25 June, 2009

Return of Suspense, Laughter, Violence, Hope, Heart, Nudity, Sex, Happy Endings... Mainly Happy Endings

So here's the thing.

If you had driven past the Michael Fowler Centre carpark at 6 in the morning on Tuesday, 23 June 2009, you would have seen a car, driven off the road and up onto the forecourt, in front of the ticket office. Now, this is not an area where cars will normally park. In fact, I have a strong suspicion this car was probably parked illegally. But there this car was, parked straight on to the doors of the ticket office, with maybe three metres of space between the doors and the front of the car. The only reason the car wasn't any closer to the doors was because of the concrete column in front of it. And sitting in this car was one person, seemingly sleeping.

And standing in front of the doors to the ticket office, in the cold, wrapped up in a jacket and gloves, was myself, waiting patiently for the doors to open at 9am so that I could buy tickets to the 2009 Film Festival. I was second in the queue. The guy in the car was first.

Now, I admire the determination of the guy in that car, who apparently arrived at 5.30am. Hell, I share his determination, since I also arrived in Wellington at that time. The difference is that I parked my car elsewhere, and then walked to the ticket office. Because that's what you do. Because just because you arrive first doesn't mean that you get to do whatever you like. I would like to have driven up and parked on the forecourt - it would have been more comfortable and warmer sitting in a car than standing in the cold for three hours - but I didn't, because it's not what you do. Besides, if I had arrived first and driven my car up onto the forecourt, then they park there as well, and pretty soon the entire forecourt would have been filled with cars, and the whole thing would just be messy.

But there's another thing about this. He was clearly of the view that he was the first person in the queue. Now I believe, under most generally accepted rules of queuing, the queue starts at the doors of the place that you're wanting to get into, not a few metres away. It's not like the rules of shotgun, you can't claim the start of the queue if you're the first person to see the place you're wanting to enter, you actually need to go up to the doors, and this guy had not. Therefore, in my view, he was clearly not in the queue.

Now, it's at this point where I should point out that this was not the first year this guy has done this. I've queued for tickets for the last three years, and each year the car has been parked there. The only difference was that, in the past, I've arrived later to an already formed queue that had clearly accepted the car's presence and the validity of this guy's claim to his spot. This year, however, I was that person, I was in the position to having to consider whether or not to accept his place in the queue.

Anyway, 15 or 20 minutes pass. About the same time as a third person joined the queue, a friend of the guy in the car turns up, and sits in the car. Which again annoyed me, because I knew the guy was going to claim he was saving the spot for his friend. So now we have someone who's not actually in the queue letting someone else come in to steal my rightful spot.

So, time passes. It was getting close to 8am when they decided they finally needed to move their car. The car that they wouldn't have needed to move to begin with if they were behaving in the way they were supposed to according to the rules of common decency. So they both leave, completely gone, for a few minutes. They didn't even consider asking anyone "can you save my place" or anything like that, they just leave and assume they will still be entitled to their place when they get back. And when they do arrive back at the ticket office, they stand by me as though that, rather than the back of the queue, were their rightful place.

Now, here's where I hate myself. I said nothing to them. I thought about it, I really thought seriously about it, and I should have told them to go to the back of the line. I should have told these guys how obnoxious and just plain wrong their behaviour had been this morning. But I was too afraid to, so I just stood meekly and let them into the queue. After a couple of minutes, the one guy said to me, "You do know that you're third in the queue, right. We're one and two." And here, for an instant, I developed a partial backbone. I didn't challenge the first guy's right to first spot (which I should have), but I did point out that I was there when his friend arrived, so I was definitely before him. But the guy said that they arrived together, and that the friend had gone off to check out the St James. Now, if you're in a queue, there are acceptable excuses for leaving the queue and getting someone to save your spot. If you need to use the toilet, that's okay. But leaving the queue for half an hour or more so you can wander around half the city is not an acceptable reason to have someone save your spot. By all reasonable points of view, he lost his spot. And I should have said that. But instead, I meekly acquiesced, and let the friend take my spot. Because I'm pathetic.

In the end, it didn't really matter too much. Once tickets went on sale at 9am, the two of them went to the same terminal to be served (which raises the question of just why they were so careful to point out to me that the friend was second in the queue), and since Ticketek finally learned this year that they needed to have more than one or two terminals open when festival tickets go on sale, all of us that were there by 6:30am were able to be served immediately. But the fact that it didn't ultimately matter doesn't affect the fact that what these guys were doing was pretty bloody awful, obnoxious, and selfish. And I just wish we'd actually summoned up the courage to tell them so.


Anyway, I have my tickets, for 20 films this year. And the films are:

* Louise-Michel
* The Baader Meinhof Complex
* An Education
* Red Cliff (a John Woo historical epic - unfortunately it's apparently an edited 140-minute version of the 5-hour 2-part original, but it should still be good on the big screen)
* Ponyo (the new Miyazaki! Yay!)
* Largo
* In The Loop (I once watched one episode of The Thick Of It, didn't like it, but have heard a lot of good things about it, so I'm giving it another shot with the film version)
* Moon
* The Chaser (I'm seeing this solely because of one single three-word phrase in the description: "slacker serial killer")
* Che (the complete 4-hour 2-part Steven Soderburgh-directed biopic of Che Guevara)
* Departures (won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film)
* Wendy and Lucy
* Mother
* Samson & Delilah (probably would have ignored this one, but I caught the last five minutes of an interview with the director on Kim Hill, and it sounded interesting.)
* Tyson
* Adventureland
* The Limits of Control
* The Black Pirate (a silent film, with live piano accompaniment, plus the film itself is a early colour film using two-strip Technicolor. And it's supposed to be a fun film.)
* Broken Embraces
* The Cat and the Canary (this year's Live Cinema film, an interesting-sounding silent horror film with a live orchestral accompaniment)

[5 July 2009 - I've since added another film, OSS 117 - Lost In Rio, to take the number of films up to 21.]

Obviously last year I failed in my efforts to write about all the festival films I saw - it just takes so long to write each post, and once I hit November with 7 films still to be written about, and memory of the details of each film fading, I gave up. So this year I'm not even going to try. If I find myself particularly inspired by a particular film, I'll probably write about that film, but don't expect even an attempt at absolute festival coverage this year.

(Incidentally, I was originally going to call this post something like Suspense, Laughter, Violence, Hope, Heart, Nudity, Sex, Happy Endings... Mainly Happy Endings 2: Electric Boogaloo. But in the end I couldn't find a way to make it clear that I was actually referring to the "Electric Boogaloo" joke itself in a sarcastic way (rather than being sarcastic about the sequel to Breakin'). Some Film 2: Electric Boogaloo has become the default joke title for any unnecessary and unwanted sequel, and I kind of hate it. It was only a mildly amusing joke to begin with, now it's more overused than a Little Britain catchphrase, and it ceased being funny a long time ago. So I wanted to make fun of that joke, but unfortunately there was no way I could think of to do so without seeming like I was embracing the joke.)

21 June, 2009

Yes, yes I do

So here's the thing.

I'm in town the other day, and I walk past the local optometrists. Glancing in the window, I notice a sign that was particularly prominent, and it occured to me that they're really not marketing to guys. Or, at least, not guys like me.

11 June, 2009

"Ashley, it's just that I love you so much, it scares me!"

So here's the thing.

I love Amazon. I generally try not to think how many thousands of dollars I have spent there over the past decade because the thought of all that money actually makes me somewhat uncomfortable. Why, just this week, I've received a package from them containing season 2, season 3, and season 4 of Saturday Night Live, as well as a non-fiction book, The Corner, by David Simon and Ed Burns (who created the "I didn't realise television could be this good" TV series The Wire), as well as the HBO miniseries adaptation of that book. Meanwhile, from Amazon UK, a seperate package arrived containing a Marx Brothers DVD box set and the Blu-Ray of Persepolis.

And to me, that's the type of shop Amazon is. I remember first shopping at Amazon back when it just sold books, CDs, and VHS tapes. And other than the fact that we're now two generations later for prerecorded movies (purchasing DVDs and Blu-Ray discs these days instead of VHS tapes) there's no change in my purchasing patterns. Amazon is a place to buy books, music, and movies, and in my mind that's all.

But the interesting thing about Amazon is that that's not all there is. In fact, it seems they're not content until you can buy everything from there. Mattresses, groceries, lingerie, televisions, drum kits, refrigerators, whatever you want, apparently Amazon will sell it.

So the other day, out of curiosity I found myself exploring the site, trying to find out exactly how wide the site's range is. And best as I can work out, they don't sell houses or cars, and I think that's all. Pretty much anything else I could think of was available. And then I stumbled across one product that truly surprised me, a product that I had never really even thought about even needing to be purchased, and certainly not from Amazon. But there it was, listed almost for the sole purpose of stating "Yes, you really can buy anything from Amazon".

I'm just disappointed they won't ship it to New Zealand.

07 June, 2009


So here's the thing.

I don't do time very well. No matter how hard I try, I just can never actually get myself organised enough to ever be comfortably on time for anything. On the rare occasions that I actually arrive somewhere when I'm actually supposed to, it's because I had to speed or run, and I'm becoming surprisingly skilled as a parkour practitioner simply because I have to be.

But on Friday I was doing surprisingly well. In fact, I was rather proud of how well I had done. I had parked my car at the train station, put my car keys in my pocket on top of my phone, and was now walking unhurriedly on the overbridge that crossed the tracks. I could see the train leaving the earlier station, it would arrive in about 90 seconds, I was able to just amble along knowing I would arrive on the platform right as the train pulled up, in what was possibly the first example of perfect timing in my life.

As I'm walking, my cellphone goes off. And, since I wasn't running frantically at the time, I was able to reach into my pocket and pull the phone out. A second later, I heard a distictive sound prompting me to turn around. "That's odd," I thought. "I could have sworn I heard my keys falling out of my pocket, but there's nothing there." Check my pockets, no car keys. So where are they? There's definitely nothing that I can see. Then I had a horrible thought. So I glanced over the bridge railing, and there they were. They'd obviously hit the ground right on the edge of the bridge and fallen through the small gap at the bottom of the wall, coming to rest on one of the tracks. Now, fortunately this was not the track the oncoming train was on, but nevertheless the question remains, who drops their car keys onto the train tracks?

Now obviously my instinctive reaction was to break out the free-running, leaping off the overbridge, rolling as I hit the ground, scooping up the keys and dashing for the station, propelling myself in front of the oncoming train, and seamlessly landing on the platform. However, I remembered the $20,000 fine for crossing the tracks, so I thought it was probably not a good idea to do that right in front of an oncoming train and a full platform. That would just be inviting trouble.

So instead, I walked to the platform, watched as the train pulled up, and sat and waited as the train pulled away. The strange thing is, being the "live life on the edge" person that I am, and knowing the next train wouldn't come along the tracks for 25 minutes, I was surprisingly apprehensive going out onto the tracks. In fact it took me a couple of minutes to find my keys, simply because I was so busy looking down the tracks worrying about being run over to actually look at the ground to see the keys. And once I did find them, I had to face the fact that I had a close-to-half-an-hour wait for the next train.

But the main point of this story is that this experience has taught me that I should never be on time. Had I been running late and dashing for the train, as I normally would be, I would have just ignored my phone, thus would not have lost my keys, and would therefore have caught the train I was trying to catch. As it is, I was 25 minutes late precisely because I was on time for the first time in my life. So, lesson learned: if I want to avoid being late, I just have to ensure that I'm always late.


ADDITIONAL: 8 June 2009

So here's the thing.

I've been thinking a lot about this post over the past few hours, and I'm tempted to just take the entire post down because I don't think it works, at all. But I've decided to leave it up, although I do apologise to you all for wasting your time with it.

Part of the reason why I've decided to leave it up is that I think it's interesting to look at why it doesn't work. I'm not a big fan of much of what I've written on this blog - occasionally there might be the odd piece that I'm actually proud of, but it mostly makes me cringe. But there's nothing else quite as monumentally disasterous as this one.

There are a lot of reasons why it doesn't work. Firstly, there's the fact that there's not a lot to the story. Ultimately it comes down to "I dropped my keys, so I was late for work". Which isn't that interesting a story. I only decided to write the post when I told the story to one person, as a "this is why I was late" explanation, and they made an "only you" comment. So I initially decided to do it as a self-depreciating post. You can still see traces of that in the comments about "who drops their keys on train tracks" or my terror at stepping onto the empty tracks (which was absolutely true). The problem was, it didn't really work. I couldn't make it substantial enough to sustain a post.

So I kept adding to it. The most problematic element I added was the whole parkour idea. That was largely because I've been playing parkour-based PS3 game Mirror's Edge the last few days (great game, by the way), and I was amused by the idea of imagining someone like myself, who is significantly out-of-shape, being a parkour expert. The problem is, it just feels like a not-that-amusing joke in its first reference, and the second reference, where I claimed to consider diving off the bridge to get my keys, just doesn't work. The other problem is that it actually acts against the post - wait, I'm this big fearless parkour expert but I'm nervous when crossing empty train tracks? - and while I did try to hang a lampshade on the problem, I should have abandoned it as a joke that just does not work.
Unfortunately I didn't.

In the meantime, I was having trouble finding an ending to the story, because there really is none - I picked up my keys and waited for the next train. The End. I did toy with explaining how being late was a good thing - it meant I arrived at work literally as the alarm was going off for a fire drill, so I avoided the hassle of having to walk down the stairs - but that was just an additional irrelevancy that didn't actually offer much improvement to the ending of the story. I nearly abandoned the post at that point, until I had the realisation that the whole thing only happened because I was on time that day. I decided that would make an interesting moral to the story, to comment on how being late would have allowed me to be on time, and I reworked the post a bit to incorporate it and make it feel like there was a bit more substance to the post.

The problem is that there were now at least three ideas underpinning the post (none of which would sustain a post by themselves), and so it feels like it's actually three different posts, depending on which sentence you're reading. And because the ideas are all very different and are all intertwined in the course of the post, it becomes uneven and ionconsistent. It's all just terribly messy.

And then there's the title. One of the things I love about writing this blog are the titles for my posts. There have been times when I've had posts written and sitting around for literally weeks while I think of the perfect title. And with this post, I found myself giving up and putting a half-hearted title, "Counter-Clockwise" on the post. It's not that it's a bad title, in some ways I quite like the idea of adding to my Monty Python references a reference to a John Cleese film. It's just that I can feel the whole "let's just get this post over with" element in the title. There are posts where I'm actually proud of the titles, posts like "Juju-flop, Swut, and Turlingdrome", or "Babette Ate Oatmeal", or "9906753", or my favourite, "Dustbustering at the Olympics". There's even a post I'm toying with writing that I probaby will write just because I love the title I've decided on, something along the lines of "Ashley, it's just that I love you so much, it scares me!" Compared to titles like these, "Counter-Clockwise" really is just an "I can't be bothered" name, especially when it really only relates to the one-third of the post where I discuss my habitual lateness.

So as you can see, this post was a complete mess. Still, since my explanation about why the post doesn't work is longer than the initial post was, I hope you found this insight into my severely insecure and indecisive thought process around blogging to be interesting.