Category Archives: 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.

T-Shirt: Endless Summer 2021!

It is, here where I am, the last days of spring. Summer is coming, or, really, as an Australian, summer is now. Some people like to imagine seasons as these simple, standardised, three-month chunks, but here in Australia, Summer kinda reaches from sometime in October all the way through to April, if it’s a hot one. Every single day of summer, it seems, shows up with a phenomenal force, a demand that you contend with it.

It’s also the time that my university work isn’t available, creating a strange period where I have something like three months of holidays, a long, slow stretch of time to write, read, create, and yes, of course, contend with the heat.

It’s the first time in my life I really connect with this idea that Americans espouse, of the idea of ‘summer vacation.’ And so I made this shirt, a testament to the way summer feels.

I like to think that sometimes my shirt designs are about jabbing out a simple, short joke, sometimes about using a simple tool well. This one is one I took a lot of time on; multiple iterations through the months, multiple additions of elements. Every element of this design has been made or remade at least twice, because I wanted to make something that looked really good to what I wanted to.

Since it has black shapes in it that rest against the colour of the shirt, there are two designs; one for putting on white shirts:

And one that’s for putting on black or dark shirts.

You can get either design (White or Black) over on Redbubble.

The Caprice of Haruhi Suzumiya

Anime is an art movement that has encapsulated thousands of different competing threads and there’s no true centralising canon because it’s fragmented across all sorts of cultural anchor points. Australians of my age that are into anime so often got started because Aggro’s Cartoon Connection screened Sailor Moon, the ABC screened Astro Boy, Cheez TV screened Teknoman and SBS, in the late 90s, screened Neon Genesis Evangelion, meaning that those four anime are sometimes seen as ‘common ground’ topics. Common ground for one age bracket in one country, and even then, only sometimes.

There are some events that can be looked upon, in the english-speaking anime fandom, though, in terms of their impact on shared cultural spaces, typically conventions, but also just, anime releases that somehow managed to be widespread enough at the right time that they became foundation to the conversation. The big three of Naruto, Bleach and One Piece. Evangelion movies. Fullmetal Alchemist, then Fullmetal Alchemist again. A collection of trans girls and boys and nonbinary people that can trace a lineage from Ranma 1/2 through to Kampfer and Haku and Soul Eater and maybe a few tracing lines to Vandread.

There is a category of people I can annoy enormously by responding to a Touhou picture with which anime is this from?

There’s only so much room for any given series to suck up a lot of the oxygen in the fandom space. You can’t typically have five or six ‘big name’ anime that ‘everyone’ has an opinion on. One of those ‘event’ Anime, that rose, became incredibly prominent, and then deformed the culture at large, becoming one of the rings in the tree trunk that is this strange cultural enclaves, was the enormous franchise known as Haruhi Suzumiya.

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Story Pile: Narnia, Pt 4 — The Magician’s Nephew

Before there were Pevensies, there was Digory and Polly.

Before there was Narnia, there was the endless forest.

Before there was a White Queen, there was Jadis.

I give prequels a bit of a beating, on principle, which I think is incredibly fair because largely, a prequel is about making the world smaller and more boring. It’s about stepping to a point in a story where we know the conclusion and trying to find stuff in that experience that needs explaining, and is interesting to explain. It’s also often a cynical effort to keep using characters you like in a way that doesn’t require you to confront how they’ve changed by the story that people liked (Man, Obi-Wan Kenobi was such a dickhead and then the prequel series he was in made him so much worse). I am, simply put, not a fan of prequels.

But this prequel rules.

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Story Pile: Narnia, Pt 3 — The Last Battle

With the core books that detail what we will gently refer to as the plot of the Narnia universe already laid out, a steady ramp upwards from dull to decent, it seems only fitting now to discuss the way that the series became actively traumatising.

For those not familiar, The Last Battle, the seventh book and last chronologically, is the next book in a series of honestly fairly inoffensive storybook fantasy stories. These stories have followed the lives of a handful of children, so far; The Pevensies, Lucy, Peter, Backup Peter, and that whore, and Eustace Scrubb and his unassumingly decent friend Jill Pole. There’s also another pair, Digory and Polly, and you’ll be left going ‘wait who?’ because they don’t show up until you read the last (first) book, but I’ve said too much.

Point is, if you were like me, you were reading these adventure stories that teased at the ideas of spaces of Narnia, of cultures and nations and magical powers and interesting questions, and each time you got a new book, you learned something new and had more of this beautiful country spread out before you. So often these stories would reward you not with some great accomplishment or demonstration of physical power, some great or heroic badass fight, but instead a bucolic, Hobbit-style scenario of going home and putting things in a tidy position. This was a world where great travails and missing heirs happened, but where the grand battles were often narrated over rather than experienced, and a late book narrative could divert into a conversation about how much centaurs liked porridge (a lot).

The narrative payout of Narnia was always dialled in to ‘oh, well, that’s alright then.’

This book, which you may as a child have picked up and read with the unassuming idea of oh, I like these, this is another one, I wonder which new human friend will learn about Narnia, kills literally everyone you know and destroys Narnia down to the very base foundations of the whole world, leaving behind nothing but a vast expanse of soulless, empty ice.

Then it tries to act like it’s a happy ending.

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Story Pile: Narnia, Pt 2 — The Eustaciad

Last week I wrote about the fantastically dull, chorishly written, monarchist crap that was the genesis of the Narnia series, where a twee fairy tale about how great it was to be a divinely ordained king and disposing of foreigners who weren’t adequately Christian. I lumped these stories together as ‘the Pevensiad’ because they were the stories primarily focused on the character of the Pevensies, four ‘characters’ deviating primarily from a mean of dishwater by dint of how they didn’t live up to the moral and ethical standards of that dishwater.

The start of Narnia was very much about Lewis talking it seemed to his vision of a specific kind of child who he wanted to give a good example of christian childhood behaviour, while offering them what we can modestly call ‘adventure,’ but it was in these books that the conventional isekai narrative of Narnia actually hit its stride and seemingly had some ideas. This is expressed in how the story introduced a character who actually had the room to develop and do something interesting, in the form of the best earth-native Son Of Man character in the entire series, the one, the only, Eustace Clarence Scrubb.

That is literally his name.

And he almost deserved it.

I’m not joking.

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Making The Sonic The Hedgehog Video

This was a task.

Last month, in September, a video article of mine went up, and it was great and I’m very proud of it and it was a lot of work to make. It was about the Sonic the Hedgehog games and whether or not ‘Sonic The Hedgehog is good.’ This is a dumb question, but I was able to use it as a launching point to explain a bunch of different research methods and why you might use a particular tool and how to make it work.

And I want to account for how it got made.

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Isekaidon’tknow

The Isekai genre is an immense, sprawling forest of trees, each with twisted and interconnected roots. Vast and towering trunks loom high above, stretching off and up into a dreaming dark, leaving us to step between them, and peer down into the pools of collected water between them.

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Announcing: The Disney Animated Canonball, Season Three!

Remember that time Fox and I started a podcast where we watch all of the Disney Animated Canon? You don’t? Oh great, do I have a prize for you!

See, Fox and I have watched all of the Disney Animated Canon, by volume. But we recorded our reactions and opinions on each, resulting in three (three!) seasons of a podcast where we talk one-by-one about each movie, putting it into context, with a conversation about what it’s like to be a long-term fan of these movies, and comments about missing things because you grew up in a cult.

This is Season 3, which drops with eight full episodes, just under ten hours of content, give or take twelve minutes, and covers the movies from The Aristocats to Oliver & Company. We begin as we end: With deeply mediocre cats.

You can get the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Pocket Casts, and any other good podcasting service that’s checking the standard RSS feeds? And failing that, you can head to the website.

Story Pile: Narnia, Pt 1 — The Pevensiad

There are seven books in the Narnia series of books, created by one C S Lewis. The books have a narrative order and a publication order, and they have a clear distinct arc from the beginning and creation of the world of Narnia and the eventual end of that world. They are profoundly Anglican stories, focusing on an alternate world, one of many, alongside our own, which is meant to have many of the same constants as ours.

Like our God and his incarnation, Jesus.

In this, he’s a lion, named Aslan, who is also sometimes God. Like I said, it’s very Anglican.

Odds are good that you haven’t thought much about Narnia much at all, as an adult. They’re works that have a lot of cultural presence and their metaphors and references work as sort of background radiation for my generation, especially thanks to them being widely distributed public library style books which even got TV Adaptations and big-name Disney movies (remember those).

They’re fantastically twee books, children’s books from a particular era of storytelling that kind of … don’t… like… children?

When you view the books series as a whole, I see five basic groupings in the story, starting with The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, and the book that follows directly upon the end of that one, we have the first predominant chunk, The Pevensiad.

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T-Shirt: A Good Good Boy (Being Impersonated By A Very Bad One)

I read Chainsaw Man in a day. It’s really good! I liked it a lot! Not something I can recommend to most people, but still, I thought it had some really cool ideas, great utilisation of the entirely 2d medium, wonderful characters, and, of course, it had Pochita, a good, good boy.

And being me, I immediately compared Pochita (a contract-making animal mascot with enormous destructive potential) with Kyubey, from Puella Madoka Magic: The Latest Movie (a contract-making animal mascot with enormous destructive potential). Kyubey is exactly the kind of garbage who would look at the kind of contract Pochita got and say ‘well, if that’s what it takes to get that kind of power, I’m down.’

 

I made these using the pen tool in GIMP. That’s why everything is these smooth shapes, and largely things are intersected. I thought about putting both designs on a shirt facing each other like this, but the thing is, that would require me to go through the lighting on both of them?

I dunno, maybe if someone better than me at lighting told me a way to do it easier, I’d make a shirt or sticker of them looking at each other.

There are two designs; one that’s just very clean, simplified fanart of Pochita:

And one that’s about that impersonating asshole Kyubey:

I really like that this artwork of Kyubey involves a lot of substitution but doesn’t need to change much. Kyubey’s gold rings used here to represent the handle and his eyes are also extremely distinctive.

Personally, I might not have a Kyubey shirt, but I might get a badge.

You can get either design (Pochita or Kyubey) over on Redbubble.

Story Pile: Chainsaw Man

I don’t like when my writing on a subject resembles someone else’s too much. I feel a little bit like I’m really just better off providing a link to the other person’s writing. In this case, it’s Geoff Thew, of Mother’s Basement, who made an entire video with a comedic tone framed around You Have To Read Chainsaw Man. I watched that, I saw his description of Power as a mix between Walter Sobchak and Eric Cartman and went ‘well, I need to know what the hell he’s talking about, there’s no way this character actually delivers on that.’ And then I read it, and I shared pages with my friends and they went and read it and I was left with the frustrating impression that Thew pretty much hit on the perfect gimmick for this kind of article.

Holy crap, Chainsaw Man is really good.

I want to talk more about Chainsaw Man, but I don’t intend to ‘spoil’ it much. There’s not a lot of reason to talk about it in the context of specific incident or ideas, but rather about its tone and style, and why I think I like it so much. That said, this is definitely ‘content warning-y.’

Just a list off the top of my head, then. Content warning for extensive graphic violence, eye trauma, a lot of talk about guns and their importance, alcohol consumption, throwing up, puppeteering, implied child endangerment (sexual), actual child endangerment, blood all over the place, zombies, torture, cannibalism (both sudden and shocking, and slow and considered), existential horror, workplace anxiety, and it’s got a bunch of great characters in it, many of whom die abruptly.

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Story Pile: The Plagues Of Breslau

I’m guna talk about stuff to do with cultural lenses and background material, and I’m going to talk about a Polish movie and a Polish book series, as a non-Polish person who has almost no grounding in that space. That means that by necessity, the ways I discuss this are going to be from an outsider’s perspective, making comparisons to media I do know, and that’s how it’s gunna be. It’s also going to be about a serial-killer based crime drama with some medical trauma and poverty themes, so like, before we go on, let’s start with a big ole Content Warning.

Content Warning: This is a serial killer horror story, this is a crime story, this is a story with some graphic visual effects, and it’s a Polish movie being talked about by a dude who cannot reliably say he’d find Poland on a map.

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Dread Readings: A Citizen of Carcosa

Ambrose Bierce wrote A Citizen of Carcosa, creating a city that would become permanently part of the horror mythos of modern English. The story captured the imagination, and inspired the use of the narrator in future horror and fear writers, and was done at a time in Bierce’s life between fighting confederate soldiers, shaking down millionaires for railroad taxes, and fighting in the Mexican civil war.

Dude was interesting.

Minions!

Let’s make this as simple as possible and put all the content warning up front.

Content Warning: Vaccinations, medical peril, political cartoons, actual fascism, and talk about how jokey jokes have become actual real downers!

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Story Pile: Below

1943. The Atlantic Ocean. The single greatest U-Boat operation of the entire war thus far has just finished. The USS Tiger Shark cuts beneath the waves, an absolute behemoth of metal and sweat, a machine made for this new, unique field of battle. The sea struggles around, the bellows pump, and the sonar pings, as this great, heaving, terrifying machine, a mystery to even those who drive it answer a call.

There’s a British hospital ship, it’s sunk, and there are survivors. As the only ship nearby, the Tiger Shark breaches and rescues three people; two patients of the hospital ship, and a woman nurse.

But it’s not well on the Tiger Shark. A woman is bad luck, they say, and the morale is seemingly down in the dumps. A malaise hovers over everything. The patients aren’t looking hopeful, the captain seems haggard and haunted, and there’s a something wrong that nobody can name.

Is it a ghost story?

A horror story?

A spy thriller, where a saboteur somehow infiltrates the Submarine?

Well… yes.

Content Warning: This movie is about a horror scenario with death on a submarine, so there’s drowning, there’s guns, there’s Nazis, there’s creepy ghosty stuff. You know, kinda what you’d expect.

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Story Pile: In The Mouth Of Madness

Have you read the work of Sutter Caine?

this is real.

This is a real thing that happens.

Content Warning: Lovecraftian horror, Kingian horror, medical imprisonment, a dog is injured in this movie, suicide and axe murder, destruction of consensus reality, and body horror (both in movie and out).

I’ll also spoil the whole thing within two paragraphs. Like, I’m not going to mess around here.

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T-shirt: Menu Loss

I have a bunch of t-shirt designs that build on the meme of Loss. I think some of them aren’t so great, as shirts, any more, and are a little slack or lazy in their execution. Since I wear them to class, I decided I needed to update and add to those designs, so here’s another one.

 

Here’s the design, on a shirt:

You can get it on Redbubble.

 

Story Pile: Lord Of War

I knew, ahead of time, when I started on the Nicolas Cage-em-up theme for a month that this was going to be the movie I did last. I knew, because I knew that I thought really well of this movie, that there was a definite here here. That there was a story I remembered seeing – like, in 2007 – and that I had the sort of lurched, sunk-in feeling in my gut that the movie I’d seen had been something. That it was impressive and dark and also weirdly funny, but I somehow couldn’t remember the finale, couldn’t remember the end clearly.

Coming back to it, I realised the reason I couldn’t remember the end clearly, because the ending isn’t clear. It just goes on.

And that’s the point.

If you’re looking for a recommendation and want to see if you should bother with movies, going in blind, you should absolutely check out Lord Of War if you can handle a violent, drug-addled movie about guns and death and the idea of industrialised human harm and atrocities. This movie is cynical in a way few stories manage, and dark in a way that few actors can pull off.

And Nicolas Cage is pretty much perfect in this movie.

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CoX: Woodfall

Time to time, I write up an explication of characters I’ve played in RPGs or made for my own purpose.  This is an exercise in character building and creative writing.


They call it Eden, now.

Crey and the Devouring Earth and Nemesis do battle there, clashing over resources, over powerful ancient leylines, over strands of the great thorn tree the Circle claim as their own. When the labs broke down he was left there. The Green crept in. The ancient trees whispered secrets. They told him things that nature knows.

When he stood up again, he could remember nothing what he was, but enough of what he should be.

In time, the new things would die, they would go, and what was before would return. It needed only to be fostered, to be protected. It would be what it was once more.

They used to call it Woodvale.

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Mocking Names You Didn’t Give Kids That Aren’t Yours

I’ve seen a thing on Tumblr and Tiktok a few times (god how do they get me to check tiktok) which tends to take the form of ‘wow, look at this white girl talking about baby names, what a fucking idiot she is.’ And I get it, it’s great fun for the internet as a whole to decide we’ve found the right girls to bully, and you can all knock yourselves out but one thing that I can’t keep escaping is how stupid it is to mock baby names.

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