Episode #50 – Reality TV

January 29, 2010

Reality TV is a pretty surreal thing. People are drawn to it because, as is the draw with all mythology, they feel their lives are being illuminated by the stories being told. The insidious thing about reality TV is they’re mythologies people actually believe are representations of real life. But these slices of life are actually highly edited and staged distortions of already contrived and manipulated situations.

Theoretically, a reality TV show is the ideal format for sociological documentary film-making. I’ve never seen a single one that legitimately falls under that category. Even beyond the set-up of competition-based shows like America’s Next Top Model being absurd, the fact people are on reality TV shows specifically to become famous distorts their behaviour into broad parodies of human nature.

Which is, of course, exactly why people love them. It’s the spiritual equivalent of a McDonald‘s cheeseburger.

LINKS: The Spampersand; Ari’s reality TV related thoughts.

Last week we embarrassed ourselves by not recognizing Michelle “Ro Laren” Forbes as Admiral “Mole Sauce” Cain. In our defence though, the below image  shows how 20 years, a facelift and lack of prosthetic make-up can disguise a person’s identity.

ro laren vs admiral cain

Okay. She’s entirely recognizable. We suck. Completely. And maybe she didn’t have a facelift.

Also sucking is most of Season 2.5. Some of the worst television we’ve ever seen (including reality TV and the first two seasons of TNG) can be found in this season. “Black Market” and “Scar” are inexcusable examples of missed potential and outside-of-canon continuity mistakes. We still have faith things get better with Season 3. This show is all about having faith.


Episode 49: Bored Games

January 22, 2010

We were never being boring because we were never being bored.”

So sang the Pet Shop Boys. Somehow I can’t see Neil and Chris playing Monopoly. Then they’d have to change their lyric. Funny how the only thing that can make a boring afternoon more boring is the supposed alleviation of boredom known as the board game.

An almost universal rite of passage in Western culture is the Monopoly endurance test. It’s the lesson every child must learn; that they’ve been lied to and everything they’ve been taught by society is false. This starts with the discovery that the most celebrated board game of all time is the most painfully boring experience of their young life. Even with the neat little metal game pieces.

Yet people persist in playing board games their entire lives (though dads famously refuse to play). Year after year people subject themselves to the bamboo-shoots-under-the-fingernails-torture of Clue, The Game of Life and Trivial Pursuit expecting a respite from boredom which never comes. In recent years the great lie of amusement has expanded to the fun-assassinating “party games” such as Cranium and Embarrass Your Awkward Guests You Douchie Bastards.

In the history of board games there has only ever been two genuinely entertaining pursuits: Sorry! and Scrabble. Games so good they’ve never been repackaged as Movie Editions. Though, actually, I would love to own a Mad Max Sorry!—maybe because it’s almost as absurd a concept as a Tron edition of Scrabble.

Speaking of the Movie Edition trend, there was a time when game companies wanted to cash-in on a movie craze, they actually created a game for that movie. They didn’t just slap “Star Wars” or “Lord of the Rings” on a box of Risk.

I spent many a disappointed (yet in denial about it) hour in my childhood playing Escape the Death Star, Destroy the Death Star, and the simply titled Battlestar Galactica.

Which brings us to…

Mandi grows ever increasingly miffed with BSG. This time she’s upset THIS encounter between Helena “Mole Sauce” Cain and Starbuck didn’t happen in the episode Resurrection.


Episode 48: Avatar’d

January 15, 2010

James Cameron‘s billion-dollar baby, Avatar, is as simplistic an adventure movie as they come. The last movie which so perfectly played by the numbers to deliver a rewarding and surprise-free night-out was, perhaps, Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. Both films are perfectly plotted “hero’s journeys” that rely heavily on archetypes and tried-and-tested models of mythological storytelling  to guide the audience through a satisfying fairytale with as little discomfort as possible.

That’s a compliment. And one not even intended to be backhanded. There’s something really enjoyable about a well-done clichéd, hackneyed, formulaic and trite storyline. Afterall, they became clichés for a reason: they work time after time.

The problem is clichéd adventure stories are so often not done well and we’ve developed a distaste for them. We claim we’ve “seen it all before” while forgetting there hasn’t been a new story since Perseus gave Medusa a haircut.

And when it comes to our new fairground-ride styled blockbusters which place so much emphasis on CG and effects, you really need there to be a story behind the glitter that works effortlessly with the audience.

Star Wars Episode I is a classic example of a technologically advanced marvel that fell on its face by trying to hard to push the envelope for storytelling at the same time. There’s a Dune amount of characters and plot in that movie but only enough time to tell a story like… well… like Avatar.

Avatar is really what Episode I should have been. Imagine something like this: Read the rest of this entry »


Episode 47 – Nerd Hurdles vs. Anime

January 8, 2010

I’ve kept this from Mandi to some extent, but there was a time when I truly loved anime. Like an ex you deeply regret, and therefore deny the existence of, my youthful foray into the world of anime as a source deep shame. I think back on those days and feel what I imagine is the same shame one would feel at the remembrance of a night spent in a dive hotel with a coked-out hooker.

And to be honest, I only ever dipped my toe into the murky anime pond. It started in childhood with Robotech (back when anime was Japanimation), but I lost interest soon after Ghost in the Shell, a movie I wore-out my VHS copy of, was released.

A few years later, I had a roommate who tried to get me to watch his stack of  Macross tapes, but I just couldn’t do it. Anything even remotely akin to Transformers turns me completely off. That writes-off the whole mech-warrior (or as I call it  meh-warrior) sub-genre.

So what is the hurdle? There’s a lot that’s great about anime. It’s often grittier than conventional animation. Until The Matrix, it was the only place cyberpunk had been done well on film at all. Anime is stylish and fast-paced. It’s usually sci-fi or fantasy with lasers and magic and sexy genetically enhanced ladies.

Anime films also seem to aim to deal with deeper themes than your average shoot-em-up sci-fi. But they often fail in this goal. And I think this is partly where the hurdle lays for me now. They’re philosophical, sure, but in a sophomoric, juvenile way. Anime might be a great way to expose existential and metaphysical themes to a younger audience, but as an adult they now seem terribly trite. And character development is generally the worst you’ll find outside of Episode I.

Not to mention tentacle rape. WTF?

Of course, there is one anime director whose work we adore. Hayao Miyazaki‘s films spellbind us.

Even Tim Burton doesn’t blend surreal, horrific imagery with a whimsical sense of magical wonder with such alacrity. I’m not sure I’ve seen a movie which so unexpectedly blew my mind as Spirited Away or if there’s ever been such a truly effed up movie as My Neighbor Totoro to give me warm fuzzies. In fact, Miyazaki movies might be the only films to awaken that sleeping sentimental giant within me at all these days.

Also in this episode, we unveil the first installment of a short series of Battlestar Galactica chatter called Project GalacTALKa. Each week, we’ll talk about our impressions of this celebrated sci-fi television show as we watch it for the first time. Discussion will be entirely spoilerific, for those who have watched the entire series (or have seen it up to the same point we have). We give you this fair warning as we’ve remained relatively spoiler-free and wish to remain so. Basically we’re having our ambrosia and drinking it too.


Episode 46 – Internet Dating

January 2, 2010

The oft alluded to Kathie What Introduced Mandi to Fanfiction Apparently dropped by the Hurdle Hut to discuss the hurdles inherent in internet dating. Mandi and I had success (finding each other) on the Plenty of Fish website. Kathie, er, not so much.

There’s various hurdles associated with dating online. One is that it’s perceived to simply not work. And that’s often true smaller centers.

I tried it when I lived in Nanaimo (pop. approx. 72,000 at the time) and there was nobody online in my area I was interested in. At all. Remotely. And it wasn’t just physical type, age or having kids, it was social class, interests, attitudes, etc.

There were only about 60 people registered with the site I was using in my area, but was I being too picky? If there’s one thing you should be picky about, it’s a life partner. Being in a larger center allows you to be as picky as you want. Here in Toronto, pop. 2.5 million, there are plenty (of fish, so to speak).

For many people, the main hurdle surrounding online dating seems to be the implication they are desperate. Which is understandable since television leads us to believe we’re meant to meet our mates in the office or at the bar and to do so with relative ease. If these are the only places you’re looking for love, you’re bound to start feeling desperate at some point in your single life.

But people shouldn’t feel bad about being desperate. It’s the human condition. Really, we’re here on Earth to hook-up so it’s only natural to feel a sense of desperation if you’re not in a relationship. Some might argue there’s something wrong with you if you don’t. I wouldn’t argue that, but some might.

I have, however, always found it interesting people are so shy to express their desire for a mate. When it’s literally the most natural thing in the world.

Mandi says: “I think there are a lot of people who say that they want to be single, when really they’d rather be in a relationship.

There are also people who are embarassed that they’re not (or have never been) in a relationship and so they never bring it up or alternately talk about it all the time. I think some unhappy single people who have never been in a relationship often blame their singleness for their unhappiness. It’s often their unhappiness that causes their singleness. It’s a vicious, vicious circle.

I have certainly been in the position when I believed that if I were only to be in a relationship things would be better. It takes being in a bad relationship to realize that sometimes single is better.”

But there’s an actual nerd hurdle associated with the online dating world as well. I know people who actually view using a computer as being incredibly dorky. Anything other than barely knowing how to use email is, to them, high nerdery and therefore online dating is akin to picking someone up at a Star Trek convention.

These are, I should mention, people in their early forties at the youngest. I doubt many people younger than 35 would have a nerd hurdle regarding internet dating just from the online aspect. They’re also probably a bit more savvy and informed that you won’t “only meet perverts” on the internet.

Not that their aren’t perverts and players on internet dating sites. But bars, nightclubs and other traditional hunting grounds tend to be populated with the same percentage of emotionally broken sex addicts.

Ultimately Kathie’s lack of luck online was a boon for us as we got to spend New Years Eve with her. As shown in the above photo—three lame nerds getting drunk watching Dr. Horrible on a Mac.


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