Category: Media

I’m a media studies graduate and with that comes a raftload of tools that I’m repeatedly told aren’t actually useful for anything, to which I counter that I like using them and enjoy the experience of applying those tools to all the media around me I partake in and therefore my life is enriched and overflowing with wonderful experiences of interconnectivity. By this point the other person has usually wandered off. Anyway, this is the category for anything that I think of as being connected to ‘media’, whether it’s a type (like TV, music, movies or so on), a brand (like Disney! Hi Disney!). This category also covers my weekly critical engagement column-type-thing currently called Story Pile.

Story Pile: Arrested Development, Part II

After the first series of Arrested Development, seasons 1-3, they revived it. Who’s they? The wizards, I dunno. The point is, thanks to the neverending zombie franchiseland that is Netflix and the endless well of relaunch fever for people who were noticing we were approaching or in middle age desperately tried to head back to the mid eighties, Arrested Development was brought back to life in 2013.

It’s not very good.

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Boundaries of Autoethnography

Hey, here’s some more study reading – specifically, reading a chapter of Doing Autoethnography. It’s a collection of Autoethnographic essays, critically examining works the creators have made that are, themselves, Autoethnography, which is to say it’s kind of an oroborous of moebius or something like that.

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Story Pile: Why Cap Ain’t Supe

The comparison between Superman and Captain America is very much like the comparison between tractors and trucks. They’re not an unreasonable comparison to make, especially when you only know of either thanks to movies, but the more you know about either the less the comparison works. The two have some very broad similarities, but when you start to talk about the kind of stories they can tell, things start to break down.

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The Pop Of Porn and ASMRtifacts

Media does weird things.

First things first you’re going to need to know what ASMR is before I keep going. It’s a hard-to-explain thing, so let’s go with an arch, academic-sounding definition then get fuzzier. ASMR, standing for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, is an experience characterised by tingly feelings across the skin, alike to static electricity, often running down from the top of the scalp down to the back of the neck, which seems to be experienced by a non-majority population of the world.

It is hard to study because it’s a thing people may not even realise they do experience, it’s an individualised experience, and there aren’t clear, hard predictive triggers. Some people get it from a few things, some get it from a lot, and some people may never discover that they’re affected by it. It is not necessarily sexual – despite the title of this post – but for some people it is.

ASMR culture on youtube is therefore a grouping of channels, often with odd titles which seek to promote to you different and sometimes blisteringly specific scenarios, containing things like ‘tapping’ ‘squish sounds’ ‘no talking’ ‘personal attention’ and the like.

I’ve been thinking about this XKCD strip:

Panel 1.

And I’ve been thinking about it in light of ASMR.

The idea of the comic is pretty funny but it’s also pretty easily grasped. Things we experience in our developing lives impress upon us in odd ways. Rather than being overly invested in the pornography itself, the narrator is impressed upon by the medium of the comic. There’s always, with XKCD, a sort of boring futurism where the audience tend to make every comic self-fulfilling. You’ll find people holding [Citation Needed] signs at rallies, for example, and there were people saying they were sure that this person really existed and reflected a real experience.

ASMR videos are often made with sensitive audio equipment that capture a lot of noise and create the impression of existing in a space, and do their best to create a blanket of white noise. I have some very nice headphones (a gift from a friend) and this means that when I’m listening to an ASMR video, I can often hear things that the track isn’t really meant to have – the sound of birds far away, or the sound of a siren many blocks away. Things you have to really strain to hear.

In addition, I have some experience editing audio. One thing you want to avoid in audio is around the English letter sound p and to a lesser extent, b. These sounds carry a burst of air, which means that they for a tiny moment increase the volume of spoken audio, known as a pop. There’s a whole host of equipment designed to help you minimise these effects, and radio voice – the practice of speaking to recording devices – tends to have non-severe P sounds. They are, when you hear them in professional audio recording, basically an error. Software can get them out, hardware can prevent them happening, you should probably never hear pops on audio tracks.

ASMR videos are full of pops.

ASMR videos are often built out of experiences of intimacy and comfort from points in our youth. Things like being the focus of attention for a non-failable test, hairdresser visits, hearing exams, having your makeup done – lots of different scenarios. The super-sensitive audio devices pick up the pops and the pops seem to be things the audience respond to. It might be because it reminds people of old audio software, but it also might be because feeling someone draw a breath, or hearing someone pop when they say a word creates the same illusion of experience as you get when someone is whispering in your ear. Even moreso, starter videos tend to have fewer pops, but as people get more familiar, they pop more, because audiences respond well to the sound.

The overlap of an error in audio recording (in most situations) with an intended affect (in a highly specific situation) comes back to the XKCD strip. The idea at its root, that we can fall in love with things that are themselves limits of technology.

May Shirts!

Hey, here are a the shirts I made this month!

First of all, here’s the Play Rough shirt, which I first conceived as part of a series. If you want a particular move name, let me know and I’ll see about whipping one up for you!

(You won’t)

That design gave way to this one, with a big chunk retro TM disc – and I concocted this moveset as an example of a perfectly good, cool moveset for a person to have.

Story Pile: Deadthor

One of the reasons I shifted this particular blog feature from ‘series or movie’ to ‘media’ to ‘story’ is that some things don’t neatly fit into a constrained form like that, and I still want to talk about them.

Comics are a good example. If you want to talk about a comic story, you really have to go with this is a good place to start, because even the most contained comic is still part of and reflects a greater historical context. Things that are old enough to proceed no other comics like them still have to explain where they got some of their base ideas, like why Superman wears his underpants on the outside. If you want to talk about a comic story in like, 1990 well, good grief, you need to explain why then is different to now, what characters have moved on, all that stuff. Really, if you want to give a comprehensive rundown of comics you have to start a few thousand years before comics began and just kick it off with Enkudu and Gilgamesh.

Nonetheless, we are in a time where interconnected media interests allow us to see and partake of media that spreads far and wide into a deep and weird comics history and with that in mind, now we are finally in a place where, through staggering coincidence, people are generally aware of Deadpool and Thor’s Loki.

And to that, I want to tell you about my favourite page in all of Deadpool.

Here’s your basic starter point. Deadpool has found himself stranded on the moon, with Loki, who tells him that he, Deadpool, is his son, and that he knows the secrets that Deadpool knows. Continue reading

Story Pile: The Blues Brothers

Okay, hold up.

I watched this movie kind of. Back in the fundamentalist church, there was this thing some families with VCRs would do, where they’d record a movie from TV, pause at points they knew the movie would get bad, then unpause afterwards. Think of it like cutting the ads (which they did as well), but for swearing and sex and music.

Yeah, music.

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Story Pile: There are Crocodiles

Okay, it’s like this.

Press Gang was a short British TV show from the late 80s and early 90s that centered around the running of a school-then-more Newspaper connected to a comprehensive school, a sort of state public school that doesn’t get choosy about who they take. It was the debut show for a guy called Steven Moffat, and if I’m being honest, the work of his I have the least contempt for.

Content warning; Suicide.

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Story Pile: Batman V Superman

I don’t need to talk to you about this movie. General wisdom is that this movie is bad and you have a bunch of different sources giving you different reasons for it to be bad, and there’s even a comprehensive, thoroughly done, four hour long video essay breaking down a whole host of the problems I had with it.

Honestly, if you’re into movie criticism it’s a very engaging, thoughtful and thorough examination of the movie’s failings, complete with a very reasonable perspective on Zack Snyder’s work, and a recognition of some of the movie’s virtues.

That’s if you want to go look into the movie. It seems pretty unnecessary though.

What’s interesting to me, though is the people who love this movie.

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Story Pile: Rounders

I normally try to set April aside to talk indulgently about stuff I really like, because it’s the month with my birthday in it. You know, a theme is as good as any other theme. I haven’t really done that this month, like I didn’t dig down to make an ostensible show of picking out five of my absolute favourites I wanted to babble about self-indulgently. Still, this is the last Story Pile for April, so why not.

Let’s talk about a movie that I freaking love.

It’s also kinda bad. Continue reading

Story Pile: Altered Carbon

When you get down to it, Altered Carbon is a series that doesn’t so much need recommendations as much as it needs content warnings. Up front, the series features gender, race, and general body dysphoria (being in a body that’s ‘very wrong’), graphic torture, death, murder for pleasure, torture for pleasure, sex workers, sex worker abuse, sex worker marginalisation, realistic and sympathetic AI death, sensory overload, sensory deprivation, descriptions of nightmares, depictions of trauma, hetero bonking, consent-comprimised hetero bonking, nudity, violent nudity, cutting and –

Good grief, what isn’t in this series.

I feel a bit bad about this because the avalanche of things to warn people about in this show are all reasonable things. It paints the picture of this series as gaudily, grindingly nasty and full of vile indulgence. It’s not like that, I promise – it’s more that the series has such a breadth of nasty things it deals with that to have one leap out of you in the story as a surprise is like finding a razor blade in your ice cream. It’s not only unexpected it’s also extremely bad if you weren’t expecting it. The emotional punch is all there, I just don’t want people going into this series blind, especially since, for all of its content warnings, I really liked Altered Carbon.

I’m not going to talk about the greater universe of the story, though, I’m not going to run down the plot or its themes or its meanings. The story is a neon noir cyberpunk dystopia that uses income inequality as its most intense theme, its central character is a jerk, and it weaves together his history and his present. That’s all good and I might talk about them another time, but instead, we’re going to talk about one thing.

We’re going to talk about Poe.

Don’t worry, we’re also not going to spoil the plot!

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Shirt Highlight: House Logos!

Ever have a day where you had some things you needed to get done, but you were so sick with anxiety and rage you couldn’t, so instead you threw yourself into something in the hopes of making one person maybe crack a smile?

No?

Hey, good, good for you, I am so glad you’ve never had to be here.

Anyway, today I fancied up these shirt designs I’d sketched out:

If you want to get these shirts representing your favourite Houses for the School Cup based on whether you feel you’re Basic, Extra, Boring or Evil, you can check them out on my Redbubble. There’s even one shirt that holds all four designs to show people all at once!

If, by the way, you like these designs but don’t want to buy a shirt, don’t forget you can always get stickers of what I make, and stickers are often very cheap, especially if you buy in lots of 10 or more!

The Rural Purge 2: Fleeing New York

Hey, remember when I did that thing on The Rural Purge?

Well, following on from that, and from my habit of recycling things I hear on other media criticism outlets (criticism in this case being ‘to regard carefully and thoughtfully’ not, ‘this sucks!’), it was brought to my attention that there was kind of a more recent, more inverse Urban purge, or more specifically, a New York purge.

During the 90s there was an odd, interconnected web of sitcoms set in New York. It’s a bit of a funny coincidence fest mostly born out of the nature of sitcom actors. Actors in the same core of shows tended to show up in one anothers’s shows, and with a single unifying broadcaster, they even did continuity gags and interconnected nods to one another’s shows. You know, Kramer shows up in Mad About You (probably saying something deeply misogynistic off-set), and Helen Hunt’s … Mrs… Paul Rieser… shows up in FRIENDS, and you know, whatever. So it was just one funny thing that there were all these series, interconnected, in New York, that were all part of one big continuity.

And they all kinda just died around the same time.

The source I got this idea from claimed 9/11 did it, but I don’t think so. I think it’s just the natural ending of a lot of series, the ending of an era, and a lot of fad-based series development collapsing at the same time. But what happened around this same time was the sudden absence of series set in and around New York. There was this weird split in continuity, where American TV went from, during the most aimless and empty genre, being about New York City to suddenly being about absolutely anywhere else.

What made this especially weird, as far as trend-chasing goes, is that when you look at those shows, that little New York sliver of time… barely any of them are about New York?

I haven’t gone and rewatched a dozen sitcoms for research (aside from Caroline in the City, because hey, that one’s for me), but mostly none of these sitcoms are about living in New York City. Real estate woes that should be present and aren’t are a point of almost hackish comedy in the Friendsverse – you know, all these people with huge living quarters in the middle of the most expensive city in the world (probably), whose salaries could not afford it at all.

There’s also the way these shows somehow featured a tiny number of nonwhite people, despite the racial diversity of New York. And there is no point where a dude in hotpants with a snake wrapped around his shoulders walked across the street to take a shit on a cop’s shoes. It’s a New York where a pair of gay dudes with a baby was seen as a ridiculous assumption for Joey and Chandler.

So it wasn’t anything like New York as it exists. It’s just about a certain, oddly insular New Yorkness, and as an effect of the insular, contained nature of a small group of talent making television sitcoms.

Story Pile: The Zombie Apocalypse Of The Author

I’ve written about the idea of ‘the death of the author,’ but to crash course it: The concept of death of the author is the idea that the interpretation of a story is about the person doing the interpretation, not about the person who made it. That is, there is no ‘author’ who can be said to truly represent what the story means in any and all circumstances. There’s a lot more to it, but it’s mostly cigarettes and sadness. That’s your basics:

The Death of the Author is the idea that the Author does not have exclusive rights to define interpretations of their work

This is a great idea and its most obvious modern application is fanfic and fan media. The story says Snape is an ugly snooty jerk, but that doesn’t matter, because you read the book and your interpretation involves no such thing, and the image of these characters interacting in your mind is perfectly valid. You don’t get marks for how the story works in your head, nobody’s grading you. If other people can grasp what you’re expressing when you share it, then that’s all that matters.

The thing is, thanks to Twitter and the Web 2.0 era of produsage, one of the groups of people getting involved in further creating fanfiction for these works and they are most annoyingly, the original authors.

Thanks to the unprecedented access we have to authors these days, we have a whole host of authors who are actively and aggressively attempting to insert into their own texts things they didn’t bother to try and put there the first time around. I’ll always kick at the Harry Potter franchises for any reason, but specific way that Rowling has claimed that Dumbledore is gay will always bother me. This has recently come to a head – again – with the upcoming Fantastic Beasts 2 movie that wants to have Young Dumbledore but also is ensuring to absolutely not show any of that icky gayness that the story isn’t about at all.

What this means is that any given reading of the text, these days, is not taken as a reading, with people willing to examine it, but as with all things in nerd cultures, we bury it under the toxic intention to prove it. Work must be tested or verified to be acceptable, interpretations must be justified to our satisfaction, and thanks to the availablility of certain authors, and their willingness to pontificate on what their work really means, we are now facing Zombie Authorship.

The author lies not still in their grave but shifts and moves, ever tumultuous in their position, expanding the work a tweet at a time – Werewolves are AIDS, the nudity is justified, you will e’re love the story for its manifold purpose. Tarantino, Martin, Rowling, Kojima, they each inflate their work not for its art but to remain alive a word more, to continue, to consume.And so the zombie slough flows over us all, and we do not engage with or interpret or study art, but we see it all as grey slurry that washes over us. The nerd cries out, be canonised, be purified, be true, and our eyes grow dull and dull and dull.

As for the Death of the Author, the sad thing is it contains within its own explanation; we bring out experiences to bear interpreting work.

The act of creating the work is one of those experiences.

Thanos Is Racist Now,

That got your attention.

We’ve been told what the motivation is for Thanos in the upcoming Infinity War. Feel free to jump out here, because you want to avoid spoilers, or because round-the-backtalk about movies bothers you, or because comics are stupid. Whatever your reason, here’s an escape route: Here!
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The Bright Conspiracy Theory

Okay, hold up.

I don’t want you going to think this is true. This is a hunch. This is a notion.

I want you to understand I don’t like holding hypothesis that can’t be easily proven. I grew up around conspiracy theorists, and I feel like I can recognise the mental habits that make a conspiracy. Conspiracies rely on being nebulous, unfalsifiable and emotionally satisfying. That is, they want to attribute blame to an unknowable ‘them,’ they can’t be shown to be wrong somehow, and they feed into emotional responses we already have.

Furthermore, I haven’t seen the Netflix movie Bright. I’ve seen its advertising, and that convinced me that Bright sucks and I don’t want to watch it, which in a reasonable world would be a good sign that the advertisers were good at their job, but that’s not how advertising is advocated as working in this mixed up ole world of ours.

With those clauses in mind, the actual quality of Bright and if you liked it, is really moot.

Instead, I want to talk to you about how and why Bright gets talked about at all.

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Sharing

One of the weird things about growing up in fundamentalist church with a deliberately stifled education is that some concepts kinda just get thrown around and you never really learn what they are. This meant I had to teach myself a bunch of this stuff, and I realise, there are some people similarly uncertain as to where the heck the idea of Shares come from.

The basic idea of what a share is is that it’s a portion of something. The place it got its start – more or less, there are always earlier versions of things, but the place it sort of got its modern kick-off – was during the (absolutely god-awful) trading history of large fleets of vessels, things like the Dutch East India company.

The way these things worked was, buying a boat – like, a whole boat – and managing an expedition over to do trading was, as an up-front cost, totally ridiculous. Like, we talk about wealth disparity, but it’s kind of hard to translate wha that was like when you’re talking about a period of history when you might not even exchange money for food, because it simply wasn’t affordable. So there’s a striation of wealth between poor and wealthy people that’s like, mindboggling, and I tend to think about ships from the perspective of the poor people. Each one of them represented more than a lifetimes’ worth of wealth, so the idea of rich people owning multiples is kind of impossible.

Anyway, even so, the task of sending a boat to get goods for sale was still a gamble – every time it went out, you didn’t know if it was coming back, and if it didn’t come back, you were out a ton of money, enough to ruin someone. The solution, then, was for people to band together – wealthy people, mind you – and instead of buying one ship, buying one tenth of ten ships. When each ship came in, you got a tenth of its proceeds. If one sank, you were out a tenth of a price of a ship. Then they got really fiddly with the numbers, and bookkeeping got involved and you started to see people making more and more careful subdivisions of the shares, and things you could do to interact with the shares and eventually things got decoupled from ever needing to turn a profit at all, because everything about markets eventually sucks butts.

Still, the thing with this whole system that makes my ears twist is, no matter how I think about it, the more I think it’s kind of inevitable that people will come up with this idea if they have some way of representing it. And then the weirder thing is: We have this idea for buying and owning shares in objects and businesses, but it seems fundamentally inimical to the current mindset of the world to have shares in the government you’re part of. Like, taxes are seen a an imposition, rather than a percentage ownership of the country you’re investing in.

The Stormtrooper’s Lament

I work at a university. This means I see a lot of students, and students like t-shirts. They like t-shirts, and they like Star Wars. And because they like Star Wars, they like wearing shirts that show the words to Star Wars, you know, the lyrics, or whatever. Star Wars has lyrics, I’m sure of it. Anyway, the point is, I see a lot of Star Wars shirts, and since being a walking ad isn’t enough any more, people go for weird and offbeat and ironic riffs on Star Wars.

So I see a lot of jokes about Stormtroopers missing.

Image Source

Now, I am not an expert in Star Wars, which is surprisingly hard when you consider that my field of academia is kinda adjacent to Fandom Studies, which is basically the study of Star Wars, And Now Harry Potter and Dr Who I Guess, at this point, but somehow, I am not really all that in with Star Wars. The main thing I know about Star Wars is how much the people love it love to shit on it because that’s how they show they Star Wars the best, like, being the people who love the movies enough to point out all the ways it’s dumb is how they show they’re better Star Wars fans than other Star Warsers.

I think that’s how it works. It’s like, in the rules of Star Wars, like encoded in the Force.

Image Source

Now, again, I’m no expert, but this question about Stormtroopers missing in a universe where there’s literal actual destiny and an actual force that actually exists and actually intervenes in reality to the degree of letting people teleport their soul ghosts across vast distances and huck objects around and lightning and stuff, why people think that Stormtroopers miss rather than the people being shot at avoided the shots.

It’s really weird, like, the series is constantly hammering away on the Force guides, the Force determines, the Force makes the universe hold together, the Force is super important, but when people witness a faceless, nameless stormtrooper doing the best job they can do, they don’t think ‘maybe the Force this whole series is constantly all about is doing something,’ they think ‘hah, that guy sucks.’

Image Source

It isn’t just the troopers, though. There are all sorts of near misses in the story, all sorts of things that could have gone wrong but didn’t, all sorts of moments when they sort of had to lean on the concept of the story itself to keep the hero, Johnny Starwar, going through the narrative. There were coincidences that pulled people together, and people point at those coincidences and say ‘well isn’t that silly? It’s like there’s some sort of conventional plot point dragging everything together into one spot!’ And normally I’d be okay with making fun of that but that’s a thing that exists in the story, and the ability to control or channel it is part of how the story even works, as a story.

Yet it’s way easier to make fun of the things in the story for being… affected by the story? In a universe where the story itself has power over the story? Where being able to manipulate the nature of reality, where complying with what the story wants you to be doing is a way to survive and live on?

Image Source

I’d say I’d wonder if there were more ways the story could make the force obvious but it kinda can’t, because they never shut up about it.


The images for this post were obtained from TeePublic, but that doesn’t mean they’re presented by their original artists. Trying to find the original artists only built the suggestion that the original artists are not actually posting them on TeePublic.

Story Pile: Kakegurui

It’s not often people approach me and suggest anime to me. I’m pretty fidgety about anime these days, because I watch it subbed (for no reason I can adequately explain) and I don’t like watching TV shows I can’t watch while I work on other things. Still, it was in Netflix, it was easy to get, and what they hey, it looked kinda interesting so let’s check out this anime.

It opens with a character losing a poker hand based on an Amazing Hand, which is a huge red flag for me about people not knowing how poker works. This was not an auspicious beginning for a series that I later heard described as Death Note For Money.

Anyway, I quite liked Kakegurui.

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Stop Being An Asshole About Fidget Spinners

Last year was the year of the Fidget Spinner, which is to say, it was the year people noticed the existence of dedicated stim toys and started to make a thing about it. During this time, teachers began the eternal gripe about whether or not they’re entitled to the attention of students, something that philosophically, I’m sort of resistant to. It’s not so much a resistance to the idea as much as it is surrender to its impossibility. If you’re a teacher, and you’re dealing with students who aren’t paying attention to you, that’s on you. Your job is to communicate ideas to the student in a way that they can remember. If they’re not engaging – if they’re not even trying – and you can’t find a way to make them that works for you too, then the two of you aren’t compatible.

The thing that blows me out about it was that the whole regime was just assholery all the way down. It wasn’t some sort of brilliant incisive conversation, not even slightly. You’d see people ostensibly employed in the task of scientific research or pedagogy or parenting or anything, people who you’d think have some degree of appreciation for nuance and maybe a recognition of how kids behave, acting like fidget spinners were the ding-danging apocalypse.

I mean, consider that adults do a ton of annoying stuff that other people put up with but they never realise how much people are ignoring it, because it’s not normal to call out strangers for being weird. If I stand at the bus stop clicking a pen nobody at the bus stop is going to tell me off for it, not because it doesn’t bug them, but because you respect other people’s boundaries.

The main thing I took out of the whole lesson was that the people you saw complaining the most about trying to distract people from fidget spinners were that they were people obviously uncomfortable with being shown that they’re not good at holding an audience’s attention. If people are going to zone out during your class, the fidget spinner’s not going to help them do it faster.

Literally every reason to ban fidget spinners is a reason to ban pens and paper.

Story Pile: The Good Place, Season 1

Let’s not talk about spoilers.

The premise of The Good Place is a pretty good one, a robust hook they serve at you in the first episode. We’re introduced to the character of Eleanor Shellstrop, as she comes to consciousness in an afterlife, which the story then underscores is not ‘Heaven.’ It is, to simplify, ‘The Good Place.’ The drama of the narrative comes then from her revealing, in private, to her first potential friend, that she isn’t the person they think she is, and that she doesn’t belong there.

That’s our basic premise, and it’s a strong hook. Rather than a whacky situation comedy, where there’s this good scenario and the story repeatedly dumps into this status quo a new strange setup, and the story refreshes around it, you get a really interesting story that’s also very funny that builds on the premise of the story established in this opening. It’s strongly continuity-driven, and that means that you aren’t really tuning in for an episode as much as you are tuning in for a few at a time.

It’s a good show to watch all of over the course of a weekend, that kinda thing. Good quality Netflix Content.

And I don’t want to talk about what happens in it. I want to talk about a joke. Continue reading

The Rural Purge

In Understanding Media (1964), Marshall McLuahn refers to America as a culture where

the death of all the salesmen at one stroke of the TV axe has turned the hot American culture into a cool one that is quite unacquainted with itself.

Now, I think that he’s wrong, because hey. Disagreeing with McLuahn in general is kind of how you get started in media studies, even as you recognise the dude was right about a lot of stuff. Still I think he’s wrong in the idea that TV, in the 1960s, represented the death of salesmen (because sales and advertising are very different creatures).

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Sodom Me, So Do You

The story of the city of Sodom is barely worth recapping, but in case you’ve never heard it, basically there was this place that God didn’t like that was basically named Doomedsville, and the only good people who lived there were shown in one incident how they were too good to live there, before God told them the town was hecked and they left. I’m glossing over some plot points, but it’s honestly not important, because what’s really remarkable about this story is what it’s about.

See, right now, if you ask people, it’s about the sexual immorality of the city, the way that the people of Sodom used to stick their hoo-hahs into butt-holes and that’s why it was a sign of what a problem things could be. That’s why God hates gay marriage.

Except those people, these days, are also opposed by people, equally certain of their familiarity with the religious texts of the now, who want to assert to you that, in fact, the sin of Sodom was their failure to show the messengers proper comfort: That the story of Sodom was a place that failed to respect people enough, and right, and therefore, God loves gay marriage.

This is not, in any way new.

Back during the 1930s, the city of Sodom was a story about a failure of the people to care for their travellers and interlopers, brought up as an example of people who weren’t in the proper spirit of Christian Charity. In the 1940s and 1920s, Sodom and Gomorrah were known to be about the vile practice of race-mixing. In the 1890s, Kelogg was certain that Sodom and Gomorrah were a story about the foulness of indulgent humanity who ate fancy food.

Now this is no secret to anyone familiar with Christian movements: Everything in the story is just a justification for today’s latest problem, and nobody wants to read any further than the destruction of the city for their metaphor.

Games Journalist’s Bin Box

An idea I’ve been brewing on more and more these going weeks is just how nice it’d be to have for each esteemed games journalist, a list not of their favourite games, but games that were offered to them to review, and they either bailed on early or chose not to review for other reasons.

I think one of the things I want as context for creatives is the kind of things they don’t care about, because I think that’s a useful and meaningful metric for when you’re dealing with what a person can bring to the table for journalistic context.

Of course, we can’t have this, because Gamers are Scum.

Story Pile: Sonic Boom

What right did this series, this series of all things, did this series, have to kick ass?

Sonic Boom is a tv series made up of ten minute shorts based around the adventures of a hedgehog named Sonic, his enemy Dr Eggman and his friends, Knuckles, Tails, Amy, and Sticks, and a host of other characters. And from there… what is it?

Let’s talk, real quick, and by that I mean the bulk of this article is going to be about it, about intertextuality.

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Meaningless Conclusions

Recently the world has been in the grip of continuity fever, as movies and books and TV and radio have been building big, sprawling, endless continuities, whether in the very low-key work of things like Homestuck or the megabudget billionaire spaces of the Avengers franchise. Particularly important in this generation of media are the seemingly endless twin leviathans of The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones. Now, my scorn for these series isn’t any kind of secret, and if you happen to find some enjoyment or tension in the relentless whirring of a pointless murder tombola, so be it for you, but these stories are staring down the barrel of running out of stuff to tell you.

That is, they’re approaching their ends.

As we’re also near the end of an anime season we’re faced with the unpleasant conversation about how many anime that were well liked drew to a conclusion that was, well, probably bad. I mean I’m not thinking of any specific example, it’s just anime is full of bad endings. It’s absolutely crammed to the gills with unsatisfying conclusions that are ill-thought out or badly connected to their premise and while I have my thoughts on why that happens, what I find more interesting right now is talking about why having a bad ending matters.

Now, there’s a time and a space for a conversation that’s about how these works don’t actually serve as a conventionally structured narrative, but not now, not here. The question we’re asking is why does it matter if a story ends badly. If there are 13 episodes of a series, and 11 of them are good, does the bad ending mean anything at all? What does it mean to define where a story ends, in the first place?

It feels a bit strange to have to explain this, but let’s talk about the most fundamental element of resolution. I mean there are some people who when you tap out half of Shave and a Haircut are going to give you a look until you tap out the two bits, and to those people we don’t need to explain why resolution is satisfying.

What I care about though is how conclusion determines text. That is to say, your conclusion is how you answer the question of any given story which is why am I reading this? The premise of a series like Game of Thrones tends to be sold where the anguish and distress of the sympathy of the experience is that it has some meaning. That, when viewed from the perspective of the whole of the story, you’ll be able to see that the death had some impact, that the losses were worth it.

It won’t be, by the way.

Yes, I know this is me basically picking on Game of Thrones, but I hate it, I’m being open about that. But the thing I hate the most about it is the way that once it ends unsatisfyingly, having shed viewership on the way, we’re going to be treated to part of the Throne-Critical Complex of people talking about how it was okay that the end was bad, that the bad ending was someone else’s fault, or maybe it doesn’t matter how endings are bad. And that makes me very angry because I’m one of those writers and creators who believes in the idea that your audience’s attention is worth something, it’s a gift.

You don’t start a story with the end. You don’t start a story by saying ‘this dude punched a dragon, the end. But now I’ll tell you who the dragon was and who the dude was.’ That’s the conclusion. That’s the point you’re building up to. The story is a frame to make that moment mean something. The introduction gets us into the story, the development shapes that story to set up the conclusion, and the conclusion shows us how that event comes to a head, how all of that means something. And that meaning is derived from being able to put that conclusion in a meaningful context in the whole of the sequence of events that lead up to it. If the ending of a story introduces aliens or teleporting Nazis or reveals the whole thing is just a conversation between ad executives, none of that relates to the previous story – and it ruins it. Ending a story well is the way you show what that story was about.

I mean in a way I’m really just railing against this post-structural view of storytelling, the idea that everything is a franchise and that being able to tell a story well, cleanly, quickly is less of a skill than teasing out people’s attention over months with an incomplete story where you yourself don’t know where you’re going. Basically, we’re at a point where multimillion dollar movie franchises are being constructed with roughly the same structural worldview as Webcomics, and webcomics were able to grow up and out of it.

Maybe if I call this ‘narrative lootboxing’ I can get people to pay attention to it as if it’s worth being as unhappy with as I am.

Some work cheekily tells you it doesn’t matter, you enjoyed the ride, and some of them even go so far as to not bother trying for conclusions. Sure, that’s fine. We can talk about those works some other time. There is definitely a place for work that’s more about the experience than the point – but you’ll notice the best of those works don’t tend to really bother with endings. There’s a reason a soap opera is twenty plotlines, no waiting, beginning and ending all over the place together.

In the end, media and stories are ways we practice, in our own emotionality, what matters to us. They let us practice our love and our hate and our youth and our age and our competence and our naivete. They let us practice being ourselves and being other people. They let us craft memories of nothing that is or was but that we wish would be.

And in that space, it is worthwhile learning how to end, and how to end well.

Because, in the end, what does it matter the way a man falls down?

When there’s nothing left but the fall, it matters a great deal.