Author: Jack Feerick

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COMICS REVIEW: Bitch Planet, Volume 1: Extraordinary Machine

Bitch Planet makes no bones about being a dangerous object. The bold, garish cover art seems made to be viewed under a black light. The color registration is purposely off, for an artful shoddiness recalling the look of a low-budget samizdat tract. But peer beyond the lurid exteriors of Bitch Planet — the first five issues of which are collected in the new trade paperback Extraordinary Machine — and you’ll find in its back pages footnotes on intersectional feminism, and a discussion guide for book clubs. Plainly, there’s more going on here than cheap thrills. But it is a thrilling work. Co-created by writer Kelly Sue DeConnick and artist Valentine De Landro, Bitch Planet is a righteous, riotous hoot, a pitch-black spoof with a deathly serious feminist theme. For DeConnick, it’s a career best — the breakthrough that will propel her from cult figure to superstar. It’s the very definition of a passion project: audacious, subversive, fairly glowing with love and anger. And it’s the most exhilarating comic I’ve read in years. The action of …

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Jack Fear’s All-Night All-Fright Halloween Mixtape Party Pack! (FINAL UPDATE 10/29)

There are (as has often been observed) two kinds of people in this world. What those two kinds are — well, that’s a matter of personal interpretation. Myself, I tend to divide the population into larks and owls. To wit: Some of us, maybe most of us, live in the daylight — the early risers, the good people, who live in the daylight and greet the morning with a song. But there are some of us who burn the midnight lamp; the night hawks, who have prowled the infomercial wasteland of the TV graveyard shift, who know the eerie hush of 3:00 AM, who crawl the streets sleepless in the small hours, in the liminal zone between yesterday and tomorrow, moving through pools of lamplight when the pavements are strange and lonely in the dark. The Night People. For the tribes of the night, Halloween is our Mardi Gras, our Christmas, and our Thanksgiving, all rolled into one. It’s our tourist season, when we natives of the interzone play host to the bright-eyed Day People …

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BOOK REVIEW: The Best Small Fictions 2015

Writing fiction is both art and science, but never does it feel more like a science than when the fiction is very short. The traditional elements of story — dialogue, action, character development, description — all take time, and words. Sometimes, to keep a short story from turning long, something has to give. Writing a very short story can feel like balancing an equation; one or more of those traditional elements of fiction may have to be omitted entirely, or the variable substituted with the X of cliché, leaving the work feeling incomplete or undercooked. It’s an unforgiving form, is what I’m saying, so tricky to do well that you wonder why anybody even tries. Yet writers of great talent still do, and 55 of them are represented in The Best Small Fictions 2015, due in October from Queen’s Ferry Press — the inaugural volume in a new series, the first annual compendium to be devoted to the form since the 1952–1960 run of Robert Oberfirst’s Anthology of Best Short-Short Stories. But if the perils …

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The Popdose Mixtape: Labor Day 2015 Edition

Welcome to the annual Labor Day mix, where we kick back, listen to some tunes about economics and labor, and consider the situation of the American worker. The story is much the same as in past years — Joe and Jane Lunchpail are still mostly gettin’ boned by a system rigged exclusively to benefit multi-millionaires, known in political circles as “the donor class” — but there are some signs that a cultural shift may be going on. Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, whose dark-horse campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination has centered on themes of economic inequality, has proved surprisingly strong in the polls, and his early successes (in tandem, no doubt, with the increasing national prominence of Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren, who has become one of Capitol Hill’s most outspoken voices of economic populism) have pushed working-class issues to the forefront of the conversation. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton, the early favorite for the nomination, had been widely seen as uncomfortably close to Wall Street; but she has pivoted toward advocating policies that would benefit working families, …

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Popdose Conceptual Theater: Archer

I have distinctly mixed feelings about the Adult Swim-ization of TV comedy. Not quite a genre, less than a movement, born of Cartoon Network’s late-night bloc but now found in animation and live action and animated shows across networks, often characterized reductively by fans and detractors alike as “stoner humor,” it’s a shared sensibility that partakes of a complex brew of influences. The recent viral sensation “Too Many Cooks” epitomizes the approach; it’s smart, but it aims its hardest punches at soft targets — usually at the trashy pop culture it both loves and despises. If there is a guiding credo, it is this: There’s no such thing as going too far for the joke. Over the top is where it starts, and it is unshakable in its conviction that excess — of sex, of bloodshed, of fluids and secretions of all kinds — is inherently funny. It’s an approach, in other words, that puts the fine line between clever and stupid up for grabs, and the results don’t always fall down on the right …

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Popdose Conceptual Theater: Heavy Liquid

Paul Pope is a comics rock star. From his first self-published graphic novels in the early 1990s, his singular vision and staggering technique have led industry insiders to hail him as the future of comics — and as his self-bestowed nickname PulpHope indicates, he has embraced the role. I met him nearly twenty years ago, at a small-press expo in Montreal. The first and only issue of Buzz Buzz had just dropped, so this would have been 1996; Pope had only been publishing for two or three years at this point. But when he walked into the hotel bar, every head turned, as if Jim fucking Morrison himself had just strolled up. He’s just that kind of cat — handsome, gregarious, and charismatic. The thing is, Pope has got the chops to back up his rock-star swagger. His work blends formal discipline with bravura improvisation, Asian cool with European grime. His loose, kinetic brush, with its swirls of motion and puddles of black, shows the influence of masters like Hugo Pratt and Alex Toth — …

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Popdose Conceptual Theater: Something Wicked This Way Comes

The chilly winds of autumn howl across the plains and carry the distant sound of a train whistle, heralding the arrival of the carnival show. It’s an occasion for gaiety, breaking up the monotony of a small-town October with bright lights, fabulous freaks, and the merry clamor of the calliope. But there’s something lurking in the musty shadows of the canvas tents — something unearthly and strange. Sometimes it is a benevolent force, come to show us glimpses of our true selves in the bewildering reflections of the mirror maze. But more often, it is something dark. Something hungry. Something wicked. The motif of the carnival as a venue for spiritual ordeal — as a netherworld where our true character is revealed, for better or worse — is an idea that keeps coming around in our culture. It’s as old as John Bunyan’s description of Vanity Fair in The Pilgrim’s Progress, and as new as the current season of American Horror Story. Sometimes its manifestation is benign, as in The 7 Faces of Dr. Lao …

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Popdose Conceptual Theater: 7 Faces of Doctor Lao

Autumn, it seems to me, is a good time for fairy tales. With the nights getting longer, we gather ‘round the hearth, or nestle by a little one’s bedside, and spin yarns to drive the dark away. Today’s selection comes out of that fine tradition. The 1964 film The 7 Faces of Dr. Lao is, in many ways, a perfect fairy tale — and, in some ways, not. We’ll get to that later. The film had a terrific pedigree, anyway; based on a beloved fantasy novel of the 1930s, it was adapted by Charles Beaumont, a veteran of The Twilight Zone and screenwriter for several of AIP’s series of “Poe pictures.” George Pal, who had produced or directed sci-fi classics like Destination Moon, The War of the Worlds, and The Time Machine, was in charge of the production. The film won a special Oscar for make-up — those seven faces, don’cha know. All this, plus a powerhouse lead performance from Tony Randall! …Oh. (Yeah, we’ll get back to that.) The story is set in the …

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The Popdose Mixtape: Labor Day 2014 Edition

Welcome once again to the Popdose Labor Day mixtape, that quixotic collection of work songs, union anthems, and hymns to the working men and women of America — our annual musical dispatch from the ass-end of the class divide. And what a year it’s been! It’s never a bad time to be rich in America, but the past twelve months have been particularly good. Politicians continue to embarrass themselves in their eagerness to accommodate the wishes of wealthy donors. Indeed, corporate donors are increasingly brazen about demanding a return on investment when they dabble in politics — and the PACs are all too willing to play along. The political process is more transparently than ever just another wing of Big Business. This is nothing new; it costs big bucks to run for office, after all, and the money’s got to come from somewhere. But even the Supreme Court — whose members, let us forget, never have to worry about re-election — has also proclaimed itself open for business, with sweeping rulings on corporate personhood. And …

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Popdose Conceptual Theater: True Grit

Howdy, pilgrim. Today we’re fixing to bust out a words-and-music tone poem inspired by Charles Portis’ 1968 Western novel True Grit. A true modern classic, True Grit — set in Arkansas and Oklahoma, around 1880 or so — tells the story of 14-year old Mattie Ross and her quest to avenge her father’s murder. Traveling to Fort Smith to retrieve her father’s body, Mattie learns that the killer, the Ross family’s erstwhile hired man Tom Chaney, has taken up with an outlaw gang and fled from Arkansas into the Choctaw territory — out of the jurisdiction of local authorities. Determined to see Chaney hang, Mattie hires the ruthless U.S. Marshal Reuben “Rooster” Cogburn to track Chaney. But Chaney is also pursued by the ranger LaBoeuf, who wants to bring him in for an unrelated murder committed in Texas. Mattie, Rooster, and LaBoeuf form an uneasy alliance as they ride into the big empty of Oklahoma in pursuit of Lucky Ned Pepper and his outlaw band. A simple enough story. But True Grit is a triumph …

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Popdose Conceptual Theater: Music for Fireworks

Not so much a conceptual piece this time around as a practical musical tool, designed to solve one of the many pressing problems of summertime. You see, our local triple-A affiliate plays a home game every Independence Day, and a bunch of families (including mine) have made it a tradition to celebrate the holiday down at the ol’ ballyard. The food is good, there are silly stunts between innings to keep the kids entertained, and we get nine or more innings of thrilling baseball from a roster of up-and-comers — all for less than the price of a first-run movie. That’s the promise of America in action, right there. But it’s the big event after the game that I both love and dread — because it wouldn’t be the Fourth of July without fireworks. When the final out is tallied, the grounds crew clears the diamond and an onfield emcee works the crowd while, in the background, a team of pyrotechnic experts puts up several installations that look like miniature mortar batteries. Then the house …

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PopSmarts: Flattery Will Get You Nowhere

It’s been a little more than a week since Slate published a piece that — across your Old Professor’s little corner of the Internet, anyway — touched off a firestorm. Ruth Graham’s article is cheekily titled “Against YA,” but the click-baity headline is even more blunt: “Yes, Adults Should Be Embarrassed About Reading Literature Written For Children.” Graham throws down in no uncertain terms, exhorting grown-ups to take off the training wheels and read something age-appropriate. “[T]he enjoyment of reading this stuff has to do with escapism, instant gratification, and nostalgia,” she says. “Fellow grown-ups, at the risk of sounding snobbish and joyless and old, we are better than this.” Though her presentation is intentionally provocative, it’s not hard to sympathize with Graham’s argument. Young Adult fiction dominates the bestseller lists, and film franchises based on YA series — that is, the ones that aren’t based on comic books, another form of literature originally meant for children that’s been co-opted by grown-ups — have been reaping box office gold. But it’s not The Kids who …

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Book Review: “Burn the Orphanage: Born To Lose”

I’m not here to pass judgment on what gets you off, friends; let’s get that straight. My job, when I’m wearing my “critic” hat, is to look at the things you like or dislike and make an informed call about whether or not they succeed as Art. It’s not a verdict on you. Your likes or dislikes don’t enter into it. Hell, I harbor an unashamed love for all sorts of things that don’t entirely succeed artistically — Big Trouble In Little China, most of Chuck Palahniuk’s books, latter-day Big Country records, Lost — and that doesn’t make me a bad person. (There are plenty of other things that make me a bad person, but loving Big Trouble In Little China isn’t one.) An intriguing misfire requires no defense, as it trumps stultifying perfection any day. We fall for interesting failures because of the same thing that makes them fail in the first place: their outsized ambitions. The trash that wins our hearts is trash that aims high. Everybody loves an underdog, and watching a …

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Popdose Conceptual Theater: The World’s End

There’s probably no filmmaker alive (with the possible exception of Wes Anderson) who curates the music for his movies more carefully than writer-director Edgar Wright. In his quirky, highly-stylized comedies, there’s a constant rock ‘n’ roll heartbeat underpinning the onscreen action, occasionally taking the foreground to comment ironically on the plot. It’s all of a piece with Wright’s highly-structured approach to film. All of his movies can be boiled down to checklists. In Shaun of the Dead, it’s six survivors of a zombie apocalypse to be picked off one-by-one; the detective hero of Hot Fuzz works his way through the levels of a vast conspiracy; Scott Pilgrim vs. the World features a roster of evil ex-boyfriends (and ex-girlfriends) that the titular hero must defeat in video-game style battles. Wright’s most recent film, 2013’s The World’s End — the last of an informal trilogy co-written with star Simon Pegg — is his most elaborately-structured yet. As the film opens, Gary King (Pegg) is a pathetic burn-out. Back in high school, he was the coolest thing on …

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PopSmarts: Come On, Pilgrim

Critical objectivity can be difficult to sustain. As members of the family, we have an implicit contract with our readers to consider each work on its own merits, without undue preconceptions; to determine what a given project is trying to do, and base our critique on how well it accomplishes its goals. Our only bias — not just acceptable, but necessary — must be to favor good work over bad. Recognizing that true objectivity is probably impossible, we must, like judiciary officials, acknowledge our prejudices insofar as we are aware of them. And when those prejudices prove insurmountable, we must recuse ourselves. Such was the case for your Old Professor earlier this week. I was tucking into a newly-collected, critical acclaimed work — it would be unfair to call it out by name — in a peculiar, specific subgenre that I generally enjoy, from a creator now coming into her own after years in the field, who brings a distinctive and appealing voice to her medium and has become an inspirational figure to a broad …

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Book Review: “Lovecraft’s Monsters”

The problem with monsters is that, when you come right down to it, they’re not that scary. Oh, zombies and kaiju and slaver-mawed xenomorphs can put you in a world of hurt; but when nightmares take flesh, they also take on the frailties to which all flesh is heir. As Arnold so eloquently said: “If it bleeds, we can kill it” — with a shovel to the dome, with cleansing fire, with bullets, silver or otherwise. Even the precision-tooled murder machines of the Alien franchise can be blowed up real good, given sufficient firepower. Since our days huddled in the caves, we have told each other stories about the monsters lurking in the darkness, waiting to kill and devour us. It wasn’t until the 20th Century that the fiction of fear took on a new, existential cast. Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890 – 1947) didn’t invent cosmic horror; but in a slew of short stories and novellas, and by his mentorship of a circle of like-minded writers, he staked out ownership of the genre so thoroughly …

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Popdose Conceptual Theater: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Coming to you in living color, from the heart of the global communications network to the darkest recesses of your imagination — this is the Popdose Conceptual Theater of the Airwaves. Pull down the screen inside your head. Open your ears. Are you comfortable? Then let’s begin. Close your eyes… And watch…. First things first, before we get to last things last: I want to take a moment to give a quick shout out to illustrator and comics artist Kazu Kibuishi, who created the gorgeous new cover designs from which the header images for this series have been derived. His work on the box set commemorating the 15th anniversary of the series has given us a new vision of the Harry Potter universe, both familiar and fresh — and he’s a gifted storyteller himself; the sixth volume of his graphic novel series Amulet will be released in August. Amulet conveys a sense of wonder and an emotional complexity worthy of the Potter books; it’s a tour de force of storytelling, and I give it my highest …

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PopSmarts: Wave a Red Rag

There’s a feeling you get. You know the one. You’re listening. It’s a song you’ve heard before, maybe many times. Heard it, but really never listened. One of those songs that always just sort of been there. But this time, on your hundredth hearing, or your thousandth, something is different. Something jumps out at you: a lyric you’ve never caught, a familiar snatch of melody repurposed, some quote or allusion or reference that gives you a shock of recognition. And this song, this evergreen, this classic-rock chestnut, this battered and clapped-out auld whorehorse becomes something wonderfully fresh and new. And a secret unfolds in your mind. No: Not unfolds. The opposite. Something opaque and featureless assumes new form and contour, a blank sheet of paper resolving into an origami swan. That feeling. There must be a word for that. It’s difficult, in practical terms, to define your Old Professor’s precise field of academic interest — turns out you can’t actually get a degree in Being A Smart-Ass, more’s the pity — but Modern Languages was …

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BOOK REVIEW: David Kinney, “The Dylanologists”

People get into the fandom scene because they are deeply and sincerely interested in an artist, of course. But it’s also an effective way to boost one’s own self-esteem, because there’s always someone to look down upon and regard with suspicion. Every fan gets to set their own yardstick as to what constitutes “good” and “bad” fandom — and to locate themselves, inevitably, in the “good” category. Like Baby Bear’s porridge, their fannish devotion is neither too hot nor too cool; it’s always ju-u-ust right. As an initiated fan, you can cast confident side-eye on those noobs who haven’t even got the full studio discography, and who don’t even recognize their own favorite songs until the vocals come in. But on the other hand, if you should find yourself the object of family concern because you spend six months a year and thousands of dollars following the band around the country, and sleepless nights scouring the torrent sites for audience bootlegs of that second show in Kuala Lumpur — well, it’s not like you’re obsessed …

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PopSmarts: What Becomes a Legend Most?

The second season of Vikings, last year’s basic-cable breakout hit, is coming into its homestretch, and the intrigues are piling up. Handsomely shot on locations in Ireland and Canada, and boasting magnetic lead performances, Vikings tells the story of Ragnar Lothbrok, a semi-legendary Danish chieftain and raider who plundered his way up and down the English coastline in the dawn years of the 9th Century. Vikings is the first scripted drama created for History — formerly known as the History Channel, but rebranded, like so many cable networks, to blur the distinction between the thing being disseminated and the vehicle for its distribution — but its historical provenance is doubtful, at best. That’s because the historical record is itself exceedingly thin. Although the Vikings had a written language, rendered in runes, it was reserved only for ceremonial inscriptions. The Norsemen relied on oral transmission, and there was a lively tradition of bardic poetry and song. It wasn’t until the simultaneous introductions of Christianity and the Latin alphabet in the 12th Century that the Vikings thought …

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Popdose Conceptual Theater: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Coming to you in living color, from the heart of the global communications network to the darkest recesses of your imagination — this is the Popdose Conceptual Theater of the Airwaves. Pull down the screen inside your head. Open your ears. Are you comfortable? Then let’s begin. Close your eyes… And watch…. I’ve got to admit: This is probably my favorite of all these mixes, the one that I think succeeds best at building, sustaining, and modulating its mood throughout it run time. It’s not necessarily my favorite book in the series, but it’s the one that translates to music in the way that I find most satisfying. It’s also where the correspondences get slippery. Does “Spellbound” evoke the various instances of the Imperius curse throughout the book, or the love spell conjured by Merope Gaunt? Is the psychopath of “England Made Me” a stand-in for the young Tom Riddle, or for Severus Snape — or, perhaps, even for Draco Malfoy? Is “The Butterfly Collector” Professor Slughorn, surrounding himself with a coterie of bright young …

PopSmarts: Fractured Mirror

There’s a new top dog on the Young Adult block. The film adaptation of Veronica Roth’s bestselling YA novel Divergent opened a couple of weeks ago to stellar box office returns. The first in a projected trilogy of movies, Divergent may mark the start of a new killer franchise — or it may just be a way for teen audiences to mark time ‘til the next Hunger Games movie. Because make no mistake: Katniss Everdeen casts a long shadow across Roth’s literary dystopia. Divergent, like Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games books, takes place in an ugly future where the lives of young people are treated as disposable commodities. In a postapocalyptic Chicago, society is cloven into five castes, or “factions.” The peace-loving Amity do the nurturing work of farming; the Erudite, for whom intelligence is the greatest virtue, are planners; the Candor, brought up to be truthful in all things, are the lawyers, and so forth. The labeling is familiar to kids brought up on Harry Potter. But Divergent adds an element of free will to …

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Popdose Conceptual Theater: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Coming to you in living color, from the heart of the global communications network to the darkest recesses of your imagination — this is the Popdose Conceptual Theater of the Airwaves. Pull down the screen inside your head. Open your ears. Are you comfortable? Then let’s begin. Close your eyes… And watch…. Ahem. Ahem. Hello-o-o, children. Wands away, sit up straight, and let’s begin with our, shall we say, theoretical musical response to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. All of the Potter books partake of a certain amount of adolescent angst, but Order, I think, is the most adolescent, and the angstiest. Which made it a lot of fun to soundtrack; the pastoral English coziness of the earlier books fades, and their grimy rock ‘n’ roll heart — their teenaged surliness and rebellion — come to the fore. It’s not art, but it’s got a good beat. So if you don’t mind, let’s plow ahead with a minimum of explanation, shall we? A few terse keywords. File cards, really. Questions, comments, and …

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Popdose Conceptual Theater: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

 Coming to you in living color, from the heart of the global communications network to the darkest recesses of your imagination — this is the Popdose Conceptual Theater of the Airwaves. Pull down the screen inside your head. Open your ears. Are you comfortable? Then let’s begin. Close your eyes… And watch….  Saddle up, sports fans! Get ready to send up an almighty cheer, because today we’re wrapping our ears around an imaginary soundtrack to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. This is where it all began, for me; the first incarnation of this mix was my first attempt to come up with an accompaniment for a particular book in the Harry Potter series — which turned into an eight-month project of assembling, curation, and endless tinkering. I’m still fond of it, even though it stands out a bit from the others in the series. For one thing, it’s the only mix in the series that incorporates effects or found sound in any meaningful way. Which makes sense, sort of. Goblet is where the …

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Popdose Conceptual Theater: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Coming to you in living color, from the heart of the global communications network to the darkest recesses of your imagination — this is the Popdose Conceptual Theater of the Airwaves. Pull down the screen inside your head. Open your ears. Are you comfortable? Then let’s begin. Close your eyes… And watch….  Good morning, students. It’s time to put your boggarts back in their boxes and join us for an imaginary soundtrack to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. After the Chamber of Secrets mix, wherein the connections were pretty self-explanatory, we get into something a little thornier, perhaps a little less obvious — so I’m adding a few notations this time. Let us know if you dig it, and we’ll keep doing it; or, if you prefer we let the mixes speak for themselves, let us know that, too. We do it all for you, y’know, and your comments, questions, and suggestions are always welcome. Some stray introductory observations: With this mix, we start to see some repeat artists. As you’d expect, that’s …

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PopSmarts: Two Thumbs Up

The art of film involves many collaborators, the most important of whom — as I’ve written before — is the audience. We are more than passive receivers. It is we, the audience, who bring the movies to life. Writers and directors create scenarios, and actors play them out, in immersive environments created by composers, designers, and cinematographers. But it is inside the viewers’ heads that a film truly lives. In our heads, and in our hearts. Great filmmakers know this, and enlist the audience’s collaboration by crafting films that engage our intellect and emotions. Not-so-great filmmakers grasp the same principle, but engage with it in a different, far more crass way — by monetizing it. Film is unique among the arts in that its mode of presentation has been in constant flux from its inception. While styles of contemporary painting, say, have changed tremendously since the 1890s, the experience of looking at a painting in a museum or gallery is still recognizably the same; but a host of technological advances have fundamentally altered the way …

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PopSmarts: The Politics of Haunting

It’s a holiday tradition; the low murmur of the stereo in the corner of the kitchen, filling the house with the sounds of Yuletide cheer.  And in our house that means that — along with Bing Crosby, the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, and the ongoing freak parade of Mellowmas — we’ll be hearing the audiobook version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. The three-hour-plus performance was released by UK publisher Penguin as a free podcast back in 2006, and quickly became mandatory listening for us. The reader, Geoffrey Palmer, has a vast range of accents and timbres at his disposal, and he’s not afraid to go big. A Christmas Carol is as shameless a crowd-pleaser as Dickens ever wrote, and Palmer utterly sells it all — the gooey sentiment, the broad humor, the flashes of horror — with sobs and cries and peals of laughter, and without ever condescending to the material. Hearing Dickens read aloud is a revelatory experience anyhow. Many modern readers have trouble with his ornate prose — the elaborate syntactical construction …

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Popdose Conceptual Theater: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Coming to you in living color, from the heart of the global communications network to the darkest recesses of your imagination — this is the Popdose Conceptual Theater of the Airwaves. Pull down the screen inside your head. Open your ears. Are you comfortable? Then let’s begin. Close your eyes… And watch…. Greetings, Muggles. We’re back with our latest journey to the center of your head, this time with an imaginary soundtrack for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I haven’t got much in the way of notes for this one; most of the correspondences are pretty self-explanatory, I think — but of course I’m always glad to answer questions in the comments. Your suggestions are also welcome, as always. So I hope you’re settled in — because it’s time to wake the snake… Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (1:21:55) PLAYLIST Conceptual Theater intro bumper Home Is Where the War Is – Red Rockers Our House – Madness Crazy Little Rockin’ (Redheaded Girl) – Two Tons Of Steel This Charming Man (New …

PopSmarts: It Only Begins With L-O-L

Thanks to the fortunes of History and the inevitable bending of the Universe’s moral arc towards justice, our children, gay and straight, are growing up in a world where it is easier than ever to be queer-positive (though nowhere near as difficult as it ought to be queer-negative; one unintended consequence of “tolerance” as an ideal for diversity is that it tacitly permits even people of good will to let bigotry go unchallenged in the name of tolerance — tolerance of the intolerant). We’ve a long way yet to go before we’re anywhere near full parity — hell, we’re a long way from even basic goals like appropriate and proportional media representation — but the progress even in my lifetime has been remarkable. It’s hard to remember, now, just how prevalent the closet was, and how rare it was for any LGBT individual to be out of it 100%. In the late 1970s and early ‘80s, it was still common for gays and lesbians to be out only to select subgroups within the circles of …

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PopSmarts: Trouble Shooting

I talk about a lot of different iterations of pop culture in these columns — film, literature, music, comics — but even the casual reader will notice that there’s a big video game-shaped hole in the Old Professor’s discourse. I offer no defense. My advancing years constitute no excuse, as there are plenty of guys (and gals) my age and older who learned their way around a joystick while I was highlighting key passages from the Monster Manual. I know, because when I visited their houses I would sometimes play Frogger or Pac-Man on their Atari 2600s, or marvel at the advanced graphics of ColecoVision. But not at home. My folks didn’t have any moral objection to video games, mind you; but I was the late-in-life child of parents who remembered the Great Depression, and their habits of frugality precluded investment in anything whose worth was at all in doubt. My mother, in 1963, famously proclaimed the Beatles to be “a flash in the pan,” so these were not people who were easily impressed by …