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.

First surprise of 2017

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It happened again last night.

I watched my new favourite show and enjoyed every snarky, disfigured and knuckle-dragging moment.

INKMASTERS is a reality contest program now five years established and currently in its eighth season. Each week contestants are given a series of tattoo challenges (all permanently inscribed on real clients) which are then critiqued by the resident judging panel. One person is eliminated each show, accompanied by the poker-faced pronouncement “You do not have what it takes to be Inkmaster.” The remaining ink warriors live to battle another week in the hope of collecting the eventual $100 000 prize pot.

As someone who has made no secret of their dislike for tattoos and their questionable, spreading-like-a-virus popularity that has enveloped this country over the last half-dozen or so  years, it surprises me no end that I would find something to like in a program such as this.

The rise of ‘gangsta chic’ and highly visible ‘look at me’ tribal markings, conceived more for the purposes of making their wearer appear as fierce as possible rather than for any genuine ‘artistic’ motives and once only associated with Outlaw Motorcycle gangs, inmates and sailors (if you want to go real old school), is an anthropological phenomena the explanation of which could no doubt occupy many an exhaustively researched sociology thesis.

The reasons for my sudden and uncharacteristic interest in this show may be threefold:

(1)    A subconscious desire to soften my steadfast and long-held anti-tattoo stance. Only just recently I’ve been forced to admit, despite wishing for so long to the contrary, that this is a  society trend not going away anytime soon. Hundreds of thousands of people who’ve decided to go the way of the tramp stamp (yep, I said it) are going to have them for a very long time. It’s safe to say the great majority of those people have or at some stage in their lives will have children, and so the next generation of skin junk devotees is ready-made.

(2)    On the way to pick up a phone-ordered pizza (who does that?) about a week ago I exchanged pleasant words with the proprietor of my local tattoo shop. The pizza shop was located right next to the parlour (do they still call them that?) and as I walked past, the reverse-baseball-cap-wearing young chap that emerged was in the process of locking up for the night to go home. We shared a joke about a poster that adorned one of the walls of the shop and without me even realising it my attitude softening process had commenced.

(3)    It’s summer New Year holidays. The free-to-air television landscape is more barren than the sandhills of the Serengeti. Put plainly, there’s not a great deal much else worth looking at. (This water-for-a-dying-man phenomena is also how I stumbled upon THE KING OF QUEENS eight years back)

To be real, I don’t think I’ve really moved away anywhere near a complete 360 degrees from my preference to give as wide as possible a berth to people whose intention, facilitated by whatever means (tattoos included), is clearly to make themselves appear as scary as possible to others. But if nothing else, I’ve found a decent enough show to help tide me over the television off-season wasteland.

It sure beats watching re-runs of Married with Children.

The Photo No One Saw

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This is me. And this is the photo of me that got banned. Now for the first time  comes the story of what really happened.

For the last few years, American author Chuck Wendig has run a competition inviting subscribers of his blog to enter his less than serious Awkward Author Photo Contest. The idea is for people to send in the most puffed up and stilted pictures of themselves they can conjure; equal parts vainglorious, stiff and amateurish with at least a hint of pompous and ungainly thrown in for good measure. I did my best.

Forty three people submitted photos and the voted-upon top five of those were awarded prizes. The day after sending in my entry I received a politely worded email from Chuck himself. (Unusual not least for the fact that anyone who reads his blog will know this is a person not known for their politeness) Regretfully my photo would unable to be included in the competition, the words read, as even though, to quote Chuck’s phrasing , he was “certain my intentions were innocuous”, it “may be misinterpreted as having racist overtones with its use of blackface.” (‘Blackface’  being a form of theatrical makeup – usually burnt cork – popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries, used by non-coloured skin performers to represent a person of coloured skin.)

Chuck was completely correct. The entry should have been rejected. In culturally aware times such as ours, my judgement was shown to be less finely tuned then perhaps it should have been. To say there was zero derogatory intention behind the picture and that the idea of mimicking an antiquated practice – made popular at one time back in the 20’s by singers such as Al Jolson – was the furthest thought from my mind when the photograph was being taken, is probably the most accurate statement of intent behind the picture I can communicate.

The real story?  Prior to taking the photograph, my wife suggested I apply a beauty mask to my face to tighten the skin so I could appear a smoother version of me. It was never going to make much of a difference anyway but I agreed. Turns out the only such facial cream of its type we had in the house at that moment was a ‘Purifying Charcoal Mask’. When applied it looks grey/black in colour. It was my less than brilliant idea to snap the picture while the mask was still drying.

Perhaps in some compensatory bid to creatively and non-offensively get back on the horse, I’m already planning next year’s entry. Picture a beach scene with me buried up to my neck in sand. I’m drinking from a straw-equipped hollowed out pineapple with one of those decorative mini umbrellas emerging at just the right angle from the neatly jagged side rim, while reading a copy of either Gaellen Quinn’s THE LAST ALOHA or Peter Benchley’s JAWS. Adding a final touch of beach schmaltz, my face is adorned in camouflage patterned, sun-protective multicoloured zinc cream. That’s flourescent, full-pallete, non-controversial multicoloured zinc cream. With not a hint of black to be seen. Anywhere.

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*Addendum

While this Mount Rushmore-esque piece of artful whimsy didn’t make it into the top 5, it’s easily my favourite.

Mein Bestseller

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Latest news from that shape-shifting, fickle beast known as the publishing industry is  there is a new edition out of Adolf Hitler’s MEIN KAMPF (translated ‘My Struggle’) and it has been selling like the proverbial hot cakes in Germany.

Apparently this is the first reprint since World War Two after a 70 year copyright on the text expired at the end of 2015. Complete with explanatory sections and some 3500 annotations, the fresh reprint has sold over 85 000 copies since its release.

Surprises abound in the New Year but I have to admit I did Nazi that coming.

He’s back (and no one told me)

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Since it appears no one else is gonna talk about it, since probably no one else knows about it, looks like its been left to me to mark a music industry milestone that passed pretty much unnoticed quite recently.

40 years ago French music composer Jean-Michel Jarre released a ground-breaking electonica album titled Oxygen that established him as techno’s first global poster boy. In 1997 he released the follow up  and now the 68 year old described for so long as a musical maverick has let go the third installment of blips, beeps and synthy sounds.

A look at the instrument listing on the album reads like a props department inventory from one of the Terminator movies –

Eminent 310

AKS

VCS 3

Small Stone

Electric Mistress

ARP 2600

ARP 2500

Moog Sub 37

OB6

Mellotron D4000

Korg Polyphonic Ensemble

Mini Pops

Metasonic

Digisequencer

TR8

Animoog

OP1

OP12

OP 24

Ochord

Analog Keys

Virus

Dune

Nordlead 1

Monark

RBlocks

Spire

Serum

Cognosphere

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Micro Monsta

Philicorda.

Infinitely more down to earth, apparently it was all mixed together using nothing more than a  Macbook Pro! That’s definitely the type of person you want on the other end of the line with your next call to a computer helpline.

Over the moon about Buster Moon!

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As an adult who would rather run screaming naked into a burning building than have to sit through your garden-variety rambunctious and way over-caffeininated Pixar-type kids film, I was pleasantly surprised recently when I saw the movie SING (Illumination Entertainment and released by Universal Studios) at the cinema with my six year old daughter and wife courtesy of some free movie tickets (the REAL Gold Class being Free Class).

Packed with more than 60 classic songs most people would know spanning the 80’s to present day (including a new song called ‘Faith’ by Ariana Grande, who I am familiar with again thanks to my daughter’s prodigious UTube-ing skills), this movie, incredibly, is really a one man show, (as much as that is ever possible with films) having been both written and directed by Garth Jennings. Not a name I was familiar with but his two previous directing credits have been Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (2005) and Son of Rambow (2007) so he definitely (and obviously) already has some runs on the board before landing at the helm of this work.

SING tells the the story of a koala (Australian flavor right there!) – named Buster Moon -voiced by Matthew McConaughey –  who owns a music theatre that has seen better days. In debt to the bank up to his herbivorous marsupial eyeballs, Mr Moon, as he is known to his fellow animal characters, comes up with a plan to breath new live into the theatre by staging a singing contest. First prize is $1000 – or is it?  The premise of this movie is a misunderstanding that spirals out of control, leading the would-be singing contestants to believe they are infact competing for $100 000.

In the parlance of my six year old, the cool factor on this movie ‘is like, a thousand’. This movie has the energy of a blast furnace but manages to avoid the overly annoying and tiresomely cute frenetic energy of so many of it’s contemporaries in the kids film market. The animal carwash scene in particular, along with scores of others, had the adults in the audience holding-on-to-their-cushioned-and-cupholdered-chairs-for-support laughing. That you don’t see every day.

A visit to the Golden Arches afterwards completed the experience when we were able to take home our very own talking Buster Moon figurine inside a Happy Meal, effectively ‘upsizing’ our cinematic experience, as you do.  Native Australian animals on the menu at Macca’s? Now there’s a contender for 2017’s first misconstrued false news story.

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P.s (Is that what you write on a blog for an afterthought?)   How very last year of me to include a picture featuring a man who is no longer Australian Prime Minister and another who has got only 20 days left in office. Lets call it a nostalgic throwback to what will inevitably very soon be viewed retrospectively  by some as ‘simpler days’.

Gems amongst the gravel

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Letters to the Editor. In the hands of many, whiny opinion pieces issued from Joe Citizen’s personal Complaints Department happy to finally find a home. In the hands of a few – poetry!

This one, taken from a recent issue of the Brisbane-Australia Saturday newspaper inserted QWEEKEND MAGAZINE recalls the nostalgic wonder and simplicity of small country town driving tests from yesteryear –

“Mel Buttle’s column pertaining to driving reminded me of when I obtained my license. I lived in a little country town, where the sole police officer tested my driving skills. I was required to drive in the main street where there was one car parked – “not enough for a reverse park”, so I was directed to drive on to find a hill for a hill start, not seeing another car along the way. Upon returning to the main street, the status quo remained. “Just make sure you can do a reverse park, OK?” the police officer said,as I was handed my license.”       Pam McGahey, Mount Samson

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