Saturday, May 29, 2010


Thanks to a gift from my friend PM, I now have the coolest carkeys in the galaxy.

At least that's what I think. It may all be some sort of trap.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


It's Everybody Draw Mohammed Day, so Happy Everybody Draw Mohammed Day, everyone! Or should that be Fearful Everybody Draw Mohammed Day? Nervous Everybody Draw Mohammed Day? Whatever. Celebrate today the traditional way, by drawing a picture of Mohammed then getting out your scimitar and threatening death to everyone else who's done the same thing.

I can't draw to save my life, or, indeed, to risk it. So here's a drawing by someone else.

The "Night Ride", by an unknown Islamic artist in the early 14th century. I believe it depicts Mohammed inventing the Pony Express. And the cappuccino.


Yesterday I received a cheque from my insurance company, paying me out for the car that was destroyed in the storms two months ago. Since I've already paid for the new MX5 out of my savings, the cheque goes straight to me. I need to pay back a small loan, but even after I've done that, I still now have a five figure bank balance for the first time in my life.

I feel like the richest person ever.

Of course I am not the richest person ever. The Flatmate is the richest person ever. But I feel like I am coming in a close second.

I recognise that my feelings are erroneous. Occasionally one will hear stories of people who've lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in a scam, or get sweet-talked out of fifty grand by a golddigger or lothario. I respond not with sympathy or philosophy but with incredulity - who has that kind of money? And more pertinently, who has that kind of money and yet is stupid enough to fall for scams and/or golddiggers? Surely in the vast financial ecosystem of exploiters and exploitees, these people would be disencumbered of their wealth long before it reached the quadruple, let alone quintuple or sextuple digits? Meanwhile I get a relatively minor amount of Dead Car Money and suddenly I come over all Gollumesque, caressing the receipt from the bank and whispering about the Precious.

This is my problem with money.

You see, instead of a normal financial adviser, I have two imaginary characters who sit on my shoulders and whisper advice in my ears. On one shoulder is reckless international playboy Spender St. Carefree, who throws money at every cool and shiny thing that comes his way. On the other shoulder is a sort of superhero called No Money Man, who escaped his home planet Bankruptia just before it was destroyed, developing superpowers of thrift and frugality when he reached Earth. His costume is various shades of brown, and the cape is a little frayed along the bottom.

Yes, my imaginary advisors really are that detailed.

If I unclamp my ear and start listening to Spender St. Carefree, I quickly go just a little bonkers and start buying all sorts of silly and overpriced things. Last weekend, for example, I spent more than $200 on booze, including three bottles of vodka, gin, red wine, bourbon, vermouth and a bottle of Creme de Cassis. What was I thinking? Who the hell needs Creme de Cassis? My bar cart is already more crowded than the French parliament on Bring Your Mistress To Work Day. Now I'm worried that it's going to snap in half.

But if I listen to No Money Man, my wallet cramps up and I start devising ridiculous economies. I convince myself that I don't need a new phone, even thought the old one has a battery life of about eight seconds. I don't get the front gate fixed, because really, having to charge it with my shoulder to get it to open isn't such an inconvenience. And I ignore the fact that my dining chairs, purchased from the local charity store, are missing important structural bits and shedding flakes of old varnish like lepers shedding fingernails.

So I try not to listen to either of them. Frankly sometimes the best course of action seems to be to get them both drunk and then go about my business while they're declaring eternal friendship and singing karaoke.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Best. Movie. Ever.

He's the baddest ass kickin', soul jivin', boom mike dodgin', innuendo mutterin', scene stealin', blaxploitation satirisin' mutha in the whole damn town!

Monday, May 17, 2010


Some time ago, while browsing in the $2 DVD bin at a Tandy Electronics store, I found a copy of 2003's 'Dragon Fighter', starring marginalised ex-hunk Dean Cain and a bunch of talentless Bulgarians. Of course I didn't know about the talentless Bulgarians at that point, but I figured that $2 was a small price to pay for a movie starring someone of whom I'd actually heard. And how bad could it be? The beauty of bad movies is that you get a lot of return on your investment. For less than the price of a cup of coffee at McDonalds, you get enough material for hours of shouting abuse and mockery at your TV.

‘Dragon Fighter’ did not disappoint, at least on the shouting part. Basically the plot involved a team of scientists in a secret underground bunker using DNA recovered from an archeological dig to re-create a dragon. Said dragon then goes on the rampage, presumably trying to find and then set fire to its agent. It’s up to military liaison and man of action David Carver (Dean Cain) to kick some ass and save some day, while doing a lot of reproachful yelling at the scientists responsible. As such, the film is little more than 89 minutes of a diminishing number of people running down poorly lit corridors shouting "Move! Move! Move!", pursued by about 20 seconds' worth of looped dragon CGI dragon roaring and breathing fire and trying to look expensive.

So ‘Dragon Fighter’ attempts to be equal parts 'Alien' and 'Jurassic Park'… with a good dose of camera effect demo tape thrown in for good measure. It seems that someone had noticed how well the picture-in-picture technique works in episodes of '24' to show multiple yet simultaneous viewpoints, and then decided to use it wherever possible in ‘Dragon Fighter’. Such as when Robert Zachar is putting a book on a table, or Dean Cain is ordering a sandwich.

Unfortunately, when the script calls for two people to have a rather dull conversation, showing it via two side-by-side frames that slowly revolve around each other doesn't suggest dynamic tension in the dialogue. It suggests that bits of the movie are going down the drain.

While the frames zoomed in and out and around, like vultures circling overhead waiting for the script to die, little issues like character motivation and continuity were left behind. This is to be expected in bad sci-fi movies, a genre which considers characters behaving like rational human beings to be of a lower priority than getting extra aioli on the potato wedges at the catering table. Still, it’s a little disconcerting when a character suddenly decides that he’s had enough of running away from hot scaly death, and chooses instead to kick back in his quarters with a bottle of scotch and some music, as if having a man-eating dragon loose in the corridor outside were no more threatening than an infestation of lady bugs.

Then, unsurprisingly, he gets eaten.

My viewing buddies and I hooted and yelled and riffed our way through the movie, as is our way. When the closing credits rolled, we fell into a contemplative discussion:

DS: How does crap like this even get made?

Me: Hey, it serves a purpose. It fills a slot in the Sci-Fi Channel's schedule, and then makes a little money on the DVD market, on its own or as filler in a sci-fi compilation boxed set.

PM: Even so... it's hard to see how they'd sell it for enough money to make a return on their investment.

Me: Maybe they employ Roger Corman's old trick: you get two scripts with similar stories and much the same characters, then you shoot them at the same time using the same sets and the same actors. He did that all the time. Twice as much product for roughly the same money.

PM: So there might be another 'Dragon Fighter' out there?

Me: Well, a slightly different version. Probably a porn version, if they've got any financial sense.

PM: Ha!

Me: (glances at screen) Actually, judging by the fact that 'Mariana Love' was the hair stylist, that's not so far-fetched. That's a porn name if ever there was one.

DS: Or set dresser 'Kory Angels'. Wocka chicka wocka.

PN: Or 'Fred Flutie', porn star and construction foreman.

Me: Or 'Marion Valkerie', who was in charge of... er... "swing"? Sweet merciful crap, this is getting sort of freaky.

Presumably once filming had finished on the M-rated version of 'Dragon Fighter', Dean Cain and Kristine Byers grabbed the boom mike and the clapperboard while Mariana Love and Kory Angels shucked their constrictive clothing and got busy on the X-rated version. The evidence is all there in the credits.

Other Porn Actors Masquerading as Production Crew in 'Dragon Fighter'.

Francie "Broken" Hart - "makeup artist"

Marvin "Cross" Dresser - "set design"

Lad "Pizza Boy" Valient - "set dresser"

Boris "Seed" Planter - alternate "swing"

Angel "Swingin'" Johnson - "gaffer"

Cherise "Call Me" Honey - "assistant"

Kurt "Best Boy Grip" Johnson - "best boy grip"

My, that’s a big weapon you have there…

It would certainly explain a hell of a lot.

Friday, May 14, 2010


Last Saturday I went to Mount Lawley to attend the wedding of a friend from work. On the way there I had to drive through the gentrifying suburb of Carlisle, in which the original noisy taverns and grubby shops are gradually being replaced by boutique bakeries and smart cafes. At the end of Archer Street there is a set of traffic lights with two lanes; one to turn left towards the city, and one to turn right towards the outer suburbs. The lights turned red just as I arrived, so I duly stopped, and in so doing I had an encounter.

Allow me to set the scene:

In the lane turning left was me, wearing a crisp blue shirt, blue silk tie, and a light grey lambswool suit which, as it turned out, perfectly matched my glossy convertible. My iPod, set on shuffle, had thrown up a minor but lovely Mozart piano concerto. The roof was down and I was enjoying the warm kiss of the autumn sun.

In the lane turning right was an assembly of bogans, in a dirty and battered old Daihatsu Charade. A woman with bleached hair left too long between re-bleachings was driving. In the passenger seat was a ruffled man with teeth so crooked that one of them held a position in the exact centre of his mouth, having shoved itself out in front of the others like a pushy chorus girl making a bid for the spotlight. The back seat was filled with as many carseats as the back seat of a Daihatsu Charade can handle, although the children in them were visible only as a couple of thatches of dirty blonde hair.

"Excuse me," the driver called out.

I looked across and smiled, assuming that she was looking for directions.

"Do you want him?"

"Er... sorry?"

"Do you want him?" she jerked her head at her companion, who was giving me a feral grin.

She wasn't looking for directions. She was looking for a new focus in some simmering domestic dispute that had been bubbling over the length of Archer Street.

I gave a accomodating laugh. "No, thank you."

"Go on. I'm sick of him."

I smiled and looked away, having dealt with as much as a stranger should be expected to in these situations.

"Nah, take her," the man piped up. I flicked my eyes at him to let him know that I'd heard him, but that I wasn't going to be drawn into their bickering.

There followed a few more bursts of aggressive offers that I studiously ignored, before she said, "Well, what about a couple of kids?"

I had to laugh despite myself. "Ah, no."

"Why not?"

I nodded at the fact that my car is a two-seater. "I don't have anywhere to put them."

"Look at you," said the man suddenly, in an odd tone that was halfway between a sneer and an envious whine. "You look like you don't have a care in the world."

That threw me so much that I actually had to consider it for a few seconds. "Close enough."


"I said, close enough."

Then the lights finally changed, and I didn't waste any time in driving off. I turned left, toward a beautiful church in an elite suburb. They turned right, toward whatever squalid outer suburban ditch they called home.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010


Yesterday I discovered this business card in my letterbox.

Part of me feels sorry for the guy. This part believes that he doesn’t deserve to be mocked on the internet when all he’s doing is trying to make a bit of extra money selling flowers.

But a larger part of me crushes the sorry part, like Gabourey Sidibe sitting back on her couch and squishing a lost and forgotten doughnut. The English language is a fine and glorious tongue, rich with nuance, history and potency, and I feel much the same way as Sarah Jessica Parker might feel if she saw someone hammering a nail with the heel of a Manolo Blahnik, or Jeremy Clarkson witnessing someone standing on the bonnet of an Aston Martin to change a lightbulb in their garage. We all make mistakes with language, me more than most, but this verges on naked sadism.

I can tolerate, barely, the fact that this card was put in my letterbox, which has a No Junk/Unaddressed Mail sticker on it. After all, people get a little over-enthusiastic when they’re starting up a new business venture.

I might even be able to forgive the apostrophes, given enough time, strong booze and a few pointed sermons on Christian charity. Quite what The Lillyman was thinking when he added those apostrophes I can’t imagine. I can only guess that he thinks apostrophes are like jewellery for words, added to give them sparkle and allure, rather than any functional part of language.

What I can neither forgive nor understand is The Lillyman’s inability to spell the name of the thing he sells.

Who does that? It’s not like I ever drive down the street past a Masda dealership, some furnniture stores, cofee shops and the local fried chickin outlet. I don’t get bills for electricery from the power company. I don’t notice 4x4s pulling into the service station to fill up their tanks with deisel. And I’ve never been badgered by people trying to sucker me into Ammway, Greenpiece or the Mormun Church. So why is it that the self-proclaimed “Lillyman” doesn’t know how to spell “lily”?

Sadly I must question the horticultural dedication of a man who has never had reason to look up his favourite plant in any book or website, or even noticed the spelling on the labels of his suppliers.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010


Given my taste for kitschy incompetence, blaxploitation and the genius of Roger Corman, I don't often watch movies that are actually good. However I do occasionally manage to anaesthetise my snarking gland long enough to sit through something that's not half bad, and this is what I did a couple of weeks ago when I saw 'The Book of Eli'.

The first thing you should know about this movie is that it is absolutely nothing like the thing that the distributor is trying to market. It's not an action-packed post-apocalyptic rollercoaster ride. It's almost an arthouse movie - slow, strange and poetic, full of creative imagery rather than special effects.

The second thing you should know is that, while it has its faults, it's nowhere near as bad as many pundits, offended by its less-than-ambivalent embrace of Christianity, have claimed. The scorn and hatred are out of proportion with one small, metaphysical movie.

Many people feel threatened by religion, and especially by Christianity. It makes demands on them that they don't like. And in the current social climate, in which atheism is fashionable, there is permission for people to channel all of their hostility toward it. When you think about it, it shouldn't be remarkable that a sci-fi film might examine faith and religion. But those who see themselves as the guardians of sci-fi tend to be militant in their atheism, and they resent, in excess of all reason, any intrusion of religion into their realm and their refuge. Sci-fi allows them to dream of utopia without some bothersome deity getting in the way. Unfortunately if you do that what you end up with are patently religious concepts being stripped of their relation to god. A primary example would be Joss Whedon's 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer', which embraced vampires but faltered when required to explain why they shrink from crucifixes and holy water. Or Russell Davies' Doctor Who, who couldn't be more "Jesus in a TARDIS" if he spoke in Aramaic.

Have a look at some of the bitchy, spittle-flecked reviews on and it's clear that there are many who saw that the movie contained a Bible and immediately declared that it was the Worst. Movie. Ever. in a sort of self-imposed pavlovian response. Presumably if Eli had been carrying the last surviving copy of 'The God Delusion' they'd be praising the movie for its bravery and insight.

If three paragraphs of criticism of the critics seems a little excessive, it's only because the movie is so interesting from an artistic standpoint. And try saying that about 'Avatar' or the latest Harry Potter. It surfs a vast genre wave, full of classic American Westerns and Japanese tales of wandering samurai. The dream-like environment, full of scorched landscapes and lifeless skies and a viewpoint that drifts between the two, creates a sense of unreality which allows one to gloss over the many gaping plot holes. Played with less of a sense of allegory, these holes would wreck the movie, but because it's clearly a fantasy we can suspend disbelief a little higher.

The crux of the story is a basic dichotomy. Eli is a poor wanderer, carrying what seems to be the last surviving Bible west through a post-apocalpytic landscape in accordance with instructions given to him by a voice from God. Carnegie is the boss of a small town, not so much an outpost of civilisation as a congregation of people who haven't killed each other yet. Carnegie wants the Bible, but Eli refuses to turn from his task.

In Carnegie's hands, the Bible would reinforce his authority and right to absolute power, making him a pope as well as a king. It would give him the words, phrases and concepts he needs to exert more control.

In Eli's hands, by contrast, the Bible reintroduces notions of gratitude, grace and compassion into a blighted and vicious society. The scene in which Eli says grace over a meal, in a situation thick with threat and oppression, is remarkable in its potency. For such a quiet, stoic character Denzel Washington gives him a gentle vocal tone, with a suggestion of passion and confusion roiling beneath the surface. There's frequently a note of pleading in his voice when he's threatened by the bad guys - he knows what they don't know or have forgotten: that it doesn't have to be this way.

There is a trio of minor messages (and spoilers - be warned) that stayed with me after this movie. Firstly, these people may blame religion for the war, but the godless society that came after it is far, far worse. There's an implication that a lot more survived the apocalypse than exists in the movie's time, since there was a large enough population and enough organisation to destroy any and every religious text. From the war to the movie's time it's all been downhill.

Secondly, even the smug, faintly self-righteous humanists of the final scenes are merely characters, not heroes. Eli is the only hero. They only want to protect the Bible because they are intellectual completists. They hold the highest level technology, with their green grass and clean clothes, but there's an insinuation that despite their self-belief they're just as much the instruments of God as Eli.

Thirdly, if an old person plays Anita Ward's 1979 disco hit "You Can Ring My Bell" anywhere near you... run like hell.

Monday, May 03, 2010


Lacking anything better to do, on Friday night I watched the 1984 hit 'The Karate Kid'. Considering its era and genre, it wasn't such a bad effort. The sets weren't conspicuously hideous, the perms were reasonably restrained, and the requisite montages were comparatively subtle. There was even a point at which I noticed Ralph Macchio's brown Nike crosstrainers and thought, "Hey, those are pretty cool!" It seems that everything old is new again.

The exception was the soundtrack. When your soundtrack's high point is a minor Bananarama single, you know that something has gone seriously wrong.

The musical nadir came, as musial nadirs often do, in the closing credits, with Survivor's 'Moment of Truth'. The tune was about as catchy as static. The lyrics were devoid of logic, grammar or even coherent ideas. It was vigorously, comprehensively, utterly awful.

It's a big call, but I'm going to make it. Ladies and gentlemen, the worst power ballad of the 80s!

Moment of Truth

When you're alone, you ask yourself
what are you searching for?
Deep in the night, a dream is born
one that you can't ignore.

If you think you can find the passion
and you're ready to take a chance,
If you really believe you can make it
then the power is in your own hands


It's the moment of truth you're giving it all,
standing alone willing to fall.
If you can do it, get up and prove it,
get up and show them who you are.
It's the moment of truth, it's all on a line,
this is the place, this is the time,
waiting forever, it's now or it's never, nothing can stop you now.

Once in your life, you make a choice, ready to risk it all.
Deep in your soul, you hear a voice, answering to the call.
Though you know that it won't be easy,
it's a promise you made for love,
for the people that keep believing,
and the one that you're thinking of.

It's as if someone asked Survivor to come up with either the world's most inane lyrics, or the world's most breathtakingly idiotic lyrics, and they said, "Dammit, we're Survivor! We're going to do both!"

I'm still trying to work out how they did this. Here are my best guesses:

A: The members of Survivor had been reading 'The Secret'.

B: This song was originally intended for "7 Habits of Highly Effective People: The Musical!"

C: Lead singer Jimi Jamison was just randomly singing quotes from an executive desk calendar.

D: All of the above.