July 2006

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Update

The Standing There Productions guide to the Melbourne Film Festival continues despite my "wagging" an apparently brilliant film, Crimson Gold on Saturday. A disgraceful black mark against my name, I admit.

I did, however, see the following films this weekend:

Grbavica. Excellent film in the Women's Film section, which is an interesting section actually. This film is post-war and it's gorgeously done. It opens on this group of women who are encouraged (in fact paid) to tell their war stories and talk about their grief as part of the healing process. At first glance, all of them appear to be dead.

Anyway, others:

Summer 04. German film summarised as follows: what tangled webs we weave (sorry, but you see so many and the capacity for meaningful analysis diminshes hourly).

An Inconvenient Truth. Really excellent film made by Al Gore about global warming...

I know, I know!

Seriously, though. This film is a very well-made documentary that can't really be accused of bias. It's an excellent lesson in climate change (literally), as well as being fairly revealing about Al Gore, which turns out to be quite surprising. What's more it understands its own role as a film...

Which is more than I can say for Al Franken: God Spoke, which apparently thought it was a film about how brilliant Al Franken is and how he should be the next President of America. Al Franken is a comedian from Saturday Night Live , who wrote an often hilarious booked called Lies and The Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair And Balanced View of The Right in America. He is, however, one part political analyst and nine parts comedian. Not the other way around. His targets in the film are, well, everyone who isn't talking to him right at that very moment (one of his foes correctly points out in the film that he sucks up to people in person and then mocks them in the car on the way home). And he doesn't mind what he picks on them for, either. Poofy impersonations, ever so slightly sexist asides, and a searing analysis of a Senator's dog poo. Again, maybe comedy ain't my thing at the moment. I could smell the ego from the second back row.

Also saw a Danish gangster film, Pusher, which was excellent but which was a gangster film (yeesh!). Straight after that I saw a Hong Kong musical called Perhaps Love. Also very good although richly bizarre transition from gangster film to dancing in streets.

Lastly, The Wind That Shakes The Barley. Irish. Good LORD those poms have a lot to answer for. Extremely well written.

So, thirteen films down, many bijillions to go. Good thing I've got nothing else to do with my time (gulp).

Film Festival Again

I am so exhausted that I just wagged my first film in the Melbourne Film Festival.

It was a good one, too. Iranian.

I'm going to have a bit of a nap.

Update-wise, last night I saw The Way I Spent The End of The World, which was a lovely, slow, Romanian film. I then saw Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic, which I almost fell asleep in, which is a documentary kind of thing about Sarah Silverman, a Jewish-American comic. I think, after the Comedy Festival, I might have reached saturation point with stand-up.

Let's see how I feel about film after the six I'm seeing in a row tomorrow.

Yikes.

Melbourne Film Festival

Well the Film Festival opened on Wednesday night with the hilarious "black tie" requirements (as always) being almost completely ignored by the Melbourne crowd, especially the people I was there with (who had nailed the "black" part of the dress code but needed some help with the more formal aspect symbolised by the tie).

I very much enjoy an industry event where somehow, despite all the best attempts of the organisers, a bunch of interesting people have managed to lie their way in. In other words, my friends were there, which is brilliant and which means I still haven't quite recovered.

Last night I saw The Hawk is Dying , which stars Paul Giamatti from Sideways , Michelle Williams (Jen from Dawsons Creek ), one or other of the Culkin brothers, and an extremely manhandled hawk. I then saw a Hungarian film called Taxidermia , which was genuinely insane and involved a bloke who stuffs animals, a couple who eat competitively for their country (a brilliant satire on sport actually), a guy who has sex on a dead pig, and rather a lot of projectile vomiting (welcome to the topsy turvy world of MIFF). Then we saw Thank You For Smoking , alongside a short film by the guys who made it, who did a Q&A session afterwards.

My recommendation so far is Thank You For Smoking , with the caveat that it's being released soon anyway so don't waste your MIFF time unless you have too much of it (erhem). But it's very funny and it's well-written, which are two elements I rather enjoy in a film that's supposed to be funny and well-written. The short film they made, In God We Trust , was great fun too - yay for finding people early in their careers!

I've just realised the young soapie drama theme here. So far, Seth from The OC (Thank You For Smoking ) , and Joey and Jen from Dawsons Creek (Katie Holmes, Thank You For Smoking and Michelle Williams, The Hawk Is Dying ) have all been in MIFF films. Perhaps Standing There Productions' next film should have a Neighbours star in it, preferably engaging in recreational drug use or down and dirty sex, or playing someone with "difficulties", to up the street cred. Mental note.

Tonight, Melanie Howlett, Standing There Captain of Industry, is in town to enjoy The Way I Spent The End of The World and the Sarah Silverman docco with me this evening, before an action-packed weekend of too many films and not enough time to do my homework.

Yeep. See you Monday.

Independent Media

How's this for robust media - it's the Prime Minister's birthday! Hurrah! The fourth estate celebrates! This article actually describes, without irony, an alleged "journalist" asking a group of rowers on the Yarra this morning to sing happy birthday to the Prime Minister, John Howard, on his fabulously athletic morning walk. Presumably the footage of the rowers singing will have the jouranlist's solicit edited out of it on the television news, although possibly not - why bother? Nobody really thinks the media has a purpose anymore other than providing a huge stack of paper to wrap around the sodoku on the weekends. (Someone I worked with once asked me: "what do journalists do these days? Isn't it all press releases?")

Indeed.

Mind you, some journos are earning their wage. I have found a cleverer headline for the "Man Wins Bet, Loses Penis" article I drew your attention to previously. Click here to read the same article, this time titled: "Bet Leaves Drunk Man Willy Nilly". As I say, I did used to work in commercial radio and headlines like that maketh the radio show.

Tonight, I'm going to the opening night of the Film Festival. Tomorrow, it begins in earnest. Stay tuned for updates, reviews, complaints about the program guide, and reports on the health and wellbeing of a person who sees five films in a row and then attempts to get up and go to work in the morning.

Most Annoying Day Ever

So how's this:

1. Three grant applications for three separate projects due in the next three weeks
2. One grant application due for Victoria Law Foundation in one week
3. Three weeks worth of film festival films to be watched, starting tomorrow
4. Under half the films actually booked on account of booking system being worst in universe
5. House out the back being sold, so people "inspecting" via side entrance, next to our house
6. Some "interested home buyers" have since broken our fence, stolen housemate's new bike
7. Housemate has flu
8. Housemate possibly not able to claim on expensive insurance policy
9. Freezing cold day
10. Heater suddenly and inexplicably broken
11. Attempts at turning on heater makes whole house smell like fire
12. Landlord coming over
13. Landlord possibly not as keen on weeds in front garden as we are
14. Kim Beazley is the leader of a political party
15. My grandma is in hospital
16. Plays, film scripts, and grant applications do not, apparently, write themselves.

Spewbags, as they say in the classics.

A fair bit to get through

So it's that time of year again. I cannot imagine how I'm going to find time to celebrate my birthday (AUGUST ELEVENTH) what with one thing and seventeen billion others being crammed in between here and December.

First of all, the Melbourne International Film Festival opens on Wednesday and I'm going to the opening night film, and then, every day after that, to between two to five films, in a row, at a time, between Thursday and two days after my birthday (WHICH IS AUGUST ELEVENTH).

Just for practice, I went to the movies on Saturday night, where I found myself at the end of the longest queue I have ever seen at the Nova in Carlton, which I am happy to say was the queue for an Australian film. The film was Jindabyne , which I really enjoyed (I love the Paul Kelly song and I seem to remember studying the short story and not wanting to tear it to shreds, which is high praise of course, and there were some great performances in the film). There's an Aboriginal woman who, just near the end of the film, is quite, quite brilliant. Her use of pockets is lovely.

Er, also, without being at all unprofessional about it, my friend Simon is in this film and he's ace. And if I didn't already think he was ace, I would probably still think he was ace (he does this thing in this scene at the pub which I am going to have to buy the DVD for, just in order to press pause on the exact, teensy, tiny, little moment where he gets it right). Fascinatingly, his birthday is just after my birthday, or just before, I can't remember which, but in any case it somewhere around the vicinity of my birthday (AUGUST ELEVENTH), which of course is also an important reason to go and see Jindabyne.

Anyway, Crime and Punishment is still tormenting me but I am no further into it despite reading it for what feels like nine months. Hopefully I will be finished by my birthday which is on AUGUST ELEVENTH in case there was some lack of clarity surrounding that issue.

So Bleak House (Sunday nights, ABC, after the nature show omigod how cool are Sundays) has been the light house in the dark fog that is Crime and Punishment - goodness the Dickensian intrigue is almost too much to stand! The possibility that everyone is related to everybody else and that fortunes could change in the slip of a gene pool is just tantalising. Makes me think I should have read the book. Oh well. Who has time for that?

... Which is the logic behind the fact that I have also started listening to Mao's Last Dancer as an audio book while I attempt to tidy my bedroom/wake up in the mornings/establish some kind of existence for myself in the pre-coffee hours of the day. So far it's really great, although it's confusing when you watch Bleak House , read Crime and Punishment and listen to Mao's Last Dancer all in the same half a day on the weekend. By the end of it you feel like a Chinese woman with bound feet and a fortune that may or may not be yours who has just murdered someone. Yeesh.

So, August eleven, did we get that down? Birthday songs, poems, odes, and arias will be gratefully received between now and August 12th (although those on August 12th will be accepted with some degree of haughty disdain). iPods will also be accepted, as will apple crumble, frisbees, warm knitted gloves, or brightly coloured wigs.

Also, she doesn't read blogs, but get well Grandma.

Copy from Heaven

Days like this bring out the old me. The one who worked in commercial radio and desperately searched for stories with headlines such as Man Wins Bet, Loses Penis , because everybody knows the Middle East isn't funny, and the only other thing any of the listeners want to talk about is the fact that cars are piled up on the South Eastern and someone just cut them off in the stopping lane.

It's alarming how, two years later, I read a story like that and feel a flood of relief. There's the backbone, right there, of a two hour show. Thank God.

I reckon I could write down a dozen jokes off the back of that faster than I could name the continents.

And can I remember a single thing about Australian Constitutional Law or, say, the key battles in the Second World War that I spent all that time studying at university?

Nooooo.

I'm sure they weren't nearly as highlarious as the above story though. Nor as worthy of airtime.

Tune into FM radio tomorrow. If they're not taking calls on "The Stupidest Thing You've Done For a Bet" and discussing the potential reasons why someone would chop their dick off in a bar: "Further investigations found the man had just been propositioned by (insert unfortunate celebrity here)", I will be extremely disappointed.

The People Next Door

I wonder if the people next door have some kind of surveillance system set up outside my house. It wouldn't be difficult, because the (empty) house next door towers over my living room (which is also my office) and there must be someone there with a camera, or at the very least a pair of binoculars, waiting for me to stop doing the "other" jobs on my list, pour myself a cup of tea, and settle down to write.

That must be what happens. Otherwise, how would they know the exact moment to turn on their noise making machine to the EXTREMELY LOUD setting and then shout over the top of it to each other in angry voices for hours on end about exactly what to do next?

Coldest morning since 2002 or something this morning. They reported in the paper that it was particularly chilly in a place called Coldstream. Well, honestly.

Up to part five of Crime and Punishment . Thought last night that in books such as this one there should be encouragements along the way ("nearly there!" and "the ending is worth it!" etc). Perhaps a graded system ("you are now 80% more likely to say something clever at a dinner party", or "congratulations, you are now 20 pages further into this book than most people").

I am going to be so smug when I finish this book.

Great Social Upheaval

On the days I work from home, I quite often only ever speak to one person for the entire day. Sometimes that person can be the woman calling from India to tell me about the exciting deal I've secured by being randomly selected, sometimes the person can be the girl at the gym who swipes my card and says "locker?". But most days, it's the guy in the cafe on the corner of the street who is also struggling through Crime and Punishment , and who shares my impatience about, well, the length of the damn thing and the fairly consistent conditions of the novel (ie nothing happens - protagonist worries a lot, goes on walks, is antisocial, falls asleep for hours, is Russian and poor, and altogether rather cranky).

Don't get me wrong, I know how important the whole existentialism-before-his-time stuff is, and the fact that Dostoevsky was writing during what my old literature teacher used to call "a period of great social upheaval" *, but Camus managed to write about the existential crisis of a man stuck with the consequences of a crime and he kept it punchy, Fydor.

As any Trivial Pursuit player knows, a quick game's a good game.

Having said that, I love reading a Dickens novel, no matter how long. I wonder if it's different reading Crime and Punishment in Russian. It would probably take me less time to learn Russian than it would to finish the book so perhaps I've gone about this the hard way.

But to take the blame back from one of the most celebrated novelists in the history of the world, and to reclaim the blame a little bit for myself, Coffee Guy and I agreed today that it's probably partly the fact that we're from the instant-information-generation (I could look up Crime and Punishment on Spark Notes or just google it without having to read it). But this is part of my new regime. No starting another book until I've finished this. No skipping pages. No infidelity of any kind to any book. Treat it with respect, and then when you've finished it (much like when you've ended a relationship) you can politely, with measured consideration, trash it over dinner with your close friends.

Still, those other, younger, better-looking books are really tempting me.

* By the way, my (rather amusing) literature teacher also insisted that any era, at whatever point in history, could be described as "a period of great social upheaval". He promised (he was teaching first year literature) that every lecturer we ever had in any humanities subject would begin the opening lecture of the year with the words "You must understand, we're talking about a period of great social upheaval here". For anyone still studying, pop it in an exam. Never lost a customer.

MIFF guide, MIFF website

Last year on all my feedback forms for the Melbourne International Film Festival, I wrote how much I adored the experience, and I also wrote, in huge block letters across the bottom of the form YOUR BOOKING PROCESS IS IMPOSSIBLE AND YOUR PROGRAM IS INFURIATING.

Having spent the last hour (my lunch hour) online, and having spent my Monday lunch hour with two copies of the MIFF guide spread out on the office lunch table, I can honestly say that this booking procedure has become an epic journey akin to the book I'm reading, the aptly titled Crime and Punishment . Many things have happened to me during my journey - I have made friends (very nice girl on the end of the MIFF phone), I've made enemies (Stewart was in the room when I was attempting to book the other day, and I'm not sure we're on speaking terms quite yet) and I've learned many things about the struggle of mankind along the way.

The main thing I've learned? If you're booking tickets for MIFF, I advise you to physically walk into the Forum office, stand in a queue and list the films you want to see, without worrying how you're holding everyone up, and make sure you look over the shoulder of the young funky kid who types them in. I learn this every year, but that doesn't stop me hoping that one day, somewhere, someone will take note of my crooked scrawl on the feedback form: BOOKING TICKETS FOR YOUR FESTIVAL FEELS LIKE PUNISHMENT AND COULD POTENTIALLY INCITE CRIME. MUCH LIKE THE NOVEL CRIME AND PUNISHMENT IN MANY WAYS, ALTHOUGH WITH TRACES OF ROGER HARGRAVES' WORK (MR GRUMPY AND LITTLE MISS FURIOUS COME TO MIND).

I remain hopeful that this feedback will one day change the world. These films had better be good.

Crime and Punishment

So I'm beginning to wish this Raskolnikov bloke had just hung around at home and not been able to find his axe.

Longest book in the world.

Arts Funding

Another story they will probably base a film on here. Actually, a film about being arrested for procrastinating is very firmly in the realm of horror for me. Or biography.

Anyway, Lord it's cold. I'm going to bed to finish this Crime and Punishment caper. Or, you know, to finish the next billion pages and still not be anywhere near the end.

I know he's a genius and all but he would never get funding in this country - I can imagine the notes. "Where's this going exactly? What's the "message"? Describe the "arc". Also, "what's the market, exactly?"

"We suggest you get an editor".

I'm thinking I should move to one of those European countries where they pay you A WAGE to write, no matter what they think of your writing. Sure, I'll have to learn another language and work out how to write eloquently in it, but surely that's the sort of thing you just pick up, right?

Dickens

Okay, so on a scale of one to a billion, how good is this Bleak House business on the ABC on Sunday nights?

Whoever wrote that must know what they're doing.

After watching Planet Earth with David Attenborough and not knowing whether I'm on the side of the snow leopard (who has to eat, you know) or the startled, dancing rock elk with the unwieldy horns and the slippy-slippy down the slope kind of lifestyle, I sit in front of Dickens, riveted and yet slightly distracted by the central question of what the hell is going on?

Unbearably good television. Especially if you like your television to be smarter than you are. Dickens and Sorkin being excellent examples. And, obviously, Everybody Loves Raymond was smarter than I was, because I just did not understand a single thing about that show.

Anyway, so this weekend I did not spend in the usual manner. I did not see a film or a play (not even a terrible one that I can spend the rest of the week complaining about). I read some of Crime and Punishment , but apart from that, I did nothing of interest in a cultural sense whatsoever.

Instead, I cashed in on the fact that Nerissa, one of the many friends of mine who found themselves cast in I Could Be Anybody , works at the Werribee Zoo.

So, in answer to the question "What did you do at work this week?" Nerissa is able to answer:

"I'm designing an enclosure for a critically endangered species of bandicoot".

In response to which I am able to say: "Er. Good. Well... I wrote... well actually... no... I didn't write... I started to write... this thing... for... Never mind. Are there any positions going in, you know, the canteen or something at the zoo at the moment?"

I often find other people's jobs interesting, but this one was an excellent one to be a beneficiary of. We drove around in a Safari jeep and made friends with all sorts of people, including a fairly grumpy hippo whose party trick was to poo through his rotating tail, so as to fan his excrement as far and wide as possible. Territorial, mainly, although arguably quite artistic too.

In conclusion, a hippo pooing through a rotating tail is approximately fifty times more interesting than mainstream theatre in Melbourne, and works on many levels metaphorically, too.

Give them an arts grant. And a festival. Please.

Holidays

I was talking to Tommy today, who is booking a flight overseas.

I'm not sure if I'm imagining things or if there are an awful lot of people going overseas at the moment.

I started wondering where I could go, without destablising myself financially, that would be the perfect holiday.

I was thinking of a place that I'd read about. It was on the tip of my tongue. I knew it - I could picture it - and I knew I'd always wanted to be there. I knew it would make me feel that perfect mixture of cosy and also excited by the endless possibilities presenting themselves.

I got frustrated by not being able to bring it immediately to mind. I thought, "come ON... where am I thinking of?"

I realised as I was getting the lift up to the Victoria Law Foundation that I was in fact thinking of The Faraway Tree.

Bugger. See here for a dry description of a place I briefly suspected I might be able to book a flight to.

Friends

Dear all my friends,

I miss you. I really do. Sometimes, I'll be making myself a procrastinatorial cup of tea and I'll think of something you said once and I'll laugh. Just me and the kettle. Laughing and thinking about the good times.

I haven't spoken to you in ages. I feel bad about that, both because I hope you don't think I don't like you, and also because I would really quite like to be having a fabulous time somewhere in a warm bar with you and your nearest and dearest friends, with a glass of something or a cup of something in my hand.

But I know you will forgive me, because you have forgiven me before. I have done this before. I do this all the time. This is a pattern. An abusive, selfish pattern. I am just like those men who promise their girlfriends they are definitely leaving their wives just as soon as the time is right.

Except that I'm not. I adore my friends. There is no disloyalty here. It's just like Gloria Steinem said, though, "Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don't feel I should be doing something else".

Yes, once again I have used a quote I found on the internet to back up my morally questionable behaviour. But what else do I have? I don't go outside, I don't speak to anyone. My current best friend is the guy at the corner of my street who makes me coffee and asks me where I'm up to in Crime and Punishment (we're having a race).

But, sadly, Gloria Steinem offers me as good an explanation as any. When I try to write something, which I'm trying to do at the moment, I am lost. I am lost to the world of fashion (hence my faux-velvet pants with the fake drawstring and what can only be described as a ladder over the right bum cheek), I am lost to the world of nightlife (movies and books are as exciting as my evenings get) and I am lost to the world of you, my friends.

Probably what I'm writing is terrible. Probably I will emerge around the end of the film festival with a flu and a desperate desire to have a conversation about something other than my work. Probably I will wonder why I disappeared for so long.

You, meanwhile, are (in no particular order) about to have a baby, about to get married, about to go overseas, just back from overseas, overseas, newly single, annoyingly in love, freshly employed, hating work, moving house, starring in a movie, having a sex-toy party, having a birthday party, having a going-away party, moving to New York (smartarse - you'd better send me prizes), and (I can only presume) saving up lots of money for my birthday on August the eleventh.

Just saying.

Love,

Lorin.

MIFF planning

Instead of taking nineteen days off for the Melbourne International Film Festival, I feel I should take around thirty days off, merely in order to understand how to read their programme and book the films in the first place.

Here's what you do: the films are in sections. You read about them in their sections.

Fair enough so far.

BUT... you get to the bottom of the description of the film and you think "That sounds interesting" and you look for more details. BUT NO! The session times are elsewhere. So. You find the session times for the films. You think, "Well I'm free at seven on the Friday. I wonder what that film is about?" You look for the page number of the description of the film. It's on another page. THE PAGE NUMBER IS ON ANOTHER PAGE. In alphabetical order of the names of the films. In impossibly tiny print. It's midnight. You've been looking at this godforsaken thing for the last three hours. You wonder if maybe you shouldn't just get the box set of The West Wing and sit down with that for three weeks. Seriously, I've done law exams that were less stressful.

I've said my piece. Your programme sucks.

Having said that, I am gagging for the festival and am so far seeing the following films (click on the links for info):

Grbavica

The Hawk Is Dying

Thank You For Smoking


Summer 04


The Way I Spent The End Of The World

Taxidermia

Crimson Gold


Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic

A Scanner Darkly


You're Gonna Miss Me

Em 4 Jay (this one is made in Victoria)

That covers the first three days. It took me almost two days to organise. No kidding.

Remind me to get a flu shot.

PS. Apparently it has been established that Popcorn is in fact a food group, which is excellent news and now all I have to do is figure out how to get orange juice or Earl Grey tea on a drip.

MIFF, poverty etc

I just purchased a full pass to the Melbourne International Film Festival. This may well prove to be a very foolish financial decision, in the manner of what my friend Finn calls "gym donations". I have donated to many inner-city gyms, generously bequeathing them money without burdening them with my presence for months at a time.

The MIFF pass entitles me to go to absolutely everything with the exception of the opening and closing night films (pah!) which means that in order to justify it to myself I will pretty much be living in dark cinemas for three weeks. This raises many questions. Is it okay to stop writing films because you're watching them? Is it okay to spend three hundred dollars on a film festival when you refuse to buy dinner in the city because twenty dollars for a pasta is personally insulting? How do you judge a film from a programme guide? Is popcorn a food group?

Some of these questions will be answered, I suppose, and I will be attempting to document the highlights and lowlights here, for my own sanity if nothing else. Last year's MIFF was really fantastic and James Hewison is directing it for the last time this year, which means I'm not taking any chances and waiting until I can afford a pass. I want one now!

Last year, I saw only one film I didn't like. Even that, when I think about it now, was interesting enough for me recall, exactly a year later, almost frame-by frame. There was one that made me want to be sick (physically repuslive. I had to put my hands over my face) but that was actually quite a brilliant bit of cinema so even that I would say was good. And the other ones were all - to varying degrees - brilliant. In fact, in terms of getting an education in film, you couldn't really do much better.

So now the task is to get a whole lot of things done now, before the festival starts. Yikes.

Any recommendations, let me know.

Very Important Cultural Thesis

Reasons why it is okay to love Johnny Depp despite the fact that Pirates of The Carribean II stars Keira Knightley who we cannot abide, and includes a positively archaic "mad, kwazy, unkempt black people" subplot...

1. He makes the wearing of eyeliner and heavy jewellery combined with a lack of personal hygiene a not wholly unattractive thing in a man (apologies to any role-players amongst us).

2. He makes Orlando Bloom look like a chump in a silly shirt.

3. He is responsible for me leaving a film starring Keira Knightley without the temptation to actually write to her agent and complain.

4. He said the following about the making of Charlie the Chocolate Factory : "We had been shooting Charlie for about a month, and I was beginning to get nervous because there weren't any phone calls. I called my agent and asked, Has no one called from the studio to complain or say, 'Hey, what's he doing?' or 'Hey, he's freaking us out?' And when she said no, I thought, 'Christ, I'm not doing enough! Something's wrong!' Then some of the studio brass came over to the set, and they were sitting in my trailer and I was all decked out as Wonka with the little bangs. And I just had to know. So I said, 'Okay, who was the first one, when you started seeing the dailies, that got a little worried?' And there was this beautiful 30-second silence. And [Warner Bros. president] Alan Horn finally said, 'Yeah, that was me.' I felt better instantly.

5. He also said: "America is dumb. It's like a dumb puppy that has big teeth that can bite and hurt you, aggressive. My daughter is four, my boy is one. I'd like them to see America as a toy, a broken toy. Investigate it a little, check it out, get this feeling and then get out." ... And he then managed to clarify this position without unsaying any of it.

6. His "I am escaping from hoards of people who are trying to kill me" run. Hilarious. On par with scenes of Jacques Tati sprinting after his bicycle in the French countryside in every movie he ever made.

7. From my reliable source (the internet) I have gleaned the following: he wanted some of his teeth to be gold-capped for Pirates of the Caribbean but knew that the directors would never agree, so he went out and got lots more than he wanted capped. He then showed the directors, and they decided to make him give up a few, so he got some taken off.

8. He has a fan website called "deppimpact". Quality.

That will do. Lots of work to do today and that doesn't even include picking which films I'm seeing at the Film Festival. Guide to Melbourne International Film Festival out today by the way. Mind boggling.

The joys of Telstra

Telstra, the formerly State-run but increasingly privatised satire on bureaucracy in the form of a telecommunications company, received a phone call from me yesterday.

Me: Hello, I'd like to know what to do about a bill I keep getting sent by you.
Telstra: And what is your account number please?
Me: I don't have an account with you.
Telstra: *confused silence*
Me: I used to, but I don't anymore. I still get a monthly bill for the same amount each time. Even though I closed my account with you a year ago, for reasons that might become obvious.
Telstra: Okaaaay.
Me: The bill is for sixty-seven cents.
Telstra: I beg your pardon?
Me: The bill is for sixty-seven cents. But the bill says "do not pay this until your next bill". I have never received a subsequent bill, obviously, since I do not have an account with you . I'd hazard a guess that the costs of printing and postage, and of hiring of the staff to do the mail-out from (I see here on the envelope) Brisbane has probably cost more than sixty-seven cents. But I can't verify that. That's a guess.
Telstra: I'll just go and get rid of that amount.
*Pretty hold music*
Telstra: Hello, yes I've wiped that amount from your account. That was an account transfer fee that was charged to your account after you closed the account.
Me: Of course it was.
Telstra: Is there anything else I can help you with today?
Me: No, I would rather if you didn't. Thanks all the same.

I hoped that one was "recorded for quality and training purposes". And I hope the Telstra employees who listen to it have read Kafka.

In other news, this story really does beg to have a short film made about it. Although possibly no one would believe a word of it. How INSANE. I know this is probably insensitive, since no one would want to have a severe stroke and then feel the way this woman says she feels, but I must say that if you wanted to chuck a sicky, claiming to have Foreign Accent Syndrome would be one of the more entertaining ways of getting your sick leave entitlements (presuming you have any after the IR laws). Calling in sick in a Jamaican accent one day, a French accent the next... Want to give it a go? Study up here and here.

Lastly, a con woman, disguised (here) as the sort of person you see on Contiki tours in Europe, has been captured in Sydney this morning. Apparently she had people convinced she was a whole lot of people she wasn't. I have an idea: pop her on an Australian TV show. Wouldn't that be a refreshing change?

In other news, I'm seeing Pirates of the Johnny Depps tonight. For cultural reasons, you understand. Oh yes.

Big Brother, Russians, Writing, Weddings

I didn't write anything here yesterday because I was trying to capitalise on the sudden inspiration I had for writing the next Standing There Productions script.

I proved yet again for myself, in other words, that William Faulkner was right when he said, "The work never matches the dream of perfection the artist has to start with". So true, Willie, so true. See, last night, I was robbed. During the night someone broke into my house and changed yesterday's brilliant writing into turgid, repetitive, pointless tripe. It was such a mess when I got in here this morning. They totally trashed the place. I hate it when those guys break in. It's happened before. You feel so... violated.

Anyway, while I was looking up the Faulkner quote, which I had of course remembered incorrectly, I found the following quote: "I never want to see anyone, and I never want to go anywhere or do anything. I just want to write." - P. G. Wodehouse.

That depresses me, because it's kind of true. And it's kind of not. The idea of a writer as an obsessive is, I hope, an overly-romanticised "mad artist" stereotype. But there is some truth to the fact that sometimes, even if you're going to a very close friend's wedding or something... you look up at the time and you realise it's half an hour before you're supposed to be there and you're still in your pyjamas but you're seriously getting somewhere with this script - you've rediscovered what it should actually be about - and suddenly it really weighs on you that you have to go to this DUMB WEDDING of your DUMB FRIEND (who is among your favourite people in the world the rest of the time but who now symbolises a selfish and demanding distraction). You're furious. You're late. You throw down your pen and swear at the computer when it takes too long to shut down. You can't find your shoes. You wonder why shoes were even invented. What is the point of shoes? Cavemen didn't need them, and now we have footpaths and everything so why are people so silly? Why do I have to stop writing just so I can go to see a ceremony celebrating some weird social union of two people who live together anyway, with two high-heeled leather bits strapped to the soles of my feet? It's just so bizarre.

The world turns really nasty for that small interval between enjoying writing and being sociable. I always have fun when I get to these things, and more often than not I am late to or absent from things I regret not attending. But it's a battle between the part of me that wants a social life and adores the people in my life and the part of me that wants to be locked in a quiet room with an endless supply of tea and recycled paper and maybe ocassionally a newspaper.

By the way, in case you're trying to find significance that isn't there, the above is a hypothetical situation. I have been to three weddings, and none of them has engendered in me the response described above, which is why I used that example. So shut up please.

In other news, I'm up to part two of Crime and Punishment , which really is somewhat of a corker. Dostoevsky apparently wrote quickly and obsessively but perhaps not just in a fervour of creativity. He was a serious gambler, which adds another urgency when you're writing for money (I imagine).

In fact, I would like to nominate Dostoevsky as the perfect contestant to spice up a reality TV show like Big Brother. Most banal TV show in the world, present sexual assault aside, but if you put someone on it whose father was apparently killed by his own servants, whose membership of the socialist party resulted in him being sentenced to death but then they said "Ha! Tricked you!" after the "mock execution" and shipped him off to do hard labour for four years in Siberia... I bet Channel Ten would get better ratings. He had an affair with his dead friend's wife and then married her, everyone in his life died at once leaving him with their debts and he was addicted to gambling and kind of a bit loony and Russian and cold and depressed. Perfect!

Put him in the Big Brother House. Go on. Maybe him with that pope who turned out to be a woman. Oh. Just looked that up on the internet and apparently that's very possibly not true. Bummer. It worked so well in Caryl Churchill's Top Girls. And it would make for much better television than, you know, drunken fratboy sexual assault.

Politics, Art, Religion, DVD menus

I've been writing, which means everything else in my life is in disarray.

I did manage to get to the theatre on the weekend to see a play that reminded me why I never go and see mainstream theatre. Thirtysomething dollars to see a tortured metaphor and some heavy symbolism flogged to death on a very expensive and very contrived set. I don't like saying bad things about theatre, but my Lordy, that show I saw at Black Lung for ten bucks a few months back (which is what inspired me to get out more to see shows) really was the best theatre I've seen in ages. They have a new show on at the moment. Check it out here. Miles more interesting than anything you'll be overcharged for in the CBD.

Anyway then I checked out an exhibition at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, which I couldn't hear any of because the acoustics were so bad. Seriously. You can stand as close as like to the little TV screens and all you hear is screaming and wailing from the other room. So you think, "I might go into the other room", and you go into the other room and all you hear is talking and shouting from the exhibition you just came from because you couldn't hear it. Generally, though, it looked like it was probably quite good. I like the more political art that's out there at the moment. It's a good sign. Or, well, it's a sign. What it means for the future of the depressing things it's critiquing, I'm not sure. But at least someone is noticing.

Speaking of depressing things and critiquing, I'm also five chapters into Crime and Punishment , which is like saying you're a hundred metres into a marathon, but I'm enjoying it very much. Which is a good thing because I also purchased another book on the weekend. John Banville's The Sea , which he read from at the Sydney Writers' Festival and which was lovely, or maybe his accent was lovely and he was reading Spot Goes To School , I probably wouldn't have noticed. The task is not to start it before I finish the Russian. Yeesh.

And last night I saw the film version of Everything is Illuminated , by Jonathan Safran Foer, one of my faves. I enjoyed the film, actually, more than I thought I would. It must be hard to make a film from such a beatifully constructed first person narrative that relies so heavily on the voice of the person - or people - telling the story. If you get it on DVD, check out the deleted scenes. Sometimes I think the DVD menu should divide the deleted scenes into "DELETED FOR A REASON" and "OUT FOR REASONS OF LENGTH, DEBATE WITH PRODUCERS, RESULT OF AUDIENCE POLLS ETC". Most of the deleted scenes on DVDs would fall squarely into the first of these categories. I would go so far as to say that most of them would fall into the WHAT WERE WE THINKING menu as well, but that's unfair. I'm being a bit unfair today.

Perhaps this is why. On my way to gym this morning, a sign on the side of a Church. You know those ones with the messages? The well-considered, often topical, questions of faith they put up outside Churches?

Go past the one in North Fitzroy and witness the following blunt threat:

GOD EXISTS. OTHERWISE EXISTENCE IS MEANINGLESS.

Er... okay.