Miracle at the Drive-thru

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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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Say hello to my little friend.. again!

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Latest news from Hollywood (allright, in the fair dinkum stakes this ‘flash’ may actually be anywhere up to six months old) has it that the four-time Academy Award winning team the Coen Brothers (Joel and Ethan) have been brought in as scriptwriters for the latest remake of SCARFACE.

Set for cinema release in August 2018, this will be the third time the story, loosely based on the rise and fall of infamous gangster Al Capone and originally derived from the 1930 novel of the same name by 28-year-old author Armitage Trail has made it to the big screen.

Originally filmed in 1932 by American director Howard Hawks, the movie was remade in 1983 with Brian DePalma at the helm (Oliver Stone was the scriptwriter), gifting Al Pacino one of his early seminal roles.

Set to star Rogue One: A Star Wars Story actor Diego Luna in the title role as Tony ‘Scarface’ Camonte, Universal Studios says the  re-imagining will be set in downtown Los Angeles.

The announcement of yet another incarnation of this mobster icon is surely jam roll heaven for the millions of fans of the film.

For the rest, here’s something else to chew on –

The 1983 version starring Al Pacino ran for 170 minutes and contained 207 ‘F’ bombs. That works out to be exactly 1.21 ‘F’ bombs per minute.

How they gonna top that?

Let’s hope they have the good sense not to try.

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KISS OF DEATH

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A real swing and a miss that one!

I get that not every one is a died in the wool KISS fan who might enjoy exchanging eyeliner tips, but did someone really have to go  and sabotage that last post with all the scrambled script? That was completely messy, and not even in an arty sort of way! It looked chewed on like a rottweiler’s rope knot. And you deserve better.

So to whoever dropped that ooopstacle course hand-grenade into the works just then (and it wasn’t me – honest) and attempt to flood the fan zone with pepper spray, I say two things-

(1)  You wanted the best, and after some major reformatting surgery, you’ve now got the best and..

(2) KISS is quite likely to outlast us all!

A restored and readable version of that post is now up on SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK.

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11 things I learnt about Paul Stanley from reading his Autobiography

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  1. Paul Stanley was born with a deformed stump of an ear which he disguised by growing his hair long until he had reconstructive surgery in 1982.
  2. Before KISS, Paul worked as a taxi driver
  3. Even after he became a millionaire in 1976 and KISS achieved their first gold record and began selling out stadiums, his father still told him his success was more due to luck than anything else.
  4. When he insisted on a pre-nup with his first wife in 1991, she ran from the room screaming. Years later when they divorced, he would regret not following through with that arrangement.
  5. Paul Stanley’s psychiatrist became KISS‘S manager but later also became a fugitive after avoiding child support payments and was never seen by the band again.
  6. Paul loathed the movie KISS AND THE ATTACK OF THE PHANTOMS  (ok, I already knew that)
  7. The biggest crowd KISS ever played to was in Rio, Brazil in 1983 at Maracana Stadium in front of 180 000 screaming fans.
  8. To date he has sold well over $2 million worth of his own paintings.
  9. Paul played the lead role in a 1999 Canadian production of PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and fondly recalls seeing some devil-horn salutes in the uppercrust audience on opening night.
  10. He didn’t invite band mate Gene Simmons to his 2nd wedding (aged 53) in 2005 because of Gene’s espoused anti-marriage views at the time.
  11. Paul Stanley ends his autobiography by saying he looks forward to the day he’s replaced in KISS, not because he wants to leave the band, but because it will prove he’s right: KISS is bigger than any of its members and will carry on in some form for generations.

** This book abounds in funny anecdotes. Here’s one –

In 1974, all band members were on a modest $60 a week salary paid by their manager Bill Aucoin. One day, Paul entered his manager’s office, intent on asking for a raise, not realising Aucoin was a quarter of a million dollars in debt and their record label Casablanca was on the verge of collapse.

Paul Stanley tells the rest of the story this way (p 166) –

“One afternoon, back in New York for a day or two off, I went into Manhattan to see Bill at his office. I had decided to ask him for a raise. I thought we should get ten bucks more per week than the sixty dollars we had been earning for about a year now.

I walked in and sat down facing Bill, who was sitting with his feet up on his desk.  There was a hole in the bottom of his shoe and duct tape stuffed into the hole to keep it somewhat closed. He had a hole in his sweater too. On second thoughts, never mind.”

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The Rise and Fall of a Finger-Dazzle Master

Here’s a tasty crumpet of micro-fiction I stumbled upon recently on a site called BRILLIANT FLASH FICTION.  Reproduced with kind permission of the author.

 

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                                                 Scissors Paper Rock Bottom
By Glen Donaldson

Only a madman would draw paper three times in a row, thought Miles Munro, four times World Rock Paper Scissors champion to himself as he again tried to predict what his four-fingered opponent Birch Prendergast would do next.

A prodigiously-gifted ‘blitz’ player who’d established his psychological bona fides by studying game theory and reading William Poundstone’s seminal The Art of Outsmarting Almost Anyone many times over, Miles sensed his mild-mannered adversary didn’t really like being around people at all, excepting this once a year opportunity to showcase his prodigious brand of finger-dazzle.

Miles, or as he was known in tournament circles “Masterchief Munro” was, so to speak, a practised hand in the black arts of competitive mindgames: double-thinking and psyching-out challengers while all the time clawing for advantage using pattern recognition, body language analysis, passive-aggressive cloaking moves (his favourite being the kamikaze-styled and devicefully named three scissors in-a-row Toolbox) and the finer points of the old mentalist trick ‘Sicilian Reasoning’. Heck, when it came right down to it, Miles wasn’t even above trash-talking his foes to throw them off balance.

Recently he’d taken to wearing dark sunglasses to make it harder for his opponents to read his expression. This lasted for a brief time up until the decision by the Executive Board of the RPS International Governing Body moved to outlaw such practices.

Yet amidst this great hall of mirrors, engineered by an unmistakably severe intelligence, near psychic ability for prediction and a psychopathic lust for winning, Miles himself somehow made the transparently rookie error of tucking the tip of his thumb into the crook of his index finger, thus telegraphing an obvious rock. In an instant Birch Prendergast, surprised as anyone, was able to read it like an oversized newspaper headline and at the speed of thought produce the final stunning play in his counter-intuitive signature move The Bureaucrat (paper-paper-paper).

It was all over. Along with the look of baby surprise frozen across his face, Miles made a noise with his lips, noticeably lowered his usually hunched shoulders then immediately relaxed, like a lobster rubbed on its stomach. It was a crushing defeat for the child prodigy on a scale that dwarfed everything in his life that had gone before. Worse was to follow as it signalled the beginning of an evolutionary cul-de-sac for the once all-conquering, all conspiring, all configuring former champion who inexplicably commenced losing to a string of much lesser rated opponents and in a short time found himself competing amongst the ranks of lowly amateurs in the myriad of 2nd tier competitions spread across the country.

Early retirement saw Miles retreat to the open-air solitude of bass fishing in his aluminum-hulled skeeter dingy on nearby Lake Prime where he was regularly spotted challenging invisible opponents to games of rock paper scissors. Rumoured plans of a comeback against the headline-making University of Tokyo’s RPS playing robot were shelved sometime back. This came about as a result of it being made known that by using high-speed cameras and recognising within half a millisecond which shape the human hand was making and then producing the corresponding winning shape the android-machine was able to achieve a 100% winning rate.

Away from the glare of superstardom, the once mighty competition warrior formerly known as The Masterchief set about applying his algorithmic mind to the almost infinite combination of weights, shapes, colours (some painted with his daughter’s nail polish) and materials for lures and jigheads along with their matched propensity for catching both freshwater and marine species of fish.

Happiness, something that had never really been an arrow in Mile’s quiver but instead resembled more an intermittent radio signal he could never quite get a lengthy fix on, now seemed much more attainable. He wasn’t winning anymore but ironically he felt much more like a winner. Life was good again and he let the happiness soak right into his bones. He’d covered his last rock, smashed his last pair of scissors, cut his last bit of paper and executed his last meta-strategy. Miles Munro was finally going random. It was time to develop a whole new set of moves.

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See you in Hell

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I’m getting ready.

The webbing’s been placed at the foot of the bed. The camo paint tin’s been fully restocked. And this time I’m packing some heavy-duty ear plugs in case I get yelled at nice ‘n close – which is a definite possibility.

Tomorrow night I come face to face with pain. Raw, muscle-twitching, physical pain; the type that commands your attention and makes it impossible to hold another thought; the kind that can leave your complexion ashen. I’ve decided I’ll confront it head on and take what’s coming to me. After all, I’ve done this before.

Tomorrow night at 8:30pm it’s likely I’ll find myself forced to endure torture in a variety of forms: anything  from hooded interrogations designed to break my mental resolve; to having to heave heavy logs across mosquito-infested swamps for hours on end; to command0-crawling  across troughs of stinking pigs guts; to having to force down my throat ‘food’ that would make a billy-goat puke. Allright, that last line is from FIRST BLOOD (1982) but hopefully you’re getting an idea of what’s most likely in store for me and anyone else who dares show up.

Tomorrow night I sit down to watch the first episode of SPECIAL FORCES: ULTIMATE HELL WEEK Series Two and as you can tell from the description above, for me it’s going to be a highly visceral experience.

This UK reality series sees a group of civilians put through two weeks of sleep-deprived military training at the hands of battle-hardened and downright merciless Special Forces instructors, none of whom appear to have a sympathetic bone in their chiseled, strong-as-teak bodies.

Each episode the group is whittled down as individuals are told to pack their bags and leave the camp. Series One, which aired two years ago, was won by a 55 kg, 32-year-old female – Dr Claire Miller, a hospital haematologist from London who also happened to be  a champion duathlete and former rower who once cycled 2,626 miles across Europe to raise money for charity. In winning, she showed a toughness that put many of her male competitors to shame and reignited the debate about whether females should be permitted entry to Special Forces.

Tomorrow night it begins (Channel 22). It’s gonna be rough. It’s going to be brutal. Wish me luck and as they said at the beginning of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN –

“See you on the beach!”

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Winner of Series One – Dr Claire Miller

Book a Test

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Think you know  books?

Time to see how well.

Above are pictured six book covers (minus identifying details) and the year each book was originally published. Now focus Danial-San. Focus.

Done? That didn’t last long now did it?

Here’s the answers so you may inhale the truth.. as it were.

 

(1)      The Hobbitt  by J.R.R. Tolkien

(2)      Catch 22  by Joseph Heller

(3)     War of the Worlds      by H.G. Wells

(4)     A Clockwork Orange     by Anthony Burgess

(5)     The Fault in Our Stars     by John Green

(6)       Mr Mercedes        by Stephen King

 

Image Source: Australian Writer’s Centre

 

 

 

 

Did I really have to?

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No, I did not really have to.

Making it worse, it’s not like people didn’t try to talk me out of it as well. My wife for instance. She sacrified precious kimchi prepping time to  counsel me long into the night on the folly of what I’m now about to go ahead and do anyway. The words of advice went whizzing past my ears like silver bullets shot from Blade’s (stuck in the 90’s and proud!) vampire-killing six-shooter. Ultimately they missed their target and I think ended up embedded somewhere in the trunk of a giant oak we have outside our kitchen window.

Did I listen?  I certainly gave the impression of someone who listened but when it comes right down to it I’ve probably got too soft a spot for all the garden variety Walter Mitty types out there self-deluded enough to want to pass themselves off as would-be writers. The vast majority might be kidding themselves (having taken way too seriously the oft-quoted palaver of  ‘If you write then you’re a writer’)  but overall they’re a harmless, nigh interesting lot.

Here then is a piece of short fiction, reprinted with the author’s permission, from the latest  print issue of BINDWEED magazine. If you’ve got anything else to do, and by ‘anything’ I mean absolutely anything, from watching the new SHOPKINS MOVIE trailer to counting the number of Hawaiian shirts in your wardrobe to popping a fresh breath mint and thinking about the hair on your upper lip, then by all means go ahead and do it.

For those still here and ready to launch, don’t say I didn’t try to warn you..

 

   Falling Like Dominos

Written by Glen Donaldson

 

The senate inquiry into the reasons why pizza had been legislatively classified as a vegetable had been flawed from the beginning. In this part of the country, everyone knew that corruption was synonymous with government. As Shakespeare had written centuries before, “Hell is empty and all the devils are here.” When Alfonso ‘The Moth’ Esposito III – known equally for his frequent fashion faux pas (super deep v-neck shirts, Disney character ties, square toed dress shoes, unibrow) as he was for being the 29 year old President and CEO of tomato paste giant Grupo Bimbo Foods – was revealed as one of the five people appointed to the government commission tasked with unearthing the suspected murky deals that had led to the distrustfully leveraged ruling, many immediately suspected a dough-coloured whitewash.
In truth, among The Moth’s conglomerate of food manufacturing firms was a company that acted as the chief supplier of pasta sauce pizza bases to school tuckshops along the entire East Coast. It was therefore rightly seen that Esposito had much to gain by the FDA’s reclassification and anointing of pizza as a nutritionally sound food staple considered suitable for serving on school premises to the nation’s growing children.

 

Grupo Bimbo was long suspected to have had links with the La Cosa Nostra chapter of the Sicilian mafia. It was certainly no stranger to allegations of misconduct and using bribes and kickbacks to help secure government and private sector supply contracts and favours. In the 1930’s the company had reinvented bread as a variation on the marshmallow and named it ‘Submarino’, (later to become known as ‘Twinkies’) effectively sidestepping government agency food laws at the time which prevented nutritional tampering with provisions deemed primary food products.

 

More recently the shady corporate had come under the glare of official scrutiny when their popular ‘diet pizza’ was found to contain toppings that included ear wax and bellybutton lint. They’d also been held to account by no less than NASA (National Advertising Standards Association) for misleading promotion of their $12.95 gluten free pizza (gluten being a protein composite found in barley, rye, wheat and all their hybrids). The company had been forced to clarify that the gluten component of the pizza was included at no extra cost and that it was the other ingredients that constituted the advertised price.
The head of this roily food manufacture and supply empire may not have looked like he came from central casting, but with his engorged sense of entitlement and what sections of the press had dubbed his ‘Machiavellian narcissism’, in many other ways he was the perfect poster boy for the selfie/hashtag generation. With pale skin through which you could see the blue of his veins and his watery, unblinking stare, The Moth had a distinctly alien look and a definite air of intrigue about him.

 

Inevitably, with Esposito’s appointment, the commission, only formed after a court overruled several previous efforts by council leaders to spike it, was itself the subject of questioning. By that November, both the flawed original legislation and the commission itself had fallen with the last of the autumn leaves. Police launched Operation Crispy Crust, carrying out 67 search warrants, ending in 15 arrests. The result was a noticeable (though some suggested temporary) disruption and downsizing of Grupo Bimbo’s supply chain and a loosening of its stranglehold monopoly on the pasta sauce and tomato paste industries.
Somehow managing to escape prosecution on charges of graft and corruption himself, Esposito succeeded in airing one of the more memorable quotes in the wash-up to the inquiry into the inquiry when he was heard to remark “Corrupt politicians make the other ten percent look bad.” The Supreme Court is still to hear appeals brought forth by Grupo Bimbo’s legal team but it is widely considered they are unlikely to change their minds. As one senator commented –“The happy ending has been delivered and the improper legislation is now a dead animal lying on the bitumen – what I understand in some circles is referred to as ‘road pizza’.”

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Lush and then Some

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Two kids movies in as many weeks.

Either it’s summer school holidays or I’m going through the causeway of a reverse-ageing second childhood.

MOANA is the latest fully computer-animated offering from Disney Studios. With a voice cast that includes Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson,  lush, eye-popping visuals – think elements like oceans and forests, normally relegated to background images, forcing you to notice them on a level like never before  –  created by a corps of more than 90 digital animators, plus a rousing ‘to cheer for’ girl power message,  this movie is currently leaving all others of its type in its wake. Late last year the film broke the record set by FROZEN back in 2014 for the best opening day in the U.S for a children’ feature film.

This movie held me to around the 3/4 mark. The creators of MOANA should view that as a major achievement since I am most definitely someone, as previously admitted, who views these type of children’s films – I have a six-year-old daughter so I get to see a few – as uniformly shrill, frenetic and overloaded with needy type energy.

The story is set on a small Polynesian Island whose native inhabitants, for generations, have been warned never to venture beyond the reef. When the tribal chief’s own daughter, Moana, is chosen by the ocean spirit to reunite a stolen mystical stone with its rightful owner who lives many seas beyond their island home, she must defy the wishes of her father and set sail on a quest that will save the fate of her people.

One way movies connect with us is when they touch on situations we ourselves are familiar with or perhaps have even experienced on some level. Five years ago I spent two years living and working on an island (population 250) in the middle of the Torres Strait (half way between the most northern tip of Australia and the country of  Papua New Guinea). The television series RAN (Remote Area Nurse) was filmed there in 2005.

Some points of note about this movie:

  • MOANA is the first motion picture to have a version fully dubbed in the Tahitian language.
  •  This marks only the third time Disney has released a special dubbing dedicated to the culture which inspired the film: the first was THE LION KING (1994), for which a  Zulu-dubbed version was made; and the second  was MULAN (1998), which was the first Disney film to have a Mandarin Chinese dubbing made in China.
  • The scene in which Maui (voiced by ‘The Rock’) and Moana encounter the troll-like, coconut-shaped pirates was intended as a homage to MAD MAX: FURY ROAD. (Note: that’s definitely one movie no one should ever pay homage to, and that’s from a person who rates MAD MAX II as the best movie ever made in this country).
  • At the end of 2016 Hawaiian Airlines decorated the exteriors of it’s Airbus A330 -200 fleet with Moana-themed images.
  • The movie is accompanied by a five minute short film also made by Disney called INNER WORKINGS. It’s one of the most creative joys I’ve ever sat through at a cinema.

Regular readers of this blog may also appreciate my interest in news that a costume made to tie in with the film was pulled by Disney from its online store following complaints about it being culturally insensitive and appearing to promote brownface. Given my own recent missteps in this area, its understandable I might take some small comfort in the fact that a company as large and well-known as Disney can also stumble within a culturally nuanced sphere such as this.

One final point about this movie connects  to my recent post about body ink. Suffice to say when real life tattoos reach the technology stage of attaining sentience, like the ones that adorn the character of Maui in this film (the only old-school, hand drawn animation frames in MOANA), then I might start to look and (a version of) admire.

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Ps. At the end of the movie when the theatre lights had come back on and everyone was exiting the cinema, in a moment of impulse motivated by some deeply felt inner urge  (I’m claiming it was hunger) I  decided I should  reach out and touch the spirit of  my teenage self by scooping up a handful of popcorn from one of the literally dozens of still half full, up-sized cardboard containers left behind on the, by this time, mostly vacated cinema seats.

Fellow husbands of the world… I beseech you to hear and heed the following advice. Don’t ever, ever do this! The scolding you’re sure to get will have you reaching for the aloe vera for the next few days. Maybe week.