The Sting

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If your junk email inbox is anything like mine, then like me, every week you too are forced to employ nothing short of heavy-duty earth-moving equipment to clear away the mountain of excrescence that has built up over the preceding seven days.

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You KNOW the type of ooze I’m referring to – emails from the ‘Healthy Hearing Institute’, the dodgy loan companies you’ve never heard of, the unnamed organizations offering everything from denture upgrades, military flashlights, home roofing deals and butt enhancement cream (ok, so I clicked on that one) to diabetic strips for cash, medical ‘cannabliss’, all manner of rubbish gift cards, as well as the stock standard bogus blood pressure alerts and naturally enough that old chestnut – weight loss products by the barrel full.

That’s nothing to say of the linguistically challenged red flags whose minimalist subject headings always read something like ‘Hi’, ‘Hello’, ‘Good morning’ or the most annoying of all ‘What’s Up?’ (but never with a capital ‘W’). There’s regular droppings from Casino4You, Bitcoin and Huggle Hoodie Offer as well as the ‘Private Message for You’ type. The so-called ‘Russian Beauties’ who claim to want to meet me are pretty persistent as well.

Most conniving of them all however is the offal whose subject heading begins ‘Re:’, giving the impression they’re responding to a message you sent them.  I bet they think they’re so clever and maybe they were a couple of years back when that type of deception first appeared but really… that guile is so 2015 the dimwits really ought to have come up with something new by now. (Other tricks in their arsenal – the ‘ol CONGRAULATIONS! subject heading as well as the emails asking you to confirm an order for something you know you’ve never made).

There’s absolutely no point as well in me requesting the person who calls themselves ‘Backdoor 66’ to cease sending me the crude invites. ‘Cause every time I click  ‘Unsubscribe’ you can bet the house what I’m actually doing – according to the twisted logic at work within the vast scamiverse – is precisely the reverse ie. confirming my renewed interest in continuing to receive this blather.

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I got to thinking – and after ploughing through that rogues gallery roll-call of unsolicited detritus listed above I’m quite sure you’d agree – a little bit of payback was long overdue.

The plan was simple. I would choose an email promising me riches beyond my wildest dreams, feign interest in what they had to say and in the process attempt to waste as much of their time as possible. The blueprint for my ‘scam the scammer’ little rouse was the video I’ve included below. It goes for close to 10 minutes but if you can stay with it it definitely delivers on laughs and the slightly snide warm inner glow that comes with comeuppance.

Yeah, love even just the sound of that word… comeuppance!

 

In truth, the internet is littered with stories and videos of people getting their own back against admittedly not-so-bright scam artists. As always the first question is “Where’s the game?, something I ask myself regularly.

In the end, a total of 26 emails across nine days were exchanged between myself and the flippy fraudster I chose to engage. This person claimed to be female (something I’m pretty certain wasn’t true). Gender then would provide me with the angle I needed.

As our conversations across the days unfolded, I cranked out my very best  ‘lonely hearts’ persona and managed to pretend to become totally besotted by this person. The aim was to gradually move our exchanges more and more away from the business side of things and more on to talk about ‘us’.

And I’m pleased to say, things worked out quite well in this regard. A lot of time and effort was outlayed by this swindling shark for zero reward.

It all started with this unsought email I received from a person calling themselves Catherine Bessant

Hello Dear Friend,

I am Ms. Catherine Bessant deputy to Mr. Willem Badenhorst the head of luggage/baggage storage facilities at the John F. Kennedy International Airport, NY USA.

In our last withheld-package routine check at the Airport Storage facility, we discovered an abandoned Metal Trunk Box prior to state confiscation, and decided to electronically scan it and ascertain its content.
When scanned, it revealed US Dollar, but due to the extreme security and seals of the metal trunk box, we could not ascertain the amount it inside, but I am sure it wouldn’t be less than 4 million dollars.

If you are interested I need your prompt response in order to update your information in the general waybill ledger, and we will take care of the United States Non Inspection Fee of 3,200.00 USD as well as arrange for the delivery and handover to you to you. If you can be fair enough, you will part with 40% of the money to us for our effort, while you take 60%.

However, to facilitate processing and delivery to you as the recipient, I want you to provide your complete names, Phone Number and delivery Address to affect the official documents. Also include the name of the nearest Airport around your city.

As a result of the sensitivity of this deal, we will not transact with our official email account or phone. So send your response through this my private email address or through the email address of Mr. Willem Badenhorst williebadenhorst15@yahoo.com as he will be communicating directly with you as my boss.

We can get everything concluded within 5 working days upon your acceptance of the terms with an immediate feedback.

You can always call me on Mr. Badenhorsts telephone number: +1 (917) 473 0062 or drop sms if he is not available to accept your call.

Respectfully;
Ms. Catherine Bessant.

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I responded the next day with a ‘hard of hearing’ old-school clarifyer –

Hi Catherine,

How much did you say was in the metal trunk?

Glen

What followed was an attempt at what’s known in the trickster trade as a ‘handover’ to another person (supposedly higher up the clown-infested pecking order).

Mr. Donaldson,

please contact my boss Mr. Willem Badenhorst or I will have him contact you.
Phone: +1 (917) 473 0062
Email. williebadenhorst15@yahoo.com

Mrs. Bessant

I declined the offer to deal with someone else and so commenced my plan to bit by bit romantically connect with ‘Catherine’

No Catherine.

I prefer to deal with the likes of you.

Glen

Feeling like the fish may just have climbed on to the end of the hook and my plan was beginning to gain steam,‘Catherine’ appeared fine with this and replied in this long-winded fashion –

Good Evening Dear Glen Donaldson,

I have shown your mails to my boss and your desire to be dealing directly with me. That is fine by me since my boss is also fine with it. 

Thank you for your response and understanding. As I stated in the first mail you received, I will commence negotiation with the airport vault authority for the release of the withheld luggage to you since we are on the same page now.

The starting point is getting approval to pay the US Non Inspection Charges of $3,200 on your behalf. Inability to make that payment initially was the main reason the consignment was withheld by the Airport authority.

If approval is given I will pay the fee, and negotiate for the release of the luggage to you, and as soon as I am able to clear the major release requirements, I shall make arrangement for final delivery to you.

You have to assure me once again that my own share of the money as agreed will be given to me as I undertake processing the release of the luggage on your behalf.

You know it is easy to make promises in the absence of tangible reality, so please I want you to respect my part of this effort, while I promise to do my best to pay all the needed fees, and work out a plan to ensure I am with the delivery department when hand over will be made to you. If not, I will have to depend on your sincere magnanimity and charity to get my part. But I will do anything I can to be with the courier department when it will be delivered to you or even be with you before the delivery is done. I hope you understand.

Once again to ensure the full protection of our persons since it is only you and I that know the content of the box so far, I would respectfully request for confidentiality. I want you to keep the contents of our communication confidential since I will be retiring soon and wouldn’t want to end up risking my pension and retirement benefits, or lose this opportunity. So I would strongly advise you to be discrete as ‘Loose Lips Sink Ships’.

You should provide your contact address, phone number and nearest airport for processing to commence.

Yours Sincerely,
Ms, Catherine Bessant; for
Mr. Willem Badenhorst

Use of the adage ‘loose lips sink ships‘ was the first of many unintended crackups from ‘Catherine’. In turn I replied with some false details of my own –

Hi Catherine,

This is starting to get exciting!

My details are as follows –

23 Orchid Avenue

Surfers Paradise 4217

(07) 56 57 6888

I would prefer to transact through the Gold Coast Airport.

Glen

Ps. With you 100% on the ‘loose lips sink ships’ thing and therefore agree with the decision to go via plane.

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And that brings to an end Part 1 of THE STING.

Tune in next week for the continuing adventures of Catherine, myself and the mythical abandoned metal trunk containing the even more mythical unclaimed $4 million.

Ps.

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I haven’t seen it myself yet but from the first-hand reports I’ve been getting from people who have, Nicole Kidman‘s new undercover cop movie DESTROYER is next level hard-core, gritty and downright ghoulish.

Last time I remember something being given the title DESTROYER was rock group KISS‘s fourth studio album back in ’76. That turned out well for those guys so let’s see how critical reception lands for Nicole.

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Funny Bones

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Tomorrow is Jerry Lewis’s birthday.

The iconic comedian passed away two years ago at the age of 91.

As the cliché goes, he lives long in my memory.

His career as an actor, film director, stand-up comedian, producer and screen writer spanned eight decades.

I loved him as a kid and if I was to think back over my all-time favourite comedians, Jerry Lewis would come out on top from a list boasting the likes of Dave Allan, Woody Allen, Tim Allen, Richard Pryor, Benny Hill, Chris Farley, Don Rickles, Warwick Davis (all 107 centimetres of him), Mel Brooks, Lucille Ball, Bob Hope, Kevin James, Peter Sellers, Jack Black, Don Knotts, Martin Lawrence, Paul Hogan, George Burns, Jay Leno, Phyliss Diller and Peter Sellers.

Comedy is subjective. One person’s comedy mastermind is another person’s Adam Sandler. But for me, Jerry Lewis was King.

Not many people I know remember him these days so I’m happy to be the one to pay tribute. His films never seemed to get the full recognition they deserved (he failed to be nominated for a single Academy Award) and he was more popular throughout Europe and in particular France than he was in his native U.S.A. Many folk just simply didn’t ‘get’ Jerry Lewis.

Those factors made me love him even more.

As an adult, I’ve read enough stories about him to know I may not have liked him that much in real life. (Don’t click here if you want to remember Jerry fondly) That doesn’t diminish in any way my love for his films and performances.

On the eve of the anniversary of his birthday, here are my Top Ten Favourite Jerry Lewis movies

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As cruel as it was to relegate Lewis’s recognised masterpiece THE NUTTY PROFESSOR (1963) to second spot, my true heart belongs to the work of comedy genius he produced, directed and starred in 49 years ago WHICH WAY TO THE FRONT?

Lewis plays the role of Brendan Byers III, a rich playboy who forms his own privately financed army platoon during World War 2. He and his men travel to the front lines where the plan is he will impersonate and take the place of a German General just long enough to order a troop retreat.

In the clip below, Jerry Lewis as Brendan Byers is attempting to learn German in preparation for his impersonation of that German Army General. If nothing else, watching this scene should prove beyond any doubt that what makes me laugh may make you, well… not laugh. Or cringe. Or at the very least doubt my bona fides as a judge of quality mirth making material.

Here goes anyway…

Now that wasn’t so bad was it?

Here’s the other nine films that round out my list…

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And because I couldn’t find space for it in that collection here is a clip from another of my favourites THE DISORDERLY ORDERLY (1964) which underlines the case for why Jerry Lewis was a master of non-verbal comedy and what used to go by the name of ‘mugging’ (ie. contorting one’s ‘mug’ or face in the name of laughter – think Jim Carrey.)

The over-talkative patient in this scene being wheeled around by Lewis’s orderly is played to perfection by actress Alice Pearce (1917 -1966) who played the nosy neighbour Gladys Kravitz for three seasons of BEWITCHED (1964 – 1972).

This is hypochondria played for laughs…

Jerry Lewis appeared /starred in more than 60 films including his last, MAX ROSE (2016) as well as the documentary METHOD TO THE MADNESS OF JERRY LEWIS (2011).

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If you’d like to get a sense of the esteem with which Jerry Lewis is held in the world of comedy by the likes of such professional funny men as Jerry Seinfeld, Eddie Murphy and Chevy Chase as well as film director Steven Spielberg, take a look at the trailer inserted below for the documentary METHOD TO THE MADNESS OF JERRY LEWIS.

Ps. I really have saved the best for last with this bonus clip.

It’s long at seven minutes but if you consider yourself a connoisseur of the art of comic timing and delivery then this time will literally fly. This scene is taken from the 1961 movie THE LADIES MAN.

Jerry Lewis plays the part of a young man who, fresh from a breakup with his girlfriend, swears off romance and then takes a job at a genteel, women-only boarding house.

In this scene he greets a gangster who has dropped by the house to see his lady friend.

Seeing this again reminds me of another aspect of Lewis’s films I always loved so much – the small band of sublimely talented character actors he surrounded himself with and used over and over in small roles in so many of his movies. The gangster in this scene is played by Buddy Lester (1915 – 2002) who appeared in five of Lewis’s films (four of which feature in my Top Ten listing).

Enjoy this.

Enjoy this as I unashamably wheel out the wobbly-wheeled cliche cart one last time and declare – ‘They don’t make ’em like this any more.’

They really don’t.

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Gifts for the Person Who Has Everything (Part 2)

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If gift giving was an Olympic 100 metre race I’d still be on the starter’s block gathering my thoughts by the time everyone else was huffing and puffing ‘hands on hips’ style down the other end.

That’s my way of saying handing over the perfect present to another person is something I’ve never been very good at.

This I admitted last week.

But buying a special something for that person who already has everything anyway is a whole next-level kind of difficult.

Difficult, but with the suggestions that follow, not impossible…

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You can never be too sure if you’re making a good investment with real estate here on Earth, so why not think outside the box? And by outside the box, I naturally mean outside the atmosphere. Clint Eastwood, Nicole Kidman, Tom Hanks and George Lucas are amongst the folk who all legally own an acre of Lunar land.

BUY ON LUNAR LAND.COM

 

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Hours of fun.  Apparently.

 

BUY ON AMAZON

 

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Drinking 8 cups of water a day is recommended. The only problem is water is boring. Not with this ‘smart cup’ it’s not. It uses three different senses to fool your brain into believing there’s a party going on in your mouth whereas in actuality it’s only plain ‘ol H2O.

BUY AT THE RIGHT CUP.COM

 

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With this gift your friend who  seemingly has everything can learn things about their home they never wanted to know. When mixed and sprayed onto an area, and illuminated with ultraviolet light, it will reveal the presence of blood or other fluids the naked eye can’t detect. They might not thank you.

BUY AT AMAZON.COM

 

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Everyone may well march to the tune of a different beat but with these percussion-enhanced duds you’ll be the head of the orchestra.

BUY AT DRUMPANTS.COM

 

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Don’t give that temperamental friend just the cold shoulder. Give them the entire whole body cold-therapy treatment you know they deserve.

BUY AT CRYOAU.COM

 

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Why not go ahead and make the day of the friend who assures you they want absolutely nothing on their special occasion. The ultimate in bullseye-hitting present giving.

BUY ON AMAZON

 

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If your friend has everything they need then they surely have plenty of things to stash away in this time capsule. Dig it up together sometime in the future and laugh about primitive life in the olden days when we used things like the iPhone 8. This model is waterproof and comes with a 200 year guaranteed life. A companion gift is your old skool metal detector so you can find where you buried it all those years ago.

BUY ON AMAZON

 

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One of the things that most people, especially little boys, did growing up was play in the kindergarten sandbox with bulldozers, backhoes and the like. So, unless they made a career out of it, there’s a good chance that the full scale version might just tap into some pleasant memories and unrealised ambitions. You can even buy a Season Pass for unlimited access to excavator, bulldozer and wheel loader heaven.

BUY AT EXTREME SANDBOX.COM

 

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This is the first of its kind, so your friend with everything will definitely not have this. Not sure if this robot chef will put on a temper tantrum if the almonds are not fully activated or speak condescendingly of the people eating its food, but it can probably be programmed that way if it pleases the owner.

SEE IT AT MOLEY.COM

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And then there’s this…

Regifting? Recycling? Or Neighbour Abuse?

You decide.

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 Ps. I’ve often dreamt of writing the greatest book in the world but it appears someone has beaten me to the punch. Not just ‘someone’ but renowned Victorian children’s author Matt Porter, who is certainly no stranger to the goings on around SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK  (Mind meld with Matt here)  has just released a new picture book called THE GREATEST BOOK IN THE WORLD.

And as far as book titles go this is definitely not one to be taken lightly! Here’s a little taste…

 

 

Gifts for the Person who has everything (Part 1)

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I admit it.

I’m really bad at gift giving.

I may have fantasized about the look of delirious happiness and surprise on a friend or loved one’s face after they opened my ‘perfect’ present to them, along with imagining their gushing response (“You really know me! This was so thoughtful!”) but in reality I’m a ‘gift-card’ cop-out sort-of-guy through and through and have been for many a year.

I can remember back to a time, however, when I briefly had the midas touch as a gift giver. Literally every present I bestowed on a friend would hit the satisfaction bullseye with the accuracy of Robin Hood. When you’re ten years old and growing up in the 1970’s, a $2 matchbox car or a $3 plastic cap gun was all you needed to be a dead-set friend pleaser complete with the wish-granting powers of an Aladdin-style genie.

These days as an adult it’s infinitely more difficult.

The odds are stacked against anyone with pretensions of being the sort of present giver who hits the high notes and moves the orchestra to fire up in appreciation. Afterall, your average adult by the time they’ve reached the age of let’s say forty, has acquired not only a whole house (possibly multi-storey) full of ‘stuff’ but a garage and backyard shed as well equally stacked to the ceiling with both life’s necessities and useless trinkets.

Difficult, but with this list as your inspiration, certainly not impossible.

Try these ‘out of the (gift) box’ ideas on for size…

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Apparently this stuff really works. Gross it may be but hey, beauty demands sacrifices. I prefer the activated charcoal masks myself.

BUY ON AMAZON

 

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Many, many people slaved away making these lollipops under great duress. Possibly the most satisfying flavour of all time.

BUY ON LOLLYPHILE.COM

 

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The Japanese may be famous for creating miniatures, but with this astronomically correct creation it would appear they’ve outdone themselves. Just a pity no one sends letters anymore.

BUY AT JAPAN TRENDSHOP

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I’ll freely admit to taking a special pleasure in popping the real thing back as a teenager. This is a simulation that approximates one of the truly simple pleasures of life. As addictive as popping bubble wrap but without the sound fx.

BUY ON AMAZON

 

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I don’t play golf but I do drink a variety of liquids. There’s a lot of people who combine the two while having a day out on the green. This quirky (ok, creepy and ridiculous) convenience device would make the perfect gift for just that person.

BUY ON AMAZON

 

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 Color the cat and dye the dog in nearly every color imaginable. It even comes in brown for some reason!

BUY ON AMAZON

 

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A true breakfast game-changer and one designed to leave a lasting impression.

BUY ON BURNT IMPRESSIONS.COM

 

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Cute, weird or somewhere in between?

BUY ON AMAZON

 

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When a mountain of ego like American rapper Kanye West says something outrageous like “I need a room full of mirrors so I can be surrounded by winners” can anyone deny their first thought is to give that type of excrescence the same treatment they’d give a Bachelor’s Degree or treasured training certificate and frame it? Well I can and you can but there are people out there who might actually consider it. And one of them might just be that friend who has everything.

BUY IT AT FRAMED TWEETS.COM

 

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To hell with the idea of a more huggable world! This is all about harmless revenge and releasing those feelings of angst upon a helpless inanimate object. Feels good or your money back.

For the friend who has everything eh?

Nah, it only SEEMS like that person has everything.

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Ps. What gift could you bestow upon someone whose latest movie has just won the Best Picture Oscar? Tough question to answer but there can be no doubt a director who’s capable of delivering the comic masterpieces (too complimentary you dare to suggest?) SHALLOW HAL and DUMB AND DUMBER is long overdue to receive their deserved place in the sun, recognition wise.

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Apart from his many movies, Peter Farrelly is also the author of the classic 1998 semi-autobiographical novel THE COMEDY WRITER about a young man who quits his sales job in New England and moves to Los Angeles to pursue his dream of becoming a comedic screenwriter.

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And since this concluding thread has been in praise of Hollywood ‘Man of the Moment’ Peter Farrelly and his many fine creative works, I will mention nothing of the at very best sporadically mildly amusing and definitely eighteen years too late DUMB AND DUMBER TO (2014).

Absolutely nothing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family Matters

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I’ve read a total of nine books previously on the subject of Charles Manson and his murderous 1960’s cult known as ‘The Family’.

I’m a little afraid to think exactly what that says about me. I’ll put that small matter to one side for the moment. 

Back in September last year I released a list of my all-time favourite TOP 50 BOOKS (HERE). Standing atop of that list, at number one, was an account of what was known back in 1969 as the Tate/LaBianca murders.

Published in 1974, HELTER SKELTER was written by the prosecuting attorney who successfully put Manson behind bars for the crimes. No book I’ve read before or since has gripped me quite to the extent that book did.

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These are the  nine books I’ve already read on the Manson Family Murders. If anyone wants to play Sigmund Freud and suggest what taking an interest as great as that in a subject such as this says about me, go right ahead. Just please don’t tell me.  I’m pretty sure I’d be too horrified to find out!

MEMBER OF THE FAMILY written by Dianne Lake and published only last year, is, along with Vincent Bugliosi’s seminal HELTER SKELTER, easily the best book I have read on this subject. And given the vast quantities of literature and things posing as literature that have passed before my eyes on this subject over the years, that’s  a claim I definitely don’t make lightly.

Books written by mere journalists on the Manson phenomena (Charles Manson passed away at the age of 83 in November 2017) are a dime a dozen. I say that because there are literally dozens and dozens and dozens of published books written about this person and subject; a person and subject that passed into popular culture five decades ago and has remained there ever since. Books written by people who were actually THERE – under Manson’s spell – doing his bidding – and who lived to tell the tale – are an infinitely rarer and more precious commodity.

Dianne Lake’s masterfully poignant ‘fly on the wall’ memoir MEMBER OF THE FAMILY is in that last category. It sits at the very head of the throne as far as authentic, touching, insightful and historically accurate accounts go. And try to keep in mind as you read that heaving praise that it’s coming from a person who thought he knew all there was to know about this tragic part of 20th Century American crime history. This book is nothing short of a revelation!

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Dianne Lake was fourteen years old the day she was introduced to 33 year-old prison parolee Charles Manson. They made love together later that same night. The circumstances both personal and in a wider societal context that allowed that to happen are what this book so insightfully and at times painfully lays bare.

MEMBER OF THE FAMILY is divided into three sections entitled “Turn On”‘Tune In” and “Drop Out”. This was a counter-culture era phrase that became a slogan for a whole generation of alternate-minded youth (hippies) from 1966 through to the mid seventies.

The first section of the book details how Dianne’s parents came to embrace the free-thinking hippie lifestyle when she was around the age of 10. They eventually sold the family home and packed everyone (Dianne was the oldest of three children) and all their belongings into a modified bread truck. They travelled around California leading a largely nomadic existence. During this time Dianne was exposed to hallucinogenic drugs and witnessed group sex due to the types of people her parents socialized with. It was an era when experimentation and ‘freeing one’s mind’ through such practices was common and actively encouraged in many circles. Feeling less and less a part of her own family, Dianne left with her parent’s permission in 1967 at the age of 14 to join Charles Manson’s group.

The second section of the book, titled “Tune In”, documents her two years living with the charismatic, messiah-like Manson and his commune of uninhibited flower-power followers. She describes Charles Manson as both conman and charlatan as well as being a very resilient and creative person. She makes the point that at that time California was an epicentre for the counter-culture movement and everywhere one looked there were people investing in the ideals and promised claims of salvation  that were all part of ‘The Age of Aquarius’.

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Dianne Lake aged 16 in 1969.

“As a fifteen-year old living with Charlie and the girls, I didn’t think about what was forming around us or how Charlie was moulding us. Perhaps it was because I also had the example of my parent’s efforts to seek a higher truth, but at this point, we weren’t much different from the other communes of the day, all of which were trying to eschew materialism and live off the land in a communal setting.

The biggest difference as far as I could tell was that Charlie was the center of everything for us, but even that wasn’t strange in itself. Charlie‘s form of guruism was in the California air, and up and down the coast there were men – they were almost always men – leading groups like ours and espousing many of the same things he was.

People were looking for guides to the counterculture’s promised land, and there were more than enough people out there who appeared to have the answers. In that regard, Charlie, as criminal as his instincts were, was fairly unexceptional, simply another false prophet taking advantage of the moment’s uncertainty.”   

Pages 209 – 210

Dianne freely admits to feeling confused at the time over her own loyalty to Manson, especially as the group and it’s purpose slowly morphed into what eventually became a perversion of its original ideals of love, acceptance and community.

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Cult leader Charles Manson as he appeared on the covers of Life Magazine in December 1969 and Rolling Stone Magazine in June 1970.

The final section of the book titled “Drop Out” chronicles Dianne Lake’s life after the murder convictions of her fellow Family members in 1970-71 (murders which Dianne took no part in) right up to the year 2017.

She emerged from the cult an LSD-soaked, Charlie-programmed traumatized mess and spent the first eight months of her freedom in a Psychiatric Facility (Patton State Mental Hospital in San Bernardino, Los Angeles).

Today she is a retired special education teacher and mother of three adult children. MEMBER OF THE FAMILY is easily one of the most courageous, disturbing and all-round best memoirs I have ever had the good fortune to read.

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(1) Inside the geodesic dome that Lake’s father built in the backyard of their Santa Monica house in 1967. Her father is holding a joint. This photo was taken right before their family dropped out. (2) The bread truck that Lake’s family drove around in when they dropped out.

Ps. Since 2019 marks fifty years since the tragic murders in August 1969 masterminded by Charles Manson,  a number of new additions to the books/films/documentaries ‘Manson’ cannon are set to be released.

One of them is a book due out next month called THE MANSON WOMEN AND ME. Based on conversations the author had with some former Family members while they were behind bars, this is yet another book written by the sort of commentator who was not there that I referenced at the beginning of this post. I’ll withhold further judgement on this one until I know more.

A much more eagerly awaited installment is what’s being touted as ‘Quentin Tarantino’s 9th film’ ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD. This movie stars Australia’s own Margot Robbie as well as one of my all-time fave actors Al Pacino. Expect I’ll be among the first in the queue when it hits Australian theatres in September.

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On Your P (Personalised) Plates

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You definitely see some sights when you’re out driving.

On life’s highways the bold and the bizarre come into view on many an occasion.

Varied coloured cocoons each filled with people hermetically sealed within their own worlds, moving at speed to the rhythm of green lightyellow lightred light – for starters.

There I was stuck in traffic, two lines of steel and tire, each capable of over 160 kilometres per hour and each averaging about five in their stop-start fashion. My viewing options were limited so I chose what most others would do in this situation… to gaze zombie-like at the car in front of me. This turned out to be a not entirely wasted experience. In a vision of loveliness sullied only by the grey mist exhaust coming from its tailpipe sat the sleek chrome rear of a mustard yellow Nissan GT-R sports car.

That type of auto-eye-candy under any normal circumstance would have been satisfying enough but this particular sleek unit of hot metal came with a bonus: a personalised number plate that read SIR YANG”. (To supply added context to this story, the location for my stuck-in-traffic experience was the Brisbane suburb of Sunnybank which is recognised as having a higher than average Asian population).

With time on my side and not going anywhere fast I tossed over in my mind exactly why that particular combination of words seemed so.. so.. unique (not to mention hilarious, at least to me). The best I could come up with was the idea that mixing the most English of sounding royal titles ‘Sir’ with the quintessentially Asian sounding surname (or is that first name?) of ‘Yang’ results in a most unlikely blending of European and what used to go by the name of ‘Oriental’ flavours one could possibly imagine.

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Probably the most out-there personalized plate I’ve seen on a car on the road was one that simply read ANTS (to be honest I can’t recall if it was spelled with an ‘s’ or a ‘z’) Make of that what you will.

Naturally that’s nothing compared to the likes of the wanton weirdness you can find online –

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 And they’re just the G-rated ones!

In the minds of some, there isn’t an item that screams ’empty status symbol’ more than the personalised number plate, or ‘vanity plate’, as they are still referred to in some circles. So why do people sometimes mentally roll their eyes when they see another driver’s attempt at being funny or what they may interpret as a gaudy ‘look at me’ gesture?

In part, it’s a legacy of the fact that personalised plates were born in the eighties, a decade when bankers’ greed had poisoned the well of public opinion against conspicuous displays of wealth. Getting a personalised plate was seen as something that was done by those with more money than sense, a rather gauche, loadsamoney thing to do.

But three decades on, the general wealth of the middle class has risen exponentially and personalised number plates, much like tattoos or piercings, are now widely considered simply a fun thing to do ‘because you can’.

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An early adopter – Lady Penelope from the 1960’s tv series ‘THE THUNDERBIRDS’.

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Ps. Your bonus read this week is the incredible story of the car that carried Archduke Franz Ferdinand on the day he was assassinated in June of 1914 (an event that triggered a series of events which lead to the outbreak of World War 1) and the eerie significance of the number plate of that motor vehicle.

It’s helpful if you keep in mind when reading this article that the peace treaty that ended World War One was signed on the 11th of Novemember 1918.

READ IT HERE

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Into the Snakepit of Friendship

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About a month ago a well-written US-based blog I follow going by the name of YEAH, ANOTHER BLOGGER published an uplifting ode to the joys of friendship (HERE)  It was a refreshing and affirming celebration of how friends enrich our lives while doubling our joys and halving our sorrows.

Such unabated cheerfulness was simply too much for me. With ice running through my veins in quick time I proceeded to pour acid-scented cold water over the whole notion by posting this comment on the site –

This friendship-themed post comes with a lot of good vibes Neil.

Unfortunately, along with some of your other readers like Alyson, Mahvish, Paddy and Les my experience of friendships has been more mixed. To this extent I’ve come to somewhat reluctantly believe over the years in two adages –

(1) Friends come and go but enemies last a lifetime and
(2) Keep a watch on your enemies but keep a closer eye on your friends.

Despite the slightly mafia-sounding ring to these old sayings, there’s no disguising a cynical (or is it just born-of-experience adult realism?) viewpoint at the heart of both. To be brutally honest, without even really trying, a great many adults I come into contact with begin to grate on the nerves after anything more than a short time in their company. Sad but true (for me)

And of the others, if a person who I’m compatible with on a friendship level isn’t prepared to put in at least something approaching a similar amount of effort to keep that friendship going, then whamo, unfortunately up in smoke goes another glorious ‘what might have been’.

I’ve heard that in order to thrive the one ingredient all friendships need is FORCED REGULAR CONTACT. Like back in Primary school! Remember those days? Back then friendships for all of us were based on innocent choices centred on the laws of personality attraction. These days work and family occupy the bulk of my time which is not to say I’m not on the lookout for personality types who I think could become friends.

Sorry for what probably comes across as an anti-friendship tone in this comment Neil but I just wanted to put across the idea that, at least in my experience, despite the best of intentions friendships and the desire for friendship don’t always go according to plan. Which is certainly no great truth bomb on originality count I think it’s safe to say.

And just when I was starting to feel guilty that maybe I’d popped the feel-good party balloons that up to that moment seemed fairly inflated, came this comment on the same site from a person named Pazlo  –

I’m tempted to quote Mark Twain and say “The more I know of people, the more I like dogs.”
However, you have painted a lovely picture of brotherly love from the city famous for such.

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See, I’m one of those people who believes the word ‘friend’ is often mistakenly used by people who are simply referring to someone they’re on friendly terms with. And there’s a big difference, as we all know, between the two. With possible misunderstanding hanging thick in the air like negatively charged particles before a rainstorm, what else was there to do but haul out the analytical blowtorch and see if I could make any sense of it all.

Let’s start with exhibit A below – The Friendship Schematic

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Tier 1 Friends – Those who feel somewhat like brother’s and sisters. This is hallowed territory indeed.

Tier 2 Friends – You might be invited to their wedding, but you certainly won’t be delivering any Best Man or Best Woman speeches.

Tier 3 Not Really Friends – Your relationship tends to exist mostly as part of a bigger group or through the occasional Facebook like.

Tier 4 Acquaintances – When you hear that something bad happens to one of these people, you pretend to be sad but you don’t actually care.

Tier 5 Strangers – We get to ‘meet’ about 80 000 people in our lifetime (that’s everyone from the teenager who served you a flat white in the coffee shop this morning to the uncle you only ever saw a few times back in your childhood) and the overwhelming majority of those will remain as barely one step up from complete strangers to us.

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Before leaving this topic, I’d like to aim the cross-hairs at a couple of very recognisable friendship types –

 THE NON-QUESTION ASKING FRIEND

You can be having a bad day. You can be having a good day. You may be having marriage problems. You may have just loaded a bloody body into the boot for all they care. None of it matters because  none of it will be discussed by the non-question asking friend who never, ever asks you anything about your life. This friend can be explained in one of three ways:

1) They are extremely self-absorbed and only want to talk about themselves.

2) They avoid getting close to people and don’t want to talk in-depth about either you or themselves or anything personal, just third-party topics.

3) They think YOU’RE incurably self-absorbed and know if they ask you about your life you’ll talk their ear off about it.

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THE LOPSIDED FRIENDSHIP

Whether we like to admit it or not there’s a power-balance at play in all friendships.

Friendships can be lopsided in a variety of ways. Someone can want to spend more time with a friend or vice-versa. One member can consistently do 90% of the listening and only 10% of the talking.

A near 50/50 friendship is ideal, but anything out to 65/35 is fine and can often be attributed to two different styles of personality. It’s when the number gap gets even wider that something less healthy is going on—something that doesn’t reflect very well on either party.

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THE FRENEMY

Infamous by name, white-anting by nature. The frenemy is a person with whom one is friendly, despite a fundamental dislike or rivalry. They are common in workplaces the world over. The frenemy can’t disguise their pleasure when things don’t pan out for us.

The word itself has appeared in print as early as 1953 in an article titled “Howz about calling the Russians our Frienemies?” by the American gossip columnist Walter Winchel  in the Nevada State Journal. 

The trick to dealing with a frenemy is getting them as low down your friendship mountain – at least Tier 3 but more ideally Tier 4 or 5) – as is humanly possible.

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THE HISTORICAL FRIEND

A Historical Friend is someone you became friends with in the first place because you met when you were little and stayed friends through the years, even though you’re a very weird match. A true Historical Friend is someone you absolutely would not be friends with if you met them today.

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THE FRIEND IN THE GROUP YOU CAN’T BE ALONE WITH UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES 

In many groups of friends, there’s one pair of individuals who can’t ever be alone together.  It’s not that they dislike each other—they might get along great—it’s just that they have no individual friendship with each other whatsoever. Awkward? Yeah, awkward.

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There’s no denying life is a far richer experience in the company of good friends. It’s just that, like anything, friends exist on a continuum, meaning that there’s a range. There can also be a dark underbelly and I’m just sorry I had to be the one to raise it.

Then again what would you expect from a person who used to loath with a passion the television series FRIENDS (1994 -2004) and would rather have root canal surgery than have to endure the indignity of watching a single episode in its entirety based around the romantic and career lives of a collection of twenty and thirty somethings?

Sitting through the antics of an ensemble cast of perfectly groomed and overprivileged, what used to go by the name of ‘yuppies’ back in the 1980’s and 1990’s, just was not on my wavelength either back then or now.

On the other hand …hitching my viewing wagon to following the ups and downs of working class married life centred around the odd-couple union of an overweight courier driver and his underpaid, feisty Manhatten secretary wife who both live in a small apartment with the wife’s hilariously volatile widowed father (who always manages to get in the way) was much, much more my thing. More my type of virtual ‘friends’.

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Ps. I’ve always been a big believer in the idea that in a lot of ways its easier to like a person from a distance than it is up close and warts and all via a lot of daily/weekly contact. This is the theme explored in Australian author Lisa Ireland’s (Check her website HERE)  novel THE ART OF FRIENDSHIP released last year.

Libby and Kit have been best friends since Primary school. They’ve maintained their friendship over many decades via emails, phonecalls and an annual face to face catchup. So when Libby announces she is moving to Kit‘s city of Melbourne, the two besties are initially overjoyed. But both are about to discover the person they thought they’d known and stayed in contact with all these years has changed  in ways not revealed by their polite emails and up-beat phone chit chats.

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Just how Unique is Unique?

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My fingerprints are all over the keyboard that typed these words.

Your fingerprints are on the mouse that’s scrolling them.

Both sets are different.

Right?

Of course it’s right, if you accept the idea we’ve all been told, many times over, that no one who’s currently living, has ever lived or will be born in the future will ever have the exact same fingerprints as us?

But what if you don’t accept that notion?

What if that idea is really a bunch of pink-cinnamon-lip-gloss-flavoured-old-school- codswallop perpetuated by the same people who told us an apple a day keeps the           doctor away, you get warts from touching toads and frogs and sharks don’t get cancer.

As is pointed out in this clip from the ‘ol tv series NUMBERS (2005 -2010) unless you were to take the fingerprints of every person who is currently alive today (7.7 billion) plus the fingerprints of every person who has EVER lived but is NOT alive today (estimated to be a little in excess of 100 billion people) you can’t say you categorically ‘KNOW’ that no two people have the same identical fingerprints.

That’s why when experts state they have a DNA match they don’t say it’s a certainty but rather reword things to state more cautiously that, for example, there’s a one in three million chance that the DNA samples are NOT from the same person.

Naturally arguments along these lines that contend a person is prevented from stating something as impossible unless they have checked every single existing specimen that is living or has ever lived to see if it might in fact be possible are plainly ridiculous. Science more often than not arrives at not facts but what, to be fair, must be labelled assumptions (though these ‘assumptions’  are about as air-tight and scrupulously investigated as are any likely to ever be).

We are told the distance between the Earth and the Sun is 149.6 million km’s. But since no person has ever boarded a space ship, set the odometer to zero and then travelled the distance to measure it, how do we KNOW it’s 149.6 kilometres? For that matter how does the average person KNOW the Earth is not flat?

The answer is we don’t.

Instead we rely on armies of scientists from every country on Earth whose life work is to use super-sophisticated instruments based on empirical measurements  to make  calculated estimates based on scale. (FYI, and so I may appear mildly intelligent,  in the case of interplanetary distances, astro-scientists transmit a radar signal at another planet (or moon or asteroid) and measure how long it takes for the radar echo to return)

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The same mischief-making argument can be applied to poke holes in the adage that says no two snowflakes are alike. How do scientists actually KNOW that to be true unless they’ve personally examined every single snowflake that’s ever fallen to Earth? (Here I go again attempting to pass myself off as some super intelligent being  but apparently there’s estimated to be one septillion – that’s a trillion trillion – snowflakes that fall from the skies every year).

According to Jon Nelson, a physicist and formerly assistant professor in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Arizona, Tucson, there are this many possible snowflake shapes – 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,00 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000.

That’s a one followed by 768 zeros making the chances of finding two identical snowflakes not good.

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There was actually a scientist who claimed back in 1988 to have found two identical snowflakes. Nancy Knight, a researcher at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado was studying wispy high altitude cirrus clouds. Her research plane was collecting snowflakes on a chilled glass slide that was coated with a sticky oil.

She found two hollow hexagonal prism shaped snowflakes in a Wisconsin snowstorm that she claimed were identical. The news made headlines around the world at the time. Closer examination under a microscope revealed in fact the snowflakes were not identical but rather amazingly similar.

So for the moment at least in the absence of any evidence to the contrary I’ll be sticking to the beliefs that hold fingerprints are indeed unique and that no two snowflakes are identical.

Old school I know.

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Ps. On a contrasting but not entirely unrelated note,  you may have heard there’s a new KEANU REEVES movie doing the rounds. It’s called REPLICAS and features a pretty ‘out there’ plot line.

Reeves’ character is a researcher at a biotech firm who suffers a tragedy when his wife and three children are killed in a car accident. After carefully laying out the dead bodies on the side of the road, he calls not the police but rather a co-worker at the biotech firm. Together the two of them go about  preserving his family’s neural maps, cloning their bodies, and re-imprinting their memories into the clones.

But this being a sci-fi film centred around freaky experiments you know things are bound to go wrong. And they do.

And just so you know, these are my favourite six Keanu films

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Day of the Rhino

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I’ve had a rhinoplasty.

That’s nose job for those of you unfamiliar with the technical term.

It’s actually my second.

The first happened 28 years ago back in 1990.

Yep, me and nose obsession go way back.

So where does one venture to if one is thinking of changing the all important centrepiece of one’s face?

Where else but to the undisputed World Headquarters of plastic surgery – Seoul, Korea. Take it from me – this place even trumps Beverly Hills, California when it comes to image conscienceness. For the sheer number of folk in pursuit of ‘the look’ who are prepared to part with their hard-earned to achieve it this corner of the world comes out on top.

Over there plastic surgery – whether it be eyelid nip ‘n tucks, rhinos, chin implants, cheekbone sculpting or what have you – is just something you do. Sort of like Aussies and tattoos, but price-wise on a much grander scale.

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Before I take you on the tour of my op, I need to share this. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt over the course of my many decades long journey regarding nose reshaping surgery it’s the importance of having realistic expectations. Every surgeon you meet in this field emphasizes this.

The dramatic transformation before and after pics which are so easily found on the internet, like the one of the woman below, are much harder to come by in ‘real life’. I should know. I’ve trolled through literally hundreds of before and afters contained in handsomely bound volumes in the waiting rooms of plastic surgeons as well as via on-line surgeon sites and I’ve never, repeat NEVER come across anything as miraculously transformed as the sheer magic that pops up on the internet. I might add too that 99% of the before pictures of these clients you’re absolutely straining to see what the problem was as they look perfectly normal, in many cases even beautiful before any modification.

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The surgeon (or Photoshopper) who pulled off this miracle deserves at the very least inclusion in the Rinoplasty Hall of Fame.

When it comes to nose surgery, at least on my face, the word I’ve discovered has been important  vital for me to adopt is ‘subtle’ – as in ‘subtle improvement’ as in ‘modest improvement’. The aim is improvement not transformation, as exampled more by these patients –

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Opinions on plastic surgery for cosmetic reasons range along a continua all the way from seeing it as an act of self-empowerment right through to the other end of the scale of it being a form of body dysmorphia (HERE) I regard it as a way to be more comfortable in your own skin. It’s also an aid to cease the self-loathing whenever a mirror is around and free oneself up to be the best possible version of themselves, more fortified and better equipped to handle everything life can dish up.

Now that the preachy part of this post is over, it’s time to get on with the main show. In none of these pictures am I smiling. That’s because (A) I’m not a smiler in photos at the best of times and (B) in some of the clinic photos they request deadpan (Not sure what the Korean word for ‘deadpan’ is but that was the gist of the message to me). And just remember what we spoke about… subtle!

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Here I am at Brisbane Airport about to fly 8000km away to meet a guy who’s gonna take to my nose with a hammer and bone saw. And you think you’ve got problems! What am I in such deep contemplation about? Possibly whether airline food has improved since the last time I travelled or whether they’ll have any Barbra Streisand movies on offer in the in-flight entertainment. They’re flared jeans I’m wearing btw.

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A little over 24 hours after that Brisbane Airport pic was taken this is me waking up shortly after the operation. This shot was taken in my private suite inside GNG Hospital located in the Gangnam-Gu district of Seoul, Sth Korea. The thumbs up was mildly ridiculous not to mention spectacuarly cheesy I know but how else is a person to pose. ’cause you’re sure not allowed to spread your face into a smile. Now that CREED 2 is out in theatres it’s a pity that they’re not going to make anymore of the ROCKY movies ’cause I could have nailed the part of one of his worse-for-wear sparring partners.

In fact, another movie reference comes to mind when I look at that post-op picture of myself. One of my all-time favourite movies if not my FAVOURITE MOVIE OF ALL TIME has always been and continues to this day to be the Clint Eastwood action pic DIRTY HARRY (1971). There’s a scene in that movie involving the villain Scorpio (played to perfection by Andy Robinson) who pays a person to beat him up. He in turn then tries to pin the blame on his arch nemesis Detective Harry Callahan played by Clint Eastwood.

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Anyone without the stomach for film depictions of strong violence would be better forwarding straight past the first 60 seconds of this clip.

The recovery phase post-op consisted of me being holed up in a Korean hotel room for 10 days living on a diet of ramen noodles and nori wrapped rice triangles plus enough round-the-clock, infection fighting antibiotics to inoculate a herd of wild elephants. Oh, and can’t forget to mention the 42 Korean TV channels that played a mixture of news, crazy game shows and soaps (there was even a Korean fishing channel – lucky me!).

I’m still trying to work out whether watching that stuff night and day for the duration helped save my sanity or almost sent me over the edge. I think depending on the day it was a bit of both. It wasn’t all sacrifice and discomfort though. I never did tire of looking out our 12th floor hotel window and watching the snowflakes fall like a million buzzing white moths every morning.  That’s a memory that won’t turn cold anytime soon.

So there you have it. My face transforming Korean Odyssey. What’s that? Oh, you want to see the final result? Yeah, had a feeling you might. But before I do, remember our little chat earlier about realistic expectations? Recall me not so subtly emphasizing the word ‘subtle’.

You do?

Ok, now you get to see…

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The ‘Before’ picture was taken on the morning of the operation. The ‘After’ shot, with bruising and swelling still clearly visible, was captured on Day 9 of recovery.

Bear in mind apart from aesthetic reasons I also undertook this procedure on medical grounds in order to open up blocked airways that have restricted my breathing for as far back as I can remember. If you’re straining to see the difference between the nose on the left and the one shown on the right, I understand. But trust me it’s there. An elevated bridge and more contoured volume courtesy of donated cartilage is no trick of the light.

Have I got the nose I always dreamed of having? Not by a long shot. Is it an improvement on what I had? Yes it is. After two go’s at it I now know with complete certainty a Hollywood ‘Brad Pitt’ style of nose and I are destined never to be united. Not in this lifetime anyway. The goal now, as it always has been, is to make best use of what I do have and try to find happiness in that. I’ve taken longer to learn to do this up to this point in my life than anyone I’ve ever met. The second goal is to repay the faith shown in me by my family who’ve supported me throughout the whole literal and metaphorical ‘journey’. For now it’s time to get back to the real world.

Last year brought a new car, a new house and a new blog in LOST IN SPACE FIRESIDE. I’m starting off 2019 with a new nose at a brand new work place. Funny, huh? Life is never dull (except when it is). And all these changes are SO going in the scrapbook!

P.S. Check out these before and after’s of President Obama‘s rhinoplasty. Like I say, difference-wise, subtle.

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PSS. Don’t think any of you woke up this morning thinking “Today I absolutely must see a rhinoplasty video” but in case there is anyone who did wake up feeling that way, you my friends, have just struck pay dirt. I promise it’s not real footage, just an animation. Here you go then…

PSSS. Two other funny little moments connected with this odyssey are worth mentioning here. What do you think the chances are of hopping on a flight to travel half way around the world, arriving at your snow-bound destination and then, as your standing in line to present your passport, turning around and spotting a person from your workplace who’s also standing in line?

‘Cause that’s precisely what happened the moment we arrived in Sth Korea – a country which in no way could be mistaken for the number one holiday destination of Aussies going abroad. The remote likelihood was rendered even more against- the-odds of happening when you take into account the fact that my holidays had commenced exactly one week earlier than anyone else at my place of work (or so I thought) since I had applied for and been granted one week’s special leave earlier in the year. Freaky? Just a liitle yeah.

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The second noteworthy moment occured while having a consultation at my local GP’s office for an unrelated matter. This took place about a week after arriving home. There I was being examined by the female doctor, which consisted of her asking me if there was tenderness when she gently squeezed particular areas beginning with my scalp and forehead. When I could see she was about to get all hands on squeezy with my nose I had to lower the boom gate pretty fast and ask her to please back off.

I explained I’d just returned from having a rhinoplasty in Sth Korea. I then asked her if she’d ever known anyone who’d had the operation. She replied, “Where I come from… plenty!” I then said  I’d discovered Seoul, Sth Korea to be the World’s capital when it comes to plastic surgery, eclipsing even Beverly Hills, California. She replied, “Iran would outdo both of them put together!”

Looking at this video made me think she might be right.

 

 

Eye-popping Aquaman!

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I may be forty years outside the intended target audience age for this movie but that didn’t stop me staring amazeballs with my jaw dropped firmly to the floor in dumfounded amazement for just about every minute of this film. Marveling at what $225 million gets you these days as far as circus-like, cinematic mega-extravaganza wild rides go turned out to be so much fun.

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t go within a 100 miles of any cinema showing a superhero movie, having grown up a number of decades past. But we’d promised to take our eight year old daughter to her first ‘adult’ film (she still needed one of those black leather child booster cushions to see the screen) so I was in some ways living vicariously through her.

When I was my daughters age, Aquaman looked like this –

And I used to love it.

Now he looks like this and I still love it –

Yep, there’s stunning eye-candy and then there’s AQUAMAN. ‘Next level’ doesn’t even begin to cover it. Filmed principally at Village Roadshow Studios on the Gold Coast in Australia, critics have rightly labelled this the best thing to come out of the DC Universe canon since the THE DARK KNIGHT (2008).  Considering that Christopher Nolan directed masterpiece with it’s Heath Ledger imbibed turns of genius rewrote the standard for what superhero movies could aspire to be, that is high praise indeed.

kidmanApart from where it was made, the other Aussie connection to this film is Nicole Kidman (who coincidentally, along with AQUAMAN star Jason Momoa, was also born in Honolulu, Hawaii). 51 year old Kidman, who looks barely a day older than when she appeared in my all-time favourite movie of hers, the mid-nineties Gus Van Sant directed TO DIE FOR, plays Aquaman’s mother Atlanna.

In another coincidence, Kidman is the exact same age as Jason Momoa’s real life wife Lisa Bonnet (she of the THE COSBY SHOW back in the 1980’s, the series she was famously fired from in 1991). That’s the same real life 12-year-age-gap between Aquaman and his reel-life mother and Aquaman and his real-life wife. Whatever, right?jasonAnd speaking of Jason Momoa, how about him! He’s undergone quite the transformation to assume the hulking form he is today, as the pictures above testify to. He portrayed the title protagonist in Conan the Barbarian (2011), a reimagining of the 1982 film of the same name and a role made famous by Arnold Schwarzenegger and his rise to fame includes parts in BATMAN Vs SUPERMAN (2016) and JUSTICE LEAGUE (2017).

He plays Aquaman with the sort of charm reminiscent of an early Marlon Brando. Instead of a blonde All-American boy type (see 1960’s cartoon opener) Momoa plays him more as a leather-clad, tattooed biker. He also genuinely looks like he could physically pulverise with one hand tied behind his back a posse of other superhero’s who, for dignity’s sake, shall remain nameless here. (Ok then – Ironman, Spiderman and Captain America – are you listening?) And to complete the picture he fights all comers like a thrashing machine in this adrenaline-charged thrill-ride of a movie.

Throughout the length of this movie I watched with interest the character of King Nereus, the father of Aquaman‘s love interest Mera (played by Johnny Depp’s ex, Amber Heard) with the nagging suspicion that I knew the actor playing this part from some place. Yet try as I might I just couldn’t place him. That was until the credit’s came rolling on (this is one movie you won’t want to leave the theatre in the middle of the scroll-through of production names due to unfinished end scenes that play in the middle of them) and I realised for near two and a half hours I’d been gazing at my old mate Ivan Drago! (Dolph Lundgren). I know the producers inserted him in AQUAMAN just for the likes of me so I’m pretty grateful.

dolphEvery frame of AQUAMAN has marvelous details that you might not catch on first viewing. The Atlanteans use their mouths to speak, but there are no visible bubbles, only vocal distortion that suggests “bubbly-ness.” When the characters aren’t swimming at dolphin speeds, they square off against each other as if they’re standing on a sidewalk on land, bobbing ever-so-slightly. It’s all so well done.

Naturally there’s been the odd dissenter (HERE) who’s given a less glowing account of the film then the one I’ve provided but haters gonna hate and haters most definitely gonna nitpick. As I’m departing a movie theatre I usually like to eavesdrop on a sample of conversation to gauge what people thought of a film. On this occasion I overheard this from a popcorn maxi-box holding teenager – “The visuals were great but everything else was crap”.

And as to that critic who wrote – “I did not think Warner Brothers and DC Films could make a worse movie than Green Lantern, but Aquaman is that movie.  The point at which Aquaman stepped on my last shred of hope was when the octopus played the drums” – I say two things (1) It’s pretty clear you don’t know your AQUAMAN backstory and (2) it’s called a sense of humour. Perhaps you could try developing one.

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No matter.

I went into this movie expecting the usual ‘valleys and mountains’ type rhythm commonly found in these type of films ie moments of explosive action interspersed with slower periods of exposition, dialogue and back story. Yet for me this film passed in a heartbeat with not a dull moment.

AQUAMAN flows. God does it flow! Just like water.

Ps. How’s this for AQUAMAN backstory: according to lore within the DC Universe, it was actually The Flash that came up with the name AQUAMAN

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