Furious Fiction: Done with an Hour to Spare

Not usually prone to last minute projects, I totally forgot about the Australian Writers’ Centre’s monthly fiction competition.¬†A bit of a rarity among fiction competitions, it is free to enter and has a $500 prize.

The catch is you have 55 hours to write your entry. But you also have a 500 word limit. And you have a few prompts to follow. This month the story has to take place in a library or bookshop and has to contain six words from a list of twenty.

Every month, I seem to remember about the competition just a little too late. I could quote the Australian time difference as a factor that reduces the 55 hours down to something closer to 48, but no excuses. And with no excuses in mind, I got to work. With limited time for feedback,¬†my entry¬†(a story called ‘Taken Care Of’) was delivered with an hour to spare.

Furious 01And as I sat back in my seat, a big sigh of relief hiding the anxiety of having to wait for the results, I get an amusing Thank You.

Furious 02


And a big thank you back to the AWC.

Flatliners (2017): The Unending Hell of Remakes

Remakes seem to be a whole new genre of movies that show no signs of loosing power.

It has been just over 25 years since the first Flatliners film and the 2017 version appears to be an ironic representation of the current trend of movie remakes. The 1990 film effectively mixed horror, romance and adventure. It was unsettling, a little science fiction and dramatic. The new version brings in a new, only slightly changed cast and runs through the motions as if an Andrew Lloyd Webster theatre group running the matinee performance for the 500th time. Which is a shame.

Given the new breed of horror films that take a good measure of Final Destination with a dose of Paranormal Activity, there is so much that a Flatliners remake could have done. Unfortunately they didn’t. Instead they have provide a metaphor for films brought back from the dead and haunted by the past. There needs to a resolution. The film needs to go back to the original and apologise, because one things is for sure, the original will forever haunt the rubbish remake.

My advice to you, don’t bother watching it. My advice to myself, stop watching crap films.

White Chamber (2018)

A sci-fi story with super-soldier drugs, a high-tech prison, civil war and fringe science  about political authority and justified action staring Shauna Macdonald (Descent, Filth, Spooks and other stuff) and Oded Fehr (the guy in the Brendan Frasier Mummy film and Resident Evil-love that guy). What could go wrong?

Apparently, the budget.

The narrative shifts and changes. There is tension between the characters, hidden surprises and flashbacks. All has so much potential if the whole thing wasn’t filmed in the reception corridor of a call-centre.

I appreciate the cost effective attempt to harness the modern look of an insurance companies office building on a business park somewhere, anywhere in the country. But it just looked crap.

For the rest of the film, all I can think of is this looks crap. I felt sorry for the actors. They are sitting in a corridor pretending to mix chemicals and torture other people in a futuristic prison which happens to be in the reception hall of an office building. It’s not like the production company make any efforts to do anything other than build a glowing white box (the white chamber of the title). They didn’t try to hide the door to the regional manager’s office or the supply cupboard full of what? toxic chemicals? Nope, just stationary and call centre headsets.

The concept had some promise. The element of civil war in the UK due to corrupt politics and massive divisions between culture. Great. Some fabulous potential. There is even a reasonable sense of shift allegiances. What happens if a civil war arrives? How do you pick sides? Great.

Unfortunately, it was ruined by crap production values. Which isn’t too far off the general state of British politics. Even when it comes to fictional versions of these tensions, we produce a half-hearted job that does very little.¬†Well done England, you’ve done it again¬†[slow clap]. Can’t wait to see how we mess up even¬†further…wait we haven’t finished with Brexit yet, there is still time.

After the Reality TV Cameras Leave

Love Island has wrapped up for another year, (a little off the general crime/fiction topic, I know) and I’ve been avoiding watching by bingeing Bar Rescue episodes. To begin with there was something entertaining seeing all these different bars. Like a televised Tripadvisor. Then there was the transformational quality. Everyone loves the dysfunctional individual who sees the error of their ways and changes for the better after the big friendly slap across the face delivered by Jon Taffer (he says it‚Äôs all about business but we know there is a sympathetic heart behind all that shouting). After a while I ended up getting a little more involved that the usual 45 minute episode. I started wondering what happened after the reality TV cameras stopped filming.

The first interesting element is the amount of bars that have closed. I wonder how Taffer feels about the closed bars? Most of them had some major problems that were not going to be fixed in 5 days. By major problems I mean the owners and operators were just not capable of keeping the bars going. Five days of Taffer’s patented style of shouting, cajoling and positive reinforcement was not going to help some people. I would imagine he feels positive about giving these people a chance (and in some cases a major refurbishment amounting to tens of thousands of dollars in some cases).

Then there were the discussion board diatribes. We know that everyone has an opinion, but Bar Rescue gives people the opportunity to support that opinion with something more than individual prejudice. Bar Rescue lets you visit the bar itself and get a first hand experience of what you’d seen on TV and in some cases lets you talk about visiting the bar before it was rescued.

Bar Rescue gives the audience an¬†opportunity to experience the reality behind the reality TV. Bars are, after all, open to the general public in a way that people‚Äôs lives are not. You sit and watch the limited insight provides by¬†TV. When the camera‚Äôs stop and the programme ends, you might catch a little social media info,¬†but your ability to follow the continuing story is limited.¬† Maybe a little self-promotion social media which is no more ‚Äėreal‚Äô than the episodes themselves. However, you can visit a bar, come into real contact with the real people and post reviews on Yelp, a favourite of Jon Taffer himself.

Bar Rescue is an interesting little program (and popular given the 180 plus episodes). It provides a way of re-evaluating our approach to reality TV in a way that other programs cannot. You could even do a US tour of Bar Rescue bars. It‚Äôs not going to happen. I‚Äôm more likely to¬†spend a faction of the time (one bar every night for a 180 bars, a minimum of¬†6 months) and a fraction of the¬†money¬†it would cost to visit all the bars and instead sit on a beach somewhere. Sorry reality TV, you’re not invited.

PJ Masks and Wakeful Dreaming

If you have pre-schools kids or maybe just like children’s television, you might have seen a show called PJ Mask. The basic premise is three pre-adolescent kids who fight crime at night.

It might be an idea to take a closer look.

Skipping over the French styling of the city (it is a French show after all), the night time world is unusually surreal. Add the logicistics of the characters only changing into their superhero personas after dark and you have a strong case you wakeful dreaming.

In this show, three characters share a projection fantasy classing them as superheroes which allows them to play out a variety of scenarios to grow as individuals.

Or maybe it’s just a kids show.

Free Comic Book Day

The first Saturday of May is nearly upon us which can only mean Free Comic Book Day.

Yes, it is a marketing scheme to get you into your local comic book store, but it is one of the better marketing schemes I know.

The day usually has a few extras. Our local comic book store has a few cosplayers and a few extra people. There is also a ton of people and a line to get in.

If you haven’t been before, give it a try.


Holy Thursday (William Blake)

It is Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday. The former happens to also be the title of two poems by William Blake in his Songs of Innocence and Experience collection.

Both the poems draw from the tradition of holding a religious service in London to give attention to the orphan children of the city. What more could a orphan child of the eighteenth and nineteenth century want but a religious service?

Blake’s poetry spends a good deals of time struggling with issues to do with the treatment of children. He presents children as the epitome of innocence, but also acknowledged that they were often poorly treated.

In the first Holy Thursday poem, the children are compared to forces of natural power. If children are the epitome of innocence in¬†Blake’s poetry, nature is the epitome of the force of good. The combined voices of the children provide “harmonious thunderings” and Blake uses the motif of sound to provide a sense of the power and importance of children. In the final lines of the poem, Blake issues a warning and suggests that children should be cherished or religious enlightenment, in the form of the angel, will be lost.

Holy Thursday (Innocence)

Twas on a Holy Thursday their innocent faces clean 
The children walking two & two in red & blue & green 
Grey-headed beadles walkd before with wands as white as snow,
Till into the high dome of Pauls they like Thames waters flow 
O what a multitude they seemd these flowers of London town 
Seated in companies they sit with radiance all their own 
The hum of multitudes was there but multitudes of lambs 
Thousands of little boys & girls raising their innocent hands 
Now like a mighty wind they raise to heaven the voice of song 
Or like harmonious thunderings the seats of Heaven among 
Beneath them sit the aged men wise guardians of the poor 
Then cherish pity, lest you drive an angel from your door 

Blake’s Holy Thursday Experience poem, focuses on similar issues of religious and children. However, the focus is less on the power of children and more on the suffering of children.

The use of questions in the first two stanzas provide a persuasive sense of the mistreatment of children. The first stanza is one rhetorical questioning leaving the audience on alternative but to bemoan the suffering inflicted on children.

In contrast to the use of colour in the Innocence poem, Experience provides a metaphor present of “a land of poverty” inhabited by the suffering children. The use of repetition in the final two stanzas provide a sense of the monotonous suffering of children.

Once again, nature is being used to provide the audience with as specific effect. In this case, Blake wants the audience to feel the unrelentingly bleak life of the children.

Holy Thursday (Experience)

Is this a holy thing to see, 
In a rich and fruitful land,
Babes reducd to misery,
Fed with cold and usurous hand?
Is that trembling cry a song?
Can it be a song of joy?
And so many children poor?
It is a land of poverty!
And their sun does never shine. 
And their fields are bleak & bare. 
And their ways are fill’d with thorns.¬†
It is eternal winter there.
For where-e’er the sun does shine,¬†
And where-e’er the rain does fall:¬†
Babe can never hunger there,
Nor poverty the mind appal.