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February 22nd, 2012


11:18 am - Banging about on the box
I was invited a while ago to talk about nerds on television on the pre-eminent Australian TV podcast, Boxcutters. My episode is up as of yesterday, so if you want to hear me talk about why I don't like The Big Bang Theory for around twenty minutes or so, give it a shot - and even if you don't like my ranting, you will probably enjoy Josh and John's weekly ruminations on all things television.

Also in TV: tonight's a big one for the ABC, as their new Wednesday night comedy line-up appears in full for the first time: In Gordon Street Tonight, followed by Woodley, followed by Outland. I am in one of these shows, for one night only - tonight! Can you guess which one?

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January 30th, 2011


12:34 pm - I have returnetheded
So, after a long absence, I think I might post here again. Just occasionally, you know? It's nice to have a personal blog space, not like my book blog (which is focussed on, well, books), or my work blogs (work as in trying to maintain some kind of profile as a comedian), or Twitter (which I have taken to like some kind of aquatic fowl to the local lake), or Facebook (where I've been laying low; it's really weird to continue to hear about the exploits of people who've left your life, especially when you didn't want them to and/or you feel weird/guilty about it).

So what to write about? Well, I should mention Dungeon Crawl, I suppose - my D&D inspired impro show is now going to be on monthly in Melbourne, which is pretty sweet. The first one is next Wednesday (February 2), but you can read about it at the link.

I should also say that I spend my Australia Day on a mountain at the wedding of an old friend and it was one of the best wedding ceremonies I've ever seen. It made me glad to know that even in my current state of uncertainty, grief and recovery, I can still find joy in the happiness of others. And they were so very happy, though - and this is perhaps my favourite part - no more happy than they are all the time because they truly love each other. This wasn't a "squeeze all happiness into a single moment that will never be equalled again" kind of wedding, but a true expression and celebration of a love that has and will endure. I love you guys.

What else? I did a marathon of the (extant) Twilight movies last night. There was a drinking game. Surprisingly, we got pretty drunk during the first film, but and a bit during the second, but the third one didn't offer too many drinking moments. The third one is the best, by the way. But I'm still opposed to the whole thing. Bella is the single worst female character I have ever encountered in fiction: powerless, feckless, helpless...just less. She makes no decisions about her own life, and is entirely defined by her "love" for Edward, which of course is instant and everlasting and never questioned in any kind of rational way. It makes me a little sick, actually; possibly this is because I recently lost the love of my life-so-far because she was too young to know I was right enough for her. And she was 25. This film tells young women that at 17, it's fine to instantly fall for the man you will stay with for the rest of your life, though at least she's a little weird about getting married and slightly normal about wanting to get it on.

Anyway, I live-tweeted during the whole thing. It only ended up costing me two followers, and a couple of people thanked me for watching on their behalf so they don't have to. To be honest I had fun, but the thought that anyone might see anything admirable in the OTT "romantic" shenanigans indulged by the main characters is abhorrent to me.

To balance it all out, I'm going to see True Grit today. Should be quite a balancin', I reckon. Yup.
Current Location: Australia, Melbourne

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March 5th, 2010


12:01 pm - Melbourne International CRAAAAAZY Festival 2010
Yes, it's comedy festival time again. You can probably tell by the way I pop up in LiveJournal to tell you what I'm doing.

This year it really is crazy. I'm involved in at least six shows, possibly more. The definite ones are listed below. This really is the year of geek comedy, though, even more than last year. Even the festival knows it: they have an iPhone app, and the first daily message on it was titled "Set phasers for laughter." Not very funny, I agree, but their heart's in the right place.

The big geekfest really kick off with four shows I'm producing: +1 Sword, the Dungeons & Dragons comedy show; Dungeon Crawl, a late night improvised Dungeons & Dragons adventure, featuring guest comedians from the festival; the Melbourne Museum Comedy Tour, now in it's third year and looking better than ever - what's more I'm not conducting tours this year, so there will definitely be all-new dinosaur jokes!; and new to the museum, Melbourne Museum Lunchtime Comedy, a Saturday, well, lunchtime show in the museum's Age theatre featuring guest comedians talking about science, nature and history, all MC'd by me. The museum comedy stuff has grown enough to deserve its own web site, which you can find at museumcomedy.com.

On top of that the monthly political comedy room of which I am a part, Political Asylum, is doing a one-off Comedy Caucus special, with all of our regulars and a couple of special guests. And then there's Trade Aid, for which the Anarchist Guild Social Committee, my old sketch group, are doing another one-off show, the second Annual General Meeting, with proceeds going to charity. I'll be performing something there, though I'm not sure what it will be yet.

As usual, I won't post public reviews, even here on this blog; it's not really appropriate as a fellow performer. Suffice to say there's a onne of great stuff on this year, and most of it isn't at the Town Hall, though a few of the things there look very exciting too. But if you're stumped as to what to see, drop me an email or a private message of some sort and I'll be happy to help you figure out what will make you laugh.
Current Mood: excitedexcited

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November 11th, 2009


11:27 am - Remembering.
No-one in my family ended up in any of the wars of the past century, as far as I know; they were always too young, or too old, or (in the very early days) too Irish. On the other hand, the one Italian branch of the family could have veterans in it. But regardless, today is a reminder of all wars, throughout time and place - specifically a reminder that they can - and should - be brought to an end.

I know I haven't been here for a while, and today seems an odd day to resurface. It's been hot (mid 30s!) in Melbourne, and I've been busy. My first proper stand-up spot in years turned out to be a pretty great tight five (that's comedian lingo for five minutes of very good material), and the character piece I performed at the same gig went down well too, though being in a suit in this heat in the small front room of the Brunswick Green, crowded with nearly 80 people... That was suffering for my art, I can tell you. Great to do some more comedy acting, though, and I'll be coming back. If you like political comedy, be sure to check out our room - Political Asylum is the name, and there's even a web site (there might be video footage of my spot on there, eventually!).

This week and next are full. I'm doing some extra training work for my main day job employer, which is good because I get to charge what I used to earn while training - and I need the extra cash for my upcoming trip to New York (I'll be in the US and Canada from November 23, and NYC from December 5 to 15). This does mean that, while coming down with some kind of throat infection and hayfever, I did a gig on Sunday night, then talking all day about Word 2007 on Monday, and then yesterday talked for half a day straight to a camera and then just a microphone about the evils of fast food (it was another education video job).

So, things are good, but I'm feeling a bit rough. This holiday will be just what  I need - assuming I can figure out exactly where we're going between our first few days in Boston and our last week and a half in NYC... (I'd like to do a circuit of Montreal, Toronto and Niagara, but I'm not sure it's practical.)

Oh, one last thing - I have a climate change related gig on November 20, at Trades Hall, titled Laughmageddon II: The Copenhagening. It's raising money for the ACF's "Towards Copenhagen" campaign, and I've been assisting the main brains behind it, Dan Walmsley, in giving it some shape. Should be a good mix of comedians presenting a comedy version of the "an inconvenient truth" presentation, so if you're free, come along!


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October 9th, 2009


12:48 pm - Because it doesn't really sit right on my science blog...

I live in a racist country. I do. There's no getting around it. As if the recent outcry against attacks on Indian students wasn't enough, we just had the racist bombshell of a national television programme deciding it was okay to air a talent contest in which some of the contestants performed in blackface.

Let's get this straight: blackface is, and has always been, an inherently racist tradition in which non-Africans - whether they be caucasian, Indian, or indeed Martian - don black makeup to look, not like any real African person, but like the stereotypical, racist depiction of an African, not unlike a gollywog. If you want to do this, you're doing something racist, and unless you're doing it satirically I don't see how it can possibly be defended in the twenty-first century.

I mention the century, because it took more than 100 years for American society - the front line in the battle against racism towards Africans - to figure out this was wrong. In other countries, with smaller African populations and thus a less vocal outcry, it took longer; The Black and White Minstrel Show only went off-air in the UK in 1978, despite protest letters received by the BBC as early as 1967. In Australia we were more clueless - Hey Hey It's Saturday allowed a blackface act on their show in 1989, by which time we really ought to have known better. And by 2009, well, we should totally know better. (But, as one comic summed it up last night at Political Asylum, "Did we really think we could bring back a show - with the same cast - that was sexist, homophobic and racist twenty years later for a reunion and somehow it'll all be different?")

The worst part isn't even that it got on television - the worst part is the reaction. Producers should have been sacked - after all, they were over The Chaser's Make-A-Realistic-Wish Foundation sketch, which was perhaps in bad taste - and an apology issued. But the only apology forthcoming on the night was to Harry Connick Jr., now even more of a hero to me, who scored them zero and made no bones about how offensive it was. Think about that - they apologised to the white man who was in the studio for offending him, but not for allowing a racist depiction of Africans to air on Australian national television - and thus to the world via the Internet. Channel Nine has since issued a (sort of) apology, but they've also specifically said the incident won't affect their decision on whether Hey Hey comes back regularly. (Double standards, anyone?) But the real racism is coming out in people defending the sketch.

It's embarrassing and confronting to realise you enjoyed something which, in hindsight, was inappropriate. It's like realising how sexist the original series (and, to an arguably lesser extent, the new film version) of Star Trek is, only without the benefit of being able to say "but they didn't know any better back then". (History is the only context in which cultural relativism really works.) It's tough, but the right thing to do is to say "You know, I always thought that was funny, but I can see how offensive it is, and I get it. I'm sorry."

That hasn't happened in Australia. Instead, the Internet, the papers, even federal Parliament - in the form of Julia Gillard, commenting from the US - is crawling with people trying to excuse what happened. The excuses do not stand up to much scrutiny: "It's not racist here" (Australians only know it from the same racist origins as the US and the UK, so yes, it is); "It wasn't meant like that" (they didn't mean to don a stereotypical and racist image of African-Americans in order to portray a bunch of African-Americans? What, they just fell into a vat of boot polish?); "the performers were doctors from various ethnicities, including an Indian guy, so they can't be racist" (try to imagine one of them was African - none of them were - and see if that still works for you); "It wasn't blackface, it was about the Jackson Five" (then don't do it in blackface); "it was just meant to bring back memories" (of what? Slavery?).

What's going on? Are Australians inherently racist? I have to conclude we are, as a stereotype - in this case, one borne out by evidence. At the very least we're not quick to accept criticism and admit we're wrong - especially when it comes to a "cultural institution" like Hey Hey.

Hey, New Yorkers - please don't lynch me when I visit.

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September 24th, 2009


02:28 pm - +1 Sword
I suspect most of you who'd be interested have heard about this already anyway, but I have a new little comedy show in this year's Melbourne Fringe Festival, opening tonight. It's about Dungeons & Dragons, though you don't need to have played it to enjoy the show. It's an hour of Richard McKenzie and I revelling in this, one of our favourite hobbies, with plenty of silliness and jokes and mental behaviour. Say hi if you come down!
Shaolin Punk presents
+1 Sword
Dragons. Dungeons. Not necessarily in that order.

In 1974, a pair of idiots invented Dungeons & Dragons, the first role-playing game. 35 years later, a different pair of idiots – comedy nerds Richard McKenzie (Super Happy Robot Hour, Mint Condition) and Ben McKenzie (Melbourne Museum Comedy Tour, Planet Nerd) – will polish the twenty-sided dice, sharpen the +1 swords and open a bag of holding full of tales of adventure, danger and laughs.

The only comedy show which grants a bonus to attack and damage rolls.

Where: The Vault, Caz Reitops Dirty Secrets, 80 Smith Street, Collingwood
When: Thursday to Sunday, September 24 to October 4, 2009 at 6:30 PM (5:30 PM Sundays)
Bookings:
Fringe Tix: melbournefringe.com.au or 03 9660 9666
Tickets also available at the door
How Much: $15 full, $10 concession

Ability Score special! On Thursday and Sunday nights, pay at the door and you can choose to roll your ticket cost— $4d6 (drop lowest die) full price, or $3d6 concession.






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June 9th, 2009


05:44 pm - Thanks, ABC
They might make plenty of mistakes - their handling of the outcry over The Chaser's now-infamous "Make-A-Realistic-Wish Foundation" sketch being a reasonable example - but every now and then, Auntie does something right. Following recent commentary on uneven and even damaging media coverage of transsexuals, the ABC has produced From man to married woman: meet Bernie Darling, which is about as positive and accurate account of one woman's journey from man to woman as I've ever read. Thanks, ABC, for still being the good guys.

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June 3rd, 2009


11:37 am - Books and Wonderful War
Yes, I've read three Asimov books (plus one short story) in a row: all of the Elijah Baley/Daneel Olivaw detective stories, the Robot novels.

It hasn't taken long. I've inhaled them. Asimov is like Pratchett in that respect, at least in these books - a page turner, a joy to read. As Dave said, it's ice cream. Other books I've read recently I've enjoyed, but it's been a considered enjoyment.

For those who don't know, I've embarked on a reading project this year, documented at a new blog, My Blog Loves a Bunch of Authors. I'm quite behind, because some of the books I've read have not been ice cream. Instead, they've been something spicy, enjoyable but leaving an odd taste behind. Another was something new, a foreign dish, tried gingerly and very satisfying once digested, but also changing my understanding of food and the culture and world that creates it. But it pains me a little that, even though I do discuss my reading habits on that blog, I only add books from the project in the "Books Read" list, and it looks like I've been very lazy. This is especially sad considering how I've just reignited my passion for reading and have fired through three novels in three weeks (the last of which bigger than the first two combined!).

Currently the project is on hold because I have yet to locate a book by the next author on my list: Pierre Berton. He's a Canadian, and what's more an historian and columnist. Finding his books in Australia is proving...difficult. I may have to revise my own rules...

While you're here, allow me to spruik the brief return season of my beloved's excellent Comedy Festival show, World War Wonderful. This Thursday to Sunday - that's June 4 to 7 - 9pm (8pm Sunday) at the Butterfly Club (details and bookings on their web site). If you like the idea of boogie song and dance in the style of the Andrews Sisters, but with a dark satirical anti-war flavour, then get along! I'll be there Thursday and possibly Sunday.


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May 30th, 2009


01:29 pm - Swords Against Darkness - questions and (newbie) actual play
Yesterday my friend Scott and I playtested emprint's Swords Against Darkness, a two-player narrative driven RPG. Below is a write-up of our session from yesterday. We have a few questions and found some stuff in the rules that needs clarification or fixing; we also found that as first time players we probably made a bunch of mistakes...

First up, the actual play:
Actual playCollapse )
The above is an after-the-fact retelling; we made plenty of mis-steps along the way. Here are some of our unresolved questions:

Questions and commentsCollapse )


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March 4th, 2009


01:56 pm - Writer's Block: Desert Island Time
You're packing your bag for that magical desert island that happens to have electricity, a TV, and a DVD player—what five DVDs do you take with you?
1. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
2. Back to the Future
3. Cyrano de Bergerac (the Gerard Depardieu one)
4. Mullholland Drive
5. Watchmen

If trapped on the island alone, let's be honest, most of us would like to something at least erotic, if not pornographic. That's where Mullholland Drive comes in; it's not a favourite of mine, but it has sexy bits and I've only seen it once. Plus, if I only had four other DVDs, maybe I'd watch it enough times to figure out what's going on?

Number 5 is because I'd want at least one thing I'd never seen, and I'm assuming I have to go this weekend. (I disqualified things like The Princess Bride, This Is Spinal Tap, Blackadder and so on because I have the sort of memory that can regurgitate most of such things at will.) This also assumes magical instant DVD powers, or at least an Internet connection and the will to commit video piracy.

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