Thursday, December 29, 2005

Old School Daze Part 2

And so we stand poised at the edge of 2006, 2005 still gripping our coat-tails but feeling its fingers beginning to lose hold as we strain towards our new friend...isn't it time to reflect on the year that was?

Of course it is. The year that was, in this case, was 1930, when I was just a wee bit of a thing in rural Massachussets. A country determinedly blind to the threat of Depression, a nation letting itself slip like a 40-something businessman who's two-decade marriage has gone to ruin. We danced those dark days - oh, how we danced. And, naturally, it was the dance of children, for I was entering my early teens and, as a wise songstress later put it, I was "not a girl, not yet a woman" (or a man). We called our dance The Flibbertigibbit, and it failed to make waves. But even now when I meet one of my old school chums (ever more rarely, I'm afraid), one or the other of us will inevitably launch into a spirited rendition of our untimely jig and we will both fall about laughing. To paraphrase Jesus: where two or more of us are gathered, The Flibbertigibbit will be there. It was a bit like The Running Man, now that I think of it.

Thoughts like these take me back to my old school photos, and I've dug up another one from these days in Crook Neck, Mass., USA. Ah, here 'tis.

I was absent this day, oddly enough. I think I had a bad case of quinsy that day, but it could equally have been a dose of scrumpox or Bronze John. I was a veritable treasure trove of archaic ailments, all once common but oddly lacking from contemporary medical dictionaries. In less than three years in my youth, I managed to suffer from trench mouth, La Grippe, grocer's itch, croup, bloody sweat, dock fever, dropsy of the brain and many good old bouts of the horrors.

Anyway, before you began prying into my private life in such a fashion, I was discussing my schoolmates. Let's have a closer look at some of the kids.

Have you ever noticed how every class has at least one dirty kid? Kind of like Pigpen from Peanuts. He was always my favourite. Just living free. So this kid here was called Dirk, and we all knew him as Dirty Dirk for obvious reasons. Also because he often exposed himself to other children.

Ah, Jemima. Paler than most, on account of an anaemic disposition which was eventually to be the end of her, she also saw a wasting of the brain which had many side effects. You can see here the tea towel she always insisted be draped across her head at a jaunty angle. She insisted it would come into fashion but I don't think it ever took off.

Beatrice here was quite the character. She always insisted that she was in fact a well-known gossip columnist for the New York Times, and suffered the humiliation of our derision and scorn at these outrageous claims. But what do you know? It turns out that when this photo was taken, Betty was in fact 43 years old and one of the most talked-about writers at that esteemed publication. We never could understand what she was doing in our class, but suspect a kind of Fast Times at Ridgemont High undercover deal.

Hmm. Now this might seem a bit distasteful for modern audiences, but you have to understand that we did things differently then. Nowadays, with access to modern medical facilities and vaccines and so on, it's hard to remember what it was like in the grip of a depression with no such things as antibiotics, regular meals or even clean water. But we stuck together. So gasp if you will, but I think it was right that we included Eric in our school shot, even if he had been dead for seven weeks. I mean, we kept him in class that whole time. After all, his parents had paid his tuition in full.

This is our teacher, Mr Singh. In retrospect, I do question the wisdom of employing a twelve year old Indian boy as our teach, but he arrived with very good references which included time spent teaching at Princeton, Harvard and MIT. The teaching staff was limited, and they could use all the help they could get. Also, Mr Singh's teaching style was pretty much limited to throwing paper planes at us, taking our lunches and starting singalongs (with songs we never knew the words to).

Gretel may be confusing to you younger folk. You see, back in the day, it wasn't uncommon for actual fairy folk to sign up for class. In this case, Gretel was a bridge troll. I don't know what she ended up doing, but then I haven't been back to Crook Neck for some time.

Anyway, there you have it. My memories have begun to fade over the years, so I felt it might be worth putting these down for posterity. Carpe Diem, and all that ("seize the carp", I believe).

Friday, December 23, 2005

A Very Christmas Viewing

Herewith for your Yuletide perusal, a selection of Xmas-themed television programs playing over this merry weekend:

The Twelve Days of Christmas Eve
Gets the award for title that makes no logical sense. Also it's an "action-adventure" which actually makes it sound intriguing.
Lello: Christmas with the Strongest Man in the World
Because when I'm tucking into my family lunch, I often think "the only thing that's missing is a strongman"
Mr St. Nick
Too many appellations there.
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
I've actually wanted to see this extremely loopy 1964 film for a while. Santa apparently has a reindeer called 'Nixon'. Also teaches us that "Four kids using ping-pong balls and soap bubbles can take on one grown man who is armed with a disintegration ray."
Inspector Rex Christmas Special
Speaks for itself.
I'll Be Home for Christmas
There are actually two versions of this playing tomorrow on the same channel. Directed by different people in 1997 and 1998. Either that's one HELL of a title, or it deserved/required a remake REALLY quickly. Though I do notice that the 3.40pm version is "comedy" and the 11.10pm version contains "adult themes". Oo er.
A Carol Christmas
I'm guessing they thought that would be a genius bit of word play, and don't you just bet the main character is named Carol? Since it stars Tori Spelling, however, we'll never know because nobody in their right head would watch it.
Salty Love
Not Xmas-themed that I'm aware of, but surely not appropriate fare for 3pm on a Saturday.

Have a good holiday and don't forget to sing Happy Birthday for Jesus.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


Well, no. But if you tell 997,720 of your friends/associates about this site, you could be that lucky person.

Apparently it's lazy to do this, but I thought I'd take the slack option today and let you know some of the odd things about visitors to AHFLV.

The most common way people find this site is by googling "Very Confused Woman". WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? IT IS MAKING ME VERY CONFUSED! (but not a woman - note to self: get chromosomal DNA check)

Others have found it by googling, amongst other things:
"Tsubi Book Launch" (huh? They have a book? What reason could they have for having a book?)
"How to Sing Low" (Awesome, good luck and let me know how you go)
"The hidden meaning in the play until someone wakes up" (I've never heard of it, but I think the hidden meaning is this: crime doesn't pay. If not, how about: there is no such thing as Santa)
"Sociophobes" (fair enough)

That's all. Oh and also:

Monday, December 12, 2005

Something in Store

I'm not a superstitious person. At least, that is, I don't think of myself as one. Never throw salt over my shoulder, no problem stepping on cracks, will open a hundred umbrellas indoors and a black cat crosses my path several times a day (thank you Pete).

Although, now that I think of it, I do have certain superstitions I adhere to, but they're ones I've either made up myself or adapted from existing beliefs. For instance, if I spot a five-cent coin I have to pick it up; if I drop one I have to let it lie. Other denominations aren't affected.

Also, I've long feared saying "good luck" to someone. This might have started with the whole don't-say-good-luck-to-an-actor thing, but has since been expanded to incorporate everyone. At the same time, I do find myself saying it but always feel a little bad when I do. If whatever endeavour I'm wishing them luck in goes awry, I'll probably blame myself. But what's the alternative? "Bon chance"? "I wish you well"? "Knock 'em dead"?
All of which is in no way a relevant preamble to the fact that I went to see this guy last night:

Young Angus Cerini's This Thousand Years I Shall Not Weep finished up last night at The Store Room and, well, it was quite the corker. I hadn't seen Angus perform for a few years (probably not since Uni, even) so I was looking forward to catching it. Solo show devised in collaboration with Kelly Ryall on sound, it was a barrage of sucker punches that didn't necessarily make sense but kept you intrigued the whole time. It told a few intercut stories, one of a "peacekeeper" in Iraq who commits an atrocity, another of an anaemic kid who is given a disease during a routine blood transfusion, and a framing device wherein a politician makes some broad claims which set the rest of the show in contrast.

It's a hard show to follow - the various threads don't add up to an overall picture, and the physical intensity of the thing makes Cerini look like a balled fist undergoing electro-shock treatment. But you can't deny the power of it, or the seriousness motivating what you see. Anyway, it's over now, so you don't get to see it at all I suppose.

After the show it was a bit of a 2005 break-up party for The Store Room over at the Pinnacle, where (as usual) the spread was outstanding. If you ever get the chance to go to a function or something there, step over your own grandmother to get to it.

What a dry post. I'm tired.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Golden Rough/Holy Maloney

Wednesday of this week must have seen some kind of astral confluence, water contamination or chemical imbalance of my brain as I got it into my damn fool head to attend not one, but two theatre shows on the same night (Wednesday night, as mentioned). How I managed to finish work at 6pm, get to Carlton to see Golden Chains at La Mama by 6.30pm and then over to North Melbourne to see Billy by 8pm is quite the miracle. Thank you non-denominational deity. How I managed to fit in a sit-down meal somewhere in there is even more incomprehensibel. Plus I dashed into the supermarket to pick up an onion, a lemon, baby spinach and some other stuff. Didn't throw any of it during either show.

Golden Chains...well, I'm not sure what to say about this one. It's physical theatre performed by a solo artist (Kath Papas) with recorded voices delivering text from Pushkin's Folktales as well as more contemporary documentary stuff. There's live percussion, too (very well delivered). But I wasn't quite sure what I was watching. Papas is a good presence, and has always seemed like a nice and professional person when I've seen her. And the show's creator Elissa Goodrich has done good work, too. But it wasn't apparent what linked the many components of the piece. Apparently Russia has something to do with it. By if there's one thing worse than being able to second-guess why every single artistic decision has been made, it's not being able to take a punt on any of them. I've since heard that the show was originally intended as part of La Mama's most recent Season of Explorations, and I think that would have been a more appropriate venue. Just because, well, this feels like a work in progress, and it probably needs some time to ripen.

Billy has had a looong time to mature, and writers Sue Gore and Bill Garner know their historical stuff. They specialise in solidly researched plays which unearth lesser-known events and characters from Melbourne's past (The Ishmael Club was a winner which was picked up by the then-Playbox for a more mainstream season). In this case, they've picked up on the story of Billy Maloney, a "larger-than-life" character who helped get women the vote, fought for the 8 hour workday, spoke up for free speech etc etc. He was a parliamentarian of the most idealistic, utopian sort, and the play does a good job of painting him as a candidate for secular sainthood.

It's also a very weird experience for a relatively young 'un like me (not giving too much away there, obviously, since the mean audience for political/historical theatre is hardly that of The OC). Within a few minutes, we were standing on our feet singing along to a rousing old time tune of solidarity. What? At least I knew that I was hardly in for a dry old lecture.

And yes, it's a very enjoyable piece which left me with a spring in my step. That word, rousing, really is an apt one: I couldn't help but curse the current government and wish we had more fellas like that Billy Elliot, I mean Maloney around these days to fight the good fight. If the play is to be believed, he certainly accomplished more than any pollie of nowadays, and it's a depressing thought. I have to disagree with some when I suggest that the panto/music hall style of the play is perfectly appropriate: okay, it gives us a cardboard greasepaint version of an undoubtedly complex figure, but the play isn't seeking to open up an unproblematic window into another era or a subtle psychologising of a historical personage. It's trying to make you think about today's political climate, and about how in some ways we're far worse off than we might have been a century ago. Which is a fair aim. If it sometimes accomplishes this with exaggerated or ham-fisted acting, or creaky conventions, no matter. Gore and Garner are trying to rouse you, perhaps to action, and if they managed to literally rouse their audience to their feet every night, I imagine that we can't call this project an entirely unsuccessful one.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Site for Sore Eyes

Hi there! Hello.

No, there's not been much activity here of late, but I just thought I'd pop in to let you in on a development:

Pat and Joel now have their own site! It's at:
Plastic Acoustic

Why? Well, three (3) reasons:
Firstly, popular demand meant that their adventures could no longer be housed here, and this site was never meant to be devoted to funny-looking mannequins and dolls, frankly.
Second-like, there's not that much arty/opening type stuff going on, so this site will be quieter over the summer.
And third, well, some people find Pat and Joel a bit scary and nightmare-inducing, so I thought it best if we quarantine them. You can always look them up if you want, but you don't have to.

The new site will feature all kinds of adventures in emoting, as well as your regular cast of characters and a whole bunch of new friends you've yet to meet (thanks to those who submitted their own photos, especially Our Man in Tokyo who took his own).

That's all, see.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

A Festival of Carnage

It's not often that AHFLV offers up music as part of your daily digestibles, but since the better part of four days was spent at last weekend's Queenscliff Music Festival, it's probably worth a mention. Only problem is: I've just gotten the photos back, and Something Is Afoot. Let us review the evidence:

Look in the bottom right corner of the frame:

Someone has gotten a little too festive in their frolicking, perhaps? That's what I thought, until I turned to the next shot.

Something is definitely amiss here. Why has nobody noticed this mysterious figure lying in their midst? And why do I have no memory of said figure?

Jiminy Crickets! It's almost as if a conspiracy of silence is keeping this mystery from surfacing? What horrors are being perpetrated under the mantle of an innocent music festival? WHAT HORRORS?

Even the beach isn't safe. Was this figure washed ashore, or did they attempt to reach the relative safety of the waters only to be cut down mere metres from its edge?

And what of this poor soul? Was he scrambling down a sharp embankment to escape his pursuers and lift the lid on the dark secrets lurking beneath Queenscliff's sunny facade? Or was he thrown bodily over the edge, finding this bench anything but the calming place of rest it is supposed to be?

But my biggest shock came when I reached the shot I'd taken once back in Melbourne. With one frame still remaining on the roll of film, I snapped off a quick image of Edinburgh Gardens in North Fitzroy. Here is what came back:

The horror has followed me home. Could it be within me? Don't think so (hope not).

I'm waiting on the photos of my fellow travellers, and will let you know if they shed any light on this gruesome enigma.

Also: what the music at the Festival was like.