Monday, July 04, 2005

A Little Bit About The Little Bit That Follows

Well, I just needed to explain the posts below... which are by-and-large old newspaper columns I wrote for the Bullsbrook Gingin Advocate. That's why the date's might seem a little odd.

And just cos I can... I thought I'd chuck in a pic of my favourite actor from International Magazine... ladies and gentlemen, this is Ioan Gruffudd. You can call him "Omigod"... I know I do.

ICU, I do (or, A Letter To A Bride)

Dear Deirdre.
Sorry to trouble you, I know today is a busy day for you.
I apologise about the handwriting: I’ve had absolutely no sleep and I’m shaking so much the nurses are using me to mix cough syrup.
Perhaps I should explain. I’m writing this from the intensive care unit.
It seems my liver has completely stopped and my body is now using my eyes to filter blood. That may not be the official diagnosis, but that’s how it looks and feels.
But I’m fine.
Last night was great, considering it began with the maxi-taxi refusing to take us. Shorty and the driver got into a fight about wheelchair access and the definition of ‘legless’.
So we walked into Northbridge, but we were careful to keep our fluids up by visiting a few watering holes. Seventeen of them, actually. Okay, we may have taken the scenic route.
The restaurant we went to looked like it might be going out of business. Honestly Deirdre, it was sad. They couldn’t even afford complete uniforms for the waitresses. We really felt for them.
It was absolutely no better at the nightclub Shorty took us to. We all slipped a few fivers into what little uniform the staff did have, just to make ourselves feel better about the fact they could well be on the streets soon.
Then things really picked-up. Rob’s steak must have been under-cooked because he suddenly felt terribly ill. We helped him to the side of the street and took his clothes off so he didn’t get them covered in anything unsavoury. We propped him against a lamp-post, but he kept stumbling into the road, so we tied him to it.
Shorty had a small fire-cracker and set it off in the drain by Rob’s feet, but it got stuck in the storm-water grate. He panicked, but there wasn’t time to untie him, so he had to ride the explosion through. It was really funny - the ambulance driver said he’d never seen anything like it.
As his Best Man, I thought it only proper that I explain why Rob can’t make it to your wedding today.
I do hope this letter sees you well.

My father, the adventurer

This is my father’s obituary.
He’s not dead. I’m writing it ‘just in case’, you might say.
You see, my father is something of an adventurer. Unless he spends three months of the year in mortal danger (and drinking water that goes in brown and fluid and comes out much the same way), he feels quite deprived.
A couple of years ago he sailed up China’s Yangtze River on a raft fashioned from a piece of bark and a dead washing machine. I think he envisaged being shot at from the riverbanks and felt ripped-off that everything he’d learned about Communists as a school-kid under Menzies was not, in fact, true.
So this year it’s South America. He’s climbing the Andes and sailing the Amazon. After all, those Columbian drug-runners will just have to shoot at him. And with all those wild beasties in the rainforest, why there’s a plethora of exotic and random ways to die.
I asked him to take a photo if he does indeed decide to wrangle an anaconda.
“How about I just bring you back the anaconda?”
And if it wasn’t for our Quarantine laws, he would, too.
I’m a bit of a let-down to my Dad. I’m what he calls, ‘soft’.
My childhood under his parental tutelage was one long, endless rite of passage.
I remember him coaching my school football team.
“Come on Bolt, put your body on the line!”
“No way, what are you nuts? Have you seen the size of that guy? You want the ball so bad, go get the bloody thing yourself”.
Going camping with Dad was always terrifying. He’s the kind of guy who likes to scale sheer cliff-faces, but considers ropes not only unnecessary, but ‘girlie’.
And he’d say things like, “Come on, come closer to the edge, the view’s great,” or “Nah, it’s safe to dive in here, the waters deep.”
It’s only once you’ve taken the plunge that he’d say… “Corse, that croc could be a bit of a bitch”.
Then he would punctuate my screams and swearing with his favourite catch-cry, “Where’s your sense of adventure?”, which he said every time he endangered my life.
My father’s headstone will read, “The kind of man you’d like to have in a tight spot… which he probably got you into in the first place.”

Sunday, July 03, 2005

A sickie, tea and bikkies and time with the tele

LAST week I took a sickie.
I spent the day glued to what I call the “Open University of Popular Culture”: Channel Ten.
In the morning I saw ads for six different contraptions that give you eight pumped abs in five different ways. Endorsed by three minor celebrities, payment was accepted by four major credit cards. You could have delivered a calf with one of them and all six looked like implements of torture.
Later, the Jerry Springer Show provided an insight into the kind human behaviour perhaps best dealt with by experienced professionals in the privacy of a padded clinic.
I watched, engrossed, as a line of women readily confessed to providing the sort of services you don’t find in the Yellow Pages.
One-by-one, they embarrassed themselves and their unwitting relatives and partners not just before a studio audience, but television cameras with the power to beam their humiliation to the world.
A blood sport for the new millennium.
But what confessions! One woman needed to tell her boyfriend of six months that she worked as a ‘Human Chilli Dog’. I can see that would be the kind of thing you’d need to get off your chest.
Oprah was just as scintillating, but on a different level. She profiled very interesting and educational survival stories. My favourite was the tale of a woman who was shish-kebabed by a marlin while deep-sea fishing. You’re never going believe this, but her breast implant saved her life.
There is a lesson for all of us in that.
And after that tele-visual feast? Tea and bikkies with the Bold and the Beautiful.
I note that Brooke is considering changing husbands again. But I can understand that. I mean it’s so easy to fall pregnant to the wrong brother these days.
My suspicion was that the pickings would be very slim for those stuck at home during the day. But I have to say I am now completely addicted. I’d absolutely love to stay home every day with my AbCurler, Bert, Jerry, O and the Forresters.
I’d engineer myself a career as a stay-at-home Dad except I’d have to engineer the kids as well.
And I can’t even engineer my own abdominals.

Making the elderly a priority

I SPEND a lot of time on public transport.
Everyday an hour of my life ebbs irretrievably away while I sit on either the bus or the train and avoid breathing in.
(I have a spectacularly regular talent for attracting some of our smellier citizens. Honestly, just because your dog eats its own feculence doesn’t mean you should, too. And at very least, it’s not an open invitation to sit next to me).
But the point I want to make is how fabulous ‘priority’ seats are.
I’ll tell you why they are so great.
They are for our senior citizens. They are for our less able-bodied citizens.
They are not for our rich. They are not for our elite. You cannot buy your way onto a priority seat.
I love that our people, that our Government, put the comfort, ease of access, and status of our elderly and disabled before that of our nouveau riche. Egalitarian prestige!
“I don’t care if you wear an Armani suit, if she’s on a pension she gets to sit by the door.” And this from a culture that doesn’t reward or care for our elderly or disabled nearly enough.
In a world that has seen our mild-mannered conductors morph into ‘transit-guards’, it is heartening to see that some social morays are still looked upon favourably.
On the bus the other day I got chatting to an 83-year-old woman. I don’t know her name, but I know her story (and her smell).
You see, I gave up my seat for her. It was a simple act borne out of courtesy and my mother’s training, as much as anything else, but it set a spark in her eyes. She sat down and began to tell me about her children – they didn’t turn out the way she’d hoped.
She told me about the war and the boys that didn’t come home, and those that were still lost at war despite returning. She herself loved her brother-in-law. Desperately.
She was telling me this and I realised – she’d probably not even told her own family that fact, and here she was telling me, a total stranger.
She had lived her life. She deserved that priority seat. For the elderly, we should do more than give up our seat, we should give up our time as well.
Unless they smell.

Good morning Darling

Good morning Darling,
Sorry to email you at the office but you’ve been home so little lately that this is the only way I could think to update you.
After three years of your nagging, I’ve starting recycling like you’re always on at me to. I mention it now because I need to apologise for that strange taste you’ll have noticed on your toothbrush. You’ll be pleased to know that last week I saved the environment by using it to polish the brass-work.
And Darling, you’ll be so proud of me… Because you’re always missing the last bus home and having to stay over at the office, I serviced your car yesterday. Now you can always be home in time for dinner! And the really good news, I recycled the bits I had left over and made a fantastic wind-chime.
While I think of it, can you jump on the internet banking and check your account balance? When I went shopping on Thursday a homeless boy asked me for money. Well I didn’t have any coins on me, and you’re always saying someone should do something about homelessness, so I gave him your card and pin number. It’s okay though - it was the account with your inheritance money in it, and he only needed two dollars.
Also, you’ve been talking for months about getting to know your nephew better, so I included the best of your magazine collection in that birthday parcel you posted to him yesterday. Oh, and I chucked in a video I found of you screwing your receptionist. Now I know what you’re going to say, but hey, it’s not every day you turn 10!
And babe, one last thing. I found some cans of spray-paint in the shed and decided to give your boat a fresh coat. The paint must have hardened in the can, so I’ve put them in the microwave to heat-up while I’m down the library using the internet.
Have a good day Darling.

PS. Your dog dug up the garden again so I’ve locked him in the house.

A medal or chest to pin it on?

I’VE finally got one.
I turn 24 next month and my first one has finally arrived. This morning I discovered... a chest hair.
For many people my age (to be honest, probably only men), this is an occasion to let joy be unconfined, sing three cheers and hang out the flags.
But I have been ruing this day since puberty. It might start with one lonely follicle but before long there’s enough hair growing on your shoulders to weave yourself a yashmak. And every time you get on a plane they strip search you looking for small marsupials... or an alpaca.
I have spent 24 years diligently avoiding bread crusts, Bundaberg Rum or anything that is even vaguely reputed to set follicles fornicating.
And considering I’ve been prepared for this debut for a decade, I’m ashamed to say, the first thing I did was call my father and ask what to do.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t in. So when he got home he received the following message on his answering machine:
“Dad, I need your help... urgently. I don’t know what to do. I’m in a bit of a panic. I’ve got... I’ve got... a chest hair. Just the one. But what if more come? How do I get rid of it?”
Then there was something of a pause as I realised that, upon hearing that message, any sound person would have me restrained, drugged and locked safely away in a secure unit for the emotionally crippled.
“Umm... I love you,” I concluded meekly.
Saying I love you was my ‘get out of jail free’ card for prematurely ageing my father and my best hope for kick-starting his heart again. I can’t afford for Dad to have a heart-attack because he lives alone and the dog doesn’t know CPR (though Lord knows she’d give it her best shot).
I’ll say this for Dad, when he finally did ring back, he was very supportive.
“So you’ve found... a hair,” he said, consoling.
“Yeah, Dad.”
“Still no sign of a chest, though?”

You know what I did this summer?

TWELVE per cent of Australians are out there having fun.
I know this because six per cent of the population is unemployed and another other six per cent is at university.
And if you haven’t already gone into cardiac arrest, I’d like to explain.
You see, I have a full-time job. I sit in a small departmental office and write papers that nobody reads, about subjects that nobody is interested in. (In my office, to ‘circulate’ something means to throw it in the bin).
But my friends are all students, unemployed, or have casual jobs. And believe me, they’re out there having a blast.
I spent this summer with my right hand surgically grafted to a mouse. I spent it manacled to a desk 20 floors above sea-level having conversations with the animated paper clip on my computer screen.
I spent this summer contracting new and resilient strains of influenza because my hypothalamus couldn’t reconcile the 15 degree temperature difference between inside my building and the street.
Where were my friends? Where were the students and the unemployed of my acquaintence? The beach. The pub. The cafe. David Jones. At home on the lounge watching Oprah.
(How come university students get eight months off over summer in any case?).
It’s not that I begrudge them a good time. What I have a problem with is their lack of understanding at my situation.
Going out boozing every night and getting home in time to watch televangelism on the box is fine if you can get up at ten, fresh as a daisy, and do your four hour shift in a call centre. But I have a workplace agreement that requires me to have had an argument with a dodgy elevator by 9am Monday to Friday.
I can’t afford to turn up to work looking like I’ve had the biggest Sunday night since God first kicked off his shoes, put on his best mesh shirt and turned Heaven into a nightclub.
But what I really begrudge is that as I’m the only one with any money, it’s always my round.

Soldier’s shame over donkey sex

I COULD understand this story coming up if I’d typed ‘donkey’ and ‘sex’ into my Google search engine. But all I was doing was checking a prominent internet news service.
The headline: Soldier’s shame over donkey sex.
The story: An Afghani soldier was jailed last week after he was caught doing the ‘wild thing’ with a domestic animal.
And what’s wrong with a bit of horseplay?
According to the article, the soldier’s excuse for this erotic equine interlude was that he did not have enough money to get married. But who would marry him now that he’s made such an ass of himself?
In the area of Afghanistan this soldier comes from, tradition dictates that a suitor must pay the equivalent of $A6,800 to the girl’s parents. My argument: a donkey is cheaper.
This is not an isolated incident. When I was a cadet reporter a story of this nature came across our news desk. A local man was discovered having a stable relationship with the town mare. He was rumbled mid-rumble, but decamped at a cantor and the cops never caught him.
But they did find ‘evidence’ (as they termed it), including a pair of shoes, a horsewhip, and an up-turned milk crate. But the dead give-away was finding the horse reclined in the hay smoking a cigarette.
For a while I couldn’t understand why a donkey would put up with ‘pack’ rape. Then I realised, they probably think it’s just a particularly persistent horsefly – a small, slightly annoying sting, that’s over with quite quickly.
But, on the soldier’s part – doesn’t it all involve the most incredible level of planning? I mean, can you imagine going to the markets to buy a donkey for that specific purpose? The farmer giving you knowing winks as you hand over the cash. The stares and jeers of passers-by as you walk your purchase home. Then that awkward silence when you get home. I mean, do you offer her coffee first, or get straight down to business?
Before you judge this poor young soldier, type ‘donkey’ and ‘sex’ into your Google search engine. You’d never believe how many people are doing this stuff.

A bit of background for clarity...

I'm not quite the raging communist my friends make me out to be. Tinged more pink than red, I have a social conscience and like to wear brown… but that’s as far as it goes.
The son of a staunch unionist, I grew-up with strong political ideals and the appropriate leftist sense of injustice.
My sympathy for maritime workers did not go down too well with other students at agricultural university during the docks strike of 1998. I still yell “scab” as I pass certain trucks headed to the Fremantle Port.
That sense of injustice came in handy when I decided to admit I'm part of the world’s last great minority group – the homosexuals. I came out to myself, my friends and family at the age of 23.
One of my abiding interests is following gay rights issues in the media and online, which is my political exercise now that I'm not involved in an organised party structure.
Okay, so some of the research includes Googling the gardener from Desperate Housewives, but hey, a fellow just has to stay informed!
I spent my childhood on my family’s dairy farm in Perth’s Darling Range. My family bred Jersey cattle and they were my first passion as a youth. I was also incredibly keen on gardening and poultry-fancying. My other pastime was getting picked-on for being gay. Apparently the kids at the local school were better informed than I was.
I exposed many of my interesting talents while in the relative security and isolation of Western Australia’s south-coast, where I lived for four years. I regularly acted with the local repertory and played bagpipes with the local pipe band. (Despite protests).
My secret shame is a massive collection of British comedies – including every episode of such classics as Yes Minister, The Good Life, To The Manor Born and Blackadder. Embarrassingly, I also have a few Carry On films. (And well-hidden stash of Hornblower videos for those quiet nights in).
A “day in the life” account would see me waking-up too late to get to work on time and then deciding I may as well be jolly late as just a bit late, and going back to sleep ‘til Saturday.
I'm a real night-owl – whether I'm at the theatre or the cinema, the pub or the nightclub. And wherever you find me, you’ll tend to find my partner very close by. If I were to commit a burglary, you could assume Adam was driving the get-away car. You could also guarantee we'd bicker about which direction to go in and which one of us had agreed to hold the gun.
Hi, my name is Bolton and this is my blog.

Film Review - Constantine

Imagine a CGI-packed film with Keanu Reeves playing a reluctant hero with slick black hair and a big black coat.
It may sound slightly familiar, but this isn’t The Matrix, this is Constantine.
One is beginning to wonder whether Reeves can act opposite anything other than a blue wall.
He regurgitates his Matrix performance for this latest effort – a good versus evil tale that falls somewhere between Reeves’ previous CGI trilogy and The Exorcist.
He plays John Constantine, a chain-smoking sardonic with an uncanny ability to spot unworldly creatures such as demons and angels - and their human-disguised half-breeds - who (respectively) represent Satan and God on Earth.
While that’s a handy party-trick, it’s not a skill that gives you much comfort and by the time we join Constantine he’s dying of lung cancer from indulging in too many cigarettes.
He’s used to death though, having committed suicide once before. That should have sent him straight to hell but a pact with God saw him return to Earth to use his special skill to rid the world of half-breeds (and buy his way into heaven).
After the suicide death of her twin sister in a mental hospital, Los Angeles police woman and clairvoyant Angela (Rachael Weiss) enlists Constantine’s help to find out what really happened.
There isn’t as much religious symbolism as one might expect from a demon-fighting exorcist in modern LA. Here we have a religion two millennia old, rich with the symbolism of good, evil, power and eternity, and the film-makers give us a key-ring, an amulet and a hell that looked like hot day at Woolies car park.
The symbolism they did use seemed tacked-on and it was hard to credit the notion of protective powers held in a necklace when CGI demons missing half their heads were slinking towards their victim. Modern audiences don’t buy that in the same way they’d be hacked-off if someone killed a vampire with garlic.
If you’re religious sensitivities might be hurt by something as sacrilegious as a noted arch-angel appearing as an androgynous Judas, this probably isn’t the film for you. Nor, indeed, if you like your Satan scary - instead of an acerbic wit, with a hint of camp, in a dapper white suit.
Constantine is no alternative to Sunday Mass.
The story line is as thin as a Eucharist wafer and you’re left feeling so much money was advanced to the special effects unit there was none left to secure a good writer.
Religious-based notions of good and evil –angels and devils – are so deeply ingrained in our psyche that this film, if written well, could have been a psychological thriller. Instead, it relied heavily on horror-factor graphics that, with an MA Rating, seriously affect its ability to reach its target market – the readers of the DC Comics/Vertigo graphic novels on which this movie is loosely based.