Life in the Real Desert: A Day of Rest

Schwinn 700C - my bike

After a busy Saturday spent learning that no one in town really wants to buy anything despite what their signs say and watching the screener of Awaken at Burger King it was decided, by me, to rest on the seventh day of life in the real desert. Although to be quite honest, contrary to what my Facebook post says, I was tired from riding my new bike over 14 miles each and every day for six straight days. The final deciding factor was looking down and seeing bruises on my legs.

While not too concerning, they are the result of taking one of my heart medications, it bothered me enough that I felt Sunday would be best spent writing my review for Awaken, starring Natalie Burn, and possibly writing an article or two as well as posting on my blog.

As with most “best made plans” about the only real thing accomplished was sleeping in and writing the review. Forgetting that the Internet is agonizingly slow out here in the middle of the desert, my plans were waylaid fairly easily. On the plus side, a little RV cleaning was done with the idea that a clean home is a happy home.

This was also a chance to catch up on my Asian cinema DVD collection and watch some old favorites. The Pang Bros’ Recycle, Takeshi Miike’s One Missed Call, and the Korean knock off of Kim Ji-Woon’s Tale of Two Sisters; Epitaph. All of these are films that I can watch over and over. After a triple serving of Asian horror, it was time to watch Kiss Kiss Bang Bang with Downey, Kilmer and Monaghan directed by the more than capable Shane Black.

It was interesting to learn that as Quartzsite nears the end of its season, that no one on the main drag wanted to buy a wireless Apple keyboard or magic mouse (hardly used). Of course having to explain to the store owner (“We Buy, Sell, Trade”) what a magic mouse was could have had something to do with it. Although the shop did have laptop carry cases for sale…

The other strike out was a place that buys old coins, gold, antiques etc. Granted, my trip was just to see what sort of offer might be given for an old 1926 silver dollar and a silver 50 cent piece. Turns out, according the the chap who runs the shop, that 1926 was not a “spectacular” year for silver dollars. This meant that the price for the coin was $16. Interesting, but not enough to persuade me to sell this old bit of change.

The guy was not too bothered that I did not want to part with the coin, “After all,” he said, “16 bucks won’t buy a meal at McDonalds these days.” I did not want to argue, but I could have eaten several $1 cheeseburgers over the course of a number of meals. Still, one man’s cheap burger is another man’s super size quarter pounder with cheese.

Apart from checking on whether personal retail really was a possibility in Quartzsite, it was odd to see the town so deserted. In an odd way, the place feels more comfortable, if not safer. The old snowbirds who flock to this town all suffer from diminished driving skills. The fact that they have driven to another area is, overall, a good thing.

Although to be fair, it isn’t just the aged who drive as though they have left their brain at home in the walk-in closet. On one afternoon, while walking to town, I was almost hit by a lorry (a semi in USA speak), an RV who was towing a trailer behind it almost as long as the RV itself, an idiot in a pickup truck who passed another car and came so far toward the other side of the road that I had to leap to safety and some jackass who left so little room between me and the car that a mosquito would have been killed had it tried to fly in the gap.

Other times, there are drivers who refuse to leave a door’s width between their speeding vehicle and my bike. Not too upsetting if they are slowly passing by, but most are hitting around 50 mph. The combination of being way too close and too much speed has, on more than one occasion, almost made my heart leap out of my throat.

The point being that out of all those dangerous drivers mentioned above, none appeared to be over 40.

Still, my day of rest has allowed me to ponder what the summer months will bring and how much I need to set up a routine. Getting up early has never been my thing. I can do so and have but not willingly or well. Still, I now know that I am becoming a “regular” at one fast food place, Burger King, and staff at a lot of shops speak more readily now and will share a little laugh occasionally.

The weird way I speak helps. Having an accent that people mistake for Australian “Throw some shrimp on the barbie and crack open a few tinnies mate,” always helps to make one more memorable. There will obviously come a point where I do not have to explain where the accent comes from and that I was actually born in this country. Until then, it is (pun intended) a talking point which allows me to be that bit more approachable.

My list of things to write about, in the small town of Quartzsite, includes the small empty house on the way to town and the local celebrity (silent film star) who was given a sword by the famous Pancho Villa. There are many other things about life in the real desert which are fascinating and these will also be addressed whilst I write my own stories and continue to seek monetary recompense for articles written.

8 March 2015

Jackpot (2011): Brilliant Black Comedy

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Written and directed by Magnus Martens and based on a story by Jo Nesbø, Jackpot is a hysterically funny film about the lack of honour among criminals and how one innocent man gets caught up in almost more than he can handle.

The film opens with two men in a police interviewing room in the Ostfold Police Station. One is covered in blood and bruises while the other man, who is in a suit, questions him. The first man is Oscar Svendson who one hour previously crawled out from under the body of a huge woman while clutching a shotgun, the only survivor of a massive shoot-out in the club.

As Oscar struggles to tell the police detective what happened we are treated to a flash-back. A car with three young men is going down the road.We see it drive into the car park of a strip-club/video store called Pink Heaven. The three young men jump out and trot through the door eagerly calling out, “Any pussy in here?” As the doors close on them, gunfire erupts and all three men are shot.

As the opening credits roll, we see the carnage left in the club and we meet the detective who will question Oscar later in the film.

The Cast:

Kyrre Hellum
Oscar Svendson
Mads Ousdal
Thor Eggen
Henrik Mestad
Solør
Arthur Berning
Billy Utomjordet

The Plot:

Oscar is a sort kind of Parole Officer/Supervisor in a “Halfway House” factory that employs ex-convicts when they are released from prison. The factory makes small plastic Christmas trees. Oscar enters a football pool with three of the ex-cons who work there. Thor, Dan, and Billy all fill in tickets and Oscar drops them off paying for all the men to play. Oscar’s girlfriend tells him to change the first team that they’ve chosen to win to a draw.

When the match is televised the teams do indeed play to a draw, Billy, Thor and Dan are furious until they find that Oscar had changed the first match bet. They win over 1.7 million on the pool. Unfortunately for Oscar, despite his good fortune, his troubles are just beginning.

Waiting for the results...
Waiting for the results… Oscar, Billy, Dan, and Thor.

The Device:

The film switches from interview room to flashback and certain “scenes of the crime” where the flashbacks must “marry up” with the story that Oscar relates to Police Detective Solor (Mestad). Each flashback features more hysterically funny bad luck on the part of Oscar.

The Twist:

By the end of the film you’re left asking; did it really happen that way?

The Verdict:

Rib-tickling fun. Despite the fact that the amount of gore and blood-letting in the film could equal a Takeshi Miike movie, the film is almost hysterically funny. The action, which could be described as overly violent slapstick is blackly funny and is helped by the dialogue which can range from dry dead-pan delivery to over-the-top hilarity.

At one point Oscar is relating something and he states that when Plan A failed they had to resort to Plan B. The detective asks, “What was Plan b?” Oscar responds, “Not very good.” Very, very funny.

Due to the amount of violence and death; blood and gore; and some pretty gruesomely funny means of body disposal the film can only be classified as a black comedy. Jackpot has to be the funniest crime film I’ve seen in ages and I am amazed that Hollywood has not already snapped this film up for a remake.

A real gut-busting 5 stars out of 5 for a brilliant mix of hilarity and death. Proving once again that the Scandinavian countries don’t just write good crime fiction, but, they make great films as well.

Don’t miss it.

Going over the crime scene.
Going over the crime scene…Oscar and Detective Solor.