Can of worms

26 August, 2008

A recent post of mine sledging Olympic rowing commentator, Nick Green, ended with the Iine, ‘Special = Retarded”.

Little did I realise that my comments would create a stir in Los Angeles – the next day activists protested against depictions of developmental disability and the use of the word “retarded”.

Or maybe they were referring to Ben Stiller’s latest movie, Tropic Thunder?

Speaking of Ben Stiller, he’s the subject of one of my favourite ever comedy lines, courtesy of Ricky Gervais, creator and star of the classic TV series, Extras.

Ben Stiller: And who are you?
Andy Millman: Nobody.
Ben Stiller: What?
Andy Millman: Nobody.
Ben Stiller: Exactly. And who am I?
Andy Millman: Either Starsky or Hutch, I can never remember.
Ben Stiller: Was that supposed to be funny?
Andy Millman: You tell me, you were in it.

And while we’re on the subject of comedy, and retards, here’s another classic, from Borat:

Mike Jared (Magnolia Fine Dining Society): I’m, er… recently retired…
Borat: You are a retard?
Mike Jared (Magnolia Fine Dining Society): Er… yes…
Borat: Er… physical or mental?
Bethany Weston (Magnolia Fine Dining Society): [to Jared] Retired…
Mike Jared (Magnolia Fine Dining Society): RETIRED! I don’t work anymore…
Bethany Weston (Magnolia Fine Dining Society): Stopped work…
Mike Jared (Magnolia Fine Dining Society): STOPPED WORKING!
Borat: [quietly across the table] Is very good you allow retard to, er…
[mumbles politely]


Book Launch – ‘Breath’ by Tim Winton

28 May, 2008

Book Launch – ‘Breath’ by Tim Winton

Athenaeum Theatre, Melbourne, 15 May, 2008

Previous book launches I’ve attended have been the literary equivalent of watching a band play at the local pub. The launch of Winton’s Breath on the other hand, was more akin to a U2 stadium spectacular – big and impressive, but not particularly intimate.

The place was packed to the rafters by Tim’s adoring fans, including more than a smattering of CAE PWE students. The launch was sponsored by Readings, who charged people a fairly hefty $10 per ticket for the privilege of having something sold to them.

Despite likening to ordeal to being subjected to ‘a ball-bearing enema’, Winton was an engaging and generally entertaining speaker.

A large portion of his one hour set was taken up by readings from his book. The theatre was funeral-silent as Tim read out some appropriate passages – enough to give a flavour for the book and characters without spoiling the plot. Tim’s reading was full of pauses and inflections – and noticeably at a different rhythm to my own prior reading of those passages.

Winton provided a broad outline of the plot and descriptions of the main characters and gave some background information about the writing of the book, and his take on the underlying themes and subtext. It was interesting to note that he doesn’t fully understand the themes of his books, even long after they’re finished. His view on these changes as he gets older and more reflective.

Question time was a highlight. The house lights came on, and Winton was genuinely surprised to discover that there were not one, not two, but three levels of fans hanging on his every word.

The MC reminded the audience that Tim was seeking questions and not comments. I’d never heard this before, but it made sense for this type of forum. Happily, the audience complied, and there were plenty of interesting questions without the microphone-hogging monologues that you often get at these gigs.

We learnt that Tim works hard on new writing for around four hours each morning – he’s ‘rubbish’ after about 1pm, so he uses to afternoon for other tasks related to the business of writing. He generally has a few things on the go; this was particularly the case when he was a younger writer struggling to make ends. He had to keep churning out the work, so moved from piece to piece when he became stuck.

We also learnt that although there are elements of Tim in his writing and characters, this is generally via descriptions of the landscapes of his youth, and his feelings in general. The main details of character and plot in the book are made up. He prides himself on being a story-teller.

Afterwards, Tim obliged his fans with a book signing. The queue snaked through the theatre, out the door, and halfway to Swanson Street. Pre-signed copies were available for purchase. A friend got mine signed and asked Tim for some advice for aspiring writers – it was “don’t let the bastards grind you down.”

Onya Tim.

My Top 5 Concerts Ever

24 May, 2008

This is my 200th post – thought I’d put in a bit more effort than usual.

In the spirit of the great John Cusack movie High Fidelity, here’s a list of the best five gigs I’ve ever attended.

Let me know your own top five.

Green Day, Bullet in a Bible tour, Telstra Dome, Melbourne, December, 2005

My daughter Beks and I were frantic with excitement in the weeks leading up to this gig. Me being a Green Day fan from way back, and her being a recent convert, we gave the Bullet in a Bible CD a massive workover in anticipation. The concert was my Christmas present to Beks that year and judging by her screams, I think she was pretty happy with it.

Wakes came along too, and she had a neat time, apart from us giving her grief about being the only person in the whole stadium that refused to participate in any of the usual lame crowd participation exercises. “After me, 1…2…1,2,3,4”

As usual for a stadium gig, the acoustics were crappy and not loud enough (I wanted my ears to bleed, dammit) and we were sitting in the gods (Beks was a bit too young for the mosh pit – next time GD come to Oz we’re definitely going to be down in the fun zone) – but the boys put on a memorable show nonetheless. Pretty impressive given it was the last leg of a gruelling tour for them.

Hurry back boys.

AC/DC & Angels, Myer Music Bowl, Melbourne, February, 1981

Me and my High School buddy Paul Kelly took our pimply 17 year-old faces to the Myer Music Bowl to experience the raw power and energy of AC/DC, backed up by the magnificent Angels.

Doc Neeson and the boys wound up the crowd with a massive set of their favourite tunes (personally I thought they were better than accadacca), then out came AC/DC, fronted by Brian Johnson, Bon Scott having died the year before. (I just looked it up – did you know Bon Scott was christened Ronald Belford Scott. Belford???)

The concert was memorable not only for Angus Young’s endless power riffs, but also for the crowd carnage that night. It seemed as everyone in Melbourne under 40 years old was at the Bowl that night, ripping out trees, brawling, vomiting, pissing in people’s lawns and keeping the nearby hospital patients awake. The Sun newspaper had a field day with its usual indignant outrage. Paul and I refrained from any hooliganism of course (the only goody goodies there that night).

Fuck it was fun.

U2, Unforgettable Fire tour, Melbourne Sports & Entertainment Centre, September, 1984

I’m not sure if this was U2’s first visit to Australia but I know I only bought a ticket on the strength of ‘New Years Day’ which I loved at the time and still think is a cracker of a song.

I wasn’t expecting that much from U2, and I always found the MSEC a shithouse venue, so when Bono came walzing out and almost physically grabbed the crowd by the scruff of the neck and DEMANDED they get out of their seats, I was blown away.

You know what it’s usually like at those venues. If someone stands up and starts to dance, the middle-aged farts sitting behind them ’tisk’ and tap them on the shoulder and tell them to sit down. Not at this gig. Bono urged the crowd to GET UP! GET UP! GET UP! until everyone was on their feet, having a grouse time. Even the middle aged farts.

It shits me that I can’t get anywhere near a U2 ticket now.

Neil Young, Festival Hall, Melbourne, July, 1985

Details are a bit sketchy. A whole crew of us met up in a pub in North Melbourne and had copious quantities of beer beforehand. Lurch was definitely there. And Baz Boy. People around us were smoking funny smelling cigarettes. (I tried not to inhale). I think someone had a hip flask.

I do remember being absolutely in awe of seeing the great man, Neil Young on stage. One of my great buddies, Lurch was a lifelong fan, responsible for brainwashing the rest of us younger ones. Live Rust was played at every party, every night, every morning after. (Lurch also had a thing for Stevie Nicks, but that’s another story).

I remember The Needle and the Damage Done. I remember Cinnamon Girl. I remember Cortez the Killer. And check out the last 4 songs of the night (a lazy 28 song play list on the night, how’s that for value?):

  • Hey Hey, My My
  • Tonight’s The Night
  • Like A Hurricane
  • Powderfinger

Check out the full play list – AWESOME!

Neil Young, you rock.

Violent Femmes, The Palace, Melbourne, August, 1990

“It’s one, one, one for the money…”

I think I was a bit pished at this gig as well. What I do remember is that the Femmes really turned it on.And lots of crowd surfing and mosh-pit action.

Oh, and the crowd were really, really weird (at least for a normal suburban guy like me).

You know, piercings, gelled hair, tats, that type of thing.

Over to you readers. Did you go to any of these gigs? Have you been to better ones?

Welcome CAE students

8 May, 2008

A big hello to any of my fellow CAE Professional Writing & Editing students who may be visiting this site for the first time.

Take a look around the site – if you like what you see, you can subscribe to receive an email whenever I update my blog by clicking here, or by clicking on the Receive Posts Via Email link on the sidebar.

If you’re technically savvy, you can also choose to receive updates via RSS.

Links to some of my published articles can be found here.

Check out some of my old posts via the Archives section on the sidebar. Or just browse through the Categories.

And don’t forget to leave a comment if you get the chance.

Photo credit: Macwagen

Short Story – Stranded

6 April, 2008


Photo credit: LovelyV

One of my subjects this year is Short Story Online.

I was a bit nervous about entering the big, scary world of fiction writing – I reckon the last time I wrote any pure fiction was back in High School. (Obviously this excludes tall stories, sledging of mates, creative accounting and Bledisloe tour profiles).

Anyway, this story was the first exercise we had to submit for assessment this year. We had to write about a situation where three people were thrown together in some way. We had to invent a crisis and show how it affects the characters. Then two of the characters have to get away from the other one, and we had to write about what they do next and how they see the third character. All in 800 words.

I was pretty happy with how it turned out. Let me know what you think.


Back to the Eighties

15 March, 2008


My friend Jarrah has recently launched a new blog, Back to the Eighties.

Jarrah is a great writer with a passion for music. He is the founder and editor of the popular Hard Rock site Saviours of Rock. (I’m not sure what some of his hard rock fans are going to think of him branching out into the domain of 1980s – big hair, new Romantics, Wham, Culture Club etc).

Anyway Jarrah, good luck with your new site.

Oh George! Oh Martha!

28 February, 2008


Surprising things I learned tonight from our guest speaker, romance writer and president of Romance Writers of Australia, Anne Gracie:

  • 54% of the fiction sold in America is romance fiction;
  • There is a sub-genre within romance fiction which focuses on NASCAR racing. I kid you not.

And before I get heckled by resident Write On! heckler, Skinful – no I am not considering a career in romantic fiction.

But if you are interested in chasing the romance market, you could do worse than hook up with Anne’s organisation, Romance Writers of Australia.