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ISSUE #170

I did a billboard there espy and it spoke to me of grassy plains and fair maidens
Mike's Pith & Wind - 3 x Billboards
Maria and I saw Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri recently while in Canberra. We were looking forward to seeing it as it had been recommended by friends, although we had concerns as some of them had reservations about the amount of violence.
When we arrived at the theatre the first thing I noticed was that the Canberrans exiting the session before ours seemed to be uniformly middle-class retirees, as opposed to say a session at the Nova in Carlton where we’re used to seeing a wacky bunch of misfits stumbling into the light. That’s Canberra and that’s Carlton, of course.
But, getting back to the movie. I’d read somewhere that the director, Irish playwright and filmmaker Martin McDonagh, had brought an outsider’s perspective to what is essentially an American story, set as it is in Missouri, so I was looking for that perspective all through the movie – and not really seeing a lot of it, although the cop central to the story, (local police Chief Willoughby, played by Woody Harrelson) seems to be oddly philosophical and internationalist in outlook for a cop in a regional US township – he’s married to an English woman (who lapses incongruously into an Australian accent, possibly because she was played by an Australian actress, Abbie Cornish).
Maybe the ending also betrayed something of another sensibility. While there was some pretty mindless violence to be winced at to be sure, (to be sure), the usual American predilection for righteous vengeance being seen to be done was avoided in favour of the just the possibility of vengeance being wreaked in some future episode – or not – as our heroine, played with customary terseness by Frances McDormand (again wearing an oddly citified lesbo hairstyle it must be said) and the only-slightly redeemed and significantly char-grilled anti-hero, ex-Officer (Jason) Dixon drive off uneasily to Idaho in the early morning sun armed to the teeth and with the intention of calling somebody to account for something.
Despite these anomalies I enjoyed the film overall, probably more than, but at least as much as In Bruges, one of McDonagh’s earlier pieces.
But, whatever the merits of the movie, it’s got me thinking about billboards. Advertising billboards are nothing new, of course, and still a respectable way to get the word around. As with any other form of advertising it’s difficult to quantify their effectiveness, but there are some you can discount immediately. For instance, billboards advertising breakfast or drive show radio personalities are in your face purely to inflate the egos of the jocks involved (and are probably the clincher points in their contracts), but unless the personalities concerned double up on the telly there’s clearly no advantage to the ratings in having a face-for-radio up on a billboard.
Advertisements for cars loom large over toll-ways and I’m still.. read more
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Dick's Toolbox - The church-going atheist
Why should an atheist miss going to church? Should an atheist go into church? What possible reason could there be for an ardent non-believer to enter the doors of an institution whose foundations are floating on the thin air of faith and superstition.
Let me start with the observation that made me consider writing this blogette: I have an intense loathing of Easter in Australia. It is Christmas and New Year condensed into a couple of desperate days, highlighted by football, rock concerts, full pubs, closed shops, smoke haze and roads choked with cars full of families and fools escaping from the cities for what they see is their last vaguely warm holiday. And escape can be to anywhere. Though, for some reason, they all seem to congregate near to me no matter where I may be.
Better to stay home in the city where, for once, it would be quiet and peaceful apart from the sound of houses being broken into, cars being stolen and leaves falling into already overburdened gutters. At home you can avoid that strange custom of eating fish on Good Friday, an institution that was not, as common belief would have it, started to protect the fish industry of ancient times. Christians were only not meant to eat meat on proscribed fasting days, for example the Wednesdays and Fridays of the forty days of Lent. This was not a problem for the poor as they generally couldn’t afford meat anyway but fish, by being a cold-blooded creature, was seen as a loophole in the religious directive for those of more substantial means.
Incidentally if you live in the Orkneys you don’t have to eat Puffin Pie, a concoction sanctioned at some stage by the Church as also not actually being meat as these particularly colourful and comic birds spend so much time diving underwater that they might as well be fish. Damn the feathers and the flying. Eat your Puffin!
So at Easter and Christmas I wonder about those people who go to church twice a year, filling the pews with bobbing confusion and mumbled contrition. Do I stand now? Do I kneel now? If I close my eyes I won’t know when to do either so I’ll keep my eyes open. They shuffle out avoiding eye contact with the cleric, be he Priest, Parson or Bishop, hoping that they don’t make the collection ‘tap and wave’ with a credit card. How else can they get rid of their Indonesian bank notes if not in church?
On the positive side the foreign currency replaces the fly buttons that previous generations of fathers deposited with astounding insouciance in the collection basket
apparently unconcerned with the ever-increasing opening in the vestibule that was uncovered when they put their hats back on their collective heads.
Just in case you thought that going to church more regularly made you a better person I would point out that Peter Dutton is a regular..
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Wazza's Trans-Tasman Tales - George
Wazza is presently on holiday on an island somewhere in the northern hemisphere, so this month’s ‘…Tales’ isn’t really very Transtasman. Nevertheless your esteemed editor – My Crudd – has cracked his whip and insisted I rattle out a tale for you, so here goes:
I was swimming with George today, well not so much swimming as floating. Marg tells me that humans are sinkers or floaters; she’s a sinker and I’m a floater, which means I’m able to relax in the water – especially salt water – and have no fear of sinking, whereas Marg has to keep moving in order to keep her head above the waves. Anyway, while floating I hailed George – a sinker (I could tell because he had to keep circling me) – and commented on how life seemed pretty good seeing as we were both enjoying one of TripAdvisor’s top 5 beaches at a time of the year when the climate is pretty near perfect. George concurred and added it was especially so for him as he’d ‘dodged a couple of bullets’ in his life. But, he went on, not so for his son who had caught one last year – ‘they murdered him’ he said, ‘and I’ve brought his ashes back because he loved coming to see me here, this is where he would want to be.’ It turned out George had learned of his most recent bullet-dodge from his oncologist, who had given him the ‘all clear’ subject to annual check-ins. When George heard I was from New Zealand he delighted in telling me of his visit down our way; of visiting a ‘secret’ island you could walk over or around and a farm house painted pink with a name sign ‘the Pink House’, which the owners gifted him a duplicate of when he told them his own abode shared the name. George was one of those talkers that never seem to run out of words. I heard about his wife with whom he shared a ‘Camelot’ life – ‘she was the greatest love of my life’; his work as a fisherman – ‘no one ever got rich catching fish’; a ‘Queen Anne’ house he restored with a friend only to have it whipped away from them by a dirty financial deal. As we parted he signed off with ‘always a pleasure to talk to a Kiwi’. I didn’t ask George where he was from and I can only assume that he regularly transited between the US and the island we’re on, as he did say that everything changed ‘after Ivan’, which marked an event that destroyed most of the island in 2004. read more
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