Don’t go to the movies.

People usually say that the first 4 or so months of a relationship are the hardest, but really, if you make it past the first date, you’re already winning.

Imagine the situation. You’ve met someone, they’re attractive, they make you laugh, there’s flirting, it’s wonderful. Someone ends up asking someone out. It’s a date. Okay. Let’s go to a movie.

Or… let’s not.

First dates are almost always terrible. Unless you’ve decided that you want to date someone you’ve known for years, the person you’re about to go out with is probably almost like a stranger to you. It can be awkward. Let’s not lie.

You’re both nervous, and probably know very little about each other, so you spend most of your time worrying about what to say, when to laugh – conversation is obviously a key factor in making relationships, and first dates, work. The more comfortable you are talking to someone, the more you’re going to get to know them.

So with this in mind, lets bring a movie theatre into the scenario.

Going to the cinema seems like such an obvious choice for a first date, and that’s one of the things that make it so terrible.

You can’t talk, you can’t laugh at their jokes. You just have to sit there, in the dark, next to this person, watching a movie that one of you is probably not going to enjoy as much as the other.

If you’ve ever been on a first date to the cinema, you know how terrible all that darkness and silence can be. We probably spend more time worrying about what the other person is thinking, than we do watching the actual movie. And if you’re anything like me, this just will not do. I’m not paying money to sit in a dark room with someone I barley know, only half-watching a film I really want to see.

Ah, but what about the dinner/movie combo, you might ask. Well, that seems like a much more intelligent way to go about the situation, but there’s always going to be that awkward ‘what is actually going on’ moment – because even though dinner might have been brilliant, there’s still going to be a halt in conversation once the lights go down.

And what happens once it’s dark? Do they mind if you talk to them, hold their hand, or laugh too loudly? Are they going to try to awkwardly put their arm around you? (Which, lets face it, seems like a nice idea, but ends up an uncomfortable mess for everybody).

Then the movie ends. What next? You walk out of the cinema, not really sure what’s going on and then someone asks, “so… what did you think?” and I’m pretty sure stunted conversations about a movie you didn’t like are the worst things ever.

First dates happen when you really like someone and want to get to know them better, and apparently there is nothing that screams ‘lets get to know each other,’ quite like a trip to the cinema.

Don’t get me wrong, going to the movies with someone you like can be wonderful, but it’s one of those things that works better when you’re with someone you’re comfortable to be around.

I don’t know about you, but sitting in the dark with someone I hardly know for two hours isn’t exactly my idea of a good time.

So dudes, and lady-dudes, the next time someone asks you out on a date, be more creative. Don’t think a movie date is going to suffice. Save it for later on.

Tell us what you hate about first dates!

Posted in Film, Opinion | Tagged | 7 Comments

ILNY4M

New York’s Empire State Building celebrates the same-sex marriage victory on June 24 2011

New York.

The Big Apple. The Empire State. The city that never sleeps. The city so nice, they named it twice.

Whatever you want to call it, whether you’ve been there or not – everyone should be proud of New York City.

On June 24, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the bill before midnight, making same sex marriage legal in the Empire state. It was also gay pride week. What a perfect victory.

New York is the 6th, and largest state in America to legalise same-sex marriage.

Here in Australia, however, we have to stick to celebrating New York’s victory, instead of our own.

Our Prime Minister spoke about the issue at a press conference in WA on Saturday, and declared that “Australia is not behind the times.”

“We’ll make our own decisions in this country based on what’s right for Australia – my views in this area are well known,” she said.

Well, yes, Julia, your views about homosexuality are very well known, but your views and opinions are not ours.

That same evening, a motion in favour of same-sex marriage in Western Australia was passed, making NSW the only state to not have a firm stance on the issue.

I think this issue just proves that, despite what our leader likes to think, we are sinking much further back than what we should be.

If a Republican Senator like Mark Grisanti, who ran for office firmly opposing same-sex marriage, can change his mind and deliver an inspiring speech that declared “Who am I to say that someone does not have the same rights that I have with my wife, whom I love, or have the 1,300 plus rights that share with her?” – then our Prime Minister should be moving forward too.

Ours is a country that thrives off telling people how accepting we are of other people and cultures, but we are still so behind on the issue of same-sex marriage, and gay rights in general – and we shouldn’t be.

Such a basic right is being taken away from people who just want to live their lives as a family with the same legal rights as married men and women have.

Who are we to take that away from them.

Congratulations, New York, you’re one step ahead of us, and we are proud of you.

Posted in News, Opinion | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

#YAsaves

“You gave me hope and then you took it away. That’s enough to make anyone dangerous. God knows what it’ll do to me.” – The Doctor


July 4 was a big day for YA.

Maureen Johnson, the author of 10 Young Adult books started a worldwide trending topic on Twitter, with the hash tag #YAsaves.

Intrigued, of course I looked further into the matter and found out that all the fuss was over an article in the Wall Street Journal that was, for lack of a better phrase, demonising Young Adult Fiction.

Being a young adult myself, and a person who finds solace in the work of young adult fiction, I know better than anyone how it feels when something you love comes under scrutiny from someone who sounds like they have no idea what they’re talking about.

Meghan Cox Gurdon, the author of the WSJ article, mentions a woman she knows who walked into a book store looking for something for her daughter, but all she found was “vampires and suicide and self-mutilation, this dark, dark stuff.” The woman, apparently disgusted, left the store empty handed.

I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this situation. I don’t have children, so I don’t understand what it’s like from a parents’ perspective, although my dad does read, and enjoy, a lot of the YA books I do – but, I’d like to ask both these women… when was the last time you were a young adult… a teenager? What did you read when you were growing up? Did you even read? Did you read Jane Austen novels? Was life perfect?

Maybe? No.

Life is hard. Life is devastatingly hard, and tragic, and sad, and beautiful. Teenagers usually have to find the beauty in life the hard way – through pain and suffering and tragedy and hurt.

Life isn’t a walk in the park. Life isn’t tea and cakes and men and pretty dresses.

This generation has grown up surrounded by hate, by war, by death, by the media forcing ideas of perfection down our throats. It’s hard to live in a world where no one can just accept people as they are – where the beautiful people are front page news and the rest of us have to question our worth.

Mrs. Gurdon says,

The argument in favor of such novels is that they validate the teen experience, giving voice to tortured adolescents who would otherwise be voiceless. If a teen has been abused, the logic follows, reading about another teen in the same straits will be comforting. If a girl cuts her flesh with a razor to relieve surging feelings of self-loathing, she will find succor in reading about another girl who cuts, mops up the blood with towels and eventually learns to manage her emotional turbulence without a knife.

Yet it is also possible—indeed, likely—that books focusing on pathologies help normalize them and, in the case of self-harm, may even spread their plausibility and likelihood to young people who might otherwise never have imagined such extreme measures. Self-destructive adolescent behaviors are observably infectious and have periods of vogue. That is not to discount the real suffering that some young people endure; it is an argument for taking care.

And I argue, that, maybe Mrs. Gurdon has no idea what she’s talking about.

While it’s true that yes, sometimes teenagers take the meaning of a book (or a film or a song or a video game) to be literal and traumatic and extreme, I think really she’s just underestimating the intelligence of the YA audience.

Are we not taught in high school to look at the meaning behind the words? To look behind the text and into the deeper picture?

If a girl is cutting herself and reads a book about a girl who also cuts herself but then learns to overcome her issues, that girl isn’t looking for validity for her actions, she just wants to know she isn’t alone, and that it is possible to survive life.

The teenagers who don’t self-harm aren’t going to start self-harming because they read a book in which the protagonist contemplates suicide every other day. They read these books to know they’re not alone.

To know that their thoughts and feelings aren’t alien.

Has Mrs. Gurdon ever stopped to think that maybe the reason that her friend saw so many books like this in the young adult section was because maybe, just maybe, that’s life?

Has she ever asked her daughter if she has had any issues with depression, self-harm, or suicide?

People write young adult fiction based upon the reality of young adults. They don’t just write about suicide because it’s fun.

YA is an escape.

One of my favourite books, John Green’s Looking for Alaska, is just that for me. No one could ever comprehend the way a book gets inside a persons head. No one can ever understand how a book makes a person feel.

Looking for Alaska is a tragically beautiful book about being trapped in the labyrinth of suffering. People fall in love, people get hurt, and people die.

The character of Alaska is a messy one. She hates herself, and lets everybody know it. She realised that she could escape the labyrinth – “straight and fast” – and one thing leads to another and she drives her car into a police cruiser and kills herself.

Is that it for me? Am I going take her advice? Straight and fast… the only way out of the labyrinth of suffering.

No.

Because there is a point to the tale of death.

John Green makes sure we know that death is not our only option. Heck, death isn’t even the answer. He makes his characters hurt. He makes them hurt to the point of realising that the only way out is to just take it as it is. Take the good with the bad.

The labyrinth blows, but I choose it.” Words of wisdom from a man who understands what we go through.

These books are there to remind us that it’s okay to be reckless and vulnerable and stupid and in love. It’s okay to be broken and make mistakes. It’s okay to hurt and to grieve. It’s okay to not be okay.

Because that’s the point. Our lives aren’t supposed to be perfect. Our journey of suffering is to remind us how good it is to be alive. It’s part of life’s labyrinth. The suffering is inevitable, because surviving is what makes us stronger.

Sometimes we realise that we can’t deal with the pain on our own, and if we can’t turn to the people around us, we turn to the writers who make it possible for us to feel accepted; the characters that suffer just like us.

Young Adult saves lives – these books aren’t about suicide and blood and depression, they are about survival, and the greatness of life, and if Mrs. Gurdon can’t see that… if she can’t realise the beauty behind the tragedy, then she hasn’t lived at all.

Posted in Books, Opinion | Tagged , | Leave a comment

When Words Fail You: Natural Disasters

By Carlie Soltys

It seems like every week, when we turn on the television, there is a new natural disaster that has happened overnight. We sit, paralyzed, glued to the images and reports that slowly filter from the affected area.

For some of us, we are waiting for news of our loved ones over in that country. For the majority of people, it’s the spine-tingling, sick feeling of seeing so many of our fellow humans hurt, dead or homeless.

The most common reaction is to feel powerless. Natural disasters are the result of the world changing and shifting. Some like to explain it through science; for others, it’s religion. Either way, the way of the world is out of our hands, and we can only watch, react and prepare. As the events unfold, we sit by, as if we were watching some cruel play.

Sometimes, we are able to donate our money or, if you live close enough, our time to help out those who have lost so much. The toll these disasters take are immediate, but the left over damage is permanent.

But the strongest thing that comes from natural disasters is the feeling of being part of something; being a part of human kind. As we see homes swept away in Japan, buildings collapse in Christchurch or cities inundated in Queensland, we feel that tug in our hearts for the people living there. Suddenly, countries, religions and races become irrelevant – all we want is for everyone to be safe and sound.

We want families to be whole. Children, parents, grandparents to be back together again. We want the missing, found. The dead, alive. The trapped, saved. The buildings and land can be put back together with time and money, but lives only come around once. We are put on this Earth to live our lives the best we can, and we wish that upon everyone.

For those who don’t know what to do, to think, to say – I wanted to say that we all feel the same. In times of crisis, we are speechless. The power of nature, and its cruelty, astound us all. Do what you can within your power – donating money, lending a hand to the rebuilding, sending prayers and/or good thoughts their way – it helps.

If you would like to donate to the Japan disaster, you can do so through World Vision by clicking here.

Posted in News | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Beyond the Glasses

By Sam Willis

A lot more than you realise happens when you put on those 3D glasses. Sure, what is in front of you may seem stunning, beautiful – groundbreaking even – but look behind that new, expensive digital projection screen and you shall see a lot more than a realistic Na’vi native from Pandora.

It is a craze that has gripped the world as quick as Avatar topped the box office. Just a year ago, 3D film was pure gimmick – a couple of films released each year just in time for school holidays that will keep the kids enthralled who couldn’t care less about a coherent storyline. Now it is an accepted norm. Films are being advertised as “also in 2D”, classic films are being re-released in 3D and yes, you guessed it, Avatar 2 and 3 are officially in pre-production.

The truth is, this is no new craze. 3D has been with us in some form since the 1800s.

Stereographs, which were basically still images presented in 3D, became popular in England in the 1840s and 1850s. It is estimated that the London Stereoscopic Company sold over half a million stereographs between 1854 and 1856 alone.

The emergence of 3D film came almost a century later. Iconic films, such as Dial M For Murder and House of Wax (not the Paris Hilton version, obviously), were all responsible for creating a ‘golden age’ of 3D cinema in the 1950s. This lasts no more than five years and then it’s gone. There is then a resurgence in the 1970s where a number of softcore porn films were released in 3D and were hugely successful for their genre. This includes The Stewardesses, which took in 300 times its budget. Despite these films, 3D still never really took off in the mainstream. So it was gone again.

Fast forward to the current day and by the end of the year, a grand total of 25 films will have been released in 3D – in 2010 alone.

3D film expert from the Australian Film, Television and Radio School, Mike Jones, said that because of what history tells us, it’s easy to say that this won’t last.

“If we were looking at the history we’d say it’s doomed to failure, because every time 3D has come along it has been in some way not driven by audience demand,” he said.

The godfather of the current 3D phase, James Cameron, disagrees of course, telling movie buffs at the ShoWest film convention that it is going to transport audiences to environments that they’ve never seen before.

“With digital 3D projection, we will be entering a new age of cinema. Audiences will be seeing something which was never technically possible before the age of digital cinema — a stunning visual experience which ‘turbo charges’ the viewing of the biggest, must-see movies,” the Avatar director said.

In this digital age, the struggle to get people leaving their homes and going to the cinema seems as tough for film studios as it has ever been. Not only has illegal downloading already cost the entire entertainment industry billions of dollars, but continually improving home entertainment technology also means that consumers can create a viewing experience in their own homes that almost matches that of a cinema. This is why film studios are so franticly trying to push the notion of 3D. It is a different ‘experience’, one that is purely economic from an executive point-of-view.

“The cynical view would say it’s a desperate attempt to reinforce a dead business model – a desperate attempt to hang on to the hierarchy of distribution – so a film comes to the movies first and then goes to DVD and then goes to broadcast and so on,” Jones said.

“That’s a traditional model that doesn’t seem to fit very well with an age of digital media, time-shifting and ‘I watch what I want when I download it’,” he added.

However, studios may end up shooting themselves in the feet. Rising costs for consumers to see films in 3D could see audiences turning their backs on the cinema in favour of more economic family activities.

“The movies isn’t really our first preference of entertainment because I don’t find it good value for money. A hundred dollars to go out for about an hour and a half isn’t really what I call good family entertainment,” said Courtney McShane from Sydney, whose young family now look to alternate forms of entertainment.

Currently, an adult ticket at Event Cinemas to see a 3D film stands at $23.50. Then you have to add on another dollar to get the 3D glasses. This is a seven-dollar increase on attending a standard film session at the same cinema. Per movie. Per ticket.

The high prices are also having an impact on the record books. The 2010 3D incarnation of Alice in Wonderland is currently the 20th highest grossing film in US box office history. In terms of ticket sales, however, it doesn’t even scrape into the top 100. Similarly with Toy Story 3, which is the ninth highest grossing film of all time in the US, it stands at just number 89 in total ticket scales.

“You could look at this two ways. One way would be to say that proves people will pay the extra, that they love the experience, it’s a return to theatre cinema as spectacle and they’re willing to treat it as a special night out and pay the extra bucks for it,” Jones said.

“The other more cynical way to look at it is to say that it’s a unsustainable business model, and that people won’t continue to pay that amount of money,” he added.

We will have to wait and see to determine if this current 3D cinema phase is merely just a fad. Film technology, 3D or otherwise, will always continue to improve so there will definitely not be a shortage of new ‘experiences’ for audiences to undertake. Whether they will be sitting in the velvet chairs of a cinema or in the familiarity of their own homes is another matter.

Posted in Film | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Joe Strummer. The Only Man That Matters.

In New York City, deep in the heart of Manhattan’s East Village, stands a wall with a man painted on it. The words ‘Know Your Rights’ stand out at the bottom of the mural, and above the man’s shoulder it says ‘The Future is Unwritten.’ The man is Joe Strummer, and the mural, painted in 2003, stands to remember and protect the person who gave meaning to life with his music.

In the eight years since Joe’s death, it’s not just the music that is remembered, but also the man who made it possible, and the fact that even today, all over the world, his music is still making an impact.

The legend of Joe Strummer is something completely different to a lot of wilder rock star tales. Of course there are sex and drugs and violence – but there are also unspeakable amounts of friendship and courage, vibrancy and life.

On December 22 2002, the world lost a punk legend. Three days before Christmas, Joe Strummer sat down in his living room after walking his dogs and suffered a fatal heart attack.

His life left a legacy, a memory, and a legion of dedicated fans proud to call him their spokesman, their idol. And he is as relevant today as he ever was before.

When Joe Strummer died, the world felt a sting, but it left no one incapable of making sure his name and his legacy would live on and continue to help people, just like
Strummer wanted.

American musician Steven van Zandt spoke about Strummer’s death on his ‘Tribute to Joe Strummer and the Clash’ radio show. ”Friendship, brotherhood, family, strength in numbers, protecting each other, fighting the good fight together, against racism against fascism, fighting for liberation… embodying liberation itself.”

“Joe Strummer is gone. Long Live The Clash.”
Even today, eight years after his death, Strummer’s name and legacy are carried on by his friends and family who dedicate their lives to supporting the charity he invested in before he passed away.

Strummerville: The Joe Strummer Foundation for New Music was set up by Strummer’s wife Lucinda in 2003. Their website, which was set up by Strummer himself before he died, describes their mission as “to reflect Joe’s contribution to the music world by offering support, resources and performance opportunities to artists who would not normally have access to them.”

Trish Whelan, a working member of Strummerville says, “Basically we are a registered charity that gives opportunities to people, through music, who would not have access to such opportunities.

“In practice,” she says, “this involves us providing rehearsal spaces for free or at very discounted rates for musicians.”

“We provide bursaries for bands to help recording; we support like minded projects like Billy Brags Jail Guitar Doors, some music projects in Afric, recording facilities in Bogota.”

Their aim is to reach any genre and anybody who has a passion for music, just like Joe Strummer did – and the support they get is endless.

“We are aiming to hold his legacy in the work that we do,” says Whelan. “We are strongly supported by Mick Jones and have collaborated on projects involving his Rock & Roll Public Library and Strummerville.”

The revelation that some of today’s biggest bands went to the Strummerville foundation for help means that the work, legacy and life of Joe Strummer is still relevant in the music heard today.

Bands like Mumford and Sons, Crystal Castles and The Dead Pixels all got their start in a Strummerville rehearsal space. And they’re not alone. At least a hundred bands from all over the world have made a dent in the music industry through Strummerville, and the list is only growing.

The Clash provided the world with music that was educated to the point of intelligence.

In his article ‘The Joe I Knew,’ Billy Brag commented that, “it was The Clash that struck the strong political stance that really inspired a lot of people, and within The Clash he was the political engine of the band.”

Every song was written with a clear knowledge of the world around them – there were no soppy love songs, no naïve approach to politics and no fluffy take on the life of rock stars. They lived in the world of the people around them. They sung about the hardships of the everyday life of the poor, working class and struggling musicians. This is what separated them from the pack.

The Mayor of London, Ken Livingston exclaimed, “Joe Strummer was a man who wasn’t afraid to voice his beliefs.”

“A passionate, vocal, sincere ‘olde’ punk. The Clash produced a contrast to the nihilism of the Sex Pistols, and educated an audience about the realities of the state. Music has lost one of its true rebels.”

It was the Sex Pistols who initially inspired Strummer towards the punk scene.

While touring with his band the 101ers, a straight rock and roll outfit from the squats, the Pistols opened for them at the Nashville, and Strummer remembered in Pretty Vacant: A History of Punk that “they came out with like, I don’t fucking care if you like it or not, this is it. If you don’t like it, piss off.”

Joe Strummer was always all about the music. In Chris Salewicz’s book Redemption Song: The Definitive Biography of Joe Strummer, Salewicz remembers Strummer telling him about the first time he heard the Rolling Stones cover of Buddy Holly’s Not Fade Away. “That’s the moment I think I decided here is at least a gap in the clouds… And that’s the moment I think I fell for music,” he said.

“I think I made a subconscious decision to only follow music forever.” And he did.

The legend of Joe Strummer runs deep in the heart of everybody who was lucky enough to be alive to see or meet him, or those who have grown up listening to the Clash and everything he did after.

The Clash’s road manager, Johnny Green spoke about Strummer to a London newspaper the day he died. “Joe’s greatest legacy,” he said, “is that he made a generation of people think for themselves.”

“He didn’t quite manage to change the world, but he changed the way people looked at it. It’s a sad day – but what a life.”

Since 2006, Revolution Rock has been much more than just a track from the London Calling album. Organised by a legion of dedicated fans, and in association with Strummerville: The Joe Strummer Foundation for New Music, Revolution Rock is a night dedicated to everything Joe Strummer and everything Clash.

Held annually in Sydney and Melbourne, the night aims to remember The Only Band That Matters, their front man, and what he did for music. All proceeds made by the night also go towards Strummerville, and helping make the world a little better for musicians.

Joe Strummer was a man of the world. His passion for his music carried him through the decades as one of the truest, most renowned rock stars – and most people don’t even realise the work he’s done.

We know that, even in death, his work continues to provide millions of people with hope, and love and life and music. And he’s still helping.

Nothing sums up the legacy of Joe Strummer quite like the UK Independent’s ‘Culture Clash’ article. So here it is.

”He wrote intelligent lyrics, the Clash played real instruments and they had something brutally honest and exciting to say. Their records sounded brilliant. Strummer could, of course, have spent the past decade traipsing round the world’s stadiums with a reformed Clash making piles of cash. Instead, he chose to perform to fresh audiences in cramped clubs with his new group, the Mescaleros. That’s a testament to his devotion to his music. So this Christmas, Rock the Casbah.”

Posted in Music | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

A is for Awesome… unexpectedly.

By Jessyca Krause

As far as teen movies go these days, you usually have to sift through a lot of rubbish before you find anything at least half decent to watch. Nothing really seems to come close to the reality of teenage life and drama that John Hughes captured so perfectly in the 80s – and Easy A is no exception.

Will Gluck, director of last years ‘teen comedy,’ Fired Up! once again gives us something you’d put in the ‘maybe’ pile on a rainy day.

Based loosley on the classic novel The Scarlett Letter, Easy A stars Emma Stone as Olive Penderghast, an “unattractive, unalluring teenager” that Google Earth couldn’t find if she “was dressed up as a 10-story building.” Olive finds herself in a bit of a pickle when she lies to her pushy best friend Rhiannon (Alyson Michalka) about going on a date with an older guy, and ultimately sleeping with him – a conversation overheard by the school ‘Jesus Freak’ Marianne (Amanda Bynes) who of course feels it’s her duty to let the entire student body know.

From here on in Olive earns the reputation of the school tart and realises she can benefit from this, as well as helping other socially-inept male students become more popular. Olive starts asking for money in exchange for pretending to let guys have sex with her (or just pretending to feel her up) in order to make them seem more attractive, but soon realises she’s in too deep.

The acting isn’t amazing and the jokes could be funnier, but amongst all the rotten ‘teen flicks’ being pumped out of Hollywood these days, the film almost breathes some fresh air into the lungs of what seems like a dying genre – because really, this is not a film about ‘getting the guy’. Really what Easy A is mostly about is the ridiculous sexual double standard of men and women, and how hard high-school can be for those who don’t automatically fit in.

With hilarious family scenes involving Olive’s two nutty but wonderfully caring parents (Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson) and a confession revealing Olive “wants John Cusack holding a boombox outside [her] window,” Easy A doesn’t quite disappoint, but it doesn’t quite fulfil either.

The end is perhaps a little too neatly packaged but it sums up the film nicely, and references a few classic films to boot. All in all, this ‘romantic comedy’ focuses less on the romance, and more on the serious issues of high school drama and conflict, and conquers them well .

Lets just say, I don’t regret paying $10.50 to see it.

Posted in Film, Review | Tagged , | Leave a comment