MAD but not Crazy (or Cracked)

Mad

Does anyone remember MAD MAGAZINE?

It’s been around since 1952 and I used to read it (and love it) as a kid growing up in the late 70’s. If memory serves me correctly, it stopped being funny sometime around the mid eighties (coincidentally when I had outgrown my teens) when they started putting out an Australian Edition.

It’s satirical comic rivals CRAZY (1973 – 1983) and CRACKED (1958 – 2007) may have long departed this planet but MAD carries on. At its peak in the mid seventies MAD boasted sales of 2.1 million copies per issue and carried on selling in excess of one million copies per issue well into the eighties. These days sales top out at 100 000 copies. Like so many print magazines, the free-to-read recesses of the internet have opened up a plethora of competing humour outlets that the magazine did not formerly have to contend with, resulting in barely sustainable readership numbers.

I picked up the April 2017 issue the other day at my local library and guess what? It’s funny again! The television and movie parodies are still there as well as old favourites like ‘The Lighter side of..’ and Spy vs Spy. The back cover still doubles as the mighty ‘Mad Fold-In’ and the freckled features of ageless Alfred E. Neuman endure.

In the edition I looked at (and borrowed – my excuse being I wanted to initiate my 7-year-old daughter) the following illustrated features were included –

  • Yet another Fairy Tale we’d like to see ( a bloody version of Rapunzel)
  • Places your lost Airpod is sure to wind up
  • Other uses for live Lobsters
  • Signs of an Unsuccessful Foodtruck
  • A Mad look at Drones
  • Goosebumps books for Millenials
  • Things you don’t want to hear from your Uber Driver
  • Star Wars fans then and now
  • Mad’s Celebrity Supermarket showcasing products such asproducts

For those of you who’ve always suspected I may be harbouring some kind of epi-pen sized dose of madness, look no further for your proof.

PS. Take a closer look at the Mad front cover pictured at the top. The words where Alfred        E. Neuman’s mouth should be, read –

        “Believe us – we really, really wish there was no…” 

 

Crash! Bang! Pow!

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I had a car accident.

Or put more accurately, a car accident almost had me.

The graphic above shows what happened apart from one detail: we were tail-ended by a truck. A very, very big truck.

Here’s pretty much word for word my description to the insurance claims officer as to precisely what took place –

I was in ‘pole position’ (meaning first in line), sitting stationary at a red set of traffic lights. For approximately 15 seconds prior to the accident, a large Isuzu truck had been in line behind me, also waiting for the light to change. As truck drivers seem fond of doing, this oversized vehicle was resting so close behind me I could practically feel the drivers breath on the back of my neck as I sat waiting for the light to change. Suddenly, with the lights still red, I felt and heard an almighty crash-bang impact to our car from behind.

The hit from behind felt more like we’d been the target of a shoulder-fired RPG (rocket-propelled grenade). For an instant, it felt like our car was in the grip of a magnitude 9.5 earthquake. The back windscreen instantly shattered into tens of thousands of tiny shards of plastisized glass and the explosive noise of that was one of, if not the loudest, sounds I’ve ever heard in my life.

And all because, in an ill-timed moment of relaxation, the truck driver behind me let his foot ease off/slip off the clutch. Well, that’s my theory anyway, and according to a number of people I’ve spoken to since, that is the only logical explanation for what happened. Because, important to note, the traffic light was most assuredly still red when the wallop happened. Thankfully I also have the name and address of a male witness who stopped at the scene who’s prepared to vouch for that if the need arises.

Did I mention that my seven-year old daughter, still dressed in her pyjamas, was in the  back seat at the time? Safe to say, she took a lot more of the impact than I did. Don’t think I’ll ever forget the look on the truckie’s face after he’d approached my driver’s side window to exchange details and saw her perched smiling in the backseat with a slightly perplexed though calm look on her face gazing up at him. Both my daughter and I sustained no injuries but my wife and I have since taken our daughter to the doctor for a precautionary checkup and been given the all clear.

Mercifully the insurance claim process (we’re with the company with the two joined pronouns for a name plus the slogan “We get you”) has been pretty painless to this point. Although we do have to wait 17 days until our car can be fitted into the insurance company’s preferred repairers’ overtasked schedule for a new back windscreen fit.

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That means we faced the prospect of driving around for the next fortnight and more, sans rear window. That was until my wife came up with what I think to be a rather novel and cost-effective solution to our missing back window problem. At her prompting, I have now affixed, with water-proof taping, two study-desk plastic place mats we just happened to have lying around at home to the gaping space. They’re see-through and now secured in place with the tape to serve as our temporary back windscreen. From a distance you can’t even notice anything is different.

Necessity (and penny-pinching DIY)  is the mother of invention.

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Desk-bound no more. Our new (temporary) back window panel.

 

 

 

 

Slept like a baby

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I came out of the movie BOSS BABY feeling happy, refreshed and like a brand new person.

Because I slept through most of it.

I waited until the set up was complete and Alec Baldwin gets to say his classic line “Cookies are for closers” (referencing his memorable performance in the 1992 Al Pacino movie Glengarry Glen Ross) and then I was out like the proverbial house lights. In truth, it wasn’t even completely the movie’s fault. Those cinema seats are so damn comfortable!

Conspiring also to bring about this comatose state (if it had of occurred during the new POWER RANGERS movie – like BOSS BABY also currently labouring under the weight of  poor to scathing reviews – I could have at least enjoyed the jounce of calling it a ‘power nap’) was the fact I maintain I was also purposefully lulled into a state of droopy eyelids prior to the movie even beginning.

The before-show included all of nineteen ads. That’s 19! (as in the average age of the combat soldier during the Vietnam war). What’s even more amazing than that figure is the fact that I bothered to count them. Who does that right? Well, it seems I’ve become one person who does, especially when I wasn’t looking forward to the main feature in the first place. Actually the ad count exercise commenced from what I estimated was number 10. I totalled at the end. And that’s not even mentioning the four full length ‘coming soon’ movie trailers plus the reminder to turn mobile phones off.

Still, my seven-year old daughter enjoyed it and I got to see the best trailer I’ve ever had the privilege of watching for a kids film – CARS 3 (Pixar’s 18th animated feature film). Then again, come to think of it, the trailer for BOSS BABY looked pretty enticing as well.

Next time I venture out to a juniors movie it had better be to see a sure-fire hit.

Will somebody please bring on FROZEN 2!

Hippie

 

Welcome to Economy-Minus class

Boarding a Plane in a Group

 

Can you guess what year this picture was taken?

It was the same year U.S President Richard Nixon resigned from office and more locally that floods devastated Brisbane. 1974 was a time back when people still ‘dressed up’ to travel aboard commercial aircraft and international travel wasn’t yet the $2 store commodity for the masses it is today.

My most recent time on a major airlines flight was towards the end of last year. I was seated next to an individual who I guessed to be in their very early thirties. This person was kitted out in thongs, draw-string boardies and a sweat-stained, faded Metallica singlet. Face stubble the colour of cigarette ash and  a full sleeve of owlskull tattoos (with a Mickey and Minnie Mouse feature inset thrown in for added quirk) completed the picture. I can’t be certain but I think I also spotted fragments of a tree leaf caught up in his nest-of-black-mambas dreadlocks. Would it be unkind to remark there’s a reason they call it cattle class?

Contrast that to the picture above and its no wonder some airlines have now introduced what in the industry is known unofficially as ‘economy minus’ class for flight passengers.

Cheaper tickets anyone?

Redneck

PS.     This all comes in the wake of last weeks’ United Airlines dress code furor where three teenage girls (all travelling for free courtesy of the Airline’s employee friends and   family rule) on a flight from Colorado to Minnesota were asked to remove leggings.

PSS.     I’m on a flight to Sydney in 5 days time. I’ll report back on the quality of the steak                and lobster, and whether my leggings make it on board, sometime after.

PSSS.   Joking about the leggings.

 

What’s in a name?

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The old-school biblical rain that has fallen pitilessly over the last 48 hours may have stopped, but as I write this, the wind is howling like some kind of horror movie opener. The ground lays sodden, unpaved paths are awash with mud, wheelie bins lie overturned and streams and rivers are swollen.

Here in Brisbane we were subjected to merely the ultra-mellowed-with-age tail end of Cyclone Debbie. Far North Queensland, the spinning behemoth’s true wrecking ground, has now been declared a catastrophe by the Australian Insurance Council with damages estimated in the billions.

Oh Debbie! You may have looked almost beautiful on the satellite image – a perfect swirl of white no more threatening than milk stirred into coffee – but boy did you get angry!  And nasty! You meant to hammer us until we smudged like a Monet masterpiece. But how did you get your name? Now that your fury has weakened and your chaos has diminished, I may reveal all.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) actually has a list of names. The list was complied in 2008 and its exactly 104 names long.  The monikers alternate between male and female. All the names on the list had to be approved by the World Meteorological Organisation Regional Tropical Cyclone Committee for the SE Pacific.

If you want to play along at home, the next few cyclones will be called Ernie, Frances, Greg and then Hilda.

Anyone of a certain age will remember the days back when cyclones carried exclusively female names. That changed in 1975, which was declared International Women’s Year. The Science Minister of the time decided to add male names to the list because both sexes “should bear the odium of the devastation caused by cyclones”.

So where did Cyclone Yasi, (2011) that also devastated North Queensland, fit into this naming scheme I hear you ask. It formed outside the area the BOM is responsible for, so they didn’t get to name it. The BOM keeps the name given to a cyclone by the relevant weather agency if it heads into Australian territory. That’s why it didn’t get a traditionally male or female sounding name.

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You can name a cyclone … but it’ll take a while

The BOM accepts requests to add names to its list, but only in writing.

The names are added to a supplementary list that is used when a name is retired from the original list.

But because so many people want to name a cyclone, these letters are closed for any further submissions:

  • Male: A, B, F, J, R, S, T, W, X, Y, Z
  • Female: A, B, G, J, K, L, M, N, P, Q, R, S, T, W, X, Y, Z

If you pass all those hurdles, here’s a note from the bureau’s website on how long it’ll take:

“Note that it can take many decades for a suitable slot to become available, then a further 10 to 20 years for the names to cycle through, so it is likely to be well over 50 years before your requested name is allocated to a cyclone.”

Just think of it:  if you write that letter tomorrow, by 2067 your suggestion may just get the gong.

Publishing pipe-dreams anyone?

CapturReal girl

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking for answers..

Money

It’s been observed many times before that ‘money changes everything’.

This is exactly the effect police are hoping for with the launch of a new weekly true-crime television program called MILLION DOLLAR COLD CASE. A life changing amount of money is being offered for information leading to the arrest of suspects in Australian cold case homicides.

The first episode detailed two cold case murders – one that took place in Melbourne in 1984, the other that occured in Sth Australia in 1989. In the first, a mother and her nine year old daughter – Margaret and Seana Tapp – are found strangled in their beds at home. In the second, Christopher Phillips, a 42 year old civil engineer who was an employee of the Board of Works, is found bludgeoned to death on the floor of his family home. Both cases to this day remain unsolved.

The program combines newsreel footage interspersed with re-enactments and interviews with family members. We also hear from detectives who originally worked on the cases as well as a contemporary police perspective.

There have been programs like this before that have sought assistance from the public to solve crimes but never on a cash incentive scale such as this. The series has not only the endorsement of the Victorian Police Cold Case Team but their participation as well. Their members not only give interviews throughout the series but agreed to be a part of the storytelling.

With a show such as this, Police are sending a clear message that they do not give up; that in the pursuit of justice for victims, it matters little how many years have passed since the crime was committed.

Updates on progress or breakthroughs are promised as the series continues.

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*** Just yesterday, NSW police announced the arrest of a 63-year-old man in connection with the disappearance of 3-year-old Cheryl Grimmer who went missing at Fairy Meadow Beach, south of Sydney, 47 years ago.

 

 

And the winner is..

Special Forces

A while back, I let it be known I had in mind to follow a UK-based reality show (broadcast here on Wednesday nights on Channel 22 over six weeks) called SPECIAL FORCES: ULTIMATE HELL WEEK.

The idea of this program was to take 22 of England’s fittest civilians (marathoners, endurance athletes, former olympians etc) and subject them to 12 days of intense and sleep-deprived Special Forces military training. The aim, apart from generating a sizable audience to witness these bouts of televised torture, was to gradually weed out the also-rans from the fire-breathing serious contenders in order to arrive at a last-person standing ‘winner’ by the final episode.

Series one of this ‘show’ aired two years ago. In that incarnation, 29 Bravo-Two-Zero wannabees were put through similarly harrowing challenges designed to test (and break) their mental and physical reserves. That series was won by a 55kg, 32 year old female (Dr Claire Miller) and reignited the debate about whether women should be allowed to join Special Forces units.

Wednesday night’s episode was the final, and as such only three competitors remained – two females and a male. For a while there it looked like things were headed for a similar result to Series One, before it was announced the fit looking gentleman pictured at the front of the line in the photo above, 28 year old Londoner Onyiuke (that’s his first name) -who listed his real life job as Project Manager – would get the honours.

Over the six episodes of the program, these ‘pain warrior’ recruits were pushed to breaking point by ex-instructors from Special Forces units from six different countries –

Flags       France              Poland            Sth Africa               U.S.               Sth Korea           Australia

There was blood, bruises and plenty of blisters. Waterboarding, hooded interogations and induced hypothermia also got a regular look-in. Carrying heavy concrete blocks across rough terrain while weighed down with 30kg backpacks (sorry.. bergens) was a standard warm up.

‘Highlights’ for me (yes, I feel a little guilty calling them that) included the sight of recruits drinking the blood and eating the liver of a freshly slaughtered springbok (one of those Sth African deer things). And most who watched would remember the moment in Episode 4 when the bearded guy (2nd from the front in the picture above) abruptly exited the show after telling the Sth Korean instructor exactly what he could do with his request to assume the thinking man’s stress position (standing on your head) for the 59th time after yet another perceived minor discipline breach.

So what’s the attraction to these torture-as-entertainment type reality shows?  That’s probably better left as a dedicated post for another day but suffice to say the crazy Japanese game shows of the 80’s that started this modern phenomena have a lot to answer for. It would not surprise me if the yet to be announced Season 3 of SPECIAL FORCES: ULTIMATE HELL WEEK included a brief foray into cannibalism.

If that kind of ‘next-level’ mental toughness exercise actually did ever get the go-ahead, things would still be ok: just as long as nobody tried acting the clown. I’ve heard comedians taste funny. (Ok,  20 pushups for me for that poor imitation of a joke!)cartoon

 

 

Where Bad is Beautiful – and terrible is divine

bulwer-lytton

The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest is an annual whimsical literary competition that challenges entrants to compose the most awkward sounding single sentence they can conjure while still conforming to basic rules of grammar and, for want of a better word, storytelling.

Named in honour of the English novelist and politician Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873), this yearly foray into the absurd has been running since 1982 and attracts thousands of entries from all over the world. Competition for bad writing has never been so fierce. I’ve entered the last two years but so far haven’t managed to sink to the depths necessary to attract the judges eye. To give you an idea of the (sub)standard of writing required to achieve success in this arena, below is the winning entry as well as the runner-up from the 2016 contest:

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runner-up

This year I thought I’d sling some word wackle into one of the specialist genre categories. This is my entry for the horror section, though I believe it could just as easily qualify for the Purple Prose or Vile Puns’ sections:

 

Two of the ghastly mutant creature known as Son of Triceratops’ heads had stayed up all night debating whether their dentist really did deserve the plaque awarded to him that day by the Royal Association for the Prevention of Monster Cavities, whilst the third head, having already made up its mind on the subject and recognizing the importance of a good night’s sleep, nodded off early.

3-heads

If you think you’ve got what it takes as a bottom-of-the-barrel word fumbler, entries close at the end of April.

A great actor remembered

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Barely noticed this week amidst the buzz and glitter of the film industry’s 89th Academy Awards, and the ‘craziest Oscar moment of all time’, was the passing of one of Hollywood’s finest supporting actors over the last 30 years, Bill Paxton.

Paxton appeared in more than 60 movies, mainly in supporting character roles. Beginning his Hollywood career working in the art department, Bill Paxton made his on-screen debut in 1982 with a small speaking part in the  Bill Murray comedy STRIPES. He went on to be  a regular face in movies throughout the 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s. His final role was in the upcoming Tom Hanks movie THE CIRCLE, set for release later this year.

Bill Paxton reliably brought an honest, ‘down on the farm’ earthiness to his roles, which I found appealing. It came as no surprise to learn he was born and raised in Fort Worth, Texas.

Bill Paxton featured in four of my favourite James Cameron films –

TERMINATOR  (1984)

ALIENS  (1986)

TRUE LIES  (1994)

TITANIC  (1997)

Four years after appearing in TITANIC, he joined James Cameron on an expedition to the actual Titanic. A film about this trip, GHOSTS OF THE ABYSS, was released in 2003.  Paxton also directed two feature films himself – FRAILTY (2001) and THE GREATEST GAME EVER PLAYED (2005).

He passed away on February 25 from complications following surgery.

R.I.P. Bill Paxton.

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*** Bonus Fact***   Bill Paxton was in the crowd when President John F. Kennedy emerged from the Hotel Texas on the morning of his assassination on November 22nd, 1963. Photographs of an eight year old Paxton being lifted above the crowd are on display at the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas, Texas.

 

Miracle at the Drive-thru

maccas

Until yesterday I used to think it only happened in films.

Today I know different. Today I am transformed because of what took place yesterday. Today I am a believer. Best I explain.

Picture the restaurant scene in what I’ll call  a ‘Hollywood date movie’. The pretty brunette seated at table seven is told by the gum-chewing, middle-aged waitress with the pencil behind her ear that the stately looking gentleman at the table in the far corner has just paid for her drinks and/or meal. She chances a look in that direction and there’s the handsome stranger staring back at her while giving his best ‘You’re Welcome’ nod of acknowledgement; a nod sitting precisely midway between debonair and two parts creepy on the BLI (body language index).

Admittedly what I found myself on the receiving end of  yesterday was a sizeably scaled down version of this act of philanthropy, with not a hint of romance attached, but it was also by  no means any less affecting.

There I was inching my way forward thru our local McDonald’s Drive-thru  (pardon the doubling up on ‘thru’ just now but it was hard to avoid) to be suddenly greeted by the heart-fluttering news  when reaching the pay window – I prefer the slightly more sci-fi leaning term ‘pay portal’ myself – that our order had been paid for by the car in front. I should make clear at this point  that this was not a regular-latte and small fries sized order but one that came to nearly $30 to feed a car carrying five people.

Shock and awe does not begin to describe my reaction to this random act of kindness on the part of the driver in front. Twenty four hours later and I still have not wiped the smile from my face nor the warm inner glow from my whole being. Is that too grand and dilated a statement? I don’t think so, considering something like this has never happened to me before and on at least a number of levels it comes closest to what the average person might be able to reasonably call a ‘magical’ experience – short of spending a month wearing loose-fitting clothing clutching prayer beads whilst living in an Indian ashram.

The only downside of the experience was I didn’t get to thank the anonymous driver who was the perpetrator of this random act of generosity. While I was busy still picking my jaw up from the front seat and wondering if I’d just slipped into some alternate wholly-good universe, (and if so trying to work out how I could lengthen my stay) the car in front rounded the corner and was gone. All I remember  it was a white Land Cruiser with a female driver and a young boy aged about ten sitting alongside in the front passenger seat. To the both of them now I say this:  kindness is like a viral YouTube video. Every person who sees it is quite likely to feel like sharing it with others. Thanks for sharing your kindness with me.

I still can’t decide which was the more magical – the act itself or the timing of the act. The other part of this story is that along with my wife and six-year-old daughter, in the car with me on this day were my Korean mother in law and Korean brother-in-law. Both were on a first time visit to Australia. Neither speak English. They may not have understood the spoken words but very quickly each caught on to the fact that something good and  something unusual had just taken place.

My wife and I joked that in an act of conspiratorial humor we could have squeezed even more ‘feel good juice’ from this kind-hearted displaypiece positioned amidst the  fruitbowl of human benevolence and pretended, for the sake of our international guests, that this gesture of  goodwill, rather than being something  out of place and extraordinary, was to the contrary  a quite common occurance here and merely ‘just how things are done’ in this country. If only!

In the spirit of pay it forward (acknowledgement to the 2000 movie and the 1999 Catherine Ryan Hyde novel the movie was based on) I did exactly that later that same day. That’s a story  I’ll tell another time, maybe even  using the heading

DELIGHT CLUB”.

You know the one. The first rule of DELIGHT CLUB is you must talk about DELIGHT CLUB. The second rule..

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