Triple J’s Lukewarmest 100

Oh look! It’s Friday! Got this week all wrapped up like birthday present. To be fair, I didn’t actually write this one. Remember when I co-wrote that blog about shitty Christmas albums with my friend Wes? No? I wouldn’t blame you. It was a while ago. It’s here. Well, Wes has been angry about Triple J for a while now (I know this because  he tells me) and he wrote something and had nowhere to put it. So, because it takes me forever to anything and I still haven’t finished writing my review of Pacific Rim, I said I would put it here for all of you to enjoy. For those international folks who don’t understand what Triple J’s Hottest 100 is go here and it’ll make more sense. Now, without further ado I give you Wesley and his rage:

“Let’s start with an admission: the last time I voted in a Hottest 100 was the Hottest 100 of All Time back in 2009. The results of that countdown forced me to confront something I had long suspected: I no longer connected with our national youth broadcaster or their audience. But why? How could I be so out of touch with the youth of Australia already? When the Hottest 100 of all time was run, I was 21 years old – still, well and truly, in the target demographic of Triple J. What I had voted for was so vastly different from what made the list that I simply stopped participating. Now at 25, we’ve just had the countdown of the Hottest 100 of the past 20 years and I feel even more detached than ever before.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I didn’t vote in the Hottest 100 of the Past 20 Years – not because I no longer identify as a Triple J listener, but because I didn’t feel I could shortlist songs from such a large period of time. Yes, I know I voted for the Hottest 100 of All Time, which, given that it covered the entire history of music, should probably have been a lot harder to narrow down. But, I reread my votes from that poll recently, and while I still love every song on the list, I don’t know that I would vote the same way again. This time around, not only did I not think I could come up with a shortlist that would adequately and appropriately convey my votes for the best songs of the last twenty years, in my experience, voting for your favourites tends to result in disappointment.

This is where it gets tricky.

If you voted, you have probably noticed that, rather than actually picking your favourites, you tend to vote from things that might actually make it onto the final list. You want your songs to make it in the countdown but say, for example, your favourite Radiohead song is Idioteque. Sure, it’s fairly standard for Radiohead fans, but for the greater Triple J community, it’s kind of obscure. So you rethink and you decide ‘Well I want Radiohead to make it, I could live with it being not Idioteque, I’d better vote for Karma Police or Paranoid Android.” Every fan does this and it skews the vote. Some bands have a standout song that will be the popular choice for voting while others might have one or two that are both extremely popular. The result is not a countdown of the best or even the most popular songs of the last 20 years, but a totally predictable list of the most popular bands of the last 20 years.

The format of the annual Hottest 100 is fantastic and, while it doesn’t always provide a definitive list of every individual listener’s favourite songs, it does offer a pretty comprehensive overview of the most popular music over the last year according to Triple J’s listeners. By this theory, if Triple J listeners vote for their favourite songs of the last 20 years, we should get the same sort of results. But unfortunately it just doesn’t work.

In annual Hottest 100s there is usually a good mix of bands and songs, and more often than not, if a band has released a great album, quite a few of their songs make it into the countdown. The system is flawed, and as such, people don’t vote for the best songs, or even their favourite songs. Instead, they go with the popular choice by the bands that either they want to see or they think deserve it. The result is a bland list of songs that everyone knows and everyone expects. Whether you love it or hate it, were you really surprised that Wonderwall was the only song by Oasis to make the list? Or Everlong by Foo Fighters? Or Song 2 by Blur? I’m not even talking about where on the list they were, rather just pointing out that each of these songs was the obvious choice for that band and that all three of these bands, love them or hate them, have released better songs in the last 20 years. Even the thirteen artists who did have multiple entries, were still only represented by, at most, 3 songs that were commercial hits. And in every case these bands have better songs from their catalogues that could have, or should have, made it into the countdown.

Oasis

Looking at the top 10 artists from the countdown – Oasis, The White Stripes, Jeff Buckley, Hilltop Hoods, The Verve, Foo Fighters, The Killers, Powderfinger, Gotye and Queens of the Stone Age (I have included Queens of the Stone Age as Powderfinger had both their entries in the countdown feature in the top 10) – 6 out of 10 of these artists only had one song in the countdown and they rated in the top 11. Two artists, Powderfinger and Gotye, had 2 songs in the countdown that both ranked within the top 15. Jeff Buckley and The Killers had songs further down the list, at 36, 75 and 86 respectively. My point? We voted for the bands, not the songs. We as a community identified, not their best songs, but the songs that we thought other people voting for the same band would choose. We all did the same thing to ensure that the bands we loved would rate a mention.

That is why the broader countdowns don’t work as well as the annual Hottest 100s. The listeners, and even former listeners like myself, put a lot of stock into these lists and we’re constantly being disappointed by the predictability of the whole thing. I think it’s time to take a different approach to countdowns. The annual Hottest 100 lists are fine, but maybe there needs to be something completely different for the bigger events. I remember not being furious at the end of the Hottest 100 Greatest Australian Albums countdown – maybe because it made us think about more than just ‘the songs’, we got to think about how the albums worked on a whole. Perhaps that’s a better format – avoid the songs on the larger time range and think about the albums.

Then again, maybe I’m just getting old.”

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Miley Cyrus and the Case of the Faux Lesbians

I am back again. Clearly that whole “writing more regularly again” thing hasn’t taken off. My apologies. I would make some grand statement about getting my shit together, but I would probably just end up disappointing myself and subsequently, you. So, I figure it’s best just to take baby steps.

Anyway… I’ve been spurred into action by Miley Cyrus’ new video. I know I’m not the only one – there’s about 800 amusing critiques floating around online.  I thought I would add my two cents because I’ve spent the last 4 nights in pubs shouting at people about it, and really, that’s why I started this blog. To shout. If you haven’t seen the video, this is it.

I don’t know how else to address this other than to go through scene by scene and pick out all the things that annoy me about it. This might be a long post…

The video starts off with this:

I wish you would stop.

I wish you would stop.

Apparently it’s fashionable to have coloured helvetica text over your music video now. Anyway, that’s Miley chopping off one of those parole issue ankle bracelets, which I assume is meant to signify the fact that she’s going to continue in her quest to leave behind that whole Hannah Montana thing, since she’s never actually been to prison. I thought that whole Can’t Be Tamed-look-at-me-I’m-in-a-corset thing was supposed to be her leaving Disney behind, but apparently it’s a case of “Why stop there when you can have fake lesbianism and twerking in your video?” And so on with the horrible show we go.

2

Oh look! Product placement.

She spends 90% of the video making this face.

She spends 90% of the video making this face.

While mumbling something about ‘fucking the haters’ or some other stupid catch phrase that white people use to pretend they’re above valid criticism, Miley dons a grill. If you think that’s bad, it only goes down hill from there with the addition of twerking and various other little hip-hop references to prove just how “real” this new version of Miley (Miley 2.0) is.

4

Oh look! More product placement! Then, suddenly:

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I don’t know about you but my first thoughts on seeing this were:

  1. Gross
  2. Damien Hirst must be hella short on cash, because that is the only explanation for this sort of tom-foolery.

7

But then someone pretended to cut their fingers off for reasons that are beyond me and I just figured that I’d give up on trying to figure out whatever art-pop violence the video’s director thought would dirty up Miley’s image a bit and let it wash over me. I was a lot more comfortable after that…

8…well…vaguely more comfortable anyway. For some reason this badly animated face kept popping up and there’s very little that makes me more uncomfortable than badly animated faces…

9

As soon as this happened I immediately said “NO” but it happened anyway.

…except maybe white girls trying to twerk. I was hoping that maybe Miley had learned her lesson from the last badly done twerking video, but apparently not. She’s at it again and she still hasn’t mastered it, but this time she’s paid some real life actual black women to authenticate her experience and look enthusiastic while she just sort of awkwardly jiggles a bit and grabs their asses every now and then.

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So there’s that. I’m not really qualified to say anything beyond “that’s not twerking and I’m fairly certain those women are laughing at her as they should be” but for an interesting discussion of cultural appropriation in relation to this video, you should click this link.

Anyway, things take another turn for the weird when Miley appears in a pool with duct taped nipples making out with Barbie.

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And like… I guess that’s fine. Weird, but you know…some people marry bridges. Except then it becomes a foreshadowing of more fake lesbian shenanigans as she proceeds to slow motion wrestle some girls on a kitchen floor and make the universal sign for getting down between the lady legs.

15

I do not believe you have any experience doing that young lady, nor do I think you would be any good at it.

She humps on just about every girl in the place and says some more things about loving whoever you want. She stops short of actually kissing any women though, because while it’s fashionable to name-check queer kids in your songs, you’ve gotta pull up before you go all Katy Perry on this shit and actually use queerness as a marketing tool. I do not feel that sentence adequately portrayed the amount of sarcasm I wanted it to… whatever. For those of you that missed it: I was implying that Miley Cyrus is using queerness as a marketing tool, she’s just stopped short of “kissing a girl and liking it.”

"Oops. I'm touching another girl...is it hot yet? Are you taking me seriously yet? Guys?"

“Oops. I’m touching another girl…is it hot yet? Are you taking me seriously yet? Guys?”

So yeah…then it all just kind of winds down to her sitting on a roof watching the sunrise. Cos that’s what hip, young rich kids who don’t have to work 9-5 do, I guess. Oh! And she makes this face at the end:

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Cos she’s ‘gangster’ or something.

I think the video was Miley trying to prove that she’s edgy. I think it failed. I think she probably needs to have a good long hard look at herself and realise that name-checking drug use and queerness in your songs and videos is not going to make anyone take you seriously. It just means assholes like me are gonna write blogs calling you out on being a dick. Having said that, in the name of full disclosure, if Miley ever decides that it isn’t a marketing ploy and she is all about the vagina, then her and her dykey haircut (that I definitely had first) are always more than welcome to call me. But she’s not allowed to ‘twerk’.

Oh..and some guy rubs bread on himself. But, I mean, we've all been there so no judgement.

Oh..and some guy rubs bread on himself. But, I mean, we’ve all been there so no judgement.

Uncontrollable Sobbing: Eurovision 2013

So I’ve been gone for a while because I’m dropping in and out of existing like an adult. But I’m getting there. In the mean time I’ve been away I have had a couple of people who have been consistently yelling at me to write so before I kick off, I just want to thank them for being vocal. It worked. You’re all beautiful. Come close so I can rub my face on your faces and tell you you’re special. Anyway. On with the show…

2013 will go down in history as the year that I became too emotionally invested in Eurovision. I’ve watched the a sort of fond detachment for many years. I’ve laughed at the choreography, the song choices, the glitter and the tears. But this year, I just kind of lost the plot. I’m not even sure how it happened; one minute I was sitting calmly in front of the television criticising a dress that made someone look like a hovering pyramid, the next I was screaming hysterically at the television. I’m fairly certain that the thing that happened to change all of that was space suits and drunk Greek boys but let’s not get into that.

For those of you not familiar with Eurovision, it’s run by the European Broadcasting Union and has been broadcast every year since its creation in 1956, which makes it one of the longest running programs ever. Most of the funding for the show comes from the countries involved. That being the case, there a five countries that achieve pre-selection every year purely on the basis that without their financial input there would be no Eurovision. So because of their abililty to provide boatloads of glitter and a soundsystem, the UK, Germany, France, Spain and Italy compete every year. Kind of like those guys you invite to a party purely on those basis of their ability to afford alcohol.

I could give you a blow by blow account of my feelings throughout Eurovision. But they were mostly just this:

On the edge of my seat.

On the edge of my seat.

So instead, I’m just going to the highlights reel. Without further ado I present to you, the top 5 Eurovision moments you missed because you thought you had something better to do (you were wrong):

  1. The first thing that springs to mind for a recap is Romania and their contestant Cezar singing It’s My Life. Before I show you the video, I’m going to show you what I tweeted the second it came on the screen because it really sums up what happened nicely.
    All capslock all the time.

    All capslock all the time.

    So without further ado, here, have some Romania:

    Did you watch it? Did you watch all of it!? WHAT WAS THAT!? WHY ROMANIA? HOW!? Did they just roll Dracula in glitter and stick him in the side of a mountain? He looks like a giant singing glittery pimple? And the voice! The voice! The thing about Eurovision is that they have to sing live, so that is his actual live singing voice. He actually sounds like that. Sit back and marvel at the glory that is Cezar.

  2. My all-time favourite entry this year was Greece and their entry Alchol is Free, because it’s a good tune and there are adorable Greek boys in skirts telling you to get drunk and a dude with a moustache. I’m not even here to make fun of it. It’s just a really great song.
  3. Like any high drama environment, there is great success and great tragedy. The great tragedy for me this year was the fact that Montenegro did not make it through to the finals. This is an obvious error in judgement when you consider that the lady involved is doing a better job at being Fergie than Fergie is and the men completed an entire performance in space suits. As a general rule, I find life is improved by space suits.
  4. Ireland was really gay this year. I mean that in the sense that I’m pretty sure I’ve seen this routine done in a gay bar on Oxford Street more than once. Also, keep an eye on the guy playing the huge standing drums. Because I think he might be Wolverine.

    Shirtless men in silver pants gyrating to an absurd drum beat? Sounds eerily familiar.
  5. Iceland is really handsome, with a full head of luscious blonde viking hair and also in a Deep Purple covers band. ICELAND IS REALLY HANDSOME, WITH A REALLY FULL HEAD OF LUSCIOUS BLONDE VIKING HAIR AND ALSO IN A DEEP PURPLE COVERS BAND. I don’t know if you’re aware, but that is pretty much the criteria for marrying me. So if Iceland would like to call me, I am readying and waiting. Here is Iceland’s song. It is an average ballad type of this so I recommend turning it down and blasting Smoke on the Water and imagining that that’s what’s actually happening.

So that’s it. Those are my top 5 picks from Eurovision this year. Oh the winner was this, featuring a tin whistler and weird sexual tension with the tin whistler player:

It’s quite nice I guess, but it’s no “men in space suits” or “sparkly gay dracula”, you know?

Abercrombie and Fitch Want You (If You’re Hot)

My new(ish) flatmate has been looking at graduate programs recently, which has gone swimmingly for me because she had the good fortune of stumbling over the Abercrombie and Fitch stall. Thankfully, A&F had the good sense to hand out some reading material for prospective employees. It is full of hairless people in various stages of undress and, perhaps more importantly, some really great insight into what exactly drives the “experts in cool, All-American casual wear”. Since I know you’re all super-keen to know these things, I’m going to go through the booklet with you so that you can be all that you can to be. (We all want to be All-American frat-boy dudebros right? Good. Cos that’s where this is headed.)

A&F: Teach Me How to Dudebro

A&F: Teach Me How to Dudebro

Let me tell you man, this book is 25 pages of pure gold. There are four chapters: Lifestyle Brands, Company Growth, Social Responsibility, Store Opportunities and each of these chapters is illustrated with the kind of wholesome hairless models that I assume A&F wants staffing their various branches.

This man has no pubic hair.

This man has no pubic hair. I find that terrifying.

So according to the first page of Lifestyle Brands, which I have already kind of mocked, A&F is committed to “grow up with” their customers and “market the most aspirational lifestyle to each of our customers.” I wasn’t aware that a lack of pubic hair and an overabundance of flannel shirts counted as an aspirational lifestyle, but there you go. The next 8 pages are dedicated to the most pretentious of product descriptions.

First up, there’s the actual Abercrombie and Fitch brand.

Be cool.

Be cool.

Next to the dumb looking model with the unreasonably square jaw, is a paragraph about what it means to wear Abercrombie and Fitch. “Rooted in East Coast traditions and Ivy League heritage, Abercrombie and Fitch is the essence of privilege and casual luxury.” ‘Privilege and casual luxury’ is a fancy way of saying “able to pay $60+ for a plain white t-shirt. “A combination of classic and sexy creates a charged atmosphere that is confident and just a bit provocative. Idolised and respected, Abercrombie and Fitch is timless, and always cool.” I wasn’t aware that baggy grey sweat pants constituted the kind of combination of classic, sexy and timeless that worked together to charge the atmosphere, but what would I know?

The next chapter deals with abercrombie kids (no capitalisation).

Snapshot_20130319_6

I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that model looks like a child. This model looks like a 25 year old with an underdeveloped face. Anyway, apparently abercrombie kids is the “essence of privilege and prestigious East Coast prep schools.” Well that’s embarrassing. “With a flirtatious and energetic attitude, abercrombie kids are popular, wholesome and athletic.” How old are these kids? I’m so confused. Apparently they’re “the signature of All-American cool” but I don’t even know what that means. Send help?

Then again, if the pictures are anything to go by, perhaps I am not the target demographic. So the next one should definitely be for me, then. It’s Gilly Hicks – ladies’ underwear that is apparently specifically Australian.

I think this is the first time in this brochure that someone has had their nips covered up.

I think this is the first time in this brochure that someone has had their nips covered up.

So, Gilly Hicks is apparently the “cheeky cousin” of A&F, is inspired by the “free spirit of Sydney” and makes knickers for the “young, naturally beautiful and always confident”. If we’re not naturally beautiful or perpetually confident, does that mean that we’re not allowed to wear the undies? Because aside from the implication that you need to be naturally beautiful to buy (something I will come back to later), I do not know a single woman who is ALWAYS confident. And I say that as someone who REALLY likes their own face.

Lastly, we have Hollister. Hollister boy is the only model wearing a t-shirt in this pamphlet, which makes me wonder what he’s hiding.

Poor Hollister boy.

Poor Hollister boy.

Once again, the words “effortlessly cool” are used to describe the brand, which makes me think that they’re putting a lot of work into something that should be effortless. “It’s all about hot surfers and beautiful beaches. Young and sexy with a sense of humour, Hollister never takes itself too seriously.” Judging by the look on that model’s face, I would say that Hollister takes itself very seriously. Either way, they aim to “bring Southern California to the world.”

The next chapter is Company Growth.

We smile.

We smile.

The happy smiley lady accompanies a page on the direction A&F is taking with their shopping experience. I think this is my favourite part:

“Regardless of location, all of our stores have an exciting, fun and high energy environment, reinforced by great looking, talented people who share our committment and passion for the brand. Our in store experience appeals to the six senses: Sight, Sound, Smell, Touch, Taste and Energy… The customer is greeted by great-looking, friendly models who offer excellent customer service…”

Right. Couple of things A&F. First of all, your committment to hiring people who are better looking than me is not an appealing point for your store. Also, it seems kind of morally reprehensible to put that in your manifesto for prospective employees, especially since your prescriptions for “great looking” seem pretty narrow judging by the people you’ve chosen to put in this booklet. Like… they’re all very good looking, but they all kind of look roughly similar. Especially the boys. Secondly, there are not six senses. And if, theoretically, there were six senses, the sixth sense would not be “energy”. It is stupid and you sound stupid.

The next chapter is Social Responsibility.

Snapshot_20130319_10

I almost fell over sideways when I read this because the idea that Abercrombie and Fitch is a thoroughly socially responsible brand is ridiculous. Under the heading of “Diversity and Inclusion” A&F lists its achievments, which include a scholarship program, a 100% rating on the Corporate Equality Index, making it officially LGBT-friendly and a bunch of charitable donations. There’s also some stuff about sustainability. But let’s be real, Abercrombie and Fitch has like, the WORST human rights record known to man. They’ve been accused of firing staff or refusing point blank to hire them for refusing to remove their hijab, they’ve been involved in several accusations of sexual harrassment by models, they’ve been fined for failing to accommodate disabled customers, there was a $40 million class action law suit for discrimination against black, Latino and Asian workers. The list goes on and on. I fail to see how that’s socially responsible. But all of that is helpfully left out of the little book, so I guess you can pretend it’s not happening.

The next chapter is Store Opportunities, which basically just talks about what you need to do to be eligible for the store program, which include “diversity awareness” and a bachelor’s degree. (Possibly also some moral blinkers but whatever.) What was the point of this blog? That Abercrombie and Fitch is terrible with a very narrow idea of beauty that’s laid out in black and white in their graduate program and I’m not even sure how that’s legal. Don’t fucking shop there. It’s the worst.

Vomit.

Vomit.

Also, I hope you really enjoyed my narcissistic selfies throughout this post. Suck it Abercrombie and Fitch. I’m fucking adorable.

“My Neck, My Back” vs. “Kisses Down Low”

I’m going to preface this blog by saying that it is about oral sex. I am saying this because my mother reads this blog regularly and I would just like to give her the opportunity to walk away and continue to pretend that I have no idea what I’m talking about. So without any further ado, let’s talk about Kelly Rowland.

Why is Kelly Rowland relevant to oral sex? Because she just released a song called Kisses Down Low, which is about exactly what it sounds like. Which is fabulous. It’s been called ‘provocative’, but I suspect that people only think that because it’s about kissing vaginas and not worshipping the peen. Anyway, I thought now would be the perfect time to compare Kelly’s latest offering with my other favourite song about cunnilingus, My Neck, My Back (Lick It) by Khia. Remember it? Here’s a very NSFW refresher.

And here is Kelly Rowland’s Kisses Down Low.

These ladies have taken very different approaches to the subject of downstairs kisses. I am already running out of synonyms. This does not bode well for the rest of the blog. (Feel free to contribute some in the comments section, but if I hear one mention of the word “clunge” I will reach through the screen and rip your legs off.)

Khia’s song was played at a lot of ill-concieved school dances when I was younger, but it was always the censored version (because that makes it totally more appropriate for a bunch of pubescent year 7 kids), so I didn’t hear the actual lyrical content until much later. But I like it. Not only does Khia explore the benefits of being on the recieving end of “so much love” (faced with a lack of synonym, I have resorted to using the lyrics) but she makes it sounds postively marvellous to be the giver as well. Not that she’s letting anyone get away with thinking that they’re too tough to go down. At one point she says “you might roll dubs, you might have G’s but fuck that just get on your knees”. Which is a message I approve of… not that I know anyone who rolls dubs or has G’s but I like the sentiment. In short, Khia is going to tell you what she wants done, how she wants it done and she’s not putting up with any of your bullshit. I can get behind that.

I think my favourite part of the song is where she says she's going to come "all over your face and stuff" like she got bored halfway through the songwriting and was just like "eh...and stuff. Whatever."

I think my favourite part of the song is where she says she’s going to come “all over your face and stuff” like she got bored halfway through the songwriting and was just like “eh…and stuff. Whatever.”

In comparison, Kelly Rowland is a little less… aggressive. The chorus line in the song is “I like my kisses down low, make me arch my back, when you give it to me slow, baby just like that.” It’s more of a gentle suggestion kisses down low are good and that they should keep going. In her video, Khia marches around being in charge of everything so you get some excellent shots of some dude painting her toenails and worshipping the ground she walks on. Kelly’s video doesn’t feature anyone else. It is all about her. And she is ADORABLE. The backgrounds are pink and bubblegummy and her hair and makeup is flawless and she’s just generally great. She quietly reminds everyone who’s in charge whilst wearing candy colours and bows, which is the sort of woman I want to be.

The cutest.

The cutest.

So, you’ve got two songs about oral sex from two very different perspectives. Which one is better? Neither! They’re both great. Khia is for when you feel like stomping around and being in charge of the universe, demanding  things for your pleasure. Kelly is for when you feel like unleashing your inner cute and doing body rolls at the same time (it’s a very specific mood but it does happen).

Oz the Kind of Mediocre

I was going to write this review last week, but then it was International Women’s Day and I got sidetracked. So this is the of Oz the Great and Powerful that I was going to write. The difference is that now, there is a week between me and my actual viewing of the movie so what we’re going to do is play a game called “How much of the movie can Alex actually remember and how much has been compressed into blind rage with no specific cause?” I will give you a hint: it’s probably mostly blind rage. I’ll try to keep it mostly spoiler free, but I make no promises.

I was excited about Oz the Great and Powerful. Too excited. The kind of excited that had me headed straight towards the realms of intense disappointment. However, I was not expecting to be exactly as disappointed as I was.  Have a look at the trailer and then we can talk.

So, let’s go over the plot. Oz, played by James Franco is a down and out magician in a Kansas travelling circus. Much like The Wizard of Oz, Oz gets swept away in a tornado and ends up in the Land of Oz. I feel like I used the word ‘Oz’ too many times in that last sentence. Oz has been thrown into disarray after the death of the previous (male) ruler, Glinda the Good’s father. Evanora (Rachel Weisz) frames Glinda (Michelle Williams) and tricks everyone, including her sister, Theodora (Mila Kunis), into believing that Glinda killed her father to get to the throne. She  casts her out, leaving herself in charge. The only problem is this pesky prophecy that says that a great wizard will return to rule the kingdom. Enter Franco, who “doesn’t just want to be good, he wants to be great”. He decides that he will be the Oz that Oz needs (I never realised how everything is called Oz in these films… Jesus) and, after realising that Evanora is the bad guy, sets out to help Glinda.

It sounds relatively inoffensive on paper but I just spent the whole film mentally going “nope. nope. nooooope.” So essentially, you’ve got a land that has been left more or less in control of three powerful magical women who are all waiting on a man to appear to fulfill his destiny. His destiny, of course, being the leadership role because, despite their magical powers, none of the women are capable of running the kingdom. Oz, of course, does not have any magical powers. He is a conman and also kind of an asshole.

Now, I could let a plot like that slide with some intense side-eyeing for the sake of a good redemption story. Magicless asshole conman becomes benevolent patriarch after learning not to be such a dick, finds love, is less of a shitbag; I could support it if the script was good enough. Unfortunately it just isn’t. Oz is a womanising dick who is unecessarily cruel to the people who do actually like him, but none-the-less, feels entitled to greatness. The crux of the script rests on the disctinction between “greatness” and “goodness”. Oz wants to be great, but he hasn’t proven himself to be good. Glinda the Good is supposed to be his guiding light in this particular endeavour. She exposes him for what he is, calling him selfish and egotistical among other things but sees potential in him regardless.

However, over the course of the film Oz doesn’t actually improve. Part of this is definitely a script problem. The first thing Oz does when he arrives in the magical land is seduce Theodora and break her heart in the process, sending her down the path of wickedness. (This bit is actually totally upsetting – Theodora is so good and pure and has her heart broken so thoroughly that she literally cries tears of acid that scar her face as they fall.) Oz’s way of reconciling this issue once he has proven himself as ‘good’ in the eyes of Glinda is to offer Theodora the chance to come back to Oz if she ever feels the need to be good again. She refuses and he looks disappointed. He gets his happy ending and she gets exile (which suddenly becomes conveniently self-imposed) and wickedness.

The other problem is a casting issue. I love James Franco. He’s been fantastic in a lot of things. This is not one of them. Perhaps the huge script flaws could have been saved by some slightly more nuanced acting, but Franco never really moves beyond the greaseball conman character. To be fair, he’s very good at that role, but now is not the time.

Issues with gender roles aside, the main problem that Oz the Great and Powerful suffers from is a lack of direction. It tries to commit to its fairytale roots, but gets sidetracked pretty quickly with complicated plot points. On the upside, it looks really pretty and the opening credits deserve some sort of medal.

Anyway, that’s it for me. If you’re anything like me, you’ll go see it because it’s pretty.

Ladies! Ladies Everywhere!

This post was going to be a review of Oz the Great and Powerful, but given that it’s International Women’s Day (or, as a lovely lady on my Facebook called “We Could All Be Beyonce Day”), I thought I would take the opportunity to celebrate some fabulous ladies that you should all be paying attention to. To be honest, this list will probably include Beyonce at some point, but I’ll try to avoid it because realistically, we’re all looking at Beyonce already, quiety waiting for her to announce her benevolent dictatorship over us meer mortals. Without further ado, I present: LADIES!

  1. Angel Haze – All hail the new queen of my heart. Seriously though, I have been hammering her album Reservation like nobody’s business. She’s an interesting character too. She was raised in the Pentecostal Great Apostolic Faith until she was 15 when her mother had a falling out with the church’s leaders. She now describes it as a cult. She garnered a lot of attention for her rewrite of Eminem’s Cleaning Out My Closet, which is essentially a graphic detailing of the sexual abuse she suffered throughout her childhood. It’s amazing and you can listen to it here, but I wouldn’t judge you if you didn’t. It’s brutal and honest and terrifying. She says the reason she wrote the song was to make sure that everyone felt disgusted – “I want someone who’s a father to listen to the song, and be like: ‘No one had better ever fucking touch my daughter like that. And if they do, you can tell me.'” If you looking for something a little less heavy that still packs a punch, anything on Reservation will do you. I am particularly fond of Gypsy Letters.
  2. Marjane Satrapi – Have you read Persepolis? If not, why not? It’s really good. Like, REALLY good. It’s a autobiographical graphic novel that was later made into an animated film, which is also really good. Obviously, Marjane Satrapi has done other stuff, like just generally being kind of a badass, but Perspolis is probably a good starting point. It follows her childhood in Iran, giving a child’s interpretation of the changing political climate and follows her throughout her teenage years in Vienna, including a bout of homelessness. If I told you any more I would be giving away the plot, but yeah. Go look at her.
  3. Lyn-Z and Kitty – They’re fresh in my mind because I saw them a week or ago, but I can’t tell you how much I love the two ladies from Mindless Self Indulgence. Lyn-Z is the kind of badass who is dressed in a mini-skirt and boots, playing a bass guitar and then is suddenly crowd-surfing. Kitty is legit one of the best drummers I’ve ever seen and is just fucking adorable at the same time. They’re the main reason I started listening to Mindless Self Indulgence and by God did I want to be one of them (both of them?) when I grew up. I’m still waiting, to be honest.
  4. Quvenzhane Wallis – This little cutie is the star of Beasts of the Southern Wild. She’s 9 years old and an Oscar Nominee, which should be enough for people just to be impressed with her. Unfortunately, because people are kind of shit, she’s ended up copping the brunt of every terrible two-bit comedy sketch in town, usually about something highly original like her name. Let me ask you, lame-joke-making-asshole: did you have an Oscar nomination when you were 9? No? Then shuttup. No one is here for your shit.  Quvenzhane has been fantastic about the whole thing. She’s even in a video teaching people who to pronounce her name.

    If you ever get sad, go watch a 9 year old accepting a Critic’s Choice award. It’s beautiful, she’s beautiful and I won’t hear a bad word said against her.
  5. Yoon Mi-rae – Look, realistically, this blog just should have been called “Alex celebrates International Women’s Day by writing about her favourite lady rappers” but it isn’t. It’s about badass women, so I can still have more than one female rapper on there because shuttup it’s my blog, I’ll do what I want. Anyway, Tasha Reid AKA Yoon Mi-rae is a singer rapper for The Movement. She was born in the States to a Korean mother and African American father. She raps fluently in Korean and English (I love a lady who can make bilingual puns) and she tackles some pretty heavy lyrical content, particularly with regard to racism and discrimination. Her husband, Tiger JK, is also a rapper but adores her so much that he frequently derails interviews to talk about how great she is. I’m on his side. She’s pretty great. This is her latest single with MFBTY (which allegedly stands for My Fans Better Than Yours, but is more likely to stand for Mother Fucking Bizzy Tiger Yoon Mi-rae, which covers all three members of the group).

Right, that’s it. I’m out. Bonus mentions for Beyonce for being Beyonce. Also, this was going to go up yesterday, but I got sidetracked so you get it a day late. Sorry.

Tyler the Creator: A Conceptual Mess

Hi there! Small break over. I am still unemployed but I am out of bed and also wearing pants. By out of bed I mean that I have migrated from the bed to the couch, but it still totally counts. Anyway, with an abundance of free time I have been scouring the internets for something to write about. My friend directed me towards the new Tyler the Creator video.

For those of you not familiar, Tyler the Creator is a rapper and part of the Odd Future collective (their full name being, Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All… obviously). Their known for abrasive, often sexually violent lyrical content and calling out things that they percieve as being bullshit. ‘Bullshit’ usually consists of genres that exist outside of the tiny DIY bubble they’ve created for themselves. I can’t fault them on their DIY ingenuity – they’ve used various social media networks to build a massive global audience. Shockingly enough, I’ve never been a huge fan. But then again, I’m not really the target audience.

Dudes in their late teens and early 20s practically wet themselves over Tyler’s debut Bastard and the follow-up, Goblin. Pitchfork called Badstard “one of the most stunning things released in the last 12 months” back in 2010. Which I guess is true. It SOUNDS really interesting. Tyler’s voice is great and the musical accompaninment has all these lovely weird influences that make it really entertaining to listen to. But I’m not an angry teenage dude and jokes about sexual violence are never really gonna float my boat (or many female boats anywhere ever, let’s be real) so it was never something that was going levitate with joy. But I will confess that I have Yonkers somewhere on my computer and that I’ve watched the video a lot, because it’s really interesting.

Click the image to go to the video.

Click the image to go to the video.

But the problem with being supremely controversial is that it’s very hard to keep being controversial because eventually people know what to expect and who to expect it from and it isn’t shocking anymore. I have a sneaking suspicion what’s happened here. This is the new video. It’s kind of a conceptual mess.

Musically, it’s fine, I guess. Lyrically, it’s even vaguely more palatable than some of their other stuff which is… something? I don’t know. Anyway, the video is such a non-event. For a group that’s featured a hanging, domestic violence, ejaculations and centaurs in their videos and managed to make it seem like it was coherent and maybe even meaningful. But here we’ve just got the obligatory overly large penis, some wrestling, a bit of weed smoking and a sudden jump to some pastel romance montage that ends in him being slapped.

Anorexic models and huge cocks. What does it all mean?

Anorexic models and huge cocks. What does it all mean?

Like, it’s so nonsensical that it borders on being boring which is probably not what they’re going for. I think the saving grace for this particular output is the fact that Tyler seems to be aware of its ‘hit and miss’ nature. He tweeted “I WANT BUSTA AND MISSY TO HEAR IT REALLY. I’M SO NERVOUS WHAT IF EVERYONE HATE IT AND I GO BROK FUCK AHHH… THE FAD IS OVER AND I GOTTA WORK AT SOMEWHERE LIKE THESE REGULAR NIGGAS AHHH NO IM SHAKING.” Having said that, as my friend so eloquently put it, “it’s gotten to the point where he could record the sound of a dogs having sex, sample it and people would still buy it” so he’s probably not gonna have to go “work at somewhere”.

Anyway, that’s me done for the day. If you want to read a more in depth article about the problematic nature of Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All and Tyler then you should read this article. It’s any interesting look at inclusion and exclusion. Meanwhile, Pitchfork continues to shit itself every time he releases something so Tyler’s probably got a while left in him yet.

Lisa Lampanelli is a Bad Person (Possibly the Worst Person)

Lisa Lampanelli is a terrible person. Luckily, most of you probably don’t know who she is. Unluckily for you, I am here to change that. Lampanelli is an author, stand up comic and all round awful jerk. She started out as a journalist and then switched to comedy for “the pay raise.” Her comedy is blatantly unfunny, and she’s repeatedly been called out on being a racist asshole. Which is what we’re going to talk about now. Recently, she posted a picture to her Twitter feed of herself with Girls creator Lena Dunham with the charming caption “Me with my nigga @LenaDunham of @HBOGirls – I love this beyotch!” Lets have a look at the photo in question:

What's wrong here?

What’s wrong here?

Notice how both the people in this photo are, in fact, white women? When contacted about the controversy, Lampanelli made the following charming statement:

“The N-word ending in ‘er’ is far different context from the word ending in ‘a.’ Ask any person who knows the urban dictionary, it means ‘friend.” And by the way, if I had put the word ending in ‘er,’ that would have been a very derogatory thing about Lena meaning she is less than me, and I view her as very above me. ‘A’ on the end means ‘my friend.'”

This is, of course, t0tally incorrect and awful, but totally fits Lampanelli’s profile. Her brand of ‘comedy’ repeatedly plays on awful racial stereotypes. They’re so offensive that I’m not going to republish them, but if you’re in the mood to make yourself really uncomfortable you can check out a couple of samples on the relevant Wiki page. Her justification for such humour is “I can get away with it because I am a nice person, I have a warm personality, my intention is good behind it.” I have written an open letter to Lisa to point out why she is wrong.

Dear Lisa,

I have  a newsflash for: you are not a nice person. You are a bad person. You are quite possibly the worst person.

The fact that you think that you can participate in the marginalising and victimising of people with a cultural background that differs from your own because your “intentions are good”, means that you don’t think at all.

The fact that you spent 30 pages of your book talking about the “quest for the perfect black man” does not make you not racist, it makes you a fetishising asshole.

If you do not understand what I am talking about, perhaps these good folks in this video can explain it to you.

Yours Sincerely,

Alex.

You should really watch the video. It’s good. Make sure you stick around to the end too. It’s crucial. That’s me for the night.

John Green Made Me Cry

I realise that I skipped last Friday. This is because I am a disorganised mess who has spent at least one afternoon out of the last four curled up in a ball sobbing. Fear not. I am fine. A sobbing emotional trainwreck. But otherwise fine. The cause of my distress is a book by Mr John Green, called The Fault In Our Stars. Remember last Wednesday when I said I would eventually make a post about Young Adult literature? This is that post. Brace yourselves.

I love books and I love reading and I get really sad when people say “I don’t read” like it’s something that they’re proud of. You’re missing out on so many amazing things when you don’t pick up books. Specific to this post, you are missing John Green, who is a) the author of 4 YA novels and co-author of 2 more, b) master of a good title (others include Looking for Alaska and An Abundance of Katherines) and c) really excellent.

Most of Green’s books have made me cry at some point (because I become too emotionally attached to characters and don’t know what to do with myself). The Fault In Our Stars was particularly bad on the gross-crying front. It’s narrated by 16 year old cancer patient Hazel Grace, who is suffering from “thyroid originally but with an impressive and long-settled satellite colony in my lungs.” She meets Augustus, a fellow cancer patient who lost a leg to osteosarcoma. They hit it off, and not to spoil too much, they eventually fall in love.

Were I to give a blow-by-blow account of the plot, you probably wouldn’t pick this book up because it sounds about as uplifting as repeatedly smashing your face into a brick wall, but John Green is some sort of magical wizard person (or is very talented, take your pick) and has managed to make the book both funny and gut-wrenchingly sad all at once. It’s flipping brilliant even though it had me doing some weird combination of laughing and sobbing at the same time, which mostly just sounds like hiccuping punctuated by sniffling.

When he isn’t writing, John and his brother Hank post bi-weekly vlogs on their YouTube channel chatting about their week and various topics that John’s teenage readers aren’t supposed to care about. But they do. There’s a whole big flock of them, called Nerdfighters. They do a lot of cool stuff, raise heaps of money for charity and just preach general positivity (“Don’t forget to be awesome” being the group’s slogan.)

So, in spite of the fact that he made me cry a lot, John Green is not a bully. He is just a really good writer. If you’re a young adult and you’re looking for a place to start your love affair with books, this is a good one. I promise, it’s a good decision that doesn’t have to be limited to just reading. This has a whole community behind it that can be super fun and interesting and informative and supportive of your reading choices. Check out the Vlog Brothers (that would be Hank and John Green) here.

This blog with return to its usual snarky self when it has more time to do so.

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