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

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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.

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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

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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