Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tiny Tower of Terror


Today I became the man.

Not 'a man'. Becoming 'a' man seems to involve standing up to bullies, getting into a fight or getting laid. (And if eighties movies have taught me anything it's that all three of these things will happen in succession, although hopefully not involving the same person.)

No. Today I became 'The Man'. 

Day One

I downloaded 'Tiny Towers' to my phone. A simple little "skinner box" game that makes you the landlord, owner and manager of a tower filled with various apartments and stores. The basic game mechanics didn't take long to come to grips with and I established that I could simply fill out my flats with tiny 'bitizens' and then put them to work in the Pizzeria (Pepper Only) and the Laundromat (Lintastic) that were mine, all mine.

I spied on their Facebook updates. 'So happy to be working at Pepper Only' stated one bitizen. I felt a glow in my heart. 'I don't want to go into Lintastic today' exclaimed another. 


Why? Doesn't he enjoy the service industry? Well, No. In fact he had a little number that stated 'service - 4' and 'creative - 9'. Ah HA! He wants a job in a creative industry. No problem. I saved up the money and added another floor. A boutique micro-brewery for soda. (Pop Scene)

'I can't believe I get to work at Pop Scene' read the bitbook post.


Another satisfied customer… Well, Not the customer… but satisfied none-the-less.

Day Two

It's become slightly harder to juggle the employees. I'm sorry Joanne Meyer. I'm going to have to take you out of that creative job and pop you into food prep... for a while. It's only temporary. You won't have a sad face for long. 

I check BitBook fully expecting complaints.

Nothing.

Soon I have more employees with better skills. Ruby Flores. A perfect 9 in two fields. And suddenly I'm left with a choice. I need to fire an under-achiever. I like you, Jo Evans (2 4 4 2 6), but you just don't have an enthusiasm for the job. I'm going to have to let you go. 

I expect tears. I expect anger.

I check BitBook.

Nothing. 

Jo Evans paces back and forth in her apartment like nothing happened.

Day Three

My apartments started filling up. I bought a new one but now it's taking hours to build. I need my guys to have a '9' in at least one field. If only I could free up a space in the flats for someone new. 

A button labelled 'Evict' sits like a quiet elephant in the room. Jo is unemployed. She's an under-achiever. 'She just doesn't fit here' I rationalise as a quietly press the button. A few minutes later someone new arrives. Their scores are even worse. I don't even have time to bond with 'Sean Black' as he goes sailing into the darkness.

I check BitBook.

Sean's single update states how much he likes his new room-mate.

Not for long, Sean. Not for long.

The next roommate's dream job is to work at Pop Scene. Allen Castro is so happy to work at a micro-brewery that I get bonuses. His BitBook update is ecstatic. It was worth to pain of getting rid of the chaff. Now someone who deserves it has a job they love. His smiley face beams.

Day Four

Only got one speciality? Sorry Armando Tucker. I've found someone else who can do the same job to the same quality, but in a pinch, I can move them over to the Fortune Teller (Palm Me Off) or the Book Store (Leather Bound). Armando doesn't even leave a BitBook goodbye. No one does. I can only assume security make sure the passwords are changed.

You'd think they'd have more important concerns.

Soon my apartments are filled with people in their dream jobs. If your dream job doesn't exist in this building it's an immediate eviction for you. Sorry. Shouldn't have set your standards so high. If your dream job was to work at Pirate Pizza we could have talked. (I needed to find these bitizens easily and demeaning pirate costumes seemed the cheapest way to go. It inspired a full brand make-over)

The Volley Ball Courts are full of happy workers, all of whom grew up knowing that they wanted, more than anything, to work at Volliver's.

F. Price moves in. His dream job is also to work at Volliver's. I pause. In order to claim the 2 Bux bonus I need to free up a space at Volliver's to allow F. Price to start work. A simple eviction later and F. Price is hard at work. 2 extra Bux sit in 
my account.

Somewhere Leslie Wheeler wanders the streets. She wasn't bad at her job. She was excellent. She literally could not have been better. It was her dream job… and now it's gone.

All for 2 Bux.

I check BitBook but she said nothing before she left.


Today I am the man.

Damn the man.

Damn him to hell.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Monkey Brain Failure

Last night my brain ran like a super-computer. I performed in an improvised comedy show where I memorised complicated names for use later in the show, and carefully shelved and un-shelved ideas from my cognitive cupboards throughout the evening. I jumped through mental hoops like a well trained dachshund. At the end of the evening I was lavishly complimented on how very clever my brain was…

And then it let me down.

I sat in the right turning lane with my friend Kevin when we both got the sensation of a mistake being made to our left. A large sedan rushed by us at speed and flew into the intersection. We looked across to see a small dark car coming from the left. They plowed into each other without even the time to break. I mean brake. They had plenty of time to break, and indeed that's exactly what they did.

The force of the accident sent the cars spinning. It was a mess. I saw the lights were green and drove through and past the accident then pulled up to the curb. Kevin was already dialling emergency services and I grabbed my first-aid kit and ran to assist.

(Just to reassure readers, everyone involved is okay. One remains in hospital for observation.)

I talked to the victims and asked about injuries. I insisted that they stay still. They might have been suffering from shock. I cursed myself for not renewing my 12 year old first aid course, but enough came back to be of assistance. It was then that I noticed another person helping out with rubber gloves on.

The single most reassuring thing you can ever hear at an accident scene are the words..."Well, I'm a nurse".

I immediately went on crowd control detail. Moving people away from the other vehicle that was doing an excellent impression of a barbecue. It didn't take long to consume the whole car. Balloons of smoke billowed into the air. Everyone filmed it on their iphones. (It was pretty awesome.)

Ultimately the rescue services arrived and did the job they're not paid enough to do and I went to have a chat to the cops as an eyewitness to the event.

"DON'T WORRY! I SAW EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENED!!"

"What did I see? I saw..."

"So what happened?"

"The big car went by on my left."

"So the big car on your left, did it run a red light?"

"I don't have a clear memory"

"But then the smaller car came from…"

"The left. Over there. I have a very vivid memory of the small car coming from that side. I can picture the colour and shape of it."

But that wasn't what happened. Another officer pointed out that the damage on the cars suggested that it was the small dark car that hurried past me and slammed into the silver sedan. My amazing brain can't even tell the difference between silver and dark.

Oh… and the small dark car? It was bright red before it caught fire. It wasn't a dark car when the accident happened.

So despite actively watching the accident occur I can't remember ANY USEFUL DETAILS AT ALL!!

"Eidetic memory? Sorry. I meant path-etic memory"

This is what happens in times of stress. My poor monkey brain was so busy trying to climb a tree that basic functions like 'recall' completely shut down.

I apologised to the officer for being just a monkey and wished her a very boring night.

She smiled and said "Thank you for stopping".


Although I can't be sure that I didn't make that up.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Battleship


Battleship™.

The $200 million dollar blockbuster based on the popular board game of the same name and I've got to say this is exactly what I've been waiting for. I'm eager. I'm yearning. I'm bursting at the seams. This, finally, could be a great sci fi film. A return to great cinema.

"Why?" I hear you ask.

Because for once Hollywood is pouring money into an original idea.

It's not based off years of cartoons and comics. It's not a damned sequel. It's not even based off a line of toys. You don't really think that someone looked at the game Battleship™ and thought "Oh my God, What a great idea for a film." Of course not. Some naive but optimistic screenwriter put together a story for the sake of having a great story and pitched it to a money man.

"I'm sorry" said the moneyman, "It's a great story but I can't greenlight a production if I can't guarantee a return. Maybe if you had some sort of intellectual property attached to it."

Because the problem is that film-making is a risk. Getting bums on seats all comes down to getting people's attention. And the best way to do that is to show then something they recognise.

Enter 'Battleship™'.

Let's make a game out of this.

"How about" says the optimistic screen writer, "we integrate the board game Battleship™. I can change the missiles into those pegs from the game and Blammo! Bob's your uncle."

"Battleship™, huh? Well, everyone knows Battleship™. Yeah…. YEAH!!! Dorothy?!! Get my signing pen! We're going to make us a film!"

And BAM!! Now we get to watch a sci-fi film with a big budget and that is only barely behoved to the original conceit.

Battleships? Check.

Pegs? Check.

Now tell a great story.


I mean, I'm not going to watch it. Lord no! It's going to suck.

But at least it will suck for the right reasons.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Going Solo

I like to be noticed. I like to make an impact on my fellow man. Call it vanity, or pride if you like. You'd probably be right.

I drove through the local late night KFC last night. This is one of those joints where you pay at the first window and then drive through to the infamous second window to collect your meal. The cute young lady at the first stop was easy. I flashed a winning smile and made sure I sounded sincere when I asked her how she was.

(Tip: The trick to sounding sincere is to actually want to know the answer.)

It went well and she honestly believed me when I told her that she too, should endeavour to 'have a nice evening'.

Have one. A nice one.

The second stop was trickier. This girl had been working a long time and had a downhill grind until her eventual end of shift. She grabbed my drink selection. (Solo - The thirst crusher) and vanished to grab the heated muck that Kentucky assures the world is food. She returned and I put on my biggest grin.

"Thanks so much!" I explained in a heartfelt manner.

Nothing. Barely a glimmer of reaction and she turned away. I'd lost her. My last chance gone. Then she opened the fridge up, and grabbed another can of drink. She turned to me with a confused look.

"Did I already give you one of these?"

"You did indeed. And you can't give me two because then they wouldn't be Solo."

Her face split in half with a grin and I waved goodbye as I drove away. She may have been charmed. She may simply have been amused that someone could be so lame, but I left a grumpy and tired girl with a smile on her face and that can't be a bad thing.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Talking Parrot

I found a wonderful story online in a format that makes it awkward so I prefer to reprint it here with a link to the original article.

This story, recounted by Larry Krauss, comes from the famous British physicist Ernest Rutherford, who told it to a great Danish physicist, Niels Bohr.

It's about a person who goes into a pet shop to buy a parrot.
He is shown a very colorful bird and told that it speaks 10 different words and its price is $500. Then he is shown a more colorful bird, with a vocabulary of 100 words, with a price of $5,000. He then sees a scruffy beast in the corner and asks how much that bird is. He is told $100,000.


"Why?" he asks. "That bird is not very beautiful at all. How many words, then, does it speak?" None, he is told. Flabbergasted, he says to the clerk, "This bird here is beautiful, and speaks 10 words and is $500. That bird over there speaks 100 words and is $5,000. How can that scruffy little bird over there, who doesn't speak a single word, be worth $100,000?"

The clerk smiles and says, "That bird thinks."

Sunday, June 26, 2011

How to get your husband to do the washing up.

The problem with thankless tasks is there's no incentive to get it done.

Now don't get me wrong. A clean kitchen is a delight to see and a kitchen where there are simply no plates left to use and nowhere to prepare your lunch is a frustration. It's that middle ground clutter that's the problem. Men just don't care. If we can shovel the detritus to the back of the bench and clear a sandwich-sized crop circle then we're happy. We're utilitarian like that. There is no sense that the cleaning is 'yet to be done'.

For many women the guilt and frustration of it not being done is often overwhelming. This is a gross generalisation (and possibly even just plain wrong) but I reckon women get more out of doing the washing up than men do. They've got more kitchen guilt to absolve.

So how to make your man get off his arse and clean then?

Red gloves

"One of us is going to get dressed in latex"


Thank him. Every time. Sincerely. Change a thankless task into a rewarding one. Every man likes a big kiss and to feel like a hero. Of course it has to go both ways. When you've done his washing or his ironing, point it out to him. He won't be thankful. It's one of those thankless tasks. So he has to learn to be thankful too.

It's not hard.

You don't have to both cultivate a thankfulness for the task that has been done. You just need to reflect on the tasks that you didn't have to do. Here's a question. What's more awesome?

That someone did the washing up.

That you don't have to do the washing up.

It makes me delighted to reflect that I don't have to wash or hang out clothing ever. Equally my wife is elated to know that she never has to do the washing up. Having given that everlasting gift to each other how could we not be thankful? A bit of positive reinforcement is an amazing thing and soon he'll be taking the initiative himself.

Admittedly this may not work for all men. Some guys are just lazy arse-holes, but that's alright.

You were probably a bit of a bitch to begin with anyway.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Why didn't I say...

It's been a long time since a lady has rubbed herself up against me at a bottle shop. I can't even remember the last time.

She had just knocked off from work at Woolworths and would have been around fifty. Let's call her Glenda. She'd walked in but for some reason decided to abandon her purchase and leave. Now it had never occurred to me that this was a feasible scenario in a bottlo and I was following her into the shop at a fair clip (I do get excited about purchasing alcohol).

She did a spin on the spot with two bags of groceries and I had so much inertia that I was only able to reduce my momentum, not stop it entirely and *squish* suddenly we were in each other's arms. After a more intimate moment than either of us had expected she jumped backwards obviously embarrassed.

My first instinct was to quell any embarrassment and I knew that a simple quip would do the job. We'd both laugh and the awkward moment would evaporate. I only had two seconds at the most. I could feel the gag forming in my brain but it didn't come. And *whoosh* Glenda was out the door, all a-fluster.

And then it came, seconds too late.

We've all had that moment. 'Damnit. Why didn't I say...' The moment passes. The opportunity lost. I used to have them all the time back in high-school. That's the biggest frustration from bullying. The power that they take from you. The bruises heal but the hell you go through afterwards thinking "If only I'd said this maybe I wouldn't feel so worthless".

Down Side
"I wish I wasn't such a pussy."

I had so many opportunities to practice. And each time I'd try desperately to gather together some witty retort but they'd always come out over wordy and complex OR if I was really unlucky with horribly bigoted undertones.

And then a moment of serendipity.

In tech drawing a class bully called Michael was hassling some other kid.

"Leave him alone dickhead".

I wondered who had decided to intervene and do the thing I wished I had the power to do. Everyone was looking at me...

Oh dear God no! It had been me. I was the one who'd opened my big mouth. Why had I invoked his wrath?

He strode over, full of heat and fury. He stood in front of my desk, grabbed me by the shirt and growled.

"Did you just call me Dick Head?"

There was no point denying it. I put on my bravest face.

"Yes"

Everyone was watching my most horrible of moments. He leaned in closer.

"Say 'Sorry' poofta!".

It just fell into place somewhere in my head. I didn't even have to think about it.

"Sorry Poofta"

The entire audience fell about in laughter. Michael deflated like a balloon. He tried to grapple with me for a few moments but realised I'd just scored a point off him no matter what happened. He retreated with some half hearted slur under his breath.

I imagine him later thinking 'If only I'd said...'

And so I was king for a moment (albeit king of a group of mildly homophobic fifteen year olds. I'm glad I grew out of that phase.) but this was the beginning of a journey that would leave me almost always with the right thing to say in any situation.


But Glenda rushed out the door a split second before I realised it would have been as simple as saying 'You'll have to buy me a drink first'.

And if I'd run after her to tell her that, it would have been a very different message I was sending.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

RTFM

I acclaim the humble instruction manual in a video blog.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Regent has no clothes

The Regent Cinema is being demolished.

I know a number of people who are very passionate about keeping the Regent as it is. Indeed it's coming down to D-day and the last ditch attempts to get someone in power to drop their balls are underway. They think it's a travesty that such an important part of Brisbane's heritage is being removed.

BALLS!!
(pic by sanchom)


Luckily, it's not.

That is to say... it's not going to be demolished. It already has been. And it was indeed a travesty.

The Regent was build in the 1930s but in the 1980s the cinemas out the back and the entryway were renovated. There was a huge outpouring of concern that such an important building was going to be violated but this was in the days of Sir Joe so we're lucky it didn't become a car-park.

The battle to keep the Regent in its original condition was lost thirty years ago.

But what about the foyer? Well it remains as it was back in the thirties. It's also heritage listed so they can't touch that. The renovations destined to turn the place into office space and two tiny theatres will take place around that grand old room leaving it untouched.

What a waste of space.

Look, call me heartless but I've never been one for saving old buildings. These creations are but the blink in the eye geographically speaking. They have all the permanence of a sand castle in the long term. If the Regent foyer had value it would be being used, but you know what people value more than grand old architecture?

$6 movie tickets.

Turns out we're happy to wander past painted fibro in the suburbs to get to our movie theatres if it means we pay $6 instead of $14. And what's more? How good are those new cinema seats where you can pull the armrest up or put your drink in it? It's function over form and 'by gum' is it functional.

"Oh, but the HISTORY of the foyer" they call out.

What history? Eighty years of selling shitty confectionary at outrageously marked up prices? Eighty years of dropped choc-tops and 7 year olds crying because they've had too many malteasers? The magic of the movies takes place in the dark, not in the line up to the candy bar.

Although next time we're out there, get me to point out the bullet holes in the ceiling. It would be a shame to lose those.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Music doesn't need to be a gamble.

Jon Bon Jovi (or John Bongiovi to his parents) has recently blamed Steve Jobs for the crippled state of the music industry.

He pines for the days when kids were "making a decision based on the jacket, not knowing what the record sounded like." This does not sound like the catch cry of someone who's confident in their musical ability. Well, do you know what, Mr Bongiovi? Maybe I don't like to gamble with my entertainment money. Maybe I delight in being properly informed by the Internet.

How many copies of this sold based on the album artwork?

In the bad old days if you wanted to own music you had to make the call based on the two tracks that you'd heard off the radio and hope to Christ that the rest of the tracks held up. $30 for 12 tracks.

That's $2.50 a track (or for fans of rap music... Two dollars Fiddy). Each track that you listen to once and then skip for the rest of your life drives the perceived cost of the remaining tracks upwards. Worst case scenario you end up with two $15 songs in your collection.

Oh sure, you can nurture an album. Force yourself to acquire an appreciation for that 'experimental banjo serenade' that the artist was so taken with, but really, there's so much music out there, is it really worth your time forcing yourself to enjoy stuff you don't really like when there is so much out there you have an immediate eagerness for.

How many albums have you listened to with no skip-worthy songs on them? I have three. Frente's 'Shape', Barenaked Ladies 'Stunt' and Jonathan Coulton's 'Our Bodies, Ourselves, Our Cybernetic Arms'.

I don't need to take risks any more. If I like a song, I buy it. $1.60. Boom! There it is in my iTunes library waiting to provide me with delight when it next comes up on random. No nasty little time bombs like 'Great Big Brain' (off the otherwise excellent Young Einstein soundtrack), 'Race Car Ya-Yas' (off Cake's tour de force Fashion Nugget), or anything off Ben Lee's 'Breathing Tornadoes'.

The MPAA are blaming piracy for their massive losses but you know what? I no longer have to spend a fortune to get the songs that I want to buy. I just stopped being forced into buying the chaff with the wheat.

Film executives are pining all their losses on piracy too. Those guys aren't your problem. You know what is? www.RottenTomatoes.com

Time was that you'd go see a film based on the trailer. That's like asking your dealer what the quality of his smack is. It's a biased point of view. You could read a couple of reviews but art is subjective. There are plenty of times I've disagreed with a reviewer. And so I'd take the risk, and often I'd wish I hadn't.

I've sat through Reckless Kelly (27%), Eddie Murphy's 'Metro' (15%) and walked out of Robin Hood: Men in Tights (48%).

Oh I get it! They're making fun of the Gays. Very droll.
Hold on! Is the fourth one in line my brother?
My favourite films? Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (93%), Fight Club (81%), The Iron Giant (97%)

Sure there's a chance that I'll end up missing a film that I may love, but statistically I won't be wasting my time. Although using this system I would have missed Primer (72%) and the Bank (61%) so maybe I should make sure it's not a Maths Adventure before I write it off.

Because I do like maths a lot.

Perhaps that's why I don't like gambling.

Or perhaps I would just prefer more of a guarantee than simply 'Living on a Prayer'.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

You leaving? Fine. I don't like you anyway.

"Are you a dog person or a cat person?"

I've realised recently that my default reaction has not made me one single ally. The comment 'Ugh! I can't stand animals' is, I realise, not making me any friends. It's akin to telling the parents of a newborn 'Hope he grows into those ears...What?.. Really?... sorry. I hope she grows into those ears.'

I used to have a beloved house cat. I grew up in a home where the most patient and lovely white cat was always around looking for affection. When I was eleven my mother bought a puppy and I bonded quite quickly with that animal too.

Now the rule was, 'Touch the animal? Wash your hands'. Animals carry all sorts of germs so it just makes sense. But then, suddenly if I gave the dog a quick pat I had a paranoia that I'd forget to wash my hands. What if I touched my face first accidentally? What if I ingested that. Ick. That's like licking the damn thing. No, all in all, probably best I don't touch the dog.

Over the years I stopped showing affection to the animals. It just became too nerve racking, and thank god I did too, because you know what the damn things did next?

They died... OF OLD AGE!!

And they were the lucky ones.

Madness. Apparently the life expectancy of a house pet is around 12 years. Why would anyone put themselves through the trauma of building a relationship only to have it so cruelly ripped away?

I have enough trouble when close friends go on holidays for longer than two weeks. "What's that? You're going to Japan for three months? Well, Fuck you too! I never loved you anyway... and I faked every orgasm!"

Of course, this doesn't make it any easier to answer the original question. Perhaps I should simply lie to their face.
"Which one do I like? Which one do you like? I like them too."

Should I go eclectic?
"Oh, Dogs and cats are alright, but have you ever played fetch with A PIG?!!"

In the end I've decided to simply tell people I like scorpions. At least that way if I'm ever taken to task and have to actually own one as a pet I've got a perfectly valid reason not to touch it.

...

Apparently some of them can live up to 30 years.

...

I think I'll call him 'Mr. Pinchy'.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Sting in my tail

Free tickets to see Sting in concert with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra?

I wasn't a huge fan of Sting but I am a massive fan of free tickets and of hanging out with the sort of people who do go to Sting concerts. Upon sitting down and listening, I realised that I was a fan of Sting. I was just so young when first exposed to his music that it didn't occur to me that those songs came from a human being. When I began to listen to the music of Sting it was just the soundtrack to my life whenever my father cooked.

It really is nice to watch professionals doing what they do best and Sting is no slouch when it comes to pop music. A full Symphonic Orchestra doesn't hurt either, and if you thought you knew what a conductor looked like you had better get your arse done to Sydney and check out Steven Mercurio shakin' his thang.

It had me thinking about how tightly a conductor needs to get his choreography and then, oddly enough, whether Britney Spears could be a conductor. That'd reignite the gen-Y kids' desire for orchestral music.

You're one sixteenth of a beat out, Harrison.

And so it was that we came to the end of the evening and Sting pulled out an old favourite to kick it home with 'Every Little Thing She Does is Magic'. Totally toe-tapping. I loved it. He finished it off with aplomb and the crowd went wild with applause.

And then people started standing up. And then more people. And suddenly I was sitting amongst a standing ovation and I've got to admit, I felt really, really awkward.

Now so far as I'm concerned, Standing ovations are for people who have done something truly amazing. People who have stepped up and exceeded my expectations by leaps and bounds. Someone inspiring. Barack Obama becoming the first black president of the US? Sure. Bill Paxton as the president in Independence Day? Yes. Definitely.

All Sting did was perform a really good pop show. He's supposed to do that. He's Sting!

Then I found myself accidentally making some sort of political statement. Now I was sitting down while everyone else was standing. I looked like I hated the concert AND like I was throwing the free tickets back in the faces of my friends. I didn't hate the concert. I really enjoyed it. Was I going to have to justify myself?

It got worse.

There was an encore. And I was the only one sitting for it. I couldn't see but if I stood up now I'd look like I couldn't stand by my principles. I'd look weak. And I'll be damned if I'm going to be bullied into standing up. No! I came up with a plan.

I couldn't see but I pretended that it didn't matter. I closed my eyes because I'm one of those guys who doesn't need to see the performers to appreciate the music. I... was an aficionado. Possibly I was so into the music that I hadn't even realised that everyone else was standing up.

I wasn't fooling anyone. Not even myself.

The very worst part was, that I have a boney, skinny arse, and the seating there was pretty basic. After two and a half hours all I wanted to do was stand up and disengage my pelvic bones from the aluminium chair yet here I was stuck between a hard place and my own low grade psychosis.

I blame Sting.

He didn't cure cancer. He didn't bring two warring nations together in peace. He didn't even spontaneously win the heart of late nineties Renée Zellwegger. He just did his job. And what's more he didn't even sing "Don't stand so close to me."

But I did...

Quietly...

In monotone.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Why the hell did I volunteer?

So the flood clean up is in full effect. Tens of thousands of residents strode out over the weekend to go and make a difference. (That difference mostly being 'sewage' to 'no sewage'.) People started out upbeat, and on Saturday night I saw a lot of talk on social media about how uplifting an experience the whole thing has been. Come Sunday afternoon and people were getting tired. Occasionally they were getting resentful.

I heard stories about people being berated in public for not helping out and there was a definite sense of judgement out there. Some volunteers couldn't understand how people could sit around laughing when they'd spent the day with people in mud and (let's face it) shit.

But quite frankly, I'm surprised that I volunteered. I've never volunteered before for anything like this. In fact, Volunteering Qld is also surprised that I volunteered. They've been completely overwhelmed with offers from citizens. From their point of view this is completely unprecedented, and I've got a theory why that might be.

That's quite a bog.

I haven't been affected by the flooding other than a couple of hours without power. In fact my wife was sent home from work so in that respect it was a blessing. Under usual circumstances I might have occasionally seen some news mentioning how bad the damage is... somewhere else, happening to other people.

There's always something terrible happening to other people somewhere and like most people, I'm able to compartmentalise it and emotionally distance myself from it. Our monkey brains are only smart enough to deal with 150 real relationships. Anything larger and things get abstract.

But then my Twitter feed lit up like a Christmas tree. The information poured in and it was too much for my dams of cynicism to mitigate. I couldn't ignore it. People can't put something to the back of their mind when they keep exposing the front of their face to it.

When my wife suggested that we make a donation I responded with a number much larger than she expected and moments later I was signed up to the Emergency Volunteers website as well.

Almost everything on my Twitter feed was flood related and everyone was trying to help, but when I looked at the numbers it still meant only 1 in 100 people were out there on Saturday helping. Tons of people aren't effected and aren't doing anything to help.

They've compartmentalised the tragedy and I think it's because they're not exposing themselves to social media. They're able to put it to the back of their mind. Just like we all do. Just like we have to in order to function in the world where there's always something terrible happening.

I've pitched in because being connected to Twitter has made this my tragedy, but for some people, it's not theirs.

It's not their turn...

yet.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Fireworks, going off

So there's a great deal of natter on the social sites about cancelling the Australia Day fireworks. People are excited by the concept of taking the millions of dollars that go up in smoke and giving that to flood victims instead. A noble ideal, on the surface, but these people are naively under the misapprehension that whenever the fireworks are presented, that our local government is donating a selfless gift to the community.

They're not.

For one thing, that money doesn't all go up in smoke. A great deal of it pays for the expertise of the companies that organise the event. The actual incendiary devices will only be a fraction of that cost. And it's not millions. Riverfire sure does suck the cash away but the Australia Day fireworks routinely come in under the $300,000 mark. With 80,000 people turning up to watch that amounts to less than $4 each. That's a pretty cheap night out even if it is on the government's teat.

So thousands of people come into Southbank to watch the show. All of them filling up the public transport that usually goes half empty on a Saturday night. To deny the public their fireworks denies Southbank their massive influx of customers for that night. If anyone is hurting right now after the floods it is the people whose livelihoods depend on commerce at Southbank. You'd actively take from them their one chance to make back some of the losses from this horrible disaster?

I can only do so much without the government's help.

Now don't get me wrong. There are some negatives. Many restaurants away from Southbank have trouble getting custom when there's free entertainment on offer and woe betide anyone who's trying to put on some sort of theatre show that night. (I've had first hand experience with that one)

But of course there's the spillover effect. People who seldomly head out to get a taste of our great south-east are tempted by the long weekend and the free entertainment. A small portion of those people, with their newly aquired taste of adventure, will endeavour to head out more often, thus stimulating the economy.

The government don't just burn the cash up. It's an injection of cash that pays for itself almost immediately.

But the reason that this campaign has gained support so quickly is because it's easy. It only requires that you sacrifice something you didn't want anyway. There's only one problem.

Sitting there on the internet getting indignant about the cost of fireworks is about as helpful as putting one of those badges on your Twitter avatar. It allays your guilt without you actually having to sacrifice anything at all. Maybe you should take the amount you were already planning on donating to the Premier's Flood Relief Appeal and add your allotted fireworks budget of $3.60 to the amount. Then you can go and enjoy the fireworks totally guilt free.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Movie Awards for 2010

Every year I like to do a wrap up of all the movies I've seen across the year. You can see last year's over at Invisiblespiders.com and links at the bottom of that page to all the older ones.

I remember when I'd hit the cinemas every week or so. Oh the terrible movies I'd see. This year I've fallen into the trap of watching TV shows all the time. It's so much easier to dedicate 45 minutes to something than two and a half hours. But I have managed to see most of the ones I was really excited about.

Now, I feel bad to have missed both 'The Social Network' and 'Animal Kingdom' but there will always be gems that sneak under the radar. It does bother me though, that the movie that I might love the most is one that I'll simply miss out on because of apathy.

Kick Ass
This comic book adaptation was sold as a wacky 'wannabe superhero' comedy but by the time the credits rolled around it was pretty obvious that this was an extremely violent celebration of testosterone and excess. Perhaps if I'd realised, going in that it had all the lightness of 'Dusk 'til Dawn' I may have enjoyed it more. As it was, I came out feeling just a little bit violated.

Toy Story 3
Speaking of being emotionally violated, the big tear jerker that is Pixar brought back their juggernaut to wrap up their most celebrated story. It was a very clever film, and full of the Pixar brand of comedy but I found it wasn't a patch on Toy Story 2. There were some thrilling moments and, as always, it was very well put together but I couldn't help but feel the story lacked a certain strong thread to join all the elements together. I certainly swelled up in the climax (If you've seen the film you know which part) but for some reason I just wasn't invested in the tragedy of toys being rejected.

OH GOD, NOOOOO!!!!!

Scott Pilgrim vs the World
Now from one extreme to the other. This film was all about style over substance. The story was flimsy at best, it was full of 'fan-service', the characters were impossible to relate to and the whole thing felt kind of like watching someone else play a video game. If you've picked up anything from my previous picks you'll probably guess that I hated it. What you've failed to take into consideration is the fact that I'm the fan that the fan-service attends to. Every zelda-esque ringing had me giggling out loud. I saw this film in a completely empty cinema and it was like my own private showing where I cackled all the way through it. This film was extremely close to being my favourite of the year.

Inception
People LOVED this film. It's nice to see a film explore some exciting concepts and it was a rollicking adventure. I liked it a lot. The action was thrilling and the contrivances were perfectly justified in the context of the film. (Hey look. It's a freight train ploughing though traffic.)  It was also nice to have a slightly complex element that the director didn't feel it was necessary to explain up front. I didn't find it confusing at all but I understand some people did. All I can say is that I don't feel like I wasted my time watching this but I'm probably not going to see it a second time.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
Speaking of time wasting, I'm only watching these stupid films out of a tortured sense of completion. It was fine to watch I guess. As always it's nice to see the grandiose scenes you have in your head from reading the books, painted in light up on the big screen but I just have no empathy for the characters up there. The actors do a fine job but there's a difference in reading about Harry being a whiny little emo and actually watching it for two and a half hours. You can just never escape it.


And finally the esoteric one that makes me look a little bit cultured.
Exit through the gift shop
This documentary follows the underground street art culture of Los Angeles and finally the works of 'Banksy'. The first half of the film made me want to learn parcours and start climbing buildings and painting them. The second was a romp as it tested it's audience to see just how closely they were watching and how honed their sense of being manipulated is. It made me gasp and laugh and it really did enthuse me. It's still not my favourite film of the year though.

So what is?

Well, my question is 'What is a film?' and how does it differ from a telly show or a made for television movie. Aladdin was only 90 minutes long. You know what else was 90 minutes long?

Sherlock - A Study in Pink.

And it was BRILLIANT!! Well put together. Professional. You could tell that the people involved were doing it because they truly loved it. This show made me concentrate all the way through and it's so nice to not have my narratives spoon fed to me. If it had been shown on the big screen I would have walked out of the cinema raving about how great it was. Moffat's storytelling genius really made this experience worthwhile and he's blurred the lines between cinema and the lounge room in exactly the same way as those 120 inch Plasma screens have.



Is it cheating to choose a TV show over a movie? Maybe, when it comes down to it, they're all just stories that I love.

And after all, last year a book won.

And in 2005 it was my disappointment that took first prize.
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