Hipstamatic lens: John S; Film Stock Alfred Infrared
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Saturday, November 27, 2010
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Saturday, November 6, 2010
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Friday, October 29, 2010
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Thursday, October 7, 2010
How I Exposed A Major Corporation's Environmental Irresponsibility
And Got Called A Hillbilly By Gizmodo.
By James Johnston (a.k.a David Lawrance)
For a long time I was reticent to write this piece, for fear it would tarnish my reputation amongst temp agencies. But since my reputation amongst temp agencies is as a guy who's handy at shoveling chemicals, picking up melted Maltesers and stacking CRT televisions that match his own bodyweight, I decided reputation be damned.
A few years ago, I was working for X Recruitment (not their real name) and one day I got the call to go to a Sydney-based warehouse, um, Deep Throat Logistics (not their real name) that handled the storage of many products for a popular computer and smartphone manufacturer, Pear (not their real name). For a week it was the usual shit - shrink-wrapping pallets, loading trucks, emptying bins, counting stock, etcetera, etcetera, yawn, yawn. Until, one day, I received an unusual assignment...
My supervisor, who I would give an alias to, except that I've so thoroughly forgotten his name that any alias I give might end up being his real name, directed myself and five coworkers to a corner of the warehouse where there were nine pallets stacked with computer equipment. The equipment looked only slightly used - there was a lot of new model laptops, towers and peripherals, but most weren't boxed or were in boxes with repair notices taped to the outside. The supervisor told us the equipment was unable to be repaired and that we were to destroy it. Then, in a scene reminiscent of the movie HOSTEL, we were presented with a variety of tools with which to destroy the computers. Laid out before us were hammers, screwdrivers and ball-peen hammers (which I believe are another member of the hammer family). Our only instructions were to make sure there was nothing salvageable from the cruel wreckage (those are actually my words - I believe his were: "Smash 'em good, boys").
I should announce at this point that I have long been a fan of this particular company's (okay, okay, it was Apple) computer products and as I brought my ball-peen hammer (I just like saying it) down again and again, I couldn't help but transpose the face of my own beloved laptop onto the one whose screen I was decimating. It was seriously a little disturbing, an emotion heightened when we tried turning on the laptops and found that several of them seemed to be in perfect working order. Indeed, some of the repair notices taped to the side noted that while the machine only had a minor problem, a replacement unit was required. I spoke to a coworker who'd been working there for several months and he claimed that Apple often opted to replace units rather than repair them anyway, as it was cheaper than sending the unit to China for repair.
Once the units were smashed, we tossed them into large bins and once those were filled (we filled several over the course of the day) they were emptied into a gigantic dumpster next to the warehouse. But the destroyed computers created so much debris that it piled up higher than the rim of that dumpster and we were told that one of the managers had complained that it was visible to passers-by. Someone then had to jump on the forklift and use it to compress the material down below the rim of the dumpster.
It was while we were filling the last bin that a few of us took our mobile phones out and began taking photos of the piles of laptops, towers and servers. I suppose we realised the monetary value of what we had destroyed that day and wanted a record to show our friends, in case they didn't believe us. When I got home, I emailed a picture I had taken to A Friend (not his real name), who I knew was a fellow Mac user and, more importantly, a freelance journalist who often wrote tech pieces, sometimes for Mac-centric magazines and websites.
DAVID: How's this for horrible: I am working in the Apple warehouse in Sydney and today they had us smash $200,000+ worth of imacs, G5s and macbooks with hammers so people couldn't scavenge them out of the dumpster. They were apparently irrepairable but I managed to turn on several macbooks and they seemed pretty okay to me. It was devastating.
FRIEND: Dude, that is incredible! I don't know how common knowledge that would be (and knowing Apple I Imagine not), and that could be a big story. Could you talk about it without them realising it was you and getting into trouble (anonymously)?
DAVID: Hell, I've got photographic evidence! Let's go Watergate on this shit. You can be Woodward and I'll be Bernstein...
<I attached the photo of the smashed macs at the top of the article>
FRIEND: Holy crap.
Give me a day or two and I'll email you some questions.
So this friend did email me some questions and I discreetly asked around to get some answers, although the guys I was game enough to ask were casual workers like myself and knew little more than I did. To ask a manager would have aroused too much suspicion, but what I did do was try to get some more photographs for my friend to use in his story. It was a case of me wandering the aisles of the warehouse and surreptitiously taking out my mobile phone and taking photos. I got general photos of the warehouse, but since the computer demolition assignment was over, I didn't get anything damning. But it was exciting and I felt like I was doing something important, as though I was going undercover to expose corporate wrongdoing.
My friend went off to write the article and I didn't hear anything for seven months, during which time I'd switched temp agencies and continued working dumb jobs while I studied Screenwriting at the Australian Film Television and Radio School. Then one day I got a call from my friend, telling me that APC Online wanted to publish his article - but that due to my friend's close relationship with Apple through his writing for various tech sites, he was going to have the article published under the name of APC's Online Editor, Dan Warne. He was concerned that Apple's influence might extend to the editors of the magazines and sites he wrote for and that Apple might be able to effectively end his career as a tech journalist. I (hesitantly) agreed to let him use my name, figuring it would lend the article more credibility and, again, not worrying too much about my warehouse reputation (especially since I'd left X Recruitment months earlier). My bravery turned out not to count for much, as Dan Warne gave me an alias just in case there were any legal ramifications from Apple. This is how I became James Johnston, filmmaker/factory worker, in the APC article, which you can read here.
The article was reported on Macblogz.com in the US the same day. The fallout began two days later - but not for Apple. Rather it was me who bore the brunt of geek-fury, when Gizmodo in the US ran their own commentary on the APC article, in which I was called "an Aussie construction worker" and a hillbilly and the veracity of my claims were called into question, mostly because it was "on the word of someone who won't give his real name". I'd like to note that unless that particular Gizmodo writer's name had been changed by deed poll to Gizmodo US Edition, he or she didn't give their real name either. Perhaps out of fear of hillbilly retribution?
Well, that was as bad as it got for me. I never heard anything from X Recruitment about the article, so either they never picked me as James Johnston or it was never deduced which Apple warehouse I had worked at. Who knows how many warehouses they use (I have worked at two warehouses in Sydney which distribute Apple products) and how often this kind of wanton waste occurs at the order of Apple or their subcontractors. Apple Australia Marketing Director Rob Small, in reaction to APC's claims, insisted: "Anything we recycle is done responsibly through certified recyclers. Nothing goes to landfill." (Read Apple Australia's Recycling Policy here). As a guy who emptied his fair share of bins at this particular warehouse, I know that to be totally false in this instance. There was one recycle bin that was strictly for cardboard only. The only other large bin, being the dumpster we compacted the broken machines into, was also used for cigarette butts and food scraps, old shrink wrap and broken wooden pallets. I don't know any recycling plant that's going to sort those items out.
I did feel a twang of guilt about the part I played in all this. At the end of the day, I got paid to destroy working computers that contributed to landfill. The wastefulness of it makes me feel a little ill. And while the whistleblowing didn't have the desired effect - it "didn't blow up in Apple's face", as my friend reflected today - hopefully it makes someone at Apple think twice before they next give the order for working computers to be destroyed, simply because it's the easiest thing to do.
I honestly didn't write this piece because I thought that what I did was brave or selfless. I'm writing a script at the moment about a real life whistleblower who I consider to be a genuine hero. It's about an Australian nurse who defied her training to become a spy in her hospital, in order to uncover the truth about a doctor whose revolutionary treatment was killing patients. She knew this doctor was suspected of having murdered one of his patients in the patient's home and there was every chance he would be willing to kill to protect his life's work. So this nurse risked her own life to obtain the evidence that saved potentially dozens of lives and chanced her career by using her real name and giving evidence at a Royal Commission. And what did she get in return? She was never able to get work as a nurse again, because no hospital believed they could trust her not to expose any wrongdoing she might encounter there. So all I risked was a job I didn't care about (hated, in point of fact) and got called a hillbilly. But this woman was denied the chance to ever work as a nurse again, all because she did what nurses are supposed to do: she saved lives.
I guess what this piece is trying to say, and what hopefully my movie will convey, but in far more exciting, cinematic circumstances, is that if you see something being done that you know is wrong, always speak up, and that no one should ever be punished for doing the right thing.
Monday, September 27, 2010
Sunday, September 26, 2010
This has been a long time coming, but at long last here is the conclusion to my 10 film list. Films are in no particular order and may be added to in the future.
Mad Max 2
This is a film that holds a permanent spot in my annual Top 20 List. Beginning with archival footage showing how the world turned into a wasteland occupied by leather-clad psychopunks driving whatever spike-covered vehicle they can get their mitts on and with an unquenchable thirst for petrol, the film simultaneously SLAMS into both gorgeous Dean Semler-shot 2.35 widescreen and Surround Sound. So forget Best Australian Film - this is in the running for my favourite movie ever. And I don't say that with any tinge of sentimentalism. I didn't see this film until I quite recently, when I was twenty-six and IT BLEW MY DAMN HAT OFF. Doctor George Miller and Terry Hayes spun this yarn out of pure gold.
Best (anti)hero since Clint Eastwood's The Man With No Name? Check.
Best Explosion ever committed to film? Check (and with a budget the size of the catering costs on any other "also-ran" in this category).
Best Chase Sequence Ever? Half-Check. This one's a verified, bonafide draw with the chase from TO LIVE AND DIE IN LA (listen to Hollywood Saloon's disection HERE). But equal first is no sneezing matter.
Just see it. You will not be disappointed.
P.S. This was released in the US as THE ROAD WARRIOR, so you may have to search under that title, for any out-of-Oz readers.
If Terry Hayes wrote every Australian film, the Oz industry would be in a far better state. This tale of grieving parents who try to escape the memory of their son's death by going on a yacht trip is one of the simplest and most tense thrillers you will ever see. John (Sam Neill) and Rae (Nicole Kidman) spot a sinking sailboat on the horizon. When they whip out the binoculars, they see a man in a dinghy rowing towards them as though his life depended on it. The man, Hughie, scared out of his wits, leaps aboard the couple's yacht and hysterically tells them that all the crew have died of food poisoning. When Hughie passes out, the couple lock him in a cabin and John goes to investigate what's on the other boat...
What follows is an incredibly tense thriller that goes places most thrillers shy away from. There's one particular scene where I thought: "There's no way that's going to happen - that just doesn't happen in movies." Yet sure enough, it happens in this one.
I was introduced to this movie by my Mum and I had actually forgotten how good it was until I saw it again a couple of nights ago. Great script, near perfect direction by Phillip Noyce (apart from a couple of questionable shot choices) and gorgeous cinematography by Dean Semler.
MURIEL'S WEDDING at first glance seems like a checklist of the reasons why Australians don't see Australian films: Quirky? Check. Cheap-looking? Check. Small-scale story? Check. But this tale of an Abba-loving, frumpy outcast played by Toni Collette is like a screenwriting masterclass when it comes to character development. Muriel wants to get married. More than anything else in the world. And the audience wants it for her. But the development of her character sees her realise what she really needs is not to get married, but to be true to herself and the joy in watching the film is that we are in such lock-step with the character that as she realises it, so do we.
Plus the music is great and Bill Hunter as one-time major political contender Bill Hesslop is one of the most quotable Australian characters of all time.
My favourite film of 2010 so far and the only one of the 25 I've seen at the cinema this year that I've bothered watching a second time. Former Inside Film editor David Michōd crafts a powerful crime story/family tragedy by borrowing elements from the true events of Melbourne's Walsh Street killings. It's a story about the end of the era of bank holdups in Australia, as much as Newsfront is about the death of the newsreel.
This is a very late addition to the list. Having been so impressed his direction on Dead Calm, I went to get out on DVD this early effort by Phillip Noyce. It ended up being so good it knocked THE CASTLE off the list.
The story of newsreel cameramen trying to maintain their integrity in the face of changing times (mainly the advent of television), this film seemed to me to have a similar premise to a lot of Peckinpah films, i.e. Unchanging men in a changing world. Bill Hunter (Australian icon who speaks as though his words begin in his lower intestine and says the word "Sheilas" as though he coined the term) plays Len Maguire, a cameraman for Cinetone, one of two companies producing newsreels to be run before feature films in cinemas.
I couldn't believe how well this film integrated archival footage into their own footage the black and white photography in particular is gorgeous and the film's depiction of the 1955 Maitland floods is a real standout - you can't tell what's archival footage and what isn't.
I was also very taken by actress Wendy Hughes, whose name I had heard but have only just put a face to the name. And what a face - she's a classical beauty and has a great part as Amy, Cinetone production assistant with ambitions to run the struggling company.
Newsfront stands as a real tribute to these men who pursued their work with such passion, that many died in striving for the perfect shot. I was very affected by the film and really hope that we can see a new wave of Australian writers and directors with such a passion for their subjects as Phillip Noyce clearly has for his.
Saturday, May 29, 2010
This HILARIOUS piece of subversion and "sticking it to the man" was on a piece of machinery at work. I believe it was once a request for anyone changing the machine's speed to change it back, before it became a rumination on our relationship with drugs combined with an existential treatise. It was clearly written by a genius.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Monday, February 1, 2010
This is an anti-cockroach measure implemented by Isobel - we want cockroaches to stop crawling over our toothbrushes but putting them in an airtight container makes the brushes smell. So Isobel fashioned two little nooses and hanged our toothbrushes by the neck until they were even more inanimate than they were previously.
It kind if creeps me out to see them hanging there, especially when I go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and just see their little silhouettes, swaying gently in the breeze...
Friday, January 1, 2010
My take on the best films of 2009. Please note that these are movies that I saw in Australian cinemas in 2009 (except REVOLUTIONARY ROAD, which I saw in Japan).
1. Let The Right One In
This story of a boy falling in love with a vampire is a rare film in that doesn't feel like it begins or ends, but rather is a slice of reality that was occurring before you began watching and will continue after you leave the theatre. Reading John Ajvide Lindqvist's book (he also wrote the screenplay) after watching the film made me admire the film even more - it is by omission of backstory that character's histories are enriched by leaving them to our imagination.
Single mother Christine Collins returns from work one day to discover her young son Walter is missing. After several desperate weeks spent waiting for his return, the police one day announce they have found Walter - but Christine is convinced that the boy returned to her is not her son. One of the most intriguing premises I have heard for a story is perfect for director Clint Eastwood - like Brian Helgeland's script for MYSTIC RIVER, it is a wonderful marriage of material and filmmaker. Way better than that shit he made about a man and his car, which would sit atop my ten worst of the year.
3. Sampson and Delilah
An uplifting indigenous love-story takes us to the depths of an Australian cultural tragedy and back. Great performances and sumptuous Australian landscapes shot by writer/director Warwick Thornton.
What if a mysterious illness one day struck everyone blind? If you could bottle tension and sell it like perfume, this Lord of the Flies-esque tale of social disintegration within a quarantine facility could serve as a 2 hour advertisement for the fragrance.
5. Inglourious Basterds
More like a six or seven long, wonderfully-written scenes, I'd actually been drinking pretty heavily before (and during) this, but I seem to remember liking it. A more sober repeat viewing will occur once I buy it on Blu-Ray.
6. The Wrestler
Randy Robinson is wrestler "The Ram" on weekends, deli assistant Robin Ramzinski on weekdays in this story of a once-great contender twenty years past his prime, struggling to recapture a sense of past glory. A lot has been made of Mickey Rourke's triumphant comeback performance in this film but I think the most interesting struggle is that of director Darren Aronofsky (PI, REQUIEM FOR A DREAM, THE FOUNTAIN) who by insisting on casting Rourke in the lead, set himself up for his fourth successive uphill battle to retain his vision in the face of every financial constraint.
7. Drag Me To Hell
Director Sam Raimi (EVIL DEAD, SPIDERMAN 1 & 2) has named his production company Ghost House Pictures and it's apt that they are producing fare like this. The story of a woman attempting to undo a gypsy curse initally sounds naff, but watch it and you'll soon find that it's really great, hilarious and gross fun.
Meryl Streep is wonderful as mistrustful principal Sister Aloysius in John Patrick Shanley's (MOONSTRUCK, JOE VERSUS THE VOLCANO) adaptation of his own play. When Streep's conservative nun butts heads with Phillip Seymour Hoffman's progressive parish priest over the running of the St Nicholas Church School, a suspected indiscretion gives her what she believes to be leverage over her superior - but without proof, is her faith strong enough to allow her to destroy a man's repution?
Anthony LaPaglia's performance as journalist Roger East was a little disappointing given what he delivered previously in LANTANA, but this (true?) story of murdered Australian journalists was very affecting nonetheless and was certainly the second best Aussie film in a year where I saw plenty of Australian cinema.
10. Revolutionary Road
What at first promises to play out like a protracted, uncomfortable feud between a husband and wife (Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in utterly convincing performances) takes some very interesting turns as a bad marriage turns good, then almost hopeless in Sam Mendes' (AMERICAN BEAUTY, JARHEAD) best film.