Monday, May 28, 2007

Shrinking Darth Vader

You'll have had to be holidaying in the Antarctic not to have heard that it's the 30th anniversary of Star Wars - the papers are full of stories concerning the celebrations, including this one:

'A Melbourne Star Wars fan is to be charged after sparking a security alert at Crown Casino when a replica laser gun was spotted protruding from his backpack. The 32-year-old was on his way to a photo shoot commemorating the film's 30th anniversary when he was forced to the ground by police.'

The West Australian, 26 May

The main concern for the credulous authorities was, I suspect, not the gun so much as fear that the man might use his Jedi mind tricks to win at blackjack.

My absolute favourite, however, has to be the news that a French psychiatrist has gone on record that Anakin Skywalker has a 'mental condition'.

It seems the character who forsook the path of righteousness in favour of becoming one of cinema's most enduring villains has, says the shrink, an 'identity disturbance' or borderline personality disorder.

Stay tuned for more cutting edge analysis including: 'Norman Bates Has Mother Issues' and 'That Guy from Leaving Las Vegas - Does He Like a Drink or What?'

Final word goes to this site, linked to from Anakin's analysis, that Star Wars is all, in actual fact, one big metaphor for impotence:
'The X-wing fighters, you recall, have a phallus-shaped nose from which the payload of deathlove must, literally, come. Lots of folks get confused by the fact that the four cannons on each end of the X-wings are the source of the laser beams, but remember, to trigger the death star's chain reaction, you have to fire proton torpedoes from the nose of the craft. These protein torpedoes, as we shall see, do more than just hit their mark and send her shuddering into a cosmic orgasm—recreating what the French call the "little death"—but they also reinstigate the cosmic cycle of rebirth, as the Phoenix of the empire rises from her own ashes only to be done in again and again symbolically and literally in each subsequent film.'

Now if you'll excuse me I've got to grow a beard to stroke.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

All Bar One

Remember that feeling you got when you turned 18? That elated sensation that suddenly, after years of skulking guiltily around pubs you could enter a bar, buy beer, drink lots and fall over and do it legally? Never again would you have to worry about slinking away, deflated, after being accosted by the doorman. Never again!

Unless you live in Perth.

Last night my wife went along to a bar where an old work colleague was having drinks to celebrate landing a new job. Stopped at the door, she produced her driving licence, displaying it in all its proof-of-age glory.

And was turned away.

The condition she had violated, she was told, was something of a surprise. She was barred for being Australian. In an Australian pub. In Australia.

The bar - and it's The Shed in Northbridge, for anyone wanting to know where to avoid in future - apparently refuses entry to anyone attempting to go in on their own unless they're a foreigner. It's a condition of their licence:

4. No persons coming to the premises alone, with the exception of any tourist may be admitted unless that person, by pre-arrangement, is to join or meet another or other persons who are included in the description contained in Condition 3 above

Condition 3 holds that only people 'with a linkage or association through work, recreation, invitation with others, travel or other common connections may be admitted to the premises'. So anyone who's there for work, fun or has been invited can be there - even someone passing through can get the nod. By that token a group of howling Millwall fans could get in, no problem, but if you're Australian and on your own, forget it.

You'd think no venue on earth would turn away a woman on her own wanting a drink on a Friday night, especially since at least fifty per cent of the people inside would be there on the look-out for someone exactly matching those criteria.

Seems local women aren't good enough, though.

Eventually overcoming the humiliation of being carded in her 30s, my wife did get in when her old mate popped his head out the door and granted her access. It's reasonably certain, however, that she won't be going back.

Leastwise not unless she's dressed in Dutch national costume and accompanied by the Eurovision judging panel.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

High Speed Internet

After being treated so shabbily by my old internet provider, it's nice that my new one's so efficient. Take this letter that I received from them today:
Good news. On June 6 2007, your [Company X] Home Phone and Broadband service was successfully switched over to [Company X] Direct.

Wow. Either these guys are supremely confident the change-over is going to work or they move so fast they can monkey with the theory of relativity. On the off-chance that it's the latter I'm calling up to ask for a tip for tonight's Champions League final, a synopsis of the new Harry Potter book and technical information for matter transporters.

I'll tell you what they said yesterday.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Homer Alone

On May 19 last year, I was working in Sydney while my wife continued to set up home here in Perth.

Not an ideal situation for our sixth wedding anniversary.

Yesterday, seven years in, we were determined to make up for it and thanks to a last minute offer from someone to babysit the littlies, we actually got a couple of hours to ourselves for a meal at a restaurant in the city. Talked for a full three hours without anyone saying 'Daaaaaaad!' or bursting into tears.

OK, I might have snivelled a bit when I realised it was time to go home, but that was it.

It was also a big day yesterday for Ruby T, otherwise known as The Birthday Girl. I've always suspected she arranged to move her birthday to the same day as our wedding just so we'd always remember to send something. Hope you had a good one, R!

Different story today, though. My wife's becoming Active in the Community, which means she's had to start attending the local church, along with 95 per cent of the other mothers with children at the local school. Deciding to take the kids with her, I was left to my own devices for the duration.

Used the time to pull the computer apart and improve its tortoise-slow memory, but couldn't shake the feeling that my wife was imagining me spending the morning in an altogether different fashion:

Unlike the esteemed Mr Simpson, however, who vegged out and nearly burned his house down while his wife and kids were at church, I used my time fruitfully and productively.

I most certainly did not watch the FA Cup Final, nor did I dance a little jig at the thought of the grinning, modesty-bypassed Cristiano Ronaldo failing to lift the trophy.

Not me, guv.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Puppy-et Show

My wife's just got back from picking up my daughter from school, and spent 15 minutes outside talking to one of our neighbours. The lady in question has a little lapdog, which spent the entire conversation squirming in her arms while my daughter jumped up to stroke it.

Letting them get on with it, the next thing I saw was my daughter streaking into the house and frantically washing her hands.

'What's wrong?' I asked.

The anguished reply: 'I accidentally stuck my finger up the puppy's bum!'

And the best bit? The dog's name:


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Simple Pleasures

Been a busy few days, what with magazine work and thrashing out a story idea for something I don't want to talk about just yet, for fear of cursing it - it's one of those jobs where nothing's certain until you sign a contract.

I know that this kind of Secret Squirrel approach to blogging annoys at least one of my regulars, but since you know who you are and you know what job I'm talking about, I don't feel so bad about it.

Meanwhile, there have been a couple of things that have put a smile on my face in amongst the grafting. I got a cold-call yesterday from the telecommunications company who made my life so miserable
just under a year ago. Apparently they've noticed I've changed service providers and wanted to get me to change back, dangling a carrot of $200 credit for my renewed loyalty.

Words cannot adequately express the enjoyment I experienced from telling them that if they were the last telecom company on Earth, I'd switch to smoke signals rather than use them.


I also derived no small amount of pleasure from seeing Spurs finish fifth in the Premier League for the second year running - making them 'Best of the Rest' again after the unassailable Top Four. Their change in fortune after a dud start to the season can be directly attributed to my stopping watching them play live - every time I sat down to a live broadcast from the UK they'd get thumped. Switched to the highlights shows and success duly followed.

[Commiserations to Ruby T, too, after
last night's result].

And finally I was highly amused during a work assignment to read Patty Hearst's open letter regarding her supposed advice to Paris Hilton. Heiress-turned-jailbird Hearst would seem the obvious choice of mentor for heiress-turned-jailbird Hilton, but she's been quick to deny any doling out of tips. It was the
second paragraph that did it for me ...

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Hunt Saboteurs

We've had people trapped in houses, people trapped on islands, biggest losers, crappest dancers and honey I can't control the kids. How can reality TV possibly top that?

Why, with Fat Teens Can't Hunt, of course!

Yes, coming soon to a UK television near you, torpid teens will be dropped off in the Australian Outback and forced to survive solely on what they can catch. And - presuming actually chasing the food is out of the question - they'll be instructed in the use of traditional Aboriginal hunting methods to stave off starvation. What could be better when it comes to entertaining Fat Bastards Who Can't Hunt for the Remote?

Well, almost anything, it seems.

The papers have had a field day with the news of plans to film this entertainment extravaganza over here. For some reason, no-one's buying the claims of the producers that the show that:

' ... it would be an educational documentary that was a genuine attempt at tackling Britain's obesity crisis.'

The West Australian, 09/05/07

Which would seem to suggest that easing the critical mass of the critically massive in the UK means shipping them all over here and dumping them in the desert. No wonder there's been such outrage:
'This concept of big fat white boys and girls being dropped out in the Aboriginal community to survive is insulting and sounds like a freak show.'
So says indigenous leader Warren Mundine, who also accused TV company Cheetah Television of 'exploiting the Aboriginal tradition for cheap entertainment'. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the RSPCA has declared that 'animals would almost certainly suffer during filming'.
WA's Environment Minister David Templeman has come out fighting, vowing to refuse permission for the series to be shot in WA. He too appears to have a very clear idea about the pecking order of what he's protecting with this decision:
'The concept is abhorrent and one of the worst examples of gutter television I have come across. It exploits our wildlife and our environment, not to mention the children involved.'
Oh! The children!
Well, we got there in the end.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

After Life

Thanks to the glacial nature of programming at the ABC, it'll be another couple of weeks before the first episode of Life on Mars makes it to Australian TV.

For my regular 'Strayan viewers who don't have the faintest idea what I'm talking about, the show follows Sam, a detective from 2006 (John Simm) who is hit by a car and wakes up in 1973 with no idea if he's in a coma, barking mad or has actually travelled in time.

UK readers will have more of a clue about the show, as it was a monster hit up there, recently concluding its second - and final - season (with plans already in the offing for an 80s spin off show,
Ashes to Ashes).

Now I'm usually reasonably patient, but after waiting an eternity for an announcement about when LoM would air over here, I sought out my own copies from Blighty. And last night I watched the last ever episode.

Wow. I'd already heard that the finale has divided audiences, a large number of people feeling somehow let down by Sam's fate, but I've got to say I thought it was great. There aren't many pieces of writing that can slam you with happiness and tragedy simultaneously and not fumble one or both. This is one of them.

As to the multiple interpretations of the ending, and its explanation of how Sam can be in 1973 ... well, let's just say I didn't get much sleep last night, what with all that mind-whirring over the details.

And if a TV show can still have you thinking about it well into the wee small hours, I'd call that a success, wouldn't you?

EDIT: Aussie readers may want to steer clear of the comments section - it's spoilerific.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Tyranny of the Half-Full Page

For the first time a more than a month it's been quiet on the paying-work front, meaning I've had time for other projects. And while I'm sure Reality Chick thinks I've been locked in a room fiddling with my naughty bots, I've actually been back at work on my spec script.

I normally find that taking a break from a project means I return to it with a new perspective and filled with fresh ideas. This time, however, I'd spent just a little too long away from the keyboard.

I guess most of you will be familiar with the origin of this blog's title - it's the crippling fear you face when starting a writing project, the chill emotion that means you spend what seems like an eternity staring at the page without actually writing anything. Taking that first step and getting something - anything - down is usually the way to beat it. Unfortunately, I found the fear had mutated slightly ... Now I was gripped by an icy feeling not about what I was going to write, but about what I'd already completed.

No matter which way I turned it, the inescapable truth was that everything I'd written so far was shite.

I was going to have to start all over again.

Utter rot, of course. Sure, bits of it clanked like an armoured jogger but most of the early stuff was actually fine.

As with its Blank Paged cousin, this tyranny was to be beaten by just getting on with it and writing something. Once I'd got started I was away, and as of today I've finished a crucial section that sets up some lovely, fun material for next time.

Better yet, those early doubts cast light on a few previously hidden pitfalls. If not for that new perspective and that old fear I'd probably still be blind to them.

So distance is good. Too much distance is bad. Unless it's good.

(And it's that kind of writing, ladies and gentlemen, that tells me it's time to stop for the day.)

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


My son's a big fan of cars and he loves robots, so it's not a huge stretch to assume he'll enjoy a car that turns into a robot. The upcoming live action Transformers movie has meant that the form-changing toys have enjoyed a resurgence, and it was only a matter of time before he got one.

My mum tipped me off that she'd bought him one as a treat last week before she packaged it up to send from England. Rather than spoil the surprise, I decided to stay quiet about it.

This morning the toy arrived, and since my son was at day care I thought I'd get myself accustomed to changing the car to a robot and back again.

[I'd just like to break here and say that this exercise was intended to promote maximum enjoyment for my child, who was sure to want to see the transformation performed smoothly over and over again. I wasn't just playing with the robot while he was out. Nuh-uh.]

So here it is ... Behold Swindle, the robot who disguises himself as a jeep:

Yeah. That's what I thought.

I'm no technical genius, but I'm also no idiot - how an engineering graduate, let alone a small child, is supposed to make these things work beats the hell out of me. After half an hour of twisting bits of car into bizarre shapes that may or may not be feet, and staring at instructions that make the hieroglypics in IKEA flatpacks look like My First ABC, I gave up and turned the thing back into a jeep.

When my boy gets home in a couple of hours he's going to be thrilled with his new toy car. He'll roar it around the kitchen floor while I make tunnels for it out of cereal boxes, he'll drive it all over his sister and eventually he'll go to bed hugging it, blissfully unaware that it even has the capability to turn into a heavily armed battle droid.

Alternatively he'll take one look at it and instantly know how to go from car to robot to washing machine and tumble-drier.

I'm so past it.