Monday, December 22, 2008

Inappropriate Epitaphs

Because sometimes I just get morbid.

For Sparacus

A thousand times before have so many ignored so few bickering over so little. But never before has it been quite as funny.

He couldn't spell Whovian. He couldn't spell smooth. He couldn't even spell his own name. But he didn't let that stop him.

For Paul McGann

Don't forget the lighter fluid.


For Graham Manou (he's a cricketer)

All he wanted was a baggy green. Now he does a fairly good impression.

For Nigella Lawson

Because sometimes, the worms should just spoil themselves.

For Russell T. Davies

He's not dead. Just resting. Come back in three years.

The butchest gay man to ever live. We salute you.

For David Hicks

Don't worry. He's used to it.

For Gary Russell

If I could be wanked by any fan - it would be him.

For Vladimir Putin

For those of you who wish to drive in a wooden stake, please form an orderly queue and follow the instructions clearly visible on the mausoleum walls. No time-wasters, please.

(Also acceptable for Phil Ruddock)

For Alan Stevens

Many would bring a gun to a knife fight. Nobody else would bring a chainsaw to a pillow fight.

It doesn't matter what gets said here. He won't be happy.

Now in a grotty hotel foyer with Gareth Thomas and Brian Croucher.

For Jack Black

Time tried to kill The Metal. Touche, motherfucker.

For David Gulpilill

Don't panic. His son can also stand on one leg.

I apologise in advance for this one...

For Helen Raynor

Now in the darkest alley of all.

I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry...

For Kevin Rudd


For Seth McFarlane

You know.. this really grinds my gears.

For Myself

In a world that strove for mediocrity he... wait, what was I saying?

Seriously, though I like Helen Raynor's stuff. I need to do a retrospective on The Sontaran Stratagem.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

R.I.P Ricky M.

Richard "Marslando Calrissian" Marsland
September 5th, 1976 - December 6th, 2008

I'm utterly, utterly shocked to hear the news that one of Australia's brightest but most underused comic talents has died, and at such a young age. And am also dismayed that the news of his passing slipped me by for eight days, as I also have been with the fact that brilliant comic director Bob Spiers, a hero of the British TV landscape, didn't warrant an obituary in the local news after all he did over his diverse career.

I find it strange to think that if I hadn't listened to Get This I never would have even known Marsland existed, let alone the brilliance of his comic timing, his quick wit, his near encyclopedic knowledge of music and film trivia, and his at times sickening love for puns, the creation of which seemed a second nature to him. (One of his one thousand-plus nicknames was 'the punel operator') He held the show together, and often seemed to contribute far more to proceedings than Ed Kavalee, who was the official co-host, and all while keeping up with Tony Martin's intense demands for wacky sound effects at every turn on the shows panel. A running joke in the series was that if, at any time, Rich couldn't find a sound effect he'd have to 'sing it' live - this only happened once. (And was hilarious as he tried to emulate the synth-panpipes of Toto's Africa)

So enigmatic and adored a figure was Marsland that the final days of the became pre-occupied largely with listeners speculating about how he lived his life, with most of the suggestions pertaining to a Buffallo Bill lifestyle of pits full of lotion and S&M gear, but along with more plausible alternatives, such as sleeping in a 'ditch filled with Whizz Fizz and pasta sauce', beating up octogenerians until they say 'you're the king, Marsland!', sitting awake in a Rambo style cave, and a sub basement in an abandoned factory filled with shelves of old VHS decorated with photographs of Lehmo taken with a long-distance lens without his permission. Whatever the true answer was is now, sadly, academic.

Marsland this year apparently also became the panel operator of Triple M breakfast show. I was unaware of this having blackballed the network after their unconscionable axing of their top-rating show, but it seems he has had the greatest of falls after reaching his highest success. Every news site that mentions the story, it seems, is copying off the same source, so here's all that is said on the matter.

FANS and friends have paid tribute to Melbourne breakfast radio host Richard Marsland, who was found dead in his car on a lonely stretch of road in Victoria's Dandenong Ranges.

A park ranger raised the alarm after finding the 32-year-old's body in his car at Shiprock Falls around 10.30am (AEDT) on Saturday but despite police resuscitation efforts, Marsland was later pronounced dead.

Victoria Police said an investigation had been launched and a brief would be passed to the state coroner but there were no suspicious circumstances.

It doesn't take a genius to work out what has happened, and the news is thus even more devastating. He deserved much better.

In the final episode of Get This, however, Richard Marsland did, hearteningly, tell Tony that working with him had been a dream over his entire radio career and he did so with characteristic flair and genius for two years. Solace can be taken, then, that he had fulfilled his dream before he passed away. What more can any of us ask?

Condolences to all friends and family of Richard Marsland, most notably his mother and father who both took part in the show, and of course Tony Martin, Ed Kavalee, Gary McCaffrie, Ryan Shelton, Anne Willes, Peter Helliar, Myf Warhurst, Greg Fleet, Nikki Hamilton, Katie Dimond and Shaun Michallef. He will be sorely missed.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Alan Stevens is on my blog

If anyone else is in the mood to acknowledge this, please go ahead. But seeing as I glanced over his comment after coming back from two hours of lawn mowing and saw that his modus operandi was pedantic responses (who'd have thought it) I should respond to this:

Cynical? I'd say stupid, and a bit bitter, for some reason. What have I ever done to you, bar make a CD series which you weren't forced to buy, though somehow you seem to have bought and listened to every release, including the short play on the “The Actor Speaks: Paul Darrow” CD, despite having hated the first one so much that you feel compelled to deliver a two thousand, four hundred and twenty-two word rant on the subject?

1. I don't hate Kaldor City. Not everything's black and white. If I had actually written my reviews of Death's Head (from memory I think that's the title - Chris Boucher's one anyway) and Storm Warning you'd see that I hold at least two epiosdes of the series in quite high regard.
2. It's not a rant. If this should qualify, everything you have ever written in your life, including the play's themselves should be considered a rant.
3. I haven't bought nor listened to every release. (The one you specifically mentioned, in fact. Funny that)
4. As an extension to point one I have actually thought that Kaldor City could make a brilliant free-forming CRPG with the right developer and had actually wrote some stuff for a hypothetical seventh story.

If you're still here, Alan, respond to these points before replying under my name whilst copying-and-pasting 'Nope.:)' to simulate a conversation.

Anyway, how awesome is it that The Rani is finally coming back? What, haven't heard of that one? Hah, beat you in the spoiler stakes for once. For on Rani Chandra's wikipedia page there's the quote from Russell T. Davies saying she's "not the Rani". As we all know, the opposite of what RTD is almost always the truth, and why would he want to point out something so clearly apparent?

Rani v Brigadier v Sontarans. v Ice Warriors. It HAS to be.

Also, congrats to BBC Worldwide for making a DVD commentary so boring that even I can't bear to listen to it - Destiny of the Daleks with Lalla Ward, David Gooderson, and Ken Grieves. Grieves is a former cameraman, so his favourite topic is how much of a bastard it was to do ANYTHING in an old studio, and won't stop talking about it. Surely after 15 minutes straight he must have considered it would be in danger of getting old?

In an unrelated note to anything else, I today I feel a great surge of respect for RTD's ability to take constructive criticism and am in the mood to pirate some Faction Paradox audios.

EDIT: Sorry, that should be 'Alan Stevens is NOT on my blog'. 'Who's Gan'? For Christ's sake...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Blakes 7 is dead, Long Live Blakes 7!

Yeah, no reason for the dramatic opening line, apart from the fact that I may be about to review the final episode of Blakes 7 FINALLY. Yes, one of the most acclaimed TV episodes in the British pantheon, of pretty much the only sci-fi show (until recently) of which the British were not unreservedly ashamed of due to their near-pathological hatred of levity and imagination in all its forms. With the exception of Clive James who spaketh thus:

"...classically awful British television SF ... no apostrophe in the title, no sense in the plot. The depraved space queen Servalan, played by the slinky Jacqueline Pearce, could never quite bring herself to volatilize the dimly heroic Blake even when she had him square in the sights of her plasmatic spasm guns. The secret of Blake’s appeal, or Blakes appeal, for the otherwise infallibly fatale Servalan remained a mystery, like the actual wattage of light bulb on which the design of Blake’s spaceship, or Blakes spaceship, was plainly based."

I'm sure I don't need to point out the obvious errors in that drivel, so much as any of it can be understood but surely these two warrant especial notice and derision..

1) If anything it was the other way around, with Servalan in Blake's sights, but even then I can only think of a couple of cases. Furthermore, the suggestion of a love between them strongly suggests that Clive James has actually confused Avon and Blake for one another. Learn to watch TV, palski!

2) was obviously based on a light bulb... so obvious you could not tell what type it was? Furthermore, why does the idea of ingeniusly practical miniature design offend you so? Is it something to do with envy due to your own sheer girth?

Of course I am probably making a faux pas in trying to read the offending rant as an English sentence. To!

*Sigh* It did it's best.

I've been thinking quite a bit about Blakes 7 recently, having been rewatching the show from the beginning fairly recently (well, since Space Fall. Mum refuses to watch either The Way Back or Blake ever again, and fair enough) though we're now up to Star One. Do bear in mind we skipped a few episodes, and ISTR really, really not wanting to watch Orac a second time. Man, why the hell have all the good stuff in Part One???

At the same time, there's been the news of the SkyTV relaunch, anticipation for how bad it will have to be, some Miles-talk about a proper revamping, me bigging up pointlessly the snatches I've written of Calypso 5*, Ewen reviewing some dross that happens to have the B7 name appended to it like a toe tag saying "HRH The Prince of Wales" on the corpse of Leee John and some other errata. Noticeably me attempting to introduce a girl at TAFE who worships at the altar of Star Trek to what I (I would consider faithfully) described as "the guys who made Doctor Who making the Anti-Trek). I didn't try too hard, as I only gave her a disc with episodes 1-10 on it today, but still I'll be interested to hear her response.

I've also chatted with a mate about the traumatising final scenes, and today had a TAFE teacher reminisce about "the one where Adon tries to throw that guy out of the airlock" after she heard me mention the show's name. And.... erm, I'm running out of connections now. Though I saw a book on the shelf here at Ourimbah Uni library with an author named 'Restal' and knew a girl named 'Jenna' in highschool. Woooh, spooky!

Okay, maybe Blakes 7 hasn't ruled my life, but I have been thinking about it, and just recently I DID watch Blake.

It's hard to review, as there is so much perceived wisdom about it already, so many reviews, opinions, essays, such a sheer wealth of material written about it that it exhudes an intimidating aura of artistic indomitability. It has become Chris Boucher's colussus, and more than that, the single most famous episode of Blakes 7. To the point that when the show gets brought up, the events of the final episode are quick to follow in any situation. The amount of nerds who scream out "They kill off the entire cast!" is staggering. To all intents and purposes, Blake is as famous as the show itself. Blake and Blakes 7 have become one - with a perception that Boucher's last hurrah is an encapsulation of the entire series.

You may well think that, not having had much to say about this episode before, that I'm building up to a slamming of this episode, especially if you were odd enough to follow me around on OG and see that I recently referred to it as 'a re-write of Rumours of Death' (which it is). Not so. Blake is a tremendous piece of television, once past the slightly-too-long shots of the Xenon base self-destructing it keeps a mean pace for shows of its era, constantly surprising and manipulating the audience, and Boucher plays a lot of tricks to bind it all tightly together and keep the audience following every development. Wonderful moments like Vila whining "I can't imagine Blake doing that!" to Orac right after we've seen him as the ruthless bounty hunter shooting down his own man, are the glue that binds this all together.

Themes run through the story impressively, notably with the transposition of characters and their motives with one another. Blake's scarred face reminds the audience of Travis, once his deadliest enemy, whom he now behaves just as ruthless as. Similarly, Tarrant, the once thuggish and egotistical lieutenant who has learnt his place and gravitated towards the neutral position of moral authority is contrasted with Blake in their pairing. The man who was once the most self-centred member of the crew (well, with Vila it's debatable) offers to sacrifice his life for the rest of his crewmates, for once winning Avon's respect. After he awakes he meets Blake, who manipulates him in a grossly self-centred way - trying to trick Tarrant that Blake has saved him from his own assassins. That they are paired for most of the episode is very poignant, in that this episode is the first time that Tarrant has ever truly appeared to be a replacement for Blake, at the time when they are both doomed to die.

Interestingly, Soolin opens up a little in this story, after being the resident clam for a long while, along with Vila showing some rare bravery when he punches out Arlin, and Avon finally deciding to stand and fight the Federation as he has declined to do for the entire season. All of this happens such a short time before they are snuffed out of existence - just to emphasis the loss of these five humans? Or perhaps to say that we are all at our best under the threat of death?

And, yes, for the sake of this argument everybody's dead, Dave. Also worth noting that Dayna is the odd one out, as usual. I get the strange feeling Boucher didn't care for the character.

Beyond that, there are some questions to be asked about what message exactly the episode is trying to send. It certainly is made clear that death is inevitable. But that feels a bit more like commonsense than a strong message for the story to have. And here we come to the reason that I called Blake a re-write of Rumours of Death - it is. Both stories revolve around their endings, wherein there is a large, fatal misunderstanding that results in Avon killing the person he loves, destroying a resistance movement, and wishing death upon himself as a direct result. The big differences would be that Blake is written more competently, with more material to fill out the early stages of the episode, and that Rumours has a strong theme.

Rumours revolves around the central theme of identity, and how uncertain and fickle it can be in a world like The Federation. It is notable that 'Anna Grant' has three personalities - 'Sula', 'Anna' and 'Bartolomew', and by the end of the episode there is no indication which, of any, are genuine. Anna's words "I was only ever Anna for you" are telling, something of an admission that it was an act, but an act that she enjoyed. Likewise much of Avon's personality, his sense of identity has been based on his encounters with the Grants, shaping the very person that he is. Symbolically, once he has killed 'Anna', Avon prepares to lay down his life - Anna is a part of who he is, and if she is dead, then so is he. At the close of the episode Avon says at much to Tarrant, that he considers himself barely alive at all.

It's quite an intriguing look at how a world shaped by lies more than truths can affect those who grow in such a world, along with an unusual portrayal of revenge from Boucher, as an exercise laden by a chilly hollowness. When Avon corners Shrinker, deprived of his power (the foundation of the torturer's deluded identity as a strong individual) he is nothing but a weak-kneed, blithering coward. And of course, when he finds 'Bartolomew', he destroys the greatest enemy to Servalan on Earth, the best chance that the rebels have of any victory... and gets nothing but heartbreak in return.

Unfortunately, the story is some way from perfect, mainly due to an unnecessary preponderence of padding and Boucher's sometimes exasperating habit of sidelining the main cast in favour of his highly-disposable wise-cracking guest cast. But, the issue of identity gives it a rich thematic depth, which Blake sadly lacks.

The theme of Blake, amongst the various memes Boucher weaves through the script, is one of trust. Blake trusts Arlen. Blake and Tarrant can't trust each other. Trust is Blake's downfall, when he loses it from Avon. It has been noted that it's a very curious turn for the series, considering that Blake's great strength of character was his ability to trust others, thus bringing out their better qualities, and also his sound judgement of character. It isn't unthinkable that something could have happened to cause this unexpected change of character, but it feels like a bit of a cheat to the audience, by shrouding the matter in ambiguity.

Fortunately for Boucher, such defects can also be explained away as cohesion within the script - if the nature of the Federation's attack, Blake's plan, Arlen's scheme, and what exactly has happened to Blake (and Jenna) on Gauda Prime are all heavily ambiguous, then it can be said that he is simply expanding upon the nihilistic thos of the tragedy by creating a Universe of chaotic, unpredictable variables or even flaunting convention by preventing a limited view of proceedings, leaving the majority to the audience's imagination.

But, even so, it's a bit difficult to claim that it all hangs together effortlessly. Where on Earth do the Federation troopers come from - obviously the 'observer's' ship, but how does she land without the radars or blockade runners picking her up? Assuming Servalan is the observer, which is clearly the suggestion, how can she possibly have made her way into the High Council given the fact that she's operating under a terribly unconvincing alias and avoiding people who recognise her, and in the short amount of time that's passed since Warlord? Why didn't Blake set any procedures to follow upon Avon's arrival, if he was 'waiting for him'? Why does he appear so shocked to see Avon, when every ounce of his behaviour leading up to that point suggests that he strongly suspects that Avon is coming? And isn't Arlen's plan the most convoluted thing ever when you stop and think about it - she needs to raise a bounty for herself, make sure that Blake's chasing her, survive multiple attacks by bounty hunters, allow herself to be caught by Blake, pretend to be brainwashed and [via unclear means] help the Federation get in entirely undetected. That's a LOT for one woman to handle!

Due to these deficincies in plot and theme, I have to say that Blake's message is, somewhat sadly, summed up by the immortal words of an anonymous tool on Outpost Gallifrey - "the good guys lose, and the bad guys win". It may be good enough for most shows, but for a show as good as B7 you'd hope for something a little more nuanced once you've scratched the surface. Blake is an excellent piece of television, and as endings go it has to be perhaps the most unremittingly final ending ever devised (ironic, given its supposed 'cliffhanger' status)**
but it can be hard to reconcile with much of the show and its themes. Viewed in context of the greater pantheon of the series, it seems like little more than gratuitous nihilism that erodes the imagination shown previously in the series. Everybody's dead, Dave.

Oh bugger. I forgot to put all of the penis jokes in this review. Bah! It is WORTHLESS!

* Though, actually I haven't mentioned Calypso 5 in a while, thus depriving you, the humble reader, of highly camp dialogue that probably would only have been acceptable in television in the early 80s and no later, and considering the irony of that given that if the show was made then the B7 rip-off would be even more obvious.

Having glanced at one of my snippets of scripts, featuring the placid android Kitt and the insane gunman Esper I have to ask... have I just changed the names in a Vila and Avon scene?

KITT: No signal.

ESPER: Not much of a surprise. It would have to be stronger than me to still be active.

KITT: Without a signal it will be impossible to find.

ESPER: I've always said that nothing is impossible, Baal. Get looking.

KITT: Are you seriously suggesting that we blindly try to filter through 500 tonnes of rubble?


(Esper puts a friendly arm around Kitt)

ESPER: I'm suggesting you blindly try and filter through the rubble. I've done my bit.

Well... I guess not entirely. Maybe a bit more Tarrant in there.

**I think this is probably the most well known piece of 'trivia' in the world, btw.

How to... depress yourself

My first attempt at a Wiki:HowTo. It got knocked back, though, as they said it didn't have very practical instructions to follow. I'll let my readers (yes, both of them!) be the judge of that.

The Secret of Depression

1. Fail at everything

2. Make jokes about the greatness of your failures light-heartedly, thus prompting your friends to laugh in your face

3. Write down a list of your day's achievements

4. Upon noticing that this list is emptier than Michael Bay's trophy cabinet, turn it into a list of your erotic fantasies

5. Hurriedly cross out all of the ones that involve other men

6. Awkwardly turn it into a laundry list upon a similar realisation to #4

7. Weep all over it like a little girl, thus letting your tears wash your life into the sweet oblivion that you are so envious of.

8. Masturbate

9. Repeat steps 1-8. Every day. For the rest of your life.

10. Reincarnate.

11. Relive the sheer patheticness of your previous life every second

12. Go to a Halloween party as Nigel Verkoff

13. Try to explain to the people at the Halloween party who the hell Nigel Verkoff is

14. Realise that we don't really have Halloween parties in Australia, and you're actually at a Buck's night. Alternatively, being American.

15. Misplace your entire bathroom, thus causing you to remove the full-body-shoe-polish integral to this costume.

16. Stop and think about the obvious option you had of NOT covering your genitals with said shoe-polish.

17. Attempt using an industrial solvent

18. Get your first hospital breakfast

19. Get your first kick-in-the-balls from an angry nurse

20. Receive likewise much over.

21. See your extended family

22. Run away from your extended family.

23. Write 2 million words about Doctor Who.

24. Watch 2 minutes of Summer Heights High.

25. Have your career destroyed in a few year's time when people discover libellous rants against Chris Lillee on your blog

26. When being facing said inquiry, get confused and explain that all the child pornography is simply research for your performance as Nigel Verkoff you gave prior to your full-body skin-graft

27. Watch a marathon of Big Stan, Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay and the complete series of Oz to prepare for your life in jail.

28. Discover that capital punishment is re-legalised, because you're in a dystopic future now.

29. Go with the whole "These charges are false!" angle and inadvertently cause your lawyer to be brutally murdered

30. You seduce the lawyer's now-widow, only to realise that you're actually making out with a dead dog like that really fucked up scene in Changi. (I'm sure I didn't imagine that...)

31. Escape with your analrapists and declare yourself a heroic rebel leader, only to realise your crew are arseholes and your spaceship wants to kill you.

32. Be crushed mercilessly... by a deathly pale lisping anorexic drama queen of all people!

33. Have a boot stamping on your face, FOREVER.

34. Wake up, and marvel at the sheer fucked-upness of your day-dreams

35. Look down and realise you ARE dressed as Nigel Verkoff

36. Look harder and realise... that you ARE Nigel Verkoff.

37. Jump out of the window like Denholm in The IT Crowd... only to discover the ground is made of sponge cake.

38. Remember you love sponge cake

39. But forget that you're diabetic

40. And incontinent

41. Holy shit, are you Nigel Verkoff at all??? .... yes. False hope there.

42. Do some assignments

43. Receive your marks on said assignments

44. Listen to your voice on tape

45. Play the demo of Sudden Strike 2

46. Read Sean Hughes' book

47. Watch An Inconvenient Truth

48. Watch The Great Global Warming Swindle

49. Watch the full five minutes of that YouTube video of a drunk David Hasselhoff

50. Watch the five second cameo of David Hasselhoff in Dodgeball

51. Actually, that last one is hilarious. I don't know, hit yourself in the balls with a claw hammer or something. But try not to make it too funny.

52. Clone yourself and make love to the clone

53. Get dumped by your own clone

54. Realise that was ANOTHER dream, and that your entire life is a lie told to a deaf man.

55. Hang out with Jym de Natale

56. Look back at the references you've been making and realise how beyond obscure they are.

57. Go into a door just like the one in Being John Malkovich, except that it transports you into Jym de Natale's body for a day instead.

58. Unsuccessfully attempt to get into the Grammys

59. Unsuccessfully attempt to get into the Tonys

60. Unsuccessfully attempt to get into the fat moustachioed gay S&M model of the year award ceremony

61. Unsuccessfully attempt to get into Burger King

62. Unsuccessfully attempt to get into Alan Jones

63. Unsuccessfully attempt to get into your own pants

64. Unsuccessfully attempt to get the lead role in some zero-budget fan audios

65. Unsuccessfully attempt to win an argument on the internet

66. Go home.

67. Realise home is a sewage outlet

68. Realise the process is irreversible.

69. Grow old

70. Die

Well.... that'd be a start. But it still won't get you as low as I was feeling a little while ago.

Feeling great now, though. So the moral of the story is: incorporeal mental punching bags are AWESOME. And if, say, anyone should feel the need to steal any slurs against a certain amateur actor mentioned above, they are all fair game.

EDIT: Good God, how could I leave watching Blake off that list? Ah, well. I think I covered that series fairly well in my usual subtle style...