We will dance high up balancing ballet… #Choose6 Futurama edition

Recreation of the Earth Flag "Old Freebie...
Recreation of the Earth Flag “Old Freebie”, as seen in the animated series, Futurama. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is too much television.

There are also too many books, too many plays, and way too many films.  So much so that it must surely be impossible for the ordinary person to keep up with all the best pop culture and literature.  My housemate — made of much stronger stuff than me — managed to get through every episode of Breaking Bad.  Apparently, it got decent a few seasons in.  Myself, I can’t justify sitting through two awful seasons just on the off chance that it eventually gets better.

And it’s worse for science fiction fans.  Our television shows last decades.  If you were to watch every single episode of Star Trek (in each of its different series), it would take you 533 hours, 45 minutes to watch them all. That’s about 22 days of doing nothing but watching Star Trek, including the absolutely terrible Enterprise seasons.

What we need is a guide.  We need the fans to admit that not every single episode of our favourite shows are essential, enriching viewing.  We need people to sit down, scratch their chins and answer a simple question: ‘Which six episodes should I watch?’

Here’s my Futurama list:

Continue reading “We will dance high up balancing ballet… #Choose6 Futurama edition”


From the road where the cars never stop… The Bachelor is immoral wank

Finding a life partner should not be like going to a buffet.

It will surprise nobody to know that I have crippling anxiety issues.  I’m awkward and get tired around people quickly.  I’m intensely private and often seem cold and out of place.  Nothing fills me with dread quite as much as the idea of hitting on somebody in public.

Fortunately, technology has come to our aid.  While one of the millions of hours of Star Trek is playing on channel 11, I can create a dating profile on some website.  I can list relevant details about me and upload this really awesome selfie of me wearing a fedora.

(That paragraph was a joke.  Mostly.  I do look awesome in a fedora.)

This process has caused some levels of concern.  E-mails filled with potential partners are sent and you’re encouraged to peruse as if you were catalogue shopping.  Will she like my taste in books?  Will she be able to tolerate my family?  Will she look good on my sofa?  People are literally marketing themselves, reducing themselves to what they perceive to be their appealing characteristics while disguising their less appealing aspects.  There’s a dehumanising aspect about the affair as people are objectified for the judgement of others.

The Bachelor — a reality show where some dopey halfwit judges has to ‘eliminate’ one girl a week until he finds a life partner — is this shallow, narcissistic view of dating beefed up to 11.  It’s what happens when you take the ‘Internet Dating’ approach to intimate interaction to its extreme.

Continue reading “From the road where the cars never stop… The Bachelor is immoral wank”

Let it rain, I hydroplane into fame… My shallow review of My Kitchen Rules

I’ve been criticised — criticised! — by somebody for overthinking everything.  Tonight at dinner, I was accused — accused! — of not simply enjoying Disney films, pathologically needing to uncover the hidden meaning in fluff entertainment (for example, The Lion King is anti-Semitic propaganda about the divine right of kings; &c., &c.).

Said one person: ‘I just want to see you under-think something… just once. […]  That would be thrilling.’

So here’s my review of My Kitchen Rules.


My Kitchen Rules is all about food and cooking it.  When the food is cooked, people eat it and say if the food was worth eating.  Sometimes, it is not worth eating and the people eating the food say so.  Sometimes, the food is definitely worth eating and the music changes to show how much the people eating the food enjoyed eating the food.

The point of My Kitchen Rules is not to be sent home.  You are sent home if you lose one of two weekly challenges and if you then lose a ‘cook off’ against the team that lost the other of the two weekly challenges.  The target audience of My Kitchen Rules is people who like to watch both people cooking food and people eating food.  The challenges are included to keep things ‘interesting’, but this means that sometimes the show has to broadcast something other than people cooking food and/or people eating food.  The producers of My Kitchen Rules clearly understand that this might confuse the audience, so they make sure that the rules of the current challenge are repeated as often as possible.  I think this is stupid because it means even less time watching people cooking food and/or eating food.

My Kitchen Rules is not the same thing as Masterchef.  In Masterchef, the people cooking the food are individuals.  In My Kitchen Rules, the food is cooked by teams.  Teams are made up of one person who has a personality disorder and another person who is a vegetable.

I like watching My Kitchen Rules because cooking the food often involves spectacular disasters and I quite enjoy Schadenfreude.


Holy Crap, that’s hard to do.

My Kitchen Rules is not at all about food.  You might think that it’s about food, but it’s not.  It’s about the fetishisation of consumption.  The hint is in the name of the programme: My Kitchen Rules.  On the one hand, we can parse the title with ‘Rules’ as an adjective.  When I say that Ganondorf in Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess totally rules, I mean that Ganondorf is awesome and spectacular.  It’s a laudatory comment.

There are two other alternatives.  It could be a noun.  This is a show about the Rules of my kitchen.  This is noteworthy because (as indicated above) the kitchens belong to teams, yet the title refers to a single owner of the kitchen rules.  The dynamics of each team are nearly uniform: one member of the team is clearly the dominant controller, while the other is more subservient.  The result is a series of studies in Nietzschean Master-Slave morality.

Nietzsche thought there were two families of morality: master morality, where the attributes of the strongest in society where considered virtues; and slave morality, where the actions of the strong were to be controlled to the advantage of the weak.

There are three manifestations of this exploration.  The first is where the teams hold fast to master morality: one member of the team dictates to the other what will occur, either through sheer obstinacy or — in the most fascinating relationship of them all — through the infantilisation of the weaker member.  The latter requires some explanation: there is a team of two women who apparently really like desserts or something.  One of them claims to have some sort of experience with the cooking and eating of food.  The other is a moron.  In order for the team to function, the non-moron subjugates the moron by placing her in a position of minimal responsibility.  In these teams, we are witnessing the will to power of the stronger of the two team members.

The second manifestation is where the weaker of the two tries to establish rules of conduct so that the vegetable member feels like they are valued, even if this results in mediocre food-production.  This is pureset slave morality: the weaker partner cripples the vision and drive of the stronger partner by tricking the stronger partner into agreeing with particular rules of conduct.  Sometimes, the rules of conduct are not even explicitly stated (recalling Marx’ comment about ideology in Das Kapital: ‘They don’t know it, but they are doing it’).  For example, there are two blokey blokes where the rules of conduct are hidden behind the affectation of being ‘good blokes’.

The third manifestation explores ressentiment: the will of the weaker partner is not immediately sensible to them, instead it is filtered through the lens of what the weaker partner believes the stronger partner desires.  In turn, the weaker partner comes to blame the stronger partner for the lack of immediacy of their desires.  Thus, there is a strange couple where the guy is basically a doormat to his wife, who has anger management issues and is also coincidentally quite religious.  He subjugates his will — thus distancing himself from his own desires in order to adopt the desires of the stronger partner — in order to feel esteem, but when they do not succeed in something, he reacts to the mannerisms of his wife.  He — in the deep sense of the word — resents that she is a better partner.  In a recent episode, the wife’s anger management issues causes her to pass out in the heat.  When the doormat presents the team’s dish, he apologises to the people judging his food that the wife was unable to be there to enjoy their appreciation for the food.  He no longer sees himself as worthy of estimation, but as the support to his monster of a wife.

The Rules of My Kitchen, in this sense, is to what extent the two people in each team will structure their moral engagement within this Nietzschean framework.  We’ve even seen what happens when the weaker member of the team transgresses the Rules: the stronger partner shames the weaker partner by discussing them in the third person to the camera, while the weaker partner helplessly sits next to them.  ‘I feel like my teammate, who is sitting next to me, is not pulling their weight and I am left to ensure the perfection of this food.  The person sitting next to me is lazy, incompetent, and/or not worthy of me speaking to them directly.’

The other alternative for the interpretation of the name is that ‘Rules’ is a verb.  The point of the competition is for each kitchen to dominate and subjugate the other kitchens.  We see this most clearly in some of the competitions where executive power is bestowed through seemingly random happenchance to one of the teams.  For example, whichever team happened to kill the most marine life by weight was able to dictate the order in which teams would select their key ingredient for the challenge.  The competition confers upon individual teams strange, arbitrary, and non-justiciable capacities for non-physical violence.  The key point of these powers is to introduce an element of humiliation: powers are used to settle petty grudges and punish teams for crimes both real and imagined.  The end result is that some teams are disadvantaged to the extent that they find it difficult to perform optimally in these strange ‘challenges’.  What we see is less a competition about who can cook the best, and more a competition of who can best navigate the complex political web of the other kitchens who are trying to oppress their neighbours.

Whichever way you look at the word ‘Rules’, it is difficult to think that this is a show about determining who is the best cook.  They have turned the preparation of food into a game of political struggle and it’s the result of these struggles which lure viewers — consciously or sub-consciously — to each episode.

At the heart of this battle is the food itself.  The preparation and consumption of the good is not to satisfy any immediate need involving the food itself.  When I’m hungry, for example, I prepare a sandwich or something.  The utility of the food is its relationship to my hunger (or the hunger of people I am feeding).  When these cretins prepare food, it is not to satisfy hunger, but to dominate and oppress the other kitchens.

Most importantly, the enjoyment of the food is not inherent in the food but instead in relation to its capacity to realise the aspirations of the person who created it.  Of all things, food is the most utilitarian of commodities.  Good food is nourishing and it tastes good.  The food consumed in this show doesn’t have to be nourishing or tasty: it just has to cause shame to other contestants.  This is the fetishisation of consumption laid bare.

There is a physical relation between physical things. But it is different with commodities. There, the existence of the things quâ commodities, and the value relation between the products of labour which stamps them as commodities, have absolutely no connection with their physical properties and with the material relations arising therefrom. There it is a definite social relation between men, that assumes, in their eyes, the fantastic form of a relation between things. In order, therefore, to find an analogy, we must have recourse to the mist-enveloped regions of the religious world. In that world the productions of the human brain appear as independent beings endowed with life, and entering into relation both with one another and the human race. So it is in the world of commodities with the products of men‘s hands. This I call the Fetishism which attaches itself to the products of labour, so soon as they are produced as commodities, and which is therefore inseparable from the production of commodities. [Source: Marx, K Das Kapital vol 1]

This is why watching television and movies is so much more fun when I’m in the room.

We swam like rats on fire… The hypocrisy of Australian commercial media

Chris Kenny doesn’t like the ABC.

Sorry.  I should have warned you that I was about to reveal that world-shattering news.  No doubt you dropped your afternoon coffee in shock.  ‘How could it be so, Mark?’  I can hear you question from the future.  ‘Since when does the commercial media, particularly The Australian, hate the public broadcaster?’

Alas, ’tis true, ’tis true ’tis pity, and pity ’tis ’tis true.

Amid the bluster and bizarre faux-reasoning, runs a theme that taxes are being wasted on indulging the left.

In their first show, in 2004, hosts Michael Duffy and Paul Comrie-Thomson dared to ask whether, by feeding off the taxes of all and pitching primarily to a progressive few, the ABC was a form of middle-class welfare. Duffy, provocatively asked: “Should our desire to watch Britain’s naked and biting chefs without commercial breaks be subsidised? Or is this unfair on all the workers who have to put up with ad breaks on Channel 9? Is it time to talk about privatising the ABC?” [Kenny, C. ‘Whose ABC?’, The Australian]

Though quoting others, Kenny clearly agrees that it’s middle class welfare (particularly The Drum, though he doesn’t let slip that he also writes for it).

What he doesn’t reveal is that newspaper companies stay afloat by being compensated by Australian taxpayers, mostly through ridiculous spending by the government on job advertisements.  It has been noted, time and time again, that the government’s use of money in this way is wasteful, but it would cripple the industry if they withdrew the funds.

He also fails to reveal that news outlets waste thousands — if not millions — of dollars on frivolous Freedom of Information requests.  The Australian, like other newspapers, have ‘FoI Editors’ whose job it is to lodge dozens upon dozens of FoI claims to government departments in the hope of a scoop.  Though a nominal cost is placed on FoI applications, taxpayers bear the brunt of the costs.

‘In the hope of a scoop’ is the important part there.  Last week, News Ltd. got upset because Senator Conroy started releasing answers to their questions as media releases (thus ‘undermining’ the journalists’ exclusive scoops).  Their questions to government and constant FoI trawling is not in your interest: it’s in theirs.

And don’t they cry when governments try to circumvent them in order to provide us with information?

But let’s get to the meat of his complaint: ABC isn’t needed because there’s no media market-failure in Australia.

I just went through the TV guide for all free-to-air commercial stations, 6pm-10pm.  Apart from reality TV shows, where’s the Australian content?  It’s easier to come across repeats of ’60s American sitcoms on commercial television than it is to come across shows scripted, produced, and performed by Australians.  Commercial stations regularly complain about regulations which mandate Australian content: it’s more expensive (and therefore less profitable) than running U.S. shows.

Australia needs the ABC and SBS to run content which market forces deem unworthy.  Frankly, I don’t think that they go far enough — I hope that, now digital transmission has increased the number of channels, we’ll get a channel for Indigenous content.  If it weren’t for the ABC and SBS, Australian television would be almost entirely overrun by American issues and viewpoints.

I’m in love. I’m in love with a strict machine… and ACMA investigation reports

I love reading reports about investigation into complaints.  The ABC lists upheld complaints here.  You can even find stats.

While it’s probably adding to the idea that I should get a life, I couldn’t help but note that the percentage of upheld complaints in 2009 was a massive increase over previous years.

2003: 4.8%

2004: 2.8%

2005: 4.7%

2006: 2.5%

2007: 2.6%

2008: 2.9%

2009: 13.5%

It seems like the last quarter was a bit of a bastard for the ABC.  I initially thought it was because 20.7% of complaints about violence were upheld… but 73.4% of complaints about anti-opposition bias were upheld.  I’m not going to go on a rant about ABC bias because I love the ABC (I look forward to the day that it demonstrates to everybody that commercial news is yet another example of market failure). Continue reading “I’m in love. I’m in love with a strict machine… and ACMA investigation reports”

New York, I love you but you’re bringing me down… but not as much as the Doctor Who season finale.

io9.com produced a list of Doctor Who plot devices they wouldn’t mind avoided in future.  I’ve just finished watching the season finale and I was all like: Meh.

In the Harry Potter novels, there’s always that bit which lasts about five pages where some Chekhov’s Gun is explained in tedious detail.  Rowling has noted that she developed certain characters whose sole function was to explain piece of magic #45786-B and then fade into the background.

It’s dull and unimaginative story telling.  In the season finale of Doctor Who — SPOILER ALERT — most of the episode is taken up with explanations of what’s going on.  While some of it is clever (how did I miss the lack of references to Amy’s parents in the first episode?  Touche, Moffat), most of it caused me to reach for Angry Birds.

What was even more strange was that the person doing most of the explanations — the Doctor — had admitted earlier that he didn’t have a deep understanding of the Pandorica on account of it being a ‘fairytale’.  As if by magic, he came to realise the finer points of the Pandorica and could even hack its mainframe or something to cause a second Big Bang when flown into an exploding TARDIS.  How he knew the Pandorica could fly, I have no idea.

The high point of the series was definitely a return of the Weeping Angels.  They are absolutely terrifying and they disrupt my sleep for about a week after an episode.  I wouldn’t mind seeing more of them in future episodes; particularly if the script is careful not to add more powers to the Angels as the plot demands.

The low point continues to be River Song.  Holy frijoles, I hate that character.  The worst part is that we know when she dies (two seasons ago) so she’s effectively immortal.  There are going to be no episodes in which she dies within twenty seconds of the opening credits.  She’s just an irritating, unfunny, uninteresting character.

But when all’s said and done, I’m enjoying this Doctor a lot more than the last.  Matt Smith seems to have the quirky aspect of the Doctor mastered, making it seem a lot more like Classic Who.  Tennant’s angsty Who ran out of steam when Martha left him.  Martha remains the best companion.

Are you dead or are you sleeping? … The TiVo wins again

Behold, dear Canberrans!  We now have 7Two on Prime.

Unfortunately, it’s a bit shit.  I was really expecting more.  I even had a bit of a whine that the start of broadcast was going to be significantly delayed.  Instead, it’s only showing the very worst of Seven’s mediocre line-up.  It feels like the channel of things which got bumped of the analogue station on account of being a little bit too crap.

6pm – Jay Leno Show

6:30 – Mother and Son

7:30 – Heartbeat

8:30 – The Benny Hill Show… and so on and so forth.

In fact, the only place it excels is with the so-bad-it’s-hilarious-stuff.  Today, TiVo decided that I might like to watch Power Rangers: Operation Overdrive.  Holy frijoles, it was bad.  So bad, in fact, that I’m going to watch it regularly.

I don’t think words can actually describe how excruciatingly terrible it was.  It was so terrible that it inspired the feeling that I was doing something thoroughly despicable by watching it.  Like watching a trainwreck.  My eyes could not believe that I was watching something this dreadful.

The acting was thoroughly horrible.  The only thing worse than the horrible acting was the girl who could act (whom IMDB informs me is Beth Allen).  As if playing a cruel joke on the audience, the producers thought that they’d put the girl who could act next to the single worst actor I have ever seen on a television show (whom IMDB informs me is Dwayne Cameron).  Honest to God, it seemed like the gap in acting talent merely amplified the atrocity that was his acting ‘skill’.

Nothing made any sense.  While that’s probably par for course with the Power Rangers franchise, I really don’t understand why the enemies become easier when the odds (theoretically) tilt towards them.  For example, four good guys were taking on an army of mooks.  Two good guys had to leave in order to do something or other.  The two good guys slaughter the mooks en masse.

But the very worst bit was the unintentional misogyny of the show.  It is probably for good reason that I can’t find details on who wrote the episodes.  Over on The Savage Critic(s), there was an analysis of the concerning gender themes appearing in Marvel storylines.  It’s a good read.

The obvious conclusion to draw from DARK REIGN: THE LIST– X-MEN #1 is that at the close of 2009, a woman with an appetite for sex is apparently the very definition of fear and horror for Marvel comic creators and their audience.

I would diagnose such a belief as gynophobia.

This is not a metaphor; this is not sub-text. This is the explicit text of the comic: “We’ve modified her to keep her perpetually in estrus which explains her rotten attitude… but the result is a genetic W.M.D.” This is page one. This is the establishing shot. Here’s a line of dialogue from page 2: “Her gonadotropic hormones make her so hungry she’s been driven insane.”

Later in the comic, the arrival of the giant vagina is heralded as follows: “There’s nothing to her but hunger and rage and… and hate.” [Abhay, The Savage Critic(s)]

The villain line-up on Power Rangers: Operation Overdrive consists of:

  • Flurious, some sort of ice monster.

    Flurious - Some sort of ice monster
  • Moltor, some sort of fire monster

    Moltor - Some sort of fire monster
    Moltor - Some sort of fire monster
  • Kamdor, some sort of evil robot

    Kamdor - Evil robot
    Kamdor - Evil robot
  • Miratrix, a girl

    Miratrix - A girl
    Miratrix - A girl

Yup, the scourge of the universe is a girl.  Beware, ye mostly male superhero crew.  Evil girls will beat you up unless you take out your swords and clobber them.  There is nothing Freudian about this at all.

In other news, tonight on SBS2 (8:30) is The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello.  It is a wonderful short film (I didn’t realise it was a part of a series.  Hooray for new knowledge!) which explores the nature of monstrosity.  It is an utterly splendid film and I cannot recommend it enough.

In entirely different news, the Australian Bureau of Statistics has launched a new statistical literacy website.  As the acronym for the Bureau is the name of a group of muscles, the ABS are able to do all kinds of funky cool things.  They introduced Creative Commons Licensing for the website content.  In theory, this allows people to do what they were already doing in practice (i.e. use the data).  Okay, it’s not leaps and bounds but it’s certainly a fascinating step into the world of interactivity.  Now it has blogs and online tutorials.  Verily, it’s a brave new world.