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.

Blorboundaries

Earlier this year, in my Final Fantasy XIV video, which I still think is really good and you should go check it out and comment and like it and tell me I’m a good good internet boy, I deployed the term blorbo. Coined first in 2021 on Tumblr (best source I could find), it was used to refer to a habit for how Tumblr behaviour often involves a kind of public conversation (dare I say discourse) that often involves such shredding of available context that things look incoherent, without the faintest anchoring detail. Blorbo is a word that didn’t seem to exist until December last year but it so perfectly encapsulates a concept that has been omnipresent since two fans were able to bicker over their opinions of a god, and having it available presents an enormously useful way to discuss a fandom behaviour agnostic of a particular fandom.

When I described a blorbo in the video I referred to them as ‘a term for how fandom terminology looks like from the outside.’ And while yeah, you can low-key use blorbo as a way to make fun of people’s particularly weird fandom discourse, it can serve as a useful example for the consideration of how fandoms necessarily compartmentalise, how the nature of these spaces is to develop language and concepts that are specialised for operation within that fandom space.

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Story Pile: Air America

You know what the kids are into these days? Political action dramas set in 1960s Laos featuring a terrifying antisemite!

Oh don’t worry about it, this is a movie about a CIA-owned former Taiwanese air company that was used to finance the drug trade under the auspices of the Nixon white house, the fact it’s got Robert Downey Jr in it getting extremely inebriated and Mel Gibson expressing fringe religious ideologies just kind of blends in.

Minor spoilers for Air America follows, but honestly, I don’t plan on digging into the events of the movie, but rather talk about the movie and its framing.

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Story Pile: Demon Slayer

Up front Spoiler Policy is that I’m not really going to spoil things in this series I’m just going to tell you broadly about the tone.

There’s this phenomenon in the conversation around pop music where all the best-selling artists of all time were born after like, 1985, a fact that makes a lot of boomer music fans kinda bummed out, because it’s a sign that the musical culture is no longer a sign of how they are the ones who dictate what is and isn’t popular. It’s okay, it’s just how time advances, but it’s also a function of how the technology for making music has just kept getting better. It’s easier to get the best version of any given performer’s art, it’s easier to distribute it faster and it’s easier to express a wider variety of ideas in a lot of different ways. Simply put, it’s possible to make things better these days.

Demon Slayer is a genre perfected.

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CoX: Tideward

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.


“You do not want me down there! You want me up here!”

Hamilton, aka TIDEWARD, the SCION OF THE SUNKEN CITY, is a Prince of a deep-ocean nation, of which he says little. A deep sea upbringing made him tough, and strong, and the royal regalia of his home grants him shapeshifting bio-tech armour. A stranger from a strange land, Hamilton has had to learn a lot about human society from things other than the stories his father told him of the surface world.

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T-Shirt: The Demon Core Says Believe In Yourself!

It’s October! Let’s go check out this month’s T-shirt design!

I made this little design both to learn more about how to use Inkscape Vectors, but also as a way to make something appropriate to Dread Month without playing into my weakness as a designer (ie, I am butts and bad at conventional horror aesthetics).

I’m really happy with this friendly li’l Demon Core! Check it out on my Redbubble!

Story Pile: McGee And Me — The Not-So-Great-Escape

I promise you this is about horror media.

It’s rare that I can just show you the media I’m talking about in a Story Pile. It’s rarer still that I might do so only to see how long some of you last before some part of your good taste shuts the experience down.

Episode 3: The Not-So-Great Escape (Mc Gee and Me! in HD)

This is an episode of McGee & Me!, which I guess can be kind of explained as a ‘VHS TV Series’ from the late 1980s and early 1990s. In this episode, if you don’t have the stamina to watch it all, we learn Nick, our protagonist, wants to go see a scary movie as part of a school social event, and his parents refuse, and ground him. He makes a scheme to go see the movie, then returns home, upset by the movie he saw. He talks to his parents, who explain why they refused to let him go to the movie, then he’s punished off-screen.

It is Christian morality media for nine year olds. No horror is shown, only implied, the acting is wooden and stilted, and the animation demonstrate competence in only the most rudimentary of ways, so the ways it sucks stand out in glaring contrast. It is incredibly mediocre and meaningless in every way.

I want to talk to you about how this episode scared the shit out of me.

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The Alex Jones Readings

Yesterday, I talked about Alex Jones, but I did so with references to specific examples of the man’s behaviour from his show. You might wonder, Talen, do you watch his show? And the answer to that is no, no, I don’t.

Alex Jones’ work is one of those things people mostly experience as a few short viral moments; infamously, there’s the Turn The Frogs Gay clip, or some similarly ridiculous moment that people meme on.

The dude’s got the same basic DNA as a dozen other types of grifter from my own past. These days they’ve moved to ‘supplements’ rather than ‘cures’ but in the end it’s people selling you overpriced horse piss as ‘snake oil.’ I didn’t feel the need to delve into him because I kinda knew what I was looking at when I first saw him. Moment to go viral, pivot to an ad. Promote a weirdo to get their audience engaged with you, pivot to an ad. Frame the world as scary and doomed and dying, pivot to an ad.

When John Oliver did a segment explaining Alex Jones, he noted this exact structure:

Alex Jones: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

But this is still a surface overview of the man and his process. It’s still something that Alex will claim ‘takes out of context’ the work he does, in general. If only there was someone, you wonder, who isn’t on Alex’s side, who say, watches the entire show and can provide exhaustive proof that no, he’s not being taken out of context, these things don’t get better with more information, and the figleaf of denial that Jones uses is just a tactic.

Well, what if I told you there’s someone who does?

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The Five Stages of Alex Jones

Alex Jones is scum.

This isn’t a complex, researched, authorial notion, this is my opinion, and my opinion is that the guy is scum. It’s based on observing him over many years, and from how he clearly replicates the patterns of a lot of guys exactly like him, who just weren’t as successful at monetising their particular variety of scum.

Of late, I’ve been seeing more of his stuff, more of his particular set of tactics, and I wanted to offer you an easily remembered, simple set of instructions as to understanding What Alex Jones Is Doing. This is much like with young-earth creationists, operant on the idea that Alex Jones is literally never a good faith operator, and that everything he does, in every single context should be regarded as acts of manipulation. I’m sure there are some people he’s honest with but his reputation is so fundamentally broken that you can’t treat him as if he is.

Alex Jones presents the illusion of being opposition, of being able to argue, to fight with people, but if you listen to him, if you pay attention to the process, you’ll realise there are five things he does, and they largely never relate to what he’s being told, not really, not as part of a meaningful conversation with points that can be considered. Everything is instead, smoothed into one Greater Fiction where Alex was Always Right.

What then, does Alex Jones (And His Ilk) do when confronted with dissent?

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It’s Hard To Enjoy Buzzfeed Unsolved Any More

I’m writing this a while ago, now. Like, this is October 2021, while I write these words down and I write them knowing that they’re not going up for a good long time. The joy of having my schedule more or less down now. But I am writing this because this is the only time that this has seized me to write and, well, the topic is perfect for Dread Month.

CONTENT WARNING: This is going to talk about some real bummer stuff, as it relates to child abuse.

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Story Pile: Midnight Mass

There is no storyteller’s sin you can commit so deep and so perfect with your story than to inspire in the viewer a much better version of the story you were going to tell without ever being able to deliver on it. Such is the tragedy of the third Mike Flanagan Netflix Thing, Midnight Mass.

The story starts on an isolated, impoverished island community out on the edge of some part of America, where there’s not a lot of reason to be there but for the fact you’re already there. In the sad country song way of things, people simply are, the place simply is, and eerie supernatural events start to haunt the town in time with the arrival of a young (hot) Catholic priest.

The poster for the series sets the tone; people, seen through distorted visions of paintings past; the church, a symbol unto itself; candles, leading into fire.

The series’ tagline stands out, simple and pure: Be Not Afraid.

Spoilers below the fold.

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Horror and Loss of Memory

There is a horror we encounter in the everyday, of the slowly dissolving record of our own history that we call to forget.

Content warning: Memory loss and death!

Spoiler Warning: I talk about some movies where there’s a mystery that’s been forgotten, which shouldn’t spoil anything in the movies, but if you absolutely do not want to know, then…

uh, maybe don’t look at the image? Oh come on it’s the name of the movie.

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Story Pile: Moral Orel

If you’re already aware of Moral Orel, you probably can guess what I think of it.

If you’re not, Moral Orel is a dark comedy claymation or puppetry or stop motion or whatever TV series made up of ten-minute long episodes that focus (mostly) on the character of Orel Puppington, a member of the Puppington family. Set in Moralton, Statesota, it’s a pastiche parody of 50s and 60s sitcoms where the benevolent patriarch could always be relied upon to sort out whatever chicanery our protagonist got up to that week.

It is also a triumphant depiction of a kind of politeness we don’t usually get.

Content Warning! This series features deep breath religious fundamentalism, child abuse (standard/accepted like paddling and spanking, neglect), gun violence, troubling behaviour unbecoming a minor, racism, sexual assault (adult and child), divorce, emotional abuse (spousal familial), existentional horror, religious existential horror and… I think that’s it? But what more is there.

If you’re wondering ‘hey, with that list, do you really want to talk about it?’ and yeah. Because not talking about it would be polite.

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Remembering The Queen

When I was about eight years old, my older cousin excitedly showed me the little .wav file he had of an excerpt from a Pop Song, which he had reversed in windows sound editor. When played, it made a little weird yelp which he informed me was the phrase “It’s Fun to Smoke Marijuana.” This was proof of the danger of that kind of music.

The excerpt was a snippet of Another One Bites The Dust.

Queen - Another One Bites The Dust (Live)
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Story Pile: The Owl House, Again, Part 1

When I first wrote about The Owl House it was a simplified article mostly trying to grapple with one of those great trends of the Online Age. That is, a show came out, and it was enjoyed, and then it got stamped with the Good Representation Label because it was Diverse and I, eternally cynical, went to check that out… and once I had confirmed this wasn’t people being very excited about things that we’re pretty sure this counts, I was overwhelmed with the sudden ennui that it’s 2020 and we finally got an uncomplicated yes-actually-these-characters-are-gay moment from a Disney show.

That was all I was comfortable talking about, and that’s all I did, because The Owl House as a show was, at the point I watched it, teetering on an edge.

See, if you had the Disney Channel, a cable channel, the second season was available to watch back in June 2021. But if you were like me, in Australia, it wasn’t going to come to Disney+ until April 2022. That meant that while you or your best friend or the tumblrphones may know how the narrative of The Owl House spun out, and whether or not it was a story full of promise that bombed out hard because the people making it weren’t given time or space or opportunity to do a good job, or it wound up being another of these amazing animated series we’re getting these days.

But now I have seen it, and y’know what? The Owl House kicks ass.

Spoiler Warning: No gloves, no promises, I’m going to talk about things in this series and I don’t care about footing around it. This is going to be an article about a series I like and a bunch of the stuff in it I like and I’m not going to avoid spoilers. Have you watched The Owl House? No? Well, you should go watch it! It’s great!

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Story Pile: My Dress Up Darling

There is a purity to slice-of-life, teenage romance anime. There’s an existing schedule, a default now, and a pre-existing set of tools for communicating our basics about characters. A boy may have one friend, three friends, heaps of friends, or no friends; a girl may stand out or blend in, and all the existing structures of hobbies, clubs, and fandom signifiers let the story put them in a context you can easily understand. Meeting these characters is quick, and the demands on their lives are similarly low-stakes, meaning that these stories can focus wholeheartedly on two characters and how they feel about one another, as expressed by them doing some kind of special shared interest. It’s a way the author can talk about something that they love, and show you a pair of characters growing, understanding, and coming to love one another while a host of other complicated questions sort themselves out.

This focus on the characters and their feelings and emotional states mean that this is an avenue to tell stories that are sweet and wholesome in a way that stories that need to invest in more adult concerns can struggle to examine. The day to day is simplified, and it means that big feelings can become focal to your life, the way love can feel like it stretches from horizon to horizon, when your day is all quietly ensnared in these first, uncertain expressions of vast feelings.

Such is the story of My Dress Up Darling, a breathtakingly sweet and joyful anime about two kids learning about one another’s needs, wants, interests and boundaries.

Lords I write that and then I have to write the content warning I do. Oh well, nothing for it but to do it.

Content warning — this series is horny. This series is fantastically and extraordinarily horny. It’s horny in the way of teenagers who find each hot horny, especially when one of those characters is into horny videogames. It’s an ecchi series, and however you want to reckon with that, you should know it ahead of time. Particularly, episodes 2 and 6 are perhaps watched best with a finger on the fast forward button if you’re uncomfortable with it but still want to see the rest of the series.

And a spoiler warning. I’m going to mention some stuff that shows up in this series. Nothing super major, and I don’t think it’ll diminish your enjoyment of the series, because this is a series much more about feelings of a moment than the surprise of them.

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Story Pile: Dark Winds

I watched all of Longmire. It’s not a good show. Honestly it’s dreadful. It’s basically a cowboy sad dad feels story about a really terrible local sheriff who’s got the low-key racism of ‘well I can’t fix that, but everyone needs to be polite and nice.’ But I watched all of it because it had a fascinating b-plot that showed up from time to time of the Rez, an Indian Reservation that got to exist in a really interesting juridstictional space. And then I watched Fargo, which was a really good show but which mostly held me in the second season with this Native American character. And then I watched Letterkenny and Shoresy which both have elements of Rez politics and I found that interesting and then I found out that there was an actual crime thriller series set on a Reservation and built around that same tension between different police forces and

well

Of course I had to check it out, right?

Content warning: Look, not only am I not a member of the marginalised group this series represents and is about, but I’m also not even from the right country. This is entirely a vision of a cultural space that I have only ever experienced as media, presented to me by American eyes, and therefore, stuff that is acceptable and distributable under the existing power dynamic. You may well just not want to hear a white boy from Australia going ‘wow, I thought this was cool.’

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An User’s Guide To The Fifty* States* Of America America

Late 2021 I provided the invaluable public service of explaining to Americans exactly just how basic they are, categorically, what with the way that they seem interested in arguing with strangers about how funny they’re not. During this time I received three categories of feedback, which started at ‘this is funny,’ moving on to ‘I would like to argue with this joke,’ and finally, most notably, landing at ‘please can an online service turn this sprawling list of over a hundred tweets into something reasonably readable to me.’

Reader, I am that service.

Presenting now in largely unchanged form, but with some typos fixed and some new ones added just to keep you on your toes, a blog-readable version of work I’ve already done, in the form of an Australian provides An User’s Guide To The Fifty* States* Of America America.

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Story Pile: Oddtaxi

I have a concern about what I can only describe as ‘That Guy’ Media. I don’t have a precise list, but there are some kinds of media that slot into a particular space where someone, usually a white millenial guy, will exhort you that oh man you gotta check this out. And then they’ll hesitate almost performatively, like we I mean they’ve practiced this in the bathroom thinking about how we’re going to explain it to a stranger or a friend or some other captive audience, and it’ll be something like ‘… I can’t tell you much without spoilers,’ that eventually degenerates into ‘look, Just Watch It’ or something like that.

When I talked about Knives Out, in an effort to give a view on the movie that was interesting if you hadn’t seen it and interesting if you had, I did so thinking about something that was missed in the swirl of commentary about this movie. These articles aren’t being written for no reason, they’re written because I want to talk to you about something, and I want to talk about it in the context of something that I’ve watched or read or listened to. It’s when I engage with something and words about it want to get out of me.

And Oddtaxi is boy howdy the kind of series that makes me full of words. A frustratingly large number of them are “Have you watched Oddtaxi? Oh, okay.”

But talking about Oddtaxi runs the risk, at least in my mind, of making it into That Guy Media. It’s not even as pure as the Gay Effusing you get when an anime has two hot girls who like each other where a commentator just foams “It’s good. It’s good. It’s good. You should watch it. It’s so good.” for ten minutes. It’s the smug cousin of that, which lacks the purity of “Oh My God I’m Finally Seeing Media I Like,” and is instead the same voice that asks “Oh, Have you seen the Raid?” or “Do you know the twist in Fight Club?

If you’re just here for an as-brief-as-possible, why-should-I-watch-this summary, I’m going to say that I like Oddtaxi, an anime I watched in its entirety in one day and which reminds me of Durarara!! and Paranoia Agent, but less bleak or apocalyptic. Lots of competing narratives, clear use of imagery, clearly neurodivergent protagonist, great music.

Okay, so what am I going to talk about beyond the fold?

What could I talk about, if I’m not going to effuse about the text, about its ideas, or its concepts?

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T-Shirt: MTG Tricks

I’ve been working on this on and off for a while now. Basically, I conceived of iconography to represent a bunch of Magic: The Gathering two-card combos as simple, icons that represent a pleasant to look at image that also had that secondary meaning.

And here’s what I got so far:

First up, Painter Grindstone. Available here.

Second up, Channel Fireball, available here.

And finally, Vault-key, available here.

Agent Garbo

Some of you already know how this story goes, what it’s about, and where it ends. I promise you, I’m not going to tell you anything you haven’t heard already. But you should read it anyway, because it’s still a really good story. And then you should keep reading because I have complicated feelings about a story that’s so good happening when it happens and how and how much it sucks that it happened.

For the rest of you, let me tell you about the man who was the greatest Nazi spy of World War 2, as a bit. Let me tell you about Juan Pujol Garcia, Asset Bovril and Agent Garbo.

Content Warning: This article is going to clown on the Nazis a bit and then it’s going to get heavy. Don’t worry, Garcia comes out of it fine, it’s just, you know, Nazis as a subject matter. I mean, not fine fine, he did die in 1988, but like, you know what, just click the ‘more.’

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Story Pile: Chuck

Back in 2007, a confluence of events collapsed together as a lot of people who would move on to Other Things or who had Just Done A Big Thing all got involved in doing a project together for five years that managed to produce one of the tentposts of what we can now nostalgically look back on as ‘pretty good TV.’ I’m not trying to damn with faint praise here, but with shows like Psych and Fringe which I’ve partaken of this year I have come to have an appreciation for that particular era of TV when basically, Leverage was available through whatever method actual Americans watch actual TV.

Look, I haven’t had a functioning TV since like, 2004, let’s just talk about Chuck.

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