Sunday, September 30, 2007
Sunday, September 23, 2007
Every nation has it's own classic television program for children.
They have Blue Peter in the UK, and although the show has ended, in the US there was a long running show called Mister Roger's Neighbourhood that ran for many, many years.
In Australia we had Mr Squiggle, sometimes called Mr Squiggle and Friends.
The show has been running on and off for about 45 years and is the creation of the wonderful Norman Hetherington.
The format of the show was simple.
Children would draw a random series of squiggles on a page and send it in to the show and Mr Squiggle would take the squiggle and make it into a finished cartoon.
Mr Squiggle himself is a marionette puppet, operated from above by Hetherington.
The puppet has a long pointed hat and Norman would use the end of it (offscreen) to manipulate Mr Squiggle's pencil nose.
Because he was being operated from above, the finished cartoon was always upside down.
He would chant "Upside down Miss Jane" and the human helper would flip the drawing around to be seen by all.
Miss Jane was the human helper when I was a kid.
There was also Miss Pat, and Miss Gina and you can sometimes tell a persons age in this country by which "Miss" they recalled from their childhood.
It's disappointing I can't find more of Mr Squiggle online.
He had a strange personality for a children's television character.
Very nervous and flighty and prone to stress attacks.
These attacks would cause him to float away for a space walk to calm his nerves.
If anyone has ever seen the film "Shine" about pianist David Helfgot you'll have some idea of the twitchy nature of Mr Squiggle.
Mr Squiggle was from the moon, where he lived with a bossy houseboy called Doormat.
Doormat was never seen.
Other characters on the show were the impatient and grumpy Blackboard (seen in both of these clips), Gus the Snail and Bill the Steam Shovel.
Gus was a nasty piece of work with a television instead of a shell and Bill told knock-knock jokes and had a strange pile of pubic hair on his head.
Mr Squiggle was a show that encouraged children to draw.
I am sure that it must have inspired me to do so.
Perhaps I would not enjoy drawing so much without it.
Mr Squiggle was the kind of entertainment that I don't think we see often anymore.
Gentle without being boring.
Funny without being smarmy.
Cheeky without being smug.
Simple without being moronic.
I found this picture of Norman and his friend Mr Squiggle.
He must be 85 by now.
Perhaps people can get some idea of the spirit of the show by a quick glance at this warm and genuine image.
There must be similar shows in the rest of the world quietly encouraging children to put pencil to paper.
And if not, hopefully there's an up and comer who is as clever and talented as Norman Hetherington waiting to step into the role.
at 1:26 PM
Friday, September 21, 2007
Here are some bites of The Big Apple.
Here you can see some snaps from The Feast of San Genarro, which should be familiar to anyone who watches The Soprano's, and snaps from the Seaport where we went to that unpleasant Bodies exhibition and then had a vast meal of Cuban barbecue.
The delight of having such a wonderful meal of seared flesh made the images of mummified Chinese people disappear almost instantly.
Incidentally, the process used to preserve the bodies is called "plastination" which sounds to me like a new kind of animation.
Walking in Manhattan:
New Yorkers have an unspoken set of rules about using their pavements.
I have not yet worked out all the details, but I can explain some of them for anyone who happens to be heading this way.
1) Keep With The Flow.
If you need to stop to pick your nose or tie your shoelace then get out of the fucking way.
Or better still, if you intend to walk around and have any intention to stop without buying something, don't even bother to come into the city.
2) No Apologies.
For many people of Commonwealth origins, it's common practice if when you bump into someone on the street that you apologise to them.
Do not bother with this in New York.
You will only be revealed to be a tourist which is something best kept to yourself here.
New Yorkers don't want to be reminded there are tourists messing up the place and when you try and talk to them they don't like it.
It's likely that they won't understand you anyway and they may be required to say, "What???!!!"* wasting further valuable seconds on stupid tourists.
3) Don't Start.
As you've just read, if you bump into someone don't bother to apologise.
Even more importantly - if someone bumps into you then take your beating.
There is a habit among Brits when they feel they've been wronged and not had the wrongdoing acknowledged, to stare open mouthed with a kind of haughty look on their face (my parents have not lived in the UK for over 40 years and still do this).
Don't bother with this as it means you'll have to stop in the street and you'll be kicked to the ground by the rest of the herd.
Under no circumstances should you ever do anything silly like say "Oi! You just jostled me" or "Ex-cah-use me!".
If you try anything as foolish as this there'll be one of two responses:
a) You will be encouraged to go fuck yourself.
b) You'll have an argument on your hands, which you don't want. These people are expert arguers. They'll use the expression "Go fuck yourself" so often that it'll render your carefully worded complaint completely useless.
There is an exception to this rule though.
If someone tries to steal your cab, not only are you allowed to argue and say "Go fuck yourself" as often as you like, but the law says you are also allowed to punch, kick and even stab the other person until they surrender the cab to you.
* Translation for Brits and other creatures: "What???!!!" means "I'm terribly sorry but I didn't understand what you were just saying just now. Perhaps you would be so kind as to repeat it. Silly me!".
at 3:34 PM
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
When you are far from home you take advantage of anything familiar.
One of my favourite Australian (from Melbourne no less) bands, Augie March played in New York tonight to a small but supportive audience.
They played for an hour and were fantastic.
Afterwards I shook hands with Glen Richards, the talented lead singer/songer which was actually a bit exciting.
The clip below is of their big hit single, "One Crowded Hour".
at 3:17 AM
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Thursday, September 06, 2007
I am pleased to say that my short film, Boxhead & Roundhead - Safari, will be screening (out of competition) at the Milano International Film Festival.
For those folks, who like me won't be able to make it to Italy, you can see it here.
Big thanks again to Matt Saxton who provided music for the film.
at 6:56 PM
I am pleased to say that for the first time in over a year I visited the sea.
This is a big deal to any coastal Australian.
It was a pleasure to feel the waves wash over my feet (that's me with the red nails).
A few days later I was delighted to share a Moroccan meal with Joan Cabot.
Those who know him can tell that he appears to have lost about 15 kilos since we saw him last.
Shame you can't say the same for me...
at 5:59 PM
I love watching cooking shows.
I like food and cooking and I like watching people cook.
Here in the US I can watch people cook all day long on The Food Network.
The network has its set of chefs.
I will name them here:
Rachel Ray (above):
Rachel Ray begins her show by saying "Hi, I'm Rachel Ray and I make thirty minute meals" like that's the only thing she ever does.
She is hugely popular because she is very cute and VERY peppy.
She likes to punctuate every word she says with some kind of enthusiastic hand gesture or a nod.
She's also a grinning idiot with a nervous laugh that makes me want to smack her.
Her nervous laughter is short and sharp "Hah hah".
Inna is a softly spoken middle aged woman who shows you how to make food for gay man.
Sandra Lee has a show with the idiotic name, Semi Home Made.
This means that she uses some fresh ingredients and then substitutes the rest with canned or premixed stuff.
So she'll make a salad and then unload a tin of dogfood all over it.
Sandra looks like the mother of several of my childhood friends in Australia.
They would cook things called rissoles and give their kids vegemite and cheese sandwiches for lunch.
Like Oscar the Grouch was catering.
My favourite is when Sandra Lee makes "ethnic" food, as she calls it.
She'll make curry with cornflakes and add her own special touch - doritos sprinkled over the top and some boiled eggs.
At the end of each show Sandra makes a fancy cocktail to make her feel like a big city girl and then shows us her "table scape".
Most people like to sit at the dinner table and eat but Sandra likes to distract from her awful food by covering the table in shit.
Emmeril is a strange one.
He's been around for years and is a darling of the Food Network set.
To me he seems like a NYC cab driver they dragged in off the street and told him that he had to pretend to cook or he wouldn't get his prize.
He's so important that he has a live show with an audience and a band.
The audience shrieks with laughter every time he does something dopey and bursts into applause when he uses certain ingredients.
"So, I'm gonna put some gingah innis pan here" - and the audience claps and whoops.
It's very fucking weird.
They also like to applaud when he uses garlic, like it's a new and clever idea.
Although I'd never cook a single thing she makes, I have a soft spot for Paula.
She's kind of the hillbilly version of the Two Fat Ladies, if anyone knows of them.
She cooks nothing without smothering it in butter and fat.
The woman deep fries green salad.
She's very warm and sincere about her quest to raise cholesterol levels simply by turning her show on and watching calmly for 6 or 7 minutes.
She makes all those whacky southern things that nobody in the rest of world knows of beyond movies and TV and would certainly never eat.
at 2:11 PM