athelind: (hoard potato)

"Hollywood Is Lazy, Unoriginal and Risk-Averse", whines yet another critic.



These columns crop up all the time, and nine out of ten of them give the impression that this is some horrible slide into the abyss from some mythical golden age.

The irony, of course, is that they been appearing since the film industry began.1

These guys forget2 that, as I've mentioned before, the classic John Huston/Humphrey Bogart version of The Maltese Falcon was the third film version of the story in the span of a decade, and they were all adapted from a formulaic, low-brow pulp novel.

The smart, arty flicks that this particular critic extols have never been a major component of the studios' output. "Risky" movies have always been "risky". The shitstorm that Welles had to wade through to make Citizen Kane is as epic and as well-known as the movie itself.

When Harris holds up "movies based on comic books" as one of his keynote symptoms of this "new" plague of creative barrenness, I wonder if he's including movies like A History of Violence and Shutter Island?3

Really, it comes down to this:
  • Hollywood is afraid to make risky movies because movies are expensive.
  • "Risky", by definition, means "might tank in the box office and lose skillions."
  • This has always been true. The only difference is in the number of zeroes represented by "skillions".
  • DUH.


For every Citizen Kane, there is a Waterworld.4




I should really sit down and write an Onion-style opinion piece lamenting how derivative and unoriginal film critics have become, how they rehash the same column over and over because it's guaranteed to get attention, and how shopworn remakes like "The Day Movies Died" will never be as good as timeless classics like 1963's "Christ, Yet Another Giant Lizard Flick".

Or maybe I already have.


1 Really, they predate the film industry. I've heard both some damned funny riffs and serious laments about the stage equivalent of the "generic formulaic blockbuster" in the eras of Gilbert & Sullivan, grand opera, and Elizabethan theater. Frankly, what I've read about the works of Aristophanes suggests that a good bit of his oeuvre involved similar digs at his predecessors and contemporaries.
2 I'm being generous here. It would be unseemly to suggest that someone who presents himself as a professional film critic would simply be unschooled in the basic facts of the history of the medium.
3Inexcusable Cheap Shot: while Blaming EverythingTM on Hollywood's desire for "known Brands", Mr. Harris says, Jonah Hex is a brand because it was a comic book. (Here lies one fallacy of putting marketers in charge of everything: Sometimes they forget to ask if it's a good brand.) Just because a lousy movie is made doesn't mean the source material is lousy.
4...and an Ishtar, a Cutthroat Island, a Mr. Bug Goes to Town....
cross-posted to KDDR

athelind: (Eye - VK)
There's been a bit of a kerfluffle about a recent study about students who fell for a hoax website about the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus.

Frankly, the article linked above is a shoddy piece of science journalism. As [livejournal.com profile] eggshellhammer pointed out, it doesn't link to the original study. Even worse, in Your Obedient Serpent's eyes: it didn't specify the age level of the students. That's an important factor: a study about the critical thinking ability of kindergarten students has entirely different implications than the same study about a group of college undergraduates.

That in itself is an indication of a failure of critical thinking ability in would-be science journalists.

As it transpires, this study involved seventh-graders. The conclusion can thus be summarized as, "wow, you can con a 12-year-old into believing some crazy shit", which is hardly earth-shattering news. I'd say three-quarters of the contents of snopes.com is stuff that was repeated as gospel truth on the Bicentennial schoolyards of my twelfth year.

(I find the datum that students ignore search engines in favor of randomlytypinginaname.com to be much more startling, personally. Seriously, WTF?)

The other study mentioned in the University of Connecticut article suggests that this, in large measure, just reflects a need for improved emphasis on Internet search and access skills, and not some Terrible Crisis in Education. That's how the researchers seem to interpret it; the DANGER WILL ROBINSON! reactions were mostly imposed by the secondary sources. For my part, I was intrigued and, on some level, amused at the revelation that students who had difficulties with traditional literacy showed superior online reading facilities.

As for the details of the first study ... I'm going to be generous and completely ignore the implications of drawing broad conclusions from a sample group of twenty-five students in a single class. Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that this specific class is representative of the entire population of students in Connecticut. Let's take a look at two of the sited conclusions:

• All but one of the 25 rated the site as "very credible" ...

Let us, just for a moment, step out of the role of of the Know-It-All Grown-Up Who Knows This Site Is Patently Absurd Because There's No Such Thing. Let us remember that those reading this journal are likely to have at least five more years of formal education than the subjects of this study.

Yes, http://zapatopi.net/treeoctopus/ is "very credible".

"Credible" doesn't mean "true" or "accurate". It means "able to be believed", or "capable of persuading". The website has a professional presentation and a serious, convincing tone. The only obvious joke on the main page (aside from a deadpan link to sasquatch) is a reference to the organization "Greenpeas". The FAQ gets increasingly flippant and absurdist, but they avoid an overtly humorous tone for the main body.

Given that aquarium octopuses are well-known for getting out of their tanks and taking walks, and that there is at least one species of land-dwelling, arboreal hermit crabs, the idea of a "tree octopus" is just plausible enough to someone who knows just how weird and wacky life on Earth can get.

In science, "credibility" also means "reproducibility", and in this context, that extends to being able to find other corroborating sources.

This leads us to the second conclusion I want to examine:

• Most struggled when asked to produce proof - or even clues - that the web site was false ...

Hey, it's an exercise for the class! Let's check our own research and critical thinking abilities, shall we?

I'm curious to see what proofs (or even clues!) the folks reading this can come up with, above and beyond the flippant tone of the FAQ that I mentioned above. The Sasquatch link leads to an equally-deadpan page, of course.

Needless to say, "I just know there's no such thing" isn't a valid "proof"; in fact, it doesn't even rate as a "clue".

Answers will be graded!


Thanks ... and apologies ... to [livejournal.com profile] pseudomanitou for drawing my attention to this study and the reactions which followed. Please don't think I'm being an asshole for deconstructing this.
Update: [livejournal.com profile] eggshellhammer contacted the original author and scored a link to the original document. Yes, the sample group was larger than 25.
athelind: (facepalm)
What all that Ophiuchus nonsense really means.

Short form:

  1. This ain't new.
  2. It's called "precession".
  3. Astrologers only pay attention to astronomy when it makes news.
    1. I suspect that most of the people bitching about Pluto's demotion are, in fact, more cognizant of astrology than astronomy. It took them decades to start incorporating Pluto; it will take them decades to start leaving it out.
    2. Contrary to the claims of some contrarians, this would, in fact, apply to "western astrology" and not just some obscure branch of "Eastern" or "Hindu" astrology (at least as much as any astronomical datum applies -- see 3. above). That claim is just as uninformed as any of the others.
    3. There is going to be an immediate explosion of "New Astrology" texts. Within a generation, possibly two, the "New Astrology" will be entrenched.


There might be more later, but really, I doubt it's worth my time.


athelind: (AAAAAA)
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Have you ever closed the door on an opportunity or a relationship in order to open another door, only to realize you made the wrong choice?

oh, for crying ...

Yes, okay, yes. I woke up to that running through my brain this very morning: sometimes it seems like every single time I've had a binary choice, I've picked the wrong one. On the rare occasions that I do make the right choice, I manage to screw it up somehow with later choices.

I reiterate my conclusion from the last "life of regrets" Writer's Block I answered, less than three weeks ago:

Shoulda-Woulda-Coulda is toxic.

You can't do a damned thing about where you've been.
You can only do something about where you're going.

Face Front.



Rassin' frassin' LiveJournal Drama Llama stereotypes. There should be a cap on how often Writer's Block can ask the same kinds of question in a single month.
athelind: (caustic)

First Superman Comic Sells For Record $1 Million



I dread work this week; odds are far too high that at least one bozo will come in every night, all excited about this, and wanting to talk about comics and collectibles as "investments".

He won't want to buy things, per se. He'll want my advice. What should he look for? What should he buy? What's the best return on his money?

How can he make a quick buck?

Your Obedient Serpent is honestly sick to death of comic books, superheroes, and pop-culture ephemera, but he'd still rather deal with people who read and enjoy these things than someone who bumbles in asking questions so clueless they defy an answer, simply because he's heard about someone who made huge returns on stuff that he's always dismissed.

How can you make a quick buck in the comics market? You can't. It took seventy godsforsaken years of carefully babying a fragile bundle of crappy, high-acid paper, starring a character nobody in the industry thought would catch on, to get that ten-million-fold return on Action's 10¢ cover price, you idiot.

Resolved: I am going to do my damnedest to sell these sleazy fools every worthless piece of crap I've got in the store, every random Big Event Comic, and most especially, every High-End, Hard-Sided, Nitrogen-Filled Comic Preservation Device I can dig up.

Because that's the real answer to the question. How do you make a quick buck in comics? By selling crap to the gullible.

Barnum was right.


athelind: (Default)

First Superman Comic Sells For Record $1 Million



I dread work this week; odds are far too high that at least one bozo will come in every night, all excited about this, and wanting to talk about comics and collectibles as "investments".

He won't want to buy things, per se. He'll want my advice. What should he look for? What should he buy? What's the best return on his money?

How can he make a quick buck?

Your Obedient Serpent is honestly sick to death of comic books, superheroes, and pop-culture ephemera, but he'd still rather deal with people who read and enjoy these things than someone who bumbles in asking questions so clueless they defy an answer, simply because he's heard about someone who made huge returns on stuff that he's always dismissed.

How can you make a quick buck in the comics market? You can't. It took seventy godsforsaken years of carefully babying a fragile bundle of crappy, high-acid paper, starring a character nobody in the industry thought would catch on, to get that ten-million-fold return on Action's 10¢ cover price, you idiot.

Resolved: I am going to do my damnedest to sell these sleazy fools every worthless piece of crap I've got in the store, every random Big Event Comic, and most especially, every High-End, Hard-Sided, Nitrogen-Filled Comic Preservation Device I can dig up.

Because that's the real answer to the question. How do you make a quick buck in comics? By selling crap to the gullible.

Barnum was right.


athelind: (coyote drives)
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At the moment, my Dream Car is the Aptera:




Every time I post a link to the Aptera, though, I get a lot of people whining about how impractical it would be in the snow, and that sort of thing. So, if money is truly no object, it would be sharing my garage with this cinematic classic ...



Yes, it still exists, it's been restored, and it's out there.

And if you make fun of my Aptera, I will take my Landmaster, run over your silly little SUV, and drive through your HOUSE.


athelind: (Default)
[Error: unknown template qotd]

At the moment, my Dream Car is the Aptera:




Every time I post a link to the Aptera, though, I get a lot of people whining about how impractical it would be in the snow, and that sort of thing. So, if money is truly no object, it would be sharing my garage with this cinematic classic ...



Yes, it still exists, it's been restored, and it's out there.

And if you make fun of my Aptera, I will take my Landmaster, run over your silly little SUV, and drive through your HOUSE.


athelind: (AAAAAA)
Desired Title.

My "Desired Title" is "Lord Chief Justice, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Master of the Buckhounds, Lord High Auditor, Coroner, Archbishop of Titipu, Groom of the Back Stairs, and Lord High Everything Else", but I'll settle for "Lead Cartographer: Mars Terraforming Fleet".

I mean, what the frak? Who cares what they're called? Is someone looking for a "Hydrographic Technician" going to blow off my posted resume because I have "GIS Specilaist" listed?

One of these sites basically hijacked my resume submission to somewhere else, and then demanded that I fill in their extra blanks before I could change the (really obnoxiously obvious) password they sent me; I'm tempted to put some sarcastic title there just to blow off steam.


(They also have a "delete resume" button, which I'm tempted to hit. Am I gonna get anything but spam from http://hotresumes.com?)
Update: I hit it.
athelind: (Default)
Desired Title.

My "Desired Title" is "Lord Chief Justice, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Master of the Buckhounds, Lord High Auditor, Coroner, Archbishop of Titipu, Groom of the Back Stairs, and Lord High Everything Else", but I'll settle for "Lead Cartographer: Mars Terraforming Fleet".

I mean, what the frak? Who cares what they're called? Is someone looking for a "Hydrographic Technician" going to blow off my posted resume because I have "GIS Specilaist" listed?

One of these sites basically hijacked my resume submission to somewhere else, and then demanded that I fill in their extra blanks before I could change the (really obnoxiously obvious) password they sent me; I'm tempted to put some sarcastic title there just to blow off steam.


(They also have a "delete resume" button, which I'm tempted to hit. Am I gonna get anything but spam from http://hotresumes.com?)
Update: I hit it.
athelind: (tell it like it IS)
And now, everyone can stop the endless round of the same ol' Disney-Marvel mashup gags, because there's no way to top the awesome of this:




For those of you not in the loop, that's a take-off on the first on-panel appearance of Mary Jane Watson.

athelind: (Default)
And now, everyone can stop the endless round of the same ol' Disney-Marvel mashup gags, because there's no way to top the awesome of this:




For those of you not in the loop, that's a take-off on the first on-panel appearance of Mary Jane Watson.

athelind: (caustic)
The news in my last post has a lot of people worried about Marvel getting "Disneyfied". Funny, that hadn't really occurred to me.

I'd hate to see the intelligent, thoughtful storytelling of recent years compromised by a company who didn't respect the years of development and history of these characters. I'm not sure the store where I work could survive without merchandise aimed at the mature, sophisticated sensibilities of the modern comics audience.

I know, I know, when people hear "Disney", they still automatically think of the "wholesome" Mouse Factory of fifty years ago, as if the company had no idea how to tell exciting, entertaining action-adventure tales. But, seriously, folks: the modern Disney megalopoly has its tentacles in a lot more than happy, sappy, saccharine kiddie stuff. When I hear "Disney", I don't hear "Cartoon Company" anymore. I hear "Entertainment Powerhouse".

When I mentioned the effect this might have on the Marvel Studios movie series, it was almost entirely wondering if that side of the business would see a cash infusion that would re-accelerate the filming schedule (which has been pushed back a couple of times from the original plan of two big-name superhero pictures a year for three or four years).

Edit: [livejournal.com profile] cpxbrex pointed out that Marvel owes its recent barrage of movies to "complex financing", and that this may have something to do with the acquisition deal.

A lot of folks, on the other claw, are worried about them somehow compromising the integrity of the properties.

Personally? I think that the megacorp that gave us movies like No Country for Old Men and Miracle at St. Anna won't bat an eye at Tony Stark's antics.


Edit: Since none of the other comics blogs I read have mentioned this at all, I've combined the last two posts into a single post on my comics blog, Kirby Dots & Ditko Ribbons. Scooped! You are all so totally scooped! Like Raisin Bran, you're scooped!
athelind: (Default)
The news in my last post has a lot of people worried about Marvel getting "Disneyfied". Funny, that hadn't really occurred to me.

I'd hate to see the intelligent, thoughtful storytelling of recent years compromised by a company who didn't respect the years of development and history of these characters. I'm not sure the store where I work could survive without merchandise aimed at the mature, sophisticated sensibilities of the modern comics audience.

I know, I know, when people hear "Disney", they still automatically think of the "wholesome" Mouse Factory of fifty years ago, as if the company had no idea how to tell exciting, entertaining action-adventure tales. But, seriously, folks: the modern Disney megalopoly has its tentacles in a lot more than happy, sappy, saccharine kiddie stuff. When I hear "Disney", I don't hear "Cartoon Company" anymore. I hear "Entertainment Powerhouse".

When I mentioned the effect this might have on the Marvel Studios movie series, it was almost entirely wondering if that side of the business would see a cash infusion that would re-accelerate the filming schedule (which has been pushed back a couple of times from the original plan of two big-name superhero pictures a year for three or four years).

Edit: [livejournal.com profile] cpxbrex pointed out that Marvel owes its recent barrage of movies to "complex financing", and that this may have something to do with the acquisition deal.

A lot of folks, on the other claw, are worried about them somehow compromising the integrity of the properties.

Personally? I think that the megacorp that gave us movies like No Country for Old Men and Miracle at St. Anna won't bat an eye at Tony Stark's antics.


Edit: Since none of the other comics blogs I read have mentioned this at all, I've combined the last two posts into a single post on my comics blog, Kirby Dots & Ditko Ribbons. Scooped! You are all so totally scooped! Like Raisin Bran, you're scooped!
athelind: (hoard potato)
[livejournal.com profile] quelonzia arranged for a long weekend for her birthday, and so, on Friday, we went to see District 9, and today, we finally wended our way to downtown San Jose to see Moon.

We are two for two on Smart, Well-Done, Thought-Provoking SF movies this weekend. The previews indicate several more are on the way -- and a few smart, thoughtful non-genre flicks, as well.

I was tempted to do a blog entry castigating District 9 for being an uncredited remake of Alien Nation, Moon for being a rip-off of all those '70s SF movies, right down to the rip-off set designs, and The Time Traveler's Wife for being based on a novel and thus proving Hollywood has to steal all their ideas from someplace else -- but I don't think the target audience would get the sarcasm.

If Generation Rape-My-Childhood thinks that Hollywood can't do anything new or non-derivative, maybe they should expand their horizons beyond the latest formulaic blockbuster or the remakes of 30-minute toy commercials from the '80s.

Sure, movies like this are in the minority, but they always have been. Sturgeon's Revelation holds, and has always held. If it seems that there was a higher percentage of good movies in decades past, that's because people prefer to remember the stuff they liked -- and because TV stations and cable channels seldom run the real crud.

athelind: (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] quelonzia arranged for a long weekend for her birthday, and so, on Friday, we went to see District 9, and today, we finally wended our way to downtown San Jose to see Moon.

We are two for two on Smart, Well-Done, Thought-Provoking SF movies this weekend. The previews indicate several more are on the way -- and a few smart, thoughtful non-genre flicks, as well.

I was tempted to do a blog entry castigating District 9 for being an uncredited remake of Alien Nation, Moon for being a rip-off of all those '70s SF movies, right down to the rip-off set designs, and The Time Traveler's Wife for being based on a novel and thus proving Hollywood has to steal all their ideas from someplace else -- but I don't think the target audience would get the sarcasm.

If Generation Rape-My-Childhood thinks that Hollywood can't do anything new or non-derivative, maybe they should expand their horizons beyond the latest formulaic blockbuster or the remakes of 30-minute toy commercials from the '80s.

Sure, movies like this are in the minority, but they always have been. Sturgeon's Revelation holds, and has always held. If it seems that there was a higher percentage of good movies in decades past, that's because people prefer to remember the stuff they liked -- and because TV stations and cable channels seldom run the real crud.

athelind: (His Master's Voice)
You know, in my last post, I linked to last year's tirade about Alvin and the Chipmunks. I should have gone ahead and quoted the best insight from the comments on that older post, courtesy of [livejournal.com profile] circuit_four, since it really gets to the heart of the matter:

"A lot of this pop-culture purism is just people clinging to their own generation's nostalgia -- and I'm not really comfortable, myself, with how much of that nostalgia was hand-chosen for us by commercial interests."


Amen.


Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to order my tickets for Star Trek.
athelind: (Default)
You know, in my last post, I linked to last year's tirade about Alvin and the Chipmunks. I should have gone ahead and quoted the best insight from the comments on that older post, courtesy of [livejournal.com profile] circuit_four, since it really gets to the heart of the matter:

"A lot of this pop-culture purism is just people clinging to their own generation's nostalgia -- and I'm not really comfortable, myself, with how much of that nostalgia was hand-chosen for us by commercial interests."


Amen.


Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to order my tickets for Star Trek.
athelind: (hoard potato)
There's a G.I. Joe movie coming out this summer.

Most of the buzz from the trailers has been positive, so far, but we're inevitably going to get a lot of bitching from the crowd who grew up on the '80s cartoon.

Considering that I had -- and still have -- a 1966-vintage Mercury Astronaut G.I. Joe, and was nearly 20 wheh your precious cartoon assaulted my fond childhood memories, there's not a whole lot I can say that is essentially different than what I said a year and a half ago when people were bitching about Alvin & The Chipmunks.


Come to think of it, I'm not really interested in your positive reactions, either.
athelind: (Default)
There's a G.I. Joe movie coming out this summer.

Most of the buzz from the trailers has been positive, so far, but we're inevitably going to get a lot of bitching from the crowd who grew up on the '80s cartoon.

Considering that I had -- and still have -- a 1966-vintage Mercury Astronaut G.I. Joe, and was nearly 20 wheh your precious cartoon assaulted my fond childhood memories, there's not a whole lot I can say that is essentially different than what I said a year and a half ago when people were bitching about Alvin & The Chipmunks.


Come to think of it, I'm not really interested in your positive reactions, either.
athelind: (angry)
Your Obedient Serpent just got a spam call on his cell phone.

It wasn't one of the scam calls about my "automobile service contract" expiring, the ones that everyone was getting for a while there. This was a local carpet cleaning outfit.

I assume that it was a spam call, and not a wrong number. I hung up as soon as she identified herself.

You know, I've heard that there are some providers that let you customize the incoming ring on your cell -- the one that people hear when they dial your number.

I want to do that, and have a EULA as the ring for any unknown number:

"Unsolicited callers are advised that, by dialing this number, they have agreed to be invoiced for Mr. Stormdancer's time and attention. Billing amount is entirely at Mr. Stormdancer's discretion, and will commence as soon as the call has connected; this includes leaving messages on Mr. Stormdancer's voice mail. The use of an automated calling system is considered to be automatic consent to this license agreement. Thank you."


athelind: (Default)
Your Obedient Serpent just got a spam call on his cell phone.

It wasn't one of the scam calls about my "automobile service contract" expiring, the ones that everyone was getting for a while there. This was a local carpet cleaning outfit.

I assume that it was a spam call, and not a wrong number. I hung up as soon as she identified herself.

You know, I've heard that there are some providers that let you customize the incoming ring on your cell -- the one that people hear when they dial your number.

I want to do that, and have a EULA as the ring for any unknown number:

"Unsolicited callers are advised that, by dialing this number, they have agreed to be invoiced for Mr. Stormdancer's time and attention. Billing amount is entirely at Mr. Stormdancer's discretion, and will commence as soon as the call has connected; this includes leaving messages on Mr. Stormdancer's voice mail. The use of an automated calling system is considered to be automatic consent to this license agreement. Thank you."


athelind: (hoard potato)
[livejournal.com profile] quelonzia's favorite movie is the 1951 classic, The Day the Earth Stood Still.

This Saturday, we went to see the 2008 version, starring Keanu Reeves.

Here is her review -- it's sort of our review, since it summarizes our post-cinema conversation.

I may elaborate on this further, if I get motivated -- but hers is so succinct and to the point.


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