Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Puberty Blues: moles, molls, slags and slackers

mole 1. a spy. Originally US slang of the 1970s. 2. a variant spelling of moll q.v.

moll 1. a promiscuous woman; a prostitute. A very harsh word equivalent to slut. Something egregiously out of place is said to be like a moll at a christening. 2. the girlfriend or mistress of a gangster, crook, bikie, etc.

moll patrol a scathing term for a group of schoolgirls as viewed by a rival group.

mollydooker a left-handed person. Aussie slang since the 1930s. Probably from the British dialect molly 'an effeminate man' and dook 'the hand'.


slack 1. unkind, cruel, unfair or mean. If a big kid bullies a smaller one, then he is being slack. 2. outstandingly lazy. Why don't you ever come and visit, you slack bastard? 3. no good, hopeless, pathetic, dodgy. What a slack haircut. 4. of a woman, promiscuous, of easy virtue. Commonly in the phrase slack moll -- one of the vilest insults that can be directed at a woman.

slack arse an incurably lazy person. Aussie slang since the 1970s. Hence the adjective slack-arsed.


slag 1. to spit. Hence, a gob of phlegm spat out. Aussie slang since the 1960s. 2. a highly derogatory word for a promiscuous or otherwise contemptible woman.

from the estimable Macquarie Dictionary of Australian Slang -- James Lambert, General Editor, 2004.


Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Helicopter by Angela Betzien (Melbourne Theatre Company & Real TV)

“Childhood is the sleep of reason.” -- Rousseau

“The sleep of reason produces monsters.” -- Goya [Okay, he didn’t say it... it was the title of a painting.]

Helicopter -- mostly the script, but also the production -- set off my bullshit detectors early and often. From the get go, I suspected its motives and I suspected its methods. This isn’t just a matter of tone. MKA routinely mixes up lightness and seriousness without compromising either.

It’s a ‘straw man’ argument made 3D. And “the stuffed men” are a wealthy white family who singularly fail to cope with the pain they’ve caused their next-door neighbours, a family which has fled Uganda. Trouble is, the particular story Thomas tells about his flight from wild animals and warlords (on horseback and in helicopters) happened in Sudan.

I’m sure plenty of research was done, but I couldn’t help but feel the play was inspired less by the facts than by a viewing of A Constant Gardener. Kenya, Sudan, Uganda... hell. They’re all the same aren’t they? Well, no. Damn it.

And if Thomas had stopped to tell us one more parable about baby elephants in some generic Africa I reckon I would have puked.

Here’s my review of Helicopter. It was printed in Monday’s Australian and was on-line last Friday.

IT’S a terrible irony that the “long childhood” of our species originated in continental Africa where childhood in so many war-wracked countries is now so brutally short.

In theory, the delaying of maturity in humans allows for greater learning and socialisation, but in the West we’re taking immaturity to new extremes. Just like King Lear - chided by his fool: “Thou shouldst not have been old till thou hadst been wise” - some of the most affluent manage to prolong childhood indefinitely, taking everything that’s theirs (and quite a bit that’s not) while taking responsibility for nothing.

Angela Betzien’s new play Helicopter - which ticks the topicality boxes faster than a donkey voter fills in a ballot paper - presents us with a truly contemptible family. They’re an unevolved and unenlightened lot. Head of the house is a bloke who works for a pharmaceutical company and lives on a diet of Xanax and horror films; his slacktivist wife’s idea of supporting the third world is buying a thousand dollar’s worth of soft toys for her infant daughter because a dollar per toy goes to UNICEF; their contemptibly pathetic teen son Jack recreationally tries anorexia.

They’re a “five star ANCAP safety rating” family where everyone inside the capsule is valuable and protected, and everyone outside can clog-up the tread pattern of the family’s all-terrain tyres. Which is, incidentally, how the contemptibles meet their Ugandan next door neighbour Thomas; they run over his pre-schooler niece in the BMW X5 all-terrain vehicle while backing out of the driveway.

Like well-drilled drivers who have carefully read their insurance policies, liability isn’t admitted and “sorry” isn’t said. And that's the one word that might placate Thomas and his distraught sister.

Unlike the X5, this play gets little power or weight to the road. It’s fluffy and fun, apparently ashamed of its serious themes and unashamed of its icky essentialist stereotyping. Thomas (Terry Yeboah) tells long-winded parables about monkeys and baby elephants, the unnamed wife (Daniela Farinacci) describes feeling “colonised” by her fetus and does capoeira blithely unaware that it came to Brazil with the African slaves, husband (Paul Denny at his most endearing and goofy) expresses his total ignorance of Joseph Kony, and son Jack (Charles Grounds) moans about being treated like a child while fiercely avoiding any act that might rate as grown-up.

One couldn’t ask for a more professional (or more delightful) squad of actors than Denny, Farinacci, Yeboah and Grounds. They’re like a team of competition cocktail waiters twirling and juggling brightly coloured bottles before our eyes. Regrettably, what they are serving up is sickly sweet and insubstantial.

Helicopter by Angela Betzien. Directed by Leticia Cáceres. Set and costume designer by Tanja Beer. Lighting design by Lisa Mibus. Music and sound design by Pete Goodwin of The Sweats. Presented by Melbourne Theatre Company and RealTV. Lawler Studio. August 2. Season ends August 17.

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Thursday, August 02, 2012

In which I go “GRRR!”

It’s 35 years, give or take a month, since I had my first photograph published. It was a shot of the Harbour Bridge at night, taken from what is now the MLC Centre in Martin Place, which opened that year. (It was the nation’s tallest building until 1985.)

Given the millions of pics taken of the coat hanger in any given year, I was pretty bloody proud of myself. I also received the princely publication fee (from a national glossy) of four bucks. (Don’t forget, they were notes in those days, Virginia. Paper, not polymer! They went a long way... well, for a teen. Okay, it sucked. But it was the first step on the road to becoming a pro. And the buck it cost to get to the building’s ‘skywalk’ was a deduction, right?)

Later the same year, two of my photographs appeared in a lavish year book with a print run in the thousands, used without permission, credit or payment. Only the sportsmen in the photographs were credited.

I drive some of my friends spare with my ‘quaint’ ideas about intellectual property and, gasp, copyright. How second millennium of me. But the count of my photographs that have been knocked off -- and we’re not just talking web sites, here, we’re talking reputable newspapers and magazines -- now exceeds the number that I’ve been credited for, let alone paid for.

Incredibly, the last culprit was The Age which ran a unique portrait of mine without permission, credit or payment. That’s especially galling cos I’ve had photographs published in the Aged -- and been handsomely paid for them -- as far back as 1994. I’ve also had a couple in the Financial Review, also in the Fairfax stable. So, they can’t say they don’t know me.

These days, I embed clear copyright messages like “All rights reserved” and include my name and contact information in EXIF data so that images that have done the rounds on-line, for example, can still be tracked back to me. (Nowadays, thanks to the new “drag and drop” Google image search, it’s massively easier to track down the provenance of a photograph... and, indeed, to see who is using one.) (My pic of French actress Romaine Bohringer is popular.)

This week, a photograph of mine of a “notoriously unphotographable” subject appears on the Wheeler Centre’s web site next to an article of his. (And, no, he wouldn’t nick a photograph of mine without asking; in fact, he likes to keep a low profile and would prefer the secret of his true identity -- his face, at the very least -- be hidden. He writes: “there’s only ever about three photos taken of me a year and I always look crap in them. Hang on, that probably explains why there’s only three photos of me a year...”)

It’s a great shot if I say so myself. I wouldn’t call it a unique shot. But it’s one of the few around A.M. can stomach. It’s made absolutely clear in a Wheeler Centre tweet [July 31, 11:23AM] that they know I took the photograph, which they purloined from Facebook. So why the hell wasn’t I asked?

I’ve gotta say, I’m just tempted to send in a nasty-ass invoice. Grrr.

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