Some things I enjoyed in 2014 that you might also enjoy.


  • I was riveted by True Detective. Yes, it’s driven by toxic masculinities and has no actual women characters, but Harrelson and McConaughey play two broken men very well, and it absolutely nails cosmic horror.

  • In season 2, Orphan Black ratcheted up its comic-bookish elements without going off the rails. The conspiracy keeps getting deeper, and I need to know what happens next.

  • As Parks & Rec draws to a close, Brooklyn Nine-Nine has stepped up as a worthy successor. It follows the formula almost exactly, but that’s fine: it’s a good formula. Leaves me smiling every time.

  • By contrast, Detectorists is an unlikely show. A sitcom about a pair of hopeless metal detectorists whose relationships are falling apart? But it is just wonderful; perfectly sweet melancholy. (Its excellent theme song is by Johnny Flynn, whose own sitcom, Scrotal Recall, is much better than the title suggests.)

  • The Code is one of those shows that really doesn’t feel like it was made in Australia, and not just because Asher Keddie wasn’t in it. It’s gripping, tense, and beautifully shot. And most importantly for a tech-based thriller, it’s plausible. I hope we see more like this next year.


  • Imagine a D&D campaign played by a sassy women’s collective, and you’ve got Rat Queens. Most tolkienesque fantasy comics are utterly tedious. This is different.

  • The 2014 run of She-Hulk was written by a lawyer, and despite some silly legalese dropped in from time to time, it strikes a good balance between courtroom drama and punchy-punchy. It also has a bit of a crossover with that other Marvel lawyer-hero, Daredevil, who is my favourite, so.

  • Comic book release schedules are a pain in the butt. You get too slim a slice of story, and then it’s forgotten a month later when the next instalment comes along. I’ve really enjoyed 2000 AD‘s weekly schedule, there’s a good mix of stories, and it has a British flavour that sets it apart.

  • Questionable Content brings the feels.

  • Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona was completed this year. I can’t wait for the chance to buy a hard copy. It’s an excellent story about a shapeshifter who befriends a supervillain with a heart of gold. The blend of scifi and fantasy is just right, and the art is glorious.



  • One of my students encouraged me to watch Steins;Gate, and she was right. It’s a very convoluted time travel story, which weaves in the real-life hoax/art project/mentally ill ramblings of John Titor. (You must watch the subtitled version; I tried watching an episode of the English dub, but Okarin’s voice — and even more so his megalomaniacal laugh — is just wrong.)

  • Although Sword Art Online is a bit hit-and-miss, I really liked the Gun Gale Online arc (season 2, episodes 1-14). Video game action mashed up with a murder mystery. Just fun.

  • Steven Universe is about a kid who wants to be part of a superhero team but can’t control his power, and also he is a lovable dork and I love him.

  • Two Books seasons of The Legend of Korra this year, and I think seeing it without a long break in the middle really emphasised how well they developed characters over time. (Korrasami is the ultimate expression of that.) The fight scenes in season 4 were especially good, really dynamic and cinematic.

  • Imagine Back to the Future on acid, and you’ve got Rick & Morty. It’s a mish-mash of scifi tropes, absolutely NSFW, and very funny. “Where are my testicles, Summer?”


  • I played and ran a fair bit of Torchbearer this year, thanks to Roll20 and Google Hangouts, which make it really easy to pull a game together with whoever’s available from around the world. Looking forward to more in the new year.

  • Two Dots is my time-killer. It’s a simple colour-matching game, but has enough variation to keep it challenging. Thanks to the drip-feed of extra levels, I’m still playing it months later.

  • The art in The Banner Saga is gorgeous, the characters are compelling, and it builds a real sense of impending doom as the caravans move across the map. It’s part RPG, part resource-management, and part turn-based tactical combat, which keeps it interesting. Play it.

  • I’ve always shied away from miniatures games given the up-front cost, the time commitment required to paint them, and the complexity of the rules. Star Wars X-Wing solves all of those problems: a cheap starter set, beautiful pre-painted models, and simple rules that nevertheless allow for interesting tactics and scenarios. Pew pew pew!

  • I’ve just started playing The Legend of Zelda: A Link between Worlds on the New 3DS, and I’m enjoying it a lot.

Happy new year.

On the first of January 2002 new banknotes were introduced in Europe. In addition to windows and gateways, these seven banknotes also depict several bridges. … However, the bridges portrayed in the banknotes are fictional.

They have been designed to prevent one single member state from having a bridge on their banknote opposed to other states not having any depicted in theirs. In other words, “member state neutral” banknotes.

They were fictional bridges, that is, until a Dutch municipal council decided to troll the European Central Bank by building all seven around a new housing development.

Falsely Shouting Fire in a Theater: How a Forgotten Labor Struggle Became a National Obsession and Emblem of Our Constitutional Faith:

Why, after all, might Holmes have remembered and reached back to an incident from the nation’s bitter labor history to describe an equally bitter conflict over war and peace?

Perhaps it is because there is an intimate connection between public safety and private authority. A safe and secure nation, many believe, is publicly united—and privately obedient. Workers submit to employers, wives to husbands, slaves to masters, the powerless to the powerful. A safe and secure nation is built on these ladders of obedience, in its families, factories, and fields. Shake those ladders and you threaten the nation. Stop people from shaking them and you protect it. …

“Men feared witches and burned women,” wrote Justice Brandeis in Whitney v. California. That’s true, but men also feared women and burned witches.

Tracey Thorn:

The true reward of making a Christmas album lies in becoming part of people’s annual traditions. I released Tinsel and Lights in 2012, so this will be its third outing on the festive turntable, and I am already getting tweets telling me that it has been fetched out of the box in the loft, along with the actual tinsel – all scruffy with bits of Sellotape that fixed it to someone’s bedroom wall last year.

I’ve never made a Christmas album, but I do share a Christmas mix every year, and a few people have complained that it’s late this year, so that’s nice. (Here it is.) I enjoy the process of digging up new versions of old favourites, and finding a few nice ones in the deluge of dross. Sadly, this year Suburban Sprawl quit publishing their usual holiday sampler. Fortunately, you can still listen to the archive, including my all-time favourite Christmas song, Will Yates’ Third-Grader Confronting the Possibility that Santa Doesn’t Exist.

Ayn Rand reviews children’s movies:

“101 Dalmatians”
A wealthy woman attempts to do her impoverished school friend Anita a favor by purchasing some of her many dogs and putting them to sensible use. Her generosity is repulsed at every turn, and Anita foolishly and irresponsibly begins acquiring even more animals, none of which are used to make a practical winter coat. Altruism is pointless. So are dogs. A cat is a far more sensible pet. A cat is objectively valuable. —No stars.

Reverse engineering the Beatles:

The mathematical tale of the Beatles’ Magical Mystery Chord is a tale of 18th century mathematicians, the study of heat, Karaoke tricks and a measure of luck.

Waleed Aly on the Martin Place tragedy:

There is only a man, a gun and a flag. The man and the gun we’ve seen before. Indeed, we’ve seen it horrifically often: in Belgium just hours after Martin Place; at Port Arthur. But the flag – that changes things. It lends this the apocalyptic timbre that drives us so mad. It’s the thing in this episode that does the least damage – and the most.

At last, America learns how to make a decent coffee… But this line: “a macchiato is kind of a latte in reverse, with the espresso added to the milk” is dead wrong. That is an abomination.

For example, in Western Australia, this is almost always a double shot latte. If you serve the drink this way, the majority of your customers will get what they want, though you’re always going to disappoint a few.

The easiest way to take an order for a long macc in [Western] Australia is to ask the customer whether they would like it topped up. If the customer gives you a weird look, you might predict that they are after something completely different…

Let’s look at a macchiato. It’s an Italian word meaning stain or mark. Keeping in mind the huge espresso drinking culture in Italy, it’s safe to translate that a macchiato is an espresso with a little bit (stain) of milk. How much milk? Hmmm, well, I would say a dash. Some might say a splash, cold, warm, spoonful, foamy — it’s open to interpretation, it’s basically just a little bit of milk. My preference is a dash of hot milk, which smoothes out any edge to the espresso and adds a bit of body and sweetness.

Fortunately, that seems to be a problem specific to WA. Since moving to Melbourne I’ve never been asked about “topping up” a macchiato — t’othersiders just make it properly, with a stain of milk.

I get email that’s meant for two other Robert Corrs who think my email address is theirs. One is in Dublin and racks up a lot of toll road infringements; the other is in Texas and buys a lot of hardware. I’m just glad my surname’s not Smith…

The house contained what, in the end, was said to have been more than a hundred and seventy tons of debris. There were toys, bicycles, guns, chandeliers, tapestries, thousands of books, fourteen grand pianos, an organ, the chassis of a Model T Ford, and Dr. Collyer’s canoe… the rooms were packed almost to the ceilings, but the mass, like a Swiss cheese, was pierced by tunnels, which Langley had equipped with booby traps to foil burglars. It was in one of those tunnels that his corpse, partly eaten by rats, was finally discovered…

We’re moving house, and packing feels like this.

It’s hard to disagree with Julian Burnside, who says “Australia appears to have abandoned its commitment to the [Refugee] convention, without actually withdrawing from it”. He points out that three word slogans hide the true brutality of Australian policy:

They say they have stopped the boats. That is largely true; with a couple of exceptions, boats have stopped arriving. But we know they have not stopped setting out from Indonesia. We have been pushing them back. We are not allowed to know how many have drowned on those boats. It is an “on-water matter”, and so remains a secret.

This is not merely a lawyer’s hypothetical. It is something that has been specifically alleged by one of Scott Morrison’s naval officers:

She said the captains of naval ships were told not to board asylum seeker vessels until they were in Australian waters, and the crews and passengers were then subject to Australian migration law.

She claims that on at least one occasion, an asylum seeker vessel sank as a result.

“In the incident that I’ve described where the boat overturned and people died, that pressure came from Canberra,” she said.

Of course, that was buried in a story about sailors’ mental health. Refugee deaths aren’t important enough for their own news coverage.