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.

Sticker: Tama Go-Ju!

This joke is far too niche, but if you (‘ju’) are an egg (‘tamago’) who had a realisation reading Ranma 1/2, then I have made a sticker for you. Just you.

Here’s the design:

And here’s how it looks on a hat:

I don’t think of Smooch Month as ‘Ranma month’ but this is the inspiration that struck and this is the result. Enjoy this eggy joke that I won’t wear myself. I made something for you! And the cheapest way for you to get it is to buy stickers, over on Redbubble!

Story Pile: Flip That Romance

Wew lord, buckle the fuckle uple. I grabbed Fox and we watched all of a Hallmark movie, Flip That Romance, because, you know, it’s smooch month, so let’s watch a smoochy movie. Right?


If you want the quick summary, this movie is awful and talking about it for forty minutes with Fox was extremely funny. But for the full experience, here’s the audio!

Shipping Lanes in Ranma 1/2

Oh hey Talen’s talking about Ranma 1/2 everyone is it February is it smooch month oh wait it is and oh yeah he is and you don’t get to control my decisions, Dad. Anyway, what else do you want out of me in smooch month? We’ve talked about how it’s hard, we’ve looked at game mechanics, we’ve even busted out a visual novel (that’s all Mass Effect is and you know it), and now we’re onto me bellyaching about Ranma Fandom Beefs that could now be my adult children if I wasn’t a Millenial who spent too much time buying avocado toast and sexting to ever get a real job and a family.

Anyway, let’s talk about the weird shipping of Ranma 1/2.

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Story Pile: Wotakoi: Love Is Hard for Otaku

Smoochy anime undeniably focuses on a narrow age range. I think of the vast majority of anime I’ve watched with a ‘romantic’ theme tends towards the romantic interaction between ‘the traditional’ anime protagonists, which usually means a pair of 14 year olds. There are of course, exceptions, but by volume, you’re going to see the Default, and that means that you usually see fourteen year olds.

This is not the way of all things, of course. If we cast our minds back to the works of Rumiko Takahashi, creator of Ranma 1/2 (oh no, is this going to happen all this month again?), she did a long-running slow-boil romantic comedy story called Maison Ikkoku. Basically, as long as there’s been rom-com anime, there’s been rom-com anime about adults.

And this is one of them.

And it’s really good.

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You might have the very reasonable position that I, as a person, and a game critic, and, like, many other things, have a very negative opinion on Life Is Strange. This is possibly due to me referring to it in other times and places as, say, for example:

A fucking bear trap of a story, a game that sold itself on satisfying an audience so often ignored, and then punished them for wanting to play it

And I’m not wrong. Life Is Strange is a story where your two ultimate ends are either letting almost everyone you know die and then making you feel bad for doing it, or letting a young adult woman die in a hate crime because ‘she should.’ I have written many words about Life Is Strange and how mad I am at it, how I feel that it is Queer Art whose author is Not Queer, with a punitive end to a narrative that does not merit it unless you view enjoying being queer as a sin.

I hate Life Is Strange.

But hate is but love disappointed.

I wouldn’t hate Life Is Strange if I didn’t want it to be better than it is.

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Story Pile: Are Columbos A Bastards?

Is Columbo, a cop?

And is that copness, itself, inherently transferring the property of being A Bastard?

And how does this apply to the narrative of the media that depicts notorious Short King and Actually Definitely A Police Detective Columbo?

Let us briefly examine the phrase All Cops Are Bastards and its cousin phrases No Really, All Cops and the subsequent phrase Even Whatever Dumb Bastard Cop You’re Related To.

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Inquagnito Mode!

You know how I wrote about how there was a chance that cool design I had of a Quagsire sneaking around in a mask wouldn’t ever be able to be published because discoverability was functionally broken?

Well turns out I lied.

Here’s this month’s design. I recommend getting it on a sticker (cheap) or a hat (pricey), but as always, you can get it on a shirt.

Story Pile: Star Trek Prodigy

I don’t know at what point in my life I went from ‘never watched any Star Trek‘ to ‘keeping up with multiple ongoing Star Trek shows,’ but here we are. And this time, rather than the seemingly divisive ‘comedy’ of Lower Decks that I definitely didn’t pirate or the equally divisive space-travel adventure of Discovery, I’m instead talking about the divisive children’s cartoon of Star Trek Prodigy.

If you want the simplest opinion on it: I like it. It’s very much a kid’s cartoon, and that means the central characters are kids, but that works out okay for the premise of the show. If you just want to know if there are landmines to look out for, I haven’t encountered any so far, and I like all of the show I’ve watched so far, even if it’s just cresting the heights of ‘pretty good.’

Now, on to more detail.

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Story Pile: Crackerjack

Okay, I need you to trust me on this one.

This movie is a sports drama movie about winning a tournament to save the clubhouse from a greedy real estate developer who wants to turn it into a casino. Uh, the sport in question is lawn bowls. And uh, the cast is primarily Australian and New Zealand actors from the 1960s, many of whom are unheard of outside of Australia even though they’ve done tons of work. Oh oh and the person who wrote the movie was primarily known at the time as a evening radio presenters.

Wait no, it’s good tho.

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Announcing: The Disney Animated Canonball, Season Four!

The Disney Animated Canonball continues on, without relent, without mercy, as Fox and I push onwards through watching every single Disney Animated Canon movie. And now we’ve hit this

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 four (four!) 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 4, which covers us from The Little Mermaid all the way to the end of the 90s, through the period we call conventionally the Disney Rennaisance. It’s the culture of our childhoods, it’s the background radiation of all sorts of (white) millenials. This time around it’s eleven hours of podcast, so good for a long trip or just to pack out over time. Binge content!

Plus, this is the important bit, right? This is when they make huge movies, movies that set the culture in motion right? Well surely this should be non-stop praise and admiration. Right? Right?

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: Violet Evergarden

Violet Evergarden is a 2018 anime about a young woman recovering from the experience of being one of the best soldiers in a war that doesn’t matter any more, and finding ways to fill the hollowness that follows. Based on a set of light novels written by Kana Akatsuki and illustrated by Akiko Takase, it was turned into an anime by Kyoto Animation, written by industry veteran and kind of titanic presence, Reiko Yoshida.

This is really wild, by the way – this is basically the main work done by Akatsuki and Takase, but Yoshida wrote the screenplay for The Cat Returns, Digimon The Movie, the OAV series Saiyuki, Scrapped Princess, School Rumble, Genshiken, A Silent Voice and she was the script supervisor for K-On! and this is just the stuff I think you’re most likely to recognise by name. Like, this is someone’s first-major-success light novel that got picked up by a big studio for a Netflix release with the writing being handled by a twenty-five year veteran of the anime industry.

What resulted was a visually sumptuous anime, with worldbuilding that sought to explain uneasy peace between city-states negotiationg the aftermath of a war, and how people in those places were both affected, and unaffected by it. I found it challenging to watch, and even more challenging to explain — you might notice, so far, I’ve mostly pointed out things that aren’t very difficult to justify (this is an anime that has a lot of pretty visual work in it), or is just accounting the vital statistics.

One of the easiest ways to talk about media, especially in the format churn this blog asks, is to speak about what other people think as a thing to disagree with. To let people voice their opinions (as I curate them) and then speak against them, or concur with their better, more well formed words. It is an act of synthesis; to listen and to restate, perhaps with subtly different words, perhaps with violently different. It lets me turn a consideration into an argument, or an exhortation. Not just ‘here’s what I think,’ but ‘here’s what I think about what this person thinks,’ as opposed to spending my energy on stating wholly and sincerely what I feel, and letting these words impart in your mind my feelings.

It seems churlish to do that when it comes to this anime about a woman whose job is to do exactly that.

I wish to speak of Violet Evergarden.

And importantly, I want you to understand how this anime made me feel; what I thought of it; why I love it, even with the unpleasantness.

Nonetheless, a content warning for the series;

  • this is a series that overwhelmingly features grief and tragedy, in very personal ways.
  • There is parental bereavement,
  • dead children,
  • suicide attempts,
  • a number of episodes show clear violence with guns.
  • There is also a theme of age differences in romantic relationships, which while never sexualised (it’s kind of a sexless series), is still present in the series at several points and not exactly handled in a way that I would trust.
  • This is a series where people cry a lot.
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Story Pile: The Unpiled of 2021

Not everything I watch becomes part of the Story Pile. Sometimes, I’ll watch something and ask myself if I have anything interesting to say, and determine the answer to that is nah. I start things, decide I’m bored, and stop. While everything is interesting, and you can always connect things that don’t interest you into complicated, interesting, intersecting things, that doesn’t mean it’s always worth the effort, certainly for someone like me.

I’m still bitter that people seemed to think Schitt’s Creek was worth all that fuss after all.

Here then is a list of different stuff I watched that I didn’t think was worth a proper Story Pile article for some reason or another.

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Decemberween: Other People Watching Haikyuu!!

Do you remember at all, how earlier this year, I talked about how Haikyuu!! is a really good anime about stories, and has really appealing male characters in it that could be important to romantic narratives? I really liked Haikyuu and I watched all of it I could, and then, because apparently I watched a bunch of clips on Youtube for the article, the Dread Algorithm threw some videos at me, suggesting I check out professional volleyball players or coaches reacting to Haikyuu!!.

And I’m a games academic.

So I was really interested.

First up, there’s Coach Donny at Elevate Yourself, and I hope by the time this article goes up he’s finished with season 3, but he at this time has no idea that it’s an entire season that’s one game…

And next up there’s Victoria Garrick, the USC Libero, responding to the anime with a special focus on Nishinoya, the team’s libero.

What I find amazing about these videos is how often these two people who know volleyball pretty well, can look at the anime depicting the sport, and have similar or the same reactions – how they can both give an informed reaction to the same content, which suggests that the anime does a good job of representing something real.

That’s really cool and it’s very interesting. If you liked Haikyuu and wanted to know more about it as a representation of a real sport, this is a way to recontextualise what you watched.

Story Pile: The 2021 Summary

I’m not a movie reviewer, I don’t need a top ten, and I’m not doing anything in a timely fashion. When I write about something it’s almost always because I enjoyed it, or I enjoy talking about some idea in it, or I found something awful and I want to show it to you because it annoyed or disgusted me and I got to wave it around like a gross thing I found in the fridge and I want you to share in my pain or be deeply amused by my performatively flailing it around.

That’s what happens when I watch a movie like Now You See Me 2, which isn’t exactly an article I’d hold up afterwards as a great article. I mean you’re not going to get some sort of thoughtful engagement with the story and its themes, you’re going to get me mad about the way people fail to respect pretendy wizards. Which is fun, but it isn’t something I necessarily can read back, myself, now, without seeing the ways I just fall into a weaker writing style.

This isn’t just a review of what media I enjoyed the most this year. That list is a lot longer and a lot harder to manage, because, well, I like a lot of things. Instead what I want to highlight here is the ten Story Pile articles that I think make for the best reading this year, and why you might enjoy them. Presented then, in no particular order, and with minimal additional work, The Story Pile 2021 Top 10!

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Decemberween: Fox, 2021 – The Art Gremblin Rises

Hey, it’s Christmas, so you know I gotta talk about this.

Fox has been doing a lot this year. In addition to you know, coping while she works under a pandemic conditions, doing work that can be enormously straining and tedious, she’s also been just doing a lot to improve our lives around us. She’s been interested in improving our life infrastructure – fixing problems, fixing things that are causing small problems. This can be things like storage containers, or improving our rice cooker situation, or even just dedicating a mind that normally does con prep to managing food storage.

Bear in mind, I’m the one who does the bulk of the cooking for us.

Fox has also done a rebrand this year. After years of using a Munchlax plushie as her avatar, she’s now moving on to make an identity she can own more directly. She made a pngtuber avatar for herself (and then made me one too!), and now she uses it to do art streams.

And look: People with thousands of followers talk about the problems there. They talk about what it’s like to have an unreasonable loud presence in your life that you can’t communicate with. But there’s a very different problem at the other end, which is not to say a big chat isn’t a problem, but that it’s hard to hear those complaints when you’re showing up and streaming a little bit, every week, to very few people.

Fox has been streaming her art. She’s basically looked at the problem of not doing enough drawing, and decided to make a practice out of it, that involves practicing in public, and being okay with not getting attention.

And that’s cool. It’s cool to do hard things for no external reward. It’s cool to try something so hard even when it’s hard.

And I’m so proud of Fox.

Every day is a gift.

Decemberween: Nixie 2: The Nixie-Ing

Decemberween posts vary between two choices: Either hey, here’s a cool thing that you can partake in right now, and go check that out, and it might be a useful thing to fill the time you have in December where you may want something that isn’t going to stress you out, or, hey, here’s one of my friends, and how great they are, because they make me happy and my ability to be happy is already an extremely weird thing so I’m going to treat this as the proper Christmas season miracle.

So let’s talk about my disrespectful internet daughter, because she is great, and she is sweet, and this year she’s doing something that’s really impressive.

Now, you may remember that earlier this year — if you’re a real Nixie fan — Nixie and I did a long form chat on Ai: The Somnium Files, which we did before knowing that the sequel to Ai was going to be announced. We talked about how we learned about the game, about how we connected, and what it’s like to know or care about Content Warningy media. We also talked about specific characters, and how character archetypes can make life easier for writers, but also how things that broke archetypal structure could resonate with us.

Anyway, Nixie went back to school this year.

That’s really cool! And she’s been hardworking and focused on her homework and doing her best with the online teaching format she can! She’s been reading her books and she’s been getting her work done, and through it all she’s been wonderfully honest and sincere about it. Sorry, I can’t talk, I’m busy. Here’s some of my homework, what do you think? Thank you for your thoughts, but I am going to focus on this myself.

Nixie is really great. Now, you may be surprised to know that she isn’t already some kind of educationally pedigree’d person! She’s after all, a relative expert on a lot of things, and willing to share that knowledge, in sometimes remarkably approachable, clear ways for people who normally think of people like her (tiny internet gremlin girls) as being ‘outside’ of those conversations. You might know that as Miss Nixie Is Typing.

Lords knows I do.

You also might not realise it, but Nixie is one of those people who can be considered part of the editorial staff here on Press. I talk to her about ideas for articles, and sometimes she has some reaction to the idea, and that’s encouragement I need to go ‘oh yeah that’s cool, let’s do that.’ I watch some anime or play some games on her advice, just because her aesthetic preferences all go outside of my default.

Oh, and she’s one of the few people I know from my real life who have had the temerity to sass me in front of my students.

Consider: Nixie. Won’t you?

Decemberween: Caelyn, Agaelyn!

I am once again asking you to pay attention to my cool friend Caelyn.

During a year of Everyone Doing Things Is Finding It Harder To Do (remember when I released a game a month for two years? Christ), Caelyn has been Doing The Things. She’s streaming game development regularly, but what’s more than that, she streams talking about character writing. She’s doing these little chats about conveying character voice through dialogue and that’s really cool. If you’re at all interested in that kind of thing, you should go check out her streams.

Cae is also the creator of the Hindren, something I wrote about earlier this year, if you need a reminder.

And by ‘her streams’ I of course mean Grahu-Robufu, Learned Snapjaw’s streams:

It still blows me out that things like vtuber rigs are possible right now for like, commission and stuff (more on that later). What would be really cool, now I think about it, is for if this smart and cool and very cute friend were to write about that process, what it means to her, and maybe to do it while demonstrating clear character voice and characterisation, like, maybe on some really big popular website people look at and I direct students to for examples what the hey, like say, Polygon.

Oh, Oh, I’m just getting an update: She did that!

Decemberween: Lord Ravenscraft

Oh boy it’s another Decemberween post, is Talen going to share another link to his Youtube history for the year giving you an avenue to look at some really interesting media focusing on a specific narrow thing that ties into his personal interests and millenial media context that you wouldn’t think to look at before?

You betcha, and this time, it’s about Animorphs!

Along with Lady Knight the Brave from last year, Lord Ravenscraft is one of those Youtube channels that appeared out of seeming nowhere, with Algorithm’s blessings. He’s made twelve videos as of writing and he has almost 50,000 subscribers. The creator has a background with the Lifehacker grouping of websites, and now this Youtube channel is his current platform that I understand also pays his bills with things like sponsorship deals and all that. Like, whatever, it’s fine.

It’s wild to me, though, because this channel is in some ways a much… better respected… version of things I like doing. Long form explainers on things like the structural values of a piece of long form media, or an examination of cheats in videogames, or the way games are used in movies.

It’s wild to me.

Anyway, success is random, I’m jealous but it’s okay to be jealous. Great channel and long form videos on things I think are interesting. Go check it out.

Decemberween: This Year’s ASMRtists

And here we have another year of looking through my history at the ASMRtists that I found useful for concentrating on my studies and winding my brain down after a long day of focusing on student work. Last year, I tried to platform specifically some artists of colour, because, as was very true, there’s an algorithmic reinforcement of racism.

There’s a little natural turnover when it comes to ASMR, and I’m not going to recommend anyone whose work I consider a little too risque. Here though are some artists who I added to my subscriptions this year.

First up, we have Atlas ASMR:

I believe Atlas is a New Zealander who lives in Britain, which speaks of a remarkable willingness to tolerate bad weather. A lot of his video focus seems to be on the deliberately odd, with conceptual pieces normally that focus on telling short form narratives dealing with awkward but soft spoken dudes. I find him generally pretty easy to listen to, but also varied enough that I don’t fall into concentrating on his work as if it has a long form narrative.

ASMR Jas joined the subscriptions, but I haven’t really got a lot to particularly remark on. She does a lot of what I understand to be ‘classic’ ASMR of late — a person, usually a photogenic woman, addresses the camera, and uses a variety of contexts to do a small number of soft sounds that can yield the ASMR response.

JubileeWhispers does a range of both roleplays, but also a bunch of game reviews and examinations. Which can be a weird thing I enjoy where I’m too tired to write or think hard about things but I don’t want to just turn off my brain, so I watch someone playing a game I can take notes on without feeling like I’m about to get jolted by something that requires me to think particularly hard.

So, this is one of your classic ‘pretty lady does ASMR’ channels, and while there are definitely plenty of them, part of doing these posts is being honest about new stuff I’ve added to the collection lately. In this case, the thing that stands out in my memory is this specific video by Lizi. I haven’t watched most of them — just this one video repeatedly, because I find the attitude of the ‘sister’ who is clearly being roped in to help with the project very funny.

It’s very in-jokey? Like you need to listen to a bunch of ASMR videos to really get any reason why it’s funny to see a Russian Twin being so unimpressed with her sister’s ASMR video.

Minor caveat here: This creator sometimes creates ASMR in other languages and I have no idea how safe that language is. If she was dropping slurs in Russian I wouldn’t be able to give you a useful warning.

Now finally, we have a creator who I debated putting here. It’s a little complicated.

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Decemberween: People Make Games

At some point in the past ten years I became a fan of board game semi-employment project turned full time job Shut Up & Sit Down, featuring Quinns Quinntington and Matt ‘Jammsponge’ Lees. But if you’ve looked in the secret bonus content of those board games, you may notice an occasionally weirdly young looking face that has gone unaging for the ten years he’s been showing up, and it is that fellow that is Chris Bratt. What’s he do, aside from roll dice in Matt’s living room? Why, he works (worked? I dunno, time, whatever) for Eurogramer, and now he is part of the team over at People Make Games.

People Make Games is a great, informative channel about games that treats them not as commercial products but as human things, made and designed and played by people. It’s, you know, that thing, I do, except they’re focusing on things I can’t do – like interviewing important figures and going to Peter Molyneux’s house without shouting at him about guillotines. And look at that, since the pandemic lockdown, they went and acquired themselves a Quinns of their own!

They’ve done an introductory video on Blaseball, the game of Baseball Without Mercy, Baseball Perfected, Baseball As She Is, And Always Will Be. I’m not an expert in Blaseball, but I have a bunch of friends who are very into it, and I love watching them reacting to the game every weird-ass season. It’s a wild game and a great cultural space and people get to partake of it in a way that only works with the metaphor of real baseball team and support to work with.

I also quite liked this long-form dig into a game made by Halfbrick Studios that sort of had to be scrapped, and the interesting question of whether this is a function of the game, or the culture of the space and the people within it. Like, this whole message of this narrative could be ‘there are some types of games that corrupt the experience of people around them’ like haunted objects, but maybe the ghosts that haunt those games are in us, and the people who aren’t willing to lose when they’re not having fun.

And then there’s what’s probably? the big one this year? As I write this?

Basically, there’s a videogame platform and company that’s bigger than Ubisoft, and its player base are mostly children, as are most of its developers and designers, and that sounds wild but it sounds even wilder when you throw into that the statement ‘and the children aren’t being paid for their work.

Oh and because a few days ago this post needed an update, here’s a followup:

People Make Games is a great channel with some long, slow, thoughtful thinky-ready-processy kind of games talk there, that doesn’t approach things the same way most people in the game space do. I really like their work, so go check them out.

Decemberween: Robert Miles’ Youtube Channel

Look, this is a subject that is a little spooky. The idea is AI Safety, which is the question of ‘how do we make AI in a way that won’t go disastrously wrong.’ You may know this idea from other concepts like Roko’s Basilisk and the like, where people tend to reinvent calvinism. Those people, typically, are goofballs, at the best.

Also, AI Safety is one of those Big Word Dangerous Complex problems that can get a bit anxiety instilling. Like the idea of human immortality, there’s a possibility that the idea of the conversation around it just inspires a sort of doomy feeling. Don’t go exploring it if it upsets you.

But if you find the idea of the ways AI gets weird and treats incentive systems strangely, and how hard it is to make things that can be ethical when we can’t communicate ethics to ourselves, Robert Miles has a bunch of really fun videos with a lovely, charming and simplified aesthetic that breaks down some of these complicated problems without being a total weirdo about it.

Check him out!


Decemberween: Puppet History!

Man, I watch a lot of educational media that’s not quite kid friendly?

Puppet History is a project by the spooky boys formerly of Buzzfeed Unsolved, Shane Madej and Ryan Bergara. It’s a pretty straightforward bit: A history lesson about a real thing that happened, but presented to a pair of adults with swears and honest recognition of how ridiculous some stuff is. It’s one of my favourite things, where ‘real things and learning’ are not framed as the opposition to ‘fun.’

There is a content warning, I guess. I’ve seen some complaints about the episode on Hatchepsut, where a human who existed three and a half thousand years ago across multiple cultural barriers, reads very clearly as trans to some people with things like changing name and (maybe?) getting statues made with beards, but the Puppet History lads still refer to them with their prior name and gender. I’m sympathetic to both sides of things, where almost all our sources on the individual are filtered through English Pith-Helmeted Mustached I Say Whot Whot era of exploration, but also I can equally understand why when dealing with a historical figure who didn’t use the same languages for ideas like we did and where we don’t even know what we can say about their language, it can be… tricky to simply say ‘he’s trans, dude.’

If you want to check it out, stick it on the TV and just let it play while you do other December stuff around it, here’s a playlist.

Decemberween: Urban Planning Youtube!

I don’t know why I became a weirdo into educational video material in my adult years but then I think about the times I’d spend in the mornings when I was home sick from school watching Zardip’s Search For Healthy Wellness, a Canadian TV show that was much cooler in my memory than it really is, and I didn’t think it was very cool at the best of times. But still, this year I’ve learned a lot about urban planning and it turns out there’s an entire Youtube subculture of people talking about that.

During this time I’ve learned about the idea of Gadget-Bahns and Stroads and AM/FM problems.

Here are some videos from each channel to serve as a sort of ‘serving suggestion’ of the style and tone of some of these sources I’ve enjoyed this year. First up, there’s the fairly gentle ‘boring urban nice’ style of Not Just Bikes.

There are two basic styles of videos from Not Just Bikes. There are videos about the infrastructure and urban planning that’s happening in the Netherlands (the place the documentarian lives now). This is basically a sort of ‘hey, here’s how things are done in this country in a way that normally would get ignored by people, because they’re so normal nobody highlights them.’ This is about the really boring common bike you can get the omafiets (and why I want one).

The other kind of video on the channel are where he looks at the kind of infrastructure in other countries, mostly America, and how that’s garbage and sucks and it’s bad. This video explains what a Stroad is, and if you’ve seen one you might be filled with the same deeply unpleasant feeling I have when I look at yes, these stroads and man I hate stroads and I didn’t even know what a stroad was.

I also watched a bunch by a guy called Adam Something. He’s a lot sassier and mean, a little less genteel, ‘look at interesting things,’ and um, a lot more ‘let’s make fun of Elon Musk’s stupid ideas.’

A body of his videos are about tackling the technofix mindset of expensive projects to try and ‘fix’ problems with existing systems without just, you know, fixing those systems by financing them and addressing their problems.

Now I will give a sort-of content warning on Adam Something: I have a memory of hearing him say something in one of his videos was ‘r*tarded.’ But I couldn’t find it when I went looking for it again, and I couldn’t be sure. Adam Something is also from a different cultural extraction — so I don’t want to say I know how he knows that word is socially considered in English?

But either way, I think he may have said that once and that’s non-ideal but I can’t find him saying it across his videos. If you think that’s going to stand out and upset you, stick to Not Just Bikes.

Decemberween: Lego Transformers

No no no, not those. Not the officially purchased ones. Not the licensed toys where you can construct a big special transformer that uses specific pieces that were picked out to make a branded character. No, those are cool, and that’s fine, but they’re not intriguing to me the way the work of IX RollOut IX is.

See, what RollOut does, is Rollout makes transformers out of lego. They make Transformer OCs out of lego. They make transformer OCs, out of lego, and that lego is the standard pieces, without special decals. It is –

You know what, here, just check it out.

Okay, so this being Bumblebee, from the movie, that’s not really what I meant, but the idea is still there. This is making transformers. I – I don’t know how to express how mindblowing that is to me. Transformers are something I’ve loved for years, but after a childish period of drawings of extremely ugly cars and being unsatisfied with my own ability to express the materiality of a transformer with drawing, I kind of abandoned the idea of ever making what was, ultimately, transformer OCs.

Oh I conceived of them, but transformers are just so impossibly challenging to even concept, the idea of being able to make them just blows my mind.

These creations just excite me.

Now, I don’t have any lego – at all! – so I can’t exactly go and get experimenting with that! But it’s so exciting to see this creative play experience getting to make articulated expressive transforming toys.

How freaking cool is that?

Decemberween: iCarly

Pause to take a drink while you wonder what the hell I’m talking about.

Okay, look.

It’s a December where we’re not necessarily going anywhere. You’re gunna have some time off, hopefully. You’re going to start scrolling through Netflix until you find the boss screen, and after that, you’re going to start trying to find whole new channels on youtube to watch because everyone else is taking a break, and you may be kinda fed up with people wringing lore explainers out of the Rankin Bass tv specials or whatever.

What if, instead, you watched a grown adult explaining in absolutely incredible detail, the entire narrative, structure, and phenomenon of the story of the Nickelodeon TV series, iCarly?

What if I told you it’s all there, and it’s, in total, eight hours long?

Part one, and:

Part two.

I didn’t watch iCarly. I did not know, before this series, that iCarly was like, a distinct thing. I mean it was cable TV, and I don’t think I’ve ever been friends with anyone who had cable TV. I don’t think I’ve known anyone with cable TV. Cable TV is not a thing in Australia the way it is in America. Turns out there’s a complex and really weird collection of what I can only really describe as ‘live action star vehicle shovelware’ media produced on channels like Disney and Nickelodeon and just thanks to the kind of structural power you can have if your audience is functionally captive and meritocracy is fake, these series are really important to people who are right now turning into a generation of the internet’s voices.

Oh but wait, we’re not done, we’re not done, because at the end of the iCarly video, he promised to cover the followup series, Sam And Cat, but the problem is Sam and Cat is a spinoff of iCarly but also Victorious and well, Quinton could just dive in and go without talking about Victorious, but that would be quitter talk and now we have a five hour video on Victorious.

But, and this is absurd, this and we’re not done yet, is that thanks to a creator called FD Signifier, I got recommended a video by a effervescent words-doer and chaos gremlin, CJ The X, about the specific performance of one character in the series Victorious, Cat Valentine, who is played by an (at first) seventeen year old Ariana Grande who is now, as it turns out, somewhat important.

I watched all these videos.

That didn’t make sense to me, because I never saw iCarly, let alone that it crossed over with Victorious and from what I can tell, it’s really mediocre and you kind of need nostalgia to hook into you to keep you watching past the arch presentation. There’s this thing with kids media that’s, like, it’s typically made with no meaningful view of quality. It’s like this weird thing where we go ‘well, it’s for kids, so it’s okay that it sucks ass.’ And I say that as a lifelong fan of the Transformers.

And Quinton does have that nostalgia.

Quinton does a relentlessly self-reflective, courageous examination of this series and how he reacts to it. It’s funny because, let’s face it, it is funny, but it’s also watchable and sincere and sweet and seeing him connect to this work, and explain why he connects to it is really, really engaging.

I watched these videos multiple times.

And yes, they are eight hours long together.

I think, maybe, part of this is because I find Quinton genuinely interesting as a media commentator. I know I recommended you check out his work last year, in general, and… well yeah. I still like it and I like this really long form dive. He makes eight hours of iCarly analysis really interesting. And then five hours of Victorious. And then CJ the X adds ninety minutes. Point is I have lost basically a day of my life to this franchise I’m not interested in and it’s just because these people make it interesting.

Decemberween: The Cathode Ray Dude

Do you want a twenty minute video of someone hooking up an original Nintendo Entertainment System to a proper amplifier to see how its demodulator unit broadcasts?

This video is from someone who I’m mostly familiar with as Gravis. Gravis, the Cathode Ray Dude, is a nice person who’s interested in the history of videography and this particular period of technology. How we made things before everything was digital and everything could translate things onto the internet.

This is also an interesting thing because I’ve kind of been aware of Gravis for a long time, on twitter, thinking of him as, like, a ‘step-follower?’ I don’t follow him, he doesn’t follow me, but thanks to sharing mutual followers, we’ve spoken regularly enough that he stands out in my memory of ‘oh that guy? yeah he’s cool.’

Then I found – this year! – that not only did he have a youtube channel about cameras and broadcasting and mechanical-digital media overlap, but uhh, that I found that super interesting and compelling.

This is a really beautiful kind of educational media. It’s storytelling through devices, but it’s also humanised through someone just sharing their very genuine interest in things. If you want something chill and tech-based that you probably don’t know already, and from someone who isn’t about to drop slurs at some random point? Check Gravis’ stuff out.

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