Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Look At Me - I'm Chili Palmer

I'm reading Elmore Leonard's Get Shorty now, taking a break from the bushrangers thing... although I am still in the middle of writing The True History Of The Kelly Super Gang (see post below below).

I'm loving this book so much. So well written. So deft. Such a perfect balance between cool and funny, and with enough reality in there to make it almost believable. His characters ring true, even the really dumb ones. And I just read that Chili Palmer was based on a real life friend of the author's, Ernest Chili Palmer who made a cameo appearance in the film. The story refers to real Hollywood stars and is about movie making, so knowing there was a real Chili Palmer, you can't help wondering just where the idea for this story came from.

I also can't hep getting very caught up in this book and will read Be Cool, the follow up, next.

Yesterday I was so into it that after the tram had been sitting still for a minute or two, I casually looked up and wondered where we were. Then leapt out of my seat and bolted arm-flappingly to the door because it was my stop. How in the hell did that happen?

And just now... I'm waiting on an email interview for a music festival and the director's answers are not in yet. Deadline is technically yesterday. I'm thinking the way Chili Palmer speaks now and emailed my editor with, "The Castlemaine guys, they haven't got back to me yet. You want I should wack 'em or lean on 'em some more?"

We're emailing in Mob-speak now.

Which in turn got me thinkng... you know how there is International Talk Like A Pirate Day? Well why not an International Talk Like A Mobster Day? The pirate thing doesn't go much further than aaargh me mateys and oim a poirate, but talking like a wiseguy? The possiblities are endless.

Guy behind the counter: "You want what? You come into my joint - a coffee joint - and you ask for a coffee and expect me - a motherfocking barista - to make you a focking coffee. Do you know who I am? Do you have a focking clue what you're dealing with here?"


I wonder how one starts an International Day. I think I'll look into it. I'm thinking February 25th can be International Talk Like A Mobster Day... Happy focking birthday to you... happy focking birthday to you...

Friday, June 17, 2011

Grumpy With Bushrangers


Sometimes when I'm not looking, my brain wanders off to lands weird and whimsical, returning hours later with pocketfuls of fantastically fascinating if incredibly useless information which it is very keen to share with me.

Recently my brain was pondering the tough nature of the humble tow-truck driver. You don't get a tougher job than a tow-truck driver, my brain pondered. Except maybe gladiators. I'm pretty sure a gladiator would beat a tow-truck driver in a fight. But then gladiators lead pretty comfortable lives outside of actual gladiorating. They were well-fed and looked after by their owners so that they could train to stab people in the arena next tournament.

Now Australian bushrangers, on the other hand, were tougher than gladiators and tow-truck drivers. They roughed it and toughed it in the harsh Australian bush. They stole, they had gunfights. They had wit and daring, cold hearts and battle scars... and an astonishing number of them had really flamboyant names.

Sure, there were your regular Ned Kelly's and Ben Halls, but what's with all the ones that sound like they were Baz Lurhman characters?

Guys like Frederick Ward, whose bushranger name was Captain Thunderbolt. Now while Thunderbolt can come across a bit threatening in a Thor, Viking God way, it's highway cred is completely undermined by that Captain bit. When I think of Captain Thunderbolt I can't help but see a guy on a horse – or maybe a pony - in tights and a cape.

But Fred wasn't the only Captain ranging the bush. There was also a Captain Melville, a Captain Moonlight and two... two Captain Starlights.

Okay, so Ned Kelly with his bucket on his head asks me for money, I'm going to give it to him because only a tough, crazy bastard gets around wearing a metal bucket on his head. And his name is tough. It rhymes with dead. There's a subliminal thing going on there.

Captain Melville, on the other hand, he asks for my money and after I stop laughing my arse off I'm just going to tell him to piss off. What a stupid name. His real name was Frank McCallum but he not only decided to go with the Captain routine, he decided to camp it right out with something as silly as Melville... which is a fine name if you're an English professor or an accountant, but a bushranger?

As for Captains Moonlite (real name Andrew George Scott), Starlight (Frank Pearson) and Starlight (Harry Redford)... was someone putting something in the water? Moonlite as in bushranger lite? And did the two Starlights ever run into each other and have a pillow fight over who was the real Starlight? Did they get dressed in their Captain Starlight costumes and have Walk-off challenges like in Zoolander to see which Starlight shined brightest?

As well as giving the colonials a well needed laugh, the Starlights obviously caused some confusion because Harry Redford's full title ended up being “Captain Starlight – The Gentleman Bushranger.”

It's unclear whether he gave this as his full title when robbing people, but you can imagine the scene if he didn't.

Hand over your money, for I am Captain Starlight!”

Okay, but before we do... which Captain Starlight are you?”

Oh not this again. There is only one Captain Starlight. The other one is a mere -”

The other one what?”

The other Captain Starlight. He's a cheap imitation -”

So you admit there are two Captain Starlights?”

All right all right. I'm the gentleman one. I am Captain Starlight, The Gentleman Bushranger. Now please give me your money.”

Oh that's a relief. We were worried that you might be Captain Starlight The Bastard Bushranger...”

And don't even get me started on bushrangers Sam Poo and Jack The Rammer. No, I am not making this up.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011



The new place The Dreaded One and I live in, it's right above a large shopping complex. It's so convenient – run out of anything and it's a quick elevator ride downstairs (why is it still downstairs when it's an elevator ride?). I can be in the local bottle shop before most people can make it to their front gate.

Curiously, though, our downstairs shopping complex has two supermarkets from the same chain. Two Coles, known to us as Good Coles and Not Good Coles because although one minute's walk separates them, one is good and one is, erm, not good. I'm not sure what the differences is exactly... they both play the same crappy music, they both carry the same produce... it's a vibe thing. And the fact that The Person Who Decides Where Stuff Goes in Not Good Coles appears to be a direct descendant of Dali's.

Both stores recently implemented a policy of having a meet-and-greet person at the entrance. Their job is to smile and ask you how you are and hand you a shopping basket.

I'm not sure who thought this was a good idea, but it's a very strange experience. The people doing it are very good about it (although the dude at Not Good Coles is clearly struggling with what he obviously thinks of as the very extreme low-point of this whole stupid life but gives a grudging gesture of faux pleasantness with lips generally reserved for sneering), but you can tell that even the ones at Good Coles know that it's all a bit silly. Nevertheless you make eye contact and smile and tell them you are well and ask how they are as you accept the shopping basket.

Thing is, you get used to it. It's just a done thing. It all becomes almost second nature. It becomes as natural as putting one foot in front of the other. Suddenly there is a new person in your life and their role is to hand you a shopping basket. In its way, it's a change for the better because it takes the pressure off. It's one less thing to think about in our cluttered, busy lives.

But what happens if Shopping Basket Person is not there?

Maybe they're just hanging out outside getting a lung cancer hit. Maybe they've quit. Maybe... look I don't know where they are, all I know is they are not here and I don't know what to do. Usually they are here with the handles on the top baskets turned perkily up in anticipation of being handed from Shopping Basket Person to the grateful shopper. But they are not here and what happens next? The whole system has crashed. What next? What next? The confusion is overwhelming. How does the shopping basket get all the way into my hand if Shopping Basket Person is not there to ensure that this very complex process runs smoothly?

I move in confused circles. I desperately look for Shopping Basket Person. I flap my arms a bit. I scratch my head. The handles on the shopping baskets have not even been turned up. Is this a sign? Am I not allowed to take a shopping basket until someone with appropriate skills turns up to rectify the situation? Or do I go to the front counter and alert Front Counter Person that Shopping Basket Person has gone MIA. Or AWOL. Or both MIA and AWOL at the same time. Perhaps Good Coles is losing customers to Not Good Coles because they cannot cope with the confusion this... this... this crisis has brought on?

I'm sending this dispatch from my phone whilst stranded at the deserted shopping basket post. There have been no further developments. I feel weary. Please send help or I fear I may have to abandon the operation and make my way to Not Good Coles...

Grumpy is freelance writer Lee Bemrose ( He thinks the meet-and-greet thing would be much more successful if they replaced Shopping Basket Person with Hundred Dollar Note Person.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Elmore Leonard Versus Barbara Cartland

I'm reading Elmore Leonard's Get Shorty at the moment. It's an excellent book, or at least what's on the inside is excellent. But the cover... what were they thinking? The issue I have (even camper than the one in the link) is various hues of pink and pastel blue with his name in shiny shiny gold. I'm almost embarrassed to be seen reading it on the tram each morning. I'm forced to whisper to the person sitting oppsite, "Elmore Leonard... not Barbara Cartland." Then a little louder to those sitting around or standing up in the aisle, "Definitely NOT Barbara Cartland, people - it's tough funny guy Elmore Leonard, okay?"

Also, I checked a rarely used email account yesterday and found this email from music journo Cyclone:

"Hey Lee!
I was given your contact by the 3D peepz.

You'll have heard that sadly 3D World is folding ( I've been assigned to write a cover story on its history for the final edition (arghh). Of course, it's all come up late and after the usual official deadline (you know how street press is!) so it's been a mad scramble to find and contact people who may be up for a quote or two!

Anyway I was wondering if you would be up for answering any of the questions below given your iconic role as Grumpy?

I'd so appreciate it!

The plan is to slam something together tonight so if you can even answer a couple below, that would rock!



The email was sent three weeks ago. I totally missed out. It's like Marlon Brando said in On The Waterfront, "I coulda been a someone... I coulda been iconic instead of just a schmuck, which let's face it, I am." Something like that.