Friday 27 December 2013

Petite, Whizzy Ninja-Bucket Action!

We made it back to Sydney. I took both my laptops away with me (the two main ones) with every intention of doing something productive, but I basically played Scribblenauts Unlimited and Batman: Arkham City whenever anyone left me to my own devices. I got a miniature food processor in a Kris Kringle on Christmas Eve. I originally got a 1kg (100 piece) box of pralines, but I managed to trade for the buzz box. It seemed like an excellent trade. It still does. I think I live for this thing now. It strikes me as the the sort of thing that a bachelor would have, and I am one of those now. It even only does a very small amount, as if it is saying, "Your life is yours, and so is this single portion of goop." I was pretty keen to get down to my bachelory ways straight away, but I wasn't immediately sure how one proceeds with this sort of activity.

I'd already decided on what I was having for breakfast, so my first step was to put that into my shiny new miniature buzz bucket. As far as bachelors go, we were feeling pretty bachelory.

I want to take a moment to focus on the mininess of the 'mini food processor'. It's not very big. They didn't lie about that. The box does suggest that one might have some difficulty fitting strawberries inside it, but that is misleading. I've included a picture of it with Panda, who isn't the same size as most pandas appear to be on the internet. We haven't done a side by side, but he is pretty small. I think you get the idea anyway. He is new to this. We couldn't remember if he had ever been used for size comparisons before. We don't think so. That blue teapot is also abnormally small, so there really isn't much in this picture that is helpful.

Once I had loaded my breakfast in, I pressed The Button. It only has one, which is good for us bachelors. It is also good because Panda's fingers don't separate. The result was a mechanically pre-chewed breakfast that looked a lot like freshly squeezed orange juice with bits of bacon in it, which might very well pass for breakfast in some places. Not at my places, or wherever I happen to be. I don't want that. If you're in a position to make me breakfast, keeping this in mind would be deeply appreciated. Mind you, if you're making me breakfast, I'm probably going eat what I'm given.

I fried it, which seemed like the only way forward at that point. I could've done one of a variety of other cookings, but there was already a pan out.

I didn't really know what to do next, so I put it on a sandwich. This is the height of civility. This is the kind of thing that civilised people do. I'm not sure about the whole processing and frying your breakfast thing, which seems a lot less civilised. That seems like the kind of thing that lazy people do, or at the very least the kind of thing that people with brand new, petite, whizzy ninja-jars do.

We're pretty happy with our first forays into this sort of activity. We like little machines that do things for you that you could conceivably do for yourself. We've been informed that this is the very same sentiment that will lead to the robot revolution.

Monday 23 December 2013

And the Summer you rode in on!!

Me too, bear. Me too.

I've never really liked summer. It's hot, and you get burnt for wanting milk and things from the shops. Plus, snakes. I hate snakes. I've been lead to believe that there are more snakes around in summer. Is this a real thing, or just one of those things I have been carrying around in my head since I was a child?

One summer my mother and I were at my aunty's house down the South Coast. My aunt had one of those infinity pools where it looks like you are losing a lot of water, but it goes off the edge into a catchment thingy and then gets pumped back into the pool. This summer the was this little black snake in the catchment thing, and it looked like it was trapped. I hate snakes. They are the worst things in the world, and I hoped that this one would get sucked into the pump and get turned into paste. My mum at the time said that I should rescue the poor snake from the Paste-Maker 5000, and insisted that it was probably some harmless variety of snake.

"It's black", I said.


"Well, this is Australia. Our snakes are shit. We have a lot of the shittest snakes. I don't know heaps about snakes, but I think that the black ones and the brown ones are the really shitty snakes."

"I'm sure it's fine. It's probably just a tree snake."

"I don't think there are black tree snakes. I think there are black murder snakes that are sometimes in trees, but are far better known for their murder."

"Just grab it really quickly and throw it out."

"I don't want to touch it. I don't think you should touch it either. No one should touch it. Ever."

"Use a stick then."

"What if it comes after me?"

"I don't think they do that."

"Can't I just poke it into the filter?"

"No. Don't do that. It's a living thing."

At this point I realised whose side mum was on. Not mine. Not humanity's. Not the side of reason. She had seen some movie in which snakes sang heart warming songs about being misunderstood and had become sympathetic to their cause. She was too far gone. There was no reason left in her.

In the end we called WIRES, so that they could have the snake. When the WIRES lady turned up she had a look at our snake and said, "It's a juvenile red-bellied black snake. They're really dangerous. They haven't learned to control their venom output yet, so they just inject everything they've got." I was incredibly glad at this point that I hadn't listened to my mother and fetched it out myself.

I explained to the WIRES lady that I didn't like snakes, and that I was terrified of them, to which she replied "I don't understand people's irrational fear of snakes." I was confused. Were we part of the same conversation? Did she not less than a minute ago finish telling how I could be dead right now? I felt like her previous statement had reinforced the sanity and rationality of my fear of snakes. Had we just called a crazy person around to collect a dangerous thing? What was this clearly insane person going to do with a juvenile red-bellied black snake with poor venom control? Was she going to invite it to a tea party? I was standing far to close to this person, who was now in possession of the snake for my own comfort. Eventually she left, and took the wretched thing with her.

I don't know what kind of checks they do at WIRES before hiring people to go and fetch snakes and things, but they clearly aren't the right sort of checks. This is good for the rest of us, because in situations like this you need someone who thinks that self-preservation is irrational. You can help keep these people up to their thighs in our snakes by donating.

That's how my mum almost killed me with animal rescue chores. Don't ever rescue snakes, and don't listen to your mum. Call WIRES. Have a happy Christmas!

Sunday 22 December 2013

What kind of show is the The Space Show?

Days ago I was talking about Summer Wars and Welcome to the Space Show, and I talked about how the box art for the former could be said to be pretty misleading, while the box art for the latter was far more accurate in the leading that it did. I was getting my digital chat on, and apparently this is (close to) a poster for the film in actual cinemas.

Is this a Japanese thing? This poster could be for a film about a group of kids who stare up at the night sky and imagine a life beyond the isolation of their rural upbringing. They'd talk about characters who had moved out of the area, and wonder who might be next. There would be a bunch of stuff about the impact of an economic downturn on farming communities as understood from the point of view of children and adolescents. I would probably see that movie too, but it isn't the movie they're advertising here.

I don't think it is a Japanese thing. I could be wrong. That happens. I'm not ashamed of it. I seem to remember some Japanese trailers basically walking you through all of the major plot points to some films. That might not be a Japanese thing either. It's probably dangerous territory to start getting involved in the racial stereotyping of film promotion techniques, so I might stop what I'm doing right here.

The film itself gets to the point right away by opening with a scene that has far more in common with what is actually gong to be happening in the movie. Summer Wars went the other way. You're kind of pushed in the direction of what is going on, but you're still kind of lead to believe something else is happening.

I like the idea of this approach. There is trust involved. Or risk. It's risk. You don't know what kind of movie you're really going to see. I suppose you trust that it is going to be okay, but in the end it is a blind date, which is risky. Don't do blind dates. It's the opposite of what goes on in Flight of the Navigator where they throw a handful of red herrings at you that only work if you have a certain amount of information going in, which is an approach that makes more sense given the way we consume pre-media these days. It knows that you have turned up to watch a movie with a kid and a spaceship. The film is fully sentient and it's got your number buddy, and it's out to fuck with you.

Anchor Man 2 has an interesting thing going on in this regard, because there are things in the ads that aren't in the film. Watch the trailers and then see the film. I'm not citing any sources on this, because I want you to find out for yourself. It's a thing.

This sort of thing comes under the same category as putting the hero in peril on TV shows. You're basically writing in a vacuum, which is dumb. The show isn't going to air in a vacuum. We know. We're savvy. Well, 'savvy' might be too strong a word. we're not completely idiotic. You aren't going to kill the main character halfway through the season, because we know he hasn't left the show, because we know those things now. That's all common knowledge.

There is a trick there. You have to write for lots of audiences now. You can't control that anymore. I'm not sure how much you could control it in the past, but you're basically screwed now. There are people who know nothing going in, there are people who know some of what's drifting about in the ether, and then there's the ones that religiously update the yourstorypedia.

Saturday 21 December 2013

The Next Doctor Who

Doctor Who will be on again soon. There is a Christmas episode. This has been a consistent thing since the return of the series. As a matter of fact, it has been the most consistent thing. No matter what else has gone on with casting, crewing and scheduling since the series returned, there has been a Christmas episode. I am pretty certain that it will air on Boxing Day in Australia, because of time zones and all of that jazz. I haven't actually looked into this, but I trust the ABC.

Panda is pretty excited. He wanted me to sketch his idea for the next Doctor. We had a whole discussion about how the next Doctor had already been chosen, but he was pretty adamant.

Needless to say, we had a discussion about the licensing issues associated with his ideas. This also left him undeterred in the endeavour. He said that the fez is in homage to Matt Smith's Doctor and the long cloak and lightsabre are in homage to Sir Alec Guiness' Doctor, except his lightsabre is green. 

I asked him why a Time Lord who had chosen the form of a very small panda would need both a lightsabre and the powers associated with the Green Lantern Corps, but he just kind of looked at me like I was an idiot. I guess I must be.

We also had a long discussion about the difference between Star Wars and Doctor Who, but I only began to realise the murkiness of those waters when he started explaining the relationship between Gonzo and Ming the Merciless within the context of the same conversation. I know a great many things now. Things we aren't designed to know.

You can't really tell, because I'm not really very good at drawing, but there is a sonic screwdriver in his right hand.

Wednesday 18 December 2013

Welcome to the Space Show

Welcome to the Space Show came into my life with Summer Wars. They both turned up on the same day and in the same way, and they definitely both share the common thread that I didn't really know what I was getting into.

I didn't read the back of the box. I had a title and the box art (more or less the image above), but in this case the box art was a bit more informative. I sat down fairly certain that to some extent at some point shit was going to be happening in space. I feel like somewhere out there is a different version of the Summer Wars box art that extends you this same courtesy.

There was this thing on the box. A quote from someone who had said something about it being some sort of new standard in the visuals department. I don't have the box with me, and it isn't really important what the exact words were. What is important is that this film is busy. There is so much going on pretty much everywhere you look. It's bright, and they populated the shit out of space, and I'm pretty sure they used all of the colours.

This movie looks amazing. It's busy. Did I say that? I know I did. It's just up there. According to this movie, there is some crazy biology happening out in space. I tend to go in for this sort of thing. Star Wars and Valerian et Laureline bring this out in me.

This is where science fiction really kills fantasy. You got some different sizes and colours of human? Some have pointy ears and those ones are green? I suppose that's cool.

How many aliens you got? A squajillion? One of them is an evil beach ball with tentacles and another might be half pig half coconut? I'm in.

The plot is busy too. It seems to be making up its own mind as it goes along, but it  didn't bother me that much. It suited everything else that was happening. Most of it fits in with itself very nicely, but this is definitely the kind of film where you will be punished if you put too much thought into some things.

I don't normally go in for that.

That isn't true.

I do go in for that, but generally only if it's upbeat. There are some things in this film that just don't make any sense. You should know that going in. If you are in dire need of explanations, I am not the person to come to. Look, I'll give it a go, but it might be better to make something up for yourself. Draw some pretty pictures.

If you do that, send them in.

Tuesday 17 December 2013

Space Dandy Times and Dates

I said previously that I would keep you informed on the whole Space Dandy situation, and though like many of you I assumed that I probably wouldn't, I am actually going to. Space Dandy is meant to air in Japan at 11:00pm on Sunday January 5th (2014-01-05), and in the US at 11:30pm on Saturday January 4th (2014-01-04). I'm not sure exactly when it is going to be available in the Madman Entertainment Screening Room for you (the Australians) to watch at your digital leisure, but it is meant to be "at the same time as it airs in Japan". I know what those words mean as words and as part of a sentence, but I'm not sure what they will actually mean in the context of the internet, which is at best wholly unreliable. Some of the time Japan is two hours behind us, and I am pretty sure that this is one of those times. Does that mean it will be available at 1:00am Monday morning? I don't know. The site that is meant to be streaming it doesn't have a section where it lets you know what's going to be airing when. Well, none that I can find. I let you know if I find out anything else.

Monday 16 December 2013

Summer Wars

Summer Wars is an anime film from Madhouse studios, who do a pretty good job when it comes to this sort of thing.

A part of me wants to leave it there.

This was about as much information as I had going in. That and the above image.

There was something that I was expecting, and it isn't really what happened, and I think that that might be a part of the experience. I'm not saying that it might not be so good if you have more information, but part of the enjoyment that I got out of it was all the blind corners this film takes. It's colourful and a lot of stuff happens.

That is as much as I would like you to have going in. In an ideal world you would now go and get a hold of the film before continuing. Do that if you can. If that isn't you, and you need more, keep reading.

This film is pretty solid fare as far as the standard tropes go. There is this certain genre of anime that basically revolves around boy likes girl, improbable situation presents itself for boy and girl to go through the whole romantic comedy thing, but they get detoured along the way and end up saving the world.

You dig in deep and you are bound to find this shit all over the place. It's total teenage wish fulfilment fantasy. In that regard it is a lot like Twilight, except I actually get deeply engaged in this sort of stuff. It relies heavily on not bothering to justify the unlikely, and instead saves all its energy for the melodrama. It's fun stuff.

This one is a little bit different, because it revolves around a super advanced and far more pervasive version of Facebook called Oz. It is also different from a lot of other similar outings in that it may contain traces of daytime soap levels of family drama, in the same way that a Snickers Bar may contain traces of nuts. It's in there.

I don't actually know what it was about this film that I liked. I can't articulate that, but I was riveted. I kind of do, but I can't really go into it without ruining it. What I will say is that they did a good job of getting me to invest in all the activities that happened along the way.

Saturday 7 December 2013

Kate in The Blue House

Kate Douglas sings songs, and she stapled some together into an EP called The Blue House. They're digital staples. It's all digital. It's online. I guess I need to talk about the songs, otherwise it is just a statement of things that are happening on the internet. The Blue House is a lot of things that a great many full length albums are not. It's rich and it is concise. There are five songs, and from beginning to end you want more of everything. The Blue House is a taster plate, but you get the distinct impression you have something very special in front of you.

I've often felt that there aren't enough songs that reference late 19th/early 20th Century Russian physiologist who conducted experiments on orphans and animals. I'm not joking. This is a actual concern that I have had in the past, and Kate Douglas' 'Pavlov' has gone a long way to helping me out with these concerns. It didn't need to be good, but it is. It is the single. This doesn't make it inherently good, but it is.

The thing inside Kate Douglas that made her write 'Pavlov' I think might be similar in nature to the things in side her that made her write the rest. The rest of the EP goes in different directions, but their shared DNA is apparent. She has written songs that are clearly part of a whole experience, but distinct parts of that experience. Lyrically and musically her style has its own legs, and they are legs that I like, but they're primarily about mobility and delivery. The songs make their own way. It would be both fair and accurate to say that Kate Douglas knows her shit.

I wasn't previously familiar with Band Camp, and the best I could get out of those music people that I know is that it isn't iTunes or Google Play, which I'm not sure that I needed the consultation to divine. All you really need to know is that it is incredibly straight forward, and it is less restrictive than the Apple one. I bring all of this up because that is where The Blue House is. I have this thing in my life, and you should have it in yours.

The cover, which is its own magic, was done by Anna Chapman. I spent a little time being voluntarily inundated by what she's put up online, so take a look at that too. I'll be going back.

Friday 6 December 2013

Jed rides again with Explosions & Fireworks

So, whatever previous agreement I had with Jed Hutchinson appears to be kind of worthless, because he didn't tell me when he was going to announce the Explosions & Fireworks remix of 'The Cowboy Song'. He didn't though. I'm hurt. A bit hurt. I was still in on the ground floor ish and got myself an early listen, and even got a bemoustached profile of Mr Explosions & Fireworks himself, or one of them. I don't know much about him/them. There could be a few of them. I'll see if I can find out. Anyway, the picture went a long way to healing wounds.

The remix is good in a way that gives the song a different life. It's been restructured and has some added flavours rubbed in, but the original is still in there and recognisable. I like this in a remix. You can like this in a remix too. I say this because it's available: The remix. By heading over to SoundCloud. Throw your ears at it. While you are there you should probably spend a little time with the Explosions & Fireworks tunes.

This is separate and distinct from the other remix that emerged recently, which is still available for download, isn't so much a really new remix, but a different mix of the original. The song itself, in whatever form, has been one of my favourite Jed Hutchinson tunes for a very long time, and is definitely my favourite of those that have been officially released, and I'm definitely glad for the attention it has received recently. Did I mention it was recently played on the radio?

Wednesday 4 December 2013

Science, now with less science

Science has been a bit of a buzz word lately, especially since everybody 'fucking loves science'. The unfortunate thing is that most of the 'science' that I come across isn't science, and is often in no way scientific. This is clearly anecdotal, but I've heard similar concerns emerge unsolicited from from other fully grown people. Lets start with something simple. Atheism != science. If you were indoctrinated into atheism by your family, that has nothing to do with you being 'sciencey' or analytical. Pictures of animals and the natural world could quite easily be relabelled 'I fucking love God', and be used to support claims of his engineering prowess.

I'm not down with religion. I don't dislike it. It just isn't my scene. I'm very fond of people who do it in their life, but I don't do it in my life. I lack faith, and while there are times when I wish that I was capable of it, at the end of the day I am who I am. I perceive the world in a certain way, and the thing that I really get down with is improving that perception. I kind of like being wrong these days; That is how you learn, and learning is where it is at.

I think there is also this animosity towards science from certain groups, because they think that science is this completely unbending thing made of facts that have to be known. Science is a methodology and an approach. It is a way of taking the information that we have and then figuring out what other information we might need. Through science we change the way that we understand things. That's cool. Science says to us, "We're not done. We may never be done." We do our bit, and then the next generation does theirs, and then it just goes on like that. That's cool.

If you are one of those people out there who 'fucking love science', you should read What is this thing called science? Actually, it doesn't really matter who you are or what your deal is, this book is fantastic. Read it and then ponder on how the people around you process 'the news' and political leanings and cultural opinions. It is interesting to me how many people cite a lack of evidence as the justification for not being religious, and then espouse non-evidence based rhetoric without even taking a breath. It's ludicrous. Especially around election time. I will warn you that this book is highly likely to make the vast majority of political discussions that you are likely to come across sound irredeemably imbecilic, which might actually be a plus.

Sunday 1 December 2013

Space pirates are the best flavour of pirate

As a child I was more than a little obsessed with Captain Harlock. To a certain extent, this never really subsided. He is on a list with other heroes that I imported from space to be included into my own personal pantheon for cosmic idolatry. My introduction was through a VHS, which I still own, of 1978's Space Pirate Captain Harlock, which was kind of awesome. Well, actually it still is awesome. People get down on it in a negative way, because that is the cool thing to do, but the English translation was bad-arse. The opening theme song was this fantastic astro-funk hero anthem called 'Take to the Skies' by Earth's own Mark Mercury. When we all get up to space, this is what it is going to sound like. I heard a cover in a bar a few years ago and just about lost my testicles, which I didn't notice until I tried to talk to one of the band members and instead of the usually appealing, dulcet tones that emerge from my mouth I sort of squeaked at him.

Out there, somewhere in the pop-culture oceans, circling Japan is the most recent Captain Harlock mutant to emerge from the juices. A movie that has the same name as the 1978 cartoon series, which is bound to get confusing. It's called Space Pirate Captain Harlock, and it's all in the third dimension.

I referred to this new film as a mutation of the Captain Harlock gene. Did you catch that? Did you wonder why? Well, Leiji Matsumoto, the man behind the pirate, has taken the captain out on a number of occasions, but observes continuity the same way that Robin Thicke observes monogamy, in that it appears to be something that other people are getting all worked up about, but the basic concept remains elusive. Nearly every outing has seen the character rebooted, except it isn't really a reboot; it's just how it works. This is how mythology worked. The stories didn't all fit together, but the characters stayed pretty much the way they were. If you're ever seen any of the Harlock stories, you'd understand why I drew the parallel. Harlock is a demigod of our future mythology. His fables are both epic and applicable, and are primarily about responsibility. There are times when we must take responsibility just because no one else will. Harlock is tragic, compassionate, and idealistic, and is more often than not depicted as making difficult decisions when there is no good answer.

I would like to see this movie. It's on my list. I've tried finding out if it is a thing that might happen sometime in the foreseeable future, but I've been fairly unsuccessful. By 'fairly' I do actually mean 'completely'. There has been no success on that front. This feels quite the shame to me. Harlock represents a certain brand of idealism for me. Something I idolised as a child, and perhaps to a certain extent still do. I think a lot about the world we live in, and the role that I should play, and I am often surprised at how often I fall back on the lessons learnt at the feet of the Captain when determining what I should be doing.