Hi Christopher. I see from your comment at Sarah Hoyt’s blog that you’ve seen my post and I can see that you have at least scrolled past the comments in question.
I’m genuinely interested in what you think of them. Feel free to comment to this post. I’ll ask others that comment here usually not to reply so that there won’t be a dogpile of comments.
[Dear regular readers – if Chris does reply, please don’t reply to his comment, so that he gets a chance to explain what he thinks is going on in those comments.]
Some caveats to start with:
- A comment section does not represent the views of the host of a blog in any consistent way. Some hosts are more lenient, some less so.
- Discussion can go to strange places and without context, an isolated comment may look quite different.
- People can speculate about the possible behaviour of others without necessarily endorsing that behaviour. For example, somebody might talk about the circumstances in which North Korea might use a nuclear weapon but expect readers to understand that this would be a bad thing that they don’t want to happen.
- People sometimes make dark jokes about terrible things.
- Sometimes translated comments or comments made in a second or unfamiliar language may not represent what a person is actually trying to say.
There are secondary ethical questions around each of these. I’ll let readers decide whether any of those apply in the situation I’m discussing.
After the fold, I’m going to discuss some comments on a blog I often look at somewhat adversarially. Before that, a content warning about what appears to be very disturbing comments aimed at Roma people – an ethnic minority in European that is subjected to on-going racism and harassment as well as a long history of being subjected to violence and attempted extermination. The comments vary from what is apparent casual racism and stereotyping to extreme proposals including genocide.
I hunger and thirst for clear, short sentences that are free of solecisms, typos and spelling errors and avoid uneccesary tangents about other things – like that time I traded learning to ride a bicyle for teaching somebdy how to climb a tree – and never wander off into discussions about the impact of medieval British Fransciscan monks on critical thinking which segue into discussion about the roots of science-fiction as a genre, for example the legend of Roger Bacon’s giant brass head that could talk that was adapted into the Elizabethan play “Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friar_Bacon_and_Friar_Bungay ) which has all sorts of SF tropes (teleportation, artificial intelligence, defensive force fields) and frankly should be better known, and also did I mention avoid run-on sentences because I hunger and thirst for avoiding those as well.
HUNGER and THIRST for that people. HUNGER AND THIRST FOR IT. Oh why, oh why can’t my numerous enemies be more like me in my great virtue for hungering and thirsting for these things?
A list of things that crop up so often on television reprsentation of middle-class suburban homes that I decided to make a list. Television is an oddly distorting lens with which to see culture. Despite what British soap-operas like Coronation Street or Eastenders might claim, all the major characters in a street do not ritually turn up at the pub later in the evening. The viewers know that and the convention arises partly from times when that was more common and partly because the practicalities of the show requires a time-specific set for disparate characters to interact. Staying in Britain for a moment, even viewers who know little about the UK probably understand that small country towns do not have a massive (and idiosyncratic) murder rate nor are such murders routinely solved by police officers with odd personalities or people from unrelated professions.
But I promised a list about the US and specifically some representations of the US that exist as background rather than central to the premise of the plot. I’m piling in all sorts of sources which I won’t list systematically – The Simpsons, Home Alone, Breaking Bad to name three.
- American homes have basements. Not every home obviously (Walter White’s home in Breaking Bad didn’t but Jesse’s grandmother’s did). The basements are nearly completely underground except for little windows. The basements are often repurposed as spare rooms or rooms for hobbies or teenagers or a meth lab.
- Basements have furnaces to heat the house. This was a big deal in Home Alone for example. Less common overall though I think but part of the next mystery.
- The houses don’t have radiators. Now Australian homes don’t have radiators to heat homes either (at least not in Sydney) but that’s because they tend not to have much heating other than reverse-cycle air conditioning. Is it floor vents of some kind that these US TV homes have? And how does the furnace help? If I lived in the US I’d probably be found dead one winter because I didn’t understand how the heating worked.
- People wake up, get dressed and then have breakfast as a family meal. The breakfast is often a cooked one (or has parts that are cooked). I assume this is utter fiction or like the UK soap opera pub, a dramatic convenience to bring the characters in a family together at the start of the day before they go and have seperate story lines. As a sitcom convention this didn’t bother me, but it was the same in Breaking Bad as well – which I assume was done to increase the contrast with a safe suburban lifestyle but that implies it is more than just a sitcom convention.
- Americans (at least TV middle-class ones) do not have washing lines. I know there’s some truth in this because I’ve heard this from genuine Americans but I don’t know how true it is or whether it is a regional thing. The Hills Hoist (a rotary clothes line) is considered iconic in Australia, which is not suprising given the amount of sunshine but UK homes have washing lines and on reflection I wonder how we ever got dry clothes.
- Toasters. These are exotic technology and not always present. Which can’t be true because the US invented Pop-Tarts, which are clearly evolved to exist in an eco-system with toasters. Searching online, I see examples of Homer and a toaster, so maybe I just haven’t noticed them.
- Electric kettles. Likewise but more so. This one I think maybe an actual thing and due to a lack of respect for drinking multiple cups of tea.
- But, ‘toaster ovens’? I don’t really know what those are but they are thing that people have.
- I’m writing this in my pajamas after waking up early, which is maybe why this list is breakfast fixated.
- US TV homes are really big. Again, I assume that is partly true (more available land etc) and partly a function of TV plot logic. A bigger space is easier to film, more rooms allow for more movement of characters.
- The biggest employer in suburban America is the real-estate industry with ‘realtor’ being the single largest profession. OK, I know that’s not true and I assume the relative proportion of people selling homes to otther people must be very similar in the UK and in Australia but the level of representation seems way off in US popular culture. Is it that ‘estate-agent’ (the UK equivalent) is seen more negatively in the UK and hence a sympathetic character is less likely therefore to be in that job?
- Realtors don’t have to do very much (because their time is taken up with storylines) but the job is also very stressful. Of course this is true of every job in every nation which gets TV time, which is why in the UK all sorts of professions have plenty of time to solve murder mysteries in quaint country towns.
- The more I think about it, there’s an obvious space for a British cosy-mystery about estate-agents who solve crime as a side-effect of them selling posh country houses near quaint country towns.
- Nobody in the US drives the same cars as anybody in the rest of the world. I noticed this only via an exception that proves the rule – a character in a show was driving a Honda similar to one a neighbour of mine drives and it just looked so out of place. I assume this is reflects reality of different car models for the US market.
- TVs are rare but what TVs there are live in the kitchen. The Simpsons is an obvious exception. This is definitely a side-effect of TV production. For the purpose of drama, a TV appears when a character needs to see some external news that they at first don’t notice because they are doing something else. Hence, a TV is most likely to be seen in a kitchen.
Oh my gosh and golly! A missing chapter form the amazing science-fiction epic McEdifice Returns? You betcha! But this time YOU GET TO BE CHISELED McEDIFICE!
Is their no genre, no form of cultural media that Timothy the Talking Cat can’t master? No! Except maybe knitting. Aside from knitting? No! With the knitting it’s both that the balls of wool are distracting and the needles don’t work with my little paws. Aside from that? I’d be a master of knitting also!
This time McEdifice comes to you in an amazing interactive computer game adventure! All your favourite characters are there:
- Your favourite author/editor.
- Straw Puppy
- That photocopier person
- The alien woman whose name I can’t remember how to spell
- Betsy or whatever her name was
In a golorious pallet of several colours MCEDIFICE THE GAME:
Try it now or be really unpopular with your friends and peers.
Oh this is rather fun. A set of web tools that allow you to make retro super-pixelated games where you talk to things. https://ledoux.itch.io/bitsy
And a tutorial here: http://www.clairemorleyart.com/a-bitsy-tutorial
I have a current work in progress that I will reveal once completee(or once uncompleted because I got distracted by something else).
If BDP-Short was tough because all the choices seemed a bit flawed, BDP-Long is a meaty, populist, movie marathon full of treats and still a tough set of choices.
Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form [full list]
- Blade Runner 2049, written by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green, directed by Denis Villeneuve (Alcon Entertainment / Bud Yorkin Productions / Torridon Films / Columbia Pictures)
- Get Out, written and directed by Jordan Peele (Blumhouse Productions / Monkeypaw Productions / QC Entertainment)
- The Shape of Water, written by Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor, directed by Guillermo del Toro (TSG Entertainment / Double Dare You / Fox Searchlight Pictures)
- Star Wars: The Last Jedi, written and directed by Rian Johnson (Lucasfilm, Ltd.)
- Thor: Ragnarok, written by Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, and Christopher Yost; directed by Taika Waititi (Marvel Studios)
- Wonder Woman, screenplay by Allan Heinberg, story by Zack Snyder & Allan Heinberg and Jason Fuchs, directed by Patty Jenkins (DC Films / Warner Brothers)
Reverse order here:
6. Blade Runner 2049 – I’ve watched it but I note that I didn’t review it. When I don’t review things it is either I meant to and events got in the way and then I forgot OR I didn’t have anything to say good or bad. Bad films can be fun to review, even mediocre films can be fun to review. I don’t know with Blade Runner 2049. I didn’t hate it. It did not actually feel superfluous as a sequel. Baby Gooseman was very good and the Harrison Ford cameo was not gratuitous. It, of course, was visually excellent.
But…it just didn’t really engage me. A carefully crafted tribute to an aesthetic.
5. Wonder Woman – My views haven’t changed much on this. It had some good qualities but it was overlong for the story it was trying to tell. Gal Gadot remains the most valuable actor in the DC Universe and is the point from which they should build outwards.
4. Star Wars: The Last Jedi – If you are going to make sequels and keep franchises continually going then at least do something both new and in keeping with the franchise. Rian Johnson took the palette of Star Wars films and assembled them into something both new and familiar. It was what I wanted out of a new Star Wars film even though I didn’t know that beforehand. Good stuff and a strong contender.
3. Thor: Ragnarok – I loved this on first viewing and loved it even more on second viewing. Mainly just a fun, disco-coloured romp which underneath has themes about colonisation and the retreat from Empire.
2. The Shape of Water – An excellent film, whose storyline is quite simple (almost overdone) but with a depth of character and compassion that really lifts it. Not a comedy exactly but there is a comedic eye to things that makes it feel lighter than it is.
1. Get Out – Not the most science-fictional of the choices but the most tightly crafted of the set of films. So much packed into this film and I’m still processing elements of it.
Those top four choices are so close that I may well swap the order of them more than once before the ballot closes. I wouldn’t take bets on a likely winner – I can see all six possibly taking the lead (although Blade Runner 2049 is the least likely to win I think).