COVID-19 DIARY – INTERVIEW WITH BILL MCCLINTOCK, OAM AVAILABLE AT QUEENSLAND COLLEGE OF TEACHERS

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August 27

Thursday.

During my secondment with the Media Team at my main employer I was fortunate enough to interview teacher and retired Principal Bill McClintock who had made an enquiry that was forwarded by a wise staff member to media.

Bill was a wonderful man to interview, someone who talked warmly of people he had remained in contact with since retiring and took joy in the world and its people. I could not help but see a link between a boy who had been confined to his house at times due to asthma growing up who had gone on to travel and see the world, and furthermore bring education to the remotest corners of Queensland and the south island of New Zealand and the students there. 

He retired in the early 1990s after twenty years working as a Principal before embarking on a “retirement” career that displayed best some of the possibilities that continued teacher registration grants. A recipient of the Order of the Australia Medal, he is still registered today, and still involved in the community.

You can read his story here https://www.stories.qct.edu.au/post/bill-mcclintok

To get to talk to such wonderful teachers and write about them will always be a great privilege for me.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – TENET FILM REVIEW AVAILABLE ON SCENESTR

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August 20

Back on April 21 I bought a hoodie from the United States of America. There was a lot of handwringing about the getting the right size as I never order clothes online. In June the hoodie arrived and it fit but it was too tight. On the 20th of August I got a new one that fit just at the tail wind of winter in my home town, sunny tropical Queensland. That said I got some good weeks out of it and really love my hoodie. I hadn’t got a new jumper or coat in about 19 years.

Proceeds from the sale of the hoodie went towards After School All Stars which were delivering meals to kids in low socio-economic areas during the lockdown of schools in America.

The same day I was due to go to a preview screening of the new movie Tenet for Scenestr magazine.

Tenet was the first blockbuster to be getting released in cinemas since COVID had shut down cinemas earlier in the year. Warner Bros. was betting big that people would return to the cinemas but if they did, the blockbuster would have the run of the movie going public.

Attending a preview screening of a blockbuster is always a thrill for me. The preview screening was in a VMax screening at Indooroopilly Shopping Centre.  There were only other critics present at the screening, familiar faces. People seemed fairly relaxed. At the screening of Waves there was some sense of hopefulness and rustiness at what was for some of us the first screening we had been to in a while. Here things were more relaxed but there was security at this one given the high profile nature of the film. There was a media embargo to enforce.

My review was published the following week on Wednesday the 26th of August with the film premiering the next day.

You can read my review here https://scenestr.com.au/movies-and-tv/tenet-film-review-20200826

So far Tenet has grossed $350 million dollars worldwide, the fourth highest grossing film of the year. However $55 million dollars was accumulated in USA and Canada. In North America at the time of opening, 65% of cinemas were operating at 25-40% capacity. In its first five weekends at the US Box office Tenet remained number one but that gross is significantly down on previous Nolan hits. Warner Bros bet big and it has not paid off. Too many territories remain closed and too many people have not returned to cinemas in America and Europe where COVID-19 remains an all too real threat.

I would argue that while Tenet is billed as a blockbuster, it is not a crowdpleaser and in a particularly dispiriting year I think something like Wonder Woman 1984 would have played much better but COVID remains the all too important factor. Its actually a relief to know that people would rather prize their lives over seeing a movie where they deem the risk too much. In Queensland we felt relatively safe with a small number of cases.

Yet on the same day that I went to see Tenet, a supervisor in her 70s at the Brisbane Youth Detention Centre in Wacol tested positive for COVID-19. She had been working shifts until she started to have symptoms. She was now admitted to hospital. Her diagnosis led the centre to go into shutdown with testing of 127 youths and over 500 staff at the centre. There were eight active cases in Queensland at the time.

Premier Anastacia Palaszczuk relayed, “What you’re going to hear today is the story of a woman who was sick, and still went to work. It is really really important that if you are sick, you must stay home, as now a whole lot of contact tracing has to happen.

I was about to get a timely reminder in the days ahead that the situation was fluid.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – WAVES FILM REVIEW AVAILABLE ON SCENESTR

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July 06

I was also on assignment with Scenestr magazine for the first time since the pandemic shut everything down in March.

Cinemas had just re-opened in Queensland and I attended a preview screening of Waves with a bunch of critics at New Farm cinemas. There were no plus ones so Karen wasn’t with me.

Waves is an excellent film which would have made my Top 10 last year if it had been released in Australia. You can read my review here https://scenestr.com.au/movies-and-tv/waves-film-review-20200708

 

 

There was definitely some joy to be taken that here was another activity back but this one was tempered with some caution.

With developments in Victoria how long would it last?

And until we were really rid of COVID in our lives it was obvious blockbusters and major cinema attendance would not be coming back.

As a film buff people have often asked my feelings on this.

Since this pandemic happened I’ve never really missed movies, I’ve watched some classics and some new stuff on streaming services.

Yes I’ve worried about those who work in the arts.

 

 

But more so I’ve worried about everybody who has lost their jobs in recent months.

I love going to the cinema but I haven’t felt I lost her in these recent weeks.

We’ve lost lives. Hundreds and thousands of them.

We’ve lost jobs.

Millions of them.

We’ve lost good health and good prospects for the future for millions more.

I enjoyed seeing a wonderful movie and being a film critic again on the job. Something I am eternally grateful for.

 

 

But on the 6th of July I found my cinema had patiently waited for my return and was happy to see me again. I know she will wait for me again and for all of us if need be.

The cinema knows we have lost more than her and so she waits patiently as we turn our thoughts to others who have lost a great deal more.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – BORDER WARS – PART IV

Gladys Berejiklian says closure of NSW-Victorian border because of ...

 

July 06

Monday I started my secondment and was back in the office.

The biggest news was the announcement that New South Wales and Victoria were going to close their borders from 11:59pm Tuesday night.

There were 127 cases reported in Victoria that day, the largest daily increase since the pandemic began and following 74 cases from Sunday. There were also two deaths in Victoria.

The Victorian Chief Health Office Brett Sutton summed it up well when he said, “It’s essentially a doubling of the numbers since yesterday.”

There were 645 active cases in the state.

The border closure between New South Wales and Victoria was the first time since 1919 during the Spanish Flu pandemic. High initial case numbers in both states during this pandemic had not prompted them to close the border again until now.

It was to be a serious undertaking with NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller advising there are at least 55 border crossings between the two states. There were four main arterial roads, 33 bridge crossings, two waterway crossings and many other smaller roads. Aerial drones were also to be employed. Penalties would unlawful border crossings would be $11,000 fines and 6 months jail time.

 

Coronavirus: Queues, chaos as NSW-Victoria border is locked

 

The largest border town is Albury/Wodonga which is also a major Australian army town. The Army Logistics Training Centre is Headquartered in various barracks there mostly at Bandiana, a suburb of Wodonga.

Mayor of Wodonga Anna Speedie advised “We share a health system. We share so many different things.”

Premier Daniel Andrews said there would be the ability for those who lived there to travel to and from both for the purposes of work or essential health services.

Two days later on the first day of the borders being closed a gentlemen slinging a VB let a Channel 9 correspondent know he was not happy about the border closure.

“You try to lock me out of bloody Wodonga and Albury, how the hell am I supposed to get to Centrelink?” he asked. 

His demeanour a good source for our amusement but a legitimate concern. The centrelink office was located in Wodonga and he did live in Albury.

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian in her initial press interview looked visibly upset to convey the decision.

Premier Andrews and her are of different political parties but have shouldered the highest case numbers, worked together to push for schools to shut down earlier. endured scandals and criticisms in regards to hotel quarantines for him and the Ruby Princess disembarkation for her.

The storyteller in me would like to read more into this but I humbly submit that she is working long and hard through this crisis and some days like it was for Prime Minister Scott Morrison a few weeks back, it shows a little.

Yet she remained resolute.

“We wouldn’t have taken this step unless we absolutely had to,” she said.

“Please know this is not a decision we take lightly, but during the pandemic I have always said New South Wales will have a no-regrets policy.”

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – NATURAL BRIDGE REVIEW AVAILABLE AT WEEKEND NOTES

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Karen and I at the Natural Bridge. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

 

17 May

On the 16th of May certain National Parks in Queensland opened up again.

On Sunday Karen and I headed out on the Pacific Motorway for a drive and a walk that I had been intending to make several times over the years to no avail.

I had hoped I could talk friends or family members into it but they were all so hike adverse that a 1km circuit gave them pause.

I had fixed the puncture in my tyre, now was the time to hit the road.

We took the Nerang exit and drove on for kilometre after kilometre. As we neared out destination there were road signs warning that the NSW border ahead was closed.

I asked Karen to check, I was sure our destination was in Queensland – it was barely.

We were driving to the Natural Bridge circuit which took you to a natural arch and cave in Springfield National Park.

People will be familiar with previous hikes in national parks that I have blogged about but the appeal of this walk is how short it is and how impressive the arch is in itself.

I was lucky enough to have an article I wrote about our trip be published 05JUN2020 on Weekend Notes which you can read here https://www.weekendnotes.com/natural-bridge-rainforest-circuit/

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This is the first piece of writing I have had published since 16MAR2020 my review of Dave Hughes show at the Brisbane Comedy Festival. One more sign perhaps that things are gradually improving in our corner of the world.

It was also interesting for since it’s been a while since I have been published with Weekend Notes and it is the first time I have supplied photos and written about a walk rather than a show for them.

There a few people around enjoying the walk even though there had been some light showers. The nearby Natural Arch café was shut.

On the way home, Karen and I bought some Thai on the southside of town.

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.

As April had become May we had seen some people social, I had been back in the office and now we were able to travel and go out a little bit.

Would this be a fleeting reprieve leading to further lockdowns or part an ongoing management of living with the disease?

Only time would tell.

-Lloyd Marken

DAVE HUGHES’S ‘RIDICULOUS’ REVIEW AVAILABLE ON SCENESTR

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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

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

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

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