COVID-19 DIARY – THE TEDDY BEAR LADY

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Pia who came all the way from Guangzhou airport with me in 2018. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

Ladies and gentlemen we have a very special guest writer on my blog today. 

My wife Karen was a published freelance writer long before I was.

A speech pathologist by trade she once wrote to national magazine New Idea as part of a competition.

The gig was to write about a dream coming true and the winning submission would be published in the magazine.

Karen shrewdly wrote that her dream was to be published in New Idea.

Karen won and was published and it was not the first or last time she has featured in such magazines or won big competitions. 

But I digress, here is my wonderful wife and a much better writer – Karen!

-Lloyd Marken

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Just some cool dudes chilling. Copyright Karen Marken.

 

Bear Blog- Bears Out on a Limb

 

Please bear with me…I am not the usual blogger. My wonderful husband Lloyd has kindly invited me to be a guest contributor on his Covid-19 diary and share with you our involvement to date in a community unifying event called Operation Bear Hunt.

On the 31st March 2020, I learned via social media of a wonderful joyful iso craze sweeping the US. All across the States, people were placing teddy bears in their windows as a show of solidarity.

The idea, based on Michael Rosen’s popular children’s book Going on a Bear Hunt, was that children and parents out on their daily walk would keep a look out for teddy bears and count how many they saw.

Well, I thought, I have a few bears. I could do that here.

Turns out I have more than a few teddies and other stuffed toys. At last count I had 46 and as I declutter I keep unearthing more! It is nice to finally have a good use for them. Our house is on beautiful tree lined street next to a set of shops so there is a lot of pedestrian traffic. In addition to displaying bears in our windows, I utilised the fig trees and brick wall in our front yard by placing bears and other animals of varying sizes and colours in positions that small children will be to spot easily. Not all my bears made the cut. Some were too precious or fragile. For example, due to his polystyrene innards, Fernando the bull (pictured) was deemed not suitable for fig tree duties. Instead he has taken pride of place on our balcony where he chills out daily enjoying the lovely fresh air.

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Fernando the bull. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

Once I had placed the bears, all we had to do was sit back and wait for the fun to begin. It was not long before excited shouts of “Ooh look there’s a teddy! There’s another one!” filled the air (and that was just the adults). Our initial success continued on Day 2 of Operation Bear Hunt with delighted people of all ages admiring each bear and taking photos to share on social media. I don’t know who was enjoying it more: the children, their parents or me. No wait.. it was definitely me!

Being involved in Operation Bear Hunt has been so much fun and I heartily recommend others become involved in whatever capacity they can. My teddy bear displays are not quite as imaginative as some we have seen on the internet involving elaborate and topical setups. However we are consistent and have hopefully inspired other more creative teddy bear arrangers in our suburb.  Every day, for about 6 weeks now, the bears go out early and stay out late to catch the first and last pedestrians of the day. I’m not sure if or when we will call it quits. Our appreciative audience shows no signs of getting sick of us.

Overall community feedback has been resoundingly positive.  The sole criticism came early on day 3 when a little boy was overheard to shout “What are these bears doing here? Who has put all these stuffed toys everywhere?”  He sounded most indignant!  I couldn’t stop laughing. Luckily his parents explained the function of the bears. Ever since, this particular little boy has been our biggest supporter and an ardent teddy fan counting and describing each bear in detail as he whizzes past our house on his scooter.

Participation in Operation Bear Hunt has not been without it’s challenges. Weather is a factor. Occasionally gusts of wind have turned the teddies into famous Aussie drop bears ready to suddenly jump out of the figs and onto the heads of unsuspecting tourists. One day “the teddy bears” slept in and I felt like the biggest meanie in the world as I overheard a child sigh to her father “No teddies today”. Both parent and child looked so dejected I resolved to put out even more teddies the following day.

Bringing the bears in at night has become quite the covert operation. One evening I ventured out at sunset. After looking both ways, I collected half the bears then heard a family approaching. Quickly, I ducked behind a tree then ran around the side of my house hiding from view until they had passed by and I could safely resume my collection. Despite my best attempts to retain an air of mystery though I have had a couple of neighbours stop and ask me if I am the teddy bear lady. When I reply that “yes I am”,  they then let me know how much they are enjoying the teddy bears and how much all the children in our neighbourhood love the teddies.

Well that is about all from me for now so on behalf of the teddies I wish you all a Beary Good Night. Peace and Love, Karen aka “the teddy bear lady”.

-Karen Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – WHEN WILL THE WEST CREST? – PART II

Coronavirus latest: Spain sees single-day record 849 deaths ...

I entered a new normal working from home 30MAR2020 to 03APR2020.

I hoped as we got used to the restrictions and new way of life, anxiety about the unknown and stocked items would not run low.

I hoped our nerves would hold and Australia would flatten the curve.

At the same time I worried what the hell would unfold in the UK where I have family and in America things seemed to be escalating fast.

30 March

On the 30th of March in Australia, the government announced the new Jobkeeper program as part of a $130billion stimulus package aimed at subsidising businesses to retain their employees while work slowed down or shut down.

In the United Kingdom Prince Charles announced he was out of isolation.

In America, a field hospital is built in Central Park and another hospital arrives too.

There is a ship that was built as an oil tanker back in 1976.

Eleven years later she was delivered to the United States Navy and became a 70,000 tonne displacing 272 metre long hospital ship called the UNSN Comfort.

She has served America and the world ever since.

The Persian Gulf War and the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Various humanitarian missions through Latin America in response to natural disasters, building greater partnerships or as part of military operations.

Perhaps most poignantly the USNS Comfort has been activated in support of America herself following the attacks of September 11, 2001 and Hurricane Katrina.

Almost two decades after she came to the aid of NYC she sailed into New York harbour once again and as Stephen Colbert put it and into our hearts.

The Navy Tried To Retire Its Two Huge COVID-19 Fighting Hospital ...

 

31 March

Pubs in the United Kingdom pivot their businesses with the economic lockdown. Their distilleries begin to produce hand sanitiser for the Metropolitan Police.

Pubs like The Distillery on Portobello Road in Notting Hill.

The Distillery, The Ginstitute & Portobello Road Gin – The ...

It follows closer to home Bundaberg Rum and Beenleigh Rum distilleries doing the same here in Queensland.

Or media companies 3D printing face masks in Canada.

There are many other examples of people going out of their way to help and try to help their businesses stay alive.

I was certainly consuming a lot more news which we all were.

The national broadcaster ABC did a fantastic piece following the narrative of COVID-19 developing in Australia over the month of March with their show Four Corners which uploaded to YouTube 30MAR2020.

Their program Foreign Correspondent uploaded an episode to YouTube 31MAR2020 as well which covered the early measures and successes of Singapore’s response. Yet already Singapore numbers were going up and so were the restrictions.

At the end of March the WHO reported the following numbers in these countries.

In New Zealand there were 600 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 48. There was one dead reported on the 29th of March, 2020.

In Singapore there were 879 cases with a daily increase of 75. There were three deaths in the country so far with the first two reported on the 20th of March, 2020.

In India there were 1,251 with a daily increase of 180. The number of dead were 32 with a daily increase of three.

In Australia there were 4,557 cases with a daily increase of 312. There were 19 deaths with a daily increase of 1.

In Canada there were 6,317 cases with a daily increase of 662. There were 66 deaths with a daily increase of five.

In the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland there were 22,145 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 2,619. The number of dead were 1,408 with a daily increase of 180.

In Iran there were 44,606 with a daily increase of 3,111. The number of dead were 2,898 with a daily increase of 141.

In Germany there were 61,913 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 4,615. There were 583 dead with a daily increase of 128.

Medical staff from Jilin Province (in red) hug nurses from Wuhan after the Covid-19 lockdown was lifted, 8 April 2020

In China the WHO reported 82,545 with a daily increase of 90. About the same daily increase as normal in this time frame. The death toll was reported at 3,314 with a daily increase of four.

In Spain 85,195 cases with a daily increase of 6,398. The number of dead 7,340 with a daily increase of 812.

In Italy 101,739 cases with a daily increase of 4,050. The number of dead had reached 11,591 with a daily increase of 810.

In the United States of America there were 140,640 cases with a daily increase of 17,987. The dead toll stood at 2,398 with a daily increase of 286.

Globally we passed over 750,000 confirmed cases and reached 36,522 dead.

In my neck of the woods something significant was about to happen which will be covered in my next blog with a guest writer – my lovely wife Karen. I hope you will enjoy.

-Lloyd Marken

 

 

 

COVID-19 DIARY – WHEN WILL THE WEST CREST?

 

When will the first wave crest in the West and subside?

When will the second wave come and will we be ready?

Most of the news has been centred around the pandemic sweeping through America and Europe, at least in my part of the world.

I have spared a thought about what happens when COVID-19 takes off in the third world and specifically the continent of Africa.

A continent that was ripped apart by the AIDS epidemic and has suffered famine and genocide in my lifetime several times.

I worry about the third world but I worry even more currently about the United States of America.

On the 29th of March President Donald Trump tweeted and mentioned in press conferences that he had gotten bigger ratings than The Bachelor for his press briefings. His argument being that while there were those who would like him to not participate or to not have them due to the misinformation he provides regularly, the fact that they rated so well was a reflection of the people’s voice winning out.

This was at a time when modelling suggested America could see a death toll at close to 200,000 in the next two or three weeks. The disease was peaking in the United States of America and emergency and health care workers were stretched beyond capacity.

And this fuckbag was talking about ratings!

Associated Press: New York residents urged to avoid travel as ...

There was a concern about not enough PPE for health care workers which could lead to many of them becoming sick comprising the system’s effectiveness. There was a concern about not enough ventilators, that more people would die than needed to.

Trump went on the offensive musing why New York hospitals suddenly needed 300,000 masks when they previously used 10,000. “So I think people should check that, because there’s something going on, whether – I don’t think it’s hoarding, I think it’s maybe worse than hoarding. But check it out.

While Governor Cuomo had also cited concerns there have been some thefts of masks. The answer was to Trump’s wonderment at the change in numbers was due to the increased workload and that such items have limited use if good hygiene is to be maintained.

Of the crisis in coastal elite states it is true that the horrific numbers forecast at the time have been reached yet weeks later.

Manufacturing recalibrated with lightning speed to help in a time of need, forgotten stocks of PPE were located and ferried where needed.

Yet hard decisions were made, we are just in the beginning of finding out just what was lost and what could have been done better. I have no doubt the blame will not rest with one man.

History decides who was a good leader. History also gets re-evaluated. There are critics of Churchill and Roosevelt too. Yet history tells us they won the war so they’re remembered the way they are. Right now history is being written about Donald Trump.

Can COP21 Save the World? - Pacific Standard

On the 29th of March, 2020 the World Health Organisation reported in the United States of America 103,321 cases with a daily increase of 18,093 cases in one day breaking into six figures. The death toll in America was 1,668 with a daily increase of 425.

In Australia the WHO reported the same day 3,966 confirmed cases with an increase of 331. There were 16 deaths with a daily increase of two.

It had been a long week and a long day for the leaders of Australia.

There was a press briefing that Sunday night following a National Cabinet Meeting. The Prime Minister looked visibly tired even if he remained resolute. The Press Briefing took place inside Parliament House due to the hour and definitely had the look of a late night meeting.

In it the Prime Minister Scott Morrison talked about new measures including advice for gatherings to be limited to two people outside of households. And yes this was the day he advised that his wife Jenny Morrison had gone out to get jigsaw puzzles as they were going to be essential around the house going forward.

I am not ashamed to say it, I was moved.

I felt at that moment that we had not moved fast enough in shutting down. I was aware of an ever increasing danger. I worried for those that I loved and I worried for people I’d never met.

The rate of increase was down slightly in Australia but I guess I was thinking about all 8 billion of us on a rock floating in space.

I was thinking we can only try to get through this and do the best we can and here was someone doing that and he was my Prime Minister goddamnit.

His somewhat flawed traits blunted by his fatigue, his defiant strength to be even more highly regarded given what we faced.

Here was a leader.

-Lloyd Marken

 

 

COVID-19 DIARY – QUEENSLANDERS DECIDE WHETHER TO VOTE?

Coronavirus: Queensland faces slow count in local elections

For the past few years Karen has worked near our house on local and state election days.

Local council elections were set to take place on Saturday, March 28.

Not exactly an issue one month earlier when people cannot directly return from China, South Korea and Iran.

Not exactly an issue two weeks earlier when the Prime Minister was still hoping to go see his Sharkies and toilet paper could not be found on the shelf at your local IGA.

Yet very much an issue on the 28th as people weighed up the safety of anything that reeked of a large group of people coming together in one area over a long day.

Karen had worked at this polling station over a few years and traffic is low there comparatively at a few thousand but that now seemed an awful lot to me.

I believed it was up to Karen to make the decision for herself and so Karen worked and I made sure that I went and voted at that station too.

I am still not sure how I feel about that.

In Australia voting is compulsory with voter turnout often around 90-92%.

In developed nations Australia is fairly unique in this sense.

In the United Kingdom for example it is not compulsory and voter turnout has dropped over recent decades.

In America where it decides not local politicians but prosecutors and sheriffs, voting is often made by 55-65% of the populace.

In Tasmania local elections are not compulsory, are done purely by postal voting and under certain circumstances can be e-mailed. In that state where the people regularly and consistently vote by at least 90% for state and federal elections, the voter turnout for elections that have the convenience of postal voting drops to 65% consistently.

This strongly suggests Australians vote because they believe they have to.

In the lead-up to elections Australians can pre-poll vote by attending set-up polling stations in the days ahead of an election.

They can also opt for a postal vote but cannot request one past a certain deadline.

Pre-poll voting started on the 16th of March with an increased demand leading to extended opening hours.

Applications for postal voting closed at 7pm the same day but additional options were given for people to lodge applications by email and extra print services were secured to increase demand for ballot papers.

Increased staff were employed and opening hours increased at call centres and polling stations to meet unprecedented demand.

Even so on the 25th of March the Electoral Commission Queensland advised “Telephone voting is a limited service specifically for our most vulnerable and isolated citizens.

The ECQ has increased capacity ten-fold to help extend the service to people who have been advised to self-isolate as a result of COVID-19.  

However, the telephone voting service is experiencing unprecedented demand, including people who are not eligible for a telephone vote, jeopardising the availability of the service for those who most need it.

Most electors are able to vote in person and precautions are being taken to ensure voting is quick and safe.

Also if postal voters had not received their ballots they could still vote early or on election day.

On the 26th of March Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young advised “we know, due to our fantastic pre-polling arrangements, and with the way Queenslanders have responded, and with the postal vote process, with all of that the number of Queenslanders left to vote by Saturday will be relatively small”.

You can see why some of the 3.2 million eligible voters in Queensland were still angry.

As election day dawned there was a lot of chatter on social media by people who insisted they would not vote and they would not pay a fine. Local elections carry the largest fines for not voting in Australia

Some found polling stations to be less time consuming with less contact with people than going to a supermarket. Others did not.

I went down around midday, I lined up outside the building where two voting staff were present to ensure social distancing but there was no one there.

I went inside and got ticked off by my wife.

I picked up a pencil and voted over a station. Then I dropped them in a cardboard box and placed my pencil in a bucket of sanitised water and left.

Full disclosure I have worked for the ECQ twice in the past four years at their call centres and enjoyed my time there.

I believe in voting, I even believe in compulsory voting and I believe that a lot of people were looking for an excuse not to vote.

But I also felt fear that day, fear for my wife and fear that we were making a mistake.

I believe more should have been done.

They could’ve opened up the dates to complete telephone or postal voting.

There are logistics and laws involved that may have needed changing and I suppose the medial advice has played out and the danger has passed but for many Queenslanders the fact that these elections went ahead will remain a travesty.

It will be interesting to see how fines are issued and enforced in the months ahead.

Voter turnout on election day was 750,000 or 75%.

Telephone voting was made by 34,000 people.

570,000 postal votes were distributed.

1.2 million Queensland did pre-poll voting.

On the 28th of March, there were 625 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Queensland.

20200328_210824
Copyright Lloyd Marken.

I picked up Karen later that night and we drove to a local Italian place we love called Marinara to pick up dinner. The business often bustling took my order close to 9pm and handed us a free dessert for our patronage during the economic downturn.

They make fantastic pizza and pasta but a local business is something more personal than how good they are at what they do.

In this simple exchange both of us were gesturing we wanted to be there for each other.

Not a bad sentiment in these times.

-Lloyd Marken

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The view while waiting for Karen. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

 

COVID-19 DIARY – SHUT IT DOWN! – PART V

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Coronation drive on the 16APR2020. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

 

27 March

On Friday morning I arrived early for work and made my way to Toowong Village.

The night before I had gone to Coles after work and found no toilet paper, napkins, hand towels or wipes of any kind. I mentioned this to my wife who had taken precautions weeks earlier but had told me there was no pasta.

The next morning as I was walking in past 8am I saw a young man dressed for the office carrying a pack of toilet paper and nothing else.

As I neared the escalator I saw an older gentleman pushing a shopping trolley with a few items but most predominantly a pack of toilet paper. He also looked like he might be on his way to work, not home.

It kind of amused me to know I was not alone in my thinking.

There was still quite a few packs of toilet paper all restocked from the day before in Coles. I picked up a packet, my lunch and a packet of Coles brand pasta. Already the pasta was running low.

I picked up my local coffee from Stellarossa who were now purely doing take-away orders. All the tables and chairs sat at on any usual morning now upturned and pushed against corners. I left a tip and said I may not be around so much but wished them well.

Then I headed into the office.

This was the same day that the Prime Minister of Great Britain Boris Johnson was confirmed as having COVID-19.

It was a relatively normal day, late in the afternoon it was confirmed that I was getting my wish. I and most of our workforce would be working from home having as a whole organisation worked to make it possible in the preceding days.

There were a small amount of people who were to remain.

As the day went on I concentrated on my work, there wasn’t a lot of time to be wistful but I did think a little of how much I would miss the place and its people.

 

 

As I finished for the day I walked over to some windows that overlook Coronation drive and the river. I grew up on the southside of Brisbane, not the West. It’s a nice view though and I wanted to take a look at it in case it was a while before I saw it again.

I felt the same way about all the desks and fluorescent lights and the people I worked with.

On the way out I said good evening to the Director. On television it was being announced that returning Australians from overseas were going to be quarantined in hotels upon arrival.

The media was excited by the fact that soldiers would be involved but not much to my surprise it was a simple exercise in manpower with none of the soldiers armed but simply providing coverage for law enforcement.

On the drive home I listened to Kennedy Molloy on the radio.

https://omny.fm/shows/triple-m-national-drive/special-mick-jane-phone-in-on-denise-scott-to-chec

On the 27th of March, 2020 the WHO reported 2,985 cases in Australia with a daily increase of 186. There were 14 deaths with a daily increase of one.

We had locked the country down and were headed to a new normal but in Queensland local council elections were going ahead across the state the next day and my wife would be involved.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – SHUT IT DOWN! – PART IV

Coronavirus: Traffic jams on Gold Coast as Queensland shuts borders

25 March

Wednesday was the first day I worked from home.

I’m used to working in my apartment late at night writing stories to meet deadlines. There is no air-conditioning in our house and during the seven months of summer it gets quite hot and uncomfortable in front of the laptop. The sweat of my forearms has warped the wood of the desk over time.

Fortunately for me the temperatures had started to drop so again, with my brand new laptop no less, I felt extremely fortunate.

My back hurt but in the days that followed I found it went away especially if I paced around the place from time to time.

I did get hungry though and went out that night to get takeaway. I noted outside the local shops tables and chairs had been positioned for social distancing and to discourage loitering, markers were out on the floor on where to stand. It was one more subtle shift in how we were living.

That same night the borders to Queensland were closed.

In America President Trump stated an intention to reiterated a desire to re-open the country by Easter if it is suitable.

On the 25th of March the World Health Organisation reported 51,914 cases in the United States of America! Six hundred and seventy-three dead Americans!

While this was simply an absurdly moronic, selfish and irresponsible thing to suggest as a leader while the virus was taking off in the country there were smaller more practical ambitions announced the same day.

Virtually all U.S. late night talk show hosts announced they would be back on the air shooting from home while in isolation starting 30MAR2020.

 

 

26 March

I returned to the office on Thursday as south down at the border people faced a much tougher commute at the QLD/NSW border.

As one man reported to Channel 9 though “It has got to happen. If it helps it helps.”

“I thought there might be just a couple of little police officers at the side of the road but this is good. This is good. We need to do this,” another driver told Channel 9.

 

 

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk advised children were to learn from home starting next week however kids of essential workers could attend.

It’s not just our health workers, it’s not just our emergency services workers, it’s not just our police workers, it actually involves anyone who’s in our workforce including people who stack shelves at Woolies and work in a whole [range of] different industries that their students will still be allowed to go to school,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

Following on from the announcements of other states this decision was hoped to “strike the right balance.”

 

Balmoral Castle: A Royal Holiday - Wilderness Scotland

It was announced that Prince Charles has coronavirus and is displaying mild symptoms. Both he and the Duchess of Cornwall were isolating at Balmoral.

The heir to the British throne had last seen Queen Elizabeth II on the 12th of March and was in good health. The 98 year old Duke of Edinburgh was not present at that meeting.

 

Queen Elizabeth II Here's the Story Behind the Picture

 

The Prince had last attended a public engagement the same day attending a dinner in aid of the recent Australian bushfires. Since then he had been working from home and was tested on Monday after showing symptoms over the recent weekend.

Also in the UK, 250,000 people signed up to volunteer with the NHS.

The WHO reported March 26 in the United Kingdom, 9,533 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 1,452. The number of dead were 463 deaths with a daily increase of 41.

 

COVID-19 | IAF creates nine quarantine facilities at its nodal ...

In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered the country into a 21 day lockdown prompting panic buying. The population of 1.3 billion people were to remain confined to their homes for the duration.

On the 26th of March the World Health Organisation reported India had 649 cases with a daily increase of 43. The number of dead in the country were 13 with a daily increase of three.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – SHUT IT DOWN! – PART III

 

24 March

The situation in Italy continued to deteriorate.

One day I was working in Wattlebrae many years ago. I was cleaning near the Nurses station when a nurse came from a room with a patient and said to another. “Probably Tuesday.”

A patient was in the last hours of their lives and the nurses knew it. They’d seen it enough times to recognise it.

Accepting death is a very real part of being a nurse and being a good one. Some nurses have served in war zones and natural disasters and seen a lot of death but such a large scale in such a short period of time as what was experienced in Wuhan or Lombardy is simply something that leaves a toll.

Let alone the very risk to their own lives and those of their loved ones.

I stand in awe of them.

I truly do.

They are heroes.

They always have been and they always will be.

In Italy student doctors skipped their last exams and were rushed into service. In Britain retired nurses answered the call to come back risking their lives to save others as the NHS faced unprecedented demand. I’m sure this is being replicated around the world

Where do we get such people?

 

As large swaths of the economy shut down to contain the coronavirus, President Trump and others are beginning to question how long economic activity should remain frozen.

 

The World Health Organisation warned the United States of America could become the epicentre of the disease.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo becomes impassioned when speaking about the need for equipment to save lives in his home state. Short of criticising the President directly he challenges FEMA “to pick the people who will die.” The President does not respond well to this.

The Tokyo Olympics are postponed and the Australian Football League having played Round One the previous week to empty stadiums stops its season. This follows all other major codes and several sports leagues overseas already having done so.

In Australia, grocery stores swap out the pensioner hour on some days for health care workers who do shift work.

After work on Tuesday night I go to the local barber and get a haircut.

That night following a National Cabinet meeting the Prime Minister announces a new series of measures.

Coincidentally it is announced hair salons and barbers can continue to stay open but with only 30 minutes for a customer. The next day the Prime Minister adds some flexibility into the time spent in a hair salon. Possibly after speaking to his wife?

Cafes and restaurants can only do take-away and food courts in shopping malls are to be shut down with only take-away to be purchased from outlets in the food courts.

Arcades, swimming pools and amusement parks are to shut down. Large crowds are to not congregate in sporting fields and large parks.

The Prime Minister also advised that Australians would be banned from travelling overseas with a few exceptions like aid workers.

Boot camps are limited to a maximum of 10 people.

Most painfully weddings are limited to five people and funerals are to ten people.

If this seems harsh, think of the poor couples who had weddings mere days earlier before the general populace became aware of how dangerous the virus could be. It must be terrible to know if guests have subsequently become sick.

“Barbecues of lots of friends or even extended family coming together to celebrate one-year-old birthday parties and all these sorts of things — we can’t do those things now.” said the Prime Minister.

On the 24th of March the WHO reported 2,136 cases in Australia with a daily increase of 427. There were eight deaths with a daily increase of one.

In Ireland there were 219 cases with a daily increase of 98. There were two deaths with a daily increase of one.

In South Africa there were 402 cases confirmed with a daily increase of 128. The first death was recorded in the country on the 28th of March.

In Russia there were 438 cases reported with no daily increase. The first two deaths would be reported in the country on the 26th of March.

In Singapore there were 507 cases with a daily increase of 52. On the 20th of March they recorded their first two deaths.

In India there were 519 cases with a daily increase of 85. There were nine deaths following the first reported on the 13th of March.

In Canada there were 1,739 with a daily increase of 355. The were 25 deaths with a daily increase of six.

In Brazil there were 2,201 cases with a daily increase of 1,297. The death toll had risen by 35 in one day to reach 46.

In Germany there were 4,438 cases with a daily increase of 1,127. There were 32 deaths with a daily increase of five.

In the United Kingdom there were 6,654 cases with a daily increase of 967. There were 335 deaths with a daily increase of 54.

In South Korea there were 9,037 cases with a daily increase of 76. There were 120 deaths with a daily increase of nine.

In Iran there were 24,811 cases with a daily increase of 1,762. The death toll reported was 1,934 with a daily increase of 122.

In Spain there were 33,089 cases with a daily increase of 4,517. There were 4,182 deaths with a daily increase of 462.

In the United States of America there were 51,914 cases with a daily increase of 20,341. The death toll was 673 with 271 from that day alone.

In Italy there were 63,927 cases with a daily increase of 4,789. The death toll was 6,077 with an increase of 601 that day.

In China the WHO reported 81,767 with a daily increase of 764. The number of dead reported as 3,283 with a daily increase of seven. China’s figures have consistently flattend out with very small increases over this period of time. This is in contradiction to many other nations that have experienced disastrous second waves. The country has also backtracked on opening up initiatives at times too.

-Lloyd Marken

 

 

COVID-19 DIARY – SHUT IT DOWN! – PART II

 

As we entered the third week of March more restrictions were to come but the new normal would be firmly established by the end of the week. My hope was that people can deal with having to make changes a great deal more than the uncertainty that comes with not knowing what is going to transpire. Yet for many people around the world uncertainty was coming regardless.

We started to hear about those who were losing loved ones and unable to see them in their last moments or attend the funeral. The spectre of far ranging unemployment also began to descend.

23 March

Monday at my work which involves answering phones we switched to make as many of our processes as digital as possible and shifted the phones to being manned for only a little more than half of the day.

This was a somewhat busy period for us so we held our breath and wondered what would happen. We managed, we did our best, we supported each other, we came through.

I took the time to tell my leadership team that “A calm Captain steadies the ship through storms.”

I had many calm Captains.

As of midday as per the announcement the day before, cinemas, pubs, clubs, casinos and gyms are all shut down. I hadn’t gone to the gym in months but I had just been thinking maybe working from home would help me start up again… yes I know that’s not true.

 

 

In Sydney NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced schools would remain open and safe but urged parents to keep their kids home for online learning if they could. School Easter holidays aren’t due to begin until 13APR2020.

In some schools attendance is down to a third.

Discussion is also turning to how to provide solid distance education to all children including those with limited digital tools and internet wifi. Old school methods of booklets and mail outs are utilised too.

One of the guys I have water cooler conversations (there are no water coolers in our officer but GenX and Boomers will know what I’m talking about) at work advised me that he had pulled his kids from school.

I said “Good on him.”

I wanted all of us to be working from home and keeping our kids home as soon as we could.

 

Australian unemployment rate to double as coronavirus hammers ...

Around the country lines snaked around Centrelink offices as the myGov website crashed due to a surge in applications. The newly unemployed went to apply in local offices instead.

I worked twelve long years as a temp and on contracts finding myself looking for work at least a dozen times over that same period.

Sometimes I was unemployed for two weeks – other times five months.

Once I worked across two organisations, in 4 different roles, having received six extensions on two different contracts and gone up two pay scales over the course of 24 months.

I never took a holiday and through most of those twelve years I worked a second job as well.

I never managed to save up anything – only to pay unexpected bills. I will admit I did recklessly pay for a trip to attend my sister’s wedding. That was an indulgence on my part.

Registering for and being on the dole is a painful process.

I once sat in a public park to get internet access to apply for a job on an old laptop before driving to a local library in the middle of the application because my battery power started to run out.

Yet I am here and so my hope is all of these talented and hard working people who are victims of circumstance will come out the other side.

 

Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison addresses the scaled-back parliament session

The Prime Minister was also thinking of them.

In Canberra there was a sitting of Parliament to pass life saving legislation.

Across Australia today many thousands of Australians will lose their jobs. They are lining up at Centrelink offices as we speak. Something unimaginable at this scale only weeks ago.”

“Life is changing in Australia for every Australian and life is going to continue to change.

“Meeting this challenge is bigger than any Australian … In the months ahead we will face more issues that none of us even now can imagine.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – SHUT IT DOWN!

Hundreds defied warnings for social isolation at Bondi yesterday.

 

We entered the weekend of March 21-22 still with a lot of questions of how life was changing. International travel was curtailed and it was clear that trading was down and there would be huge economic consequences but how far the restrictions would increase and whether the number of cases increasing would slow down were all up in the air.

A friend of mine had a house party on Friday night. I had a very quiet weekend but our way of life was still mostly in tact even if some of shop shelves were bare and there was a growing concern for our health care workers.

We knew things were escalating but we did not know what the new normal was going to be. I was hoping the next week would define it.

 

March 21

I saw a couple of videos on youtube including an interview with the former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd who had steered us through the Global Financial Crisis. His comments about stronger actions being taken by Singapore or Germany led to me taking on board more information over the weekend.

 

 

The Northern Territory announced it would close its borders 4pm on March 24.

The NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner said “I’ve seen what’s happening overseas, I’ve seen what’s happening down south and I’m not going to let that happen here,” he said.

“The Territory comes first.”

 

March 22

Seeing how people react to a crisis reveals a lot about their personalities and the things they prioritise. Amongst my friends and peers I saw people who chart their own path in terms of choosing to take their kids out of school or put in place precautions.

One friend drove out of Sydney early on and is now growing a vegetable garden on Moreton Island with a raft of supplies.

Some of us had parties and went out to comedy festivals seizing the day.

Some have questioned all the information provided by the “mainstream media” and wondered if every action is justified.

I admire in some ways all of these people and all of these traits.

For me, I learnt that I do follow instructions from my leadership and institutions. I follow their lead even when I disagree possibly and I look to help others rather than take care of myself. I do ask questions to see if we are doing everything we should but I rarely rebel.

In that way I am like a soldier.

On Sunday I texted my leadership team I was ready to work from home and the next day I advised that I believed we should have as many people at home as soon as possible. Which was of course what we all had been working on for the past fortnight and more but I guess I was communicating a change in my wish to not be treated differently.

Yet I was in the office for most of that week.

 

On the same Sunday, South Australia and Western Australia announced they would close their borders that Tuesday.

On Sunday the National Cabinet was to meet having moved a head a meeting scheduled for Tuesday.

Before it the Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced a comprehensive breakdown of new lockdown measures.

The Australian Capital Territory advised pupils will be told to stay home from Tuesday onwards and that teachers needed to prepare to transition from face to face teaching.

In Victoria Term 1 was scheduled to end that Friday and was moved up to Tuesday. In New South Wales they were scheduled until April 13. 

This was not in keeping with the views of the Prime Minister who had previously advised 4 days earlier, ““The health advice is that schools should remain open. That is the health advice. Interestingly, this is also what Singapore has done. Singapore has been one of the more successful countries. In Singapore, the schools are open.”

“The health advice here, supported by all the premiers, all the chief ministers and my Government is that schools should remain open.

 

The National Cabinet met and afterwards on Sunday evening the Prime Minister announced a new range of measures.

Jobseeker payments, effectively our welfare payments were people out of work, looking for work and unable to work was to be almost doubled from $565.70 a fortnight with an additional $550. The decision came with a price tag of $14.1 billion dollars. There were also one off $750 payments that some would be eligible for. There was also to be a moratorium on tenant evictions.

The government was working to keep everybody with the means to feed and house themselves and support small businesses through the downturn as they worked to shut down major parts of the economy in order to save lives. They were very clear that this was the first of many such measures that were already costing 10% of the economy.

Interestingly the Prime Minister also mentioned “I’d be careful at comparing Australia’s data to other jurisdictions. Australia’s testing, for example, shows that we have the lowest, one of the lowest, if not the lowest test positivity in the world. We’re at 0.7 per cent compared to USA at 13, UK at 5, and Korea at 3.

There was a press conference before the National Cabinet met and one after they had met.

In the press conference earlier in the day his bull doggish manner was still on display, after pictures of crowds flocking to Bondi Beach the day before have travelled around the world.

 

“What happened at Bondi Beach yesterday was not OK and served as a message to federal and state leaders that too many Australians are not taking these issues seriously enough,” Mr Morrison said.

“The more Australians themselves assist us in this fight against the virus to protect lives and to protect livelihoods, the more and the better able we are to ensure that Australia comes out stronger on the other side.”

“So it’s a simple plea.” 

“We need you, we need you to do your bit when it comes to social distancing, to keeping that healthy distance, to respecting and following the rules that we’re setting down.”

Late on Sunday night the Prime Minister went before cameras to provide further answers, to provide information and to assure the Australian people that the National Cabinet were working together although clearly they had pushed back hard for what they deemed were the right decisions for their state.

In line with what the Premiers had already announced, the Prime Minister advised indoor entertainment, sporting and religious venues were to be shut from midday Monday. This included pubs, clubs and restaurants and cinemas.

I have not seen a movie at the cinemas since 07MAR2020 when I saw Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears.  It was the third 2020 release I saw after the The Gentlemen and Birds of Prey….well you can’t win them all.

I appreciate some of the kind words from people knowing that I am such a huge film buff and film critic. Yet I want you to know I have streaming, plenty of films I have not gotten around to seeing and… well there are other things to worry about right now.

I have a job, an ability to work from home, the weather is pleasant and everyone I care about is safe although financially many have been impacted.

My thoughts have not been about whether Wonder Woman 1984 is delayed but more what the hell can I do to help those who are experiencing hardship because like I said… I feel truly blessed.

In this briefing there was a small moment that gave birth to a bit of an internet craze of the ensuring days. From my perspective a storm in a teacup but a fun one nonetheless.

 

One thing that stood out to me then and still resonates with me now is when the Prime Minister voiced a real concern for the business sector in the evening briefing.

This was at a time when real fear was working through the populace who had secure jobs about the spread of the virus.  There were grave concerns that we had moved too slowly and it was certainly my thoughts in that moment.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported “The country’s rate of new confirmed coronavirus cases is now growing at 20-25 per cent a day, with some projections showing between 1 or 2 million Australians could be infected by the end of April. If those numbers were reached, tens of thousands of people would be dead based on the mortality rate recorded by China earlier this year.

The World Health Organisation reported on March 22 that Australia had 1,098 cases with a daily increase of 17. We had reached four figures the day before. The death toll was seven.

Yet the Conservative leader more than spared a thought for the very real pain that would occur to millions of Australians losing their jobs it spilled out of him genuinely.

“I am deeply regretful that those workers and those business owners who will be impacted by this decision will suffer the economic hardship that undoubtedly they will now have to face.

That is a very, very regretful decision, but a necessary one in the view of the premiers and chief ministers and myself to ensure that we can control the spread of this virus.

This should highlight to all Australians how serious this is and how hard we all have to work together to get this right”.

 

9/11 dust cloud may have caused widespread pregnancy issues ...

I remember the fear and uncertainty that came in the wake of September 11, 2001.

I remember the two speed economy that Australia became following the Global Financial Crisis.

I remember helping during the Queensland floods of 2011. Driving halfway across town against my mother’s pleas to be with my girlfriend Karen as the river rose and cut off roads.

I sat and watched my TV in the first weekend of this year as my country burned and pushed myself to help arrange a fundraiser barbeque at work. So chastened I was by my ability to not be more directly involved as I had been during the floods of 2011.

I now found myself old enough to remember more than a crisis or two.

Yet I’ve never seen anything like this.

None of us have.

The people who did are all dead.

 

Are we ready for a flu pandemic? - The Boston Globe

My grandfather was born in 1918, the same year there Spanish Flu Pandemic began and he has been gone for a long time. That pandemic which has many parallels to this one is out of living memory.

So interestingly enough people have been taking comfort and inspiration in the parrallels of the Great Depression and World War II.

Both were endured in harsher conditions and with a higher death toll and went on for a lot longer than a few weeks.

As new restrictions finally started to take effect and change the way we lived our lives the Prime Minister Scott Morrison found the words to galvanise us calling on those memories of times gone by in the press conference held earlier that day.

He opened with.

We’re a strong nation, we’re a strong people, and in the months ahead, we’re going to find out just how strong we are. We have the example and inspiration of generations that have dealt with challenges like this before. And we have the advantage of the lessons that they have passed on to us about how we can stick together to stick this through, to build a bridge to the recovery on the other side.

We cannot prevent all the many hardships, all the many sacrifices. That we will face in the months ahead. And while these hardships and these sacrifices may break our hearts on occasion, we must not let them break our spirit. And we must not let them break our resolve as Australians.”

He closing words were “So look, while Australians may be self-isolating in many cases and keeping their distance from each other. I want to assure all Australians of this, that together we will get through this. We will not want to see anyone go through this alone at the end of the day, through the support that we’re providing. But we need to support each other. We need to care for each other and together Australia we will get through this, and we will emerge stronger. Thank you.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – CHOCOLATES

U.S. Coronavirus Deaths Per Day

As the phoney week came to a close the Australian government had taken the unprecedent step to shut down international travel. We were closing off from the world and the sense of threat was only growing.

20 March

On Friday in Australia there were 873 cases with well over an eighth coming from that day alone. The daily increase was 164. The number of deaths was seven with a daily increase of one.

In the United States of America there were 15,219 cases with a daily increase of almost a third at 4,777. There were 201 deaths with a daily increase of 51.

President Trump at White House briefing that day was asked by NBC reporter Peter Alexander “So, what do you say Americans who are scared, I guess? Nearly 200 dead and 14,000 who are sick and millions as you witness who are scared right now, what do you say to Americans who are watching you right now who are scared?“.

Trump replied “I say that you a terrible reporter, that’s what I say.

Trump continued to rant insulting Alexander and his network NBC and saying that he was doing sensationalist journalism.

Just prior Alexander had asked about an anti malarial drug Trump was touting as a possible cure and has continued to do so. This follow-up question was intended as a softball one.

 

It would be unfair to pull out quotes made by public figures earlier in the outbreak. Public figures also need to reassure the public and point to a rosy vision for the future.

For the experts who had a knowledge about this they could see clearly what was happening. Certain Asian countries responded faster having living through the SARs epidemic.

Yet until the outbreak in Italy I think some understanding has to be given to our leaders for the unprecedented nature of events.

However as the crisis escalated Trump’s quotes become more and more a rebuke to what was actually going and the advice that his experts staff and other state leaders in the country have been saying.

To be quite blunt he has failed as a leader to rally the entire nation behind a cause, to create bipartisan participation between states and federal levels and to show an empathy for the suffering of others.

Whenever you hear Trump talk, it’s always about him.

One of his tactics too is to go on the attack, to lay the blame on others. Early on he attacked state leaders, tweeting New York Governor Cuomo has to do more.

That may be a fair criticism in terms of the early days of the crisis but since then I cannot think of how Cuomo could have done more.

He’s given daily briefing, stayed calm, communicated consistently in an ever changing situation and fought for what his state has needed to combat this virus.

Trump on the other hand is a terrifying sight to behold almost on a daily basis.

That is not to say the administration hasn’t done some good things but compared to other countries it has often been behind the curve and there is a constant push to get back to re-opening the economy partly based on what appears to be political motivations.

It is also true a lot of Americans want to do the same but I suspect this is because there is no effective welfare for them like there is in other developed nations. I worry a great deal about the plight of the American people with this President in charge.

These quotes even if they were part of a larger context are jarring in the face of what is happening in the country.

And again, when you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done.” 26FEB2020

It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.” 28FEB2020

It’s going to go away. … The United States, because of what I did and what the administration did with China, we have 32 deaths at this point … when you look at the kind of numbers that you’re seeing coming out of other countries, it’s pretty amazing when you think of it.” 13MAR2020

I’ve always known this is a real — this is a pandemic. I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.” 17MAR2020

🐣 25+ Best Memes About Slaps Trump | Slaps Trump Memes

As the working week ended on the 20th of March in Australia I had faced the possibility of starting the next week working from home.

On Friday came I was advised I would be in the office on Monday but to be flexible as the situation continued to develop.

As the crisis had escalated I had wondered how it would affect the world in terms of social habits that were dying off with new technologies.

Would more working offices move to hot desks and working from home? Would cinemas die? Would globalisation be altered? Would there be a push for more national agriculture or manufacturing? Would we practice better hygiene?

Would we slow down and appreciate the little things more?

It seemed digital connection would be hastened by this crisis and as the week drew on it appeared this would be very much the case and I was suddenly struck by a realisation having spent most of my working life being in no working place more than two years full time.

I knew I liked working in the office. I knew the routine offered me a discipline and motivation that I benefited from and I liked the air conditioning. I knew I liked my desk and I liked getting my large mocha from my local café Stellarossa.

That week though I felt very keenly what I would miss the most and it was the people around me.

Cadbury Favourites Party Pack 570g - The Australian Food Shop

In a moment of lunacy that Thursday night I bought four packets of Cadbury Favourites  Party Edition and placed them around the office in different work areas after most people had gone home. With the packets was a printed out note.

These days often we can be heard saying the phrase “Interesting times.”
It’s a shorthand that suits for a variety of purposes.
What we mean is we are living in changing times; we are living in challenging times and yes, we are living in scary times.

Being scared makes sense.
Our way of life is changing for the moment, sports teams are playing to empty venues if they’re playing at all. Shop shelves are bare of things we use on a daily basis. Businesses are closing down and people are losing their jobs. A disease has criss-crossed the globe at a rapid pace and while thousands have thankfully recovered COVID-19 has exacted a death toll and will.

Being scared makes sense but it is not who we are.

Over the recent bushfire season over 18 million hectares of the country was burned. That is 186,000 square kilometres. The bulk of that fire was fought by a handful of rural firefighters and local residents making do under the circumstances. Millions of dollars were raised for the recovery efforts in a matter of days.
Close to 25,000 official Mud Army volunteers responded to the Brisbane floods in 2011 without a care or thought for personal safety or WHS considerations.

There wasn’t as much sports being played in the early 1940s either or during the Great War. There was rationing back then too and a global pandemic to follow.

When the times are interesting…people – all people from around the world are not found wanting.
This is certainly true of the staff of the Queensland College of Teachers.
Things are going to be different in the coming weeks and it is not always going to be easy. But we’re going to get through it together…. standing at a suitable safe distance from each other…sometimes at home. Hey, I told you it was going to be different okay.
So be there for each other, for your loved ones, spare a thought for those who are going to be doing it tough, help those who are vulnerable, thank our health care workers who will be the most exposed and overworked in the coming months to keep us healthy, for our teachers who are with our kids all day calming their nerves and keeping their education on track.

We are living in interesting times, but we will get through them together.

Also, chocolate.

-Lloyd Marken

No photo description available.
Copyright Micah Reynolds.

COVID-19 DIARY – THE PHONEY WEEK – PART III

Coronavirus: Anguish as Europe learns to cope with new way of ...

 

19 March

Wednesday night in Bergamo, Italy the unmistakable grunts of truck engines and the hiss of brakes can be heard as the army ferries dead bodies out of full to bursting mortuaries to remote cremation sites.

On the 19th of March Italy overtook China as the country with the most deaths based on the numbers reported by the World Health Organisation.

China had 81,300 cases total that day with a daily increase of 126. Their death toll 3,252 with a daily increase of 11.

In Italy there were 41,035 cases with a daily increase of 5,322. The death toll was 3,407 with a daily increase of 429.

3,252….

429…

11….

One.

I once stood in front of a plaque in St Paul’s Cathedral that listed all the names of British servicemen killed in the Falklands War. 255 names. Seeing the names all together suddenly made that number much higher than I had previously thought of it.

 

Falklands Memorial, St. Paul's Cathedral, London | "IN HONOU… | Flickr

The Falklands lasted 10 weeks and was noted by scholars for the advent of technology and the speed of conflict itself. Comparatively the 255 was less than the 649 Argentinians who died in the same way,  less than the 521 Australians killed in Vietnam, or the 1,078 British killed in the three year Korean War, or the 27,073 Australians killed serving in World War II or the 1,114,914 British that died in World War I, or the lowest estimates of the Spanish Flu pandemic that wiped out anywhere between 17,000,000 to 100,000,000.

1….

1,000…

1,000,000.

They can just become numbers but the thousands already dead from this pandemic are a story and a lot of those stories ended painfully with someone struggling to breathe, a nurse nearby doing her job the best she can and no loved ones able to say goodbye.

Here in my own bubble a lot of people died in China and I scarely thought about them. It might be something to remember as we continue to discuss the numbers coming out of China and their accuracy. Whatever the numbers, a lot of people died and the least we can do is try and do the best we can to stay alive so their lives can have even more meaning.

On the 19th of March the island state of Tasmania announced it would close it’s border from midnight the next day becoming the first state to do so.

Also on thursday, Australia announced that as of 9pm that Friday, all foreign travellers would be banned from entering the country. New Zealand had announced they would close its borders midnight Thursday. Residents of the two countries, would still be able to travel between both.

Those on student and work visas in Australia currently out of the country would not be able to return.

The Prime Minister advised the previous bans had already seen a reduction in the normal level of travel by one third.

The same day Qantas announced about 2/3 of their 30,000 staff would be stood down temporarily.

The decision stranded many Australians abroad who worked to get home.

As the Prime Minister worked to ensure less people came into the country with the virus. The 113,000 tonne cruise ship the Ruby Princess disembarked 2,700 passengers in Sydney the same day.

NSW coronavirus: Email bombshell reveals Ruby Princess bungle ...

The Ruby Princess had departed Sydney on the 8th of March for a cruise around New Zealand. The cruise was prematurely ended on the 15th of March and returned from Napier to Sydney. 

On the 20th of March we were informed 13 people had been tested for coronavirus and three had come back positive. In the weeks ahead the Ruby Princess disembarkation would have significant impact on the number of people getting sick in New South Wales. All passengers were asked to go into self isolation.

Of the 2,700 disembarked passengers at least 662 Australian passengers tested positive with 341 of them in New South Wales. This did not include about 900 passengers who left Australia without being tested.  The death toll of people who were on the Ruby Princess has risen to at least 21.

6 crew members were medically evacuated on the 2nd of April. 

542 of the 1,000 crew were taken off the ship and repatriated to their home countries between 21-23APR2020. The Ruby Princess left Port Kembla on the 23rd of April, 190 members of the crew had tested positive at that point.

The Ruby Princess story is echoed in many other cruise ships around the world.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – THE PHONEY WEEK – PART II

Coronavirus: Scott Morrison's wake-up call: cut hysteria, do your bit

18 March

Wednesday.

In the United Kingdom the government announces that Friday the 20th schools will shut down in the UK. This follows several countries on the continent already having done so.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson in comparison to other European nations seems more intransigent talking about herd immunity and not taking action as early as some.

This announcement though puts my sister and her husband, both teachers, at home safe taking care of their young daughter. It is also ahead of the USA and Australia who still have their schools open.

The World Health Organisation reports 2,630 cases in the UK that day with a daily increase of 676. The death toll almost doubles that day with a daily increase of 43 taking the total past 100 to 103.

In Australia some major announcements were made regarding travel. At this point there were 510 cases with a daily increase of 96. The death toll rose by one that day to a total of six.

Australia had been fairly early with some of its travel restrictions as far back as the 1st of February when the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade denied entry to those travelling from China directly with the exceptions of Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate families.

DFAT also advised Australians not to travel to China due to the escalating threat and those who have returned to self isolate for 14 days. Those travelling on a visas who arrived after the restrictions were put in place were not asked to do anything. They were put in quarantine.

In a 24 hour period this had a significant effect with the Australian Border Force Commissioner Michael Outram advising “In Melbourne, we were expecting about 5,000 scheduled passengers to arrive from China, and we’re now expecting about 700 over that 24-hour period. So a significant downturn. In Brisbane, we were expecting 220, and we’re now only expecting about 97.”

You could come into the country if you had stayed somewhere for 14 days after leaving China before arriving in Australia which as my previous diary entry revealed did not stop a local student coming back with the virus.

On the 1st of February the World Health Organisation reported 11,821 cases in China with a daily increase 2,101. The death toll was recorded as 259 with a daily increase of 46.

On the 29th of February the ban included Iran. On the 29th of February the WHO reports 593 cases in Iran with a daily increase of 205. The death toll is recorded as 43 with a daily increase of nine.

Days later on the 5th of March South Korea was added to the list of countries. On the 5th of March the WHO reports 5,766 cases in South Korea with a daily increase of 438. The death toll in South Korea is 35 with three new deaths that day.

Those returning to Australia from Italy were also to face more screening questions and having their temperature taken. On the 5th of March the WHO reports 3,858 cases in Italy with a daily increase of 769. The death toll in the country is 148 with a daily increase of 41.

Then on the 11th of March Italy joined the list.  On the 11th of March, the WHO reports 12,462 cases in Italy with a daily increase of 2,313. The death toll in six days had risen to 827 with 196 deaths recorded that day alone.

On March 18, the Australian government issued its highest travel advice level (level 4), advising Australians to avoid all travel regardless of destination, age and health.

The Prime Minister Scott Morrison held a press conference announcing new restrictions which included only two visitors to aged care homes and a ban on indoor gatherings of 100 people or less with certain exceptions like schools, supermarkets and exceptions.

The words restrictions, exceptions, bans, gatherings were being heard more and more these days.

“This is a once-in-a-100-year-type event,” Mr Morrison said.

“Life is changing in Australia, as it is changing all around the world. Life is going to continue to change.

His occasional bulldoggish demeanour started to come to the fore when he advised “Stop hoarding. I can’t be more blunt about it. Stop it. It is not sensible, it is not helpful, and it has been one of the most disappointing things I have seen in Australian behaviour in response to this crisis”.

This for me is no small thing and not a negative observation. After being critical of the Prime Minister during the national bushfire crisis only weeks earlier – here was a turning point.

In the days ahead I would often note to friends “For lack of a better term, this crisis suits him better.”

 

 

COVID-19 DIARY – THE PHONEY WEEK – PART I

The Surprising Truth About Dark Moon Energy And Its Benefits

The ‘Phoney War’ refers to the first eight months of World War II when both sides pulled their punches strategically and the sweeping invasion of Europe by Germany was yet to really start.

For the casualties of this period I suspect there was nothing phoney about this at all. Poland and Finland planned for Allied Forces that never arrived to help fight off invasion and the aircraft carrier HMS Courageous was sunk with the loss of 519 of her crew for example.

The war was real even if it was thought of as phoney.

That is what the third week of March, 2020 in Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic feels like.

The threat was acknowledged, events were happening but the major changes to life would occur after this week as government decision making was still gaining momentum.

 

14 March

I caught up with an old friend from high school who had recently become a father with his lovely wife. Their son was perfectly behaved as we enjoyed Grilled burgers.

I have discussed with another friend who is a new parent that his chance to work from home means he will get to spend time with his newborn that he would have missed.

I can never tell if the neutral yes reflects their agreement of this fact or whether it leads them to thoughts of how tired they are and how many nappy changes they might have missed had they been at work.

This was to be our last social gathering for a while.

 

15 March

Around dinner time on Sunday night I called to ask my Dad for advice about something in my physical space and he offered to come all the way over from the southside of town.

This surprised me and I told him that was not necessary but came he did.

Afterwards we talked about the Prime Minister’s big announcement from Friday and wondered what was to come. Today is the 5th of May and I have not seen my father since.

Not a long time in the scheme of things and I have certainly been on the phone to both my parents quite a bit. Almost subconsciously I was calling them every day for quite a while and they were happy to take the call. It was a way to talk through what was happening.

Due to their age and existing health conditions we have chosen to play it safe and not see each other. I of course miss them.

It was an odd thing that my father came over but I’m glad he did and I got to see him just a little bit more before this break.

I was also looking up a lot of things on youtube and relayed to my Dad this growing sense that the numbers of Italy from 2 to 3 weeks ago indicated where we could be shortly and that numbers were pretty scary.

 

 

As a former hospital wardsman I had always been concerned about the extra work load that would be placed on our health care workers and the complications that came with that.

At some point I started to become informed that once the hospitals were overwhelmed the fatality rates went up and at some point I became keenly aware that if protective gear ran out that our health care workers would increasingly risk infection and the potential fall out from this truly gave me pause.

 

16 March

With continuing shortages at the supermarkets, major Australian chains Woolworths and Coles announce they will introduce early hour of trading for pensioners and those with disabilities from 7am to 8am starting the next day.

Which leads in the days ahead to a great story. My Dad who is 75 with jet black hair and a few gray strands is asked to show his ID at the supermarket during pensioner hour. My Dad got carded to prove he was old enough! This delighted him and the rest of his family no end.

The more vulnerable in our society will get the whole store to themselves. This is part of a larger world wide trend.

I was away sick from work that day but my review of Dave Hughes is published on Scenestr as the Brisbane Comedy Festival is cancelled with a week to go.

This is the tip of the iceberg for a loss of income for various parts of the arts industries including my work as a freelance writer. I feel for all the artists and venues and support staff.

I also publish my long gestating My Favourite Films of 2019 List which has been weeks in the making but suddenly it seems out of place given what is happening in the world.

I also write about seeing Dave Hughes that day reflecting more what is going on in the world at that moment even though I schedule that to publish days later.

 

17 March

Tuesday morning I grab a coffee from my local haunt Stellarossa, I’ve been grabbing coffees from there since I started working in Toowong in late 2018. I ask the manager how things are, he tells me it wasn’t so bad last week but this week it has slowed right down.

At work I am pulled aside to sit with three levels of leadership for a quick meeting. I am asked if I would define myself as high risk due to an existing medical condition. One of the things I like about where I work is how they take care of their staff.

They are looking to protect me and I am not the only one who has one of these discussions. Yet it takes me back to a time from my past where I do not like to think of myself as someone requiring extra consideration in relation to the rest of my colleagues.

My wife had also raised this as a possible concern weeks ago but I had not chased it up. I get in touch with my specialist and at the end of a roundabout conversation I am advised that for the purposes of this scenario yes I am not a normal 39 year old.

I discuss with my manager my concerns of being treated differently and he gently suggests that is something I may need to get over. I nod knowing he is right.

Later in a team meeting his wisdom is on display again when to centre our thoughts on what may happen he points out what happened in the span of a week the previous week to indicate the breadth of what might change in the week ahead.

He truly is a wise man.

-Lloyd Marken

 

 

 

 

COVID-19 DIARY – FRIDAY THE 13TH

Awesome Time Lapse Video Of Planet Earth Taken On The ...

 

If there was a tipping point in the COVID-19 crisis in Australia it was Friday the 13th of March. After that day we knew life was changing and the uncertainty surrounding how would dominate the days following. Indulge me if you will but play the video above while reading this post.

 

Thirteen-Lawyer KPMG Team in France Heads Back to Fidal as Dispute ...

March 13

On Friday I was driving into work and heard on the news that France had shut down all schools. At the time they had the second largest number of cases in Europe behind only Italy. The school shut down was a measure of escalation and of note in regards to where I worked. Throughout the week people had been paying attention to the news and trying to prepare come what may.

In France on the 13th of May the World Health Organisation reported an increase from 2,281 to 3,640 in the country.

There was a daily increase of 31 dead in the country taking the total of 79.

 

In Italy only food stores and pharmacies were now allowed to be open with all other shops closed. There were now over 1,000 intensive care patients in the country and there was talk that hospital staff now were having to make decisions about who was likely to be able to save factoring in to decision making about the care administered.

In Italy the WHO reported a daily increase of 2,547 cases bringing the national total to 21,157. The death toll increased by 252 taking us to 1,268.

 

Trudeau self-isolating after wife Sophie develops fever, gets ...

The Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau went into self isolation following his wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau testing positive to COVID-19 having just returned from a speaking engagement in Great Britain.

With a daily increase of 59 cases the total number in Canada jumped to 152. The first death recorded March 11, remained the only one in the country.

 

Amid a global pandemic, Cheltenham Festival surviving all four ...

In the UK the Cheltenham racing festival was in full swing with the Cheltenham Gold Cup held on the 13th of March with over 68,500 attending. The event like several other sporting events that week was held in accordance with government advice and with “a range of additional hygiene measure at the event, including hundreds of hand sanitiser dispensers and extra wash basins.” at the event.

UK Health Minister Nadine Dorries tested positive for the virus having attended a Downing Street meeting the previous Friday where 100 people were in attendance. Inexplicably Prime Minister Boris Johnson saw no reason to get tested himself.

On the 13th of March there were 802 cases in total reported in the United Kingdom. Over a quarter of those had just been reported that day – 208. There were two new deaths leading to a total of 10.

 

Coronavirus: President Donald Trump handed gift by Fabio ...

In the United States of America President Trump had announced a restriction on travel between Europe and the U.S. with the exception of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. The stockmarket had crashed falling more in one single day than since Black Monday on the 19th of October 1987 which was followed by the recession of the late 1980s.

Several film and television shows and film shoots were shutting down and going on hiatus. Hollywood was grounding to a halt with all its productions across the world.

Fabio Wajngarten, the communication secretary of Brazilian President tested positive to coronavirus days after being photographed with President Trump and Vice President Pence sparking concerns that the American Cabinet should get tested and for some reason Pence and Trump delayed that.

On the 13th of March in the United States of America there were 277 new cases with a total of 1,264 overall. There were 36 dead, 7 from that day alone.

 

Australia isolates all international arrivals | Prothom Alo

The Prime Minster of Australia Scott Morrison had announced a 17.6 billion spending package the day before which would could cost his government his much anticipated budget surplus. “Our focus is on getting support to those who need it … There will be an other side of this crisis.” said the Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

At 9am Friday, the Australian Grand Prix was cancelled. McLaren had pulled out the day before following a team member testing positive.

The Home Affairs Minister in Australia Peter Dutton tested positive to COVID-19 having recently returned from America where he met with Ivanka Trump and senior White House personnel.

There was a Council of Australian Governments Meeting with the Prime Ministers and state Premiers that day. Following on from that the Council decided they would convene that Sunday a National Cabinet meeting of state heads and federal leaders.

It was announced that starting the following Monday there would be no mass gatherings of 500 people or more after the weekend. The Prime Minister originally intended to attend the footy over the weekend to see his beloved Sharkies play. Later that day he advised to avoid confusion over his actions he would not go. The Cronulla Sharks lost that match.

The World Health Organisation reported on the 13th of March, 2020 189 cases of COVID-19 in Australia with 49 of those cases reported that day alone. There had been three deaths in my country at that point.

 

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Copyright Lloyd Marken.

I headed to the Brisbane Comedy Festival that night with Karen. Hot off the press was the cancellation of the Melbourne Comedy Festival originally scheduled to kick off on the 25th of March. Travel company Flight Centre had announced plans to shut down 100 of its 900 stores. It was just one of many companies announcing store closures, staff reductions and slow down.

We caught up with some of our friends and grabbed a table out on the river far from crowds. One of our friends shared hand sanitiser she had brought with her. This was becoming a way of life.

We discussed how the situation was escalating, talked about precautions, at one point I discussed some talking heads saying it was only as deadly as the flu. One of our friends with the patience of a saint relayed she had heard that spoken about too but it was not accurate. Earlier that very same day Dr Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, had stressed that the virus was “10 times more deadly” than the regular flu.

We all had on our minds that the most vulnerable in our society were going to be even more vulnerable, that unemployment was going to rise and that our health care system and the workers who take care of us were about to be put through the ringer.

It was the last time I would see these friends in person for a while. I miss them.

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Copyright Lloyd Marken.

I saw Dave Hughes in the large Powerhouse Theatre on assignment for Scenestr magazine. We grabbed a row at the back of the front section. The venue was close to full but there were a few chairs empty most likely due to people not showing rather than not being sold. Karen and I had nobody sit with us. Dave Hughes came out and was very funny. There was a sense in the air that things were changing and that this might be it for a while. Hughesy wondered how it all worked, less than 500 people and all of a sudden no one is sick? That we can’t go out Monday but tonight is fine? Does the virus know? Later that night another friend Rosie who you may recall coming with me to the opening night of BIFF 2018, was out and about in the clubs and Hughesy showed up where she was and performed some stand-up.

It felt a little like seizing the day which in hindsight can also seem selfish and stupid. We followed government advice I guess but regardless Friday the 13th of March, 2020 was a turning point in Australia. The ripchord had been pulled, a global economic recession had been kicked off and clearly too many people were dying. Government was taking action and they wouldn’t be doing any of this if they saw an alternative. It seemed like the possibility of a world leader coming down with the disease was all too real. We knew the world was changing, an anxious next few days would reveal in what ways and just how much.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – MARKET PENETRATION

Image: A man wearing a protective mask passes by the Colosseum in Rome on March 7, 2020 amid fear of Covid-19 epidemic.

Market penetration – the extent to which a product is recognized and bought by customers in a particular market.

News believe it or not works like a line of products being offered up to the market.  There is niche news, alternative news, comfort food news and leading news.

After all… news is consumed and when you need to get the word out you can only hope you achieve market penetration quickly.

These days its hard for the news to get our attention and even harder for one voice to reach all audiences.

In the second week of March COVID-19 had achieved market penetration and by the end of the week it would be dominating our attention.

March 04

The next James Bond movie No Time To Die was due to open 02APR2020 and in America 10APR2020 but with only a month to go and amidst a publicity ramp-up and marketing spend the release date was moved.

With the Chinese box office compromised and territories like Italy and France shut down the Bond feature became the first blockbuster of the year to move out of the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

It would not be the last with A Quiet Place II, Black Widow, Top Gun: Maverick, F9 and the hotly anticipated Wonder Woman: 1984 all following suit. This all made sense to me, my concerns at this point like the filmmakers were with the risk to lives.

This followed production halting on the latest Mission Impossible film on the 25th of February which was set to film in Venice, Italy.

 

March 07

Karen and I had dinner with friends and travel restrictions were on people’s minds but the coronavirus did not dominate the conversation. Toilet paper shortages were definitely in the news but Karen had recently bought some from a bargain store when the stocks were out in the major supermarkets. We were fine for now.

 

March 08

On Sunday we had a family gathering for the birthdays of two of my siblings. We did not think this would be the last time we were going to see each other in person for a while. But that has certainly proven to be the case.

March 09

Italy went into national quarantine with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte restricting travel only for work and family emergencies and the cancellation of all sporting events.

March 10

At work we were all practising social distancing.

On Tuesday we had a team meeting and discussed at length what was needed to be able to have all staff work from home.

The framing was if someone had to self isolate. The other thinking was in order to minimise risk, staff may work 50/50 at home and in the office on a rotational basis.

I had just purchased a new laptop of the 27th of February and started to think of rushing to load up software on it and start using it but first I wanted to wrap up transferring some things from my old laptop.

With market penetration I was certainly starting to think about coronavirus differently. It was here and we had seen the devastation it was wreaking in Italy. I had watched John Oliver’s 01MAR2020 episode for water cooler conversation but we were going beyond that.

After the meeting I turned to a work colleague and observed that I had been working at the Queensland University of Technology during the Swine flu and Bird flu scares and the Ebola outbreaks to the West in 2014. I had lived through MERS and SARS too. With all the international students at QUT we had never had a meeting to prepare for contingencies like this.

The penny should have dropped there.

 

Rita Wilson (with Tom Hanks) | Iconic Beauty Looks From the 1995 ...

March 12

I was standing at Stellarossa getting my morning coffee when the barista told me “Tom Hanks has got coronavirus.”

I asked if this was one of those things news pranks and she assured me it was not. Wow I thought. Sure enough back at my desk I saw a news headline saying Tom Hanks and wife have coronavirus. I walked over to my boss who was about the same age and joked I feel like saying “Her name is Rita Wilson, show some goddamn respect” of the actress, singer and producer in her own right.

This may sound horrible but the diagnosis of a celebrity let alone such a beloved one might have proven the moment for a lot of people that this thing was to be taken seriously. Tom Hanks getting it kind of drove home the point that anyone could.

Pregnant superstar Katy Perry performed in Bright, Victoria to give back to bushfire ravaged communities, to thousands of people. This followed on from her performance in the Women’s T20 Cricket World Cup Final on the 8th.

On the 10th, Miley Cyrus had cancelled her appearance at a Melbourne bushfire relief concert due to coronavirus concerns. While Perry was lauded for her performances the decision by Cyrus was already starting to appear sensible.

This was Thursday, the same day that the World Health Organisation declared the coronavirus a pandemic. “The number of cases outside China increased 13-fold in the past two weeks. Now there are more than 118,000 cases in 114 countries and 4,291 people have died, with the numbers expected to climb.

That day the World Health Organisation reported that China had gone from 80,302 cases on the 3rd of March, 2020 to 80,981 on the 12th of March, 2020 with a daily increase of 26.  The death toll was reported as 3,173 with a daily increase of 11.

In Iran there were 10,705 cases with 1,075 of those having just been reported that day. 75 people died in Iran that day bringing the death toll to 429.

In Italy there were 2,502 cases with a daily increase of 466. 80 people had died, 28 from that day alone.

In the United States of America there were 987 cases total reported with a daily increase of 281. The national death toll stood at 29 with four from that day.

In the United Kingdom where I have family, 134 new cases reported that day increased the national total to 594. Two new deaths brought the total to eight in the country.

In Australia there were 140 cases with a daily increase of 18. The death toll stood at 3.

In Canada there were a total of 93 cases with no new daily increases. The first death had been reported the day before.

In the episode Last Week Tonight with John Oliver that aired on the 1st of March, 2020, Oliver noted that “Trust in institutions is critical when trying to contain a possible pandemic.” On reflection of what would happen in the days following the 12th of March these words only ring more true to me.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – 03MAR2020

FILE IMAGE of the Brisbane suburb Toowong.

A crisis unfolds through so many strands, it starts with a murmur and then all of a sudden the ground is shaking and nobody knows if the earth is going to open up and swallow you whole. Maybe you just need to find your footing, maybe the ground will stop shaking and you’ll sigh a sigh of relief and move on. In no time you might even forget how scary it all was.

School children are being encouraged to write diaries in these days as they live throughout history. A little personal account of a global event. I have been inspired to follow suit if a little too late to truly be in spirit of the act.

Already it is hard to retrace but I will try.

March 03

Where I work is not far from the University of Queensland in terms of a drive. I work in the suburb of Toowong just outside the main Brisbane CBD along Coronation Drive in the river.

I am fond of getting a morning coffee from the nearby Stellarossa Café in Toowong village.

On the 3rd of March, 2020 it was reported that a 20 year old resident of Toowong and UQ student from China was confirmed to have coronavirus. (Remember when we were calling it that.)

I remember flicking through the front page about this at Stellarossa. The student had spent 14 days in Dubai as a precautionary measure. He landed in Brisbane on the 23rd of February, 2020 and became unwell two days later. He was the tenth confirmed case of COVID-19 in my home state of Queensland.

There were 33 cases in the whole of Australia on the 3rd of March and the first Australian had died from the disease two days earlier.

His name was James Kwan and he was 78 years old. Having spent his career in the tourism industry he was on holidays aboard the cruise ship the Diamond Princess along with 150 other Australians when it had been forced to go into quarantine throughout February in the Japanese port of Yokohama. After a long journey that included diagnosis and isolation in the Northern Territory he returned to his hometown of Perth and passed away in hospital.

In China the World Health Organisation was reporting a cumulative total of 80,302 cases since the first rumblings back in November, 2019 with only a daily increase of 128. There were 31 new deaths from Coronavirus reported in the country adding to a total death toll of 2,946 deaths.

In Iran there were 2,336 cases and with a daily increase of 835. Eleven people died in Iran that day with 77 total dead already.

In Italy there 2,502 cases with a daily increase of 466. 80 people had died, 28 from that day alone.

In the United States of America there were 188 cases total reported so far with a daily increase of 44. The first two deaths in the country had been reported on the 2nd of March.

In the United Kingdom where I have family, there were 51 cases with a daily increase of 12. There were no death reported in Great Britain until the 6th of March.

In Canada there were three new cases and a total of 30 reported in the whole country. The first death would be reported over a week later on the 11th of March.

China, Italy and Iran and the Diamond Princess were in the news already but on the 3rd of March the coronavirus had come to my home town and most specifically to where I worked.

And then Tom Hanks got it…

-Lloyd Marken

WHEN I WAS A WARDIE – I – THE BALI BOMBINGS

I was a casual on call hospital wardsman from September 2002 to February 2006 at the Royal Brisbane/Women’s Hospital.

On the 12th of October 2002 a terrorist attack killed 202 people from over 20 countries in Bali. Two suicide bombers positioned themselves at nightspots The Sari Club and Paddy’s Bar while a remote bomb was detonated outside the American consulate. In what remains the largest loss of Australian life due to a terrorist attack 88 Australians were killed.

Hundreds more were wounded, in the largest aero medical evacuation carried out by the Royal Australian Air Force since the Vietnam War 66 survivors were flown to Darwin within the first 24 hours of the bomb blast. Some were transported further on from Darwin.

I had not been in the job for a month when I met two of survivors of the Bali bombings.

When I began work at the hospital there had been construction of several new buildings, the Ned Hanlon Building was the main one and the maternity ward on level six and the special care nursery on level five were already operating there. There was also X-Ray on level three.

The RBH as it was for me growing up still stood but we were in the process of moving and opening up new wards in the new building. One ward at the old building was set up to receive patients coming down from Darwin from originally Bali.

I was working evening shifts 2:30pm to 10:30pm. One night I was paged to go up to that ward, it was to be my first experience dealing with young patients that I would see naked and burns victims. I was 21 and didn’t know how I would react, I was a little nervous.

I came in and was instructed to put on a green robe. I did bed turns with two patients as the nurse cleaned and dressed them. One was an older gentlemen, one was a blonde haired woman in her mid 20s.

I found to my surprise I was not embarrassed by the nudity even in a young member of the opposite sex nor was I horrified by the burns.

I was there to do a job and was concentrating on doing it right.

Having the nurse helped too, I just did as she told me. I do remember seeing black poking out from under bandages wrapped around hands. I remember the redness all over the skin of the woman’s torso.

I would go on to deal with worse burns victims. I remember thinking the gown was more a precaution given it didn’t seem to get that messy compared to some patient handling I had already experienced. Of course it was for their protection as well.

I remember talking to the female patient, she was a member of the Australian Federal Police. I assumed she had been in Bali on holidays but didn’t ask.

That first month at the hospital I worked full time hours before deciding I couldn’t balance it and my studies. I did work the rest of the week in that area but I never got called back to that ward.

I oddly found some comfort and took some pride in those few minutes of doing bed turns. My country had endured its worst terrorist attack in history and I had been given an opportunity, however small, to help the survivors directly.

I never had to worry about my own safety the way current health care workers have and will during this pandemic crisis.

Many have and will get COVID-19 because there isn’t enough equipment to protect them.

Some of them are going to die because there won’t be enough equipment to save them when they get sick.

They’re running into the jaws of death right now for us.

To help us.

To save us.

I stand in awe of them.

-Lloyd Marken

 

DAVE HUGHES’S ‘RIDICULOUS’ REVIEW AVAILABLE ON SCENESTR

Scenestr169

On Friday the 13th of March, 2020 I was on assignment for Scenestr magazine at the Brisbane Comedy Festival. I was there to see famous stand-up comedian Dave Hughes.

Earlier in the week the World Health Organisation had labelled the spread of COVID-19 a pandemic. Italy hit with several cases had shut down the country to having people only going to work. France shut down children attending school.

Friday morning the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had been urging people to attend the weekend football. By afternoon he was saying that come Monday no large crowds of 500 or more could gather in public.

A member of his cabinet, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton had tested positive for the virus. The Formula 1 in Melbourne had been cancelled as had the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Wall Street had seen the biggest falls in stocks in one day of trading since the crash of 1987.

Heading into the weekend there was no doubt we were about to experience an economic recession, see our country shut down travel, business and events as much as possible. The most vulnerable in our community to the disease are also the most vulnerable to the pressures that will come to supermarket stocks, health care support or temporary employment.

We’re in for some rough days ahead and so it was some comfort to find quite a few people out at the Brisbane Comedy Festival ready to laugh and to see Dave Hughes a stand-up as recognisable and reliable as any stand-up in this country.

Hughesy made us laugh, laugh about the virus, laugh at ourselves, laugh at him and laugh at our lives. It was a nice reminder of how we need to face the days ahead. With support for our fellow humans and with a sense of hope and optimism. It was a privilege to attend and you can read my review here https://scenestr.com.au/comedy/dave-hughes-review-brisbane-comedy-festival-2020-20200316

Karen and I caught up with some friends beforehand and enjoyed our beloved snack bar menu pizzas from the Powerhouse. Then we were off to the Powerhouse Theatre, the largest venue at the Powerhouse reserved for big stars, like Hughesy, to perform.

Produced by Eyeball Media Enterprises Scenestr is an online national magazine with local offices around Australia. Having started in 1993 they’ve excelled at moving into the digital realm but they remain at heart from the streets. They still publish magazines in print for Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland every month.

The following Monday, the Brisbane Comedy Festival was cancelled. In addition to big name comedians, there are a lot of shows and acts there that run on the smell of an oily rag with performers who sometimes work other jobs during the day. Such cancellations are going to provide them with significant challenges in the weeks ahead too but I know we all want to keep each other safe.

I hope you’re safe, I hope you are able to get toilet paper in your part of the world, I hope we treat each other right and help each other in the weeks ahead. I’ll try me best to do so.

-Lloyd Marken

MY FAVOURITE FILMS OF 2019

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It is time once again to do my annual favourite films of the year list which allows for late 2019 American releases to reach Australian shores. What was a little interesting for me this year is I saw less films on the big screen or through their streaming services. From a total of 57 last year I went down to only 45 this year.

There were a lot of good films I saw, and it was no struggle to think of a top five but I did find it difficult to fill out a list of 10 films for the Honourable Mentions. Maybe the depth of quality wasn’t there this year or maybe as in every other year I missed a lot of good ones.

I hear good things about Waves and Honey Boy, I’m intrigued by The Peanut Butter Falcon and I have just seen on DVD Best Picture winner Parasite. I really want to see Apollo 11, Ad Astra, Booksmart, The Lighthouse, Richard Jewell, Pain and Glory, For Sama and The Farewell. Just a random observation, some of the best films I saw this year centred around men in crisis.

With the close of the fourth decade I have lived through I got thinking about an end of decade list which also got me thinking about how certain films are lauded in their year of release but you don’t often go back and think on them. If anyone is interested I couldn’t imagine Warrior and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy not featuring on that decade list. I think Black Swan, The Tree of Life, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Inside Llewyn Davis, Dunkirk would all stand a good chance of making it. 20th Century Women I think too and maybe Nocturnal Animals. Films like Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool, Ladies in Black and In The Aisles have stayed with me. But high fliers like First Man, In This Corner of the World, Eye in the Sky, A Star Is Born, Blade Runner 2049 would not be a given but I sure like to think they’d be in that list.  It is interesting how time redefines classics.

Star ratings are on a four star scale as per the reviews I read from the late great film critic Roger Ebert.

 

Alita: Battle Angel Published at Scenestr 12FEB19 ***

Captain Marvel Published at Scenestr 06MAR19 ***

Lego Movie 2: The Second Part Published at Scenestr 20MAR19 ***

The Trouble With You Not Reviewed **

Shazam Not Reviewed ***

Hellboy Published at Scenestr 11APR19 **1/2

Red Joan Published at X-Press Magazine 06JUN19 ***

Godzilla II: King of the Monsters Published at Scenestr 31MAY19 **1/2

X-Men: Dark Phoenix Not Reviewed *1/2

Men in Black: International Not Reviewed **1/2

Toy Story 4 Not Reviewed **1/2

Always Be My Maybe Not Reviewed ***

Late Night Not Reviewed **1/2

Shaft Not Reviewed **1/2

IT: Chapter 2 Not Reviewed **1/2

Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark Published at Scenestr 29SEP19 ***

Little MonstersPublished at Weekend Notes 13OCT19 ***

Chained for Life Not Reviewed **1/2

Zombieland: Double Tap Not Reviewed **

Terminator: Dark Fate Published at Scenestr 01NOV19 **

El Camino Not Reviewed **1/2

Dolemite Is My Name Not Reviewed ***

Knives Out Not Reviewed ***

The Rise of Skywalker Not Reviewed *1/2

Jojo Rabbit Not Reviewed **1/2

 

 

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Image result for hobbs and shaw gifs

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw Published at Scenestr 01AUG19 ***

Hobbs and Shaw is fine perfectly fine fun entertainment. There is no real sense of stakes even though apparently the world needs saving, there’s no real characters here but just the established personalities of Statham and The Rock that we enjoy hanging with and seeing playing off of each other.

I was surprised after seeing how crazy cool Idris Elba was as Luther that he did not make much of a compelling nor threatening bad guy. Even winning a fist fight in an early scene doesn’t make him a threat because our heroes always manage to get away from him. Early Terminator films managed this while still maintaining the villain was a threat.

For a series that has done a lot of things practically the Fast and Furious series is really embracing the CGI these days and it just makes the action scenes have less impact. Still Vanessa Kirby knows the value of a good stare down the lens, there is still wit in the dialogue, two great cameos and some fun with the action choreography.

Alita: Battle Angel almost made the grade instead, for all that film’s flaws I think I cared more about the characters in it but Hobbs & Shaw is a more streamlined product. The fact this film made the list reflects poorly on the list rather than well on Hobbs & Shaw but it was fun to watch.

The ‘Fast & Furious’ franchise is one of those Hollywood fairytales they tell little studio execs to help them drift off to sleep when they’re worried about the changing nature of the global box office.

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Spider-Man: Far From Home Not Reviewed ***

Another perfectly fine blockbuster, this one a sequel and a comic book film. What director Jon Watts and writers Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers still get right is the teenage stuff. The previous Spider-Man film worked as a high school comedy and this one suffers from a couple of issues, first a lot has happened in the MCU since the last film and Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is suffering a loss and needing guidance as he matures but the metaphor doesn’t land as well as it did in the last film.

Jake Gyllenhaal is kind of the older cool kid who betrays you? Whatever. Still there are some cool sequences, great laughs and at least here the filmmakers invest in giving their character a real arc and growth compared to most other 2019 blockbusters.

Sadly the MJ (Zendaya) love story had a lot of beats we’re become familiar with after two decades and three iterations of the couple on screen. I’m hoping the filmmakers can right the ship for the trilogy closer and get back to bringing something new to the screen that is still true to Peter Parker. But a perfectly enjoyable comic book movie.

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Memory: The Origins of Alien Published at Weekend Notes 13OCT19 ***

This documentary which I caught at the Brisbane International Film Festival 2019 worked best when telling the life of screenwriter Dan O’Bannon. It was interesting to look at such a celebrated film as Alien and analyse how its themes are still relevant and hear some of the stories behind the scenes.

We learn a lot about the importance of H.R. Giger’s design, the influence of H.P. Lovecraft and the steely determination and creative sensibilities of Scott just one feature into his career. We also reflect on how ground-breaking the ideas of Alien were and how much the film stands up decades on where others may have dated.

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John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum Published at X-Press Magazine 16MAY19 ***

Let’s get something out of the way right off the bat, John Wick 3 isn’t even the best John Wick movie, I’m not particularly excited at the prospect of a John Wick 4. There are a million things I could complain about in this film. Yes it is an example of style of substance but God damnit could we please have some substance. Atomic Blonde is cut from the same cloth and is a better film.

And yet… and yet I think about the fight with the library or in the knife museum and my heart just swells to know there are still people prepared to put this much thought and wit and inventiveness and craft into their action scenes. If they could do the same to the rest of their filmmaking we’d really have something on our hands here but for now this film will nonetheless be talked about 10 years from now for the fight scenes. There is a lot to enjoy here.

The evergreen Keanu Reeves is back as the titular assassin John Wick and he’s all out of the bubblegum he was chewing in Speed, so now he’s just kicking butt. In the original film, there was the first act’s slow burn observation of Wick retired and grieving his wife. If the sequels have lacked this mystery and heart, Reeves has continued to give it his all.

Image result for making waves the art of making cinematic sound

Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound Not Reviewed ***

As a fan of cinema this documentary was quite interesting, it give a brief summation of the history of sound effects in film and how much it adds to the cinematic experience.

There was a heavy focus on films from the 1970s and the genius of Walter Murch and Ben Burtt who added so much to classics from that era and revolutionised the industry.

However there were some great stories of trailblazing women in the industry like Barbara Streisand and Cecilia Hall and I wondered what other stories there are to tell form more recent times.

Ford vs. Ferrari Not Reviewed ***

My Uncle raced cars and bikes and God knows what else. A mechanic by trade he ended up becoming an Engineer. I hear my Grandfather when he got his first car as a middle aged father was a bit of a boy racer. My father was not a boy racer and yet when I mentioned this film to him he told me all about Le Mans in the 1960s and the showdown between two legendary car companies and families.

The trailers will have you believe this is a racing car movie and I suppose that is fair. There is racing in it quite a bit and it is done well. Yet in telling a real life story director James Mangold does not skirt some harsh realities that transpired here.

This is really about the passing of a time where great individuals could do great things but they had to navigate the corporate world to do it. Company boards and stocks were becoming a thing and visionaries couldn’t just build the fastest car in the world in their garage. If the film is to be believed they could still sure as hell rip apart the engine in the shop with a wrench and hammer and figure out how to make it go faster than a computer. But that time was coming to an end and this film is about how to navigate the new world with an old dreamer’s ambition.

It’s funny then to finding ourselves rooting for the designer/former racer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and driver/mechanic Ken Miles (Christian Bale) working for the car company Ford that made its name on the innovation of the factory production line going up against Enzo Ferrari who truly loved cars and racing and whose company today still makes their cars “by hand”.

In Shelby’s struggle to get the GT40 made and to have Ken Miles race it at Le Mans, James Mangold and his team have obviously seen similarities to their own struggles to realise visions in storytelling within the workings of a major film studio. Miles is the best racer for the job and that is not a good enough reason for Ford to have him behind the wheel though it should be the ONLY reason.

A wonderful tale about pursuing excellence in your life and the possible costs that come with it, this is a film that strives to solidify the legacy of Miles and Shelby and does no favours for Ford Junior.

At one point this was film to be shot by Michael Mann with Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise. I sure would have loved to have seen that film. Yet it should be said that Damon and Bale are great in this as are the rest of the cast.

The film is shot naturalistic without the film colourisation of other recent period pieces. There are obvious CGI additions which is disappointing and stand out in the trailers but during the film the editing and sound come together well to get you caught up in the moment.

It’s easy to mock this as the Dad movie of 2019, a tale boomers will recall and can share with their GenX kids however there is a message here for all dreamers to take note of.

There’s a point at 7,000 RPM… where everything fades. The machine becomes weightless. Just disappears. And all that’s left is a body moving through space and time. 7,000 RPM. That’s where you meet it. You feel it coming. It creeps up on you, close in your ear. Asks you a question. The only question that matters. Who are you?.”

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Rocketman Reviewed at Scenestr 29MAY19 ***

There are moments in this Elton John biopic directed by Derek Fletcher starring Taron Egerton and Jaimie Bell, Richard Madden and Gemma Jones that are transcendent.

The moment when the song Rocketman arrives in the film’s narrative is sheer perfection in terms of visual storytelling and emotional resonance. If all the film was at that level it would easily make the top 10 but for me that is not what happened here. Whole scores of scenes and songs felt dreary, uninventive and unnecessary. Maybe that’s just me but there is too much to recommend here to not say you should see it.

As an exercise in capturing what we have loved about this extraordinarily talented, passionate, big hearted, temperamental and damaged man and his music this film hits its target and reminds even rock stars were just once little boys who want love and we all want love don’t we?

Stepfathers, soccer, the fans that fill those stadiums and even the Piano Man’s deep love of all music is glossed over, but a little household in 1950s Pinner looms large…But Pinner is the key. It explains the drugs, the straight marriage and why Taupin is a brother and not just a best friend.

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Long Shot Published at Scenestr 23APR19 ***

A romantic comedy for the 21st century with the star power of Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen.

There is a lot of delving into privacy, political campaigns and male/female dynamics in this film and not just surface references but actual thoughts about these subjects. Yet it retains a light touch (okay it gets a little gross but overall), gets big laughs and has a sweet heart and a smart brain.

It’s not the best film of the year but it shows the romantic comedy is far from played out and why we enjoy them.

Charlize, who has made a career out of playing strong women, gets to flex her comedic muscles again and shows once more she is at the height of her powers. There is a moment where she just stands wearing a pair of sunglasses and it may be the funniest bit in the whole movie. This is star-driven in the oldest sense, the stars coast through the film and, conversely, the film coasts off them, neither gives away just how hard it all is.

 

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Danger Close Not Reviewed ***

Kriv Stenders is one of the best directors working in Australia right now having made the excellent Australia Day and the even better The Go-Betweens: Right Here both in 2017. So it was good news to hear he was doing a film adaptation of the Battle of Long Tan. In a rubber plantation in Vietnam in 1966 an Australian infantry company held off an attack of a numerically superior force. It’s the kind of against the odd battles that make for great storytelling and there are many important stories about Long Tan. Sad stories, touching stories and inspiring stories like there are from all of the Vietnam war.

Danger Close can’t do them all justice and Stenders seems to have been stuck in the middle of waiting to be honest about the nature of soldiers, the futility of war, the politics of the military and telling an exciting rip roaring yarn. He is not without ambition and if he doesn’t quite pull it all together in a consistent and affecting masterpiece he certainly honours certain individuals who were there on the day and maintains some technical fidelity to history and military practice.

Where he fails is in finding a character to follow through the battle and display an affective arc. Even though the film is based on real life, it amazingly stays true to certain war film clichés of rebels who will make good, guys with gals at home who may not be long for this world and hard nosed leaders who will soften around their men and harden even more around the enemy.

Students of the battle will recognise the crucial points are conveyed more or less for what they were and heroic acts and the heroes who carried them out are remembered. Not a perfect film it is an admirable attempt at doing justice to the story of Delta Company, 6RAR on that that day.

The greatest feat Stenders can hang his hat on is how he gets the blood pumping in the lead up to significant actions, he knows how to stage a battle scene and Hollywood should take note, this was one of the most exciting action films of the year.

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Avengers: Endgame Not Reviewed ***

What does it matter what I think about the highest grossing film of all time? I preferred Infinity War to be honest, that was a story told on the run, banking on a cinematic history to fill in the gaps of characterisation and earn emotional buy in.

It was fun though and Endgame to the Russo brothers credit actually wants this to be less fun. They want this to have resonance, to have impact and to matter and they accept that happy endings are not a given, some things can’t be magically reversed. There is a finality to this chapter of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that I hope they stick with rather than go for the cheap cash grab.

I’m sure smarter minds could unpack about how this is not cinema. Sorry, but I had to because I get it, why he said it and I understand why some people disagree and that’s fine too. Yet compare this to say The Return of the King, that is better storytelling more organically unfolding and building towards a climax and yes also a blockbuster.

On the other hand Star Wars and Game of Thrones both ended in 2019 like this iteration of The Avengers and there was a lot more dissatisfaction with those wrap-ups. It’s hard to stick the landing for something that taps into the zeitgeist so much and in a world of increasing split fanbases, identity politics, disparate audiences and general disconnect, it’s kind of nice to have these blockbusters that most people enjoy and share together and are all relatively happy with.

Looking back over the film it feels like a string of moments rather than a story but when I think about where some of these characters ended up at the end of this and how it made us all feel I do smile. It’s almost one of relief but it is one of satisfaction.

We haven’t really talked about the effects, the story or the performances. But why bother, you saw it, I liked all the same things you did. Seeing Peggy through the window, getting a little girl all the cheeseburgers in the world, Rene Russo inspiring fat Thor, oh yeah-fat Thor!, the Avengers assembling and Tony Stark being Iron Man one last time. I love you 3,000 and finally seeing a girl about that dance.

 

 

THE TEN

 

 

10. Bombshell Not Reviewed ***1/2

I was surprised to find how emotionally affecting I found Bombshell which may come as a surprise given the harrowing subject matter. I thought maybe the film would get the cliff notes and be about the actors transforming into people we know from the media world. I had watched and had a lot to recommend from The Loudest Voice which told the story of Ailes and Greta Carlson.

Russell Crowe played him as a fascinating and terrifying figure in that mini-series. A man who changed the media and political landscape of the United States of America granting him power and wealth which would be terrifying to take on if you suffered abuse from it.

I had heard that story and I was not sure if I wanted to revisit it, but the focus here is different. Ailes was a giant in The Loudest Voice, here he is a boss in a workplace that is about to have a reckoning with its culture, excesses and injustices.

At the centre of it are three women and something that Bombshell does well is understand the nuances and complexity of us as individuals in a workplace with ambition, competitiveness and alliances. I knew Charlize Theron and Margot Robbie would be brilliant with it, I did not know the latter would move me to tears after knowing what Ailes was capable of but she did – she’s that good.

Director Jay Roach probably does not get enough credit given his stellar cast who double as producers taking reign about the kind of stories they want to work on but he should. He’s made some good HBO films about Presidential campaigns that feature stars looking exactly like the real life figures they play. His choices aren’t flashy but they are in support of the story and the point of the story being told. This is more than just the movie where Charlize Theron nailed her portrayal of Megyn Kelly, this is good movie and you should see it.

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9. Uncut Gems Not Reviewed ***1/2

I don’t know if I’m recommending this movie for you to see.

When we meet Howard Ratner, New York jeweller, we get the sense of unease almost from the get go. Not just from him but from the people that surround him. His store seems to be full of customers and staff who can’t quite be trusted, they push hard for their own needs, take up the space in the room, shuffle their feet and lean forward, they’ve got friends with them, their clothes are good but not well maintained and they’re sweating in the North Atlantic.

They’re sharks and Howard is right at home with them, because in his mind he is a shark too. There are people in his life who would not disagree. Then we see quite clearly that Howard is a gambler. Life is a hustle and he is a hustler, life has been pretty good to him so he probably has come to the conclusion to keep hustling. The film is an examination of how he might be right but maybe not quite.

Life is a gamble, we’re all gambling in that sense and that is fine but Howard IS a gambler and that is not living a life. That is ruining one and all the lives that circle it. The difference between us and a gambler is not about when they say no and when we do. Everybody makes bad calls and has to deal with bad luck. The difference is the gambler never says no – they can’t.

The fact that Sandler makes you care about the outcome of a man who is self-destructing at maximum warp is kind of a miracle. Maybe, we like Howard, like the thrill of seeing if a bad bet will pay off? Well researched, the film captures a certain New York energy I thought the city had lost with all the foreign capital put into it (albeit this is set a few years ago).

Watch out for clothing designer/model/photographer/director and actress Julia Fox who yes is sexy as hell in this film but brings a lot to the role of Howard’s mistress and fellow hustler Julia. Are they playing each other or is there real affection there? What is she hoping to achieve for herself? Eric Bogosian is in this too and he’s always good. Directors the Safdie Brothers have arrived.

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8. Joker Not Reviewed ***1/2

Joker is a good example of how sometimes when a film is released there wis a lot of conversation around it that may have nothing to do with what you think of the film. To be fair I think director Todd Phillips and star Joaquin Phoenix intended the film to be ambivalent of what it was saying to a degree that what audiences get out of it will depend on what they put in.

Men’s Right Activists, Feminists, the left, the right, mental health advocates, the rich, the poor, civic responsibility, crime, fake news, anarchy, the Fourth Estate, corruption. If these things are near and dear to your heart the film may well be a rallying cry for them, I think it’s more thoughtful than that.

Maybe, just maybe it’s a call to reflect on all of these things and how we’re all a little lost and need to help each other and see things from other perspectives. Or maybe that’s just my agenda.

In any event Joaquin Phoenix is absolutely mesmerising in this film, vulnerable and terrifying in equal measure. I often remark how Charlize Theron is currently at the height of her powers, well I think Joaquin belongs in that group too.

The film is well lit, not a single frame does not seem to have been meticulously planned out in location, set dressing and lighting. I think the period setting of the film is even deliberate criticising nostalgia and the rose coloured glasses that get applied to history which is full of injustices and calling on historical references.

There’s symbolism galore and neat touches throughout, notice how we see Arthur repeatedly banging his head against walls while he is also trying to free his thinking and socially break through barriers. The way Arthur metamorphoses before our eyes has become instantly iconic too.

I also think the filmmakers are very direct in what they think of murder and violence and how where the Joker ends up is not a happy ending but a cautionary tale. The Joker is not a fantasy for me, not a defiant rebel chant either but a sad reflection that we need to do better.

7. Good Boys Published at Scenestr 10SEP19 ***1/2

Good Boys is one of the funniest and best gross out mainstream comedies in years. In fact I’d say the good ones are in short supply and this is one of the great ones. There’s real depth and insight into it and a lot of thought and care has gone into it as a visual piece of entertainment as well as a story that strings together a series of jokes.

But at the end of the day what you need to know about it is it will make you laugh, often and hard.

The script from Lee Eisenberg and director Gene Stupnitsky is smart, filthy, and full of heart. It understands the roles that these three boys play in each other’s lives and how their loyalty can become frayed but never compromised. Note in particular how Max is the leader but often when they are discussing a course of action the camera frames him centre with Lucas and Thor on each of his shoulders coaxing him towards riskier or safer choices reflective of their personalities.

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6. Marriage Story Not Reviewed ****

Marriage Story is, yes, about a divorce but it is also about also about marriage and being a parent. I’m painfully aware there are a lot of men right now suffering because they have lost their families and try as they might they can’t find a way to get them back in the current system. Marriage Story might speak to them but it might also speak to a whole lot of women who feel unheard and unappreciated by their husbands who find their voice and independence when they leave them.

What I liked about this film maybe most of all is that I understood both Scarlett Johansson’s Nicole and Adam Driver’s Charlie. The film opens with a sequence that shows how each views the other in a good way. Everything that follows reflects this, they may not work as a couple but they understand the other person very well.

There are cutaways we as the audience see but the other spouse does not and we wish that maybe they had found a way of communicating better and if there is hope to be found in the ending it is that maybe they have.

Noah Baumbach makes impressive films with performances that comes across as natural in the moment but are more likely painfully rehearsed to get to this point. One absolute stand-out moment is when Nicole unpacks why she has left Charlie prompted on by lawyer played by Laura Dern. It feels so off the cuff and yet it is perfect. I would have been more than happy if Driver or Johansson had walked with Oscars for their respective performances. This is a grown-up film for grown-ups and I hope they continue to get made and find audiences.

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5. 1917 Review Published at Scenestr 10JAN20 ****

One of the great films of the year 1917 at one point appeared to be the frontrunner for Best Picture. Mythic in its technique and singular and everyday in its focus. Lots will be made about Roger Deakins cinematography in service to making the film appear as one long continuous take but the film is also a master class in acting. Exciting, moving and personal for director Sam Mendes it cracks the Top Five with a bullet. Simply a must-see.

More than a harrowing and kinetic tale, ‘1917’ repeatedly reminds of both how humanity is lost in war and how it touchingly endures. There was nothing natural, colourful or human in those trenches except the men left breathing. They cracked wise, held each other close and laid down their lives for their fellow man. ‘1917’ remembers this and asks us to never forget.

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4. Midnight Family Review Published at Weekend Notes 10OCT19 ****

In Mexico City there is a family of ambulance paramedics named the Ochoas. Director Luke Lorentzen has made a documentary about their lives in this work and in a city of nine million people that has 45 official ambulance vans and crews.

The Ochoas are effectively small business owners trying to survive in a market and corrupt system that makes them have to hustle. They’re also saving lives on a daily basis. As someone who worked in hospitals I was quite touched by this movie and the people in it. I also enjoy seeing a city at night in the way only an ambo sees it. A great documentary to check out.

Many patients remain off-screen as we observe the ambulance crew going to work while loved ones or bystanders look on. It’s haunting stuff as you still hear them cry out in pain, see mothers tear up or the paramedics stare off in the distance after a hard job. …The documentary film is not for the fainthearted but perhaps that is fitting given that neither is the job of a paramedic.

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3. The Irishman Not Reviewed ****

The Irishman is a film about what is coming for us all eventually. Some of us won’t have time to reflect in that moment but all of us reflect throughout our lives about how we are living them. Whole years can become a series of fleeting memories that fell away in short order while small moments loom large.

Frank Sheeran tells us the story of his life and it’s pretty sad to think that of his big moments are conversation in bars with middle aged men and the people he shot dead for them. Not even most of those murders register for him but one does. The narrative of the film opens up and closes like an accordion. The closer we get to a day in the 1970s the more the film slows down and before and after the narrative kicks into a faster gear. This is how Frank remembers his life.

Sheeran wanted to be a good father but what does he really remember about his time with his children? It is fascinating to have the man who made Mean Streets, Goodfellas, Casino and The Gangs of New York make this film at his current age with his fellow contemporaries including most of the people he made those films with.

The CGI used to make this cast appear younger is not always effective but there is a weight lent to the cast portraying a whole life of a character having lived much of one themselves. Joe Pesci who often has played motor mouths and physical guys here is deafeningly quiet as a different type of mobster and in a certain way the real partner of Sheeran’s life Russell Bufalino.

There is a scene in this film that is almost like a proposal even though Scorsese wisely plays it straight. In the end Sheeran is looking for absolution and love from his family but he gave up his soul and love to two giants in his life and one made him choose between them and its haunted him ever since.

I love a lot about this movie. I love the shots that frame putting a watch on like you would every morning and how that watch would mean a lot to you and yet these are things you can’t take with you. About how a certain way something was cooked at a certain place that you ate on a given day will be front and centre in your memory as much as the events of that day.

Some love has been given to Al Pacino and Joe Pesci but Robert De Niro is really good in this movie. I think we sadly take him for granted a little bit and this film reminds us he’s still got the chops. It’s kind of small miracle that his film got made and that it is this good. Scorsese has remained a great artist long into his eighth decade, others have given the game away or lost their edge but Scorsese is still one of the all time greats and this film can only grow in stature as time goes on. I saw this at New Farm Cinemas on my 39th birthday and it was a great present.

2. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood Not Reviewed

If The Irishman was about looking back over a whole life then Quentin Tarantino’s film is a love letter to a time and place. Or maybe more accurately how we remember a time and place in our mind. Tarantino is 56 years old, its fair to say the kid who made Reservoir Dogs has matured as a filmmaker and gone through different phrases over the years. He is now one of a handful of auteurs left in a Hollywood where a corporation like Disney owns a third of the market share.

I can’t say I’ve always been a fan but with nine films to his belt I’d care to wager most are outright classics. Up until now I’d liked his earlier films more so than each successive one that followed while finding a lot to recommend about them all. That has all changed now.

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood may be my favourite Quentin Tarantino movie!

Sure it holds a nostalgia for a time and place that I have an interest in but the lesson of the film is it is all so beautiful and fleeting, as your time passes be open to the idea of moving with it and enjoying the next stage. Set in 1969 this is a Hollywood in upheaval with Easy Riders taking over from the old moguls, a society reckoning with old prejudices and new opportunities.

Actor Rick Dalton is not doing too well in this new world, he’s a square jawed face with a haircut with no interest in method acting and the type of realism that the new breed of filmmakers want. He’s also a man on the wrong side of 40 who might have missed his chance. Think Steve McQueen if he hadn’t done The Magnificent Seven and suddenly everybody wants to make Five Easy Pieces with Jack Nicholson (of course McQueen, Kirk Douglas and Paul Newman all made the transition through this era but they were stars already and often classic trained actors too). Understandably Dalton wishes it was 1961 again and he was cool and they were no Goddamn hippies about and he was still on the rise.

His only friend in the world is Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) who was his stunt double but is now more his Batman. Like a lot of Batmen, he’s more capable and reliant than the one he serves. Both are loyal to each other though and have that kind of friendship you develop sometimes where you’re a buttress of support for the other one. The film for the most part follows a day in their life that will provide important lessons for Dalton and see Booth meet some unsavoury characters. Then months later we come to the night of the Manson murders.

I won’t spoil the plot but I like the way Tarantino paces this film. There is a scene where Booth feeds his dogs and it shows a lot about his life and circumstances. The period details are nicely done and there are some great set-ups and pay offs throughout. I like the things alluded to but never answered and the repetition of themes.

There is also meta commentary on Tarantino and his career and influences as well. It feels like the kind of film you make late in your career when you’re at the height of your powers. With this Tarantino proves he is.

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1. Blinded By The Light Review Published at Scenestr 22OCT19 ****

This was my favourite film of 2019, the little seen Blinded By The Light. Whenever I bring it up with people they ask about if it’s Yesterday? No it’s not Yesterday, it’s a lot better than that.

It’s about Javed Khan, a teenage son of Pakistani immigrants coming of age in Luton in 1987. He becomes inspired and finds direction in his life through the music of Bruce Springsteen. Yesterday is a love story with two lead characters in it who don’t know what they want and banks on the nostalgia we have for Beatles tunes. There is a big difference.

The film does delve into racism and economic downturns and is more authentic and affecting for it but this film made my heart soar. It’s about love and family and following your dreams. This was the most emotionally moving film I saw all year and I dare you not to be moved.

‘Blinded By The Light’ is the most feel-good and first real good film of 2019. Directed by Gurinder Chadha, who pulled off a similar feat in 2002 with ‘Bend It Like Beckham’.

Well that is it for another year, I hope you enjoyed reading this list. I would love to hear what your favourite films of the year are. Any that you would recommend, some you are surprised didn’t make the list and any that you think are overrated?

Until next time, take care, we are in the midst of interesting times but we will get through them together. Stay safe.

-Lloyd Marken

SPEED: THE MOVIE, THE PLAY REVIEW AVAILABLE ON SCENESTR

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On the 1st of March, 2020 I was lucky enough to be assignment with Scenestr magainzne to attend the latest production from Act/React theatre company. I’m a big fan you may have noted from my previous reviews of their productions Love/Hate Actually, Kiss of the Vampire Squid, Titanic: The Movie, The Play and last Christmas Die Hard: The Movie, The Play.

Interestingly enough this production made it’s debut years ago before all of these shows and before I had even heard of Act/React or was working as a freelance writer. It maybe the best one out of the lot of them, it was certainly fun to finally get to see it as part of this year’s Brisbane Comedy Festival.

Karen was unable to make it due to a sore back so I took a mate of mine. We certainly made the cute couple leading to us being asked by one of the performers during the show if we were a couple. We both shrugged and answered “Sure, why not?”. This led to an offer to come back to his place to enjoy some sandwiches. I later advised my mate proudly that I would bring the salami. He correctly pointed out that would make me the meat in the sandwich. While disembarking the bus I cheekily signalled to the performer to call me but alas the moment had passed.

It was a little bit of a shame to have Karen miss the show. At one moment I was asked to relay messages over the phone to ‘Keanu’ on how to defuse the bomb and my mate had his haircut commented on. I’m happy to report my friend had a good time and I was glad he could make it.

You can read my review here https://scenestr.com.au/comedy/speed-the-movie-the-play-review-brisbane-comedy-festival-2020-20200306

If you’re a local, definitely check them out, many shows have already sold out but there are a few tickets left.

-Lloyd Marken

 

AARON CHEN’S ‘MR CIGARETTE’ REVIEW AVAILABLE ON SCENESTR

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The annual Brisbane Comedy Festival has kicked off and I was lucky to attend stand-up comedian Aaron Chen’s new show at the Turbine Studio, Brisbane Powerhouse on assignment for Scenestr.

I came across Chen last year when I attended After Hours and reviewed it for Weekend Notes. After Hours was hosted by Dusty Rich and featured artists with shows doing medleys or their best number or scene and stand-ups effectively doing a tight 5 set. That night Rhys Nicholson absolutely killed and was the best on the night but Chen caught my attention with his swagger commanding presence on stage milking laughs out of thin air on the sheer strength of his persona. So I was keen to see his show and am happy to report everything I thought of Aaron Chen after those five minutes last year remains true.

You can read my review here https://scenestr.com.au/comedy/aaron-chen-review-brisbane-comedy-festival-2020-20200226

My customary photos from the event I am sad to report are lacking because I left my phone at home. Thankfully Karen has stepped in and come to the rescue so there are some photos thanks to her. Hope you enjoy.

Produced by Eyeball Media Enterprises Scenestr is an online national magazine with local offices around Australia. Having started in 1993 they’ve excelled at moving into the digital realm but they remain at heart from the streets. They still publish magazines in print for Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland every month.

-Lloyd Marken

MARVELLING AT THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL

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A couple of years ago I heard about The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, those who spoke about it really seemed to dig it but in an age of disparate audiences I alas was a Netflix customer and Mrs Maisel was available on streaming service Amazon Prime in Australia. With so much content to choose from in the world I decided I could make do without Mrs Maisel.

How wrong I was.

The show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is a delight, I easily feel it is one of the best shows I’ve seen in the past three years of its run, but this is not a show that should come billed as the best show on TV. A label that misleads and heightens expectations. What makes The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel so good is the way it grows on you and the way it builds to jokes.

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But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here, what the hell is the show about? We meet the newly minted Mrs. Maisel at her wedding reception in the mid 1950s. She’s holding court doing a speech, it’s a big reception, she regales us with tales of the courtship of her husband while she was at college. We learn a lot in that opening scene, we learn Midge as we will come to know comes from a well off family, is educated, likes to perform to an audience and is a passionate individual not ready to conform to society’s expectations and always up for a laugh. Its important that we meet Midge right at this moment in her life. This is supposed to be her crowning achievement, she’s graduated, gotten married to a good man and is going to pump out 3 kids by 30 and be a good mother and wife in a well to do family. Except well none of that is going to happen and what is going to help this young, intelligent, witty and ambitious woman survive the ordeals ahead is everything we see she is in these opening moments.

Midge is going to be a stand-up comic and God help me I know this is true – she is going to be a star. To become the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Midge’s life possibly has to get blown up because without that she doesn’t come to realise she has been living a lie and possibly the biggest lie of them all that she is happy in a life that she was not meant to live.

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I don’t want to give too much away but Midge’s husband walks out on her and the first season is about dealing with the repercussions of that. We meet both families and their friends and personalities of the late 1950s underground comic scene (fyi Luke Kirby as Lenny Bruce is brilliant). You can tell a lot about a show by how much energy is put into the supporting characters. People with one scene that serve a purpose are given wit and charm and a whole lived in history thanks to the writing and the wonderful performers. There are throw away scenes that are some of the best in the series and then other laughs that make you nod and reflect yes that’s so much like so and so.

Out of the terrific ensemble cast, I want to give a shout out to Marin Hinkle as Midge’s mother Rose who is so subtle in her delivery. However even more than that, this show made me realise how much of a national treasure Tony Shalhoub is. I first noticed Shalhoub years ago as a tough FBI agent in The Siege (a change of pace for him as he was already established as a comedy sitcom star) and then I saw him as a laid back space travelling actor in Galaxy Quest. Here… he is Dad and he makes you smile and cry in equal measure. Like all fathers he is far from perfect, but he’s pretty close if you know what I mean. Hinkle and him give gravitas to scenes that are elevated by their presence and deliver pitch perfect comic timing to all the others.

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Lead Rachel Brosnahan as Midge had been cast in some prominent roles in House of Cards and The Blacklist but here she gets to be the star and she makes the most of it. Midge is not perfect, she likes the spotlight a bit too much and drinking might be an issue down the road but for the most part she is quick witted, resilient, optimistic and giving to others. Something that I admire deeply about her is how she stands up for herself and keeps pursuing goals. You can’t make it in this business if you can’t roll with some heavy punches.

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I think what I love most about the show is at the centre of it are two women with an impossible big dream who chase it because they’ve got nothing to lose. Alex Borstein plays Susie Myerson who sees Midge perform stand-up comedy and decides to become her manager although she’s never been a manager before in her life. The juxtaposition of these two is regularly played up in the show with great results. Midge is well dressed in fashionable outfits and has her looks regularly commented upon. Susie dresses like a man and gets mistaken for one or even just ignored. Midge comes from a lot and is about to lose a lot of it forcing her to show a new independence she has always inherently had. Susie has come from nothing and so had nothing to lose but upsets the stability of the life she had established for herself by deciding to chase something larger. They’re both betting on the other to come through for them in a big way and they’re doing it because they believe in each other and doesn’t that just make your heart soar.

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The most recent season three ended with a setback for the two as they looked up at a plane rising into the New York skyline with their dreams seemingly on board leaving with it. All I could think was, “they’ll be okay, they’re gonna make it, they’re together.’

The production values are big for a TV show and there are lots of neat ways they frame things, take for example how a trip from New York to Paris is represented. The sound track is wonderful, fans of The Gilmore Girls (a show I missed but had a well off family at the centre of it, whip smart dialogue and establishing tracking shots that panned around a set and was also run by Amy Sherman Palladino) will recognise the work of the Palladinos here (her husband Daniel works on her shows too) but I think this might even be a show for people who didn’t appreciate Gilmore Girls.

There are flaws, Midge’s children only seem to be around when it is important to the plot, sometimes I wonder if favorite characters are consistently drawn or if we spend a little too many episodes in a setting because they’ve shelled out the budget for it and damnit now they’re going to make the most out of it. Catskills and Miami anyone?

Yet it is a series that grows on you, pays off little bread crumbs it left for you a million years ago. Truths that rarely go spoken but give so much satisfaction when they’re said at the height of a pivotal scene by a character. Sometimes this show is so good it warms your heart-it really does. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is my favourite TV show and you should definitely see it.

-Lloyd Marken

BIRDS OF PREY (AND THE FANTABULOUS EMANCIPATION OF ONE HARLEY QUINN) FILM REVIEW AVAILABLE ON SCENESTR AND FROOTY

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I was very fortunate to attend a preview screening of Birds of Prey with Karen on Wednesday 05FEB2020 at the Myer Centre in the Brisbane CBD on assignment for Scenestr for the first time in 2020. I always feel fortunate to attend such screenings and get to review new films. The crowd we were with seemed to enjoy the film and I found there was a lot I appreciated about the film but I worried if it would find an audience. So far box office has been soft for the film but I believe when it finds its audience it is going to become quite beloved by them.

There is an irreverent rebellious attitude to the production and a manic joy. I thought similar thoughts about Suicide Squad that seemed well cast with interesting characters in desperate need of a plot and being able to make more of the potential of its premise and explore the unique possibilities that could come from it. Birds of Prey, a female centric sidequel spin-off, is a step in the right decision with better action and a better plot but still full of dropped ideas and unexplored potential.

There are to my mind no positive male characters in it but I can live with my heroes, anti-heroes and villains coming in all genders, races and creeds. No doubt the film is saying something about the female experience and exploring gender politics but how much it really says I’ll leave to the individual viewer to decide.

For me like before with Suicide Squad, I hold out hope of seeing some of these performers bringing to life these characters again. You can read my review here https://scenestr.com.au/movies-and-tv/birds-of-prey-and-the-fantabulous-emancipation-of-one-harley-quinn-film-review-20200206

Afterwards Karen and I enjoyed some pizzas at the Hilton Hotel lobby.

About a month later Karen and I were with friends seeing a movie at Palace Cinemas and came across some print issues of Scenestr and its sister publication Frooty.

My editor who runs Frooty asked if my review of Rocketman could be published in the first print issue of Frooty last year which I was stoked about and agreed to. Karen found my review of Harley Quinn had now been published in Frooty Issue #10. I guess I didn’t need to be asked a second time… However being in print is always a thrill and I hope the readers of Frooty enjoyed.

The review features on page 11 of the March 2020 issue which you can read a digital version of here http://frooty.com.au/read/2020/issue-10/FROOTY-10.html#p=11

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Produced by Eyeball Media Enterprises Scenestr is an online national magazine with local offices around Australia. Having started in 1993 they’ve excelled at moving into the digital realm but they remain at heart from the streets. They still publish magazines in print for Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland every month.

Started in 2017 and produced by Eyeball Media Enterprises, Frooty is an online national magazine that covers news and entertainment with a queer perspective. Their first print issue rolled out in July 2019 across five major states (QLD, NSW, Vic, SA, WA) and have followed monthly since. Frooty is one of the country’s widest circulating queer titles.

-Lloyd Marken

OVER 1,OOO VIEWS FOR MINOR ROLES THAT HAD A MAJOR IMPACT – STEPHANIE FROM ‘THE NAKED GUN’

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Another milestone to celebrate on the site, last month another one of my posts reached over 1,000 views.

From my series of posts Minor Roles That Had A Major Impact published in 2017, this one centred around the Learner Driver named Stephanie caught up in a movie car chase in the comedy The Naked Gun who rises to the occasion.

A classic example of a minor character having a huge effect on the plot and just making an impact in terms of the quality of the performance.

And now some stats for the sake of those who love stats.  The post was originally published 17MAR2017 and closed out 2017 as the 8th most popular post on my blog from 2017 with 89 views. It currently sits at 1,051 views having reached 1,000 views on the  22nd of January this year. The most popular month so far was September 2018 where it accumulated 101 views, the only time thus far it has reached triple digits in a month. That month had a daily average of 3 views. Most days there is at least one view on average. It currently has 16 likes from my fellow bloggers.

I don’t know if these posts appear silly, self-congratulatory or just embarrassing. But I never thought so many people might read any of my post when I started blogging five years ago let alone 1,000 so whenever it happens it feels like something worth noting. I hope you enjoy.

-Lloyd Marken

1917 REVIEW AVAILABLE ON SCENESTR

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I attended with my wife Karen a preview screening of the film 1917 at the Myer Centre on the 5th of December last year. That seems a long time ago now, Christmas and New Year’s have happened since, I’ve been working in my humble public servant job, the film has become an Oscar contender and my country has been burning.

Some of us have tried to help where we can. Others have forced handshakes and tried to re-write history in their press interviews. A special few have been helping and making a real difference and I stand in awe of them.

I hope you are all well.

1917 is one of the best films of the year, you can find my review here  https://scenestr.com.au/movies-and-tv/1917-film-review-20200110

Karen and I enjoyed the film, another great gem from Universal Studios this year that has included Blinded by the Light and Good Boys.

There were sausage rolls and Scotch and in a new twist we got our photo published in the Socials Page of The West End Magazine which you can find here https://www.westendmagazine.com/1917-premiere/#&gid=1&pid=4

I remember there was a buzz in the air after the screening with people talking excitedly amongst themselves about how good the film was. Karen and I went to the Hilton Hotel lobby to grab something to eat. We’re quite fond of the place. I’m interested to know what you all thought of the film.

I wish you all the best in 2020.

Produced by Eyeball Media Enterprises Scenestr is an online national magazine with local offices around Australia. Having started in 1993 they’ve excelled at moving into the digital realm but they remain at heart from the streets. They still publish magazines in print for Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland every month.

-Lloyd Marken

RASA REVIEW AVAILABLE ON SCENESTR

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I saw my sixth and final Wonderland show on assignment for Scenestr magazine last Friday evening. I feel incredibly lucky to continue to work for Scenestr and review some amazing talent and work for them.

Karen and I went and saw stand-up comedian Ashwin Segkar’s show Rasa which we both enjoyed and was a great way to cap off the festival for another year. You can read my review here https://scenestr.com.au/comedy/ashwin-segkar-rasa-brisbane-review-wonderland-festival-2019-20191203

Afterwards Karen and I did partake some more of beloved pepperoni and basil and margherita pizzas at the Brisbane Powerhouse bar. Another special year at Wonderland had come to an end. What will 2020 bring?

Produced by Eyeball Media Enterprises Scenestr is an online national magazine with local offices around Australia. Having started in 1993 they’ve excelled at moving into the digital realm but they remain at heart from the streets. They still publish magazines in print for Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland every month.

-Lloyd Marken

 

 

SLACK MIRROR REVIEW AVAILABLE ON SCENESTR

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I felt very fortunate to be on assignment with Scenestr magazine for six shows at Wonderland Festival 2019. It proved a very diverse array of shows from the highly anticipated Die Hard: The Movie, The Play to the quirky and moving Awesome Ocean Party to the amazing singing of Amity Dry in Fortified to the unbridled energy and fun of Big Glittery Shitshow.

The shows I covered in my second and final week just added to the range of what I show. First up from the wonderful Amy Currie and Drew Lochrie came a scary, humorous and thought provoking Slack Mirror, a series of drama sketches that came with laughs and big ideas from two very talented thespians and comedy improvisers whose work I was familiar with in Act/React and Impromafia productions.

You can read my review of the show here https://scenestr.com.au/arts/slack-mirror-brisbane-review-wonderland-festival-2019-20191129

Produced by Eyeball Media Enterprises Scenestr is an online national magazine with local offices around Australia. Having started in 1993 they’ve excelled at moving into the digital realm but they remain at heart from the streets. They still publish magazines in print for Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland every month.

-Lloyd Marken

BIG GLITTERY SHITSHOW REVIEW AVAILABLE ON SCENESTR

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The first weekend of Wonderland Festival 2019 went off with a bang for me with Karen and I attending the Big Glittery Shitshow at the Stores Studio on Saturday night 22NOV2019.

It is not so much what happened but how it happened that matters so much with this show but it was some of the most fun I’ve had attending a show all year and I highly recommend the talents of all involved.

You can read my review here https://scenestr.com.au/arts/big-glittery-sh-tshow-brisbane-review-wonderland-festival-2019-20191126

Produced by Eyeball Media Enterprises Scenestr is an online national magazine with local offices around Australia. Having started in 1993 they’ve excelled at moving into the digital realm but they remain at heart from the streets. They still publish magazines in print for Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland every month.

-Lloyd Marken

FORTIFIED REVIEW AVAILABLE ON SCENESTR

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Following attending Awesome Ocean Party and Die Hard: The Movie, The Play Thursday the 21st of November the following evening we attended the cabaret Fortified starring Amity Dry in the Turbine Studio.

Fortified deals with divorce and Dry is to be commended for what feels like a very raw and honest show about her thoughts, feelings, and hopes for what happened and what will come of it.

I couldn’t shake the feeling though afterwards that at times my sympathies had not gone where I thought they should. That again could be something about how real and open this show was, it could also be my own interpretation of the show but it didn’t feel like it was by design or with purpose. It felt like something had been missed in the telling.  A one-sided perspective it felt odd to wonder more about the others involved then come away even more deeply moved by Dry’s own tale of survival.

Amity has many fans and I certainly enjoyed her show, all the songs are original and many played in my head days later as did her incredible voice singing them. You can read the review that was published online by Scenestr magazine here https://scenestr.com.au/arts/fortified-brisbane-review-wonderland-festival-2019-20191125

Produced by Eyeball Media Enterprises Scenestr is an online national magazine with local offices around Australia. Having started in 1993 they’ve excelled at moving into the digital realm but they remain at heart from the streets. They still publish magazines in print for Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland every month.

-Lloyd Marken

 

DIE HARD: THE MOVIE, THE PLAY REVIEW AVAILABLE ON SCENESTR

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Long term readers will know I am a fan of theatre company Act/React and their work so it may not come as a surprise to find that I went to see their latest at Wonderland Festival 2019 – Die Hard: The Movie, The Play which followed on from seeing their other work Love/Hate Actually, Kiss of the Vampire Squid, Titanic: The Movie, The Play.

It may also come as no surprise given the strength of the talent involved and the premise of recreating Die Hard as live meta theatre that I enjoyed the show very much following on from taking in the wonderfully quirky and heartfelt Awesome Ocean Party earlier that evening.

You can read my review here https://scenestr.com.au/arts/die-hard-the-movie-the-play-brisbane-review-wonderland-festival-2019-20191126

I was delighted to review both shows for Scenestr magazine who I was on assignment with for the third time at Wonderland Festival and there were more shows to come.

Produced by Eyeball Media Enterprises Scenestr is an online national magazine with local offices around Australia. Having started in 1993 they’ve excelled at moving into the digital realm but they remain at heart from the streets. They still publish magazines in print for Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland every month.

-Lloyd Marken

AWESOME OCEAN PARTY REVIEW AVAILABLE ON SCENESTR

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How did I ever not know about Wonderland? Every year at around about this time the festival runs at the Brisbane Powerhouse with a mix of cabaret, comedians, plays and experiments.

This is my third time reviewing shows for Scenestr magazine and it remains something  special that I truly look forward to. As I approached the Powerhouse for my first show I smiled at the lit up ‘W‘ sign above the main entrance. It was good to be back.

Last Thursday I arrived to see shows Awesome Ocean Party and the highly anticipated latest from Act/React’s Die Hard: The Movie, The Play.

More on the latter later but you can read my review of Awesome Ocean Party here https://scenestr.com.au/arts/awesome-ocean-party-brisbane-review-wonderland-festival-2019-20191125. Nominated for Best Cabaret at Melbourne Fringe 2016, the show had a quirky home made charm about it, likeable performers and a lovely message.

 

 

Afterwards attending the show at the Turbine Studio, Karen and I went to the bar and had our beloved favourite Powerhouse pizzas – basil and cheese for Karen and pepperoni for me.

We then made our way to Nakatomi plaza.

To be continued…

Produced by Eyeball Media Enterprises Scenestr is an online national magazine with local offices around Australia. Having started in 1993 they’ve excelled at moving into the digital realm but they remain at heart from the streets. They still publish magazines in print for Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland every month.

-Lloyd Marken

TERMINATOR: DARK FATE REVIEW AVAILABLE ON SCENESTR

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I was lucky enough to be on assignment again for Scenestr magazine last Wednesday night to attend a preview screening of Terminator: Dark Fate at Reading Cinemas, Newmarket. There were other critics and fans in attendance.

Sadly while I enjoyed Linda Hamilton’s performance and think this is the best sequel we got since Terminator 2: Judgement Day that is not necessarily high praise. You can read my full review here https://scenestr.com.au/movies-and-tv/terminator-dark-fate-film-review-20191101

 

 

Produced by Eyeball Media Enterprises Scenestr is an online national magazine with local offices around Australia. Having started in 1993 they’ve excelled at moving into the digital realm but they remain at heart from the streets. They still publish magazines in print for Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland every month.

-Lloyd Marken

‘BLINDED BY THE LIGHT’ REVIEW AVAILABLE ON SCENESTR

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On the 25th of July I attended a preview screening for Blinded by the Light at Palace Barracks on assignment for Scenestr magazine. I didn’t quite know what to expect but what I saw was the first great film of 2019. The release date had just been moved so finally three months later I can tell you about how good this movie is.

Directed by Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham) and starring Viveik Kalra as Javed Khan, the film is a wonderful coming of age tale centred around the son of Pakistani immigrants growing up in Luton, England circa 1987.

Javed is finding himself when he discovers the music of Bruce Springsteen and uses it to guide him in pursuing his dreams and defining himself. A period piece, there are startling parallels to our own times and nostalgia for a time now gone.

I can’t say enough good things about this movie, with unnecessary sequels like Terminator: Dark Fate and Zombieland: Double Tap pass through our cinemas I would urge anybody to check out this feel good delight and make it the surprise hit of the season.

 

 

You can read my review here https://scenestr.com.au/movies-and-tv/blinded-by-the-light-review-20191022

Produced by Eyeball Media Enterprises Scenestr is an online national magazine with local offices around Australia. Having started in 1993 they’ve excelled at moving into the digital realm but they remain at heart from the streets. They still publish magazines in print for Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland every month.

-Lloyd Marken

STORIES ON THE 2019 TEACHX AWARD FINALISTS AVAILABLE ON THE COURIER MAIL, WINNEWS, 7NEWS, ABC RADIO, DAILY MERCURY, THE AUSTRALASIAN MUSLIM TIMES, THE DAILY EXAMINER, THE MORNING BULLETIN, THE SOUTH-EAST ADVERTISER, THE TOWNSVILLE BULLETIN and QUEST NEWSPAPERS.

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On Friday the 4th of October I completed my secondment of higher duties with the Media Team at the Queensland College of Teachers in support of their work for the 2019 TeachX Awards.  It concluded 10 weeks I had worked full time as a writer for the first time in my life.

In the last two and a half weeks I switched gears from writing about nominees to interviewing 15 of the 30 named finalists and writing media releases based on those interviews. I was guided in this endeavour by the manager of the team who is a former journalist of many years and was preparing the other 15 along with various other work.

The aim with media releases is to have them grab the attention of outlets and good ones can go out with very little changes made by the publication when they print the story. I did what I could and through the efforts of my manager and with some luck, the TEACHX Awards received unprecedented media coverage.

 

The 15 Finalists I interviewed included the following below of which I placed links to their initial nominee pieces published on the Queensland College of Teachers website.

Beginning to Teach

Kirra Gold from Marsden State High School

Dr Susanne Sprungala from Kirwan State High School

Gabrielle Milne from Nursey Road Special School

Outstanding Contribution to School Community

Mitchell Robertson from Marsden State High School

Canan Coskun from Wisdom College

Excellence in Teaching

Ruth MacLean from Indooroopilly State High School

Catherine Nicholson from Chancellor State College

Michelle Ragen from Brisbane Grammar School

Innovation to Teaching

Wendy Goldston from Frenchville State School

Thomas Patterson from Marsden State High School

Excellent Leadership in Teaching and Learning

Tamara Sullivan from Ormiston College

Patrick Egan from Emmaus College

Lynne Hardy from Mackay State High School

Outstanding Contribution to Teaching

Catherine Heiner from Sheldon College

Kirsti Ellerton from the Brisbane School of Distance Education

 

Each one of these 15 were extraordinary teachers and first rate human beings, it was just a privilege to speak to them. Their own individual stories were endlessly fascinating and their passion for their chosen profession and the students they taught shone through.

Amongst them were people who had worked in remote communities, flown into burnt out Dili, become teachers after careers as biologists, engineers, lawyers and builders. Others who had known from a young age there was no other job they were going to do.

Whether they were immigrants, windswept travellers, beginning teachers or experienced lifers they all still burned with a passion for educating the next generation of kids.

Teachers involved in virtual reality and holograms, others part of programs that taught trade skills, grew cultural pride and knowledge and empowered local communities. Ones that taught at special schools, private schools, independent non-denomination schools, state schools and distance education schools.

In the days since my secondment ended I have been updated on where their stories have appeared and will now direct you to links although many are behind paywalls which is fair enough as media outlets strive to remain viable in this digital era.

Media Sponsor The Courier Mail wrote a large article about the Awards and all Finalists.

The Courier Mail also wrote an article about Marsden State High School and theirfour finalists Kirra Gold, Mitchell Robertson, Andrew Peach and Thomas Patterson.

The Courier Mail also wrote an article about Finalist Cathy Nicholson and online posted an article on Canan Coskun.

The Australasian Muslim Times also wrote an article on Canan Coskun.

Regional newspaper The Daily Examiner wrote about Finalists Belinda Rule and Lynne Hardy.

Regional Newspaper Daily Mercury did a whole article on teacher Lynne Hardy.

Regional newspaper The Morning Bulletin wrote an article about Finalists Patrick Egan, Wendy Goldston and Norah Parsons.

Local Quest newspaper wrote an article about three Finalists Michael Senior, Carla Trott and Ruth MacLean and another on Marsden State High School and three of it’s four finalists Kirra Gold, Mitchell Robertson and Andrew Peach.

Quest also wrote an article about Finalists Catherine Heiner and Tamara Sullivan.

Local newspaper The South-East Advertiser wrote an article on four finalists Megan Pearse, Gabrielle Milne, Kirsti Ellerton and Lynne Schylder.

The Townsville Bulletin wrote an article on Finalist Dr Susanne Sprungala.

Thomas Patterson was interviewed by Rebecca Livingston on ABC Radio Brisbane.

Lynne Hardy received television news coverage from 7 News.

 

7News also did a story on Finalist Tamika Megawatt.

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Finally Wendy Goldston received Televison coverage from WINNews and then a competing network Channel 7 a few days later.

 

The TeachX Awards were held last Thursday night at the grand old building of Customs House with Finalists, Sponsors and VIPs attending.

84 year old Miss Merline Muldoon was there with the award category Innovation in Teaching recently named after her. I was lucky enough to wait on Miss Muldoon and her sister Janette.

Merline and Janette spoke to all finalists in their category and various VIPs who were keen to talk to them. Merline also presented on stage to each Innovation Finalist their Certificate and then congratulated the winner Jennifer Irving.

We were very lucky to have Miss Muldoon and other eponyms in attendance and I was honoured to spend time with her. She has a remarkable legacy in Queensland education.

A particular proud moment for me was when I was introduced by my manager to the finalists as the individual who had interviewed half of them. I was lucky enough to speak to a lot of them in person on the night.

It was noted by one winner Andrew Peach, on the night, all the positive energy in the air from the event and how we need to take that with us out into the education sector and through out our lives.

A full list of the winners can be found on the QCT website here https://www.qct.edu.au/news/2019-TeachX-Finalists

The awards had proven once again a success, the next day The Courier Mail printed a story on the winners on their front page and second page, a full feature on page 35 and an editorial piece by QCT Director Deanne Fishburn.

As for me, all I can say is, I was grateful for the opportunity. It bears repeating the event was a huge undertaking requiring a lot of work from a group of strong professionals. The aim was to recognise some of the great work that teachers are doing and to help elevate the profession.

When teachers such as these are involved and the people doing the work are so talented and committed it comes as no surprise to reflect the 2019 TeachX Awards were an unprecedented success.

I was thrilled to be in the room with such people.

-Lloyd Marken

THE BIFF IS BACK – BIFF 2019 PART III

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Following on from catching Memory: The Origins of Alien and Little Monsters on Friday night, the next day I set off to Dendy cinemas in the inner Eastern suburb of Brisbane Coorparoo to check out two more films at BIFF 2019. At 1pm I saw my first film up in Cinema 8.

 

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MAKING WAVES: THE ART OF CINEMATIC SOUNDFor any film buff this is a great introduction in the history of sound in cinema. I would struggle to explain what foley, sound editing and sound mixing all mean? I do know sound is layered in film and that it is a creative aspect like anything else in filmmaking. Such differences are explained and shown clearly in this documentary which for the most part is well paced.

Also director Midge Costin and his team have done a fantastic job cutting together sequences that showcase the power of good sound being added to an image and building up to some wonderful examples of where sound was so important to great cinematic moments.

It features lots of baby boomers and fixates a little too much on the 1970s but this was a pivotal era. Central figures of the American film renaissance like Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and David Lynch are all on hand and along with their sound guys Walter Murch (The Conversation, Apocalypse Now) and Ben Burtt (Star Wars).

There are also efforts made to go over the change from the silent era to the advent of sound. However stuff I had been unaware of proved the most fascinating and it was mostly centred around pioneering women. Although I enjoyed hearing about the full scope of Walter Murch’s work in THX 1138. How many sound guys are also credited screenwriters?

For example you can thank Barbara Streisand for Dolby Stereo Sound in cinemas of the modern era. When reinventing herself and stepping into producing with A Star Is Born in 1976 she fought for the new technology to roll out in cinemas for her film to try to capture the energy of stadium concerts in the film.

Babs put her money where her mouth was too, insisting on a dramatically increased post production schedule for the sound mixing and editing out of her own pocket. When the film was a hit, Warner Bros paid her the money – history had been made.

Taking a leaf out of Ben Burtt’s book, Cecelia Hall added distorted animal sounds to the jetfighter plane sound effects for Top Gun and subsequently became the first woman to become nominated for Best Sound Effects Editing. She won four years later for The Hunt for the Red October. I enjoyed the stories of these pioneers and salute them all for their creativity.

 

My next film ran in the same cinema interestingly almost an hour later after I left cinema 8. I did talk to the one of the BIFF Vollys sporting a snazzy coloured T-shirt and advised me I had once done work as a Volly and was happy to see them back.

I asked if they still had the practice of letting Vollys sit in on films at the back after they had started and he told me they did. In fact they get passes to 4 screenings which is fantastic!

I took a seat and ordered a cheese platter, I highly recommend the chutney paste and some orange cheddar cheese that hit the spot. Nearby I could hear young people hanging around between sessions, working on creative projects on their laptops and discussing themes and the creative process. This was the joy of going to BIFF for the first time in 2004 and it made me happy to see evidence that some things never change.

 

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CHAINED FOR LIFE: At 3:30pm I went back into Cinema 8 and saw my last film of the 2019 Brisbane International Film Festival. Following on from an American/Mexican doco, two American documentaries and an Australian/U.K./U.S. zombie comedy I closed out the festival with an American film with a very unique British leading man.

Chained for Life is a satire about how we define desirability and disability in our culture and on film. Starring Jess Weixler and Adam Pearson as two actors on a film set for a horror movie. Interestingly child actor Charlie Korsmo makes a return to our screens as the eccentric “German” film director of the piece.

Weixler is the beautiful actress and the central focus of the film, and the film within the film. Pearson has been cast for his disfigured appearance as the monster of the piece that has a lot of passing references to Frankenstein. Also on board is Stephen Plunkett absolutely nailing it as a absolute wanker of a leading man who thinks he’s so cool and nice to everybody as they’re rolling their eyes at him. One scene with him and Pearson made me exclaim at the screen which just goes to show how good the film is.

There is also a lot of playing around the narrative and I will come clean and say at times the film may be went over my head and stopped resonating a bit but for the most part I was really enjoying what was being depicted and poked fun at.

Pearson with his gentle clear voice is an effortless star and this is the kind of role that lets him play beyond just how he looks while clearly addressing it. Check out an interview below that shows off how much of a pro the guy is.

The film reminded me of the personalities and dynamics of a small film set and not for the first time am I grateful for my older sister and how she gave me an insight and an understanding that others have to search for. A really good and interesting film to check out.

Well that’s it for another year at BIFF, gone too soon. Congratulations to Artistic Director Amanda Slack-Smith for another great programme and to the entire team. If I had to pick a favourite out of the films I saw it would easily be Midnight Family but I enjoyed all the films for different reasons and once again thank you for sharing in the journey.

-Lloyd Marken

EXCELLENT LEADERSHIP IN TEACHING AND LEARNING NOMINEES FOR 2019 TEACHX AWARDS AVAILABLE AT QUEENSLAND COLLEGE OF TEACHERS

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The 2019 TEACHX Awards are to be held on the 23rd of October and will recognise some of the most outstanding teachers working in the profession across Queensland. The event is run by the Queensland College of Teachers (QCT) who have received over 200 nominations across six categories.

In the lead up to the event, the media arm of QCT has published pieces on nominees and I was most fortunate to be placed on what was ultimately a 10 week secondment to their area to write some of these. In the end I wrote just over half with 115 pieces all up.

I have previously posted about the five other categories Outstanding Contribution to TeachingFor Innovation in TeachingExcellence in Beginning to Teach, Outstanding Contribution to School Community and Excellence in Teaching.

The final category published is Excellent Leadership in Teaching and Learning with 32 nominees of which I wrote pieces for eight.

They were Jeff Jepson, Jacqueline Mikami, Christopher Niven, Matthew O’Brien, Nicole Peltonen, Anthony Ries, Carol Ruskin,  and Tina Watson.

The event is a huge undertaking requiring a lot of work from a group of strong professionals. Like all things done by this team, it is done to recognise some of the great work that teachers are doing and to help elevate the profession. Being called upon to write full time, pieces that support these aims was a dream come true for me.

The people I got to work with were experienced, talented and extremely hard working and I hope I effectively contributed and learnt a thing or two.

Feel free to check out all the nominees and comment on what you liked. All 32 have made an extraordinary contribution to bettering the education of students.

-Lloyd Marken

THE BIFF IS BACK – BIFF 2019 PART II – ‘MEMORY: THE ORIGINS OF ALIEN’ AND ‘LITTLE MONSTERS’ REVIEW AVAILABLE ON WEEKEND NOTES

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I went into the final weekend of the Brisbane International Film Festival 2019 having seen the excellent documentary Midnight Family about a Mexico City ambulance crew.

MEMORY: THE ORIGIN OF ALIENS: Then on Friday night I went to Reading Cinemas at Newmarket to see a 6:15pm session of Memory: The Origins of Alien. I film A found interesting for the stories of the film I was unfamiliar with like the involvement of screenwriter of Dan O’Bannon.

 

It was an interesting film even if it seemed a little underfunded and dwelled on some points too long. I’ve been lucky to have a review published over at Weekend Notes that you can check out here https://www.weekendnotes.com/memory-the-origins-of-alien-film-review/

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Exiting Reading, I hopped in the car and drove over to New Farm cinemas who long term readers will recognise is an establishment I have some affection for. Catching a mocha with a mate over at the nearby 24 hour café Death by Decaf frequented by emergency personnel, hipsters, shift workers and young people out on the town. They make a damn fine mocha.

 

LITTLE MONSTERS: Then it was time to take in the late night 9:30pm screening of Aussie zombie comedy Little Monsters starring Lupita Nyongo’o. It was the kind of screening great for a film like this, close to full and with a Friday night crowd who wanted to be there and enjoy themselves. At a point when Neil Diamond’s classic Sweet Caroline featured somebody in the crowd voiced the bassline much to the delight of everyone else.

You can my review that was published on Weekend Notes as well here https://www.weekendnotes.com/little-monsters-film-review/

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Weekend Notes are a growing online magazine with a wealth of contributors based out of several cities across the United Kingdom, Australia and New York. Articles are leisure related and can include a wide variety of subjects from rainforest hikes to cultural festivals, from what hot new play is on at your underground theatre to a ultra trendy eatery. Writers are paid for their work based partly on how many views their articles get so please feel free to stop by and show some love.

-Lloyd Marken

EXCELLENCE IN TEACHING NOMINEES FOR 2019 TEACHX AWARDS AVAILABLE AT QUEENSLAND COLLEGE OF TEACHERS

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The 2019 TEACHX Awards are to be held on the 23rd of October and will recognise some of the most outstanding teachers working in the profession across Queensland. The event is run by the Queensland College of Teachers (QCT) who have received over 200 nominations across six categories.

In the lead up to the event, the media arm of QCT is publishing pieces on all the nominees and I was most fortunate to be placed on what was ultimately a 10 week secondment to their area to write some of these, all up I wrote 115 pieces.

I have previously posted about the categories Outstanding Contribution to TeachingFor Innovation in TeachingExcellence in Beginning to Teach and Outstanding Contribution to School Community.

The next category is Excellence in Teaching which received the second most amount of nominations of which I wrote 38 pieces on.

They were Natalie Bell, Lee Freeman, Georgia Gibbons, Morgan Gibbons, Kellie Gill, Clair Goodall, James Gynther, Lissa Gyte, Karen Hamilton, Jason Henry, Rachael Heritage, Julie Hirst, Gina Lyons, Ruth MacLean, Tiffany McCarthy, Suzette Meiring, Tabitha Mojilip, Catherine Nicholson, Brenton O’Neil, Alana PattersonRowena Petersen, Jae Phillips, Lauren Proctor, Michelle Ragen, Amy Rankin, Kristy Raybould, Katrina Riley, Desley Sadler, Raymond Scott, Megan Thirkill, Carla Trott, Paul Trotter, David Turner, Vince Wall, Casey WaltonMargaret Warren, Renee Wilkie and Courtney Wolbers.

The event is a huge undertaking requiring a lot of work from a group of strong professionals. Like all things done by this team, it is done to recognise some of the great work that teachers are doing and to help elevate the profession. Being called upon to write full time, pieces that support these aims is a dream come true for me.

The people I got to work with are experienced, talented and extremely hard working and I hope I effectively contributed and learnt a thing or two.

Feel free to check them out and comment on what you liked. All 65 have made an extraordinary contribution to bettering the education of students.

-Lloyd Marken

THE BIFF IS BACK – BIFF 2019 PART I – ‘MIDNIGHT FAMILY’ REVIEW AVAILABLE ON WEEKEND NOTES

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BIFF IS BACK! The Brisbane International Film Festival is back for another year and long term readers will recall my affection for it. I volunteered at BIFF in 2004, 2005 and 2007. In 2008 I was down to see over 20 movies and met my future wife on the steps of the Palace Cinema on James Street. We lost a BIFF for a while there but it returned in 2017 where I attended with Karen for the first time Opening Night. I was also on assignment with Scenestr magazine to review Australia Day and then last year I was on assignment for Scenestr on opening night.

This year I was wrapping up a work secondment writing for the Queensland College of Teachers so missed Opening Night and ended up sitting out the first few days of the festival.

 

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New Farm Cinemas foyer after seeing ‘Midnight Family’. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

 

Yet on Wednesday 09OCT2019 at New Farm Cinemas Karen and I attended a 6:15pm session of Midnight Family missing the first few minutes. All up, I have bought tickets to see five films at BIFF 2019 with three of them being docos. I can’t wait to see them all and share with you.

 

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Midnight Family was a great documentary about private ambulance crews in Mexico City. I was lucky enough to have my review published at Weekend Notes which continues on from my first reviews published with them last year being reviews for films I saw BIFF. You can read my review here https://www.weekendnotes.com/midnight-family-film-review-brisbane-international-film-festival-2019/

Weekend Notes are a growing online magazine with a wealth of contributors based out of several cities across the United Kingdom, Australia and New York. Articles are leisure related and can include a wide variety of subjects from rainforest hikes to cultural festivals, from what hot new play is on at your underground theatre to a ultra trendy eatery. Writers are paid for their work based partly on how many views their articles get so please feel free to stop by and show some love.

-Lloyd Marken

 

SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK REVIEW AVAILABLE ON SCENESTR

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I was lucky enough to be on assignment for Scenestr magazine to review the new film Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark produced and co-written by filmmaker Guillermo del Toro. We were over at Reading Cinemas in Newmarket which have a first rate large cinema.

 

 

 

I will admit horror films are not my forte but I think there are a few admirable qualities in this film even if it remains a little under served by its own ambitions. My review can be found here http://scenestr.com.au/movies-and-tv/scary-stories-to-tell-in-the-dark-review-20190926 and I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

Produced by Eyeball Media Enterprises Scenestr is an online national magazine with local offices around Australia. Having started in 1993 they’ve excelled at moving into the digital realm but they remain at heart from the streets. They still publish magazines in print for Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland every month.

-Lloyd Marken

SINCE ALI DIED REVIEW AVAILABLE ON SCENESTR

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The second week of September this year Karen and I were particularly lucky to be busy attending events for me to review. That Monday night we were in the Brisbane CBD at the Myer Centre for a preview screening of the hilarious Good Boys, Tuesday night we were at QUT’s Kelvin Grove campus to attend Truthmachine playing at the Theatre Republic as part of BrisFest 2019.

We closed out the week Thursday night back at the Theatre Republic to see Since Ali Died by Omar Musa. All of this was on assignment for the amazing Scenestr team. I’m in third year of working for them and I feel very blessed continuing to do this work while I’ve been busy on my secondment with the Queensland College of Teachers.

Also performing as part of the Brisbane Festival was Strut & Fret with their show Blanc de Blanc and comedian Sam Simmons who I was lucky to interview for Scenestr.

Since Ali Dead is for the most part a one-man show from rapper and spoken word poet Omar Musa, son of Malaysian immigrants who grew up in Queanbeyan. A brown Muslim boy who found something to be inspired by and comfortingly familiar in the proud iconic figure of sports and culture.

Afterwards there was a Q&A with Omar who talked about finding the right balance in his work between light and dark, friendly and provocative, funny and heartbreaking.

For me, he got it right and you can read more of my thoughts here http://scenestr.com.au/arts/since-ali-died-review-brisbane-festival-2019-20190913

Karen and I took in our surroundings afterwards at the Theatre Republic which had many different interesting displays which I enjoyed. I grabbed a toasted sandwich at the local bar they had set up and walked up the stairs into an eating area that sat on top of construction scaffolding while local musicians sang beautifully. I’m quite taken how simply spaces can be transformed and little moments can satisfy in big ways.

 

 

Produced by Eyeball Media Enterprises Scenestr is an online national magazine with local offices around Australia. Having started in 1993 they’ve excelled at moving into the digital realm but they remain at heart from the streets. They still publish magazines in print for Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland every month.

-Lloyd Marken