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Dreamland. Utopia. One of Them Is on Now on Netflix.

Have you ever had a vegemite sandwich? OMG, me neither!

But Tom Gleisner has. You know…Tom Gleisner? Award-winning writer and producer of Dreamland? You know, the Australian TV show, Dreamland? Used to be called Utopia? Until it got super famous and transported to the UK and the US? You know…the US? Used to be called No-Man’s Land (or whatever the people before us called it)? And then Christopher Columbus discovered it? And then he didn’t? You know, Christopher Columbus? The one we made a national holiday for because he didn’t discover America?

Tom Gleisner, Utopia, Dreamland

Tom Gleisner. Would you buy a used car from this man? OMG, me too!

Well anyway, I had the opportunity to interview Tom because I’m awesome, and he’s awesome, and whenever you have two awesome people one must interview the other. And when he declined to interview me (I’m still embarrassed about all the begging) I had to interview him. Er, I mean, I had the opportunity to interview him.

Tom and Working Dog Productions created Utopia, then changed it to Dreamland (because Americans can’t handle the truth!), then Netflix bought it and launched it in December, which means it’s available for streaming RIGHT NOW! Dreamland is a bit like The Office without the documentary interview bits. The New York Post called it “one of five Australian TV shows to binge watch.”

It’s a comedy series set within the Nation Building Authority, a fictitious government organization responsible for overseeing major infrastructure projects. The series explores the collision between bureaucracy and grand ambitions. It’s not as excruciatingly boring as I just made it sound. In fact, it’s painfully funny.

And thanks to Tom’s good sportsmanship and put-up-with-me-ness, he answered my ridiculous questions. Let’s say we were lounging on leopard sofas sipping Cool Ranch Dorito Mai Tais on a sun-drenched veranda somewhere in tropical Papua New Guinea (because he had a meeting to get to, so I got stuck with all the traveling.)

. . .

NGIP: So, Tom…can I call you Chuck?

Tom: Sure, but I can’t guarantee that I’ll answer to it.

NGIP: Thanks, Chuck. So, Chuck, Utopia/Dreamland is a Logie Award-winning Australian television series. Logie sounds like something that would fall out of your nose. Unless it rhymes with “emoji”, in which case, it just sounds like something Olympic. Regardless, are your Logie awards equivalent to our Emmy awards here in the U.S.? Because we have Emmys falling out of our noses like mad over here.

Chuck (formerly known as Tom): Our television awards, the Logies, were apparently named after one of the inventors of TV, a Scottish engineer by the name of John Logie Baird. There’s a fact you’ll never need to draw on again. There’s actually quite a strong U.S. connection with the Logies because, over the years, we have invited numerous American stars to attend our awards ceremony as guest presenters. Of course, when I say “stars”, these have tended to be of the slightly B-list variety. Think someone who played the butler on The Nanny. Or Lee Majors from The 6 Million Dollar Man – several years after the series was axed.  That said, we have had some genuinely big names present awards, including Michael Cole from Mod Squad who, in 1973, became the first person to say “shit” on Australian TV. The high-point of U.S.- Australian relationships came in 1979 when Muhammed Ali (yes, the boxer) somehow agreed to present a Logie. Things went well until the host (inadvertently) referred to him as “boy”. And somehow lived to host the telecast the following year. The major difference between our Logies and your Emmys, apart from the quality of the gift bags, would have to be credibility. The Emmys are peer voted. The Logies are decided by readers of TV Week magazine. I think you get the idea.

NGIP: Why did we (the U.S.) get Dreamland instead of Utopia? I feel like America got screwed by the UK here, Chuck. Am I wrong?

Chuck: I think there were two other “Utopias” going round. One is (or was) a UK science fiction series. And then didn’t you guys make a short-lived reality TV a few years back called Utopia? 15 people were sent to a remote location (Iowa from memory) where they had to form a society. Don’t think it lasted long – but I guess Netflix wanted to avoid any potential confusion. Hence Dreamland – which was always one of our alternative titles anyway.

NGIP: I was a government employee myself for several years and can appreciate the observational humor here. In fact, Chuck, it’s almost too painful to watch it hits so close to home. Did you write this from personal experience?

Chuck: Neither Rob, Santo nor myself have ever worked in a government office but we know enough people who have. The levels of bureaucracy are insane, everyone seems to have a job title that means nothing (“Head of Deliverance”?) and everything that is designed to make the work day more efficient seems to involve the exact opposite. It’s a hell of an environment to work in – but pure gold for comedy writers.

NGIP: As you know, we Americans are gun-toting, xenophobic right-wingnuts. Why would we be interested some foreign import such as Dreamland? Is it anything like Crocodile Dundee? Because I think that’s the last thing we watched over here and we liked that one.

Chuck: I’m afraid the series is genuinely lacking in terms of traditional Australian elements. There are no kangeroos, crocodiles or members of the Hemsworth family to be seen. But hopefully the humour is universal. And the frustrations of office life seem to know no borders.

NGIP: My “Netflix Streaming” queue is at something like 350. Where would you put Dreamland in that lineup if you were I?

Chuck: I would definitely move it into the top ten, somewhere between House of Cards and the last Republican Presidential debate.

NGIP: I’m only halfway through Season 1. When do the goats show up? I was told there’d be goats.

Chuck: May have been a typo. Or false advertising. I’m pretty certain we do have a frog in series one but I realize that’s small comfort.

NGIP: I have this great idea for a Utopia/Dreamland episode for next season: This crazy woman in a goat costume arrives at the offices of the Nation Building Authority with a really bad Australian accent, greeting everyone with “G’day Mate” and loudly craving “Shrimp on the Barbie”. Tony and Nat hate her because she is clearly not an Aussie and she’s horribly offensive about Australian stereotypes, but everyone else in the office, including Rhonda and Jim, love the idea of a goat-themed campaign for the next “project” and start broadcasting a name-the-goat contest. On the day of the contest the goat dies in a freak accident on live TV and the Prime Minister (played by one of the Hemsworth brothers, now that you mention them) tearfully declares it a national mourning holiday. What do you think?

Chuck: It’s definitely got potential. The struggle will be finding a goat capable of doing an Australian accent. There’s probably an animal casting agency out there somewhere, but I’d have to check.

NGIP: Speaking of animals, how many pet koalas do you have?

Chuck: I hate to burst your bubble but koalas are actually the worst pet in the world. Despite their cute and cuddly demeanour they bite, scratch and pee on everything. And, to really top things off, 90% of Australian koalas suffer from chlamydia. Enough said.

NGIP: Speaking of next season, will there be a Season 3?

Chuck: We are currently tossing ideas around. Which is a writers’ expression meaning “to procrastinate over lunch”. But we have loved writing Dreamland and would enjoy the chance to keep the series going.

NGIP: When was the last time you ate a vegemite sandwich?

Chuck: A few weeks ago. You know, I reckon every nationality is entitled to one seriously weird foodstuff. The Scots have haggis, the French snails, you guys eat whipped cream from a can…  Is a sour, black, yeasty sandwich spread really all that bad?

. . .

And then his phone rang and he jumped up and ran out the door. That silly Chuck, such a busy man. Feeling lucky for getting even those ten minutes with him, I ordered another Mai Tai (Nacho Cheese this time) before the plane ride home.

I want to thank Chuck for taking time out to speak with me about Dreamland. And if they go back to calling it Utopia, I’ll go back to calling him Tom.

If you have Netflix streaming, check out Dreamland. I don’t mean to sound philosophical, but searching for Utopia will get you nowhere.

Here’s a clip:

 

 

 

Formula One is for Girls, too!

formula one, maclaren, alonso, suzuki

(photo by Takayuki Suzuki via Flickr)

Have you ever fancied yourself a race car driver? You must have, because I see you weaving in and out of lanes on the freeway, cutting me off, stealing my right-of-way at intersections, doing doughnuts in the Krispy Kreme parking lot…. That’s not you? Don’t you drive a beat-up, brown Dodge with a “Real Men Do It Fast and Get It Over With” bumper sticker while your rusty tailpipe drags a bunch of sparks behind you? Are you sure? Huh. I could have sworn that was you. I even yelled your name once and you waved and smiled and flipped me the bird and everything. Now I’m going to wonder what other “real man” is out there tailgating the crap out of me.

But that’s not why I brought you here. No, today I am going to evangelize your ass.

I’ve never been to Austin, Texas, before. And I would never go to South by Southwest (SXSW) because… crowds. So instead, I’m going to Circuit of the Americas (COTA – say, does everything in Austin have an acronym?) this week to attend a Formula One race where there will only be 47 million people – far less than SXSW.

Now you might be asking yourself, what the hell is Formula One? And you would be right, because until it was forced upon me, I took no notice of it either. And by forced, I mean every time I walked through the living room, there it would be on the television. My husband tried to convert me and I resisted until one day, I decided to watch this horribly boring looking sport. But then something happened. It grew on me. I was inexplicably drawn in. Then I was hooked. Now I salivate when the opening theme music comes on and Leigh Diffey begins to speak.

And if I may put more words in your mouth, two additional questions you’d pose would be:

1) Is that like NASCAR?

and,

2) Aren’t you American and female?

I can’t BEGIN to tell you all the reasons I, an American woman of a certain age, could possibly look forward to a sporting event involving cars. I’m not into cars, really. But I do like me some F1. That’s what we fans call it: F1. It’s short for “Not NASCAR”.

Okay, I’m kidding — I actually CAN tell you all the reasons I’ve become an F1 fan. Or five of them, anyway.

Five Reasons This American Middle-Aged Gal Loves Formula One

It’s not NASCAR

Formula One is the Kate Middleton of auto racing. It’s world famous, fashionable and sophisticated. It’s sponsored by Rolex. And judging by its manners, it was raised right, too. But it doesn’t exclude. It’s also more popular than NASCAR, if you would open your Budweiser-bloodshot eyes and cross the pond for a minute. It’s among the top five most popular spectator sports in the world. Nearly every race driver, including those in NASCAR (or drag racing or Indy or whatever), wants to drive a Formula One car.

The racing season takes you all over the world. It is not xenophobic. They do not drive around in circles all day long. (They drive around in crooked circles, which is different).

The track varies with each race. Sometimes it’s on coastal city streets (like Monaco or Singapore, where the rich and famous watch from their diamond-encrusted yachts). Or in the forest (like Belgium or Germany, where rich and famous woodland creatures watch from their bark-encrusted treehouses). Others have dedicated tracks (like Abu Dabhi and Circuit of the Americas, where Saudi Princes or Hollywood Royalty watch from their caviar-encrusted VIP boxes).

formula one, monaco

Formula One race in the streets of Monaco – (photo by Pat Guiney)

The F1 commentators do not say “Y’all” and “Ah’ll tell ewe whut” as they scratch various parts in their overalls. F1 commentators say, “Indeed” and “Thanks, mate” and “would you like a cup of tea?” and “After you. No, after you.” It’s all very evolved and Britishy.

It Has Personality, Character and Accessability

diffey hobbs matchett

Lee Diffey, David Hobbs, Steve Matchett (and Will Buxton not pictured because he’s always down in the pits.)

The British and Aussie boys behind the mikes explain some of the rules so newbies like me can get drawn in to the action, like a story. You know what’s at stake. They wave you on over and ask you to sit down with them and watch the race.

They catch you up on the latest news. They crack jokes, have nicknames and tease each other.

Before each race they play an “essay”, a narrated montage of sorts, by Sam Posey that is topical, geographical, and sheer poetry.

Last year, NBC Sports took over the broadcasting of F1 from the Speed Channel, opening it up to more Americans.

F1’s Popularity is Growing in the U.S.

Americans are slowly working their way into the sport, but I totally beat them to it. The relatively new Circuit of the Americas track in Austin brings the Formula One race to the United States. And this year, Manor’s Alexander Rossi (who hails from Nevada City, CA, a mere 60 miles from my house, so I’ll just figure out a way to take credit for that, too) gives us an American driver for the first time in years.

f1 haas_f1_team-logo-650x330Next year… Haas F1 racing will give us an American Team. Let’s hope this all sticks. Yes, I’m aware that Gene Hass owns a NASCAR team, can we not talk about that? Actually, let’s talk about that. Since NASCAR fans know who Gene Haas is, that brings a new awareness and potentially a new audience to Formula One.

F1 has a Dramatic Narrative (read: soap opera)

Oh my Lord, the drama. The “silly season” stuff: Which driver is driving for which constructor next year? Whose contract is up? And then there is the other silly season: Who just got married? Who isn’t getting paid by their employer? Whose house just got robbed? Who got fired? Which city fell off the calendar this year? Who didn’t make it to Q3 today? Which constructor’s freight was held up at the airport because of nonpayment? Which driver said something snarky on the radio to the pit crew for all the world to hear? What team is accused of cheating? And pray tell, what color will Will Buxton’s pants be this week?

 

f1 will buxton

F1 is sexy

There are the cars. Gentlemen…

f1 ferrari tecnica

Ferrari at the 2015 Singapore race. (photo by Tecnica)

 

And then there are the drivers. Ladies… (and at least 10% of the gentlemen…)

lewis hamilton instagram

from Lewis Hamilton’s Instagram (@lewishamilton)

f1 sainz instagram

from Carlos Sainz Jr.’s Instagram (@carlosainz)

f1 nico rosberg flickr

from Nico Rosberg’s Flickr page

 

Every week my husband would ask, “So, who’s your favorite driver?” It took a couple of years before I finally proclaimed that it was Valtteri Bottas, Number 77 of the Williams Martini team.

valterri bottas

from Valtteri Bottas’ Instagram (@valtteribottas)

Why him, you ask? Because Valtteri Bottas can grab the bull by the horns, get off to a good start and really hug the curves. He’s also a pretty good Formula One driver.

Yes, there are more pics for the girls than the guys, but we have to wait in way longer lines for the bathrooms, so now we’re even.

Oh all right, don’t get your panties in a bundle.  If it will shut you up this should appeal to everyone…

f1 rosberg and car instagramfrom Nico Rosberg’s Instagram (@nicorosbergofficial) – photo by Tom Koenig

 

So anyway. Austin (or, “ATX”, as the hipsters call it). This week. There’s a possibility I’ll meet some Formula One-related people. Maybe my favorite driver. Maybe the commentators. Who knows? Whatever I can do without appearing too obsessive, stalkerish or nuisancy.

But enough about social disorders, lack of borders and restraining orders, I have to go pack. Toodles!

 

This blog post was brought to you by the letter “F” and the number “1”.

Not a Movie Review of Mad Max: Fury Road. Also? Flying Cats

Hello and welcome to Mashup Meme Monday where I make it sound like I’ve been doing this meme forever when in fact it’s the first and probably the last time ever. I saw the nonstop roller coaster, guns and post-apocalyptic car chases, Fast-and-Furious-on-steroids event that is the new Mad Max: Fury Road.

My one sentence review (in addition to the one before this) would probably say that it’s all action, no talk, no character development, minimal plot, but my god if you haven’t seen a good car chase scene since The French Connection and you need a good feminist twist on what is usually a predominantly male theme and even though the cast is 12 million guys and 6-10 chicks half of whom are scantilly clad and you wouldn’t mind seeing Charlize Theron with half an arm hold her own against Tom Hardy, well then….this movie is for you. And even if you think you don’t want to see this movie you should because of the feminist angle and because….seriously ladies, Tom Hardy.

tom hardy

photo by Greg Williams via Tom Hardy Variations

 

Coincidentally (or ironically, I never know when to use ironically correctly), we saw Mad Max at the Century Theater whose famed domes are now being demolished so it was a post apocalyptic scene inside AND out.

Also? You may have to see it to get this thing I made:

cats, flying cats, witness me, regret nothing, mad max, fury road, meme

California Drought: 10 Ways to Save Water

There is no “I” in drought. There is also no “A”.

california drought, draughtBecause I live in Parched City, California, I know you little nanny goats have been dying to ask me what I’m doing to save water. Well, it doesn’t matter what I’m doing, what matters is that everyone else is doing it. And I’m here to tell them what for and how to. Did you know we’re suffering from the biggest California Drought ever (if you don’t go back more than 1200 years?)

When it’s yellow, let it mellow

If you go number 2, flush down the poo.
If you go number 1, let it stay, just for fun…..unless you’ve had asparagus.

Put a brick in your toilet tank

If you don’t have a brick, and really, who doesn’t have a brick laying around the house for a rainy day, then take a one quart container, fill it with water, cap it, and put that in the tank. Just think, every four flushes save a gallon of water. If you’re thinking it’s hypocritical to fill something with water when that is exactly what you are trying to save, then just pee in it instead. Unless you’ve had asparagus. If pee grosses you out, then I don’t know, drool in it, but who has that kind of time?

Stop shaving in the shower

And stop visiting Rosy Palms and her five sisters in there, while you’re at it. Recent studies show that doing hand-to-gland combat in the shower wastes up to 45,000 gallons a month, so knock it off, so to speak. You too, guys. Seriously though, according to Water Use It Wisely http://wateruseitwisely.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Tip24.jpg , shortening your shower by even 2 minutes saves up to 150 gallon per month.

Scrape dishes instead of rinsing before washing

Unless the dishes in your sink have been there a month or more, in which case I would suggest you throw them and the furry animals clinging to them in the trash. And get yourself to an AA meeting already.

Don’t throw ice cubes in the sink

If you’re a klutz like me or your refrigerator is a bitter little jerkface, throwing ice cubes across the kitchen just because you haven’t changed the filter in six years, don’t put them in the sink. Pick them up, stick your tongue out at the appliance with the attitude and put them in a house plant.

Don’t use your garden hose to water your lawn

Use your neighbor’s hose. Obviously.

Make Your Own Water

Enroll in your local university, get a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and make your own water. I mean it’s two H’s and one O, how hard could it be?

Report Leaks

Contact the property owner if you find errant sprinklers and broken pipes. You’ve been cranky anyway, what with the yellow water in your toilet and short showers, so this is an excellent opportunity for you to get all self-righteous and let off some steam and take it out on someone else instead of your partner who has to live with you all the time. Even better? A leaky hydrant means a nasty call to the government – FTW!

Make Your Own Rain

Since we have “dual climate” systems in our cars, Set the driver’s side to MAX HOT and the passenger side to MAX COOL and create your own weather system. Don’t forget a bucket for the center console.

And Another Thing

Speaking of cars, if that little snowflake button on your dashboard doesn’t make snow, take it back to the dealer and don’t leave until they fix it. Call the media and start a protest if you have to.

Talk to People (Bonus Tip)

When you’re at the coffee shop, write #DraughtTogether on your cup. When people tell you that you spelled it wrong, take the opportunity to engage in a conversation. If they won’t engage, simply yell across the store just before they run out the door, “You know the coffee is made with recycled water, right?” Which may start another conversation. With someone else.

  – – –

If you can’t tell whether I’m kidding or not about saving water during this California drought, you aren’t well informed enough about water conservation and should visit Save Our Water for the reel deets, yo.

(Photo lifted from NBC News)

Vegetable Evangelism

Or, How a Vegetable Hater Bottomed Out and Then Saw the Truth, the Light and the Way of Anthocyanins.

Have I ever told you how much I hate vegetables? I hate them THIS MUCH!

That is, until recently. Something happened that has caused me to eat more vegetables in the last three weeks than I have in my entire life. Stuff I’ve never heard of, seen before or even knew existed.

I had 27 meat tenderizers but never owned a garlic press.

meat tenderizers, kitchen utensils, meat pounder

from a previous post entitled My Name is Margaret and I’m a Utensilaholic

Why no garlic press before now? Because I didn’t know what one was or how to use it. Or how to take garlic apart. Or how to cook it. Or anything!

So what happened to me? I found vegetable Jesus.

I was down and out on my luck, eating back-alley pizza for breakfast and half-eaten Hostess Cherry pies for lunch. I was unemployed and living in the gutter with one hand out and the other clenching a brown paper bag concealing a bottle of whatever flavored McDonald’s milkshakes I could find in local dumpsters.

Then one day, I heard some lady preaching about how the fruits and vegetables of our ancestors are much different than what we eat today. How we’ve domesticated all the medicinal benefits of food in favor of asthetics and taste and consistency. I was hooked. I bought the book. I highlighted sentences. And then I went shopping.

Who the hell knows if I’m shrinking cancer tumors or preventing cardiovascular disease and diabetes. All I know is I have learned how to make vegetables not just unyucky, but actually tasty. And it only took half a century. Well, almost. I probably shouldn’t be walking around declaring that I’m fifty years old, especially since it’s still a precious few months away, but who cares, really.

I even signed up for a weekly CSA box. Except I’m experiencing such an extreme veggie makeover that I’m disappointed if they give me the green kale instead of the red kale. Or mostly white carrots instead of purple carrots. And they don’t have hard-necked garlic??? Are you kidding me? With Gilroy, the garlic capital of the world, practically right around the corner? Like a true born-again evangelist, I’m a veggie snob. Hallelujah!

If I can get my lazy ass out of bed early enough, I will have to check out the farmers markets around town, because we are not just THE capital (capitol?) of California, we have recently declared ourselves the Farm to Fork Capital of the U.S. Or the world. I forget which. Anyway, surely I can expect uber-fresh and purple veggies from this Farm-to-Fork capital, right?

I would start my own garden except that we host many critters under our deck that would say, “Martha! They’ve just opened up a Hometown Buffet next door–grab the kids we’re going out tonight!” We’ve got birds and squirrels and skunks and they would tell all their friends at Happy Hour down by the river to come over to the All You Can Eat, dine and dash establishment in their backyard. No thank you.

I never ate vegetables before because I figured, why eat nasty or bland or bitter food if I was potentially wasting my time? I assumed our vegetables had no more nutrients left in them, and I wasn’t going to eat them in the off chance they were healthy. I wanted guarantees. And this book does that.

What book am I talking about that I’m not getting paid to endorse?

It’s called Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health by Jo Robinson and it’s awesome. Full of information like which varieties to shop for, how to store them at home, whether or not to cook them, and what all the health benefits are for each one. For example, did you know that you should let garlic sit for at least 10 minutes after you’ve pressed it before cooking it, or else you lose most of the health benefits?

Look, I’m lazy. And this book convinced me that even I can eat better. I don’t need to go out and buy all kinds of kitchen equipment (I don’t have a food processor or a pressure cooker or a double boiler or a Vita-mix, although I would really like one of those.) The only thing I bought was a garlic press. In fire engine red.

I’m so excited about this whole venture that I want to start a website that helps people who hate vegetables learn to like them through education and tasty recipes. I want them to know how to get the most nutritional bang for their buck and not wasting their time eating the ones that just take up space in our lives. Like iceberg lettuce. Stop eating that crap. It’s a pointless vegetable if there ever was one.

The problem is, ihateveggies.com was already taken, so I’ve put together an exploratory committee to do some research and I think I found the perfect domain and you may see it coming soon to an Internet browser near you.

Did you also know that cooking potatoes, then chilling them for 24 hours before you eat them (you can reheat them) lowers their glycemic levels and doesn’t spike your blood sugar as much? I know! You want to hear something more crazy? I had vegetables for breakfast. Breakfast, people! Can I get an amen?

vegetables, purple caulifower, hash

Yes, that’s purple cauliflower. Who knew THAT existed?

When I win the award for Best Veggie Hater in a Leading Role, I will be thanking my husband for allowing me to stink up the house and myself with all the garlic and onions.  After I thank the academy and the vegetable Jesus, of course.

 

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