SMELLY TONGUES

Beyond the soft palate

Tag: writing

ST ELSEWHERE, AND A FEW WORDS ABOUT BEER

Selected posts from this blog can also be found on odd occasions at The Australian Independent Media Network (AIMN). Here are links to a few of the more recent…

A MORBID FEAR OF INTELLIGENCE

THE EGO HAS LANDED

GAY THINGS

IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT AND I FEEL FINE

Now, for a few words about beer

Beer giant Carlton and United Breweries has sacked the entire maintenance workforce at Melbourne’s biggest brewery, prompting threats of a boycott of the popular VB.

Dozens of electricians and fitters lost their jobs after CUB axed a long-standing maintenance contract and have been protesting outside the gates of the Abbotsford brewery for 12 hours a day for the past four weeks.

The 54 workers were laid off last month before being invited to reapply for their old jobs on individual contracts, for what they say would be a 65 per cent wage cut once penalty rates and other entitlements were factored in.

The brewery is having non-union replacement labour bussed in and out of the site every day past picketing workers.

I do not drink any of the beers shown below, my preference being Resch’s, however, if you do, I would urge you to reconsider and find a more palatable alternative …

13692526_10154012895134355_1299511036288677573_n

… Otherwise, we cannot be friends.

Understand?

UPDATE – In comments, Flogga has just pointed out that Resch’s is also a CUB brand (despite not being on the list shown), so I cannot be friends with myself.

“Choose another beer, Ross”. “Yes, yes, I shall”. Damn. Damn it all to hell.

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WARSONG

In the light of current events, I decided I would rewrite our national anthem “Advance Australia Fair” as if it were a track from Laibach’s 2007 album, “Volk”

“We kill your men.
We rape your women.
We pulverize the minds of your children to dust with this,
!!!!!The Glorious Confusion of our Warsong.
Our Land is closed to you.
We defend it. Against you.
Your criminal hordes.
Traitors to your motherlands.
Barbarians.
You from across these seas.
Our boundless plains are desert.
Our soils arid.

We fight. We live. We die.
For Freedom. No Tyranny.
Culture. Civilisation.
As One we Rise to guard our Native Strand.
Our Homeland.
In every stage of History’s page,
Our Victory is clear,
As One combined of Heart and Hand,
Advance Australia Fair!
Advance Australia Fair!
Advance!
AUSTRALIA!
FAIR!”

Much better.

*Edited several times since first posted. I’ll get it right eventually.

TONGUE OF THE DAY

William S. Burroughs, “A Thanksgiving Prayer”, 1986

ST ELSEWHERE

Over at AIMN (Australian Independent Media Network) is a new piece I have written titled “PEACE IN OUR TIME”.

You may read it there if you wish.

Click the fucking link.

ST ELSEWHERE

Over at AIMN (Australian Independent Media Network) is a piece I wrote last week titled “Fairy Bread Is Not A Vegetable”.

You may read it there if you wish.

Oh, go on

FIVE

WordPress tell me this blog is now five years old.

What have I learnt from five years of blogging, if anything?

Less is more. Edit. Edit again. Don’t be a cunt.

Happy Birthday to blog …

HOW DO STORIES START?

A young woman sits in the smokers’ area outside the building. She hunches over her mobile phone, her knees drawn up almost to her chin, her body a tightly wound coil of defensiveness. As I pace the area, sucking smoke from a cigarette, I overhear her say …

” … nothing happened to you. You happened to them.”

I pace away. I pace back.

Then this …

” … because he feels unwanted. And unloved by everyone.”

TONGUE OF THE DAY

Whilst working the front desk of The Village Voice in the 1970’s, James Wolcott had occasion to dip into the “slush pile”, a mound of unsolicited manuscripts in which he fantasised there may just lurk some major undiscovered talent or even a rough few diamonds of untold promise waiting for the kind eyes and receptive ears of a sympathetic editor.

Far from it, but he did learn a few things, things that I have certainly been guilty of many times over the years, and things I shall try not to be guilty of again …

“Sifting through the slush pile served the useful purpose of pointing me in the direction of what not to do as I tried to break into print from inside the building. Avoid parody, which slides too easily into facetiousness. Avoid political satire, which has the shelf life of a sneeze. Avoid preamble – flip the on switch in the first sentence. Find a focal point for your nervous energy, assume a forward offensive stance, and drive to the finish line, even if it’s only a five-hundred-word slot: no matter how short a piece there has to be a sense of momentum and travel, rather than just allotted space being texted in. A number of “Voice” regulars with their own weekly beats had lapsed into a chummy informality with beer suds at the top and not much below, an anecdotal approach that struck me as a drought waiting to happen, and not just because I had so few anecdotes to call my own. Writing that was too talky lacked the third rail below the surface that suggested untapped power reserves, an extra store of ammo. [Norman] Mailer’s writing could be verbose, but he never relaxed his knuckles; it never devolved into chat.”

From “Lucking Out”.

TONGUE OF THE DAY

From “Lucking Out”, his memoir of 1970’s New York, James Wolcott describes seeing Talking Heads at CBGB’s …

“Seeing them for the first time is transfixing: [Chris] Frantz is so far back on the drums that it sounds as if he’s playing in the next room; [Tina] Weymouth, who could pass for Suzi Quatro’s sorority sister, stands rooted to the floor, her head doing an oscillating-fan swivel; the object of her swivel is David Byrne, who has a little-boy-lost-at-the-zoo voice and the demeanor of someone who’s spent the last half hour whirling around in the spin drier. When his eyes start ping-ponging in his head, he looks like a cartoon of a chipmunk from Mars.”

I read that eating lunch in the pub and almost choked to death on a mouthful of peas from laughing.

CREEK (2)

“What did she say?”

“She said we’d get caught. We should turn up to her classes. She won’t tell.”

“Really?”

 “Yeah. She’s alright. We should turn up to her classes.”

“I don’t do her class.”

I should. What do you do?”

“Mr. Shields.”

“I hate Mr. Shields.”

“Same …”

“What’s that?”

“What?”

“Splash. I heard a splash.”

“There!”

“What is it?”

“An eel!”

Kill it! … ”

Yes!

“ …  dead.

 

——————

 

“We’re moving away.”

What? When?”

“Friday.”

Where? … Why didn’t you tell me?!”

“My mum says you’re a bad influence.”

HA! … She don’t k – ”

“She told me not to.”

“ … fuck your mum. I thought we were friends.”

“She told me not – ”

“Fuck off.”

“ – to.”

 

——————

 

“ … it’s a joke, Pat. She’ll see. At least you won’t have to walk home … ‘Mrs. Pedersen? Hi, it’s Jack. We’re down at the creek, Patrick’s hit his head, he doesn’t look well. Can you come down? … I know, I know, but … Okay. ‘Bye’ … She won’t be long.”

“Shouldn’t have done that, Jack.”

“You shouldn’t be moving.”

 

——————

 

“Here she is.”

Shit.

“Stay here, Patrick.”

 

——————

 

“Hi.”

“Hello, Ja – ”

“ – Why are you moving?”

“ – ck.”

WHY ARE YOU MOVING?

“Piss off, Jack.”

“FUCK YOU, BITCH! You’re NOT TAKING HIM, he’s MINE!

She saw the knife coming, pulled the gun from the back of her jeans and shot him through the chest.

“I saw you coming, Jack”, she said, leaning into his face as he gasped hard on the ground.

“I’ve always seen you coming, Jack”, she said again, and he gasped hard one last time.

“Patrick. Wait here while I bring the car through.”

“Okay.”

“I’ll need you to help me

                                              put the

                                                           BODY

                                                                     in the

                                                                                   BOOT.”

DUSTIN’

“I have to dust the shelves”, he says into the phone.

“How about Sun – ?”, comes the reply.

“No, I have to dust the shelves.”

“And when will you be done dusti – ?”

“Maybe next week. Week after.”

“Where are you know?”

“D-16.”

“Where do you end?”

“Z-12.”

“Twelve?”

“Yes.”

“That’s a lot – ”

“Yes. They’re small. At the end.”

“I guess. So. Next – ”

“No.”

“In two weeks?”

“No.”

“But, you said – ”

“I have to dust the shelves.”

“Again?”

“Yes. Because it takes two weeks.”

“Every …?”

“Yes. The children come in here. They climb. They shake their hair. On the shelves.”

“Ah.”

“Yes.”

“How are the kids, by th – ”

“Fuck the kids. They need to be punished.”

“Ha-ha … “Redrum! Redrum!”

“No. I was thinking the utilities closet at the end of the hall would be fine.”

CONFRONT THIS

I’m unfamiliar with the theatrical works of writer-director Benedict Andrews*, but from all reports he appears to have quite the penchant for extremes of sexual and familial dysfunction, always a fine thing to fall back on in absence of a story.

His latest offering, “Every Breath” at Sydney’s Belvoir is getting a rather harsh thumping from a few critics.

It involves a family. A stranger. Sex scenes, nudity, m*sturbation.

I’ll book a ticket and a flight down and be right there, sounds like an invigorating night of stimulating theatre, a tonic for the soul, a workout for the brain, a rare insight into the human condition in its most unraveled state, an expl …

Oh, fuck off.

Enough of the never-ending fucked-up family into whose midst there comes a stranger or a relative who fucks them up further or unfucks them or winds up getting fucked, I get the picture, I get the soundtrack, I didn’t buy the book, and it’s getting a little tedious.

You know how this type of thing usually goes …

Mum’s a forty-five year old asthmatic pole-dancing stripper whose last gig was a men’s only night at a Gold Coast bowls club owned by a dodgy, dark-hued midget with a couple of ever-present steroid-pumped bodyguards, Dad’s gone off on one of his alcohol and cocaine fuelled gambling binges again with a one-legged prostitute, the nineteen year old son has a wound fetish and likes m*sturbating in funeral homes, and the eight year old daughter provides sexual favours to random classmates in return for bags of sugar-coated peanuts and rare Barbie outfits.

Into their circle wanders a long-lost family member, relative, acquaintance, whatever, and everybody talks a lot and fucks about and they talk some more and fuck about and talk and fuck about and then it ends.

I’d see the above if it were a comedy or a Todd Solondz film.

But all too often, it’s taken so very seriously, and it’s expected that the audience take it to heart as well, and, when it’s over, the audience will have had something revealed to them about their own thoughts and behaviour, something they previously did not know, but now they do …

“We should’ve stayed home and watched “Breaking Bad” instead. Thirty-seven bucks for season four**, and no parking fees.”

“Tell me a story” is not quite the same as “Watch me fuck”. Watching people fuck is not a story. Watching people fuck is when the story stops.

And if all you’ve got is people fucking, or being fucked, or talking about fucking, whether it’s fucking in the past, present or future tenses, what you wind up with will most likely resemble an overlong Penthouse letter of a Freudian flavour for pretentious twats.

Whether it’s theatre, film or books, the tedious wallow in sexual and familial dysfunction as entertainment of a so-called “confronting” nature when that’s all there is bores the shit out of me, not simply because of the nature of the content, but because the content is so thin, so threadbare …

“That’s all you’ve got? That’s it? That’s not a story. That’s just people fucking and talking about fucking. There’s no drama in that.”

If the drama of a tale arises from the protagonist wanting a thing, and taking action to overcome those obstacles placed in their way which are preventing them from getting it, making the thing they want a root, or to talk about rooting does not inspire me to stick around to see what happens next.

What happens next is either “fuck” or “fuck-all”.

Someone gets a towel.

Someone puts their clothes back on.

That’s not a story.

 

*For the record, this is not meant to be taken as criticism of Andrews’ play, as I’ve not seen it. I’m simply using it and the criticisms of it as a starting point for a long-held bugbear of mine.

**If you’ve not yet seen season four, buy it now. It will blow your mind. Here is one of the most memorable scenes from a later episode and one of the best fights I’ve ever witnessed on film …

BIGGER THAN BOLT

SMELLY TONGUES is 300.

301 actually.

As in posts.

Over a couple of years.

I appear to have 11 subscribers. Or “followers”. “Acolytes”?

Hello. Would you like some Kool-Aid?

I have no idea who most of these people are.

HELLO!1!!

It’s nice not to peak too early.

 

TONGUE OF THE DAY

Dana Stevens in Slate ….

Romantic comedy screenwriters, please post this near your keyboards: No more running through airports until the year 2050.

Yes, please.

WETBRAIN JIM

He’s not a hobo with a shotgun, he’s just an ordinary old bloke with a few problems …

1. JIM

Harry Heiner had his back to the door of his shop, hunched over a bundle of that mornings newspapers when Old Wetbrain Jim staggered inside, opened his pants and began to masturbate over by the cooler where the deli meats were kept, next to the cheeses.

Harry didn’t even realise Old Wetbrain Jim was there until Jim had already worked himself up to a climax, shooting his load over a packet of mortadella and then screaming “EEEEEEEE-POCH!!” at the very top of his voice.

So Harry grabbed a broom from behind the counter and ran over to beat Wetbrain Jim about the head and shoulders with it a few times and shoo him out of the store, not the first time he’d had to do so, but he’d be damned if this old derelict was going to come into his shop now and start emptying his fucking tubes all over the fucking smallgoods.

Wetbrain Jim stumbled out of the shop, stood and swayed back and forth on the footpath for a bit, then opened his mouth in mock indignation, raised his hand in a mock salute, and blew a long, wet raspberry back at Harry. All this time his cock’s hanging out of his pants, lolling back and forth like a long-preserved and now reanimated shrunken mole rat looking about blindly for its specimen jar.

“Nooooooooooo-booooooooooooo…..!”, yelled Jim at Harry, “Noooooooooooooo-boooooooooooo……!” just as Harry was about to walk back inside and get down to the business of cleaning Jim’s jism off the stock before a customer came in. That’s when Harry realised that Jim had probably left his notebooks, the bundle of fourteen A4 sized, ring bound notebooks he carried with him everywhere over by the cooler. Sure enough, Jim had, so Harry picked up the bundle, which was tied together with old plastic bags, and threw them out the door at Jim, half-hoping he might knock the old wanking bastard off his balance in the process.

But Old Wetbrain Jim artfully (albeit a little unsteadily) dodged Harry’s throw, picked up his bundle, and bowed deeply at Harry in a sarcastic gesture of thanks. Then he tucked his cock back in his pants and began to wobble off in the general direction of nowhere in particular, something he couldn’t quite figure out burning with some intent he didn’t quite recognise about something he couldn’t quite remember picking at what was left of his damp old mind.

Something about the notebooks.

He had started out, he couldn’t remember when, with one, and now he had fourteen. He was sure of that much. Fourteen notebooks. Fourteen.

Yesterday morning, he had twelve.

That was it.

The other two notebooks.

Someone had taken them. He had no idea who this could be, or why they would want them, but they were his, and he was going to get them back, goddammit.

With that sorted out and patted down in some (hopefully) not-so-foggy recess of his addled and oft-drowned brain, Jim walked over to a bench at a bus stop, sat down, pissed himself, and began to think. And think deeply. Or as deeply as someone like Jim could manage given his shaky predicaments.

Now, aside from getting thrown out of shops on the odd occasion for wanting to have his way with chilled packets of cured hams, Old Wetbrain Jim was not the type of man who normally attracted much in the way of trouble. But what Old Wetbrain Jim didn’t realise at that point in time was that a whole shitload of motherfucking trouble was about to find its way to him and find its way to him with a stone cold killer vengeance.

2. HARRY

That night Harry was locking up the shop and getting ready to go home when he began to feel bad about giving Old Wetbrain Jim that broom-thumping earlier.

Harry knew Jim was harmless enough, he’d been a regular about these parts since Harry had first set up shop over a decade back. Mostly, all he’d do is wander up and down the strip all day, occasionally planting himself in a doorway to yabber a whole bunch of nonsense at no one in particular, wave his arms about and cackle a lot. Sometimes, if he was on a roll in the cackling department, he’d get so caught up in his own amusement that he’d forget himself and piss himself, after which he’d look terribly surprised and then very embarrassed and he’d just slink away somewhere private to dry off.

So what in blazes got him in the mind all of a sudden to just wander in out of the blue for a wank by the deli cooler today? Where’d that urge come from? wondered Harry.

Maybe it was that Old Jim had just touched another milestone in his enthusiastic journey toward vegetablehood.  Maybe he’d had a thought about something and seeing as how the blood couldn’t get much done by heading for his brain to help clarify things, it all just shot to his dick instead because it had nowhere else to go and this had become Old Jim’s way of working through his troubles.

Hell, I don’t know what the fuck’s going on, thought Harry, but I sure as hell don’t want it going on in my shop, some old biddy waves her bacon at me asks me what this crust on the packet is? I don’t care it’s in a packet, it’s not, you shouldn’t have to buy food people have spoofed over and then just shut up and pretend not to care if you’re a paying customer. It’s a fucking hygiene thing, isn’t it? Fuck, thought Harry, someone did that to me, I’d be on ‘em quick smart, bring the health down on them and sort the dirty fuckers out.

Regardless, Harry wasn’t much inclined right now to hold a grudge against Old Wetbrain Jim over this one little offence this one time. He felt quite sorry for Old Jim. Who knew what he’d been through in his life and what had gone wrong with it. There but for the grace, thought Harry, although he left off the “of God” bit as he didn’t believe in any of that bullshit anymore. He’d stopped believing it the day, back when he was twelve years old, Sister Apophanius got her six clit rings tangled up with the gas tap handles in the science room and he was the one had to untangle her as he was the only one around and he had small fingers. At least, that’s what she’d said. What the Sister was doing up on the desk waving her fanny over the gas taps in the science room in the first damn place was anyone’s wild guess, but for the next couple years Harry packed a pair of rubber gloves and a bottle of Dettol in his schoolbag just in case it ever happened again. Which, thankfully, it didn’t.

Jesus Christ, Harry shuddered, I haven’t thought about that for years, and he shuddered again and involuntarily began wiping his hands up and down his trouser leg. Merciful God, my arse, he thought, if the bugger exists, it’s surely a nasty old buzzard to do such a thing to a sweet and innocent child simply because he was doing a little overtime boning up on his element tables for the mid-year tests.

Harry began to think some gesture on Jim’s behalf might be nice. Something that said “no hard feelings” and sorry about the business with the broom.

Take it down and leave it by Old Jim’s place, the old discarded stormwater pipe under the overpass by the creek.

He could thaw out a number 7 chicken overnight.

Old Jim might enjoy that, his current state of mind considered.

Harry got to the door of his building, turned the key in the lock and hauled his self up the two flights of stairs to his flat, a one-time “bedsit with a two burner cook top in a nook next to the bathroom” which, over the many years Harry had lived there, had magically transformed itself into a “cosy studio apartment with an ensuite kitchenette in a desirable location and handy to everything” despite a thing having never been done to it.

Every time the agents changed or added something to the description, they’d put the rent up.

Harry was waiting for them to add “polished floorboards” to the list, despite the fact the only polish on the floorboards was the wear from where he walked, and six of the boards, you trod on them, you’d fall two storeys and straight into the fucking basement.

He went to the refrigerator, took a chicken out from the freezer, put it in the sink.

“I’m a nice guy”, said Harry to the chicken.

And he was, too.

For now.

3. CHUNK

Chunk Smalls, his favourite phrase, “I don’t give a fuck”, was true in all senses.

Chunk wasn’t one to give much thought to the whys and wherefores of a thing, meanings and motivations and the like. If you’d said the word “subtext” to Chunk Smalls, he’d probably think you’d gone and hidden his sandwich under a newspaper. All Chunk needed to know about a thing was “who, where, what, how much?”. He’d get a mite confused if someone started in on the detail of a thing, his brain seemed to swell up and pound at his skull and everyone began to sound like they were talking from under a blanket.

So Chunk never had paid much attention to his mental development, only reason he learnt how to read was so he could follow the assembly instructions to his gym equipment and  understand the labels on his “supplements”. At four years old, the other kids, they were watching cartoons and kids stuff, Chunk, he’d be glued to the Shopping Channel and bugging his mother to buy him an Abfabulator, only $69.95 in six easy instalments plus postage and handling and they’ll throw in this thing you use to scrape the dead skin off your elbows and a herb rack.

With herbs in it.

Over the course of his life, Chunk had built himself into such a tight ball of bulging, rock hard muscle that if you’d strapped him into a glider with a wing span the length of two Sydney Harbour Bridges and took it up twenty thousand feet and let it go, it’d simply plummet to the earth like a bloody great big boulder and leave a bloody great big hole when it hit.

But Chunk wasn’t about to go up in any glider any time soon. If man were meant to fly and all that, and man weren’t meant to fly, Chunk thought, a man were meant to be a man and do man stuff, not bird stuff. And Chunk was a man, he had the body of a man, and he’d made it all a man’s body could be so it could do all the things a man’s body should do and flying wasn’t one of those things.

But birds?

It’s different, that’s what they do, what they’re supposed to be doing, and it always scratched Chunk’s mind up something awful he saw a bird in a cage not going about its natural business like Chunk had always had the freedom to do.

So today, Chunk bought himself another canary to set free. Chunk would buy a canary once a month, then take it back to his place and throw it off the balcony. Sometimes, Chunk not being the gentlest of people, he’d reach into the cage, grab the bird and throw it out so hard that the bird went into shock and before it could peep whatever the canary equivalent of  “what the fuck?” was, it had dropped to the ground twelve flights down and become a little puddle of feathered mash.

And once, years ago, Chunk’s mother had called him by his actual birth name ‘cause she was the only one who was still allowed to do that, but Chunk forgot himself momentarily and momentarily forgot that she was his mother, and he smashed her across the face so hard, the neck of the whiskey bottle she was sucking broke off and came out the other side of her cheek and her head slammed into an open kitchen cupboard and split open and stuff came out.

She’d needed 87 stitches and was in a coma for four months. When she finally woke up, she spoke with a Spanish accent and had a lisp. And she wasn’t Spanish.

That was a strange day.

Although Chunk didn’t think about it much. Weren’t his way to.

He put his bird on the kitchen table and it peeped at him. It made him feel good, doing this thing with the birds. There weren’t that many options open to you for feeling good if you were Chunk Smalls. He had all the flexibility of a telegraph pole so any form of sport was out, for a start. And sex was definitely out. He literally couldn’t give a fuck. Chunk had taken so many steroids in his life, his dick was now the size of a sucked out cashew nut and his testicles were no bigger than barley grains. Chunk’s thing wouldn’t fill a doll’s thimble, and no woman in her right mind would want to be poked at by something looked like an angry pimple. Chunk didn’t mind. He couldn’t even tell he had a hard-on anymore, couldn’t tell the difference one way or the other and couldn’t feel anything  either, so it didn’t bother him.

Chunk just did what Chunk did, work out, eat six times a day, do Mr. Spivot’s weird errands and buy himself a canary once a month.

Next time Mr. Spivot had an errand, Chunk hoped it’d be a bit more than just rooting around some old bum’s bundle of scummy papers. That weren’t proper work for a man, and Chunk were a man and he wanted a real man’s work to do, damn it. Next time Mr. Spivot had an errand, he’d tell him that, Chunk would. He’d tell him straight.

With that, Chunk grabbed the birdcage, walked to the balcony, reached in and took hold of the canary and flung it out and over the balcony rail as if it were a shot-put and he were an Olympian.

The bird never had a chance.

4. TO BE DECIDED

(Insert any additional text when obscene inspiration in extreme bad taste hits).

WHO, WHAT, WHY

David Mamet has written many times before, in his numerous collections of essays, of what does and what does not constitute “drama”; of what does and what does not constitute the “art” (if we can call it that) of fine screenwriting.

Here, in a (rather loud) 2005 memo to the writers of the (now cancelled) series “The Unit”, of which Mamet was executive producer, he laid out these rules once more.

Pay attention …

“TO THE WRITERS OF THE UNIT

GREETINGS.

AS WE LEARN HOW TO WRITE THIS SHOW, A RECURRING PROBLEM BECOMES CLEAR.

THE PROBLEM IS THIS: TO DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN DRAMA AND NON-DRAMA. LET ME BREAK-IT-DOWN-NOW.

EVERYONE IN CREATION IS SCREAMING AT US TO MAKE THE SHOW CLEAR. WE ARE TASKED WITH, IT SEEMS, CRAMMING A SHITLOAD OF INFORMATION INTO A LITTLE BIT OF TIME.

OUR FRIENDS, THE PENGUINS, THINK THAT WE, THEREFORE, ARE EMPLOYED TO COMMUNICATE INFORMATION — AND, SO, AT TIMES, IT SEEMS TO US.

BUT NOTE: THE AUDIENCE WILL NOT TUNE IN TO WATCH INFORMATION. YOU WOULDN’T, I WOULDN’T. NO ONE WOULD OR WILL. THE AUDIENCE WILL ONLY TUNE IN AND STAY TUNED TO WATCH DRAMA.

QUESTION: WHAT IS DRAMA? DRAMA, AGAIN, IS THE QUEST OF THE HERO TO OVERCOME THOSE THINGS WHICH PREVENT HIM FROM ACHIEVING A SPECIFIC, ACUTE GOAL.

SO: WE, THE WRITERS, MUST ASK OURSELVES OF EVERY SCENE THESE THREE QUESTIONS.

1) WHO WANTS WHAT?
2) WHAT HAPPENS IF THEY DON’T GET IT?
3) WHY NOW?

THE ANSWERS TO THESE QUESTIONS ARE LITMUS PAPER. APPLY THEM, AND THEIR ANSWER WILL TELL YOU IF THE SCENE IS DRAMATIC OR NOT.

IF THE SCENE IS NOT DRAMATICALLY WRITTEN, IT WILL NOT BE DRAMATICALLY ACTED.

THERE IS NO MAGIC FAIRY DUST WHICH WILL MAKE A BORING, USELESS, REDUNDANT, OR MERELY INFORMATIVE SCENE AFTER IT LEAVES YOUR TYPEWRITER. YOU THE WRITERS, ARE IN CHARGE OF MAKING SURE EVERY SCENE IS DRAMATIC.

THIS MEANS ALL THE “LITTLE” EXPOSITIONAL SCENES OF TWO PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT A THIRD. THIS BUSHWAH (AND WE ALL TEND TO WRITE IT ON THE FIRST DRAFT) IS LESS THAN USELESS, SHOULD IT FINALLY, GOD FORBID, GET FILMED.

IF THE SCENE BORES YOU WHEN YOU READ IT, REST ASSURED IT WILL BORE THE ACTORS, AND WILL, THEN, BORE THE AUDIENCE, AND WE’RE ALL GOING TO BE BACK IN THE BREADLINE.

SOMEONE HAS TO MAKE THE SCENE DRAMATIC. IT IS NOT THE ACTORS JOB (THE ACTORS JOB IS TO BE TRUTHFUL). IT IS NOT THE DIRECTORS JOB. HIS OR HER JOB IS TO FILM IT STRAIGHTFORWARDLY AND REMIND THE ACTORS TO TALK FAST. IT IS YOUR JOB.

EVERY SCENE MUST BE DRAMATIC. THAT MEANS: THE MAIN CHARACTER MUST HAVE A SIMPLE, STRAIGHTFORWARD, PRESSING NEED WHICH IMPELS HIM OR HER TO SHOW UP IN THE SCENE.

THIS NEED IS WHY THEY CAME. IT IS WHAT THE SCENE IS ABOUT. THEIR ATTEMPT TO GET THIS NEED MET WILL LEAD, AT THE END OF THE SCENE, TO FAILURE – THIS IS HOW THE SCENE IS OVER. IT, THIS FAILURE, WILL, THEN, OF NECESSITY, PROPEL US INTO THE NEXT SCENE.

ALL THESE ATTEMPTS, TAKEN TOGETHER, WILL, OVER THE COURSE OF THE EPISODE, CONSTITUTE THE PLOT.

ANY SCENE, THUS, WHICH DOES NOT BOTH ADVANCE THE PLOT, AND STANDALONE (THAT IS, DRAMATICALLY, BY ITSELF, ON ITS OWN MERITS) IS EITHER SUPERFLUOUS, OR INCORRECTLY WRITTEN.

YES BUT YES BUT YES BUT, YOU SAY: WHAT ABOUT THE NECESSITY OF WRITING IN ALL THAT “INFORMATION?”

AND I RESPOND “FIGURE IT OUT” ANY DICKHEAD WITH A BLUESUIT CAN BE (AND IS) TAUGHT TO SAY “MAKE IT CLEARER”, AND “I WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT HIM”.

WHEN YOU’VE MADE IT SO CLEAR THAT EVEN THIS BLUESUITED PENGUIN IS HAPPY, BOTH YOU AND HE OR SHE WILL BE OUT OF A JOB.

THE JOB OF THE DRAMATIST IS TO MAKE THE AUDIENCE WONDER WHAT HAPPENS NEXT. NOT TO EXPLAIN TO THEM WHAT JUST HAPPENED, OR TO*SUGGEST* TO THEM WHAT HAPPENS NEXT.

ANY DICKHEAD, AS ABOVE, CAN WRITE, “BUT, JIM, IF WE DON’T ASSASSINATE THE PRIME MINISTER IN THE NEXT SCENE, ALL EUROPE WILL BE ENGULFED IN FLAME”

WE ARE NOT GETTING PAID TO REALIZE THAT THE AUDIENCE NEEDS THIS INFORMATION TO UNDERSTAND THE NEXT SCENE, BUT TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO WRITE THE SCENE BEFORE US SUCH THAT THE AUDIENCE WILL BE INTERESTED IN WHAT HAPPENS NEXT.

YES BUT, YES BUT YES BUT YOU REITERATE.

AND I RESPOND FIGURE IT OUT.

HOW DOES ONE STRIKE THE BALANCE BETWEEN WITHHOLDING AND VOUCHSAFING INFORMATION? THAT IS THE ESSENTIAL TASK OF THE DRAMATIST. AND THE ABILITY TO DO THAT IS WHAT SEPARATES YOU FROM THE LESSER SPECIES IN THEIR BLUE SUITS.

FIGURE IT OUT.

START, EVERY TIME, WITH THIS INVIOLABLE RULE: THE SCENE MUST BE DRAMATIC. IT MUST START BECAUSE THE HERO HAS A PROBLEM, AND IT MUST CULMINATE WITH THE HERO FINDING HIM OR HERSELF EITHER THWARTED OR EDUCATED THAT ANOTHER WAY EXISTS.

LOOK AT YOUR LOG LINES. ANY LOGLINE READING “BOB AND SUE DISCUSS…” IS NOT DESCRIBING A DRAMATIC SCENE.

PLEASE NOTE THAT OUR OUTLINES ARE, GENERALLY, SPECTACULAR. THE DRAMA FLOWS OUT BETWEEN THE OUTLINE AND THE FIRST DRAFT.

THINK LIKE A FILMMAKER RATHER THAN A FUNCTIONARY, BECAUSE, IN TRUTH, YOU ARE MAKING THE FILM. WHAT YOU WRITE, THEY WILL SHOOT.

HERE ARE THE DANGER SIGNALS. ANY TIME TWO CHARACTERS ARE TALKING ABOUT A THIRD, THE SCENE IS A CROCK OF SHIT.

ANY TIME ANY CHARACTER IS SAYING TO ANOTHER “AS YOU KNOW”, THAT IS, TELLING ANOTHER CHARACTER WHAT YOU, THE WRITER, NEED THE AUDIENCE TO KNOW, THE SCENE IS A CROCK OF SHIT.

DO NOT WRITE A CROCK OF SHIT. WRITE A RIPPING THREE, FOUR, SEVEN MINUTE SCENE WHICH MOVES THE STORY ALONG, AND YOU CAN, VERY SOON, BUY A HOUSE IN BEL AIR AND HIRE SOMEONE TO LIVE THERE FOR YOU.

REMEMBER YOU ARE WRITING FOR A VISUAL MEDIUM. MOST TELEVISION WRITING, OURS INCLUDED, SOUNDS LIKE RADIO. THE CAMERA CAN DO THE EXPLAINING FOR YOU. LET IT. WHAT ARE THE CHARACTERS DOING -*LITERALLY*. WHAT ARE THEY HANDLING, WHAT ARE THEY READING. WHAT ARE THEY WATCHING ON TELEVISION, WHAT ARE THEY SEEING.

IF YOU PRETEND THE CHARACTERS CANT SPEAK, AND WRITE A SILENT MOVIE, YOU WILL BE WRITING GREAT DRAMA.

IF YOU DEPRIVE YOURSELF OF THE CRUTCH OF NARRATION, EXPOSITION, INDEED, OF SPEECH, YOU WILL BE FORGED TO WORK IN A NEW MEDIUM – TELLING THE STORY IN PICTURES (ALSO KNOWN AS SCREENWRITING)

THIS IS A NEW SKILL. NO ONE DOES IT NATURALLY. YOU CAN TRAIN YOURSELVES TO DO IT, BUT YOU NEED TO START.

I CLOSE WITH THE ONE THOUGHT: LOOK AT THE SCENE AND ASK YOURSELF “IS IT DRAMATIC? IS IT ESSENTIAL? DOES IT ADVANCE THE PLOT?

ANSWER TRUTHFULLY.

IF THE ANSWER IS “NO” WRITE IT AGAIN OR THROW IT OUT. IF YOU’VE GOT ANY QUESTIONS, CALL ME UP.

LOVE, DAVE MAMET
SANTA MONICA 19 OCTO 05

(IT IS NOT YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO KNOW THE ANSWERS, BUT IT IS YOUR, AND MY, RESPONSIBILITY TO KNOW AND TO ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS OVER AND OVER. UNTIL IT BECOMES SECOND NATURE. I BELIEVE THEY ARE LISTED ABOVE.)”

And amen to all that.

TONGUE OF THE DAY

Sam Shepard, the thinking man’s Viggo Mortensen, is about to publish a new selection of short stories, “Day Out Of Days”.

One of the stories is described as follows …

A man traveling down Highway 90 West gets trapped alone overnight inside a Cracker Barrel restaurant, where he is tormented by an endless loop of Shania Twain songs on the overhead sound system.

The horror. The horror …

THE FINEST TONGUES

It’s around this time of the year that everyone starts compiling “lists” of bests and worsts, but I’ll be doing no such thing here.

While I enjoy writing this blog as it gives me a chance to blow off steam and generally prattle on about all manner of rubbish (albeit in a largely empty room), next year I may take a stab at something a little more substantial. A couple people have been nagging me all year for a screenplay, so ….

Whatever.

Here are a few things I’ve greatly enjoyed this year, no blockbusters, just things I approached with no expectations whatsoever that took me by surprise (and one rediscovery) …

“LET THE RIGHT ONE IN” (2008)

A horror film for adults with the emphasis firmly on character and story, beautifully shot, sparsely written, little in the way of explicit gore, I can’t recommend this highly enough. See it if you haven’t already.

Allan Hunter from The Daily Express

“Beautifully crafted and expertly acted, Let The Right One In eschews the easy options of excessive gore and cheap laughs to create a haunting, emotionally involving journey into the macabre.

It can only become a classic of the genre.”

“STUCK” (2007)

This is what I had to say about “Stuck” earlier this year …

“A tight, taut (80 minutes), blackly comic, toe-curling little thriller that perfectly captures the blindly self-absorbed amoral cruelties, the (as Jules Feiffer put it) “little murders” of the soul that we and others casually commit every day in the name of our own self-preservation until all trace of our basic humanity is stripped back to the raw and chalky bone. The one-ply tissue veneer of so-called “civilised” behaviour flushed effortlessly away to sleep the sleep of the dead with the fishes.”

“ACOLYTES” (2008)

An Australian film that eschews “Australianisms”, I wrote this about it …

“The only recognisably Australian elements are the accents and the suburban topography, those red tile roof, red brick houses. I wish there were more Australian films like this and less of the, “This is an AUSTRALIAN film! We gotta have colloquialisms and flannelette and men in big hats and some fucking bush, NO, not that type of bush, you cock, I’m talking shrubbery out to fucking buggery out there!” variety. I know there are some dangerously deranged freaks wandering about the fucking desert, the so-called romantics of the land, salt of the earth blah, they’d hump your leg if it had a hole in it, but you ought to see some of the people up the local mall on a Saturday morning.

This is a very well made, very (unselfconsciously) stylish psychological thriller, eschewing most of the tired and tiring clichés that bore me to tears in so many films of its type, headache inducing rapid cut editing and zoom in, zoom out, bang crash cinematography and sound that makes you know what it might feel like to be in the advanced stages of Parkinson’s disease and have someone smashing cymbals over your head for ninety minutes.”

I’ve seen this three times now, and I think it’s a better film than “Silence of the Lambs”. Buy it.

“VAMPIRE’S KISS” (1988)

When Nicolas Cage was good … I hadn’t seen this in many years, picked it up for about six bucks and wrote this …

“…this sadly under-rated, neglected jewel of a film contains a performance by Cage that is so BIG, so HUGELY BIG that it essentially takes every rule from the various bibles of performance art, that is, the received wisdom that “less is more” in film acting, and turns it thoroughly arse over tit. It’s a major “fuck-you” to the dreary twaddle peddled to the eager and impressionable by so many drama teachers still stuck in their Actors Studio ruts of psycho-dramatic self-indulgence … “Mumble, mumble, mumble, scratch face, mumble, mumble, cry, scratch face, scream a bit, scratch face, mumble, mumble”.”

I’ve already had my fanboy rant about “The Wire”, so I’ll shut-up about that for the time being and recommend David Simon and Ed Burns’ book, “The Corner” which has just been republished and is well worth your bucks.

Have a pleasant Christmas and New Year.

Bye.

BAD VAMPIRE

The StrainGUILLERMO DEL TORO & CHUCK HOGAN “THE STRAIN” (2009)

Last time I was in Sydney I popped into Galaxy bookshop for a quick look-see. I don’t read much in the way of science fiction or fantasy or fiction in general these days but occasionally the mood takes me and something will grab my attention. But this time I noticed that Galaxy had devoted about fifteen, twenty feet wide of wall space to a genre they were calling “Paranormal Romance” …

… I had an old man moment, a moment of  “Jesus Christ, what’s the world coming to?” and hurriedly scurried past all this purply prosed pimply darkness to get to the hard stuff.

The darkly handsome, broody vampire as romantic interest has been getting a right proper flogging of recent and you can hardly look at a newspaper or a website without seeing some chisel cheeked boofhead with big hair baring his nicely manicured choppers and perfectly flossed gums back at you.

 And as much as I love “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” and was tickled pink by the first season of “True Blood”, sometimes we need to remind ourselves of something very, very basic when it comes to the subject of vampires …

Vampires are the undead who feed on human blood to survive and burst into flames in sunlight.

It’s a fact.

I redz it on the internets!

If you were to take an unscientific straw-poll around the office and ask a random bunch of women, “Would your definition of a hot date be humping an animated corpse who feeds on human blood and sleeps in a coffin and who can’t hop down the shops for a carton of milk on a Saturday afternoon when you’ve run out and feel like whipping up a cake or something because he’ll blow up?”, I doubt you’d get much in the way of enthusiasm response-wise.

So when del Toro announced that he and Chuck Hogan were writing a vampire trilogy eschewing the eyeliner and hair gel for some good old-fashioned blood-sucking, jugular-spurtin’ mayhem, my fistful of dollars was as good as spent.

What happens when you get “turned” in del Toro and Hogan’s world is this …

You’re infected by a parasite which renders your body host and begins to alter its biology. The parasite needs only blood to survive, so the rest of your organs shut down and shrivel up. A growth begins to develop under your tongue, a growth that houses a stinger that can shoot out quite a distance to latch onto the necks of potential victims and drain them of blood. No teeth. Also, as vampires only breed by infection, there’s no need for genitalia anymore, so these drop off or crust over.

Therefore, gettin’ your end in ceases to be an option if you ain’t got an end to be puttin’ somewheres.

And when you’re draining a victim of its blood, because your body can’t cope with and doesn’t need anything other than pure blood to survive, you shit all the other stuff at the same time you’re feeding.

Now I’ve never been out to dinner with someone who ate and shat at the same time, but I doubt it’d be the kind of behaviour to put me in an amorous frame of mind, I don’t care how good your cheekbones are … “Mum, meet the new girlfriend. For God’s sake don’t feed her anything or you’ll be wiping off the curtains for a month”.

So there’s no romantic goings on with any of the nasty sucking fuckers in this book, I can tell you that straight up. These are the defiantly unfuckable dead and you ain’t nothing but a Slushee in a flesh suit as far as they’re concerned.

Essentially though, what you have with “The Strain” is just a better class of airport novel. It’s very entertaining, moves along at a right clip, keeps you turning the pages, and ticks all the usual boxes in the character “type” department … The wise old man carrying the weighty knowledge of the ancients, the two driven and dedicated professionals (friends with benefits) trying to save the world (well, New York, at least for now), a merry band of three hard up against it. There’s an aged and shadowy figure of industrial intrigue present pulling dark and devious strings … you get the picture, a “cast of characters”.

Fair enough.

Two things, though …

From what I’ve been able to glean, Chuck Hogan, a writer I’m otherwise unfamiliar with, is responsible for all the CSI-styled, HAZMAT tech-speak gobbledygook which, for the first 50, 60 pages or so of “The Strain” had me thinking I was stuck in Tom Clancyworld, you know the thing, “such and such an aircraft has such and such a capacity for blah and blah and if you wang the red doodle on the left panel just-so during a monkey-fight, genies with calculators will appear and build you a spaceship”.

I can barely hook a basic stereo system together without an instruction manual, so this type of stuff means fuck all to me and is pretty much a waste of my time and I’m probably not alone in this. I realise that del Toro and Hogan are attempting an anti-“Twilight” exercise with this trilogy and as such, perhaps they’ve been tempted to think that this Boys’ Big Book of Vampires should flaunt some hardware, some technical blah to satisfy the ham radio geek that purportedly lurks in the heart and soul of all men.

I have no such geek within and I hope they knock it off next time. I prefer my vampires less the shades of David Caruso thanks very much, no pun intended.

The other thing – on the one hand, the infection is given as purely a biological thing, a parasite, yet on the other hand, the authors reference various bits of supernatural mumbo jumbo that are supposed to affect the behaviour of the things, such as their inability to travel over water without human assistance. Far as I’m concerned, it’s got to be either one thing or the other thing, either biological or occult, it just doesn’t make sense to have it being some of this thing with some of that other thing thrown in “just because”.

But these are minor quibbles. This isn’t a Dan Brown book. The writers can actually write scenes and dialogue that aren’t entirely risible, and del Toro’s fierce visual imagination is given full reign here to suitably impressive effect. And I’m grateful that someone has decided to put the freaks up front again and have them behaving very, very badly instead of swanning around some fucking academy or whatever getting sappy with goo-goo eyes.

Of course, the real payoff with this series won’t be with the third and final installment. It will be the film (or films) that follow. And with del Toro at the helm (why would he not direct the film of his own book?), if it’s anything like the promo clips that have been put together for the novel …

Bring Huggies. 

I BUY BOOKS

I buy books.

I’ve been buying books since I was at high school, when I was getting pocket money, seven, eight bucks a week it was back then, I think.

I still have some of those books, paperbacks from the 1970’s, science fiction mostly (what else? I was a teenage male). The prices on them, they range from 85 cents to two bucks fifty and thereabouts. I used to buy a couple of books a week. In second hand shops, you could pick up books for a buck a pop.

Fucking smorgasbord.

I bought a book last week.

It cost me $32.99. It was a standard, large format paperback. Fiction. That’s all.

Week before, I bought “Deer Hunting with Jesus” by Joe Bageant. That was $27.99.

A while back, I bought a biography, Barney Hoskyns’ biography of Tom Waits. I think that was about forty five bucks. Large format paperback, thick, maybe five, six hundred pages, some photographs. The hardback is twenty bucks from Amazon.

That’s about a hundred bucks right there. For three paperbacks. Printed on typically low-grade stock that, after a couple of years, will turn the colour of a manila folder, like the inside of a plastic kettle.

I prefer hardbacks, but they’re about 50 bucks these days. I wanted to buy Lee Server’s biography of Ava Gardner and Gore Vidal’s “Point to Point Navigation” when they were first published. But they were fifty bucks each. For the hardbacks.

Fuck off.

I can’t afford that. I have to live.

I buy maybe one or two books a month now. More if I can pick up something I want second hand. For, say, ten or twelve bucks. That, I can handle.

Here’s a reality.

If I see your book and I’m just curious enough to pick it up and give it the once over, to think to myself, “This might be interesting”, or my interest in it has been piqued by a review, something I’ve heard, read, what I’m going to do is put your book back on the shelf.

And I’m going to buy something I really, really, really want and that I know I’ll really, really, really like. Like those ones I listed above. Up there.

I can’t afford to blow thirty five bucks on something I’m simply curious about, I don’t care how many good reviews it’s had.

I’ll wait till it turns up second hand. If I’m still interested by then, that is. And you won’t get a royalty from that.

That’s a shame.

Penguin continue to release their series of vintage and contemporary classics, the distinctive range of orange and cream cover paper editions. From all reports I’ve heard, this has been a highly successful thing for them.

“Why is this so?”, you may well ask, wrinkling your brow in the deepest concentration, conjuring the infallible and eternal truths and wisdoms of sages and seers from throughout the ages and praying that ye shall prove a worthy vessel through which they may channel their revelatory powers of insight …

Why is this so?

Because they’re only ten fucking bucks each, you silly cunt.

That’s why.

I can risk ten bucks on something I think “might be interesting”. I imagine other people think the same.

I’m not risking thirty-five. Okay?

Why are you telling me that, even though I’m not buying your book, I have to pay more for this book by this other person simply because if all the books are similarly expensive you’re better off for it?

I didn’t buy your fucking book in the first fucking place.

Listen, you preciously ponderous and poncing little Poindexters of the publishing world …

If this book here is thirty-five bucks, and the same book from there is twenty bucks, and it’s a book I want to read, guess how much I’m spending?

I’m spending twenty bucks.

Because if it’s thirty-five, I ain’t buying it.

And, because I’ve only spent a twenty, if I see another book for twenty bucks and I think  that it “might be interesting”, I might buy that. I might take that risk, you see. And you might get a royalty from that.

Because that’s not a bad price. Two for forty.

But two for seventy? Seventy bucks? For two paperbacks?

Fuck off.

Books are too expensive.

I buy fewer of them because of this. I’d buy more if they were cheaper. Quite a few more. I might even buy one of yours. And you might get a royalty from that. Something you didn’t get before. From me, at least. And others. You’ll need to have your agent work something out with your publisher.

Is that so fucking hard to understand?

Live in the world.