Vaarwel 2016 (almost)…
Before we start, earlier today I sat on toilet expelling last night’s capitalism reading an article on Vanity Fair’s website titled Trump Grill Could Be The Worst Restaurant In America. It was written by Tina Nguyen and it was very amusing. The thought of this poor man’s idea of rich man’s restaurateur (kinda) becoming president really did help move the Cafe del Mar oyster blade, sorbet, mango frozen cocktail, potato wedges (an extraordinary volume thereof), Schezuan salt and pepper squid and two meat samosas through my digestive cavity. I feel quite ill today and I’m not sure if it’s simply my usually high levels of anxiety caused by existential ennui or the nuclear hangover or a dastardly meeting of those two minds. Regardless, let us plow on with Part 6 of this self-indulgent nonsense.
#11 in Films…
One thing I liked about Captain Fantastic is that it had full frontal male nudity. Sure, it was Viggo Mortenen instead of George MacKay but at least that better than Frank Langella. Steve Zahn would have been a nice compromise.
Mortensen portrays the titular Captain, outre father to an anti-capitalist brood living in the California wilderness. Their days are spent running up hills, climbing mountains, perfecting burpies and worshipping Noam Chomsky. The Captain is also their homeschooling private tutor, bullying his preteen kids into reading highbrow French literature and then chiding them for describing books as “interesting”, which apparently is a nothing word. I have started describing things as “intriguing” since seeing Captain Fantastic because I don’t want to use nothing words but I also can’t bothered thinking up original opinions.
When Mrs Fantastic moves on to the great Occupy Movement in the sky, her family launches a bid to relieve the Captain of his parental duties and impart some encroaching modernity onto the kids, who all have silly names like Bodevan, Kielyr, Vespyr and Zaja. Ironically, their surname isn’t Fantastic but Cash. Because, you know, their currency is familial and not societal.
This clash of ideals forms the epitasis, one that eschews sentimentality and opts instead for uneasy compromise. There are also some genuinely funny moments, not all of which were spoiled by the trailer, which is far too revealing. The modern capitalist world is contrived of ridiculous expectations and the Captain is right to revolt against them to create a more perfect world, one in harmony with nature and physical fitness and the consumption of superior literature. But I guess school is also important.
#11 in TV…
Was the above scene the funniest TV moment in 2016? There has been a specific request from a longtime Year in Review superfan for a longish riff on South Park’s 20th season, which continued the show’s recent conceit of having a sprawling narrative arc running through the 10 episodes. Unsurprisingly, South Park’s focus was on Trumpism, with hearty dashes of trolling, the cult of Denmark, our obsession with nostalgia, men’s rights and SP’s most persistent callback, the calamities of political correctness.
I’m not sure I completely love the 10-episode arcs, preferring the glory days of standalone heavy-as-lead, funny-as-Wilde punches on topics of the day. By extrapolating their skewering across a season, Parker and Stone tend to repeat themselves and some of the jokes and references can start feeling stale as the action reaches its catharsis. Having Mr Garrison Trump-it-up and accrue popularity despite actively self-sabotaging was brilliant and pointed, but it also transitioned into a laughless leitmotif.
The same scenario applies to Gerald Broflovski’s grossout hilarious trolling. It was an outstanding piece of social commentary, developed with acute pacing, clearly showcasing why people troll — because it’s fun — and how easily these trolls tamp down their empathy levels and simply expect the victims of their harassment and abuse to take the joke. There is an uncomfortable friction between a right to free speech and a right to not be pommeled with abuse. It is a chafing that requires satire to wash away the obfuscation and tedium observed on handwringing centre-left opinion pages and South Park, the show we rely on to demystify these conundrums, reached an new apotheosis when Gerald was sitting at his computer Photoshopping dicks onto his son’s friends’ mothers’ faces. Too often necessary social analysis devolves into humourless sermonising, the kind of screed normally accompanied by a photo byline of a hip arts grad with a self-satisfied facial expression that is just begging to have someone Photoshop a dick onto. South Park, however, remains hilarious. You are actually laughing while you watch. At least you are the first few times, and then definitely when Gerald is inducted into the basket of deplorables that compose the trolling alliance shipped off to Denmark to take down a new program that intends to unanonymise past internet activity, and certainly at the end when Gerald is seen conducting a Transatlantic intrafamily megatrolling network, while his wife Sheila who has previously been shown urinating on Gerald because he would rather falsely admit to be into urolagnia than to being a troll is locked in a cupboard, but along the way you have to put up with the same or similar jokes being told over and over as a fairly basic plot is attenuated across the season (which, incidentally, was broken up into four blocks, with respite for the creative team inserted into the schedule for the first time).
Meanwhile, the Cartman subplot spoofing The Martian seems about 12 months too late, and his trademark oft-repeated catchphrase of the season, that women are funny, feels like it’s going nowhere or is completely self-contained till the devastating finale, when it is revealed that Elon Musk’s SpaceX mission to Mars is the first step on a journey that concludes with women living free and happy on the Red Planet, unconstrained by online abuse, while men are enslaved in the underground joke and cum mines. It was a set-up that lasted 200 minutes for a 15-second denouement and it was so worth it!
Member berries are a work of genius but don’t forget that South Park has lambasted hackneyed remakes/reboots/revisits several times already, quo vide Indiana Jones and Star Wars episodes. The whole ‘Make America Great Again’ slogan that recalls a happy time that never was deserves to be whacked like a piñata but tying it in with esoteric references to Colin Kaepernick and JJ Abrams felt a little too convenient. Rehashing the whole douche versus turd noms de guerre was tired and lazy — that was a dichotomy first introduced in Season 8 — surely after 12 years these masters of vulgarity can come up with some new dysphemisms.
Finally, dicks out for manhood was an extraordinary new element in the Butters psyche. In a town that bulges with effervescent and memorable eccentrics, Leopold Stotch is the ultimate outre character. Parker and Stone can have Butters say and do essentially anything and it always feels so totally in character. His persona is malleable without ever feeling stretched or untethered, so when he drops his daks and flops his cock in the hallway, rousing his cohort to do the same, it just feels so in character. You actually wonder why he hasn’t done this already in aid of some niche pursuit.
South Park has been a mainstay of my endy year Best of TV list and 2016 was another worthy addition to the canon. Far from perfect, mostly because of a reliance on recycled gags, which (meta alert) is also a primary subject of its satire in Season 20, it was a necessary elixir to and explainer of the worldly horrors that were happening all around us in the latter half of the year.
I hope this was a sufficiently long and interesting section on South Park for you David.
Memes / Emoji / Internet Stuff in 2016
I’m gonna kick this off by letting my colleague James proffer his Top 5 internet stuff of 2016. In the spirit of a freeform chat when I try to demonstrate that I know how the internet works I’m not going to constrain this section with anything resembling rules or procedure. James didn’t actually know I was going to use this so I hope he either never finds out or doesn’t mind.
James’ Top 5 Net Stuff of 2016
5. The Betoota Advocate (he didn’t provide any examples or context but I am going to assume he meant this story)
4. Classical art memes (he did provide this example…
…which I’m not sure I get)
3. Polarising echo chambers (no further context but he means people who live within feedback loops viz commentary and opinion mirroring back their own thoughts)
2. Star Wars memes (example…
1. Harambe (a fine choice for top spot — thanks James)
I put the call out on Twitter for peeps’ fave dank memes and got a piss poor response volumewise (ie one) but good valuewise:
Cheers London Tipton and I agree: the Obama/Biden bromance was fine fodder for clever captioners.
But this is my Year in Review so I am guessing you want some of my woke thoughts on the subject. I loved the impact Stranger Things had on memedom, especially all the normcore fetishising of Barb, Noah Schnapps’ thoughtful letter about Will’s gayness or otherwise, the superb soundtrack love-in and the introduction to our younger readers to the eternal gift that is Winona “You bought her, you” Ryder.
Trump made Twitter the place to go not just for clever lolz but also breaking news. The service would be greatly improved if it ceased its obsession with prominent accounts and more actively promoted high quality but essentially unfamous tweeters.
Reddit and Facebook are still as bad as ever. Reddit, especially, is on a drastic downslope. Facebook at least is stable in its terribleness.
Remember that kid Daniel that wore white Vans to school? I don’t quite understand that video’s appeal, nor do I understand Snapchat works, but I can’t ignore 334,000 retweets! I am yet to see a single Mannequin Challenge video but I quite like that Black Beatles song. The Running Man challenge feels like it was last millennium such is the ephemeral nature of these challenges but it was actually last April.
I downloaded and played Pokemon Go for like one second and was bored silly. My friend Tom who is a fucking doctor — like a medical doctor, not some dweeb with a PhD in sociology or some other bullshit — was obsessed with it. Not sure how into Mario Run he is but I also tried giving that I go but I just don’t have time for these games. As revealed earlier, I read pithy restaurant reviews while sitting on the toilet.
Whatabout Ken Bone? Here’s a boring rotund gentleman in a frankly ridiculous jumper who asks a tedious question and then in the space of 24 hours he’s built up like a champion of the ordinary and cutdown like a champion of the racist and sexist. Or at least racist and sexist sympathiser, which is kinda like the definition of the alt-right. The prescient Andy Warhol could have screenprinted Bone’s scone and affixed it above his ’15 minutes of fame’ truism, such was his (Bone’s) quintessential experience of the dizzying heights of instant unearned fame and the crashing descent that comes from the digital world’s inability to forget. As Childish wistfully avers, because the internet mistakes are forever.
This was on Twitter today and it amused me:
One Tuesday at trivia there musta been 10 teams with names referencing doors and their holding. The host said, “I don’t even watch Game of Thrones but I know about fucking door because it’s been all over my Facebook today”. Nuff said.
Rappers had a quiet year by their admittedly high standards. I knew at the time it would prove wise just ignoring the whole Kanye Waves/Swish/Life of Pablo ego vomit and after listening to the ho-hum album exactly once I feel completely vindicated. Success doesn’t really become Drizzy memewise: his internet action seems to ramp up when he’s feeling especially slighted and it’s hard to feel down when you’ve got a Hennessy in hand for literally the whole northern summer at #1. And who even remembers Meek Mill? Panda, Panda, Panda, Panda…
I don’t how I feel about bottle flipping. “It drives me insane at school,” reports my deputy principal mother. “You never see jacks anymore.”
I think the Ted Cruz / Zodiac one is the best.
A quick note about emoji. My faves are 🤔 😎 💤 🍍 🎤 . 💩 😭 and 💅 have their place. My top pick is 👻. Not sure why: just something about a playful alien.
I would love to know your thoughts dear reader on this particular subject so feel free to lemme know and I will provide an update in a future issue of this protracted heap.
This instalment was written in part at home and pretrivia at the Tudor in Redfern.
#11 in Albums…
(Australia #7, US #51, UK #42)
As is the done thing nowadays, Empire Of The Sun announced a new album by releasing two ‘singles’ simultaneously: High And Low and the title track Two Vines. (I use those annoying single quote marks in the previous sentence because who knows what a single is these days. You can buy any individual album track on iTunes or stream it on music machine and, regardless of whether there is a physical single available at JB Hi-Fi, it is still eligible for entry onto charts. Having a music video used to be a fine indicator of singleness but when One Dance spends 15 weeks at #1 in the UK without any filmic presence that theory stops holding the proverbial water.) Both singles are upbeat, heavy-synth, chorus-rich pop songs redolent of a musical era that seems an age ago. Dancerock or rockdance or that high-tempo smashing together of rock and dance whatever you want to call it, perfected by acts like Art vs Science, The Rapture, Passion Pit, Crystal Castles and, first among equals (although pleasingly not in World War II), Empire Of The Sun, has fallen out of fashion almost as quickly as the time signatures employed in their most iconic songs. It’s all meandering trap beats and whispered vocals and allergic reactions to melodies. So when I heard both High And Low and Two Vines on high rotation I was enthused by how efficiently Luke Steele and Nick Littlemore had rediscovered their form after 2013’s misstep Ice On The Dune. There is a sombre, more reflective trace that runs through the lyrical content on Two Vines (LP), and even if that lapses into maudlin cliche at times (“I feel better when we are together, I know it’s simple but I don’t care” from To Her Door), the hints of optimism for our planet and our love lives, or at least Steele’s and Littlemore’s, just about saves it.
Did I mention that I love to sing along?
#11 in Books…
(and by that I mean reading experiences; so far only one book has actually been from 2016)
Room is an interesting book. It tells the story of a mother and son trapped in a room, held captive by nocturnal visitor who must both be placated and overcome if they are to survive. What separates Room from other tales of crime and kidnapping is that it is told from the perspective of Jack, the 5-year-old boy. As his mother manfully tries her best to protect Jack from the horrors of their circumstance, we the reader are presented with a strange paradigm: the literal childlike wonder of innocent adventure masking the ghastly reality of a life held prisoner to a capricious, paternal evil. The chilling line, “Don’t forget where you got him from” is especially devastating.
I am a big fan of the The X-Files Season 3 episode Oubliette, which shares similarities with Room, as does Peter Jackson’s deeply flawed but watchable nonetheless The Lovely Bones, and author Emma Donahue also cites real life abduction cases, the ones where the victim is held captive for decades and made to procreate with the captor, as inspirations for Room. The tale is drawn from a blend of culture and reality and the verisimilitude, which is a word I can never spell right first time, is fantastically present.
My reading experience of Room was right at the start of the year, and included a day trip to Wollongong to see some friends. On the bus ride home — the trains weren’t running — there was insufficient light to read Room, frustrating me enormously. What better reflection on a book’s quality can you get?