Friday, December 29, 2006

Stuff I wish I'd learned when I had the chance

I've been writing this detailed account of an incident which happened on the plane at the beginning of our trip, but when I write things in stages, they get way too long so the story is now approaching novel length. As a result, I'm moving on and going to spit something out in one blow and get a move on. That other story is like a clog in a fucking drain!

I been very ponderous in the last few weeks about the number of opportunities I've had to learn stuff which I didn't take advantage of. Is there any way they could make school such that kids would be more willing to take advantage of these opportunities? Or perhaps I was just born lazy.

I've always been interested in curious about things, so I struggle to understand why I was so lame in school and didn't learn certain things when I could have. It's so frustrating.

Just a week after I turn 29, I will be commencing a 5 week sewing course. I fear for the first class which will likely go over all the basics about machine operation and threading a bobbin. Shit I already know how to do! We covered all that in high school, but at the end of it, that was pretty much all I could do. Wind and thread the bobbin. Every time I tried to sew anything, it jammed down into the machine and I spent the remainder of the class digging it out with a sharp implement. Aside from the fact that the school sewing machines were probably lousy and their poor function did nothing to encourage my advancement in sewing, I know I went in with an attitude. I didn't need to know how to SEW. Who needs to know that? Ugh. I wonder how much better at it I could be today if I had paid attention. I somehow got through the class and made a tie dyed apron with the 90210 logo painted on the front. I wish I knew where that thing was! I started the class making a skirt, but all my fabric ended up chewed, so I had to make the default item with the school provided materials.

A purse I made with my limited sewing skills. I could be a more advanced sewer by now, had I paid attention!

The year after that, we were given the chance to learn photography. Shouldn't that have seemed a little cooler than sewing which is for homemakers and losers? No, still not interested. Admittedly, Mr C was one those teachers you simply couldn't learn from because 80% of class time was spent stirring him and asking him about his bung knee. He had been hit by a bus, so when he walked, the shin of one leg flew forward a few degrees past his knee. One day, he was fed up with the questions and said "Okay! You want to see it? If you don't want to see it, look away." He rolled up his trouser leg and showed us. It looked a little messed up, but not too bad. He then continually banged on it with his hand, "'s a good strong knee. See...OWWWWW!" He hit it too hard. God that was funny. Anyway, he was just one of those teachers that couldn't hold our attention because we all had an attitude about him. Good natured, but he certainly couldn't control us. All his useful information about aperture, ISO and lenses was wasted on me. I simply paid no attention unless he was over my shoulder making me do something. I know I could look up the meaning of aperture now, but for the purpose of illustrating my ignorance in this blog, I will do it afterwards (I promise.)

I remember he showed us some photos he had taken and one was a picture he had taken down at the beach. He had a TV with the insides ripped out of it placed on some rocks and his daughter was climbing through the TV. It was a black and white photo to which he had added his own colour with chinagraph pencils. It was a really cool picture, but I remember me, along with other kids scoffing at it like it was stupid. "Why would you take a TV to the beach?" and other such brain dead remarks. I've recently become more interested in photography, but I know nothing. I could have known something had I not been such a dick.

God, why are teenagers so fucking awful?

An attempt at artsy photography following advice from master photographer, Heather.

It wasn't until I was thinking about this that I realised what a disservice I had done to myself with my stupid attitude. I don't even think I was as bad as some, but I was still a teenager, so what hope did I have? Some hope, because not all kids pissed their time away like that either. Now, 11 years after finishing high school, do I realise the opportunities I gave up. I'm not saying any of those half year classes would have made proficient in anything, but I could have had a good step up into these things I now wish I could do, and further more, I may have started doing them seriously sooner. As I fumble with the settings on my digital camera, hoping I'm using the right one, I wish I had paid attention.

I wont even go into the Italian and French I ignored saying "When am I going to use that?" I wish I could have told my younger self that I was going to be in Italy in 2001 and 2006 and a French speaking country on my honeymoon. Oh, for shame!

Is there anything I can do to stop my kids from being so closed to new things and shake that shitty attitude? I really turns me off the whole idea of having kids. I hate teenagers! are my parents to blame? At the very least, I should understand them better when they show apathy, given my history and perhaps rely on there being hope for their 20s.

To see my feeble attempts at knitting and sewing today, click here.

Monday, November 20, 2006

People who can't or won't laugh

When conversing with someone, there's an unspoken give and take. If they tell you some bad news, you express sorrow. If they give you some good news, you express happiness for them. If they make a light-hearted remark, you laugh or smile as a sign that you follow their upbeat swing in the conversation. But there is a small number of people in this world who are simply incapable of expressing these emotions, most notably, the friendly, good natured laugh.

If someone says something silly or wacky, for me, it is not a conscious decision, but as a member of the conversation, I react accordingly and laugh. Even if I don't find what was said particularly funny, it's a natural reaction to accept the attempt at humour with good grace and make the person feel secure. Again, this is not a lie, but rather an innate function which allows us to successfully converse with others. But some people just can't do this. I am yet to determine if they have no sense of humour or are simply severely lacking in social skills.

A recent example occurred when I was talking to another another Australian about the Vegemite scare (that it is no longer available commercially in the US...EEEEK!) and an American girl overheard and asked what Vegemite was. I gave her a brief explanation if it's consistency, saltiness and accompanied it with a distorted "blechhh" face that Americans usually make when they eat it. My comical exaggeration of a Vegemite experience was met with a blank stare. I'm not saying it was a definitive moment in improv comedy, but any normal person would let off a small chuckle at the sight of someone being wacky. But no, she looked at me earnestly as though I were delivering a review or her investment portfolio. I was in such dismay that she was unable to rise to a light-hearted conversation that I was so bold as to MAKE THE FACE AGAIN (now I feel like George Costanza going back to the movie theatre to say "That's gotta hoit!" again) while summarising the effects of Vegemite, and again was met with a blank face.

A recreation of the face made to demonstrate many Americans' response to Vegemite.

I shared this and other examples of this "no laughing" phenomenon with others and one person knew what I was talking about and said they thought this sort of thing was plain rude. Do you, dear reader, agree? The one that kills me is that I know someone like this, but they oddly declare themselves on all internet profiles to be fun, crazy and wacky, however I am yet to see evidence of this. The same sort of blank responses. I'm not saying everything out of my mouth is frothing with hilarity, but I'm generally considered to be a good laugh, so I am not taking the blame for the social shortcomings of others.

There was one girl I was hanging out with a bit when I first moved to LA. I met up with her a couple of times, but they were like bad dates. She just didn't laugh during conversation! I did see her a few times at some bars a while after I realised I didn't really enjoy her company and hadn't pursued the friendship, mostly because she never laughed. I caught her laughing once or twice at something she was seeing or hearing, but nothing that was said TO her, and she seemed completely insane. It was like she was laughing right after someone had told here their cat died. She had a look in her eyes as if to say "It's wrong to be laughing, but I can't help it!" Did she have a "no laughing" policy that she was betraying? When I was 14, I saw some ugly pictures of myself laughing and I was devastated since I figured that as I laughed most of the time, I must look ugly most of the time. I briefly decided I shouldn't laugh as much because I looked so ugly, but I couldn't stop it! I love to laugh no matter how it looks. The point is, does someone like this girl have some sort of reason not to laugh so that when she does, she has a guilty, maniacal look in her eyes?

I think not laughing or so much as emitting a single burst "Ha." or a smile in response to an attempt at humour, is just as rude as grinning when someone says they just lost their job, or scowling when someone says they found $50 on the street. There are automatic responses throughout conversation, and those who can't comply need to remove themselves from society!

...okay that was a little harsh, but it was a dramatic conclusion. (pause....waiting for laugh)

Keith from the 'The Office' is a perfect example of someone, even while dressed up as Ali G and demonstrating a sense of humour, is incapable of laughter.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

If you want to come peculiar interest in gay TV.

On Friday while watching the new episode of Degrassi, there was an ad for the show South of Nowhere following it which showed that one of the main characters, a teenager in a gay relationship, was going to try to come out to her parents. Although I had other things to do, it seemed there was no way I was going anywhere after Degrassi. I simply can't pass up TV shows which show the troubles of gay people, more specifically, their coming out stories.

Another time, I had no time to watch it, but I saw there was a TV movie in progress starring Stockard Channing where she has to deal with her teenage daughter being a lesbian, and I found myself recording it to watch it later. I never ended up watching it, but why did I find this so compelling?

About a month ago, PBS was running a special about a gay men's choir. While I can't stand that kind if singing by any orientation, the special was peppered with the stories of how they came out to their parents, interviews with some of the parents who accept them and also showed an attempt to reconnect with their estranged families. Estranged, because the family could not accept their homosexuality. In one case, in the phone conversation which they aired, the mother made a real point to remind her son that she and his father loved him. He hung up the phone and cried and I too was moved.

The Los Angeles Gay Men's Choir

Why am I so taken in with these stories? I feel very strongly about discrimination and any stories I hear about it makes me angry and riled up. So perhaps I like to watch these things to better understand the struggles that people go through. When I see these stories, particularly real life ones, I feel so heartbroken to watch people struggle to have the people they love most accept them for who they are.

I really love the movie The Sum Of Us starring Jack Thompson and Russell Crowe in which Russell Crowe plays a gay man who is totally accepted by his dad. He would prefer his son was straight, but he's still his son, so just hopes he finds a nice bloke to settle down with. The dad is so accepting that it makes my heart swell with pride! It's so, so sweet.

Russell Crowe plays Jack Thompson's gay son in 'The Sum of Us'

I don't notice as many racial struggle stories these days, though I did catch a great HBO movie called Something the Lord Made, a true story about a young black man named Vivian Thomas who, through no fault of his own, lost the money he had saved for medical school, and so was unable to continue his studies. He ended working as an assistant Dr. Alfred Blalock who was in the early stages of experimenting with heart surgery in the 1930s and 40s. After years as a team, Blalock, the white doctor, got all the credit for performing the first heart surgery. Thomas, who was so crucial to the great advances they made and overcame a great many obstacles just to remain Blalock's assistant, is remembered as the side man, if at all. It's a great movie and another example of me getting caught up in these kinds of stories. I am also a sucker for stories about people who suffer anorexia. Oh, and don't even get me started on David and Keith on Six Feet Under! When David came out to Ruth, it was one of my favourite moments of the first season.

The ever enduring David and Keith on 'Six Feet Under'.

I feel like a nut sometimes for being so taken by these triumph over adversity type stories, but I think my heart is in the right place. There is so much uncalled for hatred and bigotry in this world that since I have been fortunate enough not to suffer from much of it, I can only hope to better understand from friends, documentaries and dramatic interpretations what people have to go through. Is it that, or am I just watching more emotional pornography?

Next week on South of Nowhere, after Spencer's mum walked in on her with her girlfriend last week, it looks like the religious nut mother is going to bring in some gay deprogrammer to sort her out. The dad is going to tell him to get the hell out of his house. I can't wait! Looks better than the next Degrassi!

Ashley and Spencer, gay teenagers in 'South of Nowhere'

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Hope for the future

It's the day after the mid-term elections and I feel elated. Just when I'd given up hope for this country, the Democrats have taken control of the House, and most likely the Senate will be sealed soon too. We just have to get through the sore loser Republicans calling for recounts and so forth. I just hope they are portrayed as cry babies like the Democrats were in 2000!

It's just so refreshing to see that just when it felt like the lies and manipulation would continue to dictate the present and future, people, despite their previous ignorance and listening to distorted of facts, are finally seeing Republicans for the lying hypocrites they are. People who voted for them based on their supposed morals, something they claim to be lacking in Democrats, seem to be shaken by the recent scandals that have plagued the GOP. Thank you Marc Foley and Reverend Ted Haggard for your indiscretions and to all your right wing, hypocrite cronies who helped cover up your disgraces. It's sad that it takes sex scandals to shake things up, but since that has been a primary focus of the Republican party, it's nice that they've clarified for us that they were full of shit all along. Also thanks to (almost former, HAHAHAHAHA) Senator George Allen for your little racist slip which has cost your party the whole damn thing. Iraq was part of all this, but the scandals gave us the edge.

Still, people aren't completely free of propaganda as the $94 million dollars invested into the "No on prop 87" by the oil companies in an effort to defeat the proposition which favoured higher taxing of oil companies and exploring renewable energy sources, has paid off as prop 87 was defeated quite comfortably. This really depresses me amidst the other victories as I was sure the "Yes" vote would prevail, but I'll take what I can get at this stage. Did their bullshit ad campaign and the dropping fuel by a few cents change people's minds? I feel crushed as I thought public opinion was on the side of tackling global warming, but perhaps with the new congress, these issues can be tackled at a federal level.

I have to admit it gives me a great thrill to see that after years of frivolous fanship of Michael J. Fox, he would come through and been a key factor in winning this important race for the Dems. His commercial endorsing Democrat Claire McCaskill for Senate sparked national interest as he was attacked and accused of overplaying his Parkinson's symptoms for the sake of the ad by right wing lunatic, Rush Limbaugh. Michael J. Fox responded to this with such grace that it gave a lot of weight to his position in favour of stem cell research, so that in that tight race for Missouri which the Dems so desperately needed, I feel great pride that Michael J. Fox had so much to do with the victory.

It's nice not to be on the losing side for once, in this, my first time voting as a US citizen. I've been backing losers in Australia for years too! I have the Victorian state election back in Australia coming up this month too. I'm making my mark across the globe this month!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

My workouts with Richard Simmons

Before I even moved to LA, I had heard that Richard Simmons had a fitness studio in Beverly Hills. Being quite a fan of Richard, I knew it was something I wanted to do, but presumed it would be too expensive for me.

A flutter of Richard on TV one day, prompted Gregg to call out "RICHARD SIMMONS!" to which I responded by bolting into the living room as fast as I could, got me back into Richard mode and into seeing what he was up to.

It didn't take long for me to find his website and get all Richard excited and contemplate signing up for his online motivational program, The Clubhouse, (Richard's intro will really get you going) when I found a link for his Slimmons Studio in Beverly Hills! From looking at his schedule, it showed he took classes regularly! There was no price information which made me think it would too expensive, but alas, after calling the studio, I found it was commitment free, no booking necessary and only $12 a session with the world's ultimate fitness guru! Not only that, but if I went on Saturday, July 8, I could participate in Richard's birthday festivities!

I called my friend Lisa, and away we went to work out with the king of fitness.

Richard was just as wonderful as you would expect. Prior to the aerobics session, there was a motivational pow-wow where people talk about their weight loss goals and problems called 'Project Me'. Richard is so wonderful at being stern about what people need to do, without being judgemental. I don't think the 450 pound woman felt bad at all.

We just caught the tail end of the motivational portion and then it was time to get the blood pumping! Lisa and I loved that Richard used a record player and changed the records to whatever mood he wanted. Early on, he put on a dance remix of 'The Greatest Love of All' and shouted at us that we needed to LOVE OURSELVES! I had a lot of coordination problems because I hadn't done aerobics in 14 years and just as I would get the steps together, Richard would move on to something else. He came over and took Lisa and I by the hand and brought us to either side of him and we got to work up close to the master. What an eye opener! As we faced a mirror, we could see Richard looking at himself as if to say "YOU ARE AMAZING! YOU DESERVE THE BEST!" He was definitely transfixed, but somehow, it was totally appropriate, probably because I was just as focused on him as he was. At one point during a dance mix of "Quando, quando, quando" he turned and faced everyone and screamed "OH MY GOD! AHHHH! AHHHH! AHHHH!" in unbridled orgasmic delight. I guess he really likes that song. He then said "Let's give it up for my girls!" which is a moment I will cherish to my dying day.

The other possible highlight was when he suddenly ran out of the room and through the foyer. People were exclaiming "The bus!" I thought in conjunction with the birthday celebrations, we were hopping on the bus for a mystery jaunt. I thought I was going to have to leave my bag behind! But no, it was a bus of tourists that drives by and Richard goes out and waves to the people on the bus! Can you imagine a better climax to Hollywood tour that having Richard
Simmons come out to wave to you?

As we cooled down and did mat work, Richard sang a little. Nothing like his dulcet tones to soothe those aching muscles. At the end of the session, Lisa and I went up for a photo with him which he was only too happy to oblige. In fact, I didn't even have to ask. When he saw the camera in my hand, he gleefully asked "Are we doing pictures?!" The first photo was fairly standard, except for the twinkle in Richard's eye which is a rare treat. The second one, in true professional celebrity fashion, was orchestrated by Richard.

Richard told me he was going to Australia in November to promote his vegetable steamer, so Aussie's look out for the magic of Richard to sweep the land!

Finally, the party began, which wasn't as much of a party as I had hoped. We did have a delicious chocolate cake which probably used up all the calories I burned, but it was worth it because it was a fantastic chocolate cake. Richard left soon after and so did we.

Since this first time, I have worked out with Richard three more times. Each time I have taken a new friend and each time we have had a blast. It seems that my little venture online to discover this LA hot spot has made me somewhat of a trendsetter! I'm not particularly well connected, but Lisa knows lots of people and it seems that since my instigation, working out with Richard Simmons is slowly becoming a must-do LA activity!

Other highlights in my subsequent visits were Richard playing "You've Got A Friend" but James Taylor for our cool down and insisting we had all played this to ourselves home alone, one-hundred times. He also insisted we sing along to the chorus, but when we came in a bit too early, he barked at us "YOU DON'T RUSH JAMES!" When I last went in during 'Project Me' with a sprained wrist, Richard demanded to know what I did to myself. I told him I fell over roller skating and he asked what the hell I was doing that for when I could have been exercising at Slimmons! Good point.

When I tell people that I have been working out with Richard Simmons, they think I mean I've been Sweatin' to the Oldies with an old video. It is obviously met with great glee and wonderment when I tell them I have in fact been working out with him in person!

There isn't much more I can say to capture the magic of working out with Richard. It's an experience unto itself and must be experienced by all, man or woman, fat or thin, co-ordinated or not, Richard accepts you when no-one else does.

Richard in warm water.

Richard has a potty mouth...ah fuck...

Sunday, October 22, 2006

'An Inconvenient Truth' and 'Idiocracy': The perfect double feature

In An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore talks about how the issue of global warming is something that has been ignored for so many years. With all the scientific evidence to back it up, people have continued to ignore it or have acknowledged it only to throw their hands in the air and give up. I have seen An Inconvenient Truth twice, first at a test screening and again after its release. While I highly recommend the film to everybody and classify it as a 'must see' film, there is another film which I think is of equal importance, but will never be given the credit, or even the exposure it deserves for the important message it is trying to deliver.

Mike Judge, creator of Beavis and Butt-head and King of the Hill, attempts to open our eyes to the degradation of our collective intelligence with Idiocracy. It has made me realise I never quite got the social commentary of Beavis and Butt-head at all. I thought it was just a stupid show for stupid people. It didn't occur to me it was making fun of most of its fans. I guess my cynicism was just budding at that stage. While never a big part of the problem, I wasn't always aware of it. And that's one of the greatest struggles in the battle to save our brains. Not everyone is causing it, but anyone making a big fuss about the decline of culture appears to be overreacting and crazy. Crazy like Al Gore and his "global warming," I guess.

Idiocracy shows us the results of the steady increase in dumbing down we are experiencing today. The main character, Joe, an army private who sits on his ass all day and is happy to do so, along with a prostitute named Rita, are in suspended animation for 500 years and awake to the fruits of today's declining culture. Only a few corporate brands still exist, but their power is magnified. Costco now looks like a large city in which trains are required to get about and where everything from sofas to law degrees are obtained. Starbucks has morphed into a chain of brothels and small children have birthday parties at Fuddruckers, which over the years has morphed into 'Butt-Fuckers'. For entertainment, most popular is The Masturbation and Violence networks and a program called Ow, My Balls. The Oscar winner that year is called Ass which features nothing more than a naked ass which farts intermittently. One of the most terrifying things is that the Food and Drug Administration, after being bought by a Gatorade type company, seems to deem water unnecessary for sustaining life so it can now only be found in the toilet. Everyone accepts this, because after all, the hydrating sports drink has "electrolytes," right? Not that anyone knows what that means.

The language in this futuristic nightmare has been reduced to a mish-mash of hip-hop and valley girl speak so when our hero speaks like a normal person of today with correct grammar, they laugh at him and call him a fag. After an IQ test reveals Joe to be the smartest man on earth, he is taken to the White House where the people are just as stupid including the president. Cabinet members finish sentences with phrases like "...brought to you by Carl's Jr." which isn't surprising when you consider one of the cabinet members won his position in a contest.

The smartest man in the world, 500 years in the future, ponders what these crops, fed only a sports drink, might need to grow.

Does all this sound really extreme and improbable? Some might think so, but I really don't. The movie begins explaining that the world got this way because the smarter people weren't having kids, while the biggest dopes on the planet reproduced at an alarming rate. This is exactly what's happening in real life, so it stands to reason that the interests and influence of those people multiplying is eventually going to take a bigger toll than we realise. If only Al Gore would set up a power point presentation on this subject, I'm sure it would be easier to understand.

As it stands today, there's a long running show called America's Funniest Home Videos which happens to feature many of images of men sustaining testicular injuries. Large corporations, through lobbying, are able to manipulate legislation and scientific "facts" for the good of their corporate interests. I was just listening to a baseball game and was informed that the starting pitchers were brought to me by Kinko's. And I don't know about you, but my energy drinks need to have guarana in them. I'm not sure what that does, but I'm sure it's an integral part of the drink's energy boosting properties. When I've stated to people that I aim to be a stickler with spelling and grammar, I am sometimes laughed at and told there is no point as the language is constantly 'evolving'. I don't suppose they know the word 'devolving'? Lastly, let's not forget that the current President of the United States has the lowest IQ of any of his predecessors over the last 50 years chalking up a whopping score of 91.

There is so much more to this movie than what I am describing. The sense of complete ruin, while hilarious, also creates a feeling of despair. I found it too real, too possible, too...already in progress that while I laughed heartily on the outside, I am crying on the inside. I feel like my guts have been ripped out of me. No-one is listening to this message. No-one thinks any of this is a problem. Not enough for it to be taken seriously, anyway. The smart people who see it will get it, but I've actually read a bad review complaining about Ow, My Balls and The Masturbation Network as though they were too crass and failed to be funny. He didn't seem to understand the humour was in the horror that they existed.

This movie makes such a great statement, and hardly anyone will see it. After some feedback in test screenings and Mike Judge's refusal to make the studio's suggested changes, 20th Century Fox decided to passively bury this film. It only screened in Toronto, Austin, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Chicago and Los Angeles (not New York) and with no promotion, so this film is virtually stillborn. Perhaps the studio chose to kill this film as it conflicts with its goal of keeping its audiences stupid. Hopefully, it will have a new life on DVD which it so richly deserves. It's not perfect. The plot is pretty basic and some of the CGI is crappy, but it just doesn't matter. It all kinda fits with the crumminess of the world you're looking at. The plot couldn't be any more complicated because the people in the movie are too stupid for anything more. It makes perfect sense.

So how are we going to make things any better when we are constantly rewarding the stupid? A dipshit on a reality show doesn't know if 'Chicken of the Sea' is chicken or tuna, or where the meat in buffalo wings came from so they made her the spokeswoman for the tuna and a buffalo chicken pizza! A young lady released an album recently. We don't really know what she does, but she's pretty famous and no one seems to know why. In any case, we seem eternally interested in what she is doing. We were first introduced to her as she lay on her back getting fucked by her boyfriend. All I know is that she's very rich by birth and she wasn't a singer until after the world saw her getting porked. Now we care about her. Music channels don't show music any more, but as much skin of spoiled brats as they can. They create new music channels to show music, but those too eventually morph into a sea of reality shows giving us snapshots into the trashy lives we should want to lead. How are people supposed to pick up and move on when this what they are confronted with? It gets harder and harder to get away from this kind of thing.

Just yesterday, still frothing at the mouth after seeing Idiocracy, on the front web page of The Age newspaper from Melbourne, the main story was of a boy whose home had been burglarised and from which his blue tongue lizard was stolen. The large image showed four stills from the video, the boy in different stages of crying. I feel bad for the kid, but is this front page news? I'm just lucky there wasn't a gun in the house or I might have blown my brains out right after watching the video interview with the boy who talked about how sad he was and how he wanted to be like Steve Irwin. This was the most viewed story of the day. Of course it was. It was the largest link to click on. I clicked on it twice to relay my mortification to someone else. Is this a conspiracy? Why is the news media foisting this kind of crap on us? Because those are the kinds of things people want to read or do they want to read it because that's what they give us?

Don't they usually save this kind of emotional pornography for victims of Katrina and violent crimes?

I could go on with a million examples of human stupidity and evidence of people rallying around the most pedestrian of interests and ruining the culture for the few of us left with any brains, but maybe I'll just blog about them as they happen or this will never be finished.

There are measures in place to monitor CO2 emissions into the air, but nothing really monitoring the harmful cultural emissions pumped over the airwaves at an alarming and ultimately deadly rate. The only monitors makes sure there's no swearing or genitals (which are hardly the problems on their own), and then it's good to go! I ask you, if the population gets dumber, how are they going to sustain it? We are on the path for ruin of our civilization.

Idiocracy gives me a sense that I am not alone in this world in seeing the completely wretched path we are headed down. It makes me feel like I'm in a world gone mad and so few can see it. Either that or this was a movie made by a crazy person that only other crazy people understand it. Like the leprechaun! (Watch the video. Mind, this was reported on the news)

Friday, October 13, 2006

Delusional beyond comprehension: Shattered Guns N' Roses dreams

"Guns N' Roses" live September 23, 2006 at the Hyundai Pavilion, Devore, California

Ironically, this blog has slowly devolved into a Chinese Democracy of its own. I started writing it three days after the show and now the show was almost three weeks ago. I've since wasted time, adding and adding, editing, updating my blog format, searching the internet for pictures for it and fired some band wait.... I know it's long, but it's been a long journey so there was a lot to say. Thank you for bearing with me.

Thirteen and half years have passed since Guns N' Roses were at my front door, figuratively speaking. My mum wouldn't let me answer it, and so this missed opportunity has haunted me ever since. Let me be clear. I had only just gotten into them, so even if I had been allowed to go to the show at Calder Park Raceway on February 1, 1993, aside from being a few miles from the stage, I would have known just a handful of songs anyway. But still, putting all those facts aside, my life has never felt complete since then. For three consecutive nights after the show, I dreamt I was there.

Not long after that, the shambles of Guns N' Roses revealed itself. As my fanship grew, the band was falling apart. Axl owned the name, and everyone else either quit or was fired. Axl went into hiding and started working on Chinese Democracy for which we are all still waiting.

*NOTE* From here on, Axl's new group will be referred to as "GN'R" or "Guns N' Roses" in inverted commas to denote the ghost of a formerly great band. Without inverted commas refers to the REAL band. The classic line up.

Then, in 2000, Axl re-emerged with his newly assembled "Guns N' Roses". One show in Vegas and another in Brazil. I lived in Sacramento at the time, but I didn't find out about the show until less than 24 hours before it. There was nothing I could do. If I knew earlier, I'm sure I'd have got to Vegas somehow.

Then and now...

And now, in 2006, I really wish I had made it to that show as it would have saved me a further six years of seeking a dream that was impossible to realise.

All the writing was on the wall that there was no way Axl and his collection of hired goons could recapture what was once great about GN'R. But, I guess when you've never experienced any better, you are willing to take what you can get. But STILL, how stupid could I have been after seeing the first televised appearance of "GN'R" on the MTV Awards of 2002? Axl was fat, hair in corn rows, obviously had plastic surgery (not very bad ass) and most importantly, his voice was shot. So all that coupled with a backing band that no-one cared about, what was the appeal of this new "Guns N' Roses"? Perhaps the most painful moment of the performance was the finale as Axl holds the mic stand above his head, looking straight up and out as if to reclaim the glory he'd chosen to avoid for all those years...but alas, it was not there. It's like the embarrassment you feel when you stick your hand out to shake hands and the other person pulls theirs away. Just times that feeling by a million.

Axl in his prime and in 2002 with cornrows. Wrong.

And still, I wanted to see this...

One morning, as my alarm went off, I heard the KROQ DJ about to make a big tour announcement. I don't know why I didn't hit snooze and I'm glad I didn't because the announcement was that "Guns N' Roses" would be headlining their lame ass Inland Invasion festival. Within seconds Axl was on the phone for an interview. I looked over to Gregg and asked "Am I dreaming?" and he advised me that indeed he also heard that "GN'R" would be playing. The dream was finally going to come true.

This announcement all but vanished after this day. Had I not heard it, I'm sure I wouldn't have even known about it. I was planning a trip to Australia and made sure I was back in time for the show. I decided that if I could only get lawn tickets, I wasn't going. It wasn't going to be worth it to see a tick sized Axl.

When the tickets went on sale, I paid the highest price of $75 for okay tickets, but on the day my friend and I were able to scam down to the front section. I had my new contacts prescription in, so I had 20/20 vision for the first time in ages, I was close...this was going to be great!

Since I had just flown in from Australia that day, I was in to no hurry to get to the Hyundai Pavilion over an hour away in the middle of nowhere. Matt and I agreed that the only bands we were interested in were Muse, Alice In Chains and of course "Guns N' Roses". They were the last three bands so it worked out well.

Muse, who we were merely interested in and little more, sounded really great and we were very impressed. I was in no hurry for them to end, but after 45 minutes, it was a good amount of time and I was satisfied. After Muse was when we negotiated our way closer to the front. Even though Layne Staley was dead, I thought it would be cool to see Jerry Cantrell and hear those Dirt songs loud and live. But when they came out and opened with Them Bones, I screamed with excitement and from that moment was totally into the show. They too only played for about 45 minutes and what a fabulous 45 minutes it was. Then the wait for "GN'R" was on...

As I waited, I thought about the moment when I would first see Axl. My body was covered in goosebumps and I could sense the possibility of tears. The burst of emotion swelled almost to that point just thinking about it. This was going to be good.

I'm not going to pretend that there wasn't a shadow already cast over my excitement. Whenever I told anyone I was going to see "Guns N' Roses", the inverted commas were in my voice. I knew it wasn't ideal, but I was insistent on having a good time and I thought the songs sung by Axl could trump all the problems.

There was over an hour wait before "GN'R" were supposed to start. In true Guns N' Roses form, they did not start at 10pm, but another hour after that. So that's nearly two hours since the last band. Very poor form, but when it's Axl whose behind it, it seems like part of the show. Before long, people started throwing shit and a few fires were started. Awesome. I was involved in a pissweak "Guns N' Roses" riot. On second thoughts, I wasn't too interested in dying in a "Guns N' Roses" riot. A Guns N' Roses riot would have been another matter entirely.

And so finally, at 11pm, the lights went down, the people screamed, the guitar intro to Welcome to the Jungle echoed throughout the darkness. FINALLY, it was on. That riff gave me chills. The lights were up and there was Axl, finally, in his somewhat diminished glory. And so I proceeded to go nuts. Axl was sounding pretty damn good! His famous swagger was a little off, but I was there, looking at Axl Rose singing Welcome to the Jungle. My dream was coming true, right?

Is this my dream come true?

I was standing on two seats to see over other people standing on seats, so when they followed on with It's So Easy, I got too excited and almost fell backwards off them. I grabbed Matt and the guy next to me to survive. Since I couldn't see without standing on the seats, I took off in search of a better view. I found it and continued my rocking out. Mr Brownstone was up next. What a trio of songs! I should have been in heaven right now, but it was probably at this point that I realised there were some cracks.

Is it just me, or is there a contrast?

If any songs were going to have me in tears or at least goosebumps, these three were them. I know what it's like to have this feeling. Faith No More could do it to me with Land of Sunshine. In that case it might seem like a long time ago, but Foo Fighters can still do it with Stacked Actors and Supergrass can do it with about half a dozen songs and those are two bands I have seen numerous times and quite recently. So I am still capable of experiencing a flood of emotions and I get them with songs I have heard live before. It's not just that I'm old and lost my spark for this shit.

So why wasn't it working with three songs on my all-time favourite songs list which I had never heard live before? I felt like I'd suffered nerve damage and had lost my ability to feel. Something wasn't quite right and that is how I've proceeded to describe it. In Australia, there is grocery store called NQR (Not Quite Right) which hosts failed products and dented cans of vegetables. That is how I have described my experience. NQR.

Don't get me wrong, I had a good time. I wouldn't go so far as to say great, but definitely good. But as Gregg point out to me, I was incapable of hating it! I tried to disagree but after he pointed out that I get excited hearing Guns N' Roses played by a cover band or in a car next to us at the lights, how could I NOT have a good time watching a cover band on a huge stage fronted by Axl Rose? He's right. I was incapable of hating it. So the fact that I can't even profess to have had a great time shows that it must have been a pretty ordinary show that I was incapable of seeing for what it was. I must say, I am proud I've been able to admit as much as I have.

Once they went into Knockin' on Heavens Door about 5 songs in and I was ready to take a rest as I knew Axl didn't have me. I've always been bored by this song, and my subdued excitement was unable to elevate me from my usual feelings about the song. The set was then riddled with solos by each band member whom nobody was interested in. They were unbelievably painful. A few songs from the *ahem* much anticipated 'Chinese Democracy' passed by with little interest or involvement from the crowd. This has become a nostalgia act, Axl! Get on with it!

Probably one of the biggest disappointments was when one of the new members (possibly "Bumblefoot") did a guitar solo which morphed into Don't Cry. "Yay!" I thought....then I waited, and waited, and waited...and the rest of the bad didn't suddenly join him. Yes, we were subjected to a guitar solo version of Don't Cry courtesy of everyone's favourite Gun, Bumblefoot. Ack. I sang the whole thing since Axl wasn't going to.

I was never subdued for too long as they would always wake me up with adrenaline injections with My Michelle (with guest Sebastian Bach), Rocket Queen or other beloved songs, but the continual dip into new material, costume changes and boring solos (and believe me, I hate solos. I wouldn't have wanted to see even Slash doing this) left me feeling pretty low energy and I don't think that has anything to do with the jet lag. I feel I'm more critical than most about a lot of things, but scores of people had left by the end, so obviously I wasn't the only one not shaken to their core by this set. When I realised that the last big hit to play was Paradise City of which I'm not a huge fan, I thought to myself "I could leave now." The fact that I even CONSIDERED that speaks volumes. I don't leave my favourite bands early. Never crosses my mind. Obviously Axl left me with enough spare time to think about that.

Axl and Sebastian Bach singing 'My Michelle'.

I can't sign off without mentioning how much I fucking hate Dizzy Reed. I mean, does anyone remember him from the old days? Just a pudgy, missed the GN'R bus, keyboard player that no-one would look twice at*. GN'R was a band of characters and he certainly wasn't one of them. Well, you know you are in trouble when suddenly Pudge Master D is all buff with his shirt open, thrusting his chest out and rocking out like he's the next best thing after Axl. No, asshole. There are a few steps in between...namely Slash, Duff, Izzy anyone who was ever in Ugly Kid Joe, the janitor at my work, many more and THEN maybe you. Dizzy seems to think he's hot shit now that he's the last not-even-original-but-use-your-illusion member so he's pretty foul to watch.

I know this sounds like a lot of complaining, but believe me, I had fun! Just not enough fun. This was supposed to be Guns N' Fuckin' Roses so my mind should have been blown. Instead I had as much fun as I would expect at a club with these songs playing. Totally awesome at the time, but nothing memorable.

When I saw Slash's Snakepit in 2000, I had a great time because it was exciting to see him and a treat to hear some GN'R songs. It was actually totally boring until he played them. He was not posing as GN'R, but doing his own thing and threw us a bone which was enjoyed. Axl, in using the name still with this shell of a group is exposing the decline for all to see. If he just toured as Axl Rose, I would still go, with lower expectations and probably have a much better time. I don't think the original line up will ever get back together and I have no compulsion to see this "Guns N' Roses" again, so for me, I think this long open chapter is now closed.

Welcome To The Jungle
It's So Easy
Mr. Brownstone
Live And Let Die
Robin Guitar Solo
Sweet Child O' Mine
Knockin' On Heaven's Door
You Could Be Mine
Dizzy Piano Solo (Ziggy Stardust)
The Blues
Band Introductions
Richard And Robin Guitar Duet (Beautiful)
Out Ta Get Me
November Rain
My Michelle (with Sebastian Bach)
Ron Guitar Solo (Little Wing, Don't Cry)


Rocket Queen
Paradise City


After writing all this and juxtaposing pictures of Axl from his prime against his current state of fallen glory, I feel kinda sorry for him and like a jerk for doing this to him. He seems to really believe that he can continue this new band seamlessly from what it once was. I do feel sorry for him, but then I remember that he's a crazy, spoiled, millionaire rock star who beat his wife and girlfriend, and I feel better.

A miserable looking modern day Axl, reduced to having the piss taken out of him by a bunch of teenagers. Back in my day, you'd be scared of him.

*If any keyboard players are reading this, please be aware this is not an attack on keyboard players, but one particularly boring man, turned stud in his own mind who happens to be a keyboard player.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Robin Williams in 'Man of the Year': The 'Don't See' film of 2006

I have mixed feeling about Robin Williams. I grew up loving Mork and Mindy, and had been entertained by the odd movie of his here and there. I did find it annoying when he would give an interview the way he would keep leaping out of his seat and adopting one of his 'wacky' characters to answer the questions. Some might find that entertaining, but even before my intense cynicism took hold, I found that element to be mugging and annoying.

Then I would find Gregg who, along with the rest of his family, couldn't stand him. I'll admit to being somewhat influenced by this, but ultimately, I still enjoy the films I enjoyed and I even laughed at his stand up special on HBO. Apparently his coked out period of stand up is more a shambles than amusing. That does make me want to see it though, but for all the wrong reasons.

On coke or not, his departures into characters fits fine in his stand up, but it so damn tiresome in his movies. They always use some idiotic plot device to make an otherwise ordinary person, break into some ridiculous impersonation. I hate it. As much as I like Dead Poet's Society, I cringe when he breaks into his cowboy impression of Macbeth. When we were on a flight recently, Gregg was subjecting himself to RV. He said it was for more fuel for his hate of Robin Williams. I didn't watch the film, but I glanced over a few times only to almost reach for my spew bag as I watched him break into some kind of gangsta routine much to the disgust of the teenagers he was aiming to impress. Is that irony? I'm always misusing teh word and I don't want to make an ass of myself like Alanis Morisette in her stupid song, but is it ironic to be in a scene where you're supposed to be making an ass of yourself, but in real life, where it's supposed to be funny, you're really just making an ass of yourself? I'm so glad I never saw Patch Adams.

So now we have a new Robin Williams nightmare on the horizon. He's played a doctor, a school teacher, a child trapped in an adult's body, a man posing as an old woman and now the sonovabitch is going to play...a comedian. Oh fuck. I can't think of anything worse. He is going to break into those fucking characters non stop. In Man of the Year, the tagline is something like, "What if a comedian ran for President? What if he won?" am I the only person who finds this notion mortifying? Is there going to be some idiotic scene where he does some racially stereotypical character in order to converse with another world leader? Is he going to unite the people because we all think he's just like us because of his stupid impressions? I have no idea, and for now, I don't want to know. But I have a sneaking feeling that now that I have complained so much and made predictions, I am one day going to want to see it to see if I am right. Not any time soon though and not for a nickel!

*update* I just got pain in my chest. I'm serious. Distress signals from my brain were sent to my chest and I had a little pang. Why? Because while searching for an image of Man of the Year for this blog, I discovered that Mrs Doubtfire 2 is in production and set to hit screens next year. I admit, I liked the first one, but I'll be fucked if anyone can make me watch number 2! He has no reason to keep posing as a woman anymore! He was allowed to see his kids in the end and that was thirteen years ago, so they are all grown up now, just like me. No more.

*update no. 2* It gets worse! I thought the image of Robin Williams with the George Washington wig was merely a promotional image. Wrong. There is a scene in the movie with him wearing said wig.