Saturday, 29 December 2012

Nostalgia Ain't What It Used To Be

I watched the first episode of the television series 'When We Left Earth' recently, which deals with the early years of space exploration. The show features a lot of grainy super-8 footage of astronauts from the early 1960s. I had seen a lot of this footage before, but it struck me as odd watching it as an older person. The sixties now don't seem as long-ago as they did when I was a kid.

My first thought was that the film stock used at the time had aged in a way that looks identical to some sort of nostalgic filter you might find on a photo application such as Instagram. It also struck me as unfair that these sort of filters seem to imbibe every digital photo with the same weight of historical significance as this footage from the early years of space exploration. In my mind the footage from the sixties has earned its right to be washed-out, grainy and scratched, whereas modern photos taken on digital cameras automatically look cherished even when taken on a whim. Older analogue photos were lovingly stored, catalogued and passed-around during important family get-togethers. Only the important ones survived! I predict most photos these days will not last beyond a simple hard-drive crash, and most of them will not be missed anyway.

Even though the footage from 'When We Left Earth' has been ironically re-framed as appearing 'modern', there are, of course, cultural indicators that show this footage was from the 1960s and not the 21st century. The most obvious and striking indicators are the types of cars and fashion on display, but I found myself laughing out loud when the narrator announced the seven astronauts that were to be part of the Mercury missions were 'the finest physical specimens available.' A shot of the group of men showed what looked, by modern standards, to be a bunch of middle-aged men with pants just a little bit too high, receding hairlines and possibly a diet too high in red-meat, resulting in high blood pressure. To top it all off, a couple of them were smoking!

Of course these men were probably super-fit and the ideal candidates for the job - it's just they were old-school heroes where the definition of manhood was different and people were not as concerned with outward appearance as much as achieving results. It's a shame that people seem less concerned with results these days.

In light of the recent retirement of the Endeavour space shuttle and its installation as a tourist attraction in LA, it was saddening to watch the early footage of the Mercury missions where concerned Americans of all ages watched the giant rockets take off. People reacted like they were at a rock concert and you could visibly see the excitement on people's faces as the massive rockets lifted off into the atmosphere. It is a sobering contrast to hear reports of people crying as a dusty Endeavour space shuttle slowly wound its way through the streets of LA at five miles-per-hour towards its final resting place at The California Science Centre.

Of course, a lot of Americans would have seen the death of the space-shuttle program as an allegory for the state of modern America following a global financial crisis, a seemingly un-winnable war in Iraq and a more insular country than the one that looked forward to the future and had a thirst for discovery in the 1960s. NASA would probably disagree with this summation. They claim that the space shuttle program was retired so that they can focus their resources on Mars, but surely space exploration must not be the main priority of the American Government at the moment?

The key to getting more funding for NASA, I believe, involves engaging the public with the space program again. I love documentaries on space exploration, but modern CGI-enhanced depictions of missions to Mars don't inspire me in the same way as the gritty seat-of-your-pants images from the Apollo and Mercury missions. Also, as a child, there seemed to be something real and visceral about the images of Jupiter taken from Voyager, because you knew they were not computer-ehanced and involved the simplicity of light passing through a lens. Nowadays the public seem to be numbed to fantastical space imagery that could just as easily be rendered in a computer game or Hollywood blockbuster.

Maybe this is why images that are obviously not computer-enhanced and border on the mundane seem to resonate with me. My favourite shot from a space mission ever was taken in 1975 by the Russian spacecraft Venera 9 as it landed on the surface of Venus. It managed simply to get a picture of the ground it landed on before the camera was crushed by the weight of the atmosphere. It's a pretty boring shot, I suppose, but as long as you are aware it's taken on another planet, then the possibility of what lurks beyond the borders of the shot makes it quite magical in my opinion.

The story behind the photo also enhances its value. I admire the risk-taking and the man-power involved in this possibly futile mission all to get this one not particularly remarkable shot. To me this is what makes space exploration interesting, the high risk in overcoming almost impossible odds to achieve a simple goal. Watching some poindexter sweating over a slide rule in the late sixties calculating a descent velocity is far more engaging and indicative of the inherent risks of space travel than any CGI depiction of a martian landscape.

Ultimately, I think to really sell the space program to the public again, NASA will have to raise the stakes and send a person to Mars. Maybe people are just sick of looking at pictures altogether. No image could possibly engage the public as much as having a person step onto the surface of Mars and being speechless.


Friday, 21 December 2012

The Christmas Tree

'Silent Night', Charles Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol', 'It's a Wonderful Life', 'The Star Wars Christmas Special', 'Merry Christmas Mister Lawrence' and 'Gremlins' - All great works of Christmas entertainment that will surely live on throughout the ages. Many artists have dreamed of becoming part of this popular canon and joining the ranks of the immortals, but only the rarest of talents manages to produce a work on par with these greats. One author who dared and succeeded beyond anyone's imagination was an eight year-old boy genius named Trevor Ludlow.

Already an accomplished and published author in the fields of science fiction (The Beginning of Life on the Moon) and Travel Writing (The Tin City), Trevor turned his attention to the difficult task of creating an evocative and lyrical Christmas story that would have a traditional narrative, but still appeal to modern audiences. The result was the sublime and elegant 'The Christmas Tree'.

The recently-unearthed manuscript is available to you, dear reader, for the first time, so that you can see that Trevor's talent emerged fully-formed. His confidence in the material was so strong that he actually typed the one-and-only copy without even outlining his ideas before writing. It is worth noting too, that Trevor's typing skills, punctuation and grammar are all startlingly evolved and already at the stage that has served him so well in his later career endeavours.

Without wishing to over-simplify a story that I believe can be enjoyed on many levels, I think it's worth noting the absence of a Santa-Claus character in the story, but still a hint of the supernatural in the way the tree magically appears. This is a clever device on Trevor's part to be inclusive of other religions and not just Christians. It is a plea for tolerance and acceptance of differences. The tree appears through supernatural means, but who, or what made it appear?

I also think it's incredibly poignant that the hero of the piece, a mouse called 'Norman' is thrilled to receive a piece of cheese for Christmas. To me, it is much more touching for someone to be thrilled about receiving something that they need, rather than being disappointed in something they thought they wanted. 

Please consider what is important to you, dear reader, whilst enjoying this magical tale:

The Christmas Tree

Once upon a time there lived a tiny mouse called Norman.

He lived at the edge of the forest in a small house which he made with his own hands.

It was small but he liked it very much.

One day as he was enjoying his bacon and eggs, he heard a great thud and he nearly choked from the shock.

He even got a bigger shock when he saw a tiny Christmas tree on his door-step not even marked.

'That's odd,' he said to himself.

'I've heard of falling stars before, but I've never heard of falling Christmas Trees.'

'I wonder where it came from,' he muttered.

He went inside to finish his breakfast.

'I wonder what I'll do today,' he said 'I know, I'll go and scare the socks off the farmer's wife.'

He finished his breakfast and was off - except for one little thing - the Christmas tree, of course!

He would have to move it to some other suitable place.

It turned out to be harder than he expected, for no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't move it.

He tugged and pulled at it but it didn't move.

He waited for ten minutes and then tried again without success.

It was night when he finally gave up.

He went upstairs muttering.

He quickly went to bed hoping it wouldn't be there in the morning.

When morning came, the Christmas tree was inside and under it was a big block of cheese.

He was so happy he burst out in a funny little rhyme:

I've heard of raining cats and dogs
I've heard of people rolling logs
There's a thing called a falling star
But I've never heard of this bizarre
These words I say today
I mean it truly in every way
To all a Merry Christmas and to all a good night!

To all a Merry Christmas and to all a good night!

Love from

Trev's Treehouse

Friday, 14 December 2012

Hello You!

I'm returning to Queensland this weekend to spend time with family and friends over Christmas and New Year's. While it'll be great to catch up with people I haven't seen for ages, there is also a lingering feeling of trepidation. I'm worried about running into people in social situations that I haven't seen in years and trying to remember their names.

I know not remembering names is a common enough affliction for the socially awkward, but for me I think it goes further than just an inconvenience, because often I can't remember the names of people I've known all my life.

I don't think there's anything wrong with my memory and the information is stored correctly in my brain, it's just the retrieval can often be difficult when the wave of panic about the awkwardness of forgetting short-circuits my memory-banks, leaving the information unavailable when it's required. My fear of forgetting a name becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The way I usually get around this is to not use anyone's name when I speak to them and hope that I'm never in a position to have to introduce someone to a third party that might come along. People must often think I'm trying to be deliberately aloof, when really under the carefully controlled exterior I'm just a big goofy puppy dog that just wants to lick their faces. My fear of social embarrassment luckily  prevents me from acting on this impulse.

In almost every circumstance, panic can be over-ridden by someone confirming the name of the person I'm talking to. Once I'm reassured about the person's identity, I can feel free to use the name at my leisure. This method has even worked in situations where my sister has thankfully confirmed that the kindly woman I've been speaking to for half an hour is, in fact, 'Mum'.

I don't think I'm alone in forgetting someone's name straight after being introduced to them. In my case, this happens because my brain tends to leap ahead and try and find something witty to say to keep the conversation going after the introduction. This sometimes results in not hearing vital name-information when it's offered. As to why I continue to feel a social phobia concerning names years after this introduction phase, I can only trace it back to a social trauma I suffered once when I was a child.

* * * * *

When I was about eight years old, I went to hospital to have my tonsils out. I was only in for a couple of days, but before going to surgery I had to wear one of those green surgery gowns, where, if you aren't wearing anything underneath, leaves your bum exposed to the world. I wondered why it was necessary to wear one of these whilst undergoing throat surgery, but luckily I didn't ask too many questions in those days.

I was talking to one of the nurses about half an hour before the operation. She was being very sweet and trying to reassure me that nothing would go wrong. Half way through our conversation she referred to me in a manner which made it clear that she thought I was a girl. I was puzzled, but soon realised that these hospital gowns pretty-much made everyone gender-neutral.

I was horrified! I felt embarrassed for myself, but even more-so for her. I decided in that instant to not divulge the truth, for fear of the awkwardness that would then exist between us. After all, she was just trying to be nice! In hindsight, I count myself lucky that she wasn't a theatre nurse and I wasn't having genital surgery... That would be a shocking way to discover the truth about my gender!

You might think this is a long bow to draw when it comes to a social phobia still existing some thirty years later, but I disagree. What if it turned out that I lived next to that nurse and had to see her every day? My entrenched desire to not-offend would probably result in pretending I was female every time I saw her for the rest of my life.

I never want anyone else to have to be put in this position. I never want to get anyone's name wrong so that they have to pretend their name is 'Barry' every time they see me when their real name is actually 'Greg'.

This is why nobody, under any circumstances, should ever try and congratulate someone for being pregnant unless they are 100 per cent sure... even then, don't take the risk!

So if you see me walking the streets of Brisbane in the next couple of weeks, feel free to say hello. You may find it  hard to believe that the air of smugness and superiority is simply a veneer to protect an androgynous boy in a hospital gown, or a puppy-dog that wants to lick your face, but please be aware of one thing:

I'm definitely a boy dog! 

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Spoiler Alert!

I don't get to claim intellectual superiority very often, but there's a movie out in cinemas at the moment for which I have read the book before seeing the movie. Unfortunately, after having read the book, I don't think I'll bother with the film, even though the trailer makes the film look breathtakingly beautiful.

The movie in question is 'Life of Pi'. It's directed by Academy Award winner Ang Lee. I consider myself a champion of his work - even his less popular films. I liked his version of 'The Hulk'. I found 'Life of Pi' to be a relatively good little adventure story, but the thing that ruined the book for me was the way it was framed. I won't give the ending away, but there is a cheap twist you would expect from M. Night Shyamalan (who I believe wanted to direct this film at some point), which is dressed up as some sort of deep spiritual revelation.

I think the ending would only be a revelation to people who think 'Noah's Ark' and a bunch of other bible stories actually happened. The rest of the audience will be going 'well, derrr!'

I'm interested to see if this will be the case, because this aspect of the plot is not alluded to in the film's trailers and for all accounts they'll probably think the movie is a high seas adventure about a boy and his tiger. I suppose, for the most part, that's what it is.

It's a delicate balance in a trailer between getting the audience's interest and giving away too much. Personally, I try and find out as much as I can about a film I'm interested in before seeing it and will go so far as to even read the script if it's leaked online. I don't think a movie can be ruined by giving away a single plot point, and if it can, then it's probably not the sort of film I'd like to see.

Admittedly, it's a good feeling to discover a secret along with an audience, but this rarely happens in the internet age. I remember being genuinely surprised in cinemas during the film 'From Dusk 'til Dawn', which I saw because it was produced by Quentin Tarantino. I thought it would be a good little gangster flick - which it was - but when Selma Hayek turned into a vampire half way through the film (switching the film's genre in a split second), the collective laugh and groan from the audience was worth the ticket price alone.

This is a good surprise rather than a bad surprise. When I think back to all the movie trailers I've seen over the years, it occurs to me that warning signs can often be found in trailers indicating that the film won't be that good.

The most obvious example I can think of is the Robin Williams film 'Toys'. The trailer features Williams in a field ad-libbing about the film without ever saying what it's about, or showing any footage from the film. His biggest selling point is that 'it's by the guy who made Rain Man'. If you've ever seen the movie, you'll know that it's a pretty joyless film that bizarrely seems to deal with the consequences of excessive military build up and completely ignores the joy and whimsy of childhood. Under no circumstances should you mistake this film for Toy Story!

The trailer for the movie version of 'The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy' has one really odd shot that I'm almost certain was not in the film. Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell) explains to Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman) that he and Ford Prefect share two of the same mothers. At this point Freeman breaks the fourth wall and stares directly at the audience as if to say 'can you believe these guys?' It's ramming home the punchline of a not particularly funny joke. The real appeal of the jokes in the Hitchhiker's books was the language and riffing on the absurdity of the universe through some high concept jokes. This trailer made it look like the jokes had been dumbed down for a mass audience. Unfortunately, this turned out to be the case.

The problem with making movies at the moment is it's really hard to make money when people don't go to cinemas and everybody is pirating movies. This means films have to appeal to as wide an audience as possible, which means that almost nobody is truly satisfied with the end results. I'm sure there would be a better quality of films out there if audiences simply came to the same revelation that I did a while ago and realised that you don't have to 'get' everything. I have almost no idea what most of my favourite films are about. There are obviously some points that I can grasp, but I prefer a puzzle I can ponder, rather than be handed everything in a self-congratulatory manner. Also, it's comforting to know that there are people out there who are smarter than me - or at the very least craftier.

Last year Terrence Malick released the film 'Tree of Life' starring Brad Pitt. I believe the trailer was fairly accurate in depicting the tone of the film, but that didn't stop audiences in the US complaining that they didn't understand the film and wanted their money back. This lead many cinemas to advertise that the film had a 'non-linear narrative'. I would argue that audiences dumb enough to go see a Terrence Malick film expecting to see Pitt's rock-hard abs and gunplay instead of whispered internal monologues and sweeping vistas of nature, probably wouldn't know what a 'non-linear narrative' is.

It is comforting to know that some films can be rather high concept and still satisfy audiences. Even though it's not a perfect film, I really thought 'Inception' did the rarest of things by combining action with an intelligent story and excellent practical special effects. The best part about it, though, was it was a story that could not be spoiled by any foreknowledge of the film at all. Even if you knew everything about the film going into it, you'd still be in the same boat as everyone else at the end when the whole plot is distilled down to a single spinning top which would indicate if the movie was a dream or reality by its actions. When I saw the film at the cinema I felt the same way as I did at the 'From Dusk 'til Dawn' screening all those years ago. The audience emitted a collective groan when the film cut to black leaving the question forever unanswered.

It's great to know that other people feel the same way as me:

'I Love a Mystery!'


Monday, 3 December 2012

Jeffrey Smart

I'm not the type of person that normally watches a show like 'Artscape', but last week I noticed they had a profile of one of my favourite artists - Jeffrey Smart. The documentary was aptly titled 'Master of Stillness'. It occurred to me that Smart is the rarest of beasts - an almost universally-appreciated artist who is actually great.

I was perhaps dismissive of the documentary initially, as it seemed to be aimed at the layman and only a promotion for Smart's new exhibition at Adelaide's Samstag Museum. After they announced Jeffrey Smart had retired, I got down off my high-horse. I was not aware of this fact.

I suppose this shouldn't be surprising as the guy is 81, but there must be some painter equivalent of 'dying on stage', like some spotlight-starved popular entertainer. I suppose fine-artists know when their physical abilities might be waning. His paintings to me seem like something that have-always and will-always exist.

I suppose I first became aware of Jeffrey Smart when I was a kid, through a painting that was on the cover of a collection of short stories by Peter Carey that my dad bought called 'The Fat Man in History'.

The actual painting used was called 'Cahill Expressway'. I don't think I ever read the book, but the cover photo always impressed me. It's an earlier work by Smart from a period when he lived in Sydney. Whilst it features an almost geometric arrangement of objects and a sense of space which he has become synonymous with, the colours seem a little more muted in a Post World War II style, as opposed to the vibrantly colourful work he would become known for later when he moved to Tuscany.

If there is any link between different types of art that I like, it's usually simplicity, playfulness and a sense of humour. The inclusion of an 'Alfred Hitchcock' character in 'Cahill Expressway' is something that drew me to the work initially, even though figures are usually dwarfed by the landscape in most Jeffrey Smart paintings.

Probably one of Smart's funniest paintings (and therefore one of my favourites) is 'A Portrait of Clive James' which takes this idea of a figure being dwarfed by the landscape to the extreme.

In 'Master of Stillness' Clive James says he is featured almost imperceptibly in the background because Smart found him 'too ugly' and his features 'too uneven' for him to be good subject matter. Smart (perhaps tactfully) denies this. To be fair, people are almost never the primary focus of Smart's work.

It is interesting that Smart is considered one of the foremost Australian artists, when he has lived in Italy since the early 1960s. Looking at a lot of his work, it never occurs to me that they are of Italian landscapes, because a lot of the iconography is universal. This is because Smart's landscapes avoid the cliches of the countryside and instead focus on modern architecture, which could be from any major city in the world in the late 20th century. I think if there is anything specifically Australian about his work in Italy, it is probably the sense of space.

What Smart seemed to appreciate was that there could be beauty in anything and any image that moves your soul can be broken down into a series of shapes. David Byrne pointed out in the film 'True Stories' that 'highways are the cathedrals of our time'. I agree with this sentiment! Maybe it's because I live in an urban environment, but buildings speak to me more than trees. I have no real reference point for appreciating a forest, so to me it makes sense to find beauty in your surroundings. I am constantly amazed when people ring up radio stations and complain about wind farms. I think they're quite beautiful and give an interesting contrast to the natural environment. They are undeniably more breathtaking than a coal-fire power station, but, to me, even toxic smoke billowing into the atmosphere can have its own sad beauty.

One of Smart's final official works was called 'Labyrinth'. When I first saw it, I have to admit to not being particularly impressed. To me, the image almost seemed to verge on cliche. After careful consideration, though, I realised that it isn't easy to sum up a career in one painting and this one is probably as good as any. The sole figure (presumably supposed to represent Smart) is trapped in quiet contemplation amid his own trademark 'stillness', forever trying to solve the maze. The 'Master of Stillness' documentary suggests that it references Smart's own childhood in Adelaide, where he first encountered the urban environment in the backstreets and alleyways of the suburb in which he lived. When I consider this, it evokes an image from my own childhood.

I remember playing in the backyard by myself when I was about  six or seven years old, jumping off the steps to see how high I could go without physically hurting myself. It occurred to me whilst doing this that I, solely, was in charge of my actions. It seemed like an amazing revelation at the time, that, in this moment, I could decide to to follow an almost infinite number of possibilities. I could keep jumping off the steps until I broke my leg, pull faces at the neighbour's dog, yell at the top of my lungs, or even go and help my mother make dinner (this never happened). I suppose I had become aware of 'the present'.

This odd sense of wonder about the silliness and scariness of being in control of your own destiny certainly has waned throughout the years and it has become harder to find the time for quiet contemplation and stillness.

In this respect, I have to be thankful for Jeffrey Smart and his paintings, because they remind me that this place still exists.


Saturday, 24 November 2012

Young People Know Everything

I think if I have any real talent at all in life, it probably lies in my ability to misinterpret lofty ideas in such a way that when I try and recall them later they don't resemble the original concept in any way, shape or form.

One such concept I may have totally misconstrued is the concept of 'Platonic Ideals', which, as far as I can recall, involves the theory that there exists in the world of ideals a 'perfect' template for everything in existence, which includes objects like chairs, tables, and plants. Probably the best way to illustrate it is when you consider a circle. No perfect circle exists in the real world - but it does in the world of Platonic Ideals.

When I apply this theory to people, I find myself coming to a disturbing conclusion - young people do know everything!

I know this is hard to swallow, but when I consider the most wide-eyed, optimistic and morally righteous version of myself, it probably existed around the age of 18. At this age the Platonic Ideal I constructed for myself would have consisted of some free-lovin', cosmic, bohemian beatnik-type sitting in coffee houses writing intense poetry and being talked about in hushed tones of admiration by other patrons.

Of course, this scenario is for an ideal world. I find trouble usually arises when trying to apply utopian fantasies to the everyday. The real world bohemian Trevor's poetry would most likely be terrible, the other patrons would consider me a poser rather than a delicate genius and the baristas would most likely spit in my coffee. 

The problem with having a vision for a perfect world and a perfect version of yourself is that the rest of the seven billion people on the planet also have their own ideas of perfection. When these other ideas clash with your own Platonic Ideal, then you're forced to deal with the most adult and mundane of realities - the dreaded 'compromise'.

I went to university in my late twenties and as an older student who had lived a bit, I often found the degree of passion on both sides of student politics to be amusing. Being passionate on campus is one thing, but I often wonder how these embryonic politicians fared after university trying to sell their ideas to a marketplace full of self-centred and often ill-informed citizens. Did they have to compromise their core beliefs in order to survive in the world of politics? Sadly, I think the answer is probably 'yes'. 

Winston Churchill once said "If you're young and a Conservative you don't have a heart, and if you're old and a Liberal you don't have a brain." I don't necessarily agree with this, but I know what he was getting at. People probably do get a little bit more cautious as they get older and being young is the only time you really have to outwardly challenge the status quo.

The thought of anybody ever referring to me as being conservative still fills me with dread, but I don't really think the answer to anything lies in the absolute extremes. A younger version of myself probably did. One of the best illustrations of taking your beliefs to an absolute extreme that I found poignant was in the show 'Six Feet Under' where Nate's hippie girlfriend Lisa tried to shoo ants out of her house rather than have to kill them. To me this seems like taking your beliefs too far. Maybe for some people it isn't.

I suppose the best use in life for the Platonic Ideal of your younger self is as an anchor - something to return to and measure yourself by when life doesn't turn out like you imagined. Maybe someone you once loved marries someone else, or you're forced to settle for a job just to pay the bills rather than indulge your passions. It's important to remember that although the younger version of yourself may have been the purer form - it was only that way because it had never been tested against the real world.

Probably a lot of people don't like the younger versions of themselves anymore, but bad hairstyles and fashion sense aside, they still were once you and therefore shouldn't be dismissed.

I think if I visited the bohemian-beatnik version of myself in the world of ideals, I wouldn't have any harsh words to say to him. I would, however, wait for him to go to the bathroom and then go and spit in his coffee. It would give me a sense of satisfaction to dilute some of his smugness and ultimately he wouldn't know any better.

At the end of the day if anybody is going to spit in my coffee, I'd want it to be me.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Keep on Truckin'

This week California passed legislation for a trial of computer-assisted driverless vehicles. I don't think they're ever going to catch on.

If other motorists are anything like me, the feeling of being in control is an enjoyable sensation and giving up this control would be akin to simply catching public transport. The only real advantage would be slightly fewer objectionable odours, stains and unhinged fellow commuters.

My main concern, though, is how people will release the pent-up anger and aggression that driving affords as an outlet for the average citizen. This is especially worrying in The United States where citizens have 'the right to bear arms'.

I, myself, have been known to transform from the affable Dr Jekyll that the world has come to know and love, to a sinister Mr Hyde when placed behind the wheel of a car. I'm only aware of this when there are passengers in the car with me and another car cuts me off. After the 'red mist' of rage subsides, I often notice fear and shock in my passengers' eyes. This is usually followed by a scramble for the door handle. It seems that most people would rather take their chances and jump from the car at high speed, than be in a car with the beast that has been unleashed.

This is my natural driving state and it only recently occurred to me that this is probably how my daughter picks up naughty words that I'm careful to avoid saying around the house.

There are things I simply love about driving, especially rituals involved with the long-distance road trip. I love leaving the comfort of the big city and encountering the little signs that let you know you're in the country, such as bristly-hair still on bacon ordered from road houses and milk-skin on coffee that you order by the mug. I even like whispered insults directed at us city-slicker types from the burly men in the exclusive 'truckies' section of these road houses.

One of my favourite overheard insults was on a trip with my friend Glenn. One truckie saw us approaching, rolled his eyes and whispered to his friend "Here comes George and Mildred."

Glenn has always had quite bouffant hair, so I suppose I'm George:

I have to admit, it does hurt my pride, though, as I find the idea of being a truck driver rather appealing. I like the idea of constantly moving and seeing new things and people every day, as well as honest work where you can see the fruits of your labour and friendships forged with people that may live hundreds of kilometres apart.

I also like country music compilations purchased from service stations (preferably on cassette), mystery food from bain-maries, cheap sun glasses and souvenir truckers' caps. I like those beaded orthopaedic seat covers that truckers always seem to have and the way kids in cars always do the 'pulling motion' to get truckers to blow their horns.

In my flights of fancy, I envisage that I'd become a talked about and beloved figure, bringing a wry smile to the faces of fellow truckers and a sparkle in the eyes of weary waitresses, when they see my rig approaching. I would graduate to being one of the elite few in the 'truckies only' section, exchanging knowing stares with other truckies when hapless city folk wander into my world.

Sadly and inevitably, one day waitresses and patrons along The Pacific Highway will be concerned that 'Big Trev' hasn't made his scheduled stop and will be inconsolable when they hear the tragic news that I have died. Considering the lifestyle, it will most likely be as a result of complications from diabetes. I know I will have died happy, though, after leading a productive and honest life, with my only secret being the location of the graves of all the missing hitch-hikers over the past few decades.

Even though I'm not a truckie, I have learned a lot about the lifestyle through innumerable trips between Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne playing in rock bands. The first thing you learn is whether people are cut out for this lifestyle. I remember on our first trip to Melbourne, our van hit a kangaroo at about 2am in the morning. Everyone scrambled to inspect the damage and consider our options - except for our singer at the time, John - who pretended to be asleep. We were all flabbergasted! Sure, it's important to turn a blind eye on occasions when you're in a band, but this was neither the time nor the place. The band didn't last past this first visit to Melbourne.

On another trip to Melbourne (with a different singer), our friend Martin came along. We didn't have to take any musical gear, so we only hired a sedan instead of a Tarago. The journey, whilst event-free, was hellish, with poor old Martin stuck in the back seat in the middle between two drooling, drunken, smelly boys, asleep and leaning against him. This seemed like a life-changing trip for Martin, as soon after he got married, had some kids and basically straightened-up and flew-right. I'd like to think we helped him gain some perspective on his life through that trip, but the lesson I took away was 'don't skimp on the Tarago if you can afford it.'

The horrors of being trapped in the back seat are enough to make me happily drive entire trips from Brisbane to Sydney without changing drivers - but I'm not a Nazi about it - if someone offers to take over then that's okay. This is one of several unspoken etiquettes that exist on the road.

Others include:

  • The driver is in charge of the stereo (once again, don't be a Nazi about it, though!)
  • Whoever rides shotgun has to navigate (if need be.)
  • There needs to be a popular consensus on bathroom stops and you can't just stop every time one person needs to go.

As with anything, it's always important to set goals. When we would travel from Brisbane to Sydney overnight I always liked to time it so that we would arrive in Sydney at about 9am for breakfast in Newtown (Lou Jacks was a popular destination). An early arrival would mean you would then have the whole day to muck around, shop and book into hotels before playing a show in the evening. It makes sense, but a lot of road tricks I have picked up through trial and error.

Here are some of them:

  • Get plenty of sleep before going on a big trip.
  • Don't drink too much coffee if you're driving. Drink water instead. This way you stay hydrated and know when you're actually too tired to drive.
  • Don't drink too much water or you'll need to stop for the bathroom too often.
  • If the car is aquaplaning then don't slam on the brakes.
  • Similarly, if a load of building materials falls off a truck and heads towards you, try and drive around the obstacle rather than stopping. (This actually happened!)
  • If you have a trailer, don't get into a situation where you have to reverse out of a park. If you do have to reverse with a trailer, then remember to turn the wheel in the opposite direction to the one in which you want the trailer to go.

Writing this blog does instil a sense of nostalgia in me and is a painful reminder that I haven't done a road trip in a few years. Maybe I'll do something about that one of these days. I realise I'll probably never be a truckie, but that still won't stop me from grabbing a country music compilation and hitting the road.

In the meantime, I hope I've offered some informative tips and helped ignite a passion for motoring in you, dear reader.

Maybe someday I'll see you out on the roads!

Just don't cut me off!

Saturday, 10 November 2012

I Won the Lotto!

About seven years ago I lives in a suburb called Lutwyche in Brisbane. Our house was literally across the road from a pub called 'The Crown'. The food there was okay and most of the patronage consisted of a bunch on uninspired-looking locals who basked miserably in the gloomy atmosphere of a half-hearted attempt to fit-out the decor in an 'Irish' theme.

The main reason that anyone seemed to bother going to the pub was to enjoy the delights of the 'gaming room', where a plethora of pokie machines were crammed into a cordoned-off section from the main room, leaving narrow corridors for punters to sit uncomfortably amongst the whirring noises and flashing lights.

Some afternoons during the week, I would find myself at a loose end and amble on over to play the pokies and have a beer. Sometimes I would win, but more often than not I would probably lose about forty dollars. I went in quite prepared to lose this amount. I saw no real harm in this activity and only felt guilty in the same way a pigeon might, as he continuously presses a buzzer to be rewarded with birdseed in some sort of laboratory experiment.

Something happened one day, though, that changed my mind.

As usual, I was sitting at my favourite machine trying not to make eye-contact with the endless stream of pensioners that entered the establishment. I couldn't help noticing that a girl sitting next to me was unusually young-looking. I hastily glanced over and conceded that she could be old enough to be here - after all she seemed to be quite comfortable smoking her cigarette and drinking her beer. She also had the resigned look of someone who is used to gambling and losing. To top it all off - she was also about six months pregnant!

It would be an hilarious joke if it wasn't true. It's like some ghastly skit about how bad a start in life you had, which is why you could never catch a break.

"I was born to a single mother with gambling problems who smoked and drank while pregnant. Now I have severe learning disabilities and the only job I'm fit for is a politician!"

Suddenly, it didn't seem like just mindless fun anymore. The pub and the gambling industry itself seemed to be complicit in profiting from the disadvantaged. I pretty much gave up going to The Crown soon after this and now don't really gamble except for the occasional game of Keno. I'd like to say it was because I nobly took a stance against the injustice of the industry, but the truth is I think I just figured out I wasn't a very good gambler.

Last week, however, I reverted to my old ways. Along with around eight million other Australians I partook in the Oz Lotto super-duper mega-draw that had the staggeringly-large jackpot of $100 million. I did an online quick-pick which cost about $15 and made me feel very uncomfortable as I strongly disapprove of the ads being shown with Merv Hughes about how 'easy' it is to bet online.

After I made the bet, it annoyed me that I spent the rest of the day considering how I would spend the $100 million, even though I knew full-well that the chances of winning were one in 3.7 million. They don't call it the idiot-tax for nothing!

I fortunately know that I'm bad with money, but news reports where they would ask random pensioners  what they would do with the winnings further incensed me. Most of the answers were along the lines of 'Oh I'd go on a nice holiday and give some money to my family' - Do these people know how much $100 million dollars is? People with no imagination should not be allowed to win the prize. Off the top of my head, how about:

'I would hire someone to vanquish my enemies'

'I would drape myself in the finest silks and be carried everywhere by pole-bearers'

'I would rent advertising space on billboards around the country which would feature my smiling and benevolent face'

'I would buy-back the bones of The Elephant Man from the Michael Jackson estate'

These are all good suggestions, but whenever a jackpot this size comes along it's always accompanied by muck-raking current affairs stories about people who have won the lotto and blown the lot.

Keeping this in mind, I eventually decided that the best thing to do would be to try and keep relatively busy and just live off the interest from the money. After careful consideration, I decided that buying a vineyard would be the best idea. Sure, I have no skills in farming and whenever I look at a plant it seems to visibly wilt, but, being suddenly independently wealthy, it would not matter if I made a profit or actually produced anything at all. In fact, it'd be beneficial! I wouldn't end up drinking the proceeds of the vineyard and inevitably become a bloated alcoholic corpse.

Being the glass-half-empty guy that I am, this initial rush of euphoria didn't last long. I could still envision myself winning this fortune, but I also started to contemplate the trappings of my winnings. If the fact that you had won became common knowledge, surely you would be accosted at your home by pan-handlers and charitable organisations? It's annoying being harassed by companies like Greenpeace (who I fundamentally agree with) when I'm broke. Imagine what it would be like if I actually had some money!

Security would suddenly be an issue. What if all the people that knew about my dark and sordid past suddenly decided to blackmail me? Even worse, what if someone decided to kidnap my daughter and hold her for a huge ransom? I would then have to hire some Liam Neeson-like character to get her back. Sure, I could just pay the ransom, but I don't negotiate with terrorists!

By the time the draw came around on Tuesday night, I was secretly hoping that I wouldn't win. I didn't watch it live, but I was notified of the result the day after, by email. Just as logic would predict, I had failed to win anything. My secret relief was tempered by an annoyance that in some games I didn't get a single number.

This week, I'm glad to not have that false-hope eating away in the back of my mind. If I think objectively, I really have won the lottery. I'm a fairly well-educated middle-class white man living in a pretty well-off country, I've had a relatively incident-free upbringing and now have a happy and healthy family myself. The world is geared towards people like me to succeed.

So why does it often not seem like enough?

Ultimately, I think gambling appeals to the worst aspects of people's characters. For the majority of people it's probably just greed, but the real bad guys in my opinions are the ones in charge of the gambling syndicates who feed off people's desperation, when odds are stacked so far against the punter. Ozlotto is innocuous enough and a lot of lotteries even give back to the community, but maybe these lotteries make gambling seem commonplace and harmless which could entice susceptible people to more dangerous forms of gambling.

Of course, this could all just be a bunch of sour grapes from my now-unattainable vineyard.

* * * * * 

By the way readers. The title of this blog isn't as misleading as you might think. My wife Edwina actually won $48 in the lottery. This begs the question 'How much money would someone have to win before you would consider murdering them?'

Luckily for Edwina I think it would have to be at least triple-figures

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Bad Hair

I think it's true for all of us that there is a divide between how we see ourselves and how others see us.

In my mind I see myself as a foppish English private school boy, skipping merrily along the riverbank on the way to rugger practice with my chums - thick, lustrous locks blowing in the wind and a long fringe dangling playfully over one eye.

The reality is somewhat different. I'm a 41 year-old Aussie house-husband desperately trying to hold on to some 1990s slacker ideology. My hair is grey and wiry with a receding hairline that gives a sort of silver-mohawk effect, like some sort of over-used toilet brush that's being sold at a garage sale.

It's not what you'd call a best-case scenario.

I'm lucky, however, because I was able to hang onto my hair long enough to trick a woman into loving me and eventually marrying me. Freed from the fear of having to appeal to the opposite sex, I can now happily let myself go to seed. I do feel sorry for the poor girl, though, because what she ended up with probably looked a whole lot better in the catalogue. Buyer beware!

There is the fear in the back of my mind that I might one day find myself single again. Going on a blind date with a woman now would be the stuff of nightmares and I think I would spend the whole date apologising for my lack of sex appeal as large clumps of hair drift down into my soup bowl. The date probably wouldn't even make it to the main course. Afterwards I would retreat to catacombs under the city where I would hide away from the prying eyes of strangers and the cruel unforgiving glare of the sunlight. At least here I would be some sort of urban myth and create an air of mystery!

For the past few years I have gone to the barber sporadically and in-between have tried to cultivate an Albert Einstein look. Because I'm such a cheapskate, I consider it value for money, but also I don't enjoy the look of nervousness from barbers who seem to be trying to hide an 'Oh my god - there's nothing I can do for this guy' look of terror on their faces.

If I'm honest, I think even my attempt to look like Einstein has been unsuccessful.

I think I look like this:

When in reality I probably look more like this:

I do feel a twinge of guilt when I think about the amount of time and energy I have spent worrying about my hair and what I can do with it. Surely this energy could have been better utilised exploring world's beyond our solar system, or finding a cure for the myriad ailments that ravage our modern world?

I think it's only fair, therefore, that I share some of my exhaustive research with you, dear friends.  

After careful consideration about the best possible hairstyle for a balding man, I consider this to be the champion: 

That's right folks! The Danny Devito bald ponytail as featured in the movie 'Twins' wins my vote as the best hairstyle a bald man can attempt.

My reasoning for this is that, above all, you have to own your baldness and nothing shouts out 'I'm bald!' more than the contrast between the hair at the back of your head and veritable desert that exists on top. I realise that anyone attempting this hairstyle has to be supremely confident and not every man can pull this off without the added benefit of being a beloved Hollywood movie star and powerful force in the entertainment industry.

For the less successful bald man I would offer this advice:

The worst thing you can do is the combover. Wake up! - you're not fooling anybody. Also, don't waste your money on any lotions that promise miracle results or wigs. My theory behind this is that even if you can fool everybody else, ultimately you can't fool yourself. I'm sure that when Shane Warne looks in the mirror every night he still sees a chubby little baked-bean eating rampant texter with thinning hair, rather than the supermodel-dating Sam Newman-apeing nightmare he has become.

It's almost another issue entirely, but hair should also be age-appropriate and even those blessed with ample follicles should try and at least have a hairstyle that reflects the dignity of their years. Those desperately but unsuccessfully hanging on to their youthful 'dos include Paul McCartney, Rod Stewart, Ronnie Wood and Elton John's 'ginger wig'.

Only African-Americans and possibly Asians should attempt the 'shaved head' look. Sam Jackson looks cool, but Britney Spears looks less-so with a shaved head. There's an important message here - if you're going to attempt this look- make sure you're head has a good shape and is free from scars. Also, a lot of men seem to couple the 'shaved head' look with ample facial hair which, to me, gives the impression that they secretly hope their facial hair will migrate to their head.

The best look, in my opinion, for the less-confident bald-headed man is what I call the 'Sting' look:

There's enough stubble to suggest that he's aware of his receding hairline and he still proudly shows it off. He also has a great-shaped head and has an air of confidence and acceptance.

Unfortunately for the average bald-headed man, Sting also possesses a fabulous physique, piercing blue eyes, strong cheekbones and an insatiable tantric sex drive.

Oh dear - If you want me I'll be hiding down in the catacombs.  

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Five Thousand Blog Views

Well folks - My blog has been viewed five thousand times since I started it in February!


My new year's resolution was to do one blog entry a week for a year. I believe this one is my 36th, so I'm well on track. I can't remember what the purpose was when I started, but I think it had something to do with sharing my unique vision with the world. Now that I lead a hermit-like existence I am no-longer able to chew people's ears off at the pub with my relentless yabbering, so I now consider this to be my primary pointless-conversation outlet. It's probably a useful mental-health activity, too. It can't be healthy keeping this amount of bullshit to yourself!

In hindsight, it might have been a good idea to find out what a blog was before I started. I'm still not sure. I don't really read other people's blogs unless I stumble across them or else I'm personally directed to them by the author. I know enough about blogs to be relatively sure that five thousand views in nine months is not a particularly good strike-rate. I think it averages out to about one hundred and forty views per week.

I normally attack new projects with an unbridled enthusiasm coupled with unrealistic expectations - and my blog is no exception. Surely there would be an incremental amount of views every week as my fan base sky-rocketed? I naively thought that every one of my blogs would receive views every week, so by this reckoning I should now be celebrating a readership in the millions... Sadly, this has not been the case.

Those that know me well are aware that I'm prone to daydreaming and in my best-case scenario at the beginning of this project I expected by now to be some sort of internet-sensation with perhaps a book deal in the works, a weekly agony-aunt column in a major metropolitan newspaper and the likes of Rupert Murdoch and James Packer knocking down my door; desperate to secure my services to help them steer their media empires into profitability in the new millenium. I would smile and wave my hand casually dismissing Packer and Murdoch saying 'no deal - I'm an artist, not a businessman' - and they would skulk away dejectedly with their shoulders hunched.

Honestly, I think this integrity may have prevented my blog being more successful. One of my most popular blogs on a week-to-week basis was called 'The Tree - Gorillas in the Midst' which was about the invisible hierarchy that existed at my high-school. It wasn't a particularly great piece of writing, but when checking my statistics I noticed that a search for 'Silverback Gorillas' had brought people to my page. The story only has a passing mention of gorillas and a picture. I thought this wasn't fair to all the gorilla enthusiasts out there, so I deleted it.

My most popular blog by far has been about The Kinks and revolves around my love for the relatively obscure but excellent album 'The Kinks are The Village Green Preservation Society'. The Kinks' website 'Kinda Kinks' posted a link to my article which increased my readership about tenfold (for that week, anyway). If I was clever I would have just written about The Kinks every week, but this would have been against my different-story-every-week mandate.

Which is not to say I'm completely without a commercial sensibility. I've reviewed other albums such as 'Talking Heads '77', 'Modern Lovers: Live!' and 'Aaron Freeman's Marvelous Clouds' to relatively successful ends. In other instances I've even left in references to such obscure things as The Salvador Dali Museum, Bob Dylan, Tuxedo t-shirts and Party Zone Pinball because they lead readers to my page even though the blogs are ostensibly not about these subjects at all.

I must admit to writing about 'populist' subjects on several occasions just to see how it would affect the traffic to my site and while '500 Episodes of The Simpsons' was quite popular, other populist attempts such as 'My Thoughts on Prometheus' and the Star Wars-referencing 'Parents Against Light Sabres' proved less-so. It made me consider that a subject can be so popular that any writings about it can be simply lost in the deluge of internet garbage. Writing about subjects with a small but dedicated fan-base seems to produce better results unless you're a big-name writer or writing for a popular website.

Some of my favourite blogs have involved re-posting some of my stories I wrote as a child, such as 'The Beginning of Life on The Moon' and 'The Tin City'. I was literally in tears of laughter re-reading some of these, but I think some of the tears may have involved lamenting that my story-telling abilities have actually decreased since I was ten years old. I think I managed to successfully channel the spirit of the young Trevor in blogs such as 'A Portrait of The Artist', 'Thanks for the Advice, Gina' and 'Omega Man', which involved fictionally extrapolating real life scenarios. At least it seems I haven't lost my passion for science fiction and flights of ridiculous fantasy.

While statistics can be encouraging, they can also be frustrating, because you don't know exactly who those readers are. I often mention that I write a blog to friends to see how they react and am usually greeted by blank stares. This could be taken a number of ways:

1. They haven't read it.
2. They have read it and think it's awful.
3. They are dumb-struck by my genius.
4. There is a secret pact between my family and friends to stage an 'intervention' any day now to stop me from continuing this ridiculous and destructive pursuit.

Ultimately, I do this blog for myself, but I was recently surprised and perturbed to discover my wife doesn't regularly read my blog. She does ask about it, though and encourages me to keep going.

Other sources of encouragement I would like to thank are: Raychel Plath, David Hannah, Michelle Ransom, Karen Ludlow, Mum and Dad, Ben Corbett, Heinz Reigler, Chris Yates, Cameron Collie, Jo Thomasson, Debbie Winther, Cameron Allen, Matt Lobb, Dan Barrett and anyone else that may have re-tweeted or shared a link to this blog.

Finally here's a link to the trailer for 'Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part II.' It's a steaming pile of shit, but it might inadvertently attract hapless readers.

I'll see you all next week!


Trev x

Friday, 19 October 2012

Trev's Halloween Horror-Movie Primer

I spend a lot of the day watching children's films with my four-year-old daughter. While I enjoy a lot of the films and even get a bit teary and emotional during some, I still like to spend my adult viewing time watching people be dismembered, possessed, stalked and tortured.

I love horror movies!

When I was a kid, I think I just wanted to watch horror films because I knew it was a taboo. It was also the early 80s and the golden age of VHS and horror films. Even today, nothing beats that grainy picture and warped sound you get from a tape that has been watched hundreds of times. I think it really adds to the macabre movie experience.

The first film I remember being truly terrified by was 'An American Werewolf in London' - especially the iconic practical-effects 'transformation' scene that was later appropriated by Michael Jackson for his 'Thriller' video. After countless horrific nightmares and waking up in cold sweats, it eventually dawned on me that the film was actually a comedy. Even more recently I was watching a re-run of it on TV and noticed that one of the evil townsfolk at the inn on the moors at the beginning of the film was Rik Mayall from 'The Young Ones'!

Our neighbours were a bit older than us and one weekend in the 1980s we spent an afternoon watching horror films at their house. This was a momentous afternoon in my horror education. This is where I first became aware of David Cronenberg's work through the film 'Scanners'. I later became a big fan of Cronenberg, but I will admit that Scanners is not his best film. It was visceral enough to get my attention at the time, though.

Another film we watched that left an impression, but has been almost universally forgotten since was 'Deadly Blessing'. I actually came across a copy recently for five dollars at a newsagent and noticed it was directed by Wes Craven who went on to do the 'Nightmare on Elm Street' films as well as the 'Scream' franchise. I didn't buy it - but in hindsight, it probably would have been worth it for the cover alone! My reasoning at the time was it probably hasn't held up too well and I didn't want to spoil my horrific memories of tiny flying orbs that would dig into your skull and then drill a hole in your brain! Some memories are too precious to taint.

I've never been a big Wes Craven fan, but I increasingly became a fan of David Cronenberg's over the years. It was when his version of  'The Fly' came out when I was in my teens, that the rusty penny in regard to horror films dropped once again. I read a review that stated 'The Fly' was an allegory for the AIDS epidemic and since that point I have re-evaluated a lot of horror films I loved and noticed subtext that I had missed previously. I came to realise that horror films weren't necessarily mindless violence after all!

Of course, horror films are not known for their subtlety and it now seems rather obvious that slasher films such as 'Halloween' and 'Friday the 13th' (which were made in the 1970s) were a reaction to the sexual promiscuity of the 1960s and 1970s. Usually in these films the promiscuous teens would get picked off first, followed by the stoners and various other delinquents until only the 'virtuous' teenage girl survives.

Other films have slightly more subtle messages. John Carpenter's 'They Live' and George Romero's 'Dawn of the Dead' are about rampant consumerism. 'Night of The living Dead' has themes regarding civil rights and a lot of 1950s sci-fi horrors including the excellent 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers' concern the cold war. It seems most really good horror films reflect the fears of the time and even James Whale's 'Frankenstein', which is based on Mary Shelley's gothic classic, was updated to reflect the horrors of mutilated soldiers returning from war.

Really great horror films are able to tap into primordial fears, which is probably why a film such as the 1922 silent German expressionist film 'Nosferatu' (which is a thinly-veiled Dracula rip-off) still works so well. The dimly lit, grainy black and white really taps into that caveman-like fear of what is lurking just beyond the camp-fire light.

I suppose the dominant form of horror these days is known as 'torture porn' and I'm not really a great fan because a lot of the subtext is replaced with just a barrage of senseless violence designed to test an audience's threshold. This, in itself can be construed as a comment on the casual violence everybody puts up with from the media on a day-to-day basis, but as a viewer I often need a little more than that.

There are exceptions to the rule, of course and I think the film 'Hostel' is quite clever in the scene where sadistic rich people bid for the right to kill an American tourist. The tourist buys enough time to escape by saying something to his captor in his native German, which makes the captor hesitate. There are no subtitles and the onus is turned back on the audience (who are most likely westerners that speak only english) to consider that if they were in the same situation they would most probably die.

Although it is considered more of an 'art' film Michael Haneke's 'Funny Games' also toys with audience  culpability. The story concerns a home invasion by two psychotic youths. They perform various acts of torture and violence toward the family. There is one shot where one of the youths breaks the fourth wall and says something along the lines of 'this isn't going to end well' directly to the audience. He's basically daring you to keep watching, even though you know nobody is going to survive. I have to confess here that I only watched a further twenty minutes of the film. I couldn't see the point in taking the dare if you knew what the outcome would be. I'll try and watch the whole thing one-day, but I appreciate the film as a social comment.

Haneke actually made two versions of 'Funny Games' - one in his native Austria and a more recent Hollywood version. I must confess - I've only seen the Hollywood version. This is usually the case with me and even during the brief explosion of Japanese Horror, I really only managed to see the American version of 'The Ring'. My defence for not seeing the original is simple - I thought the remake was pretty good! Perhaps a lot of the defenders of Japanese horror are being overly precious, but I must admit to scoffing at the thought of seeing the Hollywood remake of the Swedish film 'Let The Right One In' because I think the original is a modern classic and shouldn't be tampered with. I admit to a double standard here.

Takashi Miike's 'Audition' is also quite an interesting 'torture porn' film. It's unusual because the first three quarters of the film are almost a gentle-romance, where a lonely businessman 'auditions' women for a film part that does not exist in the hope of finding a girlfriend, only to be excruciatingly tortured at length by the object of his affections during a the final 20 minutes of the film. Surely, this could be seen as a pay-back to all those 70s slasher films that dared to pass judgement on women's promiscuity?

Luckily, there seems to be a trend to more 'classic' storytelling in modern times and I quite like the recent films of director Ti West who made 'House of the Devil' and 'The Innkeepers'. West's films are almost a throwback to classic 1970s and 1980s horrors but probably with more of an emphasis of character development. I think he appreciates that you need to understand and care for a character, so it matters later in the film whether they live or die.

Another director I quite like is Guillermo Del Toro. His early horror film Cronos, which concerns a wind-up brooch that offers eternal life but turns the owner into a blood-sucking monster, is certainly unique, and while he went off the boil a bit when he made the Hollywood film 'Mimic', he certainly returned to horror-form with 'The Devil's Backbone' and, of course 'Pan's Labyrinth'. 'Pan's Labyrinth' is great because it can be taken as a fairy story, an escapist fantasy or a film about the brutalites of war. It's this blurring of the lines between what is real and imagined that I quite like, which is further explored in two Spanish films that Del Toro produced for directors JA Bayona 'The Orphange' and Guillem Morales 'Julia's Eyes'.

Perhaps Del Toro understands the link between fairy tales and horror. Surely, fairy stories, like horror stories, are designed to help audiences deal with and confront hidden fears. They may even help people  hide from the horrors of the real world. With this in mind, I reckon my daughter and I do not have such different tastes in movies after all.