Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Disingenuous Sentiment - A Poem

We’re competing to see who cares more
To see whose tears are quicker to hit the floor
Share this video!
Become an activist!
Or perhaps don’t, and become Satan incarnate

You think you’ve got the world sussed out because
For thirty minutes, you were a slave to sentimentalism
Ignorant to the tenets of philanthropic fundamentalism

It won’t take you long
To return to your cocoon of apathy
To let this fad slip out of the recesses of your mind
To again become passive
To the perils of humankind

When you realise the reality
Of weeping children; of corrupted souls
I hope the guilt overwhelms you
I hope it punctures holes

And when Whitney died
You were her biggest fan
You crafted tweets to show your admiration
And her lyrics became your new fixation

But you didn’t know her
You weren’t her soulmate
She wasn’t your spirit animal

So when her back catalogue finishes downloading
Don’t paint yourself as the supreme authority
You think you belong to an exclusive niche
But you really belong to the majority

Where were you when she won her Grammys?
Were you listening to your second-rate hip hop?
Confined in your room
A brooding misanthrope?


These things occur naturally
They are organic, not mechanical
You cannot monopolise benevolence
You cannot be tyrannical

This is not a contest
There are no ribbons; no trophies
No medals; no applause
Your feigned compassion is just one lost cause

So you can drop the act
Your cute, endearing facade
Do not betray your true self
And let your dignity be scarred

If you bottled up the energy
You spent manufacturing concern
And focused it on things for which you yearn
You might be able to smile
On your deathbed

And when you die
The mourners will surround your corpse
Who loved you the most?
I did
No, you did
We all did, of course!

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Introvert Manifesto

1. A small group of close friends is better than a large group of acquaintances.
2. Make friends with books and films. They will be your main substitute for social interaction.
3. When invited somewhere, ask yourself "Does the person who invited me truly want me there? Or, are they just after a grand attendance to boost their social credentials?" If you decide the latter, stay home.
4. Always use the self-serve checkouts at the supermarket, if available.
5. If it can be done via phone or social media, that's how it SHOULD be done.
6. If you really want to go somewhere (e.g. a concert, a football game) but can't find anyone else who wants to go, go by yourself. Don't let the reluctance of others prevent you from enjoying yourself.
7. Maintain a blog to record and share the thoughts you couldn't tell people in everyday conversation. That is, if  you're passionate about something that no-one in your circle of friends cares about, write it down and share it with people all around the world. There are bound to be people on the Internet who DO care about what you have to say. You just haven't found them yet.
8. If it's within your means, get a pet. They make great company and lack the traits that make human beings so disagreeable.
9. Clubbing is forbidden, UNLESS you go for the music. Still, a night at home listening to your favourite songs is the safest option.
10. The library isn't for 'nerds'. Don't feel ashamed to go there for leisure.
11. Never feel 'obliged' to go somewhere. If you want to go, go. If you don't, don't.
12. Never succumb to peer pressure. Never do something just because it is 'trendy', or because all your friends are doing it.
13. Don't freak out if there's an awkward silence in a conversation. In fact, the silence will only feel awkward if you're not on good terms with the person.
14. If you're browsing items in a store, and a clerk asks "Can I help you?", only say "yes" if you're desperately stuck.
15. Don't confuse being an introvert with being misanthropic. Remember, you don't hate people. You just prefer processing your thoughts inwardly.
16. You can be friends with extroverts. They are not your enemies. Your relationship with them requires mutual respect.
17. Make friends with other introverts. You'll know how to make each other happy, and they'll always understand if you need to vent.
18. Never regard your introversion as an illness. It's just your personality type, and it's completely normal.
19. Try and stay away from noisy environments. Excessive noise is disruptive to introverted thought processes. One exception is fireworks, because fireworks are brilliant.
20. NEVER let anyone get away with telling you "You need to get out more," because they have no idea what's going on inside your head.

Note: This 'manifesto' isn't to be taken too seriously. Most of the items on this list reflect my true beliefs as an introvert, while some are slightly exaggerated. Overall, I hope these principles instil a sense of confidence in introverts, and provide extroverts with a glimpse of the other side.

Oh, one more thing. If you haven't seen the video I've posted below, I highly suggest you watch it. It says a lot more about introversion than my 'manifesto' possibly could.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Adam Sandler: From the Goofy to the Gratuitous

Any seasoned film buff would concede that Adam Sandler has never exactly been Oscar bait. His comedic films make for light, breezy entertainment. You never go into a Sandler film expecting debonair wit or original, introspective characters. You enjoy them for what they are—entertaining farces peppered with rambunctious scenarios. Of course, Sandler has experimented with his dramatic side through films such as Reign Over Me, Funny People and Punch-Drunk Love—films that have received mixed to positive reviews. It could be said that, since 2007, Sandler’s films have been especially disappointing (with exceptions granted to Reign Over Me and Funny People). Sandler made a name for himself in the 90s playing eponymous roles in films like Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore and The Waterboy. These films weren’t technical masterpieces by any means, but we laughed because we believed in the goofiness of the characters. It was all a bit of campy fun. Nowadays, Sandler’s characters are caricatures of his past roles. This is telling when you consider that Sandler received a total of six nominations (a record) at this year’s Golden Raspberry Awards, winning four. Amazingly, Jack and Jill was nominated for twelve awards and won in every category. This article will attempt to get to the bottom of Sandler’s string of mediocrity (I’m being euphemistic), and strip bare the problems underlying his films.
As of April 2012, Sandler has either performed in or lent his voice to 33 feature films (including cameos). According to film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the most successful of these films has been Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch-Drunk Love. 79% of critics praised the film, presenting the consensus that it is “odd, touching, and unique.” This should come as no surprise, as Anderson’s five Oscar nominations establish him as a talented writer-director. Critics were not so impressed, and justifiably so, when it came to Dennis Dugan’s Jack and Jill, where Sandler played the role of identical twins. This is Sandler’s worst film, according to Rotten Tomatoes, where a measly 3% of critics gave it a positive review. Did Sandler think that playing two characters would automatically earn him praise? When the characters are vapid and uninspired, it doesn’t matter how many you play. Perhaps Sandler should have studied Dustin Hoffman’s performance in Tootsie. Remarkably, a mere 12.1% of Sandler’s films have received positive, or ‘fresh’, ratings on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s right—only four out of 33 films. These films are Punch-Drunk Love (79%), Funny People (68%), The Wedding Singer (67%) and Reign Over Me (63%). Of these, The Wedding Singer comes closest to being a ‘typical’ Adam Sandler movie, but the film cannot be faulted for its unabashed sweetness. The other three films feature Sandler in a more mature performance, where over-the-top antics are exchanged for wry earnestness. Since 2007, Sandler has churned out seven films which have been deemed ‘rotten’ by Rotten Tomatoes’ critics. These include I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry (14%), Bedtime Stories (25%), You Don’t Mess with the Zohan (36%), Grown Ups (10%), Jack and Jill (3%), Just Go with It (19%) and Zookeeper (14%). It should be noted that Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star—co-written by Sandler and produced by Happy Madison Productions—failed to receive a single positive review on the website. With 2009’s Funny People being the last ‘fresh’ film on Sandler’s résumé, that’s a streak of four ‘rotten’ films. Sandler has actually had a longer streak of misfires. Between 2002 and 2006, he featured in eight consecutive films that were panned by critics. However, the Tomatometers of these films are a lot more respectable than those of his four latest offerings. For those who are wondering, Sandler’s average Tomatometer score is 31%. That happens to be the aggregate rating of his 2005 reboot of The Longest Yard, so we can call that the typical Adam Sandler film.
Sandler’s films have generally fared well, but not astonishingly, at the Australian box office. That said, Sandler’s filmography is rather bereft of sequels, remakes and blockbuster films, so it’s understandable that his films don’t rake in gargantuan box office figures. On average, a film featuring Adam Sandler grosses $6,291,582. The most financially successful Sandler film in Australia to date has been The Wedding Singer, released all the way back in 1998. The film accrued a total of $11,196,306. The average grossing for a Sandler film between 1998 and 2006 was $5,608,808. For films released in 2007 and beyond, the average grossing is $7,429,539. Does this mean that cinema-goers give greater regard to Sandler’s films now than they did prior to 2007? Well, yes and no. All actors have their humble beginnings, and it follows logically that more people know of Adam Sandler now than they did when he broke onto the comedy scene. Hence, if it was 1999 and you had to choose between The Waterboy and Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, you would probably side with the Austin Powers film, not only because you had seen its predecessor, but because you could rely on the comedic performance of an actor like Mike Myers, who you’d probably admired in the Wayne’s World films. As his career’s progressed, Sandler has starred alongside greats such as Jack Nicholson (Anger Management), Christopher Walken (Click) and Al Pacino (Jack and Jill), which hasn’t helped the financial performance of his films. However, a recent film like Grown Ups performed considerably well, most likely due to the combination of Sandler, David Spade, Kevin James, Chris Rock and Rob Schneider. Of Sandler’s ten highest-grossing films in Australia, half of them were released in 2007 or beyond. This can be attributed to the fact that Sandler is starring in more family-orientated films (Grown Ups and Jack and Jill were rated PG; Bedtime Stories was rated G), which means greater audience accessibility, and ultimately more bums on seats. Looking at the figures for opening weekend grossings, we notice that Sandler’s most recent offerings just aren’t drawing audiences in like his films once did. For films released in 2007 or beyond, the opening weekend grossing only accounts for, on average, 27.9% of the total grossing. If we compare this to Sandler’s films before 2007, where a film would gross, on average, 39.9% of its total grossing on the opening weekend, there is a considerable difference. In today’s world, where film advertising permeates our culture more than ever, you’d expect fans to be bursting at the seams with anticipation for Sandler’s films. This is not the case, and it seems that audiences are growing weary of Sandler’s repetitive shtick, perhaps using naive friends as test guinea pigs to brave his films.
To address Sandler’s recent run of puerile films, it is worth examining the common themes that permeate them. This requires content analysis of the Internet Movie Database’s plot keywords for Sandler’s post-2006 films. The most frequent word among the keywords is ‘relationship’, which is fairly inconspicuous. All great films feature relationships of various categories: familial, romantic, friendship, business, etc. That’s all well and good if the characters within the relationships are acutely developed, but more than a few of Sandler’s films are hampered by walking clichés. The second most prevalent word is ‘male’, appearing in keywords such as ‘male nudity’ and ‘male bonding’. Now, male nudity didn’t prevent Steve McQueen’s Shame from making a mark, and a film like Stand By Me poignantly explores the many nuances of childhood through a group of male friends. It’s the faux profundity of a film like Grown Ups which is proving a liability to Sandler’s acting career. Male-centric films act as a barrier between female audiences and potential empathy, and female audiences may well be baying for another Punch-Drunk Love. Other prominent keywords include ‘nudity’, ‘sex’, ‘gay’ and ‘panties’. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with these plot elements. Sex and nudity is a feature of countless films, and can be handled tastefully and with sensitivity. Sandler seems to choose roles where being crude reigns supreme. Provocatively bathing elderly women is not funny. There’s no punch line to this behaviour, and yet this is what passes for a scene in You Don’t Mess with the Zohan. I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry was panned by critics for its stereotypical depiction of homosexuals; however, Joanne Kaufman of the Wall Street Journal believes the film additionally insults “straights, men, women, children, African-Americans, Asians, pastors, mailmen, insurance adjusters, firemen, doctors -- and fans of show music.” It’s shocking to think that the vastly talented Alexander Payne contributed to the screenplay, but it comes as no surprise to learn that Sandler allegedly “Sandlerized” Payne’s initial draft. All in all, these keywords imply that in order to restore some credibility to his name, Sandler may need to work in films where both sexes are given equal representation, and where the jokes are innocent and relatively inoffensive. Being risqué is one thing, but telling the same unfunny joke over and over again is another.  
Looking at Sandler’s upcoming attractions, it looks as though no significant improvement will take place anytime soon. This year will see the release of the comedy That’s My Boy, as well as the animated feature Hotel Transylvania. That’s My Boy is directed by Sean Anders, whose Sex Drive was a raunchy teen road movie with many funny scenes. Regardless, it’s unlikely that this one film, which also stars Andy Samberg, will be the catalyst for a major upheaval in Sandler’s career. The really disappointing news is that a sequel to Grown Ups is scheduled for release in 2013. Dennis Dugan, who has garnered a reputation as the accomplice to Sandler’s downfall, will reprise his role as director.
If this article comes off as harsh, it is only because I am longing to see Mr Sandler explore his full potential. He’s shown glimpses of his capabilities in serious efforts and sweetly sentimental romantic comedies, and it’s a shame his latest films appeal to the lowest common denominator. I miss the old Adam Sandler—the one who fought with Bob Barker in Happy Gilmore; who serenaded Drew Barrymore on a plane in The Wedding Singer; and who had the ambition to star in an art film like Punch-Drunk Love. That was the Adam Sandler I loved.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Shen Wednesday - Calligraffiti

                       An example of Shen Wednesday’s Calligraffiti      Picture: Steven Savona

By Steven Savona

Shen Wednesday is making a mark at the Fairfield City Museum and Gallery with her eclectic fusion of Western and Eastern art.

Her exhibition, Calligraffiti, combines elements of calligraphy and graffiti: styles which are generally seen at opposite ends of the artistic spectrum.

Wednesday has said that the intention of the exhibition is to “display the process and aftermath of what happens when an artist integrates two vastly similar and yet different artistic disciplines.”

Calligraffiti is a fairly recent art form, believed to have been pioneered by Dutch artist, Niels Shoe Meulman, in 2007.

Wednesday’s exhibition gives her the chance to create the precedent for Calligraffiti in Australia.

Museum Coordinator and Education Officer, Carmel Aiello, believes it is refreshing to see such innovative work on display in the gallery.

“It’s the first time we’ve seen this type of work at the gallery,” she said.

The exhibition features a space where patrons can express their own artistic flair, which Ms Aiello believes is a positive sign.

“I think people like the idea that they can actually contribute to the exhibition, rather than being a passive viewer,” she said.

Wednesday is currently studying her PhD on calligraphy and graffiti at the Penrith campus of the University of Western Sydney, where her exhibition has its roots.

After displaying some of her calligraphic works at the university, she allowed students to deface them with spray cans, which planted the seeds for her current exhibition. 

Wednesday believes that art should be a democratic process, and that traditional gallery conventions are too ritualistic.

“Art galleries can be arrogant at times,” she said.

“Sometimes you’ll feel like touching a work because you admire it so much, but you’re not allowed to. You’re allowed to touch my artworks. You can even damage them if you like.”

Wednesday’s attitudes toward art stem from her insistence against perfectionism.

One of her artworks was partially ruined by her pet dog, although this did not deter Wednesday from exhibiting it.

“Most people think that beauty is the most important thing when it comes to art, but not everything has to be perfect. What matters the most about art is truth,” she said.

Wednesday was born in Taiwan, and Calligraffiti is a way of merging her experiences from her homeland with her life in Sydney’s western suburbs.

Ms Aiello believes that this will benefit local residents who come to see the exhibition.

“Shen’s profile fits in with a lot of immigrants living in western Sydney who are trying to incorporate something about their culture into a Western, capitalistic society,” Ms Aiello said.

Wednesday hopes that her exhibition will inspire people (especially young audiences) to create their own art, and convince them that graffiti is not a lowbrow art form.

“Graffiti is more than just spray paint. Tribal rock paintings can be considered as their own form of graffiti, and The Last Supper is a mural,” she said.

“I want to espouse the message that graffiti is not a criminal act. It’s not something you have to sneak off at night to do.”

“Art is not hard. Art is thinking. Art is writing.”

Calligraffiti is on display at the Fairfield City Museum and Gallery until April 28. Admission is free.