main character, the experiment just doesn’t come off – at least for me. If I want to see a stripped-back actioner spotlighting a no-nonsense person on a single-minded, succeed-at-all-costs quest, I’ll call on Denzel  – THE EQUALISER 1 (2014) and 2 (2018) – or alternatively go retro with a dose of snarling Kurt (Russell) – ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (1981).

Not being one to hold a grudge (very unlike John Wick himself) here’s the trailer (anyway) for JOHN WICK 3

All this pent-up negativity brought on by a movie now five years old – a movie that deserved to be forgotten the moment it ended but somehow managed to linger in my subconscious simply because it was SO DAMN AWFUL – got me thinking about  some of the other film turkeys I and others have endured over the years.

Movies can be relegated to the fifty cent bin for a variety of reasons – (A) they’re turtle slow (B) they’re silly but not in an entertaining way (C) they’re populated by unlikable or worse still bland characters it’s impossible to care about or relate to (D) the landscape is literally riddled with plot-holes you could likely drive a wide-load prime-mover through that you might possibly have been prepared to overlook had it not been for the presence of any combination of the aforementioned A, B or C.

There are plenty of movies that disappoint because for a variety of reasons they fail to meet our expectations. That is not what is being talked about here. These movies are true stinkers from start to finish. Here is my dirty dozen list of WORST WATCHED MOVIES

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The only small consolation with that list is that half of them I saw via free passes. Not hard in retrospect to work out why they were free-pass movies. Before leaving this subject for good I thought I’d patch in what might be called a ‘bonus’ list. A bit of quick research on my part revealed these films are amongst a sizeable list of ‘D’ grade celluloid that regularly makes it onto critic’s and filmgoer’s ALL TIME WORST MOVIES lists.

Of those mentioned here I’ve only seen two – THE SWARM (1978) and THE IMPOSSIBLE (2012). While I can confirm THE IMPOSSIBLE was truly wretched, by comparison THE SWARM was watchable and even entertaining in parts. Then again, that movie, about a killer bee invasion of Texas based on the novel of the same name by Arthur Herzog  (1927 -2010) was produced and directed by movie mastermind Irwin Allen, the genius behind LOST IN SPACE, so admittedly I might be a little biased there.

Here’s the list –

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P.s And then there’s this…  Go ClICKETY CLICK HERE

Pss. News is that JOHN WICK 4 has already been given a scheduled release date of mid 2021.

Psss. In the interests of journalistic balance click HERE for a really, really positive review of JOHN WICK 3.

 

Silent Rage

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I can feel it.

Bit by bit, year by year, I’m slowly turning into that funny little man with the red earmuffs from the tv series GET SMART – Albert J. Pfister (the ‘P’ is silent).

Pfister was the fanatical anti-noise campaigner who determined the only way to eliminate the noise of the world was to eliminate the world itself.

THE Pfister

Pfister developed the silent explosive NITROWHISPERIN. His other inventions included a very quiet shotgun, a silent phonograph record, sound-absorbing wood and a cuckoo clock which Max described as having laryngitis.

Yep, this little gnome-like man was determined to silence a noisy world.

And so it appears am I.

Regular readers will remember my skirmish back last year with the organisers of ParkRun  (HERE) That difference of opinion centred on the disputed right of some runners to inflict their over-amplified music on others by deliberately choosing not to wear earphones. The jury’s still out on who came out on top in that one.

Pfister

Albert J. Phister and I have a lot in common (not counting his preference for bow ties).

Now the war drums are sounding again.

This time there’s a canine involved. A barking canine. A late-at-night barking canine. A will-not-stop-for-anyone-late at night barking canine.

Weird thing is it’s not the neighbour’s dog.

And when I say ‘neighbour’ I mean left, right, opposite or behind.

It’s not even from anywhere in our street.

Nor anywhere from the next street along.

Believe it or not the source of all the noise is a dog that’s chained up in it’s back yard on a three metre leash in a street 500 metres away! Living pretty much opposite a large public park that at night-time collects and amplifies noise like the Grand Canyon has its disadvantages and I believe I may have just found one of them. Or, better said, this un-neighbourly ‘wide-open-space’ megaphone echo-effect has found me. Tracked me if you like.

About 10:30pm the other night I was on high alert while manning the single-person operation I have dubbed Neighbourhood Noise Watch. I’d been unable to sleep due to fear of losing count of the number of barks coming from somewhere outside in the darkness (I stopped counting at 158 and the continuous ‘bow-wow’ had already been in full swing for at least 20 minutes prior to that).Capture 55Closing our front door gently behind me, I headed off on my search in a pair of thongs, bathed in moonlight while a gentle night breeze caressed my face. I felt like a cross between some kind of late-night vigilante and the local neighbourhood Sherlock Holmes. I was determined to find the source of the disturbance, and when I did, I was amazed just how far from my own house I’d had to travel to find it.

There was only one other person to be seen at this ungodly midweek hour in the street I’d come to be standing in the middle of.  It was a person going up the front stairs of their house only two or three up from the slightly overgrown property hosting the raving canine lunatic still going like the clappers.CaptureAs I  strained in the near darkness looking for someone else who might actually be bothered that something every bit as loud as a fire-engine’s emergency siren was letting loose full blast under their very nose (incredibly every resident of this apparent ghost street had either gotten so used to the barking by now they were past caring or they simply preferred to adopt the ‘someone else will deal with it’ approach) I at last spotted the lone figure scurrying up their front stairs under a protective cloak of darkness.

I called out to the person in a bid to perhaps find out if they knew anything about the chained-up dog and it’s owners (who were obviously not at home) but suddenly they were in their house with the door closed behind them faster than you could say “There’s a weirdo on the street late at night who wants to talk to me”.  Before scurrying inside though I know they heard my “Excuse me” but chose to ignore it.

With my recon over and the address of the house hosting the distressed lonely angry bummed out border collie now inscribed on a scrap of paper, I began the fresh-air walk back to CONTROL headquarters, keeping my eyes peeled all the while for any strays of the human kind that may have been wanting to launch a surprise sneak attack on a do-gooding neighbourhood noise vigilant such as my good self.

The next day while still in the throes of deciding my next move with the freshly gathered noise intel, I stumbled upon an app called BARKUP!.

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In summary here’s how it works –

BARKUP! allows neighbours to anonymously notify the owner of barking incidents through an automatically generated letter. If the owner chooses to register on BARKUP! any future reports made will be logged directly on the owner’s account.

A letter is posted to the owner’s address with instructions for registering on the BARKUP! website. On their account owners can see further details about the time, duration and type of barking for all recorded incidents.

The dog owner has a summary of all reported barking incidents on BARKUP! They now have the opportunity to reply to the reporting neighbour by choosing from pre-set responses. This communication is anonymous. When they are registered on BARKUP! all further reports will go directly to their account and they will be notified by email. No further letters will be sent to their address.

The website notes unresolved barking issues need to be referred to local council.

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The only problem I discovered about BARKUP! is that presently it’s only available to residents of the city of Ipswich (the next closest city to where I am in Brisbane). That means my next Bobby Fischer style move on this particular chessboard is still in the planning stage. And that means this post has little choice but to end on this note…

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Ps. Think I’m a serial complainer do you?

You’ve imagined nothing until you’ve read this article about a man who filed over 6000 noise complaints against Reagan International Airport in Washington D.C. in a single year (2015). That sanity-robbing figure works out to be an average of 17 complaints a day for 365 consecutive days. Read the story HERE

Pss. The noise-hating character of Albert J. Pfister featured in the 1968 GET SMART episode SPY, SPY, BIRDIE. Pfister comes knocking on Max’s apartment door asking him to sign a petition asking for the world to rid itself of excessive noise. Max refuses, declaring  quiet to be ‘Un -American’.

The episode runs for 24 minutes but Pfister makes his appearance from the beginning so the first couple of minutes should be enough to give you the idea.