Third Monkey, Hear Evil
Wednesday, October 29, 2003
  This ones for Chris (and anyone else who has ever wondered why the Wiggles are so popular)...

Wiggles - four unattractive examples of new age Australian males who formed a band. But unlike the traditional plot for this kind of story, these are (I'm told) trained early childhood educators, and the band that they started is aimed at the preschool market. And boy have they done well.

I gather that lots of kids like them, but amongst the appropriate aged kids of my acquaintence, only my two seem to like the Wiggles. This could be attributed to a number of things. It may be a sex linked thing - my two are boys, everyone elses are girls. It might be that the only parents that mention their kids and Wiggles are the ones whose kids don't like them. Or it might be that my little enclave of overeducated parents with doted on children haven't been exposing their children to the rectangular baby-sitter enough for their kids to have encountered Wiggles. Whatever it is, my two adore them.

Is this a good thing? I'm not sure. I can't bring myself to decide whether they are good or bad role models. There is only one female in the show, a giggling dinosaur whose tasks seem to involve receiving pretty presents, drinking tea, and appreciating the things that the others do. There are the occasional other females, mind you, but they are either one offs, or they are part of the dancing chorus. So, that's a black mark. I can't stand giggling women. Laughter, yes. Chortling, yes. Giggling, send 'em back to school, wait for them to grow up enough to live in the big wide world (okay, so I'm a snob).

On the other hand, they are a bunch of singing, dancing males who dress well (even if they are always colour-coded), talk well, and aren't afraid to express themselves. This makes them good male role models in some ways. No beer, no cigies, no bum-crack, no homophobia, no slang, no lots of other things that I don't like about lots of representations of Australian males. But yet, I'm not sure.

I've rationalised it this way - as long as I don't have to watch it, I'm not going to complain. I can stand listening to it - they sing and play music well, things that I want to encourage in my kids. They are always polite, pleasant and friendly, also things that aren't to be complained about. So, they aren't showing much in the way of gender equality, but they are doing good things in terms of showing two young boys that it is quite acceptable to sing and dance, and that you can be quite successful doing it (which is not to say that I'm planning on encouraging it as a career choice, although elder son has currently decided on a career plan that involves singing, dancing and piloting commercial aircraft, but not all at the same time). As long as I don't have to encounter the same dvds more than once a week, that's fine. And as a draconic parent, the kids are lucky to get more that two afternoons a week exposure to the small screen, unless we are at someones elses house.

So, a rating for Wiggles? 7/10 as a general thing, 9/10 for what they seem to be trying to do (entertain young children in an appropriate manner).

  Well, was writing a lovely commentary on the most recent issues of F&SF to land on my couch (Thanks Justin!), but have managed to press a wrong button somewhere and lose the whole thing. So, to paraphrase:

Have the Sept, Oct/Nov and Dec issues. Have just finished the September issue, on to the December issue. Really shouldn't be reading as much as I am, what with assignments, but younger son and I have come to an agreement - I'm allowed to read in the intervals while he goes and gets another book for me to read to him. As he seems to have locked onto a set of really short books today, I've managed to get a fair bit of reading done, as I sat us down at the back door (ostensibly as it's the warmest place in the house in the morning, getting sun through it), which is the furthest location from the relevant bookshelf that I can find.

So, notable stories. September issue, the best story (or at least most memorable) is "Pictures from an Expedition" a lovely music play on words that I hope lots of people understand. Tight, well-paced story about the first crewed expedition to Mars, the media circus surrounding it, and the way that the crew cope. Highly recommended. Also, one about Alfred Bester being alive and well and living somewhere (title something along those lines). A little too much style, which affected the substance too much for my liking, but an interesting enough take on where cyborgs really will happen in our communities. Aging baby-boomer with brain slowly liquefying inside his head is treated with 'nanites' to try and keep him functional. Story seems to be based on the question of what is reality, and what is VR, and how do we tell the difference.

Will comment on the other two issues later. 
Monday, October 20, 2003
  From last post: the Greeley book was "Happy are the Meek". I've also read "St Valentine's Night" in the interim, which is interesting in that it is set in the same general location, with several of the same people, but the point of view (and the mystery solver) are different. Rates as well as the other tho'!

I promised a friend verbally that I'd review the Wiggles (yes, the colour-coded lunatics who are making a fortune from small children and their exhausted families). But I also want to comment on two other things - The 'Hooded Swan' series by Brian Stableford, and some of the fanzines and semi-prozines that have been published in Australia over the last year. Unfortunately, I've only got five minutes, so I'm not sure how much I can express in that time, even if I don't bother to try and proof what I'm saying.

I'll start with the Brian Stableford, go on to Wiggles, and if I've still got a few seconds, I'll talk about the others....

I'm not sure quite how old the Stableford series is, although there are six books, they are each about 1cm thick, which suggests at least 20 years, and quite probably more. Each is a short adventure in the life of the ship the Hooded Swan, from the perspective of the main pilot, Grainger, with the occasional commentary from his mental parasite, usually referred to as 'the wind'. In some ways incredibly unsophisticated in the technology (yes, there really is a reference to a slide rule, although I don't think that it is used for any actual calculation), Stableford has posited a galatic economy on the verge of squeezing out the little guys - who knows, maybe this is supposed to be allegorical?

I would say that the series is misogynistic, but it is fairly in keeping with what I think is its time, and it does at least admit that women are the equal of men - they just don't really feature in the story. There is one, who is the alternate pilot, and Grainger doesn't think too highly of her - but then, he doesn't like people in general, and he doesn't trust any other pilot to keep him alive, so I would have to give the benefit of the doubt and say that to some degree the negative view is the perspective of the character, rather than the author.

I could say lots more, but I'm about to run out of time. Wiggles, and Australian small press magazines will have to wait until the next time that I've spent so many hours at a uni computer that I feel justified in taking a break from the mess that is my file of things to do! 
Monday, October 06, 2003
  Well, it's been a week. Or possibly several. I had lots of things I was going to write about, when I finally got near a computer, and at time-I-should-be-going-home (and collecting kids), I can't think what any of them were. Instead, I'm going to talk about crime/mystery stories. I kinda like this genre. And I kinda don't. Depends on the author (some) and the topic (a lot). I've spent the weekend reading two books - one a collection of short short mystery stories (supposedly none over 2000 words) edited by I Asimov and a couple of his cronies, whose names escape me - and the other a novel by Andrew Greeley.

The short stories first: This is not a new collection. And I've read it before. But I found myself reading some of the stories with delight and enjoyment, which was good, as a good 2/3s of the stories were dull. They weren't mysteries. Or they were from the point of view of rather banal criminals. Or they didn't make any sense at all. Shame really. I remember liking it a whole lot better. Rating: C

The novel second: I like Greeley's stuff. The blurb on the inside back of the dust jackets of his books always point out that he's some kind of Catholic religious official (you'd think I'd remember, but other people's mysteries tend to stay that way for me). And that's mostly what he writes about. Well paced, never show your whole hand (Agatha Christie style), beautifully characterised stories. I've read four or five of his novels now, only one of which wasn't some kind of mystery starring Father Blackwood 'Blackie' Ryan, and pretty much enjoyed them all. They might be 300+ pages, but I can easily finish one in a weekend, as I can keep track of what is happening in between interuptions, without much difficulty, and they are a quick read. Rating: A 
Life and times of someone who should know better....

September 2003 / October 2003 / November 2003 / December 2003 / February 2004 / March 2004 / June 2004 / July 2004 / October 2004 / December 2004 / January 2005 / April 2005 / July 2005 / September 2005 / January 2006 / March 2006 / April 2006 / May 2006 / June 2006 / April 2012 /

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