Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Crime Spree

Nothing more than a cursory glance around the Woolgoolga and the Northern Beaches areas would be necessary to understand the central role that biking and skating plays in the lives of our children and teens. Accordingly Woodsey’s Wheels has been a vital and vitalising part of our community for the last 13 years, which makes it all the more saddening when we hear that it has been the target of a malicious campaign of vandalism and theft over the last three weeks.
The business has been hit three times in as many weeks with the latest incident, last Thursday night, involving the theft of several boxes of shoes (many of them containing only one shoe), skate decks, other assorted items, as well as damage to the store front when the unknown persons forced entry and vandalised the recently applied mural that cost the business thousands of dollars.

“It’s hard to tell what they took exactly. Unless they made a mess we really have no way of knowing exactly what items they took,” Lesley, owner of Woodsey’s Wheels said.
The onslaught of vandalism, damage and theft has left Lesley feeling demoralised. While each of the three break-ins has cost the business approximately $2000 a pop in stock and damages, it is the deeper effects on the businesses viability that has Lesley worried.

“It costs more in insurance each time you claim but there can also come a time when you can’t get insured at all. Because of our stock and its value, we can’t operate uninsured.”

Sure that the break-ins have been committed by youths, Lesley said that if she could speak directly to those responsible she would question their judgement.

“I would ask them about their future, where they think they’ll end up. Do they really want to go to jail? Sooner or later they are bound to get caught…they always get caught.”

Community support has already been flooding into the well-known business with many people keeping an eye out and an ear open for those responsible, operating under the often correct assumption that we live in a small and tight knit community and that sooner or later word does get around.

“We’ve been operating here for the last 13-years and the people have been very good to us. The local kids are very protective of this store, without it they would loose .”

Also hit last week was Working PC with $2,500 worth of mobile phones and GPS equipment stolen from the premises on a Sunday night. Owner, Lee Varney, had the same problem as Woodsey’s Wheels: not realising the real extent of his losses until some time after.

“You would go to get something for a customer or have a look for an item and realise it wasn’t there.”

Just like other businesses, Lee’s major concern is the effect that break-ins and vandalism have on business stability and viability.

“It’s frustrating. The last time I was hit I almost went broke, I was lucky this time.”

What needs to be made absolutely clear is that these crimes are not only an attack on the businesses involved but also on the community as a whole. It is businesses like Lee’s and Lesley’s that make Woolgoolga such a convenient place to live. To loose these businesses would not only be a blow to the livelihood of the owners but a blow to the wellbeing of the entire community.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

I am Legend review

Based on the Richard Matheson’s novel I am Legend, the Will Smith vehicle movie of the same name, is the story of virologist Dr Robert Neville (Will Smith) who, for a while at least, is the last man on earth.

The film picks up three years after a virus-based cure for cancer is found, a cure that subsequently leads to what would appear to be the apocalypse. Most of humanity is wiped off the face of the planet. A few are immune to the new super virus while many more are mutated into light-intolerant, highly aggressive beings that are almost stripped completely of their humanity.

This stripping away of humanity is the subject matter for much of the first half of I am Legend. Though the plight of Dr Neville (explored ably and with much charm by Mr Smith) and his canine companion Sam, a massive German Shepard, the writers (Mark Protosevich and Akiva Goldsman) and director (Francis Lawrence) explore the psychological stress of isolation and the absolute need that we have for one another.

In one heart wrenching moment Dr Neville walks up to one of several mannequins he has posed in a DVD store and begs her to say hello to him. In another, whilst eating breakfast, a pre-recorded episode of the popular US morning program Today redundantly plays in the background. It’s an insightful scene, highlighting beautifully that when faced with complete isolation we crave anything, anything at all, that make us feel that it is still possible to connect, that there is more in this life than the subjective ‘I’.

For the first half I am Legend and Mr Smith’s performance is a tense study of the role of the relationships in our lives via the stripping away of those relationships altogether. This is helped along the way with intermittent flashbacks of Dr Neville’s last moments with his family before they were evacuated from Manhattan in the first days of the viral apocalypse.

The characters isolation also plays an extremely effective part in I am Legends other role as a science-fiction thriller. We get our first taste of the infected in this film when, after his watch’s alarm alerts him to approaching darkness, Dr Neville locks down his home for the night. With no compatriots to hunker around the campfire with, so to speak, we see a very frightened man armed with a rifle huddling with Sam in a feebly small bathtub. Outside the steel shutters, freed from the lethal sunlight, the infected begin an unearthly and chilling chorus of wailing and screeching.

The fear in I am Legend is almost palpable. In most films, when the hero walks into a dark building with the threat of a monster or psychopath ripping off several limbs lurking around every corner they look as if they were born for the task. Not in this film. Will Smith spends the entire time looking as if he is either on the verge of throwing up or having a heart attack from adrenalin overload. His performance here makes fear contagious: you can almost see it rippling throughout a theatre audience.

I am Legend also, somehow, manages to escape the triumphant tone that most thrillers or horror films rely on at the end to counteract the fear inspired over the course of the movie. There are no happy endings to be had here and it is because of this that we can’t really recommend this film for families. There are moments that let in despair to the exclusion of all else and while this is what gives I am Legend its visceral force and its tendency to linger long after the credit rolls, it is also what makes it potentially harrowing watching for the youngsters.

Sure enough I am Legend is a film for those that enjoy a bit of a fright but it is also an absolute joy for those of us who like a movie that questions and prods and is at its best when we replay its juiciest moments in our heads.