More like Megabutts. Because of that fecal thing I mentioned below? Oh wait, you haven’t read that bit yet?

We’re trapped in a moving metal oblong. A three dimensional one, that is. It seems to be hurtling along the road at a moderate pace. The scenery seems to be of a rustic countryside arrangement. So if we’re imprisoned, at least our captors are showing mercy. Half mercy. Like John Stamos when he’s unwilling to fully commit. We’ve run out of things to drink. I forgot to fill up my bottle before getting on, so all that was left at the bottom was a solitary drop of water, tainted by encrusted crystals from past pre-workout concoctions. It tasted noxious, because of course I went there. We’re resorting to harvesting the few oranges we brought for their moisture. Also pre-emptive scurvy protection.

More accurately we’re on a bus en route to Montreal. We left at 7.30am and we’re on hour five of our six hour trip. In order to keep to our tight schedule, the bus driver has refused to let anyone get off the bus temporarily. If you step off the bus you’ve stepped out of line and you’re out of luck. Okay, she didn’t say it as sassily as that, but she outright refused my request to refill our water bottle with tap water. The sass was imaginary. Mostly. I had one good shit earlier in the trip, but the bathroom has since run out of toilet paper. Supposedly two rolls was supposed to be enough for upwards of 100+ people on a six hour trip. Or suppoosedly, I should say. The toilet is cramped, preventing me from doing my usual poo maneuver. Or manpoover, as I should never say (or think) again. There’s a door where my head would usually be and it’s impo(o)ssible for me to reach my ankles. What’s a guy to do? Moreover, how’s a guy to poo?

After such an early morning (for me, anyway) departure, we were unsurprisingly some of the few passengers conscious throughout the trip. This was our design. I’d been chomping at the bit to watch the Master of None season finale and, after bugging my girlfriend for days, we finally had a spare half hour (or twelve) to watch. After finishing, we still had at least ten half hours to go, so we jumped back into a show we’d abandoned some time back: The Good Place. It’s a show most everyone seems to have slept on. We’re screening it at work and it recently got picked up for another season, so at least we’re not shit out of luck. The basic premise is that Kristen Bell’s character died and was mistakenly sent to The Good Place (heaven) instead of The Bad Place. She’s ended up with someone else’s soulmate and they’re trying to figure out how to teach her to be a good person (in an effort to keep her from being jettisoned downstairs). It sounds dry, I know, but the writing is shit hot. It’s quick and clever with fun plot lines. The concept of The Good Place as a large computational engine capable of creating anything is a fun world to play around in. In addition to Bell, Ted Danson shines as the architect trying to keep the Place running, despite Bell’s creating large scale catastrophe with her mere presence. The whole cast is rock solid and, in easily digestible 22 minute chunks with cliffhanger endings, we’ve watched eight episodes in the past few hours. Go out and get some.

The ride is almost over and (aside from dehydration) it’s been mostly clear of catastrophes. The real exception being when country music begun randomly playing out over the personal intercoms. Panicked passengers began looking around for a solution, with many jamming the emergency stop button above their seat. It stopped shortly after. If we can survive that, we can survive anything. Even dehydration while holding in a shit.

Montreal: It only goes up from here.

More like nostaljerk.

Why is familiarity so comforting? I’ve been on a nostalgia kick lately (primarily because I’ve deep dived back into the Laser Time archive for my workplace listening enjoyment) and it’s been delightfully tickling my brain. I listened back to the early 90s “Mortal Kombat: The Album” (you’ll surprise yourself by remembering the absurd hit “Techno Syndrome“. The rest of the album is, if possible, even more cheesy. It features songs about the various characters (or in Sonya Blade’s case, a ballad she apparently sings about herself? And she’s been outfitted with a British accent?). The best part is how token most of the lyrics are. The Immortals were never given comprehensive background information about each character, so they had to write about what they know from playing the game. The result is a bunch of songs about assorted special moves each character uses, or in the case of Sub Zero…

“Whoah, Chinese ninja warrior
With your heart so cold sub zero
Whoah, your life is a mystery
Why you wear the mask? Sub zero”

Also a blatant rip off of Marky Mark’s “Good Vibrations”, but instead with the dubious line “Freezing Vibrations” (which makes no fucking sense, but I’ll go with it). AllMusic gives it a grand two star rating. It’s a festering piece of shit. Stock 90s techno coupled with the aforementioned flaccid lyrics. It should be a pain to endure, but instead it’s so fucking bonkers that it comes 180° to being a blast to hear. It’s not even a guilty pleasure for me and the only downside is that “Mortal Kombat: The Album” isn’t on Spotify, making me realise what a colossal waste my $9.99 each month is. If I can’t groove out to dancefloor suicide, what am I paying for?

It’s not new to me how much I adore nostalgia, but what is a recent revelation is how much I want the sensation without doing the work. Anime is a great example. I think so fondly of my years spent watching anime. I’d lounge around with friends into the early hours of the weekend and try to marathon an entire show. So many goddamn series. Casting my mind back to those days warms my heart, but whenever I think about getting back into anime, I realise how little I actually want to watch it. I’m way more critical than I was and getting into a new 24 episode series is a hard sell. I don’t have the time I once did. Much like video games, theory wins out over practice 80% of the time. Even knowing that, I still yearn for the underlying emotions they brought. The excitement of experiencing a whole new fictional world. Or in games, of facing and overcoming challenges coming my way.

Both industries were way smaller back then and I honestly think that was a large part of the attraction. Back in high school, anime and video games were super niche interests. We were the nerds and belonging to rare fandoms made it feel like we were venturing into unknown territory. We’d talk about them constantly, but they seemed like conversation topics only for our little group. When we found anyone else with similar interests, sharing those interests was a revelation, like we were sharing a central part of ourselves. We felt special somehow, because we were different. It may have been an illusion, but we clung to it tenaciously. These days fandom is all too easy to find. Hyperconnectivity means that others like you are only a few clicks away. Neither video games nor anime are particularly esoteric these days, they’ve expanded into normalcy. As dumb as it is, inside me there’s the sense that the experience is now cheapened. There’s nothing unique about them and with that gone, this remote concept of being special has dissipated. What’s more, the plots and character progression don’t feel like they’d live up to other available content. There are way too many clever shows to watch now, so why would I spend time on anything flimsy?

Wait, so I think I’m too cool for school now? That gives me freezing vibrations all over.

If The Gang started a church would they Cultivate Mass?

Is it possible to have watched five seasons of show and still feel like a filthy casual? I certainly did last night at my friend’s It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia party. I watched the show years back and always enjoyed it, but had trouble bingeing episodes. The characters were such terrible, sociopathic human beings that I found it taxing to spend too much time with them. I thought it was hilarious and novel, pushing episodes into constantly unpredictable territory. Even so, it took me an age to get as far as I did. At some point I meandered off into other fictional worlds and never came back. Leaving me totally blindsided by the fact that there are now 12 seasons with a few more on the way. Insane. As a huge fan of FX Network’s support for creator driven content (Louie, Legion, Better Things, You’re the Worst, etc), I feel kind of indebted to IASIP for trailblazing and making it all possible.

I’d been catching up on important episodes using this handy dandy guide, but I’d only managed to get through five or so in the past week or two. Meaning that walking into the party was like taking a running leap into a bizarre wonderland. A couple of concepts seemed vaguely familiar, but for the most part it seemed an unreal mockery of the outside world. My friend always cranks her theme parties up to 11 and this was no exception. She’d decorated all the rooms with artwork from the series and imagery from various episodes. The “Pepe Silvia” and “Carol” conspiracy was strewn across the wall and the “Nightman” sun lit up the lounge. The playlist for the evening was composed purely of songs used in the show and there were games. OH, there were games.

What kind of Always Sunny party would it have been without “Chardee MacDennis: The Game of Games? The contest of strength was a game of twister, albeit with the various colours switched for iconic IASIP imagery. Denim Chicken, Original Hitler, Green Man and Rum Ham proved the battleground for drunken twisting. I took part in the contest of spirit, in a game that I understood zero percent. It was a four part contest whereby we had to “huff glue” (or rather, hyperventilate into a paper bag ten times), skull a beer then eat “cat food” (potato salad in gold painted cans) and “fall asleep” (lie down) before the “cats” (everyone else at the party) began to meow. Don’t ask me, but I’m sure it’s relevant. All I know is after years of negligence, skulling a beer is much harder than it used to be. I did most of it in one go, with a tiny sip left at the end. One of the contestants wasn’t so lucky, as she daintily sipped away while a catcophony surrounded her.

I’d planned to be sooo clever by bringing canned spaghetti in ziplock bags for people to snack on. Turns out I’d bought fucking Spaghettios by mistake. Curse this damned country and its novelty shaped foods. Fortunately the host had made her own real spaghetti for guests’ convenience. A partygoer had enough foresight to make an actual rum ham. It was surprisingly delicious. Suitably drenched and well roasted in rum. I felt well roasted after eating some anyway. I bought some “Milk Snacks” which I’d hastily written over in vivid to say “Milk Steaks” (though in my oversight I’d forgotten to bring jelly beans – raw). Someone even filled a large jug with “Riot Punch”, which made its way around most of the party. Glorious commitment to the theme all around.

If anything after the party I still feel like just as much of a damn dirty amateur. Though now with an insatiable thirst to learn more. Also for Fight Milk.

If you prefer your recommendations a little against the grain.

As I kid, I used to abhor live action television. Believe me, it wasn’t that I lacked for things to watch, but with the exception of puppetry, live action shows seemed boring as fuck. Why would you be bound by the limitations of physical actors when cartoons could be anything? I wanted dinosaurs, super heroes and robots and I wanted them always & forever. These days I watch barely any animated content, but my abstinence from flesh and blood actors lasted waaaay into my teens. I feel like I was probably 16 or 17 before I started watching prime time TV and I have no idea what pulled me in. Still, as a teenage I watched way more TV than I do now. What was I watching? Anime. LOADS of anime. I watched so much anime that I started getting desperate and watched some weird stuff. The kinds of anime you’d never expect would exist. Here are two (of the many):

BECK (Mongolian Chop Squad)

The show has nothing to do with the American recording artist of the same name. I already listened to Beck before I started watching and to be honest, it was more out of a bizarre curiosity over licensing/copyright. What was the show even about? Because there’s now way it’d be an animated retelling of the creation of Odelay. What I found was a slice of life anime about a disillusioned Japanese 14 year old nerd slowly becoming obsessed with rock music. It caught me at a time where I’d been going through similar motions and found solace in the sense of community music could bring. This show chronicles his rise and rise, facing hardships but ultimately working his way up to the big time.

I suppose it worked on a similar model to Twilight: Create a central character who’s an empty but relatable shell and suck in lonely viewers to identify with them. I got sucked in hard and started to really cheer for this character. Once I was there, the series was abound with these huge moments of triumph where the stakes pay off. You’re driven to hope for the character’s success and seeing him overcome adversity delivers this huge emotional reward. It may have been a case of this show finding me at exactly the right moment to become a perfect viewing experience, but I absolutely adored it.

Yakitate!! Japan

I often balk at watching a show when I hear it has 24 episodes. It feels like a massive time commitment. Then I remember that I once watched a 69 episode anime series about a kid who bakes bread. The show starts out relatively innocently, but within a few episodes it leans hard on the farce pedal and floors it to the end. The premise is that the central character has this unnatural power where his hands are a few degrees warmer than most people’s. He uses this ability in his quest to become a master baker, since his breads begin to bake even while he’s kneading them. It has a league of increasingly ridiculous characters with all manner of special abilities that aid their bread baking prowess. It very quickly becomes an ode to dumb japanese puns, as the central character aims to create a national bread of Japan, the Ja-pan (“pan” being the Japanese word for bread). Whenever I talk of this show, I’m always quick to point out how utterly absurd it is, and how much goddamn fun too. Somehow it keeps you holding on right till the end without dragging, including a bunch of interesting baking knowledge in there too.  If you want something carefree and delightful to watch, bun appetite!

I hope at least one of you checks these out, because my next few days will inevitably be spent youtubing BECK songs. They’re where it’s at.

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?

Things could be worse.

I used to pride myself on my ability to be current, on top of trends. I feel like I’ve been saying this for years, when it likely refers to a stretch of years from 2008-2010. Back when I’d moved away to the small town of Rotorua, population 60,000. Before I had things like an active social life, a lengthy commute and a girlfriend. I could spend the evenings scouring the internet for fresh new TV shows, albums, video games. Also, because I scarcely slept, I could watch these things in the same night. From around 7pm until 2am every night, seven solid hours of me time.

I don’t do this any more. I can’t. I have friends in close proximity (rather than two hours’ drive away), a live-in girlfriend and a 50 minute commute (instead of a five minute walk) each morning. At some point through the years between then and now, I also discovered a causal link between my frenetic nature and sleep deprivation. Adding to this mess is the proliferation of content driven by greater internet presence. There’s too much goddamn stuff out there and I’ve got no hope of remaining current without forsaking those aforementioned important aspects of my life (people). That’d be a full time job (albeit one I’d probably enjoy).

Which is to say, these days I’m often late to the party. Even when I get there, it’s often because I’m led by friends telling me how I’ve been missing out. FOMO is a mean, effective motivator. Funny, I talk about not having enough time, then lay a fuckton of pipe to get to the point. The point is, the show Catastrophe is many kinds of great.

A 2015 Amazon Prime show, Catastrophe is a relationship based comedy about an Irish school teacher (Sharon Horgan) falling unexpectedly pregnant to an American businessman (Rob Delaney) after his trip to London. Geez, I could’ve described this better. It’s not like he arrives, looks at her and she’s all “HOW DID A BABY GET IN MY BELLY? GET IT OUT!” She calls him months later when he’s back home. Anyway, he comes back to London and the show picks up from there.

I understand if, based on that brief blurb you’d start questioning both my recommendation and sanity. It’s not a super compelling or original premise for a show. It also has that shaky camera style that for some reason is seen as a representation of grounded content. It’s more “real” or something. It also means I go from normal to borderline vomiting within ten seconds. HOW EXPENSIVE OR HARD TO USE IS A FUCKING TRIPOD? Anyway, I’m still not selling it well. I watch it from a bed a couple of metres away from the computer screen. That helps

Why watch it then? Because the show is gut-wrenchingly funny (or maybe that’s just the shaky camera playing with my innards). I’m not the kind of person who often watches shows alone and laughs out loud, but Catastrophe has that rare quality. Both Horgan and Delaney are hilarious, throwing quips and witty non-sequiturs back and forth. The dialogue is fantastic, but it wouldn’t go anywhere without solid chemistry. Despite misgivings about the “real” camerawork, the show is grounded and believable. So many sitcoms have a habit of feeling contrived or needlessly amping up a scene for greater impact. Catastrophe doesn’t put situations outside the realms of believably, letting the fantastic writing do the heavy lifting instead. Seeing Rob and Sharon together puts you totally on their side, deeply hoping that things will work out.

Thing is, the characters are so well defined that there’s realistic conflict. All the time and on resonant tensions like job stress, money, wavering libidos, shitty family, birth fears and postpartum depression. They argue, more and more viciously as the show pans out (it really hits its stride in s01e04). They’ll yell and tear each other down. They’ll also, within the same conversation, joke and de-escalate, apologise. Like actual human beings who are on the same team, they love each other deeply and don’t really want to leave one another. They’re surrounded by interesting, diverse supporting characters, many of whom are hugely flawed. It’s non-judgemental and sex positive too. Being a British show, there are only six 23 minute episodes in a season (two so far), so it’s easy to dive into.

I slept on this one, but you no longer have to. Have you got five hours? In that case, you certainly don’t have an excuse.