Thursday, October 30, 2008

good food and fairytales

A table of Librans met at the Thai Tulips last night for bookclub. The film (as we alternate between books and films) was Edward Scissorhands, directed by Tim Burton and starring everybody's favourite Johnny Depp.

Firstly, the ordering took some time. The aforementioned Librans all have difficulty weighing up their decisions. If you're a Libran like me you have the same thing every time to avoid the lengthy balancing act (beef massaman). Anne H ended up with a favourite too - tofu and vegetables with peanut sauce. Meanwhile Anne M and Jinx deliberated for far longer and changed their minds about four of five times before arriving at the final decision (Anne M - same as me, Jinx - Pork with Basil). I made a hilarious joke. The menu is so extensive perhaps it should have been our book under review.

Yes, I'm sure you're all laughing lots at that.

We saved the actual film discussion until the food arrived. So prior to that the chit chat was wide and varied including what the first mini-series on television was. (Note to self to look this up but the consensus at the table was that it was most likely Roots. If anyone actually knows please do let me know). Also we discussed the economic downturn and our blissful ignorance of all things high finance. As I commented, the evening before I watched the finance report on the ABC News and while it surely makes sense to some people I only recognised words like "yen" and "dollar" and even then don't really understand how they relate to each other. And finally, we discussed Deal or No Deal. Jinx was highly amused that Anne M and I had only a passing comprehension of the show works. I was the most ignorant by far having never grasped probability in high school. Anne M has recently had a crash course in Deal or No Deal having spent some time visiting her mother who watches it every evening. Anne H was excused from this conversation as, lucky for her, her awareness of Deal or no Deal is zero.

Finally, the main courses arrived. If this were a restaurant review I would say the service was a little on the slow side, but I shall refrain.

And so we started on the film. Commendably, Jinx had done some wikipedia research. We learned a little about Tim Burton and his long term collaraboration with Depp that started with this film, together with his ongoing collaboration with composer Danny Elfman who wrote the music for this and many others of his films. We also gossiped a little bit about "where the heck is Winona Ryder now?", how much we hated Reality Bites (well that was just me actually, being the only person at the table who had seen it), and the unorthodox living arrangements between Burton and partner Helena Bonham Carter.

We all agreed the visual design of the film was marvellous. The claustrophobic pastels of surburbia contrasted beautifully with the dark and mysterious world of Edward, the inventor and their castle. The gardens were so brightly coloured and beautiful there. And the ice sculptures were dazzling and inventive. We admired Dianne Wiest's sympathetic and caring portrayal of the Avon lady who takes Edward under her wing. She is such a star. And the varying portrayals of masculinity - Alan Arkin as the mildly, ineffective patriarch, Edward as the sensitive, misfit creative artist, and Winona's boyfriend as the brainless jock - all combined to provide an interesting take on the images of males in American culture. As I had watched the film this time I couldn't help but wonder at resonances between the character of Edward and Burton himself. It was interesting to read then, that this was in fact the case as Burton drew on his own experiences of growing up in America to influence his story.

Of course we all agreed that Johnny Depp is fantastic. Hard to believe that initially Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks and Robert Downey Jnr had been considered for the role as the studio wanted a "name". Out of the three of them only Downey Jny might have had a hope of getting the character right. Tom Cruise - puh-leeze! Apparently Burton chose Depp because of his ability to act only with his eyes, which are so striking. With such sparse dialogue it is vital that Edward communicates visually and physically and Depp does this with skill. And how delightful that Burton was able to use his boyhood hero Vincent Price as the inventor. And we talked a little bit about Frankenstein, as this mythology clearly underpins the story of the ethics and problems involved in the creation and manipulation of humanity. There can be no happy ending here. And although, as Jinx informed us Siskel and Ebert disliked the ending when they first reviewed it, I can't imagine it ending any other way.

It was an evening of lively conversation, good food, fables and fairy tales.

please don't go Doctor

This is not good.

But the bigger question is who will they get to replace him?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

we'll hitch-hike, bus or yellow cab it

Now I'm really indulging myself. But hey, it is my blog after all.

Enjoy these wonderful muppet memories. The fork in the road joke still makes me smile.

(I'm also pretty chuffed that I worked out to read the blogger help to embed a video!)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

"I love my shirt"

Now I have to admit that I was only half listening to the television, because I was starting dinner at the same time, but this evening on Extra (channel nine) there was a story about mothers using classical music, specifically opera on their unsuspecting small children. Presumably, this is a bid to increase their intelligence. The mothers interviewed were praising the cds etc telling us how much their children enjoyed them etc. I'm sure there's lots of research that tells us classical music is good for babies and small children. Mozart is good for concentration blah blah blah. But in my humble opinion it's a variety of musical genres and styles that children should be exposed to. It does them no harm at all.

Witness the music that shaped my childhood:

  • Hooked on classics....various albums where medleys of well-known classics were strung together with a drum beat. I learned to recognise most classical standards from these records and it was of great benefit at uni in music history class.
  • Donovan - in particular the classic hippie folk song "I Love my shirt" and also "Happiness Runs". If you've never heard them you need to. I'm thinking my parents listened their double album A LOT because I'm singing them now in my head.
  • John Denver - Greatest Hits cassette which ran on permanent play in the family car ( a yellow Datsun 200B by the way). Leaving on a Jet Plane is permanently associated in my memory with trips from Bundaberg to Brisbane in the heat of summer (with no airconditioning) to see my Grandparents for Christmas.
  • Neil Diamond - Hot August Night (same as for John Denver)
  • Godspell Soundtrack - (same as for John Denver and Neil Diamond)
  • The Muppet Movie soundtrack - I don't care what anyone says these are fantastic songs. Particular favourites the Rainbow connection and Movin' right along.

What do all these albums and artists have in common? Well it's the basics really...melody, rhythm, lyricism. In other words, they belong to the big wide world of music in just the same way that opera does. For me, a devotion to classical music came later through my own experience of playing it. What's the moral of the story? I'm not sure...but I'm off to you tube now to look up those Muppet movie songs.

Monday, October 27, 2008


After following the link to this from Catriona's post I have now spent a good hour or so at work browsing through the other punctuation blogs. Is this the most productive use of my time? Well, arguably not I suppose. But, I do teach writing and literacy in some form so it could also be argued that such blogging around is absolutely ESSENTIAL to my working day.

My favourite is the one on apostrophes because we have had an email apostrophe incident already today at work which really bugged me. But what I really need is a blog on the semicolon. However, I don't think I'm the one to write it as they are my absolute punctuation downfall. I mean could there have been one between those previous two sentences? I'm never sure......If in doubt, leave it out.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

sleep-inducing television

This afternoon I fell asleep on the lounge while watching (although I use this word with some hesitation) Dana Carvey in Master of Disguise. All I could gather was that Carvey does a lot of voices and disguises (duh!)- in a kind of "I'll show you Mike Myers Mr Austin Powers who can do the best accents" way. So that was one sleep-inducing television moment. By the time I woke up there was some kind of rugby league blaring through the lounge room. So I had a little waking up doze on and off for about half an hour while the commentators babbled at each other. Then the my new neighbour (who seems to have a shed that is very full of power tools) put away his whipper snipper that had been going for an hour and a half and started up his ride on mower. That was the end of any afternoon sleeping, dozing or otherwise. The lesson is you can sleep through bad comedy and boring football but things with engines and blades that run on fuel will always win out.

on reading

'The Well of Lost Plots is where we interface the writer's imagination with the characters and plots so that it will make sense in the reader's mind. After all, reading is arguably a far more creative and imaginative process than writing; when the reader creates emotion in their head, or the colours of the sky during setting sun, or the smell of a warm summer's breeze on their face, they should reserve as much praise for themselves as they do for the writer - perhaps more.'

The Well of Lost Plots, Jasper Fforde, 2003, p. 50.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

"guys with cats...I don't know": Seinfeld Series 1, Episode 5

The Stock Tip is the finale (or perhaps that's too grand a term) for Series 1. Once again you can feel David and Seinfeld finding their comedy writing feet. And once again there are a number of foreshadowing topics and characterisations for future series, including George's homophobia, Jerry's Superman obsession, Kramer's crazy money-making schemes and Elaine's bad luck with pets. There's also a lot more of the "show about nothing" incidental discussions and conversations in this episode - including Jerry's argument with a drycleaner, Elaine's allergies to her boyfriend's cats, and her tale of dropping a grape on the floor. The two central storylines are George's stock tip that he convinces Jerry to buy into, and Jerry's weekend trip away with Vanessa (the girl from The Stake-Out).

After a detailed conversation between Jerry and George in the diner as to whether Superman would have a "super" sense of humour, Elaine appears in a surprising fringed jacket (clearly they hadn't decided on her "look" as yet) to discuss her boyfriend's cats. It's much more in character in the next few series where she does the jackets/brooches, skirts and shoes and socks. George, "guys with cats...I don't know" signals his suspicious attitude towards males who break his idea of the "normal". (This is nicely reinforced in the first episode of Series 2 whereupon George insists that Elaine sits between Jerry and himself in the car because: "It doesn't look good....guy, guy, girl). Here in the diner Jerry also raises his idea of taking Vanessa away for the weekend. George pooh-poohs this too: "It's a dating decathlon".

A little chit-chat between Jerry and Vanessa in the grocery store where he persuades to come on the trip to Vermont because it will be great for the relationship, like "6 months of dating in 3 days". you really think that's a good idea Jerry?

George has convinced Jerry to buy into the stock. In the apartment Kramer takes great delight in informing Jerry that the stock has slid again. He also informs us of his latest scheme - a "roll-out tie dispenser". Details are hazy but it seems that it's something men wear and then if their tie gets food on it that can rip it off and roll out another one without going home. Hmmmm...the make your own pizza pie was better...I can see why we didn't hear of the tie dispenser in future episodes.

An incidental scene in the drycleaners (where Jerry succeeds in getting the drycleaner to admit responsibility for his shrunken shirt) and then back to the apartment where Elaine is still sneezing with her cat allergy, wondering what it would take to "hire a hitman to take out a couple of cats". (Sadly, Newman has not yet appeared to save the day as he does when in a later episode Elaine is tormented by a dog.)

Once again Kramer is gleeful that the stock is down. George has been to see the company owner at the hospital to try and find out what is happening with the stock. He gets nowhere but we get to see dejected, loser George (he who will delight us in so many future episodes).

Then the Vermont weekend in the lounge of the B and B. Needless to say things go badly...conversation between Jerry and Vanessa is stilted and boring about sneakers and perfume. Did anyone say "bad idea"?

Jerry gets out of the stock, but George hangs in and it goes up. The final scene with George cigar in hand at the diner treating Jerry and Elaine to dinner, gloating and triumphant is delightful. Elaine lost her was the cats or her and he chose the cats. And when George tips the waitress and then has second thoughts and takes back one of the bills....his meanness which we grow to love is on display for all to see.


Here is the profusely flowering bottlebrush in my front yard. When I arrived at this house nearly three years ago someone had cut it off right down to the stump. Why? I don't know. There was another one right next to it but it failed to revive. Since then though this one has defied the odds to grow six foot tall and this year is the best display yet.
What's really amazing is that only half the flowers are out so far. The birds love it. As do the bees. So they'll be feasting for some weeks to come!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Wendy's Week of TV: Part 15

Sunday: Who do you think you are?

Barbara Windsor (she of the Carry On films) was the subject this evening. Her family history rooted in the East End of London was interesting but what was more fascinating was THAT HAIR. Many peroxided animals and/or birds may have been harmed in the construction of her "do" each morning I think. It continually upstaged her for the entire hour.

Sunday: First Australians

This was the first episode I had watched of this sombre yet enlightening series. Watch it if you can.

Tuesday: Hamish Macbeth

For me this is one of the more memorable episodes of Hamish as it introduces the supernatural element very strongly, as well as showing the sad death of Wee Jock. How nice it is to see a male character mourning the death of his doggy best friend. The intertwining stories of the prisoners on the run, the dead boy and his auntie and wee jock came together very neatly at the end. And how cute was that new puppy?!

Wednesday: Time Team

You know for big Time Team fans you can now catch this program twice a week - Tuesday evenings at 6pm and then Wednesdays on ABC2 at 5:30pm. This time the gang were in search of Bronze Age burials near Fife (I think - although maybe confusing Tuesday and Wednesday episodes in terms of location and historical epoch). You really would have to like dirt of all colour and consistences to be an archaeologist. Most stressful job on site must be the man in the bobcat who has to lift the aged stones of the graves so they don't break and fall back into the graves ruining the artefacts within.

Thursday: The Prime Minister is Missing

Harold Holt's is a fascinating story from Australian political history but in this televisual form after the first twenty minutes when we established that Holt had vanished into the sea never to return, the momentum slowed considerably. I had little trouble walking away before it finished.

Friday: Queen for a Day

Apparently every little girl in Grafton dreams of being the Jacaranda Queen. In fact, apparently little girls everywhere dream of being princesses and queens. I can't remember this myself from my own childhood but maybe it's true. Nonetheless, despite the gender stereotyping and generalisations this was a fascinating documentary about Grafton's Jacaranda festival (in spite of the mildly morbid soundtrack). Good old fashioned non-metropolitan fun is had by all for the duration. The feat of any regional town continuing the same festival for over seventy years is impressive. And those jacarandas certainly are stunning trees.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

All this and chocolate tart to finish

Jinx and I were treated to a lovely lunch by Sue today. How civilised to leave work and have a home cooked meal that didn't involve crowding into a noisy restaurant. Not that I've got anything against noisy restaurants. I like them and frequent them often. But sometimes it's pleasant to have a relaxing change.

Anyway, the fried polenta cakes with corn and capsicum salsa, followed by chocolate tart were delightful. Sue also showed off her prowess with her impressive new coffee machine (although I stuck to the new no caffeine rule and had jasmine tea). It had a lovely coffee aroma and the milk frothing was expertly handled. Jinx and I were like two small children when having polished off our polenta Sue asked if we wanted chocolate tart.

"Yes Please!


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

"I cannot overstate soft cheeses of any kind": Seinfeld Series 1, Episode 4

Here we are with The Robbery. Jerry is certainly wearing an awfully dated black and white patterny tie for the opening monologue.

First to the apartment with Jerry packing for a trip and readying Elaine to take on the responsibility of house sitting. Best of all his instructions, rules for the refrigerator where apart from no meat and dairy, there should be "no soft cheeses of any kind". Lovely detail. George arrives for the airport run...perhaps this is the first of the "ride to the airport" minor storylines which occur throughout the series. It's also the first mention of Elaine's bad room-mate who we meet in future episodes - "the waitress-actress". And the apartment-swapping conceit emerges...George apparently has a great two bedroom that would be just right for Jerry and Elaine could move into Jerry's old apartment thereby escaping her awful room-mate. This foreshadows a later episode where Elaine tries to get an apartment in the building.

Jerry returns from his trip, wanders in to turn on the TV and TV. Elaine emerges from the bathroom in bare feet with a huge plunger (which wonderfully is not mentioned at all) to reveal that he's been robbed "someone...left the door open". Cue Kramer who now appears to be building the timelessness (or rather the "out of timeness") of his character with the vintage style shirts. Caught up watching The Bold and the Beautiful he inadvertently left Jerry's door open. His excuse:

Kramer: "I'm human"
Jerry: "In your way".


Some standup on the ineptitude of police procedure and the uselessness of "calling the police".

Jerry decides to consider moving. With George and Elaine he inspects the new apartment, the main attractions of which are a fireplace, walk-in closet, its proximity to the park and its courtyard where Jerry can barbeque. Needless to say, although Jerry initially decides to take it, a jealous coin toss between Jerry and George (who also likes the apartment) prevents either of them getting it. (The coin hits the table... "Interference!").

In the diner, George is wearing a white cricket style jumper which seems a little strange. (although I guess it might be a baseball sweater?). Still arguing over the apartment, the waitress overhears them and she ends up taking it. Nicely she invites them to the housewarming where they're kicking themselves for letting it go.

I'm not sure why this episode isn't called The Apartment. But it sure does introduce some of the New York specific themes - of rent, good vs bad apartments, the park - that continue to be followed through so many of the later episodes. It also has one of the very early trademark George snorts, as well as one of Kramer's sliding entrances through Jerry's doorway.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

How to manage your PMS

I am all performance review managed out.

Here's some words and phrases that were repeated often during yesterday's workshops:

management (as in change, risk, merger, performance review)
KRAs - Key Result Areas
KPIs - Key Performance Indicators
SWOT analysis
PMS - not what you think but rather generic acronym for a Performance Management System
Vision Statement
Mission Statement
Values Statement
Line managers

Words that were not mentioned except by me in my day dreaming:
Superfluous Industry
Management speak has infiltrated every industry and sector
HR Jargon is mystifying because it doesn't actually mean anything
This is all very well in theory but will have trouble working in practice because no institution can fulfil the ideal that that theory requires to be able to work.
Is the contemporary theory of management of people and institutions actually a modern form of myth making so people in charge can sleep well at night safe in the knowledge that they are pretending that everything is working beautifully.

This last comment came late in my workshop induced stupor and perhaps may be considered by some a little cynical.

To be fair there were some interesting points about communicating in the workplace but again it requires enlightened, emotionally intelligent (another oft-repeated phrase) managers and supervisors for this to actually work in reality. I am lucky that I have one so I don't have any issues with taking part in the review process. In my area it's extremely low key because we all chat almost daily about how things are progressing. From the talk in the room though not all my colleagues are quite so fortunate.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Old favourites...

A rather poor excuse for a post...more like a list really...but look what I found on youtube today.

Don't Let's Start - Early days of mechanical dancing

Birdhouse in your Soul - Full blown chorus of extras, masks, bicycles and lots of nightlights.

Ana Ng - "I don't want the world...I just want your half". With an industrial strength riff.

Purple Toupee - If you can make a piano accordion rock like this you're alright by me.

The Mesopotamians - This is a new favourite actually. "Sargon, Hammurabi, Ashurbanipal and Gilgamesh"....What sort of crazed chorus is this?

And there's plenty more where that came from...

Wendy's Week of TV Part 14

Sunday: Who Do you think you are? (David Tennant)

I found out more about the history of Northern Ireland in this program than I have in the whole of my life to this point. It always amazes me how little people sometimes know about their family history.

Tuesday: Two in the Top End

The environmental message is hammered home relentlessly here. More delightful are the chats between Tim Flannery and John Doyle. It is a little disconcerting to realise that John Doyle actually sounds like Rampaging Roy Slaven in his ordinary life. Great interview with him on Sunday Arts also where he told a gleeful tale about the PM's double booking for his own literary awards. The man is a gem (Doyle I mean).

Tuesday: Hamish Macbeth

This was a rather odd episode. I also found it very strange that while I know I have watched this series a number of times I had no memory of this one. The village is putting on a production of West Side Story. Tony and Maria are being played by real star crossed lovers from different sides of the tracks. Interspersed with some singing and dancing is a visit to 60s guru Zoot (who I'm pleased to say does make later appearances) and a fundamentalist bank manager. For me the best thing was hearing The Rory Campbell trio (Rory on fiddle, Esme on piano and TV John on piano accordion) play the score of West Side Story during the village hall rehearsal scenes. It was actually very beautiful, yet bizarre.

Wednesday: Spicks and Specks

Amanda Keller is one of my least favourite television panel guests. You can see her trying extremely hard to deliver her "lines" I always think. And as my very astute mother remarked early on in this episode, "I'm not watching people being funny, I'm watching people being crude". There is a difference people - although it could always just be a matter of taste. Frankie J Holden was in on the act as well. Yes, they certainly didn't cover themselves with muso-comic glory this evening. Luckily there's always next week.

Friday: The Collectors

This is gentle television and a pleasant enough way to while away half an hour. But if you miss it from week to week you don't really care. The guy who collected electric fans was wonderfully knowledgeable about his admitted obsession. Who knew there were so many different kinds of fans? Many of them were just so beautiful...quite unlike the rusty, lint covered things we end up with today.

Looking back it's been an ABC/SBS kind of week of television viewing. Should I have been watching more commercial stuff?

Friday, October 17, 2008

oh the inanity

On Monday I am supposed to be attending a "mandatory" set of workshops on my institution's performance management process. It runs from 8:30 until 4:45. If this wasn't intrusive enough on printing out the workshop notes just now I was not highly encouraged by the opening slide:
"Performance Management is managing the performance of the organisation"
I am not keen to read further but think I will have to - just so the inanity of it doesn't catch me by surprise on Monday.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

better or worse?

After much fiddling about and procastinating the We Can Be Heroes paper has finally been sent back to the editors. One thing I didn't learn in phd school was how long and drawn out these publication processes can be. This one has been going on for 12 months now of back and forth (and perhaps that's a short one!) I am heartily sick of reading my writing but suspect this won't be the last time. That's okay - I am making it better in the refining of certain ideas and discussion, but I think there are only so many changes you make to any paper before you actually start making it worse. Let's hope I'm not at that point yet. Here's the abstract as it now stands for anyone who may be interested:

Televisual control: The resistance of the mockumentary
This paper argues that television articulates an operation of power that can be usefully conceptualised through the Deleuzian notion of control. Drawing on the writings of Gilles Deleuze and other French philosophers, the paper examines television's cultural and technological force through the notion of control with specific reference to the television mockumentary. Through a discussion of the Australian mockumentary We Can Be Heroes (2005, Chris Lilley) the paper also outlines the capacity of television to offer opportunities of resistance to its operations of control. Beginning with Deleuze's position on the role fo television (1995a, 1995b, 1995c), this paper proposes that televisual control holds the potential for a mode of "inhabited resistance". Exploring the mockumentary television mode and its theorisation develops the concept of inhabited resistance to describe a complicit, pragmatic and creative formation of resistance. This type of resistance works from within the televisual operations of control. Generated from control and unable to escape it, the relation of control and inhabited resistance assists in describing the formation and practice of the television mockumentary as an idiosyncratic and specifically televisual form.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


ok....this is a little bit exciting.

"A wedding...there's a lot of people to mock": Seinfeld Series 1, Episode 3

Episode 3 in Series 1 (The Stake-out) sees the introduction of further key characters and a few recurring jokes. Following the opening standup where Jerry wears a particularly ill-fitting suitcoat and tie, we meet Elaine and Jerry in the video shop. While incidentally discussing pornography, they strike a deal. Jerry will go with Elaine to a friend's birthday if she will go with him to a family wedding. She's won over with the encouraging proviso, "There's a lot of people to mock". That is a good reason to go to a family wedding.

The birthday party is notable mainly for the fact that Elaine has her hair up - a very unusual look for these early series, as well for her attention seeking conversation about her dream where Jerry had wooden teeth. Needless to say this ruins Jerry's moment with the woman, Vanessa, across the table.

Then a great scene in Jerry's apartment introducing his parents for the first time. His mother's character was so beautifully realised by Liz Sheridan right from this first appearance. However, this is the one scene in the whole of the nine series where his father isn't played by Barney Martin. Nevertheless, the writers clearly have an ear for writing parents, and his father's crazy scheme that Jerry should stake-out the lobby of the building where the birthday party woman works is a delight. The only other strange thing about these scene apart from the one-off Dad, is that Jerry's kitchen cupboards appear to be black.

Some more show-about-nothing dialogue between George and Jerry takes place while they loiter round the lobby on their stake-out. George's "cover" to say he is in fact an architect is introduced for the first time (to make an impression in a later episode where he takes credit for the extension to the Guggenheim while trying to charm a date). But most wonderful is the introduction of the fake name "Art Van Der Lay" - the importer/exporter. This fabulous name returns as comic gold as the program progresses. Stay tuned.

Back at the apartment Jerry plays with scrabble with his mother and they have an argument over the Kramer-inspired word "quone". And then, the following scene at Jerry's apartment we meet some of his relatives (who we never see again) including an Uncle Mac who is writing a book. The later Uncle Leo may well have been inspired by this early character. The plot loosely resolves itself as Elaine and Jerry agree that they can talk to each other about other people and Jerry does some standup on the difficulties of men and women becoming friends following a relationship.

Art van der Lay....I love it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I'll go if I don't have to talk: Seinfeld Series 1: Episode 2

So the first "real" episode("Male-Unbonding") of Seinfeld Series 1 following the largely recognisable as "Seinfeld" with the opening credits now playing over the opening standup and Julia Louis-Dreyfus added to the regular cast (although only one main scene in this episode).

The apartment exterior is now the well-recognised location scene of the nine series. Jerry and George's opening conversation in the lift is classic "show about nothing" dialogue. George laments how he told a girl he liked her to cover his embarrassment at diving in his pocket for something and coming out with some used dental floss. What's funny about this scene is George's wearing of a bum bag is left without comment until the final moments of the conversation. We all know it looks ridiculous, but Jerry saves the best for last observing that George appears as if his "belt is digesting a small animal".

The second scene in the apartment is classic early Seinfeld as well. Kramer is making himself right at home on Jerry's couch and chatting on his phone. It's for Jerry...his old childhood ping-pong buddy Joel who wants to get together. And here David and Seinfeld neatly introduce the central plot of the to break up with a friend you no longer have anything in common with. A familiar social dilemma which Jerry follows through with in the stand up.

Then in the diner (the real diner!) Jerry endures a boring lunch with Joel. While Joel interrogates the waitress as to their type of turkey Jerry amuses himself with outlandish conversation pieces that Joel completely misses. "I'm thinking about going to's the annual terrorists' luncheon". Amazing how this episode from the late 90s is still topical today in so many ways. Anyway, needless to say Jerry's attempt to "break -up" with Joel fails dismally, with Joel in tears and Jerry feeling bad and then asking him to a basketball game. It's quite the scene with Jerry trotting out the "It's not you, it's me" line.

Jerry and George then appear in the of the few scenes in such a location (although the bank does feature in the later series when Jerry's Nana has to go to Chemical Bank when Jerry cashes years of her birthday cheques and they bounce). George is waiting patiently to cash in his big jar of change. Some nice exchanges here which set up George's cheapness, a character flaw which is mercilessly exploited in many future storylines.

Back in Jerry's apartment then with George rolling his own change after the bank refuse to count it for him. And joy of joys, Kramer's first crazy scheme (which recurs later in the Poppy/restaurant episodes) idea for a restaurant where customers make their own pizza pie. The phone rings and Jerry tells a lie to get out of going to the game with Joel...."he has to tutor his nephew".

Cut to Elaine and Jerry now in the apartment. Delightfully she mocks Jerry who is writing a list of possible excuses he can use next time Joel rings. And here again they capture the tone of Elaine as a character very neatly with her noticeable attitude to going out with Jerry to a cappucino bar

Elaine: "What are we going to do",

Jerry: "We could talk",

Elaine: "I'll go if I don't have to talk".

And so it goes on. Lovely.

Suddenly Joel and Kramer appear at the door. Joel took Kramer to the game in Jerry's place. The list of excuses Jerry and Elaine then come up with to avoid socialising with Joel at a later date is wonderful. My personal favourite is their protestation of choir practice where they are rehearsing for a concert of "Eastern European national anthems"..."what with the wall being down and all".

Stand-up. The End.

How quickly it improved from the pilot.

Monday, October 13, 2008

they tried...but not hard enough

Almost twenty four hours later I am still unsure what to make of the US version of Kath and Kim. So here are a few random thoughts.

Both Molly Shannon and Selma Blair were far too traditional Hollywood good looking to live up to the grotesque feminine aesthetic that was so beautifully realised in the Australian original. Jane Turner's frizzy perm serves an important comic purpose but Shannon's flick do was just a little too contemporary. While I realise comparing the US to the Australian version is about as useful as comparing a film with the book on which it is based, translations work best when they maintain the spirit of the original. There were glimpses in last night's program but not enough to really warrant the remake. However, Kath was nicely drawn in many ways, but the Kim character was very weak and not nearly as effective as Gina Riley in the Oz version. A glaring absence was the character of Sharon. For I think what is so special about the Australian program are the scenes where Kath, Kim and Sharon would riff off each other, with their idiosyncratic turns of phrases....this is a comedy of language as much as it is a comedy of visual humour, and this didn't come through in the American remake. There was potential in the "Kel" character now renamed Phil with a gourmet sandwich business at the mall, but he wasn't given enough screen time to really develop. Whether that comes in time is yet to be seen (although the previews for next week's episode didn't get my hopes up). And the "Brett" character (here renamed Craig) was not nearly enough hangdog and downtrodden. Both he and Blair were far too OC beautiful. Australian Kath and Kim is as much about the cultural politics of everyday living in the Australian suburbs as it is about anything else. This didn't come through in an American sense either....are they shying away from this kind of comic political commentary? Most likely.

They tried I guess...but not hard enough it seems.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

the remains of the teapot

Finally today I was able to unpack the Royal Doulton tea and coffee set and put it into the china cabinet my parents are "giving" me. It certainly is beautiful with the cutest coffee cups and saucers, together with coffee pot, creamer and sugar bowl. I think I actually have some sugar tongs somewhere that would be perfect to use with the bowl you can see on the bottom shelf. On the top shelf are the tea cups and saucers with a milk jug and another sugar bowl. I checked the doulton mark on the various pieces and it seems to be circa 1932 - going by some quick research on the internet.

Sadly there is one thing missing and that is the gorgeous teapot. After a disastrous encounter with my cat it now looks like this:

It is devastatingly in pieces (although my father believes he can superglue it back together for display purposes only. We shall see!). I now have an important mission in life and that is to track down a replacement. A short google search took me to the ABC 's Collectors website where it was noted that such teapots in good condition are rare and can be "pricey".

That darn cat......

Update: post super glue.....


plastic bag memories

I threw this away today in my frenzy of cleaning. It's a bag from the gift shop at the Tower of London that I have been holding on to for four years. Strange the things we feel compelled to keep as memories. But it was time for it to go as it was quickly disintegrating all over my shelves every time it was moved or touched. I don't know that the Australian sunlight agreed with the English plastic.

Wendy's Week of TV Part 13

Saturday: Suspicion

Shadows, shadows everywhere. Hitchcock had a field day with the black and white and the lighting possibilities. Cary Grant was suitably suave yet mildly menacing, while Joan Fontaine was wonderful as the increasingly suspicious wife. The tone of the film was what really struck me here a clever mix of comic (through Grant's delivery) and suspense at the important plot points. It all ended a little suddenly and the "hysterical woman" motif is a little dated, but nonetheless I think stands the test of time rather better than The Man who knew Too Much. I don't know if I need to sit through Vertigo again though.

Sunday: Lost in Tibet

All very interesting and sad, but really this didn't cut it for prime time Sunday night viewing.

Tuesday: Hamish Macbeth

I don't know if the makers of Hamish Macbeth meant for Alex to be so annoying, but goodness she is. Poor Isobel pining away after Hamish while he wastes his time on Alex, with her floaty hair and weird way of holding her mouth while she speaks. That sounds a little catty I guess. Too bad. Wee Jock is always cute though, and it was quite moving when TV John told Hamish he was illiterate. Fun to look at the "new computers" arriving in the mid-nineties.


Spicks and Specks Behind the Scenes

Hamish Blake took us behind the scenes of Spicks and Specks. I'm devastated I missed the Weird Al Yankovic episode. His Bohemian Polka makes me laugh out loud every time.

The Hollowmen

Christmas was on the way closely followed by the political desert known as January. A trip to Antarctica is a wonderful idea. I wonder how long until Malcolm Turnbull or Kevin Rudd nip down there for a visit.

Thursday: Life at 3
With a little in common with Michael Apted's fascinating Seven Up series of documentaries, this program was interesting in the portrait of the three year old. Most devastating was the family whose elder child passed away during filming. The footage of their three year old at the funeral was almost too much to bear.

Exciting...this Sunday - David Tennant on SBS's Who Do You Think You Are at 7:30... Tune in people.

Friday, October 10, 2008

a dinghy in the shape of a guitar and other trivial information

Things we needed to know at trivia night tonight (some of these we did get right, others not so much)
1. What is a rhinoceros horn made from?: Hair
2. What kind of animal lives in a formicary?: Ants
3. In which country does the Amazon river meet the sea?: Brazil
4. Who will Wayne Bennett coach next year?: St George
5. The kookaburra belongs to which family?: The Kingfisher
6. What is Bruce Springsteen's nickname?: The Boss
7. What is the name of the London street famous for men's tailoring?: Savile Row
8. How does a giraffe clean its ears?: With its tongue
9: What lake is the source of the Derwent river?: Lake St Clair (sp?)
10. What was different about the dinghy Josh Pike (?) rowed into Sydney Harbour? : It was shaped like a guitar

And for getting the last question correct Jinx is a certified trivia legend.

I don't even know who Josh Pike is let alone that he had a dinghy, or indeed that it was shaped like a guitar.

"you can't over-die": Seinfeld: the pilot

So I begin with the pilot, curiously titled "The Seinfeld Chronicles" rather than just Seinfeld. This is the original version (not the revised version also included on my DVD). It's exciting watching this episode on my big screen TV too, rather than the little old boxy set.

We begin with Jerry's stand up- a bit on "going out". This always reminds of a classic line from that weak but enduring Australian sitcom Hey Dad - where Dad asks the teenagers where they are going. At the reply of "Out"... he retorts "out, out...where is this out?". Sadly, Jerry's monologue is not of much higher quality than this although he does take it a step further also musing on the need people suddenly have when they're out, to then "get back", "we've got to be getting back" etc. Hmmmm.

The opening titles are unrecognisable with a sort of silent movie feel (black with a white border, the simple presentation of names) and unfamiliar theme music as well. I'm glad they changed this later.

The exterior shot is of "Pete's Luncheonette" and inside, instead of the diner style booths, it's more of a cafe with Jerry and George in the middle of the room at a round table. It's all a bit brightly coloured and kitschy, rather than the more authentic grunge of the diner. Lee Garlington as the waitress Clare was obviously written to be a recurring character and there's some cute byplay with George as to whether the coffee she's serving is decaf. Jason Alexander and Jerry Seinfeld look so young. They do a little "bit" about the placement of the buttons on George's shirt which then flows into a conversation on the etiquette and semantics of dating, when Jerry reveals he has a girl coming into town to visit him. This is the full extent of the storyline, nothing like the interweaving plots of later episodes, and I have to say it's pretty slight.

We then follow Jerry and George to the laundromat. The highlight here is their conversation as to whether you can "overdry" clothes. This leads into a Larry David special - the repetition..."can't over-dry", can't over-wet" just like you can't "over-die". It's classic David to move from laundry to death with one swift verbal blow.

Then more stand up - this time on how the "washing machine is the night club of clothes"'s the only time in the week they get to mingle with each other, dancing around with lots of bubbles etc. These segments aren't as snappy as in later episodes...they linger too long perhaps and this one also had a strange camera angle that I don't remember ever seeing again - from over Jerry's shoulder towards the audience.

Now to Jerry's apartment. It's the same basic layout we grew to know and love - although here, unlike the diner, it seems a little grungier, not so well put together. There's a dartboard which seems distinctly un-Jerry as well as unusual cane bar stools which look a bit tropical hotel. And there's no bookshelves or computer desk. Still, there's the kitchen, the fridge, the couch and the exit to the bedroom/ bathroom all the in the right places. However, here also is the first real shocker, with Kramer entering but he's called "Kessler". In his dressing gown, with more sensible hair, he's written to be some kind of recluse who doesn't leave the building. He does do the recognisable entry though straight to the fridge in search of some meat for his sandwich, while Jerry munches on his cereal. Nice though to hear the "You better believe it", a familiar Kramer refrain.

Next scene George and Jerry struggle into the apartment with a spare mattress, continuing their conversation about the reading of signals between men and women. George's advice to Jerry "Always, always do the opposite" gave me a little tingle, as it is the basis of an entire episode in a later series, where George does indeed do the opposite - with amazing results. How exciting to see the seeds of these ideas way back in this slightly clunky pilot episode.

More comedy... on why women need cotton balls and men don't. This was a little strained i think in terms of relevance, but the "a date is a job interview that lasts all night" was more pertinent to the episode at hand.

George and Jerry are then waiting at the airport for Jerry's friend Laura. A detailed conversation about the meanings of different greetings - eg, the kiss hello, the handshake etc is trumped when Laura arrives and does "the surprise blindfold greeting"...George shakes his head in bewilderment..."that wasn't in the manual".

And, sadly for Jerry it turns out the Laura is engaged...however he only finds this out after agreeing to take her on a five hour boat ride around Manhattan. Some final stand up in a badly fitting brown suit and that's the pilot done and dusted.

It's not exactly an auspicious beginning to a classic television series. It's more interesting to watch in retrospect looking for glimpses of the themes and motifs that would dominate Seinfeld in it's more classic episodes. Clearly here they hadn't refined it's winning formula and it's not nearly as dark as some of the later episodes, particularly those by Larry David and Larry Charles. And no Elaine yet either. But it is wonderful to watch it with the memory of the later story arc where Jerry and George are commissioned to write a pilot for NBC. The story of the fake pilot is far weaker than this real pilot, but I can't help but wonder how much the experience in making this pilot inspired the story of the fake pilot. I'm sure somewhere on the internet this information is available, but in another sense I'm also not sure I want to actually know. I mustn't be a true fan after all.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Pretzels and Puffy Shirts: The Beginning

I've been thinking for some time now that I would like to write about Seinfeld. Perhaps my all- time favourite television show I have hesitated in writing about Seinfeld as part of my research because I enjoyed it so much. So I think that blogging about it is a good compromise. I can begin a Seinfeld project, take it very seriously, but still separate my appreciation of the series from my more "academic" writing about television. Always wary of the tendency to analyse things to death, I want to avoid this eventuality because Seinfeld has provided me with over a decade of laughs and enjoyment. I would rather that this didn't stop now. So here begins an ongoing series of posts I am calling "Pretzels and Puffy Shirts". This category title honours two of my all time favourite episodes and well known lines from them. Pretzels...for the episode where Kramer scores a line in a Woody Allen film, the line being "these pretzels are making me thirsty". The puffy shirt... from the episode where Jerry ends up wearing Kramer's girlfriend's puffy shirt on breakfast television and comes out with the beautiful line of complaint,"but I don't want to be a pirate".

So this evening I sat down and watched the original pilot episode. More on that very soon.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

40 million dollars?

Is this really the best they could come up with for a new tourism campaign. Something about the invitation to "go walkabout" makes me really uneasy. You know I loved Strictly Ballroom and it remains one of my favourite Australian films. I also enjoyed the fluff and sparkle of Moulin Rouge, but every time I have gone to the movies lately and been treated to a trailer for Australia (hey! rhyming!!) my skin sort of crawls. And I don't mean in a good way.

Maybe I'm in the minority here...

Which face do you like best?

Inspired by Catriona's post at Circulating Library on the problem with clowns, I looked up this clip from early Sesame Street. The story goes that when I was about 2 or 3 my mother was alerted to screaming from the living room and found me greatly disturbed by this freakish segment of a clown removing his makeup to reveal a very ordinary (and I still think just a little bit creepy) face. Watching it now after so many years though I think what is most disturbing is the end when he asks us which face we like best....and then chooses the clown face, not the "everyday" face.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Tuesday just doesn't feel like Tuesday any more

It always takes some time to adjust to no teaching. Without it, the working week somehow loses it recognised structure. Tuesday just doesn't feel like Tuesday anymore without class at 12. It could be any day of the week. It does mean that I can turn my attention to other things (like for instance the second lot of "final corrections" on a paper) but I can't seem to get enthused about that either. Last week I was inundated with applications for next year's program and until I get through that big pile of manila folders - marking their testing and doing the phone interviews - I feel like any other kind of work is merely avoidance. I remember this from last year though. And the thing is, the pile of manila folders will not disappear totally until the program begins again in March. So I just need to ease into my routine of calls and marking in the morning and saving the afternoons for research and other more interesting things.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

fair bianca

For the past few months my father has been painting the inside of my house, one room at a time every weekend. What started as dirty beige walls with musk pink trim around all the doors and windows has now been transformed into white on white, the particular shade "Fair Bianca". (Check your dulux colour cards). I liked the name and the shade of white....unlike Antique White USA which was a cute name but a really flat and dull white. Fair Bianca isn't exactly cream, but it is warmer.
It's absolutely amazing how much lighter it makes every room - even at night, with the blinds closed. Anyway, time for celebration this afternoon as he's finished.
I love it.

last of the nasties

This is the last of the nasturtiums. They've gone rather ratty and stringy and I left them in as long as I could so the next lot of seeds would drop. But as of half an hour ago they have been ruthlessly ripped out and thrown into the bin. I dug all the seeds in (hundreds) so they will start to emerge again soon.

And one of the native irises I planted a couple of months ago has finally flowered.

This is what's next. It's petunia time, as well as alyssum and salvia for my two huge new terracotta pots. The lavender has replaced the nasturtiums already.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Wendy's Week of TV Part 12

Saturday: The Man who knew too much

Part of ABC2's ongoing season of Hitchcock films The Man who knew too much screened Saturday evening. I like James Stewart in most things and he always plays the everyman to perfection. This was no exception, apart from the fact that the plot seemed a little messy. Doris Day was interesting casting as Stewart's wife and a brought a little trivia, when you realise this is where her famous song appears "Que sera sera". The opening scenes in Morocco seemed quite authentic, perhaps unusually for 1955? And the penultimate sequence in the Albert Hall was carefully constructed. It seems though that our expectations of suspense have changed and developed in the last 50 years. At no time was I ever really concerned that Stewart wouldn't save the day. Although, this might be a one off, as many other Hitchcock thrillers are genuinely creepy and scary.

Sunday: The Doctor

I'm writing this on Monday while I am recovering from the devastating sadness of last night's finale. Poor, poor Donna returned to the bosom of her family destined to never recall her absolute greatness and all round amazingness in saving the universe. In my humble opinion she's much better than pouty Rose and militaristic Martha who in the end were totally ineffectual in the fight to save the universe from the Reality Bomb constructed by the evil Davros/ Dalek alliance. What was the point of them being there apart from set decoration and red herrings. Osterhagen key...hmmph. There's got to be a way to bring Donna back. There's just got to be!!!!! The only question I was left with was why the Doctor didn't offer Donna's lovely star-gazing grandpa a spot as a companion? The poignancy of the final scene with the Doctor once again alone was beautiful.

Tuesday: Hamish Macbeth

I loved Hamish Macbeth the first time I saw it. I loved it again in repeat a few years later, and then I loved it when I bought the DVDs of all three series. An enchanting mix of comedy, drama with a little bit of magic thrown in for good measure. Robert Carlyle is fantastic in the title role. Really, what it comes down to is who doesn't adore a Scottish accent?

Wednesday: Spicks and Specks

There was something just plain weird about Rhonda Burchmore's hair. It was scaring me. Apart from that it was the usual thang, but with a guitar treat from John Butler to finish.

The Hollowmen

This week we give you...ta da...the environment! Don't you desperately want to try one of those segways? It was funny when Niles had one on Frasier. It was funny again when Gob used one on Arrested Development and it was funny here when David and Warren used them to cycle round the parliamentary precinct. Especially because they wore bike helmets as they did so.

Thursday and Friday the choice of viewing was very poor. When I realised that Father Ted had been replaced by women's basketball, I did however succumb to Better Homes and Gardens where Fast Ed cooked a cake in the barbeque. Why anyone would want to actually do this is beyond me. And the complexity of the modern barbeque is worthy of an entire research project in itself. Surely, as long as you can burn a few sausages your barbeque is adequate?

love on the dole...with a phd

I couldn't resist this book as I passed the second hand shop this morning. Looks like a corker of a "sparkling new comedy from Thames TV" (1980). The write-up on the back tells us:

He's a highly-qualified, lightning witted, ultra-bright freelance layabout. His girlfriend Fran wants him to settle down to the pursuit of fame and fortune but Shelley's too buy for that.
He's sending up the labour exchange, running rings around the bank manager, running an urban guerilla war where his brains are a secret weapon.


But wait there's's got a wikipedia entry and apparently was produced through to 1992.

Friday, October 3, 2008

you can hire the A-Team

My mother and sister kindly presented me with this book this morning. They found it on the marked down table at the newsagent. It's written from a cat's point of view with chapters including "Too fat to groom", "My water dish is a stagnant pond", "Climbing the curtains because they're there" and "I crave a cave". It's cute but I do wonder whether I should I be offended by the title?

In the meantime if you have a cat, if it's got a problem and no-one else can fix it, you can hire the A-Team.....ooops...I got carried away there channelling 80s television ... what I mean is feel free to ask and I'll look it up in my special new book that has lots of advice about cats.

(As if cats would be able to find soldiers of fortune, convicted of crimes they didn't commit, living in the Los Angeles underground. They're much better off reading a book.....right!)

Sorry's Friday afternoon.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

No peach pit for you (with apologies to the soup nazi)

This is a shame. I note though that they are planning to screen the rest of the episodes over the summer. I actually enjoy the summer non-ratings maybe I'll get to catch 90210 after all. Because it was on choir night I didn't get to see I'm not sure if there was a peach pit. If there wasn't there should have been.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

more birthday jewels

This time from the eminently creative and well respected jewellery maker - Jinx.

They look beautiful on the blog!

bogans on TV...look at moiye

I was contacted last Tuesday by a television journalist at The Courier Mail asking if I had some comment about a new comedy coming up on SBS "Bogan Pride", or any thoughts generally as to the representations of "bogans" on Australian television. Very nicely this article is in the Courier Mail today. After my last encounter with a national newspaper (not The Courier Mail I should stress) I approached this with some trepidation but it has turned out to be an enjoyable experience, with my comments being quoted in context, representing my thoughts accurately.

Anyway, my full response to the inquiry was as follows if anyone is interested.

"I guess what we might be seeing at the moment with this spate of comedies that might be seen as including "bogans" is another development in Australian TV comedy that uses different images and ideas of the suburbs. So writers are tapping into a topic for comedy that perhaps hasn't been looked at for a little while, but one that does have a rich history on Australian television. If we think back to some of the characters from The Comedy Company or Fast Forward we can certainly see these kinds of characters and issues also being represented (say with Kylie Mole for example, or even before those sketch shows with Norman Gunston or Dame Edna). All of these Australian comedies and comic characters situate themselves firmly in the everyday lived experience of Australian life. And it is in making it fodder for comedy that they hold it up to ridicule and criticism in some way.

As to whether it is "culturally offensive" - I think that depends on a few different factors. One is whether we as audience members can identify with the comic portrayals. And because audiences are increasingly diverse in their tastes (especially when it comes to what we find funny) comedies like Kath and Kim or Chris Lilley's comedies attract a wide variety of reactions - from offending people's sensibilities to finding them absolutely spot on in their observations and therefore hilarious. Audience reaction will also depend on the quality of the writing - how sharply observed or cleverly written the script is. What I mean by this is, are the characters rounded and with a touch of believability about them - or are they cardboard cut out caricatures? I also think there is a a difference between "laughing at" and "laughing with" in comedy - and perhaps the comedy that works most successfully is a blend of both. As with all questions of taste, comedy can clearly provoke a huge variety of opinions!"