garbonza

Archive for August, 2013|Monthly archive page

BUY MY BOOKS, DAMN IT!

In literature, music on August 17, 2013 at 8:55 am

Once upon a time in London, centuries ago, before Fleet Street became a synonym for the journalism of daily reportage, there was Grub Street. This was a catch-all for the work place and social milieu of the hack writer, hundreds of whom hired themselves out to write bits and pieces great and small. The famous Dr Samuel Johnson started like this, lucky to be able to afford company at a coffee shoppe, compiling his dictionary in the 1750s with assistance from emmanuensises, sponsored by wealthy “patrons”. After the best part of a decade the dictionary was finished and when his patrons came a-calling he could afford to kick their asses. Don’t know exactly what I’m trying to say here, but if you buy my books as a patron of my work I promise I won’t kick your ass…

Irish writer Oliver Goldsmith (She Stoops to Conquer, The Vicar of Wakefield) was another habitue of Grub Street and friend of Johnson, who was finally acknowledged but was forced to sell his classics cheap to publishers, was continually hounded by creditors and died young of privations already sustained. Johnson himself didn’t escape multiple afflictions from his imposed lifestyle. And Richard Savage was another notable acquaintance, a talented poet who never made it and starved to death.

But I’m quite comfortably off, though it’s normally two months between moca bowls (at the NZ Herald Proofreaders Old Boys Gathering, Cafe Liaison, Pompallier Tce, Ponsonby) — So, sorry for laying the guilt trip on you. The thing is, I don’t care at all for the marketing that goes into being “an author” these days and being a shameless self-promoter rubbing shoulders with get-rich-quick grifters and self-improvement freaks. But if I’m doing this once I might as well try the hard sell.

The series "Sixties Whiteboy Rock" is based on my 2007 book "Beach Boys vs Beatlemania: Rediscovering Sixties Music" -- revised and expanded.

The series “Sixties Whiteboy Rock” is based on my 2007 book “Beach Boys vs Beatlemania: Rediscovering Sixties Music” — revised and expanded.

To buy ($9.99) or borrow (about $2.50) an ebook go to Amazon and look up “Sixties Whiteboy Rock”. There will be two available in the series to choose from, but since you’re there you might as well buy both — featuring everything you ever wanted to know about Sixties Music up to around mid 1965; though black music will be featured more fully in its own volume later. Each volume is about 65,000 words plus 60 photos. The next two volumes, due out in the next few months, will cover the second half of the Sixties. Even if you don’t like Sixties Music there are some good polemical chapters/passages arguing for authenticity in art. And if you don’t care for early rock music or argumentative criticism, I should have my first short novel up in the next half-year or so, of the gritty-street-life variety and set in Auckland.

Advertisements

MOVIE PREVIEW: EINSTEIN’S ABS

In film, Humor on August 10, 2013 at 12:49 am

In the wake of Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter and Da Vinci’s Demons, Meathead Entertainment Corp is planning a much-needed update of that other historic nerd, Albert Einstein. Admittedly the greatest scientific genius since Sir Isaac Newton, Einstein’s image is in even more urgent need of a revamp to make him relevant to today’s generation.

Lincoln, though as ugly as sin in real life, was at least in good physical shape from a life of splitting rails and — as we now know — from the intense program of martial arts he undertook to be able to do away with vampires with one slice of his silver axe. Not only was he made handsome for the movie too, but the emphasis was taken right away from the petty affairs of the daylight world. What solemn aspect he retained was given a good reason — to rid the world of vampires, rather than be distracted by cheesey goals like saving the United States and abolishing slavery.

The original Da Vinci, reputed to be gay with a taste for younger men, was some years ago proposed for a biopic by the producers of Brokeback Mountain. His image would at least be improved to a tobacco-spitting cowboy who could carouse and shoot up a town with the best of them. Apparently the real Da Vinci could bend horseshoes with his bare hands and kept in shape through riding and other exercise, but spent an inordinate amount of time paintin’ on canvas and figgerin’ — no hobbies for a real man. He would also buy cages of pigeons just to set them free. It was thought better for the movie to make him into a heterosexual action man kissin’ on ladies and maybe biting the heads off pigeons where necessary to ward off evil-doers.

Professor Einstein, though of slight build, was undoubtedly the flabbiest and most flaccid of them all, spending years at a time hunched over his equations and other sedentary habits that have no value to the modern movie-goer. In real life he was said to be admired by Marilyn Monroe, who said she found his intellect sexy. Ah, but was she ever subjected to a view of his torso? I think not. At this stage the movie project is top secret but we can take a fair clue from the working title, Einstein’s Abs. Here for the first time I am able to announce what the rehabilitated Einstein is likely to look like on the screen:

swollen_muscles

The producers of the upcoming film noted particularly that in the case of the real Einstein his head seemed too big for the rest of his puny body — all the better to encase his gargantuan brain; moreover, that his hair was far too long and unkempt so as to fit the outdated image of the eccentric genius. Designer of the new screen character saw to it that these features were reversed in a balancing process to be more functional and appealing.

LITTLE DO WE KNOW…

In civics, economics, ideology, politics on August 6, 2013 at 9:27 am

I’m going to assume we are all adults here in this forum (as I grandly call it, though this post might only reach two readers over the next week) and there is a free flow of ideas to and fro — to whoever is at the other end of this conversation. You are now entering The Twilight Zone… Please just humor me while I allow my paranoia to run free a little while. It’s called brainstorming, or panic stations. Certain socio-political events and utterances impacting on New Zealand across the Pacific from North America and East Asia over recent years and days have prompted the following thoughts.

WHAT IF…

* Beyond hearing and surveillance of all satellites and electronic bugs, heads of much bigger countries have been discussing, even weighing up, how many medium to tiny nations and which ones “we have on our side, so how many do you count in your sphere of influence?” to carry any vote in the United Nations?

* Discarding civilized pleasantries about the UN and choosing up sides in the playground for the egg-and-spoon race, there used to be something in the era of the Cold War called “Realpolitik”, which meant “Let’s cut all the bullshit about nations’ sovereign rights and get down to the nitty-gritty about how big your balls are and how many intercontinental ballistic missiles you’ve got.”

* This is exactly the kind of thing North Korea has got itself into in recent years when they kidnap foreign civilians, attack and kill enemies by the hundreds with impunity as if to provoke something rather precipitous, that might have no end… To stretch a point for the sake of speculative argument, might they be doing this at the behest of, or to curry favor with, their one and only ally, a much larger military and economic power not very far away? In its game of brinksmanship this country has several times crossed over that line, what formerly would have been considered the brink beyond no return.

* A couple of years ago when the Australia and New Zealand governments threatened to get more assertive with the Japanese whaling fleet plying its sickening trade in the Great Southern Ocean, the Japanese government countered that it could send a few minor elements of its naval “defence force” down to these parts and all thoughts of grand gestures on behalf of wildlife disappeared from minds overnight in this part of the world, and Greenpeace and other independent thinkers suddenly became the enemy to be clamped down on by South Pacific governments.

* Come to that, what could New Zealand (even partnered with Australia and Singapore) really do to defend itself against big powers unless it was closely and unquestioningly aligned with the biggest power of all?

Joe the Fonterra Man driving his milk tanker: Little does he know he's a pawn in a much larger game

Joe the Fonterra Man driving his milk tanker: Little does he know he’s a pawn in a much larger game

* The head spokesperson of China has been in the media speaking rather bluntly to John Key, Prime Minister of New Zealand, saying that this country’s image after the “Fonterra Incident” is not so much a “clean, green” one as “a festering sore”. In the old days them would’ve bin fahtin’ wards, especially coming from what is essentially a military dictatorship that treats three quarters of its population as a peasant labor resource and is seemingly dedicated to ridding the world of its last few remaining nonhuman threatened species. But in these times when NZ is merely a vassal state of the USA we can be used (and threatened) as a pawn. I just hope they find bigger fish to fry.

* And that, in turn, would explain why such secret subliminal messages, if not explicit and implicit ones, coming to the ears of New Zealand’s impotent leaders from huge foreign powers, have got John Key and the rest of the NZ government in such a tizz, gung ho for the GCIS Bill and any other surveillance legislation it can lay its hands on in a hurry. “Paranoia strikes deep,” as that Buffalo Springfield song from the psychedelic era said.

A few years ago I devised the outline of a novel about such powerplays across the Pacific and the vulnerability of such a remote country as New Zealand, even created a few characters and sample passages. But it ended up reading like a comedy, like the movie The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming (1965). Please tell me this is just a fanciful scenario, much closer to a novel or a comedy than for real.

Don’t be shy about leaving your thoughts in the Comments…

THE MONK IS ON YOU

In Humor, psychology/psychiatry, television on August 3, 2013 at 10:23 am

The tv series Monk started in July 2002 and is still going (as far as I know — we only get reruns here in New Zealand). But it’s never been the same since actor Bitty Schram (playing the feisty Sharona) left before filming the second half of series three; she appeared in just 38 episodes. Yes, the actor left — so this was not a creative decision as claimed by the producers but a power play, and it SHOWS.

Who knows what the creator of the series, one Andy Breckman, thinks of this. He must have worked out the balance of the characters to the nth degree if he’s gone through what most good tv writers do. Then just have it subject to arbitrary change when the producers, presumably rolling in more millions of profit each year, tell an actor “Take it or leave it.”

Yes, Traylor Howard is blonde and cute. (I admit to a prejudice against the ugly modern trend of females named with two unfeminine surnames.) I’ve seen her in a few teen movies from the early ’90s and she did well enough. But there is no way her character Natalie has “replaced” Sharona — who lent just the right spice to the mix. Ted Levine seems to me a very accomplished comic actor (and otherwise) and Jason Gray-Stanford does well too as the often hapless detective lieutenant. Tony Shaloub is expert in what he does on screen — but part of what he does is executive producer, and he doesn’t seem to be quite as good at this. It obviously creates an unhealthy power imbalance among the cast.

But whether this one event triggered more unfortunate trends I can’t say for sure. The comedy had gotten less clever, more slapstick. The tone is more crassly sentimental, to the point of getting us to feel sorry for geeky Teen Monk in numerous flashbacks. As if anyone’s interested — Yet, he might get his own series one day in a lucrative spinoff, as these things tend to happen. Straining for plots, Monk is put in less and less likely situations until credulity is strained beyond breaking. Knowing just a little about mental health, I’ve known from the start that someone who suffers from anxiety as constantly and intensely as Monk does could never bring himself to focus on a case for more than a few seconds at a time. No way could he function coherently as a detective over a whole case, never mind a genius who solves every case. But for the sake of involvement (which every good drama needs) I was willing to suspend disbelief.

Yet, the producers throw away this one main premise of the character when it suits them. After the umpteenth rerun episode I just started to watch — and felt too insulted to continue — Monk, on the run from the police, had just come out of the ocean to be greeted by his friend Leland Stottelmeyer (Ted Levine). The captain says something like, “That must have been hard since you can’t swim.” And Monk replies, “I was highly motivated.” These injokes are fine if the series wants to descend to the pat, unchallenging level of Murder She Wrote or Love Boat, but don’t expect me to hang around.

%d bloggers like this: