Flogging & Blogging – What’s the Point of all this Blagging?

Good question, she says, shuffling nervously and buying a few seconds of time…Er-herm…Well, the uncomfortable truth is: like millions of other online entities clamoring for attention in the ever-expanding binary cloud, I too seek to build a ‘presence’.

Because if you plan to to flog anything these days, it seems you have to flog yourself first. Even if I do manage to eventually snag a deal with a traditional publisher, they’ll most likely expect me to do some of my own promotion…Hence this little HungryBrain blog I’ve pulled out of my arse for your enjoyment (and possible edification). And one day when my intelligent and witty historical romance is released (my challenging dark, satirical novella Top model Hotty is available now), I’d like more than just a few people to know about it…not just the two followers I’ve collected so far – both plastic surgery clinics in India – their interest clearly generated by brain-free bots totally missing the gist of my anti-surgery post.

So, if I want to expand my following the experts suggest I write content of value to an intended audience, and devote my focus to a single theme instead of spouting haphazardly from day to day – what’s got my goat lately or put bees in my bonnet…

“It’s like a diary,” I told a friend when asked what my blog actually was, “…just one that anyone can see…” But it’s not like a diary at all. A diary has no intended audience – except perhaps one’s future self or the closest of friends. And diaries are safe havens for private thoughts, not public forums open to hateful trolls or potential employers seeking to eliminate weeds, so, with that in mind, I won’t be droning on about hopeless love affair no. 7, or getting philosophical about ‘the point of it all…’ And I certainly won’t be battling double-vision after downing a bottle of Tyrell’s Long Flat Red and a dozen Peter Stuyvesants at 3 in the morning, scrawling indecipherable woe-is-me monologues about my chronic lack of identity – ENOUGH!

No. Times have changed and I’m old now. Oldish…well, much older than some and much younger than others, but thankfully wise enough to know that writing and drinking isn’t the greatest cocktail ever invented – even with the convenience of auto-correction and font-lettering to disguise the scrawls of high blood-alcohol.

And I have to admit – I’ve jumped on this blogging bandwagon in true amateur fashion, or to put a little spin in it – organically…There’s no business plan underlying my actions, no ‘intended’ audience I can identify at this stage, but if I want to capture followers I must quell my distaste for predetermined shapes, I must offer ‘value’ to my customers…or, as I discovered from the Netflix documentary, Follow Me, I could just cut to the chase and well…buy some…

Yes, that’s right folks – if you’re feeling a little unpopular you can reach for a cash remedy and boost your viability, ‘for sale’ followers available in two flavors apparently – the cheaper fake variety, or the more authentically expensive ones…and, as the salesperson in Follow Me cheerfully pointed out when pressed to explain the difference between the two, the real followers would (potentially) interact with you, whilst to the fake ones would not…Sigh

Blogging has become a very serious matter, evolved from its grassy-roots to its current incarnation of sales generator – a fact that becomes plainer by the day, with advertisers more than willing to splash wads of cash at individuals with huge followings. The result is this: bloggers have become blaggers, and the evolution of person as product continues on its merry way…

Okay folks, better get on with my flogging…

Silly-bits in the grit: verisimilitude, suspending disbelief & other Bodyguard problems

*Warning: this post contains spoilers.

During the two Bodyguard episodes I’ve watched so far, my viewing has been halted (mid-episode) on two separate occasions. The first interruption was during the extended terrorist-on-the train scenario, and the second, during the getting shot-to-the-shit in the armoured-car blood-fest.

But the breaks in transmission weren’t caused by technical difficulties, no, the interruptions were wholly due to a lack of commitment on my part – a failure to suspend disbelief to be precise…Suspending disbelief – it’s a term I first encountered in Cinema Studies at La Trobe University (is it still called that?) back in the years when the sun was setting on free tertiary education in Australia. Another fancy word I learned back then was, verisimilitude: the appearance of being true or real.

In my opinion, Bodyguard, the 6-part series currently screening on Netflix, suffers greatly from a lack of it. Because there’s only so many bullets a mere mortal can dodge without arousing suspicion – is Sergeant Bud, (the PTSD affected protagonist in Bodyguard) actually an escapee from more fantastic genre? An imaginary place where super-powers are the norm and no-one thinks twice about breaking the verisimilitude barrier at the speed of light?

Because in the armoured-car blood-fest scene Sergeant Bud not only manages to evade a veritable hail of bullets, he also has the wherewithal to pop his arm up like a demented meer-cat and take a sneaky snap with his phone – thus pin-pointing the gunner on a distant building, driving backwards in the shot-to-the-shit car, and successfully tracking the baddie down.

It’s the kind of action scene that makes me think, now that’s a bit silly in’it..? And silly scenes don’t fit well in the desaturated reality of this so-called ‘gritty’ suspense/thriller/action/drama. Yes, I understand, Sergeant Bud’s fearless impulsiveness and razor-sharp reflexes splice nicely with his military history and associated trauma, and yes, his ultra-heroic actions act as a counterpoint to his many human flaws and evoke crucial viewer empathy – but this over-the-top action kind of ruins it for me. Kind of. It’s a pity the action scenes weren’t dialed back a few notches – we’re a tad less…well…silly.

Not to say I won’t be watching the rest of the series. Because despite it’s significant silliness I’m eager to witness (and judge) the plot twist that’s been promised at the end. I’ll just have to string up a few ropes and start suspending my disbelief – accept that there will be silly bits within the blue-grey grit…

* (an extra note for the pedantic among us) If the gunman was shooting at the armoured-car from the top of a 6 or 7 story building, then the bullets would have entered the car from a higher angle – not horizontally as depicted, therefore, it is very unlikely any of the three occupants would have survived.

 

Mind-blowing innovation ‘changes the way we drink water’

There’s a new ad campaign invading our screens that’s so incredibly stupid, it really deserves to be called out for what it is – a load of utter bullshit.

Apparently Twinings the tea company has invented a product that will change the way we drink water. Wow now that’s quite a big call, and the mind boggles with possible scenarios – what on earth could this new ‘way’ be? What is this revolutionary product now available for consumption?

Now let me think…is it some sort of skin patch? A slow-release system metering out precise doses adding up to the prescribed 8 glasses a day? Do we drink the liquid through our noses instead of our mouths? Or has Twinings discovered a new orifice somewhere on the human body? A specialised water inlet perhaps?

No. Hold on to your hats everyone, because Twinings has invented…A tea bag!

But Infuse is not your ordinary baggie, it comes in a screw- top jar, not a cardboard box. And the great revelation is, the bag is designed to release its natural fruity flavours into…cold water! Gasp! Who woud’a thunk it! Cold water! Wow! Surely this amounts to nothing short of a total revolution in the way we drink water.

And it’s good for the planet too. Saves you from buying all those nasty plastic bottles filled with flavoured waters. Now you can just pop a mango or strawberry baggie into your own body of water…and that’s why Twinings has released its own branded plastic container, the Infuse reusable bottle, designed especially for the retaining of cold H2O, and placement of said revolutionary baggie.

Let’s break this down to see the error in their message. Adding an ingredient to water does not change how we drink it, it changes the water itself. If we accepted Twinings’ logic, then the same claim could be made by just about every beverage made from water, and that means, ALL of them. Beer changes the way we drink water, coffee changes the way we drink water, cows change the way we drink water (they make it into milk) etc etc etc.

But the wonderful world of marketing isn’t concerned with logic, its aim is to prey on desire, the human longing for health and betterment, for innovation and progess. Well here’s an idea for you. If you really want to change the way you drink water – stop sucking down liquids from plastic retainers full stop. Get your hands on a pre-existing ‘cup’ and use that instead. Or stick your head under a tap and have an occasional slurp on that.

Shampoo, toxic pyjamas & the stinky fragrance loophole

I’ve just watched the recently added Netflix documentary, Stink (2015), about the current regulation, or rather, lack of current regulation of chemical ingredients in consumer products in the USA.

After releasing some very chemically-smelling pyjamas from their packaging (clothing bought for his two young daughters), the host of the documentary, Jon Whelan, embarks on a mission to identify the chemicals responsible for the stench, and, more importantly, to find out if the chemicals are harmful to the human organism.

Mr Whelan gets on the phone and starts dialing. He gets the run-around of course, is politely shunted from person to person until he decides the only solution is to get the offending pyjamas tested himself. He then takes the disturbing results and confronts an executive from the clothing company responsible for the toxic PJs, he demands an explanation – why use a fire retardant (banned in the EU because of its toxicity) in the production of children’s clothing? Especially as the chemical has been shown to interfere with hormone regulation in females.

The executive squirms, avoids the question with a pathetic worming that stinks suspiciously of complicity. And when Mr Whelan takes his concerns to a higher level – hunts down a lobbyist for the chemical industry in unknown corridor x – we get to witness denial in its more professional form – artfully cloaked in doublespeak and delivered without the slightest whiff of shame.

Companies are not required by law in the USA to disclose every chemical used in the production of their products. For example, chemical concoctions can be grouped under one very handy umbrella and simply listed as ‘fragrance.’ As it stands now, chemicals don’t have to be proven safe before they’re launched onto the market for human consumption, it’s the other way around – we’re the guinea pigs in this back-to-front system.  It’s the same situation in Australia, and this sneaky, stinky, loop-hole is of particular interest to me – you see, I have a personal aversion to many of these manufactured, toxic pongs.

It started back in 1988 when I worked night-shift, packing supermarket shelves (back when shops weren’t open 24/7 and young people were paid half-decent wages). I was the only woman in our small team, and, presumably, due to my status as a human with a vagina, I was alotted the task of stacking and ‘facing up’ the personal care isle, all the long-bodied bottles filled with stink designed to prevent and/or disguise our very own natural animal stink. And it was a difficult isle to manage I might add – due to the unstable design of the phallic, long-bodied containers, prone to tumbling like 10-pin bowls.

As I unpacked soaps and powders I would sneeze. Even now I feel my nose begin to tickle as I rush past the laundry section, the evil stenching boxes of OMO or triple-action Vanish. And in my mid 20s I suddenly developed an aversion to a perfume from The Body Shop called ‘Oceana’. It seemed odd that a smell I’d found delicious enough to purchase suddenly became repulsive to me. And the same visceral reaction began to happen around other stinky things as well – shampoos, new carpet, freshly unwrapped item A, B or C, new cars, the general plastic smell of Kmart itself, fresh paint, other people’s perfumes and OMO-infused clothes – and lately, pretty much all items of brand-new clothing (presumably sprayed with something unpleasant before being packaged for export in odor-trapping plastic).

For myself and many others, these unidentified chemicals trigger unsettling bodily sensations. For me, a light-headedness combined with slight nausea, and a general feeling that is best described as something’s not quite right. It’s my body’s own way of waving a red flag, a stand-in for the warnings currently missing from packages – THIS  PRODUCT MOST LIKELY CONTAINS CHEMICALS HAZARDOUS TO HUMAN HEALTH.

 

Netflix erases user reviews and slips in the thumbs-up

I was pretty annoyed (for at least a few minutes) when I found out Netflix planned to axe its user review system, and unless I missed most of the official flaggings, the change seemed to take place with very little warning.
It’s a shame this resource is no longer available. Netflix said it wasn’t important enough to warrant continuation. But I disagree and even do so strongly. User reviews were a big part of my Netflix experience, and without them I feel the loss. They helped me decide whether or not a show was worth watching – if it averaged 2 to 3 stars (probably not), 3 to 4 (give it a go), an exciting mix of polarised 1’s and 5’s (let me at it!)

But Netflix has erased all traces of this useful resource, scrapped the log-book of voices from financial supporters such as myself. Of course we still get to have an opinion. It’s just the scope of our input has been reduced to almost zilch. We get to choose between thumbs up and thumbs down. A hokey, nuance-free icon speaks for us now. Yes or no. Good or bad. These digestible, binary chunks feed behind-the-scenes algorithms, the beasts crunching yays or nays into so-called, ‘deep-learning.’

If I say thumbs up to one show a mathematical construct can determine if I will like another. The digits send signals to central control where Brain gets to know us as valued customer, all the better to please and anticipate our needs, present us with our ‘best fit’ viewing.

The Brain soon learns I like the documentary genre. The Brain comes to find that I don’t like crime. The Brain understands that that I’m fond of foodie porn. But is the Brain at all cognisant of what makes a show great? Narrative structure or sound motivation? And can the Brain well admit that many shows are shit? Is there a Good/Bad continum because if so logic follows, and 50% of all Netflix shows must sit below the mid.

Now how can I let Brain know that I don’t want those?

 

 

 

Food porn–the delicious objectification of vegetables, meats & grains

Tonight, before I get stuck into another episode of the excellent 10-part BBC documentary series  Hitler’s Circle of Evil (available on YouTube without interruptions) I’ll begin my evening’s viewing with a less arduous course. I’ll have the light entree if I may. I’ll settle back for some foodie-themed globetrotting, travel the world and visit homely kitchens and wander the colour-splashed aisles of spice-heaped markets, uncover the cooking methods of ancient relatives and, who knows? Maybe I’ll even discover the true origins of grain.

I’m not so keen on bearing witness to the pedantic art of micro-herb placement, or following the trials and tribulations of restaurant X’s rise to two or three-hat status, but I do enjoy the high-resolution, soft-edged objectification of vegetables, meats and grains currently taking place on our screens –  a genre that seems to be multiplying like mold spores on a delicious, washed-rind cheese.

Because something lovely happens in my brain when I clap eyes on the firm flesh of freshly- captured salmon, buried deep in a thick crust of salt and fired by local yet sustainable log – the succulence of cream-fleshed scallop gently nestled in a cradle of hand-knitted twigs – a plate of scattered pipi awash in a pond of wasabi-infused foam – the slow-motion capture of bubbles rising to the surface of hallowed liquid A or B – the sexy gluten-stretch as air-filled bread gets ripped asunder by plough-calloused hand oh, oh, oh!

What was I saying? Er-hem. Yes…I do love a bit of food porn served up on a rustic platter…

 

Now I’m not 11 with a crush on Paul Stanley, Kiss’s album Love Gun seems a little bit creepy

At approximately 5pm or thereabouts, having satisfied my dog’s daily walking needs for the day, I generally crank up the music and make my daily eats.

Today, whilst preparing another curry to use up the tub of yoghurt instead of letting it turn to yet another mould-topped glump, I pulled out a golden oldie, Kiss’s classic album, Love Gun (1977) to accompany my chopping.

It was my sister’s album back in the day, and for some reason the cover has disappeared, only the dusty, fine-lined vinyl remains. A shame, the cover is quite funny, Kiss standing god-like in full regalia with their oversized, studded cod-pieces on display if I remember correctly. And I do remember correctly oh yes I do.

I was a BIG fan of the band as a young lass and had a crush on Paul Stanley, his semi-gender-bending, hairy-chested effeminate prancings, his status as the front-man, and the thrill of the mystery of the face beneath make-up. Who were these masked men?

However, as a woman matured with significant feminist bendings, I can’t listen to this album without some serious cringing.

And it’s not because I no longer love the music. I’m not older and wiser with a more developed taste in music – I still rate this hard rock pop as much as I ever did, an album chockablock with great songs bar one or two. No. It’s the lyrics that give me the ick.

Okay. Let’s start with the title track, ‘Love Gun’.

…you pull the trigger on my…love gun, love gun , my love gun, love gun…

As far as I know, my 11 year old self had no idea of the sexual goings on behind this blindingly obvious metaphor, but fast-forward 40-odd years to my current good self, and I can’t help but feel grossed-out by the conflation of the male member with a weapon of mass destruction. And then, it gets a little bit creepy:

you can’t forget me baby, don’t try to lie, you’ll never leave me mama, so don’t try…

Er. Okay. I think it might be time to get the authorities involved here…

Then there’s ‘Christine Sixteen,’ a little ditty about Gene Simmons’ lust for a sexually active young woman who is apparently hot ‘day and night’ for the goods beneath his rather menacing cod-piece.

…I don’t usually say things like this to girls your age, but when I saw you coming out of school that day, I knew, I knew, I’ve got to have you, I’ve got to have you…

Yes. Okay. She’s Christine and she’s sixteen. Not only does she rhyme quite nicely but she’s also reached the age of consent. And:

…she’s been around, but she’s young and clean…

Good to know Gene. Good to know she’s free of disease and won’t infect you with any nasty pox. And then there’s the famous, ‘Plaster Caster’:

Plaster, caster, grab a hold of me faster, if you wanna see my love just ask her…

At least here Gene’s penis is ‘my love’ and not a horrible gun. By the way, the her in ask her refers to the actual artist Cynthia Plaster Caster, who made plaster molds of famous rock-star knobs and boobs. (I understand she turned Gene down when he offered himself up as a subject).

Anyhoo, despite the accompaniment of a few too many dick-obsessed lyrics, the curry turned out very nicely thank you.

And I will be listening to Love Gun again:)

 

 

 

 

 

Who the hell are these people? Blank-slates, The Bachelorette & the state of franchised romance.

Excuse me please producers of reality TV. Would it be possible to witness an actual conversation between the Bachelorette and one of her suitors? An exchange about their respective jobs perhaps? A line or two about something in passing or a few sentences that might provide insight into character?

Because I still don’t know what Ali does for a living (apart from her current role of face-on-screen). All I know is that she’s been unlucky in love, enjoys nature walks, and has a penchant for ‘exciting’ pursuits such as taking selfies and going on speed-boats (they haven’t pulled the helicopter ride out of the hat yet but that might come later).

I wonder why this lack of natural conversation is omitted from the show so rigidly, why every conversation orbits the central premise of the show in such a predictable drone-like fashion.

Personally I’m getting sick of hearing the same conversations repeated over and over. Intimate talks about importance of family, the vital role of trust and communication in successful relationships. Yeah. So what’s new? That a person desires a kind and loyal partner who can communicate feelings effectively should be a given, not a topic of conversation rehashed endlessly from episode to episode.

But we won’t discover any of the contestants political opinions or social values as the season continues – if Ali supports the removal of refugee children from Manus Island or if Box-jaw Bill thinks the Australian government should take immediate action on climate change before the planet dies and there’s no natural habitats left to stage romantic, picnic-rug themed getaways.

Of course it’s too difficult to allow contestants to express their views on subjects. Much less messy to follow a bland set of scripts that reveal next to nothing about the person, but if the producers were to allow contestants to open their mouths I think it would make for much better television. Instead of the current state of stuck-in-a-loop droning we’d got a better look at what’s under the hood, we’d be more invested, be able to make estimations as to compatibility and become more engrossed in the unfolding narrative.

But blank-slates with pretty faces are the staple at the Bachelorette and no doubt will be until the eventual demise of the behemoth franchise, after all, the blissful state of ignorance splices nicely with the workings of romantic love, a love that relies heavily on surface sheen and a whole lot of projection.

Far easier to fall in love with a creation in our minds than a messy warts-and-all person.

Avocado mousse, wrong reasons, & the best Aussie Bachelorette scene ever!

Okay. Lets all give a thanks to the Bachelorette’s Ivan for his supreme lack of culinary prowess. How wonderful that the poor man had no idea about the anatomy of an avocado. How delightful to watch this idiotic show slide firmly into the farcical.

The innocence of dear Ivan’s face as he shoved the two plump, pip-filled fruits into the blender and pressed go. The serious faces of intent as our bachelorette and her other suitor awaited desert, valiantly ignoring the insistent screech of the machine’s impotent grind.

But she kept her poker-face on straight – a task no doubt aided by the modern-day mother’s helper, botulinum toxin – for true love is no laughing matter, and our heroine is heroically and stoically determined to find the truth. Is Bill really there for the Right Reasons? Because Ali’s heard rumors from his rival what’s-his-name – the rugged, sun-tanned one who gets a bit wound up after a few too many vinos.

Cut to Ivan’s ongoing emasculation in the kitchen: prodding an avo’s stubborn pear-shaped body further into the blades with bemused consternation. 

Cut back to the hastily staged alfresco table. Is it true Bill? Our fair princess asks. Are you really here for me? Or, shock horror, are you here for the dreaded Wong Reasons? 

No, says Mr. box-jaw Bill, I’m here for you sweet lady, I am but a victim of the suntanned-boozer’s spiteful ways.  

Meanwhile Ivan appears with their pip-infused mousse. It’s a bit rough, he warns. Cut to the valiant Ali tasting said mousse, the spoon slipping self-consciously between plump, princess lips. The air is tense. The mousse is rough. It’s almost time to make her proclamation. Who will stay to win the fair maiden’s hand?

I’m sorry Ivan. The mousse was a bit rough and at the end of the day Ali has to Follow Her Heart. Not much choice when she knows next to nothing about what’s in his head.

 

Hot person over-load and the rapid escalation of ‘same face’ syndrome

Sometimes when I watch a film or TV series I find myself wondering; is that the same person as before or is it another character entirely? I cant tell if woman X with the black hair in a pony-tail is the same woman X in the next scene with her hair worn down…Is any-one else experiencing this problem?

And I don’t think it’s because my brain can’t manage to assemble collections of features into recognisable individuals, it’s because of a growing trend I’m gong to call same face syndrome.

It’s difficult to keep track of who’s who when actors are chosen based on an ever-narrowing set of physical parameters, and I think it is safe to say that while there is more representation of race and gender when it comes to on-screen roles, there is definitely less representation of people who don’t conform to our current hyper-idealised, filter-funneled standards of beauty. Frankly I find the whole thing a bit creepy.  

Of course lovely faces have always been integral to the screen business and I see no reason why that should change – after all, who doesn’t relish the beauty of a heavenly visage? But not all the time. Not in every film and TV show. The way things are heading, diversity of features will be a thing of the past, especially with plastic surgery weighing in to hasten the melding.

You have to wind the clock back to find a larger sample of actors from other planets – ones closer to everyday person instead of centre-of-everything perfection, where noses stand proudly and inclusion isn’t relative to eye-socket spacing or flawless chin projection, where divergence is deemed acceptable and fit for human consumption.

Lately I’ve even noticed the phenomenon seeping into the field of documentary for god’s sake. It may well be the result of subconscious bias, but more and more I see vox pop segments featuring ‘random’ subjects who all lean very suspiciously towards the high-end of spectrum hot.

Our screens are so stuffed to the gills with an over-load of hot people I think it’s high-time for relief.