Tuesday, August 19, 2014

PNG Projects

My primary reason for coming to PNG (as I said in an earlier blog), was to help run an international media conference being hosted by UOG. I was then going to stay on and help make a feature film, but as also explained in an earlier blog, that never eventuated).

Instead, I've been drafted in to assist on a number of different projects in areas I would never have dreamed I'd ever be involved in.  I can safely say, the diversity of work I've been doing here would NEVER happen in Australia. 

My first day in PNG, I helped the head of the midwifery department (an Australian expat), shoot a short educational video on the examination of placenta after birth. I was coaching one of her students in presenting techniques - she was a little overwhelmed at first but did a great job! They thought my acting exercises were hilarious - I suppose no one's ever asked them to jump up and down on the spot to shake out nerves and centre their energy or blow raspberries to relax their lips before! The only thing I found a little 'un-fun' was the fact we used real placentas for the demonstration - obtained from the hospital the night before. It. Was. Disgusting. Sorry, mothers. I'm not good with insides.

I've also been working on the Pawa Meri project, which I've been working on since earlier in the year - we're trying to bump up the Pacific reach and capitalise on the popularity of the films in PNG. It's such an empowering project to be part of.

The third project I was drafted in to assist with was an evaluation of HIV/AIDS material produced by the Catholic Church. Funnily enough, they're one of the biggest supporters of awareness and treatment in all of PNG. They still won't advocate the use of condoms however, which burns my skull. It's such a simple thing, which will preserve life. In a country where HIV and AIDS are rampant and the number of children who are left orphans due to one parent infecting another, you'd think they'd be ok with it, but no. They're not. Infuriating.

And the final project I've been working on for the last few days is one in collaboration with UOG and IMR and is part of a Masters thesis for one of our students. She's (or more accurately, we're) in Tari looking at the effects of LNG (a mining company) on the local community, focussing on sex workers and the increase in HIV and AIDS, using Photo Voice as a tool. It's fascinating - we've been working with field officers from Tingim Laip (Think of LIfe), which is an advocacy and awareness group in PNG and their stories are incredible. 

The acceptance of many people of religion also fascinates me - one young guy was telling me yesterday that he used to be a 'street rascal', pick pocketing and stealing; but then he went and listened to a pastor preach for two hours, felt a change, decided to get baptised and now works on behalf of the church (Tingim Laip is a Uniting Church group) to improve the lives of those less fortunate. He also stopped smoking and chewing betelnut/buai (don't even ask - it's a disgusting habit the majority of people have up here. The red shit they spit into the streets is revolting). That calm acceptance that the bible is right, astounds me.

I had such an interesting chat with the woman who's heading up this project earlier tonight - the work she's done to help children affected by HIV and AIDS (not just those who are infected by it, but those who quite often lose both parents from it as one infects the other) has has been amazing. It's infuriating to know that if the Catholic Church would only allow their congregation to use condoms, the numbers of both parents dying would decrease rapidly and children wouldn't be orphaned and shunned by their extended families (which is quite common). The number of kids who end up on the streets through absolutely no fault of their own is shameful.

Polygamy is also a big thing here - it's not uncommon for a man to have more than one wife. Quite often it's one of the new wives who brings the disease into the marriage - not only putting her husband at risk, but also his other wives. Aggie was telling me a story about a man in one of the villages she worked in who had three wives - he had two sons with the first wife and four children with the second. The third wife was infected with HIV when he married her, which she passed on to him and he then passed it on to his second wife (the first wife stayed clear). The man and his second and third wives died, leaving the four kids orphaned. The brothers from the first marriage (in their early 20s) tried to kick their younger half-siblings out of the house and onto the street, but the oldest of the four (a 16 year old girl) fought back, got the younger kids into a routine of chores, growing food to sell at market and school, quit school herself and took her older half-brothers to court. It took her a year, but she won the court case and was allowed to stay in the house and take care of her younger siblings - she also was able to go back to school and finish her education. Her determination is amazing, but imagine all those kids who don't have someone like that to go into bat for them. Heartbreaking. 

This project finishes tomorrow and we're heading back to Goroka, where I only have about 10 days left before I fly back to Melbourne. Even though I'm really looking forward to my creature comforts (hot baths, fast internet, CHOCOLATE), I'll be really sad to leave here. I actually feel, for the first time in a very long time, that the work I've done has contributed to something important and worthwhile. I guess I just need to find a job that gives me that same sense of purpose when I get back.

Something to think about really.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

It's The Little Things... aka PNG Tales

It’s the little things you don’t notice at first, but creep up on your brain at odd moments…

Like realising that the electricity has run out, meaning you have to top it up via the meter on the outside of the house, using credits on your mobile phone. 

Or not being able to use the washing machine, because it’s a twin tub and requires pulling tubes out of one spot to put into another depending on which cycle is on and it’s all just too bloody difficult and thank god you have a local woman who comes in twice a week and does it all for you.

It’s when you look at your legs, thinking “I need a leg wax” but realising that not only are there no beauty salons in the town, but the local pharmacies (there’s only 3 of them) don’t even sell DIY kits.

That then leads you to ponder the fact that only one pharmacy sells tampons and only one brand and one size.

You need a haircut, but there’s no hairdresser either. Not. A. One.

You go shopping for house-related items to furnish the flat of the intern who’s arriving from Germany next week and realise that not a single one of the six stores you’ve been into sell practical things like shower caddies or dish drainers. Ikea would make a killing with the expats up here.

Someone suggests you try the “Chinese Shop”, which is PNG-speak for a five & dime, or dollar store, to try and locate the afore-mentioned items, but they’re closed because it’s Saturday and they’re Seventh Day Adventists.

You’ve learned to drink your coffee black because the only soy milk available is So Good, which is full of sugar and just tastes disgusting. This fact that astonishes most of the locals who drink their coffee with liberal amounts of both milk (or Sunshine milk powder) and sugar. The average Papuan will put no less than 4 heaped teaspoons of sugar into their coffee. 

The blood sugar levels of most people here are astonishingly high.

Kids up here are extraordinarily self-sufficient and resilient. The neighbour’s three year old daughter walks down the road to school each morning with her older brothers, then walks home again on her own and it’s perfectly safe for her to do so.

“Buses” are actually just Toyota Taragos with extra seats crammed in. Many have their taillights held together with gaffa tape and one or two have completely cracked windscreens. The drivers weave all over the road like psychos.

To get a driver's licence you technically need to take a practical test (no theory needed), but if you pay the local officials enough cash they'll give you one, no questions asked.

There are no traffic lights. Anywhere. The few roads that are surfaced are full of potholes and there are no lines marked. There are no stop signs, no give way signs and no speed limit signs, because there are no speed limits. You go as fast or slow as your car will allow you.

There are no streetlights. 

Most people drive 4WDs or faux-4WDs (like Toyota Ravs). Your neighbour drives a Toyota Starlet and you wonder how the axel isn’t smashed to pieces.

The local (outdoor) market is sectioned by produce. Everyone sits on a mat in their 'aisle' with their vegetables or fruit in front of them with little hand-written signs on old pieces of cardboard, indicating the price. There’s a potato aisle, a kao kao aisle, a banana aisle, an avocado aisle, and so on and so on. There’s also, hilariously, a live chicken aisle and a pig aisle. The idea is that you take them home and kill them yourself. Which you know, is a skill most village kids are taught pretty early on.

There are two petrol stations in town and there are no clear entrances or exits, so you have cars lining up top to tail to be served. There’s no self-service – they have attendants who do it for you – if you can get their attention before the car next to you does. 

Not only does the electricity go off at least twice a day, but the water gets shut off at random intervals too, meaning it's wise to keep at least a few large buckets of water around the house.

Every window in the house is louvered, meaning they don't close properly, which is great when it's warm and there's a breeze, but a bit difficult when it gets cold and rains. Thankfully that's not too often.

You're due to leave in two weeks but you're really not ready yet.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Goroka Tales

The internet in PNG is a tricky thing. Technically there's wifi at my workplace, but it only works intermittently and it thinks pretty much every website apart from Facebook is 'porn', so I've mostly been relying on the data plan from my phone and temperamental hotspot. 

The weather plays a huge factor in the reliance of internet, according to locals. If it's cloudy? The internet will be crap. This is usually shrugged off with an "eh, what can you do?" gesture.

My primary purpose for coming up here was to help my old Sydney flatmate run a week-long conference at the university. It went really well, despite the challenges of working with a team who’ve never done anything on this scale before and work on “PNG" time.  By that I mean, none of them turned up on the fourth morning until after 8.30am… registration started at 8am, they were all rostered to start at 7am and none of them had their phones switched on.  The only two people who this appeared to stress were my awesome assistant coordinator and I. Everyone else just shrugged it off as “oh well, PNG time”. Nothing really stressed them.

The third day of the conference involved field trips – I didn’t go on any of them (too busy catching up on work!) but they sounded awesome. One group climbed Mt Gahavisuka and went to a place called ATprojects, who train people in remote villages in business and life skills. The other group went to Banana Block, which is a settlement where the Kafe Women’s Association are based – they work to prevent violence against women, especially in sorcery cases, which is a big issue here in the highlands.  Then they went to Goroka Agribusiness Training Institute, which is run by the First Secretary of the district. Most of his students are illiterate, so uses a lot of media in his training.  The third group went on a community filmmaking trip to two of the villages nearby.

Afterwards, we all met met up at Raun Raun Theatre, which is about five minutes from here and is home to the National Performing Arts Troupe – they had some demonstrations and then did some performances for us. A lot of it was in Tok Pisin, so I couldn’t understand it (although I have been picking up a few phrases here and there, so I can get by in the market or shops without feeling like an ignorant outsider!), but their performances were really strong so the message was clear. They were performing a history of PNG independence and I’m not sure how it fit into the story of independence, but a guy came out on stage with three live snakes hanging off him – he put them down on the stage for a bit while he did a tribal dance, then when he picked them up again, he put one’s head in his mouth. Like, right down his throat.  There were lots of locals sitting in the audience as well – they all freaked, as did I!

Once the conference ended, I was supposed to start working as drama coach on a feature film being shot up here, but due to a combination of factors (the director being completely disorganised and not even having a finished script or shooting schedule, let alone there being enough money in the budget to pay me being the main issues), I was seconded onto a couple of other projects, which are really quite awesome.

The first project is a continuation of one that I was working on earlier in the year – Pawa Meri (www.pawameri.org). Six female filmmakers were given training and mentorship as they made half hour docos about six influential PNG women. Inspiring stuff and it’s really kicking off here in Papua New Guinea, so now we want to expand the reach into the Pacific and beyond. 

The second project is with one of the filmmakers from Pawa Meri who is conducting visual storytelling workshops in Tari (Southern Highlands) with sex workers and their clients. Apparently Tari is a big mining town, so has a pretty big sex trade, but they don’t necessarily work for money – they get paid in betelnut (which people here chew like tobacco, gives them a bit of a pot-like high and makes their mouths go red – gross), cigarettes and food.  

Tari is one of the few towns left in PNG where people still wear traditional clothing instead of western clothing, so it will certainly be an interesting part of the country to see. We’re flying in via Mt Hagen and have to stay in Hagen overnight because they only fly once a day, but the Mt Hagen show is on while we're there, so we’ll get to check that out which will be amazing. 

On that note, I'll post this and get cracking on the next installment from PNG.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Shopping, PNG style

Goroka itself is pretty much as I expected - quite beautiful but quite poverty stricken in the non-university areas. Lots of settlements and people just standing around on the streets not doing anything, or selling food or cigarettes at streetside stalls. Everyone stares, but the people are so friendly though - they wave and says hello even though they have no clue who I am. On my first day I went to one of the settlements and loads of small children were pointing and shouting "White Meri!! White Meri!!" at me. White Meri means White Woman - they don't see many white people in the settlements.

Fresh food here is SO cheap. We go to the street markets for fruit and veg most days - you can get a huge bag full for around 20 Kina, which is about A$6. The avocados are about the size of my foot and sooo tasty and cost about K1 (A$0.40) each. An enormous cabbage will set you back about K2 (A$0.80); kao kao (a white sweet potato) for 50 toia (A$0.20) per pile and a hand of bananas for K1. I'll be quite happy to never see another piece of kao kao for some time once I leave here... I've totally overdosed.

Grocery items are where they slug you though. A box of Nutri-Grain will set you back 36 kina (A$10). Chocolate is also really expensive and limited to Cadbury’s, plus it's all locked away in a special section of the supermarket near the doors (bit like the cigarette counter in Australia) and the area is surrounded by guards. Go figure.

Cheese is a rarity (and expensive - K19 or A$8 for a 250gm block of Mainland), the meat is dodgy as all get-out and your choice of chicken is either a frozen one, or you go to the outdoor market, pick a chicken and take it home to kill it.  Luckily our house meri is more than happy to kill and pluck the occasional chicken for us when we want one. 

Tonic water is also a rarity, but we discovered some at the local restaurant where we go swimming on Sunday mornings (yes, a restaurant with a pool in the centre!), so we buy as many as we can carry and usually have G&Ts on a Sunday afternoon.

Items readily available in the supermarket? Drum kits and guitars. Seriously. They’re right at the checkout, so you can pick one up like you would a bar of chocolate at Woolies. Sachets of pre-mixed Nescafe, sugar and milk (although why you’d drink that rubbish when you have amazing fresh ground coffee on your doorstep is beyond me). Twisties. I never knew there were so many bloody varieties of Twisties. Two-minute noodles. Again. WTF?!? 

Six packs of the local beer are "packaged" into plastic bags - just tied up into regular red plastic supermarket bags. No fancy packaging here! The only wines available are Jacob's Creek and Penfolds (and it's about A$25 per bottle!). Ugh. But when you're in need of a glass of wine, you learn not to be too picky.

I’ve learned to drink my coffee black – it’s such good coffee that it’s not so bad really. Rice and almond milk are non-existent up here and the only soy milk available is So Good, which is DISGUSTING, so I am now a long-black aficionado.

There are huge second-hand clothing stores (well, warehouses), which are full of all the charity shop rejects from Australia and is where everybody buys their clothes. I spent K9.50 (A$4.15) and got a skirt, three tops and a jumpsuit - all designer and in great condition. Insane. You have to sift through some crap, but it's worth it. I have a strong suspicion that I'll be coming home with a suitcase full of new/old clothes! 

Not shoes though. The secondhand shoes are festy. 

And on that beautiful thought, I'll leave you.

Guess Where I Am?

Hmmmm. My last post was in February. That's certainly a while. I could make all manner of excuses, but it's nothing I've not used as an excuse before.

Now those of you who are real-world mates will already know where I am. For those who aren't:

This is Goroka, Papua New Guinea, where I've been living for the last 5 weeks. I'm here for another 2 weeks, so technically I'm not 'living' here, but I'm certainly not on vacation - I'm working, plus I'm staying with one of my old flatmates from Sydney, so I'm going to go ahead and say I'm living here.

It's like nothing I've ever really experienced before - even when I spent 3 months in Africa I was always on the go from place to place (and not working) so I never got to experience the day-to-day of living in a developing country.

This place is one massive juxtaposition, but I'm loving it. I won't get into specifics here - instead I'm going to try and do some separate posts about it. To you know, make up for the fact I've been completely slack on the blog front this year.

Let's see how it goes.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The A-Z Alphabet Movie Meme

Greetings. Today's post is stolen brought to you by the lovely Pandora, who nicked it borrowed it from The Plastic Mancunian.

(I'm sitting here waiting for my iPhone to do some ridiculous update which will no doubt make the whole contraption run even slower than it currently is, so I figure this is as good a use of my time as any. Plus, it's a bloody good meme.)

A is for Anticipated Movie for 2014
Call me a nerd, but I'm excited for Guardians of the Galaxy. It'll be like an anti-Marvel, Marvel movie. As a rule, I'm not generally a fan of Thor, Iron-Man, Avengers, et al, but I am an ardent fan of some of their villains (hello, Loki and Justin Hammer) so I tend to see most of them. Plus, I ADORE Chris Pratt. If you've never watched the awesome Parks and Recreation, I encourage you to do so. He is hilarious.

Since I adore Pratt (and Parks and Rec), I'm also looking forward to seeing The Lego Movie. [ducks for cover]. I mean c'mon you guys - it has Nick Offerman! He and Pratt are an awesome combination, even in animation!

B is for Book Adaptation I'd like to see
Since they royally fucked up Bret Easton Ellis' Less Than Zero, I kinda have this weird desire to see what they would do with the (written much later after the first movie was made) sequel - Imperial Bedrooms. Yeah.  Try bringing back the main character you killed off at the end of the movie who didn't die in the book WITHOUT resorting to Dallas-style dream sequences and Sliding Doors-style AU's, you muppets. 

C is for Celebrity I'd like to meet
Emma Thompson. I reckon she's probably capital B, BONKERS, but crack open a bottle of wine and bring out a cheese plate and I reckon we could natter quite happily for hours.

D is for Dream director / Actor pairing
Hmmmmm... well. I wouldn't necessarily call it a 'dream' pairing, but I'd really like to see Kenneth Branagh directing Emma Thompson now that they're divorced. With Helena Bonham-Carter co-starring.  I know, I know, it's evil of me, but I reckon there'd be a crackling dynamic going on.

E is for Essential Classic Movie
The Philadelphia Story. Not only is it an awesome movie, with one of my all-time favourite actresses, but I love that Katharine Hepburn acquired the film rights to it after starring in the play, in order to control its adaptation. This was a massive leap in women's rights in Hollywood at the time.

F is for Favourite Film Franchise
OK, I'll say it. I'm not ashamed. DIE HARD. I love the original. I love the much-maligned sequel (mostly because it was set in DC and I love DC) and I love the third and fourth instalments. I'm not overly fond of number five and I think they should stop, but hey. Whatevs. At least it's not Police Academy. Also, ALAN RICKMAN AND JEREMY IRONS ARE BROTHERS, Y'ALL. Need I say more?

G is for Genre I most watch
I'll pretty much watch anything except sci-fi. Or horror. (Unless it's Cabin In The Woods, 'cos you know, that had Bradley Whitford in it and I'll watch ANYTHING that Bradley Whitford is in. Even Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. And I can't stand Blake Lively, so you know I'm not lying.)

H is for Hidden Gem
As a long-time John Cusack fan, I have to award this one to two of his early, slightly quirky movies. Better Off Dead and One Crazy Summer. Not a lot of people have seen these movies and I'm sure Cusack (and Demi Moore in the case of the latter movie) would prefer to forget that they were ever in them, but I think they're both endearing, low-budget, slightly kooky movies, both of which I initally owned on VHS and now own on DVD. 

I is for Important Moment in my Film Life
1975. I was four. Dad took us all along to see Ingmar Bergman's film version of The Magic Flute. I clearly remember watching the final scene (where they pan out over a group of children surrounding the macking Papagena and Papageno) and saying to Dad - "It's OVER? Can we watch it again now? PLEEEEASE?"

J is for Just right for a rainy day
Usually my rainy day viewing of choice is all 6 hours of BBC's Pride and Prejudice with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth, but if you're making me choose a movie, then I would say it would taken from a shortlist of:

- anything by Nora Ephron (most likely When Harry Met Sally)
- Girls Just Want To Have Fun
- Say Anything
- He's Just Not That Into You
- Made of Honor

Hey. It's RAINING. That's a free pass to watch absolute trash.

K is for Kiddie Movie I shamelessly enjoy
Going with Pandora on this one. The Princess Bride. Oh and The Goonies. I ADORE The Goonies. Martha Plimpton is the coolest anti-heroine ever. I'm also a big fan of Toy Story and Monsters Inc. Will happily throw those on the DVD player whenever I have little people visiting.

L is for Location I'd like to visit
I've been lucky enough to visit a lot of of the locations for my favourite movies (the resort in VA where they filmed Dirty Dancing being one of the absolute highlights), but I've never been to either Tuscany (setting for my favourite version of Much Ado About Nothing, by Branagh) or Nantucket (location of the aforementioned One Crazy Summer). They're both on my travel bucket list.

M is for movie I know by heart
There are many, but I can pretty much recite you the entire opening sequence of To Kill A Mockingbird (right up until Aunt Stephanie comes to admonish Dill for going near the Radley house) word for word, including accents and inflections. Of course, given my avatar, you'd expect nothing less, right?

N is for Netflix movie I've watched
Like Pandora said, I'm Australian. We don't have Netflix yet. I am, however, a massive "House of Cards" fan, so if they ever branch out into the Australian market, they will have my business.

O is for One movie I've watched more than once
One movie? ONE??? No. If I like a movie, chances are I will see it many, many times. I've seen To Kill A Mockingbird at least fifty times. AT LEAST. I shudder to think how many times I've seen Dirty Dancing or When Harry Met Sally or Speed or Grease. Oh no. I can't narrow it down to just one.

P is for Preferred Place to watch a movie

Palace Como on a Monday or Tuesday morning when there's NO ONE ELSE IN THE CINEMA*. It's the greatest. Plus, they let you take wine in. Even at 10am. Tell me that's not awesome.

*This has actually happened to me. Twice. Once for The Way and once for Salinger. Coincidentally, both films featured Martin Sheen. Perhaps the good folk of the South Yarra area do not care for Jed Bartlet on the big screen? More fool them. I adore him.

Q is for Quote that inspires me
Hmmmm. Inspires. Well, most recently it was from Saving Mr Banks (excellent movie and Emma Thompson was ROBBED of an Oscar nomination). I really liked Walt Disney/Tom Hank's quote: 

"... because that's what we storytellers do - we restore order with imagination. We instill hope again and again and again...".

Also (and it's from a documentary, but it's one I've always pondered over), from the fabulous Bill Cunningham (Bill Cunningham New York) in relation to his art:

"You see if you don't take money, they can't tell you what to do, kid."

Wise man. Very wise man.

As an aside... quotes I just like for no real reason and am fond of randomly dropping into conversation to keep people on their toes include:

- "There's a band!" (from Pretty Woman)
- "Next to the walkman and Tab, it's the greatest invention of the 20th century" (Girls Just Wanna Have Fun)
- "Waiter, there is too much pepper on my paprikash" (When Harry Met Sally)
- "And the quarterback IS toast" (Die Hard)

R is for Remakes: Friend or Foe
Foe. Especially the current trend of remaking 80s classics like Red Dawn, Footloose, About Last Night and Fame. I swear to god if anyone attempts a remake of Ferris Bueller's Day Off, I will HUNT THEM DOWN AND SHOVE A LUMP OF COAL SO FAR UP THEIR ASS (and no, it won't become a diamond in two weeks, it'll just be horribly painful). On the topic of Fame, I went to see Megan Mullally's show last year at the Forum, and in the Q&A she actually apologised to anyone who'd paid for a ticket to see the remake of Fame. God love her. 

S is for Snack I most enjoy
Popcorn. I love popcorn. There's something about movie popcorn that just reels me in. And I have to have my own box. I don't like sharing. Ever.

T is for Twist that blows my mind
I will admit that the first one that comes to mind is The Sixth Sense. I totally didn't see that one coming. Nowadays I find so many films so predictable that I spot the supposed 'twist' a mile away. I find TV contains more mind-blowing twists (Scandal and House of Cards, I'm looking specifically at you) than movies.  But one that always stuck with me is Primal Fear with Edward Norton and Richard Gere. Man. Not to give it away, but Edward Norton is COLD. Oh and The Skeleton Key. I was roped into seeing that movie and came away freaked out beyond all measure. Still gives me goosebumps.

U is for Unapologetic Fan of...
Bring It On. 

Yeah, you heard me. Bring It On. I love every trashy, tacky, cheerleading second of it.

V is for Very Excited about Award season
Usually I love awards season. However this year they overlooked some excellent performances (the aforementioned Emma Thompson, as well as Allison Janney and Sam Rockwell's awesome supporting roles in The Way Way Back) and made some rather dubious choices (IMHO - Jonah Hill being the main one), so I'm not terribly excited for the Oscars this year. I will definitely watch it though, if only for the 'In Memorium' reel. Holy crap, but that's going to be one hell of a tear-jerker.

W is for Wish I had never watched
I'm probably in a total minority here, but - Blue Jasmine. Seriously. I fucking hated it. The script was horribly bleak and I wanted to slit my wrists at the end. Cate did a good job with what little she was given, but I felt absolutely no sympathy for her because there was no depth to the writing and I'm pretty sure it was just a repeat of her Blanche Dubois at STC. I don't think she deserves the Oscar. You know who I do think deserves the Oscar? EMMA THOMPSON. But she's not nominated, so I'd settle for it going to Amy Adams. I liked, but didn't love American Hustle, but I thought she was ace. Judi Dench was also a cracker in Philomena. I wouldn't mind it going to her either.

X is for XXX movie watched at a young age
I don't know that you could call it an 'XXX movie watched at a young age', but I do recall my mother getting slightly perturbed when she took me to see Zapped at the age of eleven. We were big Happy Days fans in our house and I guess she didn't realise that Scott Baio was trying to break away from his clean-cut Chachi image.

Y is for Your Latest Movie Related Obsession
Does Loki count? Or just Tom Hiddleston in general?  He's pretty much guaranteed to get me forking out the price of a movie ticket and popcorn these days.

Given I'm a Girl-On-A-Budget, you're far more likely to find me obsessing over TV shows at present. Let's talk Scandal. Or House of Cards. Or Parks and Rec. Or Trophy Wife. Or Mom. Or The Daily Show. Or Late Night with Seth Meyers. Or Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Or... shall I shut up now?

Z is for ZZZ Catcher
Woody Allen. I'm sorry, but I just don't like the man's movies. I've tried, god knows I've tried, but the way he writes women shits me. The way he tells stories that lack hope shits me (I'd like him to take a leaf from that Saving Mr Banks quote). Plus, there's that whole marrying-your-stepdaughter thing. It's just icky. He's just icky. I can't watch.

So there you go. Borrow/Steal/Create Your Own at will.  I'm heading to Bedfordshire (that's another oft-used quote, thanks Bridget Jones).


Wednesday, February 05, 2014

To Quote Ron Swanson...

Growing up, there was a rule in our house. It was strictly enforced at least twice a year, by both my parents.  

The rule was that we (Brutha and I) had to respond, in writing, to each and every person who gave/sent us presents (or cards, or cash) for our birthdays and at Christmas.

No exceptions and certainly no one-liners on a postcard. No. We had to write a proper letter, specifying what the gift was (or explaining what we planned to spend the cash on) and thanking them for their kindness.  You know, along the lines of:

Dear Auntie A & Uncle B,
Thank you very much for the book you sent me for my birthday last week*. I really like this author and I'm excited to read it. It was very nice of you and I really appreciate it.
I hope you are well. We went on an excursion to the zoo yesterday and one of the boys was bitten by a rabbit in the petting enclosure**.  He's ok though.
Thank you again for the book.
Lots of love,m_mxx

I remember Brutha used to protest long and loud about having to write these letters and much preferred to phone people and thank them (which eventually, he was allowed to do), but I loved it. Firstly, because I got to go to the store and pick out new stationery. (I love stationery. Put me in an Officeworks or a Paperchase or a Staples and I am in heaven.) And secondly, because I was so bone-crushingly shy around adults as a child (I couldn't even go into a store and ask a sales assistant where to find something until I was at least 16 - my mother always had to ask for me), that I found writing far less traumatising. 

Anyway, I'd get my new stationery and write my letters and feel a great sense of satisfaction that I'd said a proper thank you to these people. And it's something I still do, although now I'm more likely to fire off an email of thanks in place of a handwritten letter (although I am trying to get better at that - after all, it's nice to receive some old-fashioned mail).  But regardless, I still thank people when they've taken the trouble to send me something or give me a gift.

I just wish they'd return the courtesy.

I know that sounds a little Judith Martin of me and probably makes me sound ancient and fuddy-duddy, but I don't care. I certainly don't expect people to gush and rave because I've sent them something, but I do at least expect a "thank you" text or phone call. If I've gone to the effort, a little acknowledgement wouldn't go astray.

And yes. This (blatantly passive-aggressive) post is directed at my family and several of my friends (especially those with kids who score from me on their birthdays and at Christmas). Miss Manners is going to start getting snarky if you don't start getting polite.

* Books were what I mostly received as presents as a kid. I was a total bookworm - you could never go wrong with a book.

** This actually happened on a school excursion once. He was teasing the poor rabbit with some straw so I reckon it was karma. Even though I didn't know what karma was at the time...

Monday, February 03, 2014

Farewell Phil

About seven years ago, when I was still living in Sydney, I received a phone call at work from a lovely American woman, who said she needed to book some tickets for her boss.  He wanted to see the play that was on in the larger of our theatres, as he was potentially casting one of the actors for a play he would soon be directing.

Her boss's name? Philip Seymour Hoffman.

The usual ticketing practice at our theatre company, for directors wanting to see potential actors, was to give them comp tickets and sit them in house seats. There was a slight issue, in that this particular show had been massively popular and was close to sold out most nights and every celeb/faux celeb in town wanted to see it.  Of course, the only night PSH was able to see the show (he was on a tight schedule), all the house seats had been taken. For any other actor (I'm looking in particular at one ginger-haired, botoxed, birthday twin of mine, who I'll rant about later*), this would've been an issue. But not for PSH. He was happy to sit "wherever there's a free spot". 

First high-five to the big guy.

Then, his PA proceeded to absolutely floor me.

"Do you take Amex? Let me know when you're ready for me to give you the card number."

After picking my jaw up off the floor (you may think it odd, but it's an extremely rare thing for an actor of pretty much any calibre, let alone his, to volunteer to pay for their tickets), I explained that we could offer him comps - it was our usual practice for directors. Her response?

"Oh no. Phil has a policy of always paying for his tickets. He figures it would be rude not to - he likes to give back to theatre."

Second high-five to the big guy. Plus, 'Phil'? Awesome. Most PAs to celebs have to call them 'Mr He-Scares-The-Shit-Out-Of-Me' or 'Ms Her-Moods-Change-Faster-Than-Sound'. Nope. This guy clearly had a level-head and didn't think he was above his assistant.

So, I took the card details and offered to have the tickets sent over to where he was working so he didn't need to queue up at box office, although I suspected at that point, queuing at the box office was something he probably wasn't adverse to (again, looking at you ginger botox). As expected, that offer was politely declined and a few nights later, I looked along the line of people in the queue at box office (yes, I'd rostered myself on that night - wouldn't you?!) and there he was, quietly and patiently awaiting his turn.

I damn near ran out there and hugged him for exemplary behaviour from a famous actor. But I restrained myself (just) and waited until he got to the head of the queue. After wishing me "Good Evening", he followed up with "I have tickets booked under the name of Hoffman?"

Third, fourth, fifth and endless high-fives for the big guy. 

Of course I know who you are, and I know you probably realise from the excited gleam in my eye that I know who you are, but you haven't presumed that and you've acted like any other ordinary theatre patron and given your name so I can find your tickets. 

(Trust me, with many actors not even a quarter as famous as PSH, their standard assumption is that you know who they are and they don't even have to mention their name, because, you know, they're too cool for that. Wankers.)

So I handed over his tickets, gave him the usual spiel (running time, lockout period, yes there's an interval, etc, etc) and he looked me in the eye, smiled, thanked me and wished me a great night.

(Oh, big guy. You have no idea how great that night was for me. To have an actor I've long admired behave in such a stellar manner, had me bouncing off the walls.)

Anyway, the following day, I received another phone call from his PA. Firstly, on behalf of PSH, she wanted to thank me for all my assistance. Secondly, he'd noticed a poster for one of the indie plays that was showing in our smaller theatre - it was a production he'd directed in New York and he thought it would be fun to see it done here. Again, happy to pay for his ticket (full price - wouldn't even take industry discount) and again, happy to pick it up at box office.

This time it was coincidental that I happened to be working the night he came to see the show (and you can bet if I wasn't, I would've been changing the roster again). Once again, he waited patiently in the queue, however this time when he got to the front, in addition to the usual "Good Evening", he said: "Hey! You're the lovely girl who assisted me last time! I've got tickets booked under Hoffman".

I'm pretty sure the grin I gave him nearly split my face in two.

What an absolute sweetheart.  He rocketed firmly up to number one on the list of award-winning actors I met during my years working in box office (and it's a pretty impressive list - Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush, Toni Collette, Hugo Weaving, Rachel Griffiths, Keanu Reeves, Nicole Kidman, Michelle Williams - and that's just the ones that come immediately to mind) and has stayed there ever since.

* * *

This morning, I woke up to the news that Philip Seymour Hoffman had died. It's still not confirmed how he died, but a suspected heroin overdose is sadly, the likely cause. Clearly, the man battled many demons and it breaks my heart that he left the world in such an awful way.  I know a lot of people will write him off as just another "junkie celebrity" death, but I just can't. In the brief time I came into contact him, he was sweet, polite, generous and warm. And that is how I will choose to remember him.

Vale, Phil. You were a great among men.

(I do wish I'd given you that big hug though. I suspect now that you could've done with a few more hugs in your life.)

* You've probably figured out who the ginger, botoxed birthday twin of mine is, but just to give you the background on that particular story: she holds the dubious honour of being at the very top of my Comp Ticket Blacklist. Why? Well, for starters, by making her PA (and me) jump through hoops to get her house seats (must be on the aisle) to show after show after show, because it was VITAL she see it (she was always great friends with whomever happened to be the lead), so I'd have to shift people around to accommodate her demands.

That in itself, is not such an unforgivable thing. Annoying, certainly, but you know, it happens. Even the fact that she would never even offer to pay wasn't unheard of. No, what cemented her firmly at the top of my blacklist was that on all but one occasion, SHE DIDN'T EVEN BOTHER TO SHOW UP OR RING AHEAD AND CANCEL. That's just (excuse my language) fucking rude.

When she became a no-show for the fifth time, I spat the proverbial dummy. The next time she had her PA (a different one every time - I suspect she went through them on a regular basis) ring to arrange tickets, I demanded payment up front, which really sent the poor lackey into a tailspin. "Oh. Oh. Oh, Ms Ginger-Botox doesn't pay for tickets. She has them offered to her". Huh. Sorry sweetie, that line wasn't ever going to work on me again. So I stood strong, and she eventually rattled off a card number.  She still didn't turn up for the show though... but at least I wasn't lamenting the loss of two empty, unpaid seats in an otherwise sold-out show.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Clear Lines

So not only did Blurred Lines not even rate in Triple J's Hottest 100 (or even the 200!), but it failed to pick up any Grammys either.   

Day. Made.

As an aside, how 'bout that awesome teenager from Auckland??  You go girl. Nary a twerk to be seen. Now THAT'S a role model for you.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

January Jollies

Well hello. Happy Invasion/Survival/Australia/Whatever Day. Personally, I see no cause to celebrate a day on which a bunch of people seeking a better life arrived by boat, stripped the indigenous people of said country of all their rights and yet now have the gall to forcibly deny entry to people seeking a better life who arrive by boat.

But that's just me.


That's not what I wanted to write about today.  I don't know what I wanted to write about today, but I did have a few funny things to share with you (for no reason whatsoever, they just tickled my funny bone).

First up, in response to all this Justin Bieber malarkey, I thought this was the funniest response:

Billy Eichner is the bomb.  And this tickled me no end, especially given I've just finished watching the amazing Allison Janney in Masters of Sex (highly recommend watching it - it's fab) and am currently watching her in Mom.  Bloody brilliant woman. I adore her.

Secondly (and kinda continuing on the theme of what I consider to be the greatest TV show of all time - The West Wing), we have this little gem:


My head damn nearly exploded when I saw this, and not just because it features my favourite two Joshes (the fictional Lyman and the actual Malina), but because, well... Just get hold of a copy one of the episodes and watch them. They're two of my faves.

My next favourite video of the weekend is this one:

Adam Scott (NOT the golfer) is genius. He's like a nerdy kid who has managed to convince all his nerdy friends to do nerdy stuff like this.


The cameo by Tam Honks is five seconds of funny and can I just say?  Paul Rudd. That man DOES. NOT. AGE. What is his secret?

I'll leave you now with my final awesome thing of the week, which is this photo:

Nick Offerman and Rob Lowe, in what appears to be a photo snapped between takes filming this scene (which for some reason, I am unable to embed), from this week's Parks & Recreation. They are funny, funny men. 

"Why are you yelling?"
"Tom all put all my records into this rectangle"

So. There you go. A few funnies to tide you over.

Oh and if none of those things put a smile on your face, the fact that Robin Thicke's misogynist pop song, Blurred Lines, failed to even make it into the Hottest 100 should make you chuckle with joy. I am so happy the good listeners of Triple J didn't condone that man's awful attitude towards women.

Enjoy your day off tomorrow! I'll be having a wee sleep in and then spending some time in the sun, I reckon.


Thursday, January 02, 2014



If you've not yet seen the Christmas episode of Doctor Who, read on at your own risk. There are some spoilers. Not that the fact a new Doctor was coming hasn't been news for eons, but I just want to make sure you're warned so you don't yell at me.  Please don't yell at me. I don't cope well when people yell at me.

Right. Now that's out of the way...

I'll freely admit that I've never been a huge fan of Matt Smith as The Doctor. Eccleston I didn't mind... he was kinda smooth and intriguing. Tennant I adored (plenty of evidence for that fact here and here). But I could never quite warm to Smith and so my watching of Doctor Who has been quite patchy the last couple of years (except for eps like Day of the Doctor which brought all of them back).

I DID however, get quite excited by the news that the brilliant and sweary Peter Capaldi would soon be taking control of the TARDIS, so I sat down to watch the Christmas episode with eager anticipation.

Ironically, it was this particular episode which finally allowed me to "get" Matt Smith.  And really, it was all due to his final speech, which I found not only a brilliant summary of The Doctor's journey, but also a very poignant reminder of everyone's journey through life... and the importance of moving on but never forgetting.  

In case you missed it, this was the speech:
“It’s started. I can’t stop it now, this is just the reset. A whole new regeneration cycle. Taking a bit longer. Just breaking it in. It all just disappears doesn’t it, everything you are gone in a moment like breath on a mirror? Any moment now, he’s a comin’... The Doctor... And I always will be.  
But times change and so must I. Amelia! The first face this face saw. 
We all change when you think about it. We are all different people all through our lives and that’s ok, that's good, you gotta keep moving, so long as you remember all the people that you used to be. I will not forget one line of this. Not one day. I swear. I will always remember when the Doctor was me.”

Enough said really.

So well done, Matt Smith. I might have to go back and revisit some of your tenure. And welcome Peter Capaldi. The uttering of "KIDNEYS!" as his first line and the confirmation that he's keeping his Scots accent makes me hope we're in for a lot of fun with number-whatever-he-is. 12? 13? Fucked if I know.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Resolutions, circa 2014

My gorgeous friend (and creative cluster buddy) Debs is currently on a six week skiing sojourn with her wonderful hubby (also a great friend), in Saas Fee, Switzerland. I'm quite envious, especially as she has embarked upon a blog to document her time over there and is very prompt about updating it on a daily basis, complete with amazing photos of the beautiful scenery.

Check it out here if you're so inclined.  

On New Year's Eve she wrote a wonderful post about letting go of excess baggage, which I found quite illuminating.  Read it here. Her penultimate paragraph, in particular, really resonated with me:

"As the fireworks start to go off here in Saas Fee, and BD and I settle in for a party for two (with party food too), I have only one resolution. In 2014 I am going to do what I love. Period. I have one life, and I intend to live it. Baggage free. 
If you have pissed me off, I let you go with as much love as I can muster. If there’s a possession that I don’t absolutely dig, it’s going to the charity shop. At work, my best has to be good enough, and if it isn’t then I lovingly bow out and trust my clients will find someone who is a better fit."

I haven't made any resolutions this year - I find when I do I usually don't achieve more than half of them and then spend most of the year berating myself over the ones that I didn't achieve. 

But I love that one resolution of Debs' and I think it's a fabulous one for me to adopt, so I am.

2014 is the year of me doing what I love and ridding myself of excess baggage. Period.

What about you?