Sunday, August 29, 2010

Children of the Revolution

On Thursday evening, I had an audition for the SBS TV game show Letters and Numbers. This game show is based on an original French game show but is commonly known to people in Great Britain as Countdown (I guess the Australian network decided to go with the original French name because there had already been an iconic music show named 'Countdown' for many years and did not want to confuse the average Joe!)

Countdown was the first programme to air on Channel Four when it began in November, 1982 and has become a long-standing favourite of the British public. For those not in the know, it has a simple premise:
Contestants have to pick nine letters, choosing vowels and consonants, and then have 30 seconds to come up with the longest word possible. It's like Scrabble or Boggle for a TV audience. There is also a game involving numbers in which the contestants have six random numbers and have to reach a specific target using only addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. The end of the game, there is a nine-letter 'conundrum' and the fastest person to get it, gets a bonus ten points.

For those who consider themselves above such trivialities, it all seems a bit twee. But for those like myself, who like nothing more than playing word games and solving puzzles, it's a fine source of entertainment.

The audition was fun. I was in a room with a bunch of other nerds and most of them reasonably well dressed, but I assume it's because they had just come from their jobs. As soon as they opened their mouths, the nerd-alert alarm went off. Imagine 'Comic-book Guy' from The Simpsons with an Australian accent.

However, before I go on, may I state categorically that I live freely in this realm of nerd-dom, as any of my friends will be able to attest. I just think I have a little more nouse when it comes to social behaviour than some of the less hygienic members of this put-open inner-society (or do I?)

It was a lovely group of people and the common interest for something a little bit anally retentive was certainly a social solvent of sorts. I always know when I am in the right sort of circles, because they tend to get my humour. It is true to say that the majority of people at my office often look at me blankly when I come out with one of my bizarre witticisms, but I am not exactly high-brow.

I shan't go into great detail, but after my rather poor attempt at the practice quiz, it is sufficient to say I won't get asked onto the show as a contestant.
Maybe I spoiled my chances when, upon referring to my answers on the questionnaire, the following exchange took place...

Interviewer: "Ah, so you want to be a doctor..?"

Ben: (pointing to the exact words on the sheet) "No, The Doctor... from Doctor Who!"

*ahem* That probably didn't go down too well.

On Friday night, my friends had bought me a ticket to see Joss Whedon at the Melbourne Writers' Festival. He was giving a talk at the town hall. I attended with Louise, Adam and Michelle and a horde of nerds, geeks and losers. Whoops, sorry, I didn't mean that last one.

Whilst in the hall and waiting for everybody to take their seats, I did stand up and have a glance around to see if I could find a "Normal" amongst the mass of Hobbits, but I had no luck. It was the largest collection of Minotaur customers in one room ever. ('Minotaur' = pop culture specialists. Think 'Forbidden Planet' if you're in the UK.)

There were some people wearing black, others wearing... black. But some were more inventive and they wore something they made themselves after they accidentally fatally-injured Tim Burton's wardrobe in an X-wing fighter crash.
Thankfully, there weren't too many smelly people there, apart from one man who smelt of used cat litter. Yes, he was sat right in front of me.

Gawd, I love a nerd. I love the way they feel it necessary to dye their hair purple just to prove that they are non-conformists. They even have conventions of purple-haired, black-wearing non-conformists and sit about laughing at the irony.

Some of the crowd went a little bit spastic as the lights dimmed. Initially, I thought they were simply afraid of the dark, but it turns out they were just moistening their knickers in anticipation of their god-like hero entering their midst.

Joss came onto the stage and the crowd went wild. He was interviewed by a suck-up whose neck needed massaging after craning up to the pedestal she put him on throughout the talk (yeah, he's a fantastic bloke, but come on...) and the two people signing away for the deaf members of the audience did a superb job, although it did make me think of the episode 'Hush' from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I was waiting to see what action they did for 'slayer' (see episode for gag).
Isn't it great that they get people to sign at these things. With both of them there flapping away to convey the rapid speech of our entertainers, they also doubled up as handy air-conditioners.

The talk only went for an hour as we had to vacate the hall so the cleaners could mop up the sweat before the following morning.
Still, we all had a great time. It was fascinating to hear Joss talk about his work and his career - it was less exciting to hear the banal questions some audience members asked, apart form the woman who implied Joss was mentally ill. Bless her. I am sure that is not what she meant to say. Though she may be right. He does keep employing Eliza Dushku, after all!

So, nerds. I have to love 'em, for I am one. I love that need to be different, that need to be involved in the things I adore, the need to be special, the need to be absorbed and the need to be needy.

Is this generation of nerds the product of those crazy drugged up Baby-boomers who swanned through the sixties and seventies on drugs and high ideals of peace to all mankind and then fell into the materialistic Eighties with apathy on their minds? These revolutionaries who eventually grew up and produced a whole bunch of kids who yearned to be something different? Are we the children of that revolution?
Or am I just trying desperately to justify my use of the Kirsty MacColl song title in the name of this post? I am such a nerd!

Judge for yourselves.
And while you're at it, go dye your hair purple... it'd be soooo coooool!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Titanic Days

On Thursday evening, I went to the Melbourne Museum with my dear friend Michelle to see the Titanic Exhibition.

I can't deny that part of the reason for attending was so I could use this specific Kirsty MacColl song title for the blog entry.

I met Michelle outside the museum and as we had about ninety minutes to kill prior to our allotted time entry, we went and had a bite to eat at Mrs. Parma's where I had a lovely chicken parmigiana with salsa and jalapenos.

It was quite a filling meal, but at least we were able to walk it off for the rest of the evening. We headed back to the museum...

When you arrive at the exhibition, you get handed a boarding pass with details of a real-life passenger who sailed on the Titanic.

As you can see, I was Mr. David John Barton from Cambridge. I was supposed to have taken another ship, but due to a failed medical exam, I had to wait and catch this ill-fated vessel.
Michelle was Mrs Ida Straus - a rather important character on the boat as she was First Class and one of the 'featured' wealthy passengers in the exhibition. I was, as in life, rather unimportant and insignificant! Still, I made up a story that she and I were having an illicit affair spanning the generations and the classes. I was 22, she was 60-something. Forget Leo & Kate, this was far more raunchy.
Speaking of that atrocious movie, there was not one reference to it. I was so pleased. I had promised Michelle that if I heard the wailing banshee that is Celine Dion at any point in the day, I would scream and possible start punching random people, but thankfully there was no such reaction due to the wonderful absence of such atrocities.

During the tour, you also have the opportunity to have your picture taken to purchase at the end.

Don't we look splendid?

At the end of the tour (prior to the little shop - oh how we love a little shop) there is a wall of names listing those who survived and those who died.
I, apparently, died. But I believe I saved myself with my secret jet-pack.
Michelle died. She stayed behind to be alongside her husband - mad woman! (Not very romantic, am I?)