Potato Crisp Magic System

I do like an over elaborate fantasy magic system where powers (and the characters of the people deploying them) are tied to some other phenomenon or system of classification. Of course elements and colours and everything has been done but what about…potato crisp (aka chip) flavours? No, I thought not.

I’ve found many articles on crisps and crisp flavours but not a good one that is simple timeline of the classic UK flavours of potato crisps specifically (i.e. not including flavours of other related snack foods like pickled onion monster munch). The emphasis is either the early history or on novelty flavours.

In the UK the colour coding of packet to flavour is an issue also. There are canonical colours but infamously one of the biggest manufacturers of crisps in the UK, Walkers, use non-standard colours. The colours in Australia are different as well and in some cases I can no longer remember.

So I’m going off my shaky recall of what I think is canon circa late 1970s England.

Salted (or to be precise “Ready Salted”) is the ur-flavour and the basis of all other variants. Historically, the flavour approach had an immediate schism. Cheese & Onion was devised by Taytos in Ireland and Smiths responded with Salt & Vinegar. The names indicate the two approaches to crisp flavours (and related snacks in general:

  • Condiment themed: the flavour is named after a substance, sauce or ingredient that you might add to cooked potatoes. The name should be read literally. “Salt & Vinegar” are crisps with salt & vinegar added to their surface.
  • Meal themed: the flavour is named after some other food that is typically eaten as a core part of a meal or is the actual name of a dish. The progenitor “cheese & onion” implies a sandwich filling. The more exotic “prawn cocktail” is a specific dish.

Beef flavour and BBQ flavour represent a subset of flavours that include other variants such as “Oxo” and “Bovril” flavours. The core flavour is pretty much the same but it crosses the condiment/meal boundary and hence is more ecumenical in this scheme.

What powers go with which?

  • Meal themed powers relate to powers of illusion, deception and control. There is an emphasis on controlling farm animals (hence chicken) or even wild animals (such as the long running hedgehog flavour crisps)
  • Condiment themed powers relate to elemental and alchemic actions. There is an emphasis on single or paired core flavours that are stated directly. Heat (chillies, pepper), acid (lime, vinegar), mineral (salt) are key elemental aspects.
  • Liminal flavours cross boundaries. The BBQ/Beef subset is a clear one but “sour cream” style flavours present a similar taste to cheese & onion but are closer in theme to adding condiments.

As can be seen from reality, the system allows for infinite variation without ever actually doing anything very different…just like lots of fantasy magic systems!

Review: Sorry to Bother You (2018)

I had been keen to see this film since the first review I’d read of it but if it ever had an Australian release I never saw it advertised. Written and directed by Boots Riley, the film follows it’s own pace and heads off in its own direction with all the confidence of a disturbing nightmare…but funny. It’s hard to describe the film without revealing aspects of the plot, which won’t spoil the film exactly but may undermine the impact.

The initial premise of the film is not a great help in getting a sense of what the film is like but it is a start. Cassius Green (played by an increasingly bewildered LaKieth Stanfield) is looking for a job. Unemployed and living in the garage of his uncle (Terry Crews), he fakes his CV for a job with a telemarketing company. The manager at the company sees through the deception but gives Cassius the job anyway.

Initially Cassius finds the work dispiriting, partly because of the low pay but also because of the intrusive nature of the work — shown visually by having him appear at his desk in people’s living rooms while they are trying to eat breakfast, mourn or have sex. However, his ability to sell things over the phone is transformed when an older man (Danny Glover) teaches him how to use his “white voice”. This isn’t a mere change in register but a whole new voice (provided by David Cross). With this new voice, Cassius’s life changes utterly, eventually leading him into the fabulously wealthy Wolf-of-Wall Street like world of the “power sellers” on the floor above.

Meanwhile, a fellow telemarketer at RegalView called Squeeze (Steven Yeun) is attempting to unionise the workforce and organise a strike, Cassius’s girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson) is attempting to launch her art exhibition, and obnoxious TechBro Steve Lift (Armie Hammer) has plans to change the very concept of work and employment.

Set in a world that isn’t quite ours, the film rests on slow humour and visual gags to weave a disturbing social satire. Everything is off balance, including the script and the story directions. Familiar images and settings only add to the constant unsettled feeling. On television the only show is “I Got the Shit Kicked Out of Me” and the adverts are all for “WorryFree”, Steve Lift’s modern day version of indentured servitude ‘disrupting’ the job market.

There are few laugh out loud gags and many surreal moments. The more science fictional elements become overt towards the end. The whole is something that has elements of Metropolis, Chaplin’s Modern Times, Peele’s Get Out with a dash of Philip K Dick paranoia. The ‘message’ is a simple observation that modern capitalism and the modern work place is dehumanizing us all and stripping people of their identities.

This isn’t a subtle film, except that the off kilter, spiraling plot carefully matches the central character’s own emotional journey. On the way the alienation from impostor syndrome, sudden wealth or viral-video notoriety are all touched on as the increasingly bloodied and disheveled Cassius discovers the world makes even less sense than he ever thought it did.

Star Trek Discovery: Perpetual Infinity (S2E11)

No major twists this week but the episode takes a similar pace as last week’s episode. This steadier pacing of episode is letting the actors play to the their strengths. Sonequa Martin-Green has always been one of the strongest assets of the show and has coped brilliantly with some of the absurd situations the script writers have thrown at Michael Burnham. This week she gets to deal with even more emotional trauma and less than stellar parenting when she meets her time-traveling mother. Even Spock appears moved and at least looks like he might think about shouldering some of the emotional labour that Michael’s two sets of parents have managed to dump upon her.

The wider plot is mainly a bunch of stuff that happens. I see in some other reviews (e.g. the Mary Sue review) that some saw this episode as a return to Season 1’s bad habits. I didn’t find that, if anything it looked more like an episode of a show that has a much better understanding of what it is: a set of flawed but deep people dealing with space nonsense played by a set of actors who really know how to convincingly carry that off.

Ash and Georgiou get their own side action as they get caught up in Section 31’s compromised situation with sinister future AI Control. Everything, of course, goes very badly for everybody but really, given the legitimate excuse of a time-travel plot, events actually had fewer holes than usual.

Only one substantial twist, and it’s not much of a spoiler, Red Angel/Michael’s Mum has no idea what the mysterious red signals are. So that particular plot mystery is re-instated.

Rankings

  1. An Obol for Charon (e4) – Classic Trek on a magic mushroom trip
  2. Point of Light (e3) – season one Discovery is back for revenge
  3. Brother (e1) – an action orientated fresh start for the Discovery crew
  4. Perpetual Infinity (e11) – Mistakes were made, repeatedly
  5. The Red Angel (e10) – the cast gets an episode to catch up with the plot and trap the Red Angel
  6. If Memory Serves (e8) – A sequel to The Cage and a prequel to The Menagerie
  7. New Eden (e2) – The Next Generation of The Next Generation
  8. Saints of Imperfection (e5) – Let’s get the old gang back together!
  9. Project Daedelus (e9) – Airiam we will miss you, though we barely got to know you
  10. Light and Shadow (e7) – Michael goes one way, Discovery goes another
  11. Sound of Thunder (e6) – Non-consensual medical procedures on a whole species

Bits and Pieces

  • A Tilly-lite episode this week. We do get to learn that her second favourite law of physics is Newton’s Third Law. Saru presents us from learning her first but I would guess its the Second Law of Thillydynamics (the amount of Tilly in an isolated episode always increases leading to a state of Tilly equilibrium.)
  • So there’s some obvious Borg speculation about Control. I suspect this won’t end up being Genesis of the Borg.
  • The softening of Georgiou is a bit disappointing. Obviously an on-going character can’t be as thoroughly evil as she was as Emperor but she shouldn’t become too nice.
  • The various Red Angel interventions make some more sense now and Michael’s mum has been retconned into watching over her in Season 1 also. Her intervention on Saru’s homeworld is less obvious though.
  • The mess up with the genetic signature from the Red Angel was just handwaved away. In short: they just don’t really know what they are doing with all this DNA stuff 🙂
  • Cora’s review is here http://corabuhlert.com/2019/03/29/star-trek-discovery-jerks-the-old-tear-ducts-in-perpetual-infinity/

Today’s junk food: Spag Bol flavoured crisps

Today I throw my body in the front of impending danger and take all the damage that would otherwise have inflected on you dear readers by eating thinly sliced starch covered in fats and salt. Specifically Smith’s Spag Bol flavoured “chips” (as they are uncouthly referred to in Australia*)

Disappointing really. I was hoping for a really strong tomato flavour but it was bit more generic smoky taste. I note that the packet says “contains milk or milk products” so at any moment I might be assaulted by one of the many gangs of roaming vegan vigilantes (or vegalantes as they are known) funded by shadowy sources (or perhaps shadowy sauces). Also the packet notes “contains soybeans of soybean products” which might enrage right wingers – thus putting these snacks in the radical centre. Gluten free though, so I’m not likely to angry any celiac street gangs.

The Gun Lobby

The big story in Australia currently is the undercover video of senior members of the far right anti-immigration party One Nation attempting to gain money from pro-gun lobbyists. In a distinctly Australian twist, their defense has been that they were drunk at the time: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/mar/26/one-nations-james-ashby-says-he-was-on-the-sauce-when-seeking-20m-from-nra

I was a bit wary of the story initially, as it was presented as a kind of video ‘sting’ operation. That sounded too reminiscent of the antics of James O’Keefe in the US whose MO is to create highly edited video of meetings with people form organisations that the right is targeting. However, there’s a lot more to the story.

An Australian journalist working for Al Jazeera spent three years undercover within the world of pro-gun campaigners. Rodger Muller established a fake Australian gun rights group and with little more than videos and a website became seen as a minor but important broker between US gun organisations and Australia. The full Al Jazeera story is here: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/03/sell-massacre-nra-playbook-revealed-190325111828105.html

Australian TV has been running the in-depth investigation over two nights on the ABC and it has been fascinating (part two is tonight). The political fallout is not large currently — One Nation didn’t receive any money and it appears that as far as their attempt at a deal with the NRA went it wasn’t sufficient to break electoral law. The scandal is unlikely to lose One Nation any votes but it is helping to denormalise the extremist party and it makes it harder for the Liberal Party to be seen to be co-operating with them. https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/mar/27/pauline-hanson-to-take-action-over-james-ashby-and-steve-dickson-but-not-yet

Pauline Hanson herself, the unlikely personality at the heart of One Nation’s cult of personality, was also captured spreading conspiracy mongering about the infamous Port Arthur massacre — the 1996 mass shooting that led to Australia adopting stricter gun laws: https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/pauline-hanson-appears-to-question-port-arthur-massacre-in-video-20190327-p518a6.html

In the wake of the Christchurch murders, the issues of both guns and anti-immigrant extremism and Islamophobia have become more prominent in Australian politics. People are very aware that the shooter was an Australian but also that he could only access the weapons he used in New Zealand. The gun lobby in Australia is not high profile but they spend large amounts of money attempting to influence politicians to soften gun laws:

“Australians may be surprised to discover the gun lobby in Australia rivals the NRA in size and spending, according to Australia Institute research commissioned by Gun Control Australia.”

https://www.smh.com.au/national/australia-s-gun-lobby-and-its-political-donations-laid-bare-20190327-p5184g.html

A key strategy is access to right wing minor parties who lack both cash and ethics. Such parties are unlikely to ever form government at either state or federal level but they often have a few seats in upper senate-like chambers of parliament (either state or federally) to either hold the balance of power or be influential in helping controversial legislation through.

Lastly, doubling back to question of journalist ethics, there’s a longer discussion about that aspect here: https://theconversation.com/did-al-jazeeras-undercover-investigation-into-one-nation-overstep-the-mark-114288

Tim’s Signs of the Zodiac

  • March 21 to April 21: You are Assertive Sheep. You are a sheep but very assertive…for a sheep. You catchphrase is ‘bah’. You follow the rest of your flock but under protest and you are happy to explain to everybody why the flock is going in the wrong direction.’
  • April 21 to May 21: You are Very Angry Cow. This is just like the last sign: you are a stroppy farm animal. Your catchphrase is ‘MOO! F*CKIN MOO!’ You like to eat grass and hit people with your head.
  • May 21 to June 21: You are The Two People. Your catchphrase is ‘I may be two people but at least I’m not a farm animal with poor emotional control’. Your hobby is running away from farm animals with poor emotional control. You jump into the sea to escape them only to find the sea has goats in it.
  • June 21 to August, no July 21: You are Snappy Shellfish. Your catchphrase is ‘I’m SHELLfish not SELFISH’ That isn’t true though because you are both.
  • July 21 to August 21 definitely this time: You are Big Hairy Cat. You are the best. Your catchphrase is ‘Meow, mother truckers!’ Your mother drove a truck unless she was English in which case she drove a lorry: Either way the vehicle was full of merchandise from 1980s cartoons.
  • August 21 to September 21: You are Shop Window Mannequin. You don’t have a catchphrase as you just stare at the shoppers in the street ahead of you with a look on your face that silently condemns that empty consumerism of Western society and its obsession with fashion. You ironically wear a t-shirt with the title of a TV show you watched as a kid.
  • September 21 to (counts on paw) October 21: You are Kitchen Equipment. Your catchphrase is ‘I’d be happy to help but I’m stuck in this cupboard’. Your personality trait is metric versus imperial. You know what a fluid ounce is. You have some flour stuck to your bottom.
  • October 21 to November 21: You are Doctor Scorpio The Scorpion. You are a bad guy in a 1980’s cartoon. You might be the main henchminion or you might be the boss. If you are the boss then you have a cat. Your catchphrase is ‘Time to die Aqua-Goat!’
  • November 21 to December 21: You are What Even Is That. You have way too much going on and some sort of horse, human, archery vibe thing. Looks sporty I guess. Your catchphrase is ‘Doctor Scorpio’s hideous experiments may have made me a monster but they could not rob me of my basic humanity’.
  • December 21 to January 21: You are Aqua-Goat! The very quickly cancelled 1980’s cartoon superhero who was a wise-cracking sea goat who solved sea-mysteries with his gang of friends who lived on a boat. Your friends were a cheap knock-off of the Scooby gang and the Archies. Your catchphrase was ‘Time to solve this sea mystery Aqua-Goat style!’ That sounds a bit sad but unlike all these other signs at least you HAVE friends even if one of them is a badly drawn version of Jughead mixed with Shaggy.
  • January 21 to February 21: You are Bucket Guy. You have buckets. Your catchphrase is ‘I’ve brought buckets if anybody wants one’ but nobody ever does want one.
  • February 21 to March 21: You are Fishy McSwim. Your catchphrase is ‘ I hate Aqua Goat. What’s a goat doing in the sea anyway? How did this ever get made?’ Yet for some reason you still track down repeats of Aqua-Goat on obscure cable channels just so you can snark about them from the confines of your fish tank. Your best friend is Assertive Sheep who texts your regularly about the stupid thing the flock is doing now which Assertive Sheep is going along with but under protest. ‘I know just how you feel!’ You text back to Assertive Sheep. You may be a fish with an obsession about a cartoon you hate but you know how to validate your friend’s feelings. You always politely decline Bucket Guy’s offer of buckets but you get where he is coming from.