30 May, 2005

munkey's-eye view ~ STAR WARS EPISODE III

"Good is a point of view..."

In 1977, George Lucas breathed new life into the science-fiction genre with Star Wars. Lucas's dialogue was uninspired, and his direction of actors was inept. However the film thrives not only on it's revolutionary special effects and bold imagery, but also by virtue of a strong Joseph Campbell-inspired hero-story, memorable characters with three dimensions and a sense of humour, and the natural charisma of actors such as Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Alec Guiness.

1980's follow-up, The Empire Stirkes Back was even stronger, with Lucas's story being treated to the work of more-talented screenwriters and director. And, while purists balk at the "cutesiness" of the Ewok race in 1983's Return Of The Jedi, the film brought a visually stunning, character-based conclusion to the saga, with Lucas's story again taking assistance from more capable hands when it came to writing and direction.

Fifteen years later, imagine the excitement when Lucas finally unveiled the first film of his long-touted prequel trilogy. And imagine the disappointment when it was as overblown and soulless as The Phantom Menace. George's multi-million dollar ego had left him believing he was talented enough to grasp the writer-director reigns to himself, and seemingly also to forget all the things that made the original trilogy brilliant. Humour driven by the burgeoning relationships of strong characters - such as Luke getting to know R2D2 and C3PO, Leia and Han's sexual-tension-fueled head-butting, etc etc - was thrown out the window, in favour of the nauseating, potentially offensive prattling of Jar Jar binks. The iconic, elegant design seen in Darth Vader's costume, the Death Star, the Millenium Falcon, etc etc were gone, in favour of messy computerised visuals which looked disconcertingly like a video-game.

However, as testament to the power of mass-marketing, and of course to the indelible impression the original Star Wars trilogy had left on the psyche of the modern world, the film was a runaway success... to the point that people seemed to have forgiven Lucas's total loss of credibility as an artist, and got used to the shallow shininess of his new works. Thus, when the even-worse Attack Of The Clones came along - sporting an even more turgid and uninteresting plot, even more hideous over-design and over-reliance on digital wizardry, even worse acting and dialogue, wrapped around an unconvincing love-story that makes Mills and Boon look complex and gritty - the public seemed to welcome it as a return to form. It's amazing how many teenagers you can fool by digitally animating a little green character (who was always perfectly successful, and looked 100 times more real, as a puppet) and chucking him in a pointless light-sabre fight with a character you stole from The Lord Of The Rings.

Which brings us, at long last, to Revenge Of The Sith. Relying even more heavily on blue/green-screening and digital backdrops than the previous two films, the soulessness continues. Ewan MacGregor has famously, and repeatedly, stated what an unspiring process it has been to make these films, and it shows. While his charm shines through, and you can see him desperately trying to make the dull humour sparkle, it's easy to see how difficult it must have been to simulate emotions and relationships in Lucas's sterile, computer-generated world. We never get the chance to care about the characters, like we did with Han, Leia, Chewy, and even the badly-acted Luke Skywalker. Even the occasional attempt at character-moments, such as the "romantic" scenes between Anakin and Padmé (who seems to have had a personality bypass since the previous films) are so badly written, they are rendered laughable, rather than moving.

This final film also suffers even more than its predecessors from improbable, overly-complex and downight ugly conceptual design. The city-scapes are suitably reminiscent of an even-more overgrown Tokyo, but every single creature, robot or vehicle looks frankly preposterous. It seems the production team have piled idea upon idea, without ever restraining their designs to allow for the simple elegance or emblematic boldness which made the visuals of the original trilogy so memorable. The overall effect leaves the eyes completely bewildered; the viewer is not impressed, but irritated by a visual world which is in no way aesthetically harmonious, or plausible as a real place where living things could dwell.

Those important criticisms made, it is fair to say that Revenge Of The Sith is by far the strongest of the Star Wars prequel-trilogy. Once Lucas stops rabbiting on with tedious political backstory, the main character-arc is, at heart, resonant and gripping. This after-all, is the mirror story to the entire progression of Episodes IV, V and VI. Those three films are the story of Luke Skywalker's quest to bring Darth Vader back to the Light, and restore balance to The Force. This, by contrast, is the story of Anakin becoming Darth Vader, betraying his mentor Obi Wan, and throwing the galaxy into Chaos. It is quite telling that, despite the audience's knowledge of the future story - we know who will survive, who will turn evil, etc - the unfolding of events remains interesting viewing. The film also makes some intriguing comments about the nature of tyranny and opression. As the Republic becomes the very enemy its armies have been fighting against, and liberty is destroyed "with thunderous applause", one cannot help but draw parallels with the current activities of the USA.

With all this going for it, it is all the more frustrating that Revenge Of The Sith's interesting ideas and solid story are so unforgiveably marred. Meandering structure, consistently cringeworthy dialogue, and a directorial vision which prioritises a mess of eye-catching pixels, instead of focussing attention on the potentially-powerful character-story being played-out, are all earmarks of George Lucas's arrogance, which has so obviously overgrown his talent. One can't help but imagine - if Lucas had done the sensible thing as he did with the first trilogy, and handed over his concept to more talented filmmakers - what a spectacular and infintely more worthy conclusion to the Star Wars legacy this might have been.

2 (out of 5)



20 May, 2005

three hours from sundown, jeremy flies

For those of you who don't know, the munkey family is lucky enough to own a 5 acre block of land in a lovely quiet valley at a place called Jamieson. Jamieson is a tiny town in the Victorian Highlands, near Mansfield and Mt Buller. We have a little house there with no electircity or phone, but the creature-comforts of hot water, wood fire, gas lights and even a gas refridgerator. This is a sacred place to me: the setting of countless formative experiences throughout my life, from the traumatic to the triumphant, from the tiny to the tremendous; this place is a part of who I am. Last weekend, munkey had the pleasure of sharing this holy sanctum with Mr Ryan for a three-day getaway.

We loaded Oli up with our stuff, and headed to Victoria Gardens to buy supplies - predictably spending more money on booze than we did on food *alco munkeys* - before driving off on a three-hour trek through the cold, dark evening. Arriving finally at our chilly destination, Ryan was instantly smitten with the place, even in the blind, silent darkness of the foggy night.
Saturday morning greeted us with a perfect Autumn day, as the morning mist evaporated to reveal the sun-soaked valley, cradled between the surrounding mountains under a clear boundless sky. After a breakfast of bacon and eggs, we wandered about the surroundings, visiting the murky dam and towering gum trees in our back paddock. Then we walked down below the road to the river, which is running very low in its bed at the moment, but still beautiful, as always. I love rivers, in case you didn't know. After that, we drove into town, where the Japanese Maples have on their deep crimson coats, and then headed out along the Kevington Road to explore a compulsory Jamieson attraction: the abandonned gold mine.

In the mid 1800s, the upper-Goulburn River was rich with gold, and Jamieson was a thriving mining community. Although those days are long gone, there are still many hidden remnants of the mines. Parking at a certain picnic ground, if you cross the road and scramble into the forest at an unmarked but well-known point, you find yourself walking in the narrow space between two moss-covered vertical walls of earth. It's hard to imagine that the ground you now walk on is the collapsed roof of a claustrophobic tunnel, where over a hundred years ago, men scrambled through darkeness and danger with the hope of finding a fortune. Mr Ryan was, of course, very snap-happy... and rightly so: keen photographer + beautiful place = photographic bliss! Further into the site, there are still intact caves and tunnels which continue on for unknown, invisible distances in the dark, but as both of us have a phobia of physical restriction, we didn't venture too far inside, even though we had a torch. We did clamber inside one of the larger caves, where the light falls in puddles through the open ventilation holes and shafts, which were the only way in or out when the mine was intact. It is a strange and beautiful feeling to stand beneath the ground and gaze up at the sky through a fern-lined earthen frame... although I can't say I'm enthusiastic about being buried alive.

That evening, Mr Ryan used his well-known fire-lighting skills (teehee, sorry Rye *in-joke munkey*) to start a roaring camp-fire outside, building up a mass of red-hot coals in which to cook our dinner - a delicious corned silverside, boiled/roasted to perfection. My! it's nice to have a boyfriend who can cook! After dinner, the telescope was brought out into the night, and we got up-close and personal with the Moon, the planet Jupiter and its four Gallilean moons, the Orion nebula, as well as various stars. Mr Ryan also indulged a somewhat obsessive enthusiasm for sticking the old star-picket we use as a fire-poker into the coals, heating it to a softened red hot, and then bashing it flat with the back of the block-splitter. Fun for the whole family!
On Sunday, we tumbled out of bed bright and early (well, by our standards anyway) and went horse-riding! Yes, lovers and dreamers, Ryan has not managed to convince me of the joys of bungee-jumping, and i'm still maintaining that it is impossible to teach mindlessmunkey to ride a bike... but his love of horse-riding is one I was more than willing to try out. I had only been once before, a distant decade ago when I was on a highschool camp. But that was a tame walk around some padocks, while this was a proper 2 hour trail-ride through Man From Snowy River country. Ryan was placed on a lovely (but unfortunately somewhat lazy) white horse named Merlin, while I was given Chief... I may be biased but Chief was the most beautiful horse there: a rich brown with thick black mane and tail (I'm sure there is a specific name for that horse-colouring. i think it's "bay" but i'm not certain). Most of the ride was just walking, but there were a few chances to trot for us beginners, while Ryan headed up with the lead group to canter. Trotting, I have discovered, is quite easy and not too bumpy once you find the rhythm. I was quite chuffed when one of the ride-leaders said I was doing it perfectly and that I was a natural! She even asked if i wanted to join the advanced group for cantering, but I thought i'd get a bit more practice at trotting before i tried that. At any rate, it was a great ride through spectacular scenery, although nasssty Merlin got spooked and nearly threw Mr Ryan while we were ascending a huge hill, and some other cranky horse decided to try and bite Chief's head on the way down. But all in all, lo and behold, horse-riding is fun! and something I can't wait to do more of.

After having dinner at the local Courthouse Hotel, we again relaxed by the warmth of an open camp-fire, drinking and listening to music (and further mangling the poor innocent fire-poker) and talking long into the night. We slept nice and late on Monday morning, slightly reluctant to get up and face the inevitable pack-up and drive home. But eventually, we loaded our things back into Oli, struggled with the Daemon Machine From Hell (a.k.a. the notoriously unco-operative water-pump), locked up our lovely little house, and made the long drive home.

Every time I go to our place at Jamieson, it feels like a cleansing, enlightening experience; I don't think I'm ever quite the same person who left, when I return. Here in the daily routine of city-life, the days seem to blend into one-another. There, in the quiet valley and clear air, even when you spend a day doing virtually nothing, every moment is something precious and important. It was wonderful to share that with you, Ryan. xo

mindlessmunkey and Mr Ryan, atop Chief and Merlin, respectively:



12 May, 2005

finding my way through the years

Happy birthday to me,
I'm twenty-two and three.
I look like a munkey,
But I can't climb a tree.

Hullo hullo.

On Friday night, Oli and I made the trek up to Kallista for Mr Mikey's 60th birthday dinner at Genie's. It was a bittersweet event, with much hilarity and good cheer, but with a twinge of sadness, for this was the last time I would be seeing Mother Gomes and Mr Mike for at least a year. They are off to Japan to teach English! Very exciting! So there was much hugging and almost a few tears, ahead of their departure on Tuesday. I then trundled home to the abode of patermunkey to spend the night in Electroboy's very comfortable bed.

After laying awake long into the night contemplating life, love, the universe, and my ever-aging existence within it *over-analytical munkey*, I slept in late on Saturday morning, before finally dragging myself out of bed to confront my birthday. Yes, lovers and dreamers, mindlessmunkey is now a mind-boggling twenty-five years old. I seriously have no idea how I suddenly became this old. I still feel nineteen, seventeen even. However the day was sunny, and so was my outlook. What the hell does twenty-five mean anyway? A number. Over it.

Patermunkey brought Electroboy home, and we had the giving-of-gifts ceremony. Then I put on my systems-administrator hat, helping the family come to terms with the joys of using my brother's MP3-player via the new computer, before enjoying lunch... complete with a birthday candle stuck in a chocolate-jam doughnut. Fun fun fun. Ms Andrea dropped in to do the happy birthday fandango, before I headed back to the munkey-pad.

I picked up Mr Ryan Mac from his abode-of-many-housemates, and we spent a few hours watching Panic Room and generally bludging, before it was time to head to Fitzroy for some more celebrating. We arrived at the Night Cat in Johnston St at about 8, to be there ahead of the 8.30 invite time I had told people... only to find that the establishment does not open its doors until 9pm. Ooops. This is why munkey should never be left in charge of organising ANYTHING. So Ryan and I wandered over to Bar Open, then to the Black Pearl for a few preliminary drinkies. I had my fingers crossed that most people would be fashionably late enough to render my stuff-up harmless. Phonecalls to my mobile allowed Madame Mu and Cousin Glenn with his lady-friend Ms Leanne to find us at the Black Pearl and when 9pm finally came around, we headed back to the Night Cat to let the proper proceedings begin. Many of my beloveds turned up - including many who I haven't seen for FAR too long - and I was lavished with pressies and fun, as the music pumped, the liquor flowed and the conversation and laughter danced in the smoky air. The one beef I have is with the venue: for charging $10 cover-fee for a band that STILL hadn't taken the stage when the last of us departed at 1am. What the fuck is with paying cover-charge FOUR HOURS+ before a band even plays. Bastards! Aaaanyway, that aside, it was a marvellous evening, and there was some much-fun dancing at the end of the night... even if it wasn't to the accompaniment of the promised live band *grumble munkey*.

Dragging ourselves out of bed on Sunday morning, I deposited Mr Ryan back home, before hauling myself again back out to Endeavour Hills for Mother's Day fun. Of course, my recent lack of a Mother was something of a dampner, but there are still many wonderful mums in my family, even if they don't happen to be mine. So off we went to Aunty Sheila's for a fine afternoon tea with the fam, including Grandma Ashton and an appearance by Cousin Mark, brand-new-mum Ms Annie and their wonderful new baby Mr Jett. I stayed the night again at patermunkey's, before heading off bright and early for the start of the working week.

The week of office-working dullness has been punctuated by our regular West Wing shenanigans on Tuesday night, and a lovely drink and chinwag session with Mr Chris Mac on Wednesday night. Both evenings consisted of white wine, good company and fine entertainment. Tomorrow I'll be having lunch with Dr Dave Goo, before - all being well - heading off for a peaceful weekend in the country with Mr Ryan.

Oh and in pop-culture news, after the unwatchable tedium of last year, I must admit that this year I am finding myself hooked on Big Brother once again. It may just be my identical-twin fetish coming into play, but I'm seriously intrigued. Here's hoping Logan-The-Bogan can pull off his tricksy tomfoolery... I wanna see those kids crack the shits when they find out they've been played like rusty basoons!


Last night, while driving home, the fragments of a new song began appearing in my head. Where did this come from? I have no idea! I'm not traumatised or anything! A most pleasant surprise. So while I should have been tidying my flat ahead of Mr Chris's visit, I instead picked up my recently-much-neglected guitar and strung together some lively, folk chords and turned the floating fragments into the first song to have been written on the munkey-towers premises. For anyone who's interested, here are the lyrics (don't ask me what it's about ~ whatever you think it's about, that's what it's about):


There's a silent conversation sings
Between the soil and leaves.
There's a hidden destination safe
Between the floors and eaves.
There's a poem in an ancient tome
Writ plain for you to see.
There's a path that leads
Beyond the broken village to the sea
...the sea ...to the sea.

North of here there is a fairy-tale
Where princes roam the land.
In the South there is a war-zone
Where boys' blood perfumes the sand.
Looking West you see a rich man
Rue the night his flesh grew old.
But the East reveals a waking morn
Beneath a sky of gold
...of gold ...sky of gold.

Between the fingers and the thumbs,
Between the beggars and the bums,
Among the rights that fade to wrongs,
Among the sinners and their songs.
When my ship upon the high seas
Lacks a star, I look to thee.
When your compass needs a turning-point
I hope you'll turn to me
...to me ...turn to me.



09 May, 2005

words of wisdom

Mark Twain (birth-name Samuel Clemens) has been described as the first real American writer. Apart from his many novels, he was also extremely quotable. Here are a few of his notable quips...


"Great people are those who make others feel that they, too, can become great."

"Action speaks louder than words, but not nearly as often."

"Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been."

"Let us swear while we may, for in heaven it will not be allowed."

"All war must be just the killing of strangers against whom you feel no personal animosity; strangers whom, in other circumstances, you would help if you found them in trouble, and who would help you if you needed it."

"Any emotion, if it is sincere, is involuntary."

"Nature knows no indecencies; man invents them."

"Don't go around saying the world owes you a living; the world owes you nothing; it was here first."

"History doesn't repeat itself - at best it sometimes rhymes."

"All right then, I'll go to hell."



05 May, 2005

p.s. ~ happy birthday

A huge Happy Birthday to:

Mr Lee W for yesterday!!!

Mr Mikey for today!!!

Cousin Mark for tomorrow!!!

Hurrah for all the Taurus babies! The Bulls are gonna take over the world, I tellsya.



arrivals, revivals and reunions

Flashback: 1995. Three best friends and a tonne of denial. Ten years pass: a whole lot of mileage, a whole lot of water under the bridge, a whole lot of self-discovery. Here we are at last Friday. Here are mindlessmunkey, Mr Gareth and Mr Glenn, catching up for drinks. Flashback 45 minutes. FUCKING Yarra Trams are performing works on my tramline to the City. Everyone gets thrown off the tram at Punt Road, we are told that we have to WAIT and catch a FUCKING bus the rest of the way into the City. *severely-unimpressed munkey* FUCK THAT. Let me tell you, if I had actually bought a ticket, I would have been mightily pissed off. But I simply trudged through the crowd of (literally) scores of middle-class, middle-aged couples who were busy having conniptions because they had no idea how to go about walking the extra 250 metres to Cirque Du Soleil ... and made my way on foot.

So munkey did more excercise than he has in a very long time, walking all the way along Swan St then Batman Ave until I finally found myself at The Purple Emerald in Flinders Lane. A fun night ensued, as Gareth, Glenn and munkey were joined by their friend Mr Brett, and later trundled off to The Laird in Collingwood. Yes, another gay venue to tick off the list of places munkey has visited. Despite the gratuitous nudie pics decorating the place, The Laird isn't too bad, in terms of clientele. A bit older and less posey than many queer venues, although there is an occasional tendency towards stereotypical "bear" and "leather" guys, who look to me like parodies of themselves. Why are you in costume?! Just be yourself! Honestly! We queers are segregated enough from the world, I really don't get why we have to segregate ourselves into different meaningless "clubs" even within our own subculture. Pah! Twinks, clubbers, bears, chubs... let's call the whole thing off!

Another flashback on Saturday night, for an '80s Party at the house of Ms Snazzles, Moodles, Ms Em and Mr Jez. Munkey quickly threw together a Bros/Rick Astley type ensemble and made his way to Spensley Street. Everyone had certainly pulled out all stops, and looked wonderfully trashy in their 80s gear. Special mention must go to Mr Jez, who fulfilled a bet/dare by changing into a tiny, lime green ra-ra skirt, showing off his divine, shapely legs *pathological-perve munkey*. I think someone needs to hold a superhero party, so we can see him in tights, taking on his PlantMan persona once and for all. So anyway, the DVD player was tuned to ancient episodes of Neighbours (Scott & Charlene's wedding ~ surely the most romantic moment in Aussie TV history!) and '80s teen flicks, while the stereo pumped out the music of the time, from the very cream of the crop, to the very dregs of the pool. A word of advice to everyone: you MUST get Ms Em drunk and play Def Leppard and Bon Jovi loudly ~ the effect is a sight to behold, and truly an experience everyone should see before they die.

In the very early hours of Sunday morning, a spectacular event took place. Yes, lovers and dreamers, Cousin Mark and his beautiful partner Ms Annie have welcomed into the world their first child!!! At 8 lbs 4 and doubtless destined for great things, Mr Jett has arrived! I have yet to meet the bundle of joy, but hopefully that will be rectified soon. All my love and congrats to Mark, Annie and Jett, and of course to the whole family, especially to the proud grandparents, and grandma Ashton: now a GREAT-grandma! There must be something in the air recently, because no fewer than THREE of my cousins are reproducing within six months of each other! So many new munkey-related human beings can only be a good thing.

The joy continued on Tuesday night, as Mr Ryan Mac jetted from Bris-vegas and back into my arms at long last. Can't tell y'all how good it was to see him again. To welcome him back, I gave him a cuddly monkey (just like me, only smaller... and slightly less talkative) and some mix CDs of kewl tunes. Hope you like them Rye. We spent Tuesday night and Wednesday together... doing nothing really special, i guess... but even doing nothing is special, when you're doing it with a special someone. *luv munkey* After several aeroplane issues, it was quite late when Mr Ryan finally touched-down... and much later still by the time we got to bed. So slothfulness ensued on Wednesday - I had arranged to have the day off work - as we slept till after midday. We then mosied up to Grandma Funks for some breakfast... only to find we had overslept their breakfast menu. DAMMIT. Ah well, that's what you get for being lazy. So we had lunch, and then spent the afternoon driving and walking aimlessly, ending up in the city, with a few Gin and Tonics at Hairy Canary, and a traipse through some of the lovely arcades and alleys of our fine City. I think poor Ryan is having a little trouble getting back into the rhythm of relaxed, funky Melbourne after spending two weeks in "uptight, redneck" Queensland (his descrption, not mine, so don't send your hate mail this way).

Well, the next time I write to you with news, dear readers, I will be a big-grown-up 25-year-old!!! Scary shit. But at least it's an odd number. And hey, this year's already shaping up to be pretty damn peachy. Couldn't be much worse than the last one. But none of that ~ I shall not dwell on dreariness! Life is too damn short!

Until next time, take care of yourselves... and each other.