Thursday, January 28, 2010


You keep using that word... I do not think it means what you think it means - Inigo Montoya

Prior to the turn of the century, the word "stunning" had a potent and particular meaning. If you saw a stunning woman on the street, it meant that you walked into a lamp post while staring at her. If a car had stunning performance, it meant that it was so overwhelming that you nearly lost control. If your sports team had a stunning win, it meant that it was such a heroic piece of athleticism that there was an awed silence when you saw it, before bursting into wild cheers. If something was "stunning", it meant that experiencing it was like being belted across the head with a sturdy piece of wood.

After the turn of the century, however, the word "stunning" has been rapidly downgraded to little more than a synonym of "nice". The blame for this falls pretty squarely on eBay.

On eBay and other online auction sites, anything and everything can be "stunning". A plastic dog. A plate. A sweatshirt that some Midwestern housewife bought at Walmart. Either there are a lot of people traveling through this world being constantly stunned by couch cushions and toasters, or the word has been more violated than Zac Ephron in a supermax prison.

So what the heck does this word mean these days? To further explore this issue, let us examine a collection of objects described by their sellers as "stunning" on (the Australian equivalent of Craigslist).

Item: Rug

Context: "Stunning Beige & Black French Design Floor RUG"

Commentary: Beige can be stunning? Surely the whole point of beige is that it isn't stunning. Of all the colours in existence, it's the most completely clear-headed and uncontrovertial.

Item: Painting

Context: "I have for sale a stunning frangipani 100% hand painted canvas"

Commentary: The rare Stunning Frangipani (hyperbolus boganicus) is native to the lower-class suburbs on the fringes of Australian cities, and is one of the most toxic art-based plants in existence. The aesthetic poison is so potent that it can incapacitate anyone with more good taste than, say, Charmyne Palavi within seconds of exposure. It is to be avoided at all costs, at least by anyone who has ever been within one hundred metres of actual art.

Item: Couch

Context: "Stunning 2 piece quality lounge suite"

Commentary: "Stunning" in this context obviously means "featureless, grey and lumpy." By this definition, other "stunning" objects include the contents of your washing machine's lint trap and the surface of the moon.

Item: Lamp

Context: "I have a stunning Chandelier type light fitting for sale."

Commentary: I would have thought that the danger here wasn't from being stunned so much as putting your eye out. Perhaps it's heavier than it looks. The seller also provides this odd piece of background information:

The only reason I am selling this light is because it is not practical with my 2 year old daughter.

Is this toddler over seven feet tall? Has she eshewed crawling and gone straight for a pogo stick? Is she allergic to halogen? I am in a world of bafflement.

Item: Box

Context: "Stunning muted colours of black, gold, green, pink and floral/bird images."

Commentary: It seems to me that colours can't be both "stunning" and "muted", but maybe I'm being naive. The alternate explanation is that the "stunning" refers to the box's apparent ability to go out of focus on command. Which is pretty impressive, when you think about it.

Item: Sculpture

Context: "Stunning gleaming Black Terrazzo, abstract Dancing Couple."

Commentary: Actually this is a fair use of the word "stunning". I feel woozy and nauseous just from the photograph.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


While shopping the other day with my friend PM, I noticed that Lego has produced a new 'Toy Story' line. It seems an odd choice, since they'd be unable to reproduce any of the characters covered by external trademarks (like Mr Potatohead and the Etch-a-Sketch). It's also bizarre to see Lego versions of classic toys... there's something of a hall of mirrors effect in having toy versions of things that are already toys.

Lego produces movie tie ins for Batman, Spiderman, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Indiana Jones and a raft of other movies. Apparently these sell extremely well. This got PM and I thinking: what other movie tie ins could Lego be exploiting?

Top 10 Nonexistent But Absolutely Essential Lego Movie Tie Ins

10. Alien

It doesn't exist, but fortunately that never stopped the Internet:

The chestburster is okay, but I'd want the full grown version. Admit it, you can see the Alien minifig in your mind right now, and it's adorable.

9. Team America

Lots of vehicles, a few international landmarks to blow up, and a Michael Moore suicide bomber (with genuine exploding action!).

8. The Back to the Future trilogy

The first one I'd buy would be the little "I got me a Pitbull!" girl.

7. Casablanca

Especially if they did it all in black, grey and white bricks.

6. Alien v Predator

Double the alien killing machines, DOUBLE THE CUTENESS!

5. Frankenstein

You've got the potential for interesting building sets (the castle, the burning mill, the hermit's hut, etc) and distinctive minifigs. Extra points if there's a little Bride of Frankenstein.

4. The Wizard of Oz

Comes with a special water-soluble Wicked Witch!

3. District 9

Between the shuttlecraft, the powered battlesuit, the over-the-top weaponry and the aliens, this is a no-brainer.

2. Kill Bill

I can see a little yellow minifig Bride even more clearly than I see the Alien. She has two tiny katanas and a determined smirk.

1. James Bond films

Yeah, baby. One minifig in a tuxedo, a handful of others in bikinis, a Lego Aston Martin, retro-futuristic villain lairs... in the words of Homer Simpson, "This thing writes itself!"

Of course if Lego follows this advice, it may get out of control and start producing toys for other, less appropriate movies. So by way of warning...

Top 10 Nonexistent, Inessential and Entirely Inappropriate Lego Movie Tie Ins

10. The Exorcist

Part of Lego's new 'Scarring Your Children For Life' collection.

9. Saw

The only Lego set in which the minifigs arrive fully assembled, then you have to pull them apart.

8. Donnie Darko

I didn't understand it; what chance does an 8 year old have?

7. It's Complicated

Lego is supposed to bring out the child within each of us, not the middle-aged idiot.

6. The Big Chill

One building. No memorable characters. No vehicles. You do the math.

5. Purple Rain

They can't make minifigs that thin. Or that creepy.

4. Frost/Nixon

There'd only be one model set, consisting of two minifigs and a camera. Whee.

3. The Passion of the Christ

Now appearing in the dictionary as the new definition for "inappropriate". Of course that never stopped the Internet.

2. An Inconvenient Truth

The Al Gore minifig - the only one with more personality than the original.

1. Deep Throat

Mindboggling... but no.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


My 2 second review of James Cameron's 'Avatar':

Destined for review in 2019 by this guy.