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Archive for the ‘pop culture + reviews’ Category

The Periodic Table of Storytelling

Friday, April 8th, 2011

A quick post to share this, which my pop-culture, literary and fiction-filled soul adores. ComputerSherpa posted this fantastic chart of some of the core storytelling tropes inspired by the periodic table and it’s fantastic.

Click through to see the full size chart and some of the sample “compounds” you can create with these tropes.

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Linkspam: Feminism & Pop Culture

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

Remember that time long, long ago when I started posting weekly linkspams? Y’know, that time before my already busy schedule leapt to new heights of insanity?

It may not be weekly, but it is linkspam.

Feminism & Women
  • The good people at Overthinking It created this fantastic Female Character Flowchart that captures a whole lot of pop culture female character cliches in one fell swoop. It’s massive in both size and awesome.
  • For the two hundredth and forty-second time, females and males have equal math skills before stereotyping. I don’t know how many more ways scientists can come up with to tell the rest of the world it isn’t that girls are bad at math, it’s that we keep telling and treating them as if they are bad at math.
  • Do accusations of sexism spur greater awareness of sexist language? This study thinks so. I had a conversation with a couple of male friends about this not too long ago.
  • Nice write up about what we’re really talking about when we measure pop culture with the Bechdel Test. It’s not about that women shouldn’t talk to or about men, it’s about how women presented in pop culture regularly only talk to or about men when they’re even there at all. It’s about the absence of women in our stories as anything other than romantic partners or two-dimensional tokens.
  • Linked to from the above, Pixiepalace has won me over with her explanation of the Reverse Jane Austen Principle: “It is a truth universally acknowledged by the entertainment industry that a female character in possession of a name and a ringless left hand must be in want of a boyfriend.” I think this often comes from a belief by the entertainment industry that women won’t want to watch female characters that aren’t somehow involved/tangled in romance, as if it’s central to our enjoyment. This is one of several reasons I love Emily Prentiss and Elle Greenaway from Criminal Minds, two fine female characters without romantic subplots.


Pop Culture
  • Another great post from Overthinking It, this time about Fixing Season 5 of Doctor Who. It’s a long post that only the most dedicated meta readers are likely to finish, but it covers most of my problems with the plot and themes of the latest incarnation of Doctor Who. I’m not sure I necessarily agree with all the proposed fixes, but I do mostly agree with the general through-line here. Season Five of Who left me firmly in a “meh” space, and this post articulates some of the reasons why.
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A Lesson in Language from Stephen Fry

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

An essay on language from Stephen Fry has been turned into a completely lovely little Kinetic Typography video.

I love language. Most specifically I suppose I love English since it’s the only one I know how to use, but I do try to use it well. And when I say “well” what I mean isn’t always “correctly” or “properly”. Sometimes “well” means “creatively”. Or “uniquely”. Or even “colloquially”.

Not too long ago I inadvertently got into a bit of a Twitter argument with a surprisingly number of people on whether or not the Oxford comma was a necessity. Should it always be used? Is it necessary? And ultimately somewhere in that long, surprisingly passionate argument was a discussion about the merits of “proper” language as critical for the sake of communication. Stephen Fry’s comments on the nuance between “disinterested” and “uninterested” most perfectly embodies that argument: in particular my side of it.

The nuance of words is and can be important in the right context. In a political speech or poem the difference between disinterested and uninterested could be of great import. But that doesn’t mean it always has to be of great import. The great flexibility of language is that can stretch or shrink as we require it, and as the culture that uses it changes, so too can language.

I know some writers dislike the way texting, tweeting and online chatting has distorted language in ways that are leaking into the vernacular — both written and spoken — but I delight in it. I enjoy the eyerolling nuance writing “LOL” adds that the word “laugh” doesn’t in itself contain. I love how changing “the” to “teh” modifies the entire tone of a sentence, how emoticons clarify intent in two or three characters, and how Twitter hashtags can be functional, thematic and humorous all at the same time.

There is absolutely a place for proper language, just like there is a place for the Oxford comma. But the language we use today is as fluid as it has ever been, and in a world that changes as rapidly as ours I want a language free to adapt and change with it. Language can’t and shouldn’t remain static.

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Fall 2010 TV: What I’m Planning to Watch

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

It’s getting close to that most exciting time of year when some of my favourite TV shows come out of hibernation for another season. In anticipatory celebration, I present a breakdown of the new shows I’m excited for, the returning shows I’m waiting for, and the ones I’m foot-tapping about.


New Shows I’m Gonna Check Out:

The Whole Truth: September 22
Courtroom drama, which is so close to a crime procedural that it’s probably no surprise to anyone it’s on my list. It sounds interesting in part because it seems to be focusing on both the defence and the prosecution rather than picking one side or the other. This “both sides” feel is one of the many things I loved about Boston Legal, and while this show is unlikely to rival that one for my affections I’m interested enough to watch the first couple of episodes.

Undercovers: September 22
Spy show from JJ Abrams that promises more awesome action-packed spy-win and less wacky Rambaldi nonsense. Also, the leads are a married couple which intrigues me: so many other action-centric shows feature and rely on sexual tension of star-crossed lovers, and the idea of one that centres around a couple that already is is fascinating to me.

No Ordinary Family: September 28
Family crashes into a mysterious lagoon and get super powers. The premise is promising, but this one will be all about the delivery.

Boardwalk Empire: September 19
Period drama from HBO set in the prohibition era. From Martin Scorsese. Yeah, I’m definitely gonna try this one on for size.


Returning Shows I’ll Be Watching:

Chuck: September 20
I devoured the first three seasons of this show over the summer and am eagerly anticipating the next season. I’ve heard there are currently only 13 episodes bought and paid for with the option for another 9, but I kinda hope it sticks with the 13 episode format. I find shorter seasons are usually tighter.

I’m a little leery about the ongoing angst of the Chuck/Sarah relationship. Their dance was great while it lasted, but I think that horse has been flogged well enough now, and rather than retreading that ground over and over (and over) again, I’d really like to see the show allow Chuck and Sarah to grow into their relationship and transition into a space where they are firmly together, yet still struggling with the day-to-day realities of being a couple. Relationship drama doesn’t need a constant breakup cycle to be interesting.

I’m also wondering how the show will change now that all the major characters know about Chuck’s involvement with the CIA. His secret keeping and lying was an integral part of the show, and while I’m sure there will still be secrets kept — because Chuck is an almost compulsive liar in some ways — I think this is going to be a hugely transitional year for Chuck in a lot of ways. We are in prime shark-jumping territory here.

Dexter: September 26
So apparently Julia Stiles will be in this season. Huh.

I really, really hope this season deals with Dexter dealing with Rita’s death well, especially since Rita’s memory cannot be so simply cast aside in this show given Dexter has been left with three young children to care for. I love that they had Dexter kill Arthur Mitchell before he discovered Rita, because it leaves him without an outlet for vengeance that might ease his guilt.

I hope for more awesome with Deb, and wow do I ever want her to be the primary external stressor for Dexter this year. The possibilities and multiple potential paths for her character if she discovers Dexter’s serial killing secret are all fascinating and I can’t yet pick which one I want more.

Criminal Minds: September 22
Obviously I’ll be watching Criminal Minds. I’m heartbroken AJ Cook is leaving and Paget Brewster only has 10 episodes this year however. All my wonderful, awesome women! Who will Garcia have to keep her sane in that pool of testosterone once JJ and Emily aren’t there? D:

Castle: September 20
Yeah, there’s no way I’m not gonna watch a show that is A) a crime procedural, which we all know I am incapable of resisting; and B) contains Nathan Fillion, Edmontonian, Joss-veteran and wisecracking wisecracker.

Bones: September 23
After last year’s epic moment between Booth and Bones where Bones has to admit out loud how broken she is and why she can’t allow herself to love Booth even though she very clearly does already, this show has killed me even more than it did before. I love this show for so many reasons despite that fact that sometimes it is full of fail and just a little bit awful. I love it because of the fantastic women it contains, I love it because — for once — the wrangler is the male while the eccentric genius is the woman. Not cold, not cruel: broken. She’s detached without being icy. How often do we get that with female characters?

And? The chemistry between Booth and Brennan is just too good to ignore.

NCIS: September 24
This is one of those shows I tend to watch in bursts. When everything is on a two or three week break, I tend to bulk download whatever episodes of NCIS have aired since the last time I watched it.

Merlin: September 12
Yeah, this one already started but I’ve yet to watch it. Like NCIS this is one of those shows I watch when I have time. I’m kind of meh about the whole thing overall, but it’s entertaining enough to keep up with when things are quiet.


Returning Shows I’ll Probably Watch But Are On Notice

How I Met Your Mother: September 20
Okay, last season was almost entirely disappointing. Remember all that character development that happened? Yeah, if we get some of that again this season I’ll hang on. But the thread is thin.

Barney is hilarious, often even when his character is static. But he’s so much more interesting when given a little bit of real meat to cling to around all that corn and sausage.

Also? A return of awesome Robin would be nice, too.

The Big Bang Theory: September 23
Sheldon is too hilarious for me to completely avoid this show, and almost everything about the friendship/stalemate between Sheldon and Penny is gold. Everything else about this one is completely forgettable, irksomely irritating, or completely maddening.

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Criminal Minds S05E18 Recap: Setting up a Spin Off

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

This post contains spoilers for Criminal Minds S05E18 “The Fight”.

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