The Land Down Under

15 Mar 2006

Australian Actor Michael Caton

[Note to sis: Guess who this guy reminds me of? See below ... ]

Well, it's time for a very short break in the Tales of the Midwest -- not for lack of material, though. I've just been editing a few additional items, in fact, and will get back to posting these things soon. In the meantime, I'd love to begin the habit of introducing any visitors (of which there are apparently a whopping six) to some click-worthy destinations in the blogosphere. I've bookmarked a few over on the right side of the page. One such site, Homefront Radio, is written by a guy named Simon fromAustralia. I'll offer a bit of a review of his site but, for now, let me just retrace my steps of discovering it.

There are many ways to explore the blogosphere. You can search out what you like on most sites (e.g., Blogger, Livejournal, etc.) in several ways. Most people probably search for their interests via keyword searches. Another way, perhaps less common, is to simply visit sites at random.I kind of prefer the latter method, as you never know what you might run into. Lately, as I've explored individual blogs (which I generally do at random by clicking the "next blog" button on the Blogger toolbar), here's what typically happens out of, say, 1,000 clicks (and, yes, I did conduct this experiment scientifically):

  • 27% of the sites I stumble across are not written in English. While I do speak a little German, about two or three sentences in Hindi, and enough Sinhalese to get my face slapped (more on that later), I'm really a typical American --one fluent language. So, I have to skip these destinations.
  • 21% of the blogs I see *might* be interesting. However, they're *so * poorly written, I just can't bear to sift through the wreckage. Most of these are sites by kids, personal diary sites, and various fan sites. Typically, each post is one incredibly long paragraph with no capital letters or punctuation. I'll pass, thank you.
  • 15% of the sites are actually fairly well written, I've found. My definition of "fairly well written" is that the blogger actually understands the concept of capital letters beginning sentences and periods ending them. However, these particular sites (the 15% I mention here) just don't interest me because they generally fall into categories like extremist politics, uber-tech sites (e.g. advanced computer programming), gaming fanatic sites, overly religious sites, and finally that large sea of what my wife would probably refer to as "So what?" sites.
  • 10% of the sites seem to be generated automatically (usually including seemingly random words, phrases, and links) by some kind of computer system. My theory is that many of these are put together by search engine optimization (SEO) companies trying to generate traffic to other commercial web sites. These are all entirely useless destinations and, IMHO, should be deleted from existence out of respect for humanity.
  • 10% of the sites are "test" blogs set up by someone experimenting for the first time. I can't fault these folks, as everyone has to begin somewhere. Hopefully, some of these will develop into interesting sites someday.
  • 8% of the sites are photoblogs -- a few of them interesting.
  • 5% of the sites I find using this method are porn sites. That's less than you'd expect, isn't it?
  • 3.5% of the sites are interesting enough to merit a bookmark for future consideration (most fizzle out on the interestingness scale, unfortunately)
  • .5% knock my socks off immediately.

Simon's was in that final category. Check out this post of his to see what I mean. And, no, I'm not linking to that specific post of his because he links back to me in it. There was just a particularly memorable story in that one.I think you'll find that he and I have some similar online goals -- to write up stories, tales, observations, etc. in an entertaining, hopefully engaging, and slightly outrageous manner. Certainly, there are differences between us, but I'll let you discover those for yourself.

I've taken a mental inventory of some of the main impressions I've had about Australia prior to reading so many of Simon's stories (which are so universal in nature, as he's pointed out, that many of them would be just as believable -- or unbelievable -- had they taken place in, say, Ohio or California).Sure, some of the terminology is different (e.g. "smoo"), but once you learn that stuff, you're usually in for quite an adventure on his site. As for my own mental inventory of that continent ...

To begin, there is of course the quasi-Australian stuff.In this category, I'll place all of those things that Americans identify as synonymous with, or representative of,Australian culture(largely, I suppose, as a result of marketing campaigns featuring didgeridoo sounds in the background), but Australians probably do not. For example:Foster's Lager (which comes in the distinctive "oil can"), the Outback Steakhouse ("steakhouse from the land down under"), and the phrase "shrimp on the barbie." (I've met a number of Australians who have said that they never go around saying they want to throw shrimp on a barbie.) You might also throw into this category some familiar cartoon images like the Tasmanian Devil or the "nature boy" episode of Bugs Bunny where Bugs screams "unga bunga bunga" at the aborigine (which, believe it or not, aired probably once/week when I was a kid in the 70s and early 80s).

Second, there is the huge Aussie stuff ... In this category are all of the major things of world-wide acclaim. For example, I would suspect that Steve Irwin is probably a big star there, just as he is here and everywhere else. And we can't forget Paul Hogan (aka Crocodile Dundee, who introduced us all to the intriguing concept of "going on walkabout"). In this category would also be things like Kangaroos, Koalas, Dingoes, Ayers Rock, boomerangs, AC/DC, Kylie Minogue, Men At Work, Silverchair (an alternative band that was pretty huge in the late 90s), and of course the Sydney Opera House. I'm sure I'm forgetting a lot.

(I had a boomerang when I was a kid, come to think of it.I'm pretty sure I accidentally hit my sister with it once, as I never mastered the thing. As I recall, the thing would fly in about four different directions before coming down -- never in a circle like you see on TV. Most of the time, someone would run for their life as it came soaring toward them.)

And, finally, there is the lesser known stuff (at least, here inAmerica, anyway) that trickles intoAmericain a much smaller way.For example, I watched a great travel show lately that featured theSydneyHarbourBridge. (You can actually climb to the top!) Or, if you're aDVDfanatic like me, maybe you've seen the movie Danny Deck Chair?Or, one of my all-time favorite films, "The Castle." The lead in that film is an actor named Michael Caton (picture included above). As far as I'm concerned, the guy should have received an Oscar for his performance in this film. (I can't tell you how much his character reminds me of an uncle of mine, especially when he says, "How's the serenity? ... So much serenity.")

So that's it for my stream of consciousness reduction of an entire continent into a small handful of brand names and stereotypes that come to mind in an instant.

Anyway, what prompted me to write all of this up was Simon's latest post, which touches on his fascination with Dawn of the Dead. While I've never seen that movie, I do have a few comments that I think he'd find interesting. Since this'll take a few paragraphs, I figured I'd write it up here instead of in his comments section.

First of all, I live only a few miles away from the Monroeville Mall, which is where George Romero filmed Dawn of the Dead. I don't think I've written much aboutPittsburghyet, as I plan on using my blog to rant about work stuff from time to time (and, I didn't want to make it too wasy for people to figure out what city I'm in). However, I think I've finally gotten over that newbie blogger expectation that the whole world will be reading whatever pearls of wisdom I post.In fact, there are probably less than 10 regulars, and they're spread all around the globe.

The guy who did the makeup and gory effects for that film is also hugely famous around here -- Tom Savini. About a year ago, my family was out to dinner with another family. The guy in that family does a lot of contract work for hotels, warehouses, and storage facilities. The subject of horror films came up at dinner and this guy said, "I have a real treat for all of you, if you'll bear with me for a while after dinner."

So, we agreed to go on a little adventure with him. It was probably 10:00 or 11:00 at night, and he took us to this huge warehouse downtown. The place was deserted at that hour, of course, which made the whole outing a litle creepy to begin with. We went several floors up into this building, through various corridors and passageways, ultimately coming to a small iron door in a concrete wall (not much bigger, really, than the small door you see in the movie Being John Malkovitch, if you're familiar with that). So, it was very surreal to have two whole families following this guy into these weird places.

When you stepped through the door, you knew you were in a place you shouldn't be. It was the concrete roof of one of the lower floors within the building. It was all gravelly and strewn with spider webs, etc. So, we all followed him out onto this roof (still inside the building, though), and soon you could see out over the entire warehouse space below. From this angle, you could look down and see directly into each of the storage units there. (The storage unit ceilings aren't solid. They're made of a heavy-gauge wire mesh.)

The guy pointed to one large unit about ten yards away, and it was the coolest thing we'd ever seen -- scores of zombies, dead bodies, beasts, monsters, severed heads, costumes, etc. could be seen clearly. My niece is a real horror movie buff and named many of the famous monsters she identified in there from the movies she'd seen. Turns out that was almost certainly Tom Savini's personal storage locker (which makes sense, as he's from Pittsburgh). My niece looked up a few of the characters on the internet when we got home, and all but confirmed that this was his work. Even for a guy who doesn't catch many zombie flicks, it was a great time.

Original Comments

Below, are the original comments on this post. Additional comments may be made via Facebook, below.

On March 16, 2006, me wrote:

pardon me for the irony, but i came across your blog at random ... lol. interesting!

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