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Anatomy of a Trilogy

People tend to think about movies in differing ways, audiences and critics alike. Some feel that less is more and masterpieces should be left to stand alone- the Inception school of thought. Others believe that the themes and characters developed in a movie are so deep and engaging, that a single film cannot do them justice. However regardless of your viewpoint, the fact remains that “The Movie Trilogy” as entertainment forms a substantial part of our culture and inspires great debate over the “should they or shouldn’t they” question of extending the franchise.

They shouldn't.

Like many conventions in film and entertainment, trilogies tend to follow a predetermined pattern and as each production company tries to imitate the norm and establish their franchise as credible, they seem only to reinforce old stereotypes.

Some of the great trilogies that we know, from a variety of genres and contexts seem connected in this way. To illustrate let’s consider three of the biggest trilogies in the last 20 years: Star Wars* , The Martix and Lord of the Rings.
*N.B. the original Star Wars trilogy – before this guy.

Phase One – a prophesy fulfilled

When Luke Skywalker woke up that morning, little did he know that Gandalf the Wizard would come to visit and divulge to him that the world is not as it seems, and that he was the chosen one – a hero to lead mankind against the tyranny of machines.

The above should flow seamlessly in your pop-culture infused mind – this is because the introductory story for each is so similar. An unknowing simpleton, the preacher who announces the truth, a journey of self discovery, maturity and finally the responsibility – the hero is fully ready to lead their people and fulfil their destiny. Many an audience member would be content with the story to end here. To these people, Hollywood says “Fuck You”.

Stallone - keeping geriatrics relevant since 1976

Phase Two – the horrors unleashed

This is where the franchise gets dark. Gone is the comic relief, the childish feelings of discovery and new beginnings. This is where the hero realises that the task ahead is not all about bending spoons and choosing the right colour pill (hey Frodo – take the suicide coloured one).

Often this instalment will feature great sadness and loss – the magic, positivity and optimism is gone, replaced with fear, mysery, depression and a sense of impending doom. Many of you will know this vibe as “2am – the night before my essay is due”. The director here seems to be trying to make a statement that he’s serious about his talents and vision for the franchise. That statement, largely, leans towards “we’re not gay!” I mean, if your movie features the term “fellowship”, audiences are going to have their doubts.

One ring to bind them...

Phase Three – the balance restored

You should get where this is going – enemies vanquished, the people united, friendships restored etc. Generally the world returns to a previous level of prosperity and happiness that was the norm in the old days. Because apparently the values were better in the old days.

Often the hero will retreat to their cave/den/sand hut for the rest of their lives , free from adventure and excitement, and live happily and comfortably until their invariably sad but timely death from peaceful old age. Conflicts are pushed aside, issues have been resolved everyone is happy. But what about the Orcs, Frodo? WHAT ABOUT THEM??

So, whether the trilogy is simply an extension of the classic narrative (introduction, complications, resolution), or it’s movie studios realising they are on to a good thing and cranking out another two box office hits – we will continue asking the same question – should they make another? Next time they do, perhaps you will see some of these structures that seem to run throughout three-piece entertainment, irrespective of genre.

Stay tuned for the upcoming sequel to this blog – “A dark day for trilogies”…



A handy suggestion for charities

As I stepped off the bus at Wynyard station this morning, I realised I had made a terrible mistake. Having taken my jacket off on the bus, my attention was now fully focused on re-arranging my jacket/bag set up – which meant removing my iPod earphones. Which was when they pounced.

An entire flock of cold-calling charity workers attacked immediately, and I had not been following the three rules of Wynyard Protocol:

1. Avoid eye contact at all costs – must wear sunglasses or pretend to be blind.
2. Do not pay the charity workers any attention – pretending to text on a phone is ideal.
3. Don’t let them try to capture your attention – an iPod ensures that you can’t hear what they are saying, and they KNOW you can’t hear.

As the first worker approached my unprotected ears, I knew I had to act fast – I quickly opened my bag as though looking for a document, while desperately reaching for my earphones.

However this was only the scout – a whole company of smiling assasins still awaited me. I continued scrambling for ear-to-earphone contact, my face a mask of pure white fear. I knew I didn’t have enough time, despite the name my new “in-ear” earphones were very much the opposite; so I braced for impact.

Worker: “Hi, how are you going today? I’m from…”

Me: “Hi, sorry, I’m going to work”
*Scramble Scramble Scramble*

Worker (oblivious to my fend): “What we are trying to do is achieve sustainable…”

However I didn’t hear the rest of what she had to say. Luckily my new CX300 earphones saved me with what I thought was an appropriate song – Muse’s “Citizen Erased”.

While the moral of this story may seem like “Never leave home without your iPod”, this anecdote seeks to address a real issue prevalent in modern society: the bastardisation of the handshake.

Traditionally the handshake was used between two parties as a sign of peace and trust – with no sword in your right hand, you cannot attack the other. In contemporary society, the handshake is used as a social ritual. It can be a sign of politeness when meeting someone for the first time, a reaffirmation of the relationship between friends, or even a mutual celebration and emotional connection.

So powerful is the act, that to refuse to return an offered hand is an affront and insult. And this is what charities know and attempt to exploit.

These charities are trying to leverage trust and tradition, built into the act of the handshake over the last two millenia, for their own monetary gain. Regardless of their intentions this cannot be accepted. With so much disagreement, cynicism and uncertainty in the world, the institution of the handshake is one of the last bastions of hope and happiness which we can rely on.



Same Same but Different: Travel Advice to Ignore in Southeast Asia

Often when people hear you’re travelling to Southeast Asia, you get showered with a load of advice that is well-meaning but mostly useless. Here are some of the most oft-repeated ‘rules’ that should probably be discarded if you want to actually enjoy yourself while you’re there.

“Stay in Bangkok for a few days and do some shopping”
Bangkok is a smelly, overcrowded, polluted, trippy nightmare. You can’t walk down Khao San Road at night without being harassed by pimps trying to get you to go to a ping pong show (hint: it’s not so much two guys, two bats, one ball as it is one girl, five balls), and almost all the tourists are completely drugfucked. Bangkok should be arrived at, briefly observed, then promptly ditched en route to one of the islands.

Okay, do your shopping on Khao San Road. THEN GET OUT.

“Avoid street food”
I was great at sticking to this rule for about 9 hours. Four Chang beers and a vodka pineapple later, and the allure of $1 pad thai was just too strong. Obviously you should avoid anything that doesn’t look or smell fresh, and once you’ve dropped food on the ground you should leave it there. Seriously, just leave it there. I learned that the hard way with a pancake and a wet sidewalk in Laos, and my roommate will attest that the outcome was not pretty. In any case, the street stalls are generally food-poisoning free.

Yeah, it's dog meat. So what?

“Guard your passport with your life”
Your passport is definitely more important than your video camera, the USD$300 you just withdrew from an ATM, your new collection of pirated DVDs, and the belongings of all your friends’ suitcases combined. But for fuck’s sake don’t strap it to your chest every time you go outside. Once someone spots you with a money pouch, not only do you look like a douche but you may as well be wearing a “ROB ME, I’M STUPID!” sign on your back. Leave it in your suitcase.

“Practise your bargaining skills on the locals!”
Heaps of people take the bargaining culture way too far when they visit Asian markets, embarrassing the locals and making themselves look like stingy jerks. We watched American tourists in Laos walk away from one stall owner when she wouldn’t lower the price by FIFTY CENTS, and the look of disappointment on her face was heartbreaking. The money means a lot less to you than it does to them, so when the amount you’re fighting over is something you wouldn’t even notice missing from your wallet, don’t be an arsehole.

“Stay away from popular tourist areas”
It’s now apparently uncool to do the typical route from northern Thailand, over the border into Laos, then on to Cambodia or Vietnam. Yes, it can be boring to interact with mostly Aussies, Brits, Americans and Kiwis when you THINK you’re travelling in Asia, but it’s worthwhile remembering that these spots are popular for a reason. You don’t get points for avoiding awesome places just because you think you’re too good to mingle with the masses. In fact, you get minus points, because you think you’re superior when really you’re just being a wanker. No matter where you go these days, you’re not going to get off the beaten track, so the best thing to do is just shut the fuck up and order another whiskey bucket.

Like this guy.

An Angtistic Experience

En-route from work one evening, I was quite literally stopped in my tracks. As clichéd as it may sound (as a result of the infatuation with the phrase in books, TV shows and even fairy tales) I was simply so stunned by something that my feet stopped moving. What was this something, this combatant to my inertia? A poster.

Without knowing what the poster was about or even who it was produced by, it should be already obvious that this poster had done its job. To cut through the clutter and noise of the commercial visual landscape and actually register in a person’s mind is no mean feat – to start affecting their behaviour immediately is on another level. This poster had kidnapped my consciousness, it had transported me to another reality, another plane of existence, where all light and sound and matter was gone and all that was and ever would be were the poster, and me, stopped in my tracks, staring at it.

It was the words that truly drew me in. The major picture was pleasant, easy-on-the-eye, sure. But this picture didn’t, couldn’t, have the devastating effect that those words had on me. Their simplicity was striking; the complexity of what they meant for my life was startling. “Angus the Third”.

The Angus Burger – no, the Angus entity- is an idea created by a company in order to make money. It is completely artificial (no, I’m not talking about the cheese). This is not a historical culture based on a shared belief – the concept hasn’t been formed by weather patterns or local wildlife, hunting rituals or ceremony. But this IS a culture, a mass-market, freeze dried, deep-fried culture.

This is why the addition of a third Angus burger into my world had such an effect – had it been a new toothpaste or washing powder I wouldn’t have looked twice, but this was an event which affected the culture which I am a part of.

And as is often the case with culture, it’s not the physical realm which is significant. Sure I like Angus burgers. They are salty and satisfying, cheap and convenient. However it is not the physical characteristics of the burger that causes my infatuation with them. Nor was it the physical elements of the new burger which caused such a shock to my system. It was the concept of Angus, the image, the idea.

I won’t attempt to analyse the factors which are responsible for the creation of this culture, nor will I presume to lecture companies and brands on the mechanism for reproducing it. But it was this culture, not any one physical element of the product, which was responsible for not only the sale of two Angus burgers that very evening, but also for me pulling out my phone, taking a photo, posting it on Twitter, picture messaging it to my friend with the phrase “Not even fucking kidding” and keeping the culture alive.


In Defense of Tourism Australia: There’s Nothing Like An Inner-City Wanker Who Thinks They Are An Advertising Expert

In the interests of full disclosure, the first thing I’d like to say is that I probably fit the ‘inner-city wanker’ stereotype much disdained by those of Australia who live outside of the major cities. I drink skim lattes, I tut-tut angrily at people who don’t know how to use train tickets and hesitate awkwardly near the barriers, and I avoid Darling Harbour unless it’s to go to dinner at an overpriced restaurant and pay obscene amounts for a piece of steak. One thing I am not guilty of, however, is making the mistake of assuming that as a Sydneysider, I know what’s best when it comes to encouraging foreigners to come to this country. And that’s something a lot of people have been doing in the 24 hours or so since the ad came out. If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s here. Go nuts.

There's nothing like surfing. Or something.

Predictably, people are already losing their shit over this ad. Everyone acknowledges that it’s a vast improvement from the ‘Where the Bloody Hell Are You?’ campaign in 2006, which combined bad language, poor taste, and one social-climbing wannabe in 61 seconds of cringe. Curiously though, people find much to object to in Tourism Australia’s latest venture, ‘There’s Nothing Like Australia’, a 90 second feature that depicts people enjoying themselves in various parts of Australia while singing along to the song (and these are no Idol contestants). It’s been criticised on the grounds that it’s bogan, it’s from the 1950s, it’s from the 1970s, it’s daggy, the singers are tone-deaf, and that it’s unrealistic.

I think that all of these criticisms are probably the dumbest kinds of comments to be issued from the mouths of my fellow citizens since a Punch survey found that most people thought we should dump new migrants in the middle of Australia. First of all, the argument that it is ‘bogan’ seems to stem from the dislike that urban-dwellers have of anyone who doesn’t sound or look like them, causing them to instantly label others as ‘bogans’ (and I’m guilty of doing this too). But bogan has a reasonably clear definition, and an even clearer cultural stereotype – in 2010, it usually refers to people who wear uggboots while they go to the local shopping centre, buy Pandora bracelets, and then drive their kids – Kaylee and Jazmynn – home in the Commodore. People who surf, play the piano, hold koalas, drink beer in pubs, or walk up the Opera House steps are not inherently bogan. People who speak with Australian accents not commonly heard east of Strathfield are not bogans. So before everyone starts throwing the term around like it’s going out of fashion, have a serious think about what that word actually means. See any bogans in that ad? REALLY? No, didn’t think so.

The 1950s / 1970s complaint about the ad also seems similarly flawed. Once again, I don’t see anything particularly 50s-ish about the Harbour Bridge, Aboriginal kids swimming, listening to an iPod (0.26), or climbing the bridge (was that even allowed back then?) In fact, I’m almost 100% sure that none of those activities or events came with a “Use By 31 December 1959” label stamped on the bottom. To be honest I’m not even entirely sure what to make of this complaint, unless critics are trying to say that we haven’t moved away from a 1950s image of what Australia is like. As I’ve already pointed out this isn’t even accurate, but I’m going to also state later on why there would necessarily be anything wrong with this even if it were the case.

On the argument that the ad is daggy and the singers are tone-deaf – yes. We do not see any cool, young, beautiful people in this ad, no expensive suit-wearing corporate types, no nightclubs. The singers are more often than not ordinary people warbling out a semblance of a tune. The unrealistic argument is also valid to an extent: I can’t remember the last time I stood on the edge of a cliff and looked at the trees, or found myself surrounded by rainbow lorikeets, or rode a camel in the sunset. But guess what? IT’S A FUCKING ADVERTISEMENT. The ENTIRE point of this ad is to convince people that Australia is a great place to come to and enjoy some beautiful and diverse natural scenery, meet some laidback and friendly locals, and appreciate the uniqueness of our animal life. The reason we don’t promote restaurants, bars, cafes, and the nightlife, is because we’re not New York or London. Sure, DFAT has acknowledged that not all tourists come for a beach holiday, with Australian food , wine and art highly regarded internationally. But the majority of tourists who come here are young families, not single travellers or couples in their 20s-30s. They don’t come to Australia for the cuisine and the art, and if anyone actually believes that they are having themselves on. Even those who are aged 18-35 tend to be travelling on a budget, seeking active adventures, two things that the current ad does appeal to. If the point of a tourism industry is to attract as many people as it possibly can, and appeal to the typical demographic that visits Australia, then it doesn’t make sense to promote things like restaurants and nightclubs, however much this might upset the local elite. Australia has a huge advantage over a lot of the world when it comes to natural wonders, so I’m curious to know what people have been smoking if they think it’s a good idea to try and play up the ’nightlife’ aspect of Australian culture.

Cos for the most part it is total wankery.

As for the criticism that the ad is unrealistic… well, what do you expect? It’s a tourism ad! I’m well aware that camel-riding in the sunset is not a typical feature of everyday Australian life, but the same could be said of elephant-riding in Southeast Asia, and I can tell you that that’s going to be one of the FIRST things I do when I arrive in Thailand later this year. And I wouldn’t be horrified to find that the locals don’t do the same thing, because – now this may come as a real shock to everyone – what tourists and what locals like to do are two very different sets of activities. Shocking, I know. And “There’s Nothing Like Australia” wasn’t trying to impress us locals, it was trying to attract foreigners;  and judging by the reactions of the 15 or so friends and relatives from San Francisco, Manila, Manchester and Ankara that I’ve shown this ad to so far, it’s doing a pretty good job. To everyone who has suddenly become an advertising expert and feels the need to voice their 2c on comment threads online, you’re welcome to fuck off to some trendy bar in Kings Cross while the rest of the world appreciates the wonders this country has to offer.

No, Sydney, this is not you. Bet you thought it was. But you will never be as cool as the Upper East Side. xoxo.


The Scourge of Vegetarianism: Or, Why Everyone Should Eat Meat

Ari: What the fuck are we doing here, man. I’m on Atkins, I need protein.
Vince’s girl: Ah come on, there’s plenty of protein in mong beans.
Ari: No no, I’m talking about real protein. You know, like men protein, you know, from the flesh of slaughtered animals. (..)
Vince: Meat is murder…
Ari: Even broccoli screams when you rip it from the ground!

Ari Gold, Entourage, ‘The Script and the Sherpa’ (S1E05)

Ari Gold pretty much has it bang on the money here. Meat is protein. Meat is the reason human evolution occurred, it’s the reason we function today, and no vegetarian substitute ever tastes as good as meat. So straight off, I’m going to say that vegetarians have it totally, completely, 100% wrong. Here’s why.

Firstly, the evolutionary perspective. If you ask any anthropologist, it’s pretty damn obvious that we have meat to thank for the fact that we are the rulers of the planet today, instead of dragging our knuckles along the ground with our fellow primates (see ‘Meat-eating was essential for human evolution, says UC Berkeley anthropologist specializing in diet‘). It’s even more important for babies, who need the stuff for growth and brain development. So by denying meat from your diet, you are not only punching evolution to the ground and kicking it in the face, you’re hurting babies. Face it: we didn’t climb to the top of the food chain to eat a friggin’ soy loaf with a side of rice crackers for dinner.

This baby was offered a soy-loaf with a side of rice crackers. He declined.

If evolutionary theory doesn’t convince you (in which case you’re probably a creationist and we don’t give a shit what you think anyway. Seriously, why are you reading this?), then there is the fact that a vegetarian diet has some very real cons. Sure, it may sound nice to reassure yourself that you don’t have rotting animal carcass simmering in your stomach juices (mmm), but the fact of the matter is that not all vegetarians are health-conscious, well-informed nutritionists. Nine times out of ten, poor meal planning or just a lack of time leads to vegetarians missing out on omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, calcium and iron. Cutting through all the boring stuff, these nutrients – which are common in a meat-eating diet – are known to help with helping to make DNA, personality disorders, transporting oxygen, strengthening your bones, and producing and maintaining cells. At this point many vegetarians will cry out, claiming that their iron/oxygen/lame levels are higher than when they ate meat. This is NOT the case for the majority of vegetarians and vegans who regularly suffer from a lack of these nutrients and associated health problems, so clearly you are just a special snowflake!

Now, one of the reasons many people become vegetarian is because they are concerned about animal welfare. This is a fair enough point… to an extent. You see, sanctimoniously referring to chickens bred for food to the holocaust (yes, someone actually said this to me once as I was eating a chicken burger – I nearly brained him), or talking about the cruelty of a cow being killed to make mincemeat, not only totally turns meat-eaters off from ever talking to you, it makes you look like an idiot. Yes, pigs being kept in cages where they can barely move is cruel. Yes, chickens having their beaks clipped off is cruel. But my problem with the smug “we are pro-animal rights, you are a kitten-squasher” PETA-style of thinking, is that those same people who proclaim that killing animals is cruel would not hesitate to stamp on a cockroach, swat a fly or squish an ant. Where do you draw the line, people? Does the ‘living beings should not be killed merely for human satisfaction’ rule only extend to creatures that you find cute? Spiders have mothers too, you know…

“A human can be healthy without killing animals for food. Therefore if he eats meat he participates in taking animal life merely for the sake of his appetite.”
Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy, Russian author (1828-1910)

Shut up, Tolstoy.

Finally, and for me what is the most important point: meat is delicious. Think of all the classic, home-style, heart-warming comfort foods that always make you feel better – spaghetti bolognaise, ribs, chicken schnitzel, heck, even potato salad has bacon in it sometimes. Notice there was no ‘steamed tofu vege-pie’ or ‘black beans with green beans and more beans plus a steamed carrot’ on that list. This is because vegetarian food is incredibly hard to make interesting, and dining out as a vegetarian is difficult – just ask my friend Tanya who recently had to make do with a tasty meal of vege-balls while the rest of us had salmon and steak at a university function. While vegetarian food may not in itself be bland, it generally lacks the flavour and satisfaction of a meat dish.

If you think this doesn’t make you salivate, you’re lying to yourself. Stop lying.

So for those of you who think you’re doing the world a huge favour by not eating meat, please get over yourselves. Meat-eating played a fundamental role in shaping human evolution and making us what we are today, it keeps us healthy, and more importantly, it’s incredibly tasty. Homer Simpson said it best when he reminded Lisa “all normal people love meat… you don’t win friends with salad.”


Socially Retarded: Big Business and Online Media

It’s a sad world in the blogosphere! It seems like social media – once the platform for University/office procrastination, then the mechanism for commercial public relations management- has again evolved.

For a small while, corporate Facebook and Twitter pages allowed key stakeholders to communicate their attitudes, beliefs, wants, needs and fears to a company who for the first time seemed to care. They provided a two-way communication model for smart companies to tweak their products and services to match what the people wanted.

However as the juggernaught that is social media has taken off, it seems every company on the market place is attempting to jump on the bandwagon…and falling abysmally short.

Toyota’s “Clever Film Competition” supported by Saatchi & Saatchi saw entrants posting videos in an attempt at starting a viral ad campaign. One video – “Clean Getaways” was laden with sexual innuendo and borderline explicit language and has sparked outrage as featuring undertones of sexism and incest (See full article on Mumbrella). Yet Toyota stands by this ad claiming it is “clever” and” funny”. If Toyota is trying to be edgy and relevant it has completely overshot its mark.

Which brings me to Westpac. The condescending Westpac “banana smoothie” video has been slammed as one of the biggest PR disasters of 2009. The scandal, now known as “bananagate” saw Westpac customers linked to an instructional animation with the opening lines “Once upon a time…”. The video compared interest rates to banana smoothies and was an attempt to justify their interest rate rise nearly double that of the Reserve bank.

Westpac, who it seems were spurred on by the marketing catch cries “viral marketing” and “word of mouth”, decided to run with the ad. They have shown the marketplace a classic example as to why the use of social media for commercial gain rather than as a two-way communication tool can send your company bananas. And Toyota? Lets just say they are going to have to bend over and take what is coming…