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News You Can Use: French Fry Edition

Look, I didn’t know this… and odds are, you didn’t know this. In fact, one of you stumbling across this will exclaim, “I have leftover fries right now.” Enjoy.

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Cities… but Why?

Play enough Civilization and you ponder why the AI places cities where it sometimes does. I’m pretty sure said AIs have never watched this video by Wendover Productions.

Now, if you’re wondering why cities exist in the first place, well, first off, lovers of both Civilization and SimCity will look at you sadly… or maybe longingly, knowing how many accumulated hours, month, and years you haven’t been playing Civilization and SimCity.

More importantly, however, you can watch this video by Wendover Productions.

Still the Best Space Dad

When I came across this article by Nitesh Srivastava on StarTrek.com, I was about to post a longer piece about what Benjamin Sisko… but then I realized I already did that for Father’s Day last year.

Arguably a good Father’s Day watch

Srivastava is focusing on how Sisko is, perhaps, the most relatable of the Starfleet captains, because, although Sisko shares incredible heroism with his peers, he does things we recognize we might do.

Also, I’m pretty sure I could not beat the Borg Collective, even if I just had coffee from a nebula.

Anyway, Sisko is a great character to revisit on Father’s Day (the obvious episode being “The Visitor” or “Explorers” if you want fewer tears)… and also not bad for Juneteenth.

Some Kind of Blue… Always

If someone asks me my favorite color, I usually don’t mention how it’s shifted over the years or how no one seemed to share my favorite color growing up or how I don’t necessarily have a favorite per se now, more favorite several hues and shades over others.

So I just say, “Blue.”

It’s a safe pick, especially when it comes to wardrobe choices (it goes with my eyes). Why, there’s even a quietly subversive children’s play about the color blue.

In any case, I knew I wasn’t alone. However, I didn’t realize how much so until I read this piece by Mark Ellwood for the BBC posted earlier this month. It delves deep into people’s love of colors across ages and cultures and why that might be.

Abnormally color-graded still from The Shawshank Redemption

Now I want some polling data on favorite dinosaurs.

The Industrial Revolution & Comparative Richness of Modern Society

Once upon a time, before the Internet was in full bloom, my dad decided to look through the latest U.S. Army guides on countries (now known as “country studies”) and compile economic data to determine people’s standard of living in various countries based on GDP and local buying power.

He did this for fun. It was how he rolled.

Since I had recently been living and studying in Indonesia (and yes, my dad gave me the army guide for Indonesia beforehand), we talked a lot about his research and how it applied to what I had observed. How far a dollar went in Indonesia (about 2,000 rupiah at the time) was different from how far a dollar went at home, after all. And, naturally, it varied depending on where I was on a particular island.

My dad, too, had experience with these sorts of price differences from travel both inside and outside the United States. I wondered a lot about industrialization, what the “normal” rate of development might be, and how fast and how well developing nations and regions could and would develop.

So I took all of those conversations and ponderings into consideration when I read Dylan Mathews’ interview over at Vox. He’s talking to two economic historians about how the standards of living changed with the industrial revolution — and it gets right at a lot of those questions about what preconditions and conditions there are for development.

Dramatic recreation of England’s industrial revolution from the 2012 Olympics

And remember, there’s all those country studies you can read for free as well.

The Hollywood War Machine

Top Gun: Maverick performed some “best of the best” box office maneuvers when it opened Memorial Day weekend and continues to do well. The original film proved to be as much a recruitment commercial as popcorn movie… and this sequel’s premiere aboard an aircraft carrier, Midway (now a museum ship), hints that this newest film will perform similarly.

Over 30 years later, he still feels the need for speed.

As a cinemaniac who’s seen more than a few military-themed movies over the decades, Hollywood’s connection to the U.S. military is not a surprise, nor is the nuance. That’s one of the reasons I appreciated the nuance in this article by Alissa Wilkinson for Vox, exploring the past, present, and future of how the military works with filmmakers.

One of the aspects I appreciate about the article is how it goes through some of the filmmaking choices of working, or not working, with the military and how it’s not a good or bad thing: it’s really about what story you’re trying to tell.

And, as many film historians naturally know, Hollywood has close ties to the American military and has sought to seek to tell both the story of American service men and women, but more broadly, Why We Fight. The book and Netflix series, Five Came Back are well worth checking out.

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Fine. The Whole History of the Planet. I guess…

So, last week, I figured we Internet denizens needed a dance break (and hey, being a movie buff, it was a good mash-up), so why not do another video post? This time, it comes from the musically-inclined Bill Wurtz (technically, bill wurtz?)… and it gives a summary of the whole planet (human-centric, naturally).

Note that there is not-safe-for-work (NSFW) language and it’s irreverent throughout, including at least one event that you would like to get more attention.

But it’s damn fun.

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Mandatory Dance Break

It’s the even of Memorial Day Weekend here in the States and, despite the holiday being a more solemn occasion, the long weekend has long been the official unofficial start of Summer

So let’s go ahead and help get that out of our systems.

Casting Based on What Characters Do & How They Do It

Thanks to several area theaters offering ridiculously good deals for students, I started regularly attending theaters in the 1980s. Almost from the get-go, I was exposed to what is generally termed “non-traditional casting,” including a production of Macbeth with a cast that included actors who, at the time, I would not have instantly guessed as “Scottish.” Any preconceived notions I might have had of what the Scottish characters “ought to look like” were retired by the curtain call. The production was full of energy and all the actors brought their ‘A’ game. Franchelle Stewart Dorn, for example, will always be a definitive Lady Macbeth. She was that character based on what she did and how she did it.

Now multiply that by every single show I’ve ever seen with “non-traditional casting.”

Why am I mentioning this? Well, for one thing, from running auditions in the DC-Baltimore area for 15 years, I continually found myself needing to remind filmmakers that very skilled and enormously appropriate actors were available for their production if they focused on what the characters needed to do and how they needed to do it. And so few stories these people were telling demanded the characters be a certain age, ethnicity, or even gender.

In fact, I’ve found an overwhelming amount of great stories that don’t have those restrictions. Just tell the story with the best people you can find.

For a second thing, people in general still need to get this memo, and the author of the Percy Jackson novels evidently needed to give people a version of this memo, because, yes you guessed it: some folks are up in arms that a character is going to be played by an actor who isn’t who they pictured. I appreciate his call to stop the bull and remind people where the buck stops. Hopefully, a few more people will become more open about who could be a Greek demigod.

After all, growing up, I never imagined The Doctor from Doctor Who being Scottish… and we’re about to have our third Scot in the role. I’ll let you guess why I thought of that.

Welcome, Number Fourteen

Prepare Ye the Oral History of Godspell

I’m not sure the “oral history” long-form article became more popular in the social media age, but I certainly have noticed it a lot more in the past 15 years… and I usually enjoy the pieces about seminal stage and screen productions. It’s a good reminder of how, even when we see these works that are exquisite faits accompli, they are the result of hard-working humans, who are on their own journey.

(Alla Dreyvitser/Washington Post illustration; Dick Darrell/Toronto Star/Getty Images)

So I very much enjoyed Zachary Pincus-Roth’s piece in the Washington Post about the 1972 Toronto production of Godspell. I’ve enjoyed the musical since first working on a production last century, but it many other people should find of interest because of the impressive cast of the production, who have gone on to become celebrated performers over the past few decades. And even though the production is half a century in the past, bonds were forged that remain.

So check it out!

(And you may find some of Pincus-Roth’s other pieces for the Post of interest, including one about the enduring love for my favorite film no one else seems to have seen in the theater, The Shawshank Redemption, as well as why the musical Cats became so popular anyway).