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.

Story Pile: Nobody

Y’know how Knives Out is one of those movies that I was concerned about discussing because I knew I was going to be repeating boring details rather than focusing on the movie’s message? That I was contributing to a noise complex because I loved it and I wanted to be able to love it in all angles and share that love for it and hopefully encourage you to love it too? Nobody is a movie in that same genre, but in this case the actual plot, sure, whatever, you’ve seen this, you know the kind of movie it is. It’s a physical stunt based action movie about a Dangerous Man Pushed Too Far. You don’t need spoilers for this, that’s how the movie’s trailer presents it.

And for a movie about physicality in stunts, its physicality is amazing. You can see best-of scenes on youtube, of moments of an entire movie’s worth of holy shit combat scenarios, and they’re the kind of scenarios where you’re meant to regard the world as full of physical objects that are by default stronger than a human’s body, more dangerous to a human than a human is to it. For a surprising number of desks and people using them, you are not tougher than your desk in a straight up fight. That means that when Nobody wants to represent a person engaging in violence with another person, the world around them matters in a wholly material way.

And that makes me think about how easy it is to make a movie like this. Or isn’t.

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Shirt 23.09 — Cui Bono Asked And Answered

If you’re not familiar with it, Cui Bono is a Latin aphorism that has become something of a loanphrase in English because there’s nothing quite like quoting an old dead dude to legitimise your complaint. It means ‘Who Benefits?’ and it’s used in conspiracy circles to encourage you to keep imagining more and more reasons for something to be the responsibility of those people. Thing is, almost always, the answer for ‘why would they do things this shitty way?’ is capitalism. And so:

No small irony in that I made this design on the second of May, back when I was ruminating on whether or not I stick with Redbubble at all. Still looking for alternatives, so maybe this gets edited later.

You can get this design in one of four colours, green, blue, pink or tan.

Justum Bellum Sidus: Making a Plan

One of the classes I teach is about the critical engagement with a videogame text (or paratext). One of the things we do in this subject is to engage with the class materials ourselves to show the students what’s involved. Basically, ‘hey, this is about engaging in something that interests us.’

I proposed, for my pitch, the idea of a video essay that examined the idea of just war in the videogame Starcraft 2. I picked Starcraft 2 as an example for a few reasons:

  • It’s more recent than a lot of my videogame interests. It’s more contemporary to my students’ age group.
  • It’s got a thriving esports scene, a real world paratextual surface, so there’s an element of the game to examine.
  • It’s not something immediately obvious to me, so I’m not just cheating and answering a question I already know.

With that in mind, here’s a little audio of me thinking through my process for how I’d work on this project, in the early days.

Story Pile: The Executioner And Her Way Of Life

Really? That’s what this is titled? That’s awful.

Originally, this anime was going to get released under the title of Virgin Road, which at the very least is a little less cumbersome. Long titles are common amongst light novel stories, but I think in this case it’s especially egregious because the entire secondary clause on the title is a long-form reading of the phrase ‘and such and such.’ This title, for this anime yada-yadas its way through its pitch, which is kinda frustrating. As far as first impressions go, when you bottle it on the title, you’re really not inspiring confidence to start with. First impressions are important! It’s like if the series is full of characters wearing outfits that look extremely silly.

Oh no.

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Nobody Speaks To the Captain No More

Today, I learned Jimmy Buffett died.

I said a long time ago that Jimmy Buffett’s death was going to mess me up, and I thought that was said in earnest. Jimmy Buffett, if you’re not familiar, is was an American singer-songwriter from Mobile, Alabama, renowned for his involvement in and then kind of codifying the musical genre known as gulf and western. The sound, as I someone who just listens to it a lot, had a lot in common with country music in terms of its production style – there’s not a lot of distortion, instruments tend towards the acoustic rather than the electric, and you usually have a single vocalist, who’s often the author of the song presenting music that’s about a personal experience, in a kind of storytelling way. On the other hand, the association with the Gulf of Mexico meant that the musical instruments are influenced more by, well


Black people?

Kettle drums, hymnal organs, a range of percussion instruments that I don’t know by name, that kind of thing? Things you’d hear in the Caribbean, and that’s not to simplify the many different musical styles in the gulf, but to indicate the things that Gulf and Western picked up from it.

I wrote about Jimmy Buffett’s music, as expressed in the albums my dad had when I was a kid, across a few years. Between that and my other online statements about the inevitable impact of his death, I had three people approach me about The Bad News, and what that meant, and to check if I was okay. It made sense to me – after all, I’d said that would happen, right?

But I’m okay?

At least right now, as far as I know.


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Breaking Bad’s Crowded Fandom

There is a lot of media participation media about Breaking Bad and its related franchises, Better Call Saul and I guess El Camino is here, too, I suppose. This makes sense — Breaking Bad is a tall series with a long shadow, an influence on the culture around me that makes it perfect for people who like to talk about media to talk about it. It’s not just that Breaking Bad has become a spreading puffball of memes that land on every surface around it — I Am The One Who Knocks — but it’s also got its own subcultural bubble of hack media studies memes — this is the point where Walter White truly became Breaking Bad.

It’s something that means every time I’ve wanted to talk about any of these properties, I only did it if it was literally the most convenient thing. That’s why I wound up talking about El Camino a while back. It was the only thing I’d seen recently that fit the theme. That was a rumination on the same general idea — that Breaking Bad is kind of a crowded space to talk about.

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Story Pile: Lie To Me

A long time ago, I think discussing The Blacklist I used the term ‘crime wizards’ to refer to television programs that focus on characters who do crime in ways that are interesting and challenging to solve and create the tension or systems necessary to justify about an hour of television that can be solved by a specialised team of marketable weirdoes.

There are a lot of shows in the Crime Wizards genre, in different degrees of grittiness – like you can even point to older shows like CSI and NCIS… and along with them, in the transition between eras of Crime Wizard TV, we have this example, of a drama TV show with a compelling hook:

Fake crimes, but real wizardry.

At least, that’s the pitch.

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Story Pile: Nona the Ninth

Spoiler Warning: I’m going to mention stuff in the book, and by dint of mentioning them it’s going to involve mentioning things in the previous two books that make up the first half of The Locked Tomb trilogy. That is to say, there’s very little talking about Nona The Ninth that isn’t spoilery. Also, I guess there’s a lot of content-warning stuff in this book and also all the others, but I suppose you don’t go into a book promoted as lesbian space necromancer murder mystery thinking you’re about to get something G-rated. Point is if you’re wondering if I liked these books but don’t want to know anything about them before you read them I liked them a lot and this is your warning, your chance to bail.

Let’s talk about girls.

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T-Shirt: Support Your Local Things

I think at some point I just want to make sports logos of everything that isn’t really appropriate as a sports logo. Anyway, here’s a The Thing as if that’s a sports logo!

You can get this sticker or shirt design here! What’s more, because I made such a big file, it’s available to jam on a bunch of different designs I don’t normally get to use – like you can get a jigsaw of this reference to the 1982 movie The Thing. I don’t know why you would want it, but it’s an option!

I didn’t set up the microskirt option though that seemed… weird.

Story Pile: Inside Job

I guess it’s hard to recommend Inside Job. I mean not in the broadest way, where I can just say ‘it’s a funny adult comedy that doesn’t seem to venerate being a selfish asshole, and it looks like a lot of them these days, with the same general level of competence.’ It’s you know, the way that Rick and Morty pissed on its aesthetic to mark its territory and now any animation that puts in too much effort or has lines that are too clean winds up being seen as ‘like that.’

I don’t know if Inside Job is like that, because I haven’t seen Rick and Morty past the opening of the first episode. Didn’t jam with it, and instead watched other stuff I found more engaging instead. Like Inside Job!

No, what makes it hard to recommend is, and, like, reader – can I call you reader? – sure, okay, reader, the thing is, this is a shortish TV series that draws on modern mythologies of the conspiracy theory griftscape in which I grew up. It uses the ongoing behaviour of an overachieving conspiracy theorist father who doesn’t respect his kid as a plot point. One character idolises toys and franchises from the 80s because it lets him pretend he has an idealised family life that was fun. Oh, and the main character, Reagan, feels like an export of one of my friend’s OCs so closely that she uses Reagan gifs for reactions.

The series doesn’t feature a long form sequence of a character beating a priest to death or a thesis about how game play lets us choose our identities, but like, it’s otherwise hits pretty close to me individually.

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The Dishonest Liar

It’s a maxim told in magical circles that the magician is the only honest entertainer; they say they are going to lie to you, then they do. I’ve talked about it in the past, with magicians selling access to their tricks (when obscured) then selling access to their tricks (when revealed), in the history of the discipline. Once, there was a purpose to explicating methods in courts, where magicians could be accused of consorting with dark powers, and needed to be able to prove and demonstrate what they were doing, actually. Books from the early days are full of explicated methods of magical tricks, and with the rise of the camera, luminaries of the pre-camera era did whole talks, whole lectures, explaining the language magicians used for just the entirely anodyne description of a technique, the sort of cladistic or medical language for academically explaining what an audience sees regardless of how a magician makes it happen.

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Story Pile: Person Of Interest, Season 5

The story of Person of Interest has at this point transformed from season to season. From a cut price James Bond fantasy to a cyberpunk crime thriller to a conspiracy science fiction narrative, Season 5 had a lot of plates spinning and it had to get them down.

Does it stick the landing? Can it stick the landing? With a 26-episode season cut in half, increasing tensions around budgets and hanging story threads, and a global conspiracy to address in what was now a full-blown cyberpunk science fiction invasion story, does Person of Interest have an end I find satisfying?

Spoilers ahead!

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Story Pile: Person Of Interest, Season 4

By this stage, Person of Interest is a full-fledged science fiction cyberpunk series. It’s cyberpunk in that the story requires interactions between technology and class, it’s about waste and destruction, it’s about the ways that technology allows us to make human mistakes faster, and it’s very cyberpunk because there’s a creepy child that speaks for an evil supercomputer.

While previous seasons were divided into single episodes with an ongoing mytharc, the story of Season 4 is very much the mytharc, a narrative where episode to episode, there are continuity changes and shifts of different status quos mean that you can literally lose track of what’s happening if you jump only two or three episodes ahead. The episodic stuff is less episodic, and there are even episodes where the B plot is very minor. This is where the show feels a lot like a more modern bingeable Netflix kinda story, set in a paranoid conspiracy almost-now.

Spoilers ahead!

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Story Pile: Person Of Interest, Season 3

Person of Interest is a show that started its existence talking about the hypothetical possibility of a mass surveillance state and the power that merely having your information in the control of a single consolidating source could represent. It started wanting to talk about the way that data aggregation, and even just the point of ‘here is where this data was collected’ was a powerful tool that could be used to extrapolate information you never meant to share. The world in which Person of Interest was conceived was one where the idea of imagine what a world with government surveillance would be like, and the terrors it could produce.

In 2013, Edward Snowden happened.

Spoilers ahead!

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23.07 — Shinigami, But The Cool Ones

There’s a particular genre of shirts I design to wear in front of my students that give them the subtle messages that I am a huge nerd and also they should check the subject outline. I have one, a Naruto shirt, which is consistent at getting students’ attention, but here’s the thing.

I’ve not watched Naruto.


When the Big Three came down, I didn’t wind up buying into Naruto. It didn’t connect to me, but Bleach, man, that series did. I think because I thought Rukia was cute and a boy. But point is, if I have a Naruto shirt, I owe it to myself, to my honest representaiton as a fan, to have a shirt that matches my own cringe, not just the cringe of others.

This design, which I do not imagine anyone but me wants, is available on my Redbubble store.

Story Pile: Person Of Interest, Season 2

Season one of Person of Interest introduces the core components of the story and the basic premise of a story-of-the-week set in a world with a government surveillance system designed to prevent terrorism and how that same system would by definition fail on two dimensions. It would fail at keeping people safe by having to ignore non-terrorism based crimes (and therefore, it’d help people more if it was more fascist) and it fails at keeping people free (by, you know, the endless surveillance). It demonstrates a half measure, something so perfectly cyberpunk in its incompleteness, and our protagonists operate in a space where the world looks almost just like now.


While Season One sets up the premise and introduces you to core players, Season 2 has to expand on that and create a different story than just repeating the first series. What we get then is a conversation about the world that the presence of the Machine implies.

Spoilers ahead.

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I Got My Library Card!

And it made me feel silly!

I got my first library card so long ago that it actually referred to me as ‘Master Governmentname Familyname.’ Like, master, what a ridiculous thing. That, you might not realise, is an archaic term used for a young unmarried man, which means that if you’re one of those holdouts going ‘Ah, Talen is secretly trans, but the type of trans he is is a trans dude‘ there’s some contraindicating evidence. Anyway point is, when I was very young, I loved my library card.

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Story Pile: Person Of Interest, Season 1

In my teenager years, I came to appreciate the block of TV shows I thought of as ‘good shows’ in the 7:30 to 8:30 bracket. This typically took the form of a pair of back-to-back sitcom episodes, or, as I got older and the options got better (and my bedtime crept back), an hour long dramedy TV series, often built around a single high-concept hook, or even taped from late-night TV. A lot of these shows were, to my mind, ‘American Shows’ (and therefore good shows), were typically high-concept shows with sci-fi ideas in them that could be executed on cheaply with a small special effects budget, and included things like Time Trax and Pointman and, strangely important in my mind, a series called Fortune Hunter. I liked to refer to Fortune Hunter as a sort of example of forgettable 90s TV ephemera, a low-budget story about a wannabe James Bond type who was relaying everything through super-technology contact lenses to a nerd in a chair who could instantly relay everything to him. I, at the time, thought that Fortune Hunter was a great reference to make, like Street Sharks, which would make people in the same age range as I go ‘oh, yeah, that show, I remember that, kinda.’

Turns out that this was a terrible idea because, at the time I did not know, that Fortune Hunter aired for all of one month in America and only played out the full run of its episodes here in Australia because we were a dumping ground for failed attempted TV series that relied on high-concept sci-fi ideas that could be executed on cheaply with a small special effects budget. But those shows had some common traits, like Time Trax with its decreasing list of villains to apprehend, or Pointman with the fantasy of a strange billionaire appearing out of nowhere to save ordinary people, or Fortune Hunter with its gimmick of a super-nerd teaming up with a terrifying badass super-spy to save the day for single individuals.

I bring up this meandering reference to 90s television because these different stories with their modest production budgets and mediocre executions through actors who never quite got the respect they deserved are presented their absolute apotheosis in the form of the 2011-2016 sci-fi action series Person Of Interest.

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The Increasing Presence of Anime On This Blog

Around early April, late March, I made a chart to check the distribution of material I was covering in Story Pile, and then the stuff I had planned to watch. I made this chart because I realised that there were anime I was looking to cover, but I already had covered an anime in that month. And then I realised that my initial idea to keep the distribution of content varied, which was to write anime articles starting in november and work towards the current now, had kinda hit a wall, because I had already watched more than twelve anime this year.

The anime had caught up with containment.

The anime had breached.

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Pride of Frankenstein

As a child I did not get much to engage with popular culture of the 80s and 90s. It wasn’t until the late 90s that I was able to watch most mainstream television or listen to music from popular media without treating it like contraband. Things that were current were suspect, things that were my father’s childhood were probably okay, and things that were old, well, they were classic.

I read a lot of old pulp. I read Sherlock Holmes and I read Robert Louis Stevenson and I read Dumas, and one afternoon, visiting my grandma, sitting on her back step, away from the conversations she had with my parents, I read Frankenstein.

I don’t think, at that age, that I read it right.

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Story Pile: Call of The Night

This is the anime of a song. It doesn’t follow the plot of the song. It follows the vibe of a song, and that song inspired the manga, and then, the manga got made into an anime and that anime got to have the ending theme be the song that inspired it, and the same band made the opening theme, because they had already, in their music, defined this anime.

And damn if it don’t feel like a hell of a song.

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T-Shirt: Trans Vegas

Hey, Talen, you do a lot with the trans flag in your designs are you trying to say something yes I am trying to say the trans flag is kickass and right now you need every bit of random reasons to make it clear to say, any trans youth around that you’re not a total shithead and if they’re afraid there’s a reason to look around and see people who care about their existence and are less likely to suddenly turn out to be a fascist anyway hey let’s look at this design it’s from Fallout New Vegas.

The design is a bit small and hard to see on a white background so I recommend if you get it you put it on something dark.

You can get it on stuff and I recommend it on a shirt or get some stickers and slap ’em places you think are cool and I like it on the pin too.

Story Pile: GGWP — Young Ladies Don’t Play Fighting Games

What if the prettiest girl in your school who nobody knew well was so aloof, so pure, so perfect, not because she was in fact, transcendentally perfect, but because she was an utter gamer gremlin who didn’t care about anything any other student was doing, since they weren’t pulling off sick combos and trash talking noobs in ranked ladder matches? And you could tell because you were an expert in the same kind of games, and now she wanted to fight you? To fight you? To fight you? To stay up late and fight you?

And you were both girls?

That’s the story of Young Ladies Don’t Play Fighting Games, which is a manga series about exactly what I just described. This is a Japanese story about a Japanese sector of life – about the pressures of school and the intensity of hobbies you wind up with if you have to have them in secret. It’s about social pressures on women, it’s about what is or isn’t acceptable for people to do and how an invisible online persona creates a space for people to become what they truly want.

It is also full of some of the sickest reaction panels of a girl power-posing over an opponent who isn’t even in the room I’ve ever seen in manga.

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Hanamusa, Explained

There is a nonzero chance if you follow me on tumblr, you’ve seen the term ‘Hanamusa’ attached to something I shared. It’s probably also some super cute art of Delia Ketchum and Jessie Teamrocket, and you may wonder what is going on and also, why is there so much good art of this.

Hanamusa as a term derives from the Japanese names of the characters – Hanako and Musashi. If you’re into shipping name structures, Hana-Musa implies that Hanako is the seme and Musashi the uke, but I don’t think that holds for all use cases of the type of terminology. It’s a ship. It’s an AU ship, as in an ‘alternate universe’ ship, where the two characters are presented in a context outside of the normal context of the anime presentation of them.

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The Seemingly Sudden And Impressive Presence of Actually Queer Anime Circa Right Now

Hey, do you know what I mean by ‘this user can say it?’

I want to say it’s a cohost meme but the idea is that there are some words that get treated as cursed or slurs or dangerous magical words that are reclaimed slurs, in the mouths of people who can reclaim them. Simply put, if I, a bi dude, want to make a joke where I use the word faggot, fuck off telling me I shouldn’t. And this led to the joke that ‘This User Can Say It’ was a flag that signalled that whether or not an individual wanted to out themselves in any specific way, they had the rights to use particular terms.

But I’m not here to talk about slurs I’m here to talk about anime. It should be no surprise to anyone who pays attention to the trends on this blog (so, Tab, gotyaoi, me) that there’s a low key anxiety about doing too much on this blog about too many anime. It wasn’t intentional but I’ve just been watching more this year and that means more of this year has been talking about anime.

Here then is a list of anime that won’t show up in the Story Pile, but absolutely Can Say It.

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