O ye of little faith.

1 Mar

A bloke’s favourite films is a touchy subject.  Often, they are etched into our psyche at crucial emotional junctures and any criticism of our shiny, shiny  list is like, well, a statement that we evolved incorrectly. Take, oh, Jaws for example. Sure, it’s a movie about a giant shark that eats people and then goes boom, but it was also the first time, as an eight year old, that I became aware of communal self consciousness and the power of ritualized story-telling.

Until then, the vanguard of ritualized story had been St.Anthony’s Catholic School. Now, taking out Sister Allen and her weird hump and relish in giving you a good crack  over the knuckles with a ruler, by “A Current Affair” christian standards, St.A was alright.

But, god… so-much-talk. Daily sermons in a profoundly intimidating school church. The priest waxing away was doing his level best to inspire us to the light I’m sure, but the thesis that found its way into my bones was “God is boring and angry.”  Kinda like an angry ex who role plays with his Star Wars figures and a cross-bow.  Meanwhile, I stared at Karen Lucas’s pig-tails in front of me and fought a desire to pull them, giggle and then wet my pants.

Up to that point, the ‘temple story’ was something to be punished by.

Then Jaws happened. And the temple was rebuilt.

That’s what’s going on in a bloke’s favourite movies. Nothing less than the proof of god.

Permit a bit of role-play then…

So you say… the shark looks fake, and I respond, but MY soul isn’t.

But it’s just a silly summer movie –  Yep. Since when is silliness banned from the divine and what the hell has air temperature got to do with it?

But the shark still looks fuh-ake – Oh Jesus Christ! Look, we’re all in this dark room together, screaming a primal epiphany as the big plastic bastard bites a boat in half, and if I’m not mistaken, you hit the roof and stayed there when it popped up during Brody’s chum sequence. For that one scream, we were all in the same place, beautiful animals in the dark, a single light guiding us.

Men are solitary beings. Women too, just it seems to express itself differently. The cinema offers us lads an anonymous place, a safe place to bond with stories that reveal the dancing soul we wish we wore, not the perhaps luggish, tight-lipped spirit you encounter day to day.

We go to the movies to see ourselves. The best of ourselves I think, So next time you feather that copy of “Runaway Train” or “Mad Max 2” and cast a mocking eyebrow at their eighties soaked viscera, pause before you chortle, there may just be an eight year old soul resting in your hands.


Words and delicious things

11 Oct

Reading is both indulgence and staple. If there were a life diagram akin to the food pyramid that has chocolate and milkshakes teetering on the apex and broccoli and sprout grumbling at the base, then books would be a kind of omni-watermark over it all.
The short of it is, if you don’t read, you’re a horrible person.

The pleasure of discovering new writers is particularly rewarding. It’s as if the universe has been gently listening and with a crinkle of its nose, drops an author in your lap like a warm mug. A reward perhaps, for persevering through all the mangled, cynical prose of social media and fearful rage of opinion columns. Blogs included.

So you nuzzle in to your new author, with their own strangely same but original cadence embracing you and you feel so terribly, awfully clever that the great and wise coil has honoured your commitment to looking at lots of words in order.
Cosmic reciprocity… a particularly masculine trait.

I have discovered four new writers in the last month or so, so you can imagine the glow of my ego. I am virtually a God. No. The God. The counter-punch to these discoveries is that three of these writers have been putting their thoughts into the world since way early in the 20th century. One of them, since late 19th.
Very impressive.

The newest of the writers is Etgar Keret, a short-story writer I found through This American Life, a podcast I can barely restrain myself in recommending. His story of a magical goldfish reminded me of Margo Lanagan’s sad beauty with her masterpiece, Singing my sister down. A wonderful short story is about the best thing in the world.

Two of the other guys I think will do okay for themselves. Anton Chekhov and Kurt Vonnegut. They capture the solitude and confusion of the masculine soul with a lightness that both depresses and thrills me. Depressing because I doubt if I will ever write something so fantastic and constant, and elation at the sheer…chocolatey broccoloiness of it all.

The last is an American essayist John McPhee. He popped out of a collection of essays I bought for six bucks at The Strand bookstore last time I was in New York. If Willy Wonka was a writer, his gold tickets would grant you access to The Strand.  I also got an old edition of Mark Twain short stories which I have little intention of reading cover to cover. It sits on my bookshelf simply because it just looks so pretty.
To McPhee, who has also been around since dot, I’ll rip his writing and let it speak for itself.  This is a passage describing his mother treating him on his twelfth birthday.

“At LaGuardia, she accompanied me to the observation deck and stood there in the icy wind for at least an hour, maybe two, while I, spellbound, watched the DC-3s coming in on final, their wings flapping in the gusts. When we at last left the observation deck, we went downstairs into the terminal, where she brought me what appeared to be a black rubber ball but on closer inspection was a pair of hollow hemispheres hinged on one side and folded together. They contained a silk parachute. Opposite the hinge, each hemisphere had a small nib. A piece of string wrapped round and round the two nibs kept the ball closed. If you threw it high into the air, the string unwound and the parachute blossomed. If you sent it up with a tennis racquet, you could put it into the clouds. Not until the development of the ten megabyte hard disk would the world know such a fabulous toy. Folded just so, the parachute never failed. Always, it floated back to you- silkily, beautifully-to start over and float back again. Even if you abused it, whacked it really hard- gracefully, lightly, it floated back to you.”

The best of a man describing the best of a boy that survives to be the best of the man.

Chocolate and broccoli.

We unhappy few

26 Jul

“We don’t have the record anymore.”

That was my first thought when I saw the tally of dead from the Oslo mass murders.

In 1996, Martin Bryant shot 35 people dead at Port Arthur, Tasmania. It was the largest single shooting slaughter in civilised history. A former penal colony famed for its brutality, Port Arthur seemed a horribly fitting place for yet another coward with a duffel bag  to sate their juvenile rage. A haunted house invites one last cruel chapter.

But there is no magic here. No trees with souls or clouds that circle arrows. It’s choice. Banal, horrible choice with a consequence of exponential grief.

I remember one of my closest friends telling my of the Port Arthur shootings after they had occurred. I remember feeling a strange sense of….being Australian….. in the following weeks. Of somehow being connected to my kin in the south. In tragedies, national identity seems to come to the fore, but I have never felt it so potently. Our nation has its share of floods and fire, but within them, no matter the destruction, there is an underlying notion of nature just is and will be what it wishes.

This was different. This was a man who planned and picked and woke up and ate breakfast then went to a peninsular with the goal to kill as many people as possible. Human  nature? I don’t surrender it the same latitude as I do its primal mother.

Let’s get this straight. We know what we’re doing, we men. We know. Don’t let us breathe an utterance of otherwise.

I don’t know what this all means. I’m not even close. Why, with a sense of sad relief our nation can be excused from the record books and the private shame of that emotion? After all, I have lost nothing. My family and those I love are safe. What right do I have?

And now the media. In 95, Bryant’s eyes were digitally altered in photos so he would appear more malevolent.Now they build a new beast, plaster this new fiend’s story into mythology when he can barely be anything more than a compression of spite who could manage the basic purchasing procedures of guns. Let’s shut our curiousity down and let whatever he is drift to those who may know how to examine properly such a failure of humanity and be done with him. If there are lessons from this, they almost certainly will not be born from the media tsunami.

But why always men? What dysfunction do we bear? The exoticism of guns. The status of anger.

It’s all fucked up.

We don’t have the record anymore.

It’s gone.

Along with almost a hundred lives and grief that tethers us to something unknown.

I guess you gotta keep faith. That in men there is a thread of gentleness that defines most of us. That men are largely soft and what fear we bear we work to bring to harness or healing. Maybe today is the day to tell your guy, “You’re okay, you know,” and give him a hug.

I don’t know.

Just can this inexorable cadence please stop.

I don’t know.

It’s all fucked up.