Another life, a lifetime ago.

There’s this radio ad I keep hearing (given that the radio is played in the kitchen and toilets (ya rly) at work). It’s terrible. It’s one of those client voiced ads and every time I hear it, I cringe a little harder. It’s the sound of a production engineer giving zero fucks and wanting to be finished by 5pm. “Here at [insert disability lawyer’s name here] we ONLY GET PAID. when you get paaaaid.” Weird fucking line reads with emphasis erratically sprinkled throughout as if by some darkest timeline Salt Bae. It’s not Prod’s fault that the ad turned out awful. They no doubt got press-ganged into it. Some sales rep with no regard for the on air result wanted an easy sale. I get it. I know how these things happen because I’ve had it happen to me time and time again.

Why is a client voicing at all? Because it’s an easy sales pitch. Appealing to the ego is the lowest common denominator of pitches, it’s pretty gross shit. “Oh, you’d be great. You’re such a big personality and you’d sound amazing on the airwaves. Just think of how much new customers will love walking in and meeting that celebrity they’d heard on air.” Vomit. The only thing more disgusting is how easily it works. Then you as a production engineer have to deal with the fallout.

Sales rep walks into your studio at 4pm telling you that a client is coming in to voice. Notice the lack of the word “ask” anywhere in that sentence? Typically this “conversation” happens ten minutes before this client is due in the studio. You ask them why a client is voicing again. Was it really necessary for the script to have it client voiced? Of course, they assure you. You tell them they’re lying. They reassure you that you just haven’t met this person yet. They’re hilarious, they’ll be fantastic. You tell them they’re lying, that they’re always lying and that they’re scum. Scum who makes three times as much as you do. You tell them (notice the lack of the word “ask” anywhere in that sentence?) to leave your studio, that you have rules about Sales Reptiles leaving their slime around. Tell them it’s bad for the equipment. They leave and you briefly consider self-mutilation as a less painful experience than the one you’re about to undergo.

After they leave, creative (the writers) walk in to apologise. They assure you they ripped out 70% of the copy to make it workable. They said the original script they were given was abysmally overwritten. Also it made no sense, mentioning a plethora of irrelevant details, but the sales rep told the client it was fantastic, so they felt chuffed. Creative apologises, but you’re not gonna shoot the messenger. You briefly regret that it’s illegal to shoot sales. As you do every day.

Sales arrives at the door with the client. “I leave them in your capable hands.” You look down at your “capable” hands and wonder how quickly they could strangle the life out of the reptilian shapeshifter standing outside the door. You invite the client in. Sales thankfully stays behind the door frame. Outside arm’s reach. Next time.

You get them in the booth and give them a couple of notes:

  • Stand up straight, but relax your shoulders.
  • Smile as you talk, it comes through in the voice.
  • Don’t stress about getting it on the first try, we have the technology.
  • Don’t just read the words, think about what they mean.

They may get one or two of the four things, but three or four requires some arcane planetary alignment. Usually they mumble, slouch, emphasise the wrong parts, speak too quickly or slowly. You reassure them not to worry, that it’s going great. You look over at the pile of work already sitting in your In Progress tray and cry on the inside. After 15 minutes of audio for a 30 second ad, you tell them they nailed it. Good job. You know you’ll fix it in post. You take them back out to reception. Two minutes later Sales comes in to say thanks. You tell them to fuck right off. You mean it. Five minutes later Creative walks in, apologises. Asks you if you want to grab a beer after you’re finished.

You say sure. Tell them you’ll be finished by 5pm.

The ad is in the client’s inbox before they arrive back at the office.

It’s finding something else to like that’s the problem.

I feel at a loss. Which is to say that I’m lost. I don’t know what to do now. Specifically at this moment, not in a wider what does it all mean? sense. I’ve got a limp self-propulsion that at the very least will stop me from treading water for too long. Right now though, I’m just floating on my back, heading nowhere in particular. I feel unwell in a very literal manner of speaking. I’m congested with a sore throat and low level physical fatigue. I happened to be working from home today anyway (so I could go to an Ear Nose and Throat consultation), so at least I didn’t need to be in the office. That sort of backfired. If I hadn’t taken the day to work at home I could’ve just had a sick day instead. Oh well. I got all my work done, it was more relaxing than being in the office would’ve been. I could mope around at my own pace and get loose-headed on NeoCitran. I also spent a fair portion of my down time watching Please Like Me.

I watched the first episode and really enjoyed it. I found its fusion of heavy events and irreverence entirely captivating. There was drama, but they rarely leaned into it without good reason. Bad things happening didn’t stop the world from revolving, they dealt with things and moved on, or talked around them until their impact gradually lessened. Hell, the first episode starts with the lead character getting dumped because his girlfriend knows he’s gay, even if he won’t admit it (they stay good friends regardless). Then his mum tries to commit suicide by eating a packet of paracetamol and drinking half a bottle of baileys. It’s serious content, but admits to the underlying silliness. The more I watched, the more attached I grew towards this tight knit group of characters. Somehow avoiding being beaten down by the world, it wasn’t relentlessly upbeat by any means, but neither was it maudlin or cheesy in any way.

Maybe it appealed to my underdog complex, but the show managed to champion the losers and weirdos without skewing self-congratulatory. The central character, Josh, is gay and they don’t make a massive deal out of it. It’s just his sexual preference, it doesn’t define him as a character as much as his wit, propensity for cooking or habit of trying to disarm tension with humour and irreverence. There are ongoing realistic depictions of mental illness, serious marital issues and realistic struggles of twentysomething life. There are also a multitude of dumb conversations about giraffes. Characters come and go, but they’re nearly always given three dimensional representation. There are meaningful friendships galore. It’s funny, sweet and disarmingly engrossing. I can’t tell you the last time I watched two seasons of anything in under a month, let alone four seasons.

Now I’m lost because the show is over and I miss it. It ended well, but I know that I’m never gonna get to witness all new interactions with these characters I’ve grown to love. It feels like a loss and I don’t know what fills that void now. Please Like Me was unique and that’s a double-edged sword. There’s a reason it stands out from everything else, but if I want to recapture that feeling I’ll have to settle for shows that have a few close elements, but fail to deliver the total package. I didn’t watch it because it had excellent fleshed out representation of gay characters. I didn’t watch it because it was a slice of life comedy about intelligent twentysomethings. I didn’t watch it because of its willingness to depict issues in a frank manner. I watched it because it managed to be its own thing and that means it’s gonna be pretty bloody hard to find anything quite like it.

So I guess, I dunno. I guess maybe I’ll just have to write something I’d want to watch.

How many sites are running with a Legion-dary tag line right now? Oh shit, did I just become one of them?

Are you watching Legion? If you follow almost any media critic sites, I’m sure you know full well how critically lauded it’s been. FX, as it has a habit of doing, has handed this one off to a creative who knows better. I haven’t followed the career of Noah Hawley and shamelessly didn’t watch the Fargo TV series. That being said, I’ve only heard unanimous praise. Judging by the first episode of Legion, he knows full well what he’s doing.

Telling mature superhero stories is fraught with obstacles, yet seems to be all the rage in this current climate. It’s hard to escape from the first big hurdle: Superhero comics were for such a long time targeted towards a young audience. They were pulp stories rarely replete with nuance. Create a hero with some kind of extraordinary abilities and find scenarios/villains that help them showcase who they really are. Storytelling over time has changed and these characters tend to deal with more socially compelling issues. The DC formula tends to favour hugely powerful entities several tiers above humanity. This leads towards confrontations with situations on a grander scale. How is Superman supposed to relate to a world of people that to him seem like ants? Why does he care? How does he engage that disparity and still decide to be a hero. Marvel on the other hand often focuses on how its heroes’ flaws magnify their conflict. Not perfect people by any means, why do they choose to help a world that challenges them on their own levels? The X-Men tales have often been racism allegories. Why should mutants choose to protect a world that fears and hates them because they’re different?

David Haller, the central character in Legion is a character tangentially related to the X-Men stories we know. He’s Charles Xavier’s son (in the comics at least) and potentially one of the most powerful mutants in existence. He’s also mentally divergent, and his countless fractured personalities all possess different abilities. They’ve also given mental illness here pretty fair treatment. The show does its best to bring us into the fold, giving us the why, rather than just showing a character trying to deal with at times insurmountable issues. He’s a being of nigh infinite potential, but struggles with staying grounded in reality. The show runs with this, hard. Flowing in and out of reality, memory and hallucination makes David an unreliable narrator. In the first episode the chronology is all over the place, but carefully so. States of possibility are weaved together to tell the story, with the potential of unexpected twists lying behind every scene. In a series where anything could be a mislead or imaginary, how are we made to care about what does happen?

Simply because David is a human character. There’s an innocence to his character, who really seems to want to do right by the world, but is afraid of what is happening to him. Dan Stevens plays David with both a certain frailty and an assured confidence. He has moments of sweetness, doubt, anger and full blown malice. All of this aided by stunning cinematography and audio landscapes. The show looks gorgeous, cinematic. A diverse colour palette that freewheels between grim and joyous. There’s a Bollywood dance number thrown in for chrissakes. AND IT WORKS. The show sounds phenomenal, with errant whispers scattered around, mixed with realistic diegetic sound. There’s an intimate scene in a cell of a psychiatric hospital and while it’d be tempting to cut background noise (maybe focus on the dialogue in the scene) the show doesn’t. You can hear a patient in some far off room yelling at the top of his voice. It doesn’t interfere with the conversation, but it does ground it. It feels like we’ve been left in the hands of a capable director. It’s intense and dark, but with heapings of contrasted levity. Plus the musical score and visual effects are perfect. You can tell a lot of work has gone into nailing the exact mood of this show and I can tell you it pays off.

Are you watching Legion? If you aren’t, why not?

Jughead has always been somewhat of a role model. Who wouldn’t want the mutant power of infinite consumption?

I waste too much time on the internet not doing anything. Well don’t get me wrong, I’m only playing an hour or two of Cookie Clicker per day. More realistically, I’m lurking Reddit threads on r/magictcg and r/whowouldwin. It’s not productive and I forget 90% of what I’ve read ten minutes after I’ve read-dit (ged-dit?). Perhaps I’m just unused to having spare time, given the production schedule of the Air Bud Pawdcast last year. For the very limited time being, however, I’ve got time to kill. It’s time to sink some hours into entertainment across the board.

After years of hearing recommendations to do so, I grabbed a copy of the first Dresden Files book. I was expecting something pulpy, a kind of dumb, quippy, popcorn novel. In the first 20 or so pages, I got exactly what I expected. I’ve heard the series gets better as it goes on. That the world gets built out and is ultimately a bunch of fun. One of my old flatmates said the first book was a little shite, but Dresden Files was ultimately enjoyable despite the writer falling too in love with his central character.

So far it’s suffering from heavy-handed exposition [“Is this sign on the door for real? Frank Dresden, Magician for hire?” yeah that’s me, Frank Dresden, like he says, I’m a magician for hire] and that kind of shit. Also, I dunno, *male* writing. Seriously, it’s like the guy is drawing character outlines with his semi as the pencil. The first time we meet some hard nosed female detective (and likely love interest) its all [She was wearing a pantsuit, but she probably had shapely legs built up through years of cheerleading. Blonde haired, blue eyed, she’d be better looking if she smiled more] kind of shit. Tons of clunky ways of tossing in world-building and backstory. At the same time, it comes with enough endorsements that I’m going into it with zero expectations happy to at the very least be mildly entertained. At worst it has me reading again. Throwaway enjoyment, which is perfect for my use as a way to ignore the bane of my existence: The morning commute.

The other thing that’s caught my eye is this new Riverdale show. Growing up I read a metric shitton of Archie comics. I had a close friend and the double digests littered his house. In every room there’d be four or five of the things, they had hundreds. It was harmless fun, with short storylines based on simple characters who rarely strayed from their core definition. Riverdale on the other hand, sounds like it builds on those same characters to not only subvert its own tropes, but the wider tropes of teen entertainment. Ironically it’s on CW of all places. Billed as teen drama/Twin Peaks, this usually wouldn’t be anywhere in the same neighbourhood as my alley.

On the other hand, Archie comics have been known to do weird, subversive, progressive shit for years. Over the years they’ve adopted positive representations of LGBT/differently abled characters without tokenism, blending them straight into the fabric of Riverdale. They’ve also not strayed from the utterly bizarre. Anyone remember the frenzy of 90s team up comics? What about Archie Meets the Punisher or Archie vs. Predator? Whatabout that storyline where Sabrina the Teenage Witch marries H.P. Lovecraft’s #1 ancient one, Cthulhu? Internalised prejudice against CW aside, I’ve got enough goodwill built up through those stacks of double digests to watch a couple of episodes and test the waters. It could end up being as much of a surprise breakout as Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (also CW, now that I think of it).

Anyway, I’ve got more cookies to click. See you in Riverdale!

Our plane had dark wings. We had dark words.

Probably spoilers for Game of Thrones season six to follow. I haven’t decided yet.

Taking yesterday as a day of rest (rather than the traditional day of sex, being hump day and all), my girlfriend and I decided to unwind and watch a few Game of Thrones episodes. It’d been long enough since we’d last watched that we’d forgotten we were in season six, let alone which episode we were on. It was a fun world to dive back into and we quickly devoured three episodes before crashing out. We’re now five or so minutes away from having finished the fifth episode (laptop battery died on the plane flight at the climactic moment). While we were watching though, we’d both noticed a change in the air. I remembered that while the series diverged from the books a while back, this was the first season that didn’t have a corresponding book. The obvious outcome is that we were watching Game of Thrones that hadn’t been written (scenes or an overview at least) by George R.R. Martin. The difference was kind of noticeable. As always, one of my favourite things about watching a film or show with someone is unpacking and comparing thoughts and feelings. Sharing the experience has a somewhat vicarious feel to it, as it helps provide alternate views to your own which in turn expand your own perspective. Comparing season six to the previous ones, here were some things we noticed:

  • Gratuitous nudity down, gratuitous swearing up: “Tits and dragons” has scaled down both the tits and dragons. The language on the other hand is bluer than ever. I’m not complaining, it’s just different. Ser Davos, while a sailor at heart, never used to curse like one. Now it’s “fuck” and “cunt” as punctuation. I understand that Mr Seaworth has lost close friendships and family, but I’m not sure that it’d immediately change Mr Seaworth into Mr C-Word. He’s always been honest, humble and blunt, but rarely crude, as far as I remember. Unless my memory is the issue. It’s been a while since we last watched.
  • Characters becoming closer to caricatures: My girlfriend pointed out how many of the characters feel less dynamic than they did. As if they ran focus groups and discovered well this is what people liked about Daario, so let’s make him like that all the time. Characters being defined by specific features instead of being given depth. It’s kind of changed how the show feels. Less prestige, more pulpy. Ramsay Bolton, for instance, always had an exquisite sadism about him. He delighted in causing suffering. Now it feels like he’s cruel or violent for the sake of it. At the same time, there hasn’t been much telegraphing of him slowly unraveling, so it feels unearned. Tyrion’s trademark barbed wit needs sharpening and his ability to turn around a situation feels lacking. Self-interest was always one of his primary motivations (while essentially having a moral compass that’d get the better of him). His arc into selflessness feels too all-encompassing.
  • Fanservice at the behest of storytelling: My longstanding issue with Parks and Recreation (a show I really did adore) is that eventually it fell too deeply in love with its own characters. As a result, the show was loathe to let them really face strife and it became obvious that everything would work out okay. Game of Thrones is known for its abrupt twists and turns, throwing you off balance and not knowing what to expect. Now it feels like the fan favourite characters are gonna be alright no matter what happens. Of course Jon Snow is fine. Tyrion will be okay. Daenerys will come out on top time after time. Everything in its right place. Arya’s trials with blindness could’ve been far more of a depraved struggle, but instead were overcome with a tight little training montage (and this is coming from someone who loves training montages). The twists, when they do come, seem far more obvious than they did. Dialogue is predictable and runs on safe patterns. George R.R. Martin seemed to take pleasure in withholding what the audience wanted and the series felt stronger for it.

It’s not like the show is terrible now. Being basically the most popular show in the world, having so much time, money and talent pumped into it, obviously it’s great fun. Mid season six, however, doesn’t feel like its golden age. Valar morghulis, of course, but can’t it wait till the end?

Yippee Ki Yay, Melon Farmer.

Today in unnecessary proclamations: Die Hard is goddamn marvellous. I say this because, having seen it for only the second time, I marvelled throughout at how well composed it was. I wasn’t sober and for some reason this really made me hone in on structure. Die Hard has long been revered as The Best Christmas Movie (a title I’ll argue it shares with Gremlins and, depending on sobriety, Jingle All the Way) with good reason. The film is dynamite to watch, it crackles with personality and wit, has a strong set up and repeated pay-offs.

It’s amazing that Die Hard never feels crushed between the weight of its scale. It takes a while to realise, but there are a ton of characters. The first half hour widely introduces the stage, players and stakes without feeling cumbersome. We’ve got the variety of office staff, McClane and wife Holly, Hans Gruber and his terrorist team, Argyle the limo driver and the various police staff. Characters feel lived in and most of all, fun. Gruber is a fantastic villain. He’s clever and witty. Development and backstory are littered throughout the film. Whether it’s his meticulous note-keeping, awareness and ability to take advantage of John’s barefoot predicament or the neat little character note of his love of taking things apart to better understand every piece. Holly has conviction and wit beyond merely being a damsel in distress. The henchmen all have their own little quirks, whether it’s the blonde dude’s lavish movement or computer dude’s unflappable nature.

It’s rad to see how the film stands as a sign of the times. Action movies now are sleek, stylised and hyper-violent. If a lead character doesn’t know wushu, what the fuck is he doing tangling with henchmen? McClane fights his way through a tower of enemies, but it’s not dismissal with ease. He struggles and scrapes by with a combination of cunning and pure luck. It’s a cat and mouse game with the tables turning over and over. Willis looks baby-faced, but unlike modern heroes he’s not a chiselled tower of muscle. He’s fit, but not excessively so. Permanently cool calm and collected he ain’t. When something unexpected happens he’s momentarily startled or briefly panics. He has great quips, but more accurately he’s Popeye made flesh. Mumbling to himself constantly, throwing out silly one liners left right and centre.

It’s easy to understand why Die Hard has become a holiday tradition, why people watch it year after year as an emblem of the season. In short, classics are classics for a reason and this one is a fucking blast.

Now who wants to watch Jingle All the Way?

I didn’t intend to make little odes to alliteration, but sometimes the magic just happens.

With the cat’s repeated meowling at 4.45am, getting back to sleep was a no go. Naturally I harnessed the extra hours gifted to me that would usually be frittered away on such frivolous enterprises as “sleep” as anyone would. I watched John Wick. I haven’t watched an action movie for eons. I normally opt for dialogue driven faux intellectual character pieces because I think I’m better than the vast unwashed masses. Really though, I’ve seen enough extreme violence that it’s hard for it to excite me much any more. It’s not that real world violence doesn’t shock me, but fictitious fatalities feel so done. If I’m gonna watch something action oriented it needs to be either starkly gritty or comically aggressive. John Wick seemed like it’d have Punisher: War Zone level theatrics. Stylised violence so far beyond realism it was farcical. A body count stacked so high that human lives no longer had significance beyond their use in flowing choreography. Plus I have a noted love of siege related content, defensive or offensive. To that end, John Wick gave me exactly what I want. Is it what you want? Here’s a short synopsis:

After Russian mobsters kill his dog, ex-assassin John Wick gets back in the game to kill them all.

Spoilers: He does. So many. He shoots Theon Greyjoy, stabs some guy in the jaw, breaks another dude’s neck over a kitchen counter, hits a dude in a car then shoots him twice through the car roof. It’s dumb, but gloriously so. It’s stylistically shot (pun surprisingly not intended) and has a ludicrously fun internal logic that it adheres to. The scenes in the armistice hotel and bar (barmistice?) were a riot. A cadre of cool, collected, civil spies living it up in the lap of luxury. The central currency of coin, the duality of dialogue and significance of style were enticingly extravagant. Also his ex-dog was cute.

Being worlds away from the word “masterpiece”, it was nonetheless an enjoyably excessive romp into the world of assassinry (I want that so badly to be a real word). Would sleep have been more beneficial to my rapidly deteriorating mental state? Hell no. I can sleep when I’m dead, which I will be if John Wick comes for me. Or when I discover that the cat’s endless yowls are pre-empting her transformation into a flesh eating beast.