Things I have eaten today, a short and incomplete list:

January 31, 2009 at 2:42 pm (Dan) (, , , , , )

No pictures, one link. This shit? The way we are kicking it? Oldschool. That is the method by which it is kicked.

So!

Things I have eaten today, a short and incomplete list:

1) Bacon Rice Crispies, motherfuckers.

Inspired by the fine work of the Ridiculous Food Society of Upstate New York, today I made me some goddamn rice crispies, mit also the bacon. Let’s get down to brass tacks, here:

  • Six cups of rice bubbles
  • four slices of delicious smoked bacon from my local butcher
  • 200gm packet of No Frills pink and white marshmallows
  • a little bit of butter

Also I used two slicepans (though one is for actual reals a pie dish, not a slice tray) and a mixing bowl, but you don’t need the mixing bowl. And really you only need one slice tray. And you probably need more bacon.

Allow me to explain my methods, here:

I sliced the rind off the bacon, and chucked it in a pretty small frying pan, with a cover, to render out the delicious fats held within the rind. While it was frying up, I cut the bacon into pretty small chunks, the better to get a mix on with the rice bubbles.

Once I’d cut up the bacons, I took the rind out of the pan and fried the little baconbits up until they were supercrispygood (because if they weren’t, that’d be a bit weird later, probably). Usually I would use a sandwich press to make supercrisp bacon, but I wanted the bacon fat left over for the melting of marshmallows in.

Yes, this is a perfectly sensible idea. Shut your mouth.

I took the pan off the heat, and set it on an angle, so the fat ran out of the corner-piled baconbits. After a while, I put the baconbits in a mixing bowl to cool down, but I could have put them straight in the slicepan, really, had I been thinking that shit through.

Then! Marshmallows.

First I checked to see if the bacon fat tasted like bacon (sometimes it does!), but it didn’t, so that was ok. I chucked a bit of butter in the pan with the baconfat (seriously, this is delicious, shut up!), and put it over a very low heat. While the butter melted down, I got the rice bubbles out, and put two cups in the pie dish, mixed up with the bacons, and four in the slice tray, baconless.

Once the rice bubbles were arranged, and the butter was melted, I got my marshmallow on, put them all into the pan with the baconbutter. Marshmallows melt weird, it’s kind of disconcerting. They stay big for ages, then all of a sudden they’re not, anymore, they’re liquid marshmallow goodness. I did this over a fairly low heat, because I didn’t want to burn any sugar, you know?

I put about a third of the mixture into the pie dish, and left the rest of the marshmallows on a (really, really) low heat. There was just about a flame, but not enough to burn anything.

Mixing marshmallowbaconbutter into baconbubbles is weird and messy. The marshmallow starts to turn to, like, sugar-ropes, almost immediately, and this is not helpful. I am just saying: get your mix on fast. Use two utensils. I used the rice spatula from my rice cooker, and also a spoon, but if I’d had another small spatula, I would have used that.
But eventually I got most of the ricebubblebaconios attached to the marshmallowmix, and it was good.

While I had not been paying attention, the marshmallow mix in the pan had kind of shrunk down, and was threatening to caramelise, so I hastily tipped it into the slice tray.

It was at this point that I realised that you should not use a slotted spatula to mix marshmallows and butter, because that shit does not come out of the holes. Not ever.

So I was a bit short of marshmallows (my packet was 200 grams, I had wanted 250, but you can’t always get what you want), but still, enough of the rice bubbles were incorporated. This is not as supersweet as I recall them being as a kid, probably due to the higher rice/sugar ratio. That kind of makes them healthy, right?

Anyway! If I was going to do this again, I’d use three times as much bacon, and I wouldn’t bother making any non-bacon rice crispies.

And I will tell you why:

They are fucking delicious, that’s why.

Don’t even joke about ‘eww’, and ‘gross’, it’s not cool. You are disrespecting a beautiful thing, you disrespecter of beautiful things. I will have no truck with it.

So, thanks, internets! You have learned me up some valuable lessons today!

(those lessons being that anything that you’d be happy to cook on a stick, over a fire, will taste delicious with anything else you’d be happy to cook on a stick, over a fire. And rice bubbles. Also that you can trust the internet to feed you, because everything there is the truth)

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some delicious treats to consume.

Permalink 7 Comments

Abstinence – just say no

January 31, 2009 at 1:45 am (Percy) (, , , , )

I’ve been thinking about abstinence lately. A few days ago, Alan came home and asked me what my attitudes were, and my first response was something like “Well, it’s pretty retarded”. I thought I’d explain my attitudes in detail with lots of glorious links, and throw in all my relevant anecdotes to keep things interesting.

Why would someone choose to not have sex? The desire to have sex and be intimate with other people (or even yourself) is a serious urge, driving most people to do many stupid things in their lifetime, and probably have some fun as well. People fight, struggle and kill each other for sex. It’s also an incredibly complex urge that manages to find its way into all parts of our lives – let’s just say more TV shows are based around sexual tension than food or shelter tension. To deny yourself something so powerful is insane!

…so says the meth addict. Clearly there is more to it than that. Let’s start with the most obvious reason one might abstain: the AIDS.

Young people are getting STDs everywhere. Some are even born with them, and grow up to unwittingly pass it on to others. About 1 in 25 people have some sort of STD. The absolute best way to not get STDs is to (a) not start life with one and (b) not have sex with anyone. Or perhaps wait until the (foolproof?) test results come back for your partner of choice.

Also: the BABY. Adolescents having children is a matter of great shame (for some reason), and I will admit that most teenagers aren’t ideally suited to child rearing. Teen pregnancies are difficult and traumatic, and many people are uncomfortable with abortion and adoption and this one mistake will destroy their lives in an instant. Avoiding getting pregnant while engaging in sex is trying to cheat nature, and most of the time that’s pretty risky. Better to just not have sex, apparently.

Abstaining from sex to avoid getting infected or pregnant is pretty dumb if that’s all there is to it. This attitude is the equivalent of not leaving the house for fear of being struck by lightning – there are adequate steps you can take to manage the risk (safe sex – really important), so you shouldn’t let your fears take away one of the great things about being a person. Just be safe, and if you’re really worried, get tested along with your partner for STDs and take the pill. Everything should be OK.

Not only that, but having sex often is good for you. It might even be bad for you to stop. And not just the guys and their prostate cancer – the ladies get health benefits too from getting their rocks off on a regular basis. Seriously, it even makes you (transitive) smell better!

Post: over? No. You know it’s not over. Many people will tell you that they are abstinent, wear it as a mark of pride and try and make you stop having sex as well. They’ll even try and stop you from having sex, and the health of your body is their last concern. I’m not talking about ascetism, though it won’t have many legs to stand on by the end of this post. I’m talking about the desire to “save yourself” until you are married for religious reasons. And when I say “many people”, I’m going to include the US government as well:

These kinds of restrictions and results are fairly typical. The abstinence only bid is going strong in most countries, especially Africa and America (click that link and read the ‘criticisms’ section if you want more info as well). I seem to recall my school’s sex education being more about anatomy than about safe sexual practises (I certainly never heard the word ‘condom’), so even religious schools in Australia are sticking with it. I’m sure AO programs are better than no information at all in educating people about diseases and pregnancy, but why not educate about condoms? What is the harm in that? There is actually no evidence to suggest that contraceptive education increases the rate of sexual activity. Just ask these guys.

I think the attitude of the abstinence-only advocates is pretty easy to understand – if we give kids the tools to have sex safely, then they’ll have sex. If we don’t tell them there are safe options available, kids will be scared into sexual repression by their ignorance and everyone will be safe. Fear is used as a weapon, and the ends are meant to justify the means. A very narrow path is set, and only one option is available. If you deviate from it, you have no information about what to do and how to proceed safely. It is a gross misrepresentation of reality in order to fit a moral agenda. Just ask the wartime propaganda machine:

Note that it’s the woman doing the spreading of the disease, and the great tragedy is that you can’t kill for your country anymore. I’m glad someone was telling men about STDs, but they just couldn’t help but slip the patriotism in, could they?

It’s been around for centuries with masturbation too. Attempts to stop children from masturbating have ranged from the cruel:

(This thing has spikes, an alarm bell and electric shocking power. Yeah.)
to the superstitious:

(did you know it also causes you to lose your eyesight, get STDs, acne and impotence?)
to the absurd:

(Seriously, it was used by XxxChurch in 2005 to try and stop kids masturbating (“Ask your buds if they killed any kittens this week,”), even though it was released online as a joke in 2002)

Why are people so invested in preventing sex and sexual expression, to the point where they will inflict pain, lie to and traumatise young people to make them see their moral correctness? This is instead of helping to encourage safer methods and reducing the incidence. There is a moral, religious or philosophical agenda in the background. It tries to hide, but it really is rather blatant in its wilful ignorance of scientific consensus and attempts to manipulate the media, politics and young people everywhere.

As for the ‘virginity pledges’, there has been some back-and-forth in the academic arena, but most studies point towards their ineffectiveness. This one is the latest I could find, and it essentially says that these pledges don’t work, those who take them are more likely to not use condoms, and most people deny ever taking the pledge to begin with (purity – not the coolest concept in the schoolyard these days).

Remember Bristol Palin? She was forced to marry and have a child with her wonderful boyfriend. I feel so incredibly sorry for this poor girl, who would have felt like a major embarrassment to her mother, her church and basically everyone she ever knew. It was probably one afternoon, she and her boyfriend were bored, and they had awkward, uncomfortable teenage sex and then felt guilty and stressed the whole time. I cannot imagine how horrible it would have been for her to realise her period wasn’t coming, and to know that there was no option of getting rid of it to continue with her life, which was only just beginning.

Don’t use people’s ignorance against them, scaring them into helplessness. Give people the facts and let them make up their own minds. And don’t even get me started about homosexual abstinence in these programs. Just like sex before marriage, underage sex is *demonised*. And it’s accomplished by grouping “immoral” things together, as a big gateway to more sin. Here’s a great example:

It makes me so angry that a confused and miserable gay teenager might watch this, or even be shown it at school. No matter how you feel about sex, whether you want it or think you can do it safely or if you love the person you’re with, it is a sin and you must avoid it. If you don’t, then you will (and should be) ostracised and treated like a criminal junkie. Who are these people, to take something that can be fun, beautiful and meaningful, responsible and safe, and try and turn it into this?

When Tabitha and I were growing up, we had no clear idea what was ‘allowed’ and what wasn’t. The extremes were clear, but there really is an expansive grey area in the middle. We weren’t that sure about safe sex, and we really, really didn’t want to have a baby. Our anxiety was incredible – always worried that one wrong move would set everything off. And in some respects it’s good that we were anxious enough to be careful, but we didn’t know how to be careful, and knew that if anything went wrong we would ruin our entire lives. The psychological strain is something we’re still working through today.

Ultimately, I think sexual education should aim to liberate and empower children, not make them conform to the older generation’s expectations of them. Encouraging repression is disgusting, especially when there are better alternatives.

Enough about abstinence education, though. What if you get taught about abstinence, condoms and every preventative measure. Why would people still choose to be abstinent? Are there any virtues in that? Why do people want others to be abstinent in the first place?

Catholic priests remain abstinent (well, some) to show others their devotion to their religion and to be an example to others who might be struggling with urges of their own. I can see why this might serve as a good example, but I personally feel that the tradeoff really isn’t worth it. Show that you can manage your own desires responsibly, rather than going to the extreme and saying “no” to everything, and you’ll be a much more approachable and effective role model – people who drink responsibly are better at telling other people how to drink responsibly than teetotallers, and the same principle applies here.

Teenagers sometimes stick to their virginity pledge and save themselves for marriage, and believe that they’re doing the right thing. Here are some moral reasons that are often voiced:

Lineage

This one goes out to the boys. Men are very concerned about who women have sex with, and want to ensure that the baby the girl says is theirs is actually theirs. If women remain abstinent until they marry you, and they have sex with no-one else, then the baby they have is definitely yours. My personal opinion is that most of the biblical prohibitions against sex are more to do with making sure your kid is your own than about some metaphysical morality. Needless to say, this is a pretty stupid reason not to have sex, especially if you take precautions against having children. Furthermore, whilst I do acknowledge the importance some people place in having your genetic material passed on (myself included), this problem is adequately solved by open and honest communication with your partner. Trapping them with archaic social norms is not cool.

-“Before you there was no other” and the symbol of the wedding night

Jealousy is a powerful force. No-one wants to feel like a second rate lover, or that they compare unfavourably to some other person. I was told at church that being able to say this on your wedding night was both awesome and essential for a happy marriage. The wedding night was the consumation of God’s love, where the man enacts the part of God, and the woman the part of Israel (or God’s people, or whatever). Just read Song of Songs, that’s the message there.
The reality is far from the truth. Most people’s first times are embarrassing and stressful and short. Christian or abstaining couples have gone through years and years of believing that sex was evil. Sexual impulses are dangerous, to be controlled and supressed. Suddenly, you have to turn this conditioning off and have a great time with someone you don’t know at all in a sexual way. Instead of a wedding night being a celebration of your relationship, it’s an exercise in disappointment and managing expectations.
The bottom line is that you are committing your life to someone else without any experience or any point of comparison. Some people think this is a virtue, but again this comes from a place of insecurity – if they don’t know any better, then there is no chance they’ll think you’re garbage. This does not guarantee happiness for either party, and is probably a recipe for disaster.
Many polyamorous couples report that their experiences with others gives them more ideas for the bedroom with their chosen partner, and it’s a mark of respect that you want to continue to improve by exposure to new ideas. Even if you’re uncomfortable with polyamory, being with other people beforehand, learning how your body works and what you want, and finding someone you can share those things with is so important. Trying to figure all of this out with someone else all at once will likely create more bad experiences than good, which will lead into a vicious cycle of unhappiness.

Respect

The argument that abstaining from sex is respecting the person you’re with, in that you don’t want to try and take the ‘goods’ before you’ve committed your life to them, is rather prevalent. If you don’t end up with person X, then future person Y will be mad at you because you haven’t saved yourself.
This is quite ridiculous. Firstly, sex is not a disrespectful act, to your partner or anyone who knows them or is related to them. The emphasis should be on informed, good choices rather than assuming we can’t make our own and providing us with a prepackaged answer. Religious attitudes towards sex and respect reach their most extreme in the form of honour killings (like this one – and they were trying to do it by the book, too). Whilst governments are starting to crack down, the attitude comes from the same emotional place.

Secondly, if you’ve had sex before and know some tricks and have some skill, then the other person will end up enjoying things more. You want to be with them now, and that’s what is important. Why carry on about the past unless you’re horribly insecure? Doing things because you’re insecure is kinda dumb.

Because God said so

Much of the Christianity I’ve been exposed to is very cult like in its insistence that the bible is true. I remember being presented a proof that witchcraft existed that went along these lines:

“God warns us about witchcraft. He wouldn’t have warned us if it wasn’t real and dangerous. Therefore it is real and dangerous.”

It’s a position where the bible is correct, and you cannot try and rationalise why God wants us to do things. Even if you tear down the ‘logical’ reasoning, God still told us to be abstinent, so we should.
The attitude of shutting up and not questioning anyone in authority and assuming they’re right is one that should never be encouraged. If you can’t think of a good reason why you should be abstinent, then don’t bother. Go and have some fun, I’m sure God will forgive you. Especially if it’s with someone you love and respect with the aim of becoming closer. Who could hate that? Who would punish you for that?

Finally, let me emphasise the worst part of abstinence again – it leaves no room for those who are not abstinent. If you’ve had a previous marriage, how does respect, lineage and the symbol of the wedding night all fit in? The short answer is that they don’t. You have failed as a human being and will now miss out on the best thing ever, possibly through no fault of your own. If you get an STD, get pregnant earlier than you want, or go through a divorce, there is suddenly no answers. It seems that providing them will make others more licentious because they might follow your horrid example. One size does not fit all, and trying to make it so is doomed to failure. Celebration of homogeneity is something I’ve never liked, or trusted, or engaged in.

Abstinence is a dangerous social construct. It makes people unsafe, unhappy and ultimately unfulfilled. I’m sure there are many success stories out there, but at the very least give everyone all the information before you ask them to choose. Stop fucking with kids’ brains and telling them that they’ll have it all, when in reality they’ll probably fuck up and have no guidelines, or follow your insrtuctions and become very unhappy.

Seriously, just listen to “Dr Paul”, who seems to lecture on all sorts of matters while ensconsed on a couch in his smoking jacket with a dry martini (man the internet is weird):

Well, maybe that wasn’t the clearest advice, but you get the idea. Go have safe sex, kids. It’s awesome, and it’ll make you happier now and in the future.

If you have some argument that I haven’t appropriately strawmanned in defence of this unfortunate lifestyle choice, please comment. I’ll also add that those who are asexual, antisexual or whatever are of course exempt – if you don’t want to, then don’t. Just don’t fool yourself into thinking some imaginary control freak will love you more if you deny yourself things you do want.

Permalink 15 Comments

The late 90s through the ears of Julia: a mixtape for AP5.

January 29, 2009 at 10:14 am (Julia) (, , )

In my teens, from the age of about 15 onwards, I was really into music. I was into it the way that these days, I’m into television shows, only about a million times moreso.  I used it to define myself, I would talk about it, and it was a pretty significant part of my leisure time. It was also, unsurprisingly, a pretty important aspect of my relationships with other people. With my group of friends, a close friendship was usually cemented by the making of a mixtape. You didn’t just make a tape for an acquaintance – the whole thing was a fairly big deal. Making a tape for someone says “I have thought about the kind of person you are, and here are some things that are important to me that I would like to share with you. ” A lot of time and effort goes into a mixtape – you pick songs that you love, that you think the other person will love as well, you put the songs in an order that works, and then (back in the day) you spend a couple of hours putting them onto a tape in real time. Sometimes they would be copied from CDs, sometimes they would be copied from other tapes. Once, delightfully, I copied something from one of my mum’s Nana Mouskouri records. I would use my parents’ stereo for this time-consuming process, because my shitty little boombox could basically copy a thing from a cd, but nothing else. I went multimedia on my mixtapes. Most of the really important, influential, intimite relationships I had in my late teens were kicked off via mixtape.

There’s always been something very intimite about a mixtape – you’re sharing important parts of yourself, or at least I was, because music was so very important to my sense of self. You also have to think of the person who the tape is intended for – songs you think they’ll like, songs that make you think of them, etc. It’s like chosing a gift for someone (the way I do it, anyway).

The last actual tape I made for anyone was for Tom, back in first year. Yep, 2001. Far! These days, I make mix CDs for my peeps. It’s not quite the same – it’s easier, certainly, but I have to impress on them the point that they have to listen to the entire thing in one sitting, in the order that the songs appear on the CD. None of this “ripping to library” bullshit, oh no. I have created a motherfucking auditory experience, and if you love me, you’ll listen properly. I have a pattern I like to follow, when I make a mixtape with songs of different moods. I start full-on, to jolt you into it, then in the middle I move towards more mellow, contemplative songs, and I like to finish with something that puts the listener into a happy, refreshed mood.

(It’s entirely likely that I take this too seriously, and pretend that I’m a guest programmer on Rage.)

Anyway, dearest AP5 colleagues (and anyone else who might read this), I have created a mixtape, via youtube, for you. The videos don’t matter – the music does. You can watch the videos, or play them in order, or even download each song and listen to it (IN ORDER) for yourself at your leisure. I have also included a brief discussion (annotated bibliography?) of each song, which was a thing I used to do back in the day. I would create mixtape cover inserts, explaining how I felt about each song. It was, in a way, very teenage and very self-involved, but man, it was still pretty awesome. Because of this, I have listed songs from the 90s, that I loved during the 90s.

1. Seether – Veruca Salt

This is the first Veruca Salt song I ever heard, and rather fittingly, it was off The Mixtape That Changed My Life. This was a present from my friend Mel, around the time of my 15th birthday, and it opened my eyes to all sorts of new music. It was also the first mixtape anyone ever made me. I listened to it about a million times and then it disintergrated some time during my HSC, which did not improve my mental state at all. Veruca Salt are one of my favourite bands ever. Girl rock, when girl rock meant girl, and rock, as some kind of wonderful synonymous concept. The mid-90s were a good time for women in alternative rock, oh yes. Veruca Salt sang songs that weren’t just about being in love with boys. They were about being female, they were about women they knew, and they were sometimes about being in love with other girls, but in a very real, accurate way, none of this Katy Perry performance-bisexuality bullshit. Also, they had rocking fat riffs and throbbing basslines which made me feel interesting downstairs, if you know what I mean. I’m putting this up here especially for Tab and Heather, because as a teenage girl it was important for me that there were women making kickarse music. Women are still a minority in actual rock, which is such a total boy’s club.

2. In Bloom – Nirvana

I got into Nirvana after Kurt died, mostly because I was about 12 when that happened, and music was just starting to be a thing for me. There are a lot of Nirvana songs I could’ve put on, but I’ve always loved the baseline from this one, and honestly, it’s both not too depressing, and not so overplayed that you’ve all definitely heard it before. Putting on Smells Like Teen Spirit would’ve been pointless, because who hasn’t heard that? Also, I’m a music snob and when someone says “I love [band] and my favourite song is [band’s most popular song] I explode, and mentally accuse them of not being a real fan at all. Mostly this doesn’t happen IRL, but if a band programs Rage and says “this singer/group was a huge influence” and then plays their most well-known song, I call shenanigans. This is because, invariably, their most well-known song is the most palatable, most mainstream-appropriate song in their repertoire, and that right there is some indie music fan bullshit. (16 year old music fan Julia still lives inside me, and she could probably do with a good slap, but hey, there it is).

3. Zero – Smashing Pumpkins

Zero is a fine example of the Smashing Pumpkin’s heavier stuff. This is from Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, which was an incredible album. Percy, I think you would really enjoy it – there’s very angry stuff like this, then lots of more mellow things. It’s a good ride. I love the angry guitar in this song.

4. Hey Man, Nice Shot – Filter

I’ll admit to not having heard a bunch of Filter, and it’s not always my cup of tea, but I did love this song (yes, read aforementioned musical rant and now point the finger at me). However! In my defence, I first heard it on D.P.O., one of my favourite episodes of The X-Files. I loved it, but I missed the bit in the credits where they listed the songs, and for ages I had no idea what the song was, until I heard it playing at a party and I was all “oh, I love this song!” (In related news, how awesome is the internet? If I hear a song, I can go right to youtube and find it. Fucking awesome. I can get track listings from IMDB and Wiki. That information is available, right there). Another Filter song which I love, but haven’t put up here, is their combined effort with the Crystal Method from the Spawn movie, “Can’t You Trip Like I Do”. Seek it out, it’s pretty fantastic. I think Dan and Percy will particularly get a kick out of it.

5. Man That You Fear – Marilyn Manson

It was hard to pick which Manson song to put on this, because I was a serious Manson fan for several years (and then Mechanical Animals was released and it absolutely sucked and broke my heart). This is, however, my favourite song from my favourite album. Antichrist Superstar was a story album, heavily influenced by The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, which was the most awesome, original Bowie album ever. Antichrist Superstar has an unearthly antihero (like Ziggy), who gains a huge following and then is ruined by his own fame (like Ziggy). Okay, let’s face it, the whole album is basically Ziggy Stardust with more hints of faux-satanism and less androgynistic aliens. But if you have to ape another singer and another album, Ziggy Stardust is pretty much the one to pick. I’m not going to put any Bowie here, because Bowie basically deserves a whole tape for himself.

6. Aurora -Veruca Salt

Okay, so, normally I wouldn’t put two songs by the same group on a mixtape, unless I was making a genre tape. But I had to put on Seether, of course, due to history, but this is probably my favourite VS song, and it’s kind of my favourite song right now (Tom is probably quite sick of hearing it). This post very nearly became a Veruca Salt playlist. But yes! This was on the Tank Girl soundtrack, which also had ladies being kind of kickarse and awesome and possibly a bit gay (this was a fairly important element of my teen years), and I just think it’s so beautiful. Man, I really miss the way people played guitars in the 90s.

7. Between The Bars – Elliott Smith

Elliott Smith was another person who I wanted to basically put ALL the songs on. But this one is pretty beautiful, and it was one of the first ones I heard. Elliott Smith songs were pretty much the soundtrack for me aged 17, which was a fairly tumultuous year, with some pretty high highs and some pretty low lows.  I kind of spent large portions of it crying, hating myself, being convinced I was totally in love, being convinced that no one in the whole world knew what was going on in my mind, and mostly, listening to Elliott Smith. I listened to so much Elliott Smith that even these days, I need to have it in very small, infrequent doses or it makes me crazy. But this song is beautiful. This song came to me on a tape from a boy who I spent year 12 thinking I was in love with, and I remember lying in my room with the lights off, listening to it, and feeling like this song was making me become a new person.

8. Disarm – Smashing Pumpkins

Disarm is from Siamese Dream, the album that kind of made them famous. Siamese Dream is maybe one of my favourite albums ever, because I like every single song on it, and that rarely happens. But this is a good example of the softer side of the Pumpkins, and it has some fairly delicious guitar work going on. And strings! Shit yeah, break out the motherfucking cellos.

9. Blow Up The Pokies – The Whitlams

Towards the end of my HSC year, when things disintegrated with the aforementioned boy, and I began to feel more claustrophobic in Millthorpe and Orange than ever, I spent a lot of time listening to the Whitlams’ album Love This City. It was, for me, a tiny beacon of inner-west Sydney hope. I was pretty focused on finishing my HSC and getting out of the central west, back to Newtown where I’d grown up, back to Sydney Uni where I’d played when I was little. The album cover for Love This City had pictures of Camperdown Cemetary, the heritage-listed graveyard where I’d had birthday parties when I was young. The song “God Drinks At the Sando” was about the Sandringham Hotel, which was only a few blocks from where I’d lived until I was 9. Most of the songs mentioned the Sydney I was familiar with, and listening to them made me homesick, a good kind of homesick, because I could see that I was going to return soon. This song is one of the prettiest, and it’s a protest song, about a distinctly Sydneyish issue.

10. Hey Jealousy – Gin Blossoms

This was the big breakthrough song for the Gin Blossoms, who were a fairly rad band in the 90s. I didn’t listen to them much in my goth years, because they were sometimes TOO HAPPY and we can’t be having with that, but I remember seeing this song on Rage when I was about 11 or 12 and thinking “whoa, this is awesome”.

11. No Rain – Blind Melon

I am the bumblebee girl. Sydney is my group of bumblebee people. This should explain things sufficiently. (No furry).

12. Here Comes Your Man – The Pixies

Oh, the Pixies. Once again, this is a band for whom I could’ve put up about a million songs, but I’ve chosen this because it’s fun, and upbeat, while still being totally rocking. For goths, the Pixies are the band you’re allowed to be happy to. I loved the Pixies when I was a teenager, and they were, for some reason, a band almost no one else had heard of, so I got lots of indie cred. When my male friends dragged me along to see Fight Club in year 11, the most exciting thing for me was when they played “Where Is My Mind” at the end of the film. Heather, I think you’d like some of the Pixies stuff – particularly songs like this.

So, there you go! A mixtape for you. I hope there’s stuff all of you will enjoy, I hope there’s stuff you haven’t heard before and have now been exposed to, and I hope you enjoyed the interlude into my teenage brain. I hope that if you like a song, you’ll listen to other stuff by that band – one of the wonderful things about doing the mixtape this way is that you’ll be at youtube, with links to the band’s other works right there.

Permalink 4 Comments

How does one cut off one’s own finger with a plastic knife?

January 29, 2009 at 12:06 am (Tabitha) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

When I was thirteen, I was so convinced that I was in love with a boy. I was head over heels for him. Crazy about him. Perhaps a little too literally. For this reason, I thought it would be a great idea for me to carve his nickname into my arm using a pin. I wanted to be permanently marked by him. I, unsurprisingly, regretted this very quickly and had to scratch away all around it so that it was just a scarred patch, rather than a word. DUMB. For a while it looked a little like a birth mark, and now I can barely find it, even when I’m squinting… thank goodness! Did I ever mention that I was a little idiot as a teenager? Yeah…

Anyway, the point is, that I am comparably quite sane and much less hard core according to an article I read in the SMH. It informed me that Ivan Milat had cut off his own little finger using only a plastic knife and had put it in an envelope addressed to the Australian Government. This set off a cascade of thoughts which I will now subject you to.

I am aware that a picnic knife was probably not his implement of choice. I mean I’m sure it would have been much easier for him if he had a cleaver or an axe on hand. But this method,  even though it wasn’t his first choice… really shows determination, am I right? It just makes me think, surely there’s a point at which you’re cutting on yourself and the reflexive pain response would make you unable to continue?  Apparently not in some cases.

Like Van Gough, who famously cut off the lobe of his own ear lobe with a razor blade (or “riseuplide”, as Andrew’s Grandma’s hilarious book of Australian pronunciations says). And the people (who I have been unable to avoid seeing on Space Ghetto) who participate in Body Nullification, like the self removal of parts of their own genitalia.

How are people able to complete such feats of self mutilation in the face of such immense pain? I do understand it a little more if you’re in a life and death situation like Aron Ralston (warning: this video is a detailed description of this man’s self amputation and may be disturbing) . He’s the climber who had to amputate his own arm with a two inch pocket knife in order to free himself from a fallen boulder after 5 days of being pinned there by it. But, even with the knowledge that you will die unless you do this, and the endorphins and adrenalin pumping around your body helping you to survive and dulling your pain… this is extraordinarily excruciating work, and it’s incredible that anyone could see it all the way through.

I wonder if the motivation for the people who do this voluntarily is so strong that it overcomes their immense instinct to stop? I mean, Ivan Milat was attempting to send his finger to the Government. Maybe he felt he had a vital message to send them? One that could outweigh the pretty powerful desire to desist injuring his hand. Or maybe, his desire to be remembered by the public was so intense that it could spur him on in the face of huge self-induced trauma. He has been on a well publicised hunger strike before.

Maybe Van Gough too, felt that sending a message to the people he knew that he was in such distress was important enough to endure the discomfort of cutting off his own ear lobe. After all, he did it after a relationship breakdown and gave the severed lobe to a local prostitute for safe keeping.

Members of the Sadhus, a religious group in India devoted to liberation through meditation, sometimes walk around for decades with one hand continually raised, which can cause the fingers to eventually “withdraw into a stump”. Is this behaviour a self-harming attempt to communicate to others about their beliefs? I don’t know. If so, their need to communicate that message must be pretty damn strong.

I suppose it is possible that the need communicate a critical message  is all it takes to keep a person’s ‘mind over matter’ powers high enough, but somehow I doubt that it is the entire explanation in these extreme cases. I would argue that it is  probably a contributing factor only. I think it must also have something to do with the physical adaptations to stress, such as adrenalin and endorphins enabling you to do incredible things and bear much more pain than you ordinarily could.

It would not surprise me at all if Van Gough’s paranoia, delusions and anxiety could trigger his body’s fight/flight Sympathetic response to turn on. Nor would it seem strange to me if the same thing resulted from whatever extreme  emotions might fill Ivan Milat’s head at a time like that, possibly aggression, anger, frustration or helplessness.

Wiki tells me that a possible reason that a person might perform a penectomy on themselves is that they might view that organ, or masculinity (of which the penis can be seen as a symbol) as connected with rape, abuse or aggression. For some this leads to a desire to cause it harm or remove it from their body due to complete revulsion or a feeling of being dissociated from it. I can also imagine that having such overwhelming negative feelings about a body part of your own might be so unbearable and distressing as to cause your body to prepare for danger. Especially if you know you’re genuinely tempted to cause yourself drastic injury! I reckon that would get my heart rate up and give me a bit of a “rush”… not a good one though!

I know that some medical disorders can cause similar problems. For example, in Lesch-Nyhan Syndrome (a genetic disorder caused by deficiency in an enzyme because of a gene mutation) the sufferer uncontrollably bites their own lips, tongue and fingers and tries to harm themselves by vomiting compulsively, answering test questions incorrectly and refusing treats and rewards. This behaviour is exacerbated by stress. In many cases the physical damage is permanent. If you are interested in horrible things, there are some pictures of people with this disorder: here and here. This, to me seems in line with the idea that the physical component might be the largest one that allows this type of large-scale self harm to be carried out without backing out.

On a side note, some of the patients I was treating during my Neurological Placement in a Stroke Ward suffered from Hemispacial Neglect. When I would ask them to move an arm or leg on their effected side, the common, very calm, casual response was, “that’s not my arm/leg”. Most of the time they’re completely unaware of it, but when they are forced to acknowledge it’s presence they just claim it belongs to someone else. It’s interesting to me that these people seem amazingly unperturbed by the notion that a limb that does not belong to them is attached to their body. They DON’T have any desire to harm or remove this unfamiliar body part. I think I might, cos it’d freak me out more than a little! I guess this means that dissociation from a body part alone is not enough to cause extreme self mutilation. At least, not in stroke victims.

Conclusion? Git away…I aint got one! I was just musing :p

Permalink 3 Comments

Melbourne by cameraphone

January 28, 2009 at 8:09 pm (Heather) (, , , , , , )

Apologies for the delay, folks.  I was in Melbourne for a very long weekend.  It was lovely!  I set aside a couple of hours yesterday and sat down at an internet cafe to make post go, but uploading photos took forever and I thought my brain was going to explode from frustration.

This was my sixth trip to Melbourne, and the third I’ve taken in the last eight months or so.  I rather like it there!  So I thought I’d tell you all about some things that are awesome about Melbourne.  I’ve sort of been wrestling with the idea that novelty is what’s required when travelling.  I’ve developed a bit of a beloved routine about visiting Melbourne, now, because I know the things that I like to do and where they are.  blatI want to go to Melbourne because I want a kugelhopf and a visit to Sticky and to wander around a place that is familiar but not home.  I still think that’s a real and valid thing.  Hmm.  Anyway, on with the slide show.

The last three times I’ve gone to Melbourne I have stayed in the same hotel, in St Kilda.  (St Kilda is awesome because it is basically like Newtown, with lots of cafes and funky little shops, except at the beach, with Luna Park.)

One of the reasons why I love that hotel is that right across the road is my favourite cafe, the Galleon. All the tables are grandma-style coloured melamine, and I’m starting to think about having one in my kitchen one day.  They make a great BLAT, which is pretty much my favourite breakfast.  When I’m feeling seedy and haven’t slept enough, which seems to be the default setting while travelling, a BLAT and a juice equip me for the day.

I should probably add at this point that many of the Melbourne traditions are food-based, and on this trip we did have trouble fitting enough meals in the day.  Breakfast is important, but lunch tends to be delicious snack food.doughnutexterior

We took a trip to the American Doughnut Van at the Queen Victoria Markets. These things are hot, amorphous, jam-filled and coated with sugar. They are pretty amazing. We bought lots, and then discovered that they are not so fantastic cold. Alas.

One day for dinner we made a pilgrimage to Soda Rock, a 50s-style diner.   I’d heard about Blue Heaven milkshakes and I decided I had to try one. It was strange. I had heard that Blue Heaven was vanilla with a touch of citrus, but I thinblueheavenk it’s actually a touch of berry, so the flavour is a bit like bubblegum icecream.  The thickshake was almost chewy.  It came with a spoon on a tiny paper doily that I have started using as a bookmark.   There are little jukeboxes on every table but even if you don’t put money in it plays 50s music all day.  Some of the songs were unfamiliar to me despite my years of listening to 2WS on Saturday nights.

I always buy a chocolate kugelhopf from Monarch Cakes in St Kilda. I didn’t get a picture of my kugelhopf and after a day stuffed in a locker in Southern Cross Station and then sideways in an overhead locker on a plane, it’s not exactly at its most presentable.  (Also I’ve now eaten at least a third of it.)   But you can see one on the website. They’re made from yeast pastry and have melted chocolate swirled throughout. They actually travel pretty well due to not being cake as such.

It’s also important to visit Lord of the Fries, for a cone of chips with Belgian garlic mayonnaise.  It is pretty great!  One time I had some nuggets there, though, and couldn’t figure out if they were pork or something because they sure weren’t chicken.  Then it turned out that the whole place is vegetarian and the nuggets were tofu.  It was surprising!  (Yesterday we had Poutine.  It was delicious once the cheese melted under the heat of the gravy.)

There are non-food traditions too.  I always go to Sticky and buy a crapload of zines.  I really like the way I can buy half the shop’s inventory and it costs me under $20.  It’s in the Degraves Street Subway, which is a fascinating little tunnel leading to Flinders Street Station.

newshoesDegraves Street is one of the charming little laneways that people go on about in Melbourne.  There are tiny cafes more or less set into the walls.  If I hadn’t still been full of chips I would have thought about having an iced chocolate from somewhere.   My favourite shoe shop, Sole Devotion, is right near the corner of Degraves Street and Flinders Street.  Usually I spend hundreds on an amazing pair of Fluevogs.  Nothing really took my fancy this time.  Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood – I’d more or less decided not to buy any more shoes on this trip after discovering that I have quite a few already. I started lining up my shoes against the wall while cleaning and there are over 20 pairs there, with more floating about the place.  But I did end up buying these lovelies from a stall at the Queen Vic Markets.  The guy who sold them to me was a shoemaker of 50 years, he said, and he showed me how to stretch an overly tight instep using warm water and Sunlight soap (or Velvet soap).

Melbourne also has:

batmanowl
friendly batman graffiti; public art with owls in

Mag Nation.  Julia, this is the place that you alwamagnationys want to be there when you travel.  It is a magazine shop that sells coffee.  You buy a coffee if you want, sit down in one of their incredibly comfy chairs, and then you use their free internet as much as you like.  Probably they wouldn’t even care if you didn’t buy a coffee.  Once we were here and there was an american film wanker talking to a guy who desperately wanted him to like him and the internet was bad, but every other time it has been great.

Also there was a magazine with a pig in boots.

piginboots

In conclusion: roadtrip y/n?

Permalink 10 Comments

Pre-post Post of juicy gaming goodness

January 26, 2009 at 6:36 pm (Tom) (, , , , , , )

I’m writing up something that has nothing to do with this; but I always get it done at about 2am, so for the time being, here’s a few low/no-budget community-based games I’ve been fiddling with over the past week:

Way too mature. Seriously.

Way too mature. Seriously.

Online Bloodbowl League:

Blood Bowl is a fantasy sports board game from the early 90’s published by Games Workshop; and the very first miniatures game I invested money and sweat equity in. Of course, I’m way too mature to play with dolls now (ohgodIwanttobuythemallandpaintthemandlovethemtheywillbeallforme), but it’s still a great game to play with friends when you’ve got a half-day free. Sadly, what with work and stuff, that’s not all that often. So these guys hit on a solution: knock up a java client that copies the game, and put the team data on a python database, on the same site that hosts the matchmaking and forum. It’s fiddly, in the way that java applications always manage to seem more fiddly than they actually are; but once you get over that, a game is much quicker than its analog bretheren, and you don’t have to worry about losing cards or checking the rules on Hypnotic gaze every few minutes. Perhaps most interestingly, the game has continued to develop since GW discontinued it, and the current ruleset is largely unsupported by the original publisher. Mmmm… open-source development.

Empires 2.2

They need a better icon, but I can see its not high on the list.

They need a better icon, but I can see it's not high on the list.


A community mod for Half Life 2 with a strong team-play focus. It’s free, as long as you have HL2 installed, and 900 megs of bandwidth to download the sucka. The things that interested me were: a) The polish on this thing, considering it’s all volunteer work from a seemingly very diffuse team, b) the commander position (similar to Savage, another free game from a small studio) which tasks one player with managing the field of battle, RTS style, and giving orders to the rest of the team, who are down in the weeds in FPS mode; c) The squad system, which breaks up teams further for the commander’s convenience, and sets up multiple leadership positions within each team – with in-game effects. It’s not as visually beautiful as TF or L4D, but it’s an impressive piece of work for a nonprofit mod, nonetheless.

... or the chump gets it, see?

... or the chump gets it, see?

Mafiascum.net

Yeah, Percy, I did go and have a look. I haven’t actually tagged in to a game yet; but this is the old skool LARP favourite of Mafia adapted to the phpBB format. Again, community-organised, iterative, experimental, and they’re developing communal behavioural norms as they go. I intend to actually get into one of the lower-intensity games this week.

and lastly, off the theme, a medium budget game from Stardock Studios (who are better known for their 4x), an interesting realisation of an interesting concept:

The Political Machine

Bobble-heads? In my White House? It's more likely than you think.

Bobble-heads in my White House? It's more likely than you think.

Want to see if you could have won the 2008 US presidential election? Yes, we can. For the amount of intellectual energy expended on modern politics, it’s a little odd that it’s barely had an impact on video games. Brutal combat in the 41st millenium is just easier to grasp, I guess. Interestingly, after Obama (who’s OMG b0rk3n), I found it easier to win with Palin than Biden or McCain, so read into that what you will. Only the demo is free; but it’s worth a play, nonetheless.

Permalink 2 Comments

wherein I derive meaning from random events

January 24, 2009 at 12:01 am (Dan) (, , , , )

So yesterday at the bus stop, waiting to go to work, this lady comes up to me and she’s all like can you hold my dog for a second mister, just for like thirty seconds.
And I’m like, ok, I guess, but if a bus comes I’m gonna yell out for you, ok?
And she’s like, ok, that’s fine, and then she hands me the leash and I take it, and then I have this dog, and I’m concerned, because if I hold the leash too tight in my hands, my hands will be tired when the dog decides to run intro traffic, and it will escape, and the honda civic will hit it, and it will be my fault, and suddenly I am responsible for the death of a friend that this lady clearly values – and which is clearly a gud dog, too, a nice dog, not stupid, not smelly, smart and bright and loyal and interested, the kind of dog I would have if I had a dog, but I can’t have a dog because they make my hands feel dirty and I’d wash them so much that I bleed, again, and I’d still have to feed it, and even dogs which are not smelly actually smell, and then you smell of a dog and no-one will sit near you and on the bus you’ll be that guy, that guy with the dog, only you can’t see the dog, you can just smell it, and feel it, and you feel dirty just being near him because now there is dog on you, somehow, through the air.

Have you ever thought of that? If you can smell something, then it is on your skin. Life gets a lot more complicated when you realise that smells are particulate solids, and when you smell it, it is in you, and you can’t wash your lungs, can you? And now you’re dirty because there’s dog on your lungs, or vomit, or other people’s bad Breath.

But I am concerned because if I hold it too tight then it will escape, because my hands will be tired, but if I am not holding it tightly enough when it tries to run onto the road to, I don’t know why, maybe it is to chase that very short man who does not appear to have a neck, maybe he is the reason for why the dog runs on to the street and the, now it’s a taurus, I hate tauruses, they look like cockroaches, only they are always the colour of the hawkesbury river, that time when the algae was blooming and you couldn’t swim anymore because the algae would get inside you and make you sick. Or sometimes they are silver and that is sometimes worse because things which are silver should be clean you know, but then they look like cockroaches and cockroaches are the opposite of clean, they are the worst most dirty things, and they sneak and creep and walk on you in the dark if you lie really still so they don’t hear you breathing but if you smack them then they leave their filthy guts on you like some kind of revenge like the suicide bombers of the filth agenda.

I don’t know if there is a filth agenda though most days it feels like everything is a conspiracy to dirty things, to make you hold the poles on the buses so the grease of a thousand people is on your hands and then you have to shake hands with your boss and then your boss is dirty because you don’t see him wash his hands and then later when he is telling you you did a good job, jimmy, jimmy that’s a good job and that layout is a good layout and the Client will be happy to see that, jimmy, and he lays his hand on your shoulder he is laying the hands of a thousand strangers on your shoulder and you have to be quiet and careful because if you explain to the boss about the thousand stranger’s hands on your shoulders then you will not have a job or a boss or a Client and then the only things you can lay out will be the posters you are working on, only you can’t finish them because you are not sure if the filth agenda is a real thing that you need to tell people about, or if mostly people should just wash their damn hands, damnit.

I am concerned about the dog, which will run onto the street and die and it will be my fault, so my hand is white and shaking and sweating, which means that when the dog tries to die on the street that my hand will be slippery and I will not hold it and the dog will die on the street and the bus, oh, the bus is here, oh, no, that is the 445 which is not my bus but sometimes I catch it if I am going to the shops which are not the shops on the other side of the park, the bus will hit it and it will die and it will be my fault because I am dirty and scared and my hand was slippery.

The dog is a good dog but it looks at me and it breathes on my hand and now my hand is dirty even more. But the breathing does not smell like the breath of a dog so actually it is not that bad, which I do not understand because even when a person breathes on me and the person is the pretty lady at work who does the colours and her breath smells like honey and another thing that I don’t know what it is, but it is not Breath like most people have, which is a smell like yesterday’s food if you found it still on your plate at breakfast, and then you found that you were eating it for some reason and you couldn’t stop, that is what the Breath of most people is like, but hers is not, but hers still makes me dirty, but the dog, which is a good dog, does not have a Breath and my hand is not that dirty. I can’t eat with my hand, obviously, because I am holding the leash and the leash was on a dog and in the hand of a lady who I don’t know and so it is dirty and so my hand is dirty but the dog did not Breathe on my hand like a person Breathes on my hand so it is not more dirty.

And the dog smiles, he is a happy dog and he will probably not run on to the road to kill himself under this taxi because he is a good dog and not that dirty, for a dog, and probably he doesn’t want to make me, and the lady, and the taxi guy, and the guy in the taxi who is not the taxi guy, probably the dog does not want to make all of us sad and besides then there would be a dead dog on the road and that is not a good thing because dead things are dirty and I didn’t touch the dog, who is dead, but not dead yet obviously this is a thing which is going to happen not a thing which has already happened, but when he is dead, the dog, and I have touched the leash which has touched the dog who is dead, then I will be more dirty and I will be too dirty to go to work but probably the boss will not be mad at me and call me crazy jimmy because I will tell him how the dog I was looking after ran onto the street underneath this I don’t even know what kind of car is that, oh it’s a miata of course, that was what the dog I was looking after ran under and the boss will understand that it is a sad thing when a dog you are looking after runs onto the road. And he won’t know that it’s because now I’m dirty because I touched a thing which then was touching, later, on the street, a thing which was dead.

But he is a good dog and so he is not running on to the street even though there is another lady on the seat now, who is not a nice lady and who has a Smell, which I cannot even talk about because Smells are the worst thing, worse even than being smelly is to have a Smell, and she has one and it is making me dirty by coming off her skin and getting onto my skin through the air. She is the kind of lady that when she walks through a place you can’t walk there for a while because behind her she leaves a path which is her path through space but also because it is a wall of the things which make a Smell which come from her skin and stay in the air behind her and then when you walk through it it gets on you and if you breathe it gets in you and then there is the Smell on you and in you.

But the dog is brave and does not run, and even though I do not know how to hold the leash, which is dirty, so I do not want to touch it, but I have to hold it so that the dog, who is a good dog, does not run away and die, even though I cannot make up my mind and even though I am holding the leash as tightly as I can but also not touching it as much as I can and even though he breathed on me and smiled, he does not run and then the lady comes out of the shops, and she has some cigarettes and she wants her dog back, who is a good dog, and I nearly don’t give her back her dog because she is going to smoke near him and smoking is the worst kind of dirty because it is in the air and it gets on things and it sticks to things and it makes you have a Smell and it makes your Breath like a thing that hurts as well as makes you dirty, because she shouldn’t smoke around her dog who is a good dog.

And she says thanks for holding my dog.

And I say that is no problem, ma’am, anytime.
He is a good dog and friendly.

And she smiles and takes her leash and she goes away to Breathe smoke on things and people, and the bus comes, and it is dirty like always but I have to go to work so I get on and I give the man my money and I go to work.

Permalink 7 Comments

Lonelygirl and… the future of entertainment?

January 23, 2009 at 4:12 pm (Percy) (, , , , , , , , , )

In June 2006, the series known as lonelygirl15 began. It was an extremely experimental and original series, a testimony to the growth of the power of the internet. However, its legacy is proving less intarwebz-shattering than many expected, myself included.

The medium – YouTube. The Genre – Blogging. Original, I know. Wait, it gets better. It followed the daily troubles of a teenage girl. Bree was pretty and blogged about (almost) nothing at all – her parents are religious, she is homeschooled, she had a lazy eye, she makes a fool of herself sometimes and so forth. She talked about what was going on in YouTube, replied personally to fans’ comments on her channel and videos and owned and operated a myspace page. It is important to emphasise that her fictional status was not disclosed. The majority of YouTube users believed her to be an actual person.

Her first video is a perfect snapshot of an average girl’s blog on YouTube, even down to the music (I did research to reach this conclusion, I’m pretty much never that bored):

She was cute, smart and hidden away from society – every teenage YouTubing boy’s perfect girl. The show gained almost instant popularity; as YouTube’s share of our bandwidth grew, so did lonelygirl15’s subscriber list. And many were carried in its wake – the clash between lonelygirl and Lazydork (omg internet drama) not only increased the popularity of (actual person blogger) Lazydork, but also launched the career of Australia’s most famous blogger, TheHill88 with this video where she ostensibly takes a side in the conflict:

TheHill88 is now one of the most popular YouTube celebrities and, along with loneylgirl, is now a YouTube partner – meaning they get paid for their videos.

A boy who knew Bree (who was head over heels in unrequited love for her) named Daniel started his own channel, began blogging and soared in the subscriber lists as well. His channel was mostly about how strange Bree’s parents were, but also being friends and having fun with her. Clearly a story was developing, and fans were hooked.

The website lonelygirl15.com (supposedly started by a BIG FAN) was inundated with hits, and the forums became a popular destination for many young people. YouTubers began commenting, even contributing to the series with videos that seemed to fit right in (but never acknowledged as canon). A wiki was started, and the analysis began.

The story started to seem a little too coherent, hinting at design, but just barely. The stars’ responses to the YouTube community became less specific, as though all their blogs were filmed on the same day (i.e. beginning many videos with “someone was asking” – you’ll have to do better than that!). Her videos were a little too well edited and well lit, and although Daniel initially claimed the title of ‘editor’, this excuse fell apart when Bree and Daniel fought for a few videos – why would he edit and post such content during a fight?

Her channel reached #2 on both the most subscribed and most viewed, and the serious scrutiny began. YouTube users noticed that the website lonelygirl15.com (set up by a fan, remember?) was bought a month before she posted her first video. And then – was that Aleister Crowley? Yes, her religion appeared to be Satanic, and her parents’ devotion to this religion was keeping Bree and Daniel apart, as revealed in a video in which this photo of Mr. Crowley features prominently upon an altar in Bree’s bedroom:

After her myspace was hacked and the edits appeared to be originating from computers inside the Creative Artists Agency, the jig was up.

The series continued for several hundred more videos, maintaining incredible popularity throughout. There was some product placement after this (with notable brands including Neutrogena), but not before. Most of the revenue was from advertising. When the main character left at the end of the ‘first season’ (whose finale was 12 videos released once an hour, on the hour, following an attempt to save Bree in real time), the show dropped in popularity, but continued on for two more seasons and is currently planning a fourth season.

Heavily embedded in the plot of season one was an Alternate Reality Game, where users were actively involved in finding more about the series, assisting it directly and giving it a concrete “so close to being true” feel. Participants were directed to find containers in locations given as GPS numbers. These numbers would be hidden in the tags, audio and visual of the video as well as on external sites – these were the members of the Resistance who fight the Order (Bree’s religion) communicating in secret to fans. The packages would contain more clues and information which, if delivered on time, could change the course of the story. The players in the game would solve the puzzles in chatrooms, cracking codes, deciphering urls and finding passwords to unlock .rars.

It was not without scandal, however – the creator of the ARG gave clues to female participants in exchange for their naughty photos, and the heavily user-interactive section was thus removed from the series.

The interactivity didn’t stop, however. The characters even asked their audience for advice, at times calling for a vote-via-comment to decide their next course of action or even whether to include other YouTuber’s contribution as canon. The latter is particularly innovative – a girl who participated in the series by playing an investigative reporter by the name of Nikki Bower was eventually fed information from the creators, and helped ‘expose’ one of the canon characters as a spy for the Order, at the urging of fans.

An interesting video to note is Girl Tied Up, an episode in the second season of lonelygirl which has attracted almost thirteen million views. Again, the formula is simple – provocative title, girl tied up on a gurney, boobs and a man who is threatening to inject her with something. The misleading title may explain why this video has such a low rating, but in the land of YouTube, views are all that really matters.

The series wasn’t brilliant in terms of either plot or writing, even after it was revealed to be fiction. That was when I started watching, actually. It was very much a soap opera aimed at teenagers, and the subsequent series have followed the same pattern – relationship drama, action and conspiracy. Its success has always stuck in my mind, as it was the first attempt to truly embrace the interactivity of the internet in all conceivable ways to make the series something truly unique.

I was curious where Jessica Rose, who portrays Bree, had gone. And this is where. Welcome to Sorority Forever:

This is the first attempt by any major studio to launch a series entirely on the internet. Sure, the Sci-Fi channel had 10-minute “webisodes” of Battlestar Galactica, but this is different. It’s syrupy, clearly fiction and produced by McG, father of the O.C.

That wouldn’t necessarily affect its popularity, of course. Gossip Girl continues along those (very general) lines to this date, and continues to top charts in the tween-to-early-twenties girl market and dominate many others. I explored how Sorority Forever performed (it recently finished), and I ended up rather disappointed with the results.

It appears as though either Warner Brothers was getting bad advice, or wasn’t listening to good advice.

Firstly, the episodes could (initially) only be viewed from the Warner Brothers’ website, and only if you resided in the USA. This continued insistence on geographical location being important is very bizarre, and hinders growth of a series on an internet-wide scale. Secondly, it appears as though it was shot over several days in blocks, like a regular TV show, removing the spontaneity in creation that made the first series so popular.

Most crucially was that there was no way for fans to talk – and it appears that none ever really developed. There is no centralized fan forum (I say this with some conviction, as my google fu is pretty strong, but I am willing to be defeated by an eager contender). The show made it to myspace, but never really picked up there either. I found a couple of soppy reviews, but not even a fanlisting – just their bebo page, with only 770 Australian fans (and becoming a fan is mandatory if you want to watch past episode 15). I couldn’t even find something that was critical of the series, and usually there are over 9000 internet bloggers willing to make a name for themselves by attacking something new (c wut I did thar lol?).

I started watching the series, but found it much too unappealing – with no interactivity, I might as well be watching Passions. I mean, come on, it’s about a super-elite Sorority – lonelygirl was enough! The mechanism of embedding yourself in a community with video responses, comments, ratings and tags has been completely erased. With no ARG and no fanfiction, the show had very little in common with any internet series they should have been looking to for inspiration. Instead, it looks and plays like an unpopular, poorly written TV show that just happens to be on the internet. Way to miss the point, guys. It seems as though this studio effort to make money from the internet has failed.

I haven’t seen any other series emerge like lonelygirl. I remember thinking how cool it would be when this genre matures and more intelligent plotting and writing emerges in competing series. Interactivity is certainly all over the place; this video series by chad, matt and rob was a lot of fun and I highly recommend giving this a watch (even if you’ve skipped the other videos in this post):

I don’t know how long I’m going to have to wait until those with money acknowledge the power of the internet and try to make money from it in a sensible way. Some ARGs from studios have been successful (such as the Lost ARG), but some less so (such as the Heroes ARG which always seemed like a publicity stunt). It must be confronting and different for studios to operate on the internet (as it’s been their sworn enemy for so long), but surely they could run their ideas past a few bored 15 year old kids with myspaces before deciding on the best way to attain internet popularity? (Or, you know, me).

It will continue to prove difficult for people to make money on the internet by generating content, and commenting on issues and giving opinions is infinitely easier than organising an ARG. It seems to me that the internet is just dying for another serious attempt to base a series around ‘reality hacking’, and yet none emerges. I guess I’ll go back to waiting.

Postscripts

I found this picture, and I thought of Dan:
pizzarolls

I’ve also been reading Hey Guys, It’s The Bible!, a blog where an atheist reads the bible for the first time and talks about what he discovers, one book at a time. I’ve been finding it funny, insightful and extremely well written. The first post, about Genesis, is here in case you’re interested.

Permalink 16 Comments

Canberra at night: a study in futuro-fascist architecture

January 22, 2009 at 8:38 pm (Julia) (, , )

For the last couple of days I have been ensconced in our nation’s capitol, having accompanied Tom on a delicious junket. This is because it’s a bunch more fun for both of us, the hotel is already paid for, and after living together for six and a half years sleeping apart is really strange for us. And hey, part of my reasons for going casual this year were so I could do stuff like this. It’s a lot more fun, too – we have our car adventures, and hotel adventures, and bitching about Canberra adventures. It turns a boring work trip into a fun holiday.

Canberra is weirdly inorganic, for a city. It’s sort of like, in Sim City, you can play the proper way (start out with a tiny little settlement and build up as your population grows, meaning that the city grows in weird patches and looks strange from above) or you can play with cheats on, and build an entire city, with monuments and wide boulevards and avenues and wait for the population to to arrive. Walter Burley Griffin was totally playing with cheats on. Here’s the bit with the parlimentary buildings. Here’s the buildings of great culture – art galleries, the high court, the libraries, etc. Here’s the shops. The affect is aesthetically pleasing, I guess, but very cold and inhuman. The lack of public transport, even from the city centre (which is called Civic even though it has no civic buildings, just shops) to the Australian War Memorial is deeply confusing for an Inner West Sydney girl like myself. The idea of, say, not being able to get a bus more than once an hour from the QVB to the AGNSW would do my head in, but that’s basically what it’s like. Everyone drives, but it’s hard to get a taxi if you haven’t booked it. Most of the area around the main drag is serviced apartments and hotels.

It’s even stranger at night – everything shuts down. There are a few areas with restaurants and bars that have stuff going on, but everything else is dark and sleeping. The only points of light are the big important buildings, which are lit up with floodlights. Right now, it’s Australia Day week, which it seems Canberra takes pretty seriously, so the lights are all green and gold.

Over a year ago, Tom came to Canberra for a week by himself, and one night he decided to go wandering around the area of Canberra with the big national buildings, and discovered that it is creepy as shit. So last night, after dinner with some of his Canberra comrades, we headed off in our car for a night time photography adventure. (Percy, if we roadtrip down to Canberra in March for the net filtering rally, we should totally introduce you to this pasttime, it will blow your mind). We went off to the bit in front of Parliament House, where they’ve got such wonders as the National Gallery, the High Court, and various other things.

My first impression was of Rome. I know that sounds crazy, but I first went to Rome when I was 5, so I have these very vivid, experiential impression-memories of the place. My mum was there on work, so my dad dragged me around to see a bunch of the Fascist architecture, and that’s what I was reminded of last night. There’s a sort of cold unnaturalness in those bits of Rome, which I guess is the intended effect. I don’t think that was the intended effect in Canberra, but it’s all very strange anyway. It also reminds me of the cover of a copy of HG Wells’ The Time Machine, the particular cover of which I can’t find right now. But it had a picture of that sort of architechture – large, impressive, neo-classical/modernist/futurist mashups, dominating the landscape, and totally deserted.  The overall effect is of a futuristic, authoritarian dystopia. I feel as though I should quite like to drop acid in these surroundings, but I’d want one hell of a competant minder. Especially since all these buildings are right on Lake Burley Griffin.

Around the National Gallery, in the parkland surrounding it, are all these art installations of sculptures, etc. They’re lit up too, at night, and the effect is really strange. Canberra loves its public art;  public art is everywhere, and that’s probably the thing I like most about Canberra. However, the stuff around the NG is creepy at night time.

I couldn’t find a name for this installation, and I don’t think my photos do it justice. It’s in the middle of a park, about 300m away from the NG, and it seems to be some kind of whale/alien thing, surrounded by bronze tree-like structures. The lights change, and it makes this bizarre groaning sound. It really has to be experienced.

This walkway leads up to old and new Parliament House. It’s build into a great sloping hill, and it’s right near the flag displays.     It’s bendy and strange and completely looks like a set from a sci-fi movie, one of the ones made in the 60s or 70s. Logan’s Run, perhaps.

This was probably my favourite thing: it’s the National Carillion (yes, all the buildings have “National” in their title, which only adds to the whole authoritarian vibe this city has going on), and check it out, this shit is from Myst or something. Lit-up walkway across water to a weird structure that makes ethereal musical sounds? I kept looking for a video panel or some switches to flick.

The parking lot nearby was nearly empty, apart from a few couples boning in their cars, but we found this delightful sign.

Parliament House and the Australian War Memorial are built facing each other across the lake, with a huge sweeping boulevard going from the lake to the AWM. On each side of this boulevard, Anzac Parade, are memorials to various wars Australia’s been involved in during the past. This here is the Vietnam Monument:

The whole thing is supposed to be like the National Mall in Washington, ideally with many people thronging the street on Anzac Day. Unfortunately, since Canberra just doesn’t have enough people, it’s sort of sad and empty. I love the AWM, though – it’s a gorgeous building, and there’s a sort of peace in the main courtyard which feels similar to a cathedral.  I think I’d like to attend the Dawn Service here one year – it’s outside, and I think it would be sort of amazing. (Note: At some point, I will probably blog about Anzac Day and my complicated feelings about it)

The AWM was one of the few buildings which wasn’t lit up in green and gold last night, which meant that it looked weirdly blue from across the water, but was just sort of whitish as we got closer. It was the last thing we visited, and I was too tired to get out of the car, so my photos don’t really do it justice. But trust me, it’s an impressive building.

My impressions of Canberra are very much influenced by my knowledge of sci-fi, of history, of art and architecture, and in some ways I think Canberra is best experienced at night, that at night it’s closer to WBG’s vision. This makes it like one enormous installation artwork, that you can drive around. I would really like to go again, with you, my AP5 homies, and see what impressions you get.

Permalink 7 Comments

Recentish Juxtaposition Outfits

January 22, 2009 at 12:43 am (Tabitha) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Here are some outfits which have tickled my fancy and sparked my imagination recently. I tend to find these things during my internet wanderings. You will have seen some of them if you follow my Facebook Album about clothes and stuff I like. In case you want to look them up, or find things that are in the same vein, that album, and its predecessors also contain the urls for all of the clothes that I have found, including the ones in this post.

The general theme is mixing up styles in ways that give an interesting look. I think it gives a bit of expression, intelligence and sometimes humour to the person’s appearance. I want to make it really clear though, that I have picked the photos for the outfits, NOT THE PEOPLE in them!

Biker-Ballerina:

031008_hathaway_200x400 I love the way this outfit evokes images of a girl at a formal wearing her rebel-boyfriend’s jacket because it’s cold. I love the way in which more masculine clothes, as part of an otherwise soft, girly outfit, only serve to make the wearer look more delicate and feminine by comparison.

Ingrid says that this type of outfit reminds her of the old Buffy movie, in which the main character is at her Prom in a cream-puff, princess dress, stunning the socks off of the boys when things go horribly wrong and she dons a jacket and proceeds to kick a bunch of bad guy arse… saving the day. I think that was how it went.

I like how this type of juxtaposition expresses strength and femininity in a way that shows that they’re not mutually exclusive. I suppose this explains, in part why Kim, Ing and I are so addicted to the ‘tough leather boot and frilly skirt’ combo that we love so much. But, for Kim and Ing, it more specifically reflects their love of Goth-Loli style – another great example of a trend involving juxtaposition of styles, but not one that I’m a huge fan of myself.

SciFi-Hippy.

21

Now, I know… She looks like she needs a feed and a wash. But, like I said above, I’m not interested in her, but the outfit. Or the idea of it, anyway.

I love the unlikely combo of the earthy, relaxed, loose, almost sack-like, long top with the leather-style tights and tough boots. It strikes me as a Sarah Connor outfit, or possibly something that a person who lived outside of the matrix would wear. I can see an artist wearing this type of thing too.

I guess it boils down to the same thing as the above. It’s soft, and tough, and smart, and more casual than it probably should be. It suits the type of personality that I find attractive in women. It also shows an awareness of things that have been cool through the decades and uses a surprising combination of them which expresses something complex about the wearer’s mood or personality. To me, that’s clever and entertaining!

Other related finds…

Circus-Evening Wear.

gloomth3

Geek-chic/Librarian-chic.

smashingdarling11

Men’s Clothes on Women. Shit Yeah.

bilsonmacys-5 ashleyolsen1112

I also wanted to let you all know that I added a cool new video to my last post (about gymnastics) in case you’re interested in having a look.

Permalink 5 Comments

Next page »