Saturday, September 30, 2017

The band of gold at the end of the rainbow

'And I'm telling you, the reception's gonna be at the Bowls Club.'
(Kodakotype by Pants, 2015)

There's so much idiotic discourse going on in Australia right now that the only real consideration for a blog post is this: which topic is least likely to turn my brain into Baba Ganoush if I try to write about it?  It's all of the unstated above, in any multiple-choice scenario. However, something important is trying to happen in this country. We are attempting to find a way to be the last developed nation to permit same-sex couples to marry.  Despite the cynical and cruel process inflicted upon us, with its implied inbuilt failure, we somehow have to get this to happen. So, pull up a Pita bread and let's see what we can do.

I'm not going to go through the whole tedious business of which whacko politician said this or senile bishop said that or why an anarchist headbutted a former prime minister in Hobart last week, if indeed a reason were needed. If you require a primer to get you up to speed on where we are in this pantomime, you can't go past this summary by Joe Hildebrand. Suffice to say that all it takes for us to descend into an all-in mud-wrestling spectacle, apparently, is for some foolhardy wag to utter the words, 'respectful debate'. And it's on for young and old. But why have we lined up on opposite sides of the mud bath like unwitting participants in a fairground tug-o-war when there isn't a real question here at all? It's a clear case of extending equal rights to all citizens, isn't it?

Every time the question of universal extension of citizen rights comes up, our immaturity breaks out like a bad case of acne. Our legendary-only-in-our-own-minds tolerance proves time and again to be not even skin deep. In fact nothing is more likely to freak us out than someone turning up wearing a non-Caucasian complexion. So, what is wrong with us, exactly? Marriage-equality advocate Rodney Croome posits that the homophobia garishly on display is rooted in our convict past. Many of our faults lie in those particular stars, I would venture. The way the dominant macho-hetero cohort has seized the mantle of victimhood over this issue would tend to make that point.

Lacking any reasonable argument, a cavalcade of codgers has crawled out of the woodwork to wave about notions like 'tradition' and 'free speech', presumably in the hope that loudly shouting the words will be enough. The tradition of 'marriage being between a man and a woman' goes back to, what, about 2004 and the Marriage Amendment Act? By jingo, is it that long ago? You just can't be messing with traditions that firmly established. 

Some of our staunchest champions of 'free speech' have suddenly gotten all thingy about who is allowed to even use some words. One of our most prominent big-hat-sporting loonies wants LGBTI people to keep their hands off his favourite word, 'gay'. And the managing director of one of our largest purveyors of fruits and vegetables says he doesn't mind same-sex couples having all the same rights just so long as they don't call it 'marriage'. Mmm, equal but separate, where have we heard that before?

And when push comes to shove, as it so tediously often does, those of us who would quite like to live in that tolerant, classless, bastion of mulitculturalism of myth are invariably told that we're dreaming of a fantasy world and democracy doesn't work that way. In fact, the will of the people will only be recognised when it suits the vested interests of the powerful. If not, it may be subverted by any daft mechanism that they can lay their grubby little hands on.

This weekend is one of the biggest in the Australian calendar. The football finals are being played. To their credit, both major leagues have made significant, and rather clever gestures of support. It's left the detractors looking red-faced and foolish. The AFL replaced its own logo with the word YES.  And tomorrow, the NRL final's entertainment will feature Macklemore singing, among other numbers, Same Love.  As proof of what a crazy ride we're on here, the controversy has propelled Same Love back up the charts, scoring those opposed to Macklemore's appearance a massive own goal (sorry). Macklemore has pledged his unexpected windfall to the YES campaign.

While we're on the subject of own goals, one of our most prominent and powerful knuckle-draggers hit a double-jackpot. His eruption over a primary school's support of 'Wear a Dress' Day enabled its initial modest fundraising target of $900 to top out at $275,000 after the story attracted national news coverage. A tip for struggling causes - get on the wrong side of that guy and stand back as the cash tumbles in your direction. Every now and again, people-power steals a victory.

Initially, I did consider boycotting this plebisurvey nonsense, in the hope that it would all backfire and make the government look extremely silly. As it turns out, they don't need my help for that.  After reading what my friend Andrew wrote, I decided I must not only participate but write about it as well. I've returned my postal-survey form and, (spoiler alert), I have answered YES. I would, in fact, like The Marriage Act to be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry. Why shouldn't they have the same legal right to institutionalised misery as anyone else?

Thursday, August 31, 2017

A Woman of Substance

Ma Pants (photo by Pa Pants, mid 1950s)
Ma Pants has died. 

Hence my absence from the blogosphere for longer than usual this time.

No need to feel sad. She was a goodly age and content to move on. As deaths go, it was about as good as it gets. She was cogent to the end and mostly pain free. I was there and glad to be so.

I wanted to take a few moments to talk about her life, which I think was quietly extraordinary. It is the duty of a daughter never to appreciate the achievements of her mother. I did my best on that score. Now that she has gone, I feel at liberty to boast. I was, I am, very proud of her. Fortunately, I got to let her know that at the end of her long life.

Ma Pants was born into a working-class family in early the years of The Great Depression. My grandfather had had polio as a child. It left him with a pronounced curvature of the spine and he walked slowly, with a laboured limp. Yet, he went to work every day in a blue overall until he retired at 65. During the war years, he was in charge of a hangar where fighter planes were maintained and repaired. The family also ran a small dairy farm. My grandmother became very ill with rheumatoid arthritis. Ma Pants rounded up the milking cows every evening after school, looked after her younger siblings, ran the household and still managed to matriculate.

Her first ambition was to be a pharmacist and she had secured an apprenticeship. When the war ended, the men came back and she was bumped. She had grown up around planes. By this time, she had her pilot's licence. She'd learned to fly in a Tiger Moth. In his eulogy, her surviving younger brother told the story of how she took him up on one of her early solo flights and they looped the loop over the city. He was four years old. Becoming a pilot was not an option. So she did the next best thing. She joined one of the fledgling commercial airlines and became an 'air hostess'. Considered very glamorous at the time. At nineteen, she left her home and started to make her own way in the world. Self-determination was a lifelong habit, and one that she passed on to her children.

She and my father had a happy marriage until his early death. She worked as a cosmetics consultant, sold Mercedes Benz cars, even became a real estate agent for a time. In all of these pursuits she shone; winning awards and appearing on television as a 'first'. Then she trained as a film and television makeup artist and ended her working life as Head of Makeup at a metropolitan television station. And then, she bought a pensione in Spain. What fun we had with that one. Long story, for another time. Actually, a book.

For the last twenty years, she lived in comfortable seaside retirement. She was a very modern woman, unconventionally unconventional. She didn’t belong to any tribe. She forged her own path. Put together her own menu for living a good life. She was nobody’s fool. She could and did stick up for herself and others and she had an uncanny ability to get what she wanted without offending a single soul. None of the true-blue neighbours in her nosy cul-de-sac would have ever dreamed that she was a raging leftie. That's the way she liked it. 

She was compassionate. She had an enormous capacity for empathy. For refugees. For the oppressed. For the poor, the sick. For anyone in pain. She supported charities, regularly and generously. She loved giving and receiving presents.&Her most valuable and lasting gift to me was a love of music. Although she didn’t play an instrument and didn’t like to sing in company, both of these things have been lifelong passions for me. And that is her influence. She had a very melodic, lyrical speaking voice. 

We had music playing in the house all the time when I was growing up. Every week my father would arrive home with a clutch of second-hand LPs that he’d bought cheaply from the record exchange where the radio DJs sold their Demonstration – Not For Sale copies. This treasure trove provided me with a thorough education in Jazz and American Songbook, which I play, albeit pretty badly, to this day. 

During her last week, I was sitting with her in the hospital. I was holding one hand and another friend, Jackie was on the other side of the bed, holding the other hand. 

‘You taught me so much,’ Jackie told her and went on to eloquently elaborate. 
She seemed very pleased. 

She turned to me, and asked,

'Did I teach you anything?'

‘Never get a car loan? Buy real estate? Pay cash?’

‘Is that all?’ she asked. 

It was all I could think of at the time. Hey, I was under duress! A parent who teaches you everything you need to know about music and money? Well, what more can you ask? 
Ma Pants lived a long, productive and happy life. She was engaged with the world, always.  I will miss that. I will miss her.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Late Blooming on Bloomsday

Me and My Shadow by Pants 

As is the custom here at Seat of Pants on Bloomsday, I opened Ulysses at a random page this morning and began reading. Page 598 of the 1971 Penguin paperback edition I have had since university finds Joyce having a pop at the concept of 'improving literature'. I've written before about the embarrassingly long time it took me to realise what a marvellous pisstake this book is. I'm all the better for the experience. It is one of the many benefits of ageing - along with not having to go to work and not being expected to achieve anything - that the slowest-dropping pennies frequently give the most satisfaction when they eventually land. You'd be astonished at how long it takes me to fully absorb proverbs sometimes.

Oh right. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. That's not about the numbers is it? I'm always saying that Australians operate the English language as if they'd learned it from a holiday phrase book. I am the very proof!

Now, back to Dublin and an entirely different level of dexterity with English. Leopold Bloom remembers his first poem,

'What lines concluded his first piece of original verse written by him, potential poet, at the age of 11 in 1877 on the occasion of the offering of three prizes of 10/-, 5/- and 2/6 respectively by the Shamrock, a weekly newspaper?

An ambition to squint
At my verses in print
Makes me hope that for these you'll find room.
If you so condescend
Then please place at the end
The name of yours truly, L Bloom.'

As a chronic myopic, I appreciate the notion of squinting at print as well as the delightful rhyme. My own ambition has faded along with my eyesight. The strange thing is that I'm working more diligently and joyously than ever. Are the two things related? I think they are. The liberation from any compulsion to find commercial acceptance has meant that I can do as I please. No deadlines. No constraints. I have all the time in the world and I don't need the money. I have often wondered why it took so long for my various projects to come right. The answer is that it takes as long as it takes and I don't know any other way to do it. What can I say? I'm just not a conformist. In any case, the competitiveness and content-slavery thing has killed forever any dim desire I might once have had to conjoin with the so-called creative industries.

I didn't have the sense to write a publishable novel when I knew people who worked for a very big literary agency in the mid-eighties. Just about anything with dry ink was publishable in London then. Neither did compos mentis fully manifest when I knew folks in the theatrical world and shared a flat with a not-too-shabby orchestral arranger. The musical that came out of me then was deplorable, given that I'd been in love with the form since I was a toddler. It seemed I needed thirty more years of living under my (now-expanding) belt before I could do either of these things properly. And it all started happening when I was as far from the thick of it as it's possible to get without bunking down with a team of huskies and far too old to be even visible. I have to think that there's a reason it's worked out like that. Not 'reason' in the philosophical sense. Reason in the sense that individuals get to play with it too, given an idle moment or nine.

I'm glad in so many ways to have done everything in an odd order. I spent my youth reading, listening, looking, travelling, hanging out, collecting experiences and trying, failing and trying again. Hopefully, failing a little better every time. I worked for wages as infrequently as I could get away with. I saved and got lucky with my very modest investments. And now I have a wealth of material to work through and no one to tell me what to do. I'm no worse off financially than most women my age who've drudge-worked their whole lives, had kids and/or got screwed in a divorce - and I didn't have to do any of the suffering. My house is not worth $2million and I don't have any letters after my name or prizes for my scratchings, warblings or doodlings. None of that is important to me. Well, I guess I would say that now wouldn't I? But it is true. Perhaps I have talked myself around to that point of view. Then again, I've always been a bit of a dilettante. I've never liked it when people go all serious. And yet I do like to work. At my own pace. In my own way. 

I pride myself on being solidly hoi polloi and yet, I find myself at odds with my peer group. They're all going on cruises, and/or playing golf and endlessly meeting for coffee. I love cruises but am no longer capable of credibly jogging around the upper deck for an hour in the moonlight or singing karaoke until 3am and then beating the Germans to a decent deck chair at dawn. In fact, I'm not sure that I could even hold out until nine for my supper these days, much less charm the captain at cocktails or win the belly-dancing competition. (Both of these things have happened. I have photographic evidence.) And I don't know that I would enjoy a cruise if I couldn't do these things. 

I've never played golf and don't want to start and meeting for coffee holds no interest for me whatever. I have to do it occasionally, but I much prefer activity-based human interaction. Once a week I go and play music with my friends Caroline and Bruce. We play for a couple of hours. Caroline has been a great sounding board for my newly rewritten musical. I have been playing her the songs as I've been setting them. Astonishingly, I can still remember how to do this. It's been nearly ten years since I last played the piano. Remarkably, I still know how to do that too. I play no better than I ever did, but no worse either. Mediocrity. Hare and Tortoise. However you want to look at it, it's working.

I've lived life arse-about and, you know what? I didn't even realise I was doing that until relatively recently. I just followed my instincts and set out from wherever I last landed. I did (mostly) follow feminist principles. There were a few years there when I thought I could have a bet both ways, but hey. I had the very good fortune of receiving a free education at a good university, which is where I met James Joyce for the first time and Virginia Woolf and so many other mentors who have stayed with me all these years. How sweet the slowest-dropping penny.

A great (Irish) blog pal of many years standing wrote this week that she doesn't believe in the concept of gender. I'm with her on that. It's a luxury that few of us can afford I know but I, like my friend, have worked hard and gone without to make it so. Opting out of the patriarchy is not without societal sanction. I, for one, believe that those of us who can afford to should set an example. I think I've been doing that all my life. I could have conformed. I knew how to do it but, like Yossarian, I just didn't wanna.

I wonder what I'd be doing now if I didn't have a life's work ahead of me. It feels right. It's my time. I'm not difficult to satisfy and everything I do pleases me at last. The long, slow-burning projects that have been with me forever, most of all. And now, it all seems to make a crazy kind of sense. Like a patchwork quilt. It's all coming together and keeping me warm on cold winter nights. Arthur Miller once said, it's okay to have regrets, as long as they're the right regrets. I'm not sure that I know what the right regrets would be for me. I'd probably have a few, if I thought it through, but then again, they'd most likely fall into the too-few-to-mention basket. I am working on not having any at all. And that means plodding away, every day, blissfully in my own little bubble of irrelevance. Can't say fairer than that.

Try as I might to avoid it, I can't help but feel 'improved' by reading Joyce. Not to mention inspired, encouraged, motivated and exhilarated. I hope he's not turning in his grave at the very thought. And I'm grateful that Ulysses finally found a publisher in the remarkable Sylvia Beach.

A very happy Bloomsday to you all.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Rhymes with failure

Finders Keepers (2017) by Pants

It's often said that the only word that rhymes with Australia is failure. As if to prove the point, it was the only one the erstwhile regent of rhyme, Noël Coward, could come up with for his 1952 song There Are Bad Times Just Around the Corner. To wit,

In far away Australia
Each wallaby's well aware
The world's a total failure
Without any time to spare.

To be fair, (see how I did that?), it is a long song, this sequence comes well into it and even Noël Coward is entitled to an off day.

There are other words that rhyme with Australia. There's regalia for example. How could a status-loving people not find a place for that? And what's wrong with azalea? Not so popular now but definitely a must-have in the suburban gardens of my youth. We're very into robust border protection. Surely we could weave azalea into the national narrative.

Bacchanalia? Now there's a word that ought to be of use. Beer and backyard barbecues might fit that storyboard, at a stretch. Paraphernalia? Perfect for a place that's all clobber and no body; never mind soul. Westphalia? Well, we try to be European and don't quite pull it off. And then, if you want to go all olde-worlde and invoke some Latin, there's inter alia. And that pretty well describes us. We could easily be dismissed as amongst every other thing going. The impression that we're really not trying very hard is unavoidable. We have usually failed before we've even broken into a sweat. Perhaps failure is the apposite rhyme after all.

This post was originally going to be about the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and it still might be, if I can find my way into it. If the gut response by the pale, stale, male, usual-suspect oxygen hoggers to this reasonable, modest and long-overdue ask is any indication, those dots should join themselves without too much trouble. Just in case they don't, my position is this,

I agree with everything in the statement - and then some. I'm strongly for treaty and reparation. Whatever the first peoples of this nation are asking for, it will be nowhere near what they're owed. We should think ourselves lucky and pay up. Whatever it takes. And let's move on, finally. I've written about this many times before and I don't think I have anything new to say - yet. Besides, there's an excellent roundup of writings on the statements and responses to it here.

The thing that interests me most, and always has done, is why my fellow white Australians are so pig-headedly resistant to truth and reconciliation. Other colonising hordes have managed it. Even South Africa. Everyone but us in fact. Pretty pathetic. And the litany of past failure itself is always cited as the very reason we shouldn't even try to get this done. Since we persistently meet Einstein's definition of stupidity, i.e. doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, there are only two possible conclusions that one can draw. Either we really are collectively stupid - and I don't necessarily rule that out. Or, the result suits us - perverse as that may seem.

There are some other possible reasons for our chronic inertia, and they're not nearly as complex as people make out. The narrative we've been running since we first rampaged across this vast continent, felling trees and replacing them with sheep, that we're a fair and generous people is hokum. The boundless plains to share fiction is now looking shabbier than last year's Ugg boots. With our record on the treatment of refugees, the whole world knows what we're really like and we should stop pretending otherwise. There's a huge dollop of shame and guilt in the mix and the coward's way of dealing with that is to protest innocence. We know how that ends. Sooner or later we'll have to fess up and face up. It's okay to be wrong. It's okay to be afraid. It is not okay to use those things as excuses for not acting honourably - for, like, ever!

You know that scene in Finding Nemo where the seagulls are all squealing mine, mine, mine? That is how we really are. Australians who own property are obsessed with its monetary value. We don't think of a house as a place to live anymore. A house is an auction item, a series of flattering photographs on, a reality-show set hosting a moveable feast of flat-pack kitchens and bathrooms. 

Because we think of land as nothing more than a valuable commodity, it is something over which we seem doomed to constantly squabble. Whenever our first peoples have the temerity to remind us that all of their lands were stolen and perhaps we could have a think about how that might feel, we freak out and squeal, they want to take what's ours - apparently without a hint of irony. That threat has nearly always worked. It's the way we're programmed. We can't conceive of a different mode of thinking about land and belonging. We don't think of ourselves as belonging to the land, we think of the land belonging to us. No matter how long the deliberations and how carefully framed and modest the requests from Indigenous people are, they will always be considered too much. And it's back to square one we go.

I happened to be listening to an interview on the radio the other day. Whenever a white Australian presenter interviews a black American writer, sooner or later, there comes a question or statement that infers something like this,

You know, we don't get you Yanks and your social unrest because all is bliss on this side of the Pacific

That's honestly how we see ourselves. And, the rest of the world? Well it's a giant theme park. Nothing more than an entertainment.  A curiosity that has nothing to do with our lives - which we think of as the authentic version of being human. And sometimes, during one of these encounters with a being from this theme-park version of the world, the cultural cringe suddenly goes grand mal. ABC presenter Michael Cathcart's ignorant and crass questions to Booker-prize winning author Paul Beatty so infuriated Indigenous man Trent Shepherd that he shouted,

'Look at yourself. I want white Australians to look at themselves.'

That's the best advice I've ever heard on the subject. Because, to white Australia, non-white Australia is theme-park world too. Even the people whose continuous occupation of this place goes back at least 40,000 years are part of that other world. We see ourselves as the true mob. Because we earn a salary and pay a mortgage, and that is the only version of ownership that we recognise. Because we line up every couple of years and vote for people we don't know to make decisions on our behalf, and that is the only version of citizenship that we recognise. Because when we look in the mirror we see ironed clothes and salon hair. And that is the only version of decency that we recognise. As individuals, that level of delusion would see us diagnosed with a mental condition that would require some serious medication and a lot of therapy. But it's a collective delusion and that makes it normal.

There are calls this week for us to start a conversation - again. We are incessantly starting these conversations and never getting anywhere with them. I think it's time we shut the fuck up, took Mr Shepherd's advice and looked truthfully at ourselves, and then sincerely listened to Indigenous people. With a little self-reflection, opening our minds and our ears, not to mention our cold, cold hearts, we might break the seemingly endless cycle of grudging, misguided gestures resulting in failure. 

I returned to Australia after living abroad for nearly three decades a few days before then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd delivered his 'Sorry' speech. I honestly thought I'd come back to a country finally ready to confront past wrongs. I've learned now that sorry, far from being the hardest word, can be as easily deployed as hitting pause on the remote when you want to stop a movie and go to the toilet. Nearly ten years later, the movie is still on pause and we're still in the dunny.

Leonard Cohen famously rhymed Hallelujah with do ya, so I'm trying to work that trope.

If you don't agree with us we'll impale ya
Cos we're Australia...

Perhaps not. I'm thinking failure may be the only possible rhyme for this moment. We need new words. Ones that we can string into a better sentence...

Friday, March 31, 2017

Chasing butterflies

Butterfly - photo by Pants

The Butterfly Effect is the name of a film, a band and, weirdly, a self-esteem programme for girls. Most famously, it's used in Chaos Theory to describe a seemingly inconsequential event that causes a big impact. In the world of Pants, it's also one of the terms I use for the marvellous moment when an idea in search of a host chooses to land on me. This quite often happens when I'm out walking - a fairly common occurrence for creative folk. The artist Agnes Martin said,

'Inspiration is there all the time, for everyone whose mind is not clouded over with thoughts, whether they realise it or not.'

As you can imagine, it isn't difficult for me to empty my mind. Especially now that I've divested myself of almost all worries and complications and settled in a seaside hamlet where everyone is semi-comatose most of the time. Still, there is no setting more likely to yield ideas than a quiet woodland when there's no one else around for them to bless or bother.

A while back, I took the big Nikon for a trek around Larrikin Forest and got lost. On a straight, single track. I was chasing actual butterflies and ended up on a road miles from the camping area where I'd left the trusty Subaru. Happily, a van was coming down the hill as I reached the road. I offered my best old-lady-in-distress wave and the driver stopped. Neither of the two young tradies within could locate with their 'smart' phones either our present position or the car park where the Subaru patiently awaited my return. I, naturally, have refused to get one of these fangly things because my five-year-old 'dumb' phone still works, costs very little and plays the radio. In any case, no phone works in Larrikin Forest. Which makes signposting on forest tracks still fairly important IMHO.

While I was waiting for the tradies to decide to rescue me - far be it from me to ask - a middle-aged power couple Lycra-peddled their way towards us. She powered on up the hill while he stopped to see if he could render assistance. Which he duly did by offering the important information that the car park was 2.4 kilometres back down the track. He said he would have walked back with me but his power wife had already powered ahead. Then he berated me for not having the kind of phone that would not have helped anyway. I tossed the tradies my best I'm-completely-exhausted look. Which I was, btw. It was a hot day and I'd already walked the track twice looking for the exit I'd obviously missed. We set off in the van and got lost again. We had to follow the road all the way to the highway and then track back until we found the road I'd come in on. Half an hour later, I was reunited with the Subaru and the big Nikon contained some photos of interesting leaf patterns and butterflies.

I've been working on a musical for the last 25 years. The ideas fairies have been slow in finding me for this one. But they've showed up in Larrikin's End and my daily walks around Lake Larrikin have yielded great chunks of tune lately. Progress has been good in the last year or so. Fortuitously, I've also acquired a new friend. Caroline has a music room and a, (somewhat grouchy but beggars can't be choosers), piano. I have an old stage keyboard which is good for working out melodies and harmonies but I want to play the songs on a real piano. All the time in London I had a baby grand, literally at my fingertips, but the tunes for the musical refused that invitation. That's how it is sometimes.

Classically trained flautist Caroline and folkie banjo-playing Bruce wanted to learn some jazz. I don't know much but I do know a bit more than nothing and I have a lot of sheet music and that seems to satisfy them. Once a week I drive out to the farm and we play together. It's been a long time between tinkles for me but muscle memory has sustained us so far. Caroline is also acting as a first listener for the songs for my musical. She read the finished script a couple of times, so she knows the piece well. Such dedication. She genuinely seems to like it. I imagine that helps. So far I've played her ten completed songs. The next in line had been sitting on the music stand for a couple of weeks. Shy little butterfly.

Bruce and Caroline have a lot of native foods, or bush tucker, growing around the farm. Last week, Caroline gave me a bag of riberries, fruit of the Lilly Pilly. Walking is one way to entice musical ideas. The other tried and true way for me is to set my subconscious the task of trawling for them while I sleep. This method works for poems and sagely gobbets as well. Often they arrive in dreams. I call these 'pillow ideas'. The day after Caroline gave me the riberries, I found a tub of cooked rice that I'd forgotten about in the fridge. It passed the sniff test so I put it back. I hate to chuck food, even into the compost bin. In the morning, my pillow idea was,

Make riberry rice pudding.

Lovely, I said, but where's my tune?

I made the riberry rice pudding. It was delicious. The first part of the long-awaited tune came as I watered the vegetables at my allotment the next day. There is order in chaos.

I've just had a text message from my phone-services provider asking me if I would provide feedback on my 'recharge experience'. Er, no, I won't be doing that. I will tell you instead. I went to the supermarket and bought a voucher along with my shopping because that means I spend enough to get discounted petrol. Then I filled the Subaru, came home and punched a few numbers into my phone. It went smoothly. It always does, which is why I won't be changing anything until I absolutely have to. 

Trouble-free minds attract more butterflies. You heard it here first. Well, probably not, but at least be reassured. It works.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Now for the latest fake news

And the winner isn't... (Kodakotype by Pants)

I was just saying to TQW the other day, isn't it rich and isn't it queer how there's a weird time/space continuum thing going on between Washington and Hollywood. We had been macro-dosing on LSD, but still. Something supremely spooky is happening there. Tinsel Town could be the last stand of political conscience. Clint Eastwood would be turning in his grave... What's that Barney? You say he's not dead yet? Okay. Fatty Arbuckle then. I'm pretty sure he's dead. Then again, he could be inhabiting the body of d.j. trump, currently MC in da big whitey house. You simply can't trust in dimensions these days.

We three are gathered on the Pants family sofa as usual for our annual Oscars fest. Barney is the surprise show this year. He's been fired as a Trump advisor. He assures us he's in good company. He slides back into his old role of general factotum as if nothing in the least extraordinary has happened in the last six months. Least said, soonest mended.

Charge your glasses, comrades, it's going to be a long afternoon, potentially only redeemed by a great deal of alcohol and some very fetching canapés.

Wait up, there's a naff alert, right out of the gate. A Justin Timberlake medley and close-ups of Nicole and Keith singing along and mum-n-dad dancing. Doesn't get any better than that. JT cedes the stage to host Jimmy Kimmel and does that weird angry/grumpy look that would get you thrown out of every acting school in the world but is somehow fine for a prize-giving ceremony for the best acting in the world? How we pray for a catastrophe on the scale of Hugh Jackman's opening number in 2009. Not to be.

We have to content ourselves with a Mel Gibson joke from Kimmel.

There's only one brave heart in this room and he's not going to unite us.

Guffaw. And then one that would be funny if it wasn't actually true in dimensions beyond our ken but would make perfect sense if we lived the kind of multicultural harmony we claim to inhabit.

Black people saved NASA and white people saved jazz.

At Seat of Pants, we've been complaining for years about how restrained and tasteful the Oscars have become. And missing Joaquin weird-outs, impeccably bad dresses (seriously, what has become of Sarah Jessica Parker?), with a desperation we'd have found hard to contemplate even five years ago. Maroon velvet jackets. We never thought we'd pine for them. Even a whiff of Jared Leto wouldn't go amiss at this point. Looks like Casey Affleck is trying to mess with convention at least. As much as he dares given he's up for an Academy award and accusations of sexual harassment in the same season. Probably not a record.

Meryl Streep gets her 20th nomination this year. We saw Florence Foster Jenkins on DVD here at Seat of Pants. It was one of two films we've seen this season. The other was La La Land, which we took in at the Larrikin's End Cinema/Squash Court. Research, people, research. For the record, we're with the Blah-Blah Bland brigade. It's pretty, fun, crass, not really a musical and better than Xanadu, just. Kimmel has to make a Streep joke, for reasons too numerous to mention. A spat with Lagerfeld did need to be cauterized as a matter of urgency. Kimmel obliged.

That's a nice dress, is it an Ivanka?

Two birds with one stone. Cut, print, moving on. I'm noticing something odd.

Guys, did anyone pick up on tonight's theme?
No. I don't think there is a theme this year.
Oh, come on, there's always a theme.

Note - if Hollywood is not hitting you over the head with a theme, something is very, very wrong. We hate all that dream big dreams shit. But, the absence of it is worse. Pointless is ground zero, non? And also a BBC television show that might not be half bad in one of those other dimensions we mentioned earlier.

We go through the motions. Mahershala Ali wins Best Supporting Actor. He thanks his teachers who apparently told him, It's not about you. Good advice for any human. It's a miracle that an actor finally took it up and made it work in Hollywood. Respect, Mahershala.

And that's as thrilling as it gets for the next couple of hours. Kimmel cracks the obligatory sexist joke,

This is the fun part of the evening before people start losing and you realise you've taped your dress to your boobs for nothing. We're thinking Casey Affleck has done no such thing, so will inevitably win for Best Actor.

Four-time Costume Design winner Colleen Atwood claims to be 'genuinely', (and yet somehow utterly implausibly), 'floored' by her win. You can't even count on Dwayne Johnson to break the dress code. 

Hacksaw Ridge gets the Oscar for Sound Editing. You can't go wrong blowing a lot of things up and I suppose we have to be grateful for white-soled shoes when we can get them. The guy's Mom was called Skippy. And he almost cries. I sure hope Skippy's enjoying a Miller Lite with Matthew McConaughey's Daddy. Is MM nominated for anything this year? He can always be counted on to go Fresno on us. What are they putting in the Vitamin B shots these days? Must be actual Vitamin B. How else is all this sense and sensibility explicable? How useful would a star gate be right now?

Next best thing. Mark Rylance explains that women are much better at opposing without hatred - the whole supporting/opposing metaphor thingy falls flat. Way too psycho-sensitive for Hollywood. But may go some way to explaining why the winning Supporting Actress, Viola Davis, rolls her Oscar up in her red dress. Less explicable is her speech.

There is one place where all the people with potential are gathered. That's the graveyard. Exhume those bodies of the people who dreamed.

Not quite what we had in mind when we waxed nostalgic about the absence of dreaming and dreamers.

There are lots of shots of Haraji P. Henson looking delighted. Lots of shots of Nicole and Keith looking like they think they're twenty thirty years younger than they actually are. Lots of shots of Mel Gibson looking confused. Lots of shots of Denzel Washington looking, well, very Denzel.

Finally the theme for tonight's show is revealed. It's Inspiration. Frankly, none of us here at SOP would have guessed that. Turns out that Charlize Theron's inspiration is Shirley MacLaine in The Apartment, because,

She makes a black-and-white film feel like it's colour. 

That so needed saying.

Barney, is there any of that Trump jerky left?

Finally, someone mentions the wall. That task falls to Gael García Bernal, self-describing as a migrant worker. It would be tragic if he could never work in the US again not to mention Alejandro G. Iñárritu and Alfonso Cuarón. And if that wall was built, you can bet those guys would be the first behind it.

The will to live is on drip feed at this point until Zootopia wins for Best Animated Film. And the makers explain that they had the crazy idea of talking about the world through talking animals. Imagine. Now that's what we call inspiring here at SOP. We're cooking.

Barney, would you mind inspiring my glass?

You know things are dire when you find yourself hanging out for the In Memoriam segment. And wondering if they'll fit Bill Paxton in.

Barney, my plate could do with a little inspiration of the canapé variety.

Seth Rogen was inspired by Back to the Future? Different strokes. At least he's wearing non-reg shoes. And there's another shot of Haraji P. Henson enjoying herself.

Question - if we nodded off, would we miss anything?
That's a question?
Point taken.

The Sci-tech awards. Hope springs. Someone who is responsible for the techy stuff that makes all this magic possible is bound to come on and tell us he/she doesn't know how it all works really but is sure that it's a spooky marriage of big dreams and super daring. No such luck. All we get is a picture of Matt Lucas's face needing no adjustment at all to play Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

Javier Bardem was inspired by The Bridges of Madison County? Whatevs.

Emma Stone says her character in La La Land was inspired by an ant. That explains a lot.

Ah, Samuel L. Jackson. What would the Oscars be without him? Is that a  Royal blue suit? Good man. Lord, let it be velvet lest we give up on showbiz completely.

La La Land wins for Best Original Score. Original? Well if that means a combination of notes that no one has put together in exactly that order before, well, yeah, we can see how that might work.

Jimmy Kimmel is inspired by We Bought a Zoo? Oh, he's making a joke. Nice. Almost resuscitory. Almost.

Ben Affleck looks old. And fat. Sweet. Manchester by the Sea wins for Best Original Screenplay. Moonlight wins for Best Adapted. Ducks are lining up. Where's The Rifleman when you need him?

Speaking of which, Barney, the champers flutes are a little short on inspiration over here. Thanks old bud, we're going to need all our strength for the final push.

Damien Chazelle wins Best Director for La La Land.

Barney, how about some inspiration in a julep glass? Vodkamisu time, I think. Do you get the feeling that we're carrying this theme here are SOP?

Denzel's stopped smiling. Casey Affleck wins Best Actor. Casey says he was inspired by Denzel. Not a consolation, apparently.

Best Actress - Emma Stone. Who, we will recall,  was inspired by an ant.

Enter Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway to state the appallingly obvious. Man they look old.

La La Land. Cue the self-congratulation masquerading as humility,

Repression is the enemy of civilisation. Keep dreaming your dreams...

Barney, my glass is gagging for some inspiration over here.

Oh wait. Something very weird is happening here. There's been a mistake. No, not the donuts falling from the ceiling in little parachutes or tourists bused in to receive blessings from the sainted Denzel. An actual bone fide miracle. A correction in the time/space continuum, if you will.

It's Moonlight that has won Best Picture. We can't even begin to unpack the ironic complexities tonight.

Best Oscars ever. Thank you Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. Now, on to Washington...