Category Archives: Various and Sundry

Scare Because You Care

This can probably get a viewing soon.

This past weekend, I let my kids watch the original Clash of the Titans. Besides being able to pass on my love for Ray Harryhausen films as my dad passed on to me, I’ve had the chance to do some short stop-motion films with both of them with smartphone and tablet (ain’t modern technology grand?).

One of the concerns was how scary the film would be to the young’uns. The man burning alive, the giant scorpions, and, above all, the Medusa sequence were most on my mind. Thankfully, all went well. The burned suitor didn’t register, the scorpions were “wow, ginormous” because “that [Calibos] is going to do something mean again, isn’t he?” and I was safely close during the showdown with Medusa.

My kids have already shown they enjoy spooky stuff, so I want to make sure they continue to get a good fright now and then… but age-appropriate scares. Artist Greg Ruth argues that exposing your kids to scary stories is a good idea.

So, I’m already thinking about the next entry in the de facto film festival to hit the kids right in the amygdalae.

Rather Sad about Mad

It’s no secret that Mad, the steadfast satirical magazine that’s been on newsstands for the past 67 years is all but ending, as per these pieces in the Washington Post, New York Times, and a personal one from The Week.

What, me shed a tear?

I learned about it first from Mark Evanier’s blog, as he’s not only a pop culture historian, he regularly works with one of Mad’s most storied illustrators, Sergio Aragon├ęs. Technically, Mad is not completely dead: the magazine will continue as a vehicle for reprints as per a message sent to contributors last Wednesday.

The New York Times piece especially touches on how big of a cultural impact Mad had: people thought of the Mad parody version of movies before they thought of the original film itself! I know one screenwriter who had the joy of finally seeing his film get made as a star-studded Hollywood production, but he felt he had really arrived when Mad magazine parodied said film — and he wrote Mad magazine to tell them so (Mad happily published his letter).

To boldly go– DAMMIT Mr. Neuman!

My one brother and I were especially fond of Mad’s Star Trek parodies which were uniformly excellent. Dick DeBartolo‘s pitch-perfect scripts combined with Mort Drucker‘s expert illustrations made for satirical synergy. And they were but one section of many equally distinctive illustrators and writers.

It could be that the wonderful continuity of talent which was such a plus was, in part, part of the minus that led to the current diminished state of Mad. Leastways, the corporate executives didn’t figure out how to transition to junior staff as had happened in the past. Longtime Mad writer Joe Raiola thinks this is both what happened with the move to the West Coast. Still, it’s not dead yet and it might get better from its newt-like state. Certainly the brand is still valuable which, in this day and age, is one of the most important things to corporations. As Evanier notes, someone –perhaps many people– are figuring out how to get the brand to make more money.

Hey, it’s a nice flag. One might even call it grand.

I’m not sure if this is what the Founding Fathers were thinking of when they decided to adopt the ol’ Stars and Stripes. I’m sure they hoped the Great Experiment would be successful. But did they envision a future where people would proudly wear versions of the nation’s flag as neckwear and sing about said flag in a form of digital cloning on the Inter-Tubes?

Okay, I’m pretty sure it’s not what they were thinking of… but in any case, enjoy a one-man barbershop quartet do a song appropriate for Independence Day.

Why Isn’t the U.S. Metric Already?

Just over 240 years ago, the United States announced its separation from Britain… a separation that could be measured in many ways, but definitely in miles.

And while pretty much the rest of the world has decided to “Make Mine Metric,” Americans remain unconvinced. Why? The Verge has some theories.

The Internet’s Altar of Umbrage

I’m working on some other posts related to fandom. One is a follow-up in the Crisis of Infinite Star Treks series (where I talk about fan involvement with Star Trek throughout, but specifically go into more here and here.) I’m also working on a longer piece about getting one’s own creative work out there and developing fans oneself.

One struggle I’ve had of late has been how much the Internet thrives on hate and outrage. I don’t just mean comments at the bottoms of articles which, by and large, are probably better left unread. I don’t even mean how social media discussion threads can go horribly hateful, though that’s certainly something to always be wary. I’m thinking more along the lines of every fun Internet series like Honest Trailers, there’s a more bile-infested series along the lines “Everything wrong with [Movie]” or “Why [Movie] Really Sucks” or so on. Pair that with all the ‘clickbaity’ article headlines of the “[Thing] will complete shock you” variety and, well, guess why some of those social media threads devolve?

I realize this is neither a new nor uniquely groundbreaking observation, but it’s been on my mind given the pieces I’ve been working on, with two articles particularly making me think about the course of events.

Conor Friedersdorf wrote in The Atlantic back in January about how the Internet has eroded the ability for people to, well, essentially, curate their identity in different places. You still can, but the unification of self everywhere on every channel is problematic. The fact that this erosion is fueled by outrage does not help matters.

The other factor is how corporations are adopting this particular Internet flavor of umbrage as a standard advertising tactic, as Luke Winkie wrote today in Vox.

I guess I just don’t want anyone to feed the trolls even if they think they know how to use the trolls for their own ends. Don’t we have countless cautionary tales about how well that sort of thing turns out?

Time, Autonomy, and Value Found in Work

I recently read an article by Kara Baskin about a 2016 workplace study. The professors (from MIT and the University of Minnesota) were experimenting with elements of the oft-invoked, but not always defined “work-life balance.”

The link above is to the article, not the study itself and is worth the quick read, even if the conclusions don’t necessarily come as a shocker. For example, having more control over one’s schedule including to be able to accommodate the ups and downs of everyday life is a positive for workers. Being aware of the number of meetings a worker had also came into focus.

In many cases, this reminded me of Drive by Daniel Pink and Finding Flow, the less academic summation of some of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s research. People like levels of autonomy and to develop mastery over much of what they do.

I don’t begrudge the study going over familiar ground, however. Given the propensity for organizations to ‘maximize synergistic innovations’ or opaque initiatives, it’s nice to add to the body of work that pushes them to think of their people.

The Name is Bond. Bond Villain

I respect the ranking that Mr. Jacob Hall has done in ranking every Bond villain.

Think Local, Legislate Local

Perhaps it’s the fact that we had primary elections in my county yesterday… or that I got to know how much local politics mattered when covering city council meetings in college, but this article from the Guardian made me hopeful that the solution to a lot of things is some people standing up to get things done.

In Space, No One Can Hear You…

Hopefully you’re not having a crappy Monday, but if you give a crap or, rather, need to crap, Daniel from Spacedock understands.

Also, why YT-1300 freighter designers, WHY?!? Have you no concept of personal space?

Clash of the Streaming Titans, Revisited

Just about a year ago, I was musing about the future of streaming TV –which seems to pretty much be “the future of TV”– and well…

Things have gotten a lot more complicated.

Content to be the Content Gorilla, Disney is poised to unleash its streaming juggernaut this Fall, basically giving us the Vault in on-demand form. All those lovely Disney properties on Netflix, of which there are many, will be gone too soon.

Meanwhile, AT&T, still digesting its acquisition of Time Warner, is planning its own streaming service. And it too is planning to pull its goodies from Netflix and elsewhere.

Something tells me things will get messy.