An Infuriating Ad and Other Stories


Don't you just hate it when you see a good ad? The social media manager and I saw this at the train station in Burnley on the way home, and we stared at it until the train came. Hint: it's not a typographical error. I'll put a second hint at the end of this post if you still can't figure it out, but damn, it's a great ad. Even the art director in the agency didn't figure it out and needed a hint. Great ads don't have to be complicated or expensive to make. Though my favourite ad of all time definitely would've broken the bank for anyone but the client it was made for:

There are a few great recent ads I can think of – particularly Tourism Australia's excellent recent use of Almost Every Famous Australian Actor Ever (and one New Zealander) in their last Superbowl ad:

For the most part though, the business of advertising has for me been accurately and hilariously summarised by Jerry Seinfeld's CLIO acceptance speech:

Speaking of weird and hilarious ads, there were a few strange ones at the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) this year – including a highly fashionable, very Persephone in Hell ad for Emporium Melbourne, of all things. Enough ad talk now. On to film talk.

The Melbourne International Film Festival

Running through part of August, MIFF's offerings have only become more diverse and more interesting every year. It remains a struggle to catch every interesting film when you're working, though, and some films only come up on my radar after the festival is over. I only saw the write-up about AQUARELA on Vox after the festival, or I would have tried to catch it – a documentary about water, with no talking heads, scored by Finnish symphonic metal band Apocalyptica, sounds great.

This year I caught five films, which is about my usual for the festival. There was LOS REYES, a documentary film about two dogs living in a skate park, which was very much like watching an extra-long YouTube video about two dogs. There was AMAZING GRACE, the highly acclaimed music documentary about a 70s Aretha Franklin performance with a troubled production, released after her death with the permission of her family (Aretha sued to keep it from being shown for reasons unknown). There was THE DEAD DON'T DIE, an extremely meta film with Bill Murray and Adam Driver about a zombie infestation in a small town. And THE REST, the second Ai Weiwei film about the refugee crisis.

My favourite film this year was WATSON, by Leslie Chilcott, a producer of the INCONVENIENT TRUTH. It's a beautifully shot, powerful film about Captain Paul Watson, the co-founder of Greenpeace and the founder of Sea Shepherd. It's worth a watch if you can catch it somewhere, but for some reason marketing for this film has been spotty. It's September now and I still can't find the trailer anywhere to link it. Reviews are also sparse on the ground, probably because of the generic name of the film. Here's one by THR. The film aired at Tribeca, but I'm not sure if it'll get wider showing anywhere else, which will be a pity.

The Disney Juggernaut

Scary as it is that Disney now owns Star Wars, the Simpsons, MCU, and Pixar, among other things, I guess I am still excited for Disney+ because of Pedro Pascal's The Mandalorian. I first encountered Mandalorian characters in the first KOTOR game, where Canderous was one of my favourite characters. I'm sure Pedro will be even better.

On Reading

There have been a few great articles this month. I particularly enjoyed reading Laurie Penny's excellent We Can Be Heroes on Wired, a great read for anyone who's ever loved fanfiction. For books this month:

Dark Emu / Bruce Pascoe An essential read for Australians and Australian residents, and anyone interested in Australian culture. This book examines how Australian history and archaelogy itself has been colonised. Incredible insight into First Nations history in Australia.
Gods of Jade and Shadow / Silvia Moreno-Garcia I'm not the hugest fan of books where characters come off as asexual/aromantic until they become "more human" by magical means. That aside, this book was an entertaining Mexican folklore fantasy with Mayan Gods.
This is How You Lose the Time War / Amal El-Mohtar, Max Gladstone Considering I don't generally enjoy handwave time travel, stories which centre romances, or reading fictional letters, I don't know why I even tried this book. The hype, I guess? It is exquisitely written. The prose carried me to the end despite my ingrained dislikes.
The Redemption of Time / Baoshu This authorised, published fanfiction for Liu Cixin's Three Body Problem trilogy centres characters that I'd actually already forgotten about. Which I guess fanfiction often does. Much of the book is definitely structured in a way familiar to fanfic readers – long conversations punctuated by occasional sex. The worldbuilding that was patched into the existing 'verse felt seamless though, which is what I want out of a fic. Worth a read for fans of the original trilogy.
Upon a Burning Throne / Ashok K. Banker An epic fantasy inspired by the Mahabharata, this was a highly readable page-turner of a book. Indian epic fantasy with an intense attention to detail. My main problem with the book was the usual: I didn't like the portrayal of many of the female characters. There was one part where a (warrior queen character) rose up from her bed to greet her husband by angling up her shoulders to push her boobs forward, I kid you not. I laughed out loud. Also, the female contender to the throne just never appears in the book, not sure if she was forgotten or something. Don't know if I'll read the next book, but I was entertained.
The Old Drift / Namwali Serpell This was an expansive story that's so amazingly written that you wouldn't know it's a debut novel. Spanning centuries of Zambian history from its colonial past to a sci-fi future, it was a brilliant read. I loved this book.
An Orchestra of Minorities / Chigozie Obioma Longlisted for the 2019 Man Booker Prize, this book is about a Nigerian poultry farmer who falls for a scam, a contemporary retelling of the Odyssey with Igbo cosmology. I was puzzled by the constant tendency of women to randomly sleep with the main character (including one lady selling ground nuts who just happened to walk up to his door), and I had some issues with the framing of what the character does through the story. That being said, the prose is so compelling I read the book through to the end.
Abbott / Saladin Ahmed This beautifully drawn graphic novel about a black journalist trying to get to the bottom of a mystical crime is an incredible read. Recommended for anyone who loves urban fantasy.
10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World / Elif Shafak Elif Shafak is apparently the most widely-read Turkish woman author, and it's easy to see why with this powerfully written novel. Opening to its main character already being dead, the first part of the book explores the details of her life as it flashes through her eyes, and the second half follows her friends as they try to come to terms with her death. CW: exacerbated child sexual abuse though.

On Writing

Is it just me, or were there a lot of writing deadlines this month? Including the one at Uncanny. Deadlines are good for me: legal practice wired me to respond to them, so I tend to write more when there's a deadline in mind. Especially a themed deadline. I didn't hit every deadline I wanted to this month, though: I've recently started playing Fire Emblem: Three Houses, a tactical RPG that's eaten most of my free time. It's a fun game on the Switch if you like tactical JRPGs. There's the usual character design issues with such games (boob armour, stomach windows, the works) but it's an entertaining, very replayable game.

Hoping to finish my sequel to THE FIREBIRD'S TALE before Nanowrimo this year, but we'll see. I don't know if any publishers would even be interested, given THE FIREBIRD'S TALE was already published before by the now-defunct Less Than Three Press, but I guess I'll like to finish the book for my own satisfaction, if nothing else.

Hint for the ad, if you still can't see the mistake: read the green copy out loud word-for-word, very carefully.