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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Old Man

Today, I was in the food court.

With a chin being absent-mindedly stroked by my right forefinger and an upward tilt of my head, I looked at the menu of the Indian takeaway. I must have stared at it for at least fifteen seconds before my mind wandered and I was spacing.

A few seconds into my journey into no thought, a distant SNAP and sight of clicking fingers drew me back into the world. An old man - a stranger to me - had his arm raised and was snapping his fingers in my eyeline, creating a distracting obstacle between me and the Indian takeaway menu.

When he saw I was back attention-wise, his arm withdrew and his spine curled back into its apparently normal hunched forward posture.

He stepped towards me, with a stony expression on his face and big black rimmed glasses. He looked to me like one of the Pixar "old man" characters (Geri from Geri's Game/Toy Story 2 or Carl Frederickson from Up) but with a few lone hairs sprouting from the left side of his chin that he'd clearly repeatedly failed to prune.

He spoke, pausing after every few words to catch his breath, as if the walk of two metres had exhausted him.

"Why... did the computer... cross... the road?"

I didn't know and told him so.

"Because it was programmed by the chicken."

I didn't laugh, but I did politely smile. "Okay." His face hardly changed expression - still stony, deadpan with a few straggling hairs - but I sensed he was amused.

"You have to keep that old joke up to date, you know? Someone had to do it."

He'd apparently caught his breath. I jokingly asked...

"Is it a PC or a Mac?"

"... what?"

"The computer. Is it a PC or a Mac? And what operating system does it use?"

The man looked at me, stone faced and hairy chinned, for a few seconds.

"... you don't want the curry from this place."

He turned and walked away, to strap some balloons to his roof or not shave those hairs on the left side of his chin.

Monday, November 22, 2010

I'm Still Here, Bub

It has been clear to me that I have not blogged in well over a month. Is it because nothing has happened? No, quite the opposite. A lot has happened. Is it because too much has happened and I haven't had the time to write? No, quite the opposite. Well, which is it, James? You can only have two opposites.

I just finished doing about six months of continuous work on shows. Half of my weeknights and most of my weekends were consumed by rehearsals. I haven't had the energy. I'm exhauuuuuusted. Put the kettle on, bub, will you? ... NO, don't put the kettle on the baby! It's a term of endearment. ... yes, genius, 'kettle' is a term of endearment. Look, forget it, I'll put it on, you put your legs up and have a squiz.
  • Back in September, I helped out my friends Matt, Jackie and Kieran stage a "reading" of their original musical titled "Hell & High Water", a chronicle of the wreck of the Batavia. It was gruesomely dark but at the same time astoundingly beautiful and powerful. It was one night only, performed for a small group of professionals and family. It reunited a significant proportion of the fantastic Les Mis people as well as other friends of friends. It was performed in all blacks, performed with the music in books in front of us, and Matt accompanying on keyboard. Simple but powerfully effective, especially with the reverb of the venue just off of Montague Rd at South Brisbane. It was a great show they've got going there, I was and am so excited for them. I wish I had it in me to write a whole show.
You want sugar? ... no, I'm not calling you 'sugar'. Sugar's not a term of endearment here, it's actually sugar.
  • Miss Saigon wrapped up in mid-October after a four weekend run. It too was an incredibly fun ride, as I showed in the pictures previously. I ended up injuring my foot in the second week, jumping a little too far from the helicopter and landing very hard. When Dad took me to the GP the Monday after, he said to me in the car "Now James, when the doctor asks you what happened... your mother and I think it's best you don't use the word "helicopter". It might give the wrong impression." I made a recovery by the next weekend's run of shows, but it was an agonizingly boring week in bed. The show finished strongly and was incredible fun with an incredible group of people.

  • Hoping to avoid the post-Miss Saigon depression, I launched straight into a third show - The Complete First Season's Pizza Laser Ninja Wow! We did it for three nights in November (12-14) and it was fun. It was a tighter, leaner show than we had previously done before. It was under an hour of material - short sketches and songs - with minimal sets and costumes. The effect was a really quick and punchy show where we were forced to work hard on the writing and performances, and I think we pulled it off. While we ended up breaking even in the end, we had unfortunately seemed to book it on a weekend where there was a LOT else on (uni exams, Powderfinger's last concert, rugby, parties, other shows, etc.) so we're examining the potential of reviving it very early in 2011 for those who missed it. To be continued.
So now here I am. It's November. I'm deflated, exhausted and without a cup of tea, no thanks to you, sugar plum champ mate.

Another year come to pass. It's been months since I've gotten up to solo stand up or musical stuff. It's been almost a year since I've posted anything to YouTube. I'm spent.

I'm here at the end of 10 years out of high school, and like that time 10 years ago, I'm standing here at the precipice wondering 'what's next?'

... whatever it is, I think I'll start with a cup of tea.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Miss Saigon Pics

We're one week now into our month long run of Miss Saigon at the Schonell and it's been great so far! It came together really well and has been getting progressively hotter and better with every single show.

PIK-CHAS! (courtesy of Que Sara Photography)










Yeah - that's me getting my seedy on on the back of Kim's ear. Ladies?

There are still tickets available for the run - please check out http://www.ignatians.com.au or call the box office on 3371 2751 for ticket details. It's an awesome show, only on for 3 more weekends - don't miss out!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Why I Like Kerry O'Brien

Mark Scott announced today on Twitter that, at the end of this year, Kerry O’Brien will retire from editing and hosting The 7:30 Report after a long tenure of warmly welcoming to the program. Kerry issued his own statement confirming the news.

It’s sad. People are in shock. Kerry is not dying; Kerry is not leaving the ABC. He’s leaving the program he’s been publicly associated with for 15 years. It is sad. Secretly, in the back of my mind, I also associate him with the summer of 2006.

-

I was in the sunset semesters of law school at the University of Queensland. At the end of the year, the UQLS (the law student society) hosts the annual Law Dinner - a formal occasion, more formal than a university ball but only because we’re seated and respectable for a good 90 minutes before the night gets alcoholically and bootyshakingly nasty. During the dinner, the semester’s valedictorian gives a speech on behalf the students before an invited guest speaker gives an address. I had never gone to a Law Dinner before. Since this would be my last time to attend, I did. I bought a ticket, sat on a table with buds from the Law Revue, put on a suit and ordered the chicken. I always order the chicken.

While the role of guest speaker is normally reserved for those in the legal profession – judges and barristers and the like – in 2006, the invited guest speaker was former Brisbane boy Mr. Kerry O’Brien. After my good friend Daniel Pizzato gave a humble, heartfelt and hilarious speech that wittily incorporated Ben Folds lyrics, Kerry was invited up. He gave a 30-40 minute speech of his reflections upon his history, the ABC, journalism ethics, media reporting during the Howard era, that ‘children overboard’ thing that was in the news. It was refreshing to me. As someone who at that point was getting jaded and dulled by law and everything law, I wouldn’t have been able to put up with a lawyer talking about the law, despite that being the appropriate audience for it. I just wanted my chicken and wine. I’m sure Kerry at the time was initially both flattered and a little confused as to why he’d been invited to a law function without any legal background.

So the speeches were over. Kerry stood around and chatted to the almost-lawyers, answering their curious questions. I know I asked at least one, but can’t for the life of me now remember it. It was silly, I know that. It got a chuckle from K-Dawg.

When the dancing started, Kerry disappeared. Well, when I say “disappeared”, he was physically still present, but he disappeared from the minds of those ready to boogie.

The alcohol and dancing started happening finally. It was a celebration. People cut loose. The ties came off. Respectability left the building in a way that only uni students can kick it out and let the door hit its cummerbund-wearing ass on the way out. It was the end of the year. For some – like me – it was the end of several years. It was one of the most fun nights I had with my friends from uni.

11 o’clock rolled around. Love Shack wound down, people cheered, the lights came up. The kick on party was at the Port Office Hotel. Hundreds of energetic almost-lawyers in messed up suits and gowns shuffled down the road which had led them up to the Victoria Park Golf Club hours before. They filed onto the chartered buses, where the enclosed space suddenly made the noise of excessively drunken and loud chatter unbearable.

Suddenly, there was a cheer. More cheering. Confusion from why there was cheering.

Then, even more suddenly, a drunken, repetitive chant began.

KER-RY! KER-RY! KER-RY! KER-RY!

Kerry O’Brien – ABC personality, Walkley-award winner - had joined a bus of excitable, drunken uni students to kick on to the after-party.

He even stood for the whole trip, refusing to take seats when offered.

Despite what the Brisbane City Council may call their frequent bus services, this was a real BUZ.



Kerry continued to chat with and entertain his young fans all the way back to the city - they couldn’t believe how cool this was. He wasn't drunk, he was just there having fun.

The bus pulled up on Edward St. out front of the Port Office. Kerry disembarked, but didn’t come into the hotel. He bade us all a fond farewell and good evening. We reciprocated our thanks with the repetitive chant and applause. We cheered as our red-haired journalistic knight disappeared into the Brisbane eve with his partner. The party kicked on, but it wasn’t quite the same without Kerry.

Since that night, I’ve forever thought of Kerry as a good sport.

For the years since, the Law Dinner has gone back to recruiting members of the legal community to address the students but I can’t picture any of them willing to be a real person, engage with the people and have some fun like Mr. O’Brien did that night. It made me respect him more.

-

A few months later, I encountered Kerry again – this time, in the mud-drenched fields of Woodford for the annual Folk Festival. I didn’t say anything about that night of the Law Dinner. I didn’t even say hello. I just saw him walk past, wearing jeans instead of a suit. Jeans. He walked on, cool as a cucumber.

“Kerry O’Brien, man,” I thought. “What a good sport”.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Miss Saigon comes back to Brisbane

Hey kiddlesticks. Pimping time.

Tickets have gone on sale for the production of Miss Saigon I've been working on. It's being produced by Ignatians, the same musical company who did the extraordinary production of Les Miserables that I was lucky to be a part of last year.

Let me say that Miss Saigon is a pretty rare production to be done at any level - to the best of my knowledge, it hasn't been performed in Brisbane since the QPAC production in 2007. But after the huge success of Les Mis last year, there was nowhere to go but up - this show is huge. It's been an amazing rehearsal and production process so far, getting sneak peeks at the design, the costumes, the choreography. It's going to blow Les Mis out of the barricade.
This internationally acclaimed and long running musical debuted on the West End in London in1989, where it played until 1999, transferring to Broadway in 1991 where it continues its run and is currently the 10th longest running musical of all time. It is written by the powerhouse team of Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil, (the writers of Les Misérables) with lyrics by Boublil and Richard Maltby, Jr.

The story is based on Puccini's classic opera Madama Butterfly, with the narrative transferred to Saigon in April 1975, at the climax of the Vietnam War, and Bangkok three years later.

Chris, a troubled American G.I., and Kim, an orphaned Vietnamese woman, find comfort in each other as the Vietnam War spirals out of control. Their few days of love, which are cut short with the Fall of Saigon, set into motion a life-and-death chain of events.
It's steamy, epic and epically steamy. It's unofficially known as "the chopper musical" because of the famous scene which replicates the fall of Saigon and evacuation of the Americans by helicopter. On top of that, there's spectacular scenes in the seedy nightclubs of Saigon, on the streets of Bangkok and the streets of Ho Chi Minh City after the reunification. If you loved Les Mis, there's a good chance you're gonna love Miss Saigon as well.

I'll post promo pics when they're made available to me, but I wanted to get the word out there now - don't miss out on the rare opportunity to see Miss Saigon live.

It's on for 15 shows only in the Schonell Theatre at the University of Queensland from September 23rd to October 15th. Tickets are available through the Ignatians website - http://www.ignatians.com.au - or by phoning 07 3371 2751.

Don't miss out!

Some YouTube clippery of the original cast...



Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Nelly

Once upon a time, I went to a Nelly concert.
Yes, I know.
Believe it.
What has two thumbs and knows it? This cracka.

What? “Who’s Nelly?” Oh, you kids today, with your Soldja Boy and your Gaga Man. Before Taylor Lautner, the celebrity most likely to take his shirt off was Matthew McConaughey and Nelly was a close second. Nelly was he who wore the Band-aid on the cheek as a sign of solidarity for his “brothers” “inside”. Oh no, he heard them Bad Boys comin’, can’t stop now, gotta continue mah runnin’, gettin’ hot in herr even when he’s with his boo (OH!).



So in 2005, Nelly did a tour of Australia. He was doing one show only in Brisbane at the Entertainment Centre. To this day, I suspect that Nelly’s promoters sadly overestimated his appeal in Brisbane.

My friend Ben rings me up that afternoon and said
“I have some tickets to see Nelly tonight. Do you want to come?”
I don’t REALLY have an interest in Nelly, not a fan, not a hater, and I can’t really affor-
“It’s free.”
I’m in.
“Do you have anyone else who’d want to go?”
None that spring to mind. I’ll get onto the Nonchalant Nelly Toleraters Club phone tree and ask around.
“If you do, bring them along. We’ve got more.”
What?
“Three more. Nobody wants to come.”
Where did you stumble upon this veritable pile of tickets worth $70 apiece, friend? Did a Ticketek printer fall off the back of a truck?

It turns out Nova – one of the promoters – was giving away tickets all day, every half hour, six tickets to every caller. Six. Who comps six tickets worth $70 each every half hour? $420 a half hour? $840 an hour? It's a burnoff. Red flag of overestimation #1.

So we get to the Entertainment Centre and we’re standing in the general admission area with lots of empty seats along the sides. The arena has been halved, bisected by a big black curtain. Red flag #2. Was this intended long before or an afterthought based on ticket sales/comps throughout the day? I’m reminded of a bit of trivia about Monty Python At The Hollywood Bowl, where they didn’t sell enough tickets so they brought the pot plants at the back forward to make it seem at capacity. Subsequently, thinking of this Monty Python trivia reminds me why I’m not suited for a Nelly concert.

So the show starts. There are a few support acts who I can’t even remember anymore before Nelly comes on. Now despite the dissing tone this blog might appear to be perpetuating (OH), I was actually very impressed by Nelly’s performance. He stayed on stage and performed every song for the entire show; he didn’t turn up 30 minutes late or bugger off for ten minutes to allow the no-name backup singer to have his solo moments like Mariah Carey did at my first concert (oh god, I let that one out of the bag). He allowed a girl up on stage, he sat her down and sang her a ballad. He threatened to leave when some punk threw something on stage, but he never did. Nelly was a very cool cat.

But red flag #3 - he did that thing singers do where they stop singing for a line mid-song and hold the microphone out to the audience to sing along. OH.

Now, there are certain singers who can get away with this sneaky tactic of community because their song lyrics are memorized nay ingrained into the conscious fabric of the public. Hunters and Collectors can get away with it. Robbie Williams can probably get away with it. Bryan Adams can get away with it – hell, I remember the Summer Of ’69 video consisting predominantly of shots of audience members singing a capella. I submit that Billy Joel hasn’t actually performed Piano Man live in 15 years - he just lets everyone in the audience sing it for him. A stadium full of people paid $100+ for Billy to be their most expensive karaoke machine ever.

Nelly, sadly, isn’t one of these people.

So he goes through the show, unfamiliar song after unfamiliar song, and regularly – FREQUENTLY - dropping the music/singing for a few beats to allow the people to sing one line of a rap which nobody knows. Nobody knows Nelly lyrics except Nelly. We’re not rapping along with you - we can’t rap - we’re here to see YOU rap, we don't need no rap gaps. Example...

You actin’ like you never seen it befo'
Like them country boys _______________
Bitch please, _________ but don't you slam that do' _________________________________________

... what?

Is this the final round of Don't Forget The Lyrics? Is this 2005 and Don't Forget The Lyrics hasn't started yet? Yes.

And he keeps doing it.

These were all obviously rap gaps that were planned and rehearsed, but because the Boondall audience just wasn’t made up of hardcore Nelly rap gap fans, it was awkward. He’d keep doing it and at the end of the song, he’d pace across the stage saying “aaiight, aaiight, not bad, not bad”. But it’s wasn’t aaiight. Each rap gap could have been accompanied the word “BUFFERING…” flashed on the screens to the side.

It's not until his biggest hit single "Hot In Herre" do people chime in with "I am getting so hot / I'm gonna take my clothes off" to mimic the backing vocals in the song.

But Nelly was a true pro and he trooped on through the show, awkward gaps o’ rap and all. I doubt he even remembers that concert now; the one in the swamp of a medium-sized Australian city whose name is often mispronounced by touring US artists of which Nelly was no exception.

OH.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Where I Usually Turn Left.

MULDER: Do you remember the first time you foresaw someone's death?
CLYDE BRUCKMAN: 1959.
MULDER:
What happened in 1959?

CLYDE BRUCKMAN:
Buddy Holly's plane crashed.

SCULLY:
You prognosticated Buddy Holly's death?

CLYDE BRUCKMAN:
Oh, God, no. Why would I want to do that? But I did have a ticket to see him perform the next night. Actually, I was a bigger fan of the Big Bopper than Buddy Holly. "Chantilly Lace," that was the song.

MULDER:
I'm not following.

CLYDE BRUCKMAN:
There's... the Big Bopper was not supposed to be on the plane with Buddy Holly. He won the seat from somebody else by flipping a coin for it.

MULDER:
I'm still not following.

CLYDE BRUCKMAN:
Imagine all the things that had to occur, not only in his life, but in everybody else's, to arrange it so on that particular night, the Big Bopper would be in a position to live or die depending on a flipping coin. I became so obsessed with that idea that I gradually became capable of seeing the specifics of everybody's death.

SCULLY:
Well, Mister Bruckman, I'm not one who readily believes in that kind of thing and if I was, I still wouldn't believe that story.

CLYDE BRUCKMAN:
I know it sounds crazy, but I swear it's true. I was a bigger fan of the Big Bopper than Buddy Holly.


--

This is my account of the morning of June 29th, 2010. In my humble opinion, it was not just a matter of chance.

As previously mentioned, I do not have my drivers’ license yet but am in the process of acquiring it. I need the practice where and when I can.

On Monday night, I approached my mother about getting in some driving time in the morning, while she and her car had the day off from work.

“Get up early and we’ll go out. Your father and I have to be out of the house to go to Sandgate at 11:30” she said.

Sounds fine. I accepted the offer. I’ll get up early and go for a drive. My plan for the morning was to get up, sneak in a screening of the Aussie crime flick Animal Kingdom before work, then, you know, work.

Tuesday morning, I sleep in.
10:45AM.
Late.
Shit.
SHIT.

I quickly got up, showered, shaved, dressed, ready to go to work. Bugger food, I’ll get a big lunch before work, bugger the movie. Dammit. I wanted to see Animal Kingdom.

I ask Mum if I could compromise on the practice - could I drive the 10 minutes to my work with her riding shotgun, then she could drive home and pick Dad up on the way to Sandgate?

“That’s fine”, she said.We’ll go at 11:20.”

There’s one more thing though, Mum.

“What’s that?”

I have a movie to drop back at the video shop that’s due back today.

“Not a worry. We’ll pull in on the way.”

To get from Mum’s place to the video shop then to work is a simple case of a few turns. Down one long road that leads to a T-junction, right at the T-junction then left onto the main road. In the past when I drive to work, to avoid traffic, I will normally turn left at that T-junction and take the backstreets.

Today I have to turn right.

Consistent with my mother’s typical non-adherence to punctuality, we get out to the car at 11:30.

At 11:30, I discover that the magnetic L-plates I use are not under the seat where I normally keep them.

We spend 2 minutes tossing the car, opening all the doors to find them, are they in the boot, are they in the glove box. We find them on the backseat, overturned and camouflaged against the dark fabric of the seat.

At 11:33, the yellow magnets are appropriately and legally affixed, we’re ready to go. I insert the key into the ignition, and it doesn’t turn. It’s stuck.

“Push it in and turn it.”
I am, I am pushing it in.
“You mustn’t be. Easy, easy. Go easy, you’ll break it.

We swap positions and she sees I’m not kidding. The key won’t turn. I go back inside and get the other key to see if that will work. It doesn’t. Mum is baffled but not panicking. I posit the theory the car has locked down because someone has attempted to break into it. She reaches into the glove box for the instruction manual. She flicks through the book, through “keys” & “locking”. She finds the page headed “ignition”. We work out it’s a problem with the alignment of the tires – if the wheel & tires aren’t straight when you go to start the ignition, it won’t start. We adjust the wheel as we turn the key and it starts.

“Well, we learn something new every day.

Upon recounting this story to people later in the day, they tell me it’s not uncommon. But to mum and me, this is total news.

It’s 11:41 when we finally leave the driveway.

I drive down the long road, pull up to the T-junction where I am to turn right. Mum and Dad have commented that I don’t ease up to lights, that I brake too hard. She reminds me of this one as I pull up to the lights at the T, right indicator flick-flick-flicking.

We’re the only car at the lights.

On the corner to the right, there’s a man standing. We can see him in the corner of our eyes.

At that moment, he drops to the pavement with a THUD and a SMACK and lays still.

Oh my god.

The light goes green. I turn right. But instead of continuing on to the main road, I quickly pull into the car park of the local vet. We jump out and run across the road.

He’s lying on his back. He has a short clipped haircut and fiery tattoo down his arm. He looks like he’s stumbled out of the nearby caravan park that's ironically named 'Alpha' Accommodation. I check him for a pulse. He’s still breathing. I call triple 0.

At some point, his eyes snap open, he gulps in air, sits bolt upright like he’s been shocked with something, says he’s aww-rye. No, you’re not mate, you need to lie down, you’ve had a fall. He sits up, then after moments of lucid mumbling, starts tipping over again. The emergency phone lady asks me if he has a history of heart problems. I don’t know.

Finally some cars pass by. Many cars pass by. One turns the corner and drives by. The next one turns the corner and parks. A larger man gets out and helps. The triple 0 lady tells us to keep him lying down on his side, but we can’t convince him to. Instead, he stands up. The larger man helps him up but holds him, propping him there. It looks darkly comical, like Weekend at Junkies. He identifies that he’s probably taken something. The man with the tattoo admits in a slur hair-oh-in and the larger man says we can’t lie him down. I say this to the triple 0 lady and I think she agrees. She tells me to keep the “lady” away from him in case he turns violent.

Eventually the ambulance comes blaring up the road we would have turned into. They pull up; the paramedics take to him, ask us questions and say thanks for our help. Mum and I thank the man for stopping to help when others wouldn’t. He thanks us for the same. The man with the tattoo seems to be okay, now they’re there.

As we walk back to the car, a police car pulls up. The cops get out and assist the paramedics. But mum and I are already in the car.

We continue on to the video shop then work.

It was now past 12.

--

Mum and I discussed it in the car - the number of coincidences, the delays, the reasons unbeknownst to us behind little moments and decisions that led to us being at that intersection turning right at that particular moment. If we had been turning left, we wouldn’t have been able to help as there was nowhere for us to pull over on that side of the road. If that freak moment of (to us) a rare car malfunction had happened. If I hadn’t slept in. If for some reason the L-plates stayed where I had left them.

Mum said it was “divine intervention”. Feel free to imagine my mother and me paraphrasing the final third of Pulp Fiction, sans Marvin in the car. I wouldn’t take Jules’ position but I wouldn’t take Vincent’s either - I don’t know about divine, but it certainly felt to me that there was a purpose to it all. Maybe it's my post-Lost way of thinking about reason and purpose without having to put the name of a deity to it. It's my agnosticism rather than my parents' Catholicism.

Like I said at the start, taking Paul Thomas Anderson’s lines of verbal prose from Magnolia spoken in Ricky Jay’s deadpan, in the humble of opinion of this writer, this was not just a matter of chance.

Because here’s the kicker: after work, I decided to go to an evening screening of Animal Kingdom.

In the opening seconds of the film, paramedics rush to the rescue of a person suffering from a heroin overdose.

Oh no. These strange things happen all the time.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Busy

Today at work was very busy and frustrating. I didn't have the space or the misty wooded glen to punchdance out my rage, so I made some art on a square piece of pink paper.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Last Picture Show

Last Friday night, Dad and I went to the Regent. We had gone to the Regent together for 14 years, and this was the last time.

“It exists now only in my memory.”

1996

In 1996, I still listened to the radio at night. Specifically, I still listened to B105. I went from Martin/Molloy in the afternoons into the Hot 30 with Stuey and Zoe, with that transitional hour between 6-7 to allow people to call in and vote. I listened to Stuey and Zoe, I voted in the countdown, got the password, tried to win the prize of the night. I don’t want to take sole credit for the amount of airplay TLC’s Waterfalls and Coolio’s Gangstas Paradise got on Brisbane radio in the mid-90’s but *shrug* please, sit down.

One night they had some random call-in competition which I tried to get into with valiance. I used the phone in Mum and Dad’s room which had a redial button (THE FUTURE… although it did have a cord). Lo and behold, for once, I wasn’t met with an engaged tone and I got through to the studio! I gave my silly answer to whatever the silly question was. They laughed. They said I’d won a double pass to the PREMIERE of a new movie at the Regent called… HACKERS.

I remember being so overwhelmed by this prospect.
Me.
Going to a movie premiere.
Of Hackers!
AT THE REGENT!
Fancy shit!
Will I be in the paper?
What should I wear??

… the screening itself was not the fantasy affair of movie premieres that were in my mind. This was before the internet and before I could comprehend the possibility that a particular movie had premiered elsewhere before.

I remember elements of the Hackers screening… I remember being disappointed that it wasn’t a huge premiere. People were quite casually dressed. Like they were – you know – just going to the movies. This was when I learned the difference between a “preview” and a “premiere”. I remember it was in the really pretty theatre (the Showcase). I remember a trailer for a movie called Mallrats which starred Brenda from 90210 and a man sticking his hand up his butt then shaking another man’s hand. I remember the music at the start of the movie was also in Mortal Kombat, I remember the villain was in the Super Mario Bros. movie and I remember seeing my first breast on a movie screen – all things that were crucially important to a 13-year-old boy in 1996.

That screening of Hackers was the first in a semi-ritual pattern for me and Dad on a Monday or Wednesday night that would continue regularly throughout high school - the years in which I showed freakishly good luck at obtaining preview tickets to the Regent from competitions.
  • I would get home from school, quickly have a shower and change clothes.
  • Mum would drive me to the bus stop. When she got home, she would let Dad know at work which bus I was on.
  • He would intercept it at a stop close to his work.
  • We would travel in to the Regent together.
  • Before the movie, we would descend into the basement McDonald’s which would extend through to Elizabeth St. and get a six pack of nuggets or a Filet O’ Fish meal for dinner. We would look at the businessmen and women getting a quick post-work snack and try and guess whether anyone else was heading upstairs in the next fifteen minutes or so to see the same movie we were.
  • See the movie.
  • Go home.
1998

Dad and I saw Titanic on January 1st, 1998. I remember the date specifically because of a full page (broadsheet, remember those?) ad that stuck in my memory. It urged people to see it on New Year’s Day, and , if it was sold out at your local theatre, to consider seeing Alien: Resurrection instead. Alien: Resurrection was another Fox release but, as we all know, it did not do the business of Titanic.

It was, up until that point, the longest movie I had ever seen. As soon as the Celine Dion song started playing over the credits, Dad closed his eyes and took it in. He had a love of Celine Dion’s music that was matched only by gay men who listened to 4BH. I couldn’t take it. I had to leave. My 14 year-old-bladder was busting from the strain of a medium Coke which had filtered through my system while I watched 90 minutes of rushing water. Celine Dion’s voice and that song was the breaking point. Dad ribbed me on the way home about not staying till the end, about not appreciating the full movie. I needed to take in the whole movie experience. This is why I usually stay until the very end credits of most movies now.

Titanic ruled my life for a good few months after I saw it – I named my first email account after it, I memorized the CD which I bought from Big W at Stafford, and as if I wasn’t satisfied with the heavily synthesized score as it was, I scoured the internet for MIDI files on a flimsy dialup internet connection.

“Are you ready to go back to Titanic?”

It was appropriate that Dad and I saw Titanic as our last movie at the Regent together. This was appropriate for several reasons. One, it was a big movie that we hadn’t seen since its theatrical release. Two, it was one of the movies we saw together – just him and me – during that era. Three, if we were going to see one last film at the Regent, it was sad and bittersweet that the last film we saw was about the untimely destruction of such a grand and beautiful design.

Video by Natalie Bochenski @ www.girlclumsy.com


Some of the other screenings from those years I remember – some with Dad, some with others…
  • Wild America (1997)Four teenage guys in a row, in a cinema full of screaming female JTT fans. Wild, indeed. What's a JTT, Beiberphiles? Think of a blonde JB with the same degree of popularity but without the singing and the undescended testicles.
  • A Simple Plan (1998)
    Dad and I still love this movie. He didn’t know who Sam Raimi was. I’d only just discovered the Evil Dead movies myself. But this was something else. We were both massive fans of Fargo which had only been released two years before (but Mum had only let me see a few months before) so we were right in the mood for this one.
  • The Thin Red Line (1998)
    We were often timing our exits from these screenings to match the last bus home. The Thin Red Line ran a LOT longer than we'd anticipated and it led to me being out in the city the latest I had been at that point in my life - particularly on a school night.
  • There’s Something About Mary (1998)
    I remember winning this ticket from NW – they’d been having a weekly competition where you ring up and enter and you’d earn points or something. Each week they gave away a ticket – I missed out on seeing Can’t Hardly Wait but still remember the 1900 number (1900 937 038) I memorized from the magazine rack in Bi-Lo so I wouldn’t have to buy it – and this week I won. I’d had no expectations about it. I’ve never seen Dad laugh so hard in my life as he did in the hair gel scene. That’s what I remember about There’s Something About Mary.
  • H20: Halloween (1998)
    Dad ribs me about this screening to this day. Part of the gimmick of this screening was that if you cut out a Michael Myers mask the Courier Mail had printed and wear it, you could win prizes. So I did. And it turns out, I won. I had to go up to the front of the cinema and collect my shiny new knives in a chopping block. He seemed nervous. I think it’s because we’d just seen Scream 2 which has that infamous opening with a cinema filled with masked people.
  • Man On The Moon (1999)
    Oh God. I'd forgotten about this.

    I loved the movie, but I remember the screening for a different reason. I had a huge crush on a girl at school that I was good friends with. It had been bugging me for months. I remember, with the outlandish hope that Catholic school tends to imbue within one, asking the forces that be – fine, God – to give me a reason or excuse to ask this girl out. I get home and discover I’ve won a pass to see Man On The Moon. Sweet. I asked her if she wanted to go with me and was politely turned down. I accepted it. I could have let the crush go on, but that was the moment of catharsis, the moment when I let go of it. I didn’t mean for it to. I just needed to hear the word ‘no’ from her, even if it was for something other than “I like you a lot, do you like me the same way?” We’re still friends today. I ended up going to see the movie with another friend who hated it and was begrudged for a long time that he was the “last resort”.
  • The Blair Witch Project (1999)
    The internet picked up momentum – in the conceptual popularity sense I mean, it was still slow as in ’99, the year we got dialup at our house. So I knew about Blair Witch well before and was VERY excited to see it. People at school knew I was going to see it before everyone else and I was actually popular for a whole hour. The final scene scarred me and I had difficulty turning corners for months - starting with turning into the men’s room after the movie finished.
  • Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (2000)
    Saw this movie twice at the Regent and loved it both times. This was used as part of a book of 10 comp tickets I’d scored and I had no hesitation of using two of them on the Tiger. I remember sharing a row with a fat dude who was one of those guys who had to have a verbal reaction to everything that happened on screen. WHOA. Hoho. Nice. I and two other people shot him looks. Mine he saw and promptly STFU.
  • The Dish (2000)
    Awesome screening. Jane Kennedy and Tom Long came to introduce the film and were a little late.
  • Almost Famous (2001)
    Was and is one of my favourite films. I was only one of four people in the cinema. I took my YouTube name after it.
  • Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)
    For complicated reasons and an inability to find someone who was able to come at short notice, I ended up seeing this one by myself. Yep. A lone male. At Bridget Jones’ Diary. They gave out free Hagen Daas. I sat in the back row.
  • Life As A House (2002)
    Daddy-son weepie. Underrated. Shut up.
  • Fat Pizza (2003)
    I remember the screening for two reasons. 1) I’ve never walked out of a movie but this was the closest I’ve ever come – it was just terrible. 2) As part of the ‘premiere’ festivities, the distributor had organized some “fully sik” break dancing at the top of the Regent. They did it on a tarp which never seemed to stay still on the carpet, and they had to keep interrupting the dance to move it back. They also incorporated a blow up sex doll into the dance which they threw at me, expecting me to do something with it. I dropped it and walked away.
  • The Wannabes (2003)
    See Fat Pizza above re walking out. This was a close second. Nick Giannopoulos was at the premiere of this one.
  • Acolytes (2008)
    This was the premiere at BIFF of a locally made thriller, which happened to be written by my screenwriting tutor from uni. It was exciting to see the script he’d been talking about in class all those years ago come to fruition on the screen in front of a full and receptive audience.
  • Kick-Ass (2010)
    If it had not been for Titanic, this would have been the last movie I’d have seen in the Regent and I’d be satisfied with that. It had been a long time since I’d applauded a movie. I stood up and cheered. I had so much fun. And it was a full on security heavy screening with phones being checked in and a full audience (yet I don’t recall anyone actually checking my ticket).
***

When I think of the Regent closing, it’s these moments which I mourn I won’t be able to have again. The Regent is the last of my “childhood” cinemas around town to go; the last of the old movie house cinemas from my past to properly cave to the megaplexes and googolplexes and $20 3-D tickets. When the Aspley Twin Drive-In closed back in 2001, I was very depressed – more so because the last double feature I saw there was Batman and Robin and Vegas Vacation. The same happened prior to that with the sudden closure of the Gaythorne and the Crystal at Windsor, where I can still recall seeing Ace Ventura, Mortal Kombat, Sense and Sensibility and both of the Beethoven cinema releases. I skipped a Law Revue rehearsal one night to ensure I said goodbye to the Dawn at Chermside – where I saw my first movie - with a good movie with my family (and I did – Batman Begins).

It was important to me that Dad and I saw a movie together at the Regent before it closed, and I’m grateful that we did. I’m grateful that the Regent stayed open as long as it did and I’m grateful we had one last chance to be inside.

And this time around, I stayed. No. We stayed.

We stayed to the end.
And loved it all the more.


***

And now, at the end, a hideous Titanic soundtrack MIDI for you to hold your bladder through.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Eurovision 2010

This post originally appeared on my blog at TheCompleteFirstSeason.com. Please go over there and read some of the other funny things me and my friends have been writing about.

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Eurovision.


It evokes so many images and sounds in your mind. And it happened again last night.

In this day and age of Twitter – and the internet generally – the slogan for this year’s show “Share The Moment” seemed pretty appropriate. I spent the evening at a party which got pretty out of control if I may say so – baklava AND Jarlsberg cheese? On a school night? Heyoo! - but I had my phone and logged in Twitter account by my side to share my thoughts on each act. (I’ve added a few extra thoughts which the brevity of Twitter prevented me from providing.)

Overall the show was pretty slickly produced. From the Spanish real estate agent/serial pest Jimmy Jump ruining (even moreso) Spain’s act to a mid-show flash mob across Europe that was possibly the coolest thing I have ever seen on Eurovision, I had a ball. I also had a Vodka Cruiser but I swear that was an accident. But what’s a Eurovision night without everyone suffering a little embarrassment?

--

Oh, Fiddlin’ Norwegian Zac Efron’s back with his eye brows and all. Some hat kickin’ fiddlin’ to kick off the show. I suspect we’ll see at least one more fiddle before the end of the show.

This year’s hosts are Norwegian Josh Thomas and Scary Spice.

Azerbaijan. Stupid song name, lovely ladies. A bit Ricki-Lee/Holly Valance with supporting interpretive dance by Orlando Bloom, who may just be a roadie who went on to move some set then covered with some dancing. Lovely arm choreo there.



Spain. I drew Spain in the sweep at our party. Don’t let me down, Leo Sayer Circus Troupe. I already have a wooden spoon at home… YES! BRILLIANT. (The stage crasher, not the Sayer twins)



The Norwegian act is possibly the most charming stalker a lady will ever have. Smooth.



Moldova’s also on the fiddlin’ bandwagon I see. The dude’s fiddlin’ a neon violin while standing on a lazy susan. Unabashed Eurovision. And has that saxophone been AutoTuned? It’s got the same kind of timbre as the sax from Guru Josh’s Infinity. Remember that one? No? Well, it does.



Would have loved to have seen the stage crasher in Cyprus’s act. Jump on stage and just suddenly fall asleep like he’d just entered the city limits of the Village Of The Damned.



Well… at least, the dog backstage loved Bosnia & Herzegovina. Gave that chick a high ten.



Belgium. This dude – Tom Dice - is lovely. Me and My Guitar. Awwww. James Taylor is now allowed to steal one of Tom Dice’s other song titles. It’s actually a good song too.



Serbia, what gives man? You just totally killed the feel good mood. Why does Eurovision ruin the nice pretty numbers by following them with hilariously ridiculous shit not out of place in 1992?



Okay Eurovision. You’ve acknowledged Australia is watching. Now let us enter the damn thing.

Ah Belarus. For a minute there, I didn’t think you didn’t understand what Eurovision was about. Then you grew shiny wings.



Ireland. What the hell is this? The Rose? I was waiting for a disco beat to kick in and I got a recorder.



Greece. YES. They’ve sold me on the title alone - ‘Opa!’ I mean, Greece could just call their song ‘Song’ and it would still be brilliant fun. One of the Greek dancers was wearing Kylie Minogue’s loose, sideboob exposing gown from the Can’t Get You Out Of My Head video. AND THE DRUMS SHOOT FIRE. But is that FIDDLER I see?? This is the frontrunner so far as far as I’m concerned.



United Kingdom. … uh … you’ve … you’ve got some sturdy looking boxes there… ? … … you… you can’t walk on them and… and everything… … good on you … sorry, just accentuating the positive. You were awful.



Apparently Georgia owns sewing machines but no buttons.



Turkey. They should have loaned the Georgian dancers some duct tape to hold their clothes together. You can spare it, can’t you Turkish Linkin Park? Hey – the Stig got HOT. Robot striptease!



Albania’s also jumped on the fiddle bandwagon as well and ripped off Blondie while they’re at it. You can sing “Call Me” over the top of it. The Albanian fiddler looks like what would happen if Tim Burton and Andre Rieu had a child together.



Iceland. When you call your song “Je ne sais quoi”, you’re setting yourself up to fail, like when they called that horrible Bette Midler movie “Isn’t She Great”. They were admittedly creative in their use of the big red curtains that keep disappearing from act to act.



Ukraine - she’s wearing a black hood. She’s a bit like an emo Shakira if Shakira didn’t dance. I could hear this on the soundtrack of Ukrainian Twilight, with her as the frontwoman of Ukrainian Evanescence.



Is the World Cup being held in France this year or something? No reason…


Romania. I’m all for see-through Siamese Casio keyboards, choreographed fire, catsuits and big words in lights. You go, Sha-romania Twain! You rhyme ‘fire’ with ‘higher’! Elvis did that too! You’re like Elvis!


Russia. Snow. Scarves. Picture. Hand. Wind. Bland. If you’re going to follow James Blunt’s lead, please jump off the snowy cliff too. And what's with Johnny Depp interrupting with the deadpan news?



I think Armenia has the vote of every heterosexual male in Europe tonight.



Iceland have a model volcano in the green room? Poor form. Too soon. That’s like Roman Polanski taking a 13-year-old date to next year's Oscars.


The German girl – Lena – is loving this and I’m loving it too. She’s kinda dorky and having fun. :D How catchy is this??



Portugal. Why is there a candle on the piano? You’re in a stadium. There are lights everywhere. There is a wall of flashing lights behind you that would seem out of place in a Justin Timberlake or U2 video. The candle’s not fooling anyone about a mood you’re trying to set. Nobody’s looking at that candle but me. WHY AM I THE ONLY ONE DISTRACTED BY THAT CANDLE.



Israel. Ouch. Was warned it would be another power ballad but ouch. BUM NOTES. Thanks for the heads up, Julia (Zemiro). I expect at least two big swirly American Idol style camera swoops.



Denmark here , with the theme song from the 1993 season of the rugby league. Seriously. Try singing Simply The Best over the top of it. Take it away, Sting.



That was some masterful one take stuff, Norwegian Neil Patrick Harris. Of Michel Gondry video quality. *Ahem*

Flash mob! Check out security post-Jimmy Jump lay into potential boneheaders.

No way! Europe wide flash mob! Brilliant. Go lone guy in the middle of the North Sea!



Very happy with the winner. What an adorably cute dork! Why wouldn’t Fiddlin' Norwegian Zac Eyebrow kiss her? How popular would their kids be?

How good was it when Belarus came from behind at the end and smashed the UK into last place? Goosebumps. Like, watching Cool Runnings for the first time goosebumps.



Ugh. I tweeted way too much last night. Have a twangover.

Woke up naked & handcuffed to the Greek Club, phone in hand. Thanks Eurovision.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Unanswered Lost Questions (SPOILERS)

WARNING.

SPOILERS.

Seriously don't look at this page if you haven't seen the Lost finale and you still want to.

Seriously.

Last chance.

Here is a flipbook my sister made and left for me knowing I had just seen the Lost finale.

You can let go now.













Sunday, May 23, 2010

License and Peppermints

This post originally appeared on my blog at TheCompleteFirstSeason.com. Please go over there and read some of the other funny things me and my friends have been writing about.

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My name is James. I am 26 years old and I cannot drive a car.

What do you want me to say?

Some people never learned how to swim, some people never learned to read, some people never learned how to spell. I never learned how to dryve.

I grew up in a house which was in close proximity to two regular bus lines (not counting the school bus) and an even more regular train line – I had plentiful public transport available to me, there was never a need to get the license. I think there’s a window in your late teens/early 20’s where you have the time and less commitment to work on it. I missed that window, so I now try and get in practice when I can. To take the tagline from The 40-Year-Old Virgin and make a sex-car analogy The Fast Show’s Swiss Toni might be proud of, “the longer you wait, the harder it gets”.

The sight of a blue-bordered, laminated license in which the person in the photo has a well receded hairline and a birthyear earlier than the debut of Home And Away might seem odd to some nowadays. Some who know me feel the need to question me week after week after week, with the compulsive repetition of an internet gambler continually clicking ‘refresh’ on a sports results website, expecting the scores to change.

“Have you got your license yet?”
No. I’m working on it.
“Have you got your license yet?”
No. I’m working on it. I’ve been busy.
“Have you got you lic-“
*POW*
“… ah you go’ you lysin yeh?”
No, Kevin.
“Oh ay.”
How’s the chin, Kevin?
“ Behher.”

It’s my Groundhog Day. I sympathize with movie stars on press junkets who have to continually answer the same boring questions over and over. Yes, Clooney is amazing to work with. Yes, he’s a prankster. No, I don’t have my license yet, Kevin.

I’m just not a natural driver, it’s just hard work for me. You know the bumper cars? You know there was always one kid who could never get it to go even though it was a simple case of pressing down a pedal? See my thumbs pointin’ this-a-way? Yes? Get away from my window, it’s alarmed.

Though it is something I am working on when I can, I take solace in the fact that I’m not the only late driving bloomer. For example…

  • Oscar-nominated perpetual hottie / ranga Julianne Moore didn’t get her driving license till she was 27.
  • John Lennon didn’t learn to drive until he was 29, had an accident then never drove again – an actual car accident I mean; not the gunshot-to-the-back accident. Although it certainly prevented him from driving again.
  • Apparently, Ricky Gervais can’t drive, and he doesn’t need to as he drifts from location to location on a cloud of self-satisfaction, looking a bit like Lakitu from the Super Mario Brothers games, dropping spiny creatures upon the rest of us from a fishing line.

(L-R) Julianne Moore, John Lennon, Lakitu Gervais

I wish getting my driving license was as easy as it was to get my pen license in grade 4. Oh, the pen license. Why can’t my calligraphy skill level then be my car-ligraphy skill level now? Or my pun skill level. (Punmanship? Booya. Ready for my pun license now, Miss Mac.)

Then again, getting your pen license wasn’t exactly the same.

  • You didn’t have to take overpriced writing lessons.
  • You didn’t have to get practice writing at night.
  • You didn’t have to get practice writing in the wet.
  • You didn’t have to always hold your pen at 10 and 2.
  • If you were under 25, you didn’t have to rack up 100 hours of writing before going for the license.
  • You didn’t have to practice the manoeuvre of “parallel reverse punctuation”.
  • If you accidentally wrote in red pen too quickly, you wouldn’t get caught by a “red write camera”.
  • You didn’t have a middle-aged writing instructor named Geoff with golden-capped false front teeth, who would be standing by with their own pen poised at the ready, just in case you put too much of a curl on the lower case q and they had to take over with some “evasive writing” tactics.

Although, I guess, if you hit the margins at the side of the page, that did warrant an automatic failure.

So yes – I am working on it. It will happen. It will happen soon.

Then – and only then – will I start thinking about taking swimming lessons.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Golden Globes Dream

I dreamed I was in the front row at the Golden Globes.

I was in New York. For once, they were in New York.

From my hotel window, I could see a long line of tiny yellow taxi cabs slowly dropping people at the event. Somewhere along the line there was a giant taxi. I took a picture of the fleet of tiny cabs (and the one large one) on my phone.

Then we were inside. We were in the front row. In a surprise upset, Luke Wilson (although he referred to himself as ‘Zack’) won the award for best supporting actor. He won over Clooney and an old man who everyone thought was long overdue. It may have been Christopher Plummer. He looked disappointed. So did others. But they applauded nonetheless. This is the first nomination and win for Zack Wilson.

Luke nee Zack Wilson gave a ten minute acceptance speech which alternated between heartfelt sentiment, standup comedy and magic tricks. While some of the audience was frustrated by this, he nonetheless received a standing ovation, led by Will Smith, who sat further along the front row. Will Smith likes things that are unconventional and this was unconventional.

In the ad break, people got up and mingled. Tom Hanks asked Edward Norton why he wasn’t following him on Twitter.

I took a picture of the empty stage from where I sat. People won’t believe I was here. I don’t believe I’m here.

And then.

I became conscious of the fact it was a dream and woke up.

It was 4AM.


I can sleep more. I need to know who wins Best Picture.


I went back to sleep and in one of those rare crazy things,
I continued the dream.

A musical number was introduced to welcome rising young stars to Hollywood. A musical medley of songs, featuring a performance by twenty young-uns, including Zac Efron and a girl they announced as Blake Lively. I don’t think was really her. I don’t know what Blake Lively looks like, I only know the name. I thought she might be a Cylon. But that means there never was a Blake Lively. Only the Blake Lively Cylon.

Bert and Ernie – or at least two men in Bert and Ernie costumes – started singing a slowed down, almost lounge version of Amy Winehouse’s ‘Rehab’. I questioned whether the man in the Ernie suit was singing both parts in different voices and simply didn’t move his mouth when “Bert” sang.

I took photos on my phone still, to prove to people I was there. “When I come out of the dream, the photos will be there on my phone. Like Nancy pulling Freddy Krueger’s hat out of the dream world. I can do this.” I was mindful of the flash. Nothing looks more wannabe than the flash of a camera phone at the Golden Globes. Who was this guy? Who is he? Some contest winner. You should not be here. Oh but I am here, Clint Eastwood. I am here. I have the pictures to prove it.

I left the room to get a Pepsi from the milkbar next door to the theatre. On leaving they took my ticket.

“How will I get back in?” I asked the man in the booth.

“We have to take your ticket, sir” he replied, with the enthusiasm of a flight attendant. “You can buy a souvenir ticket from the gift shop.”

I declined. I had my phone. I had my souvenir. I had my proof I was there.

I walked out onto the street. The tiny cabs were even smaller on the street level.

I asked the girl at the milkbar for a Pepsi.

I woke up again. There was no Freddy Krueger hat in my hand, there were no pictures on my phone.

It was 6AM. Sunday.