Category Archives: Various and Sundry

Pushing Your Buttons… or Just Taking Them Away

Okay, so I implied on Wednesday that I try and help people work smarter, not harder… because working on projects that go nowhere doesn’t help anyone.

So imagine my umbrage when I read an article by Jacopo Prisco about all the “placebo buttons” that are out there designed to give people the illusion of control. Do you people not know conspiracy theorists will run with this?!?

Do you want the Hulk? Because that's how you get the Hulk.

Of course, I have to wonder which is worse: being given buttons that don’t work and not told they don’t work OR having buttons that do work taken away.

Enter Apple, the company that’s never bashful about being forward thinking beyond a customer’s furthest vision. Apparently, they’re not so keen on the home button on their iPhones and, as of this post, may have ditched it. (Look, I write my posts in advance, all right?)

I’m not sure what’s worse, but I’m definitely keeping out of the way of the Hulk when he gets the news.

You Can’t Do it All – Enterprise Edition

We haven’t had a wonky Wednesday in a while, have we?

All right, so let’s tackle something that affects businesses big and small. In fact, it affects families, too. How many times have there been “too many things” to do or deal with in a week?

As it happens, I deal with project selection at work — and it makes me long for the family-based stuff. Why? The number of players involved in “what to do?” for a business is, more often than not, exponentially larger for a start. And if you think trying to get a five-year-old to accept you’re not buying everything in the toy store, just wait ’til you have to let an executive know they can’t get all of their 27 initiatives funded.

As probably comes as no surprise, the folks over at Harvard Business Review have thought about this a lot — and have come up with a list of seven ways in which your organization might be holding onto too many projects.

By definition, this really should be more useful to those of you dealing with project selection (and, frankly, killing off zombie projects) at work. But if you apply bits and pieces of this to the fam, I won’t tell.

A Century of History… in Cookies

However your week has gone, you deserve to learn about the important history of cookies from the Neil Degrasse Tyson of cookie knowledge:

Happy Friday!

So Say We All… Well, Except for Those Chuckleheads

I touched on notions of fandom with my Crisis of Infinite Star Treks series and certainly toxic fandom has been more on people’s minds in the past year or so in any case (see, for example, these pieces on CNET and in Wired).

So it was interesting to read Ryan Britt’s piece in Den of Geek talking with the writers of So Say We All, a new book about the Battlestar Galactica remake… including the fact that it was not just a remake, but a “re-imagining.”

There’s obviously more in the book than just the subject of fandom, but that’s the focus of the article. Certainly, BSG –as it’s often abbreviated– provided ample opportunity for toxic fan uproar from its short yet expansive stint on TV. I’m sure had it been made nowadays, the uproar and venting would have been omnipresent. Much of what they pulled off was nothing less than exceptional, but let’s just say I don’t want to be in a room of BSG fans discussing how the series ended. That’s just going to get unpleasant.

Magic Chef No More: RIP, Neil Simon

Neil SimonJust as the fictional Felix Unger asserted his inability to do impossible cooking tasks, so too would Neil Simon probably protest any prowess at writing, but let’s be honest. If writing were cooking, Neil Simon was the magic chef of scriptwriting.

(The idea of Neil Simon being a figment of his fictional creation’s imagination seems like the fun neurotic thought to occupy one of Neil Simon’s characters.)

And if you recall my piece on Sam Shepard, Neil Simon certainly casts as large or larger of a shadow.

(Cue another monologue about someone obsessing about relative shadow size.)

I never had the opportunity to be onstage for a Neil Simon production, but I certainly was involved in many productions in an offstage role. And even if I hadn’t been treated to night after night of Simon’s marvelous gift for marrying angst and banter, I see his words come alive just about every time I attend a mass audition. His monologues are impossible for many actors to resist.

From “The Goodbye Girl”

So, it probably comes as no surprise that the entertainment world is full of remembrances. The New York Times has a good synopsis of his life and career. The Los Angeles Times, not surprisingly, focuses a bit more on his film work, but has some great anecdotes. You can also check out the piece in the Hollywood Reporter. And, of course, Mark Evanier has a story or two about meeting Mr. Simon.

So, rest in peace, magic chef. Or at least be a bit less angsty about it.

An Infinite Number of Shark Films

Since it’s “Shark Week” here on my blog, I thought it would only be appropriate to share this wonderful retrospective from Aja Romano over on Vox about our ongoing love affair with all manner of shark movies.

I mean, you may recall that I love creature features and shared an excellent resource with which to follow up on them. Therefore, I offer this article as a targeted way to catch up on your movies with killer sharks.

They Like Me, They Really Like Me… But not as Best Picture

Earlier this week, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (aka the people behind the Oscars) announced they were adding a “Best Popular Movie” category.

(I mean, it’ll probably be called “most bestest outstanding achievement in popular film” or something like that, but you know what I mean).

On the one hand, it’s their awards and award process, so change away. On the other hand, why shouldn’t they tweak and adjust and change their award categories and methodology as they have just about every decade?

(By the way, I absolutely think one of the tweaks should be adding “Best Stunt Choreography” category — and no, you don’t need to eliminate any of the other awards to add that).

But on the third hand –and it’s really better you don’t ask where the third hand comes from– there’s something of a whiff of desperation simultaneously coupled with a complete lack of understanding of why the general public does or doesn’t find the Oscars relevant that really should have been resolved during The Dark Knight “lack o’ Best Picture nom kerfuffle.”

(An article in Variety appears to validate that there is some desperation involved).

It sounds like a bad idea to me… and it also sounds like a bad idea to Vox’s Todd VanDerWerff who has many thoughts on the subject. I agree with many of them, including the notion that maybe it’ll not turn out to a bad idea.

Their track record at nominating worthy “genre films” for Best Picture does not reinforce that notion however.

UPDATE: The crew at Vox came up with 6 categories to introduce rather than “Best Popular Film” and I’m happy to say it includes one for stunt choreography. I generally am down with all the categories. I think the “Best First Film” would really bring some excitement into the proceedings the same as I see similar awards in other places. The one caveat I’d suggest from chatting about the categories on social media is that the “Best Motion Capture Peformance” should be awarded to the performer and the lead artists/animators. I think that’d be a cool way to remind people of the team creative effort it is.

What’s in a Married Name?

For the past few weeks, I’ve been handling the catering orders for our Jabberwocky Audio Theater recording sessions and revisited one of my life’s perennial sources of both comedy and drama.

People get flustered with my name.

This, in and of itself, is not an issue. It’s more when people seem to feel that I somehow picked this name just to make their lives more difficult is where it gets annoying. All of you with “odd” names know exactly what I mean. Despite all logic and personal experience for how people are named, the flustered person gives you a look that says, “Why did you choose to name yourself that and do this to me?”

I mean, I have mused before that perhaps I should have adopted a pen name for my writing, but it’s arguably too late now.

And people do choose how to name themselves all the time when they get married, though I would argue the flustering still belongs entirely to the flustered person, who really needs to get out more.

Nevertheless, since it’s so statistically unusual for a man to take his wife’s name, Carolyn Kitchener decided to write about it over in The Atlantic. There’s also some interesting follow-up in the form of letters from readers.

It could be the background studying anthropology and history, but I’m still surprised that some people are so adamant that the wife change her surname to the husband’s. My favorite solution is to combine the names into a new one (no hyphenates), but not all names are compatible in this regard.

We could also all go to a single name a la Javanese tradition, but the resulting head explosions from bureaucrats and record-keepers worldwide would make Krakatoa look like a solitary bus backfire.

A Titan Against a Titan (aka Netflix and Amazon square off about streaming TV)

Regular readers of this blog may recall that I often post about both the future of TV and Netflix in particular. So of course I was interested in Daniel D’Addario’s piece in Variety about both Netflix and Amazon pitching their visions of streaming futures at the TCA press tour.

Enjoy the speculation.

I guess in this context, “the Eye” is CBS All Access.

Delia Derbyshire and the Doctor Who Theme

I know I’m not the only one who grew up collecting movie and TV soundtracks… and the opening themes of many works retain an almost Pavlovian response on me (and I’ve also tested this on my kids in the name of parent science: the Fraggle Rock theme still works).

So naturally, I thought of the memorable Doctor Who theme what with the current sweepstakes I’m participating in (as Jabberwocky Audio Theater).

Josh Jones over at Open Culture has a nice piece linking to some videos which gives you some of the background on the creation of the original theme — along with a montage of all the variations of the theme.

I’m looking forward to see how they’re going to adjust the theme for the newest Doctor.

In the meantime, if you like the idea of winning $250 worth of Doctor Who swag, the sweepstakes closes this coming Tuesday, July 17th.