Previously… On The Outland Institute

February 18, 2009


Canny visitors to the site may have noticed we’ve been celebrating Christmas for quite some time now. Seven weeks, in fact. There’s been no updates for nearly two months, and let’s place blame squarely where it belongs – the global financial crisis.

You can’t have missed the ubiquity of the financial crisis. It’s the excuse du jour. And it works for everything – laying off a thousand employees? Financial crisis. Late to work? Financial crisis. Your daughter noticed her budgie changed colour almost as if the old one died and you were too gutless to tell her so you went to a pet shop and bought a replacement but you got it wrong because you never paid attention to anything involving your family because you are a terrible, terrible father? Financial crisis. It’s such a good excuse that if the police find you in a back alley hunched over the body of a dead prostitute with a bloody dagger still in your hand, you need only mention it’s been a disappointing morning for the Nasdaq and they’d let you off with a caution. Probably.

So apologies from all of us here at The Outland Institute. Weather conditions. Financial crisis. Oh, at that zombie outbreak that kept us all barricaded in the gift shop for five weeks, living off nothing but Twiglets and Wong Kar-Wai slippers, but I don’t think that made the news.

One thing you may have seen on the news is that the state of Victoria recently held a needlessly-accurate live recreation of 1961’s The Day The Earth Caught Fire, and misery and death are around every corner. You can give money to the relief effort – and by “can” I mean “really, really should” – at

Fires decimated towns around the state on February 7th – Channel 9 has taken to calling it “Black Saturday”, because why just tell the news when you can shriek it? It was an event so momentous it even has its own page on wikipedia, putting it up there with Haircut 100 and the Nazi UFO program. It was also the weekend the Evil Doctor Chris and I were spending in the Victorian Goldfields, so while we didn’t exactly fiddle while Rome burned, we did spend a lot of time indoors watching DVDs of The West Wing. Which is probably the same thing, metaphorically speaking. Any way you look at it, we were having a better day than most.


As we marvelled at the superb acting, intricate plotting and chess-like maneuvering of characters, motivations and events, we found ourselves wondering why the Americans can make shows like The West Wing, while we’re lucky to get Packed To The Rafters. The answer is fairly straightforward, of course – what Americans do is important, while we’re thrilled if someone in Ecuador recognises Olivia Newton-John.

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The U.S. Election & The Right-Wing Blog

October 22, 2008

John Richards takes a stroll though the world of the American right-wing blog…

I love elections. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I find election campaigns fascinating. When I visited Texas in 2006 I got caught up in the drama of the Gubernatorial Election, which was a three-way fight between the incumbent, a feisty Grandmother, and Kinky Friedman. It was a lot like Big Brother, except the winner got to be in charge of Texas. None of them seemed to have any policies, except “taxes should be lower” and “the other two candidates are probably paedophiles” (the second never overtly stated, but always suggested in ads with ominous music, silhouettes and phrases like “protecting our children”). I also learned a new word – gubernatorial – so it was both entertaining and educational.

I’ve been following the US elections obsessively. It’s such a great cast this year – as the US’s Late Late Show host Craig Ferguson put it, “you got your grizzled old veteran who’s trying to win one last campaign, you’ve got the brash rookie who inspires millions, you got the hockey mom who’s governor by day, naughty librarian by night, you’ve got Biden who’s all… Bideny there…” And the actors are great. You honestly believe that Sarah Palin is a real human being (although I think the writers went too far by calling her children Trig, Track and Bristol. Not terribly believable, guys).

While the Outland Institute has existed as a physical educational facility since the mid-1600s, our online annexe has only been up since July. Every day we receive a printout on the teletype machine of the most popular blogs across the wordpress universe, and many of them are political in nature. So I’ve been indulging myself by reading dozens and dozens of insane conservative blogs.

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