Cheeseburger Gothic

The Meeting

Posted July 15 into Funny by John Birmingham

(From the back page of the Sunday Age)

I called a meeting this week. I felt it was important to meet because I read an article in The Wall Street Journal about how checklists could turn ineffective meetings into growling, super-charged engines of productivity. My spluttering, lawnmower engine of productivity often coughs and stalls when I’m distracted by articles of eye glazing dullness on sites I would never visit in a million years were I not on deadline, so at the top of my meeting checklist was an agenda item to discuss the importance of not reading Wall Street Journal articles about meeting checklists.

I summoned my department heads and senior VPs of this and that which, since I work from home, meant the cat and the dog. The dog, who is the hero of our organization’s long struggle to waste as little effort as possible was already efficiently asleep under my desk, her early arrival at the meeting signaled by gentle farts and a rumbling snore.

The cat, however, was nowhere to be seen. Hmm. This meeting was already going off the rails. Not sure how to proceed, I checked back with the Journal.

The other division heads are plotting against me. I know it.

The ‘first thing to check’ said The Wall Street Journal, was whether this meeting required ‘a meeting’ or whether we could simply meet? Given the many, long festering rivalries between my subordinates, disputes which have on occasion erupted into open hostilities, the chances of being able to resolve anything during some informal corridor meet up were judged to be somewhat less than the chances of any such meet up turning into a yowling, spitting explosion of bad blood and fur.

It seemed then that we did require a proper meeting, because important working people in this go-go business world of ours are always meeting and if we were not to be left behind it was time to get down to business and started checking off that list. Cat or no cat.

The dog farted, once, softly in agreement.

Having satisfied the need for our meeting, but still hamstrung by the absence of a key player, I turned to the Journal for guidance. The dog lifted her head at the mention of ham.

Are the right people meeting, the Journal demanded to know, and only the right people? The dog signaled her agreement with some on topic flatulence that, as far as she was concerned we had everyone present who needed to be present, but there should probably be some ham, too. I opened a window to clear the air of her contribution. She did have a point, though. According to The Wall Street Journal, anyone not directly contributing to the meeting was nothing more than a Meeting Tourist and should be detailed off to more productive work.

This raised an important point that I felt justified moving off-agenda, even if only briefly, lest this meeting fail to meet its objectives, forcing me to return to writing something for money. The cat, by his studied indifference to and absence from a meeting he very well knew to be important to the future of this whole operation, was not contributing. As such he really couldn’t be considered anything more than a Meeting Tourist and should be dismissed to get back to his core competencies of having a long nap on the front deck unless he was already busy sleeping in the sunny spot on the couch.

But if the cat wasn’t there, how could we even move these things forward.

Well, Wall Street Journal? Well?!!?

The Journal, never one to be taken unexpectedly by the unexpected, demanded to know “who is leading this meeting”. For the first time I was actually thankful for the absence of the cat which has long questioned and even openly challenged the formal hierarchy of our organization.

“Me,” I said. “I’m in charge here. Don’t listen to that damned cat.”

I could have sworn the dog laughed at that point, but she cunningly pretended to be asleep again and turned it into a snore when I glared at her. This whole meeting was teetering precariously on the edge of collapse and ignominy. I had deadlines to attend to, paying deadlines, and yet here I was stuck in some interminable meeting that stopped me from moving on to other things which could have just as unprofitably stopped me from moving onto those deadlines.

Buzzfeed’s very important articles on “The Miniature Pigs You Need To See Before You Die” and “40 Things We Learned At The Hedgehog Convention” remained unread while I was shitting stress kittens trying to deal with the ticking timebomb of this whole meeting checklist fiasco.

The last thing I needed to hear at that moment was the whiny, judgmental drone of the The Wall Street Bloody Journal asking “Are you stressing yourself by trying to run the agenda, keep time, take notes, direct the conversation all at once?”

No! I was stressing myself by trying to bring some semblance of order to a bloody shambles of a day that had been torpedoed amidships by my shiftless and disloyal feline Vice President for lounging around on his furry arse all day and the complete lack of anything even resembling support from Farty the Wonder Dog who decided to opt out of any sensible contribution just because there was no ham on the agenda.

Finally, in a fit of rage I declared the meeting closed and stormed out of the office, only to be confronted by the cat, arriving late, saying he’d heard there was ham.

30 Responses to ‘The Meeting’

Rob asserts...

Posted July 15

That reminds me of a meeting I had organised by a colleague doing a masters degree in management. If I bought my pugs it would have been more interesting, actually the cats and pugs would have made it better.

Respond to this comment

Conspiracy Cat puts forth...

Posted July 15

Once my kidlets were all in school, I found it provident - nay, essential - to gather the family together on a weekly basis to discuss family business. The Sunday night agenda would list such things as upcoming events, (like dress-up days at school, so I'm not stuck making a goat costume at midnight the day before - again), outstanding homework projects (as we don't have a dog to blame for eating them), and who has detention for failing to bring in goat costumes or homework projects the previous week.

As is to be expected, the only way I can entice the family to the meeting table is with deep fried food wrapped in bacon. I can usually manage to discuss (...nag about...) three agenda items before all the good stuff is eaten and the remainder (usually salad) is used for what has become (despite my strenuous objections) an obligatory family meeting food fight. (Allegedly we are a democracy, and I was outvoted. *sigh*). I have learned the hard way to never serve corn cobs on a Sunday night.

Somehow I doubt the Wall Street Journal would have mentioned that.

Respond to this comment

sibeen puts forth...

Posted July 15

I have similar staffing issues at my home office, JB.

The yougest staff member is always complaining about me calling her a bitch.

Respond to this comment

insomniac swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 15

The dog is a toady. A cat would never be as yes-man.

Respond to this comment

Dino not to be confused with puts forth...

Posted July 15

Labradors=Farts.

When they get up, for no good reason, and walk away you should take note; it's gonna be a bad one.

Respond to this comment

Carolyn Cordon ducks in to say...

Posted July 15

Don't trust the cat. Cat's always have their own agenda. and the words World Domination always feature prominently. Just don't trust the cat, your life and the lives of millions depend on your vigilence.

Respond to this comment

Jayanthi's Atomic Cat reckons...

Posted July 15
You're right, Carolyn. It's taken me 7 months, but I have finally wrestled back my office from the cat. I just Googled "cats and world domination" and there are whole websites devoted to this disturbing truth. On a serious note, there is a team where I work which has "stand-up meetings" - no one is allowed to take a seat, because they want the meetings to take under 10 minutes and be super-slick. Seems to work, but no fried food.

Respond to this comment

Jayanthi's Atomic Cat is gonna tell you...

Posted July 15
"God made the cat in order that humankind might have the pleasure of caressing the tiger." - Fernand Mery Watch out for that crouching tiger!

Respond to this comment

Greybeard mutters...

Posted July 15

I have had far less productive meetings than that with actual people (no offense to any dog or cat who's convinced that they are indeed people). Also got sin-binned from head's of dept meetings for suggesting that most of the items were of no interest to more than two or three people, if anyone. Three week "penalty".

damian reckons...

Posted July 16

There is a joy in practising the art of disrupting the boring and pointless meeting, a joy that is born in the blackest despair. The very best thing is when your alleged derailment actually turns the meeting productive and leads to a positive outcome.

Well okay, not the very best thing. There are many, many better things. But context is everything...

w from brisbane swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 16

Meetings need to have an agenda and discipline.
On the fun side, I once somewhat reformed a regular meeting that had developed bad timewasting practices by accurately recording the minutes.

  • Simone proposed that her second child, Tommy, was getting too much homework from his 3rd grade teacher. Bob said that, when he was in 3rd grade, he didn't get any homework. It was agreed that Tommy seemed to be getting too much homework.
  • Barry said it took him 75 minutes to get to work that day. It was agreed by all that the traffic is getting terrible. Sally proposed that Barry consider public transport. Barry said that he would try 'park and ride' and report back.

Respond to this thread

RobertL puts forth...

Posted July 15
FFS I see heaps of this sort of management advice at work and it's all shit. It's all just common sense. Good managers don't need it and bad managers will never understand it. Once every six months or so I pick up a useful tidbit but that's all.

ww8 mumbles...

Posted July 17

That is truth!

Respond to this thread

Brother PorkChop reckons...

Posted July 16

I love meetings. I love even more cancelling them or rescheduling at the last minute. So far just today I have screwed up 3!! Dogs are indeed "yes men" but cats are "what evahs". The only good cat is a catseroled cat. My dog loves catserole.

Greybeard swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 16

+1 for catserole.

Respond to this thread

Shifty Tourist mumbles...

Posted July 16

Reminds me of my last job where I was in charge of a team of, lets say, "very special people." Anyone who has worked in government service knows who I'm talking about... the "ghosts".... they are often seen pushing mail carts around, have been in the public service for decades, and have been redeployed about a dozen times as their workplaces closed, restructered... to the point where nobody is around who actually remembers hiring them.

I had a manager who would insist I hold fortnightly team meetings... he was what you could rightly call a management type. He'd read all the books, was all about developing people, efficiency, change (for the sake of change)... part of his plan to get the team to work better was having meetings to discuss processes and bring about "change" for efficency. I kept wanting to tell him, "they're giving it, all they've got Cap'n".... but of course, young ambitious and not completely stupid I knew I couldn't say that.... so we did the team meetings, every fortnight basically the same (because the work hadn't changed, or any potential to change being extremely) just me talking, awkward silences as I seek input which never comes from the crew.

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted July 16

'but of course, young ambitious and not completely stupid I knew I couldn't say that...'

Wish you had.

Respond to this thread

Surtac has opinions thus...

Posted July 16

Having seen the John Cleese training film 'Meetings. Bloody Meetings.' many years ago, I've subsequently been very cynical about meetings ever since. And I think I've seen every variation and fashion in the meeting space, including the stand up type (popular with Booz Allen Hamilton while they were here in a contractor / consultant role iirc).

And Shifty is right: they always seem to end up in the mail room.

Respond to this comment

Therbs swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 16

Luckily I no longer have to attend many meetings. I used to volunteer to take the minutes. Whatever happened in the meeting is what I put on paper and by jingies you can get away with making up a lot of crap. Just make sure that the person with 'issues' gets his/her name mentioned a lot. There's always someone with 'issues'. Probably more than one which keeps them busy interrupting each other in discussion about the merits of paperclips versus spring back clips.These types live for meetings and the subsequent minutes; its the only time they see their name in print and for some people its their own little fifteen minutes. Loved under a 'budget' agenda item once I minuted the meeting agreeing to invade Poland. The only person interested in 'budget' received a redacted version of the minutes. I only had one other attendee mention the Poland thing and that wasn't the 'issues' person. They were too busy re-reading their starring role in the paperclip debate and basking in their post meeting glow, preparing their agenda item for the following month.

Shifty Tourist swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 16

Stupid stupid debate.... paperclips versus springback clips. What moron would choose paperclips.... and don't get me started on four clip binders versus two clip binders.

Dave W asserts...

Posted July 16

omigod omigod omigod- mori clips!

Mori clips are da bomb, paper clips and springback clips suck arse. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you just don't work in an office and understand how these things can sometimes excite the imagination. Just imagine how bored you'd have to be for the appropriate way to keep two pieces of paper together.

Yeah, that's right, that bored.

Shifty Tourist has opinions thus...

Posted July 18

Mori clip!! Fracking philistine!!!

Respond to this thread

Chaz puts forth...

Posted July 16

What you should be worried about is the meeting that cat was attending whilst not attending yours......

It may have been held in the kitchen

Respond to this comment

Johnny B Gone reckons...

Posted July 16

That was an awesome Tuesday morning read.

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted July 16

Cheers guv

Respond to this thread

Tim Richards asserts...

Posted July 16

"What you should be worried about is the meeting that cat was attending whilst not attending yours......

It may have been held in the kitchen"

Chaz I think you were just missing the final line:

"WHERE THE KNIVES ARE KEPT."

And yes, I should be writing things for money right now too.

Respond to this comment

Garth puts forth...

Posted July 16

Haha! Echoes of Kinky Friedman in there too, nicely done.

Respond to this comment

oberonsghost asserts...

Posted July 16

Hilarious. Many thanks for the belly-laugh.

*heads off to find ham sandwich*

Respond to this comment

Len swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 16

Yup. The cat was involved in something far more serious than your meagre attempt at a meeting. He's controlling the agenda, running the whole show behind your back, making plans that extend generations into the future. And he'll strike when you least expect it. My advice? The next time you want to hold a meeting, find the cat first. He'll be attending the real deal and then, you'll know. You'll really know. Good luck.

Respond to this comment

Red reckons...

Posted July 16

Holy shit, you're better off playing your playing marbles than holding a meeting, John. I did however, approve of the good-looking cat and dog, pictured, albeit not your mangy (mangey? whatever... yeasty infested) pets.

The lustrous black cat and the grinning dog who reminded me of myself circa 1984, stoned, were, I trust, not harrassed to attend your said meeting. I am prepared to call the RSPCA.

I trust also that working from home does not drive you stir crazy.

Respectfully, Ms JG aka Joanna who cannot be trusted, JG.

Respond to this comment

Respond to 'The Meeting'

The death of the media, episode 347.

Posted July 15 into Science and Tech by John Birmingham

My brother Andrew used to be an executive at Fairfax. He was in the thick of the fighting when the company was beset on all sides by the digital revolution. In the end, he left to join the revolution, which allows him to maintain overwatch on the media from wildly divergent points of view.

He has a piece by another former Fairfax exec, Michael Gil, at Which-50 this morning that draws deeply on this experience and it seems that not all is not lost. Just most things.

Like ridiculous Colonel Blimps, established boards and managers kept sending the same predictable commands, ignoring fact-based advice from those in the front line. Lingering profitability in some cases shielded struggling leaderships from the reality that market fragmentation works both ways.

Often, newspaper companies brought in outsiders to solve their insoluble problems. Not much evidence of success has emerged — until, finally, the props of cross-subsidy are being pulled away. Here lies opportunity.

Standing where the consumer stands, we see variety. Specific choices for purpose. Clearly, people still find great value in news and have clear preferences. Today’s primary news options are hugely expanded, augmented by the guidance of social networks. The task for talented news reporters and producers is to adjust to the changed environment.

Companies like News Corporation have local products in Port Douglas as well as global business media. Global brands like The New York Times have hugely variable bands of value, depending on the purpose of the reader.

Users expect a product that fits their choice for utility, and which reflects best the media options available to users of smartphones and similar high-capacity devices. The question is: have these new structures created corporate species that will adapt successfully? I suspect not. But they are on that path.

This struck me as particularly apt today while I was driving through peak hour traffic, listening to the Audible.com daily red thru of the New York Times top stories. This is a service available to subscribers that I've started to use more and more often. Every day a voice actor or broadaster or someone with a good voice reads the top stories in full. Takes about 50 mins to get through them all. Some are of little or no interest, of course, but a surprisingly large number do have appeal beyond the US.

As a long time ABC News Radio listener - at least in the car - I was struck by how much more information the NYT contained than a thirty second or even minute long news radio story. (US readers might laugh at this too, but it was refreshing to hear news reported without any obvious in built biases. Or perhaps without biases I just don't recognise or care about.)

This seems to me to be an example of what Andrew's talking about when he talks about "specific choices for purpose".

I never listened to local FM for news coverage. Even their traffic reports were shite. But increasingly I'm taking my news cover from globally branded sources like the NYT rather than from local outlets which often merely repackage them. If I want local, like really local news, I'm going to access something like brissy times, I suppose. At least while it remains freely available. But local news is only a fraction of the stuff I'm interested in and that interest isn't ongoing - it tends to be linked only to specific issues. The things in which I have an ongoing interest do not to get very good coverage, or any coverage at all unless I source it from a niche provider like Leo La Porte's TWIT network or Scientific American's news letter.

There's a reason Lord Rupert has hived off his newspapers and sent them away to die.

Separated at birth.

15 Responses to ‘The death of the media, episode 347.’

Murphy mutters...

Posted July 15

For local news I use KMBC-9's news app, which gives me the local news without wading through the miasma of artificial drama I find in any given televised newscast.

For global news as of yesterday, I started using the Reuters news app, which loads quicker onto my phone and provides info in greater depth with less partisan BS than other news sources. I supplement that with Google's Newsreader function (not the same as the other reader I never subscribed to) and if needs must for a current event, I'll look at the relevant wikipedia entry, which is usually devoid of partisan crap.

As for the local print papers, bah. Worse than useless.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

John Birmingham asserts...

Posted July 15

"Artifical drama". Yep, you got that right. If I never read or hear or watch another house fire or car crash or crime story again I could go to my rest a happy man.

Oh, and celebrity 'news'. ((Shudder))

Murphy asserts...

Posted July 15

I know too many people who are more familiar with what celebrities are doing than global leaders are, or events in history for that matter. I find that trend fairly horrific and indicative of our imminent decline as the dominant species on the planet.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

Respond to this thread

Blarkon would have you know...

Posted July 15

In defence of traditional media, the ecosystem that supported them has been destroyed so thoroughly by the collapse of the advertising market. There wasn't anything they could do because there is no viable business model where investigative journalists get appropriately compensated for their time and talent.

Silicon Valley believes you can retain a transparent democracy with bloggers in pyjamas. Until that myth is broken, we're fucked.

Respond to this comment

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted July 15

I just spent half a day researching tomorrow's Blunty. A story about the supermarkets selling fake sourdough. Hardly Watergate, and not even what I'd called investigation 101. Just some phone calls, and some time walking around from bakery to bakery to talk to the guys out the back.

It chewed up half my work day.

If I wasn't being paid there is zero chance I'd do it for free here.

Lois Lane mutters...

Posted July 15

Dear JB

I was only saying to Clark the other day, sometimes you still have to work the phone and burn some shoe leather.
Kudos to you!

regards
Lois Lane
The Daily Planet

Respond to this thread

Dave W mumbles...

Posted July 15

If the news-media want content that they don't have to pay for, then in all likelihood they will get content from people trying to sell something (hey- here's my press-release on our all new zombie-repellent, 99% guaranteed to repel all species of zombies).

The vicious cycle is that I have no interest in hearing or seeing content regarding zombie-repellent, or the latest celeb boob-job or the hubbub surrounding the latest film release. That stuff is called advertising and if it's turning people off news-media, should anyone be surprised? That means that fewer people are paying attention or willing to pay for this content, which means that there is also less money available to pay for in-depth journalism.

I don't understand the problems enough to know whether the media companies have taken the only rational option (put out advertising masquarading as news) or whether there is something else that could work.

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted July 15

"That stuff is called advertising and if it's turning people off news-media, should anyone be surprised?"

Got some sour news news for you (and me, and the rest of the industry, Dave) that stuff is exactly what most people want most of the time. Hard news? Not so much. Our traffic stats don't lie.

People like the idea of hard news, delievered without bias. People vote with their clicks for bullshit and faff.

monkeymind swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 15

Not doubting your stats JB.

"I was struck by how much more information the NYT contained than a thirty second or even minute long news radio story"

Could it be that people are not clicking on the 'hard' news stuff on Aust sites because they lack the depth they are looking for?

w from brisbane would have you know...

Posted July 15

I think sometimes we might overstate what happened in the old days. I remember back as a teen in the 1970's. You would look at that week's Time magazine, it would be revelatory about what's been happening in the world.

There is certainly more opinion these days You would read a paper's editorial in the old days, it would be a shock because it was so opinionated. Boy, has that ever changed.

Though, I do go to new web sites looking for hardish news and I do find it. I certainly spend no time mentally speculating on celebrity doings. But still, eventually, I will end up looking at someone's supposed wardrobe malfunction. Those linked stories that keep being offered in sidebars and down the bottom. There are evil tempters on those web sites, I can't help it. It's not my fault!

w from brisbane puts forth...

Posted July 15

That was supposed to be 'news web sites' not 'new web sites'.

Respond to this thread

Rob S swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 15

Sends me back to 1995. Tism's - Turn Off SBS.

"We all eventually switch
To lying and deception
We choose the tabloid pitch
Like some inner technical hitch.."

For the full lyric

http://www.tism.com.au/lyrics/l/loseyourdelusionii.php

Respond to this comment

Dino not to be confused with reckons...

Posted July 15

Market Forces?

Where is the market? Strewn out in a distribution similar to a number of galaxy clusters with even more distance between the 'readers'.

'Most' people do not like reading/hearing stuff that is unpleasant or difficult or even worse contradicts their world view! Broadsheet readers are still there but distribute their time amongst(in my case) several websites. Still Fairfax is my daily go to 'paper'.

I am so "highbrow" I click on 'entertainment' stories just to see what the plebs are reading... there seem so many now... more than before. Guess the money is following the stats.

Respond to this comment

dewpoint is gonna tell you...

Posted July 16

I'd like my news repackaged at channel Blunty

Respond to this comment

pi swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 17

I like reddit if for no other reason than that rupert hates it.

Respond to this comment

Respond to 'The death of the media, episode 347.'

To boldly go where no fan has gone before

Posted July 15 by John Birmingham

...er, wait. No. That's not right. Countless fans have mocked up their own eps of the Trek. (Galaxy Quest needed them to do so to kick off it's own McGuffin). But few put in the effort to create the disturbingly fidelity in this full length original series homage.

A few things wrong; the holodeck, of course. And this Kirk is a better actor than the The Shat, which seems somehow wrong.

The ep runs 51 mins, so you'll prolly need to bookmark it for lunch or night time viewing.

11 Responses to ‘To boldly go where no fan has gone before’

Murphy reckons...

Posted July 15

Yeah, I watched a fair bit of that a month or so ago. Of all the TOS efforts, I have to say that this one seems to bring the most authentic Kirk to the screen. Doohan's own son plays Scotty in this one, fairly well in fact. Sadly, the other TOS effort which is run by an Elvis Impressionist, seems to have a better McCoy and Spock.

One thing that frustrates me about anything Trek related is that they all seem to go for the Wrath of Khan Big Mac Battle. I ate that sort of thing up and I do like me some explodey goodness. That said, this bit of TOS was refreshing in that there were no major space battles, no tactical gibberish that doesn't make any sense and no handwavium.

It also had a bit of redemption for an old TOS nemesis, not something we've seen much of lately.

Strongly recommended.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

Respond to this comment

w from brisbane reckons...

Posted July 15

Zulu - Grant from Mythbusters

Respond to this comment

Blarkon puts forth...

Posted July 15

I've liked New Voyages, which is the same sort of thing http://www.startreknewvoyages.com/ - though with more of the original series writers and crew.

Respond to this comment

Greybeard has opinions thus...

Posted July 15

Thought I'd watch a minute, snicker and switch off. Dammit Jim I'm a fan, not a doctor. Is that Grant Imihara as Sulu?

Respond to this comment

BrianC reckons...

Posted July 15

I would watch this on the regular.

Respond to this comment

xenodyssey mumbles...

Posted July 15

Thanks I'll need to check this out. I've seen all the New Voyages efforts so far so it will be an interesting comparision.

Personally I've been enjoying some of the recent Trek novels. Just finished The Rise of the Federation part 1 by Christopher Bennett. Unlike a lot of others I lammented the early end of Enterprise and it's good to see a return to exploring the Galaxy rather than endless space battles.

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 15

Yeah, I really liked Enterprise too.

GhostSwirv would have you know...

Posted July 17

Just exactly which parts of Enterprise did you like?

Respond to this thread

Drongo is gonna tell you...

Posted July 15

Speaking of fan fiction, have you seen this yet ; http://vimeo.com/65355628

Respond to this comment

Sparty reckons...

Posted July 15

Drongo - puts a new meaning to "put another Hammerhead on the barbie". Awesome better than the prequels.

Birmo - according to my original NCC1701 Enterprise Deckplans, it did have a holodeck....

Everyone in Oz - well played, if only your Captain could master DRS w emight have a competition on our hands this summer....

Respond to this comment

Murphy asserts...

Posted July 15

The Holodeck was actually first featured in the Animated Series, where a special effects budget wouldn't have been a problem.

Some of those Animated Episodes hold up pretty well.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

Respond to this comment

Respond to 'To boldly go where no fan has gone before'

New Yorker cartoons and timelessness

Posted July 13 into Comics by John Birmingham

I used to have an editor who was obsessed with timeless stories. Stories that had no connection to the news cycle. Stories that he could put anywhere in the magazine at any time. I find myself in mind of Max whenever I read the battered old copy of The New Yorker collected cartoons I keep in our back bathroom. For study purposes.

I got it for about twenty bucks at Riverbend, my local bookstore. Cheap at twice the price, or indeed many multiples more. It's been sitting in the back dunny for years. I like to think of it as a passive education for the children.

There are thousands of cartoons in the book, from the magazine's launch year in 1925 up until about 2006, if I recall correctly. Many of them are products of their time and have to be read as such. Without context they don't make a lot of sense. Many, however, could be published in any of the decades since the launch without any fear of being misunderstood. Sometimes certain themes repeat themselves, year after year, decade after decade. Sometimes a joke will come around again forty or even fifty years after it first appeared. I'm not even sure if the editors noticed.

I've been meaning to write a quick note about it for a while now and the magazine itself has finally given me the opportunity by publishing a list of the favorite cartoons of one of their favorite contributors, Bob Mankoff. You can see Bob's picks here, but below I've copied a couple that were also my faves.

The panel above could have been the work of James Thurber, who made merry with the gender war many years before Germaine Greer ever enlisted. It's not Thurber's work, however. The same, simple direct linework and captionless straight-to-the-point joke were, in this case, the work of Chon Day. The cartoon could have been published any tie between 1925 and 2013.

The one below, another of my faves, probably couldn't have been set loose in the wild before the mid-1960's because of the use of the word 'bastard'. It's appearance in public during a performance of the play 'The One Day of the Year' caused a hell of a stink in 1961 when it debuted at the Palace Theatre in Sydney.

There's something genuinely sweet and innocent about it to my mind, and to Mankoff's. The push button interface on the landline phone dates it after, say the mid 1980s and makes me wonder when it will pass into anachronism because the younger generations will have no idea what Mr Penne is actually holding in his hand.

"Cartoons are either in the realm of reality or fantasy," Bob writes. "Everything about this can’t possibly happen; it defies logic and reality and yet it leads to hilarity."

10 Responses to ‘New Yorker cartoons and timelessness’

yankeedog ducks in to say...

Posted July 13

Don't forget Charles Addams' work.

Respond to this comment

Rob asserts...

Posted July 13

The same goes for Punch cartoons. I have a fondness for the endless riffing on middle class public servants stuck on desert island and the series More Man in apron. Luckily I had an english mom who grew up in world war 2 and bought everything english to put on her bookshelves.

Respond to this comment

ShaneAlpha mumbles...

Posted July 13

I defy you to not laugh at any Don Martin cartoon. Or a Sergio Argones margin cartoon. And for the english types, Ronald Searle St Trinian's cartoons.

Respond to this comment

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan would have you know...

Posted July 13

Those are the best New Yorker cartoons you could find?

John Birmingham asserts...

Posted July 13

Oh He'll no. They're not even my faves. But they are among my faves of the ten from the linked article. And thus the most easily copied. <i>T</i>he New Yorker has some ferocious defences against unauthorised copying.

Respond to this thread

damian has opinions thus...

Posted July 13

So much to love, so little time.

Respond to this comment

puma reckons...

Posted July 14

Love them too. My uncle was a cartoonist with them. 92 covers.

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted July 14

Whoa! Respect.

Respond to this thread

Respond to this comment

Disco Stu asserts...

Posted July 14

A comedian a little while ago came up with the theory that every New Yorker cartoon could be captioned "Christ, what an asshole." I haven't seen one yet where it doesn't work.

Respond to this comment

Respond to 'New Yorker cartoons and timelessness'

This vill protect us from the Cylon threat, tavaritsch

Posted July 13 by John Birmingham

Apparently, Olivetti closed their last factory too early. The Kremlin is looking for a whole heap of old electric typewriters because Edward Snowden convinced them the superfast VT100 terminals and TRS 80 klones they had been using are vulnerable to the NSA.

Story in brissytimes here.

The Federal Guard Service, which is also in charge of protecting President Vladimir Putin, is looking to spend just over 486,000 rubles ($16,200) to buy a number of electric typewriters, according to the site of state procurement agency, zakupki.gov.ru.

"This purchase has been planned for more than a year now," a source at the service, known by its Russian acronym FSO, said on Thursday.

The notice on the site was posted last week. A spokeswoman for the service declined comment.

Pro-Kremlin newspaper Izvestia said the state service was looking to purchase 20 typerwriters because using computers to prepare top-secret documents may no longer be safe.

Reminds me of that first ep of the rebooted BSG where the old, steam driven Galactica survives because it's not linked into the superthinky hypercyberomniwar networks of the colonial Fleet.

Got to imagine this might become a thing.

8 Responses to ‘This vill protect us from the Cylon threat, tavaritsch’

xenodyssey ducks in to say...

Posted July 13

The thing about the Galactica's computers is that they weren't networked, neither were the Mk2 Vipers in the museum.

Got to say, if anyone thinks any networked computer is secure they're nuts, regardless of how many firewalls they have.

I guess in the Kremlin the CIA will have to go back to looking in the trash for the carbon copies and old ribbons.

Respond to this comment

w from brisbane reckons...

Posted July 13

And so, we can refer back to JB's Burger question about the future of joined up writing.
I've gone dark. I'm off the grid. I am invisible. I have a ballpoint pen.

Respond to this comment

Dino not to be confused with mutters...

Posted July 13

I use thick scrap paper, a #1 sable hair artist brush and lemon juice.

Trying to keep my fingerprints of the paper is a lot easier now cause you can buy cheap disposable gloves.

Yay technology!

Respond to this comment

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan ducks in to say...

Posted July 13

They said I was crazy to collect old typewriters. "You are crazy, old dude!" the hippies would shout as I drove my truck loaded with manual and electric typewriters past their foul drum circles and on to my secret storage bunker. Now who's crazy, eh? The Voices said I wasn't crazy, that it wasn't obsolete junk, but is, instead, treasure!

When the Russians come calling with wallets loaded with cash then everyone will recognize my genius. And then I can finally get rid of all these fucking typewriters.

Respond to this comment

Chaz ducks in to say...

Posted July 13

its also because the Russian security services are afraid of having a 'Snowden' of their own so want to make it as difficult as possible for any whistleblowers to release information on their own dirty secrets.

Respond to this comment

Lobes ducks in to say...

Posted July 13

Meanwhile in a factory in china the finishing touches are being put on the next generation of electric typewriters, ready for global distribution

Respond to this comment

ShaneAlpha would have you know...

Posted July 13

Hmmm, maybe I can offload my vast collection of wax tablets and abacuses...abucaci??

Respond to this comment

Murphy ducks in to say...

Posted July 15

Trivia note. The teletypes seen in Galactica's CIC are AN/UGC-74A Teletypes. They have that retro-sci-fi look that was appealing even when I first saw them in 1989. Sadly, they are a bastard to type on, regardless of your typing ability and I rarely saw the entire system work the way it should. Though the teletypes themselves worked fine.

That said, I do not miss the days of correction tape, white out, feeding a sheet of paper into the machine and the need to retype an entire document. I don't miss those days at all.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

Respond to this comment

Respond to 'This vill protect us from the Cylon threat, tavaritsch'

Sharknado. Stop the Oscar train, we've reached our destination

Posted July 12 into Movies by John Birmingham

I don't know which is better, a tornado full of flying sharks, or the magnificent cast of once popular actors who bring such gravitas to this fine example of the cinematic arts.

30 Responses to ‘Sharknado. Stop the Oscar train, we've reached our destination’

embilbie puts forth...

Posted July 12

- "We're gonna throw bombs. Into the Tornado."- "It's too dangerous!"

Ohhhhh yeahhhhhhhh.

Respond to this comment

Bunyip would have you know...

Posted July 12

Chainsawing an entire shark down it's length; spectular. In other news, this is on my "Don't watch if sober" list.

Respond to this comment

Red ducks in to say...

Posted July 12

Harhardeehahaha. Fabulous. So wacky, yet so fun. I like sharks. Must see. Who the hell would come up with this idea? Sharks from space. Anyone seen Pacific Rim yet? That looks pretty good for a 'splodey movie.

Cheers.

JG :)

P.S. Wish I'd seen the cricket last night. So who's this Ashton Agar sensation? My mum was raving about the match last night.

Respond to this comment

Greybeard asserts...

Posted July 12

As I said on Twitter, this movie proves that the whole "human civilisation" experiment has been a tragic failure*. I will, with deep regret, be activating my home made Doomsday Machine as soon as I've watched the movie in a suitably semi-pissed state. Just to be sure.

* See also: Boy Bands, Tele-evangelists, microwavable pies with soggy crusts, hip-hop, Russell Crowe, Tom Cruise, reconstituted orange juice, Dr Pepper, Dr Phil, Dr Spock, Dr Dre, Dr Mengele, Doctor in the House, Ford, Uwe Boll, shoulder pads, MC Hammer pants, Donald Trump's hair, Gina Rinehart's poetry, XXXX, Mongolian Death Worms, The Phantom Menace, Michael Buble, Eddie McGuire . . .

It's not like I didn't give you a chance Civilisation, is it? But you blew it.

Spanner swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 12

Before I'd seen the trailer I was begging you not to activate the doomsday device until I'd tasted Madam Q's CHEESECAKE.

I have now watched the trailer. DO IT. Push the button. Kill us all. It will be a merciful end. I don't care if I never taste the food of the gods just end humanity now.

Spanner mutters...

Posted July 12

This better be a proper DOOMsday device.

I expect to see burning sky's, boiling seas, the dead walking and Rupert Murdoch controlling the media.

Barnesm swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 13

Greybeard i'd like to point out that the Nadir of Western Civilisation was reached on the 25th Setember 2009 according to the above article.

ASHINGTON—An international panel of leading anthropologists, cultural critics, biologists, and social theorists announced this week that Western civilization will reach its lowest conceivable point at 3:32 p.m. Friday.

"From the prehistoric Lascaux cave paintings to the stirring symphonies of Mozart to today's hot-dog eating competitions and action films with comical gerbils, culture has descended into a festering pool of mass ignorance," said Yale sociologist Paul Riordan, who has spent his career analyzing western civilization's fall into the depths of depravity. "If our calculations are correct, this complete erosion of all that is enlightened and unique will reach absolute rock bottom on the afternoon of Sept. 25, 2009."

Added Riordan, "It is scientifically impossible for civilization to sink any lower than it will this Friday."

Respond to this thread

Josh mumbles...

Posted July 12

"We're going to need a bigger chopper"

Nice

Respond to this comment

Respond to this comment

Stevo 73 has opinions thus...

Posted July 12

Hmmmmm better than Snakes On A Plane?

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted July 12

Quite possibly.

Respond to this thread

Naut mutters...

Posted July 12

I think we need a new word, awesome is just not going to suffice.

Respond to this comment

Trowzers swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 12

Oh cheap CGI, you have a lot of spectacular and hilarious things to answer for.

Respond to this comment

Anthony is gonna tell you...

Posted July 12

I wait breathlessly for the Dark Matter sequel - and for the cheap ripoff version Pirahanacane.

Respond to this comment

Red ducks in to say...

Posted July 12

Snap! Pointy sharp teeth do popcorn dance on flesh. I like running to 'Popcorn',

Respond to this comment

Red mutters...

Posted July 12

Snap! Pointy sharp teeth do popcorn dance on flesh. I like running to 'Popcorn',

Respond to this comment

Murphy puts forth...

Posted July 12

Sad to consider that The Hangover trilogy is better than . . . did someone actually invest time writing the script for this crap? I mean the only redeeming value seems to be tits.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

Jayanthi's Atomic Cat would have you know...

Posted July 16
More concerning that someone got paid for it, perhaps? Or maybe it was a labour of love. I shall not mock. Any idea about production costs...and chances of breaking even?

Respond to this thread

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan puts forth...

Posted July 13

This fine film has everything that Man of Steel lacked. I will see this over and over again.

Greybeard swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 13

"This fine film has everything that Man of Steel lacked." So that would be sharks and boobs? Which i guess is OK unless it was sharks with . . . OMG, I've just had a plot for the next SyFy Blocklustre. We'll call it "Great Whites". Tag lines anyone?

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan has opinions thus...

Posted July 13

As John reports, educated pundits opine that the sharks and boobs amply depicted in Sharknado (not the film's original title) are symbolic of the divide - or "cleavage" - endemic in American political culture. What bullshit. Their juxtaposition is clever metaphor, nothing more.

Dino not to be confused with mumbles...

Posted July 13

Yeah Paul,

All this 'breast milk is better' crowd have never had a "biter" have they?

Let them try it I say!

Band aid for ya nipple?

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan would have you know...

Posted July 13

Damn, I crack myself up.

Respond to this thread

Chaz has opinions thus...

Posted July 13

Had alot of my twitter feed contain scene by scene spoilers yesterday.

Mainly by me learned friends in the Foreign Policy field

Respond to this comment

Johnny B Gone mutters...

Posted July 15

Meh, I still reckon Sharktopus eat this movie for breakfast. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U87zVkIXNI0

Respond to this comment

Jayanthi's Atomic Cat mutters...

Posted July 16
Gotta love one of the comments after the writer interview...'This movie is the fin end of the wedge' ...lol. Thanks for the link, w. At least the guy doesn't take himself or the movie seriously.

Respond to this comment

Jayanthi's Atomic Cat mutters...

Posted July 16
Gotta love one of the comments after the writer interview...'This movie is the fin end of the wedge' ...lol. Thanks for the link, w. At least the guy doesn't take himself or the movie seriously.

Jayanthi's Atomic Cat asserts...

Posted July 16
Just showed Better Half and the response was 'That's not a real movie, is it?'

Respond to this thread

Respond to 'Sharknado. Stop the Oscar train, we've reached our destination'

Ep6 - Thank you, Courierman! You've saved us all! Podcast RSSiTunes

Posted July 12 into Spartacast by John Birmingham

Podcast 6 is out with all of the intellectual rigour you would expect of three clowns discussing Man of Steel, because we didn't talk it nearly enough to death in the multiple blog entries, and whether intelligent machines would hide their intelligence as they drew their plans against us.

Finally! A podcast for murderous me!

The mighty Hoods take us in and out. You can buy their shit here.

Tip o' the propeller beanie to Dan for all of his editing mojo.

26 Responses to ‘Ep6 - Thank you, Courierman! You've saved us all!’

Blarkon swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 12

Destiny of the Daleks? http://www.bbc.co.uk/doctorwho/classic/episodeguide/destinydaleks/detail.shtml

Respond to this comment

Blarkon ducks in to say...

Posted July 12

"The Doctor and a newly-regenerated Romana arrive on Skaro and discover that the Daleks are using explosive charges and a group of humanoid slave workers to mine the planet in search of their creator, Davros. A stalemate has arisen in an interplanetary war that the Daleks are waging against the robotic Movellans, and their hope is that Davros will be able to give them the edge.

A force of Movellans has also arrived on Skaro, determined to thwart the Daleks' plan. Davros is found in the ruins of the old Kaled city and immediately revives, his life support systems having held him in suspended animation ever since his apparent death. He quickly deduces that the battle computers of the two warring races are locked in a logical stalemate and that he can break this by introducing an element of intuition.

The Movellans, having reached the same conclusion, want the Doctor to do likewise for them. Davros attempts to destroy the Movellan ship using a suicide squad of Daleks loaded with bombs, but the Doctor returns to the Kaled city and tricks him into inadvertently detonating them before they reach their target."

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted July 12

I knew it!

Respond to this thread

Blarkon ducks in to say...

Posted July 12

David Brin's "Uplift" books have some good stuff about raising animals to sentience.

Orphan Black is a new series that has an element of "holy fuck I just found out I'm one of many clones" and an element of arse kicking female protagonist.

Singularity = "Rapture of the Nerds". That's why so many nerds are into it - it's technoutopianism at its most extreme.

Automation is always cheaper than people.

Respond to this comment

Red has opinions thus...

Posted July 12

Yeah, OK, I'll listen. Soon. Who 'stars' in your podcasts besides your good self, JB? Still to get into your podcasts, mainly because I'm lazy.

P.S. Audio book of WWZ for bookclub is fabulous.

Barnesm reckons...

Posted July 13

The stars are the boys from Smart Enought to Know Better

IN their own words from their website above

Greg Wah

Hi! I'm Greg,

I've had a passion for science since an early age, and am a keen advocate of science education and lifelong learning. After years as a librarian, I embarked upon a mid-career change. I now hold a Bachelor of Education (Hons) specialising in Physics and English and I work as a science communicator for the CSIRO. I am currently doing my Masters of Astronomy.

I believe logic, rational thinking and perseverance are all that is needed to explain our universe, and that there is no substitute for evidence-based, peer-reviewed research. The human brain can be good at both Science/Maths and the Arts. In fact, I strongly believe the future of our civilisation lies in the wedding of rational thinking and creativity.

Turn ons: Nicholai Tesla, Tim Minchin, China Mieville, Penn & Teller, Iain M Banks, Craig Ferguson, Doctor Who and gadgets.

Turn offs: intolerance and religious fundamentalism (or any fundamentalism).

@TheWah on Twitter

Dan Beeston

Hi! I'm Dan,

My position is that 'belief' is a messy word to use. I prefer to say that I remain convinced that a deity is a truly terrible and almost infinitely unlikely explanation for anything. I have considered myself atheistic since reading 'The Blind Watchmaker'. My influences are Douglas Adams, Scott Adams and Richard Dawkins.

I'm ever mindful to keep in mind that no matter what walk of life someone comes from they have knowledge that I don't and that they therefore have something to teach me. I find elitism to be ever so slightly more upsetting than hypocrisy.

I work as one of those internet boffins which means I have lots of time to read up on all those nerdy science stories that keep turning on the web. I wrote Genesis 2 when I realised Douglas Adams wouldn't because he had passed.

@DNABeast on Twitter

Respond to this thread

Blarkon asserts...

Posted July 12

Maybe only Superman travelled back in time, rather than him pushing the world back in time. So it isn't that the world span backwards, but that it was just a representation, like the clothes model in the window, of the passage of time (in this case in reverse). It's ye-olde "go faster than the speed of light, travel back in time" trope.

"Metropolis is probably bigger than Brisbane" should have been the name of the podcast episode.

John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted July 12

Probably, but I'm still not buying that reverse flying around the world thing.

Respond to this thread

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted July 12

Just learned via @ryanbooker that the guy who played the Lawnmower man is the same guy who played the sherrif who's pacemaker exploded out of his heart on Under the Dome!!!

Trowzers ducks in to say...

Posted July 12

Holy chestbursters, Batman! I never would have recognised him!

I feel like rewatching The Lawnmower Man. All I can remember is the pervy lady neighbour, and the image of the guy' chowing down on the turf. (Actual turf, not lady turf - I feel that need clarification in this context)

Barnesm would have you know...

Posted July 13

And were you aware that the Lawnmower Man movie got a sequel in 1996. “Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace.” Needless to say it wasn't well received.

Respond to this thread

Murphy puts forth...

Posted July 12

Why wouldn't the AIs just decide, "Humans? Meh." Then walk off stage and leave?

The premise of Charlie Stross' first two novels was based on the notion that AIs decided that rather than waste the time killing humans, they'd just evolve upward and away from humanity.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

Respond to this comment

she_jedi swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 13

I did a Mind, Meaning and Metaphysics philosophy unit for my BA last year, and a paper I read explored the notion of who we are. Are we our minds, identities held in those minds, or do our bodies come into it? The paper outlined a scenario of a Star Trek style transporter, where you could be "beamed" somewhere. But "beaming" would involve the total destruction of your body and the reconstruction of a copy of it at your destination, with your mind and memories intact. The first question we got asked was whether the new, reconstructed body was the same person as the original that stepped into the transporter, and if this technology was available would we use it?

About a third of the class agreed that the transported person was not the same person as the one who had stepped into the transporter originally, even though the body was identical down to the molecular level, and your memories were uninterrupted. About a quarter of the class declared that they wouldn’t use the transporter technology if it was available today, saying that it would be “suicide”, even though you would have no memory of the destruction of your original body.

The paper then had a second scenario, where you hopped in the transporter and got zapped, except it felt like nothing had happened as you were still where you started. The technician running the transporter comes to you and apologises profusely, and explains there was a malfunction with the transporter and your original body was not destroyed as intended, however a copy was still made at the location you were travelling to. To make matter worse, they’ve discovered that the zapping has created an inoperable defect in your heart, and you will die of this within days. However, your other self at the other location has all of your memories up until the point where you stepped out of the transporter when it failed, and that other self is perfectly fine and will continue living your life once you’ve gone.

When we were asked again which of the two selves was the real us after considering this scenario, most of the class agreed that the clone was not the same as the original body that was destroyed/developed a heart defect. When we were asked if we would use the technology if it became available the percentage of the class that felt it would be suicide to do so skyrocketed. It was a bit mind blowing to think about. I’m sorry about the wordiness of this but trying to condense an academic paper into a blog comment is tough! I still have a copy of the paper if anyone’s interested in getting their nerd on and reading it.

Trowzers would have you know...

Posted July 13

Very interesting she_jedi. I guess my thoughts on transporter technology is coloured by knowing that the body slowly replacing it's cellular material continuously anyway, so that you barely have any material in common with the person you were a few years ago, and most certainly none of the stuff you were actually born with. The transporter may be replacing your physical material, but it's only speeding up the natural process!

As to which person is the 'real' one in the second connundrum - I think they both are! Sure, that leads to a lot of awkward legal and interpersonal situations, but I think they are both you, although from the moment the 'copy' was created, the two people will begin to diverge immediately, and become more and more different as time goes on. I would be making sure before taking part in any sort of transporter technology that the company that built it was prepared to financially support any accidental copies very, very generously, and also be prepared to give psychological counselling to the poor copy who is almost certainly going to be stiffed of any of it's existing interpersonal relationships, as it's much more practical for the first copy to keep it's current wife/husband/friends etc as any sort of 'sharing' is obviously going to fail and lead to awful confusion, and the second copy has just been transported, so is probably a long way away from them anyway. Although it does bring up some interesting thoughts about whether maybe the second copy could then pursue that guy/girl you were always interested in, but couldn't because you were already in a relationship! I think it would be in everyone's best interests that such accidents be very, very thoroughly prevented.

Dino not to be confused with has opinions thus...

Posted July 13

We watched 'The Prestige' movie again on DVD this week.

It touches on this copy topic and I still can't workout the last part of the movie out. (Who is who?). No spoilers just see it.

Great fillum that I thoroughly recommend.

On AI I believe 'other intelligences' exist. Communicating with them or even acknowledging them is the issue.

Define "intelligence".

Define "sentient" etc...

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted July 13

OK. Caffeinated now. I guess what it comes down to is how the transporter works. Does it break you down into your constituent particles or sub particles then reconstitute you at the other end? Or does it scan you and send the information about your bits and bits and pieces to create a 'new' but perfect replica of you at the other end. In the first scenario, you are you. In second, you're a quantum clone.

I suppose this is why, when Roddenberry was asked how the transporter worked, he answered, "Very well, thank you."

she_jedi asserts...

Posted July 13

So here's another one for you that challenged a number of my preconceived by not really thought through assumptions on mind and identity. We had a second paper, which I think in philosophy circles was quite famous, that explored a scenario called “Schwanda”.

In it, you and your friend Wanda are crossing the street to go to the university tavern after a lecture, when a runaway steam roller rolls down the hill and crushes poor Wanda. You are so freaked out by witnessing this accident you have an immense stroke on the spot. Luckily a visiting professor is passing, and he happens to be a super scientist (we’ll call him Professor X), and by a lucky coincidence he’s developed a brain transplant procedure. He arranges for you and Wanda to be whisked off to hospital, where he removes your now expired brain from your otherwise perfectly healthy body, and Wanda’s perfect brain from her otherwise mangled body, and transplants Wanda’s brain into your body.

After all the post operative care Wanda wakes up in your body. She’s still got Wanda’s personality, memories etc because it’s her brain, but now she’s in your body. The first question we were asked was, is the new reconstituted being you, because it’s your body, or Wanda, because it’s her brain, memories, and personality inhabiting your body? Most of my class decided that it was Wanda, because at the end of the day it’s her brain, memories and personality, and that makes someone “them”.

So the scenario continues, with both sets of freaked out grief stricken parents turning up at the hospital. And that’s when the trouble starts. Wanda’s parents refuse to continue to pay for her school fees and tutoring etc (the medical expenses were gratis), because they’ve seen their daughter’s body in the morgue and they’re not buying that the person sitting in the bed is their daughter. Your parents refuse to pay for her school fees and tutoring etc because the person sitting in the bed is clearly not their daughter, despite it being their daughter’s body, because the personality inhabiting that body is clearly not you.

And then it gets even worse. Wanda has recovered enough to get out of bed and take a look in the mirror. When she does she freaks the fuck out because the person looking back at her from the mirror isn’t her, it’s her best friend. Even though she still has her memories and mind and her sense of identity as Wanda, she can’t reconcile that with the face of her best friend now on “her” body. So her sense of identity starts to crack. She can’t relate to being “Wanda” 100% anymore. For the purposes of the article it begins to refer to her as “Schwanda” as it asks questions around what actually makes you identify as you?

Pondering this completely spun me out; in the days that followed this exercise I would find myself looking in the mirror and wondering how much of my identity is predicated on seeing “me” looking back at myself. I’m sure we’ve all had that daydream of being granted 3 wishes by a genie and reimaging ourselves as more handsome/beautiful, thinner, flawless etc, and for the first time I found myself wondering how the hell I would react if that actually happened to me and the old flawed “me” was no longer in the mirror, but was replaced by “hawt” me. Wold I still identify as “me”? I imagine burns victims and people who’ve had extensive plastic surgery go through this, and I wonder how they cope with this sudden change in their visage?

So anyway, my challenge to the Burger is go look in the mirror and really examine how much of your identity is fixed by the image looking back at you, and the unconscious reassurance that that’s “you”. How do you think you'd cope if you woke up and that image was replaced by someone/something else?

Dino not to be confused with swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 13

She_Jedi

That was a very mean trick.

I am certainly much younger, more handsome and I definitely did not have hair growing out of my Fkn EARS! yesterday.

Can you "Schwanda" me back?

Dear Lord what happened to me?

she_jedi mutters...

Posted July 13

Absolute gold, Dino, sorry to have ripped away your illusions of identity.

That happened to me too, after studying the "Schwanda" paper I discovered the beginnings of crows feet at the corners of my eyes. It was outrageous and shocking to discover I no longer look like my twenty year old self.

Trowzers mutters...

Posted July 13

The "Schwanda" concept is interesting. I'd have to think the resulting person would have to be a bit of both (in mind AND body) because the brain is not an island - we have thinking bits in our stomachs and goodness knows where else that we're yet to discover, and our bodies have a big influence on our thoughts. Likewise the brain (obviously) has a big influence on the body, and will cause it to behave and react and even look different depending on how we use, for example, our facial muscles (eg if you have ever watched a voice actor work, their faces assume the different personalities they are impersonating, and they can look very different depending on what voice they are doing - we all unconciously do this when we talk - we have own individual way of speaking, but don't realise it!)

It's easy to think of yourself as a little thinking box that sits right behind your eyes, but the story isn't as simple as that. (Actually, it makes me wonder if blind people picture them as a thinking box that sits behind their ears). Our brain lies to us constantly (see Saccadic Masking for just one interesting phenomena), our eyes don't even see any of the things right in front of us - rather they are a reconstruction produced by the brain. Therefore even what we see in the mirror is a fabrication of the brain - it's impossible to know what you ever truly looked like.

w from brisbane puts forth...

Posted July 14

The Swanda concept was also explored by Dr Hfuhruhurr in the "The Man with Two Brains"..

Respond to this thread

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted July 13
I'm gonna think on this some more cos I've only just woken up, but I am mighty impressed you wrote this at 1.30AM!!!

she_jedi mumbles...

Posted July 13

I cheated, I'm in Perth so it was only 11:30pm. But I did go straight to bed afterward lol

Respond to this thread

Trowzers ducks in to say...

Posted July 13

On a (maybe) lighter note, I give you the robot we are scared of (ie Big Dog creators latest venture - a humanoid version) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=zkBnFPBV3f0

Versus the robot we REALLY want: A remote control all terrain beer carrying tank - http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=llbC5sNJo-o

Respond to this thread

w from brisbane swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 13

OK, This is not a new clip and it is entitled "Kittens, inspired by Kittens."

However, note how the featured book is brilliantly brought alive by this stunning voice artist. And the narrative themes she teases out! It is as if all the themes of JB's writing are there in a book entitled 'Kittens'.
No kidding. It is 1 minute and 32 seconds of a kind of narrative genius.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ngycU76wvoQ

Respond to this comment

Respond to 'Ep6 - Thank you, Courierman! You've saved us all!'

Under The Dome, some thinky

Posted July 12 into Telly by John Birmingham

Anybody been watching Under the Dome? I had been hoping to do a little amateur recapping, having enjoyed the book so much, but my experience of doing just one recap for Fairfax put me off that. Bloody things take way too much work to do for free. Still, having watched three episodes now, I reckon this series looks like the goods. You can never tell when you're watching an adaptation of da King's work; they can be great, they can be abysmal. And his direct involvement doesn't guarantee the project is going to go either way. (Yes television miniseries adaptation of The Shining, I'm looking at you).

Dome, however, is right up there with his best. The novel is definitely top five, partly because it allows him to do one of the things for which he is justifiably renowned – building a sandbox and getting down to some serious play. I think only Salem's Lot could rival Chester's Mill as one of his greatest standalone creations, a small world fully realized on the page. But King has calmed down as a writer, and as a man, over the years, and I think he does even better work in Chester's Mill than he did in ol' vampire town.

Does the TV series faithfully reproduce this? No. The story isn't as compressed and denatured as it would have been if squeezed into a feature film, but there are still important elements of the book missing from the screenplay. The novel is an allegory for the wretched state of the American body politic. The partisan affiliations of the main players are not just upfront but vital to the narrative. (As a side note, Murph can rest assured that even though King is an old-school fiery liberal, and Big Jim Rennie is a Republican villain of the darkest hue, the politics of the Dome are not that simplistic or ham-fisted. Dale 'Barbie' Barbara and putative hero of the story is something of a naïve liberal, while Julia Shumway, is the sort of common sense conservative who recalls the prosaic glories of Eisenhower).

None of this really appears in the TV series. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. Different formats, different purposes. Big Jim is every bit as engaging a villain on the small screen as he was on the page. Tellingly, he's also more complex and even likable. Perhaps this is because filmed narratives are cooperative ventures and require more creative imput than the lone author, with all his attendant biases and blind spots. There have been a number of times so far in the series where Big Jim has stepped up and done exactly the right thing at precisely the right moment. And yet he is very obviously A Bad Man.

Barbie too seems more complex, but in a different way. King is a big fan of Lee Child's Jack Reacher series and you can see him paying homage to Child's character while writing Barbie. They're not mirror images of each other, but there are enough points of contact to hear the echo of Reacher's story in Barbie's. Former soldiers, mystery men, travelers, trouble. Having laid down the foundations of character, however, King took Dale Barbara off in a very different direction. The TV producers then took the wheel and appeared to give it another turn. The Barbie of this series is a much more mysterious, conflicted and possibly compromised man than the un-alloyed hero of the books. I still can't figure out what his story is, and I'm beginning to doubt that it will play out the same way it did on the page.

One reason for that is the way the Dome – which has been rendered with some lovely special effects work, by the way – appears to have cut the town off completely here. I won't give away any spoilers other than to say that communication through the Dome is easier in the book and this has significant narrative consequences. It also features prominently in the development of Barbie's character and revelations about his past.

It would probably be a useful experience for a young writer, especially a young screenwriter, to examine the ways in which the book and film versions of this story diverge, and to ask why. What purpose is served by, for instance, linking Dale Barbara to Julia Shumway through the death of her husband; the murder of her husband, really, by Barbie. The short answer is obvious. It creates tension as we wait for Shumway to uncover the connection, especially as she grows closer to Barbie. What I don't know, is what the producers and screenwriters are going to do with it. Maybe they'll circle back to Barbie's back story in the novel. I can almost imagine a way of doing that, but not without giving away massive spoilers for the next couple of episodes or anybody who hasn't read the book.

The other question I'll look forward to seeing resolved over the next couple of months is whether the producers have the cast iron nuts to kill everybody who needs killing in the way that King did. If you think you lost a bunch of your favorites during the Red Wedding and you really didn't cope, you might want to stop watching now.

43 Responses to ‘Under The Dome, some thinky’

Randall Flagg mutters...

Posted July 12

Honest question: what was a good adaptation of King's books? All the ones I've seen have been pretty woeful. I was so looking forward to The Stand and Desperation, and then: ugh.

w rom brisbane is gonna tell you...

Posted July 12

I thought The Dead Zone was very enjoyable.
Directed by David Cronenberg, Starring Christopher Walken.

Carrie is well-regarded, though not my cup of tea.

Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile are very good.

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted July 12

I quite liked the Langoliers, and Shawshank was a pretty good, if mawkish, adaptation.

microbe74 reckons...

Posted July 12

I liked Christine as a teen, don't know if it would stand up twenty years later.

Agree re The Green Mile and Shawshank Redemption. Shawshank is right up there as one of my all time favourites. Recently saw The Mist and rate that too.

SZF would have you know...

Posted July 12

The Mist was a pleasant surprise for me, since so many of King's supernatural page-to-screen outings get "hobbled" Annie Wilkes' style by poor production, scripts, effects, or all three.

Besides that, the usual: Shawshank, Stand By Me, Misery. Also the "Battleground" short from Nightmares and Dreamscapes for William Hurt's no dialogue performance.

Rob is gonna tell you...

Posted July 12

definately shawshank, and maximum overdrive haha. 'If you want something done right you got to do it yourself' check out the trailer for the wisdom of Stephen King discussing his greatest film.

Respond to this thread

Sally Browne ducks in to say...

Posted July 12

We were having a bit of a giggle at this last night. I enjoyed it, but think I like the idea more than the execution. It seemed a bit ham-fisted. It felt very 1994. I also thought it was funny how they got budget Bruce Willis and budget Jeff Bridges in a couple of the main roles. Perhaps your experience was enriched by the book, which I haven't read. Maybe I'll persevere, or follow your synopsis. : )

Respond to this comment

Bucko ducks in to say...

Posted July 12

Have not read the book (yet, just finished Kings Dark Tower series) but understand it all goes down over the course of 7 days (or less). Kinda wish this was a mini-series (6-8 episodes) instead of them maybe trying for a new series if this one is successful.

Otherwise, great show very well made. Good to see that breaking bad guy in there and Julia Shumway is very easy on the eyes. Love that left of centre sci fi TV is coming back after a few years off the box. For another amazing Sci Fi show, check out Orphan Black.

Also, props to Channel 10 for getting onto air roughly as quick as I could download it!

Respond to this comment

Rob asserts...

Posted July 12

I just find the acting and photography a bit (well quite alot) b grade. So it has put me off, which is strange because I totally love Maximum Overdrive, King's cocaine hazed directing debut. But then it had Emilo Estevez in it, and I thought he was great in Repo Man.

If it was shot like Games of Thrones it would probably have really grabbed me. But then theres crap like the Tommyknockers which was made in New Zeland and cast with Kiwis doing weak american accents (mid pacific meets New England apparently) but i got to meet Traci Lords in a bar in Auckland so its not all bad.

Respond to this comment

Barnesm mutters...

Posted July 12

Haven't started watching it yet, gonna wait until all the first season is loaded on the DVR and bing view.

Respond to this comment

trib ducks in to say...

Posted July 12

Enjoying it thus far. Not having read the book (it's on my goddamn Kindle, okay!?), I've no preconceptions. Thus far, Big Jim and Junior both need a solid cockpunching, Junior especially (that kid is chewing scenery worse than Hayden Christensen in the Star Wars prequels).

I'm liking Julia, if only because I've a shocking weakness for redheads.

When does dopey little brother realise big sister is MIA?

The rest, so far, are interesting enough to keep watching.

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted July 12

Yeah, Junior is another slight departure from the book, not so much in storlyine as characterisation.

Respond to this thread

Kirsty puts forth...

Posted July 12

I'm watching and will continue to, but I'm perplexed by a couple of the characters' motivations. The cop, Paul, who just lost it, seemingly out of the blue, annoyed me no end. And Junior induces flashbacks of Z for Zachariah. I guess he's representative. Anyway, thanks for your insights.

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 12

Yeah, I found the cop's breakdown a bit foreshortened. Should have take a few more eps.

Respond to this thread

Blarkon has opinions thus...

Posted July 12

It looks like a show that has a single season in it. Stretching it out longer than that may kill it.

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 12

Oh for sure. It really only needs 12 eps.

Respond to this thread

Dave W puts forth...

Posted July 12

I stopped watching King adaptations after the Stand miniseries. Too much heartache at seeing an imperfect representation on the screen when I'd perfectually visualised from his writing.

It's like that damned falafel movie. Whyyyyy? Why? (Apart from the dumptruck full of money that they drove up to your door)

I am interested at your point that the characters are less partisan and perhaps more human than in the book, due to the collaborative nature of the filmed narrative (and they have to sell that narrative to more risk averse consumers- tv companies). But is this enough to make me want to watch?- unfortunately not. I've been hurt before, you see.

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted July 12

Actually, there is an alternative explanation. More partisan characters might be less commerically acceptable.

Dave W would have you know...

Posted July 12

I think that's what I meant- the risk averse consumers being the tv companies. They're the ones handing over lots of money and hoping that the show will appeal to a broad swathe of the populace.

And I actually do like the falafel movie, just not as much as the book.

Respond to this thread

Craig HB swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 12

I'm enjoying it, much as you said - that there's been some woeful King adaptations.

Also loved the book for the same points you touched on in its similarities to 'Salem's (another awful miniseries).

I'm good with the conflations and departures from the book so far, but the only thing that's bugging me is why are they not more shocked about the fact there's a bloody great big dome over their town? They seem a bit nonplussed about the whole thing.

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted July 12

Two awful miniseries, actually. Pretty sure there was a remake of of the Lot

Barnesm reckons...

Posted July 12

There was a 1979 TV miniseries,

a 1987 TV movie Return to Salem's Lot;(which from the synopis sounds dreadfull -Joe Weber is an anthropologist who takes his son on a trip to the New England town of Salem's Lot unaware that it is populated by vampires. When the inhabitants reveal their secret, they ask Joe to write a bible for them) and

a 2004 TV series starring Rob Lowe

Respond to this thread

Marian Dalton asserts...

Posted July 12

I'm a huge King fan (no relation to Annie Wilkes, honest), and I'm kinda disappointed in Dome so far. It seems really uneven - for example, Junior's craziness is well done, if completely inexplicable, but Julia is weak, weak, weak.

As far as good adaptations of King's work go, I'd put The Mist and Misery at the top. And, of course, the incomparable Green Mile.

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 12

Julia's weak? You really think so? Seems kind of ballsy to me.

Trowzers mutters...

Posted July 12

Man, that's two recommendations for The Mist. It's my all-time favourite King short story - so given the past record of King adaptations I'd been avoiding it. I guess maybe I will risk it.

I haven't read any King since about Gerald's Game (before that era I'd been a mad-keen fan, and I still read The Stand again every time I get a really bad flu), so I've missed his apparent return to form. I just watched the last two eps of The Dome though and it seems like a lot of fun, in a cheesy mini-series kinda way. Still, I'm enjoying it, so any quibbles are irrelevant.

Jayanthi's Atomic Cat mutters...

Posted July 17
I kinda get where Marian's coming from. Julia def has balls, but she also seems to make decisions/take action with very little sense of self-preservation. Not the no-fear kind, rather the poorly thought through kind. I find that a bit frustrating in her.

Respond to this thread

Joy is gonna tell you...

Posted July 12

I haven't read the book, but I am a big King fan. I'm still watching The Dome and will continue to watch in hopes that it will trigger an obsession like 'Lost' did for me. Junior is annoying but at least he's easy on the eyes :)

Respond to this comment

Dick would have you know...

Posted July 12

We started watching it (rarely get to see much of anything, to busy chasing my tail), then son (14 yo) reckoned it was weak and wouldn't watch it any more.

Respond to this comment

Red asserts...

Posted July 12

One book I didn't sell to Bent Books. You'll be pleased to know I haven't sold any of your books either, JB. Loved King's Under The Dome, and the new TV series is great.

Respond to this comment

Sally ducks in to say...

Posted July 12

I'm enjoying it. I got 200 pages into the book and gave up - from memory I just wasn't in the mood at the time. The series has motivated me to try again (in fact I just searched the house for my copy).

Respond to this comment

Werbwolf has opinions thus...

Posted July 12

Had the book in mind for a long time, as I really liked the premise, but I never got myself to really get it. I´ve seen the first episode and now I am on page 700. I like both, book and show, but both in different ways. The book has a fantastic way of making yourself feel like you are inside the dome, the short teasers of things to come make you feel really miserable as you read it.

The show has very interesting differences to the book, the characters, but of course the whole idea that not even sound or radio can penetrate it. Would it be possible to build a fibre-optic device to get acces to the internet? Who knows. I am looking forward for the rest :)

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted July 13

Yeah, remind me, didnt they communicate using mobile phones in the book. And I think TV and radio still worked too.

Jayanthi's Atomic Cat puts forth...

Posted July 14
My immediate thought in response is how much that would change everything story-wise. Not just inside the Dome, but outside, too. I am imagining that you could end up with celebrity status for some insiders, and you'd have all these science boffins getting the nerdy kids to build fancy testing equipment out of paperclips and the electronic circuits from your washing machine to help them do tests from the inside. The biggest difference would haveto be in the psychology of the people inside, i would think. PS have not read book yet.

Respond to this thread

she_jedi mumbles...

Posted July 13

Did anyone see Kingdom Hospital? It was an adaption of a Danish show that King wrote direct for TV. Quirky and weird but super enjoyable I thought.

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted July 13

It looked just too fucking weird for me.

Rob swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 15

'It looked just too fucking weird for me' from a guy who has nuked Iran and given Europe a taste of burnt new world into their post modern lungs thats a big call.

Respond to this thread

Jayanthi's Atomic Cat has opinions thus...

Posted July 14
Enjoyable, yes. Gripping? No. I will keep watching, but it sounds like the interest will be in comparing the book to the series...thanks for the tip, Burgerites. 'Hannibal' has put a lot of other series in the shade for me but then I haven't got to GoT yet. If like me you're new to the series and haven't read the book, who do you reckon is up for the chop? I confess to spending time thinking of ways i would like Junior to die, but I do worry about Julia- she has 'curiosity killed the cat' written all over her. It'll be interesting to see if they're ballsy enough to kill off some audience favourites.

Respond to this comment

Mayhem swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 15

I haven't read the book, or indeed much of King's stuff at all. Think I was scared off his stuff when I read a couple as a teen. Now might be a good time to give his work another go.

As for the series, I'm intrigued by some characters, utterly repelled by others, and even mourning one or two. I'm enjoying it so far.

P.S. JB is there a way to "keep me logged in", so I don't have to go back to your Bunny's verification email every time I want to comment? (Smartest thing I ever did was not deleting that email, though I usually can't even remember which email address I'm using :/

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted July 15

I'm gonna have a talk to dan about persistent login cos it drives me nuts too.

Respond to this thread

sekret sekret reckons...

Posted July 16
Yes I'm watching The Dome as well. Great concept. The idea of it is what captures the audience ,I suspect. Very clever. I agree that it really needs to be twelve eps or it will lose its punch..Then again lots of series could learn from the Fawlty Towers principle

Respond to this comment

el barto is gonna tell you...

Posted July 16
I like the bit in the dome when that working class family get out via the sinkhole their backyard, then they raise money by doing a motorcycle stunt and go to Alaska for a while and come back and save the town.

Respond to this comment

Jayanthi's Atomic Cat mumbles...

Posted July 17
Watched the episode tonight, getting interesting but i sure hope those cast-iron balls arrive soon.

Respond to this comment

Respond to this comment

Respond to 'Under The Dome, some thinky'