Thursday, 30 August 2012

Final Draft

Dear Friend,

I haven't heard from you in a few weeks, though this is not uncommon. You were about to start a new job, you were going to work on your three unfinished manuscripts and a play on your uni holidays. That first draft of your play made me laugh, it was so dark and black. I loved it. It was so you.

I went to your Facebook page yesterday, quitely wondering why you hadn't posted a meme in a while, you know the ones, the piss take of those horror movies you like that I never get the meaning of? I assumed that you had locked yourself away and went on a 'writing binge' free of technology. You had warned me previously that you may do this without notice.

Only you didn't. You died five days after we last spoke. Cause unknown.

Cause unknown summarises it all really. I was obvlious to the fact that this tragedy occurred almost three weeks ago. I missed your funeral and your wake. I'm so sorry. I really wanted to be there. So badly. I know it wouldn't have mattered to you anyway. You would have just said to me 'Watch a movie instead, you'll have a much better time, as long as it isn't made by FUCKING Woody Allen!'.

All together we had known each other less than six months, and we never even met face to face. I loved talking movies with you. I made this list because of one conversation that we had. You said my list was too bland. This started a lively discussion on the artistic merit of the Coen Brothers. You convinced me to watch The Big Lebowski again. I did. I still HATED it. I managed to convince you to watch Amadeus as part of the deal despite the fact you said that it was nearly '...3 hours of Milos Forman over directing a movie about opera'. You told me after a second viewing that you liked it. Your willingness to be open to a change of mind, whilst I was (rightly) insistent about my taste suggests an openness I am not yet capable of and that you always had.

I remember the last words you typed to me.

Fuck you shit me, but at least you're smart about it... sometimes :P

We had made plans to go to the movies lots of times when I had moved to Brisbane. You said you were going to 'teach me about the finer points of the art of film making'. I was looking forward to that so much. Sadly I will never get those lessons now, but the next time the Coens make a movie, I'll watch it just for you.

Goodbye, may you find the audience your talents demanded.


Monday, 27 August 2012

The Good News: Aaron Sorkin's The Newsroom



Without a doubt the finest achievement in television this year was the first season of Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom, which concluded this afternoon. This series in my opinion far outweighs the stellar first season of another Sorkin creation, The West Wing. Yet I seem to be an island by having this opinion, for the critics I have the utmost respect for have almost unanimously panned the series. They think they know the tricks of all of Sorkin’s writing tics, but none of this matters to me. Yes, I have been a fan of Aaron Sorkin from the beginning, especially of his televisual endeavours. Aside from The West Wing, both Sports Night and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip were cancelled far too soon. The latter in particular copped similar scorn to The Newsroom. Why? Because Sorkin doesn’t just write to merely entertain audiences, he preaches to them. While many people have found this disconcerting, even offensive it’s not like Sorkin hasn’t done this before, whether it be to discuss the vagaries of religion, or the harmful effects of drug abuse.

With The Newsroom however Sorkin begins with a sermon in the very first scene. Protagonist Will McAvoy launches into a tirade against the notion of American exceptionalism. Some have suggested that the tone which Sorkin adopts throughout this monologue is full of a pompousity that Will has not yet earnt. This misses the point however, for although The Newsroom's themes and issues are realistic and are sometimes based in true fact, Sorkin is actually creating an alternate universe in which media commentary and journalistic discourse are seen through optimistic middle way politics. By using stories from the recent past, Sorkin has snookered himself, and he is open to justifiable criticism of intending to comment on factual events in a fictional way. The basic synopsis of The Newsroom goes to the heart of this issue.
A moderate Republican news anchor, Will McAvoy, returns from a forced vacation to find his staff have jumped ship for another show on the Atlantis Cable Network (ACN). He is forced to work with several new team members brought on board during his absence.
A ‘moderate’ newscaster of either political persuasion would never have his own news show on an American cable network. Cable network news thrives on opinion and this in turn suggests that successful cable news anchors must identify with the extreme left or right. Whilst it could be argued that Will is based upon my favourite news anchor, Olbermann has always maintained the notoriety of being both temperamental and pugnacious. In the pilot however, Sorkin goes out of his way to point out that Will achieved popularity, by having no opinions of any consequence before his rant at Northwestern. The very premise of Sorkin's central character is entirely fictional.

Instead Sorkin is doing what he always does with his writing: creative wish filfullment. He is directly challenging the audience to question why producers like Newsnight’s Mackensie McHale do not exist anymore. He is provoking discussion within the viewer so they can weigh up whether content is more important than ratings. The smart viewers or at least the Sorkin devotees like myself are aware that this is his modus oprandi.

Events like the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and the capture of Osama Bin Laden are covered in reverential tones during The Newsroom's first season, in ways that once again echo The West Wing's attitude to politics, and a Hollywood movie nominated for Best Picture. What makes one piece of art better than the other? Is it that one is written by the likeable George Clooney, and the other is by the occasionally egomaniacal Sorkin? To dismiss The Newsroom because of the personality of the writer has added an unintended sense of kismet to the whole project. The loud voices of discontent that have followed The Newsroom has typified the whole point of its first season: some see the world for what it can be, others see it for what it is. To the millions disenchanted with the current political culture and/or the state of journalistic ethics, Sorkin’s fictional world of The Newsroom is a grand place to live. 

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Language of the Past Time.

This week I've been working my way through a famous 19 hour documentary on the history of American baseball by documentary film maker extraordinaire Ken Burns. It is a wonderful way of getting acquainted with a game I've only had a passing interest in. My favourite bits so far are these zany quotes from arguably the two greatest player/managers of the game.

Former player/Yankees manager Casey Stengel

"I was such a dangerous hitter I even got intentional walks during batting practice."

"If this keeps up I'm about to manage until I'm a hundred."
- after a 4-game winning streak

"He'd fall in a sewer and come up with a gold watch."
- on Yogi Berra

"Mister, that boy couldn't hit the ground if he fell out of an airplane."
- on a player sent down to the minors

"Best thing wrong with Jack Fisher is nothing."

"It's wonderful to meet so many friends that I didn't used to like."
- after an old-timers game in 1971

"They brought me up to the Brooklyn Dodgers, which at that time was in Brooklyn."


Former New York Yankees Catcher/Manager Yogi Berra

"Baseball is ninety percent mental. The other half is physical."

"It's déjà vu all over again."

"It's so crowded nobody goes there anymore."
- on Toots Shor's restaurant

"So I'm ugly.  So what?  I never saw anyone hit with his face."

"I always thought the record would stand until it was broken."
- from a publicity stunt letter sent to Johnny Bench after he broke Berra's all-time home run record for catchers

"You've got to be careful if you don't know where you're going, because you might not get there."

"I ain't in no slump.  I just ain't hitting."

"We have deep depth."

"If the fellow who lost it was poor, I'd return it."
- what he would do if he found a million dollars

"A nickel ain't worth a dime anymore."

"If the world were perfect, it wouldn't be."

"The other teams could make trouble for us if they win."

"He is a big clog in their machine."

"If the people don't want to come out to the park, nobody's going to stop them."

"We made too many wrong mistakes."
- why the Yankees lost the 1960 World Series to the Pirates

"I wish I had an answer to that because I'm getting tired of answering that question."

"I usually take a two-hour nap, from one o'clock to four."

"He must have made that before he died."
- referring to a Steve McQueen movie




Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Movin' Out.

I have some good news to report on this blog after what seems like months of bitching and moaning.

In what has been almost 2 years in the making I finally have a place to call my own in the city of Brisbane! I cannot overstate what a life changing piece of news this is.  Best of all, it comes from the Housing Commission, which means that the rent is cheap and affordable. The unit is close to city, my uni, has easy access to public transport and is located a kilometre from one of Brisbane's biggest shopping centres. The unit itself is fully wheelchair accessible, and I don’t have to pay money to do any alterations. The only work it needs is to have an automatic door installed so I can come and go from the unit safely, which the government is paying for. The only drawback to this is that I have to wait 10 weeks to move in.

Possibly my favourite aspect of the unit is that it has two bedrooms that are for my use exclusively. Due to the rent being cheap, I don’t have to share the unit with anyone, with the second bedroom being known henceforth as ‘Todd’s Office’ The office will store my trusty Mac and my ever growing library of political texts, non fiction books on popular culture and classic novels.

Given the political climate in Queensland this outcome was totally unexpected. From past experience both my parents and I knew that we couldn’t afford to buy and renovate an existing place to suit my very particular needs. In order to renovate the bathroom it would have cost me between $20K and $30K alone, assuming that every other room fit my requirements. This cost would have been on top of the purchase price.

It seems a bit of luck came my way, after what has been such a difficult time. For the first time in 28 years I am in charge of my life, finally.