Sunday, July 31, 2011

On Heaven and Paisley

Oh, Honey Honey.
You are my candy girl,
and you got me wanting you. - The Archies - "Candy Girl"

Window Display, Dylan's Candy Store,
Midtown Manhattan
There's a whole new - well maybe not so new - candy world out there. A world of glitz and child pageantry. More so in America, though I was shocked to read yesterday that it has reached my old home town of Northcote - a suburb of staid Melbourne - a city not generally known for its crassness.

Pageantry - that word used to conjure up images of Medieval processions, of men in gold black brocade doublets, of young men, pages, unfurling banners. Of heraldry. And of guilds and illuminated manuscripts. I guess these were what people watched for entertainment, when taking a break from ploughing the unenclosed fields, fighting Goths, and discussing Magna Carta over goblets of mead.

Well, not really, but you get the picture.

I have known about these child pageants ever since JonBenét Ramsey made news - JonBenét Ramsey the child beauty pageant contestant who was discovered murdered in her home in Boulder, Colorado in 1996. JonBenét's untimely death spawned numerous TV documentaries and print-press articles - scathing stories about the little girls who enter beauty pageants, dressed up like Barbie dolls with big hair, fake cosmetic teeth and spray-on tans.

But recently I have become even more aware of their existence, thanks to my friend Dee who introduced me to the American TV series "Toddlers and Tiaras".

"Toddlers and Tiaras" is a must-watch. I even stop playing Angry Bird to watch it. Sometimes I even put it before "Curb Your Enthusiasm" as I scroll through my DVD cable recorded TV titles.

Toddlers and Tiaras Website
Whoever does the editing of T&T should be nominated for a Pulitzer. The media is the message!

Every episode features two or three contestants and their parents, with cameramen following them around detailing their lives from the preparations at home, to their appearances at the pageant competitions, invariably held in Georgia Tennessee and Arkansas.

What I like about T&T is the way the image of a screaming toddler will be shown with a voice-over of the mother proclaiming how much little Kerleigh (sic) "just LOVES" being a pageant girl.

"She's our little pride and joy," a proud parent will say, only to be followed in the next screen with his off-spring saying to her proud daddy, "You stink, shut up!!!".

And then there are the classics, such as "What is Paisley having for lunch today?" from her Mommy, as the camera zooms in to little four-year-old Paisley picking her nose up to the third joint of her index finger.

"Everyone who knows Paisley calls her "The Little Turd" comments her proud mother. Proudly!

As well as its educational non-value, T&T is worth watching in that it keeps me up with the latest trends in American girls' names.

A while back, say in the late eighties, when using place names for females given names was beginning to become a bit too old-hat - when just about everyone under 12 was called "Chelsea" or "Britanny" - trend-setting parents, not wanting their child to be just one of the crowd, found the solution - a way of making their child stand out - by misspelling the kid's name. So the made up name "Caylee" became "Kayleigh", Masison "Maddyson" and China was on the baptismal certificate, misspelled as "Chyna".

Manhattan Kids, Au Naturel
But there's a limit to how much one can misspell without completely making the origin unguessable. Like "Kaylezs" from the misspelt "Kayleigh" which was once "Caylee". Or "Grayce" for "Grace"

For a while there, after the birth of Paltrow's daughter, Apple Blythe Alison Martin, I thought that we might be in for a run of fruit names. Pineapple, Avocado and Peach. I can just hear it, "Now Pomegranate, please put on your INSIDE voice now."

Or numbers - as in "Seven" - Seinfelds' George Costanza's favourite kid's name. "Now Six, give Five back his Tonka toy!"

But now ... now it's just words. Like "Heaven". And "Paisley". And "Puddle". I was going to quote Michael Jackson's "Blanket", but that is just a little too normal ...

And yet, even these aren't good enough. We need to misspell the words! I just came across a "Triniti". And a "Saryniti" (from Serenity???)

And there was I, 18 years ago, cringing at Australia's "Jaydon"s and before them, at the "Wayne"s and "Leanne"s. It could be worse. Instead of living in America in 2011, I could be living in Australia circa 1980.

Well, maybe not ...

The Middle Ages are looking better every day. Or should I spell that My-dell Ajays?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Word By Any Other Name

"Pretty good. Pretttttttty, pretttttttttty, pretttttty good." - Larry David (many times)

"I'll take your words and be gone
Your words and be gone
I'll take your words and be gone" - Lady GaGa - "Words"

"Is that a gun in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?" - Mae West

A Man of Few Words (East Harlem)
That's what I like about the internet. You wake up and find out about so many weird otherwise obscure things.

Take the "thebookslut" for example. Yes, that's right, The Book Slut. I follow her on Twitter.

A new vocabulary, a new lexicon, a new whatever ...

Ms Book Slut recently "tweeted", published in 140-or-less characters, that there is a German word for "excess weight gained from emotional overeating" - "Kummerspeck" - literally, grief bacon. I "followed" Ms BookSlut's link to the Dental Floss Archives. I wanted to find out more.

It's easy to feel like Alice in Wonderland on the internet. Who knew? And who knows where you'll end up? One minute I'm following Ms BookSlut and the next I'm reading about obscure words and cyber-flossing.

I read that there is a Yiddish word, "Luftmensch" - to describe social misfits - meaning an "impractical dreamer with no business sense. Literally, air person." But of course I knew that!

And so I got to dreaming. I remembered three weeks ago seeing Larry David in a sneak preview of an episode from his newest "Curb Your Enthusiasm" series. What a genius! I firmly believe that if the world had even 2.5 more Larry Davids, then we'd have peace and justice and whatever else a rational mind could envisage.

Instead we are all here and now and reliant on HBO for a modicum of sanity ... Scary!

More Words (Mid-town Manhattan)
But back to "words". Three weeks ago when the preview of "Curb Your Enthusiasm's" "Palestine Chicken" episode was shown on the huge screen at 92Y in New York, it was followed by a panel interview hosted by "NBC Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams" with Larry David and cast. They had a captive audience. One of the topics was the concept of "social assasins". People who call a spade a shovel, who (albeit unconsciously) hold without thinking, non-politically correct views.

This was appropos of the sneak-previewed episode, "Palestinian Chicken" where Larry is accused of being a "social assassin" when he criticizes the wife of a friend who verbally, audibly says 'LoL' instead of just laughing.

I remembered my mother at a party I'd organized. A reunion of sorts between her, my mum, and her best friend. They'd parted ways a decade or so back, and I and the best-friend's daughter had organized a "reunion" at my house in Melbourne.

Shades of "Palestinian Chicken" - Mosque Demo
The reunion party was in full-swing when my mother and old-friend Norma arrived. By cab. They were bickering. Not so odd for old friends, but my mother, after paying an inflated fare, complained to the driver in no uncertain terms. The "best friend", who wore her left-wing heart on her Gucci sleeve had, according to both of them, turned on my mother, telling her she was a "social fascist". A reverse snobbery. Somehow the cab driver was out of bounds - immune from criticism by virtue of his being a member of the working class.

Well, the 'social fascist' remark got several laughs from the party animals, but I remembered at the time thinking, how unfair.

What's in a word?

Sometimes I think words are being re-cycled. Fitting. Green words!

Look at this...

What is it? A jumper (sweater USA) with an outside pocket.

Now for some reason - I forget why - a few months ago I looked up the definition of "pocket" and discovered that the "pocket" was invented a hundred years or so ago, as a bag- or envelope-like receptacle inserted underneath an article of clothing close to the body and used to hold small items. To access the "pocket" the outer clothing had to be bunched up, and this was obviously inconvenient. Eventually some bright soul had the idea to make a slit in the outer-wear to allow for easy access. Still later another bright spark had another idea - the outer sides of the bag were attached to the sides of the slit - and so we had the "pocket".

Time passes and no doubt the advances of 200 hundred years ago are now forgotten. A designer here in New York has stepped back centuries to come upon the idea of reversing the trend and putting pockets back as separate, unattached items, although on the outer side of the outer garments. Which just goes to show, that ...

"If it wasn't for pick-pockets I'd have no sex life at all." - Rodney Dangerfield.

Not really, but it was the closest pocket quote I could find!

Very very very occasionally I have occasion to read a dead tree book, and recently, while reading one, I come across a word, a word that neither Book Slut or Mr. Dental Floss had uncovered. I'm reading "People Who Eat Darkness: The Fate of Lucie Blackman" not available in Kindle. It's set in Japan. I read about the word "jikokenjiyoku" which apparently means "the wish to expose oneself and have the self-exposure well received". And yes, the context is sexual.

Now who was it said, "In the beginning was the word"????

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

On Google+ and Coke Bottles "On the Beach"

If you're going to San Francisco
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair
If you're going to San Francisco
You're gonna meet some gentle people there - ©1967 John Phillips of The Mamas & the Papas

Way back last century, a movie was made called "On the Beach". It starred Ava Gardner and some other people whose names I've forgotten. I could Google them of course, but why bother?

The point of my remembering "On the Beach" lies in one particular scene - the Coke bottle scene.

To explain - to those younger than 100 - "On the Beach" is set in Melbourne, Australia post 1959, after a global nuclear war has resulted in life being destined to be destroyed in a matter of months. People in Melbourne, including a number of Americans from various branches of the US military, are aware that most of the inhabitants of earth will soon die. Except that is, those at the very bottom of the southern hemisphere, although they too will eventually sucumb to radioactive poisoning resulting from the nuclear fallout. The idea being that, though started in the northern hemisphere, the radioactivity will move south due to gravitational pull (a bit suss ...). And so ... those people in Melbourne are still alive but are the last survivors and their end is nigh.

I remember when the film was being shot in Melbourne. We'd all grown up in a city that no one had ever heard of. A cultural no-man's-land. A nowhere place. Pre-internet, pre nearly everything. But here we were, courtesy of Stanley Kramer, at last, on the map.

The star of "On the Beach", Ava Gardner, on arriving in Melbourne was quoted in the Murdoch press as saying that Melbourne was "an appropriate city in which to film the end of the world". This was before Murdoch-gate and so we all believed her.

Anyway, I digress. There's a scene in "On the Beach" where the US military in Melbourne start receiving Morse code signals from a US military station in San Francisco. Yep, Morse code. Ancient history - Melbourne - a place I grew up in, getting end of the world messages! Who is sending the messages? The military men (there were no military women back then) scratch their crew-cuts. Could it be that San Francisco was not after all destroyed by nuclear war?

The men meet - and military-men-like - ponder. A DECISION is made. The Americans based in Melbourne are asked to volunteer to take a submarine to the Northern hemisphere to INVESTIGATE. And so the hero - was he Gregory Peck? - says goodbye to Ava Gardner. He and his men must depart. On the submarine, the "USS Sawfish", to see if there is anyone still alive in San Francisco. And WHO is sending the messages.

Of course, this means Gregory Peck will never see Ava Gardner again because the end of the world will happen before the sub can return. There's just enough time before the radioactivity kicks in, for the "Sawfish" to reach San Francisco to see who is sending out the Morse code signals.

The Sawfish arrives in San Francisco Bay and the best of the crew (in looks) volunteers to venture out in radio-activity-land, to find the source of the Morse code messages.

Half a Cinema-Scope day later, the brave marine volunteer locates the source of the signal. The neck of a Coke bottle has fallen into the pull-ring of a blind in an office window at Marine Head Quarters, and lying on the desk top the bottle is swaying slightly in the breeze (the window is open), hitting sporadically on a Morse code machine, causing it to transmit random Morse code signals.

So much for intelligent life.

Now if I were a film director, I'd do a re-make. I'd do the same Coke bottle thing but I'd set the Morse code machine somewhere in the Kalahi Desert. A Bushman would find the Coke bottle and would be in awe. He'd take it back to his small village and the village people would fight over it.

The Bushman would get worried about the trouble it was causing. He would then decide to return the Coke bottle to God - where he thinks it came from. A white school teacher assigned to the small village would fall in love with a white anthologist and have words with a despotic revolutionary. A clumsy biologist would fall for the teacher but would not think he had a chance against the despotic revolutionary. All good stuff. Meanwhile the Bushman would look really cute and get into lots of adventures. Eventually the clumsy biologist would win the affections of the white school teacher and - well you get the picture.

But I digress again ....

Back to reality. The reason I got stuck on the Coke bottle image this week is that I joined Google Plus.

I set it all up. Did my profile thingy. Set up my "Circles", although I did not have enough people to make a "Huddle".

And then I waited.

And nothing happened.

It felt like something, but what was it? I'd been there before ... I wondered how to describe my "status" my 140 characters. My geo-location. My whatever.

I wracked my brains. I posted threads, strings, snippets. To no avail. No one was listening. No one replied.

And then all became clear.

I was like the Coke bottle in "On the Beach" in San Francisco last century - emitting meaningless syllables to a place 12,000 miles away.

When was "On The Beach" made? In 1959 according to IMDB. That's about right.

1959 - 2011. Nothing much has changed.

... - .- -.-- - ..- -. . -..

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Beige Women of Trak

"Is that why you always look like the cat who swallowed the King Island double cream" - Trude to Prue, on discovering Trudy is having an affair with her husband, "Kath and Kim"

"In popular Australian culture, the name Toorak has become synonymous with wealth and privilege. The suburb has long had the reputation of being Melbourne's most elite, and ranks among the most prestigious in Australia. It has the highest average property values in Melbourne, and is one of the most expensive suburbs in Australia." - Wikipedia Toorak, Victoria

Sunbakers, Upper East Side, New York
"I have two groups of friends," Cara mused. "There are the normal ones like you and Ruth, and then there are my golf ones."

Normal? Me? I don't THINK so. But to continue ...

Cara lives in Melbourne. We were chatting on the phone. "My golf friends are all rich and they all have lemon-colored straight hair and live in Toorak or Balwyn. And it is weird," said Caro, sounding bemused. "They say things like, 'The government wants to get money from the rich with a new tax for the bushfire victims.' This really annoys them but of course the government must get money from the rich. They are the ones with the money. How can the governement get money from the poor?"

That's Cara for you. Logical with a touch of naiveté. Delightful.

She picked up speed. "And they don't have to go to work. And they don't believe in global warming. And they talk in loud voices, a bit like they're English but they aren't."

Sunbaker, Melbourne, OZ
I could picture them. The beige ladies of the Melbourne suburbs of Toorak aka "Trak", and Balwyn.

It occured to me today that there's no equivalent of these beige ladies in America. I've lived in old Greenwich Connecticut. If there were beige ladies of the Toorak variety, one would expect to see them there. But no. Or perhaps on Manhattan's Upper East Side. But no again.

For the first time I think I've discovered something that exists in Australia but not in America!

Of course America isn't just Manhattan and Connecticut, though perhaps it would be better if it was ... But I've lived elswhere in the States. Oklahoma for example - "where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain" - Beige Oklhoma ladies in tweeds? Trudys and Prues? Wives of wealthy stock-brokers and plastic surgeons? "Old money"? I don't THINK so. Or in New Jersey? Don't even go there!

For my American readers who don't know any beige ladies and cannot imagine them, here are two Trak wannabes from the Australian comedy, "Kath and Kim". You can see Prue and Trude on the left.

Americans, you just don't know what you're missing!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Factlets, Factoids and Verbal Texting

I read the news today oh boy
About a lucky man who made the grade
And though the news was rather sad
Well I just had to laugh - John Lennon, 44 years ago today

New York Man
I HEARD the news today ... well I heard and saw on CNN today - on Fareed Zakaria's GPS excellent panel show thing - that (though I have not authenticated it) in China TWO cinemas a being built EVERY DAY.

Amazing, I thought. An interesting factoid. Or should that be, "factlet"?

And I got to thinking - about how not only are two cinemas being built in China every day, and about how 50 airports are being built in China every other day - but even more noteworthy - is that in America, several new words are being invented - Daily.

"Factoid"? Why not "Factlet"? I googled the definition.

"Factoid" - "A brief or trivial item of news or information".

What's with the "-oid" suffix?

I googled "factoid - suffix" and found, "Used as in mainstream slang English to indicate a poor imitation, a counterfeit, or some otherwise slightly bogus resemblance." Whatever ...

It is getting more difficult daily, to keep up with the new "words". Just yesterday someone commented on something I'd written in an email, with a "<8>". WTF?

I had to look up the online internet slang dictionary. Apparently "<8>" means "grin".

Why not just write "grin"?  Or even just write, "I am being funny"?

Last week I saw a preview of this season's Larry David's "Curb Your Enthusiasm". As well as the preview there was a panel discussion with Curb's main players. To borrow a Davidism, it was pretty, pretty, pretty, funny!

Silent Texting, West Village
A character in the preview was a rather annoying wife who, instead of actually laughing, would exclaim. "Ell Oh Ell" (LoL). Larry is asked by the wife's husband, to attack her for this annoying habit. Larry is reluctant. Why is it always left up to him to point out people's annoying habits? But eventually he's forced to agree, to go along with it.

"Why don't you just laugh?" he asks his friend's wife - "What's with the 'LoL'?" "It IS the way I laugh!" is her response.

But "LoL is verbal texting," he counters.

Later he gets annoyed at the husband. Why is it up to him, Larry, to point out the absurdity? Why does everyone expect him - Larry - to tell the home truths? I'm expected to be a "social assassin", he complains. Why don't you complain yourselves? Why is always ME?

Social assassins, factoids, LOLs, verbal texting.

What can I say?