Thursday, January 26, 2006

napoleon dynamite

I watched Napoleon Dynamite last night. Made for just $400,000 by an Idahoan film student, it grossed $44.5 million in the US alone. It came to my attention because the Moonlight Cinema in the Botanical Gardens are declaring it to be the new cult hit, bigger than Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, which is one of the best films ever in my opinion. The State of Idaho were so proud, they passed a resolution commending the directors Jared and Jerusha Hess for the production of their film. The text of the resolution is below, and is a testament to positivity, and not a little parochialism.

napoleon dynamite


Fifty-eighth Legislature First Regular Session – 2005





Be It Resolved by the Legislature of the State of Idaho:

WHEREAS, the State of Idaho recognizes the vision, talent and creativity of Jared and Jerusha Hess in the writing and production of “Napoleon Dynamite”; and

WHEREAS, the scenic and beautiful City of Preston, County of Franklin and the State of Idaho are experiencing increased tourism and economic growth; and

WHEREAS, filmmaker Jared Hess is a native Idahoan who was educated in the Idaho public school system; and

WHEREAS, the Preston High School administration and staff, particularly the cafeteria staff, have enjoyed notoriety and worldwide attention; and

WHEREAS, tater tots figure prominently in this film thus promoting Idaho’s most famous export; and

WHEREAS, the friendship between Napoleon and Pedro has furthered multiethnic relationships; and

WHEREAS, Uncle Rico’s football skills are a testament to Idaho athletics; and

WHEREAS, Napoleon’s bicycle and Kip’s skateboard promote better air quality and carpooling as alternatives to fuel-dependent methods of transportation; and

WHEREAS, Grandma’s trip to the St. Anthony Sand Dunes highlights a long-honored Idaho vacation destination; and

WHEREAS, Rico and Kip’s Tupperware sales and Deb’s keychains and glamour shots promote entrepreneurism and self-sufficiency in Idaho’s small towns; and

WHEREAS, Napoleon’s artistic rendition of Trisha is an example of the importance of the visual arts in K-12 education; and

WHEREAS, the schoolwide Preston High School student body elections foster an awareness in Idaho’s youth of public service and civic duty; and

WHEREAS, the “Happy Hands” club and the requirement that candidates for school president present a skit is an example of the importance of theater arts in K-12 education; and

WHEREAS, Pedro’s efforts to bake a cake for Summer illustrate the positive connection between culinary skills to lifelong relationships; and

WHEREAS, Kip’s relationship with LaFawnduh is a tribute to e-commerce and Idaho’s technology-driven industry; and

WHEREAS, Kip and LaFawnduh’s wedding shows Idaho’s commitment to healthy marriages; and

WHEREAS, the prevalence of cooked steak as a primary food group pays tribute to Idaho’s beef industry; and

WHEREAS, Napoleon’s tetherball dexterity emphasizes the importance of physical education in Idaho public schools; and

WHEREAS, Tina the llama, the chickens with large talons, the 4-H milk cows, and the Honeymoon Stallion showcase Idaho’s animal husbandry; and

WHEREAS, any members of the House of Representatives or the Senate of the Legislature of the State of Idaho who choose to vote “Nay” on this concurrent resolution are “FREAKIN’ IDIOTS!” and run the risk of having the “Worst Day of Their Lives!”

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the members of the First Regular Session of the Fifty-eighth Idaho Legislature, the House of Representatives and the Senate concurring therein, that we commend Jared and Jerusha Hess and the City of Preston for showcasing the positive aspects of Idaho’s youth, rural culture, education system, athletics, economic prosperity and diversity.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we, the members of the House of Representatives and the Senate of the State of Idaho, advocate always following your heart, and thus we eagerly await the next cinematic undertaking of Idaho’s Hess family.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Chief Clerk of the House of Representatives be, and she is hereby authorized and directed to forward a copy of this resolution to Jared and Jerusha Hess, the Mayor of the City of Preston and the Principal of Preston High School.

Statement of Purpose / Fiscal Impact


RS 15236

The purpose of this resolution is to recognize and commend Jared and Jerusha Hess for their cinematic talents by which they have increased the nation’s awareness of Idaho.

You really have to have seen the film for any of that to make sense to you, but if only we could all take the time and make the effort to see the good in things, and to praise and encourage good where it is found, even amongst evil, we’d be closer to the Kingdom.

What I found funny about the film wasn’t so much the characters (who were mostly awkward, though not unnaturally so), but the reminder that there are these kind of people in the world. I know, because I grew up with them. This film makes them endearing.

I’m not going to say it’s the best film I’ve ever seen, but any film that makes a state legislature pass a motion such as “WHEREAS, any members of the House of Representatives or the Senate of the Legislature of the State of Idaho who choose to vote “Nay” on this concurrent resolution are ‘FREAKIN’ IDIOTS!’ and run the risk of having the ‘Worst Day of Their Lives!’” is a pretty darn good thing.

Friday, January 20, 2006

what the...?

There I was, innocently listening to the radio in the car. Ross Noble and some other chick were hosting, and since I think Ross is rather funny, was enjoying the show. Then I hear the announcer say, “You’re on Triple J with Terri Psiakis and Ross Noble.”

All of a sudden I’m back in primary school. I’m the smartest kid in the class, but also one of the most unpopular (just in front of the smelly kid who carries his mouldy, 6-month-old school lunch around in his bag, but just behind the foreign kid)...but it’s my being smart that defines me to everyone else, probably myself included. My only rival: Terri Psiakis. She knows every answer just like me, she’s in the advanced group that meets to do macrame on a Wednesday afternoon (why, I still don’t know). She’s been in my class every year, despite there being three classes of my grade that are shuffled each year. As usual, it’s her difference that defines her to the rest of us; she’s Greek, with a slight moustache well ahead of any of us boys. For some reason I assumed it was her ethnicity that made her smart; she’s more cultured, or has a head start because foreign kids learn faster or something. At an age where girls are the enemy (girl germs’ll kill yer quicker than a taipan’s bite) she’s as close to a female friend I could have. She’s quiet, but confident; probably a little more mature than the rest of us. But she’s got brains to spare, and she pushes me every inch of the way.

Fast forward to the present: she’s a stand up comedian and DJ on Triple J.

I’d seen her on RoveLive a while back, but it never occurred to me to follow it up. Apparently she’s writing regularly for RoveLive and has a Triple J spot as well as a bunch of other things. It just strikes me as bizarre that someone you only ever knew as a kid grew up and ended up in comedy for a living. That’s one of the strange things about comedy I guess – it’s not really predictable. Had we had yearbooks, she probably would’ve been voted “most likely to succeed”, but “least likely to be a stand up comedian”.

On second thought, that mantle probably would’ve gone to me.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

animal vengeance

My father-in-law introduced me to this remarkable fly catcher. It’s the most effective thing I’ve ever seen. It’s basically just a jar with a couple of small holes in the top and a cover sitting about a half inch above the holes. Then you put some of the liquid attractant in the jar and watch it fill up with flies. The flies crawl in there and can’t get out, so they eventually drown in the liquid. In this way, in a mere two weeks, I have caught and killed hundreds and hundreds of flies; in fact, the jar is almost full. Here’s a picture of it:

fly catcher

You might not realise this but with the dry weather over the last couple of years, flies have bred in much greater numbers than usual so we are experiencing a massive overdose of them, even more than usual. Killing a female saves 500 of them being born. So I have no moral compunctions about removing a few from circulation, especially in my backyard.

Anyway, the upshot of all this was that a couple of days ago, as I stood ankle deep in the Edward River in Deniliquin, I accidentally swallowed a fly. Let me assure you that there was no chewing involved, I just completely sucked it into my throat as I breathed in. Before I realised what had happened, it was gone, down my gullet, and no amount of hacking and coughing would bring it back again.

And then immediately (well, after yelling ‘eeeuww! eeuuwww! eeeeuuww!”), I thought: maybe this is revenge for my fly catcher. I mean, is it possible? Could the flies have sat down together and decided that something had to be done about this guy, and asked for a volunteer for a kamikaze mission? Could it be that this fly had put his disgusting, disease-ridden little hand up, and said “I’ll do it!” to the proud applause of the entire fly population?

Then something else started to eat at me (pardon the pun): do insects count as meat to a vegetarian? Can I still consider myself a vegetarian now? Does meat only count when it’s eaten deliberately, or would you lose your vegetarian status if you accidentally tripped and swallowed a sirloin steak in a restaurant?

Anyway, the whole idea of animal vengeance was recalled to my mind by the following story, which was reported here:

Blazing mouse sets fire to house

A US man who threw a mouse onto a pile of burning leaves could only watch in horror as it ran into his house and set the building ablaze.

Luciano Mares, 81, of Fort Sumner, New Mexico, found the mouse in his home and wanted to get rid of it.

“I had some leaves burning outside, so I threw it in the fire, and the mouse was on fire and ran back at the house,” he was quoted as saying by AP.

Though no-one was injured, the house and everything in it was destroyed.

“I’ve seen numerous house fires, but nothing as unique as this one,” Fire Department Captain Jim Lyssy said.

New Mexico has seen several major blazes after unseasonably dry and windy conditions which have destroyed 10 homes and devastated more than 53,000 acres (21,200 hectares) of land.

Oh, and for what it’s worth: the fly did not taste like chicken.

*** edit ***

I just discovered this in today’s Age:

Man breaks leg while kicking spider

January 12, 2006 – 2:15PM

A 19-year-old broke his leg in two places while kicking at a spider in the NSW Southern Highlands.

NRMA CareFlight said the teenager was flown to Liverpool Hospital in a stable condition from a property 25km west of Mittagong after the incident involving a large huntsman spider before 1pm (AEDT) today.

The force of the man’s kick at the spider broke his right leg in two places and also killed the spider.

The Huntsman is listed by the Australian Museum as being a relatively harmless species, although the Badge Huntsman can cause pain, headache, vomiting and an irregular pulse.

I’m telling you – it’s an epidemic. The animals are fighting back.

born in the USA

One of my Christmas presents was The Essential Bruce Springsteen three cd compilation. It stretches over his whole career to this date, more than 20 years of music.

One of the songs that struck me afresh was ‘Born in the USA’. I was introduced to this song when it first came out in the mid 80s, and I have strong memories of the album cover, the one with the picture of his butt in blue jeans with a red cap hanging out of the pocket, and the US flag as a backdrop.

born in usa

The repeated chorus of “Born in the USA” combined with that album cover and the growing American confidence in their victory in the Cold War gave this song a powerfully pro-American slant for me. It just seemed to scream jingoistic US patriotism.

So it wasn’t until the weekend that I actually listened to the words:

Born down in a dead man’s town
The first kick I took was when I hit the ground
You end up like a dog that’s been beat too much
‘Til you spend half your life just covering up

Born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.

I got in a little hometown jam
And so they put a rifle in my hands
Sent me off to Vietnam
To go and kill the yellow man

Born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.

Come back home to the refinery
Hiring man says “Son if it was up to me”
I go down to see the V.A. man
He said “Son don’t you understand”

Born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.

I had a buddy at Khe Sahn
Fighting off the Viet Cong
They’re still there, he’s all gone
He had a little girl in Saigon
I got a picture of him in her arms

Down in the shadow of the penitentiary
Out by the gas fires of the refinery
I’m ten years down the road
Nowhere to run, ain’t got nowhere to go

I’m a long gone Daddy in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
I’m a cool rocking Daddy in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.

‘Born in the USA’, it turns out, is dripping with a melancholy sarcasm. Forced into the army, and sent off to fight on behalf of his country, he returns to find that his country no longer wants him, and all of the patriotic zeal with which he was reassured is for naught. What his country stands for – freedom, opportunity – is denied him despite his risking his life for its cause.

But the reference to Khe Sanh caused me to reflect on that other (less officially recognised) patriotic song, although this time Australian – Cold Chisel’s Khe Sanh. It’s been called Australia’s ‘unofficial national anthem’ (and let’s face it, it’s no more or less appropriate than ‘Waltzing Matilda’, a song about a suicidal thief). But lest we think that Americans are the only ones who are sucked in by jingoistic patriotism, let’s check the words of Cold Chisel’s offering:

I left my heart to the sappers round Khe Sanh
And my soul was sold with my cigarettes to the blackmarket man
I’ve had the Vietnam cold turkey
From the ocean to the Silver City
And it’s only other vets could understand

About the long forgotten dockside guarantees
How there were no V-dayheroes in 1973
How we sailed into Sydney Harbour
Saw an old friend but couldn’t kiss her
She was lined, and I was home to the lucky land

And she was like so many more from that time on
Their lives were all so empty, till they found their chosen one
And their legs were often open
But their minds were always closed
And their hearts were held in fast suburban chains

And the legal pads were yellow, hours long, paypackets lean
And the telex writers clattered where the gunships once had been
But the car parks made me jumpy
And I never stopped the dreams
Or the growing need for speed and novacaine

So I worked across the country end to end
Tried to find a place to settle down, where my mixed up life could mend
Held a job on an oil-rig
Flying choppers when I could
But the nightlife nearly drove me round the bend

And I’ve travelled round the world from year to year
And each one found me aimless, one more year the worse for wear
And I’ve been back to South East Asia
But the answer sure ain’t there
But I’m drifting north, to check things out again

You know the last plane out of Sydney’s almost gone
Only seven flying hours, and I’ll be landing in Hong Kong
There ain’t nothing like the kisses
From a jaded Chinese princess
I’m gonna hit some Hong Kong mattress all night long

Well the last plane out of Sydney’s almost gone
Yeah the last plane out of Sydney’s almost gone
And it’s really got me worried
I’m goin’ nowhere and I’m in a hurry
And the last plane out of Sydney’s almost gone

Again, the same story. The sentiments “Nowhere to run, ain’t got nowhere to go” and “I’m goin’ nowhere and I’m in a hurry” are almost identical. Two songs that have been co-opted as patriotic jingles, neither of which fit that mould in the slightest. In fact, both of them are scathing in their assessment of their country of origin – and both as a result of their citizens’ reactions to Vietnam War veterans. I found this to be a fascinating parallelism, not only because of the way it demonstrates that songs can be co-opted or misappropriated (deliberately or by ignorance), but also because one of our members is a son of a Vietnam Vet who has gone through a very similar experience, and it has affected not only his life, but that of his children in a very deep and profound way.

All of this sits awkwardly with the current political climate, with Born in the USA potentially traitorous under the US Patriot Act, and Khe Sanh potentially undermining the state according to the new Australian sedition laws. We would do well to let these songs sit as they were originally intended – as critical commentaries on the injustices prevalent in two of the most advanced democracies in the world. And we should encourage more critical commentary, always being wary of how such commentary can be co-opted by blind patriotism.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

must be the monobrow

I always suspected it’d be Bert rather than Ernie.

In searching Bert and Ernie online for my daughter (she’s a big fan) I found this. Apparently a guy did a bunch of photoshopped pictures of Bert for a joke site, and this was among them:


But then somehow a bunch of Bin Laden supporters ended up with that picture on their sign (look closely at the bottom right). No-one seems to know how, but it’s darn funny.