Ren Gets Out Of His Car And Dances


So Zeitgeisters,
FOOTLOOSE was on the old Free To Air. At first, I decided to ignore it. If you don’t remember FOOTLOOSE or never saw it, the film was made in 1984 and stars Kevin Bacon as teenager Ren McCormack who moves from Chicago to a small town called Bomont where Rock and Roll Music is against the law!

Why? I hear you ask. Because Rock is the Devil’s Music. And according to the screwy plot of FOOTLOOSE, five years before Ren’s arrival some kids from Bomont died in a drink-driving accident after they were out “enjoying” some of those devil rhythms. One of those kids was the son of Reverend Shaw Moore (John Lithgow) and the good Reverend dedicates himself to preaching against the deleterious effects of R-O-C-K.

And no Rock means no dancing and that means no Senior Prom.

It all sounds quite stupid. Which is why I almost didn’t watch the film again. However, some people did believe in bullshit like that back then, and continue to do so to this day. In fact, that banner year of 1984 was also when Tipper Gore, wife of former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, formed the infamous Parents Music Resource Centre (PMRC) to combat the language and ideas expressed in contemporary pop and rock.

It was the influence of busybody bodies like the PMRC that led to the U.S. record industry putting those annoying “Parental Advisory Explicit Lyrics” labels on certain compact discs and audio cassettes.

So what makes FOOTLOOSE the greatest film of the American Cinema? Well, nothing. But we 80s kids tend to remember it with great fondness. And why not? When Ren arrives at Bomont High on his first day, he drives up in a yellow Volkswagen Beetle with Quiet Riot’s “Metal Health” blaring on the stereo. He’s stickin’ it to the MAN!

Actually, he doesn’t know that Rock is banned at this point. When he discovers the Truth in the school cafeteria, he utters the deathless 80s phrase, “jump back!” to register his stunned amazement.

Later in the film, big city Ren, bursting with frustration, drives his Beetle to a secluded old building and let’s off steam with an acrobatic solo dance. This footage makes up much of the music-video that accompanied Kenny Loggin’s hit single theme song. At the time, there were a number of nitpickers who pointed out that most of this sequence was doubled by a much more experienced dancer.

Bacon disarmed this silly criticism by pointing out that when he read the script, the skill required for this scene wasn’t clear. It only said, “Ren gets out of his car and dances.”

There are many other reasons to enjoy this lightweight film. Despite the dumbness of the premise, the writing of the Reverend’s role and it’s performance by actor John Lithgow are not one-dimensional. In fact, most of the performances are well above par for a teen movie of that era. The film is Sarah Jessica Parker’s movie debut and it also features a likeable turn from the late Chris Penn as Willard.

If you’ve never seen FOOTLOOSE, don’t expect it to be anything more than it is – a well-crafted, 1980s teen film with engaging performances and catchy pop soundtrack.

But in this strife-torn era, on this ball of confusion, isn’t this what we need?

Meh? Maybe not.

Anyhow, I’ll leave you with these thoughts while I enjoy a brisk walk in the park. For here in the southern hemisphere, we are experiencing chill winter. And when I return, I’ll prepare a warm, nutritious bowl of Bird’s Custard.

Bird’s Custard, the delicious flavour never disappoints.

Celebrating Mike Goldman

Hail Zeitgeisters,

I am about to speak to youse about “Big Brother 2006”. Otherwise referred to as BB06. And yes, I refer to the Channel 10 reality show. If you are one of those who reacts reflexively and negatively to the mere mention of this program, then turn away NOW!

As a Night Owl (read ‘insomniac’) I appreciate “Big Brother Up-Late” more than I’m willing to admit (until now).

The Up-Late Show is two hours of live-streaming video of whatever the housemates are up to between 11:00 pm and 1:00 am Eastern Standard Time. Obviously, there’s some intervention from the BB Control Room – certain topics are cut away from quickly – particularly anything that might slander someone from outside the House.

As a writer-type-guy I am fascinated by the sorts of things an ever-diminishing group of twenty-somethings might say to each other around the witching hour. And believe me, it’s mostly chat.

There are often quite good juxtapositions when the Control Room switches from one part of the House to another. Say, from the egghead group discussing Noam Chomsky in the bedroom to the boys in the spa having a belching competition.

Sometimes the talk is so weird and uninformed that it leaves you gob-smacked. I’ve just witnessed a conversation about purchasing groceries for the coming week in the House. The participants were John (surf-wax hair), Dino (minus the mattress) and Gaelan. They got in that “agreeing” space that you can find yourself in when you’re bonding.

The trio were agreeing that they needed to purchase carbs, especially rice and pasta. And that potatoes are really good because you can serve them any way. Gaelan said cooked or raw. John agreed you can have them raw. No-one else disagreed. Consensus was achieved.

I’m sure someone somewhere is eating raw potatoes. Some hardcore freakin’ vegan who secretly hates food, perhaps. But it seemed unusual.

So, why is Big Brother voice-man and “Up-Late” host Mike Goldman getting props from this blog? Because the “Up-Late Game Show” which ran from the end of BB05 until last week; the one hosted by former BB Housemate Simon “Hotdogs” Deering, was dire. He was okay, but it all felt a bit laboured and unnatural.

Television’s current fad for using amateurs shouldn’t extend to hosts and presenters. Ex-BB Housemate Bree Amer from 10’s “Friday Night Games” is a case in point.

With all due respect to Hotdogs, Mike Goldman can juggle the callers and the games in his sleep. Often this seems to be what he’s doing. As the months wear on, he appears to sink deeper and deeper into sleep debt. He’s a naturally funny fella and it’s entertaining seeing him navigate his way through the wee small hours without snapping or saying something quite pointed.

Goldman has the mojo and we salute him.

His website is www.http://mikegoldman.tv/

Elevate the Insignificant!

Mr Trivia

Mikhail’s Gravy

Zdravstvuite, Zeitgeisters!

Years ago, I watched a documentary on the band REM. Their method for coming up with album names involved pinning up a list in the studio while they worked on that album and band members would add names to the list as the mood took them. If memory serves, Michael Stipe said two titles came up album after album and were never used. One was “Love and Squalor” which is taken from a JD Salinger story, and the other was “Cat Butt”.

For the last few months, my band has been toying with changing its name from “To Be Continued” to something with a little more zing and pizzazz. A fortnight ago we became“Dancing with Gorbachev”.

Unfortunately, It turns out that many people don’t know who Mikhail Gorbachev is or was. Time to rectify this situation. The campaign to inform the populace about this man, begins here.

In 1985 Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev was elected the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. He was instrumental in the creation of policies and doctrines that lead to the end of 45 years of Cold War, the democratisation of Eastern Europe and the near collapse of the Russian economy. You remember… Perestroika… Glasnost…. Gorby. Anyhow, go to Wikipedia, the font of all knowledge and have a read.

You might also like to travel to Gorbachev’s own site, mikhailgorbachev.org. His 70th birthday was on March 2, 2001, and a stunning lineup of 1980s politicos sent in written tributes. Read the words of former President of the USA, George Bush Senior who found it necessary to include the term “market economy” in his celebration of Gorby.

Even better is former president of Germany, Richard von Weizsäcker, who writes a long rambling screed in which he mentions, among other things, the excellence of his own wife as a hostess, and also this:

“Now under Gorbachev each socialist state had to decide its future development independently. The Press Secretary of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Gennady Gerasimov dubbed this the ‘Sumatra’s Doctrine’ based on Frank Sumatra’s song called ‘My Way’.”

As Mike Moore used to say on “Frontline”: “Hmmmm”.

I would like to close with two thoughts.

Firstly, on behalf of “Dancing with Gorbachev” I urge you, if you are a young person, to do some reading about Gorby. Discuss him with your parents, etc. If you are an older person, spend just a few minutes today talking to a young person about who Gorbachev was and what he meant in 1989. Do it for my band.

Secondly, if it’s good enough for Richard von Weizsäcker it’s good enough for this blog. From now on, Sinatra, Old Blue Eyes, Cranky Franky, Francis Albert the Leader of the Rat Pack, will, within the walls of this blog, be exclusively referred to as “Frank Sumatra”.

Elevate the Insignificant!

Mr Trivia

Other People’s Ringtones

Guten Abend Zeitgeisters,

I work in an open plan office (it’s a loft or mezzanine style of thing) and it is a common occurrence to hear other people’s mobile phones going off. Graeme downstairs has a “My Sharona” ringtone and Liz, with whom I share my office, has a Madonna ringtone.

Like any other oft-heard sound, these cut into my brain like brick-saw into concrete. To be fair, my own ringtone is just as bad. If you have a Nokia 3120, then you can sample the twittering cacophony that is “Urgency”. Imagine the sound of a finch caught on a length of razor wire, then amplify it.

What I love is the reaction when anyone hears it for the first time. “Is that your ringtone?” they ask, as though I might have programmed it by accident. I have very purposely chosen a high, “top-endy” sound so it cuts through the background noise.

I propose a new piece of cell phone etiquette. Much in the same way that one doesn’t comment on how other people raise their children – especially not to the parents of those children – I think the same advice goes for ringtones. Everyone else’s ringtone will get on one’s wick. So say nothing.

So in a blanket answer to those of you who ask THAT question; Yes – that is my ringtone – and I love it.

Elevate the Insignificant,

Mr Trivia

p.s. German visitors click the Nokia link above!

To Be Continued News

Hi Zeitgeisters,

For those of you who want to know what’s happening with my band “To Be Continued” here’s a couple of nuggets of new info.

Firstly, we are thinking of changing our name again. At the moment, “Dancing with Gorbachev “ is the front runner.

Secondly, here’s a photograph of us in front of St Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow in 1982. Our eyes have been obscured because it looks way cool.

Elevate the Insignificant

Mr Trivia

Celebrating Geoff Jansz


Howdy Zeitgeisiters,

It has taken me some time to slip out of the “cranky pants” as one of my co-workers calls them. I wore them proudly after my last blog entry.

And the crankiness continued this evening. I don’t usually watch Better Freakin’ Homes and Gardens on the Seven Network, but if I do, it’s because Maeve O’Meara, the culinary goddess (and co-presenter of SBS’s The Food Lover’s Guide to Australia) is doing her thing.

Maeve isn’t part of the team anymore. She’s been replaced with “Chef, restaurateur, writer and now TV presenter, Karen Martini” Pah! And Meh!

However, in order to stave off my further decent into Grumpy Old Man status, I come not to bury Karen, but to praise TV Chef and Safcol pitch man, Geoff Jansz.

Geoff first burst upon our telly screens ten years ago as part of the bad craziness that was Burke’s Backyard. For those of you too disinterested to remember, Burke’s Backyard, was the premier lifestyle program on the Nine Network for many years. Then one day, eighteen months ago, the then boss of Nine, Kerry Packer, took Don Burke into the middle of a lake in a small rowboat… no, that was Michael Corleone and Fredo in Godfather 2. Sorry.

Geoff is currently one half of the team on Nine’s reasonably anonymous cooking show Fresh. It’s called Fresh because no one though of calling it Fly, Dope or Phat. Just my theory. The other half of the team is Australian Women’s Weekly Food Editor, Lyndey Milan.

Geoff keeps it real, people. Last week I saw an episode in which he crushed several cloves of garlic under his knife. He said, “Doing this will release the flavour as well as some tension.” Funny!

Geoff throws out these deadpan one-liners out all the time. Occasionally he gets a little too puckish and practically ‘winks ‘ at the camera to signal his gag, but mostly, he’s doing sterling work in the much-neglected area of cooking show humour.

Geoff Jansz, you rock.

I could have linked any number of the items above, but as that list takes in the two largest television networks and the largest magazine publishing company in Australia, I think I’ll let you Google whatever takes your fancy. Geoff’s own website is here.

Elevate the Insignificant!

Mr Trivia

Blame the Screwdriver

WARNING: The following blog is the sort of thing you write when you are very annoyed and very self-righteous. Those of you who prefer Mr Trivia’s more upbeat persona should look away now.

 

Hi Zeigeisters,

Long time readers of this fledgling blog, may recall that I said I would get back to you with a report on how the script went – the one I wrote for a local awards show. See that original blog here: Procrastination.

Well, we just did the awards show. It was a live event recorded to be screened soon on local television.

We had a television personality from one of the commercial networks doing the hosting. A man who has done comedy before, has acted before and now does lifestyle programs. We thought he was a sure thing. We believed that the laughs were a lock.

We got cocky.

TV Man decided to be a little experimental and attempted to take scripted gags and turn them on their heads. Thus, he attempted punch-lines before feed-lines. In many cases he said the feed-lines badly, and then didn’t do the punch-lines at all. And then he wondered why the laugh never came. And then he got under-confident!

Seriously, almost all of the gags he had where he did the feed and the punch-line sharply, got some kind of laugh.

I sat at the back and watched him getting nervous. I saw him attempt to go sideways into some of the material, hoping that he could get a laugh through ad.libs. And he got some. But not enough.

I was particularly gratified when I heard, “I’m just an actor reading a script” which was his way of saying – “I’m not responsible for writing this stuff. Don’t blame me if it isn’t funny.”

I look at it another way. When you’re an actor, you’re responsible for learning your lines, Cue-Card Man. I hear tell that when some people go from acting to presenting that they get lazy about things like rehearsal.

I was brought up with an apology reflex. I am usually one of those people who when you walk into me, I will apologise.

However, the reflex just isn’t kicking in this time.

My reaction to, “I’m just an actor reading a script” is this.

Next time, read the f***king script properly.

And next time, don’t blame your tools.

Excoriating the Unrehearsed

Mr Trivia

Celebrating Perfect Strangers


Hi Zeitgeisters,

From 1986 to 1993 the whole planet rocked with laughter as it enjoyed the mirth-filled antics of Balki Bartokomous (Bronson Pinchot) and Cozzin (Cousin) Larry in 150 derivative, yet formulaic episodes of the sitcom Perfect Strangers.

Balki, a “sheepherder” travels all the way from the Mediterranean island of Mipos, in order to live with his Cousin Larry, a would-be writer in Chicago. It soon transpires that Balki is a screw-up in his native Mipos and basically has no where else to go!

Cousin Larry (Mark Linn-Baker) is fussy, stitched-up and an order freak. Balki (Bronson Pinchot) is a crazy, out-of-control, good-hearted, funny foreigner. Yes, indeed, it’s The Odd Couple meets Mork and Mindy. And only about one-quarter as funny.

Series creator Dale McRaven was actually one of the creators of Mork and Mindy and had writing credits on television’s The Odd Couple, so clearly it wasn’t a stretch to bring together these elements and twist them slightly in order to make Perfect Strangers.

Its the predictability of the plots that make this sitcom less than classic. However, the lead performances are quite excellent. Linn-Baker and Pinchot had real chemistry and energy that meant that even the worst episodes of this show had their snap and sparkle to carry it through.

For those who wish to see either actor in a non-Perfect Strangers capacity; Pinchot was memorable as Serge in the first Beverly Hills Cop (1984) but also good in the so-so Vibes (1989). Mark Linn-Baker is probably best seen in the 1982 movie My Favourite Year (directed by Richard Benjamin).

So why do we celebrate this series? Because for one short period, it was a thread in the complex tapestry of our lives. Unless you have cable, in which case you probably saw it this morning.

Elevate the Insignificant

Mr Trivia

Jo-Marie Payton Noble, who played the elevator operator Hariette Winslow was later spun-off into the television series Family Matters (yes, the one with Urkel in it).

Procrastination

G’day Zeitgeisters,

When I get to work in the morning, I check my email and my voicemail. Adorably my voicemail usually has one or two hangups (as do we all). Those of you who feel a little nervous about speaking to my voicemail – you need to get over it – I don’t know who you are or what you want if you don’t tell me. And you know me, there’s no guarantee that I’d do anything even if I did get the message.

That’s PRO-CRAS-TIN-ATION.

I get between twenty and forty emails daily. Many of which are of the “Cheap Rolexes!” or “V1-agra without a prescription!” variety. Occasionally, I’ll stop to admire an amusing pseudonym; Ratchet A. Twine or Prakesh Digweed will want to sell me a Tag Heur or supply me with Canadian C1-alis, but dammit, at least those guys have memorable monikers, they deserve a moment of my precious time.

By now, twenty-minutes have elapsed and I still haven’t really started work.

That’s Procrastination. (See where this is going, now?)

By the way, Boss, if you’re reading this, I hope you understand that I am not really this work-shy fella Mr Trivia, I only play him in the Blogosphere.

Let’s not discuss the whys of Procrastination just yet. Let’s return to this with the full force of pop psychology after we’ve researched a few more episodes of Dr Phil. Let’s leave it for a while (y-e-e-e-s-s) and I’ll merely state for the record that I have been known to procrastinate.

Right now I am writing a script for a local awards ceremony; only I am not doing that at this very minute, because I am writing this blog entry. The script is half-done and I am afraid it might be half-baked. There are topical gags and snappy one-liners and all the bizzo one usually associates with the rather conservative world of award-show-humour. But is it funny?

Can’t tell. No man is an island nor an audience. I’ll let youse know in a couple of weeks how it all went down.

If I get around to it.

Elevate the Insignificant

Mr Trivia

 

And You’re Back in the Room

Hi Zeitgeisters,

I am a lazy person.

How lazy are you Mr Trivia?

I can’t be bothered buying furniture, whitegoods, cutlery or crockery so I rent a furnished and fitted apartment in South Perth.

Okay, not a snappy punchline. Not even funny, but it’s true. I had to move to my present address because my last place (approximately three blocks West from here) was sold. My former landlord had another place for the same rent and he became my current landlord.

Last night I was tidying up and I realised that I have one of those “spatula-shaped” cheese slicers. Y’know, you run it over the surface of the cheese and a perfect slice curls off the top. Maybe it’s a butter curler or it could be an ice cream shaver. Whatever it is, I got one. I also have a jug for fruit juice and about twice the ice cube trays I thought I had.

So like some dork, I have discovered a whole new Narnia Universe of utensils and vessels at the backs of cupboards and drawers, even though I’ve lived here now for nearly seven weeks.

Lazy, like I said. And also unobservant. (And a Capricorn, too, if that’s sounds good. Although my single status is legal rather than actual. I don ‘t live with my partner Miss Pink, but I’ll open up that can of Spam in a later blog.)

The unobservant thing has plagued me all my life. When I was a boy scout in the ‘80s we used to play this observation game that the Boy Scouts’ founder, Sir Robert Baden-Powel, went on about in his ground-breaking tome, Scouting for Boys.

It’s called Kim’s Game and it’s named after a Rudyard Kipling character called Disco Murray (kidding!) The game works this way. You arrange a dozen or so small items on a tray. You get the players to concentrate on the tray for about thirty seconds. Then you cover the tray and get the players to write down what the objects are. The brain tends to remember about five things easily. So most people only remember ten or so of the items.

That probably makes the 1980s sound a little dull for you younger readers. Perhaps if I explain that this usually happened to a blasting soundtrack that included New Order, Flock of Seagulls and Cheap Trick, then it might seem more fun.

I was only average at Disco Murray’s Game. And the older I get, the less observant I become. In my mid- 20s I went to a therapist for about two and a half years. One day near the end of a session I noticed a beautiful floor to ceiling bookcase at the back of his office. I asked him when he had it put in. He said it had always been there for as long as I had been seeing him. “So you’re finally really here in the room,” he said in that inscrutable way psychologists have.

He had a point. I was always in my own bubble when I went in there. Psychologists tend to cost a lot, so you tend to load up on exciting neuroses and “me” tidbits before a session to make sure you get your money’s worth. We had nearly come to the end of all our sessions and so I was more free to take in my surroundings.

Of course, Jeff (who is no longer with us), might have been taking the piss. Maybe the bookcase was put in three days before I asked my question. Too late to find out now. I remember when he died, I had a definite sense of, “So who am I going to tell stuff to?” Charmingly, my first thought was for myself.

It’s still a problem. Where is there for me to ramble on about inconsequential stuff that happens? I need somewhere that I can show photographs of my former apartment with its truly awful fruit-salad curtain that no furniture could be matched to.

It’s a tough one. I’ll have to mull it over.

Elevate the Insignificant

Mr Trivia