Friday, September 30, 2005


The long-term reader of this blog will have picked up that I am enthusiastic, verging on evangelical, about the work of Joss Whedon. Sure, 'Angel' was largely lacklustre, and I wasn't very impressed by the script for 'Atlantis: The Lost Empire', but I was a devoted fan of 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' (watching it with friends every week by gothic candlelight) and deeply enamoured with 'Firefly'... what little there was of it. So when the movie version of 'Firefly' opened yesterday, I was there with my fellow Firies, almost giddy with glee.

It'd be hard to properly review the film without including spoilers. Suffice to say, I wish I was a woman so that I could have Joss Whedon's love child.

'Serenity' was perfect. It was Whedon at his finest, full of that unique blend of sassy humour and heart-clenching fear that shone out of all of the best episodes of 'Buffy', 'Angel' and 'Firefly'. I could go on like a drooling fanboy about the marvellous characters, the masterful use of sound-effects to convey information instead of showing it, and the intelligent economy of the storytelling (one scene consists of a shot of a man approaching a woman, and a shot of the woman's face, and it tells you everything you need to know, wordlessly and in maybe five seconds, about what's going on), but I doubt I could do it without a) spoilers and b) embarrassing myself.

The cleverest thing about it was that it managed to wrap up most of the important issues from the TV series, so that I will be satisfied even if another peek into that universe is never offered, but at the same time it left room for sequels, should the film company wish to cough up another $40 million. And of course, I hope they do.

Thursday, September 29, 2005


It's been a fun day in the office. We've been taking turns trying to open a key cabinet which, ironically enough, has become jammed shut thanks to a faulty latch. The office girls tried wriggling the key and giving it ladylike little shakes. I gave it my patented Fonz-style punch that has often opened it in the past, but failed this time. We even subjected it to the less-than-tender mercies of the office bovver boy, who works out every day, gets into pub brawls and has so much testosterone that people's voices drop an octave if they sit in a chair he's recently vacated. But all to no avail. It became somewhat dented, with more panels out of alignment than a cheap Korean car, but still locked.

Eventually I accepted the inevitable and told Bovver Boy to do whatever it takes to get it open, which was like asking Vladimir Putin to fix a problem with a theatre full of terrorists. He attacked it with a heavy-duty screwdriver borrowed from some plumbers working on the pipes in a nearby office. It's amazing what brute force can acheive when coupled with a) decent leverage and b) an acceptance that the key cabinet is not going to survive this encounter.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


I had two choices this morning, as I looked out the window at the dismal skies, the sudden squalls of rain, and the mean, capricious wind that pushed my patio furniture around and roughed up the trees in the front yard.

Firstly, I could drive my car to work. Of course, as soon as I jumped in my car the rain would stop, and the rest of the day would be as bright and sunny as a Hooray For Everything! concert. I'd get stuck in the inevitable traffic jam that occurs on the first day of work after a long weekend, and I'd have to park a long way from my building, and I'd get to my office crabby and irritated.

Alternately I could ride my scooter, and naturally as soon as I jumped on it the heavens would open and I'd get stung by raindrops transformed into Crystal Darts of Pain by my speed, and I'd get drenched, and my raincoat would leach black dye onto my newly cleaned suit, and there would be general misery and unhappiness.

So I was clever. I made lots of noises about driving to work, and sure enough the rain eased and the sun started to peep between the clouds. Then, before the clouds could regroup, I threw on my raincoat and leapt onto my scooter, and zipped away with a cunning chuckle.

But Gaia is a devious old hag, and although the rain couldn't get its act together to drench me, she had other weapons in her arsenal. She just blasted me with a powerful westerly, constantly threatening to lift both me and the scooter off the bitumen and hurl us into the nearest nature strip. And when I was heading due west, the wind was so strong that it cut a good 25% off my speed. Usually I can do 65 on a flat stretch of road. Today I struggled to do 50, and occasionally found myself doing 45 even with the throttle fully open. Impatient drivers kept lurching around me, no doubt wondering why this jerk on a scooter was only doing 45 in a very busy 60 zone, and thinking me King of the Pusses.

Don't blame me, I wanted to shout. Blame your precious Bitch-Goddess Mother Nature! But I doubt they could have heard me over the howling gale.

Friday, September 23, 2005


The MST3K version of 'The Blood Waters of Dr Z' posits an interesting question, not discussed often enough in scientific circles: Would crossing a flabby scientist with a catfish result in a super being who can kill people by lightly tapping them, despite being made entirely of latex?


On the negative side we have every scientist who ever existed, including Sir Isaac Newton, The Professor from Gilligan's Island, and anyone who's ever peered into a microscope for any reason. But on the positive side, we have Dr Z. History is filled with the breakthroughs of lone geniuses, and who are we to question the brilliance of a man who has discovered a method of speaking solely in voiceovers?

If only Dr Z had lived beyond 1975 to witness how his work would be received by future generations. It just wasn't his year... but then, was it anybody's?

Top 10 Ways Of Telling That 'The Blood Waters Of Dr Z' was made in 1975

1. Flares like windsurfer sails.

2. The groovy blonde bikini babe drives a Volkswagen Beetle.

3. All of the scientists are dreadfully concerned about environmental issues, but drive around in Ford Gargantuans.

4. The sheriff calls the black guy 'boy' without spontaneously combusting through community indignation.

5. High end electronic equipment features screw-in domestic lightbulbs.

6. The sheriff drives around with the hero hanging off his running board without any thought of the legal liability issues.

7. The hero has an amphibious dune buggy, presumably on loan from Fleegle.

8. Jeans so tight you could use them as pressure casts.

9. The women are so passive that they can faint for hours at a time, or be rendered immobile by a seat belt.

10. Everybody dies in the end.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005


As a long-time fan of Wallace & Gromit, I was eager to go and see their new film, 'The Curse of the Were-Rabbit'. And as a miserly bastard, I was eager to see it on a half-price Tuesday, which JC and I did last night.

Of course I was absolutely charmed by it. You can't put a giant bunny, an English vicar, an Austin A30 van and a giant vegetable competition in a movie without generating enough whimsy and delight to meet the world's needs for the next twenty years. But there was a little something that nagged at me, and made me kind of wistful at seeing Wallace & Gromit up on the big screen in a large-scale adventure.

It's like my babies are growing up.

With each of the four episodes of Wallace & Gromit, Nick Park can't help but expand our view of their world. In 'A Grand Day Out', the action was confined to Wallace's house and the moon, and the only other character was the lunar robot. In 'The Wrong Trousers', the universe expanded slightly to take in a few streets, a park, the town museum and a sinister penguin. By 'A Close Shave', we had another human being (Wendolene), Shaun the sheep, a robotic dog and a flock of hungry ovines.

Unfortunately, in each installment, the world becomes less intimate. In 'The Wrong Trousers', as far as we know, the town is empty except for one man, one dog and one penguin. There are no cars cruising the streets. There are no guards in the museum. There are no builders on the building site or customers in the cafe. Other people are implied, but they are never seen, and this enriches the sense of Wallace's insular, self-contained life. He is the quintessential British eccentic, living in splendid isolation with only an affectionate pet and the strange workings of his own mind. When he and Gromit are threatened by an evil waterfowl, they can't call on the police, or their neighbours, or their friends; they have only their own resources to deal with the problem.

But by 'The Curse of the Were-Rabbit', there are associates aplenty to call upon. They are by and large useless, but they're still there, and Wallace & Gromit aren't a sole partnership any more, but the leaders of a querrelous rabble. Rather than Wallace & Gromit against the wider, dangerous world, it's an entire town against bunnies. As an audience member you can't help but feel that you've lost that wonderful sense of connection.

Still, the movie had genuine charm and a lot of laughs, even if many of those were just the result of the awful visual puns that peppered the scenery like holes in a swiss cheese. I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who listens.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


Okay, the last few posts have been rather nasty and bile-filled (not to mention libellous and breaking any number of copyright laws), so it's time to talk about something nice. Like flowers. Flowers are nice... mostly.

On Sunday afternoon I did some pruning down the side of my driveway, where angry, disaffected plants from the neighbour's garden send loping tendrils over the fence to attack passing cars. One of their plants is a rather single-minded climber that has its roots in the middle of their garden, but puts all its effort into growing over my fence, some two or three metres away. To do that it has had to commit to eternal battle with their bougainvillea, and if you've ever done battle with one of these, you will know that they always win.

Still, the climber has prevailed in a couple of patches, and it is here that it throws up its huge, exhuberent, trumpet-shaped flowers like some sort of arboreal Louis Armstrong. Each yellow bloom is easily the size of my outstretched hand, from the tip of my thumb to the tip of my little finger. They have an odd scent, maybe 50% cinnamon and 50% unidentifiable. So when I had finished pruning, I collected up the flowers and put them in a vase on the kitchen bench. They look very striking. Indeed, before they open the blooms resemble nothing so much as big, fleshy cudgels, so 'striking' does seem to be the appropriate adjective. However I have a slight fear that some day soon I'll wander into my kitchen and suddenly find myself waist-deep in an impromptu remake of 'The Day of the Triffids'.


Hearty congratulations to West Coast Eagles Captain Ben Cousins for winning the Brownlow Medal for fairest and best AFL player in 2005!


I can't think of another over-privileged coke-snorting organised-crime-connected himbo who deserves it more.

Monday, September 19, 2005


One of last weekend's Festival of Bad Cinema movies was 'Vanishing Point', or as I preferred to call it, 'When Mike Brady Goes Bad'.


One of the most surprising things about this film was its physical beauty. The cinematography was nothing short of gorgeous, and the print used for the DVD release was as clean and crisp as if it had been filmed yesterday. It's sort of a shame that it was wasted on something so... how can I put this... '1971'.

How To Make A Classic Early 70s Film, Using 'Vanishing Point' As A Model

1. Choose your hero based on taciturnity and body hair. Ideally, he shouldn't have any lines at all, but as this starts to look a bit contrived when people talk to him, he should occasionally mutter something brooding and slightly hostile. "My wife is dead." "I never did like coffee." "Happiness is a warm, fluffy kitten."

Your hero should also be hairy. Hairy was big in the early 70s. His hairstyle should be lost somewhere under a tangle of new growth, and his chest so be so thickly matted that he can trap small animals in it.

2. Vilify the police. Damn cops. Trying to arrest a man just because he's driving too fast down busy roads in an amphetamine-fuelled fog. He's an American Hero! Down with the pigs!

3. Infantilise everything. More than once in 'Vanishing Point', the police are referred to as the Blue Meanies. What, the worst thing you can say about your arch-nemeses is that they're 'mean'? What are you people, six years old?

Nobody in the world of 'Vanishing Point' seems to have a job. Even the police don't appear to work shifts; they apparently come and go as they please, beholden to no one. Money materialises as it is needed. Everybody behaves like small children who are protected from grim reality by conscientious parents... a metaphor for the entire hippie movement if ever there was one.

4. Boobies. Show 'em at every opportunity. Flashbacks especially; nothing says class like a retrospective of Boobies I Have Known.

Nothing wrong with flashing them in the present, either. 'Vanishing Point' famously features a naked girl riding around the desert on a motorcycle, although, to be blunt, her boobies are nothing to write home about. Nor is her bike technique; she looks as ill-coordinated and tentative as a kid who's just come off her training wheels.

5. Work in the Soul Brother angle. True blaxploitation was still a couple of years away, but 'Vanishing Point' paved the way with Super Soul (no, really, that was his name), a blind black DJ who inexplicably ran a groovy radio station from a studio in a desolate hick town. Presumably he didn't have what it takes to make it in the mean streets of Chicago or Philadelphia. Heck, he probably didn't have what it takes to make it in the mean streets of Park Falls, Wisconsin.

It was sort of hard to take him seriously, since I kept being reminded of Dave Chapelle's blind black Klan leader Clayton Bigsby. But everyone in the movie regarded him as Kowalski's co-pilot, lauding him for feeding Kowalski information about police movements gleaned from their radio frequencies. Which was odd, since nobody had any idea whether or not Kowalski actually listened to that particular radio station, or even if he'd bothered to turn on his car radio at all.

6. Give 'em that old time religion. A happy clappy breed of Christianity boomed in the early 70s - it comes as no surprise that The Doobie Brothers' 'Jesus Is Just Alright' raced up the charts in 1972. Super Soul plays gospel music on Sunday mornings, and there is also an open air revival meeting which, while treated somewhat dismissively, features a blending of races and age groups that makes it look like a film from a diversity training course. Everyone loves Jesus, or at least a warm fuzzy version of him, in 1971!

7. Sex and drugs and pretty dire rock and roll. Within ninety seconds of meeting Kowalski, Naked Motorcycle Girl has offered him a ride, so to speak, despite the fact that he's nearly old enough to be her father. The untrammeled hair must have been a big turn on. But Kowalski declines with a polite yet rueful smile, possibly because his amphetamine-wired body is having trouble performing upright, never mind horizontally.

Of course no film about the wide open spaces of America in 1971 would be complete without a soundtrack of contemporary folk rock so forgettable that you run the risk of blacking out when you hear it. Think Credence Clearwater Revival, then scale back the talent to Ashlee Simpson levels.

8. Kill off your hero at the end. After all, if 'Logan's Run' taught us anything, it's that no good can come from living past thirty. Kowalski dies as he lived - impetuously, meaninglessly, and sort of stupidly.

Friday, September 16, 2005


The latest issue of The Monthly arrived yesterday. Yes, I bought a subscription. What the hell, I figured that for $39.95 for twelve issues, it could be an interesting read. Also, given that my socio-political commentary usually comes via Tim Blair and The Australian, I figured that I could use a little left-wing viewpoint in my life.

It's proving to be a funny old journal. For a start, it seems to get shorter each month. The September issue has a sprawling article about Cornelia Rau (the woman who proves that being an unmedicated schizophrenic need not be a barrier to canonisation by the Left), a blurb about the Plight of Some Aborigines Somewhere ("somewhere" being code for an amorphous area west of Lygon Street where people apparently exist, and things apparently happen, but only investigative journalists can be bothered to determine who and what) and a thoughtful treatise on the tao of moving house. Then there were a few reviews, a couple of letters, some articlettes on the pet topics of over-exposed hacks, and an ad for expensive whiskey.

Secondly, The Monthly actually makes me more egalitarian. Ordinarily you’d think that this is exactly what a left-wing journal is supposed to do, but I get the impression that it’s unintentional. The snobbery of the writers, both subtle and outrageous, makes me reflect on my own snobberies, to really see how ugly they are and strive to be a more accepting person. People who know me well might say that this is quite an achievement. The Monthly obviously has mysterious and unnatural powers.

A case in point is the moving house essay, by literary giant and film-spoiler extraordinaire Helen Garner. A few weeks after moving into her new house, Garner reflects that she knows where the library is, the opening hours of the op-shop, and where the best café is located. How lovely. Of course no mention is made of the supermarket or the petrol station, since packaged food and cars are trappings of those ghastly working class people. The folk from whom she gleans anecdotes of the obscure stress of moving home are screenwriters, musicians, journalists, and even circus performers. After all, we can’t expect someone of Garner’s stature to interact with office workers or people in trade, can we? I mean, how could someone living in Normanhurst or Brighton or Leeming possibly have anything interesting to contribute?

Best of all, she offers up this unintentionally hilarious vignette as an example of the disappointment often encountered in a new home:

“A screenwriter woke up on his first morning in a house he had bought, saw the ostentatious white and gold baubles dangling on long, marble-green rods from the bedroom ceiling, and began to weep. “What have I done?””

You know, I can see waking up in a new room and seeing an awful light fitting, and thinking, “Sweet merciful crap, that’s hideous! That’s top of the priority list to change”. But crying about it? I mean, I understand that a screenwriter might be an effete, sensitive soul, but nobody is that gay. What did he do next; encounter a woman wearing polyester in the street and have an attack of the vapours? Go into conniptions when a neighbour drove past in a Nissan Patrol?

But my central, primary, most important question to The Monthly concerns Sophie Lee. What happened to Sophie Lee? WE WERE PROMISED SOPHIE LEE! Fresh out of writing school and full of beans (or lentils, probably). What do we get instead? Helen Garner. Robert Manne. Andrew FREAKIN' Wilkie, droning on, as ever, about the manifold evils and incompetences of everyone not wearing a 'Hug an Insurgent Today!' T-shirt.

If I wanted to hear from Andrew Wilkie, I'd tune in to the ABC. It wouldn't particularly matter when or what media; Late Night Live, ABC television news, Lateline... he's probably even done a guest host on Play School by now. But I don't. I WANT SOPHIE LEE! And I'm sure that everyone else in Australia, of whatever political persuasion, would rather hear the opinions of our Soph than those of some dour dickhead who attends ridiculous "Writers Festivals".


Wednesday, September 14, 2005


I didn't realise that watching the final ever episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 would be so bittersweet. I've now watched it twice, and both times I felt a little pang, knowing that this is where it all ended.

The movie was 'Danger: Diabolik', a 1968 French-Italian co-production about a master thief who kills people more or less at random, has an undergound hideout that makes the Batcave look like a studio apartment, and makes out a lot with a babe called Eva. He is lauded by the police inspector as a criminal mastermind, but really, as Crow noted, "He basically gets by on incredible luck and coincidence."

If I had scriptwriters like that, I could have numerous E-type Jaguars, a cool hideout and a blonde bikini babe too. Instead I have a Golf and a scooter, a 1980s tract house, and The Flatmate, who despite his unsurpassed willingness to do all the washing up doesn't quite equal Marisa Mell when it comes to wearing a strategically slashed grocery bag.


It ended on a high, I'm pleased to say. And is it just my imagination, or were the jokes a little more risque than normal? Not having to fear the retribution of the network probably allowed them a little more leeway.

Favourite gag:

Servo: She's just a good samaritan he met in the tunnel.

(Cut to scene of Marisa Mell rolling naked in a pile of cash.)

Crow: Whoa! She's a great samaritan!

Plus I have the 'To Earth!' song stuck in my head. "To Earth! The very birthplace of my birth!'

Not that it's the end for this little black duck. I've seen maybe 25 episodes, out of a total of 198. AB is busily downloading 'The Blood Waters Of Dr Z' and 'Kitten With A Whip' from the Digital Archive Project, among others. I can watch a new episode each week for the next three years and still have some left over! Hurrah!

Monday, September 12, 2005


Last night I got out my copy of The Sims and stuck it in my computer. I hadn’t played it for so long that I’d forgotten I’d even installed it on my current computer, but it powered up and showed me a neighbourhood I’d thought I'd lost in some far off computer upgrade.

The Slaphappy House

Hep Slaphappy is young, gifted and black. He is a professional athlete at the top of his game, and lives in a sprawling bachelor pad with designer furniture, top-of-the-range entertainment systems and an enormous swimming pool. He even has a Narcissus Room lined with mirrors so that he can practice his speeches and his photogenic smile.

He also lives opposite the Bimboski School of Beauty. Life can be pretty good for a Sim when he has a benevolent deity on his side.

The Bimboski School of Beauty

This classical Georgian mansion, decorated in a style that can only be described as High Barbie, is both home and self-improvement workshop to the eight Bimboski girls; Starlett, Amora, Booty, Erogena, Salacia, Candi, Fantasi and, er, D’lishass. Given that the girls all have the same surname but distinctly different ethnicities, they must either be step-sisters fathered by a very busy Mr Bimboski, or members of an insidious, pastel-toned cult. Neither of these possibilities overly troubles their extremely happy neighbour Hep.

The Scooby House

A real estate agent might call this house a solid, heritage-listed fixer-upper with an extended lap pool. But let’s face it; it’s a castle with a moat. Herein dwells Fred, Daphne, Velma and Shaggy Scooby. There are scary gargoyles in the entry hall, spooky cobweb-encrusted furniture in the living room, and at least one neighbour whom I suspect to be Old Man McGruder, the owner of the abandoned amusement park.

Sadly, since I don’t have The Sims Unleashed, there is no Scooby-Doo.

The Pantera-Vader House

I think this house began as a dry run for a sitcom idea; what would happen if you put Darth Vader and Phil from Pantera in a sharehouse? The answer: hijinks galore!

As you’d expect, Darth isn’t really a people person. He’s on the Military career track, unsurprisingly, and although he rates very highly for Neat (who do you think kept that Death Star so tidy?), Active (crushing rebellion is hard work) and Outgoing (you have to put yourself forward if you want to control the universe), he's very low on Playful and Nice. This makes it difficult for him to make friends and keep his Social levels up. Fortunately, Phil is a fun-loving, happy-go-lucky soul who is constantly bringing new people into the house. And proving that opposites really do attract, Phil and Darth get on together like peanut butter and evil, black-hearted jelly.

The Neon-Claws House

Gamblor and Gamblora Neon-Claws seem like an ordinary married couple living in a large, stylish suburban home. But all is not as innocent as it may at first appear. Gamblor is in fact a Criminal Mastermind, while Gamblora has the perfect career as an Executive, no doubt laundering all her husband’s ill-gotten gains through a variety of semi-legitimate companies.

You’ve also got to wonder at any couple who have the bathroom as the centre of their house. It’s the largest room, clad in black marble and decorated with potted orchids and fine works of art. There’s a large hot tub smack in the middle of the room, and one must pass through it to reach both the bedroom and the Activity room.

I find myself wondering what sort of socialising the Neon-Claws do when I’m not watching. I suspect I wouldn’t approve.

The Splodeydope House

Ahmed Splodeydope is a bit of a loner. He’s on the Political career track, which keeps him busy, and he doesn’t have many friends. Certainly, he has shunned the friendly overtures of the Bimboski girls, preferring to spend his evenings working out, eating simple meals in his dilapidated kitchen, and reading the same thick, red-covered book over and over again.

I fully expect that the decadent appeal of pinball machines, cocktail cabinets and a socially active neighbourhood will loosen Ahmed up over time. However I also have the lingering fear that one day I’ll turn my computer on and find a large, smoking crater where the subdivision used to be.

Thursday, September 08, 2005


Since the DVD is due back at Blockbuster (of all places) tomorrow, I watched the 1965 film 'The Wizard of Mars' with AB last night.

It's 1975, and the crew of a dodgy special effect en route to Mars have just spent several months stuck together in a room the size of a shipping container, with nothing to occupy them except for a couple of viewmasters and the world's largest 8-track player. Present are Cap'n Steve, who looks like a third or fourth-hand photocopy of a real leading man, Charlie, whom the MST3K boys would inevitably describe as the "wormy sidekick", 'Doc', who looks like a young Cliff Clavin, and Dorothy, who was apparently invited along in case they needed someone to get hysterical or sprain an ankle.

Just as they're entering Mars orbit, even worse special effects knock out their camera systems and rocket systems and a whole bunch of other techno-babble systems. They crash land with all the ferocious violence of a feather falling on a soft mattress. Despite no one being injured or even slightly unbalanced by the crash, they're all panic-striken and unsure of how to proceed. Eventually the fact that the ship is on fire forces their hand, and they emerge into the Martian wasteland.

Scientists will be pleased to know that there is water on Mars. There are also swamp creatures who resemble albino Kreepy Krawlies. Charlie, who as the most unstable and easily panicked of the group has been entrusted with the sole weapon, expends more ammunition shooting them than is used up in the average Chow Yun Fat movie. Anyone who has ever shot a Kreepy Krawly, albino or otherwise, will know how effective this is, especially if your sole weapon appears to be a BB gun.

Somehow they escape in their dinky plastic rafts, get lost in the fog, and drift into an underground river. Their very, very, very long odyssey through the caverns was apparently filmed by placing the rafts in a puddle in a cave, then shooting them from a variety of angles to imply movement. Sadly, the implication isn't a strong one.

In due course, they get out, cheerfully abandon their rafts with a cry of "Well, we won't be needing these again!" and trot off into the caverns, apparently pursued by a Martian with a vibraphone, to judge from the soundtrack. There follows many long, long tracking shots of walking. Many long, long tracking shots. It may be that the director belonged to a religion that forbad leaving any footage, no matter how inane or repetitive, on the cutting room floor.

To spice things up, the scriptwriters inserted some dialogue, presumably in the fear that if the actors didn't say anything, their mouths would seize up.

Cap'n Steve: We must make it through these caverns.

Charlie: If our oxygen runs out, we're doomed.

Dorothy: It feels like we've been doing this for days.


It should be noted at this point that Cap'n Steve may not be much of a leader, and even less of an actor, but he's one hell of an ennuciator. Every. word. is. delivered. with. the. crisp. clarity. of. a. snapped. twig. It's nice to know that even the most wooden actor has his merits.

After several days (both subjectively and objectively) they get out of the caves, only to find themselves in a desert. There they chance upon some ancient paving stones, and Dorothy wonderingly announces that they seem to have discovered a golden road.

A golden road. Discovered by Dorothy. In a film called 'The Wizard of Mars'. You can see where this is heading, can't you. L. Frank Baum isn't so much turning over in his grave as rising from it, lightning streaming from his fingertips, and screaming bloody supernatural vengeance upon everyone even remotely connected with this movie.

The road leads to the ruins of an ancient city, and thence the opportunity to film more vital walking scenes, this time in front of columns painted by Jackson Pollock (on a bad day, with a limited palette). It turns out (eventually) that the columns are actually stasis tubes, in which are stored the original inhabitants of the city. And if you want to know what a Martian looks like, think former Australian Prime Minister Billy McMahon with a giant glowing red brain.

They are drawn to a mysterious central chamber, where a Martian spokeman I like to call Expositor gushes pyschobabble at them. They ask questions that only a very determined and anal scriptwriter would think relevant, and after about a thousand years, they are permitted to do the Martians a little genocidal favour, and are magically returned to their ship, miraculously just twenty seconds after they first ran into trouble. The Martians, you see, were masters of TIME and SPACE. Unfortunately they weren't so hot with PLOT and DIALOGUE.

Oh well. We all have our strengths and weaknesses.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


Hooray! I'm on a diet again! I've replaced my breakfast muffin with fruit salad, stripped the butter from my lunchtime sandwiches, sworn off booze and pastry-products and given up on anything with sugar in it. And I feel great! Yes, great! It isn't just hysteria caused by low blood-sugar levels! I'm HIGH ON LIFE!

I would kill everyone I've ever met for a croissant right now.

No, no, must resist urge to kill. Actually I'm rediscovering the joys of the healthy diet. Fruit is good. No, really. My breakfast fruit salad is currently made from apples, pears, oranges and kiwifruit. The apples are crisp, the orange is tangy, and the kiwifruit has that delicious and idiosyncratic blend and sweetness and tartness. The pear... meh. They've been in the fridge too long.

Pears are high maintenance fruits. They're ripe for like eleven minutes each; before that they're too hard and floury, and after they're all squishy and icky. I think they do it on purpose. Bastards. They want to get rid of us, you know. But I'm ready for them. I've got my Dad's trusty old 12 gauge, and I've spent the last three nights only pretending to be asleep. When they finally make their move, they'll find their silent mocking laughter cut short as I launch THE APEARCALYPSE!


Remember, it's not hysteria. I'm high on life, baby! HIGH ON LIFE!

Monday, September 05, 2005


The weekend was dominated by a marathon episode of my on-going Festival of Bad Cinema. Not all the films were bad: 'Kung Fu Hustle', for example, was a very enjoyable combination of kung fu movie, special effects extravaganza, gangster caper and Roadrunner cartoon. But most of them were bad, or weird, or both bad and weird, which is always good value.

First up, along with 'Kung Fu Hustle', was the French anime effort 'Immortal', which definitely fell into the Weird catagory. A bizarre and jarring mix of live action and animation, it adopted the classic French animation habit of taking three or four interesting ideas, mashing them together without rhyme or reason, and dressing the resultant mess up in a gorgeously baroque animation style that charms all criticism away. I couldn't really say what the plot was about, but I can say that it featured the Egyptian god Horus (looking fruity in the sort of outfit rarely seen outside Gay Pride parades), a woman with blue hair who may or may not have been an alien, a political prisoner, a police detective who got half his face bitten off by a giant red hammerheaded squid monster (and is still pretty pissed about it) and a general science-fictiony breakdown of reality as we know it. Oh, and there was an evil blue pigeon at the end, too. On the Eiffel Tower. Of course.

The next night, I watched Zack Braff's 'Garden State'. Here is my impression of it:

Talk talk talk quirk talk talk quirk talk quirk talk talk talk quirk talk quirk talk talk quirk talk talk talk talk talk Zach Braff spends $2.5 million film budget addressing unexceptional personal issues talk quirk talk talk talk.

And that's about all I can say about it.

Finally there was 'Sapphire and Steel', a strange low-budget British TV series from 1979 about two elementals who cavort about fixing up the incursions of evil into the space/time continuum.

Well, I say cavort, but there was precious little jollity in the proceedings. The tight budget limited each storyline (dragged out across anywhere between half a dozen and a dozen episodes) to a single set, such as an isolated house or an abandoned railway station. And since they'd spent their twenty pounds building the set, by Jove they were going to use them. When not delivering lines, Sapphire and Steel spent their time striding purposefully between rooms, along corridors, and up and down innumerable staircases, over and over again. Especially the staircases. So many straircases. Rose would have felt right at home.

They were assisted by a token human being or two, who generally spent his or her time blundering about upsetting Sapphire and Steel's delicately contrived efforts to overcome the forces of evil. Frankly, I was surprised that Steel didn't give in to the urge to deck them. I would have. There was a little girl in the first storyline whom I would have cheerfully garroted with piano wire, or at the very least tossed to the evil presence with a hearty cry of "Eat up, old bean! Feast upon the whiny little bitch's soul and I'll give you a double-helping of dessert!"

Part of the fun in watching elderly TV shows is experiencing the world-view that created them, and Sapphire and Steel was no exception. I vaguely recall 1979, and let me tell you, it wasn't all roller-disco and Star Wars merchandising. Sapphire and Steel embody the grim nihilism of the era, the pervading idea that the individual was just about due for a good crushing by the forces of a godless and unfeeling universe.

There was also the insidious idea that newer is better. Sapphire and Steel find their work easiest in new rooms with new furnishings, because they sap the power of the Monsters from Beyond Time. Their problems occur in dusty, decrepit buildings, not in modern airports or shag-carpeted, orange-formica'd apartments. Modern buildings don't have history, and in the Sapphire and Steel universe history causes all sorts of unpleasantness. We'd all be much better off if we tore down our Tudor houses and Art Nouveau railway stations and lived in concrete boxes with plastic furniture, according to them.

In addition, there was the rather dark ending to the second storyline. In order to stop the evil being that was trapping and harvesting scores of unhappy ghosts, Steel offered it a single living person to devour. He was fifty two, you see, and they'd already worked out by spooky supernatural means that he was going to die at the age of fifty seven. As Steel pointed out, he wasn't likely to do anything meaningful in the next five years.

Excuse me? Who says a fifty two year old can't acheive anything meaningful? Did we suddenly segue into 'Logan's Run'? What the hell kind of numbskulled 70s reasoning is that?

Despite its miserly sets, lack of logical cohesion, incredibly annoying peripheral characters and pacing that moved as slowly and erratically as an old lady in a supermarket aisle, it was still an amusing little show to watch. This may be because Sapphire and Steel were both played by clever comic actors. You're most likely to see them now playing Patsy on 'Absolutely Fabulous' and Ducky on 'NCIS', respectively. Sapphire and Steel were dreadfully earnest and serious, but you could tell that the people playing them weren't.

Thursday, September 01, 2005


Today is the first day of Spring, and appropriately enough it is gorgeous. This morning I was scootering down the long, straight avenues of flowering coral trees and palms that line Riverside Drive, with the sparkling blue waters of the Swan River on my left and the wide green lawns of Langley Park on my right. At a set of traffic lights I glanced over at a riverfront cafe, which looked like it was almost glowing in the morning light. Fresh-looking people were relaxing in the window seats, sipping their lattes and reading the newspapers.

"What sort of moron goes to work on a lovely day like this?" I asked myself. "This is a day filled with beauty and promise. This is Ferris Bueller weather. I should be phoning Cameron and Sloane and going out in a vintage Ferrari for hi-jinks! Why am I going to work today of all days?"

And then I answered myself. "You are going to work because you are a lazy bastard who leaves everything till the last minute, and those student papers need to be in the mail by lunchtime or people will yell at you. You could have done them earlier in the week, but no, you had to waste time reading blogs and googling random crap. Welcome to the bed you have made; please, lie down, make yourself at home."

My inner monologue gets very smug when he's right. What a creep.