Saturday, 15 April 2017

A Little Less Reactionary

    I like the Internet for all the good that can be extrapolated from it. For years I have found the Internet to be an immeasurable encyclopaedic wealth of crafting and design knowledge. Thanks to all the tutorials and stories that I watch and follow I discovered a world of doll making, have tried new recipes that changed my tastebuds and have been able to buy those seriously hard to find books that just can’t be found in good old fashion bookstores [you know, those places where inky print still exists]. Basically the Internet has helped keep alive old school artistic skills that otherwise would have disappeared with the previous generation.

    Much like your beloved city, the Internet too has a dark side, and for the sake of personal safety you get to know which areas to avoid. But unlike the city the Internet is not always so easy to ignore. Specifically I speak of the negative voices that come together like a masked Greek chorus pointing a finger at people courageous enough to say something worthwhile or create something beautiful.

    In one such scenario, a heartbreaking result of so many negative voices on the Internet is the damage it can cause to box office ticket sales when films come out. Recently I became aware of a disturbing trend in which people filmed their own reactions to film trailers.  

    I came across a montage reaction video for a certain film trailer and was horrified by the vile comments. How is this behaviour okay? Do the ‘reactors’ think they are funny? When these reactionary reviewers [I use this term loosely because anyone with a camera and the vocabulary of a fourteen year old can call themselves a reviewer] put it out there that they are purposely not going to watch the film, and encourage others to follow that example, what do they hope to achieve? Are they proud? Do they feel they have acted out a public service?

    Several years ago I watched bonus features for the making of Transformers. This was my first introduction to Transformer fanatics – people who thought it was completely normal and okay to send Michael Bay death threats and accusing him of ruining Transformers. For a bit of context, Bay was receiving these threats long before filming began. A disappointing example of people who claim a love for Transformers and behaving like Decepticons.
I appreciate elements of Bay’s vision, though that’s not to say I am not critical of his work. My appreciation/critical thinking comes from a place of wanting to see the good in the work of others. We all have a right to an opinion, but I would never want my own pre-conceived notions be the thing that tears other people down. Even when I watch a movie that I ultimately didn’t enjoy, I think about all the people who tried so hard to make that movie. I want to find something, anything that makes that movie worthwhile. I’ve seen films in which the script was a bit weak, but heck, the actors did a decent job carrying it. In another film the acting might have been a bit wooden, but wow, ‘how about that cinematography, huh’. See what I’m doing here? A good reviewer needs to understand there is balance in how we react. Now, I’m not a hug fan of horror films and so I don’t go out of my way to watch this genre, but I also don’t judge these films harshly. Why is that? ­– Because I know that horror films is a starting point for a lot of people in the film industry, but also because I can’t judge a genre that I don’t understand in its complexity.

    Way back in 2015 I heard there would be a new Jem and the Holograms film. I grew up being an even bigger fan of Jem than I was of Transformers [Yes, I was a child of the eighties], so you can imagine how excited I was about this piece of news. I eagerly Google-tuned myself to cinema release updates. I had planned to take my kids, and we would dress up for the epic event [you know I’m talking pink hair wigs]. Unfortunately cinema dates were continuously being pushed back, until finally the news came from an acquaintance working in the industry that the film was dropped from screening. It was available on DVD – that was something, but I was really looking forward to throwing my support to the filmmakers by going to the cinema. So what happened?

    Quick online research showed me that so called Jem fans decided to purposely avoid the film because it was so very different to Jem of the eighties. So the very people the film industry was relying on to line up for a ticket were actually boycotting the film. Why did the fans do this? – Because they judged a trailer. Why did they judge the trailer? – Because it looked nothing like their childhood memories of Jem. As is the usual way of people with access to the Internet threats and other verbal attacks of, Jon M Chu, the director ensued. My heart broke for the people who made the Jem Film. They put so much heart into this sweet project. Oh! The irony of Jem fans behaving like Misfits! Do you see a pattern here?

    When Ghostbusters relaunched last year with a new cast line up I was so rapt. I watched the movie with my family, and we thought it was fantastic [serious re-watch value in this house]. And as is the usual way with so called Internet reviews they tried to trample this film before it even launched. Why? – Because the so-called traditional fans reviewed the trailer and accused filmmakers of ruining their childhood. Go back even further and we will find that people got riled up when they first learnt that the heroes of the film would in fact be heroines.

    With these three film examples there is a common thread. Full grown women and men who believe that their childhood [dating back thirty years] will be tarnished by a modern retelling of their favourite new age fairytales. I ask, why should anyone be so offended by artistic license on a remake?

    Growing up with Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, I heard the radio play, saw the telly series, read the book, and wouldn’t you know it, actually enjoyed the Hollywood film version. All versions of Hitchhiker's Guide are similar, and yet just a tad different to each other. Why is that? – I believe it’s because Douglas Adams understood that the story had to change with different storytelling formats. Also, what would be the point of retelling a story if it was exactly the same as before? Wouldn’t that just be boring? And in a case of people never being pleased, if movie reboots/remakes/alternative canons didn’t change, then the fans would still be complaining.

At the end of the day let's get a grip. These things are only books, games, films, pictures, works of art. They are not here to ruin your day/childhood/toileting experience. So please people, be kind to each other, and chill the f--k out.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Glitch in the Stitch

© Melissa Gaggiano Photography
    It's out there, you know. Any number of documentaries, educating us on the perils of globalisation, consumerism, disposable income, disposable wardrobe. We are surrounded by things that glitter and shine, and they are cheap. Made with cheap materials, using people labour who are most infinitely undervalued.

    I am a consumer who looks for good deals. I will buy from op-shops, accept hand-me-downs, and what is still needed I will seek from budget stores. The lower price, the more can be saved, has been my way of thinking. But here's the glitch in the stitch. I recently bought the kids new winter pyjamas. The clothes, were not a low-low price point but were within budget. The clothes were also cuddly and the kids looked so cute in them. How could I be disappointed?

    When given contracts to sign we tend to read the fine print, because no one wants to be that silly king who signed his own death sentence [I read some lovely fairytales when I was a kid]. Accepting and buying store bought clothes based on outward appearance alone is a bit like signing a contract without reading the contents. Sometimes, when I can be arsed about it I will perform a quick QA on the clothes I am about to buy, but honestly it's not something I want to do each and every time I need to buy a new piece of clothing. But considering what happened next, I'll have to rethink my stance on my lackadaisical product quality checking.

    Returning from the store I immediately put the new pyjamas through the wash. The girls were excited about wearing their new clothes to bed that very night. Hanging the clothes out to dry I then noticed that the clothes were overlocked [that's good], but were not plain stitched [not so good]. There were gaps in the seams [sewing too close to the fabric edge] and in parts the fabric was already splitting because, hello, the fabric pieces were never plain stitched. This was not the first time I've noticed this sewing practice on store bought clothes, but I had cause to stop and think. Why would the manufacturer leave out this one basic step? The pyjamas were neither expensive nor inexpensive, so surely the business that made these could afford to pay for a basic plain stitch.

    I pulled out my sewing machine and overlocker, and proceeded to contribute to the 'value adding chain' of the new pyjamas. I plain stitched the weak seams of the clothes and overlocked the already overlocked edges. These pyjamas were not going to fall apart on my watch. Because you see, when I buy clothes, and particularly for kids I want, nay, expect the garments to survive at least two kids. When I buy for myself I expect the clothes to last a minimum of three, maybe four years.

    So now, I got to ask myself, if I am buying clothes then having to improve/correct/finish the so called 'finished' product is this really a saving? Especially if the clothes are falling apart. I am at a point where I'm wondering, would it be better if I made kids clothes myself. Is that realistic? Do I have time for it? Can I do it economically and with style? I am one person but can I beat the cycle of contributing to businesses that mass produce poorly made products?

    ... Only one way to find out.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Arrrgh! Me Kitsch

Pirate mug find at local $2 shop

    I think all my life I had been programming toward a love of kitsch. Perhaps beginning with seeing reruns of sixties telly programs like Lost in Space, Star Trek, Bewitched, swinging  Batman and watching good ole Elvis movies . Even the beloved eighties favourite The Goonies hits high on the kitsch scale with it's fantasy pirate props and a pirate ship laden with gold, hidden in a coastal cave with only a rocky waterslide for access.

    Toward the end of Year One Purgatory [otherwise known as high school] I discovered sanctuary in the form of Monkey Island - a computer game about ghost pirates, treasure maps, sword fighting insults, mysterious tropical islands and vegetarian cannibals.  This comes as no surprise as Monkey Island was partly inspired by Tim Powers' novel Stranger Tides and  Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean ride, which, let's face it, flies completely off the kitsch scale like a Mardi Gras firework. I didn't know it at the time that this was kitsch. It wasn't a word that slipped off the tongue in conversation with other suburban thirteen year olds.

    Fast forward a decade to my early twenties, while working in the city I discovered Outré Gallery, a shop that gave name to my madcap fascination for what seemed like false gold in the eyes of others – 'lowbrow', 'tiki', 'taboo', 'kitsch'. In Outré I found a temple portal into a world that had both darkness and sparkle. It was seriously funny. It was cute and scary. And it was great for me because I discovered that I wasn't alone in my appreciation  of the strange, beautiful and the cartoony. From here I discovered the work of Josh Agle [AKA Shag], Mark Ryden, and Nathan Jurevicius, artists who opened a door to a fantasy world that I could be comfortable with most of the time.

    Now as an almost forty year old I find myself in a $2 shop staring at a silly, colourful pirate mug that has been roughly hand spattered with paint. Looking at this mug, my initial reaction was a very boring suburban 'what would it go with?' Certainly nothing in the cups cupboard. I picked up the mug and noticed how it was not a cookie cutter design. It was silly. It was kitschy. It made me think of Monkey Island and that was all the answer that I needed. So I bought the pirate mug.