“If I were you, I’d check your urine.”

This is undoubtedly the greatest episode of Sabrina ever. It’s not as bizarre as the pancake episode (which is also terrifying), but it does have some unexpectedly dark moments, which are quite jarring when placed in the midst of the show’s characteristic niceness. I remember watching this episode years ago, but it only struck me recently how weird it was. I love Sabrina, and Archie Comics in general, but I always find it quite funny when they try to include something edgy like this. Such attempts only serve to remind me what a cute and sweet world the Archie universe is. It seems like the writers were aware of this, too, because none of the darker jokes are played too seriously.

For reasons that are left unclear, Sabrina has decided that she hates Christmas. Considering how obnoxiously jolly Sabrina’s aunts are, this is hardly surprising, but it’s difficult to feel any sympathy for her. Her determination to ruin Christmas for everyone else, including her two best friends, soon becomes annoying. Still, it does lead to some funny moments. Her sarcasm in contrast to Harvey’s ditzy niceness is hilarious, as is the montage where Hilda and Zelda force Sabrina to enjoy Christmas. (I’m convinced that Harvey is what Andy from Parks and Recreation must have been like as a teenager.) There are many other amusing little details, too, such as the girl who does a dance for joy after hearing that her tests are cancelled (she’s one of my favourite characters now), and Salem’s yearning for a snowboard. I have no idea why he’d want one, or if cats can even operate snowboards, but at least the threatening letters he sends demanding one is in character. (It’s always nice when the show reminds us that Salem is a criminal who was once bent on world domination.)

However, it’s only in the second half that Christmas Amnesia becomes truly brilliant. Sabrina goes to a party in the other realm, made up of people who hate Christmas. Its tone is surprisingly mean, and includes a dartboard shaped like Santa’s head that bleeds when you hit one of the eyes. Sabrina was invited to this because she was “cool”, which suggests that the residents of the Other Realm have incredibly low standards of coolness. Luckily, though, Sabrina soon realises what a twit she’s been, and rejects their smug, ironic nastiness. Unfortunately, when she switches off the TV there, Sabrina somehow erases Christmas (this sort of thing happens a lot in the series) from the minds of everyone except for her and Salem. This is a pretty good twist, and makes what was already an entertaining episode even better. I can only imagine how miserable it would be if Christmas disappeared and I was the only one who remembered it. Salem reveals that something similar once happened to him, and if she doesn’t manage to bring back Christmas in 24 hours, it will suffer the same fate as the now-forgotten Bobunk. And so, Sabrina does as many Christmas related things she can think of, which only serves to make her look like she’s having a mental breakdown. She even ends up getting suspended. Of course, though, Christmas does eventually return, thanks to a sudden pillow fight and Sabrina learning a sentimental but harmless lesson at the end.

As someone who used to adore Sabrina the Teenage Witch, watching this was nostalgic and fun, even if it did bring up a multitude of embarrassing memories. 3/5.


I want to do individual posts on both Julianna Barwick and Ikue Mori at some point, but I’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t had time to do a full post in ages. So, for now, I’d just like to share this collaboration between the two of them.

The moment I listened to the above piece, I instantly became a fan of both artists. It’s heavenly, combining the signature styles of two ethereal musicians. There’s nothing earthy or guttural about it, but at the same time it isn’t trite or saccharine. It’s the perfect kind of music to study to, especially if you have two extremely difficult exams approaching next week.

Their combination of delicate blips and clicks, gentle drones and Barwick’s unearthly voice is close to perfect. The only way I could imagine it being any better is if they had teamed up with Grouper and Noveller, too. Maybe that will happen someday, though if it did I could end up losing myself in their clear, soft waves of spaciness for good.


A classroom filled with 24 musicians (individual speakers/screens aka Apple computers). A maestro (me). A Microsoft Kinect. Some sound/image/network programming. This is the perfect setup for a glitch orchestra music project.

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Note: This post contains minor spoilers.

There isn’t an awful lot of variation in the clothing Lain wears, but many of the outfits that do appear in the series are pretty significant. It’s not that Lain doesn’t care about her appearance, but her style is pretty subdued, like her personality. In general, she seems to prefer cute things in soft colours, and is uncomfortable with the idea of trying on the kinds of things her friends wear to clubs. Her most iconic outfit is a bear onesie, which makes her even more adorable than she already is.

Lain’s bear suit fulfills the same function for her as Linus’ blanket does in Peanuts. While there are other Lains, her true self is quiet and vulnerable. (Though it’s stronger than she might think, as this is the aspect of her that ends up as the dominant one.) Despite hints that she isn’t fully human and the possibility that she might even be omnipotent, Lain is still a normal teenage girl with insecurities and doubts. Unlike her friends, she isn’t ready to be an adult yet. Going to Cyberia for the first time, she wears a little hat with a bear on it, because that makes her feel safer. It might not offer as much protection as the onesie, but its presence is a reassuring one.


The bear motif was first suggested by Takahiro Kishida, who worked on character designs and animation for the series. This idea fit well, as the series’ writer, Chiaki Konaka and his brother Kazuya often include bears in their works. Chiaki Konaka was initially reluctant to use it, however, as bears had become such a trademark for them, until the idea of Lain using it to shield her was put forward. Lain also has a number of teddies in her mostly bare room at the beginning, though later they are overshadowed by her ever-growing (almost organic) collection of Navis (computers) and coolant systems as she becomes more obsessed with the Wired, and other sides of her emerge. She still needs the bear suit, though, and it’s useful even if she can’t wear it outside. Aside from her father, Lain’s family can be quite hostile towards her, and the onesie provides her with the safety and warmth that they don’t give her. In later episodes, when things get more confusing, the bear suit becomes needed once again. In the final episode, however, Lain’s father (or at least a vision of Lain’s father) appears, and gently explains to her that she no longer needs it any more.

There are some things I discover which resonate deep within me. Often, why they make such an profound effect on me is a mystery, but it becomes obvious that I was always searching for such a thing, even if I hadn’t yet been aware of its existence. One of these most recent discoveries is Cats on Synthesizers in Space. It is beautiful.

I know nothing about cats and I know nothing about synthesizers, but both fascinate me. I never thought that the two could be combined…in space. I was so blind. All I know now is that my life will never be the same again.

Could They Beat Up China Miéville?

Walking along the promenade, eating his chips, China Miéville’s attention was drawn by a sudden yelp of pain. He turned instinctively, seeing a Cliff Richard Impersonator on the ground, being savagely attacked by a crescent of half a dozen Elvis Presley Impersonators. Bristling at the abuse of Britain’s most inexplicable celebrity (by proxy) he called out and stepped forward. Like one beast with six heads, a coiffured hydra, their eyes locked onto China Miéville, and they attacked.

As they swarmed over him he felt the crush of those Elvis Presley Impersonators who focussed on the latter part of The King’s career squeezing the breath out of him. Struggling futilely his leg kicked through, knocking a stack of Thai Elvis Presley Impersonator’s recordings off the edge of the pier. Shrieking, said impersonator jumped over the barrier and tumbled down into the sea.

Some of the weight lessened, China Miéville tried to…

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I’ve always felt  guilty about enjoying South Park. While it is funny for the most part, some of the jokes go way too far. I love black comedy, but I’ve never been a fan of offensive comedy, and whenever South Park includes something that’s genuinely offensive, I get really uncomfortable. For example, the Inception parody episode was hilarious…until it got to that particularly nasty joke about child abuse near the end. Most of the time it’s witty and insightful, but there are other times when it’s just not. So, when I found out that the latest episode was about transgender people, I didn’t know what to expect, because even if it did make some good points, the creators still might not understand the issue fully. The reviews I read were positive, though, so I decided to give it a go. I was pleasantly surprised.

The Cissy is wonderful. I usually find that South Park can be a bit heavy-handed when it comes to morals, but this episode delivered its message just as well as Breast Cancer Show Ever, another of my favourites. (Admittedly, it’s still anvilicious, but considering how little education there is on stuff like gender identity, it can be forgiven for that.)  Plot-wise, it’s similar to Le Petit Tourette, in that Cartman pretends to be part of a disadvantaged group because he thinks it will benefit him. Annoyed that the boys’ toilet is always full, he proclaims himself to be transgender so that he can use the girls’. Of course, Cartman would be the first person to mock anybody who was genuinely transgender, a fact made painfully obvious when he starts taunting Stan later on in the episode. His behaviour is a clever parody of the way some ignorant people see the transgender community, especially when it comes to the whole toilet issue, which has been blown completely out of proportion in real life. None of the girls in the show seem bothered by the idea of a transgender person using their toilet- what they have a problem with is that Cartman is using it. When Wendy gets angry with Cartman and challenges him, it’s because he’s trivialising the problems of people who truly aren’t comfortable with their assigned gender. Absolutely nobody is fooled by his act (except for Butters, which shouldn’t come as a big surprise to anybody), but not knowing how to deal with the situation, the school decides to appease him with his own “executive” toilet. However, Cartman continues to misrepresent transgender people, and things start to get confusing for Stan, who discovers that Randy is having similar problems at work.

To try and stop Cartman, Wendy pretends to be trans too. With two of his friends now claiming to have gender dysphoria, Stan is no longer sure about how he identifies himself.

The really cool thing about this episode is that it doesn’t portray transgender people as weird or attention-seeking. The only person like that is Cartman. I particularly love how it’s Stan, one of the sanest characters on the show, who starts to question his gender identity, and for a pretty good reason. Beforehand, none of this stuff probably ever occurred to him, but now, two people he knows really well have begun to use a separate toilet, and things aren’t so black and white anymore. And what’s really great is that this confusion isn’t made out to be a bad thing. It might not be fun, but by the end of the episode, Stan does seem to be a lot happier. He realises that it doesn’t matter where he chooses to do his businesses. Randy (who it turns out is actually Lorde) identifies as male, but he still prefers to use the female bathroom at work, simply because that’s where he writes his best songs. His crossdressing is used as a source of humour, but not in a mean-spirited way. The Lorde parody is affectionate (the creators constantly heap praise upon her music, which isn’t surprising considering how they’re also fans of The Cure), and Randy’s actions are shown to be harmless. A gender-neutral toilet might be a good idea, but not to separate trans from cis people. Rather, it can be used for people who are scared or uncertain, or for bigots who need to be kept away from the open-minded people who don’t really care.

One final great thing about this episode is that it’s continuing the thread of establishing a sort of continuity for series 18, with a few small references to the previous two. Thankfully, it’s done well enough to not feel like a gimmick, and I’m interested to see what will follow. Also, Butters dances in a tutu, which is something that everyone needs to see.