pop culture

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The Reviewer’s Fallacy.

Here’s the heart of the problem: The set of critics’ and audiences’ interests do not perfectly overlap but rather form a Venn diagram. In the audience circle, the pressing question is, “Should I spend some number of the dollars I have to my name and the hours I have left on Earth on this thing?” Critics get in for free and by definition have to read or watch or listen to whatever’s next up. So their circle is filled with relativistic questions about craft and originality and wallet quality and the often unhelpfully general “Is it good?”

Ben Yagoda on critics.

(The reference to “wallet quality”, for the record, is explained above this quote as, I think of Paul Reiser’s bit about a friend who shows him a picture of his extraordinarily ugly baby. Reiser finds there is nothing he can say except, “Nice wallet!”)

The general rule-of-thumb is that the more a critic/reviewer talks about the technical minutia/plot of a work—rather than some emotional or intellectual reaction to it—the more they’re writing their review out of obligation, not emotional attachment…

2018-01-31T13:51:03+10:0016th July, 2018|Tags: pop culture|0 Comments

Outside outsiders.


Cthulhu, 2007. [Content warning for one female-on-male rape scene.]

Hey you. Yes, you. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Man. I really need more modern queer adaptations of H. P. Lovecraft’s seminal work The Shadow Over Innsmouth in my life!”

Well, my friend! Do I have a film for you! All of it, in fact, uploaded by the director to YouTube so you can watch the whole thing for free!

I found out about this film care of hbomberguy’s (you know, he’s the “Sherlock Sucks and Here’s Why” dude) video essay on how to adapt H.P. Lovecraft for modern audiences. That essay is also 100% worth watching, possibly before seeing Cthulhu itself, because it sets up expectations for the film (short version: it’s not a big loud gory horror, or a perfect film, and if you go in expecting either you’ll hate it).

hbomberguy’s essay tries to explore the question of just why so many people from marginalized identities seem to be fans of Lovecraft’s work, particularly when the man himself was such a viciously bigoted dipshit. As both a) a huge Lovecraft/mythos fan, and b) a queer woman and a member of an ethnic group Lovecraft… wasn’t particularly into (i.e. the slavs), the essay really resonated with me. Hence wanting to check out the film that inspired it. As it turned out, I… ended up really enjoying Cthulhu. It’s by no means a perfect film, but it’s a queer Lovecraftian psychological horror/mystery which is, like, 100% My Bag Baby. I know that it’s also 100% the bags of a bunch of you people (I see you, friends), hence… if you haven’t seen this film, definitely put aside two and a half hours (for the film and the essay) to check it out.

2018-07-17T09:03:57+10:0013th July, 2018|Tags: film, h.p. lovecraft, pop culture, video|0 Comments

Bechdel Beyond.

Interesting look at possible “tests beyond Bechdel”, as proposed by women in the entertainment industry.

Some of these I think are useful, some… er, well. I’m just saying “failing” a film where a female character acts as “a plot problem for a male protagonist [and/or hero]” would seem to, for example, preclude having meaningful female characters, of both the pro- and antagonist variety, in… pretty much any film in which men also appear. It would nix, for example, Mad Max: Fury Road (Furiosa and co. cause problems for Max, Nux, and Immortan Joe), pretty much any Star Wars film (Leia causes problems for Luke and Darth Vader; Rey causes problems for Finn; Jyn causes problems for Cassian; Leia and Holdo cause problems for Poe; Rey causes problems for Kylo; Rose causes problems for Finn… yikes, so many), and Wonder Woman (Diana causes problems for Steve and Ares). Which, like. While you can have plenty or legitimate criticism of Fury Road or Wonder Woman or, like, The Last Jedi, “they had bad female characters!” usually, like. Isn’t one of them.

Still. A good list with some important ideas.

2018-01-25T08:18:15+10:009th July, 2018|Tags: culture, pop culture|0 Comments

There is no 5e.

For my fifteenth birthday, I was given $40 to buy myself a present. That present? My Very First Tabletop Roleplaying Book, Litany of the Tribles vol. 1, a sourcebook for White Wolf’s Werewolf: the Apoclaypse game. (Why that book? Well… because they had it in the shop. And I had no idea how RPG books “worked”. Needless to say, my very next purchase was the actual core rule themselves.) To say this game changed my life is probably both hyperbole and an understatement; Liesmith‘s Lain, for example, had his first incarnation as the totem for our W:tA game, which was set in the proto version of Pandemonium City.

I spent pretty much all my teen years playing various versions of White Wolf’s World of Darkness, primarily WerewolfVampire, and Changeling. Yeah, the games both have and had issues—even to my un-woke, pre-internet teen self—but I adored them then and still adore them now. To the point that I spent hundreds buying up the various 20th anniversary editions from Onyx Path which, honestly, I thought did a fantastic job of keeping the “old WoD feel”, while simultaneously updating and smoothing out some of the… less great elements that had been present in the originals.

So when I heard about Vampire‘s 5th edition, I was cautiously optimistic. Even if it wasn’t going to be developed by Onyx Path, but rather a new studio under the same name as the original, White Wolf. The New White Wolf, or nWW, if you will. Because the *20 books were great… but they were also kind of “stuck”, in that they were designed very much as updated versions of old material, not new sourcebooks in-and-of-themselves. So to have things like an updated metaplot? Yeah. I could’ve been down for that. (Also, I really want more content for Demon: the Fallen…)

And then? Then I read the initial 5e alpha rules. Y’know. The one that had “Triggered” as a vampire clan weakness.

Oh, nWW, no.

Since then, everything I’ve heard from the nWW has pretty much gotten worse and worse, right up to the current point, where it’s… getting pretty hard to deny that the nWW is throwing 5e straight at the edgelord wannabe fascist alt-right scene. Which… for a game that introduced me to things like class politics, feminism, and queer activism?1 Yeah. 5e can basically fuck right the fuck off, and take its entire fucking dev team with it.

… talk about ruining someone’s childhood. Ugh.

(Also, while I’m on the subject: Why am I suddenly not surprised to learn the nWW is owned by Paradox Interactive? Because, yeah. I enjoyed Stellaris well enough but holy shit that game’s fandom is an alt-right anime Nazi trashfire. Yikes.)

  1. That Litany of the Tribes vol. 1 really was… formative, let me tell you. ^
2018-07-09T16:05:35+10:009th July, 2018|Tags: culture, gaming, pop culture, rpgs, tabletop rpgs|0 Comments

The glut.

I’m wary of all conclusions drawn about media in the scarcity age, including the idea that people went to see movies because of movie stars. It’s not that Will Smith isn’t charismatic. He is. But I suspect Will Smith was in a lot of hits in the age of scarcity in large part because there weren’t a lot of other entertainment options vying for people’s attention when Independence Day or something of its ilk came out, like clockwork, to launch the summer blockbuster season.

The same goes for the general idea that any one star was ever the chief engine for a film’s box office. If the idea that people go see a movie just to see any one star was never actually true, we can stop holding the modern generation of movie stars to an impossible standard.

Eugene Wei on scarcity.

While there are certainly actors I like—and I’ve certainly not seem films because they feature an actor I don’t like—I don’t think I’ve ever actually watched a film specifically because of who was in it…1

  1. Directors, yes… but even still, that’s pretty rare. ^
2018-01-23T09:48:46+10:006th July, 2018|Tags: film, pop culture|0 Comments

The end of endless.

What it is about video games with “desert” in the title? First Desert Bus and now Desert Golf, the “endless” golfing simulator… now with an actual end.

Is “patience simulator” a legitimate video game genre?

2018-01-23T08:50:05+10:004th July, 2018|Tags: gaming, pop culture, video games|0 Comments

I mean, you can’t buy just one. Otherwise the shipping is like two-thirds of the cost!
2018-07-09T08:15:18+10:0029th June, 2018|Tags: pop culture|Comments Off on