Book review kinda. Actually rant. Sunday, May 3 2009 

What most convinces me that global warming is real is that those who argue against it usually sound about as honest and trustworthy as a used car salesman.

Ian Wishart released a new book recently, Air Con, all about how global warming is a big big phony. I browsed a bit of it because I like to be reasonably well informed about important scientific matters regarding the planet Earth.

What Ian doesn’t seem to understand is that if you’re going to question the integrity of scientists, it’s a good idea to have the absolute highest integrity yourself. So if you’re going to criticise a scientist for using the word ‘probably’ in their articles, it’s a good idea to not also have used the word ‘probably’ in your own work two paragraphs previously. And if you’re going to quote statistics, put them in context – for example, don’t tell us how many scientists don’t believe in global warming if you’re not going to tell us how many scientists do. Especially if you’ve only just criticised Al Gore for manipulating statistics to suit his purpose – most likely the reader will now be sensitive to how you could also be manipulating statistics yourself.

Radical politicians should never be trusted to talk about science for exactly the same reason that compulsive liars should never be trusted to talk about science.

Hard work. Saturday, Jan 24 2009 

I forgot I was a perfectionist. I’ve spent the last two hours making imperceptible changes to the page I posted yesterday. I won’t bother posting the page with changes yet because it would serve no other value than as a minor spot-the-difference project.

I think I was too harsh on Wall·E the first time I watched it. The part where the humans get involved and everything gets all didactic isn’t too bad, it’s just disappointing that Pixar weren’t confident in the strength of Wall·E and Eve in the movie by themselves. They started out working perfectly with a ‘less is more’ principle, then they added more to the film and made it less. It’s like if you took a Buster Keaton short and spliced Star Wars onto the end of it.

Whatever happened to class? I’m looking at pictures of the Wellington Cup and amazed at how cheap the punters can make stylish clothes look. More Paris Hilton than Audrey Hepburn. Those participating have taken the concept of ‘high society’ and turned it into a dress-up competition. Like if you turned ‘My Fair Lady’ on its head and made everyone an Eliza Doolittle.

Wait, didn’t Audrey Hepburn star as Eliza Doolittle?

Reminder. Monday, Jan 12 2009 

Sometimes I’m compelled to mention that I really like Cat and Girl. It’s true that a lot of the time the jokes and references go over my head, but every now and then Dorothy creates strips that are wonderful in every possible way and I’d like to frame them and put them on the wall if I could.

Also sometimes xkcd strikes true to the heart of the heart of truth.

In fact I’m in such a good mood that I like everything right now.

Transformers comparison. Thursday, Apr 17 2008 

In the 21st century, Transformers cartoons are batshit crazy. In the 21st century, Transformers cartoons were batshit awful.

Personally I prefer the show now that the autobots have a ninja and the decepticons have a pirate. Optimus Prime is still an ass, though.

Writing has been like hard work lately. It don’t seem to be enjoying it as much as I used to. It’s depressing.

AAARGH!!! Saturday, Mar 8 2008 

Green Wing has sold as many copies in the few days since its release as Mighty Boosh has since its release a month ago. Why? Why?

I tried watching a little bit of Green Wing last year and it just annoyed me. I gave it the benefit of the doubt and assumed that this was because I hadn’t watched it ‘from the beginning’. Because ‘the beginning’ would give the characters the necessary establishment for me to understand their ‘complex dynamics and interactions’.

Now I’ve seen the first episode (except for the last ten minutes which I couldn’t be bothered with) and I still have no idea what the appeal is. Are people so shallow that all they can see is the slick, stylised, commercial-like editing? That’s what I couldn’t stand the first time I tried watching the show – it isn’t given a second to breathe in between the speed-ups, the slow-downs and the music they jam into every three second gap where no one is talking.

I assumed until now that there must be some pretty fabulous characterisation and dialogue if you’re able to look past the editing. Um… no. There isn’t. The characters are so flat that you could roll them up and fit them through a keyhole. The dialogue sounds like something that was written by someone who has just read Writing Humour For Dummies and now thinks they have the necessary life experience to write comedy for the BBC. Take this conversation for example, between two doctors walking down a corridor, talking about the response of some interns to a new nurse:

“…they’re all like bees around a honey pot.”
“No. No, bees make honey, don’t they.”
“Yeah, so.”
“Yeah, so. So why are bees bothering with a pot of honey? Yeah? Why not stay back at the hive where there’s as much honey as they can have, yeah? Yeah? Why flap all the way to the supermarket or somebody else’s house or wherever this honey pot is when there’s plenty of honey at home?”
“Yeah, well flies around a honey pot then.”
“Flies prefer shit.”
“Well, wasps. The point is, etc.”

It’s like someone had writers block and tried writing ‘banter’ off the top of their head. Anyone can write ‘banter’ at this level. It doesn’t involve effort whatsoever.

“I was at the supermarket the other day.”
“Why do they call it a supermarket? It doesn’t even have any super powers.”
“Maybe at night it puts on a spandex outfit at night and flies around the place beating up evil superwarehouses.”
“Wouldn’t people notice a bit building flying around the place?”
“Maybe it’s a like a transformer that can become a radically different size when it transforms.”
“Oh, so it’s a transformer now. Why don’t they call them transmarkets, then?”

…and so on and so on. Like I said, no effort. Seriously, if you take away all the slick editing bullshit there’s nothing. If you filmed it like an ordinary sitcom it would be an instant flop.

I wonder if that really is the reason GW sells better than MB. The former looks and feels like an expensive commercial. The latter looks and feels cheap. Now I’m wondering what would have happened if Welcome To Paradise had been filmed in GW style. Cult success, perhaps? Isn’t that a scary thought?

The Boosh. Tuesday, Feb 5 2008 

I’ve been watching the Mighty Boosh DVD. Vince Noir’s mobile phone plays Cars. I missed that the first time. But then MB introduced me to Gary Numan in the first place.

I’ve been making colleagues at work watch it. One of them said I talk like a Mighty Boosh character and thought I was such a big fan of them that I was doing it deliberately. It was an odd moment for me.

There’s lots of other stuff I missed the first time. Like the amount of times Vince Noir subtly flirts with the camera. And all the secondary characters who are actually played by the main actors in different makeup.

I think I’ll have to learn to disguise people effectively like that. I’ve been having trouble finding actors. They have to be people I’m comfortable with and they have to be comfortable with the idea of being in videos on the internet. So far I have about two people and myself.

Naturally I chose the Transformers example. Sunday, Feb 3 2008 

I found a new webcomic I like. Yay! Truck Bearing Kibble. Similar to Perry Bible Fellowship. I prefer TBK to PBF, though. The characters seem to have slightly more of an identity; they’re not just blank images used for a gag. Sort of like in Far Side how characters always address each other by their first name, even though they only exist in one panel.

I love the idea behind this video clip, but really can’t stand the way they’ve edited it in the style of some sort of reality television challenge. 207 people standing on the spot for five minutes isn’t a challenge, it’s performance art. It kind of makes me angry that they’ve taken something as sacred as performance art and lowered it to the level of reality television.

Notes from two small islands. Monday, Dec 3 2007 

Rip It Up has The Flight Of The Conchords on the cover and NME has The Mighty Boosh. It’s like comedy bands with TV shows are the hip things to be right now.

I’ve always slightly preferred MB to FotC just because the storylines are more outrageous (and therefore up my alley). But the final episode of FotC tonight had a brilliant poignancy that MB could never have. And Bret’s angry dance was brilliant. In itself, it’s worth buying the DVD for. When it comes out. In New Zealand.

Good day, on the whole. Wednesday, Nov 7 2007 

Putting a couple of copies of my book under the weight of all my lego for a week hasn’t been as effective as I had hoped. The pages are a lot flatter, but still kind of wavy. I’ll leave them for another week and put my old university coursebooks on top of the lego in addition.

I was feeling bad about that this morning but then I discovered that not all publishers need me to go through an agent. I’ve managed to find a couple who I can just email my book to directly. One is in Australia – they want the first chapter and will ask for the rest of the book within a week if they’re interested. The other is in England and want the whole book, but will take 12 weeks to make a decision. The English publisher will accept submissions from overseas, the Australian publisher doesn’t state that they won’t. I have nothing to lose from submitting my book to them, and with the Australian publisher at least I’ll know within a week. Know whether they want to take any further interest, that is.

It’s so nice to get someone to at least read the damn thing without wanting to be paid for the privelege.

After I discovered these publishers I wandered around town for a while, just because I can. A ginger cat asleep in the university library cheered me up. Mayflower New World playing ‘Friday I’m In Love’ cheered me up. A duck in the harbour cheered me up. It went ‘quack’. I don’t know why it did that, there were no other ducks around. Maybe it wanted to see if it could hear its echo.

And getting Robert Rankin’s book The Antipope out of the library cheered me up. The last Rankin book I read was atrocious, so I’ve been reluctant to read any more… but I was right about the qualities that I found so endearing about his work to begin with. It’s sort of what you’d get if you crossed Last of the Summer Wine with P.G. Wodehouse and threw in a comic book. Or something.

Pratchett down one place, Rankin up. Sunday, Oct 28 2007 

I’ve been reading Terry Pratchett’s latest book, mostly because I can’t read a series of books without finishing it and unfortunately Terry Pratchett never stops. There are a lot of things I like about the Discworld novels, but there’s also this slightly arrogant, patronising undercurrent that puts me off. I just get the impression that Pratchett uses his books to look down on the world.

Take the qualities of eccentricity and irrationality, for example. Douglas Adams and Robert Rankin embrace those qualities and write from the perspective of people who are, just like their characers, flawed. David Tennant as Doctor Who spends a lot of his time infatuated with human foibles. He doesn’t look down on them, he admires them.

Terry Pratchett, on the other hand, seems to write from the perspective of someone who is entirely flawless himself, who sits smugly in a throne overlooking the absurdity of mankind, and who from this position is qualified to cast judgements. I’ve always found it hard to explain this impression I get, mostly because I think a lot of people can read exactly what I read and not see the same thing. It’s in the way the major characters are always superior to the minor characters who quite often seem to be entirely unaware of their faults.

On page 144 of Making Money, as a prime example, Moist doesn’t ‘understand’ the behaviour of the masses. They attend an event, and then want to read about it in the paper… why do they need to read about it in the paper if they were there? Moist is apparently so far above normal human mentality that he can no longer comprehend it. Am I the only one who sees the arrogance of the writer in this sort of ‘blindness’ of the protagonist? Especially since the ability to ‘not understand’ human behaviour always seems like an annoying affectation. I don’t see the point in watching sport, but if I pretended not to ‘understand’ the sport-watching mentality then I’d be fatally disingenuous.

I don’t know I’m the only one who sees this, though. Either way, I’ve promoted Robert Rankin to the status of my favourite living writer. He can write some dire unreadable crap and I haven’t dared to read any of his latest books, but I’m very fond of some of the older ones. Terry Pratchett never writes unreadable crap, but I can’t stand the patronising, superior attitude that comes across. ‘Unreliable quality of writing’ wins.

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