TV Dinners: The Best TV of 2012

Shows which were listed in the 2010 or 2011 pieces on this topic are disqualified from a repeat nomination. I’ll probably lift the moratorium next year, on a rolling three-year basis, so that the 2010 shows – or. at least, any of them that are still being screened (Caprica, Spooks and 24 have already gone, with Fringe on its last series and The IT Crowd likely not returning either) – will be eligible to repeat. But, for now, here are ten more of the best pieces of televisiual entertainment to have graced our screens in the last 12 months.

American Horror Story
We had some catching up to do, having missed the first season when it aired last year, and centred on a house with a long history of murder, inhabited by a family of three – and all the people who had died in it previously. The second season is even more disturbing, taking its horror from the realm of the supernatural back to the evil that men (and women) do, set in a 1964 insane asylum, ruled over by a seriously-twisted nun and even more insane Doctor. Jessica Lange, as the former, fully deserved the Emmy she won, and James Cromwell… Well, Babe will never seem the same again.

The Aquabats Super Show!
They’ve been one of our favourite live bands for a decade now, with their mix of B-movie insanity and ska-punk pop tunes as infectious as Ebola, and they’ve wanted to get their own superhero TV show for even longer. Finally, The Hub – also home to My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic – gave them a shot, and the result is a brilliantly deadpan slice of fun for all ages (such as the TARDIS-like van, infinitely bigger on the inside). The production values are deliberately cheap and shoddy, but there’s an enormous and obvious affection for everything from Japanese monster flicks to Saturday morning cartoons.

Being Human (UK)
This took its own time to make the list, having got through three seasons of spectral, lycanthropic and vampiric angst without troubling any of my lists. However, the fourth season saw two of the trio replaced. Much as we had enjoyed Russell Tovey’s performance as previous werewolf George, the chemistry of the new household was a great deal better (and less whiny, it has to be said), while the storylines, too, seemed to have improved, with more thought put into them. It remains, however, really confusing to be watching this and the US version simultaneously, with characters and plot threads getting mixed-up in our poor old heads…

The Borgias
Not the British series, which still is widely regarded as among the worst of all-time [I don’t remember it as being that bad. Mind you, I was 15, and likely couldn’t see past all the tits. Minor factoid: watched some of it being filmed at Doune Castle]. This is rather better, held together largely by a great performance from Jeremy Irons as Rodrigo Borgia, Pope Alexander VI in a time when popes were allowed to have a wife and expected to have a mistress. Advertised with the tagline, “The original crime family”, the Borgias were supposedly an influence on Mario Puzo when he wrote The Godfather. It’s easy to see why in this historical romp.

Covert Affairs
It’s like Spooks/MI-5, only with better teeth and hair… Piper Perabo is perkily perfect CIA operative Annie Walker, jet-setting around the world, looking for intelligence in all the wrong places. But what initially looks to have about as much substance as a tanker of candy-floss, proves surprisingly steely, with no shortage of mayhem, betrayal and treachery. It also gets bonus points for re-introducing us to one of the best TV villainesses of recent years, Nina Myers (Sarah Clarke) a.k.a. the woman who shot Mrs. Jack Bauer. Needless to say, we didn’t trust her, from the moment she showed up here, as department head Lena Smith.

This started the same week as another fairy-tale themed series, Once Upon a Time, and we opted for the grittier approach taken here, with a cop who discovers he is descended from a long line of monster hunters. He has to sort out the good from the bad in the communities that lurk just beneath the surface, and also try to keep his personal life personal. In the second season in particular, that has become increasingly impossible, and the show has also improved beyond being just a “fairy-tale of the week,” which it looked like it might be early on. It now has depth and a universe of its own in which to work.

Claire Danes also won a well-deserved Emmy, for her role as damaged CIA intelligence analyst Carrie Mathison, who becomes convinced that Nicholas Brody, a returning rescued POW from Iran, has been turned and is now a sleeper agent for the terrorists, despite being on the fast political track. It’s not much of a spoiler to say that she’s basically right: but that’s just the tip of the iceberg, as she tries to convince her bosses that these are not just psychotic delusions, because she’s off her meds. And is Brody necessarily the bad guy he initially appears? Can he perhaps be turned into a useful asset?

This is a guilty pleasure, a sprawling soap-opera which sees millionairess “Amanda Clarke” move to the Hamptons. Except, as the quotes suggest, that’s not her real identity: she is out for complete and utter vengeance on the family responsible for branding her late father a terrorist, and having him killed. #1 with a bullet is Victoria Grayson (Madeleine Stowe), her father’s former lover, who betrayed him and is now reaping the rewards. Stowe is deliciously malevolent, and there are just so many shenanigans going on here, that you can only snuggle up on the couch with ice-cream, and enjoy the class warfare as it unfolds.

Kiefer Sutherland’s post-24 show on Fox is a lot more touchy-feely, with Sutherland playing a former journalist with a severely autistic son, Jake, who doesn’t speak, but seems to have an incredible awareness for numbers and the interconnectedness of things. That allows him to bring people together – but also makes the kid a potentially very useful commodity [if you’ve seen Pi, you’ll know why]. It’s a novel mix of the emotional (almost spiritual) with thriller elements, and the first season ended with Jack, sorry, Martin going on the run with Jake, after losing a custody battle. Interested to see how things develop, when it returns in February.

YouTube video

After a couple of seasons where the show was content largely to mimic the most famous of London crimes e.g. the Ripper (inevitably!) and the Krays, the third went for more original ground and was a good deal more successful as a result. It manages to find the sweet spot between characterization and cases, which is often difficult for police procedurals – most tend to concentrate on one or the other. Not to say that this is staid or even slightly plausible, however; instead, it is played with all the enthusiasm and loopy imagination of a Victorian “penny dreadful”, and is all the more fun for it.

The Death Of Copyright

I foresee a marked deterioration in American music and musical taste, an interruption in the musical development of the country, and a host of other injuries to music in its artistic manifestations, by virtue – or rather by vice – of the multiplication of the various music-reproducing machines.
— John Philip Sousa, “The Menace of Mechanical Music,” 1906

The latest copyright discussion to break out on the Internet was the result of a post on the NPR radio blog by one of their interns, Emily White, entitled I Never Owned Any Music To Begin With, in which she says she has purchased about 15 CDs in her life. Here’s the crux of what she said:

As I’ve grown up, I’ve come to realize the gravity of what file-sharing means to the musicians I love. I can’t support them with concert tickets and T-shirts alone. But I honestly don’t think my peers and I will ever pay for albums. I do think we will pay for convenience. What I want is one massive Spotify-like catalog of music that will sync to my phone and various home entertainment devices. With this new universal database, everyone would have convenient access to everything that has ever been recorded, and performance royalties would be distributed based on play counts (hopefully with more money going back to the artist than the present model). All I require is the ability to listen to what I want, when I want and how I want it. Is that too much to ask?

Seems like it was for some peopIe.

In particular top-grade musician/whiner David Lowery, who wrote a stern rebuttal, basically blaming Emily and her pals for driving “two dear friends” to commit suicide because…something something illegal downloads. I’m not clear on the logic there either. But apparently disturbed artists never killed themselves before The Pirate Bay came along. Except for Ian Curtis. Who clearly saw what was coming and decide to hang himself, to save time waiting around for Napster to start up and ruin his life.

“A lot of artists feel they aren’t being adequately compensated,” said Lowery in another piece [also on the irritatingly moralistic Trichordist site, self-righteously titled “Artists for an ethical internet”]. Well, boo fucking hoo. I feel I am not being adequately compensated for writing this, so I’d like the world to ensure that I am. KTHXBAI. Oh and I’d like a pony that shits rainbows as well. But despite this appalling lack of response to my personal needs by the universe, I’m still writing it. Because it’s what artists do. They create, not for compensation, but because they feel an urge to do so.

[As an aside, that’s why I never gravitated towards writing as a career.  When you stop doing something for pleasure, and start doing it to pay the bills – it usually stops being pleasurable. To quote Hunter S. Thompson, “I’ve always considered writing the most hateful kind of work. I suspect it’s a bit like fucking — which is fun only for amateurs. Old whores don’t do much giggling. Nothing is fun when you have to do it — over and over, again and again — or else you’ll be evicted, and that gets old.” I can think of no way to lose the joy of personal expression faster than that.]

But if musicians aspire to go down that road, I’m fine with that. However, creating music and calling yourself an artist does not, in any way, entitle you to a living. Especially if you are stuck in a 1980’s paradigm [as Lowery apparently is, which makes sense, given that three decades ago is about the last time his band, Camper Van Beethoven, were vaguely relevant] where record labels would throw money at ten grunge bands from the Pacific NorthWest, in the hopes that one would become the next Nirvana. He simply doesn’t appreciate the massive shift which has occurred. Put bluntly, recorded music has been the centre of the large-scale music business model for about the past 100 years, but may well no longer be sustainable.

Not, I should point out, that it’s exactly on its last legs. The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry said that global sales revenue in 2011 was down by… Well, guess how much from the year before? A whopping three percent. To $16.6 billion. Really, protestations of the damage done by illegal downloading to the music industry seem almost as overblown as the similar claims by Hollywood, while then turning round and report record box-office revenues.

This is a good part of why many really don’t care any more. People don’t respect copyright, because copyright owners don’t respect people. Witness, for example, YouTube’s automated takedown process, which tramples the concept of “fair use” for even the slightest fragment of content. Or the term extension bought and paid for by Disney and their ilk.  We’ve been lied to so often and for so long in the interest of greedy conglomerates, that it’s impossible to take their claims seriously, or those who defend copyright, almost regardless of whether their arguments have merits. Witness Rob Reid’s marvellous talk on his 8-billion dollar iPod:

YouTube video

All Lowery’s weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth is not going to put the digital genie back into the bottle. But this will not kill music, any more than home taping did in the 80’s. [Remember that over-wrought campaign?] Music existed for thousands of years before Thomas Edison’s phonograph cylinder in the 1870’s enabled the capturing and playback of sounds. While this small aspect of “music” may have led to much greater access worldwide – and certainly contributed to an awful lot of cocaine consumption, up the noses both of record company executives and musicians – the gravy train appears to be nearing the buffers.

It would not seem to be society’s place to restrict or limit innovation by all, or its results, because a small group of people “feel they aren’t being adequately compensated.” Lowery and co. are acting like medieval monks, raging in the face of the Gutenberg printing press, which radically altered the landscape and pretty much killed off the illuminated manuscript as a source of employment. I do agree that artists should be able to be compensated for their work, but the system as it exists is no longer workable. New methods will arise, and indeed, already are doing just that – such as along Kickstarter lines, where people pay in advance, funding the work ahead of its creation, rather than retrospectively.

The details aren’t important. But copyright, as it operated during the 20th century, is basically dead: an unenforceable concept that has been broken on the wheel of digital distribution. The sooner artists like Lowery realize it, and move towards alternative approaches, the better off they’ll be.

Hitman: Absolution, and The Boy Who Cried “Rape!”

Oh, boy. Here we go again. Another day, another moral guardian pops up to condemn a game. Except, here, we’re not even talking about an actual game – just a trailer for one. I heard about this through a Google News alert, which brought me to this article on Forbes.

The blogosphere has tried the Hitman: Absolution trailer and it has been found guilty. In it, a group of female assassin’s dressed as hyper-sexualized nuns are brutally murdered by the ultra-masculine 47. It’s juvenile, brutal, an affirmation of every problem that video games have with women and an affirmation of the worst aspects of our culture.

I’ve never played Hitman – I saw the movie, which largely sucked, and think I spent a post-Thanksgiving sloth watching our son try to get through a mission. I seem to recall falling asleep, though that may have been as much the turkey overdose  as the game.  But, ooh! “An affirmation of the worst aspects of our culture”! I wanna see! Oh, dammit: I’m on my lunch-break. Better wait till I get home.

But in the meantime, of what did “the blogosphere” find the trailer guilty? Let’s click on the link, shall we? Turns out “the blogosphere” is apparently a guy in Melbourne called Brendan Keogh. Not sure what his qualifications are. He’s “a Media and Communications PhD student”, which I personally read as “too lazy to get an actual job.” This conclusion is confirmed by the “Occupation” listed on his profile: “Writer. Gamer. Student. Barista.”  Maybe there wasn’t enough room for “Layabout.” Among his other blogs are Feathers, Cogs and Stars, where he “will be uploading original short stories and poetry roughly once a fortnight.” This lasted three entries before he gave up, though frankly, it’s no bad thing. If you can get through them, you’ve a better stomach for shitty writing than I.

I mention all this, so you know that blogosphere thing is clearly in great hands…

Keogh starts out a long explanation of how he wasn’t going to write about the trailer – is he paid for the word on his blog or something? -then, six paragraphs in, finally gets to the issue: “My problem with this trailer is precisely its sexuality, more specifically its conflation of sexuality with violence.” Okay, let’s talk about tha… Or not. For the writer then heads off into a long discussion of “rape culture” in the video game world, though the examples offered are mostly smack-talk from Gears of Warplayers, whose relevance to the specific case I thought he was discussing is dubious. Give teenage boys headsets and an Internet connection, and you’re somehow surprised they aren’t congratulating opponents on killing them?

I disagree with the whole “rape culture” thing. Those who accept it, see the world through rape-coloured glasses and the results of that vision are unsurprising: Keogh’s statement that, “Videogame culture reinforces rape culture when 99% of videogame protagonists are male.” That’s a statement so entirely filled with delicious wrong, I don’t even know where to start, not least that videogame protagonists are not real. They’re pixels on a screen, and ascribing gender to them in a meaningful way says more about Keogh’s confused view of reality than anything. That aside, 100% of, oh, NFL players are male too. Is that reinforcing rape culture too? Like I said: start seeing the world through rape-colored glasses, and suddenly, everything potentially becomes the “conflation of sexuality with violence” which he abhors.

Now, don’t forget, I still hadn’t actually seen the trailer. But by the time I’d finished Keogh’s piece, I was very keen to see this “rolling in the digital filth”, which left him “embarrassed and ashamed and disgusted to have any part in a videogame culture that produces work like this.” Man, it’s gotta be totally out there, filled with more sexual battery than an Abel Ferrara retrospective. So here you go.

YouTube video

Well. That was underwhelming, wasn’t it?  It reached the end, I looked outside and, yep, civilization appears to be going on about its business. Dodged a (slo-mo) bullet there. Of course, unlike Keogh, I didn’t take the trailer seriously. To me, it was pretty clear that doing so would be a dumb mistake, right from the moment the killer nuns discarded their habits. This is not something that happens in real life, and from that point on, the clip ceased to have the slightest relevance at all to the universe in which I live. Maybe Melbourne is different in this regard, with packs of twisted sisters roaming the streets, launching RPG’s at random motels?

Could be, because this was the impact on Keogh: “It really upset me. Not just infuriated me, but upset me. I lost sleep over this last night.” Really? REALLY? REALLY? If that is truly the case – and it feels more like carefully manufactured outrage than a genuine reaction –  then someone needs to beg, borrow or steal a huge fucking dose of perspective. I saw a hardcore battle in which one bad-ass assassin took on an entire platoon of bad-ass enemies, who were clearly not popping round for a discussion, and prevailed over them. Once battle commenced, that was what mattered. And in support of this, it has been estimated the trailer contains, “Fewer than four seconds with the vaguest of hints of sexualization.” Oh, and I should point out, absolutely no rape whatsoever.

For those four seconds, I’ll defer to Penny Arcade in their assessment:

The cinematic ambitions of the Hitman games have always been prominently displayed on (or very near to) its sleeve; I watched the video to see what the deal was, and they’re playing around with their subtitle in a pulpy, grindhouse vein.  Robert Rodriguez through and through.  It’s fight choreography, and it may set an “erotic” stage but it quickly – and I mean quickly – gives way to a gruesome, life or death, septum obliterating struggle that might be hot for somebody but I suspect that’s a very specific demographic.  Only a necrophile could be titillated by something like this; by the end, it literally defies the viewer to maintain an erection.  As spank material, it leaves something to be desired; specifically, spank material.

That demolished, let’s go back and address Keogh’s earlier argument, that the trailer was… Sorry, what was his argument again? It was so long ago I’ve just about forgo… Ah, here we go: “”My problem with this trailer is precisely its sexuality, more specifically its conflation of sexuality with violence.” I’m not sure what he’s studying, but he appears to have majored in Missing The Point. Because that’s exactly where the “edge” here comes from: the uncomfortable feeling to be found in the juxtaposition of arguably the best and worst things about being human. It’s been that way for ever: I’m no gaming expert, but in cinematic terms, basically the entire girls with guns genre is based on skating the razor-edge of this tension.

The real crux here is not the simple equation suggested by Keogh of “sex + violence”. Even as a non-expert, I can list off any number of video games which have female characters, in costumes you wouldn’t wear to the supermarket, inflicting copious quantities of violence on (largely male) opponents. Next to no controversy have greeted these. The big difference here? The sexual, violent women here lose. It’s an interesting double-standard. Society nods its head at sexual, aggressive even aggressively sexual women…as long as they get what they want. But meet their fire with fire, as the Hitman literally does, and it’s unacceptable.

Is the trailer sexist? Quite probably. But it’s an advertisement for a series of games which, I’m pretty sure, are almost exclusively played by the male sex, from a male perspective, and can hardly be condemned for trying to appeal to the target audience. It’s not called Hitperson after all, and despite the trailer, is not likely to reach the nun demographic. There may be some hippy-dippy land where you can advertise a game about a serial killer character in a bland way, completely incapable of causing offensive in all possible interpretations, that will magically work. But in the real world, you have to grab the viewer’s attention, first and foremost, and on that scale, the trailer rates an absolute 10.

You may or may not buy the game. [By most accounts, it’s nothing like the trailer – which is a shame, I’d say] You may or may not like the trailer. You will remember it, and awareness of the product in question increases, the more the likes of Keogh whine about it. Mission accomplished, level completed. Brandon, you just got pwned like a n00b [as I believe the kids say], by the very people you’re complaining about

As usual, the moral guardians bleat about the wrong thing entirely. If there is a “problem” here – and I’m using quotes advisedly – it’s that the Hitman series encourages the player to identify with a mass murderer, and is far from alone in so doing. Never mind the “rape culture” bogeyman Keogh sees in video games, which requires the viewer to join the dots and make a picture of a penis, out of whatever might be on screen. If there’s an issue, it’s the “murder culture” far more all-pervasive in the genre (and in a pretty “ritualistic” or “fetishistic” way in this particular game) that should be of concern to those worried about such things. Which wouldn’t include me. But the implication of Keogh’s argument is that it would be ok to have the hero mow down dozens of women, as long as they were actual nuns, not sexy fake ones. Hmmm.

I did find interesting this statement, in the very article linked to by Keogh. “Rape culture is using the word “rape” to describe something that has been done to you other than a forced or coerced sex act.” Keogh uses the words “rape” or “raped” 46 times in his piece about an animated trailer for a video game. One which contains no actual sex acts of any kind done to anyone, let alone forced sex. Whoops.jpg. By this definition, the writer is actual part of the very “rape culture” problem he claims to be fighting.

One final irony: less than a week after his rant, Keogh wrote another piece, entitked Bite the bullet: videogames don’t make deadly shooters – however, in his universe, they apparently do make rapists. In that article he concludes, “Videogames are complicated things. No less than films. No less than novels. No less than any other form of media people engage with. It’s about time researchers acknowledged this instead of seeking easy, linear and lazy cause-and-effect models that insult the multitudes of people that play videogames.” Shame he was incapable of following his own advice on his own blog.

Tentacle Bento And The Futility of Censorship

It was 25 years ago that Urotsukidōji was released, and slowly seeped its way over to the West, on a variety of dodgy, Nth-generation bootleg copies whose resemblance to a snuff movie in terms of quality, only enhanced the feeling that what you were watching was extremely wrong. But, it appears, tentacles and schoolgirls remain a combination capable of creating controversy, as Soda Pop Miniatures found out.

This small, independent company decided, for their next project, to make a card game called Tentacle Bento, and get funding for it through Kickstarter, a favourite site for fundraising projects outside the normal scope of business. According to the official description,  “Each game puts you in the enviable position of being a horrid, tentacle flailing, slime oozing monster from outer space.  Cleverly disguised (of course) as an adorable, and newly enrolled student at Takoashi University, an all-girls school nestled in scenic Japan.”

Kickstarter didn’t object. The project rolled along merrily, raising funds and hitting its goals. And then, perhaps inevitably, the morality police got word and, for want of a better phrase, the shits hit the fans…

Leading the charge from their pulpit were the likes of Insert Credit, with po-faced proclamations like the following:

There are, to my mind, a lot of things wrong with this. For one thing, rape is not cute. Amnesty International states that 1 in 3 women is molested, sexually assaulted, or otherwise beaten in her lifetime. I’ve heard many advocates say this number is low, due to under-reporting. And it’s not cute, and should never be depicted with such saccharine sweetness as Tentacle Bento does. It is terribly damaging to anyone it happens to.

Miss the point, much? It’s pretty obvious that the satirical thrust of the game is largely based on its combination of two genres of anime that share a high-school setting, but are radically different in tone and theme. You have the tenticular horror of Urotsukidōji, but also have a million and one cutesy, soap operas that play out against the same background. [If I remain vague on the titles of these, it’s because I’d never watch one, and indeed, the increasing preponderance of these is one of the factors that led to my departure from anime fandom a decade or so ago]. It’s basically no different from Buffy the Vampire Slayer in this regard, which similarly merged genres.

Of course, in reality, rape is not cute. But we’re not discussing reality, or anything even fractionally connected to it. This is a work of fiction, and as such, fictional rape can be absolutely anything the creators want it to be, from horrific to erotic. The un-named author of the piece doesn’t quite get round to clarifying which of his (I’m assuming it’s a man, because members of the morality police usually are – with the noted exception of Mary Whitehouse) credentials allow him to dictate to an artist what they should or should not be doing with their art. I wonder what Mr. Insert Credit would make of this 1814 woodcut etching by Hokusai, one of the most renowned Japanese artists of the time:

As usual, we have an absolute failure to differentiate adequately between reality, and stuff that’s about as far from reality as can possibly be imagined. Even if the game is “about” tentacle rape – possible, but denied by the creator – and even if someone was of a weak enough mindset to be convinced by a card-game that such behaviour was okay (extremely dubious), they’d still be lacking several key factors – notably tentacles and a supply of Japanese schoolgirls. Tasteless? Probably. But posing any threat to society? Totally not. And that should be an absolute minimum requirement before you call for any kind of suppression. Not so, Mr. Credit, who is of the opinion that just because he doesn’t like something, It Must Be Stopped.

I’m not the morality police, but I’d like to make a citizen’s arrest. Do not support Tentacle Bento. Instead, write to Kickstarter (the link at the bottom), and complain about the content. Kickstarter is a big enough company that it should be filtering this sort of thing. The company should not help to facilitate the idea that rape is no big deal.

I see. So, you don’t want to censor, just yank the sole funding method out from under the project – which would, effectively, censor it. Great piece of double-think there, Mr. Credit. It’s an easy target to pick on, but the logic applied here needs also to be applied to just about every form of popular culture, from movies through TV series, comics, video games, music, and so on, which depict things in far more explicit detail than Bento, where whatever happens is almost entirely in the players’ minds. Murder “is not cute,” and is – by definition – “terribly damaging to anyone it happens to.” You wouldn’t know it by looking at, oh, the entire output of Hollywood. This isn’t even a slippery slope. By criticizing Bento, you’re already gone all the way at the bottom of the slope, and are looking up at all pop culture.

This wasn’t even the most fatuous criticisms of the game, which also included such amazing claims as “We’ve established in our culture that murder is bad. We haven’t done that for rape yet. Murder victims aren’t continually reminded of their attack through media.” Well, that’s alright then! Or even, “Because something is virtual does not mean it is fake. It exists and is real regardless of what form it is in.” Er… Reality check needed over there, stat.

Naturally, Kickstarter suddenly decided that the project which had been approved, running successfully (having raised over $30,000, more than double the amount needed) and even, by some accounts, been chosen as a “Staff Pick” for one day, was no longer acceptable. Well, no longer kinda acceptable. The project page is still up there, with the creators updating it post-suspension to let people know they’ve moved the drive back to their own site. Where a) it has already raised even more money – over $34,500 at the time of writing – and b) they won’t have to pay Kickstarter their hefty 5% “service fee”. Good to see a happy ending.

So, what, exactly have Mr. Credit and his fellow travellers actually achieved with their poorly-considered rants. They have brought a great deal of attention, funding and sales to a game that otherwise would largely have flown under the radar. A sizable number of people – including myself – won’t fund any more Kickstarter campaigns, because of them being a bunch of fucking cowards here. The resulting success of Tentacle Bento will undoubtedly lure other games creators in to the arena, thereby further “trivializing” rape, as the writers claim. And will their dubious campaign save even one woman from being raped, whether by tentacled slimebeasts from outer space or more prosaic methods? I think we all know the answer to that one.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to kick back with a nice bottle of Tentacle Grape and then go find some Japanese schoolgirls to molest, because not being offended by this clearly makes me a terrible, terrible person.

Thank you, Jessica Hahn

End of the month time, so I checked the stats for the site, see how many people have been stumbling across my deathless prose – or, more likely, doing a Google Images search for dubious pictures [Hey, hits are hits, right?] Normally, there’s about 200-300 per day, not really varying too much. But then I looked at the graph for February…

One of these things is not like the other…


That’s not a mistake. On February 21st, we got 254 visitors. On February 22nd, we had 20,276. That would be a 7,883% increase over the previous day. To put the total into some kind of context, we had just over 17,100 in the entire last quarter of 2010. Now, we suddenly had that many in a single day. WTF. No, seriously: WTF?

My first thought was that we’d been hacked, and that someone had injected some kind of mass phishing scam into our page content, harvesting credit-card details for the Eastern European mafia – and without even the courtesy of a percentage or two in kickback. However, nothing seemed to have changed on the site. It took a little bit of detective work, but I was finally able to track down the piece responsible for the massve spike in traffic. However, this simply raised as many questions as it answered: why was our Incredibly Bad Film Show review of Thunder and Mud suddenly a hot topic on the Internet?

The reason appears to be, because that piece was one of the top searches on Google at the time for Jessica Hahn. If you’ve forgotten who Hahn was, she was the model/actress/whatever who, in 1987, brought down televangelist Jim Bakker, then head of The PTL Club, by alleging that Bakker had drugged and raped her a few years previously, when she was working as a church secretary, and had been paid off by Bakker to keep quiet. Big thing at the time – Hahn parlayed the notoriety into a Playboy pictorial, an appearance on Married With Children and… Yep, as one of the hosts in the combo heavy-metal/mud wrestling extravaganza which was Thunder and Mud.

Fast-forward 13 years, and we post our review; fast-forward a further eight, and it suddenly becomes relevant, as Hahn turns up again on The View, a morning talk-show on ABC hosted by, among others, Barbara Walters. The two women spar, with Hahn pointing out her relationship with Bakker wasn’t an “affair”, and trying to contrast it with Walters’ relationship with married U.S. senator Edward Brooke. A fair point – not that Walters was having any of it, of course. Let’s go to the tape…

There you have it. Boom. 20,000 visitors to the site, triggered by that. It probably didn’t even count as 15 minutes of fame; probably nearer 2-3. But it’s a powerful example of how the Internet [or, at least, Google] never forgets; things can lie dormant in its tubes for years, before suddenly being relevant, albeit very briefly. Our article blazed a burning trail across the information superhighway, before fading back into the obscurity from whence it came, and our site goes back to serving a couple of hundred visitors per day. Kinda cool.

[And this article continues to be the gift that keeps on giving (page views, at least!). A slightly smaller spike – a mere 3,500 visitors in a day, about ten times normal traffic – showed up on October 22, 2012. Not quite sure of the reason for this one. If I’d to guess, it might be a result of the scandal surrounding the CIA chief, but that’s just a guess.]