Category Archives: media

Let’s talk about Doctor Who, story telling and character development

This post is going to be about the most recent (2012/2013) series of Doctor Who and may touch on the 2013, 50th Anniversary episode, and the 2013 Christmas special.  If you haven’t watched any of these, and don’t want the spoilers ahead, have a kittie and enjoy the rest of the internet.

Ok, let’s get started

Story telling

It’s not that Moffat can’t tell a good story, well maybe it is.  Coupling was funny, but is based on his life, and Sherlock is based on Arthur Conan Doyle’s work, so maybe he can’t tell a good story.  What really annoyed me about this entire season (minus 50th anniversary special and the Christmas episode), was that the story arc, and apparently there was one, was pretty much non-existent.  The Christmas episode ended with the disbandment of “The Great Intelligence” so that it would be a long time before it could threaten the earth, or the galaxy or something.

The first episode of 2013 had a cameo appearance of the Great Intelligence (a seriously wanky name for a villain), that the Doctor doesn’t notice, but is a suggestion to the viewer that something more might come from this.

And then nothing, nothing concrete about the Great Intelligence until the final episode when we discover that the Great Intelligence is pissed at the Doctor for constantly upsetting his plans, the plans we should note that have never really happened during this season apart from the 2012 Christmas special and the first episode in 2013.  That’s two whole plans in a season, that’s not plans, that’s a side story that something forgot.

It turns out that the Great Intelligence has a massive backstory, but as a minor reoccurring villain the average fan, especially new fans, are not going to have the foggiest idea what is going on.  This is not a story arc, this is a shoehorned “let’s make everything neat and tidy and pretend we had a plan”.

River Song

The Name of the Doctor (final episode of this season), casts the Doctor as a selfish arsehole.  It’s not exactly like it’s hard to cast him like that, in an earlier season River Song tells Amy not to grow old in front of the Doctor, that it upsets him (oh woe, poor Doctor who has been associating with humans for at least 1000 years, he should be used to it).

After Clara has done something of her own volition for a change (more on that later), River attempts to stop the Doctor entering the bright shiny thing, and only at this point does the Doctor acknowledge that he can see her.  We find out that at this point in her timeline she’s dead, but is effectively haunting the doctor because he hasn’t said goodbye, and he’s been ignoring her because it’s painful.  Quite frankly I think being dead and haunting someone who won’t say goodbye to you is more painful than the Doctor’s fee fees (especially as her death was pretty tragic), but he is important man, so his feelings are totes more important that River’s, and she’s dead anyway.

Clara

Clara spends most of this season doing what’s she’s told.  Protect this, go there, do this, stay here, and this follows through until the 2013 Christmas episode.  When she does do her own thing, it’s often to save the Doctor from something or someone, or to beg someone else to take action to save the doctor.  She’s a stereotypical female character, feisty, determined, somewhat argumentative (but only to a point), and wants to have all the fun – except when she doesn’t.

The sad thing about the character of Clara is that there was a lot of potential for mystery and exploration of why she was always around saving the Doctor.  There should have been (given the ending of the episode The Name of the Doctor) more attempts by the Doctor to remember if he’d run into her before, or only recently (because it was only recently as far as the current stories go).

The Doctor’s “Mysterious Girl”, and the resolution of why she keeps appearing in the Doctor’s life is apparently the true arc of this episode, but again it’s shoehorned in.  There is the Doctor pondering it, but instead of actually talking to people who might know (as he’s done in other seasons), or doing much beyond sometimes thinking about it (out loud), it’s not really the point of the season, even though it is.

The pregnant/not pregnant scan during an earlier season when it turned out that Amy was effectively a replicant/pod person (or whatever they were called), was quite well done, and on reflection you could see that the stories linked into each other as there was a common theme.  Clara is not a theme, she is a character.  You can’t really use a character like Clara as a theme in the same way as you can use a scan, or a series of words (Bad Wolf), or the scar in the universe.

And really the Doctor treats her like she’s 7 half the time.  He attempts to protect her, even when she doesn’t want protecting.  He breaks his promises to her about not leaving her behind, or about letting her join in the fight, and apparently this doesn’t piss her off enough to tell him to get fucked (and it should).  Unlike some of the other “companions” that the Doctor has recently, Clara obeys and sets out to do the best job obeying that she possibly can, except when she thinks she’s being left behind, in which case she’ll do what she can to stay and help/protect the doctor.

The Christmas episode

Which makes the Christmas episode all the more annoying.  Against Clara’s express wishes, and the Doctor’s own promise (and we didn’t see him cross his fingers), he sends her away, multiple times.  Clara fights to come back and manages the first time, but not the second, until she is brought back by the Tasha from the Church of the Papal Mainframe.  Seriously the Doctor is such an arsehole.

The Doctor spends over 300 years on Trenzalore, and for the first time, despite hanging around in his current form for a few hundred years, he ages and gets frail… how many hundreds of years, on a planet that is pretty much at war every day, does the Doctor stay there?  The planet’s population seems to not just survive, but also thrive despite being at war for over 300 years (that’s a lot of war), though I can be convinced that the war was more occasional incursions.

Once again Clara saves the day by begging the Time Lords (who just want to be set free so they can keep being the arseholes of the universe), to save the Doctor.  Her mission in life is to save the Doctor, she has no other purpose in this universe.  Sure she gets to look after children from time to time, but mostly she’s just off saving the Doctor.  It’s been remarked upon before that women in Moffat’s universe are the nurturing caring types and that’s pretty much all they get to be, and Clara pretty much just that.

Conclusion

Moffat really needs to stop being show runner.  He’s had lots of fun now, but the show will do better (and attract all the fans that have left because of him) if someone else took over.  The last season was so disappointing and frustrating because it was so badly put together.  Some of the stories were good, but I watched the season out of habit (and because I was travelling and watching TV during the heat of the Roman summer was a necessary thing).  I want to be gripped by the stories and the season arc like I was when Russell T Davies was running the show. I want the seasons to be as tight as Torchwood and as gripping, and this last season was a joke.

Doctor Who isn’t likely to drop in ratings anytime soon, because people are still watching it and still hoping for the magic to return.  It’s not going to return, and I’m beginning to lose interest in watching future episodes.  I’m vaguely interested in Peter Capaldi’s Doctor, but with Moffat running the show, I don’t know if I can be bothered.

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Getting it wrong (again)

This post is going to discuss the second book and movie in the Hunger Games Trilogy, Catching Fire.  There will be discussion of the plot, so if you haven’t read or watched the movie and don’t want to be spoiled, wander away now.

I love the Hunger Games series.  I love the writing, I love the depth of the characters, and I love that the main character is an incredibly traumatised teenager who is doing her best to protect those she loves and who tries to be strong despite suffering from untreated PTSD.

Jason Kottke put together quotes from two interesting posts on Gender Roles and Monogamy in the Hunger Games,  and the quotes are interesting (I haven’t yet read them in full), and then he makes an incredibly gendered slur and messes the whole post up.

Maybe this is why the end of Catching Fire (minor spoilers!) — Katniss as the cliched irrational hysterical woman who can’t be trusted with information — felt so out of place compared to her gender fluidity throughout the rest of the movie.

Now, I don’t know if Kottke has actually read the books, but he clearly failed to grasp the second last scene of the movie.  Katniss (who is a teenager and I think that really needs to be kept in mind), wakes up in a Captiol aircraft, after thinking she was dead.  She takes off the oxygen mask, pulls the drip out of her arm and grabs the first weapon to hand – because she’s not only traumatised, she’s also rightly paranoid.  She listens to the voices on the other side of a door, and then charges in asking where Peeta is.

When she discovers who is on the other side of the door, and that Peeta isn’t there she is upset and furious.  She is not “hysterical” which is a gendered slur.  She is not “irrational”, another gendered slur.  She is upset that Peeta has been left behind because she knows what will happen to him, after watching the beating of Cinna at the beginning of the Quarter Quell.

And the reasons that Haymitch gave her for not letting her in on the plot was actually entirely reasonable, Snow was watching her, and with them watching her, the rest of them were free to wheel, deal and do everything else behind her.  It was in everyone’s interest that she not be told.  I didn’t see her fury at being kept in the dark about that, but about the fact that the promises made to her that Peeta would be kept safe even if she dies, were betrayed.  She cared more about him living than she did about herself, and those who had made promises to keep him safe had broken those promises.  Of course she was pissed off, she had every right to be.  She was not irrational and she was not hysterical.

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Bad journalism #20,134

Instead of writing a researched article which looked at the current impact that the lack of recent rainfall has had on the city of Melbourne and how that lack of rainfall has contributed to Melbourne’s current water usage, Jason Dowling at The Age decided to write instead, “Is the wally back? Melbourne water use surges“, based on the “Don’t be a Wally with water” campaign to reduce water usage during drought in Melbourne. From Dowling’s article:

HAS Melbourne turned back into a city of water wallies?

After years of conserving water, the city’s usage has surged this year.

A hot summer and easing water restrictions have coincided with a big jump in water use. In the week to January 10, Melburnians used an average of 238 litres per person – 50 per cent more than the former daily usage target of 155 litres a day.

It was the highest weekly per capita water use since the week ending February 15, 2009, when 241 litres a day were used.

In the week ending Thursday, average daily water use per person was 225 litres, 45 per cent above the former 155 target.

It’s not just a hot summer that has led to a big increase in water usage and it’s not just the easing of water restrictions that has led to a big increase in water usage – it’s the complete lack of rain.  As of writing this post, Melbourne has received a whole 0.6mm of rain* in January 2013.  The monthly average for January** is 47.6mm – I don’t see Melbourne even approaching that much rain in the remaining days of January.  In December, Melbourne received 30mm of rain *** with the average rainfall for that month being 59.3mm – only slightly over half the monthly rainfall.  Again in November, Melbourne received 37.2mm of rain ****, the monthly average being 60.3mm, and so on and so on – all these things that Dowling could have actually researched.

As there aren’t harsh water restrictions in place, because in 2011 and early 2012 many parts of Victoria flooded, which was great for water catchments, people are keeping their gardens alive while waiting for it to rain again.  And waiting they are, because the Bureau of Meteorology are already suggesting that parts of eastern Australia are going into drought.

When Dowling approached the Water Minister in relation to the recent increase of water usage, they replied:

Water Minister Peter Walsh denied there had been a cultural shift in Melbourne back to heavy water use. ”Melbourne has had some very hot days recently, we haven’t had a lot of rain, and it’s summer. It is not uncommon for water use to peak during such hot and dry conditions,” he said.

”After restrictions eased to permanent water saving rules last November, water use generally has continued to trend at similar levels, which indicates that the lessons Melbourne customers learnt during the drought about using water wisely have stayed with them.”

It’s also school holidays and we’re fortunate enough to have a heat dome over much of inland Australia.  When this heat dome wanders to the outer edges of our island nation people are going to do what they can to keep themselves and their children cool.  Water is an excellent method of cooling down.  People are also going to be drinking more, using evaporative air conditioners more, showering more frequently and using more water to stay comfortable and alive.

This article by Dowling should have focused on the whys of Melbourne’s increased water usage and asked why it isn’t raining (climate change), and how the heat dome has formed (failed monsoon – climate change), and perhaps even asked a meteorologist to explain how failed monsoons impact on rainfall in the rest of Australia.  This article could have been a very useful vehicle for educating people about how and why rain falls across Australia, and perhaps asked more about whether our water usage is sustainable if the continent is going to continue to dry out.

Perhaps instead of Dowling blaming people for watering their gardens with drinking water, using drinking water to cool themselves and their children down (if any), and using more water around the house, Dowling should look at the broader and more interesting story.  That’s journalism, this article falls far short.

 

* January rainfall figures taken from Bureau of Meteorology

** Mean rainfall figures taken from the Bureau of Meteorology

*** December rainfall figures taken from the Bureau of Meteorology

**** November rainfall figures taken from the Bureau of Meteorology

 

 

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Designer Babies and Lazy Journalism from The Age

On 3 July, The Age published an article called, “Couples use IVF to pick genes” discussing how IVF has advanced to the stage where couples with some genetic diseases or susceptibilities can now screen out embryos (that is an important word there, remember that one for later) who carry the genes for those diseases or susceptibilities.  I’ll let the article explain more:

FERTILE women with genes that predispose them to breast and ovarian cancers are using IVF treatment at two Melbourne clinics to select embryos without the genes.

In a new trend that has heightened ethicists’ fears of ”designer babies”, Australian IVF specialists say women are spending thousands of dollars on a technique called preimplantation genetic diagnosis to select embryos without the same genetic issues.

The women involved carry mutations of the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes, which give them a 60-80 per cent chance of getting breast cancer in their lifetime.

Those with BRCA 1 also have a 30-60 per cent chance of getting ovarian cancer while those with BRCA 2 have a 5-20 per cent chance of getting ovarian cancer.

Continue reading Designer Babies and Lazy Journalism from The Age

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An open letter to Australian journalist Ean Higgins

Hi Ean,

I’m 100% certain you’re reading this post because you’re looking for more salacious (or what you think is salacious and I actually think is my own private life and opinions) commentary on how my husband and I are agitating for something we’re not.

Let’s get a few things REALLY clear.  We’re not “the power couple” of Australia’s polyamorous community – we’ve never made any claim to that title and we specifically told you when you interviewed us that we hold no positions and are currently not on the committee of Poly Vic.  You are the one who has identified us as leaders in the poly community despite that not being the case.  Today (28 May) you called my husband “one of the polyamorous community leaders” which he also has made no claim to be.  I last held a role with the Poly Vic Committee (President) in 2010, and my husband left the committee some years before that.

It may really disappoint you to learn, but we are not special, we are not powerful, we are ordinary people living fairly ordinary lives.  We do not speak for the poly community either here in Victoria, or in Australia, and your repeated suggestions that we do are getting a bit old.

The other thing that is getting a bit old is what I perceive to be your willingness to distort facts and even quotes from the two of us.  First you misquote my blog by removing a plural – necessitating additional text from you to explain what I meant.  My original quote:

I’ve built a house with my husbands and my husband’s boyfriend so there are 4 of us living together in nice harmony.

Your take on my quote (added text in parenthesis):

I’ve built a house with my husband and my husband’s boyfriend so there are four of us living together in nice harmony. (The fourth household member is Rebecca’s boyfriend.)

What you clearly didn’t understand when you first found my quote, was that I refer to my other male partner as my de facto husband.  See, now it’s not too hard to parse my original writing.  Last time I checked a direct quote was actually supposed to be the text that you’re quoting, not something that approximates said text.

Secondly, your article today suggests that my husband wrote a blog post about The Greens and their position on polyamory.  You don’t detail the fact that my husband is not a spokesperson for Greens.  You don’t detail the fact that the text you lifted was as a comment on someone else’s blog post.

You’ve misrepresented us and our submissions to the Senate Committee on Marriage Equality.  I no longer have any respect for you and in fact am very disappointed in the way you have conducted yourself and this non-story.  Not that that will bother you of course.

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Letter to the editor of The Australian

I am very disappointed and upset that I was so badly misrepresented in the article written by Ean Higgins and published in The Australian 21 May 2012.  There are factual inaccuracies and inferences in the article which I would like corrected.

The headline was a deliberate attempt to mislead readers into thinking my submission to the senate supported polyamorous marriage when in fact it did no such thing.  My submission, which has been publicly viewable on my personal blog since 12 March 2012, was in favour of equal marriage for same sex attracted couples, similar to many other submissions in favour.  There was no mention of polyamory, and in my discussions with Ean Higgins I believed that I was clear that my submission was not in favour of introducing polyamory, but in favour of marriage equality for same sex attracted couples.  I am not championing polyamorous marriage.

Furthermore, I do not speak for the poly community in Australia and any suggestion that I do so is a complete fabrication.

I would like these corrections to be noted by The Australia as the inference that I am lobbying for polyamory to the current Senate Committee on Marriage Equality is both factually incorrect and not representative of my submission.

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Dear Google (again)

Hi there, you seem to have not noticed my first letter to you, which I found a bit disappointing.  Perhaps you did notice it, and thought “well we’ve got all these secret plans which will resolve this issue, but since they’re secret we’re not going to say anything”, which still sucks, because you could have at least said, “Yes, we’re aware that this is a problem and we’re working on a solution”.  I would have been much cooler with that… since I wasn’t the only person who had raised this as an issue, something I discovered after checking your google feedback and issues page.

So you didn’t notice, and life moved on.  You created Googe Plus (G+), a rival to Facebook, something that looked interesting and inviting until the Nymwars began, and I quit.  I didn’t quit all my other google products.  I still have my calendar, my email and my RSS feed with Google, it’s annoying (though not impossible) to move them all.

I didn’t complain when you changed the way that Google Calendar looks, although I think it looks sterile and ugly.  When there was mention that Google Buzz was going to be shut down, I wasn’t particularly concerned – afterall, most of that stuff was on Google Reader anyway, and Buzz wasn’t all that popular.

When I heard that Google Reader might be rolled into G+ I was concerned.  I use Reader a lot.  I share articles with friends and people with similar interests to me.  I read articles shared by friends and people with similar interests.  I have a decent investment in Reader, but I thought to myself (clearly blithely) that most of the existing functionality of Reader would remain, because not every Google client is able to use G+ (particularly those with nyms, and/or a need for anonymity).

Clearly I couldn’t’ve been more wrong.  Google, you broke Reader.  You broke everything that made it a product that I enjoyed using, and that my friends enjoyed using, and that was actually useful.  You broke communities of people who shared stuff with one another, in the hope of improving your G+ product.  I don’t understand why we can’t have both G+ and Reader.

Now, if I want to see what my friends have read and are interested in sharing, I have to rejoin G+, something I’m not interested in doing until you’ve fixed the nymwar issues.  I know that you are working hard on this, you’ve had your VP of Social wassname come out and say that pseudonyms will be allowed, but without a time-frame.  I’m not willing to rejoin until that happens, so for me, and all of those who can’t or won’t use G+ until that time?  You’ve taken away communities from us.  That sucks.

The other issue, the one you appear to have completely failed to take into account, is about how much people want to share, and who they want to share it with, as well as how people use Reader and the items that people share with them.  In moving Reader to only share on G+, you’re effectively making people spam the feeds of their friends, and not allowing those who don’t have time every day to check the items that someone has shared, to stockpile those and read them when they have time.

I know you can create circles on G+ so that you only share things with people you want to share things with, but do I, or anyone else I know, want to flood a friend’s feed with a whole range of blog posts that interest me, when they can’t pick and choose the time to go and read them?  That was one of the best things with Reader.  I could leave it for a couple of days if I was really busy, and then spend some time to catch up.  There have been months when I’ve had very little time to read posts shared by people who read some very fascinating stuff, and letting it stockpile until I had time meant that I didn’t miss out on anything, and that I knew it would be there for me to read when I found that time.

I know I’m not a lone voice in the wilderness about this.  I know that I’m not alone in being very upset that you’ve killed off a community building function so that you could focus entirely on G+.  I urge everyone else who is reading this, and who is upset at the removal of sharing functionality from Reader, to sign the petition.

 

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