Sleep for days. Don’t ever change. You’ll be here in the morning just to hear me say… read the Canon

In order to maintain the pretence that I’m in any way a social creature, I joined a bookclub (see WriteronWriter for the blog of one of the co-clubbers).  In response to a recent article in The Australian (and see the replies), a short disagreement arose about the merits of Dead White Guy Lit.

There is obviously a difference between ‘popular culture’ and ‘culture’ simpliciter.  If there weren’t, those two words would mean the same thing.  We understand intuitively that there is a difference between ‘That which I find enjoyable’ and ‘That which I recognise as good’.  Note, this distinction has not always been appreciated.  Even somebody as elite as Immanuel Kant argued that, if there were a disagreement between the conventions of style and taste and that which he found pleasing, he would tell the advocate of the conventions to utter not a word more.  Cultural excellence was, somehow, immediate: it did not require further reasoning.  That Kant dedicates a book to the subject suggests that, perhaps, further reasoning was needed…

‘It’s very good but I did not enjoy it’ would be incoherent if there were not a divide between pleasurable and excellent.  As it is not incoherent, there is a divide.

So how can we distinguish between the excellent and the pleasurable?  The obvious answer is cultivation. Continue reading “Sleep for days. Don’t ever change. You’ll be here in the morning just to hear me say… read the Canon”

How I wish you could see the potential… but I should post non-boring stuff as well

I like the internet. It’s a good procrastination tool for when you have things to do which you really ought to do but oh God it’s far too warm for that kind of thing.

In an age a long, long time ago, remixing the words of a politician was a rather laborious affair. So much so that remixes of that sort were a massive novelty, thus the popularity of Pauline Pantsdown‘s ‘Backdoor man’ and ‘I don’t like it’.

Now, anything and everything can be remixed thanks to the wonders of the internerds.

Ever wondered what would happen if you mixed Nine Inch Nails with the Ghostbusters? Wonder no more!

Thought that Jean-Luc Picard’s cry of defiance in Chain of Command (part two, series six, episode eleven) needed to be commemorated with a dance track?

The possibilities are nearly endless, especially with the ability to manipulate the meaning of the words. Shatner on the Mount:

And then you have the ability to turn media incidents into catchy beats. From Bill O’Reilly’s freak out:

We get:

Clare Werbeloff’s encounter with Channel Nine earlier this year became:

But, for me, the zenith of this artform will always be the ungodly love child of Japanese Ronald McDonald with U.N. Owen was Her (Project Shrine Maiden):

This spawned an entire genre of clips:

And then you have a wave of cover versions making crappy songs into significantly less crappy songs. Lady Gaga’s Poker Face as a rock cover doesn’t completely suck:

Then again, since the year 2000, cover versions have generally been superior to the original (as opposed to the cover version before the year 2000 — including Jeff Buckley’s). Consider Johnny Cash’s version of Hurt:

Lilly Allen’s version of Womanizer:

And Elbow’s cover of Independent Woman:

Maybe we’ve just become better at recycling?

Is it in your genes, I don’t know… but if it sells, Hollywood will make more of it

Over on io9, Annalee Newitz accurately comments that Avatar is just CGI white guilt.

Avatar imaginatively revisits the crime scene of white America’s foundational act of genocide, in which entire native tribes and civilizations were wiped out by European immigrants to the American continent. In the film, a group of soldiers and scientists have set up shop on the verdant moon Pandora, whose landscapes look like a cross between Northern California’s redwood cathedrals and Brazil’s tropical rainforest. The moon’s inhabitants, the Na’vi, are blue, catlike versions of native people: They wear feathers in their hair, worship nature gods, paint their faces for war, use bows and arrows, and live in tribes. Watching the movie, there is really no mistake that these are alien versions of stereotypical native peoples that we’ve seen in Hollywood movies for decades.

[…]

[A] few of these humans don’t want to crush the natives with tanks and bombs, so they wire their brains into the bodies of Na’vi avatars and try to win the natives’ trust. Jake is one of the team of avatar pilots, and he discovers to his surprise that he loves his life as a Na’vi warrior far more than he ever did his life as a human marine. [‘When will white people stop making movies like Avatar?’, source]

She then follows up this analysis with a wail that white people keep making movies about white guilt (like Dances with Wolves and District 9). It’s almost as if she’s shocked that Hollywood would keep making profitable films.

And that’s what this is. Left wing whities — who are typically the sort of people who spend vast amounts of cash at the cinematron — love to feel guilty about the past and so they’ll gladly fork out to go see a film which makes them feel better for feeling guilty. Oh, and they’ll also complain that the film is intrinsically racist. Left wing people of all colours feel a sense of unity when they’re randomly calling things racist. It’s a bonding experience.

If white guilt films weren’t so profitable, they wouldn’t get made. As they are profitable, they do get made. It’s your free market at play. Continue reading “Is it in your genes, I don’t know… but if it sells, Hollywood will make more of it”

You ask me to enter, then you make me crawl… but the main characters have mismatched power levels

The Sorting Algorithm of Evil is an often criticised concept. Oh, shock. All the easy villains were in the first series, and now — mystery of mysteries — the real villains have shown up. And now the all-powerful puppet masters controlling the real villains have shown up. And now the intergalactic queens of the universe who hired the all-powerful puppet masters controlling the real villains have shown up…

But it exists for a reason.

Shows where one side clearly out matches the other have a habit of being dull unless you can put on your suspenders of disbelief quickly enough. Matches between Awesome Hero and weakling bad dude (see: Batman versus the street gangs) seem like petty bullying. Matches between Awesome Villian and weakling heroes (see: Star Trek: First Contact) seem wildly implausible when they end.

A worse example of the latter were several of the recent season finales of Doctor Who. The Master is completely wiping the floor with everybody, so the Doctor is granted magical powers by the psychic satellites. Davros has stolen the Earth to make a planetary weapon out of planets, so the Doctor learns how to control his regeneration so he can create a clone and a human-Time Lord hybrid clone… or something.

Good drama requires evenly matched combatants, and it’s poor writing if one of the combatants quickly level grinds in order to get a massive advantage over the other.

Enter: Jedi. Continue reading “You ask me to enter, then you make me crawl… but the main characters have mismatched power levels”

Your heart’s beating at another door. I’m a damn fool to ask for more… in funding for the Olympics

Yeah, you never thought you’d see Jimmy Nail lyrics ever again, did you?

Australia sure likes its sport, doesn’t it? Mind! I don’t mean that Australia likes playing its sports. No, no. We still have tubby kids, after all.

In order to show how much we love our sport, we spend a miniature fortune each year on the sports industry.

Wait… by ‘We’, I of course mean ‘The Federal Government’. And by ‘a miniature fortune’, I mean ‘a miniature fortune of tax-payer funds’.

The history of funding sports in Australia is long and sordid. There’s  a rather famous story of the Minister who decided that we were wasting funds on the sports industry and so — correctly — reduced funding… only for his opposition to paint him (succesfully) as the horrible Minister that was trying to destroy Australia’s reputation as an elite sporting country.

A review of federal funding for sports was commissioned, called the Crawford Review. It contains such gems as:

‘The Panel believes that these matters need to be addressed if:

  • Australia is to continue to be successful at the elite level.
  • All Australians are able to participate in their sport(s) of choice.
  • The health and wellbeing of our population is improved.

The Panel believes that if the right structure and governance is put in place, there is every chance for a successful future for Australian sport. Without the right structure and governance, success will not result.‘ — Crawford Report [Source]

So what is the right structure and governance? Two bodies – one for policy (Australian Sports Commission) and one for service delivery (Australian Institutes of Sport). Everybody knows that programmes work best when you split the service delivery from the policies governing the service delivery. It sort of shows that the people writing the report were part of the sports industry and not, y’know, people who generally think about governance and policy.

In even funnier recommendations:

Australia’s high-performance sport system should be based on the principle that elite programs be delivered at optimal locations—and the system must facilitate the engagement of other providers such as universities and private organisations where appropriate.‘ — Crawford Report [Source]

It’s almost Yes, Prime Ministerish. Where should all the military officers be stationed? Right near Harrods. It’s the principle that the elite should be in the optimal locations, after all.

The Australian Olympic Committee aren’t happy with it, mostly because it means less money going directly to them. Their complaint is that less funding will mean less medals. It is a curious feature of our Olympics coverage that we don’t calculate how much each medal costs the federal government. When we’ve got crippled education, health, and emergency systems, exactly how much money can be justified in pouring into Olympic medals?

At the end of the day, there are votes to be lost if funding is diverted from sports to infrastructure and so no goverment will ever divert funding from sports to infrastructure.

Go, democracy!