Tue. Jul 23rd, 2024

Watched the latest episode of Gruen, the ABC show about advertising. Todd Sampson was back in a Lara Tingle t-shirt that said ‘You’ve been Tingled’. Very iconic, very funny. His t’s are always an important part of the show. I’ve said it before, he’s so anti-consumerism that I don’t know why he’s in advertising. He’s definitely the show’s devil’s advocate to Russel Howcroft’s cheerleader for the industry. There was a segment highlighting an ad for a service called Spriggy, a gaming/banking app for young people, that Todd absolutely tore into. Besides telling how these things are all about capturing kids young and then keeping them for life, he revealed how the app keeps all the personal data and uses it in nefarious ways. Russel looked on at this screed nonplussed. He clearly thinks it’s a good thing. Just how embedded he is in establishment thinking was revealed during a discussion about AI when he said social media was a threat to Democracy, as if it was a true born fact. Excuse me, Mr Howcroft, but social media is the Village Voice. It’s chaotic, it’s contradictory, it’s crude, but it is the essence of Democracy. The mainstream media with its corporate interests that Howcroft is a part of is the true Fascist edifice that threatens it.

The Pitch segment, where two advertising agencies try to sell the impossible, was about compulsory organ donating. I thought the first one was garbage, but the second one was brilliant, a dramatic countdown to someone’s death if an organ isn’t donated. For once, both Todd and Russell were in agreement it was the best, but the two women on the panel, Lauren Zonfrillo and Carolyn Miller disagreed. Todd was incensed, and yelled ‘What?’ when he heard their verdict. Yep, people can be strange, Todd. Russel, who must be the biggest dagg on telly (at one point he threw in a random reference to Amyl and the Sniffers to appear cool), became uber enthused about the Speedos ad that was shown. He wants everyone to ‘go Speedo’. That’s not Democracy, Russel, that’s brainwashing, which is mainly what advertising tries to do.


I borrowed from the library and read the kid’s graphic novel, My Life Among Humans, by Jed McGowan. It was just left on a table by some neglectful child or parent, apparently waiting for me to pick it up and be beguiled by it. It’s about an alien who comes to Earth to research humans and maybe enslave them for its masters. I really liked the desert setting. It reminded me of the desert landscapes in those old Looney Tunes Coyote and Road Runner cartoons – all rocks, cacti and cool night vistas. The alien finds his first human subject, a young guy called Will, in a house on the edges of the desert. It gets close and emits spores into Will that enable it to sense the world the way Will does. I love the loungey, retro interior of Will’s house, and other houses in the story. It’s a look that reminds me of the artist, Shag. The people are also drawn in that angular, minimalist way that’s Shag’s specialty. The story unwinds intriguingly, including some suspense and even a little romance, and ends satisfyingly. It’s a good Twilight Zone-type scifi story. Not sure if kids will go for it, but teens and adults will have a blast.


Gregory Benford

I finished reading the Gregory Benford novel, ReWrite. I was a bit disappointed by it overall. Main character, Charlie, skips through different timelines that take him back to his sixteenth year in 1968 each time, learning more about himself and his world with each iteration. The book feels like it’s at its best when it forgets it’s a time travel story, during Charlie’s sojourn in Hollywood, where he becomes a successful film-maker. This section’s wry and funny and threw me for a bit of a loop it was so unexpected. I liked Benford’s playing with alternate timelines. He doesn’t do that single timeline bullshit. In Benford’s time physics you go back in time, you land in a whole new timeline, and there is no paradox.

(Spoiler alert) On the last time-skip Charlie decides to stop the assassination of Martin Luther King, which possibly also saves Robert Kennedy, who was assassinated later in the year (‘possibly’ because in Benford’s story the assassin is the same person). It’s a nice idea, going back in time to save someone – I did it myself with a story called The Butterfly Breeze. But it’s a big ask to think that saving MLK or RFK would lead to a better world, which is Charlie’s aim. At best it’s a wildly optimistic and naive assumption that doesn’t delve into all the structural problems in society that make it what it is. In any case, it’s not the point, and I’m pretty sure Benford knows this too (he’s humoring his character). The important outcome is that Charlie gets to go home to his family, bruised and battered, but filled with hard-won understanding and compassion, and a resolve to make things better for them. 

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