Sunday, 14 January 2018

My job

My grandson has reached an age where he will ask his daddy to call me so he can get on, he wants to share some news.

It’s either a question and a quick chat, or it's to tell me that he is disappointed.  I coo at him and talk about being happy about something that he can do or look forward to.

His latest disappointment – he can’t make films and put them on youtube.  Both parents said no.  A definite 'no' from both of them.  He knows there are rules about online spaces, and some rules are non-negotiable.

My grandson is under 10 years of age.  I haven’t posted a photo of him for years, and what made it into my social media feed was blurred or taken from the rear.

He only watches shows with permission and is only on-line when under supervision.  He is a sensitive child in some ways, robust in others. He has a great sense of humour and he is smart as a whip.  

He got the idea of filming his own shows. ‘Documents’ he called them. I twigged, he meant ‘documentaries’.

Nothing makes me happier than filming him and I am a willing camera person for our growing collection of family memories.

His subject matter for his first foray into screen time are his prized possessions. He has a lot of toys and books and things. So many things that we decided last Christmas we would stop buying him so many things. He’s given off signs for a while that the opening part of new things was fun, the playing with the item afterwards, not so much. Toys littered the floor and crammed shelves.  We started to narrow it down to, ‘what do you really love?’ and then we shop accordingly.

So his first video - I filmed it as a message for his aunty - was framed around ‘what toy had he missed out on for xmas but he would be delighted to see come from the Boxing Day sales?’

Thus came about his first short feature on the ‘Beyblade Burst Xcalius Master Kit’.  Not one of these rare and valued things could be found in any store in Adelaide on Boxing Day.  We ended up ordering it from the US and it arrived on 9 January 2018.

Ye Olde Spinnig Top

Xcalius is a very fancy version of a spinning top.  Turns out that years ago Dad made him a wooden spinning top in his shed.  It doesn't have any where near the features that grandson carefully explained on his three minute short.  We all have presents that were hand tooled in Dad’s shed.  One year it was wooden puzzles.  My sister has jewelry boxes.  I have a growing collection of wooden bowls.  We’ve now put in an order for mailboxes for correspondence with the Knee-Highs which Dad will have to get a wriggle on with as grandson may not believe there are little people living under my house for much longer.
Our first co-production, Land of the Knee-Highs, by Grandson and I

Where he got his public speaking skills from, I can only guess, but my grandson is a natural.  He is articulate, engaging and a skilled demonstrator.  What stretched my heart near to breaking point was on xmas day for the past few, he wears a elf cap.  He has no idea how cute he is in an elf’s cap.  He wears it all day and from every angle he is adorable.

Both parents were clear – ‘no youtube’ until he is a teenager, and then it is more likely to be a discussion about 'why does he want to?'  Or maybe he will work that out for himself because the pitfalls will be widely acknowledged. Maybe it just wont be cool by then.

Yes, some kids grow up to make a fortune out of it.  Well, they get older.

I knew a Vegemite kid years ago.  I can’t say he was horribly ruined by the exposure of being in a tv ad.  It may well have been a different story for him these days with the attendant bullying and grooming that is so much a part of online spaces.

I was less worried about what it would do to my grandson’s sense of self.  I can't see my grandson feeling the need to slather himself in fake tan, so five years ago, or fake ochre, so last year.  I’ll caution him against coming out as a young gun with a disruptive bent, because when those fearless interrogator’s age, they have to constantly shave a few years off to stay in the band.  Please be, he won't need to film himself, to take a good hard look at himself.  He will know with heart and mind that he is not diminished in anyway if he cares for those with less privileges than we've bestowed on him with loving attention.

We tell him to 'be kind always' and I ask a lot of questions when he tells me about his world.  He is curious and he leans in very close when we do things together.  He hugs me first and presses his face against the side of mine when we take photos.  He makes me laugh and smile and something lurches inside me when I think about him.

And when he remembers me years from now I want him to say, my nanna laughed all the time.  That’s my job.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Comic Relief

I was a country kid so I grew up on ABC. If you are of the same era, you know what I mean. Pretty much sun up and sun down screenings of shows imported from the UK.

Many of the shows from the 1970s and 1980s still stand up or maybe it’s nostalgia.  Fawlty Towers, The Good Life, Yes Minister, To The Manor Born told me a lot about England but mostly they made me laugh.  They were comedies set in a far away place with little resemblance to home.  They didnt make me feel blacker or invisible.  I watched them because they were funny and sometimes they were funny even when they were sad.  They did something to my insides.  

I remember when it began to jar a little amongst cultural gatekeepers, the frissons of resentment that somehow we weren’t proud of local content. I cant think of any shows of comedic note that were produced in Australia around that time. Seriously. I can’t.

Then and now I’ve never watched a tv show because I thought I had to.  I don’t think I am the only one.

The latest Dave Chappelle Netflix special to land on our screens is fresh air in a stuffy room. It is the very best of what a comedian should be.  I wont spoil it because of its many pleasures is to settle in and just let it envelop you. 

But yo, some may say, he has been doing this for a while. I know, but I am late to the David Chappelle party. I spent a lot of years where I just didn’t have time to watch tv, not when there were so many books that I wanted to read.  And Richard Pryor was so good I could watch him repeatedly.

I get that something happened. Dave got pissed off and walked away.  He stayed away. And now twelve years later he is back. 

Dave Chappelle makes it look so easy. Seemingly random jokes. He checks himself. He pauses. He laughs at his own jokes. But there is someone one very intelligent behind it all.  He pulls you in, he softens you up, he takes a jab or two and it’s all so well put together you cant see the stitching.  His performance is superb and for me a hundred times over because he is black.  He teaches me things I just didn’t get about America until I picked up on the nuances in his work.  He is laugh out loud funny. He is fearless and he is cunning. 

He makes me wonder about where Donald Glover goes from here. Atlanta was the standout comedy for me of 2017. Donald wrote it, developed it and stared in in.  And yes, there may be a country mile between these blokes.  If it wasn’t for their work who would know that there are differences and divides amongst black America?

Dave Chappelle is that rare artist whose generosity humbles us all. I am glad to hear he is making millions out of his work.

RATING:   All 4 Dave Chappelle specials - 5 stars. Worth the Netflix subscription alone.

And while you are there,  reacquaint yourself with Richard Pryor. And if you don't know him, check out Bill Burr.

And Atlanta is still up on SBS.

Monday, 1 January 2018

Romper Stomper, Season 1 - First Impressions

Romper Stomper – The Series, Season 1 on Stan

Midway impressions

The series makes Romper Stomper, The Movie look like a masterpiece.

I knew all about the controversy of the movie first and then the series, not because I was interested in a fresh round of outrage.  I was interested in where the story went after the movie ended.   It’s hardly surprising that I have high thresholds for violence on screen.  I have lived in Australia all my life.

Blaming a tv show or a movie for that matter for the violence and hate that some will bear down on others is only part of the story.  It can contribute but it’s not in itself enough.  

Rancid masculinity is manifest in a myriad of ways, in places town and country, and in people rich and poor.  If the concern is that it is enhanced by violence and dehumanization pouring out of screen into people’s homes, then why don’t we start with a campaign to eliminate porn?  Or Game of Thrones?  Or online games? Or sport?  Or persecuting the poor, and the list goes on?

How many people are motivated by porn in their mistreatment of women?  How many have gone on to worse crimes because of their unchecked violence towards women?  

A person would have to be very comfortable indeed to bypass all these legitimate concerns and channel their energy into condemning a tv show.

Do they fear being kicked in the guts, the balls, or the head outside a railway station as they go about their lives with freedoms that women don’t have either in public, or in their homes because of who they live with?

Romper Stomper, ‘The Movie’ was Russell Crowe’s movie.  Romper Stomper ‘The Series’ delivers Jacqueline McKenzie as the stand out performance.   What would she have been if not for a toxic industry that put women at risk and cut their earning capacity off at the knees?

I’m bloody grateful that Stan, and Netfflix and Amazon are spreading to Australia.  We need more stories and we need more people telling them.  Local content is not all its cracked up to be. 

Thanks to streaming services and I’ll include SBS which has devoted its platform to bringing international work to Australian screens – thanks to all of them I can watch productions that would never be possible if they had to get around established sensitivities.  There is something for everyone.

Some quick points in closing this mid-point review of The Series:

  • The storyline around the online activists makes online outrage look exactly what it is.  It thinks it punches far above its weight.
  • The extremist groups are populated by young people with a few shady older people pulling the strings.  Regardless of their cause, the same players exist. Both ends of the spectrum give oxygen to the other. 
  • It took a little while to get in to The Series.  It is slower than The Movie.  It doesn’t have the loose-laced beat of Doc Martens hitting the tar but the classic trombone soundtrack is used heartily and still stands up.
  • Endlessly asking the people who made it the same questions is to be expected.   There is no fanning the outrage without them being skewered and hopefully flounder in answering why they thought it was a good idea to revive the story.
  • But the current round of a particular tone of media scrutiny of the actors – How could you? Haven’t you heard how APPALLING this show is? - is puzzling.  

The story so far – good enough for me wonder how it ends.