To Write or Not To Write?

How can I put into perspective how difficult I find the practice of writing a novel? Words with purpose. Sentences that express some truth. Scenes that join thwritinge dots.

I don’t know?

At times, I feel my attempts at writing a novel may be the hardest thing I’ll ever do. Harder than maintaining the two most important relationships of my life (my wife and my son)? Harder than continually challenging myself and developing my career in the hospitality industry? Harder than simply being a person on this planet at this moment in time?

Sometimes, yes. Sometimes, I think, so hard, too hard, the skills required to write a novel that holds together from beginning, through the muddle to the end.

Other times, I’m harsh with myself – ‘First world problems, man.’ I have a good job. I have a loving family. I have a roof over my head and food in the pantry. I am living in the most abundant era ever. I lack for nothing.

And so, yeah, I could give up writing. Why should I struggle so much? I could choose not to face the keyboard and blank page-on-screen every morning. Who needs that 5.15am alarm?

Viggo-Mortensen-in-Good-007

Seriously, 5.15am. It’s dark when I get up and it’s still dark when I finish writing at 6.15am. There’s no audience. There’s no pat on the back. There’s no-one there to say, ‘Good job, dude. Love your work!’

There’s just me, my practice and this tornado inside of me that demands I continue to ‘Show Up’.

So, giving up, chnew-crescent-2.jpgoosing not to write is an option. Of course it is.

But that won’t stop the feeling inside that needs an outlet for the ideas that are always swirling around my head. They won’t go away. They’ve flowed through me like tributaries trickling from the
mountaintop down into the valley where the river masses and swells my whole life.

As a writer I’m trying to navigate these waterways. Trying to craft my voice, my style, my unique and sincere self through the stories I want to tell.

And this is hard for me. Almost every day, in some way, I struggle with how best to communicate my literary ideas through story. Often, I feel like I’m failing. Sometimes, I have some positive self-talk: ‘Keep turning up, Ken. Keeping working the problem through showing your dedication to your characters, your story and your practice.’

Other times, most times, I’m not so gentle and generous. One day I may finish a novel that ends up somewhere near where I want it to. I really hope for the day. And as best I can, I will fight my corner. I will continue to show up, because while my confidence waxes and wanes, the urge to tell stories and write never does.

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The Oscars Live

Chris Rock hosts a night of notable whiteness. At least there are some controversial topics explored in the films on the table, and some tension in long-nominated artists we’re all hoping will finally go home with a golden boy tonight.

oscars-2016-nominations-snubs-discussion

My pre-ceremony thoughts:

  • Mark Ruffalo is brilliant. Spotlight is brilliant. They need to win.
  • Leonardo DiCaprio saw me through my youth with What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Romeo & Juliet, and Titanic. He is LONG OVERDUE for this award. For goodness sake someone give it to him.
  • So many Australian nominations, mainly because of the highly acclaimed Mad Max: Fury Road. Let’s see if it can be the next Ben Hur/Titanic. Hooray for us!!

12:30pm: Opening monologue

Rock dubs this year’s Oscars “the white People’s Choice Awards” and takes a stab at last year’s white guy host, Neil Patrick Harris.
Commenting on why black people bother with the industry at all, he jokes “I don’t need to lose another job to Kevin Hart”.
Finally he comments on why you can’t ask woman what they’re wearing and in the meantime creates a wonderful mental image of George Clooney in a lime-green tux with a swan coming out of his ass.

12:40pm: First two Best Picture nominations announced
Spotlight
Bridge of Spies

12:45pm: Best Original Screenplay

Have you ever wondered why they kick off with the writing awards? Original Screenplay is one of the top categories and there are some big options on the table tonight. As already mentioned, I am favouring Spotlight wherever possible. It’s a brilliant movie.
WINNER: Josh Singer & Tom McCarthy for Spotlight
Hooray!!!!

12:50pm: Best Adapted Screenplay presented by Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe

Only Russell Crowe could read the screenplay excerpts with such authority.
WINNER: Charles Randolph and Adam McKay for The Big Short
I wonder, what’s with biopics? Why do we love them?

1:00pm: Satirical clip on the lack of coloured people in tonight’s nominated movies featuring Whoopi Goldberg and Tracey Morgan, among others, taking invented roles in Joy and The Danish Girl.
It does make you wonder why they thought a white woman inventing a mop would make for essential biopic viewing.
This prompts Rock to create a Minority Outreach Program.

1:02pm: Music performance from Sam Smith, introduced by Sarah Silverman

Silverman making digs at the chauvinism of James Bond and fails to not be annoying as always.
Performance from Sam Smith, “The Writing’s on the Wall” from the movie Spectre.
Apparently he was incredibly nervous about the performance, probably because it’s just him on the stage without backup dancers and boobs to distract people from his actual talent. Good thing he has more than enough talent to carry him.
Which makes me wonder why he gets an embrassingly small amount of applause. Because he’s English?

1:07pm: Two more Best Picture nominations presented by Kerry Washington & Henry Cavill
The Big Short
The Martian 

1:10pm: Best Supporting Actress

I’m wondering why Rachel McAdams? Her emotional range was the width of a pencil. Which was appropriate, but surely not Oscar-worthy.
WINNER: Alicia Vikander for The Danish Girl
She looks loverly. Like a sparkly dessert version of Belle from Beauty & the Beast.

1:20pm: Best Costume Design presented by Cate Blanchett

I love Cate. Love her. Statuesque, noble, dignified, beautiful, articulate, intelligent, talented. And Australian.
WINNER: Jenny Beaven for Mad Max: Fury Road
Beaven also designed for A Room with a View. How very—not like Mad Max. Clearly a talented woman.
Squeezes in a comment about global warming.

1:20pm: Best Production Design presented by Tina Fey & Steve Carrell

WINNER: Colin Gibson & Lisa Thompson for Mad Max: Fury Road

1:26pm: Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling presented by Jared Leto

WINNER: Lesley Vanderwalt, Elka Wardega & Damian Martin for Mad Max: Fury Road
More Australians! Hooray!

1:30pm: Two more Best Picture nominations presented by Benicio del Toro and Jennifer Garner
The Revenant
Mad Max: Fury Road
Gosh I hope Leo wins this year. I hope I hope I hope.

1:36pm: Best Achievement in Cinematography presented by Rachel McAdams

WINNER: Emmanuel Lubezki for The Revenant 

1:40pm: Best Achievement in Film Editing presented by Praying Chopra and Liev Schreiber

In the nominations we are reminded that Star Wars happened this year. Where did that one go?
Btw, I think Liev Schreiber is great 🙂
WINNER: Margaret Sixel for Mad Max: Fury Road

1:42pm: Rock takes the satirical Black History Month a step further with Angela Basset confusing Will Smith with Jack Black.

1:50pm: Best Achievement in Sound Editing presented by Captain America and a black guy (haha)

WINNER: Mark Mangini and David White for Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Achievement in Sound Mixing

WINNER: Chris Jenkins, Gregg Rudoff & Ben Osmo for Mad Max: Fury Road

1:55pm: Best Achievement in Visual Effects presented by Andy Serkis

WINNER: Andrew Whitehurst, Paul Norris, Mark Ardington & Sara Bennett for Ex Machina

2:00pm: Olivia Munn & Jason Segel comment on the Science and Technology Academy Awards, which they hosted last week.

 2:02pm: Rock unleashes his ‘daughters’ to sell Girl Scout cookies to the audience and makes a jab at Leo’s $30million paycheck for The Revenant.

2:05pm: Best Animated Short Film presented by the Minions

WINNER: “Bear Story”
Beautiful heartfelt thank you speech from the Chilean winners.
Is it just me or is Chile an exercise in diversity from the USA? Is that not something to be celebrated?

2:11pm: Best Animated Feature presented by Woody and Buzz Lightyear

WINNER: Inside Out from Pixar

2:15pm: Music performance from The Weeknd introduced by Kevin Hart

The Weeknd performs “Earned It” from Fifty Shades of Grey with the help of some acrobatics, burlesque costumes and a string section.

2:20pm: Rock surveys the people of Compton outside a movie theatre to uncover their opinions on Best Picture this year with amusing results. Btw this is the same gag he pulled for his 2005 hosting stint.

2:30pm: Best Supporting Actor presented by Patricia Arquette

Mark! Mark! Mark!
Oh. Wrong Mark.
WINNER: Mark Rylance for Bridge of Spies

2:40pm: Best Documentary Short Subject presented by Louis CK

Louis is a funny guy. Love his work.
Touching on the plight of documentary film-making he jokes “this Oscar is going home in a Honda Civic.”
WINNER: “A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness”
Amazing acceptance speech from winner Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy on the power of documentary making to change governmental policies.

2:42pm: Best Documentary Feature presented by Daisy Ridley and Dev Patel

WINNER: Amy

2:50pm: Rock reveals that his girls made $65 243 from selling Girl Scout cookies to the audience.

2:52pm: Honorary Awards and general pleasantries from Whoopi Goldberg and Cheryl Boone Isaacs.

2:56pm: In Memoriam introduced by Louis Gosset Junior and serenaded by Dave Grohl performing “Blackbird”

David Bowie, Leonard Nimoy, Alan Rickman, James Horner, Wes Craven and Christopher Lee among the farewells this year.

3:04pm: Best Live Action Short Film presented by cute kids in tuxedoes

WINNER: “Stutterer”

Best Foreign Language Film presented by Sofia Vergara and Byung-hun Lee

WINNER: Song of Saul by Laszlo Nemes, Hungary
Yay Hungary!

3:11pm: Vice-President Joe Biden gets a standing ovation and responds with “I’m the least qualified person here.” It’s a relief to know there are still good leaders in the world.

Music performance from Lady Gaga “Til It Happens To You” from The Hunting Ground

Wow. Goosebumps.

3:22pm: Best Original Score 

One of my favourite categories. Apart from Directing, Composing is the category that requires the most training, technical ability and complexity of talent. These guys are heroes of art.
WINNER: Ennio Morricone for The Hateful Eight
I can’t believe this is his first win! After eight nominations and an honorary Oscar a few years back. Such an incredible composer. Love his work

Best Original Song presented by Common and John Legend

Some great nominations this year!
WINNER: Jimmy Napes & Sam Smith for “The Writing’s on the Wall” in Spectre
Sam Smith dedicates his win to the LGBT community and Chris Rock follows up with “no jokes here, you ain’t gonna get me in trouble.”

3:30pm: Two more nominations for Best Picture presented by Olivia Wilde and Sacha Baron Cohen
Room
Brooklyn

3:36pm: Best Director presented by J. J. Abrams

Personally I am hoping it’s Tom McCarty for Spotlight but I really think it’ll be between Iñárritu and Miller.

NOMINEES:
Adam McKay, The Big Short 
Lenny Abrahamson, Room
Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
Alejandro G. Iñárritu, The Revenant
George Miller, Mad Mad: Fury Road

WINNER: Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Well deserved! Again, is this not diversity of some kind?

3:45pm: Best Actress in a Leading Role presented by Eddie Redmayne

Of course I vote for Cate Blanchett, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it went to one of the younger options.

NOMINEES:
Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room
Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

 WINNER: Brie Larson

Wowsers! She was up against some real talent. Well done.

3:52pm: Best Actor in a Leading Role presented by Julianne Moore

Come on, Leo. It’s time.

NOMINEES:
Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
Matt Damon, The Martian
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

WINNER: Leonardo DiCaprio

Yay! YAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYY!!!!!!

4:00pm: Best Picture presented by Morgan Freeman

Here we go, the big deal. I’m hoping for Spotlight but we’ll see, there are some real good movies on this list…

NOMINEES:
The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Brooklyn
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Room
Spotlight

WINNER: Spotlight

Yes! Such a good movie. Go see it if you haven’t already. Brilliant screenplay, fantastic ensemble cast, excellent directing.

Closing thoughts from Chris Rock: “Black lives matter.”

 

 

 

Peace on Earth

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men.

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men.

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

from “Christmas Bells”, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

Top Ten Vintage Christmas Films to Save You From Netflix Specials

Not all Christmas movies are created equal. Finding a good festive film requires an increasingly long trek through the morass of animated holiday specials, random variety shows, Hallmark made-for-TV goo and just plain bad efforts from studios who should know better.

So if you’ve exhausted all the usual go-to’s, look no further. Here are ten classics that are guaranteed to warm the cockles of your Christmas heart.

10. The Holly & the Ivy (1952)

An English clergyman realises the error of his ways as he reconnects with his estranged famliy at Christmas. Based on a play by Wynyard Browne the film bravely examines the complexities of family and the ambiguities of emotional neglect with unexpectedly heart-warming results.

9. Three Godfathers (1948)

3 godfathers

Nothing says Christmas like a John Wayne western, right? A hard-hitting, surprisingly emotional reimagining of the story of the three wise men as wild west bandits fleeing the law who stumble across a mother and her newborn son in the desert.

8. We’re No Angels (1955)

A comedic counterpart to the gunslinging godfathers, here three convicts on the run share Christmas dinner with a family and upon learning of their financial troubles decide to forego their devious plans and perform a few good deeds. Humphrey Bogart plays a loveable con as only he can.

7. Mon Oncle Antoine (1971)

mon oncle

Not as vintage as the other offerings on this list, but a classic in it’s own right. Set in Quebec, this movie is often cited as the best Canadian film ever made. Benoit accompanies his uncle to retrieve the body of young boy at Christmastime. A beautiful meditation on life and death, family, age and the innocence of youth.

6. Meet Me in St Louis (1944)

Judy Garland in her sparkling prime in a big screen musical about the lives and loves of four sisters around the time of the 1904 St Louis World’s Fair. Not a Christmas movie per se, but it gave us the perennial classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and for that we will be forever grateful.

5. A Christmas Carol [Scrooge] (1951)

Arguably the best rendition of the ubiquitous Dickens story, it is a sheer joy to watch veteran actor Alastair Sim in the titular role as he transforms utterly from a miserly old man into a redeemed champion of the virtue of generosity and the value of human life.

4. Holiday Inn (1942) & White Christmas (1954)

holiday inn

Bing Crosby dazzles in both movies, singing and dancing his way through colourful holiday shenanigans and general musical greatness. There’s snow, romance, timeless Irving Berlin tunes, and all the festive kitsch you could desire. Holiday Inn comes out slightly ahead simply because it also features the incomparable Fred Astaire.

3. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

The classic tale of a Macy’s Santa Claus who may or may not be the real deal. An ingenious portrayal of the power of childlike faith to overcome adult narrow-mindedness, cynicism and doubt. There are several remakes, but try this one first.

2. The Shop Around the Corner (1940)

Charmingly set in Budapest, this movie is an embodiment of everything that was once grand about romantic comedies. Two shop assistants who can’t stand each other gradually realise they have fallen in love as anonymous pen pals. A gorgeously tangled plot handled with surprising range, it manages to never get too sweet or too sour.

1. It’s a Wonderful Life (1947)

its-a-wonderful-life

James Stewart takes the helm in the top two movies on this list, and really, who else can be the hero of Christmas vintage if not for the man who brought us George Bailey, the troubled businessman facing personal crisis on Christmas Eve. A surprisingly dark concept for a Christmas movie, George is rescued from suicidal contemplations when the angel Clarence takes him on a journey through his past to show him how different the world would be if he had never existed. The final scene, that look on Bailey’s face as he realises the true value of his life to those around him, is one of the most life-affirming moments in cinema.

 

Elise Janes

 

TV Shows in 2015 (or, Not Quite a Top Ten List)

We live in an age of lists. The 10 best authors, 10 best films, 10 best songs about love and loss and war and hope. Almost by definition, a list presupposes a kind of expertise, that the maker of the list is in a position to weed out the dross and provide a subjective but nonetheless informed short-cut to quality. This isn’t a bad thing, per se, but, for me, thinking about a ‘10 best of for 2015’ is complicated by the birth of my son. I don’t have a pool of anything that isn’t newborn related from which to draw and measure my 10 best of. Again, this isn’t a bad thing, and I didn’t expect to eat as much fiction or music or cinema, or whatever it was I did before I became a father, in 2015, but 10 isn’t a big number. It’s less than one of something a month. But all I could afford were glimpses of things, their place in a list, and sometimes, in the background, the TV. So, without further ado and in no particular order, a glimpse of my top 10 TV shows for 2015.

UNREAL  

UnReal exposes the sick, twisted heart of shows like The Bachelor.

UnReal is a dark and satirical look at the making of a reality dating show, Everlasting, loosely based on The Bachelor. It’s produced and co-written by Sarah Gertrude Shapiro, and based on her film Sequin Raze. Shapiro is a writer, filmmaker, artist and musician, and spent nine seasons working on The Bachelor in the US which provided her with the meat for UnReal. UnReal begins at the beginning, with Everlasting’s executive producer, Quinn, conducting the opening sequence from the master control suite. The season’s first contestant arrives in a horse-drawn carriage, and alights carrying a violin, which she proceeds to play. The bachelor gives the show’s host a kind of WTF nod as the contestant introduces herself as Shamiqua. Cut! Quinn yells. They can’t have a black contestant opening the show, she’s not ‘wifey’ enough. When Quinn’s accused of being racist she replies it’s not her, it’s America. Meanwhile, Rachel, one of the producers under Quinn’s wing, is en route to the Everlasting villa with some of the other contestants. She’s wearing a T-shirt that reads THIS IS WHAT A FEMINIST LOOKS LIKE, and lies on the floor of the limo amidst a forest of clean white legs and heels in a tightly framed shot that gives her a kind of claustrophobic, interred look, like she’s in a coffin. Which in many respects she is. They all are. The bachelor, the contestants, the crew. For this is a nasty world full of savagery and conflict where the only governing constant is the drug of the show, to which everybody’s bound but from which no-one can completely escape. And the Network looms large, fucking and corrupting and violating everything it touches to ramp the tension and secure its slot in its time. There is nothing else. And although UnReal isn’t as overtly vicious as Michael Haneke’s Funny Games, it’s on the same spectrum. SBS has acquired the rights to season two and will probably air in 2016.

HAPPYISH

aHAPPYish

Happysish is about happiness, and unhappiness, and the overpopulated terrain that lies between. It was originally called Pigs In Shit, with Philip Seymour Hoffman slated for the lead until his death in 2014. The role eventually went to Steve Coogan, and the program survived one 10-episode season before the axe. It rated poorly, received mixed reviews from critics, with many calling it smug and self-satisfied rubbish, and was perhaps one of the finest comedies to come out of the US since Community. Coogan plays Thom Payne, an intelligent, thoughtful, sensitive advertising executive struggling with the 21st century. He lives in Woodstock, New York, with his partner, an intelligent, thoughtful, sensitive artist, and their young son. The ad agency where Thom works is being taken over by a couple of German wunderkinds who represent the most abject and perishable aspects of creativity, and are vaguely reminiscent of the Bond villains Mr Wint and Mr Kidd from Diamonds Are Forever; smiling, genial, and lethal. But not all the action takes place at the office or revolves around work. Thom’s real passion is literature, and writing, and thinking – the writers and thinkers mentioned in each episode are given acting credits, like STARRING SIGMUND FRUED, CHARLES BUKOWSKI, AND SEVEN BILLION  ARSEHOLES. Or the final episode which starred CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS, PHILLIP LARKIN, AND JOSEF STALIN. Which go a long way to painting the melodies of the show. May it rest in peace. Five stars.

MR ROBOT

aMr RobotMr Robot begins with the protagonist, Elliot, a young man dressed in a black hoodie with a handsome, intense face, sitting in Ron’s Coffee Shop watching the door. The owner, Ron, comes in and takes a table. Elliot joins him, and by way of introduction tells Ron that Ron isn’t his real name, he changed it from Rohit Mehta on buying Ron’s Coffee Shop six years ago. Rohit (Ron) looks alarmed. Who are you? he says. Elliot continues, saying he likes Ron’s Coffee Shop because the Wi-Fi’s fast. So impressed was he by the speed, he explains, he hacked the network, and discovered Rohit runs a website called Plato’s Boys, and that onion protocoling isn’t as anonymous as Rohit might like to think. Rohit demands to know what Elliot wants. Money? Elliot doesn’t give a shit about money. Elliot says that although he doesn’t jerk off to little boys, he understands where Rohit’s coming from. He knows what it’s like to be different. He’s been different his whole life, and as he gets up to leave, sirens can be heard in the distance. They’re coming for Ron, with Elliot’s anonymous tip timed to prevent Ron from contacting his systems administrator and wiping all the incriminating data. Elliot leaves. Because this is what he does. He hacks into people’s lives finding injustices to fix, inadequacies to help, and lies to out. His awkward and misplaced heroics finally lead him to an anarchist group called fSociety, and so begins their journey to bring down corporate America. Apart from Christian Slater, who plays the enigmatic figurehead of this ragtag collection of misfits, the cast, along with its maker, Sam Esmail, are unknowns. Which is massive, given it was picked up and distributed in the US by NBC. Mr Robot’s billed as a cyber-punk thriller, and owes as much to David Lynch as it does to Fight Club, Taxi Driver, and Stanley Kubrick, and proved a canny broadcasting move as it now has a cult following moving into its second season.

THE LEFTOVERS

aThe Leftovers 1The premise is simple: one day, 140 million people disappear from the planet without trace, cause, or any obvious connection. This is the bedrock upon which the series is based: what if something truly inexplicable happened in our lifetime, something without precedent, like the big bang, and without inherent logic or reason? What then? How do we live with such an event, and the overwhelming unknowing of what happened, and whether what happened might one day happen again? How do we tame this wild ignorance into something we can manage and discuss over dinner? The Leftovers is one of the most important television programs on air. It asks, when faced with something so beyond our abilities to rationalise or understand, why do we turn to belief? Why do we need to believe it must be this, or that? And once determined, why the need to bunker down in camps of believers and non-believers? This is the religious imperative. And The Leftovers wonders what it is that religion fills, but like UnReal and Mr Robot, The Leftovers is a drama, not a polemic, and it doesn’t assume to know the answers. It’s about the people, the leftovers, the ones who stayed behind, and what’s possible in a world where tomorrow may in all likelihood never come.

THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE

aThe Man in the High Castle

Another show that carries a dangerous premise is The Man in the High Castle. Taken from a novel by Phillip K Dick , it’s a revisionist take on World War II, with the Axis powers winning and dividing the US into three parts: The Pacific States of America governed by Imperial Japan, the Greater Nazi Reich which runs the length of the east coast and west as far as Texas, and a neutral band between the two called the Rocky Mountain States. There’s a resistance, and the pilot wastes no time setting up the violent tensions of occupation. Then a spanner. One of the protagonists finds some newsreel footage of Japan’s surrender aboard the USS Missouri in 1945. Like The Leftovers, you’d be hard pressed to find a more dramatic rapture event than this. If the footage is to be believed, then everything is a lie, and somewhere, in some not too distant space-time continuum, there’s an alternative reality where the Allies won the war. It’s a bit like Winston’s paperweight in 1984. Where once ye abandoned all hope, now there is a window. Needless to say, when the occupying forces discover this footage exists, the chase is on. Which is as far as I got, so no spoiler for this little nugget.

GOTHAM

aGothamGotham is a noir prequel to the Batman story that revolves around the day-to-days of the Gotham City Police Department, in particular Detective James Gordon. Unlike the Leftovers, or The Man in the High Castle, Gotham doesn’t break any ground. But to its credit, it doesn’t pretend to be anything it’s not. The production is lavishly operatic, with all the tropes, stereotypes and social idioms of the comic book given a bang crash pow course in moral complexity, and the acting highwires between the histrionic and the ridiculous without ever losing its grip. Which is no small feat. However, what struck me about Gotham was the music. In the first episode, a singer auditions for a nightclub spot with Echo and the Bunnymen’s Ocean Rain. Next episode the New York Dolls pop up. Iggy Pop, The Stooges. Then in episode 04 another singer auditions for the same nightclub with a pared back version of Spellbound by Siouxsie and the Banshess. Now, Souixie and the Banshees don’t get out much these days, and given what had preceded it, I checked out the credits for SOUND. Turns out to be Graeme Revell, frontman for the 1980’s punk industrial electronic group SPK. Revell’s been composing for TV and film for over two decades, with all sorts of titles to his name, from Dead Calm in 1989, to The Crow, Bride of Chucky, The Matrix and its sequels, Pitch Black and its sequels, Lara Croft, Sin City, Dennis the Menace Strikes Again, and the list goes on. I was reminded of Lisa Gerrard from Dead Can Dance who wrote the score for Balibo, won a Golden Globe with her score for Whale Rider, and is perhaps best known for her work with Ridley Scott on Black Hawk Down, The Insider, and Gladiator. Or the French electronica duo Air who scored Sofia Coppola’s film The Virgin Suicides. Or Clint Mansell, formerly with Pop Will Eat Itself, who scored The Fountain with Kronos Quartet. Or Trent Reznor’s score for The Social Network. Jonny Greenwood’s score for There Will Be Blood. These are more than bands or musicians providing a song to top or tail a movie or soundtrack a car chase, but an industry shift away from traditional composers like Morricone and Williams to the Billboard alternative music charts.

I’m not sure what it all means, if anything, these swings in cinema and TV, with the recent crop of movie stars appearing in shows like Hannibal, True Detective, House of Cards, Fargo, the trend some say began with The Sopranos and The Wire towards a more literary narrative arc, programs that can’t be dipped into like tracks on an album but have to be watched from the beginning to the end, episode by episode. Maybe we’ve become more demanding, as an audience. Who knows? What’s good to know – even though I didn’t make it to 10 – is that quality television is starting to become more fashionable than it has for some time. Which makes parenthood just that little bit easier. Or not. Who knows?

 

Sean Macgillicuddy

 

Thoughts in Light of Recent Events

grey area quoteA couple of months ago, I wrote about what I expected to get out of quitting my part-time job. In truth, quitting my job has left me feeling (perpetually) uneasy. I no longer have the option to fall back on bakery work if I fail to find a full-time job, and I am gradually chipping away at my hard-earned savings. Though, with nothing to fall back on, I have no choice but to work hard towards securing my dream job, so in a way, quitting has been a positive move towards my (hopefully) bright future. Quitting my job has also allowed me to spend more time with family and friends; this has been invaluable.

Clearly, risk-taking has its perks, and its consequences; I guess you just have to take the good with the bad. Having said that, it is not my belief that one can easily brush off the feelings that come with unemployment. I can’t even begin to imagine how unemployment would feel with a family to support. In instances like this, people will reach out to those around them. Through this, some will be told that their situation could be worse; other major issues exist in the world. In the past, I’m sure I’ve been guilty of making these judgements myself. But, what I’ve come to realise recently, is that the issues of someone who has been born into privilege, and the issues of someone who has been born into disadvantage, are not mutually exclusive. Hurt is hurt. When someone expresses feelings of hurt in a time when many are dealing with tragedy, it does not mean they believe their feelings are more important than those of others who are suffering.

Having said that, I do think it can be beneficial at times for individuals to take a step back, reflect, and be thankful for what they have. Turning twenty-one last week, worries were playing on my mind about my future. These worries were disrupted when I learned of the terror attacks in Paris and Beirut. On my birthday, I was very thankful to have made it to twenty-one. For a while, my thoughts will surely be consumed with the ‘what ifs’ of my future, but that doesn’t mean I’ll feel any less for the people of France and Lebanon, and for all the people of the world who are suffering.   It would take pages and pages for me to tackle these issues of which I have merely brushed the surface.

Being a very indecisive person, I have a tendency to look at life differently with every changing hour, so I rarely have total confidence in my opinions. I often find my opinion swayed by content online, only to have it swayed again (even a minute later) by a comment posted under an article. Until recently, I’ve viewed debates as wrong or right, black and white. But, now I’ve come to realise that most issues have large grey areas.

I guess we can only try our best to stay as informed as possible, and we can spread awareness about issues through providing those around us with information (without being nasty and condescending of course). Hate is the motive for many attacks that have occurred, and will occur, around the world; kindness is needed now, more than ever.

 

Carmel Purcell

 

Serial, True Detective & Me

Three days ago I discovered the podcast Undisclosed. Hosted by three lawyers Rabia Chaudry, Colin Miller & Susan Simpson, this series is a deeper dive into the 1999 Baltimore murder case of Hae Min Lee and the conviction of Adnan Syed for her murder and a more in-depth look at the legal issues in play originally served up to us in 2014 as Serial, a 12-part series brought to us by Sarah Koenig and the team @ This American Life.

UNDISCLOSEDI wanted more. I wanted Serial Series 2 but had no idea when it might land in my podkicker episodes feed. I was staring into the great white unknown, man, and was left feeling uneasy. I’d caught the bug. My ear holes were hungry for serialised drama. I’d recently devoured The Message and swallowed what there is of Limetown whole.

The Undisclosed team are catching-me-up. I’m neck deep in the nitty-gritty. In two days I’ve gorged on ten eps, with fifteen to twenty more stored in the pantry. I get too easily torn between believing we’ll never know who and why Hae Min was killed to thinking that each new discovery the pod-hosts bring us will be the crucial game changer.

And then, last night. It was 11.35pm. I was just about to turn off the bedroom light and invite sleep into my life when I refreshed my podkicker one last time. As the app refreshed, I brushed my teeth, washed my face, fluffed my pillows. Then…

BOOM!

I shit my pants.

There it was: ‘Serial. Episode 01 – DUSTWUN’.

SERIALI stared in awe. I was reminded what Christmas morning was like as an eight year old – overwhelming excitement at receiving something I really wanted and would really appreciate. There would be newness in my life. A new door was about to be opened to me. A mystery would be presented and dissected. Questions raised, answers sought and yet still doubt and uncertainty would linger. ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you, Sarah and team for finally coming back into my life,’ I almost whispered. I downloaded right away.

And as the ep poured its 40.62 megabytes of data into my feed’s open mouth, I got a twinge in my chest. A moment of pause. Hesitation. ‘Shit,’ I thought, in response to my reaction. ‘Is this doubt creeping in, already?’

Yes. Yes it was. Doubt bleeding out worry. Worry the colour of apprehension. Not red. Not blue. Yellowy-white. Aw, man. It will be great, won’t it?

I was in this state for a few minutes after, in between turning off the light and drifting into sleep. So today, I need to address it.

Like the first series of True Detective, I’d put Serial #1 in a snow globe. As close as anything could, these series came as close to fully realising what they had set out to do. And coming from a place of utter authenticity with a focus, not on garnering mega-success and creating a franchise, but delivering the full truth and experience of the story they were telling.

TRUE DETECTIVEThe second series of True Detective has been out for months now. All 8 episodes are parked in my IQ DVR. They remain recorded as yet unviewed. I’ve stayed away from any reviews of the series but not the chatter which seeps into podcast conversations and other general sources of pop-culture tete-a-tetes. I want so much for this show to build on what Nic Pizzolatto, Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey delivered to us in the first iteration. My expectations are (were?) sky high. The first series was so bang on. Characters with balls. Storylines that cut sharp. The mise-en-scene of Louisana. Its expanses. Its poverty. Its parochialism and strong faith.

It all clicked. It was intelligent, didn’t pander and spent much of its time elbow deep in the shit of humanity. And now, after overhearing much negative and dismissive talk of the second iteration, I’m nervous and afraid. I don’t want this ideal that I hold tightly in my head to be affected. ‘Why?’ I ask the universe, without having watched a solitary second of the new series. ‘Why did it have to be True Detective? Why couldn’t they just call it something else?’

And on and on and on this self-pitying crap went.

I self-medicated by watching The Sopranos. When that ended I was introduced to Coach Eric Taylor and the Friday Night Lights crew. That worked, for a while. It worked until specifically 11.35pm last night. And now I know it’s something I’m going to have to confront.

I have to let Serial #2 become its own thing. Let it be what it will be. As Marc Maron says in his 2011 book, Attempting Normal, the situation is in my head. Sometimes that’s just how it will be.

So Serial mark-2, will it fill the void, quench the thirst, feed the beast? No, because it’s not meant to. That shit is on me. I can’t put my failings and shortcomings on someone else’s thing.

But I can tune in and give it my time. I can crack open the snow globe, allow newness into my life. Be open to wonder and surprise.

Serial: Episode 01 – DUSTWUN is loaded into my playlist and I’m about to jack-in. To all embarking on the same journey, good luck and enjoy!

How to change the world into words

My top three pieces of writing advice? Stop whining and write. Stop fucking around and write. Stop making excuses and write.    – Nora Roberts

Screen-shot-2011-04-01-at-9.05.04-PM

Sean Macgillicuddy: There’s writing, and there’s being a writer. Writing doesn’t always make you a writer any more than being a writer makes for better writing. That said, a good rule of thumb in becoming and being a writer is to turn up. Whatever that might be – a couple of hours a morning, late at night, or a number of assigned days a week that slot in with your other job, the one you do part-time for money – the hours you turn up are like surgery, or a precision athlete mid race. It’s a contract, this turning up to write. If you want a personal day or you don’t feel well, it’s a big deal. A really big deal. And don’t be shy. Let everybody know that this space is where and when you turn up to write and, within, reason, if the world wants you for anything it can go fuck itself. Alternatively, and this applies more to emerging writers than writers with an established path or agent or contract, find a writer you admire and pretend to be them: clothes, habits, hair. If they’re alive, attend a function as them. If they’re dead, the same. Transcribe one of their better known works – Illywhacker, say, if you’re Peter Carey – and look for a publisher under your own name. Enter it into competitions, a master class or two at Varuna, use it to find a mentor. If people ask what you’re working on, tell them. If they say it sounds a lot like Peter Carey’s Illywhacker, deny you’ve read it, or accuse Peter Carey of plagiarism, or confound them with some sleight of hand question like, ‘You’re not one of those people who never read anything they haven’t written themselves, are you?’ When you’re inevitably discovered, the lesson to take from the exercise, the tip, is to believe you have something to say. That inherent within you is something that matters, that’s legitimate, that carries with it an urgency and how it’s told will come. At that point, see above.

Ken: The view from my desk.

Ken Ward: Write when it’s hard to, when you don’t want to – are too tired, too disinterested, not inspired enough. It’s here your efforts will satisfy you the most.

The view from my desk.

 

 

Jane: Current workplace.

Jane Abbott: Forget everything the books tell you. Write with passion, as one possessed; write what you would love to read. Sacrifice everything else in order to write. And never, ever give up.

 

 

 

Elise: The State Library of NSW is most conducive. Except they won't let me sleep here.

Elise Janes: Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Life’s too short, and there’s too much to be said and done to waste time measuring sticks. You may need to leave the country to get any useful artistic work done because Australia is small and insecure and so are most of its cultural gatekeepers. Don’t let them trick you into thinking the world is small. They are just afraid. Don’t be afraid. Write what you want to write and forget everyone else.

Conan Elphicke: When my children’s books ‘go Rowling’, or even get published, then I’ll start dispensing tips. You won’t be able to shut me up. Until then …

Carmel: My workspace is wherever I happen to put my laptop. Usually, I have a mug of tea by my side.

Carmel Purcell: I don’t feel that I am skilled enough to give tips because I am still learning. But, I guess if I have any advice it is…learn to appreciate criticism. Criticism is inevitable and very important in the field of writing. I am a very stubborn person so this is something I will always struggle with.

My workspace is wherever I happen to put my laptop. Usually, I have a mug of tea by my side.

 

 

Ashlee: An obvious addiction to Apple products.

Ashlee Poeppmann: Keep writing! Every day, about something or about nothing! It’s all about practise and finding what you’re comfortable with. This is the best advice I’ve received from other writers, and it works best for me.

An obvious addiction to Apple products.

 

 

 

 

 

Humans Responding to Inhumanity

Words have the power to compel, to inspire, to incite change and to unify humanity in the face of trial and suffering. As the world watches Paris to see the unfolding of these immense historical events, we are reminded of the same uncertainty and fear that generations before us faced as they too stood on the brink of conflict and struggle. At times like these the words of great men and women who have spoken out against oppression and injustice serve to remind us of our responsibilities as members of the human race: to be strong, to be just, and to strive for peace even in the face of darkness and terror.

Versailles

In these difficult moments, we must — and I’m thinking of the many victims, their families, and the injured — show compassion and solidarity. But we must also show unity and calm. Faced with terror, France must be strong, she must be great, and the state authorities must be firm. We will be. We must also call on everyone to be responsible. What the terrorists want is to scare us and fill us with dread. There is indeed reason to be afraid. There is dread, but in the face of this dread, there is a nation that knows how to defend itself, that knows how to mobilize its forces and, once again, will defeat the terrorists.

President Francoise Hollande on the streets of Paris, November 13 2015

 

During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.

Nelson Mandela to the Supreme Court of South Africa, April 20 1964

 

From every mountainside, let freedom ring. And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old negro spiritual, “Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.”

Martin Luther King, August 28 1963

 

It has come to a battle between the women and the government as to who shall yield first, whether they will yield and give us the vote, or whether we will give up our agitation. Well, they little know what women are. Women are very slow to rouse, but once they are aroused, once they are determined, nothing on earth and nothing in heaven will make women give way; it is impossible.

Emmeline Pankhurst, November 13 1913

 

So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life, a leadership of frankness and of vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. And I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.

Franklin D. Roosevelt Inauguration, March 4 1933

 

We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.

Winston Churchill to the House of Commons, June 4 1940

 

Love is an abstract noun, something nebulous. And yet love turns out to be the only part of us that is solid, as the world turns upside down and the screen goes black. We can’t tell if it will survive us. But we can be sure that it’s the last thing to go.

Martin Amis, The Second Plane (2008)

 

You can find Calcutta anywhere in the world. You only need two eyes to see. Everywhere in the world there are people that are not loved, people that are not wanted nor desired, people that no one will help, people that are pushed away or forgotten. And this is the greatest poverty.

Mother Theresa

 

So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, and who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity. This cycle of suspicion and discord must end. The first issue that we have to confront is violent extremism in all of its forms…. We will relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security. Because we reject the same thing that people of all faiths reject: the killing of innocent men, women, and children.

President Barack Obama at Cairo University, June 4 2009

 

I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, and the kind that enables men and nations to grow, and to hope, and build a better life for their children … not merely peace in our time but peace in all time.

John F. Kennedy