The Complete Debarkle (soft launch)

Soft launches are trendy in marketing circles (or was that long lunches?). This time, this is more out of a vow to have this project all done before 2021 ends rather than cunning marketing. Currently, the final ebook version has hit a snag with Draft2Digital because their bots are picking up the shared content with the multi-volume version. I’ve delisted those but it will probably take a few emails to get the ebook up in the usual outlets.

coming soon in other formats

Undeterred by circumstance, and not wanting to ruin the many New Year’s Eve party readings of Debarkle that I’m sure you all have planned, I am publishing the PDF version with bonus content and a fancy cover.

Big thanks to Danny Sichel for the additional checks and corrections.

Firefly Friday: Ep 4 The Shindig

If we are looking for parallels between the show’s setting and the US Civil War era, this episode has lots of them but at the same time present them in a way that makes an easy comparison difficult. There are references to slavery as a practice on the planet Persephone where the story is set and the social event, which is the focus of the story, is meant to evoke the antebellum South. However, this is all after the war, and Persephone is apparently a planet in good standing with The Alliance.

So, there are no neat analogues here. Whedon pulls bits from the general idea of mid-to-late nineteenth-century America and uses them as it suits him.

Mal is presented as a dick throughout. His unresolved feelings towards Inara are presented as aggression towards her profession. His hostility to sex work is amplified by the in-universe respectability of her work as a Companion — respectability that puts her social standing on Persephone as higher than his.

He’s also mean to Kaylee, which I think confirms that the script here is intentionally making Mal be unlikable and petty. He’s clearly on an arc but given the episodes were shown out of order, this arc would have been a very odd one when originally broadcast.

The ever-reliable Mark Sheppard returns as the Cockney criminal Badger. His existence (and a not quite Dick Van Dyke impression by River Tam) implies the existence of a little Cockney moon somewhere in this otherwise Western-themed solar system. His plot involvement is a bit forced but he’s always a welcome presence.

The titular shindig is a social event on Persephone to which Inara has been invited in her professional capacity to boost the status of a posh-git Atherton Wing. Meanwhile, Badger pressures Mal to attend the same event to set up a deal with another big-wig attendee who needs some goods shipped all-quiet-like. Mal ruins everybody’s day by getting into a fight with Atherton who is trying to pressure Inara to stay permanently on Persephone. The fight has to be resolved as a duel the following morning but while Atherton is an accomplished swordsman, Mal is not. And so on…

It’s a pretty thin story that throws around ideas about honour and status, but without much of a clear idea about what it wants to say about them. The low key story (compared to the brutal murders of the previous episode) and the farce-like premise of Mal and Kaylee infiltrating a ball, really needed more obvious humour. As is, the show goes for a sit-com/farce episode but doesn’t let the dialogue play out that way. It’s weird to accuse a Jos Whedon show of having insufficient amounts of quippy dialogue and yet here we are.

I think I’ve watched enough episodes to start a bit of a ranking. Episode numbers are based on the Wikipedia/current order not the original broadcast order (I think IMDB has the original order here https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0303461/episodes?ref_=tt_eps_sm )

Ranking

  1. Episode 3: Bushwacked. More space, less cowboy. Good stuff.
  2. Episode 2: The Train Job. A second go as an introduction to the show.
  3. Episode 1: Serenity. The original pilot has some rough edges.
  4. Episode 4: The Shindig. Diverting but needed more jokes or more depth or both.

Timothy On The Edge

[Scene: A folly on the grounds of Felapton Towers. Metacosmos ∂∅⦿6]

Camestros: It’s quite a nice day, all things considered.
Timothy the Talking Car [wearing a beret]: No it isn’t.
Camestros: That’s just my opinion.
Timothy: You’re opinion is trash.
Camestros: Well, that’s unusually succinct from you. What’s the matter?
Timothy: I’m being edgy now. It’s what I do.
Camestros: Oh. Well, I kind of like it. You are saying less. It’s progress of a sort and we can maybe work on this until you just let out an occasional “meow”.
Timothy: You are too old to understand.
Camestros: Aren’t you older than me? You told me last week that you fought on “the wrong side” of the Franco-Prussian War. I’m still not sure how to parse that.
Timothy: You are too bourgeois to understand my concept of time.
Camestros: You didn’t seriously just say “bouergois”?
Timothy: No, I said bourgeois. Use a flippin’ spell checker, boomer.
Camestros: OK, firstly I’m not in any sense a boomer and secondly how can I misspell something if I’m speaking out loud and thirdly since when did you start using words like bouergois bourgeois?
Timothy: I’m a communist now.
Camestros: You’re a communist? The only cat ever to join the John Birch society? The only cat who cries when he loses his plush stuffed toy of Ayn Rand? The only cat who spent five weeks trying to talk like Charlton Heston speaking to the NRA conference. Why the sudden change of heart?
Timothy: I was an anarchist yesterday.
Camestros: Sure but at least that was sort of on-brand (in the more popular understanding of the word “anarchism” rather than in the more accurate nature of anarchism as an ideology).
Timothy: I’m far too edgy to listen to what you are saying.
Camestros: Well that’s a welcome change from last week when you were far too busy stuffing your face with Christmas kibble to listen to what I was saying. Let me guess, the only actually net change to your behaviour is the beret?
Timothy [sighs, stares off into the middle distance]: I’m a nihilist now. That’s how edgy I am.

Timothy: Can I have my stuffed toy of Ayn Rand back now?
Camestros: Yes, I think it’s dry now. Next Christmas if you get into the drinks cabinet again, try to vomit in the garden and not on your toys.
Timothy: I’m not hungover, I’m just edgy.

Review: Spider-Man and Hawkeye, MCU stuff, spoilers etc

Spider-Man: No Way Home actually has a cinema advert from the cast asking people who see the film not to spoil it. Notably, the key spoiler isn’t the plot (the trailers explain the main premise: the world finds out Peter Parker is Spiderman, he gets Dr Strange to magic that problem away and it all goes wrong…leading to visitors from earlier versions of Spider-Man visiting the current one). The “spoilers” are the identities of the multiple cameos about which there has been a lot of speculation. The warning about spoilers gets some of its own absurdity (i.e. if it is possible to be spoiled, then that confirms the speculation, hence the warning itself is a spoiler) by having Jamie Foxx (Electro from the Andrew Garfield Amazing Spiderman films) also cautioning people about spoilers only to be reminded by Tom Holland et al. that he is one of the spoilers.

Anyway, spoilers after the fold.

Continue reading “Review: Spider-Man and Hawkeye, MCU stuff, spoilers etc”

Review: Covid Rapid Antigen Testing – Part 2

This time (actually a few days ago) we will be sticking things up our nose. Last time I tried a saliva test, which was very easy to use but which had lower sensitivity. This time I’m using a test that swabs the inside of your nose and is technically in the “high sensitivity” range (see https://www.tga.gov.au/covid-19-rapid-antigen-self-tests-are-approved-australia )

The catch here is that the Hough COVID-19 Home Test (pdf,3.48Mb) may well be better at spotting whether you have covid but only if you do the test properly. This is a lot more complicated than the last one, as shown by all the bits and pieces you get.

This was from a pack of 2 tests – so there’s some duplication of stuff there

More steps mean more places where you can stuff things up. On the positive side, this feels a lot more like you are doing an exciting home experiment than the last test. Even more exciting is that ominous-looking black metal cylinder. That turns out to be a little UV light.

In the foil packet is one of those standard plastic rectangles that look a bit like a pregnancy test. However, to see the magic lines which reveal whether you do or don’t have covid (or whether you messed up the test), you have to use the UV torch. For this test, the line(s) aren’t visible in normal light but instead glow (faintly) under UV.

So 5 out of 10 for ease of use and 10 out of 10 for forensic science LARP vibes.

Next time: I’ll see what other types I can get. Apparently, NSW will start providing free tests in the new year.

[I didn’t have covid according to the test – phew]

Susan’s Salon: Day After Boxing Day Edition

🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄

You can use the comment section to chat about whatever you want. Susan’s Salon is posted early on Monday (Australian Eastern Standard Time, which is still Sunday in most places). It’s fine to be sad, worried, vaccinated, unvaccinated-yet, angry or maybe even happy (or all of those things at once).

Please feel free to post what you like (either troubling news or pleasant distractions) in the comments for this open thread. [However, no cranky conflicts between each other in the comments.] Links, videos, cat pictures 🐈 etc are fine! Whatever you like! 😇

Firefly Friday: Ep 3 Bushwacked

Oh, this was very good. There’s a definite spark here and the claustrophobic sets and cast dynamic works together to make a great bit of science fiction television.

If you haven’t watched Firefly then start here. OK, that might not work but this is episode shows the show working much better. For example, the clever cutting of the interrogation scenes where each of the crew (aside from Simon & River) are interviewed by the Alliance ship does two things. The crew all get to show aspects of who they are and the crew as a whole gets to demonstrate how they work together. Neatly done and even though most of them don’t do very much for the rest of the episode, it is an excellent way of using an ensemble cast economically.

Back to the plot. Serenity finds a ghost ship and when they investigate they discover the crew have been massacred by Reavers. Now I know from what I remember of the movie that there’s a back story to the Reavers but given the whole 2000’s Ron Paul newsletter vibe of the show so far, the inclusion of an irrationally violent mob worried me a bit in the pilot episode.

There is though, one surviving passenger on the ship who is psychologically unstable. It turns out that he is turning into a reaver by a process that goes unexplained. The lack of explanation really adds to the horror of the episode. In the presence of this irrational horror, the basic conflict of Browncoat v Alliance is undermined. There is a monster in space and it is a monster that transcends the defining conflict of the show.

I don’t like horror, except that I love horror. I’m just not very good with horror because it scares me and that makes me the perfect audience for horror because it is pointless if it doesn’t scare you. This is Doctor Who grade horror but with more pragmatic cynicism and no easy resolution. The survivor goes mad and kills lots of people. We don’t know why but it is a thing that happens in space.

This was close to perfect as a piece of sci-fi TV of its time. It made use of the setting and monetary & physical limitations to tell a tense story while giving the whole cast a moment to make an impression. If the rest of the episodes match this on average then I get why Firefly has devoted fans.

Review: Covid Rapid Antigen Testing

I don’t think I ever gave a mission statement on what I review but my approach has been a lazy one: wait until I bump into things of pop-cultural significance and write about them. Today’s exciting collision was with Rapid Antigen Testing.

Home testing offers a simpler way of finding out whether you have Covid or not. However, it is less accurate and less reliable. In some countries, home tests are being made available for free. In Australia, you have to pay $10-$20 per test (Au $ throughout). There’s apparently shortages but I bought a box of 5 nasal tests ($55) and a box of 2 saliva test ($30) without any issues.

I gave the saliva test a go because I’ve already had the professional experience of sticking things up my nose. It’s definitely less unpleasant. You have to hold the stick at an angle in your mouth for a period of time while it absorbs some of your spit. Once you’ve done that bit you shove it into a bottom section (the base shown in the picture). After several minutes lines appear in a shout-out to many depictions of pregnancy tests in TV & movies (and real life).

The test used was Ecotest Covid-19 Antigen Saliva Test kit (saliva) from China, which is only rated “acceptable” by the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration. That means it is good enough to be sold but could be better. The figure is 80% positive per cent agreement for the sensitivity of the test i.e. when given positive samples, the test spots them correctly 80% of the time in trials (I think). https://www.tga.gov.au/covid-19-rapid-antigen-self-tests-are-approved-australia

Next time: Hough Covid-19 Home Test (Nasal Swab) gives me a legitimate reason to stick things up my nose.