Showing posts with label Pop Culture. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pop Culture. Show all posts

Friday, August 31, 2012


Like the crew over at Tor books, I'm of two minds regarding the new Seth Green (and the Robot Chicken Crew) animated series STAR WARS DETOURS.  Basing my opinion solely on the trailer below, this show is either a humorous tangent from regular STAR WARS that I can share with History and Mystery or it will be yet another disappointing attempt at humor related to a franchise I have adored since childhood.

The people working on the project give one hope that the cartoons will be funny and entertaining.  Green, Matt Senreich, and Todd Grimes have a good track record, but I keep getting this nagging feeling that comedians who work well together when "edgy" might not quite click when doing more "kiddie" fare.  Just watching the preview, I have noticed quite a few pop culture references that are supposed to have comedic impact.  Most of them will have either History or Mystery turning to a chuckling father and asking questions like, "Dad...why are you laughing?  Is it funny that Han Solo put on a hat?  Are hats funny?"

We are currently in a golden age of entertainment for kids my daughters' age -- they are both 4 btw -- and this might be a great addition to a long list of great shows.  A long list that includes DOC MCSTUFFINS, GRAVITY FALLS, PHINEAS AND FERB, IRON MAN: ARMORED ADVENTURES, AVENGERS: EARTH'S MIGHTIEST HEROES, SUPER HERO SQUAD, and MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC to name but a few.  To pull two of the shows out for special consideration GRAVITY FALLS and MY LITTLE PONY manage to insert pop culture references for the adults while crafting interesting and entertaining narratives for kids, but STAR WARS: DETOURS seems -- once again just based on the preview -- that it will be closer in tone to SUPER HERO SQUAD.  This isn't a bad thing as the twins enjoy SHS, but what really gets them excited is EARTH'S MIGHTIEST HEROES.  They like the real drama and real emotion of that show.

When I examine why I feel any trepidation to this show at all, it seems to stem from something hinted at in that last sentence.  I'm torn between whether I think the next STAR WARS project should be comedic or serious, and I think I might be leaning toward serious.  Though I am always ready for well done humor, and adore shows I can watch with my twins...

You see the fanlema I'm facing?

Friday, July 06, 2012

Advanced Dungeons & Parenting?

As you may have noticed, this week I changed the name of the blog from Cinerati to "Advanced Dungeons and Gaming." There were a number of reasons I made the change, but I thought that I would share some of them with you.

First and foremost is that the name Cinerati didn't really do a good job of conveying the kinds of posts that were most common on the blog. There are still movie related posts like this week's post featuring the trailer to RZA's upcoming Kung Fu film, but the majority of posts on this blog are game and pop culture related and I wanted the name of the blog to reflect that. Though this blog started as a response to what I thought was a poorly thought out and reactionary article by Thomas Hibbs that a friend had shared with me, time has made this blog less and less theatrical focused.

One of the main reasons that this blog has become less cinema focused is the birth of my twin daughters Mystery and History (they're the surprised girls in the upper right-hand corner of the title card).  Since they have been born, I just haven't been able to go out to the movies as much as I used to.  What was once a weekly affair -- going to see two or more films -- has become a once a quarter if I'm lucky affair.  I still watch a ton of movies, thanks to Netflix/Hulu/Amazon/Redbox but I find myself less able to get super opinionated about things I watch on the small screen months after a theatrical release.

Since the twins were born, I've been playing a wider variety of games with my gaming group.  We still play D&D -- as we have for the past 12 years -- but now there are sessions of Savage Worlds, Cyborg Commando, Marvel (many editions), and other games to fill in the gaps.  Not to mention the increase in board gaming that has been happening in recent years.  It's been quite wonderful and I love chatting about games and gaming.

I also love playing games with my twin daughters and seeing the world of pop-culture through their eyes.  I never really understood just how much I wanted to share my passions with someone until I watched my daughters playing with a Star Wars coloring book.  When History saw Yoda, she immediately described him as "Darth Vader's Goblin."  At that point, I knew I had won at life.

My daughters love the new My Little Pony, Doc McStuffins, Phineas and Ferb, Jake and the Neverland Pirates, Star Wars, Captain America, and Iron Man.  History likes to dress up as Iron Man and Mystery likes to dress up as Captain America.  They both like to dress up as princesses (Aurora and Belle in case you're wondering).  It's truly magical watching my daughters express their imaginations and tell stories, and I am happy to let them tell me whatever stories they want.  I believe that a parent should set very few limits to how a child expresses its imagination.  I don't like it when some people say that "blue isn't a girl's color" or "there can only be one Captain America."  I want my daughters to find joy in whatever they find joy in.  I find it heart warming that a lot of that joy comes from "exercising their imagination show they can play with daddy and the fellas when they get bigger."

Expect to see the usual pop culture fare here at Advanced Dungeons & Parenting, but also expect to see some posts about my pop culture experiences with History and Mystery.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Jody Lindke's Pattie Kaiks and Changes in Perception

The image below has long been one of my favorite panels of my wife's "Pattie Kaiks" strip that ran in the Reno News and Review for quite a few years.  It combines our love of pop culture, with the culture shock that we had to share our love with an entirely new generation of fans.  Looking back at the strip now, as the father of twin girls, my perceptions of the comic have changed even more.  My heart leaps for joy when my 3 1/2 year old twins History and Mystery sing the Iron Man: Armored Adventures theme song, and I cannot wait for them to see the Star Wars films with me.  They just watched The Wizard of Oz for the first time yesterday, one of my favorite films all time maybe my absolute favorite depending on the day, and the wicked witch left a significant mark on History's sub-conscious.  Mystery, on the other hand, seemed unfazed.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Katy Perry and Elmo Duet Controversial?

I don't normally discuss politics on this blog. This is a pop culture blog and not a political blog, but it seems that some people are dead set on getting their politics mixed into my pop culture.

Apparently an upcoming duet featuring Katy Perry and Elmo is "too sexy" for some parents. You can watch the "offending" video below.

Personally, I don't see anything too risque for children's television. Sure, Katy has a pseudo-Betty Page thing going on, but Betty Page had a Betty Boop thing going on who had a Clara Bow thing going on who had a...

Sometimes I wonder at our modern desire to protect children from sex -- and from violence for that matter.

That said, there is one thing that I want to say about the issue.

When I was growing up The Muppet Show was the "feature celebrities singing new singles" show, and Sesame Street was the show with an underlying pedagogy that taught children numbers and colors etc. There isn't a Muppet Show anymore, but doesn't this Katy Perry number strike anyone as blatantly commercial in a way that "Public Television" stands in contrast to?

I find it ironic that the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse show that I have my twin daughters watch -- which is based on a commercial IP -- has better pedagogy and seems less concerned with overt commercialism than Sesame Street.

I'm not opposed to children's programming having a merchandising aspect. Many of my fondest memories are of my own youthful playtime with toys and games based on children's programs (and vice versa). That's not my point.

My point is the irony that the tax payer subsidized, and pledge supported, programming of a public television show is more commercial oriented -- and is promoting pop-singles -- in a way that a commercial television show isn't. The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse show is played without commercials, doesn't feature modern pop stars (though its theme song was written by They Might Be Giants), and has a better underlying pedagogy than the leading children's television program.

Now if someone can explain to me why my DVDs of older episodes of Sesame Street are labeled with a Parental Warning.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Underappreciated SF/Fantasy Authors

Yesterday's post regarding Clark Ashton Smith, and his relative obscurity in the minds of the "average" citizen, got my subconscious mind percolating thinking about other authors that I enjoy. These are the kinds of authors for whom I have a deep affection, but that others give me blank stares when I mention their names. I would have left such musings to the backburner of my mind, except for the fact that Jo Walton decided to write a post on that very subject today at the Tor website in a post entitled "Neglected Books and Authors."

Quite a few of Jo's choices would make my list of authors underappreciated by the mainstream SF/Fantasy crowd that attends an event like the San Diego Comic Con. One might argue that same "mainstream" audience's lack of awareness about some of these authors is the real reason that some of the more "arty" SF fans regard the San Diego Comic Con fans with so much venom and disdain. Instead of trying to introduce the Buffy (and Joss Whedon) fan to the works of Barbara Hambly -- particularly Those Who Hunt the Night -- the "arty" SF fan seems content to grumble and moan. I have been a big fan of Hambly's Sun Wolf and Starhawk series that begins with The Ladies of Mandrigyn since I first saw the ominous "shadow hand" book cover of The Dark Hand of Magic. The cover compelled me to buy the book, only to swiftly find out that it was "Book 3" in a series -- so I quickly purchased the other two.

Hambly makes Jo Walton's list, as does John M. Ford who fans of Steve Jackson Games should know as one of the authors of GURPS: Infinte Worlds (along with Kenneth Hite) -- but too few probably made the connection between John M. Ford the gamer and John M. Ford the author of The Dragon Waiting : A Masque of History (Fantasy Masterworks). Heck, the Tor website still describes him as follows, "He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he is currently at work on a novel, "Aspects," a fantasy with steam engines." Ford passed away in 2006.

Those are two on Walton's list who would also make mine. There is one more that we share, Susan Palwick. Before I begin to praise Susan for her writing, which I genuinely adore, I have to point out that she was one of my mentoring professors as an undergraduate at the University of Nevada. She was a wonderful writing teacher and advocate of SF/Fantasy, and is a remarkable writer in the field. I would likely have not read her first novel Flying in Place so early had I not taken a class with her, but I would have certainly read The Necessary Beggar and Shelter close to their release dates even not knowing her. The Necessary Beggar is a wonderful example of what Fantasy can be, a story where the fantastic is introduced into the mundane world and where the consequences of that interaction are explored. It is an excellent novel that grapples with modern politics, without being "on the nose," and timeless philosophic issues. It also has wonderfully engaging prose. It's the kind of book that makes you pause and wonder why more Fantasy doesn't break from the familiar paths. Shelter is similarly engaging in its SF exploration of identity and what constitutes "humanity." In a future where there are artificial intelligences and "digitized individuals," where does society draw the line as to what constitutes a "person." When the book came out, Susan was kind enough to do a lengthy interview with me on my podcast.

There are a few authors that I would add to Walton's list of "neglected" SF/Fantasy authors. Emma Bull, whose Territory is one of my favorite Fantasy novels, is someone who deserves to be far more widely read. She is an author who has two works, including Territory, that should be of particular appeal to fans of the Savage Worlds roleplaying game. Territory could be used as a wonderful campaign map for a Deadlands: Reloaded game, as it perfectly balances magic and the Old West in a powerful tale. If you want your Deadlands games to be more than zombie hunts and "Tremors: The Cowboy Edition," this book is vital. Freedom and Necessity, co-written with Steven Brust, is also excellent and would be useful to any Rippers game master or player. It's depiction of British culture is invaluable to anyone wanting to know how to run "Status" in a Rippers campaign without it seeming capricious. Beyond their use as research materials for role playing games, these two books are extremely well written with engaging narratives.

Given how many people asked me, "Brandon Who?" I think that I should point out that Brandon Sanderson is an imaginative and exciting Fantasy author who is taking Epic Fantasy in new directions. I am almost saddened that he was chosen to finish the Robert Jordan series. It means that it will be a while before I can read more of Brandon's original fiction. His Mistborn trilogy and Elantris are properly lauded by many Fantasy fans, but we need to get them into the hands of the casual fan.

Brent Weeks' Night Angel Trilogy is an entertaining romp and a natural scion of the Sword and Sorcery genre. If you are a fan of the pulp action of Robert E. Howard, then you should be reading this series. The books could probably use a stricter editor for some of the stylistic issues, but the books are entertaining swashbuckling adventures of a kind often looked down upon. If Weeks keeps improving, he will prove to be a worthy successor to David Gemmell -- and that is high praise indeed.

Oh, and if you aren't reading C.L. Moore, Leigh Brackett, or Manly Wade Wellman then you and I need to have a little talk.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Henry Rollins on Globalization for Vanity Fair

In today's "Straight Talk Espresso" for Vanity Fair, Henry Rollins writes a snark filled indictment of the banality of Globalization masked as travelogue. In today's post, Rollins shares in typical "Rollins-rantese" an experience he recently had in Jakarta. The center piece of the post is his sighting, and subsequent photographing, of an elderly female vendor on the streets of Jakarta who happened to be wearing a Black Flag t-shirt. It happens that she has no idea who Henry Rollins is or what Black Flag was, and Rollins uses this as an opportunity to contrast the ubiquity of American iconography with the lack of any real cultural understanding.

Rollins lets the facts stand as they are and presents the global encounter with American pop-culture as so much absurdist flotsam and jetsam -- pop culture as pollution.

The irony that Rollins mentions, but seems to fail to grasp himself, is that the young couple with whom he shares the absurdity of the moment are themselves the perfect example of more meaningful globalization. The couple both recognizes Rollins and is able to communicate the humorous situation to the older woman, a fact that speaks more genuinely to a flattening of the world.

What Rollins presents as an "ironic" encounter that supposedly demonstrates the lie of the emergence of a genuine global culture -- influenced by American culture -- instead becomes only slightly more incongruous than some American Gen-Xer's grandmother wearing a Black Flag t-shirt while grocery shopping. In both cases, a younger individual would likely be necessary to explain the history of the seminal punk band's history to the woman.

While Rollins may be missing some of the point of pro-globalization arguments, he is certainly right in reminding us that American culture is not world culture. Even when you think about our most monolithic pop-culture globalization industries, film and television, one can see that other cultures have influence American film making as much as we have that of other cultures. American film wouldn't be what it is today without the French New Wave, the Hong Kong Wave of the 80s and 90s, or the increasing influence of Bollywood. American television is filled with content influenced by the television of other nations, Britain in particular.

But the globalization of culture is only possible, and meaningful, when it comes with global experience. Americans spend to much time navel gazing and not enough time looking out at the world. Rollins is right when he hints at that necessity.

More genuinely ironic is that Henry Rollins is writing posts for a magazine that once featured articles by T.S. Eliot, P. G. Wodehouse, Aldous Huxley, and Thomas Wolfe.

An icon of my rebellious youth, okay the rebellious youth of some of my best friends, now writes for Vanity Fair. What is up with that?

[For full disclosure, I am a big fan of Rollins. He doesn't just talk the talk about the things he believes in, he acts on them as well. That deserves respect, that and the fact that he can rip my head off with one hand tied behind his back.]