More Media Notes
Utopia (Amazon Prime) - characters pictured at left.
After a pause to binge-watch the Law and Order series (for those interested, it goes up to season 20 plus major spin-off series), I have gone back to surfing the strange. Or does the strange somehow find me? Anyway, this series is not the Australian one about a government authority but a US SF-fantasy-horror-something drama about a series of graphic novels called Utopia which gives warning of diseases, including the end time disease we all know is just around the corner. One group called “the others” wants to suppress the series. Another group, the sort of people who might attend a Comiccon, plus one of the novel characters come to life, want to find the books and reveal the diseases. This features strong Tarentino-esque violence and a Game of Thrones tendency to slaughter established characters at a script writer’s whim. After about three episodes I think it’s worth the trouble and will keep watching, even if certain scenes make me want to turn away. Not for the faint-hearted.
Truth Seekers (also Amazon Prime)
A UK sitcom about a cable installer meets the X Files. Yes, you read that right. A cable TV technician who investigates the paranormal in his spare time gets a new partner and his jobs become more about the paranormal. Watched the series right through, to be rewarded by some wonderful, understated British humour. As the series’ main producer died unexpectedly after the episodes started airing, and as shows off the beaten track often depend on one individual pushing them, another series seems unlikely which is a shame.
Australian SF-Fantasy productions
There is a surprising amount of this stuff and, in my opinion, little of it is worth the trouble. A case in point is Occupation. This was made in 2018 to almost immediately sink without a trace at the box office. But, for some reason, it was a hit on Netflix in the US and so a sequel was ordered. this article in the conversation will give you more details. I would heartily agree with the author of that article that Occupation tries to be like American blockbuster alien invasion films on a fraction of the budget and without the big-name stars. The academic author also says the sequel is worse. Admittedly I only glanced at the original film in which aliens invade an anonymous Australian town somewhere up North (I thought I saw sugar cane fields). They arrive in the middle of an Aussie-rules football match in which one side is wearing Richmond-style jumpers, so as far as I’m concerned the aliens can kill everyone.
Then there is the series The Bureau of Magical Things – school kids with secret lives as magical creatures fighting other magical creatures - and The Unlisted, kids with powers fighting shadowy government forces who want to control the world’s youth. Introductory scenes show the kids escaping from shadowy captors around the North end of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and then cowering in the light rail cutting which is some distance from the South end of the Bridge, but I guess I’m just quibbling. Both are intended for children and both, in my view, are of only marginal interest to adults. This probably means they will do well. Bring back The Magic Boomerang (Australia, 1960s), I say. Now that was quality TV.
A small budget does not mean low quality and a big budget does not mean high quality, a case in point being Space Sweepers billed as the first Korean space blockbuster. Its planned cinema release got messed up due to Covid and it was released on Netflix to an average review score of 6.2 out of 10 on the critic site Rotten Tomatoes. Although there are some interesting SF elements to it, all I can say to the score is that a lot of critics have a higher tolerance for shlock than me. Although the main language is Korean, in many scenes the characters speak undubbed English. Richard Armitage (Thorin Oakenshield in the Hobbit films) turns up as a space company executive, speaking English. But if the plot revolves around a cute child robot with big eyes who is also a hydrogen bomb, then you think it's gotta be Asian.
Earlier Media Notes
These have been moved to another section of the site - specifically the page overflow under 'more' in the menu bar.
Media in the time of Covid
Just when you thought it was safe to venture onto the internet again, a few notes about the programs I've been watching.
Space Force (Netflix) - I keep on forgetting to mention this one. This is somewhere between an office comedy and a political parody, starring Steve Carell (pictured left) as the air force general in charge of this sixth branch of the American military set up, in real life, by Donald Trump. John Malkovich (gasp!) plays the main scientific advisor. Quite a line-up. I saw one review which stated the series could not make up its mind whether it was a comedy or a satire. Certainly, for those who hate Trump, there is not much in the series but I enjoyed it. Watched the first season. A second is in the works.
Raised by Wolves (Foxtel) - the first two episodes were directed by Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner) who is also an executive producer. After four episodes I'm not sure what to make of it but I will keep watching. A more apt title might have been Raised by Androids. Two androids escape from an earth ruined by religious wars to raise a number of children on a new planet, only to be followed out by followers of the religion which caused much of the trouble. This is somewhere between Mormonism, Christianity, and the long-gone Roman religion of Mithraism (seen as an early rival to Christianity). Mithra gets mentioned a few times. I will keep watching if only to find out where the writers are going with all of this.
Star Girl - middle school superheroes. The supervillains are also at school, and Star Girl's stepdad operates a giant robot that he made out of car parts. Enough said, I suppose. The main character wins a prize for the least impressive costume in the whole DC universe. Shorts, really? And, no, not interesting shorts just shorts. I suppose this is more practical than the short, pleated skirt worn by supergirl through seven seasons (I stopped about season three when they started fighting for transgender rights). You would think that a girl whose day includes holding up whole buildings and being thrown through walls by their aunt (a long story) would wear pants suits or shorts and tights like male superheroes. Anyway, not bad fun if you're into superhero stuff.
Significant others: this is a talking point rather than a TV show. The role of the girl/boyfriend use to be someone to be rescued - to get into a dire situation which the super person had to get them out of. Now the main role of the significant other in such stories is to provide heartache. An alien capable of holding up buildings and stopping tall locomotives or whatever will pine after someone he/she cannot get because they are with someone else. Seriously? Why doesn't the super person throw their rival into orbit and inform the love interest that he/she is trading up. If the love interest doesn't want to trade up there is plenty of room in orbit. Bring back the traditional role I say, Superhero significant others should be homemakers not heart breakers.. now that's a cause..
New book: The Musketeers of Haven - A Science Fiction story
Another Lawson masterpiece is available for free download.
When Earth's one and only off-world settlement, dedicated to non-violence, is overrun by sword and spear-wielding creatures, a reservist soldier and a rag-tag group of ex-cons are shanghaied to fight them and find that to win they must rediscover Earth's violent past.
A link to the book on Smashwords is below.
The horror! The horror!
Just when you thought it was safe to open up your laptop, there is yet more insane television to grapple with.
Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency (Netflix) - this two-season series set in America has little to do with the original Douglas Adams books (there were two, with Adams writing a third when he died). There has also been a radio adaption and an earlier TV series set in England. But this version is true to the books to the extent that its plot lines are bizarre and convoluted, involving time travel, murder by sharks in hotel rooms, transferal of souls between bodies and lots else. The series has to be seen to be believed, but Elija Wood (Frodo) does well as the often baffled assistant. I found it quite funny at times.
New Legends of Monkey (Netflix) - this obviously Asian-style show now in its second series is a joint Australian - New Zealand production. Many of the cast are Asian or don't stand out too much. The lead actress, Luciane Buchanan, is NZer of Tongan heritage. However, there are also plenty of Western actors with undiluted Australian or NZ accents. Aimed at the Asian markets? Nope. Not even released in Asia it seems. Inspired by a Japanese series Monkey from the 1970s and 80s, which had cult following here (I don't remember it at all) this series doesn't take itself seriously. The fight scenes are fun. Maybe worth a glance.
The Umbrella Academy (second season) - I have to put in a word for this series which is one of the strangest I have seen and that is saying a lot. In this season, having caused the end of the world by trying to prevent it - I think that's what happened - the foster siblings of the umbrella academy have time traveled to the 1960s and have another, quite different apocalypse to prevent.
Mortal Engines (a Peter Jackson film on Netflix) - the City of London is a giant machine roaming the European plains catching and consuming smaller cities. Based on a young adult science fantasy book of the same name, maybe the film can be seen as a metaphor for something or other, or maybe it could be seen as just strange. I vote for strange.
Picture: Luciane Buchanan
No standouts in lockdown TV
While we wait around for the pandemic to end, there are plenty of shows to watch, albeit of mixed quality.
Cursed (Netflix) - another Game of Thrones hopeful and another reimagining of the Arthurian legends set in mystical lands. Magical folk known as the Fey, as they always are, get another beating as they always do. This web television series is based on an illustrated young adult novel, and stars Australian Katherine Langford in the lead role. I've seen two episodes and will keep going, although it annoys me when the main characters behave stupidly. One jarring note is that the religious fanatics of this world burn a Fey person on a crucifix, rather than a pole.
War of the Worlds (SBS On Demand) - yet another version of the classic H G Wells novel, this one is a French-English series set in modern times. The action switches between France and England and the languages (with subtitles) change to suit. English seems to predominate but maybe that's just reshooting and editing for some scenes. Worth a glance. Then there is ...
The War of the Worlds (BBC on Foxtel made a littler earlier than the first one) - the original book has a 'The'. Some of the adaptations have a 'the' in the title, some don't. A two part series set in the original period of the book, but with various modern influences. A female character has a large role in fighting the Martians; there are unmarried people living together and so on. Didn't like it much myself.
Warrior Nun (Netflix) An English speaking series set in Spain with a Portuguese actress in the lead role. A dead teenage girl comes back to life when imbedded with a holy halo and finds herself a warrior in an ancient order fighting demons, which could happen to anyone. I lasted one and a bit episodes and may go back. I don't think vows of chastity are part of the deal.
Replicas (Netflix) - a film rather than a series. The family of scientist, Keanu Reeves, are all killed in a car accident so he brings them back to life by cloning them and transferring their consciousness at the time of death to the clones - all stuff he has been working on for a shadowy biotech company. This is done in his basement over a number of days. Yes, days. You can't hurry these things. Needless to say there are complications. I didn't mind the film, but it was a box office flop.
Picture: Katherine Langford
Writers are people too
Those of us who watch junk TV are aware of many shows which use what they now call woke material - raising awareness about transgender people and the like. Once upon a time TV shows use to raise awareness about gays, about how gays were people and just like everyone else. Now transgender types fill the same role as gays. This stuff mostly detracts from the action, but the transgender awareness theme is more annoying as I simply don't know any transgender types. I know a lot of gays, but no one who crosses genders. However, if the media industry wants to raise awareness about a misunderstood minority I can suggest one that is much more important and far less understood - writers.
We need TV shows where someone reveals their previously shameful secret that he/she is a writer.. and say what's wrong with that? Then the other characters can get to say "okay, we have to accept the fact that he/she is a writer - lots of people are that way inclined and there's no harm in it."
Sceptic - well, the writing should still be done in private.
Others - why shouldn't they be allowed to write in public so that writers can be open about their preferences?
Part of the action should occur in a writers bar, showing that writers are "ordinary" people just like everyone else.
Picture: Charles Dickens was just a guy with a quill.
What's really wrong with the younger generation
In conversation with my daughter I've realised what was really lacking in her upbringing, and I must share some of the blame. She has never been exposed to truly bad TV. She and her brother had too much choice, even with VHS tapes when they are the thing some years back. I discovered, to my horror, that she did not know about bad Japanese movies where Godzilla (a guy in a rubber suit) faces off with arch enemy King Ghidorah (another guy in a rubber suit) over a scale model of Tokyo, or sat through films with gripping titles such as the Zombies of Mora Tau (actually not such a bad film when you're too young to see the problems), or Them - giant ants as I seem to recall, which has its moments late on Friday when you're 12 years old. Who remembers wood chopping competitions on Sunday morning TV? Now that was character building. None of this streaming nonsense. The younger generation have had it too easy..
Breathing is to be outlawed
Governments collectively have decided that not enough is being done about the coronavirus and that breathing is now to be forbidden. Breathing in germs is a real possibility and face masks do not reduce the risk sufficiently.
Not weird just strange TV
Unlike my previous notes, these TV programs are just conventionally strange, I guess, and some are almost normal. There seems to be a streaming war. With so many streaming services now on offer the services are all reaching for the next Game of Thrones.. Anyway..
Carnival Row - Amazon (main characters are pictured). Think Victorian fantasy steam-punk London with Pixies instead of Irish as unwelcome immigrant workers. There are other fantasy folk but pixies seem to predominate - place has pixie brothels (pixies as the sex workers not the clients). This is not a cheap production. The main actors include Orlando Bloom, best known for playing Legolas in Lord of the Rings, and super model turned actress Cara Delevingne as a pixie with a sad past. Something's killing Pixies and Bloom has to investigate.
His Dark Materials - Foxtel. Alternate, fantasy Victorian-ish England, I guess. Based on a series of novels by Philip Pullman which have already been the basis of one film, Golden Compass, 2007, staring Nicole Kidman as someone evil. In this series everyone seems to have a dæmon - a piece of themselves that takes the form of an animal and follows them around. The characters have conversations with daemons who don't mess up the place. This is all too strange for me and I'll leave further comment to fantasy buffs.
The Boys - Amazon. Superheros as perverts might be one description, or perhaps as arrogant, corrupt sleazes who have to be overthrown. Traded between cities for big money, like sports stars, their main concern is merchandising. Again all too strange for me. Didn't last a single episode.
The I-Land - Foxtel. Lasted the whole season on this one, then I saw that it had been thoroughly panned by critics and bombed with audiences, which might say something about my abilities as a critic. A group of people wake up on an island with no memory of how they got there. Shades of the series Lost. There are deep plots afoot, of course.
For those of us who remember I Dream of Jeannie and Perry Mason television has become distinctly weirder. Here are a few TV series which, to my mind, classifies as simply weird.
Umbrella Academy - (the series main characters are pictured) adapted from a series of graphic novels. An eccentric billionaire adopts seven children our of 43 born on the same day to women who previously had shown no signs of pregnancy before they gave birth, and trains them to be the superheros that they (mostly) are.. the story starts when the children are all adults and come back to the creepy house in which they grew up when the billionaire, whom they call dad, dies. The butler/servant is an elderly, talking monkey complete with cane, glasses and butler's suit. The mother is an android. One of the step-siblings spent several years on the moon at the direction of billionaire dad. What he did on the moon and how he got there, or got back, is not specified. At one point he was in an accident which required dad to replace his body with that of an ape. Human head, ape body. Then there is the sibling who, after vanishing many years previously, turns up again as the 14 year old schoolboy he had been when he vanished, although he has had many adventures since including being a time travelling assassin in a post-apocalyptic world. He is determined to prevent the apocalypse - his one clue is an artificial eye - but he does not bother to change out of his schoolboy clothes (blazer, shorts, long socks) to do so. His girlfriend is a window clothes dummy he has taken from a ruined apartment store. He has conversations with this dummy.
Doom Patrol - this is a group of five individuals with odd characteristic. There is a film star of the 1950s who mostly retains her original form but when stressed dissolves into a gelatinous blob many times her original mass, or so it seems, and oozes around frightening people. This is another take on the comic book character Elastigirl, or so Wikipedia tells me. Another is a women with 64 distinct personalities ranging from flirty through to abusive and then to highly dangerous with special powers. Then there is a robot man as in a former racing car driver whose body was destroyed in a crash, so the doctor in charge put his brain into a robot which also looks as if it could have been taken from a 1950s film set. The doctor, incidentally, is portrayed by Timothy Dalton, the James Bond of the 1980s. These shows are proving a boon for old stars. Anyway, a former enemy of the doctor turns up and creates a vortex which sucks in the doctor as well as the entire town close to the residence where all these characters have been living for decades, leaving behind a donkey as a portal. Flatulence from the donkey spells out a message. Then the story starts to get strange.
Hemlock Grove - this is about warewolves at a country high school, with the stand out character being the eight foot tall sister of the rich warewolf kid who hides the deformity on one side of her fact by wearing her hair long. She cannot speak, has bandages on her arms and thunders around school - literally, you can hear her coming - without anyone seeming to comment or even notice much. Instead they want to pick on the poor warewolf kid who flirts with the gigantic sister of the rich warewolf. They think he's a warewolf and they want to mess with him? One of the girls at the school is pregnant but says that its an immaculate conception, the result of an angel visiting here. Say, what? Jokes about that excuse already being used aside, this is an odd plot development especially as it turns out she is serious. One of the main characters in played by Famke Janssen, a former Bond girl and X-Men star. As I said these series are keeping the stars of yesteryear in work.
Legacies (Foxtel as is Doom Patrol, Hemlock Grove is Netflix) - this is a Hogwarts/Vampire Academy style school somewhere in America which teaches different types of magical creatures, mainly vampires, warewolves and witches. The vampires, incidentally, get around in the sun no problems, which is only right. They are a misunderstood minority who should be allowed to walk around in the sun. Social justice for vampires I say.. As a taste of the general weirdness In one episode twin witches encounter their biological mother who was killed on her wedding day which was not long after they were conceived. The witch relatives then had them gestated in another, volunteer relative. Of course, I should have seen that at once.
Bring back the X Files I say, now that was TV..
Bring back the astronauts in the film 2001
Who remembers the crew of the fictional spaceship Discovery One in the Stanley Kubrick's classic 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey? Those astronauts did their job, as would be expected, in deep space, without hysterical questioning of orders or regular declarations of no-confidence in their leader. Not so the astronauts in the TV series Another Life. The crew of the fictional The Salvare (Italian - save or rescue) on a mission to find the origins of a strange structure that has appeared on earth, seem to regard hysteria and mutiny as normal operating procedures when given orders with which they disagree, even before they had been infected by an Alien virus. Infection made them more hysterical. Of course, much of this is to keep the action rolling, or otherwise all we'd see is people doing their jobs, but still I can't help feeling sorry for the captain Niko Breckenridge (pictured - actress Katee Sackhoff). They could always have sent an unmanned mission, but even the computer hologram projection of the ship AI seems to get emotional. Quite a journey.
I can remember when it was fashionable for films and TV series to have gay individuals as heros, pushing the theme that gays are people too and so on. I did not care very much at the time. Okay, the guy/women is gay, other characters learn the lesson that gays are okay, let's get on the with action and never mind the social message. Now trans gender individuals are being celebrated in series such as Supergirl and the Chilling Adventure of Sabrina the Teenage Witch (I know, my tastes in entertainment leave a lot to be desired). The problem is that although over a long career in journalism I knew quite a few gays, I can recall meeting only one trans gender individual and that was back in the 1970s. I did not care, one way or another, about that individual being trans gender and still don't. I just don't see why I have to be hit over the head with such social messages in the midst of otherwise ridiculous entertainments. Hollywood must be running out of social themes. Maybe we will soon get transsexual zombies? Pictured is the main character in the Sabrina series, the actress Kiernan Shipka. Her character is definitely not trans sexual; nor is the main character in Supergirl, played by Melissa Benoist. There is that to be thankful for at least.
Upset Australian election win is because PM looks like me
Relatives have told me I look like the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison (pictured on left) but in fact it is the PM who looks like me and that is the reason for his upset win. Never mind the ephemera of issues like unions, taxes or franking credits. People voted for him because they thought he was me. Over the years misguided people have tried to tell me that not everything is all about me, but I can't see it. Who else would everything be about?
New book on climate skepticism written by yours truly has been launched. This is a light read intended more to poke fun at global warming theory and its many super-serious "we're all doomed" acolytes claiming that its all about the science. Repent of ye emitting sins. After many years of warnings about climate tipping points, we're reached a tipping point in climate hysteria.
Zombie TV - a guide
There are five TV series of the Zombie apocalypse. This list does not count films, just TV series..
The Walking Dead - nine seasons with the tenth and last to come plus three follow up films. I reached series overload at the beginning of season three.
Fear the Walking Dead - set in the same universe and developed by the same people as The Walking Dead. Renewed for a fifth season. I watched the first three episodes.
A third show in the walking dead franchise is in development. Couldn't see a name.
Z Nation - ended after five seasons. This is supposed to be a lighter version of The Walking Dead. It didn't seem so light to me, but I've only seen half an episode.
Black Summer - set in the same universe as Z Nation, so we have rival TV zombie apocalypse universes. Maybe they will eat one another.
Van Helsing - not to be confused with the film of a few years back and, despite the name, is contemporary rather than historical. It is also more a vampiric than a zombie apocalypse. Okay, the zombies talk and suck blood but they still seem to attack mindlessly. That's Zombie enough for me. Seen several episodes. Not bad. Renewed for a second series.
iZombie - this is not a zombie apocalypse series so much as a zombies amongst us series. About a crime fighting zombie who gains insights into crimes by eating the brains of victims. Main character is New Zealand actress Rose McIver. Recently renewed for a fifth and last season. Saw most of first series and found it quite amusing, but I stopped when the main character's zombie lover was killed by the zombie bad guy of the series. All too intense.
12-episode anime adaption of a manga series Highschool of the Dead. 'nough said.
Still say it all beats reruns of Gilligan's Island.
Claire Takes On The Galaxy
My ebook has been released, in chapter form, on the women's fiction site Dreame.
Fleeing the wedding day from hell and her mother Claire Williams enlists in the Stellar Marine Corps, and finds herself fighting for the freedom of the Federated Earth colony of Devil's Pit with the help of an exiled bank robber and his adopted daughter. Exiled criminal James, for his part, has to win the heart of the marine, as well as uncover a deadly conspiracy among the marine officers.
Darth Vader - The Good Guy Who Lost and other essays
Time to end the decades of Vader's name being blackened solely to make the alleged heroes of the Star Wars films Luke Skywalker, Hans Solo and Princess Leila look good. In fact Darth Vader is a Richard III-like character. He was a decent administrator doing his best in trying to hold the empire together, despite the efforts of unsavory characters on the fringes of the Imperium to grab power in their sectors, but had the misfortune to lose. Just as Shakespeare added deformities and bad personal attitudes to Richard III to make him a more menacing character, writers under the watchful eye of Skywalker's secret police gave him a black mask, helmet, cape and even big boots to stomp around. He may well have wiped out the Jedis but he had a good reason to do so. The books has been released for free download on Smashwords. Click on the link.
Trash and treasure in SF viewing
Brief reviews of stuff I have watched in the past few weeks.
The Outpost - saw a part of the first episode on Foxtel. A bunch of fantasy clichés on a low budget. About the only thing going for it is Tasmanian Jessica Green as the star, and I'm not talking about her acting abilities. Seeking revenge against a group of mercenaries that wiped out her tribe she ends up in an outpost of the kingdom-whatever hating a handsome army officer. One comment I saw said that it was a Game of Throne wanna-be with the budget of Jon Snow's hair products. Cruel but fair.
Extinction - a film on Netflix . This is an alien invasion story but with a distinct twist. The two survivor children spent so much time sniveling and doing the wrong thing that it became annoying. Kids, deal with it! However, all told it wasn't bad. I watched it right through which is rare for me for a film these days.
Tau - saw this on Netflix. Girl gets trapped in the house of an Elon Musk-like mad billionaire, where the house is run by an AI called Tau. Almost worth the effort of watching.
Marvel's The Defenders - this is a collection of relatively obscure Marvel superheros - Jessica Jones, Daredevil and a couple of others I'd not previously heard of - who end up in the same series battling a common menace, a sinister conspiracy headed by no less than Sigourney Weaver (not making major films any more, I guess). I'm into this stuff so I don't mind it, but those who haven't seen at least a couple of the superheros in their individual series may be puzzled.
The DC rivals to Marvel, incidentally, had Legends of Tomorrow, which threw together a few minor characters mainly from the Arrow series (I got up to the end of series three in Arrow) and sent them off through time. This is now up to series four but I couldn't get beyond episode three.
Jessica Green in Outpost character is pictured
As Australia’s electricity grids strain to cope with demand and government efforts to foist yet more renewable energy on them, consumers can at least be thankful that down under weather patterns are different from those of Europe where the wind does not blow for days.
In mid-June, Bloomberg reported that virtually no power had been generated by the UK’s wind farms for about nine days, with calm conditions expected for another two weeks.
A Planet for Emily
My ebook, A Planet for Emily, has been listed for free download on the site Smashwords where, after two weeks, it has been downloaded 365 times. That makes almost 4,000 direct downloads plus another few thousand downloads from Paradise Publishers, who run the other main site I use, free-ebooks.net. There is also an audiobook version which should be available for free.
Blurb: Looking for her missing sister who was a member of an expedition lost while looking for a livable planet - a planet which the human race sorely needs after being driven from homeland Earth - Suzanne takes a job as a cruise director on an old star ship with a mysterious captain. Along the way she meet baby Emily and family who desperately want a decent place for Emily to grow up. The hunt for that livable planet has become serious.
Avoid mind rot - do not play They are Billions
Starting playing the game They Are Billions by Polish developer Numantian Games. A mistake. This is a steampunk strategy game about building a colony on a post apocalyptic world while fending off hordes of Zombies. It is compulsive. How do I stop? I've become a game zombie. Help! I have to be deprogrammed.
The unacceptable cost of renewables
Parts of Europe may be tearing themselves apart politically over the vast costs of adopting renewable energy, but Australian voters are being asked to believe that doing the same thing down under won’t cost very much at all.
Tesla is this century's wierdest story
By any normal criteria, electric car manufacturing company Tesla should be in full crisis mode. The company recently announced that it lost $US670 million for the September quarter (what?), trying to ramp up production of its affordable Tesla 3. Tesla founder Elon Musk forecast that the company would produce 1,500 Tesla 3s in the quarter, but only 260 were produced. Investors were not concerned about the previously announced production shortfall, as they were used to Musk over-promising. But the announcement of the loss caused a sharp drop in the share price, from around $US321 to about $US294. The share price has since recovered to $US306 or so. This still puts the car maker's market capitalisation in the same league as that of General Motors, despite producing a tiny fraction of the cars GM makes. This is not just ridiculous it is absurd. At the present rate of loss Tesla will survive perhaps another 18 months to two years, without raising additional capital.
Tony Abbott may have annoyed the climate change mob with his speech in London (see Diary), but a far more serious problem for that industry is an admission that global temperatures have not been following climate models.
Besides the two papers making that admission, including one in Nature Geoscience, that massive industry also faces the problem of a possible La Niña this year, which will pull global temperatures down. Selling disaster stories about rising temperatures, the main way the industry justifies itself, is harder if temperatures are falling rather than rising.
In space, no one can hear you screaming for cash
Such is the mystique of Elon Musk that he is able to make the absurd declarations that he will launch the first manned missions to Mars by 2025 as a commercial proposition, and still be taken almost seriously.
Never mind that none of his many undoubtedly ground-breaking companies have yet to make a profit, despite billions in government subsidies, Musk says he has a way around the problem of funding the first manned mission to Mars as a private venture.
Becoming an Evil Mastermind
I want to become an evil genius/mastermind, of the type that James Bond is continually defeating, but I'm not sure how to go about it. I think I'm supposed to have a difficult childhood, but that may be only for naturally occurring masterminds. I want to make myself one. I'm pretty sure I'm already evil - I'm a climate skeptic, I'm bored by all politically correct causes and I think recycling plastic bottles is strange. Greenie heaven will not be for me. That leaves becoming a mastermind, finding minions and devising a plan for world domination. I know that if I meet James Bond I should kill him on the spot, not explain my plans to him then devise some convoluted way to kill the man which I will not supervise. Maybe there is a mastermind course on offer somewhere?
Hype is a renewable resource
The announcement of a $650 million solar power plant near the South Australian town of Port Augusta brought forth the usual statements that such a plant would produce reliable or dispatchable power.
But anyone with experience of renewable plants would have looked in vain in the announcements for usable information on the plant’s performance, including an estimate of the plant’s capacity factor, or for an explanation of why the South Australian government of Jay Weatherill is getting power apparently so cheaply from an expensive and still largely unproven way to generate electricity.
Batteries fail to spark
Elon Musk is such a good salesman that, despite formidable and blindingly obvious problems, he has managed to convince everyone that batteries and electric vehicles will fix all our energy and supposed pollution problems.
A man who runs an electric car manufacturing company with a share price bid up so high by investors that, at the time of writing, its market capitalisation is comparable to that of General Motors, despite having less than one per cent of the production volume, has to be a good salesman. But Musk’s stand out skill is in extracting largesse from governments around the world.
Lead article in Australian Spectator of June 24
While the Liberal party tears itself apart over whether a Clean Energy Target as proposed by the Finkel report delivered in mid-June should allow modern coal plants, anyone looking at the report would be alarmed by this statement in chapter three.
‘If new dispatchable capacity is not brought forward soon, the reliability of the NEM (National Energy Market) will be compromised. Without a market response, AEMO (Australian Energy Market Operator) forecasts a breach in the reliability standard by FY2018 in South Australia and in Victoria.”
by Mark Lawson
More disagreement with academics
As someone retrenched about a year ago from Fairfax, one of the two largest media groups in Australia - the other is News Corp - the strangest response I have observed to the upheaval in the media industry is that of academics. As far as they are concerned nothing has changed. In articles in The Conversation here and here and here again, senior Australian media academics have defended restrictions on mergers and acquisitions in the Australian media dating from the 1980s. Why? Because they hate Murdoch it seems. Newspapers are obviously dying (Fairfax has since announced another round of redundancies), audiences are fragmenting and every man and his dog has an opinion blog, including me, and they are still worried about Murdoch's hold on the media. After careers spent attacking Murdoch and Fairfax it must be too uncomfortable to change.
What has neoliberalism ever done for us, asks the Australian Guardian
Who remembers the comedy sequence in Monty Python's classic 1979 film Life of Brian where the leader of a radical group intent on overthrowing the Roman Empire in Judea/Jerusalem asks a meeting of fellow radicals what have the Romans done for us? As its a Monty Python sketch the others go through the list, including a water supply, sanitation, law and order, irrigation, hospitals and so on. I recalled this sketch to mind when reading the comment piece on the Guardian Australia web site Flogging the dead horse of neoliberalism isn't going to improve the economy by Greg Jericho, a former public servant. Jericho was commenting on an address to the Australian press club by new secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Sally McManus. If we could overlook a record breaking period of economic growth, the economy sailing relatively unscathed through the Global Financial Crisis, and that a once a century mining boom did not cause severe dislocation due to the floating of the dollar and the partial deregulation of the Labor market, then sure, whatever has Neoliberalism done for us?
How to really stuff up an economy
This week's shout-out must go to the Venezuelan government which has shown us all how not to do things. When prices were high, the government wasted vast sums from the sale of the country's oil on populist social policies to buy support. Much of the rest went on corruption, which is high even by South American standards. Now oil prices are low, there is no money for subsidies and everything is in short supply, including food. The government of President Nicolas Maduro has responded with degrees that have made things worse, accusing the bakery managers of subverting government regulations by refusing make cheap bread and so on. According to a property rights index compiled by the US based The Heritage Foundation, incidentally, Venezuela has the lowest score of all the South American countries. Confiscation of property without compensation is common. No wonder there is no economy outside oil.
One more crisis has gone, but don't tell the academics
Have climate scientists been ranting at you that global food production is threatened by climate change and pollution, and various factors they have been spending research grants to study? Point them in the direction of the UN's Food and Agricultural Organisation food price index, which has been falling for years. While the monthly index moved up last year, the annual average was still below that of 2015. The peak was around 2010. Now prices in real terms are back where they were in the 1980s. So much for warnings of mass starvation.
Disgraced in all of Koala Bay
Just up from the country and scratching for a job in journalist Miles Black winds up on the Northern Sydney suburban weekly the Koala Bay Bugle. Jobs in journalism are what you make of them but the office manage hates him, his fellow report detests him and the editor in chief cannot be bothered with the reporters in his charge. All that would be fine by Miles if only the beauteous Anne would notice a dirt-poor reporter from the bush.
Academics who are so completely wrong its interesting.
Academics with nutty beliefs which they cling to in the face of overwhelming evidence that they are wrong, such as those convinced that the neo-liberal capitalist system is about to collapse, are nothing new. The all time champion trophy for academic lunacy must go to Sydney and Beatrice Webb and their 1935 two volume study of the Soviet Union entitled Soviet Communism: a new civilisation? As readers will note from the date, this book was produced at the height of the terror, when NKVD firing squads were working overtime, and even ordinary citizens faced the appalling prospect of denouncing someone or themselves being denounced. The Webbs, not strictly academics but with a history of academic achievement including founding the London School of Economics, managed to concluded that Stalin was not a dictator but a good manager. A notorious incident where Stalin organised mass starvation in the Ukraine was dismissed as being invented by capitalists. They later responded to increasing evidence that they had totally misjudged the communist system by taking the question mark out of their book. They are pictured left while in Russia in 1932.
Academics need to watch the TV series Silicon Valley
Further on the post below, by searching on the same site for neoliberal I found an academic at Boston college who, in my opinion, outdoes both me and the academic cited in that post for sheer nuttiness. The article talks about capitalism's complete failure. (Because growth has been slow in recent years? Because Europe's idiotic venture into a single currency has had such appalling problems?) Like all the other comments of this type the article carefully avoids saying what the author would replace capitalism with, only saying basically that various academics are consulting on the matter. Good Luck with that.
As part of the consulting process they should watch the TV series Silicon Valley. Sure capitalism is a messy, dog-eat-dog business, but the people who matter - the workers - want to get rich, and they would vote for it every time. Clink on the link for my commentary on the series.
Me, disagree with academics?
Why is it that I'm always questioning the wisdom of academics? Perhaps it is because some of them, in my considered opinion, hold nutty, fringe beliefs. A case in point is this guy from Melbourne University in Australia who says the neo-liberal capitalist system is tottering on the edge of an abyss. It is? The article has to be read to be believed. The Berlin Wall never fell, and those on the Eastern side of it are still happy to be there. And people count me as eccentric for wanting to clear Darth Vader's name.
So that raises an interesting question was Vader a neo-liberal?
Good guys who lost
Darth Vader, the Resources Development Administration (the bad company in the 2002 film Avatar), Scrooge (converted rather than lost), Sauron and Blofeld (James Bond's nemesis) to name a few of those unfairly maligned. A list connecting to a few articles is on the site. A free e-book exploring the likely real story of Darth Vader will be released soon.
Good guys who are bad
James Bond repeatedly breaks the law, He murders people without even the sanction of his own employers, although the murders would be completely illegal no matter what MI6 thought should happen. Indiana Jones repeatedly wrecks priceless ancient monuments all in the name of saving himself from evil people, and removes artifacts from sites for sale. Luke Skywalker was a rebel who damaged Imperial property and murdered Imperial personnel. Something should be done.
Things to hate
Young people, travel, fashion and lots more to come. Stay posted.
The truth is out there
Sympathy for the villain
This web site showcases an alternate view of fiction, where the black-hearted villains - the one that the James Bonds and Luke Skywalkers of fiction regularly defeat and kill - may have their own side to tell. Vader was just trying to hold the empire together, Blofield was simply a businessman and James Bond breaks the law constantly. And what was so wrong with Dicken's Ebenezer Scrooge that required such drastic spiritual intervention?
As part of my attempts to earn infamy and hatred by sticking up for the villains, I've added some non-PC political commentary. Read on.