The Ins and Outs of Beauty

rose

Last week, the words that follow down further below appeared as a guest post on Matt Pavowski’s primo blog ACCIDENTALLY INSPIRED. (See it here) 

Acc

Matt’s a sassy word-slinger of the highest order based in Atlanta USA. Up until last year he worked  as a high school classroom teacher. He’s since transitioned to high school drama teacher. Matt’s also penned a couple of novel’s he’s currently seeking representation for. He’s a person on the cusp of great things. And one of the great mysteries of the world, apart the identity of Jack the Ripper and why dentists attempt to carry on conversation when you’ve got a mouthful of medical instruments, is why his blog has ‘only’ 490 followers. It deserves easily in excess of ten times that number. 

Answers to brain-stumpers such as these will no doubt be provided in the fullness of time, but in the meantime…

Wanna hear a confession?

When given the choice between inner beauty and mere surface beauty, on a great many occasions I’ve opted to wade, frolic and generally amuse myself in the decidedly shallow end of the pool.

It happened only yesterday.

Hungry, I made a selection from my kitchen-benchtop fruitbowl, heading straight for the banana direct from central casting whose high-beam yellow color coating was so gloriously perfect it seemed to come with its own ready-made promotional line – “People will stare: why not make it worth their while?”

banana

Sitting right alongside nature’s gift to banana-hood, lay a black-sheep relative – another banana, far less endowed with the outer beauty gene and painted with a very different pallet – this one showcasing small-pox patterned black spots. I didn’t trouble ‘it’ for even a second look. I fully knew that beneath that blemished exterior, the quality and taste of the fruit would have in all likelihood been the equal of its more air-brushed companion.  I even made the effort to remind myself it wasn’t the skin I’d be eating (unlike Kevin Spacey’s mental patient character in the 2001 movie K-PAX).

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So what’s the takeaway? Probably something as intuitive as why settle for the singular experience of just inner beauty when you can have the synergistic one on the not overly common occasions when outer beauty gets thrown in as well.

To cite another example: a few days before the fruitbowl decision’, I’d entered a bicycle shop with an eye to buying what these days goes by the name of a ‘road bike’. With a budget of just $500, the backward-baseball-cap–wearing shop guy presented me with just two entry-level options –

The “Aquila” for $300 or for $150 more, the large, broad-winged and soaring sounding “Condor”.

To my unschooled, ‘babe in the woods’ eyes, the working parts on both machines were identical  – same chains, same rims, same brake levers, same cranksets, same gear systems, same peddles with the strap-in racing holsters. Same… everything!  The added expense of one bike over the other as far as I could reason was down to one thing – looks.

The Condor resembled a black-olive Ferrari – coated from head to toe in that non-reflective matt finish most commonly associated with Stealth Fighter Jets. The less expensive Aquila, by comparison, looked like… well, a speckled banana, splash-decorated by a herd of over-excited, under-coordinated pre-schoolers. So what did I end up riding out of the store on? My very own little black Stealth Fighter Jet of course.

To visibly dilute the opening line of this thought-piece regarding a ‘confession’, I will say I am not ashamed to admit a liking for package deals that combine the charms of both inner and outer beauty. Like an alchemist’s dream, when both elements are brought together, an entity both exquisite and sublime is what can very often result; rare and true beauty as dazzling and affecting as fireworks, as comforting as a lullaby and as fulfilling as an eight course banquet.

Breathtaking when it happens.

painting

Author Interview – Matt Porter

author

Matt Porter is a Victorian based children’s author who is also a currently serving full-time Primary School teacher. His CRAZY RELIEF TEACHER series of books are hugely popular and well known. Matt spoke to me recently about his dual careers as writer and teacher.

I understand your current job within the Victorian Education Department is as a mobile library teacher in rural schools. Can you tell us a bit about that?

I am a MARC (mobile library) teacher in the Hamilton area (about 90 mins drive from Ballarat, outside of Melbourne) I visit 8 schools on a fortnightly basis and teach 4 hours of library a day. My biggest school has 105 students while the smallest one has 7! My lessons teach literacy skills but my main aim is to instil a love of reading and books in students. We do fun activities such as trying to break the records from the Guinness World Records books or creating theme parks based on the Dewey System with each section of the park based on a Dewey section. I drive a Sprinter van to the schools which is full of books that the students borrow. It’s a Department of Education job with the same conditions as everyone, it’s just I teach at 8 schools instead of 1. I teach Prep through to Year 6, sometimes all at the same time. My job is also great as there are no staff meetings, yard duty or reports!

The job is great for me as I get to work with books all day and I find I’m able to keep my head in the ‘book/writing space’ whereas when I was teaching in a classroom it was hard to then switch into a writing frame of mind at night. My principal is very supportive of my writing. I am able to take leave each year to run writing workshops in schools as an author. I’ve been lucky enough to head to Queensland for Book Week for a few years and enjoy your beautiful weather! I currently work .9 and use my day off to visit schools or write. I have the first 4 weeks of next term off to visit schools. I really enjoy these times as I can share my passion for writing with new students. I try to make the sessions interactive so the workshop based on my character Mr Jackpot sees the students playing gameshows that teach writing skills.

Your first teaching post was at Bannockburn Primary (near Geelong) on a 3/4 class. Would you give us a brief rundown of your teaching career to date.

I attended Ballarat University from 1999-2002. My first teaching job was at Bannockburn and I was there until mid-way through 2010. During my time at Banno I taught grades 2/3, 3/4 and 5/6. In 2010 our first child was due (we now have 3 kids) so we moved back to the area where my wife and I grew up, Port Fairy. I taught at Merrivale Primary School in Warrnambool from 2010-2015. I taught grades 3/4, 5/6 and PE. Merrivale had a lot of staff who worked 4 days a week (including me) and for one year I was the ‘floater’ who didn’t have their own class and taught in each teachers’ classroom on their day off. I enjoy working with students and the teamwork aspect of teaching.

The idea for my Crazy Relief Teachers series came into my head while teaching at Banno. The teacher next door was absent and the relief teacher called himself Mr Midnight and dressed as a cowboy. He sang cowboy songs for most of the day. Another relief teacher, who we called The Puzzler, spent two hours teaching the students how to solve a Rubik’s Cube on another day. Those two made me think it would be a good idea for a series of books where a school gets a procession of Crazy Relief Teachers.

 

Your first commercial publishing success came seven years back with the books PICTURE PERFECT and MY COUNTRY. Please share with us the story of those early days as a burgeoning writer.

Picture perfect

When I started teaching in 2003 (I feel old saying that!) I read the books of Roald Dahl, Andy Griffiths and Paul Jennings to the students. The students’ reactions were priceless and I loved how they hung on every word and laughed loudly throughout. I have always loved writing and thought if I could get even a fraction of the reaction those brilliant writers got then I would be over the moon. It took me two weeks to write a 10,000 word story that I hoped would be published … I was very wrong. I got plenty of rejection letters from publishers, however there was some positive feedback in that my ideas were funny (but my writing was terrible). I then did three things:

  1. I enrolled in writing classes. These were online and involved reading, completing various writing tasks and then submitting stories to a tutor.
  2. I wrote on weekends, after work and any opportunity I got.
  3. The best thing I did was research authors and find the ones who didn’t have teachers’ notes/activities on their websites. I emailed these authors and offered to make activities for their books for free and in return I asked if they could mentor me. Several authors helped me in this way, in particular DC Green who has been a huge help and mentor for me.

I had a few near misses from 2005-2009 and I kept trying and didn’t let myself get too discouraged every time a rejection letter came. After a while I started getting personalised rejection letters (rather than the standard ones I usually got) and these contained feedback, suggestions for improvements and the offer of re-submitting the manuscript once it had been improved. This gave me encouragement to continue. I then had two stories accepted for publication in Challenge Magazine (Pearson Education): Australia’s Funniest Gnome Videos and The Best Friend Test. This gave me something to put on my Writing CV (other than ‘World Record Holder for Most Rejection Letters Received’) when submitting to publishers. I was thrilled when Picture Perfect and My Country were accepted by Blake Education as readers. Not too long after that I received two offers for the first Crazy Relief Teacher book: Mr Sergeant and the Dodgeballs of Doom. One was for more money but the book would be published as a one-off, while Celapene Press offered to sign up for a series. I’m very happy I went with Celapene Press and now there are 4 books in the series. I’ve now got a 5th book coming out with them. I’ve also written the first book in a new series that I can’t say too much about other than it’s a sporty series and the first book comes out in January. That series will be published by Ford Street.

all 4 booksYour ‘Crazy Relief Teachers’ book series currently boasts four titles. Are you working on another one and if so can you give us a sneak peak regarding the plot and main character?

I’m very excited that the 5th book in the series will be released in late September! It’s called Ms Runway and Australia’s Next Top Merino. When Jennifer Runway, host of the famous TV show Australia’s Next To Model, takes control of the class she initiates a modelling competition to boost student numbers at the rural school. However complications arise when Pete enters his pet sheep, Delta Goodram.

Where I teach there are a lot of sheep farmers and a sheep festival called Sheepvention.Woolly West Fest is part of Sheepvention and it’s a literacy festival for kids. Each year they go into schools and run literacy activities with sheep and wool as the focus. I was teaching lessons for this where the students had to change the title and cover of a famous book so it would have a sheep as the main character (hence James and the Giant Sheep and Zombie Rams from Ewe-ranus). As an example to the class I changed the Top Model TV show to Top Merino. I then thought it would make a good idea for my next book. At the same time one of my schools had lost a number of students so its enrolment was quite low. I combined the two ideas and the students in the school have a Top Model competition to attract more students. Here’s a sneak peak of the cover.

NewAny thoughts on Mr Schneebly, the archetypal crazy relief teacher portrayed by Jack Black in the epochal 2003 movie SCHOOL OF ROCK?

school

I love that movie! He’s so over-the-top as a character and it’s a great story. I once read a quote by Roald Dahl that said to exaggerate your characters, if they’re going to be mean, make them really mean. If they’re nice, make them really nice. I guess I’ve attempted that with my Crazy Relief Teachers. Mr Sergeant, the army officer, makes the students ‘drop and do twenty’ if they get an answer wrong and he treats dodgeball like it’s a war. Mr Jackpot, a gameshow host, is over-the-top and an exaggerated version of the gameshow hosts I grew up watching in the 80’s/90’s. I was a big fan of Jack Black and the early Adam Sandler films. However my favourite movies now are the ones made by Simon Pegg, especially Shaun of the Dead.

carey

Are you familiar with any of the books of British author Mike Carey? He penned the zombie apocalypse novel THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS back in 2014 that sold in excess of 500 000 copies and was later adapted into the 2016 film of the same name starring Glenn Close. He’s someone who’s joined the long list (which includes Dan Brown and J.K.Rowling) of former school teachers who became champion writers.

I’m not familiar with Mike Carey’s work. I do read a lot of children’s fiction for work and also because it’s a great way to improve as a writer by reading the work of great authors. I read a lot of non-fiction in my spare time and Bill Bryson is a favourite of mine. His A Short History of Nearly Everything is my favourite book. I also read a lot of biographies and am currently half-way through a book on Jim Henson. I love reading about people who have led interesting lives. I also like humorous books such as Freakonomics, or people who have done zany things such as Join Me and the book on the Australian Sudoku Team. One day I’d love to do something like that.

While I’m not familiar with Mike Carey, I do know of lots of teachers who have become authors. I believe Andy Griffiths was a high school English teacher and Paul Jennings has a teaching background. Michael Gerard Bauer was a teacher and is John Marsden a principal?

And just finally Matt, in the course of your involvment with school students how many times have you encountered the situation depicted in this cartoon?

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Can’t say I ever have Glen.

Thanks Matt and I know I join with the readers of this blog in wishing you all the best with your future careers in both writing and teaching.

Want more? Click here to check out Matt’s website

Books

 

 

Rotten to the Core

Roger

If this post brings about a sense of deja vu it’s likely because you’ve read it all before.

Ten weeks ago back in May I ran this book review with the promise that later in the year Channel 7 would show a two-part mini-series documenting the same sordid tale in all it’s disquieting and twisted glory. That time has now arrived.

This Sunday night the first half of BLUE MURDER: KILLER COP goes to air, starring Richard Roxburgh as the real life former NSW corrupt police detective Roger Rogerson who is now an inmate of  the Kevin Waller Unit of Sydney’s Long Bay jail.

This mini-series, which also stars Toni Collette and former South Sydney footballer turned actor Matt Nable, is actually a sequel of sorts to the two-part miniseries BLUE MURDER produced by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation which went to air in 1995. Twenty-two years ago that series also featured Richard Roxburgh playing Rogerson. When you see the physical resemblance between the two you’ll understand why the producers stuck with the same actor and knew they were onto an authentic ratings winner.

Reprinted below is the originally posted book review, which I composed after reading the book earlier in the year.

How does a person go from a once highly decorated NSW police detective to luring, (at the age of 73) a 20-year-old to a Sydney storage unit, murdering him and then dumping the body at sea the next day in waters off Cronulla?

This is the question that author and former police detective himself Duncan McNab sets out to answer in what is his second book on this country’s most infamous and crooked former cop. The answer is delivered across 30 chapters in this book but may be summarised in just one word – ‘incrementally’.

In Australia’s long, inglorious history of bent coppers – going right back to the country’s very first constable James Smith, dismissed by Governor Arthur Phillip for larceny – there has been none more tarnished and synonymous with crime then Roger ‘The Dodger’ Rogerson.

In a notorious career, which included associations with some of Australia’s worst criminals (he famously ventured on speaking tours with professional stand-over man and alleged author Chopper Read), extrajudicial killings, being implicated in various murders and disappearances; countless allegations of threatening behaviour, bribery and drug dealing; and convictions for perverting the course of justice and perjury, he was dismissed from the police force in 1986 and jailed twice.

He is now 76 years of age and began serving a ‘life’ sentence in Sydney’s Long Bay jail in September of last year for the 2014 pre-meditated murder of twenty year old Jamie Gao, that took place inside Rent-A-Space storage shed 803 housed within a deserted industrial estate in the Sydney south-western suburb of Padstow.

A recent newspaper report has it that Rogerson, who plays the piano, has formed a singing trio with two other inmates and regularly belts out old Frank Sinatra tunes (think “My Way“) in the jail wing for the elderly and infirm.

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Who wants to be a billionare?

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It was that master of quick wit Groucho Marx who once remarked he found television very educating as every time someone turned the set on he’d go to another room and read a book.

Perhaps less cynically I too extoll the pedagogical (a truly frightening word if ever there was one) virtues of television. In fact, allow me to suggest from the outset, it’s very possible I could have been a doctor had there not been so many good shows on television back in my youth. Like shards of intermittent sunlight filtering through a thick rainforest canopy, things worth knowing – from sources other than a whisper-narrating David Attenborough –  do occasionally manage to escape the blast-furnace of noise, opinion and melodrama that is the small screen.

Not that what I’m about to relate really fits into that category. But here goes anyway. On the show MILLIONAIRE HOTSEAT the other afternoon, the following question was posed:

According to FORBES MAGAZINE, who (of the writer’s pictured) became the world’s first billionaire author?Real

*** If you answered Robert Galbraith, congratulations!

       You’re now $20 000 richer in lounge-chair expert imaginary tv dollars.

*** Ps. On a non-literary note, if you’ve got  a yearning for the top prize, simply name the person, who as of 17 hours ago, overtook Bill Gates to be crowned the new World’s Richest Person (Hint: Initials J.B)

 

 

 

 

Deathstares – The Aftermath

Death Stares

Pick your battles they warned me.

But what if the battle picks you?

If the title of this post reminds you of some diabolically cheesy WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc.) ringside promotion-event, then the apple has definitely not fallen far from the tree. In the last three weeks I’ve given and got my share of headlocks, legdrops, breath-sucking chokeholds, and Boston Crabs… metaphorically speaking. I’ve also tasted the canvas during this marathon hijinks on more than one occasion.

If you joined late and can’t quite catch my meaning, here’s what’s been happening –

Today marks the third and final installment in the trilogy of connected posts that commenced back on June 30th with my review of the movie CARS 3. In that initial report (Read it here) I made mention of a bizarre incident that took place upon our arrival in the carpark of Indooroopilly Shopping Centre prior to entering the cinema. Then last week (Read it here)  I went into detail about my and my family’s encounter in the carpark with a young McDonald’s employee I dubbed WILD WEST MEGAN.

This has indeed been the story that just kept on giving. Here now is the wash-up to the whole sorry, stricken McDrama. The short version is that after 19 days of unreturned phone calls, overlooked emails, uncontactable franchise store-owners away on holiday in the Virgin Islands, area supervisors with false promises of Fitzgerald-Inquiry-scale investigations and shopping centre retail managers that decided to either resign or go on leave during the extended fracas, the ceremonial peace-pipe has finally been passed between McDonalds, Indooroopilly Shopping Centre and I. Two words is all I need to describe my current feeling regarding the whole ordeal – over it! (that’s with an added seven exclamation marks (previous record six)).

The conclusion from all combined parties seemed to be that had a certain very young assistant manager at McDonalds had her time over again it would be hoped she would handle a situation (born 100% of her own making) with less flaring of the nostrils and a lot more conciliation.

The correspondence with McDonalds was mostly by phone but with Indooroopilly Shopping Centre management there was a definite paper trail. Here’s the final email from them, followed by my reply –

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From: Courtney Dreaver <cdreaver@indooroopillyshopping.com.au>
Sent: Monday, 17 July 2017 20:00
To: Glen Donaldson
Subject: RE: No response or even acknowledgement of complaint

Hi Glen

 Thank you for your initial email and for your  follow-up email. My sincere apologies you have had to follow up this up.

 I have shared your experience with the centre team and we are sorry to hear about your experience within our carpark also a staff member of one of our stores. I can only imagine how this would have impacted your trip to our centre.

To give you some level of comfort, upon receipt of your email on the 28th, I forwarded this onto the Franchise Owner of our McDonalds, as Megan is a senior staff member in the store, I didn’t feel it was appropriate to share with the store via email. I was then on annual leave from the 30th of June, so was not aware of your follow-up on the 4th of July. Upon return from my leave, I have followed up again via phone and email with the owner to no avail.

I would like to give you a level of comfort that this is being addressed from an internal perspective from McDonalds, as well as from the Centre. I will continue to follow this up as I wouldn’t wish this experience on any other customer.

 Due to your experience on your recent visit and my tardiness in responding, we would like to offer you  $20 Indooroopilly Gift Voucher. We can arrange to have this posted to your address or it can be made available for collection at the Centre Management Office or one of our Customer Service outposts, whichever you would prefer, if you could kindly let me know and I can arrange.

 Again, thank you for taking the time to contact us (and following up) on your correspondence. I will continue to follow-up with Franchise Owner to find out his course of action with the staff member you have identified below.

 Have a lovely evening & we hope to see you in the centre again soon.

 Kind regards,

Courtney Dreaver

Retail Manager

 P: (07) 3378 4022

F: (07) 3378 9802

Death stares in the carpark at 20 paces

Death Stare

This was gonna be one of my most ambitious (some might say, before knowing the full details, ridiculous) writing challenges.

How to compose a credible letter of complaint to (Indooroopilly) Shopping Centre Management alerting them that one of the retail employees working on their premises had looked at my wife, seven-year old daughter and myself with less than welcoming eyes?

You think I’m joking?   I’m not.

For starters, let’s substantially upsize the aforementioned ‘less than welcoming’ look to what it more correctly resembled and really was:  a withering stare of unbridled loathing that could easily have peeled the paint off any unsuspecting metallic street sign for miles around. A common enough weapon amongst the passive-aggressive crowd I know, but when it’s directed at you, you’re left in no doubt you’ve just been given a deliberate black-eye minus the visible mark.

Then there was the time factor.

By that I mean how long this malevolent optical blowtorch was applied for.

Which, if you haven’t begun forming a mental picture yet, was, I’ll tell you, a bloody long time. Too bloody long. Way too bloody long! Like ‘mentally irregular’ (as Rocky Balboa might say) way too bloody long!

Still reading? Good, ’cause here’s the details.

Last week’s blog post mentioned a family outing to the movie CARS 3 I had taken along with my wife and daughter. I described that though the movie may have been full of car chases spun in together with the occasional car crash, the real action, at least for my family and I, had started in the shopping centre carpark before the movie had even gotten underway.

At this point in the retelling, it’s simpler if I just reproduce the letter of complaint I was asked to compose after contacting both Indooroopilly Shopping Centre management and McDonalds Brisbane head office (located at Chermside). Yes, you read that correctly. This is another one of my adventures involving the golden arches, only unlike last time, (February 24th – Miracle at the Drive-thru  ) this was definitely no McHappy meal.

Hi Courtney,

This morning around 10am, my wife, seven-year-old daughter and I entered the Centre car-park from the Musgrave Rd side near the cinemas. The purpose of our visit was to take our daughter to see the movie CARS 3.

In the process of parking our car an awkward and unnecessarily uncomfortable encounter occurred with what I was to later discover was one of the store employees who works at the Centre.

I chose to reverse park my car into the available space. Immediately, I activated my hazard lights to signal to cars behind me (of which, important to note, at this time, there were none) my intention. In the process of reversing, a car with a young female driver continued to approach and come forward, making it a very tight turning circle for me to enter this space. Once parked, my wife and I watched the driver of the car pass in front of us making every effort to cast her best unblinking hard stare in our direction for what seemed like an overly long time as she drove past.

Unfortunately, as we were to find out 30 seconds later, this driver then regrettably chose to park in a space approx 8 metres behind us (when there were numerous parks available further down). Upon exiting our vehicle, we were greeted with the sight of the young lady now standing next to her car and continuing to stare in our direction with what was, to our eyes, a look of hostility. This was unpleasant and I felt unnecessary (in layman’s terms – I believe she was spoiling for a fight). Bizarrely, as she walked ahead, going toward the sliding glass doors that open to the cinema, with us also pointed in the same direction, she continued to look around at us defiantly while all the time walking with her elbows noticeably cocked outwards from her sides like something from the Wild West. As I say, awkward!

After purchasing our tickets at the cinema, my wife and daughter then visited McDonalds in the foodcourt to buy a coffee. As luck (if you could call it that) would have it, who should we see behind the counter working as an assistant manager but the young lady we had just encountered in the carpark. My wife then spoke to the manager (Luke) who offered the idea that Megan (the young lady’s name) hadn’t meant any harm and was probably just in a hurry. While I understand Luke was seeking to calm the situation down, we were not content with this explanation as Megan’s actions were most certainly a display of deliberate impatience/bordering on aggressiveness from someone who should have shown a more responsible, peaceable attitude while wearing an identifiable company uniform.

My family and I had been looking forward to this day since the beginning of the current school holidays but to have the morning blighted in this way (when we did nothing wrong in the first place other than to inconvenience a person for at the most 10 seconds by our reverse park) by the unpleasantness of a worker who, one would think, should be acting as a role model to others in their interactions with the public, was disappointing and did to some extent take the shine off the morning.

I have no doubt Megan is a very nice girl under other circumstances but on this occasion, to us, she did not act in a remotely friendly way or one which I believe her employer would support. While there was no swearing, rude finger signs or horn beeping from her, she did everything else in her power, I believe to ‘punish’ us for our reverse parking action which impeded her travel so briefly.

If, based on what I have described, you see fit to speak with her at some future time, her manager or possibly both, I would very much appreciate being let known the outcome. I may be contacted either by phone or email.

Regards,

Glen Donaldson

Forest Lake

Ph: 3372 3958

Gunslinger

If I live to be a hundred, don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget the sight of feisty young Megan walking that last 30 metres across the car-park and then stomping into the shopping centre with elbows cocked like a gunslinger and a stride like she’d just stepped off a horse. If it wasn’t so bizarrely over the top it would undoubtably have qualified as a moment of bona-fide comedy gold.

My wife and I joked later that maybe that day it would have been more fitting had we seen the movie DESPICABLE ME(GAN). Was I too hard on the young girl, dobbing her into her bosses? (My wife also spoke face to face with her and her in-store manager while being served at Maccas).

I don’t think so. A person who chooses to get all huffy like she did while dressed in a company uniform and direct their frustrations (and hate) at a guiltless family, including a seven-year old girl, needs, I believe, to be corrected by someone outside of her immediate colleague serving alongside her in the same store.

It all goes to prove my theory that try as one might to avoid conflict in this world, there’s no getting around the fact conflict sometimes comes searching to find us. Really, there are times when I think the only reason I go out some days is to get me a fresh appetite for being at home. That, and to see with my own eyes how truly strange some people can be.

cartoon

** Bonus Read**  Click here if you’re interested in Nude Maids for Hire (You read that right!)

 

Vroom Vroom!

Cars

This movie has car crashes and car chases, as you’d expect, but the real action happened in the car-park before we’d even arrived at the cinema. More on that later.

It’s been ten years since the first CARS movie hit cinemas and the hero of the series, Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson using his best Texan drawl), is not as young as he once was. He’s facing challengers from next-gen racers that use new fangled training methods, embrace ‘data’ to inform their racing tactics and show little respect or even knowledge of the past achievements of the ‘legends’ of their sport.

CARS 3 is a movie that draws on our collective fear of ageing and irrelevance. In posing the question “When does a past champion call time on their career and stop trying to compete with the youngsters?” it can easily be seen as a kind of ROCKY BALBOA (2006) on four wheels. In fact, this movie pays indirect homage to a number of sports films including, most obviously, the Tom Cruise starring ‘vehicle’ DAYS OF THUNDER (1990). (Underlined by the fact that the other main ‘car-racter’ in the movie besides Lightning McQueen is named ‘Cruz’).

Favourite scene?

Glad you asked.

Predictably for me, it’s a blink and you’ll miss it bit-part that shows Lightning McQueen finishing up in the locker room after yet another humiliating training session on the racing simulator, suggesting to him again his best days may be behind him. Into this scene glides a talking polishing machine whose job it is to clean the tiles once everyone’s left for the day. We hear the tile-polisher remark under his breath,”You’re all washed up McQueen”, but the former-champion racer picks up on the comment and challenges the cleaner to repeat it. “They’re all washed and clean” says the janitor-bot again, pointing to the tiles while not missing a beat.

As to the ageing theme, Owen Wilson, who’s now 48, in an interview for the film, pointed to real life parallels. Describing a recent press junket whereby actors from the film moved from table to table talking to journalists, Wilson related the following amusing anecdote –

“I’m quietly talking and they’ve got their litle recorders out listening and there’s some light chuckles – but at the table over from me, Cristela Alonzo, who’s playing Cruz, would be just laughing, seeming like they’re having the best time.

It reminded me of the time when I was doing press on Armageddon (1998), maybe because it was one of my first movies and I was really excited to do the press junket, I remember my tables really laughing it up, having a great time and Bruce Willis saying, “What are you guys talking about?”

I felt like I’d moved over into the old veteran who’s just boring my press junket while Cristela’s knocking them dead.”

And the car park incident?

You get that one next post, so…

tuned

 

The List

Top 50

Clearly I have too much time on my hands.

At least for another week or so anyway.

What’s also clear is that I must have rocks in my head to even consider undertaking  a whale of a task such as this.

Rocks undeniably, but as I think you’ll agree, once you’ve scrolled the list, by no means have I overlooked the pop, hip-hop, dance, electro, funk and a little bit of country if you please as well.

How to reduce four decades of fervent music listening down to a list of just 50 of my all-time favourite songs?

Wasn’t easy, but here we go –

Start reading

Each entry has a link underneath it if you want to listen. The list can also be found on SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK under the tab ‘Best Of’.

Got a comment?

This is the place.

Don’t be an invisible bundle of your own ideas.

Your thoughts will be welcomed, as always, but most especially on this subject, like bread-crumbs handed to a starving lag.

Any of these tunes appeal?

If not, what’s a song on your desert island playlist?

desert island

 

 

 

Case of the mystery letter

Sherlock

A letter arrived in my post-box the other day.

A handwritten letter.

Allow me to say from the outset how unusual that is.

The only things I normally get to pull from this brick-encased substitute trash receptacle, besides bills, are fast food discount vouchers I never use, real estate company invitations for free house market evaluations I have no intention of taking up and overly enthusiastic solicitations to have my roof inspected, which, without exception, are always the first to be propelled into the actual trash bin.

On the outside of the envelope was written my street address in small, neat, adult cursive script. A blue pen was used  but there was no name included for who the letter was addressed to. My curiosity began to build like a cat fixated upon its prey. Once inside my house, I placed my bag and belongings on the kitchen bench and launched straight into eagerly tearing open the white envelope.

Within a few lines of reading, I realised that I was not the intended recipient of this letter.

The opening sentence read – “Thank you for visiting this weekend!”Letter 2

After a few more sentences, I began to awake to the fact that what I held in my hands was a letter written by a prisoner to a friend or relative on the ‘outside’. Somehow, this very personal correspondence had, by some means, landed in my letterbox. On closer inspection, I realised the front address label included the correct number of our house but an incorrect street name (but one that began with the same first letter as our street).

I should make known at this point that my family and I live exactly 8.6 km’s (I know ’cause I googled it) from not one, not two, but three prisons – two Government-run and one privately managed; so make that a cluster of prisons… sorry, ‘correctional institutions’. Our adjoining suburb (the one next to ours) called Inala, is also home to the state’s largest ex-prisoner population.

My point in making known this information is to help explain why a mail mistake like this in a locality such as ours probably had a higher likelihood of happening.

The letter included the following paragraph (transcribed as written) –

“I did some checking and the only thing I’m able to receive through the mail are letters and photos (no alcohol, jp’d and signed for minors), and in March and September, underwear to the value of $150 with receipts. Anything we may want (ie. books. movies etc.) has to be purchased through the centre. Movies sent through the post is taken and deposited by the officers. So letters it is!

How precious and prized the written word must  become under such captive circumstances. As good karma would decree, the letter has since been forwarded to the correct address.

Letter

 

The Great Wrinkle Machine

Capture

I just couldn’t help myself.

I’ve been informed numerous times by my wife that one of these days my (on-line) mouth would land me in hot water.

And while the story I’m about to tell hasn’t produced any sparks so far, it so easily could have.

A few days back, I was sitting at home in front of my computer when a peek-a-boo message alert popped up on the bottom right hand corner of the screen.

This was a notification that someone had just posted an item for sale on a closed on-line group I am subscribed to called FOREST LAKE ONLINE GARAGE SALES. I’ve never bought anything from this local 2nd-hand sellers site before nor have I ever offered anything for sale. I don’t even fully recall why or when I signed up to the group but still I allow the alerts to come.

Why? Because as a study of human behaviour and an anonymous look into the goldfish bowl of people’s lives, nothing tops garage sales.  I don’t roam the hedge-trimmer shaped streetmeadows of the Twistiverse that is suburbia with the same abandon I once used to so these days on-line it is. 

Offered for sale on this site are the usual collection of no longer needed prams, treadmills, tents, ornamental vases bearing the internationally identifiable KITSCH label and kids playsets with the missing pieces, but every now and then something more unusual appears that catches the eye.

And so it was when I came upon the following picture –

Wrinkle removal

accompanied by these lines of description –

TOBI Wrinkle Removal Machine.Comes with instruction manual and attachments. Upright and portable.      

I was fairly certain this was a device intended for either clothes or carpets but I couldn’t resist sending the following query to the seller –   

Mine

I expected to receive back as good as I gave in the sarcasm department but instead I snagged this rather to the point, matter-of-fact response –

Narelle

I’m guessing at this point the seller still believed there was some chance of a sale and so thought it best to hold back from any punchy-type replies.

All joking aside, I still say in the right enterprising hands, this TOBI WRINKLE REMOVAL MACHINE could apply its doubtless vast sucking power to a person’s facial features and deliver that artificially pinched look folk pay plastic surgeons huge sums for.

I know. I know. Keep up this type of charmless derision and biting flight-risk banter and someone’s gonna really drop me in it. In the meantime, there’s a lot of fun to be had with on-line garage sale queries. I could claim it’s all in the name of consumer right-to-know advocacy, but who’d believe that?

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