How I Binge

One of the many buzzwords you hear today is “binge watching,” which is basically watching loads of one programme in one fell swoop. Frankly, I’ve called this marathon watching, but I’m a product of the 80s, when marathons were special events on networks.

A lot of these binges are tied into the success of Netflix’s entrance into the production market, where instead of weekly releases of a programme, they dropped all episodes at once to much success. I’ll be honest with you, I have little interest in what Netflix is offering (and all they really offer the Australian market is esterophilia). 

Recently I read an article in The Hollywood Reporter where Jenji Kohan, creator of one of the Netflix successes, Orange Is The New Black, said that binging is hurting the shared experience that used to happen when things were released weekly. Indeed, it’s quite funny to read the entertainment news websites’ attempts to cover shows whose episodes are released all at once, because the journalists have no idea how to write for an audience who could be at any place in the series. 

Even though none of the new binge shows appeal to me, I do enjoy binging. My current delight is the early 2000s Australian* crime show Stingers. I’m under no illusion that I’m probably one of the very few people watching episode after episode, and that’s fine with me. Binging for me is about personal enjoyment, and I don’t expect anyone else to be on the same page as me. Perhaps befitting my background as a scriptwriter, I’d rather discuss things with the scriptwriters, network executives, and producers.

* I tend to watch a lot of Australian & New Zealand programming simply because it’s new to me. Bizarrely, you barely see any old (as in not currently in production) Australian television programming on Australian television. But that’s another subject entirely

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Both Alike In Dignity and Complexity

“Two households both alike in dignity/In fair Verona where we set our scene”

"an excellent conceited tragedy" indeed

“an excellent conceited tragedy” indeed

I remember the opening prologue to Romeo & Juliet because I saw it countless times whilst waiting in the wings for my entrance during my high school’s production.

Let the record show that I was not Romeo. I was Friar Lawrence actually.

In the two productions of Shakespeare my school put on, I was cast as a religious figure who gave advice to those struck dumb with love.  Presumably this was due to the fact that as an overweight black teenage male, I didn’t exactly exude romantic lead material.

Waiting in the wings, waiting to go on, and observing the activity night after night gave me somewhat of an interesting challenge: I was disconnected from the action, but expected to thrust myself into it just a few scenes later.

This was not that different from my day-to-day life at the time, where I often felt like I was disconnected from the high school world around me. I was, for lack of a better term, “other.”

Now, on some level, that’s just a standard teenage phase, but as a double minority (black and gay), not being considered part of the mainstream really got to me. It got to me so much that I pretty much the kibosh on any thoughts of being an actor after graduating. Instead, I was going to be a writer. Yessir, I was going to write the world as I saw it and everybody’s minds would be collectively blown and the world would be a bit less daunting to the fat black gay teenage boys from Wisconsin.

I’d like to think that the world of 2014 is a bit more hospitable now than it was then.

Today, I saw two articles from The Atlantic that made me remember that sense of “otherness” from way back when.

The first one was from Enuma Okoro, praising the everywoman aspects of the lead character in the new BET (Black Entertainment Television) show Being Mary Jane, which is about a journalist attempting to get that proverbial work-life balance just right. In the article, Okoro quotes a study by Essence magazine that states that a considerable majority of black women see negative portrayals of themselves more often than positive ones, amongst which include the infamous (and unrealistic) head shaking, sassy black woman stereotype.

It certainly didn’t reflect the reality of the black women that I ever came across in my family, nor in my black female peers and friends.

This is not to say that it wasn’t true for some people, but not all, and particularly when your only representation is this archetype it can become an expectation.

Apologies for the cliché, but if I had a dime for how many people overseas asked me if black women really were that way, I’d be able to solve the GFC.

That’s the problem with television and media in general, it can turn a character trait that the actual person has to chop down (often with a metaphorical pickaxe) to find the truth inside.

And that truth is, as Okoro says about Being Mary Jane, “the potential to slowly alter the way viewers see and relate to African-Americans as a people whose lives and experiences—their good and poor decisions, and their trials and triumphs—can be encompassed into cultural and social norms in the same way that the lives and experiences of white Americans have been for centuries.”

The second article was Hope Reese’s interview with Michael Lannan and Andrew Haigh, the creators of Looking, a new HBO show about gay men in San Francisco.

Haigh says “Our ambition is not to tell the story about all gay people, which is impossible to do. The gay community is full of all different types of people. It never was our intention to be the ultimate gay show about all gay people. We just want to tell the stories of these characters and their lives.”

In response to Reese’s question about whether they [Lannan & Haigh] felt a burden to “get it right,” he says: “I think ‘burden’ is a good way to put it. We do feel like there’s a burden, and then the trailer comes out, and everyone comments on it, saying, “That’s not my life.” It was hysterical looking at some of the comments. Some people decided it was a show about cock-hungry sluts, and others would say that it’s all white people. Everyone has a judgment. But we can’t represent everybody—it’s impossible.

So in many respects, we have to ignore that. But I also understand the desire, the need, for representation on the screen. My hope is that if this show does well, it will offer the opportunity for other people to make other shows about different types of gay people.”

Haigh’s statement about hoping that it offers “the opportunity for other people to make other shows about different types of gay people” echoes earlier remarks from the creators of the sitcom Will & Grace in response to accusations that the show wasn’t realistic.

Mind you, it is a comedy, and asking for verisimilitude in a half-hour comedy without it becoming mind-numbingly dull is a big ask.

A belated disclaimer: I have yet to see either of these shows, but I suspect that Looking will make an appearance on some Australian television outlet, and the eternal optimist in me hopes that Being Mary Jane might as well.  (I like to believe that in a nation that believes in the “fair go,” that is a possibility.)

With regards to Looking, I must admit that for some gay men out there, it might be a breath of fresh air to see their lives reflected onscreen. I remember when Patrik-Ian Polk’s Noah’s Arc debuted on LOGO. I remember thinking “wow, I see guys who are black and gay, and who actually have a sex life and relationships!”

Noah's Arc (cover art for the 2nd season box set)

Noah’s Arc (cover art for the 2nd season box set)

It might seem peculiar to those who aren’t black and gay, but for the most part, the representation of black gay men in TV  was pretty much as the “sassy sidekick” (mostly in drag) to the white leads who got to go through the ups and downs of romance, awkwardness, and well…reality.

Which brings me back to what the overweight black gay teenage boy waiting in the wings in 2014 sees.

I truly hope he can see that his hopes and wishes not that much different from everyone else, and perhaps, everyone else sees something of their own hopes and wishes in his.

What does gay look like?

The rainbow flag, sometimes called 'the freedo...

The rainbow flag, sometimes called ‘the freedom flag’, has been used as a symbol of gay and lesbian pride since the 1970s. The different colors symbolize diversity in the gay community, and the flag is often used as a symbol of gay pride in gay rights marches. It originated in the United States, but is now used around the world. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Something historical happened today: The US has its first active openly gay athlete in professional sports (story via Rod2.0), with Jason Collins being the proverbial trailblazer–he’s actually a Wizard (pun intended).

 

What I find particularly interesting is his coming out statement: “I’m a 34 year old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.” He identifies himself by job (and it’s a really good one), ethnicity, and then orientation. That I think says a lot about the gay community and how it struggles to really deal with those of us who are multiple minorities.

 

It is no secret that most of the English-language developed world has a White middle-class majority. To its credit, it’s also good that the English-language developed world is also trying to correct it and get towards a post-racial state of affairs.

 

In my experience, I have occasionally wondered whether I’m really included or not, particularly in the gay community because I don’t fit the perception in the media sense of being gay.

What’s that perception?

 

Well, when you turn on the news or read a newspaper and see something representing the “gay community” it is most often a white gay male in his late 30s to 40s.

Now, while it is great to have any representation, but I think it’s time that we start thinking about the effects of having the rainbow community represented in a largely monotone shade.

 

Here in Australia, we are fortunate to have Senator Penny Wong,  who is Asian, as one of the most prominent openly gay people in the media, because she causes people to think twice about that old ridiculous chestnut that “I can’t be gay because I am XYZ ethnicity.”

 

In the US, we’ve had ever increasing minority males and females come out, and yet there is still this perception that ethnicity trumps sexuality. We need more people to come out as being proud of both their ethnic background and their sexual orientation.

 

This where being a role model does matter, because being a role model, allows you to start changing minds on a larger scale.

 

While I wish that I had grown up seeing successful black gay men in media, I am glad that generations after me will be able to.

 

 

 

Some brief thoughts on comedy

20120930-161813.jpg

Courtesy of the late start of the NRL Grand Final (1700 AEST…allegedly), I decided to have an impromptu sitcom marathon.

The sitcom is probably one of the most durable formats in television worldwide. Frankly, everybody wants to laugh. Yet, while laughter is universal, what we find funny and what networks think we’ll find funny varies greatly.

The US: At their core, all US sitcoms are about the tyranny of niceness and character’s relationship to it. The US is–as I’ve said many times on this corner of the Internet–a nation linked together by beliefs (the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are akin to religious texts, and I do not mean that in a blasphemous way, they just are taken and taught that seriously) and not ethnic or religious similarities. The “have a nice day” American politeness is the way we try to overcome those differences. Therein lies the friction and humour. Even in all the “toilet humour” shows, it’s all about finding ways for seemingly disparate people to get along.

The UK: Whereas American comedy is about trying smooth over societal differences, British comedy is interested in the struggle between and within various social groups. This is the land of the Class comedy. It’s also the land of the dark, or perhaps the more appropriate term is cynical comedy.

Canada: Somewhat reflective of Canada’s strong influence from the UK, France, and the US, Canadian comedy is a combination of the absurd with societal (read: current affairs) commentary. From an American viewpoint, Canadian comedy always seems much more mature and cutting than American comedy without being bleak. It says something that a great amount of what the world thinks are American comedy stars are actually Canadian.

Australia: It’s a bit hard to diagnose Australian comedy since the networks have done all in sundry to bury it with the Footy Show being effectively the longest running comedy/variety show still on air.

Again, The Footy Show is the longest running comedy/variety show still on air in Australia.

But my overall diagnosis is that Australian comedy is mostly social commentary, essentially taking its cues from the Burlesque/Vaudeville era and adjusting it to modern times. It’s all about the quick cheeky zinger that captures the zeitgeist.

New Zealand: New Zealand likes to capture the zeitgeist but they also like the payoff of a long witty joke. This is one of the reasons that the sitcom has held on in New Zealand. There also is a bit more daring and cynicism in Kiwi humour.

Please add your own thoughts about sitcoms around the world in the comments.

OOCT 2012: Part Two

Welcome to OOCT 2012. Previously in Part 1, 5 & 13 managed to commentate without becoming intrusive (at least compared to the peacock’s crew).

Will they manage to do so during The Abide With Me section?

5 explains that it’s a memorial to everyone who couldn’t be there. (Already they’re one up on NBC who didn’t air this section, preferring to air an interview with Ryan Seacrest.)

5 uses “English” when he means “British.” He’d ought to know better.

David Beckham brings the torch in via speedboat. (The maturation of Cool Britannia.)

The Memorial dance is very touching. The use of colour is remarkable and striking choice.

5 & 13 haven’t said a single thing beyond introducing Emeli Sande’.

And now we get to the Parade of Nations.

Did the Greek team’s sheer joy at being there warm your heart as it did mine?

Gaze totally oblivious to the symbolism of Afghanistan and the fact that every team this year has female athletes, an Olympic first.

American Samoa: Yes, it’s part of the US, but every US Territory/commonwealth can participate on its own. Which is why I find it odd that the constituent nations of the UK don’t do so.

Angola: No mention of Black Gold.

Argentina: 5 says they got a warm welcome. I heard a dull roar myself.

Australia: Go Lauren. Yes, I choked up.

Shut up, Gaze.

They still look like private school uniforms.

5 & Co. go on and on about AOC facts, but it’s understandable at this point.

Austria, Azerbaijan, and several other countries skipped over, to land on Bahrain.

No mention of the turmoil there.

Bangladesh gets a cheer, no explanation by 5 & Co. In fact the camera stays on Lauren Jackson.

5 rattles off facts about Belgium, but the camera is still on Lauren Jackson.

Now 5 & Co. are getting annoying and offensive.

They get back on track with Bhutan, but the camera is still on the Australian flag, missing out on Bosnia.

Subtext to what 5 & Co. say about Brazil: They’re a threat to Australia, but if we don’t say it, maybe it won’t happen.

On some level, I think 5 & Co. wish Australia came further in the running order.

5 confuses Burundi with Burkina Faso and calls it “Upper Volta.”

Canada = old according to 13.

They start to play West End Girls. Finally.

PRC: Huge roar. 5 & Co. give the Brazilian subtext.

Camera focuses in on Brazilian flag. Hmm.

Cook Islands: They are in free association with NZ. Camera cuts quickly to Australian team. Hmm.

Cuba: Wish I could’ve heard the NBC commentary.

Czech Republic: I want those boots.

DPRK: Wink & miss by our numbers.

Ecuador: The numbers don’t mention Assange?

El Salvador: 13 reiterates Danny Boyle’s “for the people” theme.

Fiji: The numbers talk about the Bee Gees. Wow, that’s really cold.

France: Big cheer. They look as happy as the Greeks. The numbers just give facts.

Germany: Big cheer. Gaze gives facts. I’m floored by the bizarre uniforms.

Ghana: The team is rather morose, possibly because the president just died. No reference to it by the numbers.

Guam: See American Samoa.

Hong Kong, China: OUCH. The numbers miss this moment.

Iceland: Very austere.

Independent Olympic Athletes: The numbers don’t explain fully that these are athletes who for whatever reason, cannot be attached to a country (i.e. their country has no Olympic committee.)

India: Big reaction, but the numbers are slow to pick up.

Indonesia: Numbers miss out on any neighbour references.

Iraq: I think we are now at the point where Iraqi participation is normal and no one talks about the war.

Ireland: Huge cheer. Numbers give their facts.

Italy: More stylish uniforms than the French.

Japan totally skipped over!?

South Korea: The uniforms seem more like those from the tropics. Gaze gives an interesting story about one of the Korean athletes.

Kyrgyzstan: The flag bearer is jaw-droppingly handsome. The numbers give no detail.

Liberia: Understandably, this is just another country to the numbers, but I, personally, liked seeing the Liberians. Probably many other Americans were as well.

Libya: The numbers totally miss the significance.

Lithuania: Yes, Gaze, I get the guy is massive. Doesn’t excuse you lot missing Libya.

Luxembourg: Is that Clay Aitken representing the Duchy?

Madagascar: Gaze has finally shut up about the Lithuanian.

Malaysia: No news references.

Camera goes to bored Australian basketballers.

Malta skipped over.

Marshall Islands: Totally independent now.

Mexico: Huge cheer. Why? I don’t know.

Micronesia: Are they totally independent now or still in association?

Monaco: Prince Albert not competing.

Mongolia: Doing the tropical thing.

Myanmar: No political reference?

Nauru: 5 says “one of our neighbours” and leaves it at that. Not going to touch that hot potato.

Netherlands: Numbers start waking up because they know NZ is coming soon.

NZ: 13 does a very good job with her facts. Significance not quite acknowledged.

Camera focuses in on NZ team.

Norway: 5 does eulogise the Norwegian swimmer.

Palau: The flag bearer is wearing a George Washington wig? Hmm.

Palestine: Huge cheer. 13 & camera focus on Layne Beachley.

PNG: At least they get a “neighbours” reference from 5.

Australians acting up. Gaze jokingly admonishes them. Shut up, Gaze.

I have to give the odd-numbered network major credit for not going to an ad break.

Portugal: Now, 5 chooses to make a reference to the economic situation? Portuguese team looks quaintly happy in contrast.

Puerto Rico: I can hear the “why is Puerto Rico separate from the US” confusion in the Numbers voice.

Russia: When did Russia get tropical?

Rwanda: Finally an acknowledgement of the political strife.

Samoa: Only now do the Numbers acknowledge that people in Australia would be interested in teams other than Australia.

Attention Numbers: Slovakia is not Slovenia and v.v.

Somalia: The Numbers fail to make note of the significance.

South Africa: 5 talks about Castor Semenya. I’m dumbfounded on how they missed Somalia. Not even a “this is Somalia!” But yes, 5, Semenya is a controversial choice, like you lot ignoring what is likely the first team from Somalia since the 1980s or 90s.

Spain: Gaze drools about Pau Gasol. The Spanish team is upbeat, not up there with the French and the Greeks. 5 goes on about the Double Amputee from the RSA. Are you planning on taking Hot Seat to Cape Town, 5? WTF? You missed talking about SOMALIA and you’re still going on about the RSA and we’re already at Spain?!

13 talks about how the Spanish uniforms were donated.

Sri Lanka: 5 talks about the huge Sri Lankan community in Australia. (Huge Maltese one as well and you skipped over them.)

Sudan: The numbers talk about clothes and 5 makes a reference to the political situation. (You still missed SOMALIA!)

Sweden: They look like a really big Rowing club. 5 gives them the Brazilian commentary.

Switzerland: 5 gives them the Brazilian commentary as well. This is not good.

Syria: No reference to politics at all. (13? You co-present a breakfast show, you have the ability to go there and you couldn’t make any acknowledgement?)

Timor-Leste: No reference to politics or being a neighbour!?

Tonga: See Timor-Leste.

Trinidad & Tobago: No Nicki Minaj references…by the team.

Tunisia: 13 talks about the Arab Spring (you still missed Libya).

Turkey: 5 gives a very convoluted story about a defecting Turkish weightlifter back in 1956.

Tuvalu: “Halfway between Australia and Hawaii” says 13.

Dancing Australians.

Ukraine: The Ukrainian Andrew Gaze, I shudder at the thought.

The United States: I know I’ve made a big to-do about the traditional links between the US & France, but our formerly made-in-China by Ralph Lauren uniforms make us look more French than the actual French. Is this the US Olympic team or the staff for the Dover-Calais ferry?

Attention 5: The first name of the President of the US is pronounced “Bah-ROCK” not “Bah-RACK.” I know it’s spelled that way, but it’s not pronounced that way, y’see?

Gaze drools about the Dream Team.

The uniforms kind of lessen my emotion, but I’m proud of the team.

Venezuela: Gaze & 13 still in awe about the Dream Team. Multimillionaires they may be, but only a few years ago they got their egos fricasseed when they thought they were too cool to represent the US.

(US) Virgin Islands: See Puerto Rico.

Great Britain: Why aren’t they the United Kingdom? If the US looked odd, the UK looks peculiar. Is it an homage to Sir Elton? The numbers give more facts per second than humanly possible.

Random rock band mumbles their way through a song. I pick up the words “1984,” “Rio,” and “looking.”

Oh, that’s the Arctic Monkeys? Do. Not. Live. Up. To. The. Hype. In my view.

Cycling doves to Come Together Pleasantly trippy.

Go away Arctic Monkeys though.

Lord Coe makes hay of his 15 minutes.

One day we’ll have an IOC president who can speak English clearly.

HM:TQ finally gets to open the games.

The Numbers try to explain who the UN Goodwill Ambassadors are, but are drowned out by the announcers doing the exact same thing.

Yes, 5, we know who Muhammad Ali is.

Anthem.

Surely Becks and the torch must be there already, and indeed, here comes the final part of the relay.

Olympic oath. And it goes on and on and on.

Torch finally enters stadium and we all know what happened next.

Well, the Numbers really let themselves down with this section.

And I’m still perplexed by the US & UK uniforms.

So if that’s the button you’re looking for, blame Ralph Lauren

OOCT 2012

After what felt like the longest preamble in ages (I think Odd-Numbered Network has been taking hints from NBC on the sly instead of ABC-US who is their “official” partner), we finally get on with it.

If you want to read Olympics Opening Ceremony Thoughts (OOCT) on the preamble before the actual ceremony, go to my Facebook page.

A preamble–don’t worry, I’ll keep it short–time-shifted as my viewing of the opening ceremony may be (2 days after), it’s still going to be live-blogged. As such, the likelihood of spelling mistakes and factual errors is up there. I’m also invoking my personal 2 minute maximum pause on the television, so if I get suddenly terse, that’s why.

And now Eddie & Leila.

Stadium shots as Eddie & Leila (who I’m now going to call 5 & 13, for sheer nepotistic audacity) carp on about the atmosphere. They bring in Andrew Gaze because he’s an Olympian and because neither 5 nor 13 can do wide-eyed optimism anymore with any sincerity. Gaze can, just look at his surname.

5 quotes Shakespeare before he rambles off the London 2012 Opening Ceremony press release, without crediting it. I don’t know if he’s actually quoting the press release or not but some quotes could be interpreted as imperialism.

Yep, 5’s quoting Danny Boyle, who will always be known to me as the director of the film version of Trainspotting, which was EVERYWHERE during my first year at Luton. If Iggy Pop doesn’t appear somewhere shaking his desiccated self, I’ll be miffed.

Whether or not 5 & 13 intend to, there is a certain “those deluded Poms” tone to their recital of Boyle’s remarks. NBC most likely had Lauer & Costas alternate between solemn, upbeat, and “Geez, I don’t think we’ve said another pointless fact about this year’s Team USA” when they really ought to be telling us what the hell is going on.

5 & 13 don’t have that problem, because they have the press release and they are sticking to it like glue.

5 can do a good countdown.

Filmed part of the opening:

Natural Britain. Children playing in a muddy river, which leads to bustling village.

British Rail transport: what looks like a GNER train speeds past a field with the Olympic rings.

Continued to be pleasantly shocked by the absence of narration. Costas would be telling us about his ride to Bristol or Bath, etc.

We follow the river to London where the Elizabeth Tower’s clock goes haywire along with that piece of music by Andrew Lloyd Webber which became the theme of the South Bank Show.

Camera zooms up and it’s the theme to EastEnders. (Yep, Costas & Lauer would be working double time to explain that one without appearing like they are promoting PBS programming.)

Underwater. The Tube. A collection of posters from various Olympics over the years and we are back in the stadium and the bucolic village green.

And from this point onwards, I’m switching from description to reaction.

The popped balloon countdown was twee.

Wiggins subdued. (Take note, Armstrong.)

13 says the 4 nations that represent Britain will be represented in song. Northern Ireland sings Danny Boy.

Does anyone else get thrown when you see a children’s choir in an outdoor setting and they don’t sing I Still Call Australia Home?

Scotland is blink and miss. Wales isn’t in Welsh!

The drumming that calls forth the industrial revolution was rather stirring, but one must wonder if there will be an ecological message to balance.

5 reads his copy to explain why we feel a touch of melancholy in the drumming. That is helpful narration.

Yay! Suffragettes!

5 goes a mile a minute to explain who Underworld are and Danny Boyle’s connection to them, but here’s the story that a lot of people are missing from this Olympics: This is Cool Britannia matured. Underworld, Danny Boyle, etc. These are all names that were bandied about as examples of Cool Britannia.

The poppies and WW1 deaths would need explaining to a US audience, but there’s no need for 5 to start rattling off casualties to an Australian audience.

5 starts describing the trade unionists and suffragettes and I don’t think he realises how political this is.

Beijing 2008 was designed to make the world think “China is powerful but benevolent.” London 2012 seems to be saying “we know our past, we know our pomp, we’re ever-changing.” It’s also a very emotional response to previous ceremonies which were “shock & awe” underlined with triple exclamation points.

Branagh as Brunel looks somewhat sinister and proud at the same time.

It takes forever for 5 and 13 to point out the obvious: they’re building big Olympic rings made out of metal.

This is a reboot of the UK via the Summer Olympics. That’s the first and most striking thought I have. They’re rebooting the UK.

And now a film:

Happy & Glorious? Expect that to become a clothing label soon.

13 tells us the obvious: it’s Buckingham Palace and then spills the secret that most of the world had managed to keep: HM acts.

I want know why a bunch of Brazilian schoolchildren are visiting Buckingham Palace.

HM acquits herself.

This film is twee. The score for some reason takes on a madcap 1960s comedy tone.

(US readers: Did Lauer or Costas make a reference to Dick Van Dyke at this point? I know you could probably do a drinking game with how often his name will be mentioned.)

Statue of Churchill waves at Bond & HM. Bulldog not able to be used because of copyright.

This really is a homage to 1950s-1960s comedy. Terry-Thomas’s ghost better show up.

Whatever gripes people have with 5 & 13, understand that probably the only silence NBC’s viewers would’ve had is that beat before HM’s line.

13’s gaffe and subsequent quiet makes me think she’s gone “oh (expletive)!”

I know suspension of disbelief and all that, but when Bond & HM leave Buckingham Palace it’s bright day and when they get to the stadium it’s night. And they’re in a helicopter. This is London, the city can’t expand much more, so they ought to be over France if they’ve been flying for that long.

The graphic says “Her Majesty THE QUEEN.” This is one of the funny things about the English language. It could imply that HM is effectively Queen of all Queens and all existence. Is that a gaffe or protocol? I’m inclined to think it’s an Odd-numbered network gaffe.

If you ever wonder about how retconning works, here’s an example: When they start to sing God Save The Queen, I have to remind myself that they are not singing My Country ‘Tis of Thee (lyrics written in 1831), one of the old de facto US national anthems which are all odes to glories of being a republic. (The US did not have an official anthem until the 20th Century. We still do not have an official language, English is official language of some states and it’s the de facto national language, but I doubt–at least in my lifetime–it will ever gain official status. What language the US would become the national language was a contentious issue amongst the Founding Fathers.)

Hoo boy! I would love to hear how NBC dealt with the section dealing with the National Health Service and combining it with children’s literature! That would be grim, to put it mildly. I imagine the director or EP yelling in Costas & Lauer’s earpieces: “Oh (expletive).”

Why would this be a horrible prospect? Mary Poppins, Peter Pan, Winnie the Pooh are all Disney properties. Disney owns ABC-USA, which used to air the Olympics for some time. NBC would effectively give Disney films & parks a huge chunk of free advertising.

As for the National Health Service: the US is only just getting one now and it is contentious.

5 & 13? They basically go “eh?” and talk about how Tubular Bells launched the career of Sir Richard Branson.

5 tells us that GOSH is an acronym for Great Ormond Street Hospital, and yes, I admit, I needed to do that in my head. 5 also tells us that it was funded by the royalties from Peter Pan. Were it not for the fact that in Australia, exclusivity and being the “official” XYZ is rather fluid, I could easily see someone yelling to 5 & 13, “don’t make them think Disneyland.”

Again, I’m surprisingly defending 5, because when he reads out the motto of the NHS, I can only think about the many bullets being sweated over at the NBC camp, who are wishing that those nurses and orderlies would stop dancing.

5 gets out a snarky remark about Medicare, and frankly, all I have to say to anyone who complains about Medicare & the NHS is “at least you have to never worry about being covered.” Any basic public health coverage that you would receive in Australia & The UK you would not receive in the US unless you are: over 65, veteran, and/or terminally ill (less than a year left). Everything else you need private health.

Ok, the NHS section: very heartwarming.

J.K. Rowling appears. Harried NBC EP likely breathing a sigh of relief.*

*(NBC is part of Universal which owns Universal Studios, which does have a Harry Potter attraction.)

She reads from Peter Pan. (Harried NBC EP: “(expletive)”)

Tubular Bells still playing, and I (and many more) associate the song with The Exorcist, so there’s this layer of ominous on top of everything.

And the sense of foreboding was correct as various sundry villains appear out of the beds.

Then there’s the flotilla of Mary Poppins. (HNBCEP: “Crap! Talk about Dick Van Dyke.”)

13 goes on about the Australian connection to a rather uninterested 5. Admittedly, I didn’t know it, so I found it interesting.

Again, I don’t know why everyone thinks 5 & 13 talk too much. I don’t find them nearly as obtrusive as Lauer & Costas were.

Tribute to British film: I want to see how they handle Trainspotting. Scottish Heroin addicts aren’t family friendly.

How Rowan Atkinson avoided carpal tunnel is remarkable.

(Personal disclaimer: I have never been a major fan of physical comedy, but the section worked.)

Frankie & June say “Thanks Tim?” Are things going to get trippy?

Yes, they are. I think it’s a tribute to British pop music and television.

5 says “this is Frankie,” but doesn’t elaborate, so I still have no clue.

I can’t even figure out if we’re in the 80s or now. (Ah, this is the homage to Trainspotting.)

13 tells us that Frankie (now clarified to be male) tries to find June through a series of nightclubs which celebrate the British music industry. 13 was very helpful there, at least to me.

I do not recall the 1984 Olympics (I was 5 and probably indifferent), but I don’t think the opening ceremonies would’ve included a tribute to the US music industry (it’s the red-headed stepchild to film & television). This tribute is sweet and sentimental without being cloying.

Graphics onscreen explain that we’re going to the 70s.

I’ve said this on The Full Catastrophe previously, the 70s were mostly disco, easy listening, and soft rock in the US, at least based upon my conversations. Alice Cooper would be the closest thing to Glam Rock.

The captioner just gives up during the songs.

What’s really interesting to me is that I occasionally have to remind myself that this is part of the Olympics. I really love what I’m watching, but I wonder if we’re getting a bit far off from the reason why we’re all hear.

Patiently waiting for Madchester, which they skip over by jumping from the Eurythmics to Prodigy.

And now Born Slippy. This is more of an appropriate tribute to Trainspotting given that the soundtrack was on the charts for ages.

What’s really refreshing about present-day UK (and France is the only other country that does this) is that it doesn’t bang on about multiculturalism as much as understanding that national identity does not have to have a racial component. This section illustrates that perfectly. The female protagonist is of blended background. Dizzee Rascal performs a version of Bonkers that incorporates Indian pop. There is no underlining, there is just doing.

13 then gives a rather superfluous summary of everything that we just saw (seriously, I can forgive them one or two unnecessary commentaries) was made possible by Sir Tim Berners-Lee who created the World Wide Web.

He is the eponymous Tim who Frankie & June thank, and to their credit, 5 & 13 do not explain it to anyone who hadn’t gotten it.

That impressed me.

More OOCT 2012 to come.

My Other Side

2008 Pride March, St. Kilda, Victoria.

Image via Wikipedia

Longtime readers of this little corner of the Internet may have noticed that I’ve been a bit cagey about some of my work recently. Well, I think it’s safe to say that I can let the proverbial cat a little bit out of the bag: I’ve been a member of the white collar crowd, quite unexpectedly, over the past year.

It has fortunately come to somewhat of a close recently, and it’s been quite a journey. A journey in more ways than one, as I will be talking about my life as an unexpected business traveller on JOY 94.9 this Christmas Eve at 12 noon. If you’re not in Melbourne, you can listen online via the website or via JOY’s smartphone app.

I’ll be talking how I’ve been treated nicely and not so nicely by airlines and customs officers (including US ones), why I gave in and finally flew a Middle Eastern airline (and regretted it), that lovely subject of profiling, why you should always keep your e-ticket on you (even at Disneyland Paris) and many other stories (including some hilarious ones from my late mother).

By the way, 12pm Saturday 24 December in Melbourne translates as:

10am Saturday 24 December Tokyo
1am Saturday 24 December GMT
8pm Friday 23 December New York (EST)
7pm Friday 23 December Milwaukee (CST)
5pm Friday 23 December Los Angeles (PST)

And remember there’s also World Wide Waves, the little late night LGBT Global news and views show that I co-present on JOY 94.9 every Wednesday night at 11pm Melbourne. I’m a little more strait-laced on The Wave, but only just a little.

Tune in!

The Dorian Gray Decade Needs To Die

Kim Kardashian, taken at the unveiling of her ...

Image via Wikipedia

It might seem a bit odd with this year nearly being over, and the first decade of the 21st Century already past, but I’m calling  the period of 2000-2010, the Dorian Gray Decade. Somehow, the zeitgeist was all about wanting to be good-looking and desired regardless of the cost. Interestingly, it was only during this time that Dorian Gray syndrome was identified.

The past decade saw the birth of the super celebrity without merit (Kim Kardashian, Paris Hilton), the attending networks that cater to them (Bravo/Arena, MTV, both of which are the Dorian Gray networks themselves for those who know their history) , and the rise of such social problems as young girls intentionally getting pregnant so as to be featured on Teen Mom, and perhaps the most obvious example, the recent UK riots.

It would be easy for me to take the Socialist view that this is all due to lack of government oversight in media, but that is neither here nor there. See, at some point, we just stopped caring and wanted to consume. It’s hard to say when exactly this kicked in, probably because I’m talking about this in 2011 and not 2021. On one hand, you could say it began with the plethora of terrorist attacks by al-Qaeda and its sympathisers, which pretty much traded on young and horny disaffected and disenfranchised youth telling them that by trading their mortality they could have a morally right sex comedy existence in the hereafter.  That led to the Iraq & Afghanistan wars (the latter still going on) wherein the West did pretty much the same (although swap the sex comedy for perpetual veneration by those too terrified to actually serve themselves).

Then Saddam Hussein was located and the American public realised that we pretty much had been duped into signing away our freedoms and locked into a cult of personality so that an errant son could prove himself worthy to his distant father. Oddly enough not all that dissimilar to North Korea. Meanwhile, because said son and his party demolished so much of the home-grown industry, all we were left with was finance and entertainment. Boy, did we export those two. We literally made a killing telling the world that debt was a valuable commodity. (We have only just begun to pay the price for that hubris.)

On the entertainment side,  we had bored rich girls making money off of sex tapes and using to launch careers as…well…bored rich socialites with influence. Granted the influence came solely because they were marketed as so. Once upon time, you could see that as turning lemons into lemonade, but there was one key thing missing: humility. Why did neither the male nor female parties express any sort of anger at having their private moments being made public? Why did the media go along with the PR and not press them on what their new “celebrity” would be built upon, namely their total unknowing exploitation? Those who willing get involved with porn, are rarely so naive not to realise that they are there for sheer physicality and that it is a short shelf life. This lot, conversely wants to have the notoriety without truly accepting the consequences. Despite or regardless of any self-examination, the American entertainment industry exported this new celebrity archetype worldwide, and since no other nation has been able to match the sheer dominance of the American entertainment industry, it was lapped up and taken as valid from Helsinki to Hong Kong, from Madrid to Melbourne.

There is another aspect of this Dorian Gray decade that hits very close to home for me: the gay community. We have made great progress over the past decade: Same-sex marriage has been passed in 6 US states and districts, not to mention the amount of countries allowing Same-sex marriage or civil unions is up to 26. Yet, where we have massively failed is in HIV/AIDS. I am truly lucky to make it out of the last decade still HIV-, and it has nothing to do with the fact that I’m in a sero-discordant relationship (which I’ve only been in for the past 4). It has to do with the fact that we have seen companies glorify and profit off of unprotected sex. Granted there are brief, almost discreet disclaimers all over, which are pretty much rendered irrelevant when bombarded with images of muscular, seemingly “virile” and “healthy” men living a life of constant sexual gratification with no consequence. These images play on the minds of young men, who aren’t getting the best sexual education (whether it’s due to homophobia or general prudishness), and you wonder why the sero-conversion rates are going up.  (And if this makes you remember the disenfranchised youth who became Islamist terrorists…)

Why are we afraid to admit there are consequences to our actions? We cannot continue to glamourise what hurts us. We cannot continue to redefine what is beyond the pale, nor should we accept a media that will do so for us for the sake of a slick marketing campaign. Why do we continue to talk and yet never. do. a. damn. thing?

 

My Response to A Current Affair

Around the 14th of July, I lodged a complaint with A Current Affair about a story they did about a New Zealander convicted of crimes who was not able to be deported from Australia. The story featured [in my view as a journalist and as a someone who has studied media representation] bigoted language and a barely veiled call for a return to the “White Australia” policy.

Here is the story in question.

Today, I received a response from Grant Williams, ACA’s executive producer.

Some highlights and my responses:

My original complaint: I made mention of the fact that the report specifically described Joseph Williams’s [the subject of the story] ethnicity.

Williams: “We do not believe a single mention of the word “Maori” was offensive. The term was used when we were talking about being a father-not a convicted criminal. The story did not make an issue of it, only mentioned it in passing, and focused on his criminal past rather than his ethnicity.”

My response:  The entire story was supposedly about Wiliams’s criminality, therefore the mentioning of his ethnicity is in that context ultimately. Was it necessary to describe him as a “Maori”father rather as just a father? The choice to do so is, in my view, inflammatory.

My original complaint: An English couple was interviewed as an example of people being “wrongfully deported” while Williams was not being deported.

Williams: “No else who contacted A Current Affair filled this description [of being deported due to the changes in visa] and at no stage during our conversation with visa agencies about our search for immigrants with visa problems, were race and ethnic background mentioned.”

My response: I truly find it hard to believe that no one–especially from Standards & Practices–ever thought that it might appear heavily biased that you are juxtaposing an immigration story of a non-white criminal with one of white English immigrants being deported. It truly reads not as a “fair go,” but in harking back to the White Australia policy days.

Personally, I find that ACA failed miserably, and Williams though apologetic that I was offended, failed to comprehend the reasons why I was offended.