Sunday, October 18, 2009

Incest in the morning! 97.1!

(That's a family guy quote, btw..)

There's a curse to playing Devil's Advocate all the time, which seems to be a condition I've developed from being a former school debate team member and surrounded by people who are terrible at arguing points and empathising with others. It has grown to freakish levels, to the point where I know feel the need to try and defend incestuous relationships.

No, hear me out..

Wait, no, don't bother. Basically ninemsn has an article that talks about the idea of a condition causing the urges, called Genetic Sexual Attraction. According to the world's most reliable source of information aside from that guy with the beard on The Einstein Factor (Barry Jones?), Wikipedia,

People commonly rank faces similar to their own as more attractive, trustworthy, etc. than average.[citation needed] Heredity produces substantial physical similarity between close relatives. However, Bereczkei (2004) attributes this in part to childhood imprinting on the opposite-sex parent. Shared interests and personality traits are commonly considered desirable in a mate.

Which put in that light sounds fairly reasonable.

That said, earlier in the article it says..

This phenomenon - siblings separated at birth and meeting only as adults and falling in incestuous love - is known in the folk epic, the Finnish national epic Kalevala and the tragic hero Kullervo being the prime example.

The PRIME example? Which cod-sucking Finnish daft punk wrote this shit? Get off your laptop and piss off back to your mandolins, elk-herding and hardcore pornography, Sven Olaf Ericsson! Ever heard of a little story called Oediphus that Sophocles wrote? No! Too busy playing ballads on your homemade Magbushyaaagvontaffek viola I bet!

Anyway, in their wisodm NineMSN opened the article up for comments. There are more than a couple - here's a typical example, from somebody in 'Brissy'. Literally this name translates to 'Land of the severance of the foreskin', which would mean either Israel or the United States, but in this context I think it's a nickname for Brisbane, 'land of the detachment of higher brain functions', capital of the proud state that believes Daylight Savings fades the curtains too quickly, abolished slavery sometime after Federation and produced Alan Jones. All that considered the following comment is quite mild:

once the couple involved discover their biological connection, they should back off. Things can get way too complicated. I have a friend who, though not blood related, had a relationship with what is now considered her "brother". His mother married her father. They now have a child and my friend has come to realise that the childs father is kind of her uncle. Its very complicated esp as they have now seperated due to the confusion. Our society has bounderies for a reason! Think of the children involved and try to keep your raging hormones in check esp when you're meant to be mature enough to do so.

Yes, you read it here first, if you're a Queenslander an inability to work out a family tree is cause enough to break things off completely.

I'd never get a run up there... here's the best approximation of my family tree that I was capable of drawing up just then:

A very keen observer may note that my parents were both adopted from different families by the one family, at different ages, and then married later. So, going by the above Queensland standard I come from an incestuous union and can be regarded as inbred. Also by Queensland standards, the lack of knowledge of my predecessors means I could easily be 1/8th or 1/16th Aboriginal and thus should only be allowed to take my business to shops with guns under the counter.

In all seriousness, the unusual situation with my parents (which they avoided explaining to me for quite a long time) is probably why I'm more sympathetic than most, even though I have a lot of trouble with the opposing viewpoints.The thing with this case is that I can understand the idea of a mental condition.. but every comment sympathetic to their plight is creepy, no matter how hard it tries.

I knew a friend who met her biological mother. My friend was always gay and when she met her biological mother, it was not long before the relationship became intimate. It was intensely sad when they 'broke up'. A relationship lost again. I imagine the intense bond between a parent and child has to play out in some way when it has the ability to do so. It is time to support people through this stuff rather than condem them for it. We can't just 'understand' it in one breath and ridicule it in the next.

See what I mean?

The absolute most disturbing quote is from an article linked to from the original, wherein a woman talked about the sexual attraction she had to her own son upon being reunited... the highlight for me was

Barbara has successfully come to terms with her feelings for her son, although she, admits that it took her nearly 13 years to do so.

13 years, people.

“When Mitch got married 12 years ago,

When he GOT MARRIED. Because obviously if they were having extra-marital sex that would be fucked up. What do you say to this, random Ninemsn'er?

This is sooo wrong on so many different levels. I dont know how someone could even think that this is normal in any possible way!

Funny thing is, if you look at the comments, NOBODY is saying it's normal. But people online seem very disinterested in reading, only writing.

Well, I'm losing enthusiasm rapidly for the plight of the GSA'ers. Maybe I've been cured of Devil's Advocitis at last! Thank you randy re-united adopted people!

Friday, October 16, 2009

..Torchwood was on?

Incredibly, I have gone for some... three months I think without watching Torchwood: Children of Earth. The 'I think' is because I had no idea when it was actually on to begin with, I just know that everyone else has brought it up over a looooong period and hasn't been able to believe the simple fact that I hadn't seen a single frame of it. And that somebody could promise to give me a copy and then forget for that long a period.

I wasn't fussed though, and it isn't because I dislike Torchwood, it's just that somehow it's difficult to care about. Even while watching the last season, which when all's said and done was undoubtedly better than the corresponding season of Doctor Who, it didn't seem as important. The taint of spin-off is upon it, and it will have to outgrow it - I think it did itself a hell of a lot of damage in the first season in this regard, as it endlessly wanted to remind the audience that we were watching the naughty bits of the Whoniverse with references about as subtle as a Goacher family euphemism. "Ooh, yes, all I want from a man is his juicy blue box, ffnar ffnar ffnar!" if you will.

Series two to me could not quite overhaul the damage - I haven't felt the need to rewatch any of the episodes, brilliant though they were, and I can't for the life of me remember what actually happened in the season finale. I know that Jack was buried alive and that Owen and Tosh died, but everything else is but a tabula rasa in my minds eye. I think it was entertaining. And I know PC Andy wasn't invited to Torchwood.

It's unfortunate then that Torchwood did not step up to the plate during the "RTD's got a headache" year, as I could have enjoyed it as a show on its own merits, rather than a dolled up but really-trying-to-hard companion piece of my actual true love that keeps shoving its tits in my face. Instead we get an odd five-specials-in-one-week format that is certainly innovative but just serves to push the Whoniverse further left of the radar. It seems especially a shame given that Torchwood has had big finales for each seasons but so far hasn't felt the need to threaten the Universe in larger ways each time and so would actually be sustainable as a series proper. But then, that would entail the EP of the series actually liking it on some level, and it's become ever increasingly clear that the show is RTD's ginger-headed stepson, the one that is locked in the cellar while DW and SJ play tetherball in the back yard laughing ever so gaily.

(I guess to complete the metaphor RTD is the widow of Verity Lambert, and he himself was her second husband after Sydney Newman who fathered the Torchwood child but named him The Troubleshooters. Terry Nation is the creepy uncle who liked to pretend he was married to his brothers wife, William Hartnell delivered the baby, Anthony Coburn was the drunken teacher who liked the cane too much, David Whittaker was like Kevin Klein in Dead Poets Society, John Nathan-Turner was the tail-gunner that DW stuck with in `Nam and Larry Miles is the insane next door neighbour who keeps leaving excrement in their mailbox)

Anyhow, now that I've actually seen four of the five episodes I think it's time to do something I don't do often enough: compliment RTD. Not really praise him, but he's probably earnt it from the script so far - if I could think of a verb between the two than that's what I'd be doing. It's almost as if the odd setup of the year has been designed for him to show of his not inconsiderable talents by not bothering to piss about with one-off episodes that don't allow for nearly enough exploration for this five-part spectacular serial that makes a lot of his other 'character pieces' look quite flat.

Perhaps what is most amazing about Children of Earth is the fact that it actually does what Torchwood is meant to. That is, it is an adult story in the Doctor Who universe that tells a story that Doctor Who could not. By adult, of course, I mean a story on an adult level, which is a rare definition these days - it is cerebral, thought-provoking, includes depth and grey morality. Adult. As opposed to being more juvenile than actual children's television yet including so much cock and bullet wounds you're sure that it can only be for grown-ups, even if they didn't write the bloody thing.

RTD isn't afraid to give us in-depth looks at characters who are unpleasant - Johnny is a selfish motherfucker you'd want to avoid (and you can see why Ianto wants to), Frobisher has all the hallmarks of the white-collar sociopath, and the Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is, to the surprise of nobody who has followed this fictional universe, cuntdom personified. The thing that makes this great, though, is that it isn't all that simple. Johnny's warped heart is in the right place. Frobisher, amazingly, does care for his wife and family and there is a limit to what he could ever condone.

This stretches to the good guys as well. Captain Jack is deconstructed as, in his own way, similarly sociopathic to Frobisher due to the alienation his endless sojourn in meaningless time has given him - the incident with the children in the 1950s is a practically irrelevant aspect of his past. The bizarre children incidents don't even bring back the memories - only when seeing the faces does he make the connection. RTD ruthlessly portrays Jack as not much more than a conman who has simply elevated his skills and the stakes for which he plays - he is shown as being manipulative of Ianto and threatens to kidnap Frobisher's family. His role in the entire story, up to and very much including the fourth episode, is an ever escalating game of bluff that finishes as horribly as it is possible to do so - if you held that RTD's view of these characters is particularly grim the many, many horrors that Jack undergoes in this story (dying a lot more than usual, it has to be said) could be read as a lengthy penance for the hubris he has shown throughout the series so far and the number of innocent (or semi-innocent at least) lives that he has taken.

Finally Jack seems to register what pain and sacrifice truly means after losing a man to whom he at last bound himself to in genuine love, and facing the danger of losing his child and grandchild, who mean more to him than he realised. Notably, the hundreds of others for whose death he is directly responsible are not even acknowledged. These scenes contrast him nicely with the Doctor, as Jack has made not the most cursory effort to establish the aliens' ability and pays the heaviest consequence possible - all his bluster is only the pinnacle of his leviathanic game of bluff, which the 456 call with cold relish.

I'm probably reading too much into it, but even so I am genuinely impressed. Props to RTD for doing a story in the style of how-people-like-to-remember-Quatermass, and doing it so very, very well. It takes confidence to do an alien-invasion story without ever really showing the aliens (there'll probably be a reveal in Episode 5 of course..) and although it's never seemed RTD was lacking in that particular commodity, he's delivered better than I expected to be sure. The resonance this story has had with me and the fact that the similarly dark and brilliant The Ambassadors of Death hovers endlessly on the fringe of my DW top ten are certainly not coincidence.

But enough coherency! On to my petty complaints!


The first thing I notice is that only fat Welsh guys get laid in Cardiff. No offense to Kai Owens. Indeed, Johnny really puts Kai's svelte figure and beguilingly classical good looks into the proper perspective.


Onto something significant to the plot of the story - one of the few truly weak points would have to be the odd subplot of Dr Rupesh Patanjali. It is nice to have yet another reminder that Gwen is entirely delusional of her own abilities, as she appoints herself to be the perfect recruiting officer and immediately picks out the bloke who is a secret traitor waiting to destroy Torchwood from within, but this is one of the few blemishes on the story from a script level view of the action. Yes, it certainly is a twist when the good doctor turns out to be a secret agent working on behalf of Cache 9 or whoever the fuck these unnamed inglorious bastards are, but it's a special sort of television twist you see used, where the reason the viewer doesn't guess is because it makes no sense whatsoever.

Put yourselves in the shoes of somebody wanting to destroy Torchwood forever. Who is not named Russell T. Davies. You decide you need a man on the inside. How do you arrange this? Well, apparently the answer is to get one of your many handy fully-qualified surgeons who moonlights as a shadowy agent with the ability to pistol whip men with centuries of military experience unconscious in the blink of an eye, get him a job in Cardiff emergency ward and... just wait until Torchwood show up. Then train to him to make no noticeable reaction when he recognises two of their agents and use his incredible acting skill to appear horrified by an appearance of an alien creature he already knew about, to stand around acting gormless after they reveal themselves for a set period of time, jog after them at a pace very nearly slow enough to miss them completely and show them your low-rated Torchwood fan script about necrophiliac aliens who've been having it off with Tosh.

Is this another measure of the opinion that Torchwood is held in - that they are so cack-handed they're bound to reveal themselves to anyone in Cardiff given a certain period of time, so all Rupesh has to do is just be in the general vicinity? Okay, certain bits of the canon support this view but they also border on suggesting that Torchwood is so publicly known (to the harmless old granny and PC Plod demographics) that nobody would even care about infiltrating them. But then continuity is probably TW's biggest setback so this probably doesn't even warrant conversation given the Hitler-like string of atrocities in this department it leaves behind it..

The point is I reeeeally didn't buy it.


Most of what prevented me from enjoying the first episode-and-a-bit of the story was production stuff, which I realise can't be helped. Clearly one of the germs of this idea stemmed from the old notion of something very simple also being very creepy - just as it was in Midnight with the childish game of repeating everything, so it is here with the idea of all the children in the world suddenly stopping. All you would need to film is a few schoolyards of children standing freakishly, eerily still. What could go wrong?

Well, it turns out that there are a few things that can go wrong, most of them related to the actual talent of the child actors you're relying on. For instance, almost all the extras you end up with may be complete rubbish at standing still. And the sheer logistics determine that you won't be able to portray the children as having been doing anything, giving the impression that all the children in the world were standing around looking in random directions blankly at the point the world froze. And then when you need them to speak in unison they're even worse, exacerbated by the fact the voice is added in post so absolutely none of them are in synch at all. And then the episode under-runs so ALL the embarassing bits from the rushes end up in the episode.

This is followed up by an oh-so-close moment in the start of Episode 2, where he cut between Gwen's POV and the second camera - all foley effects either vanishing or becoming massively distorted when we are seeing the former. This could be great - except there's bucketloads of needless brass over the top of it! Stop the orchestra for a moment! Are they meant to be playing nearby so we're illustrating Gwen can't hear them or something? It ruins the effect. I find it sad that it's apparently so inconceivable that you can have a big moment in a drama series without drowning it in OTT soundtrack these days..

Mind you, I've been watching a lot of Rumpole of the Bailey lately, which is undoubtedly a factor. That show doesn't have ANY incidental music!


For me, the killer piece of entertainment in this episode was seeing the typical POWER WALK that our heroes engage in whenever faced with bad guys somewhere at the end of a series of long corridors, the heroes in this case being Ianto and Jack, Ianto in his full pink-silk-shirt Battle Butler regaylia. Naturally Murray Gold provides his usual London Symphony Orchestra / techno beats medley timed along with their strutting to give it all the right level of bombasticity (just below overdose levels).

You may wonder why I liked this, as it's the sort of squee-bait that I am generally entirely unphased by. Well, for the simple reason that for plot reasons, in this jolly "Hey fangirls, check out our buns" romp, the plot necessitates that Mr Decker goes to the top floor with Jack and Ianto. And so, we're treated to seeing an old bloke in forty-year old glasses frames and a coat that looks like one of Del Boy's hand me downs trying to his best Power Walk with the real heroes.

There are certain times when the bounds of all normality are transcended, and nothing but glory is beyond. This... is champagne drama.


In contrast, there was a bit clearly designed to make me cry. Well, not me personally - I'm not the target demographic personified, per se, though like all fans I wish I were. But any way.. I was meant to be very upset. I'm referring to Ianto's untimely demise, which I couldn't find any care in my being for.

For me, the issue is that Ianto's characterisation has been so massively inconsistent over the run of the show that he became more of a prop than any sort character to me. Even in series 2, there didn't seem to be complete certainty over whether he was some sort protypical Generation-X emo, a deadpan snarky wasp, a bisexual, a homosexual, an upbeat character or a complete killjoy, the teams moral compass or just the bloke who handles tea and pizza. I realise a big part of this is the fact he wasn't even meant to live past Episode 4, but just because he was the victim of a troubled production doesn't make the character any less coherent.

Full credit to RTD for giving the character 100% consistent characterisation in this story (even if it's slightly different than some of what's come before - his butling abilities in this story now reach freakishly towards Jeeves-grade..) and writing a poignant death scene for him. I'm a big hang-up bloke when it comes to continuity though, so for me it just seemed like the latest in a long string of similar-yet-different characters played by Gareth David Lloyd had died.


During the first two episodes I was honestly so underwhelmed that when I realised On a Day Like This by Elbow was playing in the scene where Gwen first meets Lois that was my personal highlight.


One of the factors in that was a contrived piece of writing - Frobisher shows the lady with the face a folder that contains a blank piece of paper. She then sends an email to an assassin named "Blank page" (or something like that, I watched it weeks ago now..). But... the effectiveness of this codeword is immediately undermined by the fact that she writes in the email (In an office where all emails are obviously going to be backed up and stored, what's more) that these are people to be killed. What's the use of a code word if the person on the other end isn't aware of what it means, and if she is, why put it in writing!

Yes, it's so Lois (and thus the audience) can see it and then be directly alleviated of the burden of having to use logic for a moment, but the thing is it becomes clear in such a short period of time that people are setting out to kill Jack anyway, why should you bother? The audience finds out somebody's been sent to kill Jack because they're sent, and Lois finds out because the next day they say Captain Jack's dead.

I know, the rest of the script assumes intelligence but I wish it was 100% across the board. I'm a pedantic dick like that..


Speaking of Lois, there are some contrived moments in her subplot aren't there? I was wondering if she was some cousin of the army-sized Jones brood, such was her talent for getting a top job and instantly embroiled in alien-conspiracy-intrigue on her first day. Not only does she get her first position in such an important and top-secret sector, the woman with the highest clearance gives her her password to use for the day, which is also identical to her email log-on.

It's one of those things where I have no idea whether they're meant to be grossly incompetent as some sort of deliberate in-joke, especially when she does the whole "Mr Frobisher likes me to wear short skirts and giggle and now he wants me to follow him everywhere even into the men's bathrooms *tee-hee-hee*" performance and it works. And then Frobisher goes on to never question her presence in the many, many, MANY very sensitive events she is present at thereafter.

Incidentally, it's interesting that Frobisher's wife is a lot more attractive than the secretary with whom he once had an affair. But then those days may have been before his wedding. (Peter Capaldi isn't an oil painting himself, I guess...)


I was driven batshit insane trying to work out where the hell I'd seen Prime Minister Green before - at first I thought it was Geoffrey Palmer again... but no... scrabble, scrabble, scrabble blindly through my brain trying to find the answer whilst ignoring all his dialogue until I realise that it's Nicholas Farrell, the bloke who played arguably the most despicable upper-class villain in Sharpe, Lord Fenner, Secretary of the State at War, in Sharpe's Regiment.

You know..? That guy who goes "I have become death!" Who has his own live-in prostitute he's blackmailed and is hinted at beating regularly? Who attempts to destroy the South Essex regiment and makes thousands of pound from in the meantime? Who's best mates with Michael Cochrane?

No? Ah, well, he's an arsehole in that. And in this! I guess when you have a voice like that type-casting sets in...


Earlier I mentioned Ianto's butler abilities having grown ridiculously. I stand by this, as in this story he seems to have taken on the role of Deus Ex Machina to an extent, which may be the true reason for why he had to die, like K9 before him. Jack is in a solid chunk of concrete PLUS Rhys and Gwen are going to be shot! Oh, never fear, Ianto has gotten through a barbed wire fence with patrols of armed guards, hotwired a massive forklift-crane thing, stolen a council vest and hardhat for purely aesthetic reasons, worked out the controls and then found the patch of wall he needs to steal in the space of about ten minutes. Off screen.

He then goes on to find an exact replica of Jack's clothing, in the right size in an army surplus shop WHILE buying groceries WITHIN his very humble budget! As Ewen points out, it isn't out of character at all for Ianto to try but... seriously, this is outside the realms of plausibility. Yes, this is a show about aliens but come on, I have SOME standards.

The thing is, this could have been even better if Ianto had failed. Just imagine if he'd only been able to find a WWII commodore outfit instead - and Jack would hate it but he'd have to wear it so Ianto wouldn't be disappointed and put up with a heap of 'hello sailor!' cracks, etcetera. Sigh, the possibilities.

On an unrelated note, why did they hide out in an old Torchwood holding facility as opposed to any number of other abandoned warehouses in London where the badguys wouldn't think of looking?


What the hell is with the PM's argument that it will look better if Sir Humphrey Appleby and the secret service handle negotiations? It seems a bit contrived. I can kind of understand the logic, but the thought of the Americans accepting that is far fetched. At the least I'd have expected them to demand some of their own unelected agents be present...


Clem McDonald's hyper-olfactory powers are really, really cool. Plus I liked the unusual degree of realism when he smelt Ianto was gay, referred to him as a 'queer', and Gwen and Rhys were more taken aback by Ianto's angry response than Clem's passive discrimination. Furthermore, Clem's next line almost seems to suggest he uses the term without any hate, just not knowing how else to refer to a gay man. That could be all due to Paul Copley’s brilliant performance, naturally, but it's still very nice to see in a TV world where the attitude seems to be in the past there was a) people like Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mocking Bird or b) Evil motherfuckers who mistreated everyone and were responsible for all discrimination.

It's a pet peeve of mine that came up when I read somebody saying that former PM George Reid didn't deserve a Federal seat named after him because he voted for a law that effectively banned Aboriginals from public schooling in the NSW State parliament. This person was seemingly unaware that when the issue of giving Aboriginals the vote was table before the Federation convention, including as every schoolboy should know the luminaries and future PMs Alfred Deakin and Edmund Barton among several others, there wasn't even any discussion on the issue at all.

Perspective is important, and we cannot judge people in the past by the standards of today.


The BBC sadly makes their ability to stage action scenes look a little limited, as when Female Mercenary Bitch corners first Gwen and Rhys and later Jack's daughter, the blocking is near identical. I got a little deja vu when I watched it.


Finally, one of the moments that really rankled me was when Ianto asks Jack "Where are we going to get a kid?" The answer seems to be "From the scriptwriters!"

Fair enough, Jack having a daughter and grandchild we've never seen before is completely plausible in every possible way. But Ianto... I have some trouble accepting his family who have never ever been so much as referenced before but with whom he is apparently quite familiar with, and who also live in Cardiff - although the suggestion seemed to be that he lived in London.

I guess it's another case of "Jenna teaches kindergarten in between smuggling raids"...

Well enough of my mad ranting, I'll be watching the final episode today!

Touched by the Sun

Recovering from heatstroke at the moment - you think being a pale, formerly-fat git in this country I'd have had it before but not in recent memory. A constant, dull headache that doesn't seem to go away and gets stronger whenever I walk outside. And so far a couple of random bursts where I feel like I'm burning alive just sitting inside.

This is from my latest acting exploit - the closest I've actually come to proper acting for quite a while, as my good friend Daniel has requested my services several times over the last two years to make gimmick videos wherein we and whoever else is around wear stupid costumes and then perform a 'script' with about three and-a-half lines of dialogue, ad-libbing to pad it out to 10 minutes. Now, he's decided to turn his eye to serious things and I've been given an actual script to perform and the result has been heatstroke.

The fact that the filming was undertaken at the same venue I was previously approached by a knife-wielding aborigine should not necessarily be read as the land being cursed, but neither should this be seen as out of the question.

The scene involved me doing a lot of walking in a costume that was a bit of a cross between those of Colonel Sanders and Elton John, in blazing sunlight - and a lot of awkard standing around as shots were worked out and we waited for strangers to piss off. Maybe recounts of my previous visit have spread around, for it seems that the former mental asylum at Wyee Point is now a minor tourist attraction of the Central Coast. Going by the fact that around 20 people showed up during the five hours or so we were filming.

First, dirt bikers, who I can understand because there's a lot of open space and one or two decent sand dunes to jump from in there. Then a four wheel drive full of surprisingly hideous teenaged girls. This wouldn't be that spectacular if they didn't come back 6 times. The highlight was when Sam, innocently taking photographs of events as part of his new hobby, caused them to brake suddenly and demand if he was a private investigator. Ah, logic. The last stage of puberty.

On one of their many returns, where they also brought with them a long-faced girl dressed like a widow in a second hand hatchback, presumably to elevate themselves to 'looker' status, they demanded details about the film we were making. Daniel cunningly told them it was a project called 'Mr Gun and Doctor Plonk', and when this got them demanding more detail I claimed it was a fourth-wall breaking exercise on the principle of the 'death of the author' - a film concerning itself with nothing directly so any interpretation would be purely down to the audience. This was an effort to bore them with nonsensical 'high' concepts to just get them to fuck off. It seemed to be mildly successful.

The other visitors was a small troupe of City Rail workers - one of whom triggered my survival instincts by walking much, much closer to use than one usually would need to in response to the word 'hello'. They seemed harmless, however, and one of them appeared to have even been through the same film course as Daniel, recognising the name of his teacher and talking about an upcoming sitcom, perhaps offering us a terrifying glimpse into our own futures.

(Apologies to upstanding City Rail employees, such as the husband of my mother's part-time assisstant book-keeper, who I am faintly acquainted with, and that guy who reminded me that I buy a Return ticket every day when I tried to buy a Single. I used your name as a fairly negative noun based on a few poor experiences, the chief one being when I was driving down Alison Rd at Wyong at exactly the speed limit, sticking to the centre of my lane, indicating slightly early for a right-hand turn before shifting to the right-hand-most position of the lane and allowing anyone behind me to go past on the left, exactly as I was trained.

As I checked my blind spot, the City Rail ute that had been behind me overtook on the gap that I had left, and as they went past the driver roared the words "FUCK YOU!" with such volume and force that I half expected my windows to shatter and probably veered slightly into the neighbouring lane on my turn.

Obviously I have no objection to obscenity (you motherfuckers) but I can't help but feel that they should be used in moderation and to a standardised system in motoring. If you give me the SONIC FUCK when I'm actually obeying all road rules and giving you every oppurtunity to go past me, what do you give the fuckers who don't give way, or stop dead in the middle of a road around a bend? Get some perspective!

Yes, four paragraphs within parantheses. Fucking rebel.)

After that around eight kids showed up, when I was already tired (due to standing in full sunlight for over an hour, as it turned out..) and proclaimed events over in true diva form.

It probably won't surprise anybody but heatstroke sucks.

EDIT: As an indication of how out-of-sorts I am, I failed to get too excited over the news that Meghan McCain, daughter of John McCain, has posted an overly cleavagicious photo of herself on Twitter.

This mightn't seem like something to get particularly excited over, but I do have an inexplicable obsession with the idea of getting it on with any female somehow connected with the American Presidency. I know, it's warped, but all too true as my friend Nadia can attest to, having seen me despondent for a whole day at the news that Chelsea Clinton was engaged.

Meghan McCain's marital status was not mentioned in the article...

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Archive material: me bitching about Yahtzee's writing

As I did once before, I wrote some guff in wordpad taking apart a short story by Yahtzee, this time called The Expedition, an ancillary addition to his ever-wanky Chzo Mythos Cthulu tribute. For backstory, it was a series of games that went like this:

5 Days a Stranger: Atmospheric but somewhat silly-plotted story where a cat burgler and four others find themselves trapped in the Victorian DeFoe Manor, stalked by a terrifying serial killer in a wedling mask.

7 Days a Skeptic (sic): Apparently a tribute to Z-grade sequels, as the same thing happens on a spaceship full of cardboard cutouts and endless cliches. Possibly successful in its aims, as it's nearly complete crap. One of the scenes that is a saving grace, wherein the ships doctor is found with bloody holes where his eyes were and weakly saying "It... needed eyes..." Yahtzee himself admits was stolen from the film Event Horizon, showing the level of effort put in to this. Ends with a retarded plot 'twist' that has no bearing on the plot and makes no sense at all. But the rest of the plot makes little real sense anyway..

Trilby's Notes: A marathon effort to save the series, by retconning everything into a sinister master plan by Cthulu Jr., aka Chzo, told through the drug-induced hallucination of Trilby the cat-burgler, now working as an investigator for the mysterious Ministry of Occultism. He shifts between the real world (The World of Science) and a horrific Dante-esque landscape (The World of Magick) and relives the encounters of many men through history with The Tall Man, an evil white-faced ghost of a Welsh druid who's body survives through an oak tree his soul was captured in - and he's the one REALLY responsible for the welding mask stuff.

Furthermore, he justifies the rubbish sci-fi sequel with a longwinded prophecy talking about a bridge to the modern day created by... fuck it, I can't be bothered to explain, it's all justification for..

6 Days a Sacrifice: Which I looked forward to idly but, really, is just where the 'wank overload' switch got hit. Everything cool is balanced out by something that doesn't make sense, and it's revealed that the player's job is to actually make the prophecy come true (more or less- you don't get much of a say in the matter) which doesn't even cause an invasion - Czho just gets a new henchman out of it.

Interestingly, I had no problem with most people's beef with the game, a sex scene between a lithe young girl and the main character, a young council worker whose back was broken after being pushed down a lift shaft. Given that the story is set in 2200, I found the idea of medical technology advancing to allow this miracle to happen less incredible than a bloke killing himself with a magical knife via ontological paradox turning him into a minor deity and convincing his younger self to kill his own father in cold blood to ensure the time loop remains stable.

So, basically it's a weird Lovecraft tribute that varies a lot in terms of sense ever made at any one time. Yahtzee tried to go one step further with his short story, and I think it was quite a failure - though it isn't quite Ron Mallet material, it shows a startling deficit between his own perceived prose ability and the actual article:

We came to the Ethereal Realm on the very early morning of the 28th of July, 1910.

Now, when you kick off a story with a sentence like that, grabbing attention through the blase presentation of something weird in a simple manner, you want to explain or expand upon it in the next sentence.

Captain James Troughton’s Special Rifle Brigade, of which I was a serving member, was assigned to protect a small scientific unit consisting of three highly secretive magician-scientists.

Generally, you don't make a statement completely unrelated to it. I'm also not sure how many magician scientists there were in the turn of the century - aside from Nevil Maskelyne I can think of none, and he's also an illusionist, of course, rather than one who practices magic. Active magical 'practitioners' such as Aleister Crowley liked to keep science out of it, and respectable men who had interests in the occult, such as Arthur Conan Doyle, liked to believe they were exploring unexplained phenomenon in the manner of scientists. After all, the British empire was very Christian, and magic was the stuff of the devil.

And for the boring military stuff - the highest specialist rifle unit in the British army were the 95th (where Sharpe was from) and the 60th Royal American (where Sweet William was from) Regiments. A brigade is generally made up of at least two regiments and, as it's name would suggest, would be commanded by a Brigadier. (Although it could conceivably happen if one brigadier, three colonels, and six majors all died unexpectedly. Or alternatively one brigadier if the captain was a naval officer) There's nothing wrong with blatantly naming him after a Doctor Who actor, naturally.

They acted in that haughty manner common to men of intellectual stock around common soldiery, understanding our importance to the mission but accepting it with nothing more warm than an air of reluctant tolerance. The only one who was even moderately cordial was the American Richard Statler, a boundlessly enthusiastic fellow on loan from some Tennessee paranormal institution.

Sorry... how many paranormal institutions would there have been? The words almost work as an oxymoron.

Interesting to note that he's boundlessly enthusiastic but also haughty at the same time.

His presence had been requested by the leader of the expedition, Dr. Harding, a greying man in his fifties who would exchange words only with the Captain, and even those were brusque and to the point. His first name was and remains unknown to me, as do his qualifications. Equally mysterious was the third member of the party, a quiet and nervous Scandinavian with round spectacles, a hooked nose and an angular beard. The man, identified to us as Ericsson, seemed gripped by a permanent state of excited terror, and never spoke when one of his colleagues could speak on his behalf. When caught alone, he answered monosyllabically and excused himself within seconds.

In a haughty way.

The three of them and our unit of twelve

For the record, a brigade is generally around 3,000 strong.

had had

Incidentally, I hate this. I understand the thinking behind it, one had for the past tense, the other to indicate it was forced, but a singular had conveys both connotations. And looks much better.

to sign a tedious pile of documents assuring our silence, an arduous process we were all quite used to by now, being specialist bodyguards for London’s highly secretive Ministry of Occultism.

So they're specialist bodyguards who refer to themselves as a military unit? And hold military rank?

Why the hell do they need to sign the documents before every mission? Wouldn't they sign blanket ones upon recruitment??

From the basement of that well-hidden institution we were transported by some abstract gateway to the same location’s equivalent within the Ethereal Realm. We emerged cacophonously into a wide plane of some bizarre species of grass, bathed in the eldritch light of dawn, a light somehow more speckled and orangish than the sunlight of which we were accustomed.

Orange is of course an adjective so the '-ish' suffix is redundant. Also, props for making such a remarkable event sound boring.

Our visit had apparently been arranged some time previously by our scientific cohorts. Some members of the Ethereal Realm community were present to welcome us. Presumably in some age long ago they had had some evolutionary ancestor not dissimilar to a human, but now only their faces and bipedal bodily structures remained to give that effect.

Incidentally, I have been wondering for a while if the way the narrative is written is largely influenced by the famous middle-class narrators of classic 19th century fiction such as Jonathan Harker and Dr Watson, without much thought given to the fact the story states that the hero is a common soldier. I can accept him writing his journal in a well-worded, polite manner, but it isn't it a bit much that he should have the word 'bipedal' in his head and draw conclusions about evolutionary history?

They were shorter than us, averaging at four or five feet, and their heads were hairless and much larger than ours, tapering almost to a point at the crown. Their skinny arms hung limply from their shoulders and in place of hands they possessed fingerless fleshy blobs. The rest of their bodies were concealed beneath finely-patterned, brightly-coloured robes. Bending their elbows to uncertainly shake Dr. Harding’s hand seemed to require the most tremendous effort on their part.

I'm not entirely sure what to make of the idea of magic devolving an entire species into floating Molochs, but I find it.. hmm, slightly hard to swallow. The idea of a creature that's unable to raise their arms being able to survive childbirth stretches the bounds of the imagination, and you have to wonder that evolution would even keep unused limbs intact..

It soon became clear that their form had developed from centuries of total dependence on magic. Physically, they were as deformed children, but it wasn’t long before they demonstrated power worthy of Gods. Instead of walking, they levitated effortlessly everywhere. Consequently their world had no roads

You'd think they'd want some landmarks to prevent them getting lost..

They made no noise, but their intentions were somehow communicated to Ericsson, the Scandinavian, who whispered them to his colleagues. The man was, I surmised, one of the rare telepaths of the Scientific Realm, brought for solely this purpose.

Solely this purpse, eh? No other skills at all? Why the hell does he call it The Scientific Realm instead of, say, the world?

Communication within our party soon became an infuriating game of Chinese Whispers. Ericsson would convey the intentions of the magicians to Statler and Harding, who would pass them onto the Captain, who would in turn announce them to us.

Is it just me or is that a fucking lot of effort for 15 people? Surely they'd go 'screw it' and just have Ericsson convey the whole story?

By this method I very gradually discerned the purpose of our expedition, but by the time the facts had been made perfectly clear to me, we had been journeying for several hours

See, there's my point. Not very practical.

and were being levitated across the waves of a broad and glittering sea. Too late to turn back, but the thought to do so did not occur to me.

Probably due to the fact you're levitating over the sea.

Knowing what I do now, the desire to go back and scream at my younger self to flee is unabated by the impracticality of such a task.

I know the feeling.

Though our primary purpose was scientific research and report, the magicians were hoping that while we were here we could do them a service in return by taking care of some ‘problem’ in a land to the north.

Sounds like those seven hours of talking were well worth it.

Just as we regarded the magic-users with awe, they were unreserved in their fascination for our rifles and physical stature, and the scientists would often find it quite difficult to pry the magicians’ attention away from us, the guardsmen.

Oh, right, they were too busy perving the whole time.

As Statler explained to us with characteristic American glee, all disputes in this world are solved through magical combat, but even the most powerful magical creatures were unprepared for the bullets and technological weapons of the Scientific Realm.

They can telekinetically move anything with no effort, but can't stop a bullet? Or telekinetically shift the rifle out of your hands? Or just explode your heart?

It was apparently proving difficult to extract much information from the magicians as to the nature of the threat we were being expected to combat. They became visibly anxious to even discuss it, if it was an ‘it’ and not a ‘he’ or a ‘them’, for they seemed confused as to whether our quarry was living or dead, sentient or not, an individual or an army. All we could gather was that the entity or entities had conquered a large section of land, and that a great number of people had ventured into them, never to return. Those that did returned insane, raving, often injured in the most unspeakable ways. They would convey nothing but meaningless expressions of suffering, and these poor wretches would be swiftly imprisoned to avoid paining other telepaths with their grisly thoughts.

Sounds like a job for twelve guys with slow-loading weaponry, to me.

When Ericsson was being informed of this by the magicians, he became pale and distressed, quaking visibly at the joints. When passing on the details, his speech was littered with pauses and stalls, and he made strange gestures with his hands. It was clear to me that the telepathic images he had received were considerably more disturbing than he could illustrate with words. Harding and Statler didn’t seem to make the connection,


and continued chatting earnestly amongst themselves, taking the occasional photograph of the mysterious lands that passed by far below.

"And, er, er.. the fires of death shall rain down.."
"Totally with you, man. Hey, Matt, doesn't that look like the forest by my house?"
"Totally taking a picture! CA-CHING! Anyway, what's after the fires of death?"
"The rape ogres..."
"Cool. Do you reckon I could kill somebody from urinating on them from this height?"

The orange sun was resting on the horizon by the time we arrived at our destination.

This information is kind of meaningless considering that we don't know how many hours in a day here of where the sun was when you arrived.

The mages touched us down in a thickly forested valley formed within the arms of a crescent-shaped mountain range. I use these words for convenience’s sake, for both the forest and the mountains were so alien to our eyes that comparison with earthly features feels unjustified. The ‘trees’ were flesh-coloured and had a smooth and rubbery texture. They lacked branches, each one instead being formed from a single tapering shaft, coiling insanely about and tying itself into knots as it grew. The distant mountains that loomed over us had a great many needle-sharp peaks like a gigantic bed of nails that seemed to have little to do with natural formation.

I would accepted 'ginormous knotted wangs' and 'needle-stacks' though.

The ‘trees’ were clumped thickly but there was enough space between them to afford the pitching of our tents, so we made camp where we had landed.

Total sausage-fest. Also, I guess the endless hours of floating around doing nothing must have really tired you guys out.

The magicians retired to some kind of magically-conjured dome under which they planned to meditate, as far as I could gather, but the thickness of the field made me feel that its main purpose was defense, not shelter.

"Err... can you make that dome a bit bigger?"

"The magicians are asking you to piss off, sir"

Their attitude was increasingly nervous, but they seemed reassured by our presence.

"Man, I'm really worried our god-like powers can't get us through this"
"Don't worry - we have a dozen guys with guns, remember?"
"Ah, right. Phew, that's a weight off my shoulders.."

It was almost dark and I was helping my squadmates

Squad? How big's your squad? Like, three people? For fuck's sake

Brigade (c3000) > Regiment / Battalion (500-1500) > Company (75-200) > Platoon (30-50) > Squad (8-15) > Patrol

Also, this is the British army presumably, and they don't even use the term 'squad' using 'section' instead.

with our tent when we heard raised voices coming from the tent that the scientists were sharing. For the first time Ericsson’s voice was loud and clear, expressing an urgent desire to abandon the mission and return to our arrival point, to commiserate ourselves with research of the surrounding area and await the return transportation.

Somehow I imagine they wouldn't be wanting to fly you back in a hurry.

His colleagues refused adamantly, of course.

I'm not sure why this is an 'of course' statement. Unless we're meant to think "Because they're DICKS" which I guess is what the story's been driving at.

The forest was a much more valuable source of materials,

Particularly of the wang-meat variety.

and the requests of the magicians could not be ignored, not while diplomatic relations between the two Realms were civil but cautious.

What about diplomatically declined? Also, you only have the word of an insane mumbling Scandinavian bloke that diplomatic relations ARE civil and or cautious.

After that point I gave up reading, which I think should be seen as perfectly understandable by anyone..